Baldur's Gate II (Boss Fight Books, #8)

(www.goodreads.com)

πŸ“šMatt Bell's Baldur's Gate II (Boss Fight Books, #8) is part lifelong gamer turned writer memoir and part critical analysis of the classic computer RPG. I enjoyed the way the book weaves both threads together and empathized with the author's inner struggle to reconcile his nerdy gaming side with who he felt he should be as an as a successful adult writer. His insights into the game itself were quite good, but his struggle with self acceptance remained a bummer even as he made real progress on that front because we live in a time when everything he agonized over is more normal than ever before.

Snow Day

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We had our first really significant snowfall of the winter today. The roads in Spokane were slick, but not impassable on the routes I ended up driving; everyone just slowed down as we adjusted to the conditions. The constant snowfall did make it hard for the crews tasked with clearing the roads and sidewalks around campus to keep up though. Ultimately that led to Gonzaga closing early for the day and sending all of their employees home. Shortly after that was decided the high schools in the area decided it was in their best interest to let students out early as well, and cancel all the basketball games scheduled for tonight. So with all my plans for the evening out the window I headed home.

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Shortly after I finished shoveling our driveway for the first time Mary and some of the younger kids decided to get in some sledding on the little slope across the street from our neighborhood. I took a very brief break inside the house and then followed them to join in the sledding fun. I didn't have snowpants on and got pretty wet by the end, but it was worth it to have some fun with the family and get some pictures.

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It was also finally cold enough for Mary to break out the matching scarf and hat set that I gave her across the last two Christmases. The scarf pattern is one of my all time favorites and this year after not having very many good gift ideas in early December I had the bright idea to see if I could find a matching hat pattern. Luckily I found one easily and it only took me a couple hours of knitting a day for about a week to finish it in time for Christmas.

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Hypercritical: Front and Center

(hypercritical.co)

John Siracusa of Accidental Tech Podcast fame and numerous incredibly thorough MacOS X reviews has released a simple $2.99 utility he calls Front and Center to restore the MacOS Classic window layering behavior that Apple abandoned when they moved to OS X. Once the utility is running clicking an application window will bring all of that application windows to the front as well. I haven't really missed this functionality because I don't tend to run multiple windows, but I'm a Siracusa fan and as a long time Mac user I wanted to give this another try.1


  1. The first place I immediately noticed the impact of this was in the Finder. That's the one app that I tend to keep multiple windows open in having never really adapted to tabbed Finder windows.

End of the Leach Era

Mike Leach agreed to a contract with Mississippi State today ending his eight year tenure with Washington State. He did a good job during his time in Pullman, but could never quite get over over the hump when it came to the Pac-12 North Championship falling 1 win short in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Despite his regular season success and the regularity with which we reached bowl qualification, his indifference to changing up his approach to the Apple Cup and lack of success there (1-7 over eight years) during the Petersen era grew quite old by the end. His tired appeal to the superiority of UW's talent as was a particularly hollow argument. He's been working on an exit for a few years now and frankly I'm surprised he didn't get a shot immediately after last year's record season. I do feel like he should have been able to better than Mississippi State, but I wish him well and hope he can surprise some people in the SEC.

All eyes are now on WSU AD Pat Chun as he searches for a replacement and I feel pretty good about his ability to get a strong candidate for the position. He did an excellent job picking Kyle Smith to replace Ernie Kent, with the basketball program and although they lost to Cal on the road tonight just got a huge win against UCLA last week.

Out of the various potential candidates mentioned, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch would be my first choice because of his impact in the same role at WSU. During his stint two years ago the defense improved dramatically. Unfortunately I suspect he's a higher quality future head coaching candidate than WSU is liable to land at this point and probably going to hold out for a higher prestige job. If he's not interested then Graham Harrell, the current USC offensive coordinate appears to be another potential possibility.

That said, I wouldn't be shocked to see Chun come up with someone completely unexpected if it's not going to be one of the guys I've mentioned. Pullman is a unique challenge to recruit players to and I'm confident he's going to make a wise choice based on who he thinks can get the job done there. I look forward to seeing how this all shakes out.

My Interest in Interactive Fiction

I am a longtime fan of interactive fiction games. The first game that I ever purchased with my own money for my family's Apple IIe was Zork I. On a career day in 6th grade I dressed up in a button-down shirt and slacks and declared that I wanted to be a text adventure game programmer for Infocom after I graduated from MIT with a software engineering degree. None of that ever really came close to happening, but I played a lot more classic Infocom games like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and did attempt to create a text adventure game1 in middle school using a custom text adventure system that my cousin Brian created and shared with me. Unfortunately I never quite got it fully working without crashing, but I'm kind of impressed with my younger self for my concept and my cousin for attempting to create a game making system like that for the Apple IIe even if it's pretty cliche by modern standards 30+ years later.

When I got to college in the early 90s I continued to have an interest in creating text adventure games and eventually latched on to the interactive fiction scene that revolved around rec.arts.int-fiction forum on usenet. I learned about the shareware TADS (Text Adventure Development System for creating text adventures and ordered a copy so I could create the next great text adventure, but never completed anything of note. I also became aware of Graham Nelson's work on Inform 6 at this time and got interested in using a tool that was based on reverse engineering the original Infocom Z-Machine based games I had grown up loving. I definitely wanted to make a text adventure of my own, but never quite enough to make it happen.

Twenty five years later I continue to have an interest in the interactive fiction scene and even subscribe to a couple Text Adventure related podcasts. I'd still like to create some interactive fiction games of my own and potentially enter one in the long running IF Comp. The two most dominant systems these days are Inform 72 and Twine3 and I'd actually like to try my hand at creating games using both systems at some point because they both offer some really cool functionality. As always it remains a matter of time and motivation. I continue to have the interest, but probably not enough focus and time at this point.


  1. My opening premise was you were a character with amnesia who awoke in a dungeon cell where you were imprisoned and had to find a way to escape.

  2. More traditional Infocom style parser based an amazing IDE.

  3. Web and hypertext-centric focused.

Ableton's Learning Music Web Tutorials

(learningmusic.ableton.com)

Today I discovered Ableton offers a really impressive free interactive tutorial site on the basics of music and modern music creation tools. I think my older kids could learn a lot by going through the examples and exercises, I'm not a total music newb and I learned some things myself.

GSL Basketball Update

Tonight was a big night for Greater Spokane League basketball as the two main contenders for the title, 3A Mt. Spokane and 4A Central Valley, met for their one1 game of the season. Going into the game I expected Mt. Spokane to handle Central Valley by about eight points because they're a solid team, and they have junior Tyson Degenhart, the best player in the league by far right now.

That didn't turn out to be the case though. Central Valley jumped out to an early lead, led almost the entire game until Mt. Spokane briefly took a 1 point lead at the end of the game before ultimately losing by 3. Degenhart had 18 points, but he and his teammates were a combined 20/30 from the free throw line and that was probably the difference in the 55-58 loss to the Bears.

At this point Central Valley should probably be undefeated, but their lone loss of the season was an inexplicable 3 point defeat to Richland2 in their third game. All cylinders are clearly firing now though, as they've won eight straight games since.

In terms of the final regular season stretch Central Valley has a much more challenging road to a GSL title than Mt. Spokane. The Wildcats have only three 4A teams remaining (G-Prep, Ferris, and rival Mead) in their final eight games. Central Valley on the other hand has seven remaining against the other 4A teams, and any of these five3 (rival University twice, G-Prep, Ferris, and Mead) ara as capable of taking a game as Richland if the Bears have a bad outing.

Second place in the 4A ranks is also still very much in play and should start sorting itself out Friday when Mead (4-1) plays G-Prep (4-1), and Ferris (3-2) plays University (2-3). Prep and Ferris have improved from the start of the season, but any of the four could go on a several game run to close out the season and lock down a top spot.


  1. 3A and 4A classification teams only play each other once during the season to allow league teams to schedule some non conference games and improve their RPI, the performance index used to seed the State Tournament. This is doubly beneficial for the 4A teams because outside of Mt. Spokane the remaining 3A GSL teams are not competitive.

  2. 6-4 on the season so far and nowhere near as good as they've been for the last several years.

  3. Lewis & Clark has a quality coach in Jim Redmon, but at 1-11 they're not on par with the other 4A schools right now.

State of the RSS Address

I am a big fan of RSS. It powers the many podcasts I listen to on a weekly basis and continues to be one of the primary distribution protocols of the open web. In fact I would directly attribute the decline of my blog writing output in the early 2000s to an increase in reading consumption powered by the venerable Mac RSS reader, NetNewsWire. Looking back at my archives there's a noticeable dip in posts when it first debuted in the summer of 2002. At the end of 2005, Google Reader debuted and its ability to present all my subscriptions in a web interface to any computer I happened to be using only further amplified my ability to consume blogs and news sources. As I look back on my archive it's kind of shocking to see how little I posted to my blog after 2006, but it's not entirely surprising given the additional arrival of Twitter in 2007 as a further drain on my time, attention, and writing time.

Google killed Reader in 2013 and while numerous free and freemium replacements like Feedly, Feedbin, and the Old Reader stepped into fill the gaps it has never quite been the same for me. The rise of iOS and an inability on my part to settle on one particular RSS service or app has had me consuming news and blogs in a not particular efficient or regular fashion. And Twitter continues to be a rival information source that I feel like I depend on too much. But as I've mentioned, at least for me personally, consuming too much information can have a negative impact on my ability to produce new and interesting things.

Jumping forward to 2020 my desire to write and create more has increased once again1 and two decades worth of experience with the web has taught me the importance of having full control over my content and how I share it. Breaking away from dependence on silos like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram2 is important to me and RSS is absolutely essential to promoting the open web in this regard. I think Manton Reece is doing some interesting stuff with his micro.blog service and his advocacy for silo free microblogging.3

Meanwhile NetNewsWire is now an open source Mac application as of version 5, with an iOS version in beta on Test Flight as well. I have yet to play with the latter, but the former is a very solid and efficient Mac app. The only problem for me is that the Mac app requires Mojave or higher4 and it doesn't provide syncing support with any services I use currently. So I've used NetNewsWire from time to time on a few different computers, but I haven't begun using the app regularly or consistently. Perhaps in the end that will allow me to establish some good daily writing habits on my blog while I wait for the syncing I'd need to fully adopt NetNewsWire again.


  1. Helped to some extant by a little more personal discipline on my part and RSS tools that don't sync well at the moment.

  2. The one social network I remain a fan of because of its general positive vibe, but I refuse to rely on it solely for my photos and duplicate everything I put there on my own blog as well.

  3. Ironically creating an alternative to RSS called json feed that eschews xml for the lighter weight data serialization json provides.

  4. Soon to be Catalina in fact which I find understandable, but distasteful as an ancient Mac Pro running El Cap desktop user.

1 Second Every Day

One thing that I forgot to mention yesterday was that I've been thinking about devoting some time to doing a 1 Second Every Day video this year. 1 Second Every Day is an app1 for iOS and Android that allows you to assemble 1 second video clips into a year long2 and amazingly compelling video of your life in a year.

Here's Cesar Kuriyama's original 1 Second Every Day video that he created at age 30 without the aid of an app.

And here's a Fast Company Article from 2012 about the year featured in the video and why he built the app.

β€œ[The project has] made me realize I need to do one interesting thing to make today count,” he says. β€œIt’s been an incalculably positive influence on my life. The reason that I’ve really decided to stop everything and try to build this thing is that I genuinely think it can have that same influence for others.”

I last used 1SE regularly back in 2016 and then I just kind of let it lapse which is really unfortunate because it's amazing to look back and see just how much my kids have changed over the last four years. I tracked down the three month long videos I made with 1SE back in 2013 when I first got the app and those videos were pretty awesome even though I missed more days than I remembered.

The free version of the app has improved a bunch in the intervening time and its support for still photos and Apple Live Photos make it totally easy even if you forgot to record any video clips for a given day as long as you took some pictures. I was actually able to get started for this year just with just the Live Photos I've taken so far, but I'll start filming some quick videos now as well.


  1. And now a dedicated company with an app subscription model that offers some additional functionality.

  2. Or an arbitrary date range of your choosing like a month or several weeks.

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics

(www.goodreads.com)

πŸ“šπŸŽ§ Finished listening to the audio book of Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics today1, making it my first completed book of 2020. It's an incredibly thorough and interesting discussion of the evolution of soccer tactics over the history of the sport, and definitely one that I'd like to pick up in print so that I can revisit particular sections and use it as a reference.


  1. Although I made it through the first three quarters of its 18 hour 20 minute length last Fall before my library loan expired.