Remembering Matt Gray

At the end of the memorial for Matt Gray, his wife Carie called for the worst puns heard from Matt. He and I shared a love of wordplay and while I’m certain I’ve forgotten far more of his jokes than I can remember, at least some of them were memorialized in a text file that began its life in an issue tracking system called Bugzilla. I haven’t worked with Matt in over 10 years, but I have a copy of the text file from that era, and just after Matt passed away, I spent some time reading through the entire file again, pulling out just the quotes attributed to Matt. These are the ones I felt have the best wordplay:

“You can’t spell abuse without use.”

“It’s a bug fix… with benefits”

“You just got hexidecimated!”

“Change disappear? Whoda trunk it?”

“Sweat happens when muscles cry.”


“That’s all dreams are — rows in a spreadsheet.”

If there is such a thing as a 10x developer, Matt was one. But he was so far from all the stereotypes. He was generous with his time to a fault (always willing to put extra effort Into a project, even when he wasn’t assigned to it), and definitely one of the most humble people I’ve met with that kind of skill. It really felt like he could make anything happen with enough time (and coffee and pizza).

When I first started learning iOS development, it was a stretch for me. I was a mostly self-taught programmer, without a computer science degree, and I’d never written a compiled language before. I’d also never worked in any IDE (unless you count vim). I spent a lot of “after-hours” hours at the Clockwork kitchen table, banging my head against pointers and learning to manage memory via reference counts. One night, Matt sat down next to me and helped me work through an issue I was having, and in the process explained how to use Xcode’s step debugging feature. Keep in mind, at that point, Matt and I had worked together for at least 6 years, and never in all that time had Xcode been part of actual workplace project. He either knew how to use Xcode from before his time at Clockwork, or through some other after-work activity. (I didn’t think to ask at the time, and now I may never know.) As I tweeted cryptically after Matt passed, that evening conversation changed my life. It became ridiculous to me to work in an environment that didn’t have this modern convenience. I slowly migrated to working on iPhone apps full-time, and I have certainly never looked back.

Much earlier in our careers at Clockwork, when Matt wanted to move into management, I was actually rather taken aback. Here was this guy who was the most talented developer I’d ever met, and he was going to waste those talents by spending time managing people instead? I don’t think I understood his motivations at all at the time, although of course I didn’t begrudge him wanting to “move up” in the world if that was it. He was far too likable to hold any animosity. Over time, he became a great manager. (It never hurts when your manager has previously done exactly the job you do.) I only felt like I understood after my last zoom call with him, when Matt emphasized that as interested as he was in technology, it was never about the technology for him, it was about the people using the technology, and about the people making it. “…It was always about the people”, he said.

Matt made a positive impact on so many people, and so many lives, including mine, were changed for the better by knowing him.

2012 in(trospection) review

I am using this personal public space less and less. More often than not, the kind of self-observations I would have previously have posted here are instead getting posted to Facebook. This is a trend I can only feebly justify by stating that, while facebook’s privacy settings are a quagmire, at least there are privacy settings. Additionally, I no longer expect that more than a handful of close friends and family will see this post unless I make an effort to cross post it to twitter or Facebook.

2012 was an intensely satisfying year for me.

The year I finally went out on my own and started a business for myself. Abstract Puzzle has been a dream for so long now, and it’s finally a reality. I launched three brand new apps, four if you include freelance work (freelance GAME dev). I finally feel in control of my own destiny. It’s too soon to tell if that’s going to be hugely successful, but it’s already been hugely satisfying.

The year Colleen began to talk and think in earnest for herself. Of course every parent says this, but she surprises and amazes us daily with her increasing intelligence, creativity and personality. Florence and I are at home tonight, having gotten as far as the car before Colleen proved to us she was still sick by throwing up on her party dress.

The year I started logging all my board game plays to BoardGameGeek. This was my only real New Year’s resolution for 2012, and I stuck with it. 741 games (if my in-my-head-summing of monthly totals was correct), and the night is still young! I’m not doing anything interesting with the data (yet), but it’s fun being able to say exactly how many plays of a particular game I’ve gotten in. I’ll definitely be continuing this into 2013 and beyond.

For next year, my resolution is a bit more practical. I want to get better at the practice of making games, and that means making more of them with less time spent on each one. I’m going to attempt to create at least one a month. There are somewhere around another 2000 people who are going to try for this same goal (thanks at least in part to I’m tempted to make it my goal to also publish or otherwise make those games available publicly, but who knows how many of them will totally suck. I guess that’s a bonus goal I’ll also work toward.

Happy new year, everyone!

The perfect strawberry smoothie

I embarked on this quest on Sunday night… Frustrated that the wedge smoothie bar was closed and that I knew of no ther place to get a smoothie on short notice, I thought “I’ll just make one! How hard can it be?”

I went to walmart with Jason (the 24 hour one on Hennepin next to kowalski’s), and bought a blender for 22.99 (or something like that).

Having already surfed the Internet, I had my first recipe in mind, so I bought some frozen strawberries, and a container of lemon juice.

Unfortunately, Colleen was fast asleep by the time I returned home, so I didn’t end up making the smoothie until Monday night, last night. The recipe was as follows: a spoonful of lemon juice, ten frozen strawberries, and 3/4ths of a cup of water. I put them all in my BRAND NEW blender, and after some confusion about the controls, I was blending away. Then suddenly the blender seemed to be making more noise than it had before. I turned it off, since it was probably done anyway, and poured it out into a glass. Three of the strawberries hadn’t blended, and it was a little watery. Okay, but not great. I put some Naked “blue machine” in it, and all was not lost.

Cut to tonight. I’m feeling reckless, and I think I know the fundamental problem with the smoothie from the night before: those crappy frozen strawberries! I have some fresh strawberries, so at first I think I’ll just replace the water with ice cubes to offset their frozenness, but then I see milk in the fridge, and impulsively decide to use it. New recipe: 5 frozen strawberries, 7 fresh ones, about 3/4ths cup whole milk. I skip the lemon juice.

I’ve poured everything into the blender, but I’m having a bit of trouble getting the glass top part to mate with the bottom motor part… And then I figure out why. The motor is actually loose in it’s housing! The part that fits into the glass/plastic bottom can be moved around a bit. But I figure that once it sits in place it’ll be held there by the glass part, right?

I turn it on, and it’s blending, and I’m trying to remember if it was always this loud, or if this is the loudness from right at the end of the previous blending, and then I smell burning rubber.

I turn it off, of course, but I don’t see anything obviously wrong, and we’re only about half blended, so I turn it on again. Then it starts spitting out black chunks and making obvious choking noises. At that point I’m thinking, I’m returning it anyway, so let’s see if we can at least finish this up before complete destruction… Eventually I’m satisfied, and turn the broken thing off.

Conclusion: take two was a VAST improvement over the first attempt. Still not great, but not as soupy or lame as the first, for sure. Florence said it tasted like yogurt, and I do think I could probably have used less milk flavor,but the consistency was right, so I’m not sure what to do. Suggestions for next recipes to try would be very welcome. It’ll have to wait a week or so until a new blender arrives.

The Second

It’s the second day of the year. It’s the day when, if you had something you wanted to do every day for a whole year, you had to have started it yesterday.

google docs humor

In the wake of reading that google is developing “Chrome OS” (who knew?), I was opening something in open office, and thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be cool if I could open this on the command line”? Then I thought… “I could just use google docs”. Then I thought “What if I could open it on the command line using google docs?!?”

This prompted me to open google docs in links, the text-only web browser, to which I was greeted with this message:

Sorry, but this browser does not support web word-processing.

Please see our system requirements page for a list of supported browsers.

If you are working to fix problems with a specific browser and would like to bypass this check, just add ?browserok=true to the end of the Google Docs url.

Please note that it is a violation of intergalactic law to use this parameter under false pretenses, so don’t let us catch you at it.

And, it won’t work very well — really.

Emphasis was added later, of course. I think it’s funny that, not only is Google setting out to control our desktops (in a benign and hopefully awesome way), but they are also able to cite intergalactic law. The implication, of course, is that they are setting their sights just a wee bit higher than world/solar system/galactic domination… into the realm of INTERgalactic domination.

Note: Now I will proceed to have the Beastie Boys song Intergalactic stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon. That is all.

The “Whirly-wind” explained

This weekend, while florence and I visited her (our) friends Sharon and Brad (and their lovely kids), I played around some with their Whirly-Wind. By the Whirly-Wind I mean the tube thing that you spin around and it makes that howling noise. I only call it a Whirly-Wind, because that’s what the Weakerthans call it in their liner notes.

Which brings me to the Weakerthans song that I mentioned to Brad at some point this weekend. It’s called “Elegy for Elsabit”, and is on their Left and Leaving album.

While searching online for what to call the “Whirly-Wind”, I discovered this lovely explanation for how the Whirly works. Enjoy!

Game you the shirt off my back

So a while back I saw a blog post somewhere (seriously, I have no idea where) that there were tee shirts on sale at target with CDs and games attached to them. So when you buy the tee shirt, you are really buying the game. Since then, I’ve been meaning to get to target to see if I could find any of these.

Today, I found myself in target and bought a couple of these tee shirts. They were on the clearance rack, for $9.99, and not under the sign that said “Wear it & play it.”, which is (I think, maybe?) the name of the game company, but was definitely about the shirts. (I even asked an unhelpful employee, who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her about shirts with CDs attached to them.)

Anyway, then just a bit ago I was surfing around while writing a blog post about the new Transhuman comic book over at and found myself at (because Chris Lamb had also written a blog post about Transhuman), and he linked to this Gamasutra article about rapid prototyping written by… you guessed it, some of the folks behind the tee shirts. The article is incredibly interesting and well worth a read.

As a side note, I have downloaded and am trying out PMOG (the Passively Multiplayer Online Game)… it’s interesting so far… I’m tempted to turn this blog post into my first “Mission”.


I got to see a sneak preview of the new transformers movie last night, and it transformed my dreams into a weird kaleidoscope of military landscapes. The movie itself was great! It was funnier than expected, and there were some not-so-subtle references to the cartoon that we all watched growing up. I especially liked seeing John Turturro again (he’s always great), and the cameo by Bernie Mac was fun too.

Of note is how I got the tickets for this one. They’re getting more technological in how they deliver these. For years now they’ve had you print out emails if you “win” tickets to a preview (usually from a newspaper or radio). The printouts really mean nothing, because they’re just trying to fill the seats, they don’t actually care if you won when you get to the theater. (Although, come to think of it, they’ll occasionally cross-reference with a printout of some kind.) Anyway, it’s not like they check the email’s headers or anything, and you can usually just forward your “winning” email to people and they can come too.

For this one I had to text someone. I got an automated response with another thing to text to the same number. Then they texted me back a second time letting me know they’d be picking winners the day before the preview. When tuesday came around, I got a text letting me know I’d won, and that I should show the text at the door to get in. Sure enough, they weren’t checking a list or anything, you just had to show them the text on your phone, and they let you in. They should have had more “winners” though, because the house was only about half full. This seems like an odd movie to have had so few people turn out for the preview.

Tonight is another preview for the new Harry Potter movie. Tickets for that one can be found on myspace.

impressions and computations

OK, well, Flashbelt is done. (With the possible exception of the bar that people are going to tonight. We’ll see. It depends on what’s going on later.)

I was totally and completely blown away by the last presenter: Jared Tarbell‘s work is absolutely positively phenomenal. Words can’t really do it justice, and honestly, I don’t even think looking at the websites can do it justice. The art is good. Awesome even, but the way he creates it is what will totally blow your mind.

In the middle of the presentation, (as if, somehow, ridiculously, it wasn’t enough,) Jared gave away a few of his prints to audience members who answered various questions sprinkled he in. At some point he asked a question summing two three-digit numbers (assuming you knew the fibonacci sequence), and I wasn’t quick enough to be the first. At that point I resigned myself to not getting one of these amazing prints. But then he asked a logic question that I blurted out the answer to without thinking, and suddenly I was at the podium gratefully accepting this amazing piece of art! Highlight of the conference.

It gets better. After his presentation was a “mixer” where I stick around and talked to a bunch of people I’d met throughout the week. Eventually I was standing near Jared and thanked him again for the print. He then asked me if I’d fixed my actionscript bug. I was taken aback for a minute, not knowing what he was talking about, and then realized that he’d been sitting next to me in another panel on Monday, and had been looking over my shoulder while I was debugging the latest version of Go Tetris!. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea who it was sitting next to me at the time, and I’m pretty sure I even gave him a card.

I’m totally starstruck right now.


I’m at flashbelt this week.

I’ve learned some interesting stuff thus far, but seemingly more important to the experience has been a rising sense of wonder. As tech conferences go, I’ll bet flash conferences have a lot more art than other conferences. Anyway, the best presentations have been these crazy flash artists. Their work is of course next to entirely impractical, but so interesting that these guys probably make their livings traveling from conference to conference and presenting on their art. (I’m sure this is not entirely true, Joshua Davis, for instance, has actual art showings, and of course teaches classes in what he does.)

Anyway, at some point maybe I’ll sift through all the other links I’ve collected, and post some more of them. I didn’t have internet yesterday, so all of my notes were hand-written.