Archive for the ‘The Pad’ Category

Channel Zilch Sellout bidding war

June 28, 2007

To my surprise and delight, my eBay auction for Clarion West is going great guns – it’s up to $36 for the naming rights to a character in Channel Zilch. Join the fun for a worthy cause:

I had 2 1,000 word days in a row. I am going to finish that novel by the end of July.

Lots of nature news – our loons have chicks. I saw them riding on top of one of the parents. This is the first Summer I’ve seen them with chicks. Hope they make it through the Summer.

A bear has stripped most of the blueberries off Ogre Island. It left mounds of its calling card all around the island to mark its territory. I’ve been eating a few berries every time I visit the island, but the bulk of them are ripped up and riding in some black bear’s tummy.

I am slowly improving ChipWits. Having a bit of problem focusing to program because I’ve restarted a seizure med. Since I’ll be driving Margaret to Seattle and visiting friends there for 2 weeks in the middle of July I think it will be August before I hold the next contest and start the countdown to release. Slow, but I am determined. The game is looking really good, but it takes more time to accomplish programming tasks with wobbly neurons.


Fun with Margaret and ActionScript

June 3, 2007

It was great fun teaching Margaret programming. I led her on a forced march through the Flex interface, gave a brutally quick over view of MXML (Adobe’s layout language), rushed through an intro to object-oriented programming, and finally gave a cursory glimpse at ActionScript.

M is going to develop the combat code for GODinabox.  She and Ian want to implement a fairly standard combat system for their American Dream GODclub.

While I tutored M in Flex we developed this really simple combat code harness I called FightClub, which we developed to this state. Me and BadBoy are 2 MXML components of the Pugnater class:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
<mx:Canvas xmlns:mx=”; width=”100″ height=”200″
creationComplete=”init();”  borderColor=”#800040″ backgroundColor=”#ffff00″>
<mx:Button x=”21″ y=”130″ label=”Attack” click=”this.attack();” />
<mx:Label x=”10″ y=”77″ text=”HP:”/>
<mx:Label x=”43″ y=”72″ text=”100″ id=”hpLbl” fontWeight=”bold” width=”47″ fontSize=”15″/>
<mx:Label x=”21″ y=”21″ text=”Name” id=”nameLbl”/>

private var hitPoints:Number = 100;
private var target:Pugnater;
public var attackStat:Number;
public var defenseStat:Number;

public function init():void {
this.attackStat = 5;
this.defenseStat = 2;
private function showHP():void{
this.hpLbl.text = Math.round( this.hitPoints ).toString() ;
public function defense( attackPoints:int ):void {
var randVal:Number = (Math.random() * 15 + 85)/100;

attackPoints -= this.defenseStat;
this.hitPoints -= attackPoints * randVal ;
public function setTarget( targ:Pugnater ):void { = targ;
public function attack():void { this.attackStat );


I have always wanted to teach Margaret programming. She is, after all, a third-generation computer game developer. Only recently have I been able to handle long, fun conversations. For 8 years a fun conversation automatically triggered a seizure. I got a little nerve-frazzled after about an hour of it, but took a rest and came back and gave a good final lesson, and talked through getting FightClub up and running. We’ll elaborate FightClub to let Margaret experiment with interesting combat coding.

We worked hard that night cleaning the cabin. We had to get it ready because prospective buyers were seeing it at 10 and at 12 on Friday. We got it looking pretty good and got a short night of sleep.

The next day we drove to Rice Lake. We did errands while the real estate agents showed The Pad. Got Margaret craft supplies for making creepy dolls.

Had lunch at an off little coffee shop called A Big Pile of Yesterdays or some such – it’s mainly an antique store with a coffee shop in the back. She gave me an overview of the American Dream GODclub. Very cool. I’m not going to give any theoludical spoilers. It’s going to be fun and pretty straightforward to make the GODinabox code provide the game-play features American Dream needs.

Later that night I decided to use the King of Chicago clay heads for the pirates in the Flying Spaghetti Monster GODclub. Margaret is going to make outrageous pirate costumes for them and we’ll stop-motion animate them. I think we may animate the FSM in real spaghetti. I plan to make the sets out of painted cardboard.  I want to get back into doing visual art and this feels like a way that will work.

Lots of action on selling The Pad

May 31, 2007

Here’s the listing for The Pad. I’ve shown it to 2 people and tomorrow 2 others are taking a look. I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that it’s going to sell. Going to miss the place.

I had a great day of programming yesterday. Got the Apollo file system working. I’ll be posting a Mac version of the game next week.

I’d love to release ChipWits this month, but still am not able to schedule milestones reliably. The important thing is that I keep making progress.

Today I get Margaret into ActionScript coding. Really looking forward to it.

Had a gratifying nature adventure yesterday. A flycatcher has had a nest over our back door for the past couple of Summers. The nest came down because there were 6 fledglings weighing it down. I fixed it back with wire and a ceramic slotted bowl. As I type this I am watching the 2 parents busily ferrying bugs to their demanding brood.

Got 150 words written last night. Did some research on ion thrusters.

I put The Pad on the market today

May 25, 2007


Anyone want to own their own island, a simple cabin, and 11 acres of heaven? $160k.

But it is a step toward being closer to my best friend. And that is an excellent thing.

Didn’t sleep well so my brain wasn’t trustworthy for coding. I did get some good Channel Zilch work done. The storyline for the last chapters is jelling and I am thinking about the book a lot.

Loon sad

May 23, 2007

We showed The Pad to the first prospective buyer yesterday. M and I worked ourselves hard and the place was looking good.

The person who looked at it is a writer and a real outdoors person – a perfect prospect.

The single thing that makes me saddest about selling The Pad is the cry of the loons at night. Sometimes they will serenade for a good hour between 2 and 3am. I’ll miss them.

New Build and ChipWits Contest

April 3, 2007

Feels great to post a new build and kickoff a new ChipWits contest. I haven’t been very productive the past few weeks, so I can sleep well tonight knowing I’ve hit another goal.

The next few weeks are mainly about building ChipWits missions, and I had some fun with ChipWits Caves tonight. The maze is 8 rooms in a row that spell out “ChipWits” with their walls. There are 2 CDs worth 2,000 points in 6 of the 8 rooms, and those CDs don’t respawn. They are each adjacent to “islands” of walls in the center of rooms. I’ll be interested to see if any playtester codes for that condition or if blind fumbling is the most efficient strategy.

It snowed today – wet and sticking to the trunks of trees. The whole world got whiter again. With the grey sky it’s like the contrast got turned way down.

I decided to do some fish watching this evening so I took my dogs and flashlights down to the lake. It was way too wavy and snowy to see a thing in the water. But it was fun walking with a flashlight through the snow.

So I still haven’t seen a single fish after a week of open water. I wonder when I’ll see the first Central Mudminnow swimming up Mudminnow Creek? I’ve got 4 of them in my aquariums and they are cool fish with a very commanding attitude. Their spawning run is like a miniature version of a salmon run. I spent hours last Spring watching these cool little fish fight their way upstream over dams made of twigs and leaves. The water is running in the creeks but the isn’t warm enough to trigger their spawning yet.

Lost in the Woods

April 2, 2007

I spent about 2 hours lost in the woods and wetlands yesterday. I was out for my afternoon walk with the dogs when I decided to tack on a loop around the tamarack swamp. The tamarack swamp is a beautiful little ecosystem nestled in a 1/4 mile diameter bowl perched on the heights across the valley to the South of the cabin. It’s got pitcher plants and in the Fall the needles of the tamarack form a glowing turmeric-colored cloud.

The land around The Pad has some of the youngest natural landscaping on Earth – 10,000 years since the Wisconsin glacier scraped the surface raw and melted down tons of gravel and rocks in hummocks and scoured out mini-valleys and bowls. It’s got a cool, complex, small-scale topography.

Walk 100 yards in a straight line around here and you might on average cross 2 small valleys, a pocket wetland, a ridge, a stream, and a mini-mesa like The Pad sits on. My lake of 40 acres has 5 islands. With my handicap the landscape is perfect for walking – nothing is too steep or too big. It’s all forested so there are few vistas except across lakes.

Last year I laid out a 2/3 mile trail that takes a meandering line along the heights around the perimeter of my 11 acres. I walk it as often as I can – it’s my main exercise. My favorite part of the trail is a ridge that runs along the tamarack swamp for about 100 feet. Yesterday I decided to add some distance to my afternoon constitutional by walking around the swamp.

The woods are wide open this time of year; you can bushwhack in any direction. It’s easy to pick up a deer trail or just cut through the brush. The tamarack swamp is in a bowl so there is a deer trail along the ridge surrounding it.

On the south side of the swamp the ridge becomes a series of hills and at that point I chose a deer trail that swung wide, rather than hugged the swamp. Twenty minutes later I knew I was lost, but wasn’t worried since I was sure I had my bearings. I “corrected” my path and got a little worried when I started seeing hills and valleys I’d never hiked.

The sky was very grey so I couldn’t even get a general North bearing. When I finally hit a recognizable landmark I was baffled. I hiked up a little hill and there was the Maple Sugar Shack – whoa, how’d that get here? About 1.5 miles from the cabin across Lake Almira it’s a place I’ve only walked to in Winter when the lakes are hikable.

I should have spent a few more minutes at the shack getting my bearings but thought I had my route nailed. Half hour later I wound up on the edge of a farm field with a pair of Sand Hill cranes racketing at me. I guessed that the field was one near me but when I got to a high point I saw I was lost, but near civilization. As I hiked to a farm house I figured out I was still about 1.5 miles away from the cabin, much farther east than I thought I should be.

At the farmhouse they confirmed my location. I told them I was going to stick to county roads on the way home but the farmer said “That’s foolish. That’s over 3 miles and your only 1.5 miles away. Just take the road along my field, you’ll come to a deer stand, and there you’ll see Miller Camp Lake.” I’d know my way home from there – that lake is just uphill from mine.

I studied the clouds and learned that clouds to the south has a lot of contrasting light and dark greys while clouds to the north were more middle-toned greys – gave me enough confidence to take his advice and hike back toward the woods. Where I proceeded to walk in curlicues as I blundered my way back home, getting stuck on the wrong side of wetlands until at the last one I decided to hike straight through the bog.

The dogs were beat by the end of the hike. Mika, the horrible husky, usually pulls with all her 35 pounds against the leash, but was walking at my side the last mile. Travis, who usually ranges far afield in his quest for squirrels and deer, kept right with us.

We all slept well last night and the dogs are still out of it. My legs are sore, but I am really upbeat. The exercise has made me really chipper. I am going to put in a good day of programming ChipWits and get a build done for tomorrow.

Good day of programming

March 31, 2007

I’ve had some problems programming recently, so I haven’t pushed ChipWits forward much. So it felt good tonight to have a productive session. It looks like I will meet my goal of having a new build of ChipWits tomorrow. And I will kick off a new contest.

I added high score keeping for each mission. So players can keep tweaking their ‘wits to break the high score and high series records.

The lake has been open for days – way too early in Spring for the thaw. The past 2 years ice went out on April 9th – this is almost 2 weeks earlier. A definite result of global warming, which scares me.

The next few decades will be stressful for the plants and animals in my woods and lake. It’ll be sad to see marginal species die off. I wonder if the pitcher plants will survive? Or the flying squirrels?

It’s been too blustery to take advantage of the extra week of canoing. Maybe tomorrow.

Some Pix of The Pad

March 28, 2007

A few days ago it got to 80 here and Margaret and I had a picnic by the lake. I got back into my fish-watching relaxation groove. Margaret took some pix of ice andour wild little world.

Today it was cold but there was a huge crack in the ice so I was able to CANOE!!! All the way out to our island (which you can see in M’s pix ice8 and ice9). Believe you me I wore a life jacket. That water is near-ice.

Margaret is heading off on the train tonight to Seattle to spend time with her Ian and other friends. She’s working hard to get one last piece of ChipWits are done.

I have been rather burnt-out, so it was fun to wake up today feeling like working hard. Got a good start on a new tutorial mission designed by Margaret. It turned up a bug that I was able to track down quickly.

I am going to miss the girl. She’ll be gone on her adventure for 2 weeks. ChipWits should be released by the time she returns!

Buried in the Drifts

March 2, 2007

We are snowed in for the 2nd time this week. This time the snowplow guy refused to plow the last 1/3 mile of “road” to The Pad. He plowed only to my 2nd-nearest neighbor (the nearest neighbor is a Summer cabin – no one home) so I moved the car to their house in the middle of the storm – up the hill.

The hill is a challenge in Winter – it slopes North and often has got an icy underlayer – and I don’t blame the snowplow guy for giving up on it. He plowed partway down before giving up, though, so he left a 3-foot high plowed mound of snow right in the middle of the hill. I had to get the Subaru’s speed up and punch through the mound while climbing the hill. The snow is light and it made a satisfying snow explosion as I slammed through it.

So we’ve got a 1/3 mile walk to the car. Getting another load of firewood will have to wait. We’re doing pretty good on propane, but I’ve cut the thermostat to 60. If we’re snowed in long we’ll have to use our toboggan to haul wood to the cabin.

I had a great day of programming yesterday. I will probably drop a new build of ChipWits tonight. I fixed a bug in ELECTROCRABS – now they can actually damage your ChipWit – 20 E-CRAB ZAPs and you’re done.

We’ll finish the current contest and then next week let some of the geek game forums into the playtest.