Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Links!

Leading off, from the Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is just a great read, it's How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love. Next, and this is just incredible (not in a good way), it's *SCAM* Adam and Antony Murphy's Imaginears - UPDATE *SCAM*. This is quite interesting: The Subtle Art of Breaking Building Laws. One more, and it's the trailer for a documentary about the creation of Dungeons & Dragons: The Great Kingdom.

A slew of links from Kez. First, and this surprises no one, it's Miserable Men (Instagram). Next, and is one pissed off musician, it's Whitey/stay on the outside/Betty TV - London.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is a pleasant, nostalgic blast from the past: Olde Baseball Cards.

From Sebastian Mankowski, and I know there's a lot of sentimental crap around the Olympics, but this is still quite affecting: Thank You, Mom | Pick Them Back Up.

From Sirius, and this is fascinating: Getting "knocked up" meant something different in Victorian England. Also, and this is amazing, it's There’s a 1,200-year-old Phone in the Smithsonian Collections.

From J.R. Parnell, and this is savagely amusing, it's 17 Images That Will Ruin Your Childhood.

From Connell Smith, and this is entirely brilliant, it's Delta's 80's In-Flight Safety Video.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jute's Charmed Life... currently free on Amazon for Kindle. Link: Jute's Charmed Life.

Eli 12.5: Recovery

Eli 12.5 is fiercely competitive and totally inspired on the ice. Off the ice, there's this:

If he squeezes the little handles, the arms on the tuque stand up.

The cracked rib healed--not nearly quickly enough, and it basically destroyed his sleep for two weeks--and he went back to practice last Tuesday. We had played tennis for four days in a row over the weekend, and he had no pain, so that was the all-clear.

It's hard to come back from an injury, plus he had new skates, because his other ones were small. Very small.

"When are we going to get you new skates?" I kept asking him.

"I like them tight," he said.

"You wear ten and a half shoes and you're wearing size FIVE skates," I said. "I should bronze those skates and hang them from my rearview mirror, they're so small."

He laughed. "Soon," he said. When we did finally get new skates, they were size 7 1/2. He likes them tight, after all.

So he was in double-whammy territory, but he looked decent in  practice, and he had an hour with one of his coaches on Friday, working on specific situations:

That's what I call the "stuff drill", where the coach takes a shot to try and generate a rebound, then tries to stuff it in. It's hard work, because they do it for most of the hour. 80% of the goals that teams score at his age seem to come from chaos around the net, so doing this over and over again lets him see pucks in every possible situation--every crazy bounce, every angle--to help him develop muscle memory. It also helps him be more aggressive, because the coach is very, very quick, so if Eli isn't quick, he will get scored on almost every time.

He doesn't, though, because he's the quickness Superfreak.

After a few days of practice, there were two games in Houston last weekend. This time, the other goalie on his team was staying home (orchestra performance), so Eli was in goal for both games.

I'd write some long narrative about how those games went, but I don't need to. He won the first game 3-2 in overtime (17 saves), then won the next day 4-0 (23 saves). The Sunday shutout was stellar, because his team went up 3-0 midway through the second and promptly went into spectator mode. He was so dialed in, so precise, that he just dominated.

The biggest difference since he got pulled in San Antonio? Decisiveness on loose pucks and traffic around the net. He's spent hours working with his coach on that exact situation. That's what the stuff drill does, and it's made a big difference.

He's played five games since he got pulled that weekend: 1.6 GAA, .934 save percentage, 3-1-1 record, and two shutouts.


That's one of the qualities that separates him from most other kids his age. When other kids fail, it can destroy their confidence. Eli never loses his confidence. He just works harder.

We were lucky enough to go to NASA on Saturday--the Johnson Space Center (where DQ Ideas Guy John Harwood spent much of his formative years). It was a little sad and a little faded, but on the tram tour we stopped in front of a giant building and went inside. Then we saw this:

That's a Saturn V rocket. It's 363 feet long.

It's huge beyond all conception. You walk into the building and it's so overwhelming, so breathtaking, that it's hard to describe.

"So you know what all the stages before the command module are, right?" I asked Eli as we walked around.

"No, what?" he asked.

"Fuel," I said. "It's all fuel to get the command module where it needs to go."

"That's incredible!" he said.

"Do you know what fuel is?" I asked.

"This is one of those inspirational things, isn't it?"

"Work," I said. "Fuel is work."

He laughed. "I knew it!" he said.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Console Post of the Week: Nintendo

Nintendo announced its quarterly earnings last night. The Wii U numbers were staggeringly bad, so bad that the numbers don't even mean anything, really. Instead, let's try an image: Wile E. Coyote skating off a cliff, landing on dynamite, which then explodes, toppling a gigantic rock from a cliff face that plummets inexorably toward said Coyote as he holds up a tiny sign that reads "Help".


The Wii U is done. I wish it wasn't true, but it is, and inescapably so. A very clever little system, with a very clever controller, is finished. Nintendo will now be all-out trying to produce its replacement, and as quickly as possible.

There are a few things I'd like to mention, though, that may not have been mentioned elsewhere.

First, Nintendo always survives their disasters. I think this has been a very underrated quality of Nintendo. They sometimes release catastrophically stupid products, and sometimes they release interesting products with catastrophically poor execution, but at the end of the day, they're still alive, unlike all those other companies who have one catastrophe and get taken out by the big one before they even have time to clutch their chests.

Second, what caused this particular disaster is unclear. Is this a problem with the reshaping of the gaming market due to smartphones, or was this disastrous execution, or both? I would argue that you can't evaluate the smartphone problem, because Nintendo's execution with the Wii U was so comically bad that it overwhelms any other possible cause.

Too expensive. No must-have pack-in game. There was no recovery from those two mistakes, because they made it impossible for the system to generate any momentum. Nintendo Land was cute and utterly forgettable.

Do you know when I knew this console was dead? When we bought one on launch day, and Eli 11.3 was bored after playing Nintendo Land for an hour. We played it two times after that.

When the Wii launched, we played Wii Sports every day for at least three months. It was appointment gaming.

Too much to expect Nintendo to make a great pack-in game? No. Not for Nintendo.

So from day one, they've been chasing on price, and chasing on content, and clearly, they're not going to catch up. And as long as they survive, that's all okay. Innovating and failing is part of Nintendo's DNA, and thank goodness they're still willing to take chances.

Their problem, though (and I guess this is point "third"), is that they whiffed so badly on execution that it's going to be very, very difficult to evaluate the impact of smarphones as a percentage of what happened. That is much, much more serious, because it means they haven't learned anything about the smartphone market from this generation. That is very dangerous, and it could lead to all kinds of mistaken conclusions about where they should go from here.

Fourth, I don't know anyone who wants Nintendo to fail. They're beloved in a way that few other gaming companies, if any, have ever been. Those feelings are reflective of what they've created for decades, and I hope they're able to do it again in the next generation. I hope they keep doing it for a long time.

I hope that when Eli 12.5 has children some day, we can all play on a new Nintendo console together.

Dear Mr. Holst

I decided to warm up the car for a few minutes this morning before I left to go get my P. Terry's banana bread. I think I've decided that I needed to "warm up the car" before leaving twice in the last decade, and the first time was last Friday.

On the positive side, at least I don't live in Atlanta: Atlanta's Roads Are A Frozen Hellscape Of Abandoned Cars And Buses.

After a few minutes, I stepped outside and headed to the car. As I opened the door, I realized I'd left the radio on and at high volume. Because of that, I heard "Mars, the Bringer of War" from Holst's The Planet blasting from the speakers.

As soon as I heard it, I felt my pulse race, and I thought to myself, now THAT'S the way to enter a car.

GWJ Podcast

The Gamers With Jobs guys invited me to blabber on their podcast, and here's the link:
GWJ Podcast.

Gamers With Jobs has been one of my favorite sites for almost a decade (right from the time they started), so even though this was way out of my comfort zone, I still enjoyed myself. Much thanks to them for inviting me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Cold

There was a 20-30% chance of "light sleet or a dusting of snow" last night.

In response, schools announced that there would be no school today. I'm not kidding.

Why would they do this? Well, because we all lose our minds when there's a single ice pellet on the road:

That's not a live video link--just a screen print--but I'm sure you're not missing anything. It's probably just footage of dumbasses sliding into each other.

There was a 20-car pileup on one of the highways this morning.

I drove to P. Terry's (2 miles away, on back roads) for banana bread and large amounts of diet soda (while I tested the 1.01 update of Gridiron Solitaire, which is now live), and I realized as I walked from the car into the restaurant that it was the coldest I've felt in a long, long time. 27 with 20 mph winds, so the wind chill was about 12F.

I was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a long underwear shirt, and my rink jacket. For Austin, that is heavy-duty winter garb.

Jute's Charmed Life

I am very happy to report that Garret Alley's fine trilogy for 10-14-year-olds (hyphen record) has reached its conclusion with the publication of Jute's Charmed Life: Leap's Gate (Volume 3).

These books are mainly targeted toward girls, but I very much enjoyed reading all of them (I still have about 50 pages left in the new book, but plan to finish it tonight). They have interesting stories and well-developed characters, and they're highly entertaining reads.

Congratulations to Garret on a terrific trilogy!


Well, this is going to be huge:
Northwestern football players seek to unionize; what does the development mean?

I've been expecting this day to come for years. And it's going to be messy, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

Even better, here's a quote from Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips:
We love and are proud of our students. Northwestern teaches them to be leaders and independent thinkers who will make a positive impact on their communities, the nation and the world. Today’s action demonstrates that they are doing so.

That's impressive. Instead of screaming that this will DESTROY COLLEGE FOOTBALL (you don't have to look far to find ADs screaming this), Mr. Phillips says he's proud of them.

Eli 12.5 will be ready for college hockey recruitment in another 4.5 years or so, and I will encourage him to consider Northwestern, both as a terrific academic school and as a place where people are encouraged to be strong instead of obedient. 

That is very, very important.

Right now, he thinks he wants to go to Boston College (both for hockey and for academics). I can hardly believe that within a few years, we'll actually be having substantive conversations about this.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sorry About That

The formatting on the alien e-mail exchange went a little wonky, and every time I try to fix it, it gets worse. Must be some kind of intergalactic protocol I'm not familiar with.

I forgot to mention that, of course, my alien friend had an e-mail avatar. Yes, it was an alien.

Gridiron Solitaire #91: Early Post-Launch

Okay, lots to get to today.

I couldn't have asked for a better post-launch week. It's been crazy, and I'm exhausted (and I somehow threw my back out yesterday), but it's all been good. I still have no idea about sales--still afraid to look--but here are some things that seem to have gone well:
1. Release date
I accidentally released in what must be the slowest period for games all year. Because of that, I'm still the first listing in the Steam "sports games" section. Not first in sales, but I'm the most recent sports game to be released, and that gets me an excellent placement on the page.
2. Stability
If the user doesn't have Windows Media Player installed, or it isn't enabled, the game will crash on launch (WPF apps use WMP to play audio and video files). But when it happens, the crashdump routine has done what it's supposed to, popping up a window and asking the user to send the file to the support e-mail. So 8 reports of that crash, all fixed very quickly.

I've added WMP as a requirement in the game's specifications, but almost no one reads those (I don't), so I'll probably keep getting a few of these e-mails.

Other than that, almost nothing. One user had a Windows crash in the third quarter of a game (bad). One user has an issue with the Steam community overlay somehow interfering with his ability to load a league (although it works fine as soon as he disables the overlay).

Overall, I am tremendously happy that the game seems to be extremely stable.
3. Reception
The Steam forums have been very positive, and the people playing the game seem to be enjoying themselves. I've had people tell me they were up until 4 a.m., or that they'd played the game for over ten hours in the last two days. I couldn't ask for anything more satisfying than that.

There have been two reviews posted so far (Red Door, Blue Key and One Guy, Too Many Games), and they've both been very positive.
4. Feedback
It's been very helpful to get intelligent feedback about what might get tweaked or added to the game. People are absorbed in the game to the point that they have useful and perceptive feedback.

Now, stuff that may not have gone so well.
1. Sales
I know, I haven't looked yet, but while the Steam forums have been very supportive and positive, the number of people in the forum isn't very large. I'm not concerned about this, but it's part of the overall picture, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Okay, here are two stories that I think are very funny (hmm, that sounds a bit risky for you, doesn't it?)

First, DQ Ideas Man John Harwood installed GS on his adorable eight-year-old son's computer, because his son wanted to play the game (he's 2-0 on Rookie difficulty with the Explorers, so hell yeah!). John installed the game successfully and it runs fine, and just wait until you see the system specs:
Win XP SP3
Pentium 4 3.2GHz
1.5 Gig RAM

So basically, if you can still turn your computer on and it boots up, you can probably play GS with no performance issues.

Second, I gave away a fair number of Steam keys to reviewers and YouTube streaming channel guys last week. However, I did have one unlikely e-mail exchange:

*incoming transmission [Gridiron Solitaire]

Alien Joe 
to contact

[Incoming Transmission]
Humans *bzzt
We are *bzzt near your stinky and poor planet
Your last chance to save your world
is steamkey for Gridiron Solitaire
William Harris 
to Alien

The price of saving the universe has apparently gone down MASSIVELY. But what uses can the aliens have for my football card game?

Alien Joe
to me

Your game will be played by our great Admiral Zebulon. He want San Diego to won NFL. AND TO DESTROY ENTIRE LEGAUE WITH OUR MEGAGIGALAZOO..
Nah, he just want to win league.
 William Harris
to Alien

Okay, one last question. Did Admiral Zebulon become a fan of the Chargers while they were in the AFL, or after the AFL merged with the NFL? These are important questions when our planet is at stake.

Alien Joe
to me

He became their fan when they won AFL in 1963. Admiral was scout, looking for good players to our club Cojones Saturno and he felt in love to San Diego team. 

 William Harris
to Alien

Okay, man, I don't know who you are, but for an alien, you are incredibly entertaining. Here's a Steam key.

I don't know what the lifespan of your species is, but I'm going to keep working on the game and improving it, so hopefully you and/or your ancestors will enjoy playing.

Alien Joe
to me

Thanks a lot. Invasion cancelled. Hope your game will be sold good enough to make other fantastic titles.
Cheers, my friend from earth!

Yeah, that might have made the four years worth it, just with that one e-mail exchange.

Let's see, a couple of other notes. First, I recorded the GWJ podcast last night, and it should be up on Tuesday. Many thanks to Shawn Andrich for inviting me. It was far, far outside my comfort zone, but I have to be willing to promote the game if I want it to survive (I do), and the GWJ guys are incredibly nice.

There's also going to be a 1.01 update this week. Contents:
1. AI tweaks for 4th quarter situations where the CPU is behind. There are certain moments in the game (due to score and time remaining) where the CPU will basically lose if they punt, and there were a few cases where they weren't evaluating this properly.
2. I show a "fullscreen" option in the Options menu, but it's mislabeled. It should be "maxmimized".
3. The link to the BBC introduction to football players was inactive, so I've linked to the guide I put up in the Steam forum instead.
4. A sharp-eyed user noticed that the third game of the season was taking place on September 31. Oops. That's fixed.
5. There's now a version label on the title screen.

I think that's it for now. I'm working on a post about balancing complexity in card play versus skill gradations and time, but I may just pin that in the Steam forums and link to it here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Links!

From Frank Regan, and this is phenomenal, it's 100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N' Roll).

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is terrific, it's Saddleback Leather's David Munson Shows You How to Knock Off His Designs. Next, and this is thought-provoking, it's Hitler on the Mississippi Banks: Thoughts on Timothy Snyder's Bloodlands. Next, and this is just brilliant, it's Fight Club minus Tyler Durden. Also, and this is entirely wonderful, it's An Illustrated Account of the Great Maple Syrup Heist. One final link from TEGLM, and it's powerful: Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is fantastic: Internet Radio Provides Musical Space-Weather Reports from NASA's LRO Mission.

From DQ Ideas Man John Harwood, and these are incredibly clever, it's Famous movie quotes as charts.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is simply bizarre: You Can Get Placebo Sleep. Also, and this is one of the most wonderfully heartwarming things I've ever read: This Woman’s Obituary is the Best Thing You’ll Read Today.

From Sirius, and these are amazing: "Tire icicles". Here's something I never thought I'd see: Focus: First Spectrum of Ball Lightning.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and this is fantastic: Yesterday, the Internet solved a 20 year old mystery. Also, another amazing Google Glass app: Fighting fires with the help of Google Glass.

From DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles, and this is hilarious: Someone has made fake London Underground science, and whoever did it is a ruddy genius.

From Wallace, and you will never read a longer or more interesting story about toast (among other things): How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze?

From Tim Jones, and this will blow you away: Falcon Steals Camera, Accidentally Records Stunning Aerial Footage of Penguin Colony.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Banner Saga

I decided last week, while I was working on Gridiron Solitaire almost constantly, that I needed to play a game.

Not my game--I was playing that four or five hours a day already. I needed to get out of my own head.

I've been looking forward to the Banner Saga from the day I saw the Kickstarter campaign. The hand-drawn, old-school, visuals reminded me of a full-length animated feature from a bygone era.

That was more than enough for me. I was hooked. So when I decided to play something, it was an easy choice.

I've spent nearly 4 hours with the game now, and it's wonderful. It's also different, in a good way. It's a game that demands to be played on its own terms, so let me explain those terms and talk about the game in general.

First off, the visuals are magnificent. My God, they're beautiful. I feel like I'm playing an old-school Disney cartoon, both in the still images and the animation. I cannot overstate how stunning and wonderful the visuals are, and how many little details you'll notice that will immerse you even further into the world.

Second, this is a story-driven game, and that's one of the "own terms" I mentioned earlier. There are long stretches of story and conversations, and I find them tremendously charming and engaging. The Banner Saga is a very personal, intimate game. Characters have relationships. There is nuance. I feel emotions as I play.

I also find the combat very engaging, but it is less important than the story. This is a game about relationships and destinies and family, and combat is not the focus. So if you want a combat-heavy game, you will be disappointed. This is a unique blend of a fascinating story that is told in considerable depth, along with a turn-based battle engine that is surprisingly satisfying. Make no mistake, though--primarily, you are the leader of a clan, not a warrior.

The Banner Saga is unique to a degree that I really can't compare it to anything else. And it is obviously so carefully made, so lovingly crafted, that I have nothing but respect and admiration for the developers.

Expect to be drawn into a complex story with interesting characters. The Banner Saga is a hand-drawn myth, come to life.

Here's the website: The Banner Saga.


I was going to write about Nintendo this week, but I have been overtaken by events. However, I read an excellent piece by Chris Kohler today, and it's both interesting and thought-provoking:  Everything You’re Thinking About Nintendo Is Totally Wrong.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire: Crazytown

Everything is nuts around here.

Again, when I say "nuts", I mean "me".

Having a game that's actually been released (did I just say that?) Is so entirely different from having a "game in development" that I feel entirely unmoored. The very comforting routine of playing the game several hours a day and feeling satisfaction as I saw it play progressively better has now been replaced with something entirely different--good, but entirely different, and entirely disorienting. The best way I can describe it is that it's like living in a comfortable little town, and then you blink once and you're standing in Tokyo.

It's awfully exciting, and I only hope I have the right currency with me.

People are asking me about sales, and I have no idea, because I haven't looked. I know that sounds crazy, but I've been so happy with how the game has been received that I'm afraid to look in Steam and see that I sold 250 copies or something. I told myself before the game launched that no matter the sales, I did everything I could, and that's true. I've never tried so hard to cover every single detail and do the best job I possibly could (well, other than being Eli's dad).

I know that Fredrik did everything he could possibly do, too. We were (and are) both all in.

The best part so far has been how people seem to understand and enjoy the game. I was worried about that--I knew I loved playing the game, but I didn't know how many other people would--but the reception has been even more positive than I had ever hoped. People are posting AARs in the Steam forum, and it makes me so happy that other people are seeing the moments I saw when I tested the game.

I put up a small guide in the forum for people who are new to American football, and if you'd like to read it, it's here: If You're New To American Football (basic rules of the game).

You guys have sent me an avalanche of awesome e-mail in the last day, and thank you very, very much.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire: Guide for New Players (the first hour)

I want you guys to have the best experience possible, so here are a few things to keep in mind during your first hour of play.

First, pay attention to the tutorial. It only lasts about 10 minutes, but it explains everything you need to know in terms of the rules. The rules aren't complicated, but you do need to understand them.

Actually, what am I saying? Nobody pays attention to the tutorial. Okay, let's start from scratch here.

There are two major areas of gameplay in GS: strategic decisions related to football, and strategic decisions related to the tableau (the cards in front of you). The football decisions are the same that a football coach would make during a game: run/pass playcall, down and distance decisions, when to kick, time management, etc. That's basic football, so no discussion needed (I'll put up a separate guide for those of you who are unfamiliar with American football).

So let's talk about the tableau.

The basics:
--playing cards either increases your gain on offense, or reduces the opponent's gain on defense.
--valid "matches" are cards within 1 rank and opposite color (so red 2 and black 3 would be a valid match, for example).
--1 and 13 are NOT a valid match. This is important to the card gameplay and will be discussed shortly.
--on offense, if you run out of valid card matches, you can press the "Big Play" button. When you press the Big Play button, you will either get another card or trigger a text event, which could have a positive or negative outcome. In gameplay terms, this represents risk.
--on defense, you receive an allocation of Big Play presses per half. They're much less risky in outcome terms (a negative event when you press the Big Play button on defense is very rare), but the risk lies in their limited supply. So you need to decide when getting an extra card (which will possibly result in more matches to reduce the opponent's gain on the play) is important.

The card play may seem simplistic at first, and you can certainly play it that way, but because 1-13 is not a match, certain cards are better to have on the tableau than others (with three specific levels of quality). I'm not going to spell that out for you, because I want you to discover it for yourselves, but good card play is a continual process of replacing "bad" cards on the tableau with "good" cards as soon as possible. This affects what order you'll play your matches, if you have more than one showing, and what you want to match the wild card with (wild cards show up occasionally and can be matched with any card).

On Rookie difficulty, you will quickly be able to win. Rookie is really only for people who have no understanding of American football and my Mom (love you, Mom!). The AI is very, very simple on Rookie.

As soon as you move up to Veteran level, though, the AI is very strong. The decisions you have to make on every play are much more consequential, and the game becomes very challenging.  So as soon as you feel comfortable on Rookie, move up to Veteran. You can change the difficulty level during a season in the Options menu, so you can move back and forth at will.

Also, don't worry about losing. That's part of every season (some more than others). No matter how strong your team is, you're going to lose games during a season. The game is not about being perfect, it's about adapting to changing game situations and making sound decisions.

That's enough for now. I am happy to answer any questions you have via e-mail or in the Steam forums, and I'll compile a list of the most frequently asked questions and post it in a few days.

Oh, one more note: if you use a pen tablet for your input device, GS should work fine with it (that's what I use), and you can select cards very, very quickly that way. Also, if you have Windows 8 and a touchscreen-enabled device, GS works fine with those, too. You'll just need to use a regular keyboard for editing teams, but other than that, you're good to go with touch. I test on Eli's ultrabook all the time.

Please Note

[UPDATE: working fine now!]

The two videos (cut scene and trailer) aren't showing up on the Steam Store page right now. I don't know why, but I'm looking into it.

Since I didn't actually expect the game to be released today, it's utter chaos around here. Well, no one else is here but me, so it's utter chaos of one.

I'm working on a "first hour" guide for new players and will have that up shortly.

Gridiron Solitaire Now Live On Steam

Much to my utter amazement, you can now purchase Gridiron Solitaire on Steam.

Steam page: Gridiron Solitaire.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #90: The Last Step

Steam has approved the game, and I requested a release date of tomorrow at  2 p.m. CST.

That doesn't mean it's going to be released tomorrow at 2 p.m. The game still isn't on the "Coming Soon" section of Steam, and I haven't heard anything since the game was approved. I'm not sure what that means, and I don't know what kind of things Steam has to do on the back end.

If I hear anything, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, please enjoy this photo of Eli 12.5, wearing his Gridiron Solitaire shirt:

In the publicity category, I was told that the Weekend Confirmed podcast mentioned GS, so thanks. And also in the thanks category, I'd like to mention David Byron, who not only pushed the Greenlight campaign on Popehat, but was also responsible for getting Scott K. Ratner to voice the cut scene. David isn't in the credits, because I wasn't exactly sure how to categorize what he did (Talent scout? Talent procurer?), but I wanted to thank him.

I'm still playing a ton of games every day, and I'm finding small things to improve. Really small, like the location of the date on the newspaper headline page.

I was thinking this weekend about how this all started, and that led me to DQ Legal Advisor Lee Rawles. I believe he was the first person I told, when he was down in Austin on a business trip. We had lunch, I sketched out what I was thinking, and then there was this fulcrum point. It would have been entirely reasonable for Lee to point out reasonable things, like
1) I couldn't write one line of code.
2) Learning how to code is difficult.
3) This cannot possibly be a reasonable idea.

Instead, Lee did none of those things. He was entirely positive, he asked intelligent questions, and he took me seriously.

In retrospect, that was very important. If he had been reasonable, then I would have probably been reasonable, too, and this game would never have been made.

MLK Day 2014

Today, an annual post.

Today is a national holiday in the United States to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's easy to forget the kind of hatred and stupidity that King was fighting against, but a good place to start is with this documentation of the Jim Crow laws in the United States (this is a different source than what I've linked to in the past, and it's much more detailed). The Wikipedia entry for Jim Crow laws also has detailed information. And the Wikipedia entry for King is here.

It's painful to read about the Jim Crow era, and as an American, it's both embarrassing and shameful, but it's important to learn about the past, even if we wish it hadn't happened.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Please Note

The first story I linked to on Friday was a detective story, to me, about a woman who had essentially fabricated her entire educational and professional background in order to lend credence to a product (a putter) that she was promoting.

In the course of the story, the author revealed that the woman was transgender. That became a larger part of the story, by its conclusion.

While I read the story, I felt squirmy in a few places. I didn't really understand why the person being transgender mattered to the story. The author was using the transgender status of the person as an anchor point for the "nothing is as it appears" narrative, but it wasn't germane--the fraudulent background (and how that background was used to attract investors) was unrelated to being transgender.

Someone who I highly respect--Thom Moyles--e-mailed today about the story, and over the course of a few e-mails, he explained my discomfort far better than I could:
I think you've pin-pointed it, that he was using the transgender status as the anchor and the problem with that is we've reached a pivot point in society where being transgender is no longer as strange and exotic and dangerous-seeming as it once did when it was entirely on the periphery. It is enough of those things that I think it struck Hannan as a natural anchor when instead, it should have been a side-issue -- additionally, he seems to be treating it rather crudely, without thinking of how having a reporter essentially threatening to "reveal" things would feel to somebody who was transgendered. I can see why it would be tempting to tie it into a greater narrative of "deception", however; had the same article been written about somebody who was homosexual, I think the callousness of his behavior would be even more obvious.

Like I said, Thom explains it far better than I could. So I regret linking to that article, and I removed it from the post.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire Update

Submitted to Steam yesterday and approved today. I'm in shock for about the third time this month.

As soon as I have an official release date (I have one I'm hoping for, but not sure that Steam can do it that quickly), I'll put up a post.

Bonus Link!

Courtesy of Deadspin, and these pictures are just spectacular: Ali, Frazier and the ‘Fight of the Century’: A Photographer Remembers.

Friday Links!

From Meg McReynolds, and this is quite fascinating: This is how map projections warp your understanding of geography. Also, and this is both provocative and a great time waster, it's 40 more maps that explain the world.

From Steven Davis, and here are more of those fantastic book edge pictures: I’ll Never Ever Look At Books The Same Again After Seeing These Hidden Messages.. Also, and this is brilliant, it's World War II in Europe: Every Day.

From Sirius, and this is amazing: "Able to lift more than 850 times their own weight".

From Michael O'Reilly, and this is an entirely fascinating article: Why Some Civil War Soldiers Glowed in the Dark. One more, and it's an absolute must-read: Inside Monopoly's secret war against the Third Reich.

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is terrific: Wynwood Miami. Next, and this is spectacular, it's Colour film of London in 1927. Next, and this is chronicles a tense legal struggle--well, not exactly--it's The Untold Legal Drama of Coyote v. Acme. Here's an interesting bit of history: The Curious Story of London’s First Coffeehouses (1650-1675). One more, and it's fascinating: Amsterdam children fighting cars in 1972.

From J.R. Parnell, and this is staggering: A Janitor Secretly Worked On This For 7 Years. No One Knew Til Now… And It’s Baffling Everyone.

From DQ Reader My Wife, and this is quite a story: Sometimes You Just Have to Shoot the General Land Office.

From Jonathan Arnold, and this is a massive and tremendous read: Disaster Centennial: The Disturbing Relevance of World War I. Also, and this is entirely awesome, it's Video: Fish leaps to catch birds on the wing.

From C. Lee, and there's something here for everyone: 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oculus Rift

I'm not going to go into an extended discussion today, but let me just say this: Oculus Rift is disruptive technology. It is going to be HUGE.


Until a month ago, there were two 7-11 stores within ten miles of our house. Two.

A month later, there are thirty-four. THIRTY-FOUR. There are fifty-five within 15 miles of the house.

It's incredible. Within thirty days, basically, they've bought almost every convenience store in the city. It's like they dropped a dirty convenience store bomb and every store has been radiated.

I don't mind 7-11, generally. They have a decent mix of products, and their prices are no worse than anyone else's. The problem, though, is that the different convenience store brands that used to exist all carried different products. So if I wanted A&W 10, for example--the best diet root beer ever made--there were several places where I could always find it (because local grocery stores were hit and miss).

7-11 doesn't carry A&W 10. So now there are thirty-four convenience stores within ten miles of my house that DON'T carry my favorite drink, and there are almost no non 7-11 stores left.  There's still one Chevron within a few miles who carries it, but they'll probably be slapping that 7-11 sign up there any day now.

That means that even though A&W 10 is pretty amazing, it may not survive. If you're not in stores, and no one can buy you, future prospects are dim.

This reminds me something that I've talked about in the past re Gatorade vs. Powerade. There's only a certain amount of shelf space available for "sports drinks", and Gatorade has crowded out Powerade entirely in many convenience stores. So quality is often less important than distribution deals.

It's all about distribution.

When I think about it this way, I'm very, very glad that I took the utterly ridiculous and unlikely step of submitting for Steam Greenlight. When the miracle came through and GS was actually approved, it meant that I instantly had the widest distribution possible. And they carry everything. The gaming equivalent of A&W 10 is always in stock on Steam.

I remembered that as I struggled through the submission process this week (TGFG, or Thank God For Garret). The struggled were due to my own ineptitude, not the quality of the tool (which was impressively good), but I finally finished everything late this morning and submitted early this afternoon.

That's right: the game has officially been submitted to Steam. How's that for burying the lead?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Here's what you might find when you have to replace a ten-year-old dryer and you look behind it for the first time in, oh, ten years:

"What is that?" Eli 12.5 asked.

"Oh my God," Gloria said. "That's your potty chart!"

"What the heck?" Eli asked.

"When you were potty training, I kept a calendar and put a sticker on each day when you used the potty."

"I see kind of an alarming three-day gap there, dude," I said.

He laughed. "I have no memory of those days," he said.

"This is from March of TWO THOUSAND FOUR," Gloria said.

What I remember about Eli's toilet training is that we tried to teach him a little soon, and he wasn't really ready. Then, as soon as he decided he was ready, he basically learned instantly.


I have basically zero time for working out right now as I try to navigate through Steam and get GS launched. So for the last week or so, I've been doing a few sets of a workout I'd seen months ago, saved, but never tried. It's a 7-minute circuit training workout, with 12 30-second stations and 10 seconds in-between.

The basic principle is that you don't give your body quite enough time to recover, so if you do two sets (or three), you wind up getting a decently intense workout on a day when you otherwise wouldn't have worked out at all.

Here's a link, with a nice graphic that you can print out: 7 Minute Workout.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Only In Austin

I've thought for several years now that Austin has jumped the shark.

It's crowded. The traffic is terrible. Housing prices are ridiculous. All similar features to parts of California, with the exception that it's one billion degrees here in the summer.

Plus, on the traffic side, there's no place to build new roads. We've built them all, basically, and it's just getting worse.

However, Austin still has a remarkable mix of creative people. Everybody has a day job that funds their night job, which will become their day job as soon as they can make a living from it.

Case in point. There's a casual restaurant within walking distance of Eli's school, and sometimes I hang out there, particularly if I want to do Gridiron Solitaire testing. Eli also likes this place, so sometimes we eat here if we're on our way to hockey.

Over the months, we've become friendly with one of the employees. He's a genuinely nice guy who likes Eli and seems like an interesting person.

Last month, as I was getting a drink at the counter, somehow the conversation turned to the weekend, and I asked him what he was doing. Well, he was going to be in an art show, and he wrote down the link to his website, where he has all kinds of cool and interesting pieces (look for yourself). Then he said that his girlfriend--of course, because this is Austin--is an even better artist, and she also does all this whimsical crochet stuff as a business. That's here, and if you go to the second page, there's this crocheted owl purse, and seriously, who doesn't want a crocheted owl purse? There are a few nude sketches and stuff, too, so I don't know how that falls in the NSFW spectrum. The crochet is great, though.

Last week, he asked me what I was doing on the ultrabook, and I told him about the game. He was as surprised as I was when he told me about his art. Then I asked him if he grew up as a conventional artist or a digital one, and he said he had Photoshop when he was 12 and got serious about it very quickly. That turned into a discussion about how our conception of what constitutes art is changing, and how it's becoming less and less tactile as digital art becomes more and more prevalent.

That's the thing about Austin that's still very cool. There are all these amazing conversations to be had with people that seem relatively ordinary, except none of them are ordinary at all.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire #89: A Deep Breath

I dove into Steam last week.

Initially, I was totally overwhelmed. There are a lot of moving parts, because there's a lot you can do, and a lot you need to do, before your game is ready for market.

I had a sinking moment when I realized how much work I had left to do, and how much left I had to learn. In lieu of brilliance (not available--sorry), I decided to brute force things. Even with no idea of what I was doing, I figured if I spent 5-6 hours a day learning the tool, then eventually I would be less dumb.

It worked. I hit a few dead ends, but eventually learned enough that I put the store page together, and with Fredrik's help in the art department, it looks good. Eventually, the pre-launch checklist had "COMPLETED" by every item but one: "At Least One Build Configured".


Let me clear: the documentation for all of this is quite good. I'm just unfamiliar with so much in general that it's difficult anyway.

Fortunately, DQ Visual Basic Advisor And Steam Network Consultant Garret Rempel was kind enough to send me The Idiot's Guide To Configuring Steam Builds. So I'm going to sit down tonight and try very hard to get a build configured and working. Garret's trying to lead a blind man on a horse to water and make him drink, but I'm still hopeful.

After that, I'm not sure. A Valve person will review everything and approve it for release, if it's ready. I don't know the length of time that will take, but I'll do the best I can to help hurry it along.

The price is going to be $9.99. Here's how I look at the price point: if someone likes the game, they get a huge value at that price, because they can play hundreds of game and dozens of dynasties and still see new things happening. I don't want people who like the game to feel like they got their money's worth--I want them to feel like they got much more than their money's worth.

I'll let you know when I hear the release date.

I've been playing 10-15 games a day for the last 10 days, and I've made a few very minor tweaks to various things. I couldn't be happier with how it's playing. Just this morning, I had the highest scoring game I've ever played, a 45-42 thriller that I won in overtime after throwing a 40-yard touchdown pass on the last play of regulation. I actually fist-pumped in P. Terry's when I kicked the field goal (hopefully nobody saw that).

Last week, I had the lowest scoring game, a 17-14 bruiser in the rain. It was a taut, tense game, and it was a a blast. Most games are going to have scores in the 20s or 30s, just like regular football, but if you play long enough, you'll have an outlier game, and it will be a true outlier, not something I rigged, because nothing is rigged.

All right, it's time to start work configuring the build.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Friday Links!

From The Edwin Garcia Links Machine, and this is an amazing video: GoPro: Lions - The New Endangered Species? Also, and this is amazing as well, it's The first high-res HD video of Earth from space is amazing and kind of unnerving.

From Sean R, and this is well worth a read: Inside the confusing, contradictory world of Internet piracy studies.

From Dan Rowland, and the possibilities here are incredible: Walk Again Project. Also, a video: Walk Again Project: World Cup 2014.

From Hypocee, and this is quite the optical illusion: Your eyes cheat your brain. One more, and it's a lovely ode to Spelunky: My daughter's going to learn vital life skills from Spelunky.

From DQ Renaissance Man John Harwood, and holy crap, this is amazing: Holland's Got Talent - Amira (9) sings opera O Mio Babbino Caro.

From Wallace, and this fellow certainly qualifies as Badass of the Month: This Man Chased A Nazi Fighter Plane Under The Eiffel Tower. Here's the story in more depth: WWII Veteran Aviator Bill Overstreet and His P-51 Mustang, “Berlin Express”.

From Jonathan Arnold, and these are fantastic, it's 36 Realistically Colorized Historical Photos Make the Past Seem Incredibly Real.

From Steven Davis, an article with some fascinating information on how the F.B.I. stamped out hitchhiking: Hitchhiking’s Time Has Come Again. Also, two absolutely remarkable links with a mountain of information to keep your morning moving along: Digital Scholarship Lab and Visualizing Emancipation.

Finally, from DQ Film Advisor And Nicest Guy In The World Ben Ormand, an interview with Gabe Newell that's excellent reading: Gabe Newell on Valve’s intimate relationship with its customers.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Eli 12.5 And The No-Sleep Zone

Eli 12.5s rib hurts him enough that he's sleeping poorly at night. Even a gentle assist from Benadryl isn't helping. He's very, very tired.

Gloria took him to his pediatrician today, just to explain and get something mild to help him sleep.

I had a different approach.

"So I spent several hours doing some research when you were at school today," I said when he came home. "There are some advanced meditation and focusing techniques that can really, really improve your sleep. There's one we can do together, and I think it would really help you. Do you want to try it?"

"Sure," he said.

"Okay," I said. "Let's go upstairs and you can lie down." We walked upstairs and he settled into bed.

"Let me create the proper environment," I said, closing the blinds to his room and turning off all the lights. It was still light, but less so.

"Okay," I said, "what I want you to do is close your eyes and empty your mind," I said. He closed his eyes and I waited for about five seconds. "Now what I'm going to do is say a trigger phrase to you, and this phrase will help you go to sleep." I paused, then summoned up my best German/Freudian psychiatrist impersonation. "YOU WILL NOW SLEEP WELL!" I shouted.


The Edwin Garcia Links Machine sent me a link to Incredibox, which is an incredibly clever beat-mixing program. It's a brilliant time waster, so if you're sitting at work bored, you need to check this out immediately. I'm listening to an entirely credible piece of music right now that I created just by dragging and dropping.


If any of you guys have put a game on Steam, and did the Steam implementation yourself, I'd really appreciate it if you'd e-mail me and answer a few questions. Thanks for your time.

Notes From Winnipeg

DQ Visual Basic Advisor And Weather Correspondent Garret Rempel sent me some information about how cold it was in Winnipeg this week.

First, there was this:

That temperature is the big headline item (plus, just below it "RealFeel -49"), but the best part is right below "Cloudy." There, it says "Today is a fair day for Outdoor Fitness."

I have one question: how cold does it have to get to go from "Fair" to "Poor"?

Garret also had a friend send him this:
I had one coworker this week blow his transmission because he left his car outside and tried to drive before letting it warm up, thing was frozen solid. Another couldn't go anywhere because his tires were frozen to the ground.


The very best story, though, is another one of Garret's. Look at this picture:

That's frost. Wind blowing through the keyhole on the lock on the other side was so cold that it produced frost on an interior doorknob.

Garret also walks 3 kilometers to work in this weather, so he definitely qualifies as The Badass Of January.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

So, This Finally Happened

Two things finally happened, actually.

I wrote years ago that I wanted a modular computer. Order a CPU upgrade, which comes in a tray, and slide the tray into your computer. Same thing for graphics cards or anything else.

What I liked most about this concept is that it was great for both the consumer and the hardware manufacturer. Plenty of people would upgrade their computers far more often if it didn't involve taking the case off their computer and poking around inside. There are just too many people who won't do that under any circumstance. So, in theory, the consumer gets the advantage of easy upgrades, while the manufacturer profits from everyone paying for those upgrades.

Well, someone's finally doing it: Razer reveals Project Christine, a modular concept PC focused on easy upgrades. I'm sure it will cost one billion dollars, but that's not the point: once someone has done it, even expensively, others will find a way to do for less.

Plus, as an aside, it's drop-dead sexy looking as well.

The second thing is that a few years ago (two, maybe?), I wrote about 3D and how there was going to be a strong barrier to consumer acceptance until it was glasses-free. That strong resistance has almost killed the market for 3D, which was booming only a little while ago, but I still think that glasses-free 3D would be mind-blowing and entirely disruptive technology.

At that time, someone came out with a glasses-free prototype that offered 4-6 different viewing zones, but it was still finicky and not very impressive. At CES this week, though, Samsung showed a glasses-free display with 35 viewing zones, and the article I read (and I can't find the link now, damn it) said that it was very impressive.

The only question is whether the market for 3D can survive long enough for companies to keep pushing the quality of glasses-free 3D forward.

I've been seeing "studies" saying that human vision couldn't distinguish 4K resolution from 1080P at less than 8' distance (which reminded me of FOX saying that 480P was just as clear as HD--remember that stupidity?).

Then I walked into a Fry's last week and saw a 4K LG display that was absolutely stunning. I'm not buying one right now (not enough 4K content, etc.), but 4K demos about a thousand times better than 3D does. No glasses to put on, the display quality was absolutely razor sharp, and the colors were spectacular.

Ideally, a 4K OLED would be the best of all worlds, and a few of those were shown at CES, but until the yield issues are resolved, OLEDs are going to be rare and ultra-expensive.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Eli 12.5: No Spare Ribs

Eli 12.5 was in goal at practice last Thursday, with a coach shooting on him while the other players were warming up in skating drills.

Eli can stop coaches, even the ones who used to be high-end players. He gets beat, but he gets his licks in, too, especially if they try to come in and stickhandle. He gets a better read on those kinds of shots than any kid I've ever seen.

On this night, though, the coach snapped off a hard shot to his right side. There's a minuscule gap in his chest protector, about 1" high and 3" wide (because of how the chest protector fits), but that shot had radar and the puck hit him right on the edge of a rib.

I was watching him, and he made the save, then went right down to the ice. He got up after a few minutes, but he was clearly in pain. At the next break, I motioned for him to come over. He did, and I could see that he was crying.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"No," he said. "But I want to finish practice." he went back out and went down into the butterfly, not standing up, and even then, his teammates almost never scored on him in drills.

Thirty minutes later, practice ended (he even did the skating drills at the end), and when he skated off, he was still crying.

We stopped at a convenience store on the way home and bought a frozen ice cream cookie, just the right size to fit under his arm. "Man, if you broke a rib, skating through the rest of practice is going to become a legendary story," I said.

"I don't think it's broken," he said. "I think it's just a bad bruise."

"I hope so," I said. "It's a baller move to push through pain, but you can't push through an injury, and you have to know the difference."

"I know," he said. "But I was the only goalie there, and the guys needed me."

The next morning, he was still in serious pain, so Gloria took him in for an x-ray. The doctor said he couldn't tell if it was cracked or just a contusion, but the treatment was the same: out 2-4 weeks until the pain subsided.

When he walked into my study, I gave him a hug. "Man, I am so sorry," I said.

"Thanks," he said. "I can't believe it."

"It's an occupational hazard of wanting to be great," I said. "Everyone who becomes great is always pushing on that threshold. Learning how to handle injury is a big part of becoming an elite athlete. You know that, right?" He nodded. We talk about this all the time, mostly because he has a substantial injury at least once a year.

It was different this time, though. No tears. No drama. We talked about the kind of work he could still do, and we're starting that in another couple of days. He's not sleeping well at night, but he's even handling that pretty well.

I've told him before that it's important to be resilient, because if you're not, you better be damn lucky and never have to face adversity, and no one is that lucky.

We went to eat barbecue the next night at Poke-e-Jo's, one of Eli's favorite restaurants. Eli has a "mix" that he likes when he gets a drink--Sprite on bottom, blue Powerade in the middle, and Sprite on top. It's about a 10/80/10 ratio.

My favorite thing to eat at Poke-e-Jo's is the sweet pickle slices, because they're packed with heat. I don't even really like pickles, but these are fantastic, and I always get a few. So we got our food (not including pickles, which are in a separate area with the onion slices, etc.), and while he was getting silverware and whatnot, I went ahead and got his drink. I came back and sat down at the table.

"Here's your mix," I said, putting his drink down beside him.

"Thanks," he said. "Here are your pickles." He put a small container of pickle slices by my plate.

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