Ken

Jan 232020
 

Thanks for reading my blog! Please read the whole thing, though, and remember the point of my blog is to exist as a void, an empty space I can ignore for years on end. Sort of like the doctor I don’t see for years and years because I stopped going to see him. Who I am finally seeing tomorrow!  Anyway, in my last entry I posted a bunch of mean things about my friends who I do business with…. my buddies Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, Corey and Trevor, …. I guess that makes me Mr. Layhey.  Anyway sorry about that, sorry Neal Peart died, he was the greatest drummer alive for a long time.  I will not post mean things on the internet, I’m embarrassed and ashamed, and yesterday I probably wasn’t the best version of myself that has ever woken up.

An update on some of my updates, I found my old ipad, managed to export my china blog to PDF and rescue that file from beyond apple’s walled garden. So I am in possession of my full, unpublished China blog. It is on my desktop. Like so many documents, I am afraid to read it, as my own writing always sounds hollow and amateurish when I read it out loud to myself.

Forgot to mention that there are actually two other journals that I keep now, in addition to wellness there is a SECRET journal as well that is not my blog, however it is a fictional account…. Not at all like the play I have been penning for a while… “Love’s Labours One”, which is the long lost sequel to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labors Lost and Shakespeare wrote it except no I’m lying, I wrote it, and it fixes all the problems in the original play…. first, it’s set in outer space, in the France nebula. Second, the ladies in the show are the villains and have invaded the men’s holdings while their guard was relaxed, and third, the messenger guy at the end, turns out to be the main character protagonist, who goes back and forth between the two parties over and over and resolves the conflict peaceably. So yes, I wrote two full scenes of this play before I realized I don’t know how to write female dialogue so I am looking for someone to kick this over to who can move the ball forward.

I have fully abandoned my horror style escape room game “Escape from Zellman Orbital”, never available on Early Access on Steam! It was cool almost publishing something on Steam but it was not as good as my first game, Pokemon No, which I can never release due to obvious copyright concerns. In both cases, I never finished making the game, and the parts I did get to polish started falling apart the second VRTK pushed an update and broke all my controls 😛 … Please don’t ask me to play it, I legit do not have a playable build. Just a few unplayable ones. Thanks to everyone who contributed to both projects though. The voice acting was actually one of the better parts of the game, and your contributions really shined.

If you are truly interested in seeing what’s going on in my life – check out my facebook and my instagram. Particularly my IG: @dreamsinvr … also check out my work IG it is pretty incredible, hard to understand why I still only have 600 followers :/ @ctrlvhowell

The Arcade is going super great, we have a tournament planned for our 2 year AnniVRsary, It is the Superhot VR Timed Trials, on Saturday February 1, from 3:00 PM until 9:00 PM! We are streaming live to twitch, check it out there on our Twitch Channel https://www.twitch.tv/ctrlvhowell also we will try to continue migrating some of that content to Youtube as well.

I still stream live to twitch from home. In VR. Nobody watches that either, so you might as well check it out. https://www.twitch.tv/outlier_vr

We still do not have the whole You Tube and streaming thing figured out at work. I have many of the “pieces” I need to build a youtube celebrity. But still not a complete picture, and it looks like doing youtube correctly might be a full time job. Still, for some people, it is only a part time job for extra income. A side hustle.

Update on drone flying. Have not flown drones at all in 2019. I just … did not feel like doing it. Honestly messed up a bit and bought too many toys too fast. The fact is the 5″ racing drone is fucking cool and really pushes the bar on what can be done in the air… but … other guys are taking way better pictures with both larger and smaller drones… some of the beefed up whoop-class drones are capable of doing amazing things. And the larger stuff, parrot-sized and up… well, most professional photos use these to ill effect. It might be overdue for me to talk to my friends who do this stuff professionally. If I could fly a drone and take incredible camera footage for extra income… well, why shouldn’t I?

I am a little demoralized. In November I injured my foot, rather the shoes I ran in injured my foot, because shoes are the devil! Anyway, I have not been able to run for the past … well, it’s been 12 weeks or so now! Heh. I am seeing the doctor about it tomorrow, but yes, been legit limping around for… oh … about three months, since my 6 mile run to Langosta and back. It was the “back” that did it… I felt injured while I was sitting at the bar, but, macho guy that I am, had to run the 6 miles back, because I knew that I could. What I didn’t know is that running in bad form on the wrong shoes on the worst possible surface, can lead to problems, and that problem is called plantar fasciitis, and boy do I ever have it! I have treated it with cold rolling, yoga, a night brace, compression socks, stretches, CBD oil (OK I was taking that anyway) … and I tried running on it twice. The first time was a huge mistake, I made it way, way worse, by running to the gym and back. Oops. The second time I tried running on it again…. was Monday… and while I did not exactly re-injure myself… I don’t think there was much improvement. This art to running naturalisticly without damaging my frame is still new, even though intellectually I know I’ve been running this way for… almost 12 years…. this might be the first year I actually decided to get good at it. Good enough to seriously injure myself anyway… :/

And in fact while I haven’t had a legit physical from my doctor in some time – some years at  least … I did run into him a while back at the Emergency room.  I pulled a muscle back in 2017 doing hot yoga, and had to go to the ER.  Quite  the story, probably deserves its own blog post.  But yes I injured almost every muscle in my body at that yoga practice.  One of them, I injured more than the others, and didn’t know until 3 days later, when I couldn’t rest, sleep, or breathe without searing pain.  I met my right serratus interior muscle, and learned how to make nice with it.  Mainly just adjusting my posture so I could rest properly was what healed it.

Anyway, you could find all this out on IG, but everything else is basically my pets are fine, living out their long, weird, reptile lives. The big one has just two things on his agenda in the winter: find a warm place and sleep, or, find a cold place and sleep. Depending largely on his mood. I can convince him to occasionally eat blueberries and worms, and take the occasional shit. It is not rare for me to step out of the house, glance at him sleeping under the radiator, and then not come back until 16 hours later. I have worked a holiday super shift at the arcade. It was a lunatic madhouse for night 7 of Hanukkah. I am all beat to hell, and he… he has not moved. He is still napping. It’s amazing. In fact, I could let him sleep the whole winter, it’s a natural thing, called brumation, and it’s what happens to his pals out in nature – whatever bearded dragons still survive in their native Australia. Certainly many have been cooked by the fires there. But beardies live in sandy habitats as well as forested ones, so there’s probably still a lot of beardies in Australia. Anyway, during the winter, they just sleep, and wake up hungry in March. Maybe I should just let him do that. And Stinky? He is the same leopard gecko he has been for the last 17 years. He is adorable, has a tiny brain, he moves around like a little sine wave, too dumb to survive on his own, but smart enough that he could escape if I let him out. In fact one day he did, and he snuck underneath his cage. It was dangerous, getting him out meant moving furniture, but it was no easier or worse than wrangling a larger animal, like my fraternity brother’s ball python back on college. Stanly… the problem with stanly was that he was HUGE not tiny.

However demoralized I am, I am still basically happy and content. The hurt foot did not stop me from going out dancing with the most beautiful woman I know. I had a grand time with Nicky dancing at the warehouse in Queens. Did you know that Queens is the new Brooklyn? It is. We drove in – flawlessly – and parked – perfectly! Then stumbled into the most perfect chinese restaurant, the Drunken Fish. She was dainty, and she didn’t want to eat. I had veggie sushi and seaweed, and we both drank tea, which was perfect. She is so delightful. Then waited outside in the cold to be let in, we did not get VIP or early admission, though next time maybe. This party was run by the Elements music festival people, and it was like an indoor EDM music festival. Totally lit. I considered bringing psychadelics but Nicky doesn’t go in for that – she is all natural, and only gets high doing meditation. So we were both partying vegan for the whole night. It seems like maybe drugs are better left for the young. Anyway, there was tons of cool stuff, three stages, many dance floors, cool art exhibition, lots of cool hippy indie crowd, new yorkers, dwellers of queens, brooklyn, long island, the smart party crowd, who know enough to stay out of manhattan on NYE. In fact the whole city is really one big party this day of the year, and it’s a day to be extra careful. As Jonathan Frakes put it once: “Be careful, the amateurs are out tonight”. And what drew us there, both Nicky and myself – was the silent disco. We kept those headphones on all night. It was Silent Disco for pretty much everything between 10 PM and 1 AM, then we extracted, because she had to work the next day, and I …. didn’t, for the first time in several weeks. This was the first two days I wasn’t on the schedule since the 16th of December. Quite frankly I was pretty beat to hell from working Hanukkah… which was totally Lit, but totally exhausting. I had early stage bronchitis and slowly falling into late-stage. And made it through most of the night before my cough started coming back. I was wearing shoes that were probably not great for dancing in. Danced anyway, the pain was mild compared to what I’m used to out for a run, and honestly as the only guy with a bald spot at this party, I felt I needed to bring out my A game on the dance floor, being surrounded by younger and better dancers. And young DJ’s playing new stuff that seems bizarre to be called music. Really, I don’t want much from a DJ, just play lots of New Order or something similar, early techo or EDM stuff I know and love, but that’s never what happens. You get a blast of “What the hell was that” in your ears and your mind shatters and is never the same. Well, we had a great time, I stole three kisses from her that night, and then things went really well for about 3 days then she suddenly cooled off, same thing she always does, just like the last … is it two or three times now I have been chasing Nicky around ? I can’t remember. Six years, it’s been six years. So yes I can no longer chase this lovely woman around, it’s exhausting, her focus is on her business and her kid, mine needs to be on my business and my… pet lizards. Still this was a fun little tryst and I do not blame Nicky or feel angry at her in any way. But I am disappointed in myself by posting this drivel here in public, like the fool I was 15 years ago when Myspace was still a thing.

 Posted by at 11:47 am
Jul 152018
 

Hello friends, welcome back!  So much has happened since September:

  • In October and November I moved some material around and effected renovations on our build site!
  • in December we built out the arcade!  On December 30 we had our special Demo Day soft opening, and it was excellent.
  • Then on January 27 we had our Grand Opening event, when we opened our doors for realsies.
  • February is a bit of a blur!  I worked at the arcade 7 days and 180 hours for 6 weeks.  In this period We had our ribbon cutting with the Howell Chamber of Commerce.
  • March … I think it was oddly hot or cold a lot, not remembering much about march.
  • April was Spring Break, and we booked 100% for 7 straight days!  This was by far the most challenging week for my staff and I.  Every day, we sold 153 VR sessions, which is our entire capacity.  And each week thereafter has been if not a bonanza, then at least prosperous.
  • May I also remember as being cold or something for some reason, I think the sky was angry at us, but I don’t remember the details and I think I spent most of my time inside, at the Arcade.  Oh and I had my Birthday party at the Arcade and famous Earth scientist Rick Sanchez was there!!
  • June saw lots of new business come in the door, I think a lot of loose ends were tightened up and and processes narrowed down.
  • It is now July and we have been open for over 5 full months.  I am so proud of my staff for getting to this point and growing into the team I knew they could be.

You can learn more about Ctrl V at our website:

www.ctrlv.ca

Better yet, book a session, and come see me, because it has been a real joy building something wonderful that so many people have come to love.

My private life is doing fine, I was a workaholic starting in December and after slacking off for so much of the previous year it was nice to be fully engaged and active in my work again.  My diet is great, I started Beach Body in December guided by my cousin Erin, and I held on to it for a good long time.  And I regularly reboot into the program and am pleased with the results.  Part of my successes here have been drilling down meal prep into a science.  Now I can just walk into my kitchen, and in 2 hours flat cook 12 awesome meals, and freeze 8 of them.  This has allowed me to eat good healthy delicious food without spending my life in the kitchen.

My diet at work has NOT been stellar when I have fallen off beach body.  Huge masses of Pizza pass through my doors on the REG.  Ice cream cake too.  It usually gets left in the freezer, and I subsist on it in my lonely hours there after close.

Have gone to the gym 0 times but practiced yoga a fair amount, and more importantly I rebooted my solo practice, the development of which is critical to my next stage of development.  I swam in the ocean a few times but not for long due to some very strong currents at my home beach.  Brighton Ave is and has been a surf beach ever since Sandy changed the landscape so maybe I need to start swimming elsewhere.  I did the War at the Shore Triathlon and my time was atrocious due to lack of training.  Still I enjoyed the race and it’s fun to get together with actual athletes from time to time.  So, my health is good, I’m still fat but not so fat I can’t go for long runs or bike rides, and I do both these things as frequently as I can.  I think I’ve run at least 30 miles this year, almost all of it on sand, and most of that is the two miles and back from Brighton Ave to Pier Village, or sometimes Ocean Place, or 7 Presidents, or North Beach, or this one time parking lot 3 on Sandy Hook (when I overshot Donovan’s Reef by a fair clip by accident and negligence).

In books, let’s see, I think I started reading the Gunslinger books again back around December.  And I finished the final one last week.  I also read the new one, the 4.5 dark tower novel.  I enjoyed the books immensely, especially Wolves of the Calla which was new to me this time (my first time through I quit at Wizard and Glass.  Possibly because WotC had not been written at that time…

I have been playing LESS games lately… Started Fallout 4 VR, started Skyrim VR, started Final Fantasy III, and also VII on the MAME cabinet I got at the arcade.  Oh yes, we got a MAME cabinet with every classic arcade game and console game on it.  It’s awesome and everyone loves it.  So I can (and do) play Star Control II at work.  However I have quit Pokemon Go entirely, and in Ingress I have effected a semi-active retirement lifestyle.  There’s just no time to play games, when I’m playing games all day.  I keep up with the VR industry through a variety of online sources, and while I have not spent any of my time in a developmental role (though my staff does),  I try to keep up with the latest advances and releases.  So, yes I break my own rule sometimes.  That rule is: Play a little, every day.  It seems strange to me that there were weeks, maybe a couple weeks back during our opening, when I broke this rule.  I was so focused, I couldn’t even spend 5 minutes in Space Pirate Trainer.  But that’s what happened.  I’ve also cut my Elite: Dangerous habit to a couple minutes of stick time every week, when it used to be many hours a week.  I miss space.  I miss my guild.  But my work here on Earth still calls to me, so here I will remain, for a bit longer.

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Sep 032017
 

So, you know by now I only keep this blog to ignore it for months or years at a time. I would say it’s doing its job perfectly, and the guys at Dreamhost are doing a perfect job of maintaining this non-record of my life’s story here on earth. Don’t worry I’ve been updating, you can catch me on the Facebook and now the Instagram as well. I even post to Twitter, but I still don’t engage in much tweeting, outside of promotional bulletins for my new business. Really if you want news from me, go click the social media buttons over there on the sidebar, and find me on the other side.

All is well here with me. Here is the story so far:

In October of last year I founded OutlierVR, my own personal LLC to serve my growing research and development inquiries into the new Virtual Reality technologies that just manifested out of the ether two years ago. I was finally going to publish my VR game! Also, we maybe have something to do with bitcoins!

As I built the foundation of the company, the larger purpose of it became more and more clear. Someone needs to build the VR Arcades here in the US, because that hasn’t been done yet. Who better than me? Part time VR developer, and full time business and engineering generalist, former teacher and lifelong video gamer.

So by December of 2017 the focus of my research shifted. It almost immediately led me to what I identified as the industry leaders in VR arcades: a group out of Waterloo, Ontario known as Ctrl V Partners. They were exactly 1 year ahead of me. They knew in January 2016 that this would have to be a thing, and they went and did it. Yes, while I was convalescing from my broken arm and spending most of my time playing Elite Dangerous in VR, these guys were out there constructing the superior business model, costed it out perfectly, did all the normal things like operations and marketing, and along the way they invented at least a few
industry best practices. In January I went to visit these guys with an interest in partnership, and since that time I have been playing a game I call “catch the hell up” with my new franchise partners. They’ve given me a thousand fantastic new ideas, and quietly convinced me to discard at least 20 awful ideas I brought to the table.

Carefully, around New Years Eve, I etched my new business plan into whiteboard ink…

1) Find a town
2) Build VR Arcade in town
3) ???
4) Profit !

You wouldn’t belong how long step 1 took. OK maybe you would. It took four months. We signed our lease at Howell Plaza on April 20, 2017. It took three months on top of that for the landlord to finish dividing the space. But around the second week of August we were able to get in there to start renovations.

Since agreeing to buy a Ctrl V franchise, I have been occupied much of this time building the business itself. Each new day finds me buzzing around like honeybee, I’ll spend some time doing operational things like setting up utilities, hr, and payroll. I have lot of interactions with my contractors, landlord, and architect to get the space into the shape I want it in. I had quite a fun week going up to Waterloo in July to complete my franchise training. I spent a week up there just working a few shifts at the flagship arcade just to see what it was like. They taught me a lot of what I needed to know, I had fun working there, enjoyed some time pub crawling with my ingress family. August was spent procuring necessary supplies for the rough build out, which should be followed by the complete build out, and then… testing, fine tuning, demo days, soft opening, all which I fully expect to happen in September. After that… we open!

I hope you will all come to Ctrl V Howell and some see me very soon!

 Posted by at 1:24 pm
Jan 132017
 

So, I gave it my best effort, but I have to sell my macbook. I like parts of it – backlit keyboard, form factor, touch pad, ergonomics in general, there’s a lot of stuff done right! Honestly, having this 13″ power house in my hands is very cool.

BUT,

I’m way better at using PC’s. Sure I’ve used an Apple II as a kid, but I really didn’t git gud at computers until I got the 486 and read the Dos and windows manuals. I’m a PC guy, have been since I was 14. I’ve built them, upgraded them, programmed them, maintained them, debugged them, used them. Almost nobody can make those same claims for macs. And the problems people complain about when using PC’s? I’ve been living with and working around those problems for so long they’ve ceased to be problems. I don’t have malware issues, I have good user habits. Mucking around with drivers and codecs isn’t a problem for me. It’s a problem when I’m trapped in the walled garden, and I NEED to muck around with drivers to make something work, and I’m not allowed to.

Really, I only got the thing because it seemed like everyone who was a developer used them. I can kind of see why. But macs are useless for games. It seems like developers seem to sort into two categories: gamers, and mac users. I can’t continue to lie to myself about which category I fall into. Really, the mac is great for a work machine, by virtue of its utter useless as a recreational machine. However as a game designer / arcade owner, I must now embrace a fusion of work and play as my future.

Working around the macs limitations is a PITA too. The tiny screen is a blessing and a curse. Coming from my old HP desktop replacement, it’s a real difference. Sure I can take this thing anywhere. But when I arrive, I’m confined to working into this tiny box. Even if I hook up an external screen and USB hub and keyboard, it’s still tough for me to get around.

I’m trying to think of something I can do on the mac that can’t be done on the PC.  maybe develop iOS apps in their native environment, which is a real advantage, I agree with the purists on this.  Or use Sketch, which is mac only.  But really, for cross platform apps…. Google and Open Office have my back.  Adobe’s stuff works great on PC too.  So do all the game engines I love.  Why am using a Mac, the only PC which is physically incapable of EVER supporting VR?  That’s what it comes down to, I suppose.

So, anyone want to buy the latest 13″ macbook? It’s got a crazy powerful processor and more space and memory than I need.  Not VR ready.

 

 Posted by at 1:32 pm
Jan 082017
 

Hello All, here’s the state of the union:

Game: Still stalled on Audio.  UX part also stuck.  Will get unstuck soon.

Business Plan: I’ve started building the seed of the business.  It exists mostly in a composition book, and done mostly in pencil.  I’ve addressed funding, branding, location, operations, deployment, staffing, and various other minutiae and they’re all getting sorted out.

Other Games: Dormant, I have a simple environment built for super ball pit mania but have not advanced on it yet.

Other Games: Arizona Sunshine went on sale, and audacious as it was, I bought a $40 game on Steam, played it myself (which I never do!) and was blown away.  That was the game of the year, it was amazing and what’s even more surprising is that it only ate through 5 hours of my life.

Twitch: I’ve been uploading twitch streams of various MR style play on my part, and even shared it with my guild in Elite Dangerous.  Still at least my Youtube is getting populated at this time, making and sharing movies has never been my focus, and I don’t really want to go in this direction.  However I do want the avenue open to

 Posted by at 1:22 pm
Dec 212016
 

New high score!  27150!

Some tweaks to my play area fixed some problems.  First, I re mapped it so the back of the room is now the “front” direction for Steam VR.  This necessitated recalibrating the camera, but that process goes a lot faster after you’ve done it 20 or so times!  The camera is also repositioned to capture more of the action… there’s still a lot going on you can’t see, I need additional green screens and higher ceilings to fix that.  For some reason the “floor” in steam VR is off, it thinks the world ends at my ankles.  shrug.  It’s not worth remapping to fix though.  The work continues!

 Posted by at 9:12 pm
Dec 212016
 

Well, we have MVP.  I made a mixed reality trailer of my favorite game, Space Pirate Trainer!

 

 

Some problems with it.  It defaulted to flac, not mp4, so I can’t edit it with the software I know.  The capture card for some reason is sending up very choppy images, so it looks like I’m moving around in some kind of weird time bubble.  I have no idea why.  The chroma key detecting the screen is pretty sloppy, which is probably due to the lighting, which needs improvement.  I only have one green screen, so you can only see one vector instead of a whole bunch.  The camera angle is lousy, and too close, it needs to be set farther back and up more.  This will mean re calibrating it but I’ve kind of got the process down from doing it 30 times today.  What else.  There’s probably a scaling issue between the two cameras, I don’t think they’re mapped perfectly, I was kind of guessing at the resolutions, but until I get the image less choppy there’s no way to know for sure!  Other than that… well, see for yourself.  I dodge lasers like a pro, and got a new high score, 14900!

There’s more than one way to do mixed reality, and my approach was a kind of hodge podge of other techniques pioneered by my colleagues.  The point is, there’s an unlimited number of correct ways to do MR, and a hundred ways for me to improve my process.  This is just a first step and it was lots of fun taking it!

 Posted by at 5:02 pm