Year in Review – 2017

2017 didn’t feel as busy as the last couple years have been. We didn’t have any trips that required a lot of planning like in 2015, and I created fewer touch table games than in 2016.

Trips

We spent March in San Carlos. We spent a lot of time reading, went to the beach regularly and ate a lot of good food. It was a very relaxing trip. We also got a gym membership and went most days. We took a lot of walks and a couple hikes, one in Nacapule canyon and another to the top of Tetekawi peak. The Tetekawi hike was challenging; we got a very early start, but it was still a hot, difficult climb.

I enjoyed this trip more than I expected to. I was worried that I would run out of things to do and be bored. But it was nice for the month. Life just had a slower pace- like actually being retired. If we were going to spend longer there, I’d bring a computer to use for programming. On the way back from Mexico, we went to the White Sands Monument.

In August we spent a week in Montreal with my brother’s family and my parents. I enjoyed the city and spending time with my family. We went to Notre Dame, the Archeology Museum, the Biodome and Botanical Gardens. We ate out at “Au Pied de Cochon” (Foot of the Pig) where we had some of the richest, fattiest food I’ve ever eaten.

We got back from Montreal just in time for the solar eclipse. We drove a few hours north with a group of friends to get into the total eclipse path. The eclipse was spectacular and well worth the awful drive home. I’m definitely planning to see the next one that crosses America in 2024. The atmosphere at the park was interesting. People were a bit more nerdy and friendly than usual. When totality happened people cheered, shouted and let out exclamations of surprise. I was shocked by how much the temperature dropped and how crazy bright even a tiny sliver of the sun is.

Programming

I made three games for the touch table this year. Village and Broom Service were standard board game conversion projects. I enjoyed both and am getting more comfortable adding slightly nicer graphics, sound and animations to my games.

I also created a tutorial about how I convert board games for the touch table. I made a series of blog entries and accompanying YouTube videos describing the process. For the tutorial, I converted a very simple board game called No Thanks. The tutorial took a lot of time and I probably spent more time creating it than people will spend reading and watching it.

When we first retired, I wrote software to simulate our finances and predict if we had enough money saved. This fall I spent time updating that software to be more robust and user friendly with the plan to release it. I finished it right at the end of the year and released it as SimRetirement.

Bill made several games for the touch table this year:

  • Murderdrome – A real time robot programming game
  • Nexus – A conversion of a competitive strategy card game
  • Starship Factory 2 – A conversion and re-theming of “The Builders”
  • Fighter’s Empire – A cooperative space combat action game.
  • Dungeon Raiders 3 The Escape – A conversion of the real time board game Escape: The Curse of the Temple

Other

I played a few computer games this year: Doom, Cities Skylines, South Park, The Witcher 3, Shenzhen.io, Stellaris, Infinifactory, Stardew Valley, and Ashes of the Singularity. I’ve had a harder time getting into computer games lately and haven’t spent as much time playing them as I used to.

2017 was also an inventory year. Every four years we take a full inventory of all the stuff we own. It takes a while to update the inventory because we take pictures of everything new. It is kind of fun to see what has changed and the photos are surprisingly interesting to look at after several years.

I sold my Insight, so we are down to one car. So far it hasn’t been too inconvenient.

We built a new 55″ 4K touch table. Building the table took a lot longer than we expected it to. Every part of the process had issues. The bezel on the TV didn’t look very big, but it was big enough to make it hard to quickly tap multiple times. Fortunately Bill was able to take the TV apart and remove it. We also struggled to get reds to display properly which turned out to be a flaw in the old video card I was trying to use. We bought the touch frame from the same company that we used for our first table; but we had lots of problems getting the touch working well. We spent many hours working with the company’s tech support to get the frame to not have any dead spots and also not detect extra touches. For the enclosure, we wanted a flat pack table like the ones Mesa Mundi demoed at PAX. After contacting at least five different CnC design companies in town, Bill finally found someone through Craigslist who was able to do the design and cutting. We’d intended to have the new table built shortly after returning from Mexico in April and we finally got everything working early December.

Bill created an in-home puzzle room for me and our friends, The puzzle room was a huge amount of work that provided a very exciting hour of problem and puzzle solving. It was a great success: the puzzles were a good difficulty, we were never stuck for long and there were enough different things to keep everyone occupied.

When we got back from San Carlos I got a gym membership and have been exercising most days. I’ve had more energy, had an easier time sleeping and possibly been a little happier.

I’m still playing violin. I spent most of 2017 working on pieces in Suzuki book 7 trying to play them at full speed. In 2018 I hope to make it through Suzuki book 9.

Year in Review – 2015

This is my second annual “year in review” post. It’s like a lazy Christmas card to the internet.

Overall we had a good year. We are healthy, enjoying our free time, and keeping busy making software and games for the touch table. We did a lot of traveling this year with trips to Boston, San Carlos Mexico, Essen Germany, a Mediterranean cruise and a couple trips to see family.

Mesa Mundi invited us to PAX East again this year. We stayed with the Mesa Mundi team in Sharon, so we got to spend more time hanging out with Toby, Rebecca, Laura and Matt.

In April we drove down to San Carlos Mexico to relax, enjoy the warm weather and spend some time on the beach. On the way back, we checked out the Very Large Array Radio telescope and stopped in Santa Fe and Taos. The VLA was a bit of a detour, but it was well worth the time.

To celebrate my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary, we joined them on a Mediterranean cruise with my brother and his family. It lasted two weeks and we got to see a lot of interesting sites. It was also nice to spend time with brother’s family again, and the food on the cruise ship was excellent.

In October we celebrated our 42nd birthdays by doing something geeky and going to the biggest board game convention in Essen Germany. We had a lot of fun at the convention and also saw the Zollverein coal mine complex. We played and saw lots of new games and have ended up adding quite a few of them to our board game collection.

We went to Kansas for Thanksgiving and to Idalia CO for a mini family reunion in June. It had been quite a while since I had seen some of my aunts and uncles and we got to spend time with a couple cousins that I haven’t seen in years.

Along with travel and travel planning, I spent a lot of time this year writing games for the touch table. I wrote five games this year: Puerto Rico, Vegas Showdown, 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck. Vegas Showdown was the last game that I wrote in the Torque game engine and 7 Wonders, Caverna and Muck are written in Unity. I’m enjoying working in Unity. The Unity editor is really good and makes laying out the graphics for a game much easier. It is also nice to write code in C# instead of Torquescript. Another big advantage is that the Unity community is a lot more active and there are assets and plugins that are available for Unity that can save a lot of time.

I also wrote a new version of my Timeline program for tracking major life events. I added the ability to track health metrics collected by a fitness tracker to the application.

I am still practicing the violin. I had a recital in May and stopped taking lessons in August. I may start lessons again someday, but for now I am learning on my own. We are also still hosting bi-weekly game nights with friends and have started attending a local gaming group meetup on the off week.

 

Next year will probably be a little less busy than 2015. We don’t have nearly as much travel planned. We hope to continue making touch table games. If we continue at our current pace, we will reach fifty games sometime next year.

Year In Review – 2014

I don’t mail out a Christmas card, but I’d like to provide a brief summary of my year to family and friends who I haven’t gotten to see this year. I also enjoy doing a bit of reflection at the end of a year.

It felt like a busy year, and I think it is because of all the travel that we did:

  • In March we went to Effingham Illinois for my Uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary.
  • We took the scenic Amtrak train ride from Denver to Glenwood Springs with Bill’s parents for spring break. (Photos)
  • We took a two week tour of England, Ireland and Scotland with my parents in September. (Photos)
  • In December we went to Chicago for my cousin’s wedding and took in a couple museums. (Photos)

We also went to two game conventions promoting our touch table software. In April we went to Boston for our second PAX with Mesa Mundi. We enjoyed the convention and getting to see all the Mesa Mundi people again. In July we brought our own touch table to the Conclave of Gamers convention which was held at a nearby hotel. This was the first time we have done a convention without Mesa Mundi. This convention was less busy, but the attendees stayed at the tables longer and we got to try a bigger variety of games.

In January we had a wedding reception game day to celebrate our legal marriage last year in New York. The wedding was a civil ceremony with just my brother and his wife as our witnesses, so this game day gave our friends and my parents a chance to celebrate with us. It felt strange to have a wedding reception after being together for so long, but it is nice to be recognized by our government, and I had a lot fun that day and appreciated the well wishes.

Right after getting back from PAX in April, I started a short term contracting job that lasted through June. Before this job, Bill and I created Fire Platoon. After the contracting job ended, I wrote Le Havre and Puerto Rico while Bill learned the Unity game engine and wrote High Score, Pair Soup and started on a space racing game.

In February I had my third violin recital. We hosted it at our house and invited my parents. I have been playing for five and half years and the rate of improvement has slowed way down. But is it more fun to play now, and I am still trying to practice daily. In August I fractured my shoulder in a biking accident and couldn’t really play for two months.

Overall we had a good year. We didn’t make it down to Mexico this year, so that will be a goal for 2015. Hopefully we will also get to spend a little time with my brother and his family next year.