Favorite “Wordle” spin-offs and other games

Since Wordle helped popularize the “daily game” trend, here are some I have enjoyed:

➡️ Played daily

NY Times Mini (my mom and siblings share our scores)

NY Times Connections (create similar groups of four)

Strands (find the words and theme)

Quordle (Wordle but four words)

Bandle (guess the song one track at a time)

➡️ Occasionally

NY Times Letter Boxed (although I play less than I used to… I can usually get it in two if I spend enough time)

Timeguessr (similar to Chronophoto but guess the location, too — I don’t play every day but I like Geoguessr-type games)

Immaculate Grid (complete the grid with baseball players)

Chronophoto (guess the year the photo was taken)

➡️ Fun but I don’t play as much anymore

Redactle (try to figure out the Wikipedia article — I don’t play this as much either)

Framed (guess the movie)

Moviedle (another guess the movie game)

Worldle (guess the country)


Random thoughts

Buy less stuff you don’t need.

If you’re sitting in your parked car, shut it off.

Turn the thermostat up a few degrees in the summer, and down a few degrees in the winter.

Don’t grab that plastic straw.

Use cloth napkins at home.

Turn devices off when you’re not using them.

Turn the light off when you leave the room.

Dry your laundry outside on the line.

Delete social media from your phone.

Play board games. Play card games.

Randomly text your friends.

Don’t put chemicals on your lawn.

Listen to music. Watch classic movies.

Bike instead of drive when you can.

Take a walk every day.


Improved Coup 1v1 Rules

I recently tried Coup for the first time. It’s a simple but addicting card game that involves strategic bluffing. I’ve yet to play with 5-6 people (which I hear is fun) but I’ve played a number of 1v1 hands.

The default rules for 1v1 are not very good, so I did some research and found some better user-created rules. This is what seemed to work well:

Custom rules for 1v1 Coup

Disclaimer: These may be similar or identical to other rules found elsewhere!

The main differences from the default rules are that each player gets a total of 5 influence cards (2 at a time) and they must call which card they Coup in order for it to succeed. 

1. Separate influence cards into 3 “decks” of five (one of each card in a deck). Two player decks, one court deck.

2. Each player takes 1 card for their hand, arranges 3 hands for their personal draw pile, and 1 to be discarded into the court deck.

3. Before putting each player’s discard into the court deck, the dealer issues 1 card to each player. Each player now has two cards in their hand. 

4. The discards are shuffled in to the court deck. 

5. Each player begins with two coins.

6. The non-dealer goes first. Play continues normally with two exceptions:

A) Players must “call” each Coup. If they call the wrong card, they lose 7 coin. (The player being attacked must be honest about the card being called). They must pay 7 coin if it is successful, as normal.

B) When a player loses an influence card, they must show it, and it is out of the game. The player then draws one card from their personal deck until they have lost all their cards.

Notes: This greatly improves the Ambassador, which is normally next to useless in a 1v1 game. Being able to refresh your hand makes Coups much more difficult for the opponent. 

Assassins can be deadly during the endgame. But, so can a Captain versus a player without a card to block steals (Captain or Ambassador). One can slowly gain income with a Duke, but otherwise a lone Captain can beat a lot of other combinations in the endgame (like Contessa + Assassin). 


Convert PCT / PICT file to JPG

I had over a thousand outdated PCT (PICT) files I needed to convert to JPG. I wasn’t having much success with Preview, Photos, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. I tried this Resize! app but it gave me blank images.

So, I wanted to share my method I finally came up with.

We’re going to use Automator to convert to PDF then to JPG. The main problem I ran into was that Automator would combine all the PCT files into ONE HUGE PDF. So we need the “Dispense Items Incrementally” action.

First, download the action installer “Dispense Items Incrementally” from this site. It should show up in Automator automatically (if you have Automator open, quit and re-open).

When Automator opens, select “Quick Action” (or “Service” if it’s an older version).

Search for each of this actions and drag them into your workflow in this order:

Get Specified Finder Items

Dispense Items Incrementally

New PDF from Images


Set “Loop” to Loop automatically and Stop after 30 minutes (or longer if needed — it can’t be 0). Select “Use the current results as input”

Set your Output folder in the New PDF from Images action. Keep the default settings.

Now just add the PCT files in the Get Specified Finder Items action using the “Add…” (or drag them in) and click Run at the top.

When that’s done, we need to convert the PDFs to JPGs.

First: Select New in the Automator File Menu.

Create another Quick Action/Service:

Get Specified Finder Items

Render PDF Pages as Images

Move Finder Items

Click the “Add” button or drag the PDFs into Get Specified Finder Items window (like before).

Specify where you want the images saved in the Move Finder Items box.

Click run. If Automator gives you a message, “This quick action will not receive input when run inside Automator,” just click Ok.

That’s it!




For summer students…

Photoshop class

Digital Photography class

Photojournalism class

OS X Mountain Lion unstable Wi-Fi issues

I doubt this will show up in Google search results, but in case anyone else is having Wi-Fi issues after installing Mountain Lion (10.8), THIS is your solution.

For my new students…

History of Photography class website

Principles of Digital Photography class website

Thoughts on D.C.

Got back recently from a nice little trip to D.C. Here are some thoughts:

• Love the 2 hour 15 min non-stop flight from Des Moines. Really easy to take the metro from Reagan International. I was also surprised how close Reagan is to the mall (close enough that we actually biked right by it later in the trip)

• The city is a bit of a paradox. On one hand, it is quite compact and walkable, and on the other hand if you want to walk everywhere, your legs will fall off. We took the metro a lot the first day, walked the next couple, and biked the last couple. Biking is a lot quicker, provided you can weave through traffic and fellow tourists.

• There is a lot of construction going on all through the city, including the reflecting pool on the mall. It probably has more construction going on than any city I’ve been in. Nothing much to add to this thought, except all the construction makes it feel like it is very much ‘improving’ itself, although it is already quite a clean and vibrant city.

• The ‘locals’ seem very full of life. If you live in D.C., you’re probably already a pretty motivated and active individual to begin with. There was a lot of jogging, biking, soft ball playing, and generally enjoying all the restaurants and things to do.

• The Smithsonian Museums were all impressive. The Holocaust Museum was probably the most impressive. The building itself, from the main lobby to the elevators, is designed to make you feel like you’re in a concentration-camp-esque facility. They prime you on the elevator ride up with a short video, and you feel like you are stepping back in time when you start your journey. The special exhibit on propaganda was amazing as well.

• The city needs better bike signage. Des Moines has done a good job letting you know where the bike paths are and where they are going. In D.C., it is illegal to bike on the sidewalk in certain places. There are bike paths throughout the mall area, but you have to guess which is a path and which is a regular sidewalk. The result is quite chaotic. Even when we were biking into Arlington, we weren’t quite sure what path to take and if we were even on a bike path or a sidewalk.

• Where are all the grocery stores? I don’t expect a big ol’ Hy-Vee in the middle of town, but we didn’t come across too many places to buy simple groceries for lunch. Aimee found a VERY crowded Trader Joes, but it seems like the city could use more places to buy foodstuffs.

• I love cities/states with pedestrian crossing laws. In D.C., as in a lot of European cities, cars are very aware of crosswalks. They will immediately slow down and let you walk across. Meanwhile, back in Des Moines, we have to wait for 10 cars to pass standing in a painted crosswalk with flashing lights above it.

Nerdy fun: Interactive Fiction

Sometime back in the late 80s when our family had a Commodore 64, we’d go to the public library and check out games on 5.25″ floppy disk (and occasionally cartridges, which were great because they loaded instantly!).

One game looked amazing…. Zork. Well, maybe we didn’t actually know was it was about, but the cover looked cool, and that counted for a lot back then. We got it home and it turned out to be an all-text based game. A so-called “Text Adventure.” I’ll be honest that it didn’t really grab my attention all that well. I was more interested in shooting aliens.

I think my brother Ben got more into it, but we scoped out a few more similar games like Zork II and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams himself. HHttGG was a tough game! I don’t think I got very far past the bulldozer.

Eventually I (and my friend at the time, Jim) grabbed the Commodore 64 manual and lo’ and behold, it had some instructions on how to actually write your own programs in BASIC. This was pretty interesting to me, and I figured out how to write very simple text games. They might still be on a disk somewhere, victim of technological obsolescence.

It was pretty fun and it made me think I might be interested in programming someday, although that didn’t last too long in college.

Anyway, a few years ago a documentary about Text Adventures called GET LAMP (link to full movie on YouTube) was made by the same guy who did a 10-hour documentary on Bulletin Board Systems (which I bought when it came out), so it should be right up my alley. I probably won’t force Aimee to watch. Probably.

The term for the genre now-a-days is “Interactive Fiction.” It turns out there’s a language called Inform that allows you to write your own. It’s a bit messy to learn but I’ve finished my first attempt at Interactive Fiction: Billings and Spivey: The Game. It’s a short game starring some characters from a TV show we worked on in college.

The Inform 7 language is interesting. For example, in my game, the “donut” is created as so:

The donut is a thing in the Break Room.
The description of the donut is “[if the donut is stapled]It’s a donut that some numbskull tried to staple[otherwise]Glorious fried dough. Sugary frosting. Sprinkles. This is what dreams are made of[end if].”. The donut is edible. The donut is stapleable.


It’s a little like programming. Inform has  a lot of built-in actions like eating and examining (try typing “look at (object)” as a start). The tricky part is trying to anticipate what the player will attempt to do, and give clues as to what they need to do (and what they can do). So, check it out and let me know what you think.

Remembering Steve Langager

My dad’s older brother Steve passed away yesterday. He was in a coma for almost two weeks following being hit by a drunk driver while riding his bike in Arizona, his winter getaway (he lived in Spicer, MN).

I wanted to post this in case people were searching for an online presence to share stories and memories about him.

I’ll always remember his sense of humor and quick wit. We kids could always get him to chuckle by bringing up the Minnesota Vikings, whom he gave up on after they lost their fourth Super Bowl. He would mock us for still cheering for the Vikings and needle us when they did poorly.

He also had a curiosity  in technology. Sometimes he would put aside his jokey demeanor and ask me computer questions. He was always having virus issues with his PC and I kept telling him to get a Mac. He seemed pretty tech-savvy and knew about the latest gadgets coming out.

He lived near our Grandma Rachel (who passed away a little over a year ago) so he’d drive her up for holidays, always with a large mug of coffee. When the time was approaching to go back home, he’d joke that he was going to forget her in Duluth.

We really only saw him at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but even then not so much these past couple years. I’m sad he is gone and he’ll be missed.