Adam of the Road

(www.goodreads.com)

📚  The winner of the Newberry Medal in 1943, Adam of the Road (★★★★) is the simple yet enjoyable tale of a young 13th century boy and his journey to reunite with his beloved dog and minstrel father after getting separated from both of them. I particularly enjoyed Adam's independent nature and resourcefulness, the historical elements of the setting, and the idyllic pace of the story which contrasts so sharply with modern life and storytelling.

Media Update

Today was a weird day of not being overly productive, but I did get some reading done, listened to a few podcasts1, and got caught up on Star Trek: Picard last night.

The book I'm reading at the moment is the classic Newberry Medal Winner, Adam of the Road. One of my longer term reading projects is working my way through all the Newberry Medal Winners that I haven't read, and since I had to specifically check this one out for one of my kids,2 I thought I might as well give it go before returning it to the library. I'm about halfway through and enjoying its simple story of a young minstrel growing up in late 13th century England. I've read most of the Saxon Stories series which are set in late 9th and early 10th century England so it's interesting to see how England changed and became a little more civilized post Norman conquest even as the march of progress is glacial by modern standards.

Star Trek: Picard continues to be a lot of fun. I'm enjoying the slow build up as he assembles his team and the general mysteries around Romulans, synthetic life, and the various competing conspiracies that seem to be at play. Despite their long history in the Star Trek universe, the Romulans have remained fairly under utilized and mysterious in spite of their prominence as a major Federation foe. It looks like next week will feature even more Romulan related developments and potential crew members so I'm all for that.


  1. Shout out to Scott McNulty and Jason Snell for their excellent "New Star Trek" focused podcast, Vulcan Hello.

  2. It's not available as an ebook.

USWNT Rolls

Big night for the US Women's National Team as they defeated Mexico 4-0 in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament semifinals. Rose Lavelle opened the scoring with a great goal in traffic. Sammy Mewis added 2 goals of her own. And of course Christen Press continues to be an underrated monster off the bench with an amazing chip shot goal after her first shot was blocked. It's going to be interesting to see who ends up being the Olympic starting 11 because I feel like Press and Lynn Williams are making a case to relegate the old guard (Carly Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe) back to sub roles on the bench.

On a cool note, 7 months pregnant Alex Morgan is in California training with the team. I still have a lot of doubt about her being ready and physically able to make it back onto the team just a couple months after giving birth. If she had six months I could totally buy it, but she has two, and the USWNT is way too deep and talented with only 18 spots available. If anyone is able to do it, it would be a world class athlete like Morgan with all kinds of support staff around her to assist with childcare, health and personal training. I just think it's a little optimistic and a naive to think everything will go smoothly and work out in accordance with her desires and goals rather than how caring for a baby for the first time actually goes.

'I learned how to draw': Spokane native Jody Zellman's comic strip 'Earth to Planet' joins S-R lineup

(www.spokesman.com)

Zellman competed with nine other artists during autumn to score a weekly gig as the new cartoonist in The Spokesman-Review. “Earth to Planet,” which turns 3 this the summer, won the reader’s choice competition and will run every Wednesday starting today.

I thought it was pretty cool that Jody Zellman's Earth to Planet had a chance back when I first heard about the contest last August. Happy to hear he got the gig.

Color Palette Math

I spent some time today fiddling around with simplifying a few popular 16 color palettes because of an Adventuron text color limitation. While there are no color palette limitations on any graphics files you import, Adventuron only supports 3 character hex codes when setting text colors. That translates to only 4096 possible colors which should be perfectly adequate for most uses, but makes matching an arbitrary limited color palette a little bit tricky. I was curious to see how close a given palette would look to the original if I simplified it down to three character hex codes by rounding to the closet value. So I did a little math, figured out that 3 color hex values translate to a 17 number gap in decimal and used that knowledge to start rounding up or down.

The first 16 color palette I tried this on was Dawnbringer 16. The upper half of each color is the adjusted value, while the bottom half is still the original shade for comparison.
db-16
I ended up tweaking the hex values on the fourth color from 545 to 444 because I felt the rounded result was a little too purple compared to the original, but otherwise I stuck with rounded values.

The second palette I tried was Pico-8 and I have to say it translated quite nicely. The visible differences are all still quite subtle and there weren't any I manually tweaked.
pico-8

Overall I'd say they're definitely close enough to pass muster. I don't think I would bother to convert existing images to the aligned palettes, instead I would just use the values for the text that I wanted to match knowing that it should be close enough and not really discernible.

GSL Update

Tough end to a game that Ferris led 3+ quarters as Gonzaga Prep came back behind some clutch Liam Lloyd 3 pointers in the 4th quarter to win 53-45. The biggest win of the night went to University who defeated GSL leader Central Valley 74-64. That outcome wasn't surprising given how close they played the first go around and how well University has been playing of late (even though they've come away with losses). Rounding out the night LC defeated Mead 65-53 (for the second time this season) to further cement the weirdness of the league this year.

At this point it's still really hard to predict how the three and four 4A spots will shake out. I expect Central Valley to beat LC Friday and lock up the one seed, and Prep is assured of the two seed thanks to last night's win and Mead's loss. It's mathematical possible for Ferris, Mead, and University to end up in a 3 way tie at 7-7, but pretty unlikely. I'm not sure how they would sort that one out, although Mead would hold the head to head edge over the other two teams. I think Mead has the three seed pretty much locked up unless Ferris wins out (unlikely, given two tough opponents) and University must win to stay alive tomorrow. No question that the Ferris vs. University game will have a playoff atmosphere. Should be fun.

Adventuron Game Jam

I spent a little bit more time playing with Adventuron today and its built-in theming capabilities. Part of my motivation lay in potentially participating in the Treasure Hunt Jam on itch.io. The built-in theme used for Two is the starting point, but I was curious if I could tweak the layout to something other than a red titlebar and red horizontal rule divider. It turned out I very much could once I learned the basics of theme inheritance and that the separator line was even more customizable than I anticipated1.

Getting back to what making a game for the Treasure Hunt Jam is all about:

Treasure hunt is a sub-genre of text-adventure in which the player must collect some objects that are considered treasure objects, and place them in a room that is known to be the treasure room.

Some treasures may not require a puzzle to be solved, but most treasures usually require some kind of challenge or puzzle (or series of puzzles) to be solved in order to be able obtain them.

Though the text adventure form has evolved a long way from the treasure hunt today, it's exactly what classics Colossal Cave Adventure, Adventureland, and Zork I were when they came out. Adventuron's retro aesthetic2 makes it perfect fit for a throwback game jam like this. I have a few ideas for turning the premise on its head, we'll see if that's actually doable given the other constraints of this jam.


  1. Although I think it's more retro to keep it simple.

  2. Particularly with the Two style theme that takes it all the way back to a Scott Adams style text adventure.

Garage Door Opener Shopping

Our 20+ year-old garage door opener failed unexpectedly on Saturday. It's not the end of the world as only Mary is parking her car in the garage right now and even that was a recent change motivated by some problems with her door locks freezing in really cold temperatures. So it's not a big deal to have her park outside again temporarily while I figure out the next steps.

I've been doing some research on various brands and models on Amazon and Costco's respective websites, but haven't made a conclusive decision yet. I'm not sure of the horsepower of the current Wayne Dalton brand model that we have, but it's a relatively compact unit. I don't know how much our door weighs either which is probably the main factor in deciding on an opener. It has some heft and insulation compared to a basic metal door, but it doesn't feel that hard to open and close manually- the springs are definitely still doing their job. Interestingly most current models are built around quieter DC motors (and aren't really rated by horsepower like AC motors) and often use belt drives. I think a 1/2 Horsepower rated motor could work (especially as smoothly and slowly DC openers seem to open and close doors), but a 3/4 HP motor and up would provide more longevity over time. I'm also very interested in integration with our wireless network and phones. I like the idea of controlling things remotely if necessary and being able to check the state of the door to confirm it's closed. There are also times that I'm parking outside a lot and don't feel comfortable leaving a garage opener in my car (unfortunately our neighborhood occasionally has early morning prowlers), but I always have my iPhone with me.

One annoyance factor on these openers I've discovered is the built-in lighting constraints. Most of the Genie and Chamberlain models in the $250 or less price range I'm looking at have conventional sockets and require you to supply the bulbs. Unfortunately conventional LED and CFL bulbs also seem to interfere with the radio frequencies that the openers and their remotes use. Genie at least sells some custom designed LED bulbs that are specifically made to avoid the radio signal issues and handle a little more vibration, but they're an additional $20 for a pair. I really feel like built-in compatible LED lights should be standard for this price range in 2020. The Genie model that Costco sells has built-in LED lighting, a more powerful 1.25 HP (equivalent motor), battery backup, and smart phone integration at a $230 price point. At this point I think it's the clear front runner on price and features. Just need to run it by Mary and then we'll probably place the order tomorrow.

Crazy Finish

I caught the end of University's game at Gonzaga Prep today and it was crazy. I expected it could be close, but I didn't think it would necessarily be go to overtime close. I was wrong, it did go to overtime thanks to some clutch Conrad Bippes free throws to tie things up with 15 seconds to go.

In overtime University jumped out to a 6 point lead almost immediately and Lloyd looked as bad as I've ever seen him, missing a quick three and air balling another. Eventually when they made their run in the final two minutes it was Hodges Flemming who carried the weight and made a key three pointer. University got sloppy and just didn't handle Prep's desperation pressure traps at all.

University was up 1 with the ball and under 30 seconds. They didn't have to score, but they couldn't turn it over. So they turned it over with about 7 seconds to go. Lloyd raced up court and corralled the arching pass over the top as he raced to the basket. Somehow he managed to get it in control and lay it in with 3 seconds. University called a timeout, but didn't run a play that did much more than get it into Bippes who turned and awkwardly dribble up the court and hurled up a shot. It seemed like the kind of play where he should have received it and directed it to a wing racing up the sideline, but that wasn't how it went down.

At this point University has lost 8 games by 7 points or less. They're a very dangerous team and will probably give CV a stern test when they play next week. On a side note it's theoretically possible that Ferris, Mead, and Gonzaga Prep could end up with 9-5 records, but it's unclear how thay would break that tie. I kind of want that to happen because it means Ferris won out and Mead beat G-Prep twice back to back, but I think the odds of this playing out that way are approaching zero. I would expect Prep to lose at most once next week and to finish solidly in second behind Central Valley.

Adventuron

As a fan of retro games and text adventures, I find Adventuron pretty impressive. The blend of retro style pixel art and simple two word command adventures is pretty appealing and is especially well suited to introducing kids to the genre. I tried a fairly challenging treasure hunt game called Two yesterday and I appreciated how minimalist1 yet fun it was. It reminded me of the classic Scott Adams adventures with a few modern touches. I knew it had mobile support so I tried it again this morning on my phone and was even more impressed.

Excalibur: Sword of Kings is an authorized port of an old ZX Spectrum game that has been updated to include a built in tutorial. I think it would be a more appropriate introduction to this type of game than Two for most kids as it introduces all the text adventure command conventions in a helpful way. There are several other free games on adventuron.itch.io as well, although I haven't tried them yet.

Once you've got a feel for the system Adventuron Classroom is the extensive web-based game making tutorial aimed at kids 8-12, although anyone can use it. Documentation seems really thorough and I think it's something I'm going to show my older kids and play with a bit myself. The games seem to be fairly customizable based on the differences I've seen between Excalibur and Two although I haven't delved into how hard that is to do for an average user.


  1. Unlike a typical Adventuron game it has no graphics and the text and descriptions are mostly limited to two words to surprisingly compelling effect.