Random Photos

January 4th, 2018 by helava

I think I need to get off of WordPress. The site’s just too junky to be considered a modern blogging option. The way it handles media files is garbage, and its interface is just … ugh.

Anyway. Here’s some recent photos.



December 31st, 2017 by helava

Well. 2017 on a national level was an obvious dumpster fire. On a personal level, it started out terribly. Wonderspark had some very long odds for survival, and despite making a game I was really proud of, we couldn’t find it an audience in time.

In March, we ran out of money, and shut the company down.

Ei-Nyung and I spent the bulk of the year unemployed. In every way but financially, it was a pretty spectacular time. I learned to kiteboard, we managed to move my parents out to Concord, we spent a lot of time with the kids, going to Dublin & London, Tahoe… it was a really good summer (aside from the stress involved with moving my parents). I took on a contract design job that was an interesting foray into health-related stuff, and then in October, a friend of mine, Chuck, dropped a job in my lap that I couldn’t pass up.

So I took it. I’ll write a little more about it later when it’s more public, but not only was it perfect on paper, but after starting, I’ve become even more excited about it as it’s developed.

The kids are great. Still a wonderful team. They’ve spent so much time making things, drawing, telling stories… it’s great to see how creative and constructive they are. J’s a generous older brother, and K is amazing at keeping up with someone almost twice his age.

We’re just north of Atlanta now, hanging out with Ei-Nyung’s side of the family – the kids get along great with their cousins.

Will post pics later.

July 25th, 2017 by helava

Assorted recent photos.


July 15th, 2017 by helava

Lots of stuff. Been a crazy last month, even though one would think that being unemployed, I’d have a ton of free time.

  • Moved my parents to Concord, from NY. Mostly went off without a hitch. We’ll see, when their stuff arrives, supposedly on Tuesday. Not that it wasn’t stressful. It was bananas. But nothing went terribly wrong.
  • Been learning to kiteboard. Fun, but difficult to find enough time to actually go now that things have ramped up a bit – even if “ramped up” is just “need to pick up kids in camp” and “help the parents with whatever.”
  • Started looking for work. Some stuff starting to line up, which is good. Some stuff I’m unsure about, which isn’t. Need to make a call soon.
  • Odd milestone – added separate calendars to iCal for the kids. Realized they’re going to start having their own schedules more frequently, and it’d be worth differentiating. Feels very weird.
  • Went to London for a week. Awesome. Saw a lot of stuff, did some generic touristy crap like the London Eye, river cruise, and a Duck Tour. Doesn’t matter – they were awesome, and I’d recommend them all. Also went to the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Hyde Park (specifically, the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, which was GREAT). Loved it. Saw Brandon, who we haven’t seen in 15ish years, which was great, and caught up with Jenny, who I’d seen way more recently.
  • Then went to Dublin, and spent the week with Alan & Becky, which was a really fantastic trip. Kids had a great time, saw a bunch of interesting stuff (Dublinia, Powerscourt Garden, Johnnie Fox’s, Fade St. Social), played a ton of boardgames (Mysterium is awesome), and spent a good long time just hanging out, which was a ball.
  • Been swimming more. Went consistently for three weeks, and saw significant improvement & felt better about myself. Problem is, I have no idea how to integrate working out into an actual real schedule with a job & taking care of the kids & what have you. It’s definitely *getting* easier, but it’s not yet anything I’d say approaches easy. My form isn’t terrible, but oh my god I’m in terrible shape.

I expect things will start to slow a bit, which’ll be nice. Ei-Nyung got a WONDERFUL new job that we’re both super optimistic about, which is great, and will start mid-September, which gives her two months to chill out for a bit without that impending fear of unemployment. Not so much for me (the fear is present), but whatever.

So yeah – busy, stressful, but mostly good news. Let’s see how the rest of the summer goes. Heading to Tahoe next weekend, which will be fun.


Restless & Undirected

June 8th, 2017 by helava

It’s difficult, sometimes, remembering that right now, waiting is the right thing to do. It certainly doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. But it is what it is. We’ve closed on my parents’ house in Concord, so I’ve got work to do getting that prepped – the two things we need are accessibility ramps & A/C + new furnace + ductwork. It looks like I’ve got the latter taken care of, and the former is a fairly straightforward process.

We’ve got a trip coming up in a few days, going back to London, then to visit good friends in Dublin. After that, we’ve got a week here, and then I’m off to NY to actually help my parents with their move, which is both something that’s taken forever, and feels much too fast. Still, it’s a step that needs taking, might as well get it over with, and better to do it now, while unemployed, than later, when I’ve gotta juggle all this and a job, which would be a challenge.

The kids are bananas. They draw all the time. Huge fans of Dav Pilkey’s work –  Captain Underpants and Dog Man, primarily. They’ve both been drawing the characters, making their own comics, flipbooks, and all kinds of stuff. It’s been a huge leap in Jin’s enthusiasm for writing, which is great, and Kuno’s getting to a point where he knows most of his letters, and he’s great at copying stuff out of the books. So he’s gotten to the first step of writing, which is really fantastic.

I’ve been spending a reasonable amount of time swimming & learning to kiteboard. Wind’s been useless this week, unfortunately, but before that, I’ve had a couple solid efforts at it, and I think I’m super close to it being fairly comfortable. One or two more stints. It’s really just a time issue. Getting the kids in the evening means cutting out pretty early, just as the wind is picking up – so I’m never there at the optimal time. Ah, well. It’s getting there, slowly, and there’s a lot of the season left.

I’ve spent a lot of the time at home cleaning – not really “cleaning”, I guess, so much as “decluttering corners of the house that have been building up for years.” All that random stuff that we don’t really have a place for – getting rid of it where that makes sense, reorganizing and putting into some sort of organized storage where that makes sense. It’s interesting, also, trying to figure out what to keep & what to hang on to re: the kids’ stuff. There are some toys that are clearly “aged out”, but then there are others that are more cyclical. So I’ve taken to putting some of those in the closet, and hopefully when they come out again, they’ll be interesting & fresh. Then for the other things, they’re in the process of getting donated.

So. Organization. Feels like one of those things that’s satisfying because progress is almost inevitable given an investment of time, whereas much of the rest of my life feels like it’s out of my hands.

Been starting to look at potential jobs, and it’s … daunting. Finding a job outside of games will be a challenge, I think, in large part because my skill set is difficult to categorize for someone who’s not really experienced with game development. I’d like to do something that makes a tangible, positive difference for people other than “fun”, and something that helps people become better people. There are some nibbles on that front for something that looks a lot more like contract work, but it’s still a bit nebulous.

Part of the problem is that we’ve just got a high burn rate. Between my parents’ house, daycare, medical insurance, etc. – our burn rate is something I would have never even though possible, particularly because our lifestyle hasn’t blown up in ways that seem obvious to me. Hopefully once we get jobs, and once we get my parents moved out here & their other house sold, that burn will come down significantly. But it’s still bananas, and it’s been on fire for nearly three years. So… yeah. Ah, opportunity cost. We paid a lot for the ability to try to follow our dream of independence. Sad it didn’t work, but it was worth giving a solid shot. Now, it’s time to find something new.

So off on vacation for a few weeks, dive into moving craziness, and once I resurface in mid-July… we’ll see where we go from there.

What’s Up?

April 19th, 2017 by helava

Now that I have some free time, I’ve been puttering around the house doing some stuff. I installed climbing holds on the top surface of our downstairs stairs. There’s a plywood board under the drywall, and the joists will hold a person’s weight, so it’s kind of fun having a 45 degree climbing surface in the house for the kids. It’s too easy, and they’ll get bored quickly I’m sure, but it was mostly just a $50 experiment to see if they’d be interested. 🙂

I also installed a bunch of Lutron Caseta wireless lightswitches in the house. When we built parts of the house, we either didn’t correctly anticipate where certain switches needed to be, or we wired them into legacy places, or we changed regular doors to pocket doors and that necessitated certain placement, since you can’t have a box “inside” a pocket door. The Caseta system is nice – you can tie it to Alexa, or you can tie individual switches to remote controls that are all paired semi-permanently, and you can mount them to the wall in a way that makes them indistinguishable from regular switches. So we’ve got a downstairs lightswitch by the hallway, and bathroom switches where you’d expect them (instead of in strange places that aren’t quite intuitive), and our kitchen “spot” lights can now be voice-activated.

Been searching for a place for my parents, still, to no avail, though we’ve seen some wonderful places in Concord. Trying to get my mom’s tastes aligned with “things that actually exist” has been … difficult.

I suppose even though it’s a bit buried here, and it’s not something I really want to dive into, I should record that we put Mobius to sleep on Thursday, April 13. Our poor old guy had a spleen tumor that was bleeding into his abdomen, and for the previous two days had been not eating, and having trouble getting up and around. After talking to the vet, we decided it was time to say goodbye, and not let him suffer. He was fourteen years old. He lived a long life, and a happy one, and it ended quickly without suffering. I’ll always second-guess some of the things we did – he got a lot less attention after the kids were born, and we ended up keeping the kids from really bonding with him, because since he could get defensive about his space, we never wanted to risk it when the kids were small. But he was a good boy. A sweet dog, adventurous and bright, willful, sometimes grumpy, and he loved people.

One of the images of him that lives on in my head is him, standing alert in the backyard in the darkness, his white fur reflecting moonlight like a shining spectre watching out for us. I imagine he’s out there still.

Strange transitioning away from that, because it is what it is. Even though it’s hard, life keeps going. The kids keep going. They’re great. Drawing amazing, amazing things. Developing their own little games. Kuno draws so much, and he’s really good at it for someone his age. He can make things that are sometimes indistinguishable from what Jin’s doing, and Jin’s been drawing up a storm for years longer. Jin’s big party trick is that he’s reading like crazy now, which is awesome. It’s been really great to see him diving into books – things he’s excited to read to the point where sometimes he doesn’t want to wait for us, so he jumps right in & gets going on his own. Fantastic.

It’s been interesting, not having work to do. It’s only been a few weeks, really, so I’m not beating myself up over it yet, but a lack of structure has led to some lack of direction. Improvements on the house are great, but there’s a lot I want to do – exercise & get back in shape (though being depressed about Mobi has led to some depression-eating that’s not great), do some personal work – both “work work” and “creative work”, do some work for other people and try to make some $, then spend time with the kids & do something with them while we have free time.

Chances are we’ll be heading out to Dublin to visit Alan & Becky this summer, then maybe jump around a bit, or spend a week in London. The kids are old enough to at *least* remember it, and most likely appreciate it, and that exposure will be valuable. We had thought we might also squeeze in a visit to Stockholm to see some friends, but it looks like that might wait for another trip in the future.

Anyway. It’s been a rough week, coupled with a strange month. A little discipline & structure will be really useful, and from there, we’ll see where things go.

Also – I know no one reads this, but just in case you do, and you’re a friend, I hope you know I really, really appreciate you. I don’t say that enough, and I don’t say it directly. But I do. Thank you.

Implicit Bias & Representation

March 28th, 2017 by helava

I was reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell last night, since I was bored & tired @ my parents’ house, and there was a chapter on implicit bias, and implicit bias tests. Basically you try to categorize things based on sorting them into two columns – like “white & good vs. black & bad” or “white & bad vs. black & good” – and the time differential is an indicator of your subconscious associations. You’d be quicker to sort the list w/ “white & good” vs. “black & good” if you have an association between white folks & good behavior.

I first read this book years ago, and I was really surprised by how hard the test was. The thing that was surprising last night was how easy it was to get my brain to “flip”. I just thought for a moment about police brutality, and white/black/good/bad felt like it wasn’t nearly as difficult a sort to make.

I think this is one reason, maybe, that every time a black person gets killed by the police, there’s always someone painting them as a villain of some kind. I don’t necessarily think it’s intentional, but I think the thing is, as long as you can maintain that “white/good black/bad” association, you keep an immensely powerful advantage that relatively few people know exists in your pocket. If you don’t paint them as the villain, you start to erode that until one day it’s flipped.

Which is of course one reason representation matters (among many, of course). People are subject to implicit bias of their own groups. Black people have a negative association of black people. Which sucks. But we’re all subject to the same overwhelming media messages, and it’s no wonder that the opinions we develop are shaped by them.

Which is one reason I really enjoyed Rogue One. (Yeah, yeah, that’s sort of a jump). Donnie Yen & Jiang Wen’s characters had this really great relationship that was sort of “traditional Asian-y”, but also really not. They were likable, charming, even in one character’s “inscrutability”, it fit the universe, and didn’t bug me that much. Baze Malbus might be one of my favorite characters in recent memory, but it’s not even really fair to say that I liked Baze, because it’s really how Chirrut & Baze interact that defines their characters.

It’s obviously not a coincidence that Force Awakens & Rogue One had female leads. And no coincidence that they had prominent “minority” characters (in that universe, who’s to say?).  And I really appreciate that about Disney’s handling of the universe.

I get it, though – why some folks are bitter about not having white male heroes. A lot of folks say things like, “But you’re not losing anything,” or “there are plenty of white heroes” or whatever. But it is a loss – it paints others in better light. Making the association “female/hero” or “asian/brotherhood” or “latinx/hero” – in the implicit bias test, it’s not exactly a zero-sum game because losing the association between “white/good” is a loss to that demographic, even if in the end, it’s because “everyone/good” wins.

For me, though, I’m happy progress is being made. I’m happy for “women/good”, “women/hero”, “asian/good”, “black/good” – happy for all of it. If white/good loses its very-long-standing grip on “good” it’s genuinely better for everyone. Imagine that world. Wouldn’t you rather live there?


February 16th, 2017 by helava

Wonderspark is running short on runway. The new app is getting a pretty decent anecdotal response, but it’s still a few days from having any kind of tangible data. So hard to say where we’re at. If the data looks good, we can figure out how to extend the runway. I’m less worried about that, and more worried that for whatever reason, we haven’t moved the needle.

Other things were pretty demoralizing today. Months of effort on the personal side were carelessly discarded by someone, which was … frustrating. Then an inadvertent conversation gouged open old wounds I thought had healed better than they had.

Still, gotta focus. Not much time left, and much too much that needs to be done.

Kids are good. As always. Sometimes things need correcting, and that’s part of the process. Nothing’s perfect. I hear myself, sometimes, in J as he talks to K, and I realize that I have work to do, because I don’t like how it sounds. And it’s not just about telling J to not do that – it’s about me being a better role model.

Reading time is among the best time.

I guess snack time is still right up there.

Recently got the front trim re-painted, because it had faded pretty dramatically over the last seven years. Shortly after this, we also had the front & side fences rebuilt, because the side fence had totally collapsed. In the process, we had the front fence & hedges cut down to 3′, rather than 6′, because Mobi isn’t gonna jump over a 3′ fence, much less a 6′ one – and that was the reason we’d originally had it built that way. Leaves the house feeling much more open.

One of these days, will need to do something about the stairs, retaining wall, front walkway, and side walkway to the rear.

But the back yard? Ooh. That’s in the works now. It’s gonna be awesome.

Also got a new-to-us grill off of Craigslist, because the old grill, which served us faithfully and often over the last … something like 13 years, finally kicked the bucket. The grill is dead. Long live the grill.


Organizing Closets

February 13th, 2017 by helava

This weekend, I organized our downstairs closet of boardgames-and-random shit, and then later organized one of the closets in the kids’ room.

There’s something really satisfying about cleaning out spots of in-home entropy – places where stuff’s gotten lost for a few years due to business & oversight. One thing I’ve found is that we’re very much an “out of sight, out of mind” family, where one of the reasons things are out all over the place is that when they get put away, they vanish for a long period of time.

I wonder if that is, in part, because when we moved in, we were constantly moving things around from room to room as construction happened, and so it took 10 years before things finally started settling down into “their place” – whereas if you move in and can plan things out from the start, those things get placed according to some better-conceived plan than the chaos of “wherever whatever now”.

It also feels satisfying to do some organization because so much is out of my control right now. We’re still looking for a house for my parents. Every day something in the news is misery. Doing something to clean up around the house feels like being able to organize my mind and exert some influence on my day to day life at a time when I feel like I have less control than usual.

Kitchen Nightmares

February 7th, 2017 by helava

Mid-last week, our dishwasher’s latch got stuck in the “closed” position, even though it was open. We cracked open the dishwasher (which has had its fair share of gremlins – I wouldn’t recommend a Jenn-Aire dishwasher) and checked it out. Seemed like a simple fix – the latch somehow got closed, and we just needed to pop it open.

Replaced the latch, screwed everything shut. After closing things up, the dishwasher refused to respond to button presses… about 3/4 of the time. Opened everything up, reseated various connections, same thing. Great. Ordered a new control panel for the dishwasher.

Sometime late last week, there was a sale on a small under-sink water heater. I thought, “Hey, that’d be great for our kitchen,” because our kitchen is all the way across the house from the tankless heater, which means that one specific faucet takes forever to heat up. And so for the dishwasher, or for washing up or whatever, you’d always end up wasting a ton of water waiting for it to warm up.

So I got the small water heater. When it arrived, I went to install it, and as I was pulling thing out from under the sink, I realized things were wet. That wasn’t great. Fortunately, the wood bottom of the cabinet hadn’t warped, which meant we must have caught the problem at the exact right time (well, close to it).

I looked under the sink, and lo and behold – a cracked fitting on the disposal drain pipe. Went to Ace, got some connectors for the water heater and a replacement drain pipe. Got home, realized I’d made a mistake on the sizing of the connectors. Also realized… there was stuff still dripping from somewhere.

I reached up to rotate the disposal, since its drain pipe was in the way of the water valve, and realized my right hand was gunky – that wasn’t right. Turned out the disposal casing had cracked at some point, and it was also leaking. Great.

Back to Ace for new fittings, and a new disposal. Installed the disposal (really, really easy as long as you’ve got the drain flange installed already), replaced the drain pipes, and secured that all so it wasn’t leaking. Great!

Then hooked up the heater. Realized I’d bought the wrong kind of cap for one of the pipes I was capping off, and that the splitter I needed to put on the heater (faucet & dishwasher) was leaking. Great. Back to Ace. Found the right cap, and realized the kind of pipe thread needed teflon tape. Got home, put the cap on, taped the thread, and … still leaking everywhere. The cap was leaking like crazy.

Turns out, if you have a compression fit connection, and you have a compression fit cap, you *still* need a brass ferrule under the cap or it won’t seal. Fortunately, I had one. Cap problem solved. The other one was an NPT connection that needed the teflon tape. Turns out that just needed to be cranked down until it stopped leaking, which it finally did.

So four and a half hours later, and something like five trips to Ace (I think I missed one or two in the description), I finally had it all together.

The next day, I realized I’d put the dishwasher and heater on a cheap power strip, and I couldn’t run one without tripping the breaker on the strip. And the dishwasher leaked on the kitchen floor, because I’d failed to attach the door exactly right.

So finally, almost a whole weekend of kitchen fixing came to a close. We’ve now got a new disposal, a new water heater, and well-functioning plumbing. Hooray!

Also last week, I tried grilling a steak. When I turned on the gas, FWOOSH – huge fireball. Why, I wondered. The flames were totally irregular. After letting it cool off, I popped off the grates & realized that the grill was just toast. The burners had all rusted through, which is why the gas was coming out in a fireball. I’d done some previous part replacement on the grill, but I knew it was wearing out. Turns out, a.) the burners rusted through, b.) the “flame protector” holders had rusted through, c.) the burner attachment points were rusted through, and d.) the edges of the firebox were completely rusted all the way through.

We kept the grill covered, mostly, during the rainy season, but I never really gave it a good solid internal cleaning, which is probably what it really needed. Still, the Char-Broil did a solid job, giving us something like 10 years of wonderful service. But it was dead. Repairing it would have cost as much or more than a replacement of similar quality.

I started looking into grills, and boy – grills are like bicycles. You can really go down the rabbit hole & spend tons of $. And like bikes, options that you start out not caring about suddenly feel necessary as you’re shopping.

I decided that I’d stick with something on the low end. The Char-Broil had been great, and I’d never used a different grill that I thought was so much better. I realized I should check Craigslist. There’s probably someone who bought a grill thinking they’d use it & never did, and if so, they’d probably be among the nicer grills, right?

Sure enough. Found a nice Weber Genesis S320. Used to retail for about a grand. Got it for $300. It’s a lot beefier than the previous grill in almost every respect. Things that were folded sheetmetal on the Char-Broil were cast pieces on the Weber. The frame was square welded tubestock. The charbroil was folded sheetmetal.

The igniter on the Weber was busted (the seller was totally up front about it, so it wasn’t a surprise), so I poked around to see if I could fix it. I took off the button, and realized even if I put a battery in the igniter, there was only one side contacting anything. Huh? I looked up images of the button online, and sure enough, there was a metal bit that went on the underside of the button that wasn’t there. Folded up a piece of aluminum foil, shoved it in where the previous clip would have been, and voila. Works great.

So aside from some minor cosmetic blemishes (a discolored top side burner plate) and obvious previous use, it’s perfect. Fired it up today with the tiny tiny bit of propane that was left post-giant-fireball, and it worked like a champ.

So a weekend spent on fixing, repairing, and replacing various kitchen-related things. End product? Huge success! The process sucked, but compared to having to hire professionals or buy new stuff, it was way cheaper and way more satisfying.