Friday, February 29, 2008

Birthday Gifts

I went to lunch with my best bud from my old job (and a couple of other friends). This was the first time I'd seen him since my birthday so he gave me my gifts. He was very generous. He gave me a gel ant farm (with ants). A box of mana potions (which contain 6,667% of your daily recommended dose of B12, and might violate certain of my religious tenants.) And that's not all!!! He also gave me a key chain that acts as a universal tv remote. Obviously I don't deserve such a good friend.

The ants are already busy tunneling away, though they didn't take advantage of any of the holes I poked, but instead are excavating the entirety of one end of the gel, which is fine I suppose, but probably won't end up looking as cool as having all the snaky tunnels criss-crossing the gel. I haven't tried one of the mana potions yet, but I'll let you know when I do. I wonder if they're better cold, though based on the size I imagine that you're just supposed to "shoot" them.

The D&D experience started yesterday (it used to be called Winter Fantasy) and the big news is that they're running demos of 4E all through the convention. So far lots of information has been posted, too much for me to keep up with, and, the primary non-official D&D info site, appears to be dying under the load. For those that are curious here's a web gallery (not hosted on ENWorld) with pictures of all the pre-generated 1st level characters, in addition the "4E cheat sheet" is included in the gallery as well.

Sometimes a road less travelled is less travelled for a reason

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Late night update

Well here it is, after 11:00 and I'm just getting around to blogging. I'm trying to blog basically every day, not because I have anything particularly fascinating to say, but because soon I'm going to have to start using my blogging for evil, rather than good (or have I up until now been using it for evil, and I'll just be using it for more evil...) So the big meeting went well, and I even managed to take a nap afterward!

Of course now I'm back in the office, because there are still many, many things to do. In particular my old job wants to move me from PRN status (not sure what that stands for and it could be PNR...) to an actual contractor. I guess then they don't have to pay payroll taxes on me (course then I have to pay the taxes... since I will basically be on a 1099...) The weird part is they want me to write the contract! Which works out well for me, I suppose, but then I have to decide how much time I want to spend on it, and balance the competing interests of the money I'll get to charge them for it, protecting my interests, being really tired, and not abusing this open ended task.

I'm heading up there for lunch tomorrow with one of my former co-workers, so ideally I'd have the contract done by then. Thus one of the big reasons why I'm at work. I think I'll let do most of the work for me. If you've never checked them out they're an awesome resource if you just want an example contract (or two, or a million...)

Morals can be such a burden

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Bar

I feel like I have a health bar, like in many video games (particularly those with an RPG element). And that it regenerates slowly over time, but for at least the last month if not longer the minute it regenerated any of my vitality that I immediately used it. For the comparison to be truly accurate you'd have to include a mechanic where things cost more when you're health is low. That writing up, say a contract, uses 5 units of health when you're at 100% health and 10 units when you're at 5% health.

Fortunately after a big VC meeting tomorrow at 9:00 I think I may actually be able to take a break, or at a minimum take it easy for the remainder of the week. I mentioned this already and I still think that something could come up, most likely in the course of tomorrow's meeting, but I'm at least cautiously optimistic. My kids are out of school on Friday which means two things. One that I'll be able to sleep in, and two that I maybe able to do something with then during this all too brief moment of calm. My older two still have ski school... but perhaps the younger two will want to do something, like "Take a nap with daddy!!!"

Someone in my ancestry is a hard-working puritan who left just enough of his DNA in me that I feel guilty about not working hard enough all the time. When I get to heaven he and I are going to have words.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nap or Work?

I donated platelets this morning (I watched Murderball, I highly recommend it) and then went to lunch with some of the guys from my old job. On the way home I was debating whether to go home and take a nap or to go into the office. I really couldn't decide, since both had their good and bad points. I ended up flipping a coin. I think I lost, as a result I'm in the office. It's not so bad, my plan is to push on through till Thursday morning (we have a follow-up meeting with some VCs) and then try and take it easy the rest of the day Thursday and Friday.

Of course that sounds like a good plan, but any number of things could come up between now and then which would derail it. And that of course is why I should be napping right now. I've been essentially putting off all manner of things for years and years and of course the moral is that you always think you're going to get around to whatever it was, but in the end you just get busier and it just becomes harder. Oh well, I'm here now and it's too late to go home and nap so I'd better make the best of it. And of course I'm not working 100% of the time. I mean after all I did go donate platelets and watch Murderball.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Post GDC thoughts

I had hoped to blog at least once or twice from GDC. Having been to lots of conventions, and never having (as far as I can remember) written a single blog post while at a convention, I'm not sure why I keep thinking that this convention will be different. Obviously I can't be taught... Travel in general and conventions in particular really tire me out. But other than the GenCon when I actually exhibited, no convention has wiped me out as bad as GDC. I think it was mostly the sheer volume of information I was trying to gather and process. I would compare it to that movie "Twister", where you've studied tornadoes from afar for many years, but suddenly the time comes when you feel like you're ready to actually enter a tornado, there's suddenly 100X as much info as you had access to previously, and you've got only a short time to grab it all. (or something like that)

As I told everyone who asked, "I'm with a pre-funding start-up, so I can't go into all the details of our super terrific plan for changing the entire face of the industry." So I can't give out a huge amount of details about what I even did, lest it give aid and comfort to the enemy. But there are a few things I can tell you. First I may be moving to Prince Edward Island. Apparently they're trying to become a hub of game development so they offer some pretty outrageous tax incentives to game development studios who relocate. Secondly I tried out a game controller that is controlled by brain waves. It's pretty cool, but not as cool as you might imagine when you talk about controlling games with your mind. They had two algorithms: attention and meditation. With attention you could push, pull or burn the items in their demo game. With meditation you could lift items (they had an x-wing mired in a swamp that you could list.) I was pretty good with both algorithms though it was interesting what sort of activity made your attention or meditation bar go higher.

As I mentioned GDC was tough, tougher than I thought by probably a factor of about 5. (In other words one day of GDC was about as tough as I thought the whole week would be.) So I'm still recovering. I may cover more of the show tomorrow or later in the week, but for now I have to head home.

Just so it's clear I'm not endorsing the movie "Twister"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Last minute preperation

Well I'm busy doing the last bit of preparation for my trip to the Game Developers Con (GDC) in San Francisco. I should mention (particularly since his wife commented on yesterday's blog probably hoping for some word of her husband) that my old friend Wil Upchurch is in town for a couple of days before we both fly out to the convention. For the benefit of his wife I will say that he's doing fine, eating healthy and the reason he hasn't called you is that we took away his phone in a cruel initiation ritual... We'll mail it back to him once we find all the pieces.

I've been exceptionally tired recently. Working 14+ hours a day means generally that you probably need more than 8 hours of sleep and I've been getting less. However I am going to be able to sleep in tomorrow and I'm actually vaguely optimistic that I might be able to catch up on some of my sleep while at the convention. However based on my experience of convention going with Wil I may be "smoking crack" as they say. We'll have to see what happens, we'll be staying at a Dominican Priory, so perhaps that will put something of a cap on his natural exuberance. At some point I may have to re-examine going to conventions with Mr. Upchurch, but it's too late to do anything about it now.

I'm trying to finish one last project before I go, but that may also be an example of "smoking crack". We've actually made a fair bit of progress on things, but as usual the difficulties involved are greater than I imagined, and, well, I'm tired. I'm not sure how much opportunity I'll have to blog from GDC but if I do get a chance I'll be sure to take it.

Sleep! That's where I'm a viking!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Marathon Day

The busier I get the more goofing off appeals to me. Allow me to explain, if I know I've been working real hard, then there's none of the usual guilt associated with goofing off. I still have to get to the point where I feel like I can spare the time to goof off, but even that's easier because I can use justifications like "maintaining a healthy balance" or "sharpening the saw" or "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". I have many ideas currently for some quality goofing off (and I plan to enjoy myself somewhat while in San Francisco) but the one I'm going to talk about today is called the Marathon day.

For awhile I was trying to get together to game once a month for 6 hours. It was amazing how hard this turned out to be. Back in the day we would get together every week, but these days getting together for even a single Saturday was nigh impossible. So the idea I cam up with was for a Marathon Day. Essentially we'd play once a quarter, but when we did we'd start at like 10 in the morning and go till people couldn't speak in complete sentences any longer. Even assuming we only made it till midnight, that's still almost as much time as we were getting under the previous plan, possibly more when you figure how often people are late, and the overhead of starting and stopping etc. Plus you could really get into things.

So far I haven't managed to pull one off. I used the idea of one to block off the time for the surprise trip for the anniversary/birthday trip, but since then I've just been way to busy to even pretend that one might be possible. If I do manage to pull on off you'll be the first to know. But for now I have pushed myself beyond what was wise, so I'm going home.

As much as I would like to goof off, I would like to sleep more

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The winter

It's been a pretty crazy winter. My guess would be it's been the worst winter since I've owned my own home (and consequently had to shovel my giant driveway). I'm pretty sure that it hasn't been the worst of my life, though it's probably in the top three. And actually we've been largely spared the worst of it. Several of the storms have split and hit hard north and south of us, but been relatively mild in our neck of the woods.

There is of course a certain difficulty in defining the worst winter. I guess the best way would be to look at the total snowfall, and that would get you most of the way, but of course it doesn't take into account things like the wind. Last nights storm wasn't too bad in terms of snowfall (at least near my home and office) but it was ridiculously windy. The newspaper called it the worst storm of the year. I think they were using the metric of traffic accidents which is another interesting way of defining which winter is the worst.

The weather is warming up, and I think we're just about to the end of the winter. I don't know if I'm quite ready for it to be over, though I know I'm in the minority. I am ready to stop shoveling, but that's just a subset of being ready for the end of winter. Of course because of the lag, I'm sure we'll have snow in the mountains for many more months, which means I could ski if I had the time and money for that for quite a while. Anyway we'll see how it goes I think Winter may have a few more surprises up her sleeve.

Winter is to be enjoyed, not endured

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I just got off the phone with my brother and things seem to be going well. Thus far, at least as far as he knows, he hasn't developed any complications, so that's good. I asked him if he had enough to read, he said he had some books, but that he wasn't up to reading yet. For me (and I get the feeling him as well) that would be an indication of being pretty beat up, if you're too weak/sick to read. I asked him about the circumstances leading up to things and asked him if he'd consulted with anyone. He said he'd talked to a lot of friends even one who was a doctor and they had told him that if there was no fever and/or nausea that it probably wasn't appendicitis. This is another example of where it's hard to get a straight answer. This paper says that "Fewer than 50% of people with appendicitis have the traditionally described symptoms.." and goes on to list nausea and fever. Whereas this paper claims that 90% of people experience nausea. Anyway, I guess as the Chinese would say, "That wood has been made into a boat."

Back to the earlier subject of the haircut. I actually wanted to post a picture, but being something of a neo-luddite (or at least a late adopter) I don't really have a digital camera (or rather I have a couple of digital cameras in various states, but I haven't integrated a digital camera into my life). The new laptop I ended up with from the day job has a webcam in it, but it took me 20 minutes of searching on the internet to even figure out what program I needed to use to get to it (another thing to blame Vista for), another 10 minutes before I could get my face on the screen and at that point there didn't seem to be anyway to just "snap a picture", and as I didn't want to spend 20 more minutes on the endeavor and I was already pretty mad, I gave up the project.

The reason I was mad is that this program "Quickplay" opens up a UI that has six icons. There are no words, there are no words if you mouse over, there are, as far as I can tell no words in the entire program even after you click on one of these six icons, it is, as they say "Icons all the way down". Okay it's not entirely fair to say that there are no words any where, but there are in point of fact about only 5% of the words I would think are minimally required to use the damn thing.

Whenever someone offers you something always flinch

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I just got off the phone with my sister, who had just gotten off the phone with my brother. He was having some problems with nausea this morning, but I guess when she had talked to him he was starting to develop an appetite and feeling okay. I guess the doctor wants to keep him in the hospital until Friday or Saturday, which is one indication of the severity of the situation, and then he's supposed to take an additional two weeks off of work after that. He's also in school getting his master's degree, I can only imagine that he's going to have to write this term off, but maybe not, he's a lot more dedicated and focused then I am (particularly when I was his age).

At this point it looks probable that someone will fly down tonight. There's a pretty cheap flight and as I've consistently argued, if someone is going to go down anyway we might as well make it sooner rather than later. One of the debates is whether, if we bring him back here to recover (after he's released from the hospital) which seems likely, would it be better for him to lay in the back of a van and be driven home, or sit in first class and fly home. In understand it can be pretty painful to sit after abdominal surgery, but I would also imagine that a 12+ hour drive is worse.

Okay I just got another phone call from my sister and she and my mom are flying down tonight, which is good. I'll definitely worry less. Of course that will mean that my wife will probably spend some time watching my sister's two oldest kids, which may make things interesting, but I think we'll manage. Anyway, other than my brother my time has been mostly spent trying to finalize our short investor presentation before giving it to a group of people this afternoon, who aren't investors but are about as close as you can get.

Once more into the breach

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bad News

When I woke up this morning there was an e-mail in my inbox that my little brother was in the hospital. As I read the details of his illness I immediately figured it was appendicitis. I was right on that count. What I wasn't prepared for is that rather than going to the hospital he had toughed it out and the appendix had ended up perforating, I have found out since then that the words "rupture", "perforate" and "burst" are all apparently used interchangeably and synonymously, and they're all bad. Now of course these days a burst appendix is not the near certain death sentence it was 100 years ago, but it's still pretty bad. It's tough to get a straight answer on the mortality rates for a perforated appendix. Depending on the source you get numbers from 2% all the way up to 10%. Which apparently goes all the way up to 20% if they develop peritonitis.

Even at the low end of 2% (this source has it at 3%) that's not nothing... And some people are listing a complication rate of nearly 60%. So overall I've been a little bit panicked. Probably more than I should be. Part of it is certainly due to the fact that he's in Albuquerque. Add that to the story I just heard on Saturday about someone dying from appendicitis due to medical neglect and I'm a big proponent of getting one of the family members down there to keep an eye in things (i.e. the doctors), sooner rather than later.

At the moment it looks like my sister and mom are best positioned to go down, but if for some reason they can't I may just have to. It would be bad since I'm in the middle of an enormous crunch time and we're trying to save as much money as possible, but as they say my schedule is "flexible".

You could say our steel bow broke...

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Long time readers of my blog may be familiar with my attempts to instill in myself a series of positive habits. My attempts have been modestly successful (emphasis on modestly) I'm happy to report, but the reason I'm bringing up the subject again is that I have recently received some new insight into the process. I discovered that while it is possible to develop a habit sort of "in the wild" absent from any anchoring, that it's far more effective, if you're trying to develop a habit, to come up with some sort of trigger.

So let's say that my wife wants me to put down the little lever that switches the shower back to the bathtub (true story). So rather than trying to remember that every morning, I create a trigger, that when I grab the towel that should trigger me to put the switch down (it's not a switch, or a plunger, I'm not sure what the proper word is...) Eventually the whole thing becomes a single action in my mind.

Now that's an example of a pretty definite trigger, but I also use simpler triggers, like for example I decided I wanted to blog every day so I added the blog creation page to my daily bookmarks, and I can't close that tab/page until I have actually blogged (I did blog every day this week it's just that two of the blogs were in other venues... I can't really explain more.) I'm not sure I'm explaining this very well, but hopefully you get the idea. The core principle is to tie something you want to do into something you already do, so that eventually when you do the thing you're already doing you'll automatically end up doing the thing you wanted to add.

Creature of habits, most, but not all of them bad

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Well my new company involves games (sorry I've been instructed by our investors that I can't really say anything more than that... And who knows they might not even want me mentioning games...) And so despite the fact that it sounds like a big rationalization I have to play the occasional game for research. Of course the key is to limit the amount of time you spend playing the game to just long enough to understand what they're doing. What the good and bad points of the game are etc. Of course the danger is that you'll actually start enjoying yourself and want to play the game past where you've sucked the essence out, and you're just wasting time. I'm afraid that may have happened with this game I was checking out last night.

The game is called "Protector". It's basically a take off of the standard Desktop Tower Defense except it's set in a fantasy world. So rather than having towers you upgrade you have wizards of different elements you level up. And rather than having a single map, you're assigned different locations to protect and each of them have a different layout, with a limited number of spaces where you can put down your dudes (and a mechanic to clear new spaces).

As I alluded to, it sucked me in. I'm not too worried about it, I'm a lot better at setting and following priorities than I used to be, that doesn't mean I won't spend more time on it that I should merely that I'll probably pull out before I crash...

What distractes me makes me slower

Friday, February 08, 2008


I've always said that my ideal hair-cutting schedule would be to shave it all off say in May, and then grow it out for a year, so that it's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It's possible that my hair grows to fast for this to be a practical arrangement. Of course this is to say nothing of the other challenges I face when I get shaggy, which range from four disapproving younger sisters to older members of my congregation who figure I must be some kind of hippie. Well I could handle all of that, but a new factor has entered the equation to which I have no defense.

Allow me to explain, I'm basically an executive at this new company I'm starting and I have to meet with vendors, advisers and most especially investors. As a result I've been informed by several people that my long, hippie hair is not appropriate. This might be a good time to interject the idea that I hate fashion. I understand the evolutionary underpinnings, and I understand the arguments involving the idea that fashion basically amounts to PR, but still on some level I think we should be advanced enough to be in a post-fashion world. But obviously we're not... Anyway, I liked to think that there were at least some people who thought the devil may care, long hair, bearded professor look at least conveyed a certain erudition, but I was painfully disabused of that notion.

So Monday I've got an appointment to get my hair cut. Not at a traditional barber shop where the whole operation might run me $10 including the tip, but at a salon. I expect it will run me somewhere on the order of $50 or so, which bothers me on some level, however I guess, since I've never had my hair cut at that level it is somewhat exciting to see how it turns out. I'm going to give the stylist complete carte blanche. In other words I'd even be open to getting my hair colored... In any case we'll see how it goes, and as you can imagine I'm sure I'll have a full report on Monday.

Going where no MAN has gone before

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

Well it's Super Tuesday. My guess/prediction is that after the smoke clears McCain will more or less have the republican nomination sewn up, but that there won't be any clear winner between Clinton and Obama. As for myself, I'm not sure if I should admit this, but I registered as a Republican just so that I could cast a vote for Ron Paul. I'm hoping that it will be as easy to unregister from the Republican party as it was to register, but only time will tell. I don't think I could handle the stain on my soul from being a registered Republican. Don't look at me like that I feel the same way (if not moreso) about being a registered Democrat...

You may of course be wondering why I voted for Dr. Paul. Well it's the Gold Standard really, I think we really need to get back on the Gold Standard... Okay not really in fact his position on that issue is almost enough to make me not vote for him, almost... My reasons for voting for Paul are almost entirely related to him being the only candidate in the race who is seriously arguing for a vastly reduced federal government. Also Romney has Utah completely sewn up, so I can vote for Paul without fear that I'll be affecting the outcome other than to lend one more voice to the small-government contingent.

Anyway, other than that the other big thing I did was to go through 700+ e-mails in my g-mail account, tagged them, made sure I hadn't missed doing anything (as a matter of fact I had missed a couple of things...) moved the majority of them to the archive and generally applied a system to the whole mess which will hopefully make things easier to stay on top of moving forward. We'll have to see if that's actually the case.

I hear his close friends call him Ronnie...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Day Job

In case anyone is curious. I'm finally no longer an employee of the "day job". All that means is that I don't do a set number of hours and that my benefits will run out at the end of February. I should pause before continuing and talk about how I shamefully gamed the system. See the way it works is that you get benefits until the last day of the month you receive your last paycheck in. So knowing that the pay period of January 12th through the 25th would get paid out on the 1st of February I told my bosses that my last week would be the 12th through the 18th. The justification I used was that the 14th was a big deadline and that I would work through that. In reality as you can see I wanted to work one week in that pay period so that I could get paid for it on the 1st of February and therefore have benefits all the way to February. Yes, as I said I shamefully gamed the system, but it's not like I went out of my way to make a secret of it. I described my plan in great detail to the people in HR to make sure that it actually worked the way I thought it did. They shook their heads in resignation at my wickedness, but agreed that that was in fact how it would play out.

I don't feel too bad because basically I've bent over backwards to accommodate the "day job" so if I game the system a little bit, I don't feel any particular remorse. Of course just because it was my last day on salary didn't mean it was my last work for them. They didn't have (and still don't have) a replacement, so the wanted me to transition to a consultant. Well as you can imagine with no one to replace me and no one at the job who really knows what I do, I had a significantly advantageous position in my bargaining. I'm afraid that's when I committed my second somewhat shameful act and made them agree to fairly significant hourly fee. But overall it worked out. By the time my benefits lapse I'll have benefits at the new business, and meanwhile I'm making quite a bit of money as a consultant. Everyone's happy, at least I think everyone's happy, it's tough to tell...

I wouldn't go so far as to call it blackmail...