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(If you'd like to read about my travels in Japan, China, or another location, check out the Travelogues page.)
(If you'd like to read more about Ink, check out the Ink section.)

Year 1: 8/11/2003 - 8/9/2004
Year 2: 8/11/2004 - 8/10/2005
Year 3: 8/11/2005 - 8/9/2006
Year 4: 8/11/2006 - 8/10/2007
Year 5: 8/13/2007 - 8/8/2008
Year 6: 8/11/2008 - 8/10/2009
Year 7: 8/12/2009 - 8/9/2010
Year 8: 8/11/2010 - 8/10/2011
Year 9: 8/12/2011 - 8/10/2012
Year 10: 8/13/2012 - 8/9/2013
Year 11: 8/12/2013 - 8/8/2014
Year 12: 8/11/2014 - 8/10/2015
Year 13: 8/12/2015 - 8/10/2016
Year 14: 8/12/2016 - 8/9/2017

9/18/2017 All the food

Here's a quick travelogue entry.

September 15th (Friday): The Natural Products Expo East
Earlier in the year, my parents and brother spent a day at a natural products expo in California. They enjoyed it and came back with a ridiculous amount of product samples. They also learned that there's an east coast version in Baltimore in September. It's not open to the general public, but my brother was able to get Connie and I tickets (yay for family connections). There's a lot of parts to the expo as a whole (talks, presentations, etc.) but we only had tickets for the expo floor. But that's fine since it's all we were really interested in anyway.
Backstory aside, while the expo lasted for several days, we only had time to go on Friday. But I'd say one day is good for seeing the expo floor. I've been to various expos before, but this is the first natural products one. The first (very large) half of the show floor was devoted to food. A lot of the major brands you'll see in a health food store had booths, along with a lot I'd never heard of before. Of course, they all had the usual expo stuff. Product fliers, pens, clips, and other branded junk (well, mostly junk; I did pick up a nice mug, several good canvas bags, and a fidget spinner). But they also had lots and lots of samples. Chocolate, coffee, and tea seemed to be the most common, but that was only the beginning. Dried fruit, energy bars, candy, milk, cheese, sodas, juice, crackers, popcorn, jerky, ice cream, etc., etc., etc. Most of it was meant to eat there, and Connie and I had a lot of fun wandering around and snacking on whatever looked interesting. But we also filled a fairly large bag each with samples to take home.
The second half of the show floor was devoted to health and beauty products. Not nearly as much fun as the food (at least for me), but I didn't have much time to look around that part either since we were planning to meet my cousin (well, second cousin) for dinner. While we did have to occasionally stop to take care of Zack (though carrying him around also got us a bunch of free baby food and wipes), and I had take a few breaks to deal with some important phone calls and e-mails, it was a fun day (if a bit more hectic than it needed to be).
While not everyone can go to the Natural Products Expo, I'd recommend checking it out if you get the chance. Apparently the California one is a lot bigger, but I'd say you can still spend a day exploring the expo floor in Baltimore. Just make sure to skip lunch, you'll want to leave room for all the sampling.

Later!

Josiah

9/15/2017 Off for the day

As always, you can use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic.

It seems like there's always lots of things to do and consider these days in relation to work, my own projects, and life stuff. I'm pretty happy with things over all (though I always wish I had more time to devote to this or that), but I do kind of miss when life was simpler. Anyway, Connie and I have what should be a rather interesting day trip planned. I'll write about it next week. For now, I should get going.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

9/13/2017 Drowning in despair

I've been a fan of the Danganronpa series since the first game was released in the US. If you're not familiar with it, Danganronpa is a murder mystery game, a bit like the Ace Attorney series, though a lot darker. In a nut shell, a group of high schoolers, each with a special talent, are trapped together and the only way to escape is to kill another student and successful avoid being fingered as the murderer in the following trial. If the murder is identified, they face deadly consequences. If they successfully pin the blame on someone else, they walk free and everyone else dies. Your goal is to find a way to stop the game while solving any murders that take place along the way. Despite the often outlandish characters, the series provides a very interesting dive into the human psyche. What would drive someone to commit murder? The killing game itself usually isn't enough since there's always the option of everyone living together peacefully (if imprisoned). But as things progress more incentives are added. Would you kill someone for money? To protect you greatest secret? To save a loved one? Like I said before, it can get really dark but, throughout the games, there's also the underlying theme of how hope can shine and triumph against even the greatest despair. While Danganronpa 1 and 2 focus primarily on the killing games, there's a larger narrative built around the creator of said games and their efforts to plunge the entire world into despair. It was interesting, but many of the details were vague, leading to a lot of situations where you just had to accept that the villain had somehow accomplished various seemingly impossible objectives in the past to bring things to this point. Some of those details were finally explained in the spin-off game, Ultra Despair Girls, though it still left a lot of unanswered questions and also failed to offer a final conclusion to the story. Then it was announced that the next game, Danganronpa V3, would be separate, taking place in a new future setting (though whether it's a completely different world or the far future of the current world I'm not sure) and the current storyline would instead be concluded in an anime (Danganronpa 3).

Anyway, with V3 (the new game) coming out soon, I decided it was about time I watched the anime (3 without the V) to draw a curtain on the Hope's Peak story. And wow... In an unusual move, it's divided into two separate story arcs. Future takes places shortly after Danganronpa 2 and follows the surviving main characters along with some new ones. Meanwhile, Despair acts as a prequel, finally explaining most of the unanswered questions that have haunted the series. Interestingly enough, it's structured so that you're supposed to jump back and forth between the two, watching one episode of Future, then one of Despair, then back to Future, and so on, with one final concluding episode called the Hope arc. It's an odd setup, but it works and the anime is spectacular. It's intense, does an excellent job of both continuing the story and filling in the gaps, and makes the narrative as a whole seem a lot more plausible than it used to. But it's just as dark the games ever were, maybe even more so. I found some parts, especially the last few episodes of Despair, really depressing and hard to watch but there's still that underlying ray of hope... So yeah, Danganronpa 3 is crazy, dark, intense, and really hard to stop watching. All that said, I really can't recommend it unless you've already played Danganronpa 1, 2, and Ultra Despair Girls. If you haven't, there's a whole lot of the story that simply isn't going to make any sense. Not to mention that it would spoil a significant portion of said games. And really, playing the games is your only option. The first Danganronpa did get an anime adaptation (which I've heard very mixed things about), but the other games didn't. Fortunately, they're now available on Vita, PS4, and Steam, so they're not too hard to pick up. As for me, I'm looking forward to finishing the anime and seeing how it all ends and then, with V3, what comes next.

Later!

Josiah

9/11/2017 A moment of silence

Given the date, rather than write about something frivolous, I'd like you to take a moment of time to remember what happened 16 years ago. Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Never forget.

Josiah

9/8/2017 Another weekend

Use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic!

Well, I really can't think of much to say right now. Holiday aside, it's been a fairly normal week, and we didn't do anything special on Labor Day anyway. I've been a bit tired all week, though I'm not really sure why. Maybe I just need more sleep. So, on that note...

Have a good weekend and I'll see you Monday!

Josiah

9/6/2017 What's next?

I certainly have a lot less time to play video games than I used to but I still try to play as much as I can. For fun, of course, but also because, as a game designer and writer, I need to keep up on things. So, now that I'm finally finished with Persona 5, what's next? I've got a couple of short things (some demos, in-game special events, etc.) that will take two or three days but after that? Well, I really should get to Zelda Breath of the Wild soon but after Final Fantasy XV and Persona 5 occupying so much of my game time this year, I don't really want to jump into another super long game right away. Right now I'm thinking that I'll probably play Gravity Rush 2 next, since I loved the original so much. And by the time I'm done with it Danganronpa V3 should be out. After that? Zelda maybe. Though, then again, I've got Splatoon 2 and Sonic Generations waiting for me (among others) and Super Mario Odyssey coming up... Well, we'll see. Can't put Zelda off for too long though...

Later!

Josiah

9/4/2017 A long game

Well, I finally finished my second playthrough of Persona 5. Even on New Game+ and using the fast forward option at almost every opportunity, it still took me 60 hours to get through (a little less than half what my initial playthrough took). That is one long game. Especially considering that it's not open world, or full of optional post game stuff or the like to pad the play time. It's an extremely awesome game though. I get the Platinum trophy and thoroughly enjoyed all the time I spent with it.

In other Playstation news, apparently the PSN now has its own share of those "hey want to chat?" spammers like I used to encounter all the time on e-mail and AIM. Sheesh, I get enough spam on my computer and phone. Do I really need to get more on my game consoles as well? I kind of miss it when consoles didn't have hard drives or internet access...

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

9/1/2017 One week down...

TWC is working, so use the button on the left to vote and see the new bonus comic! In other comic news, it appears that Wednesday's strip didn't upload properly so I'm posting it again today so everyone can actually see it.

Well, the first week of school is done. Seems to be off to a fairly good start so far. Though, like I said before, I like to withhold judgement until I see how my students do on their first assignment. But at least I don't have any particular causes for concern so far.

And now for the holiday weekend! Yep, feels way too soon to say that...

Later!

Josiah

8/30/2017 Classes are go!

I hope some of you actually got that reference and didn't just assume it was a typo or something...

Anyway, classes are off to a good start...I guess? Honestly, while things are going fine so far, it's always a little hard to judge what a class is going to be like until a few weeks and one or two assignments in. So we'll see. For now though, it's going ok and I've even got a holiday to look forward to this Monday. Yep, the first holiday is one week into the semester. Personally, I always feel it's a little awkward when that happens. It just seems too early. Well, whatever. For now, I need to get back to work.

Later!

Josiah

8/28/2017 It begins

And by it, I mean fall semester. I've got a fairly full day today so I'm off. Here's hoping everything gets off to a good start.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

8/25/2017 A little off

Seems this week just couldn't keep going entirely smoothly. Wednesday was fun (see travelogue below), but I had a sore throat the entire day. Not a serious one, but annoying. Come Thursday, I knew I had a cold. Fortunately, it's been a pretty mild one so far, but it's still a pain, especially since I had to spend almost the entire day on the computer (three classes finished, one to go). Then, Top Web Comics wasn't letting me upload the new Blooper Reel, so here it is instead. Actually, I guess that's a bit good and bad since I haven't gotten my comic buffer rebuilt yet and it saved me the work of creating a new strip for today. Anyway... Hopefully I'll be mostly over this in the morning and ready to power through that last class. Who knows, maybe I'll even be able to get my comic buffer done over the weekend. But for now, travelogue.

August 23rd (Wednesday): Mazes and Mishkan
In addition to Otakon, one thing I really have to do every year while I'm living in this area is go the Amazing Maize Maze at Cherry Crest Farm. And with a moderately busy class schedule coming up, and the operating hours getting restricted starting in September, this seemed like the best time to go.
This year, the theme was Charlotte's Web. Since we came a bit earlier than last year, the corn was still nice and green and, as always, lots of fun to walk through. This was one of my slower maze completion times, but pushing Zack's stroller along the paths, while not especially difficult, did reduce our pace a bit. We also got turned around once after stopping for a while to feed him, which led to us accidentally backtracking into a section of the maze we'd already explored pretty thoroughly, completely missing the turn we needed to enter the final stretch. But it was fun and Zack did pretty well. I'm looking forward to taking him when he's a bit older and can appreciate both the maze and all the other games and activities they have set up around the farm.
While we didn't get as early a start as we could have, the maze didn't take all day, leaving us with time for a bit more sightseeing before dinner. This time, we ended up at the Mennonite Information Center. Not to learn about the Mennonites (we got a bit of a crash course on them last year at the Amish farm), but to visit their recreation of the Biblical tabernacle (or mishkan in Hebrew, hence the title of this post). They had both the outer courtyard and the inner chambers done up in a fairly faithful fashion and a nice tour guide spent 30 - 40 minutes going over the details of what the tabernacle was, how it was made, and how it was used. I already knew pretty much everything, but it was still an enjoyable and educational tour and I would recommend it to anyone in the area with a strong interest in the Bible.
Finally, it was off to dinner. Connie and I had really enjoyed the buffet at Hershey Farm last year, so we went again. While certainly not the healthiest choice, it's a fun way to sample lots of New England, and especially Pennsylvania Dutch, comfort foods.
It was a fun day and, when planning it out, I was reminded just how many interesting things there are to see and do in the Lancaster area, especially when Zack gets a bit older. Not sure if we'll manage to get out there more than once or twice a year, but I think I'll always be looking forward to it.

Josiah

8/23/2017 Got it!

This week is going pretty well. I've got two of my four classes ready to go and I managed to get a SNES Classic pre-ordered. That was mostly luck and good timing. I had signed up to get an e-mail alert for when pre-orders started on Best Buy, Target, and Amazon...and none of them bothered to actually send out those alerts. So, by the time I knew, they had all sold out. Not sure getting an alert would have helped, considering how fast they disapeared. Still, that bugs me. Fortunately, Gamestop did sent me a text message, though the link they included didn't actually let you make pre-orders. After a bit of confusion, I figured that, if they weren't doing it on their web site, maybe they meant they were taking pre-orders in store. And I was just about to go do some errands anyway, so I went to the nearest Gamestop. I ended up fourth or fifth in line and got a pre-order. Good thing I arrived when I did though. There were at least ten people behind me when I left and I don't think the store had that many available.

Anyway, things have been going pretty good and Connie and I are going to have some fun today before I get back to class prep so I'll see you later.

Josiah

8/21/2017 The last week

It's the last week of summer break. While Connie and I may do something fun this week, I need to spend most of my time prepping my classes. This time around, it's mostly updating some material and setting up the online portals, though I do have some things I'll need to create from scratch as well.

Other than that, not too much is going on right now. I'm just trying to get some various things done while taking care of Zack and the like. Speaking of which, he's starting to crawl now, which makes the big playpen I set up for him a while back very useful. Though we're really running out of space in this apartment. As much as it's a nice complex and location, between the size and the high rent, Connie and I are thinking that we'll probably need to buy a place sometime in the not too distant future if we're going to stay in this area (and, for now at least, we don't have any plans to leave). So that's something else for the to-do list...

Later!

Josiah

8/18/2017 Ovo

No problems with Top Web Comics this week, but I don't have today's strip done and I'm running pretty late after a week with a lot of late nights so I'd rather not pull another. Sigh... I really need to get my comic buffer rebuilt. Here's a quick travelogue entry though.

August 17th (Thursday): Cirque du Soliel's Ovo
Connie and I haven't really been going to movies or shows or anything lately since we can't take Zack with us. But we couldn't really resist Cirque du Soliel, especially when it was at the arena at my campus, just a few minutes away. This show was Ovo, which is my sixth Cirque show. So what's it's about? Bugs and an egg. Though, as usual, the story is rather dreamlike and more of a loose excuse to tie together the various acrobatic acts. Speaking of the acts, there was a good variety. Nothing I'd consider truly unique to this particular show, but all extremely well done, of course. I was especially impressed with the slack rope and trampoline acts. Though the contortionist was extremely skilled as well, and then there were the diabolos, and the trapeze, just to name a few more. And, of course, you can't have a Cirque show without elaborate costumes (all insect themed) and great live music. Combine them all together and, as I've come to expect from Cirque du Soliel, you spend much of the show feeling like you're in some fantastic dream.
All in all, Ovo is an awesome show. I'd probably rank it a little bit below the other Cirque shows I've seen, but the bar is so high to begin with that you shouldn't consider that much of a negative. As always, I highly recommend seeing Ovo (or any of the main Cirque shows) if you get the chance. It's fantastic and very much worth it.

Josiah

8/16/2017 Otakon in DC

Let's get right to the travelogue.

August 11th - 13th (Friday - Saturday): Otakon 2017
Otakon this year was a bit different for a few reasons. First off, Connie and Zack went with me. Connie, because she enjoys cons too. Zack, because we couldn't really leave him with a sitter the whole time or anything. Turned out, we weren't the only ones at Otakon with a baby, and it actually went fairly smoothly. Didn't get to do any late nights, and we had to make sure to keep him happy and take breaks to feed him, but we were still able to enjoy the con.
The other big change is that this year marked Otakon's move from it's long time home in Baltimore to Washington DC. From what I heard, it may or may not be a permanent thing, but it will be in DC for at least a few years. Anyway, the convention center is a little bit north of China Town. As far as locations go, it's a nice enough area. There isn't a good outdoor hangout area right outside (like Inner Harbor in Baltimore), but you do have a much better restaurant selection. And hey, if you want a longer walk you can get to the National Mall and all the big DC attractions. Though I will note that I've found driving and parking in DC to be huge pain (much more than Baltimore). This time around, I tried booking parking in advance online, which helped a lot.
One big advantage that DC has over Baltimore is the convention center. It's a lot bigger and more modern. While a few of the halls still got a bit congested, for the most part things were a lot more open and it was pretty easy to get around and find seats. Even the dealer's room wasn't too bad. Heck, they had room to spare in there. There were a few little issues here and there. The biggest I noticed was that the convention center required a bag check, which slowed down entry and re-entry, especially Friday morning. Not terrible, but a bit annoying.
Anyway, Connie and I enjoyed the con. We mostly just browsed around, took in the cosplay, artist and market areas, and the like. We did go to some panels and video screenings though, with Zack around, not as many I usually do. I didn't get to spend much time in the game area either (though they had an awesome selection of titles). Didn't get to any of the concerts this time around. Partly due to the timing, partly due to the bands this year, and partly do to the new structure. They partnered with an outside group this time. The plus side being there's more and bigger concerts. The down side is that all of them except the Sunday concert require buying a separate ticket. All in all though, Otakon works pretty well in DC and I still had fun, despite the limitations. As always, I'm looking forward to next time.

Josiah

8/14/2017 After the con

Not much to say today. Otakon was fun, though having Zack around was a bit limiting. Anyway, we were still able to do a lot and I should have a write-up ready for Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah

8/11/2017 Off to Otakon!

It's another one of those weeks where Top Web Comics isn't working right so here's this week's Blooper Reel strip. Hmm... Maybe I should just skip the Blooper Reel on weeks like this and post a regular comic instead. If you have a preference, feel free to let me know. That said, on weeks when I don't have a buffer built up, not having to make a comic for Friday at the last minute is kind of nice. Especially during a big battle, since those strips usually take a lot longer to make.

Anyway, I'm off to Otakon! Well, maybe "off" isn't the right way to phrase it since it's not like I'm going to be staying in a hotel or anything. It's only a 30 - 40 minute drive from here. Hopefully Zack will behave himself...

Have a great weekend!

Josiah





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