Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘fun

Friendly Fun

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Yesterday, we joined our friends, Mike and Barb for a range of adventures around town, highlighted by a stop to see their grandchildren play the classic little kids “magnet ball” soccer.

After lining up and doing some individual drills, the teams took the field for a 4v4 game that ends up looking like the ball is magnetic and pulls all eight players into a tight group around it. I remember those days with our kids, but that was a long time ago.

Between matches for the two kids, we had time to stroll the main drag of Excelsior and grab a sandwich for lunch. That brought back memories of the year I worked in an office there with my friend David Keiski to publish “City’s TONE” monthly magazine.

Our walk extended to the municipal pier from the opposite end of town and back again.

The latter part of the afternoon found us strolling again, this time in Edina, exploring the “Fall into the Arts Festival” at their Centennial Lakes Park.

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The art was gorgeous but exceeded my financial resources. We fulfilled my fix for fried cheese curds while we were there, though, so now I don’t feel bad at all that I didn’t go to the state fair this year.

Our day was loads of fun with friends that filled a particularly fall-ish day with very fashionable frivolity.

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Written by johnwhays

September 8, 2019 at 8:47 am

Without Pause

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I barely had time to unpack and catch my breath on Friday evening upon arrival home from the weeklong adventure of biking and camping, before the next flurry of activity began. At this time yesterday, I was in Cyndie’s car finishing up yesterday’s blog post as we raced west toward Chaska for a morning wedding of the daughter of one of our old school mates.

We didn’t have time to linger at the reception, because our afternoon and evening were reserved for the celebration of our daughter Elysa’s birthday. With their slick planning, Cyndie and Elysa had everything set for an excellent combination of activities.


Dressed in our summer wedding fare, we started the afternoon with a visit to Elysa and Ande’s garden plot near their home in St. Paul where we dumped 5 bags of Wintervale compost to cover their sprouting potato plants. Another gardener commented that we seemed a little overdressed for the task.

After that, it was an exploration through the bizarre collection of miscellaneous goods at Axman Surplus. They have everything you couldn’t possibly need, but always find some way to use. Birthday glasses!

Early dinner at On’s Kitchen on University Avenue to avoid the rush for Thai cuisine (Mmmm, Pad Thai!), and then Can Can Wonderland for entertainment.

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We chose to pass on the two-hour wait for the artist-designed mini-golf and settled for old-style pinball from my days of youth, skee-ball, ping pong, and bubble hockey, topped off with a round of beverages. A perfect birthday extravaganza.

Elysa got a candle in her drink.

I think I got more rest last week during the bike trip. Yesterday was like an added bonus day of adventure.

Now I could use a vacation from all my vacation.

Happy, happy birthday, Elysa!

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Written by johnwhays

June 23, 2019 at 10:00 am

Fun Surprise

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What could be more fun than getting together with life-long friends and heading out on a beautiful spring evening to see a Minnesota Twins baseball game at Target Field? I’ll tell you what. Discovering that your cousin from Duluth, whom you infrequently see, is at the same game and then sleuthing out his location to surprise him for a brief visit during the 7th inning.

Yes, that became my adventure the night before last. My son, Julian, brother-in-law, Steve, and four other Eden Prairie friends gathered downtown to see the Twins play game 2, of a 3-game series, against the LA Angels. It was a gorgeous night, and a delight to be out with treasured peeps to check on a team that has achieved an impressive amount of success recently, as compared to what Minnesota sports fans usually face.

As per today’s de rigueur trend, one of the guys snapped a phone selfie with the rest of us mugging around him for the shot. In an instant, our whereabouts were broadcast over the internet, where my sister, Judy, happened to see it. How many other spectators were simultaneously sharing pictures of their night at the ballpark? Well, it turns out Judy also found a post by our cousin, Charles Moulton, revealing his spectacular vantage point from behind home plate.

Suddenly my phone pings me with a message from Judy, showing me that our cousin was at the same game!

I could tell from the view in his image that we were on the same upper deck level, so Julian and I walked that direction to see if we could connect.

Since Charles had no idea we were at the game, I knew we had the upper hand in surprising him, as long as we spotted him first. It didn’t take long to confirm a sighting. He was in the first row, on the railing, and there just happened to be two open seats beside him. At the close of the sixth inning, we stealthily made our way down to the row behind him and then climbed over the back of the seats, asking, “Are these seats open?” without waiting for the answer he was politely offering.

He gave me a glance, as I smugly focused on him and not the field down in front of us, which subsequently induced a second look.

That’s when I was granted the ultimate reward of the surprise, as his face revealed the transforming expression of recognition and delight. We both had our sons with us, so there was also a meeting of second cousins. It was a real treat and a special bonus to an otherwise fabulous outing.

The Twins deserve some credit for putting on an exciting finish for the home crowd, despite the fact it was because they allowed the Angels to climb back from 4-0 to make it a one-run game. A big throw from center field to home for a lead-saving out gave us all much reason for revelry.

To top the night off, the sudden downpour of rain that popped up, waited until the game was over and we had made our way out of the stadium.

It was a wonderful week-night outing, topped with a special surprise that definitely qualified as my idea of fun!

Thanks, Judy!

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

Finding Votograph

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Who’s up for a little fun and games?  I just so happen to know a guy who knows a guy at a local software development firm that created a new opportunity for phone-camera enthusiasts to enjoy some healthily addictive entertainment. My son, Julian Hays, and fellow developer Tyson Acker (currently answering from New Zealand’s time zone) agreed to be interviewed about the app they created called, “Votograph.”

Relative Something: How would you describe what Votograph is to someone who has never heard of it?

Julian Hays: Votograph is a social photo game for mobile devices. Players compete by submitting a photo that matches or somehow relates to a given challenge phrase. Players then vote on the best photo for each challenge. The player whose photo has the most votes when time is up wins the challenge.

Tyson Acker:  Votograph is a platform for all the photo nerds out there that has more of a game focus than other social media apps. You’re not merely sharing your photos–you’re trying to out-do your friends and family (or, in public groups, the entire world!) on a given topic. Users can either join ongoing public challenges or create private challenges of their own; in either case you have a specified length of time to submit a photo and vote for the best.

RS: So, just to clarify, when you say “mobile devices,” will Votograph run on tablets, in additions to phones, but not on a PC or laptop computer?

JH: Votograph is not available on tablets at the moment- only “phones”, or phone-sized devices for now. But it is available on both iOS and Android platforms.

RS: Can you describe how the idea for Votograph originated?

JH: The initial game concept came from DevMode’s owner, John Bailey. He proposed the idea and DevMode began working on the project in our spare time between client work. The project served as a means to learn more about project architecture and to refine our skills.

RS: Do the photographs submitted for a challenge need to be taken in the moment, or can they be old images already on a person’s phone?

JH: For the daily public challenges, you can submit either a photo you capture using the Votograph camera, or a photo from your library. That allows you to use your phone’s camera app if it helps you capture a better photo, or if you want to submit a picture you captured earlier. That also means images you found and downloaded from the internet are fair game. 

If you are creating your own challenge for a private group, you have the option of whether or not you would like to allow existing photos from someone’s library. Sometimes forcing “camera-only” works well for a challenge at an event, such as “Best Mullet At The State Fair”.

RS: What if two people submit the same image? Can we see the other images that have already been submitted to a particular challenge?

JH: That’s another option- by default, the public challenges are “blind” challenges, meaning you cannot see or vote on other submissions until after you have submitted. When you create a private challenge, you have the option of toggling “Allow Vote Before Submission”, which would allow anyone to see and vote on submissions at any time. 

If you choose not to submit a photo, you can still see and vote on the submissions once the challenge enters the “Vote” stage after submissions have closed. Challenges can be set to a duration of 1, 4, 8, or 24 hours. The “Vote” stage would be the final 15, 30 or 60 minutes depending on the length of the challenge. 

So, on a “blind” challenge, it is possible that people could submit the same image or same idea without knowing it. At the end of the challenge, if there is a tie between submissions with the most votes, the win is awarded to the photo that was submitted first. 

RS: If a player has already voted for an image, can they change their vote if a new submission arrives that they like better?

JH: Yes, players can change their vote as many times as they would like until the challenge has ended.

RS: When did DevMode release Votograph?

JH: January 11th, 2018.

RS: How is DevMode feeling about the response thus far?

JH: Interest has been light so far- but we haven’t really had time to put forth much of a marketing effort quite yet. Hopefully we can reach out a bit more and start gaining some more traction. 

RS: I see Votograph as appealing to people who want to take the “perfect” beautiful picture, as well as to those who like the more intellectual aspect of interpreting the challenges in quirky or obscure ways. Have you seen any patterns that reveal one or the other methods have met with greater success in challenges played thus far?

TA: Good question! So far I actually see that as one of the drawbacks of the app: I think users might be discouraged from submitting if they feel like they don’t have a “perfect” photo. We have a series of achievements which attempt to add some positive feedback on multiple levels, so users can feel like they’re accomplishing something without necessarily winning a challenge. But I fear that it isn’t enough to coax some of our more cautious users into increased participation. We still have some work to do in that area.

As for the quirky/obscure angle, I did manage to win a recent challenge with a crude line drawing. So it can be done!

JH: Tough to say- So far there have been a variety of winning strategies. And that has been part of the fun. Sometimes the best-looking photo wins, sometimes the tastiest-looking item in a photo wins, sometimes the obviously-quirky photo wins. It might be too early yet to say which strategy sees greater success. I think the given challenge phrase matters a lot- the quality of the phrase is pretty clear based on how many submissions come in for it. The less interesting phrases certainly do not get as many submissions.

This is probably a good spot to point out users can submit phrase suggestions for public groups- Here’s how:

From the main screen, tap the yellow “+” button in the top right corner. Then, select a Public group from the list. You will then see a text input where you can submit your phrase suggestion. We’ll review it and if it looks good it will get added to the master list.

RS: Can a user submit more than one image to a challenge? If the game were happening instantaneously, like an in-person card game, that question wouldn’t probably come up, but when the challenge lasts 24 hours, there can be tempting opportunities of better shots that arise before time runs out. 

JH: No- once the submission is in, that’s it! One photo submission per user, per challenge. 

RS: So make it a good one! Fair enough. I suppose this would be a fine time to ask how people can get the App and what it will cost. Where can photo-gamers find Votograph for downloading to their camera phones?

JH: It is a free download at both the Apple Store and Google Play Store: https://votographapp.com

We’d love to hear feedback- feel free to send your thoughts to feedback@votographapp.com.

Thanks for the support & good luck to all players! 

RS: Thank you for bringing new fun to our camera-phones and taking the time to describe Votograph to the Relative Something followers. I think I have an idea to submit for a challenge… Wonder what images would be submitted for “Relative Something?”

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

Brief Getaway

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See ya! We’re outta here!

Who needs a reason? We are leaving this morning for a weekend in Florida, traveling with our precious partners in adventure, Mike and Barb Wilkus to visit Cyndie’s parents.

I expect my posts will be rather brief for the next four days, while I focus the majority of my attention on people, food, sun, surf, games, and whatever else spontaneously grabs our fancy.

Just in case, I have a series of snapshots queued up from the house and grounds in Beldenville to provide you with a daily distraction. Time will tell whether I end up inserting a few tropical surprises, too, from our weekend escapades.

A great big “thank you” shout out to McKenna for taking care of things at home for us while we are away. We couldn’t do it without you!

Bon voyage!

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2018 at 7:00 am