Nighttime studio

It’s been a little over two years since I created my first game prototype. Over that time, with the help of about forty people, I’ve honed it into a game I think is actually pretty cool. Now it’s time to “make it real”, meaning I’m going to put it out to the public for sale. As such, I need to get serious about marketing and sales… two things I have no experience or expertise in doing. The first step is design: I need to come up with a professional-looking layout for the box, the rulebook, the web site, and even the campaign page where I’ll advertise and sell it.

For at least a year of those two years, I’ve been telling people “Oh, I’ll get to the marketing part eventually”. This week I decided “eventually” had come, and sat down to focus on it. It’s meant a series of late nights, working in my little studio, doing my best to dial in a design that’ll entice people to buy the game.

Here’s a shot of tonight’s work:

I’m working in the mostly-dark because Pepper’s sleeping in the next room. Also, it reminds me of the many, many late nights I spent working on Zing stuff in my basement office, with nothing but Christmas lights strung up around the room to illuminate my desk. I feel like I do some of my best work in the late hours, so hopefully the creative juices will be flowing and I’ll come up with something good. Stay tuned.


You know how sometimes you listen to a song– one you’ve known for years (decades?)– and as you sing along, you realize you don’t actually know the words? Or the words you know are almost certainly totally wrong?

The song “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister is like that for me. As a kid I thought the lyrics were something like “Carry a laser through the darkness of the night”, which sort of makes sense. But of course the correct lyrics are “Kyrie eleison through the darkness of the night” (hence the song’s title, duh).

The other day I was rockin’ out in the car and realized the second verse– at least as I’ve sung it for 40 years– doesn’t make sense.

My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

On a whim just now, I looked up the lyrics. Even after 40 years, it’s not too late to learn the right words.

Turns out, those are the right words. Wow. They don’t make any sense! What does it mean when my body burns “a gemlike flame”? And what’s a “soft machine”? The mind boggles.

Nonsensical or not, it was at least a little gratifying that I’ve been singing that verse correctly all this time…

Smoke on the water

When it’s 5 degrees, the cold air on the (relatively) warm water is awesome. Here’s the view across seven miles of Flathead Lake water:

Today the fog was more substantial than a few months ago. In retrospect, I should’ve made a video. The breeze was blowing the fog back and forth– in the lower left you can see a large oval area that’s been “cleared” as the air sweeps across it. Super cool to watch!

Too lazy to catch the sunset

I looked out the window and noticed the sun was setting and the water on the lake was more still than I think I’ve ever seen it. There were amazing reflections of the snowy hills across the lake, and the orange sunset lit up the expanse of water to the southwest. I grabbed my camera and raced downstairs to get some boots and jump in the car, thinking I’d drive a couple miles to a little trail that leads down to the shoreline. That would be a fantastic spot to capture the sunset and the smooth water.

But I looked at the sun and it was probably only ten minutes from slipping behind the horizon. I was too late. By the time I drove to the trail and hiked down, it would be gone. Oh well. I sadly put the camera away.

After maybe fifteen minutes, I glanced outside again and was startled by the sunset. It was even more brilliant than before. Far too late to get to the waterline, I grabbed my camera again and walked outside. Unfortunately the sun is far to the south this time of year, and the trees surrounding our house block much of the view. I snapped a few shots, disappointed that I hadn’t just committed to the hike.

Perhaps five minutes after that, the clouds were tinged with pink and the darkening sky was a brilliant orange. It was spectacular. And I wished I was at the foot of the trail.

Next time, I won’t be lazy.

Warm(ish) in January

Although Montana is beautiful in the winter, we felt like it would be fun to enjoy some warmer weather. So we bought a couple of airline tickets to Arizona, and headed down for the week.

I snapped a selfie to make my friends jealous:

Although the weather was definitely warmer than Montana, the mercury barely touched 60. I’d been expecting 70+ so that was a little disappointing, but when I saw people out shopping or in restaurants, bundled up in parkas (no kidding!) and sweaters, it made me smile. I was wearing short sleeves, of course, and enjoying the heat.

We managed to catch up with some friends we first met 25 years ago, and who we haven’t seen in a few years.

Dave and I went on a hike along the Lost Goldmine Trail outside of Mesa.

I asked him if there’s actually a gold mine out there. He wasn’t sure. Regardless, it was great to be back in the desert again (shoutout to the Canyonlands last fall) and this time it was peppered with saguaro, barrel cacti, and something called “jumping cholla”.

Those thorns are pretty impressive, and Dave says although they don’t actually jump off the plant, they’re really easy to detach so if you brush against them while walking or biking, you’ll be sorry later when you sit down.

Afterward we were thirsty (of course) so we made some fresh-squeezed orange juice. We went down the block to a house that was advertising free oranges (pick ’em yourself). Orange juice is my favorite drink already, and pouring a nice glass of it right after squeezing the fresh-picked fruit was amazing.

We paid a visit to the local temple, as well. There’s no “local” temple in Montana– the closest one is three hours away in another country.

It was a great trip, and I think we’re going to head back down in the fall. We’ll drive then, and make some stops along the way at places like Zion and the Grand Canyon. Until then, we’re back in the land of snow…

Hola mi amigos

In my never-ending quest to find interesting hobbies and improve myself, I’ve decided to learn Spanish this year. I’m using the Duolingo app as a starting point, although I suspect it’s only going to take me so far. I’ll need to figure out some other ways to learn the language. In the meantime, the app has a fun game-like interface and I’m learning key phrases like “Where is the museum?”

Part of the app experience is having a user profile with a little profile photo (so friends can find you and link to you). Obviously that photo should involve a sombrero. Fortunately, I have a friend who’s spent a lot of time in South America and has a fancy sombrero. I asked him to take a picture of me wearing it.

So that’s my profile pic, and the start of my Spanish journey. Wish me luck! Adios!

Big cards

A while back, Kyra joked that it would be funny to have a deck of oversized playing cards. Apparently you can buy them, although when I looked at the listings on Amazon it seemed like most people used them as novelty decorations for casino-themed parties and such. But hey, who am I to deny my daughter a ray of happiness in her life? I bought her a deck for Christmas.

Here she is with Zack, playing California Speed. The game is hard enough as it is, but adding gigantic clumsy cards takes it to a whole new level.

They’re a bit unwieldy to shuffle, too.

We played Sheephead (of course) and chuckled as we tossed these giants onto the table. Here I am winning a juicy trick:

It’s been a good time.

Christmas + Christmas

Dad turned eighty this year (happy birthday, Dad!). So we all went out to Missouri for a family celebration. Unfortunately none of us actually remembered to take some pictures of his party! Ugh.

During the few days we were there, we also had some adventures and celebrated an early Christmas together. We visited historic downtown St Charles, walking along Main Street and dropping in on a few shops.

I couldn’t resist posing with this beautiful work of art along the street.

Back at the house, we all gathered to open our Christmas gifts to one another.

It was great to all be together again– it’s been a while since that last happened. Afterward, Pepper and I flew to Salt Lake City to spend a second Christmas with our kids. Alex was spending the holiday with his in-laws (it was their “turn” this year) but we had a grand time with Kyra and Zack. Kyra had the most gifts of anyone:

I picked up a tree on sale at Lowe’s. It was pre-lit (awesome) but we didn’t get any decorations for it. Luckily Sefton made tree ornaments for everyone in the family, so our tree literally had a single ornament on it.

Beneath the plastic pine needles, we stacked the handful of gifts, and I took an artistic shot of them:

One of the gifts we opened was a box of chocolates that was, without doubt, the fanciest box of chocolates I’ve ever seen.

Full disclosure: the box was actually addressed to the former owners of our townhome. But it’s been almost a year since we bought it, and we have no way to get in touch with them to tell them to come pick up a mysterious FedEx box. So we decided to just open it and enjoy whatever was inside. It had been sent by an investment firm, so I’m guessing it was just a “thanks for being our customer” sort of gift and they’ll never miss it. But Brayden, if you’re reading this post, drop me a line and I’ll try to make it up to you.

Of course there were tons of board games on the docket. Here we’re playing Codenames, which is a blast. Pepper has traditionally hated the game, but she seemed to be having a good time with us.

It was great to have two Christmases with our two families, and the time seemed to slip by too quickly. Merry Christmas, everyone.


Sefton received a little plush dog for Christmas this year.

I didn’t know they made these animals any more! It’s the same dog Alex had as a little boy. His name was Porch, and he went everywhere with Alex. Here’s a shot from early 2000 where Porch is enjoying the view out the car window:

Sadly, Porch went missing on one of our road trips– we think he might’ve been left in a hotel room, and despite calling all the hotels we’d visited during that trip, no one had found him. Alex was devastated, although I think he’s recovered now.

Anyway, it was fun to see Porch reincarnated for another little boy in the family.