Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Beautiful Game

    I normally try to keep my personal life out of this blog unless it is related to Zenerdgy or the current project.  When Rebecca and I started this blog, we decided that I would concentrate more on the company progress and she would fill in the more human elements of running a company and family.  I truly believe she got the better end of the deal.  The family life is way more interesting.  
    With all of this said (or typed), I have to confess a more personal and non-work related event that has been diverting my attention for the past month.  Whats my confession? I am am and have been a San Antonio Spurs NBA fan for as long as I can remember.  Born and raised in Texas it was pretty natural that I would latch onto the Spurs as my basketball team.   Over the years, this passion has only grown.  There are many things that have kept this passion alive in my life.  David Robinson was drafted from the U.S. Navy while I was first starting out in the U. S. Air Force, which coincidently trains recruits in San Antonio, TX.  Today, he remains one of my all time favorite players and human beings.  Great guy on a great team.  Then they drafted Tim Duncan, and the rest is history.  
    Over the years the Spurs have managed to play some excellent basketball.   Also during this time they have evolved into a team that seems to really value the players and the fans as well as the concept of good team basketball.  Sharing the ball and insisting that the players put the team before themselves has really been one of the Spurs benchmarks for as long as I can remember.  As their couch, Greg Popovich, would often say, “We look for players who have gotten over themselves.”  This dedication to the game and the team concept is probably the main reason I have remained an ardent Spurs fan over the years.  Yes, I have the jerseys and various Spurs keepsakes from over the years of admiring this team. 
    This last Sunday, they Spurs won their 5th NBA championship.  Needless to say, I have been distracted and elated this past few weeks.  Work was taking a hit because I found myself drawn to the various forums and news articles about how the team was doing and what to expect in the next game.  I have spent an awful lot of time reading and commenting about the Spurs in my life, but this past week during the NBA finals was probably the worst.  Well, the worst except for last year.  Last year the Spurs lost in the NBA championship in a thrilling game 7 against the Miami Heat.  It was soul crushing to experience to this fan.  I got over it mostly thanks to having a great family to distract me from silly things like a game of basketball.  This year, they redeemed themselves by getting back to the Finals and crushing the Heat in 5 games.  Yay!

   As a basketball fan, I truly do appreciate the art of passing the ball and using ball movement to create the perfect shot.  It also helps when you have some of the best players on the planet to implement this movement.  Great individual talent is always exciting to experience, but when you have the whole team playing for each other, this is when the real Mojo kicks in.  Last year, the Spurs showed the world that playing team basketball can challenge even the best of superstar athletes.  Unfortunately, last year it was not enough and they lost that series.  This year, the Spurs kept the team together and doubled-down on playing great team basketball.  Good ball movement and crisp passing on offense.  Tenacious and intelligent teamwork on defense.  It was a joy to behold for this fan.  This year, the Spurs put together their masterpiece of basketball and put it on display during the 2014 Finals.  

    Even if you are not a big NBA fan, you have to appreciate the concept of good teamwork.  We all need it in our lives at different times.  Some of the best times I can remember in my life are when I worked with a great team to accomplish something together.  This team concept probably started with basketball and then solidified while I was serving in the Air Force.   Since then, I have strived to improve the team I work with as well as myself.  It makes the end result that much sweeter.
   If you do like basketball, then I will leave you with a homage to great team basketball.  I love this video that some fan put together on the Spurs playing The Beautiful Game.  It really moves me every time I see it.
    Damn onions...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rebecca: A great week

Wowzer! May was a hectic month.  I was out of town more than usual, and we (the family) had a lot happening.  Throw in a visit with the grandparents, a bout of the stomach virus, and a birthday party with adolescent girls, and one begins to wander if life will ever be "normal."

Thankfully, June started wonderfully.  This past week, I did not have any early mornings or late evenings for work.  It was a productive week with no crises demanding immediate attention.

This week, the family shared several dinners at the kitchen table (you know, the piece of furniture covered with mail, homework, permission slips, and take-out menus).  We shared what happened during the day; and the kiddos dreamed about summer vacation, which starts on June 19th.

I even had an evening when I released my inner carnie.  My son's school held its annual carnival, and I operated one of the games.  It was so so fun!  I loved encouraging the children, big and small, to knock the runners off my "Bases Loaded" game.

Finally, we had sun in Seattle.  It seems that we wait patiently and hopefully for sun...usually the sun arrives after 4th of July.  Having grown up in VA, I struggle mentally with the the cool, rainy Washington Springs.  This year, I have no complaints.  We just had 5+ days of over 70.

I am ashamed to admit...but on most Sunday evenings, I am grumpy about the start of the work week.     I usually feel guilt for not working on Zenerdgy, for the household chores that did not get finished, and for not enjoying my family time.  It starts an endless cycle of "woe is me".  Today, I am thankful for a great week, thankful for the beautiful Seattle sunshine, thankful to spend a no-agenda day with the family at the park, and thankful that most of the laundry is washed, folded, and put away (that never happens).  Tomorrow, I will worry about Monday.  For the few remaining hours in Sunday, I will bask in the glow!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rebecca: Potential employee??

A few weeks ago, our 9 year old son asked me about jobs.  He wondered if his future job would pay enough for a house and a car.  How much money did he need to earn to make a living?  I responded that he should find a career that he enjoys.  I explained that if he worked hard and liked his job, then he would probably earn enough to pay his bills.  I know my advice was not necessarily sound, but he did seem relieved.  He ended the conversation by asking if he may work with his Dad.  He declared he liked games and wanted to create games with his Dad.  How sweet?  A future employee for Zenerdgy.

Not long after this career conversation, my son asked about college.  During dinner, our son began quizzing us about how college worked, how many years did it take to pass, and what happens if you do not pass the first time.  Ben and I tried to explain that college was different from elementary or high school - varying schedules, credits for courses, and graduating once you meet credit requirements.  He seemed bewildered about the college credits and confused about how you ultimately pass or fail college.  After several minutes of deep contemplation, he declared that his sister would graduate college on her first try, but he would need 2-3 tries before he passed.  I was not sure if I should laugh or cry.  He was so serious when he made the declaration and so sure that he would need multiple attempts to finish college.  I ended the conversation by stating that he need not worry about college today and that he would finish on his first try.

Ben and I decided that our 9 year son has indirectly informed us that he will live with us forever.   He has mentioned that he will live at home during college.  If he does take 2-3 attempts to graduate, then he will still live at home well into his 20s.  Naively, I have already guaranteed future employment at Zenerdgy (please keep in mind Zenerdgy has NO budget for salaries).  Since I advised my son to find a job he likes and not to worry about the money, I think he has decided to work for Zenerdgy from home, OUR HOME.  I hope that Ben is able to leave a legacy through Zenerdgy, but I REALLY hope that legacy does not still live in our basement.

Early Morning Awakenings

    What is it about your mind and body not being in synch in the wee hours of the morning?  "I am tired.  We should be sleeping.", my body mumbles to my mind at 3 AM.  My mind on the other hand has other plans.   Apparently those plans include waking up and focusing on some aspect of our latest project.  No matter how weary I am, for the next 1/2 hour I find myself staring at the ceiling or out the window trying not to think of my code.  I know where that road will end.  If I start, the mind will take that thought and run with it.  In this case, it ends with me working through various permutations of the game board.  Apparently, I am having second thoughts about using squares as the main component of the game board.  Despite the fact that squares have been used for a very long time in many popular board games and puzzles, I had to spend the next hour contemplating different ways of depicting those squares.  Heck, I even named the class as "FlowSquare".  The flows move in cardinal directions (N,S,E,W).  The board is one big square with smaller squares, like a chess board.  I just am not sure that an alternative like circles or triangles would be more visually appealing.  Yet, I find myself wide awake in the early morning trying to visualize how these alternatives would work.
    "Just go to sleep!", murmurs my body to my mind.  No chance.  Now as a programmer I am kind of used to these episodes.  Usually it involves working a lot of time on a particular programming problem and not quite working it out.  My mind it tricky and must need some time 'alone' during sleep to work out a solution.  No distractions and time to process all the things that I take in during the day or previous week.  Although it really messes with my internal clock, it usually leads to a solution to the problem.  I wouldn't say I rely on this mechanism, but I usually figure that the solution will present itself in time.
    A good part of programming is blind faith that a solution to the problem will be found and implemented in the the code.  We start with an idea and slowly turn that idea into a product or program over time.  Often building small modules along the way and fitting them all together to get the desired result.  Its kind of like writing a novel, I assume.   Flesh out the characters, find some interesting plot lines, and add environment to pull it all together.  For me, programming involves a lot of white board drawings, some notes on paper or in a journal, and then experimenting with code to see if the ideas work in an App.   In this scenario, my family and friends are the initial readers of the rough drafts.  The feedback on the work done so far can really help you to rework or refine the parts of the program that don't quite work.
    I am starting to feel that it was this feedback from Rebecca that trigger this particular early morning session.  We often try to schedule a lunch or meeting to go over some of the aspects of the latest project.  I have been throwing prototype versions of our latest game/puzzle at her to see what works and what doesn't.  I guess her sort of visceral reaction to the way the prototype flows work in the game stuck in my mind.  In her defense, this is not her kind of game or puzzle.  Not a strategy person, but that is ok.  Everyone has their favorite genres of games.  I am trying to build a easy to use and visually appealing game.  I also want the visuals and game flow to be dead simple to understand, so that it is easy to pick up and play.  I am now wondering if there is something I am missing to hit this goal.  I think I have to schedule some time with my buddies to get some more feedback.
    As for the waking up too early and not being able to sleep?  Well, I hear that this is something that I will be seeing more of in the future.  I am told that the older you get, the less you sleep through the night.  Makes you wonder why that happens.
   So I have that to look forward to.  Which is nice.