progress reports

I have succeeded in reducing my portion sizes at meal times. In fact, I've almost been too successful, in that I can eat almost nothing for breakfast and lunch, and really be pretty much ok with that. Which means I can eat basically whatever I want for dinner without blowing my diet. So that's cool. But of course, it's pretty much against the advice of "eat more, smaller meals, and don't starve yourself." For now I'm going with it though; I can worry about maintenance after I lose another 40 pounds. Until then, I basically want to lose the weight as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Regarding my new phone. It does feel like the future. It's not perfect yet, I wish the reader and picasa integration were a bit better. I wish there was a netflix app (I hear there will be someday). But so-far it is strikingly easy to use, and astonishingly capable. I like reading my rss and listening to audiobooks at the gym. The battery life seems sufficient, which was one of my big concerns. They've spent a lot of time and attention sanding down the rough corners of the interface. I can see how this thing wants to integrate itself into my identity. It's offering me a kind of cyborg symbiosis that I find strangely alluring.


game goals

We playtested the zombie boardgame on Sunday. I think it was a lot of fun, even though we didn't get past the first room and at no time did it really feel "balanced." I learned some specific things and some general things.

Specific things:
-threat needs to scale with players.
-blundering is no fun, or at least it was happening too often.
-balancing the stats was very difficult, nerve seems mad OP, melee weapons were not compelling.
-gear is not yet well understood.
-controlling spawning via line-of-sight can be grossly unfair and forces the humans to do weird counter-intuitive things to maintain sight lines. Which also kinda breaks the story a bit. Perhaps all spawning should be "when an area is revealed" or via "exterior points" (i.e. windows, etc.)

But with all that, the core mechanic seemed fun.

General things:
The game needs a thesis. Or, it needs a story. When you sit down to play it there should be a shared expectation of where the game will go. With this game specifically, I wrote it to be a game about the heroes getting inexorably worn down by zombies. So they start strong, but by the end of the map they just barely escape with their lives. But I think the playtesters expected to start weak, and get stronger while facing increasing danger over the course of the map. So, either I need to adjust my perception, or I need to find a way to adjust the perception of the player. It might be possible to do this by calling on various genre tropes in the way the game is described. Or, perhaps my perception is simply out of step.

The game doesn't handle player death very well. We have a cool mechanic where when a stat drops to 0, you're "bitten," you get a +3 bonus on all rolls, but you can't win, and the next hit kills you. But after that there's no way for dead players to participate. If death is permanent, then the maps need to be really short. If death is temporary... then that needs to be designed in somehow. Descent has a concept of "Conquest" that deals with this problem rather neatly, but I don't know if there's a corresponding horror genre trope.

So I know what I need to focus on for the next iteration.

contractors are funny people

No offense.

We got a few windows quotes. We picked one. Now I'm trying to give this guy money and he won't show up at our house. Well, no-doubt he will eventually. But I think it's funny how the relationship suddenly changed when we said we were ready to start, and the change is that suddenly he's way too busy.

coin jar dinner: cafe pierre

Yesterday we took the coin jar in for cash. The coin jar is a nalgene bottle, so that's about $80. We had a really nice dinner at Cafe Pierre at Manhattan Beach. The coin jar *almost* covered it.

It's nice to have a fancy meal once in a while.

what do I want to think?

I wonder if I could use a tool like cognitive behavioral therapy to intentionally change my attitude about failure and public risk-taking? It's usually used for more clinical purposes, such as treating PTSD, anxiety disorder, etc.. But the focus on the connection between thoughts and emotions, and our ability to change how we think, is appealing to me.

It's interesting to try to figure out, if I could change how I think, what would I change?

Programmer, program thyself.

boiling it down

A few days ago we made pasta sauce from scratch in our slow-cooker. Fresh tomatoes from the garden, tons of delicious ingredients. It came out pretty tasty. But it could have been better. It was too watery, and when you took just the chunky parts, they lacked some of that intense flavor that we had been expecting. Usually when we make it on the stove that's not a problem, because the excess water boils off and the flavor sticks in the sauce, but the slow cooker has such a good seal that you don't get the same effect. Interesting, and it will be remembered.

After reading slacktivist for a while, I think I've boiled down his essential thesis to this: "self-delusion makes you stupid; intelligence means examining yourself and your beliefs. Anyone can be smarter or stupider by following the corresponding path." Which I think is an incredibly strange and powerful formulation of a thing that people have been saying for a long time, "the unexamined life is not worth living." See also: the scientific method. I'm trying to figure out if I believe it literally, or just allegorically, but he makes some interesting arguments, especially regarding empathy and bearing false witness.

It's really difficult sometimes, for me to keep an open mind in the face of my visceral emotional response. This comes up at work, and when reading the internet, playing a game, etc.. Really anytime. But I value the struggle. Regardless of (or in addition to) simply wanting to think that I'm "being smart" by considering a point of view, I'd also like to (smugly) think that when people, generally, consider other points view, the world is a little bit of a better place for all of us. In other words, when you consider another point of view, you make the world a better place.

It's like planting a (literal) tree. Most of the trees you plant may not grow above 2 inches tall, but if you plant enough, you will have facilitated many grand trees by the time you're old. And that's a pleasant thought, no?*

*damn I need to start planting some trees I guess.

file under: unrelenting smugness.