Free Spatial Memory Game – Walk The Path

25 11 2016

I was trying to think of a game for my nephews that would be fun, free, and teach them something, so I came up with this. Essentially you lay out a path and give each player some tokens (rocks or coins or anything). A player puts on a blind fold, walks the path as best they can, and places a token at each corner. Scoring is done by measuring each token to the target X and summing all the measurements.

Rules for Walk The Path

  1. Setup: Lay out a game path, say about 10 feet in length total, but it’s completely scalable. Cement/flat surface would probably be best. You can lay out the lines with painter’s/masking tape or chalk. You can also just mark the X’s without drawing the lines.
    Each player gets several tokens, such as rocks or coins. They need enough to place one at each X along the game path.
    You will need some string or tape measure to count the scores.
    One player goes and is scored at a time, to avoid stepping on other player’s tokens.Below is an example grid:

    Example layout

    Example layout

  2. Round 1: Hard. Active Player stands at the start, gets a minute to look at the path.
  3. Active Player puts on a blindfold.
  4. Active Player attempts to walk the path while blindfolded and places a token each X, to the best of their ability.
  5. Active Player removes blindfold after placing last token.
  6. To score the active player, measure the distance from each X to the token that was supposed to be placed on it. This can be done with measuring tape and summing measurements, or even easier would be with a piece of string.To use a string as the measurement, at the first X place the end of the string on the X and pinch the string where the token is. At the second X, place the string where you pinched it on the X and then pinch the string again where the token is. Continue for each X. After you have the total score, you can lay the string out along a wall and mark the score with an X and player name.
  7. Remove all tokens and then let the next player have a turn, following steps 2 to 6. Repeat until everyone has had a turn.
  8. Round 2: Easy. Repeat the game with one change: before each player starts their turn, they are allowed to pace out the path without a blindfold. This will give players a much better chance at doing well.
  9. Total score can be adjusted as you wish. Some examples: Only the first round counts, only the second round counts, total score is the sum of Round 1 and Round 2, etc.

Enjoy! Some variations:

  • Set up multiple paths and play like golf.
  • Play game while walking backwards.
  • Spin around 3 times at the start while blindfolded.
  • Go backwards and forwards on the path.
  • Lay out 2 identical paths and compete against someone for time and accuracy.

My experience with LASIK

28 03 2015

This is a post dedicated to my friend who is thinking about getting LASIK. My eyesight was really bad, like -8 diopters with some astigmatism. My hand would be blurry about 6 inches from my eyes. I’ve had glasses since 4th grade and couldn’t wear contact lenses because they dried out my eyes, even the best ones at the time (Acuvue OASIS)

I got LASIK in 2009 as a graduation gift from my parents. Total cost was about 6000 USD. My optometrist gave me a checkup and a referral to Dr Tooma in Newport at TLC Laser Center (called something else now). The referral was worth 1000 USD off. So, here’s how it went:

  • Met my optometrist, got the referral.
  • Went to TLC and got a consultation (free). Basically watched a video and told them I have no questions when can you sign me up? Cost would be about 5000 USD, plus some a prescription and eye drops. I think altogher it would be about 6000 USD.
  • On Tuesday, my dad drove me, let’s say around 10 AM.
  • By 10:30 I was in the waiting room. Just a dark room. They gave me some eye drops.
  • I go into the procedure room. The doctor asks me if I have any questions.
  • First there’s the PEERLESS laser, which takes the place of a keratome blade to leave less of a scar. He uses it to cut a U around my eye.
  • Then I move over to the actual CUSTOM LASIK machine, it was an Alcon. He pulls back the flap of eye he made a cut in and tells me to stare at a red light for 39 seconds. At first it doesn’t hurt at all, but after like 20 seconds it starts to burn, like if someone exposed under your skin to air, not from the laser. Also there’s a burning smell which disturbed me and no one told me about.
  • Switch eyes and repeat. This goes smoother since I know what to repeat.
  • They put on some gauze and glasses and send me on my way, it’s probably not even 11:00 AM but now. They give me 2 Vicodin and some instructions.
  • I live about 20 minutes away. My dad takes me to in n out. While waiting in the drive through my eyes start burning like freaking crazy.
  • I get home another 10 minutes later, devour my in n out, pop a Vicodin, and immediately go to sleep to escape  the pain of my burning eyes.
  • Wake up around 7pm. Listen to the radio, can’t see shit still, eyes cloudy. Sleep around 10pm
  • First day after my eyes are still hazy but I can walk around. Can’t look at computers for more than 10 to 20 minutes. I think I saw my optometrist on the first and 5th day after or something like that.
  • Second day i can look at computer for an hour or two, but still not perfect.
  • Third day after, everything is great. I can see 20 20 and look at the computer.
  • I had to apply natural eyedrops, which are like 20 bucks for 100 at costco. I use like 3 to 5 a day, and I had to take them for about a year, but I wasn’t upset because I knew my eyes were naturally dry already. Being in AC office = total shite.
  • At night, I had really bad “starbursts” for about the first month. AFter that, I still have minor starbusts, but not that bad, doesn’t affect much. Minorly annoying driving. If you’re an office worker and dont’ go out much at a night like I was, it doesn’t matter at all. If you’re a Navy SEAL, it might matter. From what I read, the starbusts/other problems are usually only if you have a very large correction (like I had). The eye is convex (round) and the laser flattens it out. Where the flat part meets the still convex part is what causes the starbursts (from what I read, I’m no expert).

It’s now been about 6 years and I’m still loving it. I’ve completely forgotten that I used to wear glasses, and when I see a photo I look at it and think, holy crap that’s me?! My eyesight is probably a 0.5 diopter, which could have been avoided if I waited and got it later, but I got it at 23 because I was impatient.

Cheers! If you decide to get LASIK, I hope you love it as much as I do, but take all the risks into effect and remember, don’t skimp on two of the most important things you possess!

How do you describe your job?

6 11 2014

I am an engineer. We make up a small part of the world and are typically quite specialized. This means that most people have no idea what we do. Maybe this is why politicians/teachers/whoever is trying to “get kids into STEM” ask for people from STEM talk about what they do, because politicians/teachers/whoever have no freaking idea. I will try to give an overview of what I did at my last job.

My company makes Dynamic Positioning systems. The idea is simple. The system reads GPS signals and/or other position signals (hydro-acoustic beacons on the seafloor, laser targeting, etc) as well as heading sensors (gyroscopes), controls thrusters, and keeps a vessel in position or moves it as desired. It must resist the ocean/river current, wind, and waves which obviously change over time. Ships with DP are used for a variety of tasks (see the wiki entry linked previously), but mainly related to drilling for oil or laying cables. This is accomplished by having a computer with IO (input and output) reading the inputs from all the sensors as well as a user and outputs telling the thrusters what to do. My company built the brain of the system and our responsibility stopped at our IO interface with other companies’ sensors/engines/whatever

My specific job is as a GNC engineer, where GNC stands for guidance, navigation, and controls. My job was split in two, in the office and on travel. In the office I was a software developer. Our system had a lot of software which needed to be adjusted for each ship, updated, have features added, have bugs fixed, etc. So in the office I mostly worked on our software or on configuring our software for a new ship being built. About 30% of the time I traveled. Travel jobs were one of two things: 1 commissioning a new ship (a fancy way of saying getting it to work for the first time and then demonstrating that it works) or 2 fixing some problem on an existing ship.

The travel part of the job was a killer and I would summarize the job as being able to live in crappy conditions and get a job done using a moderate amount of intelligence/knowledge of our system. The actual work was quite easy, the hard part was everything else. I’ll give you an example of a job to China. This was a new commissioning and is usually a 7 to 10 day trip. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Preparation. Once the job is assigned I would collect all the software and documents I need. Talk with coworkers about anything I might miss, talk with boss about expectations, etc. Also packing etc. I only carried 1 carry on sized bag (easier to carry around another country) and a backpack.
  2. Fly to China, in economy. Usually this wasn’t too bad as airlines give free movies and alcohol on international flights.
  3. Arrive in China, get a taxi to where you need to go. This was extremely frustrating and stressful. The location of the shipyard was a 2 hour car ride away, taxis are there to drive people around the city. Also not many people speak english. Basically show someone a paper with where you want to go written down and hope they can help you. And won’t rob you and leave you to die somewhere.
  4. Arrive at hotel, try to get some sleep before waking up at 6am.  Remember that at this point I’m jetlagged and tired from flying around the world. Luckily going east to west makes sleeping at an appropriate time easy. But there’s always the stress of having to wake up and make it to the ship in the morning.
  5. Catch a taxi to the shipyard, another trial. The last one I was on you had to take a ferry. I got lucky and called a bunch of people until I found someone who could get me where I needed to be, another contractor. My last job was easy since I was able to get ahold of him. On previous trips it was much worse. The first time I had to take a 2 hour taxi ride to the shipyard which was devoid of life. I knew what the ship looked like, but there were 4 being built. No signs. No help. No nothing. I eventually got lucky hanging around long enough and found some English speakers getting on the right ship and followed them. A guard started yelling at me in Chinese, but this is normal, I just shrugged and walked by him.
  6. Now on the ship, find your room and settle in. Or not. Ont his last job the guy who did the physical installation of our system was there and brought me up to date. His English was good. To save money he was not going to sea with us and was “pretty sure” everything was working.
  7. Now it’s a waiting game. Wait to go out to sea. Before I can do anything everything else on the ship has to work. If you remember, my system reads sensors and tells thrusters what to do. That means they have to already be set up, tested, and working 100%. On the last trip there were some major delays so I was sitting in my room for about 3 days. Half naked chinese guys kept coming into the room I was sharing with another contractor to use the shower. Eventually my bunk mate yelled at them and they stopped. Oh and did I mention I was sleeping on the ground with nothing more than a straw mat? No pillow, no sheets, nothing but the sweatshirt I brought and one of those inflatable neck pillows.
  8. The food onboard in China is normally crap, this last trip wasn’t so bad, it was edible. There was enough water. All in all a decent experience.
  9. So after having slept on the ground for 3 days and eating meh food, eventually I get to work. No one really tells me when, I have to sit in on meetings I’m not supposed to be in and listen for the salient details. The Chinese shipbuilders are supposed to be the ones running the show, but the customer representatives that are supposed to be inspecting are pulling a lot of the weight. Anyway, usually right when I’m about to go to sleep is when they want me to start working (DP is usually done at night because I work with very few people, everyone else is up in the day working together).
  10. So it’s 10pm or maybe midnight, pitch black outside, the bridge is kept dark to maintain night vision, and I start work. First I check all the IO and make sure it’s all talking. Then I calibrate our system with the thrusters (if I ask for 50% am I getting 50%?). After that is the hardest part, which is tuning our system for this specific vessel. After that a few performance tests and I’m done. All that takes 8 to 12 hours. Getting Chinese electricians who speak very little English to do what you need is tough, but usually there is someone who can translate… usually.
  11. Now it’s 8 AM and everyone is up and ready to test the system. So for another 4 hours we go through tests to demonstrate the system is working.
  12. Now it’s noon. I was awake yesterday from 8AM til my normal sleep time, but instead worked throughout the night, meaning I’ve been up 28 hours. Time to crash, if I’m lucky and no one bugs me to fix something.
  13. DP is usually the last system to be worked on, so we head back to shore after I’m done, typically.
  14. Get off the vessel and get to the hotel, usually much easier since taxi drivers know hotels.
  15. Try to sleep/wake up and make my return flight. Navigating Chinese airports is difficult but not impossible. Getting to the airport via taxi is the easiest taxi ride since every taxi driver can understand if you try to make hand gestures and sounds of an airplane. Or just draw a plane on a piece of paper like I do. And pray there’s only one airport nearby.
  16. Arrive home. If the next day is a workday, I have to work or use time off. On the plus side we get extra time off for working weekends.

That’s what a typical travel trip looks like, pretty crazy if I do say so myself.

So, what do you do for a living?

Get Moving

6 11 2014

I quit my job a week ago and do not start my next job until the 20th. This means I have three weeks to do whatever I want. My goal is to visit friends and family, but even doing that, I have plenty of free time and I realized I need something to fill this free time. This all comes back to the “problem” of retirement which is best summarized by the first question everyone asks when I tell them I want to retire before 35: “well what are you going to do with all your time?”

My only answer right now is “whatever I want.” But it’s a good question and I don’t have a good answer. I think that being raised in the 90’s, a time when showing up got you a trophy for the first time in the history of the world, beat into me several things I wish weren’t. I feel like my generation has been trained to be consumers. We were literally trained since 1st grade to be able to sit at a boring job so we could go home and spend all the money we earned, minus 5 to 10%. We were raised to work jobs. Jobs are easy, there are billions of people willing to work a job and collect a nice salary. So many that the competition is fierce. What we weren’t trained to do was create. To start companies and create jobs.

I happened to read an interesting article today: 6 Harsh truths that will make you a better person, on The jist of it is simple: act now. Get moving. Do something. So right now I’m trying to identify things to get moving on. But I’ve been doing this for the past few months, I probably need a new strategy.

A Great Reason To Stop Reading the News

22 09 2014

Would you believe that it can be very traumatic just to hear about someone else’s traumatic experience? It’s called vicarious trauma and here is an interesting quote from the following book:


Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE): A revolutionary new method for stress/trauma recovery

“It is very common for people who have not experienced the same trauma as their loved ones to be even more bitter, vengeful, angry and resentful than the person who endured and survived the traumatic experience. Imagination is a powerful thought process of the human species. It can however, be a dangerous and powerful weapon if it is not connected to the body’s experience of reality. This is why those who suffer can often forgive more easily than those who only imagined another’s suffering. Those who imagine the suffering of another are often more angry, bitter, and vengeful than the victim. As a victim, it is oftentimes easier to forgive because one’s own suffering and sorrow are informed by the reality of the body’s survival.”

So simply put, when you live through a traumatic experience your body knows you survived and helps you feel relief. If you recount a traumatic experience (in vivid detail) it is unlikely you can get the listener to also experience the relief. Similarly if you read violent/messed up news stories, watch things like crime dramas, or watch shows such as real life murder mysteries (see the South Park Murder Porn episode) you can experience the trauma but never the relief. Despite it being second hand it can add up and leave your body physiologically showing signs of trauma, which as you can guess, is not good.

I was reminded of this quote when recently reading an article on Fragging in the Vietnam War.

This Sergeant went on to tell me he was on a patrol with a commanding officer who insisted they follow him into what they, as experienced soldiers, knew was an ambush.  The officer refused to budge and finally one of the men shot him dead.  I asked the Sergeant what he did and he said he had no choice but to arrest the offender who had probably saved lives.

Quite a story right? The next line is “He was eerily calm relating these stories.”  What I think the author really meant to say is, “I perceived it to be eerie that he was so calm while relating this story because I found it so disturbing.” To the Sergeant telling the story, he has lived with it everyday for the past 40 years, it’s old news, something he may have struggled with for decades, perhaps with the help of several therapists, and eventually he was able to relay the story “calmly.” But to the listener, this is fresh news and quite a vivid picture. The listener doesn’t know about the 10 years it took to cope with it, nor do they have any idea that imagining this story in their head can bring it to life for their body.

Now imagine reading/watching news stories like this every day of your life and you get the idea of why the modern “news”, aka click bait, is horrible for your health. For your reference, I just turned off my news blocker and here are the top stories on Yahoo! News (note, this is just the main site, not the crime site or the please scare me site)

  • Pentagon: US, partners begin airstrikes in Syria
  • WH intruder had 800 rounds of ammo
  • 3 missing Afghan soldiers found at Canadian border
  • New Jersey hiker killed by black bear: police
  • California wildfire crews brace for weather shift

My heart rate went up just reading those headlines.


A few more musings and a personal note:

Perhaps this is why the current generation seems desensitized. Day in and day out we are exposed to these kind of violent news stories, and to not be desensitized would be a death sentence. But I don’t think we’re truly desensitized. I recall a time when this was really pounded into my soul. A brief bit of background, I played a lot of video games involving killing and watched plenty of rated R movies with plenty of body parts flying before the following story takes place. If anyone was going to be desensitized to violence by games and movies as the media and crazy parents would have us believe, it would have been me.


In AP US History class sophomore year my teacher showed us a video about the Vietnam war. The video started off boring, like most history videos, then out of nowhere there was a scene of a handcuffed man being shot in the head and killed.

I don’t remember if I actually did, but my instinct was to jump out of my chair and scream. Holy shit! That guy was just fucking killed! In real fucking life!  There didn’t appear to be any warning, in the video it didn’t look like there was an argument; the man is tied up and just standing there handcuffed.Then a uniformed man nonchalantly walks around him, pulls up his gun, and shoots the handcuffed man in the head. Don’t feel too bad for the handcuffed man though, he had just finished leading a death squad in the killing of the families of enemy officers.

I was absolutely shocked. I wanted to puke (and honestly I do right now after watching the video again). All those years of being “desensitized by violent video games and movies,” and I reacted just like anyone would expect a normal kid to react.

I later sat down and thought about why I reacted that way despite all my “experience” with violence and I realized that this was the first time I had ever seen anyone actually die. In the back of my head I felt like I had seen someone die before, after all I had seen plenty of movies with blood and guts all over the place and even played games where I actively killed people; but this completely different and I knew it on a fundamental level, instantly, without hesitation. Years of violent games and movies that were supposed to be fucking up my brain, had near zero impact on my reaction to seeing death for the first time. Not even death, a video of a death. The games and movies didn’t mess me up; instead, what really got to me were things I knew to be real, things like that video and the news.

Interestingly enough, South Park had an episode about this as well as the video above. In this episode the kids are playing detective and get an old couple to pay them to solve the mystery of what happened to a pie on the windowsill. They found out the dog did it, but come up with this really fucked up explanation about how the old man was planning to kill his wife to eat the pie but the dog beat him to the pie before he had a chance to kill his wife. The old people are like, WTF?! What are you kids watching on TV?! You might think they would say NCIS or Law and Order SVU, but their reply is simply: “nothing, just the news.”

Oh and if you haven’t seen Bowling For Columbine, it’s basically about how Canada also has violent video games and movies, but doesn’t have the same violent news the US seems to be obsessed with, and how this could be connected with the difference in violent crime.