🍄 torrez.org

Making Games

I started a Substack (boo! hiss!) mailing list you can follow as I learn how to make games. Start here: dungeon.cc.

I think there’s four posts already, so you can catch up and play the games so far. Desktop is best.

Also, if you want to keep a five-year journal you can start here: fiveyears.today.

posted on Friday January 1st, 2021

Still Pencils

I’m still getting deeper into pencils. At the center of that interest is the Erasable Podcast. There’s over 150 episodes and so I’ve been listening to them one after another while I take care of stuff around the house. It’s a pencil podcast first and foremost, but there’s enough culture and media recommendations to make it much more than just pencils. I’ve been reading and watching their recommendations over the last five years of episodes I’ve listened to and have found some great stuff I missed the first time around.

The podcast also prompted me to dive into my old stash of staionery. Back in ‘08 to about ‘13 I was deep into pens, paper, notebooks, some mechanical pencils, and bags. At some point I moved on, only keeping my fountain pen habit up until I left Slack. Not having to keep lists and meeting notes for work meant I didn’t have a need for them.

Fast-forward to the pandemic and I’m writing more than ever. I’m designing some stuff for my 3d printer and soon to arrive metal CNC as well as a daily laundry list of stuff to do around the house as well as some online projects I’m working on.

I would say I write more now than I ever did when at work.

Pencils end up fitting into this perfectly. While I loved my fountain pens they were fussy, a little messy, and not great for my kind of sketching. Also pens themselves aren’t consumable the way pencils are, and so it’s nice to spend time with one 15¢ pencil, appreciate how it feels and writes and then move on to some other 18¢ or even 25¢ pencil. Maybe if I’m feeling fancy I’ll grab a $2 pencil. With pens you do consume the ink but if you want to try something else it’s a “whole thing” that I don’t really have time for.

Current favorites:

  1. Generals Test Scoring 580
  2. Tennessee Red

posted on Monday November 16th, 2020

Pretty Pleased with Pencils

In an unpredictable turn of events I’ve fallen in love with pencils. Amber has had a Blackwing of some version or another around the house for years. She found her ideal: the Blackwing Pearl, and so I’ve gotten used to seeing and using that one when I’ve needed one.

But it never really clicked with me until I had some lists to write and asked her for a couple from her collection. It just hit me: these pencils are so different. I read a little bit about them and bought a sampler. Then ordered from another retailer. Then another.

In a matter of days I was hooked. I started listening to a podcast and following some Instagram accounts. I even, believe it or not, started using Facebook so I could check in on the podcast’s FB Group.

I’m still learning so I don’t feel like I can say much about them. I’ve found a few I really like and so here’s a list of six that come to mind as ones I have enjoyed:

  1. Tennessee Red
  2. Test Scoring 100
  3. Blackwing 602
  4. Swiss Wood Pencil
  5. Mono 100 HB
  6. Blackwing Matte

posted on Sunday November 1st, 2020

Over Thinking

I think I typed the title to this post four or five times before I laughed and went with Over Thinking.

Hi! Here’s what I’ve been doing for the past six months since I left Slack:

  • Taking care of things around the house that needed to be done
  • Taking on new things around the house that may have needed to be done
  • Taking on new things around the house that did not need to be done
  • Riding my bike a lottttt
  • Hanging out with the kids
  • Going on walks with Amber
  • Reading books
  • Watching the MCU movies in chronological (not release) order
  • Going to the movie theater and watching a movie that wasn’t made for kids (before July it had been two years since I’d done that)
  • Meeting up with friends
  • Taking vacations without the stress of leaving work to do it or coming back to work situations

I’ve also been updating my daily log here http://tilde.club/~andre/

I have a long post in me I need to find time to write but I don’t think I’m quite ready to write it yet. If you saw this post earlier it had some of the thinking in it, but I re-read it and realized it wasn’t there. I’ll try again next week!

posted on Sunday December 22nd, 2019

Farewell Transmission

Today is my last day at Slack.

I’m taking time off to not think about work and then maybe some time off to think about work. I’ll be forever cursed with 20 things I want to build on top of Slack so I might try a few of those. It’s all so unclear and that’s just fine.

I certainly, absolutely want to get lunch or coffee with friends so DM me on Twitter or Instagram or olde-tyme e-mail.

I haven’t actually left a job like this in about a decade. I was lucky to work on projects for clients (and our own stuff) for nearly five years after Federated Media and then lucky to start here. I forgot what it feels like to tell people you see every work day for years that you aren’t going to see them again for a long time and maybe forever.

I tried sitting down and writing about Slack the company and my five years here but it all seems too big to do.

I went to fly a kite once with my son when he was about 5 years-old and we started letting it out and out and out until it was a tiny speck in the sky. The string was invisible just a few yards from my hands. I knew I was connected to the kite since I had watched it float away, but it was hard to see just how.

I will never forget looking over to my son and he had a scared, nearly terrified look on his face. He pleaded with me to reel it back in and so I did. We never flew that kite again.

I thought about that for a while until I felt like I understood it. And now I think I am experiencing it. The story of Slack is vast. Slack the company is a big place. There are engineering levels and working groups and software design committees and 400 person social channels that seem incomprehensibly large to me and it’s only going to feel bigger and bigger.

So I feel like reeling it in a bit and trying something else.

I’m going to miss what this place was. It’ll never happen to me again in my lifetime. It’s rare you get to go through something like this and be hyper-aware of how special it is every day you come into work. I’ve done this long enough to know that.

I got super fucking lucky and I am super fucking grateful for all of it.

posted on Friday July 12th, 2019

There's No Such Thing as a Fish Podcast

One thing I’ve been enjoying the past couple of days is a new (to me) podcast called “There’s No Such Thing as a Fish”. The researchers of a TV quiz show called QI use their podcast to discuss facts they discovered over the past week as they were working on the show. It’s delightful and funny and I always feel like I learn something interesting worth looking into later.

From their Wikipedia article: The title for No Such Thing as a Fish comes from a fact in the QI TV series. In the third episode of the eighth series, also known as "Series H", an episode on the theme of "Hoaxes" reported that after a lifetime studying fish the biologist Stephen Jay Gould concluded that there was no such thing as a fish. He reasoned that although there are many sea creatures, most of them are not closely related to each other.

posted on Tuesday April 2nd, 2019

April Updates

I’m happy to at least have these monthly challeges as they’re prompts for me to write, but I sure wish I was updating a bit more regularly.

The March Challenge ended up being a bust. Amazon is wildly convenient for my lifestyle and although I spent the first half of the month going to bookstores, local hardware stores, and doing minor errands on my lunch break, when we were getting ready for our Spring Break trip to Yosemite I broke down and ordered snow-chains and various other items I couldn’t easily get nearby.

One day I stopped off at our local, beloved bookstore only to find out the second book in a series my son had just got into was no longer in print and could not be acquired by the bookstore. Amazon, of course, had many options. Other online bookstores did not.

This month I want to try a simple one that I’m hoping becomes a regular pattern for me. My Apple watch records something called HRV (Heart Rate Variability) and as I’ve been watching it go up and down over the past couple of months, it definitely seems to be closely related to how well I’m doing with stress, sleep, and food. The more I watch it, the more I pay attention to the factors that drive it down (higher is better) and the better I do.

The method for recording your HRV is to use the Apple Breathe App which spends a minute guiding you through a deep breathing exercise. When you’re done it sends the HRV recorded value to your phone’s Health.app to see.

So for this challenge I’m going to take no less than three measurements a day in the hopes I can drive it up higher, eat better, get better sleep, and cut down on stress. Wish me luck!

More on HRV: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heart-rate-variability-new-way-track-well-2017112212789

posted on Monday April 1st, 2019

March Challenge!

Whoops. Kind of dropped the ball here. So for this month I decided to do something hard given last month ended up being so easy. For the first time in years I actually knew what the movies up for Oscars were!

For the month of March I won’t be buying anything off of Amazon.com. I do most of my kitchen/home supply shopping stuff like filters and trash bags off of Amazon. Not to mention Kindle books, physical books, shoe laces, etc. I mainly use it for stuff I need right away and won’t be able to take time off to get during the week.

And so, after seeing that article in January about not using any of the big five tech giants, I decided to see how hard it would be to just not use Amazon. [He writes, currently editing this post on an EC2 server.]

The compulsion to just order it on Amazon and get it done is so real. In just the last week of February I definitely leaned on that convenience because we hadn’t made a trip to Target in a couple of weeks.

It’s funny but Lent started this past Wednesday. While I’m not a practicing Catholic, I did it long enough to still be aware of the holy days when they come and go. The period of Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is one that resonated with me the most when I was a kid. I think it had to do with watching my mom make a real sacrifice for Lent (and God) every year.

If you’ve been reading this site for a while you know I’ve done challenges in the past. I only listened to music released in 2010 (in 2010), then only music released in 1986, then again in 2012 (in 2012). It’s fun to reflect on what happens when you add a constraint and I find myself doing it all the time in my life.

I hope to check-in a bit more on this one as I’ve already bought a paper book at a local book store and bought some bike rollers from my local bike shop (even if it was cheaper online). I also didn’t link to anything on Amazon with my associate’s ID in this post. 😂

posted on Tuesday March 5th, 2019

Movie Challenge Accomplished

So it turned out a few things contributed to my already hitting the 10 movie challenge I set out for myself. First: I got incredibly sick with a cold I couldn’t shake. I thought I was well last MONDAY and still stayed home a couple days last week.

(I still feel pretty miserable!)

The second thing that helped is quite a few of you sent me your top movies from the past couple of decades and so it became quite easy to find ten worth watching though most were from the past couple of years.

Here’s the list of movies I watched. They weren’t in any particular order, just ones that I’d heard about or was curious about.

  1. Moneyball
  2. Death of Stalin
  3. Arrival
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. Sorry to Bother You
  6. Annihilation
  7. Game Night
  8. Blockers
  9. Baby Driver
  10. Dunkirk

I signed up for Letterboxd (/andretorrez) and will leave some reviews in there soon.

I liked all the movies I watched. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU lived up to the hype. GAME NIGHT was better than I expected. ARRIVAL was based on a short story I’d read a few years ago. I didn’t realize this until the first few minutes and my brain was trying to resolve how I’d seen the movie without ever having seen the movie. I also regret not seeing MAD MAX: FURY ROAD at the theaters like everyone said to do.

Thanks to everyone who sent me suggestions! I still have a long list of movies to watch.

(I also watched a few kids movies with the kids. Both PADDINGTON movies are great!)

posted on Tuesday February 12th, 2019

The Movie Idiot

Because I don’t watch movies I opened the Apple iTunes Store and looked at the charts for this challenge. I was paralyzed by choices, especially given so many Oscar options being pushed, that I closed it and literally Googled “Best movies decade”.

Of that list I saw Moneyball and figured since it was local (Oakland), about a subject I like (baseball), and another one I think I like (math), I should watch it.

About ten minutes into the movie I realized I had not only watched the movie on a plane flight eight years ago, I watched it again on the flight back. It’s a good movie so I finished it.

Now I realize I wasn’t explicit enough on my previous post: I don’t know what movies are good from the past ten years. I have watched a lot of kid’s movies (we saw Spy Kids last night, it was good!) but every year I seem to miss 99% of what everyone else has seen.

If you have some suggestions for me, please send them! andre+movies@torrez.org

posted on Saturday February 2nd, 2019

New Challenge For February

So I missed on my January challenge. I didn’t think I’d fall that short, but I’m still only a hundred or so pages into my fourth book. I did realize last night I’ve read over 200 pages of Artemis Fowl with my son this month but that doesn’t seem to count in my opinion.

I also had a “shadow” challenge I didn’t want to mention in case I couldn’t do it and that was to avoid sugar as much as possible. This meant no more breakfast cereal, no more post-ride madelines, no sodas, very few of the snacks at work (that I want to eat), I did allow myself fruits because they’re fruits, but also I had to say “no” to cakes and sweets that appear daily in the lounge next to where I sit.

And I did it! It turned out to not be that hard, although I felt weird not having cake for someone’s birthday. But it turns out turning down alcohol at parties has given me ways to duck out of it.

For February I’m going to watch 10 movies. I swear these challenges won’t always be media based. I very rarely watch movies and haven’t been to a theater to watch a grown up movie in years. I can’t even remember what movie it was!

I am going to keep the no-sugar challenge going as well. And possibly throw on another “shadow” challenge, I’m not sure.

(I did try a 5am wake-up time a few days this week to test it out and it was a badddd idea.)

posted on Friday February 1st, 2019

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Ahahah, so I pretty much failed on this challenge. I got so far behind I didn’t even post two weeks ago that I finished Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace.

A few things about this book: first, it’s only sold as a bound book. These days it’s pretty rare for me to not buy a Kindle version but it came recommended from Mark Christian (again!) and so I ordered it without even reading a sample.

Second, it took me about 100 pages before either the book hit its stride or I started to understand what the book was saying. Probably the latter. Usually if a book doesn’t click for me I put it down and never think about it again, but since this was for the challenge (and the book took up physical space on my side-table) I plowed ahead and I’m glad I did because I did enjoy the second half.

Third, I’m not sure I liked this book, I definitely enjoyed reading it. Part of that is probably due to not really connecting with it for the first half. I might start it over some day when I’m feeling like reading it again.

I’m mid-way through Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul which I haven’t read in over a decade. Speaking of books where the journey might be more fun than the destination: I think the Dirk Gently series might be the ultimate example.

posted on Wednesday January 30th, 2019

Dispatches from Pluto

Dispatches from Pluto

Mark Christian recommended Dispatches From Pluto, along with 20 other non-fiction books, and I absolutely loved it. It was very much a “can’t put it down book” and I ended up reading all 300+ pages in about two days. Perhaps no better recommendation is the number of Mississippians on Amazon recommending it.

posted on Wednesday January 9th, 2019

The Seas

The Seas

As part of my 30 Day Challenge for this month I finished The Seas by Samantha Hunt this weekend. I knew nothing about the book when I started reading it. I had added it to my Kindle once while looking at someone else’s reading list because I liked the cover.

This book reminded me of when I was in my 20s and I’d go to the video store and browse the independent movie aisle. I’d pick up movies I’d never heard of but maybe recognized an actor, or just liked the synopsis on the back. Six out of ten times I’d end up with something worth watching, but one out of ten I’d discover something truly incredible. I liked this book a lot. So much that I’ll surely read it again–that’s a rare thing for me.

Next up is Dispatches From Pluto by Richard Grant.

posted on Monday January 7th, 2019

A Trip To The Scientology Celebrity Centre

Keith Calder (co-producer of BLINDSPOTTING) started up his blog over on texting.com (damn, what a domain name) by filling it with a few things he’s written over the years. Definitely check out his re-published Quora post “What does it feel like to finally stop biting your nails?” sub-titled “A Trip To The Scientology Celebrity Centre”.

I also enjoyed his posts “Echoes of Echoes of Echoes” and “Why I’ve Never Seen The Highlander Movie”. And that’s literally all the posts I’ve read so far but I had to link to it now before I’d forget.

posted on Thursday January 3rd, 2019

Thirty-Day Challenge 1

Nelson reminded me of Matt Cutts’ 30 day challenges and so I’m going to try a few of my own this year.

First up is just read five books. A few years ago I challenged myself to read 40 books in a year and I did manage to achieve 36, which means five in one month will be a record for me. I have a very slim window at night to read before going to sleep, and I usually devote that time to YouTube videos or burning through some tv show that everyone was talking about a year ago.

Five books is pretty ambitious but I feel like I’ve fallen into a rut recently. If you have any must-read books from the past year, or from whenever, please let me know!

posted on Tuesday January 1st, 2019

2018 Resolutions Results

Last year I resolved to do three things: Quit Twitter, Quit Alcohol, Quit Coffee

Quit Twitter

Done. I deleted the apps. Signed out of Twitter on my phone. Didn’t on my work computer so I could check in on DMs and @-mentions, but only caught myself a few (dozen?) times opening it up and reading in the first couple of months. While it was hard to stop Twitter I knew I still needed something to check throughout the day so I threw myself completely into Instagram. It worked. I don’t even THINK about Twitter anymore other than occasionally getting linked there to read a funny thread or get more info about some news.

Another interesting stat that might reveal how deep my addiction went: I currently have 66,300 liked tweets. I hit like on tweets over 66,000 times in 11 years. Hah.

The point of this one was to reclaim my time and I think I did except for that little Instagram addiction I have. It’s not nearly as bad for me though.

Quit Alcohol

This turned out to be easier than I expected. I estimate I drank one to two beers a day, nearly every day, since about 2008. The year my son was born I began doing the grocery shopping. Our local store had a huge selection of craft beer from all over the country and so as a treat I’d buy a different brand (or two) each trip. I became pretty familiar with all the local breweries and styles. IPAs were getting huge back then so my tolerance was sky-high for nearly a decade.

In 2015 I started noticing how much trouble I was having getting to sleep or staying asleep. And in the morning I’d feel pretty bad for not sleeping or just sleeping poorly. Around the same time I developed eczema on my foot. It became clear after cutting foods out of my diet that my sleep and the eczema were both caused by alcohol. I tried wine. I tried hard liquor. Nothing changed unless I quit alcohol entirely for a couple of days.

Last year during our annual December anniversary trip I had a few beers, slept terribly, and decided the next morning I was just going to flat-out quit alcohol this year. I didn’t plan much further than a year out, but I felt like if it worked for me I would just quit forever. Now looking back on the year I think I’m going to quit forever.

The funny thing about not drinking is the little bit of social awkwardness it presents. I was at a kid’s birthday party and the parents were obviously huge drinkers. We arrived a bit before everyone else had gotten there so it was just a few parents and the dad started handing out beers. I waved off a beer saying “I don’t drink” and got a sad, uncomfortable, almost pitiful look from him.

Another time the sommelier arrived at our table before we started our five course meal. I again said “I don’t drink” and felt complete coldness from her every time she came back to the table to serve my wife. (Incidentally I discovered just having water with a multi-course meal turns out to be a great way to enjoy the food.)

It only took a couple of these interactions to realize I should say “I’m not drinking” as it sort of suggests a temporary reason like being a designated driver or perhaps a medication interaction.

Quit Coffee

This was a lot harder to do. While I enjoyed my morning cup of Earl Grey I definitely missed the caffeine burst that coffee delivered. I decided to quit because I thought it would also help me with sleep but I don’t think it mattered as much as the alcohol.

A few months ago my friend started up his coffee delivery business on Kickstarter (Yes Plz Coffee) and I backed it. When it arrived I tried a cup and instantly knew my morning cup of tea days were gone. Drinking a cup now.


I don’t know yet what I’m going to do in 2019. In 2017 I wanted to learn French and I completed the Duolingo course over the year. I have been toying with the idea of keeping a media journal where I write down all the books, tv shows, youtube videos, articles, and movies I watch in a year. I’d likely put them into a weekly blog post here.

In 2018 I did start keeping a paper journal using Tamara Shopsin’s Five Year Diary. This is a very clever diary that stacks five years for every date on one page so that as you pass through days again you can see what you were doing in the years prior on that date. Because of the format there are only a couple of lines available so you have to keep your entry brief. It’s become a habit for me to sit down before getting into bed and write out a summary of what happened during the day.

See you next year!

posted on Sunday December 30th, 2018

Choco Mountain The History of Mario Kart 64's Most Infamous Track

My son signed up for Nintendo Switch Online and with the subscription came access to about 20 classic NES games. Although the box art excited him he didn’t think much of the games themselves. I totally get it.

I, however, got hooked on playing Super Mario Bros., which led to watching some speedruns, which led to a YouTuber (and speedrunner) Summoning Salt. His documentaries of speedruns are so well done you don’t even have to care about the game to enjoy them. I found myself watching the entire fifteen minutes on the history of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! world records (it’s good!).

Even better is this one about a glitch and world record chase in Mario Kart 64.

Next I’d recommend this one about Mario 64.

posted on Saturday December 29th, 2018

Archive page!

This morning over coffee I added an archive page to my little CMS. I’m just starting to hit that “oh crap, it’s all just text files” phase of this project. Since I don’t have a database to query I have to do some array juggling to sort and format my posts. While I’m not ruling out adding a temporary sqlite db to load the files into at publish time, for now I’m able to get away with using the OS’s file name sort ordering (files are something like Y-m-d-title) and Python sorting functions.

I only have like 16 posts so far so it’s still all fun and games. Once I have more posts I’ll break it down by month and year, but that’s going to take a while. :)

posted on Saturday December 29th, 2018


My friend Adam Mathes posted an idea called “feeds.txt” back in August where he decided to publish his current subscriptions to a human readable text file. A file a bit like robots.txt but for humans.

So now in my build script for this site I added a function that pulls my current subscriptions from feedbin.com’s API and puts them in /feeds.txt (and in a more usable /feeds.html) every time I hit publish on my site.

I blew out my feeds when I rebuilt my site and have been slowly adding sites as I remember them so that list should grow soon.

posted on Thursday December 27th, 2018
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