CRPG Update

I have not yet fully completed Bard's Tale as of today, but I'm pretty close. Levels 4 and 5 of Mangar's Tower plus the final battle with Mangar himself are the final challenges that await me. The third level has a lot of darkness, traps, and spinners that make navigating the dungeon challenging even if you have a map. I've got to say from a modern perspective that I question the fun and entertainment value of that design. Wandering around in darkness and bumping into things doesn't feel particularly rewarding and is not my idea of a good time. To be honest I wouldn't mind a few more battles than I've been seeing so far and a little less darkness.

As far as the next game to tackle goes, I'm considering Bard's Tale 2, but strongly leaning towards picking up Forgotten Realms: The Archives - Collection Two on GOG1 because Pool of Radiance is one of the CRPG Addict's top 3 classic CRPG games based on 10 years of reviews. The other highly interesting title in the collection is Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures, which is basically a toolkit for building your own game using the Gold Box engine. I'm a complete sucker for game construction sets and the whole thing is so inexpensive it ends up being an amazing value just for the six other games in the series.

FRUA has a big following and modding scene across the last 25 years with extra tools and ways to overcome some of the original limitations. Additionally there's a modern FRUA inspired fan remake of the editor and engine called Dungeon Craft. Dungeon Craft is even more flexible and powerful, but it has the drawback of beeing Windows only. There's a dedicated forum with a ton of good information on both the FRUA and DC systems and I look forward to exploring them further over the next couple months.

  1. Only $9.99 for 8 games even when it's not on sale.

Crazy Finish

My Ferris Saxons ended up losing to Mead by 3 tonight after leading by 9 points at the half. The second half in particular was a pretty intense series of momentum shifts with Mead charging back into the lead within the first two or three minutes of the third quarter thanks to strong offense and a series of Saxon miscues. We eventually came around in the fourth quarter and reestablished about a 7 point lead thanks to some stops and timely 3s from Zach Fleming and Kobe Smith, but then inexplicably let Mead star Tyson Rogalette score 12 straight points off 3s and free throws to take an insurmountable four point lead with about two seconds and change.

Then things got weird. Down 4 points, with just over two seconds left in the game Zach Fleming received the ball and dribbled up the sideline directly into Mead coach Glenn Williams who had inexplicably stepped onto the court1 and directly into his path. The refs huddled up and made the correct call of a technical foul, awarding Ferris two free throws attempts, and one last possession with the ball. What should have been a sure win for Mead suddenly was in doubt yet again. Rubber Chicken hero McCoy Spink took the free throws, but only made the first, and we were forced to put a final desperation three as time expired. It didn't happen and we had only our horrendous free throw shooting (6-16 which was more like 6-20 based on front ends of 1 and 1 shots missed), dumb turnovers, and rebounding margin (-14 according to our stats guy) to blame.

In other GSL news tonight Gonzaga Prep got a huge 69-63 win over Mt. Spokane to virtually assure themselves a second place finish in the 4A with a real shot to still pickoff Central Valley as well when they meet Friday.

  1. More bizarrely this is actually the second time he's gotten a technical for interfering with play along the sideline in a game against us. Both times I would describe it as a flukey lapse of thought rather than anything else.

Dave Nichols: All-star showcase will present best high school basketball east of Cascades


These games will pit “Metro” against “Region” all-stars and will promote the highest quality of high school basketball and provide the players an opportunity to play with and against the best basketball players – seniors and underclassmen – that Eastern and Central Washington and North Idaho has to offer.

Putting together an Eastern Washington (and North Idaho) showcase for top area boys and girls basketball players is a great idea. Hats off to the Spokesman Review for making this happen in a combined event.

Laptop Overhaul

We've had an old Dell Latitude E6400 laptop sitting under our downstairs computer desk for three or four years now and on a whim I decided to see if would even boot up. It got part way, but as I recalled it had been dropped by the kids a few times and there was probably hard drive damage. I have a few old 2.5" mechanical SATA drives lying around so I decided to swap one in and see if I could install Windows 10. The fact that the laptop seems to be pre UEFI ended up preventing me from booting up off my Windows 10 installer flash drive installer. So at that point I decided to just install a copy of Ubuntu MATE in order to get it into a workable state while I wiped it down and cleaned up the kid-grime on the exterior. That install went smoothly and really didn't take all that long despite installing on a mechanical hard drive rather than SSD.

Once I had the Latitude up and running again I decided to see if I could find a couple appropriate so-dimms that would allow me to upgrade it to more that 2GB RAM. As luck would have it I was able to track down a pair of 2GB RAM chips in my stash of old parts without too much of an issue and those worked fine. The one caveat I had forgotten was that for a certain class of Core 2 Duo laptops from this generation1 their motherboards are only actually capable of addressing 3 out of the 4GB total. So while it's an improvement to do the upgrade it's not quite a big as I had hoped.

I also did some further Windows 10 installation research after the fact and it sounds like it is possible to install that upgrade, but the successful people performed the installation on top of an existing Windows 7 installation. That method helped ameliorate the driver support difference as Windows 10 will try to continue using any existing Windows 7 drivers that don't have a Windows 10 replacement. I may still pursue this angle as this Latitude will mostly be seeing use as a spare laptop and potentially a game machine for the younger kids and there are far more gaming options on the Windows side of things. It would also probably be worth it to pick up a cheap 128GB SSD now that I know the hardware is running fine overall and before anyone starts using it again too regularly, but we'll see how it goes.

  1. Also true of some MacBooks from the same era.

What a Week for WSU Athletics!

Last week ended up being pretty incredible for WSU Athletics:

So tons of stuff worth reading about and filing away for posterity. WSU soccer was one of my favorite sports to attend during my time at Pullman and it's been awesome to see them slowly but surely grow into one of the most consistently excellent programs at WSU. It was cool to hear that Klay Thompson made a joke about the only press coverage when he played being Vince Grippi 1, whose work for the Spokesman I've been a fan of since his time working the high school beat and particularly once he started covering the Cougars. I'm also really happy to see WSU basketball on the upswing again after the post Tony Bennett2 downturn.

  1. And Ferris girls basketball assistant this season.

  2. Who I have all the respect in the world for, but always felt pretty jaded about compared to Cougar Nation at the time and I think a lot less bitter when he predictably left.

Hoops Roundup

The last three or four days have been pretty interesting for area high school and college hoops. In the GSL it was rivalry week and while there were no major upsets there were a lot of surprisingly close games. League leading Central Valley narrowly defeated University 50-49 in the Stinky Sneaker competition, Ferris beat Lewis & Clark 61-54, and Mount Spokane handled Mead 64-48. At this point the GSL 4A ranks have Central Valley solidly in first (7-0), Gonzaga Prep in second (6-1), Mead and Ferris tied for third (4-3), with University just a game behind them (3-4). Tuesday's matchup with Ferris at Mead will be huge for further establishing the standings with University almost assured of picking up a win against North Central (2-12 overall right now).

Switching gears to the college front: after a really rough stretch in northern California last week, WSU bounced back in a big way with a stunning 72-61 home win over 8th ranked Oregon on Thursday. Then Saturday they celebrated the retirement of Klay Thompson's jersey with a big 89-76 win over Oregon State. I felt great about Kyle Smith's hiring last spring, but I did not expect the level of Pac-12 success he's already managed to coach this team to (3-3 going into next week's games at Utah and Colorado). Athletic Director Pat Chun continues to make all the right moves when it comes to hiring coaches and bringing a ton of excitement and positive attention to Pullman, WA.

The Grind

I finally got the urge this week to get back to completing the classic computer rpg The Bard's Tale after taking about a six month hiatus. Part of my motivation was to be able to move onto other games and projects. There are a bunch of old CRPGs that I want to try out, but I still had good old BT hanging over my head. There's no reason I couldn't just start any one of those, but I don't like the idea of leaving this one unfinished after putting in quite of time early last summer. And having all my characters maxed out and ready to go will make it easier to get going in Bard's Tale II: Destiny Knight when I'm ready to tackle that one.

The funny thing is I think there's a good chance that I can knock it out this weekend. I have just about a perfect party with three high level monks, two maxed out magic users and a third one that I'm in the process of maxing out the Wizard levels on. This is also going really quickly because I know the optimal grind encounter in the third level of the catacombs and my party can complete it in one round. So tonight I've focused on using that to level up my characters as quickly as possible.

I'm definitely at the point in my life on this game that I'm going to use all the information and tips I can find on the internet to make this go as quickly and smoothly as possible. I'm not interested in exploring and figuring this one out completely on my own at all. I enjoy playing this game, but I've invested a lot of time into it already and I'm ready to wrap it up and move on to new adventures.

Rubber Chicken 2020

LC battled hard and refused to go away at the end, but Ferris held onto their lead to come away with the 61-54 victory over the Tigers. The girls also won their game 52-49 which has to be their first rubber chicken victory in several years if not longer. LC didn't leave the Arena completely empty hand as their fans earned the spirit award and took Chuck back home.

Ferris's theme this year was basically 50's rock and roll (Rock around the Chuck maybe?) so the boys coaching staff opted to wear our white team polos, jeans, and leather jackets. I have a leather jacket I could have worn, but I wasn't totally feeling it. Then earlier this week it occurred to me that I could wear my Ferris letterman jacket1 since its style is of that era and it seems to be rare for high school kids at Ferris to get them anymore. I brought my jacket, but didn't put it on right away because I was second guessing myself all day. Happily when I got into the Spokane Arena I saw right away that our girls head coach Scott Ward was wearing his so at halftime of their game I went back out to my car to grab mine.

Changing my jacket shouldn't have been a big deal, but it did lead to some unexpected pregame stress. Going back out to my car meant I had to go through the metal detector again at the back gate again. Not a big deal since no else was getting processed at the time, but I did have to empty my pockets of keys, phone, and wallet. That was completely uneventful and I zipped through and back to watch the start of the third quarter. About twenty minutes later in our locker room I reached into my jeans pockets and discovered to my surprise and dismay that my car keys were missing. I was thinking maybe I locked them in my car by mistake when I switched jackets, but I was pretty sure that I had put them in the dish at the gate. I messaged Mary to let her know the situation and try to figure out if I could coordinate with her to have her drop off my spare keys. The logistics of that would have been ridiculous, but fortunately as I was messaging back and forth with her I realized that I hadn't lost them afterall- I just put them in my back pocket with my wallet after the metal detector. D'oh!

  1. First time in almost 30 years!

Downtown stadium back on the table, as county treasurer urges school board to reconsider


Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner is urging the Spokane Public Schools board to reconsider its earlier decision to replace aging Joe Albi Stadium at the same site. Baumgartner drafted a letter to the board, claiming that building downtown would save taxpayers $2 million.

There is far more parking in downtown Spokane and within walking distance of the original site than I think most people realize. It pissed me off at the time that there was even discussion of needing an expensive dedicated parking building for a new downtown stadium because that's demonstrably false. Anyone that's ever attended Hoopfest, Bloomsday, or any of the major events near downtown and Riverfront Park have encountered an event with an order of magnitude more people than will attend a typical high school game in the stadium.

Comcast Internet

After perusing my recent email tonight1 I discovered that Comcast finally has some new internet offers that we're eligible to switch to. They're also offering some kind of free Roku box competitor they call Flex that has built in 4K support2, but if it doesn't offer Disney+, Hulu, or Plex I don't think it would be worth the hassle.

We've been paying about $66 a month for 85Mbps3 for almost six or seven years now. The new bundles offer a variety of different options that include bundling with some level of basic cable or special one year deals. I was talking to my thirteen-year-old son about how I shop for these things and his eyes immediately gravitated to the big 200+ Mbps options. I was trying to explain my mindset about the right combination of price and performance, but I don't think he fully got it.

At this point I think it's really down to two choices for me. Take the one year offer for 100Mbps for $45 a month (a $20 monthly savings) bumping up to $55 after a year or go with the 200Mbps for $55 a month for one year and then $70 a month from then on. The latter option would give us a nice speed bump at our current rate, but the cheaper option is still an improvement while saving money. I don't think we're really in any danger of maxing out our current connection so I'm leaning towards the cheaper option, but I think I'll let it percolate in my brain for a while and run it by Mary. The thing is even if we go with the cheaper option now we'll always be able to update it down the road as necessary so I think I'm already pretty convinced.

  1. A task I typically neglect for days at a time because it's mostly offers rather than actual correspondence from people that I care about.

  2. Not relevant to us as our 1080p television is still serving us well and I'm highly skeptical about the ability of anyone in my family to actually appreciate the difference when viewing from a normal distance. In fact we regularly watch ripped 480p dvd movies son that TV and nobody notices or cares.

  3. Officially 75Mbps, but 85Mbps when I tested it toady.