1st Newsletter Edition

My first substack newsletter post

Thu Aug 11

Written by: Chris Pohlman

Pick of the week image:

Image of a show called Close Enough on HBO








What I’m Coding

This week I’m working on a project for a class I’m in, we are making a version of Pac-man using pygame and I’ve been working on implementing A* pathfinding for the ghosts using the python-pathfinding library. It’s still certainly a bit buggy with some occasional ghosts living up to their namesake better than I’d like and going straight through walls. Below is the implementation of the pathfinder I’m using to create the paths the ghosts follow. This video was extremely helpful in setting up the code.

class Pathfinder:
    def __init__(self, matrix):
        self.matrix = matrix
        self.grid = Grid(matrix = matrix)
        self.path = []

    def create_path(self, ghost, pacman_coord):
        #start cell
        start_x, start_y = ghost.get_coord()
        start = self.grid.node(start_x, start_y)
        #end cell
        end_x, end_y = pacman_coord
        #end_x, end_y = [3,3]
        end = self.grid.node(end_x, end_y)

        finder = AStarFinder()
        self.path, _ = finder.find_path(start, end, self.grid)
        return self.path

    def empty_path(self):
        self.path = []

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What I’m Learning

This week I learned a lot about A* and pathfinding algorithms in general. A* (read A-Star) is the industry standard algorithm for any kind of pathfinding where you want to find the shortest path from point A to B. It does this using a formula of f(n) = g(n) + h(n) and the concept of a graph of nodes connected by edges. To help explain what that actually means I’ll break down each of the 4 pieces starting with h(n).

h(n) is the heuristic function which is a fancy way of saying its the guess. For our purposes we are naively guessing at the distance between the point we are starting at and point n. You can do this by using Euclidean distance (a^2 + b^2 = c^2) or Manhattan distance sometimes called L distance, which is just the distance you travel down then over similar to how you would travel on foot through a city on a grid. This value doesn’t take into account any obstacles or anything of that sort

g(n) is the current shortest distance found from the starting point to point n as you travel along the graph. This is the part that updates depending on what is found as the paths are checked.

f(n) is the combination of the two and once the end node is reached this will be the shortest possible path from the start to the end.

The graph is arguably the most important part. Understanding that any grid can be converted to a graph of nodes representing points on the grid and edges representing connections between those points. Most importantly of all you can add weights to those edges to represent areas that are slower to pass through, like a highway versus a city street, or a flat meadow versus a rocky mountain. Edges can also be directed to show that they only allow travel in a single direction, and just because an edge is shown between two nodes that doesn’t necessarily mean those nodes are physically connected meaning you can model things like teleport points.

If you want to learn more this Wikipedia article is a good place to start.

What I’m Cooking

This week my gf and I had a picnic with her extended family and having recently acquired a cheap chuck roast that was looking pretty good I decided to make some Italian-style shredded beef for a sandwich filling. I found this recipe online to use as a base and modified it to fit things I had on hand and to better fit my own tastes, I swapped the pickled peppers for a blend of fresh poblanos and yellow onions, the white vinegar for apple cider vinegar, and added in some garlic powder for a final ingredient list of

Chuck Roast

Apple Cider Vinegar


Yellow Onion

Crushed Red Pepper

Garlic Powder



What I’m Struggling with

The struggle this week has been getting a bug free version of the ghost movement working and finding time in a busy schedule to do the really important things like spending time with my Gf. On the first point I have a backup plan to still deliver a minimum viable product on schedule if I can’t quite make it happen with the AI, on the second I’m blocking out some extra time to focus on her each night this week. Never be afraid to schedule in no work times for yourself since it’s often that time that is most important even though it might not feel as traditionally productive.

Pick of the week

Each week I plan to give you all one thing I’ve been enjoying from basically any category I choose

This week it is Close Enough on HBO Max. This is a great adult cartoon from the makers of The Regular Show and follows a non-traditional home consisting of a married couple and their daughter and their friends and recently divorced couple. It’s funny, heartfelt, and a little raunchy, there are random supernatural elements and lots of chaos that all magically fit together nicely to deliver entertaining short stories showing off the sort of messy life that many of us now call normal.