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Old News Archives:
(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

3/24/2017 Off to see the sakura

Now that the cold weather is finished (at least for the time being) the sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms) in DC are blooming so my family and I are headed over there today to see them and check out some of the monuments and other DC attractions. Fortunately, I just got my camera back. Unfortunately, it cost way too much considering that the only thing that needed to be fixed was the outer lens cover. Anyway, I'm looking forward seeing the sakura and taking in more of the sights around DC. Expect a travelogue entry, with photos, of course, next week.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/22/2017 Yawn...

Despite being in a pretty good mood, Zack just didn't want to go to sleep tonight. And, as a result, I'm running late and I have work in the morning so I'm going to keep this news post short. This short to be precise.

Later!

Josiah

3/20/2017 Happy anniversary!

It's my anniversary! Got to say, Connie and my first year together ended up a lot crazier and more stressful than I ever thought it would. A number of things could have turned out better than they did. Still, I'm glad we got through it together. Unfortunately, I don't have anything too elaborate planned for our first anniversary. I thought about it, but between Zack, work, and some other things I have to do tomorrow, it just isn't going to work out. We'll do something this week, but a big anniversary celebration just isn't in the cards this year.

On a side note, due to the weather, my family and I didn't really get to do any sightseeing last week. We did walk around downtown Arlington on Friday but, while it's nice enough (some shops, restaurants, and all that), there's nothing too special about it. It certainly doesn't qualify as a sightseeing destination, anyway. This week though, we are hoping to go into DC at least, though it'll have to fit around my work schedule.

Anyway, we'll see what happens with that. For now, I'm off.

Later!

Josiah

3/17/2017 Fussy baby

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Due to the weather, I haven't really done any sightseeing this week. Next week, maybe. Though I'll be back at work. Anyway, the rest of my family arrived and it's fun having everyone here, regardless of the weather. For most of them, it's their first time seeing Zack in-person as well, so that's cool. Unfortunately, I think he may have gotten a bit overstimulated and we're having trouble getting him to sleep so I'll see you later.

Josiah

3/15/2017 It's always something

My spring break still seems to be flirting with Murphy's Law but at least my parents made it here (a day late). Hopefully the rest of the week won't have any more unexpected problems. I also hope this winter storm won't hurt the cherry blossoms too much. Delaying the blooming isn't that bad, but it might kill a lot of them off, which would be unfortunate. Speaking of the storm, it really hasn't been that bad, at least where I am. They canceled a ton of flights but probably didn't need to. We got maybe two inches of snow at most. Might be some more today though. Really wish last week could have been the snow storm and cold temperatures and this week could have had the sunny 70 degree weather. Ah well, an indoor spring break can be fun too.

Later!

Josiah

3/13/2017 The Switch

Well, my spring break didn't get off to the best start, but hopefully the rest of the week will be more enjoyable. One thing that probably won't improve though is the weather. Last week was really nice. This week, unfortunately, is going to be kind of cold and there might even be some snow.

Anyway, I haven't really talked about the Switch yet. While I haven't spent a ton of time with it, I am impressed. It's an extremely well designed piece of hardware. They paid a lot of attention to usability, incorporating a lot of nice little features that, while minor on their own, really add up. But what really matters is how it plays games. And the answer is, very well. Switching between docked TV mode and portable mode is quick and pretty much seamless. Impressively so. The Joycon controllers are also extremely well designed and it's very easy to switch them from being locked to the console, to the controller grip, and to their wrist straps. They're surprisingly comfortable and easy to use despite their small size. And the screen, when you're in portable mode, looks really good. I think the interface could use some work, but it's simple and easy to use, at least for now (it might become a bit unwieldy if you have a large number of games). To quickly summarize, the Switch is a very impressive piece of hardware. It's not without faults (the small amount of internal memory, for example), and it's too early to say whether or not the hybrid design will really catch on, but it's got some good games out already with a lot more on the way, so it's worth checking out, especially if you're a Nintendo fan.

Later!

Josiah

3/10/2017 Spring break!

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Actually, I'll be spending most of today in meetings at work. But after that it's spring break for the coming week. My parents will be arriving on Monday and my brother and his wife will be getting here later in the week, so it should be a fun time. There will likely be some sightseeing involved as well, so expect some travelogue entries sooner or later.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/8/2017 Next stage

Well, I got the last Japan hotel booked, so now I can move on the more fun part of trip planning, deciding what all we're going to see and do (planning the logistics, not quite so much). As I said before, this trip will mostly be me playing tour guide for places I've already been, but it'll still be a lot of fun. Haven't really touched the China portion of the trip yet, but I'll get to that eventually.

As for the Switch? I've played around with it a little. Not as much as I'd like, of course. But I've been busy and, as I said before, I can't start Zelda right away regardless. Anyway, I'll try and write a bit about the console itself on Friday.

Later!

Josiah

3/6/2017 Next week...

Just one week to go until spring break! It'll be great to have a little time off and my family will be visiting for a lot of it as well, so we'll probably get out and do some sightseeing. Today though, I need to get going. I had a bunch of stuff to get done yesterday and, thanks to Zack being really fussy in the evening (he was, fortunately, ok the rest of the day) I didn't quite get to it all so I need to get some rest and than try and catch up today.

Later!

Josiah

3/3/2017 Switch!

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The Nintendo Switch launches today! New consoles are always exciting and the Switch is a really neat piece of hardware. I'm not entirely sure if the whole hybrid home console / portable console element will catch on. But, either way, I like the design and they've already announced more than enough cool games to ensure that I'd have to buy one sooner or later. Sooner, actually. I just happened to be online when Switch pre-orders went live, saw the announcement, and grabbed one on Best Buy. Though, despite ordering online, I have to actually go and pick it up at the store today. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to get either the Master Edition or Special Edition of Zelda Breath of the Wild. That was disappointing, but it happens sometimes. Especially when they don't produce enough units... Anyway, I'm looking forward to messing around with the Switch and Zelda is getting rave reviews, plus I haven't played a Zelda game in ages. Problem is, I probably won't be getting to Zelda for a little while. Work, my own projects, and, of course, Zack have cut down on my video game time over the past few months. At this point, it'll take me another week or two to finish Final Fantasy XV (though, to be fair, I have been doing almost all the optional quests and the like) and another couple of days to get through the new content in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 before I start a new game. Though I'm not sure if said game will be Zelda or not. I'm currently debating between it, Gravity Rush 2 (which I've been looking forward to for ages), and the last few add-ons for Lego Dimensions. And there's no way I'll be able to get through all three of those (maybe the shorter two, if I'm lucky) before Persona 5 (another one of my most anticipated games) hits in early April. Might have some time to catch up after the big summer trip. I mean, I'll still have Zack and my own projects to focus on, but I'll certainly have more free time than I do right now, or likely will in the fall.

Anyway, expect some impressions of the Switch itself, at least, sometime next week.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/1/2017 Not again...

I was heading out to work yesterday only to discover that my car battery was dead. Seems that a light had gotten left on the day before and drained it. This is actually the second time that happened in the past couple of months. The first was after Connie and I brought Zack home from the hospital after his birth. It was late and we obviously weren't used to getting him in and out of the car, so I had a light on. Considering everything that was going on then, I can forgive myself for forgetting to turn off the light. And, fortunately, I didn't have anywhere I really had to get to when I discovered the problem. Today, on the other hand, I had to get an Uber in order to make it to my class on time. And then I ended up walking back (the weather was nice and I didn't feel like paying for another ride). The thing is though, I have no idea why that light would have been on in the first place. I was the only one in the car on Monday and I only drove it during the day so I can't think of any reason why I would have turned on a light. Did I hit it by accident or something? Anyway, I really need to more careful. I have AAA, which was a big help both times getting the car started again, but it wastes a lot of time.

Later!

Josiah

2/27/2017 Hotel searching...

Planning for the big summer trip is going in stages. First was figuring out general dates and getting plane tickets. I got that done last week. Next up is booking hotels (which includes finalizing which areas we'll be visiting on which dates). I've got a web site I like for hotels in Japan, so it normally wouldn't be too complicated, but my dad is rather picky, so that complicates things. After the hotels are booked, I'll be talking with everyone about different things we can see and do. Then, taking their preferences into account, I can sketch out a plan for each day. Then, finally, I can fill in the details about train schedules and so on.

Anyway, I've still got a couple more locations to figure out hotels for, so I'm off.

Later!

Josiah

2/24/2017 Weekend!

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It's the weekend at the weather is awesome...at least today and probably tomorrow. Sunday the temperature is going to be dropping to something a bit more appropriate for February (though still not super cold). Not going to be able to take too much advantage of it though, since I need to take Connie and Zack to a checkup today and there's services on Saturday. At very least, I should be able to get in a good walk or two. Been trying to do that a lot this week actually, since the weather's been good and Zack could use some sun and fresh air (so could I, for that matter). Though, at the same time, I have a variety of things to work on, many of which require me to be indoors infront of my computer. So, in the end, I'm not getting to take advantage of the good weather as much as I'd like, and I'm not getting as much work done as I'd like either. Yay for compromise?

Josiah

2/22/2017 Movies

Zack has gotten to the point where, for the past few weeks, Connie and I have felt comfortable enough taking him out on walks, to restaurants, shopping malls, and other locations. The only problem is that we can't really take him to something like a movie or a concert. For that, we'd need a baby sitter. We have done some research into that, but haven't actually hired one yet. For one thing, the only time we've ever left him with someone else was for a couple hours when my mom visited shortly after his birth and leaving him with someone we don't know would make me a little nervous. Plus, getting a sitter for a few hours is kind of expensive, especially when you combine it with the cost of movie tickets and all that. It's a shame, though I suppose Connie and I can just wait a few months and either stream the movies we want to see or get the Blu-rays (which would probably be cheaper than theater tickets anyway).

Later!

Josiah

2/20/2017 Sunny

The weather here continues to be much better than I expected for an east coast winter. It goes back and forth a bit but this entire week is at least partially sunny with temperatures going up to the low 70's on some days. Even the "coldest" day this week has a predicted high of 57. One thing I'm trying to keep an eye on is when the cherry blossoms will bloom in Washington DC (they've got a large collection of Japanese sakura trees there). Due to my work schedule, I haven't been able to visit Japan during the cherry blossom season for years. Seeing them in DC won't be quite the same as, say, Kyoto, but it should still be really pretty. And Connie hasn't seen them at all, so we're definitely planning to head into DC once they're in bloom. As for when that will happen? Current estimates are mid-to late March, but we'll just have to wait and see...

Josiah

2/17/2017 Still at it

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Well, although I'm made some progress on both fronts, I've yet to finish either the grading or my current trip prep task (getting plane tickets). Lately it seems like I have to divide my time between way too many different tasks, which really slows down progress on many of them. But I won't have any grading next week (at least once I've finished the rest of the current (unusually large) batch) and I should have a good bit of time over the weekend to finish researching flights (flying to Asia from the east coast is a whole lot less convenient than from Hawaii). Other than that, and taking care of Zack, the only other things on my mind right now are that Thunderbolt Fantasy is pretty cool (you can watch it on Crunchy Roll, if you're curious) and some social / political things (which I make a point of not talking about on Pebble Version). So I think that's about all I have to say for today.

See you Monday!

Josiah

2/15/2017 Work on the computer...

In addition to the aforementioned grading, I'm also trying to work on some trip planning and early prep as well. What trip? I may not have mentioned it here on PV yet, but since there isn't a job change or big move looming, Connie and I are planning a summer trip. Zack is going to make things a little more complicated but, honestly, it'll probably be easier to travel now than, say, in a year or two when we have to worry about him walking off on his own. Anyway, the plan is to spend around three weeks in Japan and two in China. Since it will be Connie's first time in Japan, and my parents will be joining us for part of that leg, it'll mostly be me playing tour guide to areas I've already been. Though it'll still be fun and I'll still be doing a travelogue. In China, we'll be visiting Connie's parents but, while she and Zack will stay with them the whole time, I'll probably be striking out on my own for a week or week and a half to do some touring. Anyway, I'll post more about the trip once the details are worked out.

Later!

Josiah

2/13/2017 Grading time

It's my first "grading week" of the semester. People always ask me how my students are each semester. And I tell them that I can't really say for sure until after I've graded their first assignments. Well, time to see what kind of start this semester's students are off to.

Anyway, I've got a bit of a headache right now, so I'm heading off.

Later!

Josiah

2/10/2017 Meeting a legend

When I was working in Hawaii, I got to meet Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created many of the games which were my biggest influences in terms of my own writing and game design styles. Yesterday I got the chance to meet someone who set the foundation for Sakaguchi, Miyamoto, and all my other favorite game designers. I'm referring to Nolan Bushnell, the cofounder of Atari (along with a lot of other companies, including Chuckie Cheese) and the "father" of the game industry. While I wasn't directly influenced by Bushnell's games, I have him to thank for the creation of the industry. Fully explaining Bushnell's impact isn't something I have time for today (I do that in my game history class, which Bushnell visited). But without him the game industry likely wouldn't have come into being until much later on and would no doubt be a very different place. Anyway, Bushnell is a very interesting guy and always seems to have a hand in one or more promising new ventures. I really enjoyed listening to him speak and, even better, I got to spend some time chatting with him later in the day. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, be sure to do so.

Now if I could just meet Miyamoto and and Kojima too...

Later!

Josiah

2/8/2017 Getting over it

I'm still trying to shake that cold. Fortunately, it's fairly mild. Still annoying though. So I want to try and get some extra sleep.

Later!

Josiah

2/6/2017 Super Bowl

I don't really care much about pro football. Actually, the only reason I even understand the rules of the game is from watching Eye Shield 21 (a football anime). But I do watch the Super Bowl. Mostly for the commercials and an excuse to eat a bunch of chips and stuff. Gotta say, this was an interesting one, especially considering how one-sided it seemed for the first half.

Anyway, I think I've got a rather mild cold and I'm trying to avoid it turning into something more serious so I'm gonna head off.

Later!

Josiah

2/3/2017 Chinese New Year

Vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic! Now for the travelogue...

January 29th (Sunday): Chinese New Year
The Fair Oaks Mall is pretty close to where Connie and I live so when we saw that they would be having a big Chinese New Year celebration over the weekend, we had to check it out. So, how big was it? Well, they had a lot of decorations up throughout the mall and several hours of performances including lion dancing, dragon dancing, and a few not Chinese ones, such as belly dancing and Polynesian dancing. We didn't watch everything, but the performances we saw were all very well done. The festival was fairly popular, with a large crowd in attendance. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything going on other than the performances. I was kind of hoping for some food booths or something. Anyway, I'm a bit spoiled after living on Oahu, where they really go all out for Chinese New Year. The event at the Fair Oaks Mall is fun, and worth checking out if you're in the area. But it's not really worth a long a trip just to see it.

Later!

Josiah

2/1/2017 Late, late, late...

Well, this update actually is on time but barely and it's getting pretty late. Plus, I've got to teach class today so I've got to cut this short and get some sleep. I'll try to have that travelogue entry ready for Friday.

Josiah

1/30/2017 Weather

I'll talk about that Chinese New Year celebration later in the week, once I've sorted through my photos. For now, here's a RVC.

Random Virginia Comment: Winter Weather
Winter in Virginia isn't really what I expected. Having lived in West Virginia as a kid, and having a lot of family on the east coast as well, I was expecting a fairly cold, wet, and snowy winter. Not as much snow as in Colorado, sure, but I was expecting a small snow blanket through much of the winter. While the winter isn't over yet, it really isn't living up to my expectations (for better or worse). First off, it's only snowed twice so far. The first time was just a dusting and the second, while it was a couple inches, only lasted a day or two. Add in another day or two with icy roads (though only in the morning), and that's it. There's hasn't been too much rain either. The weather has mostly bounced back and forth between sunny and cloudy from day to day, probably averaging somewhere in the middle (partially cloudy). And the temperature? There's only been a handful of really cold days, and even they owed a good bit of their chill to the wind (which isn't especially common either). So far, it's been averaging in the 40's. It occasionally dips lower, but for every really cold day there's been a day in the 50's. It even got over 60 a couple of times. Will it get colder? Maybe, there's still some time. And this is only my first winter here, so I can't say if it's normally like this. But it's honestly not that bad and doesn't even feel like a "real" winter at times.

Later!

Josiah

1/27/2017 Another new year

TWC is working again so you can use the button on the left to vote and see the new bonus comic and the main comic is here where it belongs.

In other news, Chinese New Year is coming up and there's enough of a Chinese population around here that there's some stuff going on. Not sure if it'll match up to the festivities back in Honolulu, but Connie and I will be checking it out so expect a travelogue entry sometime next week.

Later!

Josiah

1/25/2017 Upgrading

My Playstation 4 was just upgraded to hard drive number 3. I knew the original 500 GB drive would never be enough so I swapped that for a 1 TB the moment I bought it (I ended up putting the 500 GB drive in my PS3, which was running low on space). Turns out 1 TB wasn't big enough either (too many games with ridiculously large installations). Hopefully the new 2 TB drive will have all the space I need. At least they're easy to replace and the speed for backups and restorations is a whole lot faster on the PS4 than the PS3. Unless it's just my new external hard drive that's faster...

Later!

Josiah

1/23/2017 Aurora's Nightmare

If you haven't seen it, I made a big post on the development blog for Aurora's Nightmare (the visual novel I'm writing and designing) yesterday, talking about its current status. You can read the details there but, to summarize, a lot of progress has been made lately. The demo really shouldn't be too far off and I'm fairly optimistic that the full game will be out later in the year as well.

Later!

Josiah

1/19/2017 Again?

So, it's another Friday and another Blooper Reel comic up on the main site. Believe me, I don't intend this to become a regular thing. But I'm still having issues with putting the new Blooper Reel comics on TWC and I'm still running a bit behind on regular PV strips, since these big battle strips take a lot longer to make. Anyway, hopefully this won't happen again any time soon. For now though, enjoy the Blooper Reel and have a great weekend!

Josiah

1/18/2016 Zack!

Here we go, a photo of Zack at one month old. Well, technically, this photo was taken the day before he turned one month old, but close enough. I really should take more photos of him when he's awake. Looking for a good one for today, I realized that quite a lot of the photos of him are when he's asleep. Probably cause it's much easier to take photos when he's quiet and not moving...

Well, anyway, see you Friday!

Josiah

1/16/2017 One month

Hard to believe that Zack is already one month old. He's gaining weight and has filled out quite a bit. I should post another picture soon... Anyway, we're all doing well and I've got one week to go before school starts up again. I might write more about life with a baby in the future but, for now, I should get some sleep while I have the chance.

Later!

Josiah

1/13/2017 Bloopers

Top Web comics is having that rare glitch that prevents me from updating the bonus comic. And since the next regular PV strip isn't finished yet (I've been focused on finishing my spring class prep, which I actually completed just a few minutes ago), I decided to go ahead and post the Blooper Reel comic here instead. Anyway, regular PV strips will resume on Monday and, now that things are settling down with Zack, and my class prep work is finished, I shouldn't fall behind on PV strips again in the near future.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/11/2017 Plans change again

Just when I thought 2016 couldn't throw anymore wrenches in my plans... Though we only found out the other day, it turns out that, thanks to something that happened late last year, Connie's mom isn't going to be able to come as planned. At the moment, I'm trying to get her ticket changed to later this year. Fortunately, we're doing ok with Zack, so I think we'll be fine on our own for the foreseeable future. Still, such a big last minute change is pretty annoying regardless.

Later!

Josiah

1/9/2017 Time passing...

Since I'm in the middle of a stay at home vacation, and one where life is mostly revolving around taking care of an infant, running errands, and assorted computer work, the days have really been blending together a lot lately. My mom visited for a week and a half, which was a big help. And Connie's mom will be coming later this week for a much longer stay. I'm sure having her around will be helpful, but it'll also be a bit awkward, since she doesn't speak English and I don't speak Chinese. Previous visits weren't too bad, but they were for a matter of days, not weeks. Anyway, as previously mentioned, I'm working primarily on daily stuff and prepping my spring classes (which I hope to finish in another two or three days). Though after that I plan to switch focus and spend a lot of time over the coming months on my own projects, such as Aurora's Nightmare.

And yeah... I think life will slowly be returning to normal over the next few months. Well, at least something more similar to what used to be normal. It'll help when Zack can go out and about and doesn't need to feed quite so often. But for now, things are calmer than they were and I'm getting stuff done so I can't complain too much.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

1/6/2017 Sun and Moon

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You might have noticed that I haven't really talked about Pokémon Sun and Moon yet. Well, I did pre-order a copy of Sun and it's been sitting on my end table since it arrived, but I haven't actually played it yet (though I did play through the demo pre-launch). Why? Well, first and foremost I just haven't had a lot of time for games between finals and then Zack's early arrival. And, in the game time I have had, it's had tough competition. Final Fantasy has long been my favorite series, so I've naturally been trying to play through FFXV. I did take a short break from FFXV a little before Zack was born, but that was to play through a game I've been waiting for nearly as long, The Last Guardian. So when will I play Pokémon? Soonish, I think. I'm starting to get gaming back into my regular schedule (though time is still a bit limited), but my main priority is still FFXV and after that Pokémon will have some competition from Lego Dimensions and Gravity Rush 2. But I am looking forward to it and will be diving into it sometime in the not too distant future.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/4/2017 Class prep

I have about three weeks left in my winter vacation (not counting any days I might have to do in before the start of the semester for meetings or the like), but that doesn't mean I can spend all my time on my own projects. Well, all my time after chores, errands, taking care of Zack, etc. What I'm getting at is that I'm working on prepping my spring classes. That's a process that gets quicker and easier the longer you're at a particular university. Prepping a class you've already taught (especially if it doesn't need any serious updating), is relatively quick and easy. If you need to make changes, the time can increase significantly. And if you're teaching a class for the first time... Well, that can easily mean days (or weeks) of work. For this spring, I have one old class with minor modifications (which took me a total of several hours), one old class with a moderate number of updates and modifications (a solid day of work), and one brand new one (and not entirely in my area of expertise either) (which I expect to take quite a while). So yeah. Not entirely relaxing, but I can do most of the work while watching TV, so that's not bad.

Anyway, that's what I'm working on this week (and probably into part of next week). Once it's done though, I can focus pretty heavily on my own projects for the rest of the vacation, and probably the first couple weeks of the semester as well.

Well, back to work.

Josiah

1/2/2017 Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2017! I'm actually fairly optimistic about this year. There are a few things coming up that I'm decidedly not thrilled about, but there are a lot of things that I'm looking forward to as well. And hey, it can't be nearly as crazy as 2016 (even just on a personal level). Though one thing I'm probably not going to be able to do this year though is catch up on my game backlog. With Zack now and possibly yet another MFA program come fall, I think I can safely say that I'm just going to fall further and further behind when it comes to game playing. On the other hand, I think I have a pretty good shot at getting Aurora's Nightmare finished and released this year, which would be awesome.

Anyway, here's to 2017 and hoping for the best!

Josiah

12/30/2016 Moving along...

TWC is working again, so use the TWC button on the left to vote and see the new blooper reel comic!

While I didn't plan it this way, it's kind of cool to close out the year on the 2000th strip. Come Monday, it will be 2017. This past year has been crazy in so many ways. Both on a macro level and a personal one as well. Here's hoping there aren't any more surprises in store for these last couple of days.

And, with the new year, my birthday is also coming up. Zack's early arrival threw a wrench in a lot of my potential birthday plans, but that's ok. I can always save some of those things for another time.

Anyway, see you next year!

Josiah

12/28/2016 Christmas commentary

I meant to write this a week or two ago, you know, before Christmas. But with everything that happened I never got around to it. But I didn't feel like just forgetting about it either, so here it is.

Random Virginia Comment: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...Or is it?
Technically I'm writing this after Christmas due to everything that happened recently, but at least this lets me look back on things as a whole. As a disclaimer, keep in mind that I'm Jewish and, as such, don't actually celebrate Christmas myself. Though I also have nothing against it and think it's a perfectly fine holiday.
Anyway, maybe it was the stores and shopping centers I went to, but I just didn't see much in the way of Christmas spirit, or even decorations, here in Fairfax. Between homes and shops, I've seen relatively few decorations, beyond the obligatory photos with Santa booths at the malls, and heard hardly any Christmas carols playing in stores or on the radio (that might be somewhat due to my choice of stations, but it still seems odd). Heck, I haven't even seen any Salvation Army bell ringing Santas this year. Maybe this level of Christmas is common in some parts of the country, but it's certainly far less than I'd expect to see in the last few states where I've lived.
So why the lack of Christmas? Well, there are large Korean and Chinese populations around here...though most of them are Christian so they're probably not the reason. There are also a lot of Indians and Muslims, however, who probably don't celebrate Christmas. Or maybe it's because, being near D.C., this is a relatively secular and politically correct area, so they don't want to support any one holiday.
Whatever the reason, even as someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas (I've got Chanukah), the lack of Christmas around here strikes me as a bit sad.

Later!

Josiah

12/26/2016 Zack

Merry day after Christmas! Or, if you're like me, happy second day of Chanukah!

Now that things have calmed down a bit, here's the full story of what happened a week and a half ago. Basically, Connie was pregnant but, with her due date in mid-January, we weren't expecting the baby until sometime next month. So, back on the 15th, we were getting ready to go to my department's holiday party when she became worried that her water may have broken. Despite what you see on TV, that's actually pretty rare, so I was skeptical. We called the birth center though, and eventually ended up going over there for a check. Turns out, her water did break. Unfortunately, since it was a month early, we wouldn't be able to have the birth at the center as planned, and would have to go to a hospital instead (it's a legal thing). There was talk about how we'd likely be waiting a day or two for labor to start, or they might have to induce it, and the issues that can cause. Since it seemed like we had time, we decided to go back home, pack some stuff, and eat before meeting the mid-wife at the hospital.
However, by the time we got back to our apartment, Connie didn't feel up to getting out of the car, so we skipped the food, I ran up and grabbed everything, and we headed straight to the hospital. By the time we got close, she was definitely feeling something strong. I thought back to what I'd read in some birth books about how only the last half hour or so of labor is really intense, but figured it was way too early for that. Still, by the time we arrived she insisted on a wheelchair and could barely stay in it. With the mid-wife's help, they rushed her to a room while I handled the check-in. Just as I finished, the orderly had me literally run upstairs, saying that the baby was coming. And she was right. I made it in time, but little Zack was born less than 20 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. Guess we came really close to another TV staple, the car birth...
Fortunately, Zack didn't look premature and his weight was only just below the low end of average for a full-term baby. Still, the hospital wanted us to stay 48 hours for various tests. The hospital and staff were pretty nice, but it was exhausting. Not so much due to Zack, since newborns tend to sleep most of the time for their first couple days, but because someone was always coming in to run a test or have me fill out more paperwork.
Actually, he wasn't Zack quite yet. We hadn't finished narrowing down our list of potential names before he was born, so it took us a day or so to get that figured out. But anyway, while Connie seemed fairly comfortable in the hospital, the room clearly wasn't designed for someone else to spend the night, so I ended up with a couple of mostly sleepless nights on an uncomfortable couch. Fortunately, Zack passed all his tests (except the car seat one, so we had to get him a car bed) and we got home Saturday night.
Since then, things have been busy. Especially the first few days since I had a ton of final projects to grade on a tight deadline. At this age, babies mostly sleep and eat but, since Zack is a little small, we need to feed him a bit more often than a regular baby (though things will hopefully get a little more relaxed once we get his weight up). It's all still a bit hard to believe, but Connie, Zack, and I are all doing well.

And with that, things are slowly settling down. While having Zack come early really changed some plans, things haven't been too bad since I got the grading done. And, over time, I think they'll get a bit easier as Zack starts sleeping longer at night, learns to sit up on his own, and the like. And, if you were wondering, I don't plan to stop doing day trips or longer vacations, though there will be a bit of a break until Zack is big enough to go around in a carrier and/or stroller.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

12/23/2016 Slowly adjusting...

I was going to get a regular PV strip done for today but TWC is having some issues and is currently preventing me from updating the voter bonus Blooper Reel comic, so I decided to just post it here today and resume regular PV strips on Monday.

So, life with a newborn... Connie and I are adjusting, slowly. I mean, it's going pretty well, but it certainly eats up a lot of time and makes sleep tricky. The first few months are supposed to be the worst, so here's hoping we get though them ok.

Anyway, I'll try and rebuild my strip buffer over the weekend to get regular comics back on track come Monday. I'll likely write a bit more about Zack then too.

Later!

Josiah

12/19/2016 Introducing...

Sorry about the sudden missed update on Friday, and today for that matter. Friday was unavoidable. I really hoped to be back in the swing of things today, but not quite. At this point, I'm hoping to resume PV updates on Wednesday, though I can't guarentee it won't get pushed back to Friday. Absolute worst case, next Monday, but I really doubt that it'll take that long.

Anyway, here's a quick explanation (I'll get into more details once I'm more caught up on things). I realize that I kept forgetting to mention it here on PV (though you might have figured it out from some of my pictures), but Connie is pregnant. Or rather, was pregnant. Thursday afternoon she unexpectedly went in to labor a month before her due date (that said, we figured any time in Janauary was fair game, but this isn't January). It was all pretty crazy but the baby, despite being a little premature, was born safe and healthy, and Connie did just fine herself. We got home Saturday night and it's been pretty crazy ever since. Doesn't help that I barely got any sleep for two days at the hospital. Plus I have final projects that need to be graded now. So yeah... Tired and busy, but still pretty happy.

Introducing Zack Rei Lebowitz! I'll leave with that for now. As I said before, PV updates will resume soon, once I've gotten some sleep and caught up on my work related duties.

Later!

Josiah

12/14/2016 Another founding father UPDATE

UPDATE: There will be no update on Friday due to some rather unexpected circumstances. I'll say more on Monday.

Time to get the travelogue caught up!

November 27th (Sunday): Monticello
With one last day for touring, my brother decided on Monticello. Like Mt. Vernon was George Washington's estate, Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's. It's just outside of Charlottesville (which, from a passing look, seems to be a decent sized city), about two hours away from my apartment.
In case you're not from the US, or just didn't pay much attention in history class, Jefferson was one of the US's founding fathers. He was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the US. Though that's just scratching the surface of his accomplishments and contributions.
The entrance to Monticello starts at a visitor center. We got lucky and, in honor of the holidays, admission just happened to be free that day. Other than the ticket booth, the center has a movie room and a small museum, both of which are focused not so much on Jefferson himself, but on Monticello (the house and grounds). Unfortunately, that theme carried throughout pretty much the entirety of the exhibits. While there are quite a lot of interesting elements to Monticello, I think they really missed an opportunity to talk about the very person who made the estate famous.
Anyway, there's a shuttle bus from the visitor center to Monticello itself, or you can do what we did and take a pleasant 15 minute walk up the hill on your own. The path passes by Jefferson's grave before reaching the gardens. Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson was quite the farmer. He experimented with a large number of different plants in order to discover the best crops to grow in the "new world". The gardens are very scenic, though this really wasn't the best time of year to view them. There were a few out buildings as well, including a blacksmith and slave quarters, though it seems that a lot of them didn't survive to the present (not sure why).
The manor itself is quite picturesque and was actually designed by Jefferson himself, who liked to dabble in architecture. If it looks familiar, take a look in your pocket. It's actually the same building that can be found on the back of every nickel. Like at Mt. Vernon, tours of the building itself are guided and ticketed (you enter at the time on your ticket). Though it wasn't nearly as crowded as Mt. Vernon was. Pictures weren't allowed inside, but it was quite a nice building and featured a lot of advanced designs and clever gimmicks that aren't normally seen in US structures from that time period.
While the guided tour covers the upper levels, you can also walk through the lower level on your own. For convenience, many chambers that would normally be put in separate buildings, such as laundry room, storerooms, and cold storage, were built into the basement level. That included the beer and wine cellars (apparently, Jefferson was also the country's foremost wine expert back in the day). It was a very cool and well designed building though, once again, all the information focused primarily on the structure itself, without talking a whole lot about Jefferson.
After we'd finished exploring the manor, we headed off to meet a friend for dinner and call it a day. In the end, Monticello is a neat building on very picturesque grounds. I enjoyed visiting it. However, it's a bit far away from most of the other DC and northern Virginia attractions. So, if you only have time to visit one founding father's estate, Mt. Vernon is really the better choice. Not only is there a lot more to see and do, but you can also learn a lot of fascinating history about, not just the estate, but George Washington himself. Whereas Monticello really doesn't teach you much about Jefferson. So, while Monticello isn't a bad place to visit by any means, I certainly wouldn't put it near the top of your sightseeing list.

Josiah

12/12/2016 Taking to the sky

I'd really like to get caught up on travelogue entries soon, so back to that...

November 26th (Saturday): The Air and Space Museum
Saturday, after services, Connie, my brother, sister-in-law, and I headed to D.C. figuring we'd go to one of the free Smithsonian museums and then get dinner after sunset. My brother really wanted to do the Air and Space Museum so that's where we headed, though we did get some good views of the Capital Building on the way.
The Air and Space Museum is dedicated to, as its name suggests, air and space travel. It's divided into a number of different exhibits, most of which are focused on different periods in the history of flight from early experiments, to the "golden age", to the World Wars, to commercial aviation. There's a whole section dedicated to the Wright Brothers as well. And, on the space side of things, you've got rockets, rovers, and the like. If you enjoy looking at old aircraft and/or rockets, you'll love the Air and Space Museum. If you're not all that interested in aviation, it's a bit of a harder sell. Personally, I don't mind looking at the planes for a little while, but I'd get bored before too long if that's all there was. I also don't care too much about the mechanical side of things. That said, I did think a lot of the signs and displays were interesting, especially the parts that focused more on the history of aviation and its notable figures, rather than the technical details. Unfortunately, we went through the museum a little quickly, so I didn't have time to read as much as I would have liked. While it's not on the top of my list (just due to personal preference, it's a very nice museum), I wouldn't mind going back sometime for a more leisurely exploration.
Back outside, we walked around a little and eventually found our way to D.C.'s holiday market, a outdoor collection of tents and booths selling handcrafts and artwork mostly. It was fun to walk through, though there unfortunately wasn't all that much food so we decided to leave the city and stop by an Afghani restaurant. Connie and I had actually been there several days earlier with my aunt and uncle and some other relatives. While I'm usually not really big on middle eastern food (I like it well enough, but it's not a favorite), this place has a lot of really unique and interesting dishes that I haven't seen at normal middle eastern restaurants, and it's pretty good. Maybe I'll write a review sometime...

Random D.C. Comment: Touring on a Budget
One nice thing about touring in D.C. is that quite a lot of the major attractions are free. Specifically, most or all of the government run attractions. That includes the monuments, government buildings (the Library of Congress, Capital Buildings, etc.), and all the Smithsonian museums (including the zoo). It's not just admission, tours tend to be free as well. Though some may charge you for other things like parking, maps, and special shows.
On a side note, thanks to increased security, be prepared to empty your pockets and go through metal detectors at the entrance of a lot of places. On the bright side, they aren't too picky about what you bring in. Well, I assume weapons would be a problem but they don't seem to mind electronics, food, or drinks.

Later!

Josiah

12/9/2016 Commenting...

I've still got a couple of travelogue entries to write but I decided to take a break from those today to finish that commentary I owe. On that note, the commentary for strips 317 - 320 is finished! What isn't finished is the next bonus comic. I thought it was done but I seem to have completely forgotten about it. Sorry about that. There will definitely be a new one next week.

Have a great weekend!

Josiah

12/7/2016 Mt. Vernon

I've got several more travelogue entries to go, so let's get right back to that.

November 25th (Friday): Mt. Vernon
My aunt, uncle, and cousin left in the morning, but my brother and sister-in-law stayed through the weekend. Since they were the visitors, Connie and I let them choose the sightseeing locations. They decided to start at Mt. Vernon, which is about 40 minutes away from where Connie and I live in Fairfax.
If you're not familiar with the name, Mt. Vernon is George Washington's home and estate. Yes, George Washington the general, founding father, and first president of the United States of America. His family home is still there, as are the grounds and out buildings. Of course, now there's also a museum, gift shop and restaurant. Anyway, when you buy your admission ticket, you get an assigned time to tour the mansion, but you're free to explore everything else on your own.
We started out with a intro video that focused on some of the highlights of Washington's career, especially the crossing of the Delaware, which gave the Union army a much needed victory in the Revolutionary War. Washington really was a fascinating guy, born in a farming family (and not a particularly rich or well known one) and rising to lead an army and then a country. But, despite all that, he never really sought power. He voluntarily gave up his military power after the Revolutionary War, he turned down a third term as president, and he even turned down the opportunity to rule the US as a king.
Anyway, we had a while until our mansion tour so, after the video, we began exploring the grounds. Naturally, being a farming estate, they included fields of fruit and vegetables, along with a number of decorative gardens as well. Admittedly, this probably wasn't the best time of the year to see them, but there were still a lot of things growing. There were also numerous buildings such as a greenhouse, slave quarters, servant's quarters, a smithy, smoke house, stables, and more. On a side note, while he did keep slaves, Washington wasn't especially fond of slavery but didn't see a way to rid the country of it at the time. He did, however, free all his slaves in his will. Along the way, there were plenty of interesting signs explaining things about Washington, the estate, and life at that time. Not to mention some great views of the Potomac River.
The mansion tours were running a bit behind schedule (not sure if that's a normal thing or if they were just getting a lot more visitors due to the holiday weekend), but we eventually got in. Photos weren't allowed inside, but it was a pretty fancy building. The Washingtons used to entertain a lot of guests and had a suitably elaborate and interesting mansion.
After the tour, we continued exploring the grounds. We passed some farm animals and some not really "farm" animals. If you're curious, Washington actually did bring a camel on Mt. Vernon to entertain his guests. After some walking, we ended up at a much more somber location, the tomb where George Washington and his wife Martha were laid to rest.
A bit further on by the riverbank was another farm area. Turns out that Washington didn't leave the farming to his staff, he was quite avid about it. He even developed an impressive crop rotation program and invented a revolutionary barn designed to improve wheat threshing.
A short walk through the forest brought us back to the main grounds and from there we continued on to the museum. It had a special exhibit hall (currently featuring an exhibit about slavery at Mt. Vernon) and a main hall which was devoted to a very fascinating and well put-together walkthrough of Washington's life, from birth to death. They even had his dentures which, contrary to popular belief, were not made of wood. It was really interesting but we were already a couple hours past our normal lunch time and pretty hungry so we moved through it a lot more quickly than I normally would have liked.
In the end though, we still spent several hours at Mt. Vernon and we all really enjoyed our visit. It's a really pretty area with lots to see and do and you learn a whole lot as well. I highly recommend it if you come to the DC area (even though it's a bit outside the city). There's even special events at different times of the year (Christmas festivities, tours of Washington's distillery, etc.), so I'd be up for going back sometime for another visit.

Josiah

12/5/2016 Seasons

I was planning to do another travelogue entry, or at least the last batch of commentary, today but it's getting late and I'm kind of burned out so here's a RVC I've been meaning to write instead.

Random Virginia Comment: Four Seasons
Ok, I suppose there isn't anything "amazing" about the fact that Virginia has four clearly defined seasons. So does most of the world. However, it's been interesting for me to experience them. While I did grow up in states with the full range of seasons, it's been a while since I've experienced them. Keep in mind that I spent the two years in Hawaii and before that I was Florida for three years (north central Florida, but it still). So it's been awhile since I've had a real fall or winter. And even for a few years before that, I spent a lot of time in Phoenix, Arizona, which also tends to stay fairly warm all year.
Anyway, I got to Virginia in late summer so I missed the really hot and humid time and it was a lot of fun watching the leaves change color. The temperature dropping... Well, that was kind of refreshing at first. Not quite so fond of it now. I don't hate the winter, but I don't see much point in cold weather unless there's some fun in the snow involved. But hey, maybe I'll get to see some snow for a change, that'd be neat (at first; it'll probably get annoying eventually). And then there's always spring to look forward to.
So, while I can't say that I'm not going to miss the near perfect weather of Hawaii, being back in a place with all four seasons strongly represented will be kind of fun.

And I'm off for now. I'll try to have a full travelogue entry up on Wednesday.

Josiah

12/2/2016 Visiting DC

Remember to vote to see this week's bonus comic!

Now, I've got several travelogue entries to do. Not going to write them all today, of course, but let's get started...

November 22nd (Tuesday): The Library and the Capital
Now that I'm in a more convenient location (well, sorta), I invited some family members over for Thanksgiving. My aunt, uncle, and one of my cousins came a bit earlier in the week and will be staying until Friday and my brother and his wife are coming tomorrow. Anyway, my aunt's family wanted to do some touring while they were here. I had work yesterday, but Connie and I were free today, so we joined them in Washington DC.
Our first stop was the Library of Congress. Specifically the Thomas Jefferson Building, since the library and its impressive 162 million plus items (mostly, but not entirely, books) is spread across several different buildings now. The library also houses the US Copyright Office. Anyway, the Jefferson building is the oldest and grandest of the library's buildings.
For a quick history lesson, the Library of Congress was originally a modest 740 books purchased from Europe, mostly about subjects such as law and geography that members of congress might find useful over the course of their work. That library was burned by the British in 1814 along with the Capital Building. Thomas Jefferson later sold the government his own personal book collection as a replacement. His collection was much larger (at 6,487 books) and covered a broader range of subjects. They still have it there on display. Well, part of it anyway. A large portion was lost in another fire (an accident that time), prompting Congress to start construction on a new (and much more fire resistant) building (later renamed in honor of Jefferson), which was completed in 1897. In addition to being relatively fireproof, there was some extra money left in the budget (a real rarity for government work), so they were able to make a lot of amazing decorations. It's one of the fanciest and most impressive buildings I've seen. While it's worth visiting just for the building itself, the library also houses a number of displays and exhibits. For example, there's Abel Buell's map, the first American made map of America, and even an original Gutenberg Bible.
We took a tour while we were there, which is how I learned all about the history of the library. It was interesting, but it mostly focused on the building and only showed off a few highlights of the exhibits. I could definitely go back and spend another couple of hours taking a closer look. Or maybe just to use the rather awe inspiring reading room. On that note, it's actually not too hard to get a reading card and use the reading room to access much of the library's collection (except for the rarer items), but only the president, vice-president, and members of Congress can actually check books out.
When we finished the tour, it was getting close to lunch time so we took a convenient underground tunnel to the nearby Capital Building (naturally, that photo was not taken from inside the tunnel, I snapped it outside before entering the library). There's a pretty decent cafeteria inside and we were able to get tickets for a tour right after we finished eating. The Capital Building, in case you're not familiar with it, houses both Congress and the Senate, though they weren't in session that day and the tour doesn't show you their chambers anyway (I heard it used to, but security it tighter these days). Instead, we got to see a pillared chamber with George Washington's tomb...which is totally empty since he's buried at his estate on Mt. Vernon. We also got to see the chamber beneath the dome, with its impressive paintings and statues. Actually, there are statues all over the place of various important figures in US (and occasionally world) history. Including in this chamber, which used to house either Congress or the Senate (can't remember which). Problem is, the acoustics accidentally made it easy to hear people whispering while standing on the other side of the room. Plus, it started to get a bit cramped, so they moved to a different room. It actually housed a market for a little while before it got filled with statues. Anyway, we had a great tour guide and the statues were cool, though the building wasn't nearly as impressive as the Library of Congress. On the way out, I snapped a photo of the original Freedom statue (the newer one is sitting on top of the dome).
To stay out of the cold, we took some more underground passages back towards our parking area. The one between the library and the Capital is pretty fancy. Some of the others, not so much. Anyway, it was a fun half day or so of touring. I'd definitely recommend the Library of Congress. The Capital...it's interesting but wouldn't be near the top of my list of things to see in DC.

That's all for today. More coming next week.

Josiah

11/30/2016 Continuing commentary

I'm starting to unwind and get caught up on some things now that all the holiday and other craziness is done. One thing I'm still working on is my photos, so no travelogue entry today (should have at least one ready for Friday though). In the meantime, I did finish the commentary for strips 313 - 316.

Later!

Josiah

11/28/2016 Back to work

Well, Thanksgiving weekend is over. It's been a lot of fun, if a bit hectic. A little stressful too, though for reasons not related to the holiday (more on that another time, maybe). I've had a lot of late nights and need some rest, plus I'm nowhere near done sorting my photos so the travelogue entries will have to wait until later in the week.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

11/23/2016 Happy Thanksgiving! UPDATE

UPDATE: Sorry, no update today. I have family visiting for Thanksgiving and between that and a couple other things going on right now (which sort of came out of nowhere), I just haven't had any time to work on PV for the last few days so I don't have a comic ready and I'm going to have to skip a day. Once again, very sorry about the late notice. Updates will resume on Monday and I'll have travelogue entries next week as well so see you then!

Hope all my US readers have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow! I've got family visiting and will have some travelogue posts later this week and/or next week. In the meantime though, I've finished the commentary for strips 309 - 312.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Josiah

11/21/2016 Back to the commentary

I've posted the commentary for strips 305 - 308. Expect more later in the week.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

11/18/2016 My new computer

Don't forget to use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic!

I think I'll talk a little about my new laptop today and then get back to work on the commentary on Monday. So, the laptop. I've generally been upgrading to a new system every three years or so. Most of the time it was because I needed more power and memory. Last time, it was part that and part because my system was starting to have heating problems. Up until my last laptop, I always got a Dell but three years ago I just couldn't find a model of theirs which I had everything I wanted (their customization options have seriously declined over the years) and their service and reliability rankings, while not bad, weren't industry leading like they once were either, so I decided to try something different and got an ASUS. It was a nice system in a number of ways, but I was never happy with the build quality and, over time, some things started to break down. Well, the fans especially have been having a lot of issues and driving me crazy, plus and it was about to the three year mark anyway, so I started looking at potential replacements.

In the end, I realized I was not going to find a good laptop with an internal Blu-Ray drive anymore. Which is unfortunate, but I can make do with an external. I did some research and checked out a number of different models before deciding that I definitely wanted something with the new NVidia Pascal series of graphic cards. They're a pretty major power boost over the previous series, and just what I'll need if I end up getting into VR (either for fun or for future development projects). That limited my options a bit since the cards are pretty new and I didn't want to wait another six months or so for all the major brands to incorporate them. One brand I kept coming back to was Alienware. I had one as a work computer in the past and I was really impressed with the build quality. They're also a Dell brand, so there's that. Plus they had just launched their new series for 2016 with Pascal. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for a good price.

Thanks to a combination of a pre-Black Friday sale and a 10% off coupon, I got a pretty high end Alienware 15 R3 for around $1,500. Intel i7-6700HQ, 16 GB of RAM, GForce 1060, 256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD, and the largest battery they can legally ship in these things (not quite the highest end options, but close enough). It's the most powerful laptop I've ever had by a large margin. And, as I hoped, the build quality it great. It feels so much more solid than my ASUS and the keyboard and touchpad are much more comfortable and responsive. The customizable lighting is pretty cool too, if pointless other than the "cool" factor. While I haven't had the time to really push the laptop to the limit (I did load up a high end up game as a test, but only for a few minutes), it's been impressively fast and stable. I do have a couple issues with Windows 10 (though it has some good points to), but I can't blame Alienware for that. But, considering the size of the laptop (it's heavy and barely fits in my backpack), I'm pretty certain they could have easily fit a number pad and SSD card reader in it if they tried. But anyway, I've been using it for a week now and I'm pretty happy so far. And hey, with a system this solid and powerful, maybe I'll be able to break the 3 year cycle this time around.

Josiah

11/16/2016 Baltimore

Let's get right to that travelogue entry.

November 13th (Sunday): A Day in Baltimore
Baltimore is only an hour away but I haven't been over there since Otakon. Connie and I had originally planned to do a day trip there a while ago but she wasn't feeling good that day so we put it off. Anyway, it was a bit last minute but we finally made it over there for a bit of touring around the inner harbor area. Our first stop was actually a bit away from the harbor, so we started out with a walk. We passed city hall, though most of the route we took ended up being a bit rundown. Anyway, it wasn't much further to the Baltimore Farmers Market and Bazaar, which is every Sunday morning for a good chunk of the year. It's mostly situated under a freeway and has a pretty impressive selection of stuff. It's much more farmers market than bazaar, but there's a lot of good food booths and tons of local produce, even at this time of year. Certainly worth a visit if you're in Baltimore at the right time. We focused a bit more on snacking, including an interesting Egyptian tea (sort of like a chai with citrus) and a really good wasabi pickle on a stick.
After exploring the market, we headed back towards inner harbor. We had tickets for the aquarium but not until mid afternoon (tickets there are for specific entry times) so we walked around the harbor a bit. One end has some old power plant buildings that were converted into stores and restaurants, including a pretty cool Barnes & Noble. Other than that, the harbor features a few shopping centers, paddle boats, and is just a pleasant place to walk.
We didn't have any specific plans for lunch but spotted an interesting looking place on Yelp and headed that way. The route took us away from the harbor and into a nice old timey residential and shopping area. The restaurant, called Mi & Yu, was a sorta modern Asian fusion focusing on noodle bowls and bao sandwiches. Not really authentic but good, and worth the walk.
We eventually ended up at the aquarium. I've been to the Baltimore Aquarium a couple times in the past, but my most recent visit must have been at least 15 years ago and I didn't remember much other than that it was a pretty good. Fortunately, my memory was right on that count, it's certainly one of the better aquariums I've visited (along with Chicago, Yokohama, and Osaka). We arrived in time for a decent dolphin show then headed down to see the jellyfish. They had a pretty cool jellyfish collection, including some rather unusual ones. After that we began our tour through the main section of the aquarium, a five story tower with a wide variety of fish and sea creatures. You might not be able to tell from this photo, but this is the biggest sea turtle I've ever seen. There was some pretty strange creatures (see how many fish you can find in that photo) as well, including a weird urchin with several "lights" dotted on its shell and what looked kind of like an eye sitting on top. There was even a nautilus, and I don't think I've ever seen a live one of those before. And, this ray, which was one of Connie's favorites. Like a lot of aquariums, they had a "petting" area but this one actually had some jellyfish you could pet in addition to the usual stuff, which was neat. Honestly, they feel pretty much like you'd expect.
The top floor is actually a rainforest, with a number of tropical birds. Which were followed by an equally colorful collection of tropical frogs. The area finished with a big underwater viewing area. Not a tunnel, unfortunately, but still pretty cool.
The final area was based on Australia. The creatures there weren't quite as impressive as some of the others, but there were still some fun things to see.
It was dark by the time we left the aquarium so we grabbed dinner (opting for a convenient location rather than something especially unique) and then called it a day. It was a fun trip. The weather was really good and Baltimore has a lot of great areas to walk around and explore. While Inner Harbor and the Aquarium and the most famous attractions, there's a lot of museums and other things we could go back and visit sometime in the future.

Josiah

11/14/2016 Upgraded!

I'm about 95% done setting up my new laptop, which is close enough that I was able to make today's PV strip and update the web site on said laptop. I haven't fully put it through its paces yet, but I'm pretty happy with it so far. Anyway, I'll probably talk about it a bit more in the future once I've finished that remaining 5%. This is also the first PV strip done in Photoshop CC, as opposed to my old copy of Photoshop CS2. Honestly, I hate Adobe forcing a subscription on everyone, especially how they made files saved in CC incompatible with older versions, just to ensure that you'd be stuck switching to CC eventually for compatibility reasons. And that time has finally come for me. Not that this strip does anything to show off the new features of CC, but that's just how it goes.

Anyway, I'm heading off now. Expect a travelogue entry later this week (Connie and I took a trip to Baltimore yesterday) and more work on that PV commentary I owe you.

Later!

Josiah

11/11/2016 Moving along...

There's a new bonus comic so vote with the TWC button to see it! Remember that you can vote up to once per day to help support Pebble Version.

Other than that I'm glad it's over, I'm going to stick with my no politics on PV policy and not say anything about the election. In fact...I'm not going to say much of anything today. I got my new computer and I'm still in the midst of switching everything over. Slightly complicated by the fact that I've been getting terrible internet speeds the last couple of days and my external hard drive (at least the one that's not still packed somewhere) doesn't seem to be working so I'm using a USB flash drive with annoyingly slow transfer speeds. Ah well, the new laptop seems pretty good (I'll talk about it more another time), though I haven't had the chance to really test it out yet. I should have it ready to go by Monday so I'll see you then!

Josiah

11/9/2016 A big day

Well, today we'll know who the new US president is going to be. Or maybe not if there ends up being some recounts, which certainly seems like a possibility. As I'm writing this, it's too early to tell who will win or whether or not it'll be so close that it gets contested. Anyway, while I can't say that I especially like either candidate this time around, I do have a very strong preference and I've been paying a lot of attention to the political world the past few months. That said, I'm not going into detail. I've always made a point of not talking about politics here on PV because you don't come here to read about my political views. You come here to read Pokémon comics and maybe my travelogues and the like. That said, this is a big and crazy election. I voted and, at this point, I just need to wait and hope that things go my way. Regardless of who wins, I hope the losing side takes it well. There's a strong tendency these days, especially among some groups, to paint people who disagree with them as either stupid (they're not smart enough to see how wrong they are), evil (they're terrible everything-phobic and want to destroy all we hold dear), or both. What we need to keep in mind is that, 99% of the time, that's just not the case. Some people are simply uninformed or misinformed. But it's often not even that, it's totally possible for two decent intelligent people to come to different conclusions about something. And there's nothing wrong with that. Different people have different opinions about the way to do things and it's wrong to demonize or look down on people who don't share your views. Quite often, the truth or the best result is somewhere in the middle. In the end, those of us here in the US all want what's best for our country, even if we don't always agree on what that is. No matter who wins, we should be focusing on working together, compromising, and finding the best solutions to our problems, not tearing each other apart.

And that's probably the last thing I'll say here on the subject.

Josiah

11/7/2016 A symphony

Last week was pretty busy, though a decent amount of that was because of fun events. There was the Shenandoah Valley, the escape room, and, Saturday night, one more thing...

November 5th (Saturday): The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses
Despite all my travels, and my hobby of collecting video game soundtracks, I've never actually gotten to go to a video game concert. I've seen bunch of American and British bands (old and new), some J-Pop singers, and a few other assorted musical performances. But the closest thing to a video game concert was seeing Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata at Otakon, when they did a decent number of Persona songs. Unfortunately, there just aren't many video game concerts in the US and the locations and/or dates have just never worked for me. Well, that finally changed and Connie and I were able to make it to The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses in Washington D.C.
I ended up buying parking (figuring it would be easier than the metro at night), which worked out well. There were a couple of hitches with some times not matching what was shown online. But we made it and the concert was fantastic. As the name implies, it's a full symphony orchestra, combined with video from the games. Most of the concert was made up of melodies of music from many of the main games (as well as a couple of side titles), though there were some stand alone themes as well. Anyway, I couldn't take videos, but it was an awesome concert. I'd go again and I highly recommend it to any Zelda fans, or even just fans of good orchestral music.

Josiah

11/4/2016 Escape

This week's bonus comic is up! Just use the TWC button on the left to vote and you can check it out.

Another Groupon I got a while back was for Escape Room Loudoun, which isn't too far from here. Connie and I did a room based on a bank robbery. It was a slow night so we had the room to ourselves. That can be fun, but it means we had a lot more to do since it's normally for much larger groups. It was a pretty fun escape room. We didn't quite make it out in time, but we came very close. We were on the last puzzle when the time ran out, and probably could have had it done in another five minutes or so. The guy running it helped us out with the last bit after the time limit, since no one else was there, and said it normally only has a 20% escape rate with a full group, so I'm pretty happy we did so well with just the two of us. Anyway, it was fun and it looks like there's a lot of escape rooms in the area (and they often have Groupon specials), so I'm sure we'll be doing some more (either on our own or with a larger group) sooner or later.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

11/2/2016 Caves and a war

Travelogue time!

October 30th (Sunday): The Shenandoah Valley
Shortly after moving here, I picked up Groupons for a couple of nearby attractions, one of which was the Shenandoah Caverns. Since Sunday was looking to have really nice weather (possibly one of the last really warm days this year), Connie and I decided to head over to the cave then. Of course, since we would be driving around an hour and a half, I checked if there was anything else nearby worth visiting. It turns out that the Shenandoah Valley area has quite a lot of interesting attractions. Enough to fill two or three days depending on your preferences. That includes at least half a dozen caves, though there are three (Shenandoah, Luray, and Skyline Caverns) that appears to be the most well known and highly rated. Connie didn't want to do more than one cave in a single day, so we decided to focus on the other attractions closest to Shenandoah Caverns.
The drive there was pleasant enough. Mostly trees, though we got into some farmland during the last third or so. Not quite as pretty as the drive to Strasburg earlier this month, but the fall leaves were very nice. Since the caverns were our main stop, we headed there first. Shenandoah Caverns only has one tour, an hour long trip through the cave. I love caves, but it's been a long time since I've had the chance to visit a really nice one. While Shenandoah Caverns isn't the best cave I've been to, it's a good one, with many impressive formations. I think this is actually the first time I've toured a good cave with a nice camera, so I took the opportunity to get a lot of great shots. The tour ended with a reflecting pool before we headed back to the surface.
The caverns includes a few other attractions besides the cave itself, which are included in admission. First up is the Main Street of Yesterday, which features a number of old time store window displays. Which, back in the days before TV, often featured elaborate moving doll and puppet displays. There's also American Celebration on Parade. Turns out that the family that owns the cave also creates floats for the biggest parades in the country. It made for a short but interesting stop. There's also the Yellow Barn, which features some farming related displays and a local wine shop, but Connie and I were getting hungry so we skipped it and headed off for lunch.
Unfortunately, there aren't really any particularly good restaurants near Shenandoah Caverns, so lunch wasn't anything worth writing about. Next stop, a flea market. There's quite a lot of them in the area, but neither Connie or I are big flea market hunters. It's interesting to walk through one everyone once in a while, but one was plenty.
After that, it was off to the Virginia Museum of the Civil War. Virginia played host to a number of battles during the war. The museum is located at the site of the battle of New Market, which was one of the last major victories for the Confederate (southern) army. I thought the museum was pretty interesting. While it covered the war in general, the main focus was on the battles that happened in and around the valley. The museum ticket also gets you access to the battlefield itself and the Bushong farm which, unfortunately for its owners, ended up right in the middle of the battlefield. Though both they and the farm seem to have gotten though it in one piece. Looking around the old farm buildings was fun and, while the battlefield was just a field, the walk through it offered some good views.
That about wrapped things up for the day since we didn't want to get back too late. It was a pleasant trip and I really enjoyed getting to visit a good cave after so long. Not sure if we'll get back to the Shenandoah Valley this year due to the seasons and all, but I do plan to go back sooner or later to visit some more caves and check out Shenandoah National Park, among other things.

Josiah

10/31/2016 Halloween!

Actually...I'm not planning on doing anything special for Halloween this year. Neither Connie or I are all that into it to begin with, plus I have to teach a class this evening. We did take a day trip yesterday, though it had nothing to do with Halloween. I'm still working on the photos, but you can expect a travelogue entry later this week. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday (if you have plans), or just enjoy an ordinary Monday.

In other news, I started on that batch of commentary I owe you guys. Today, I did strips 301 - 304. Expect more soon.

Later!

Josiah

10/28/2016 Another weekend

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I'm running late (seems to be a trend this week) so let's keep this short. I may have a travelogue entry or two next week but for now I need to get some rest so have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/26/2016 Upgrading

I picked up a new phone last week. It's been about two years since I got my Samsung Galaxy S5 and the battery is pretty much shot (I'm lucky to get half a day if I use it for anything other than phone calls). I've been wanting to upgrade for a while, but was just hanging on until there was a good sale. Well, now I've got a Galaxy S7 Edge. Honestly, I don't care all that much about the edge functionality. It looks rather neat, but certainly isn't worth the extra cost compared to the regular S7...except that the Edge also has a better battery which, for me, is worth the cost. And it is a nice phone. Other than the usual Samsung and Verizon bloatware, and Samsung's strange insistence on turning on the Android feature that lets it treat a SD card as internal memory (which would be really convenient), I'm very happy with it so far.

The phone isn't the only tech upgrade I've got planned for the near future. It's about time to upgrade to a new laptop as well, which I talked about a little while ago. There's actually a small sale on the model I want right now, which is tempting. But, on the other hand, it's a brand new model and, while the brand is good, I kind of want to hold off until there's some professional reviews, just in case. I'm sure there'll be a similar, if not better, sale around Thanksgiving.

Later!

Josiah

10/21/2016 Quick update

The new bonus comic is up so use the TWC button to vote and see it!

Now, you may notice that there's no new comic up today. Or maybe you didn't. Due to a server glitch, the site was down for most of Wednesday and Thursday so this may be your first time seeing this strip. I went back and forth between leaving this one up or posting a new one but, in the end, I didn't have a new one ready yet and I'm swamped with work at the moment (which needs to be finished by the end of today), so that made the decision kind of obvious.

As a final announcement, there will be no update on Monday, since it's the last day of Sukkot. Updates will resume on Wednesday and I don't expect any more missed updates after that for the foreseeable future.

So I'll see you next week (which should be a whole lot less busy).

Josiah

10/19/2018 Amish

Finally time for that RVC comment abut the Amish to go with my last travelogue entry.

RVC: The Amish
Actually, this comment is more tied to Pennsylvania than Virginia, but anyway...
The Amish are one of the more unique minority groups in the US. They actually live in 27 different states and part of Canada but they seem to be most associated with Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, which is home to one of the largest Amish communities. To the point where they're something of a tourist attraction, though they'd rather not be (they also don't like being photographed, though that doesn't stop people).
So who are the Amish exactly? To summarize... That story goes back to the Swiss Anabaptists, a Christian group who believed that children should not be baptized at birth, but when they're old enough to understand its significance and make the choice for themselves. That was against the teachings of the crown sponsored church, so they were persecuted. They got help from a certain church official, and named themselves Mennonites after him. Later on, a certain Mennonite leader believed that they needed to be stricter on members who broke away from the faith and completely shun or excommunicate them. Those who followed him broke away from the Mennonites and became the Amish. Both groups eventually moved to the US in the 18th century to escape persecution, mostly settling in Pennsylvania with the aid of William Penn, the state's founder (he wasn't Amish or Mennonite, just a nice guy). Later on, the Amish became considerably more distant from the Mennonites with the rise of electricity, when their leadership decided that they should avoid it, and a lot of other modern technology, in order to avoid becoming too enmeshed with the rest of the world.
Amish today live almost just like the Amish of 300 years ago. They drive horse drawn buggies (though they're allowed to ride in a car or bus if driven by a non-Amish), wear old fashioned hand-made clothing, and live simple lives, mostly as farmers, with a heavy focus on God and community. There's a lot more to it (and they do find some creative ways around the electricity restriction in certain limited ways), but that's the basic gist. If you drive around Strasburg, or any of the farmland around Lancaster, you're bound to see a number of Amish farms (easily recognizable by their lack of electric lines) and end up sharing the road with a few carriages. They certainly give the area a unique character and provide an interesting look back at a simpler time.

Josiah

10/14/2016 Holidays!

As always, since it's Friday, you can vote to see the new bonus comic! In other PV related news, while Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are finished, there will be no update on Monday since it's the first day of Sukkot. Updates will resume on Wednesday.

I'm still working on that RVC about the Amish. I had hoped to finish it for today, but ended up not having much time to work on it between Yom Kippur, work, and some errands. Next week for sure though. In the meantime, have a good weekend and happy Sukkot!

Later!

Josiah

10/10/2016 A day in PA

I've got a travelogue entry for today but, before getting started on that, I should mention that there will not be a PV update on Wednesday due to Yom Kippur. Updates will resume on Friday. And now onto the travelogue.

October 7th (Friday): A Day in Strasburg
While living in Fairfax has its pros and cons compared to Hawaii, there were a few things in this area that I've been looking forward to from the beginning. Otakon was one, a visit to Cherry Crest Farm's Amazing Maize Maze is another. But the farm is around 2 1/2 hours from here, and there's a lot of other attractions in the Strasburg area, so Connie and I decided to make it a day trip and explore a bit.
The drive was a bit long, but the scenery was nice, especially for the last hour or so, which was spent winding through rolling hills and old farms. Some of those farms were owned by the Amish, and we passed a few buggies and saw some horse drawn corn harvesters along the way.
Our first destination was the Strasburg Railroad. It's a restored old train driven by a coal powered steam engine. It was once a major mode of transportation for the area. Now, it's used for a 45 minute round-trip sightseeing ride between Strasburg and Paradise. There are some different cars to choose from and sometimes there are special events (dinner rides, murder mysteries, etc.) too, but Connie and I just took a regular ride (coach class) and enjoyed watching the farmlands pass by. The conductor chimed in with some train and historical trivia along the way, which was pretty interesting. For example, it takes 750 pounds of coal (shoveled by hand) to power the train for the duration of the ride.
It was just about lunch time when we left the railroad. Connie had been wanting omelets, so we went to a place called the Speckled Hen in nearby downtown Strasburg which served breakfast and lunch using a lot of locally sourced ingredients. They made a pretty good omelet and a good chai latte too.
After eating, we decided to take a little time to stroll around Strasburg. The town dates back to the 1700's and, actually, so do a lot of the houses. The majority of the buildings on the main street have historical markers on them, dating them to the anywhere from the mid 1700's to late 1800's. A lot of them are still in really good shape too, and it was fun to walk around and take a look.
Once we'd finished our walk, it was time for the main event, the Amazing Maize Maze! Cherry Crest Farm has been doing a huge corn maze since 1996. It's a different maze every year, and I've been to 13 or 14 of them since we used to go every year (starting in 1997) when visiting my grandparents in PA. Anyway, I've been to a number of life sized mazes (corn and otherwise) and the Amazing Maize Maze is the best. This year's maze was farm themed, featuring a tractor and a giant ear of corn. While actually getting to the end doesn't take that long (for most people, anyway), the big challenge is finding all the hidden map pieces and crossword puzzle answers. Connie and I went at a fairly leisurely pace, but still managed to find them all and get out in one hour and forty nine minutes. The farm has steadily added more attractions over the years to compliment the maze. Most are for kids, but there are a few that can appeal to older visitors as well. Connie and I looked around a little, but didn't hang around too long, since we still had time for one more attraction.
The Amish Village is probably a little misnamed. It's more of a farm than a village. Anyway, it's a former Amish house and farm converted into a museum about the Amish lifestyle. It starts with a guided tour of the house, after which you're free to explore the farm. If you're just looking to see some Amish people, you're better off driving around the surrounding farms but, if you want to learn a bit about them, it makes for an interesting visit. On that note, if you want to learn a bit more about the Amish right now, see the following RVC...
Our last stop was at Hershey Farm (which I don't think is related to Hershey chocolate), which is a local hotel and restaurant, for dinner. If you're looking to try Pennsylvania Dutch food, they've got a pretty nice buffet. Fried chicken, Amish stuffing, cooked vegetables, pickled eggs, baked apples, chicken pot pie, and a lot more. Definitely comfort food but good, and it's fun to have that kind of meal once in a while. Some of the dishes were things you could find anywhere in the US while others, like pickled eggs and shoofly pie (a pie with a molasses filling) never seem to have spread outside of Pennsylvania. All in all, it was a very good meal and a fun way to cap off the day.
Connie and I had a very enjoyable day exploring Strasburg. Assuming we're still here, we'll be heading back next year for the new maze and, while we checked out most of the attractions in Strasburg itself, there's lots of other interesting towns in the area too so I'm sure we'll have another day trip to Pennsylvania's farm country sometime in the future.

Well, I did mention a RVC but it's late so I'm going to stop here and post it on Friday instead. See you then!

Josiah

10/7/2016 Day trip

Vote with the TWC button and you can see the new bonus comic!

In other news, congrats to my friends Silver and Colly (from the PV forums) who were married on Wednesday! They didn't meet on the forums, but they've been big parts of it over the years, especially Silver. All the best you two!

Closer to home, Connie and I have a big day trip planned for today that I've really been looking forward to. Look for a travelogue entry next week. Speaking of next week, there will be no update on Wednesday due to Yom Kippur.

Anyway, I want to get some sleep before we head out so have a good weekend and I'll see you on Monday.

Josiah

10/5/2016 A couple of comments

Time for a couple of Random Virginia Comments I've been meaning to write...

Random Virginia Comment: Driving
I've had a lot of complaints about the drivers in Arizona, Florida, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Hawaii. Compared to all those places, the drivers here in Virginia actually seem pretty good. Sure I've seen a few bad ones but, in general, drivers here seem to stick fairly close to the speed limit and don't try and pull any crazy stunts. At least until you get to D.C. One day of driving around there was enough to convince me to take the metro when at all possible. Sure parking can be tough to find and/or expensive, but the roads are a confusing mess (even with a GPS) and the drivers are a huge pain in the neck.
Outside of the other drivers, driving in Virginia can be a little confusing. While a lot of the roads are nice and modern, you've got a lot of twisty little back roads too (which is pretty typical for the northeastern US). There's also some toll roads scattered about, though I've mostly managed to avoid them. Actually, for many of them, you only have to pay a toll (via an wireless payment thing you can buy) in order to use certain lanes. I guess it's more for commuters who want to avoid the rush hour traffic. Some of the highways also have a red lane on the far right side of the road (sort of a shoulder lane) which, for some reason I haven't figured out, is only supposed to be used during certain times of the day. But, as long as you pay attention and are ready for some sharp curves, driving in Virginia isn't bad (just stay away from D.C.).

Random Virginia Comment: Mold
When living in any moist area, you need to be careful to avoid getting mold in your house, and the northeastern US is no exception. But what I'm talking about is food. I've lived in a lot of environments with lots of rain and high humidity but food here just seems to get moldy faster than anywhere else. Even foods that I've found to be fairly mold resistant in the past. Is is the climate here just that much more ideal for mold formation? Could be. Or maybe the refrigerator in this apartment just isn't that great. Guess I'll figure it out sooner or later.

See you Friday!

Josiah

9/31/2016 Upgrades

It's Friday so you can use the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic! In other PV related news, I'll have to miss a few updates over the coming weeks due to some major Jewish holidays. The first of which, Rosh Hashanah, is this Monday. So comics will resume on Wednesday.

In other news, I spent a few hours yesterday looking into new laptops. In the the past, I've always upgraded about every three years and it's just about that time. That said, I'm not really looking because of the time frame. Before, I always upgraded because I needed to. By the time three years had passed, my previous laptops were typically starting to have trouble keeping up with newer software and dangerously low on hard disc space. My previous laptop was still doing fairly well in the power department, but was short on space and was starting to have serious heating problems. As for this one... Well, it is getting a bit old but I don't actually feel like I really need a lot more power and the hard drive still has room. The main issue is that it's been slowly but steadily breaking down. I'm not sure if it's the brand, the customization reseller I bought it from, or if I just got a lemon, but I've had some issues with it from the beginning and it's steadily gotten worse over time. At this point, I kind of just want to be done with it and move on. Of course, since I spend so much time on my laptop, and need it to run a wide range of software, I take the choice of new one pretty seriously and do a lot of research. Honestly, it was a lot easier when there were big trusted brands that offered fully customizable systems. Not to mention before build quality started to get sacrificed in the name of low prices and/or a thinner form factor. It seems like, no matter what I get this time around, I'm going to have to compromise and live without one thing or another. Anyway, I think I've pretty much made my decision, but I'm going to hold off for a little while in case there's a sale or something. And, in the meantime, I'll keep an eye out in case my runner-up choice gets an upgrade.

Later!

Josiah

9/28/2016 My apartment

I finally got around to taking those apartment pictures, so here they are.

September 27th (Tuesday): My Apartment
It's a little less than two months since I moved here, but I finally got around to taking some photos. Actually, the main reason it took this long was that I wanted to wait until the movers arrived and everything was unpacked. And then until I got some shelves and other things to neaten the place up a bit. Really, I only got all that finished a week or two ago, so I haven't been putting off the photos for too long.
Anyway, let's start off with the apartment building. It's got two buildings, each with their own gym, lounge, pool, and the like. They've got a pretty nice set of amenities. Interesting note about that courtyard and pool, they're actually on the third floor, the first two floors are the parking garage. Also, that picture was taken about a month ago. They closed the pool for the winter about a week back and it's empty now.
Moving on to the apartment itself... As a note, the place is a little messy at the moment, but I wanted to get the photos taken while I was thinking about it. Here's the kitchen, living and dining room, and the office. Unfortunately, those boxes in the office are probably going to stay like that until we move into a bigger place. They're mostly books, games, and the like which we don't have the shelf and/or closet space for. Speaking of shelves, I did put a few in the guest room. I'd kind of like to put some in the master bedroom, as well, since there's some empty space, but Connie would rather we didn't for now. And I did manage to fit all the most important things on the shelves I have, so that works. Not shown, two bathrooms, a couple medium sized (non walk-in) closets, and a small deck. It's the nicest apartment I've ever had (not the biggest, but the fanciest), which is fitting considering how much it costs. Honestly, rent here isn't much different than in Hawaii. Having all my nice furniture certainly helps too (making this my best furnished apartment), though cramming a house's worth of stuff into an apartment makes it a little cramped. All in all though, it's pretty nice. I miss having a house, but it's nice.

Josiah

9/26/2016 Apples

Still haven't taken those apartment photos, but I do have a travelogue post.

September 23rd (Friday): Apple Picking
It's apple season and they grow lots of them in this part of the country so I figured there would probably be some place nearby that does pick your own. Picking is fun and cheaper than buying them in stores or at a farmer's market. As it turned out, there are quite a lot of pick your own apples (and other fruits and veggies) farms around here. So I chose one that looked promising and Connie and I headed out. We went to Hollin Farms, which is out in the countryside in what can best be described as the rolling hills. I'd been expecting ladders (back from when I picked apples as a kid), but all of their trees topped out at around 10 feet or so, making most of the apples pretty easy to reach by hand. They were having a special where you could pick four bags for the price of three and they had several types of apples that were currently in season, so we spent a pleasant hour or so filling up our bags. We ended up with about one bag each of Autumn Gala (sweet like regular Gala, but smaller), Shizuka (part sweet part tart, kind of like a Honey Crisp), Grimes Golden (a really good yellow apple), and Crown Empire (small, purple, and fairly sour). They had a vegetable patch as well, with a variety of greens and some radishes, so we pulled a few of those and picked a squash from their pumpkin patch too. While we didn't do it, they also had the option to dig up potatoes and peanuts.
Unlike some pick your own places I've been to, Hollin Farms didn't have anything fancy. No big gift shop or market stall, nothing to do except pick, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's a picturesque place with good prices and very good fruit. Now Connie and I just need to figure out what to do with all those apples...

Josiah

9/23/2016 At the zoo

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I keep forgetting to take apartment photos when the light is good. I'll try and get them for Monday. In the meantime, here's a bit on Connie and my recent day in DC.

September 20th (Tuesday): The Smithsonian's National Zoo
Connie needed to visit the Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. so we decided to make a day of it. I think that most of the time we go to D.C., we'll take the metro. The embassy, however, wasn't very close to any of the stations, so we decided to drive instead. Driving in was actually pretty easy. Driving out at the end of the day, on the other hand... But I'll do a RVC about driving sometime soon.
The embassy is a bit outside of D.C.'s main tourist area. It's in a mostly residential area, along with a few shops and restaurants. I walked around while Connie was getting her things taken care of. Other than a couple old churches and an even older cemetery, there wasn't really too much to see. Pleasant enough, but nothing too exciting.
Once Connie was finished, we grabbed lunch at a nearby Vietnamese place and then headed for the zoo. Why the zoo? Well, it's a bit away from the main tourist areas as well, so I figured we might as well go on the day we had our car. Actually getting there proved a little complicated though. Even with a GPS, D.C. has really confusing streets.
Anyway, the Smithonian's National Zoo, also known as the National Zoological Park, is, like the Smithsonian museums, completely free of charge. That said, they do charge quite a lot for parking and even maps of the zoo cost $5 (though you can find some signs with maps scattered around, or just pull one up on your cellphone for free). And you may want a map. While the zoo isn't overly large (about average), the paths are kind of twisty and go through lots of trees and rocks.
The zoo is divided into several areas. Connie and I started in the American section. Though, other than a few fairly ordinary animals, most of the animals there were either hiding or not in their areas. At least until we got to the Amazonian building, which had a mini rain forest and lots of interesting displays. Moving on, we left the Americas behind and found our way to the great cats area, complete with lions and tigers. Monkeys came next, along with gorillas and orangutans. There was also a building with lots of small and mid-size animals (though no ant-eaters), including a fennic fox, a sloth, and a sand cat. Elephants followed, and then the zoo's most most famous animals...giant pandas! There aren't many zoos in the US with pandas, and the National Zoo has several of them. Though they have a large habitat, including indoor and outdoor areas, so they can take a while to find.
There were a few more animals that we ended up skipping (like the flamingos), but we made it around most of the zoo before deciding to call it a day. Over all, I wouldn't say that the National Zoo is one of the best zoos I've been do. There are plenty that have a nicer layout and/or a larger collection of animals. But the National Zoo is still a pleasant place to spend a couple hours and it has a few rather rare animals, like the pandas, so it's worth a visit if you have the time. Though it probably shouldn't top a D.C. touring list unless you're a huge panda lover.

Josiah

9/21/2016 Photo sorting

I'm in the middle of sorting the photos from yesterday's Washington DC trip. Expect the travelogue post on Friday!

Josiah

9/19/2016 Upcoming plans

With things calming down her, it's just about time for me to get back to work on my various writing and game projects, which have been on hold for a bit due to all the moving and new job related work. Connie and I are also starting to plan some future day trips. We'll actually be going to D.C. tomorrow, though that trip will be half business. I'm also hoping to go to my favorite corn maze sometime soon, and Connie and I would also like to take advantage of the season and do some apple picking (though the fridge space in our apartment is a bit limited...). Of course, that's only the beginning, there's a lot of cool stuff to see and do around here, but we've got time (and other things we need to do) so we'll work our way through it gradually.

Anyway, expect a write-up about that D.C. trip and some apartment photos (finally) later this week and we'll go from there.

Josiah

9/16/2016 Weird Al

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September 11th (Sunday): Weird Al Concert
Connie and I have been keeping pretty busy here between work, settling in, and a bunch of other assorted stuff that's needed to be done, so we really haven't done any big day trips yet. We did take a bit of time to explore the Tyson's Corner mall, which we first came across on our way to Kurios. It's a pretty big and fancy place, and I was happy to find a kaitenzushi restaurant (though we didn't eat there on that visit).
But anyway, Kurios wasn't the only thing I'd gotten tickets for. The next one was a Weird Al concert. I've seen Weird Al a few times before (you can read about at least some of those concerts in previous travelogue entries) but he's gotten a new show since the last time and Connie had never been before.
The concert took place at night at Wolf Trap, a nearby national park that seems to serve mainly as a performing arts venue. The amphitheater was pretty cool (and packed). All the wood made me think of Noah's ark for some reason... Weird Al's current concert tour is Mandatory Fun (named after this latest album). Naturally, it included a number of new songs from said album, along with older classics. He even had a section of remixes of some of his oldest hits. Of course, being a Weird Al show, there were also lots of crazy costumes and lots of funny videos to pass the time during the costume changes. The concert had some elements pulled straight from his last tour, but there was a lot of new content as well and Weird Al concerts are just plain fun. Connie and I enjoyed ourselves and I'm sure I'll be back to see him again sooner or later.

Josiah

9/14/2016 This and that

Now that Connie and I are settled in, and I don't have a lot of grading to do yet, I kinda figured this week would be slow and relaxing. Yeah, not so much. So far anyway, I've been running all over the place between work and various errands and to-do list stuff. Hardly even had any time for Ace Attorney... Haven't had time to finish sorting my photos and videos from the Weird Al concert either, so the write-up will have to wait until Friday.

See you then!

Josiah

9/12/2016 Zzzz...

Just got back from a Weird Al concert (write-up coming later in the week) and I'm really tired so I'll write more Wednesday

Josiah

9/9/2016 OBJECTION!

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I'm running a bit late right now. Partly because I had a lot of things I had to get done. And partly because the new Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney game just came out. So yeah, I'm going to get going for now.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

9/7/2016 Redundancy

Here's a quick RVC!

Random Virginia Comment: Redundant Name of Rapacious Redundantness
Technically this is a Maryland comment, but whatever. Anyway, while listening to the radio here I've heard several ads for University of Maryland University College. Yes, you read that right and yes it sounds super awkward and redundant. No offense to the university itself, but that name... Naturally, it left me rather curious. Did the founders screw up the name on the paperwork and never bother to fix it? Is it a brand new university that chose its name to try and optimize search engine placement? I looked it up, and UMUC's Wikipedia page actually has a whole section explaining the name. Apparently, as weird as it sounds here in the US, University College is a designation that's occasionally used in Europe to denote a college that's associated with a university. And the University of Maryland part indicates the university to which UMUC belongs. Or rather used to belong, I think, since it's independent now, though you can think of it as part of the broader university system within the state of Maryland. So it's a college that's part of a university system, specifically the university system of Maryland, but not the actual University of Maryland. Got it? If not, I really don't blame you.
As a further bit of trivia, it was actually renamed in 1959. The original name was the vague College of Special and Continuation Studies. I can certainly see them wanting to change that, though, no offense to the people behind the decision, but I think they could have come up with something better. On a side note, it does offer master's degrees which, by my understanding, would make it a university, not a college. Though maybe I have the specifics of the two terms mixed up since they're often just used interchangeably here in the US. Anyway, all that confusion aside, it sounds like a fairly good college, university, or whatever it is, but I'd have a really had time getting past the name...

Josiah

9/5/2016 Cirque

I finally have some shelves! Not nearly as many as in Hawaii, so most of my books and stuff are still boxed, but it's a big improvement and I actually have some easy to access movies, books, and games now. Anyway, time to get the travelogue caught up.

August 28th (Sunday): Kurios
Cirque du Soleil has its permanent shows like La Nouba and Ka and its traveling shows like Kooza. While the permanent shows give them the opportunity to make some especially fancy stages, the traveling shows are no less spectacular. Shortly after moving here, I saw an add for Kurios, a touring Cirque show scheduled to perform nearby, so I got tickets for Connie and I.
The tent was set up by the Tyson's Corner metro station. I'd never been to that area, but it turns out there's a really big and fancy mall right across the street, which made for a convenient (and free) place to park.
Anyway, there naturally wasn't any photography allowed, but you can watch the official trailer. Kurios is sort of Cirque meets Steampunk in aesthetic. Like most Cirque shows, there's a vague plot running throughout. In this case, it's about a scientist who creates a machine that calls some strange people from another world. But it's really just a device to frame one incredible act after another. There were lots of great performances, including aerial bicycle riding, a really clever take on chair stacking, a quartet of contortionists, and a surprisingly awesome bit of hand puppetry, just to name a few. Combined with the elaborate costumes and fantastic live music, it created the dreamlike atmosphere and amazing experience that I've come to expect from Cirque du Soleil. I don't think I'd call Kurios my favorite Cirque show (though it's really hard to choose), but it was awesome and featured some very unique performances. It further reinforced my opinion that you really can't go wrong with any Cirque show, they're like nothing else and totally worth the ticket price. If Kurios is in your area be sure to see it.

Josiah

9/2/2016 Holiday weekend

As usual, you can vote with the TWC button to see the new bonus comic for this week.

It feels weird having a long holiday weekend just one week after the start of the semester. Though I could use the time to relax and get caught up on a few things now that all the unpacking is just about done, so I'm not going to complain. Expect some travelogue stuff (and possibly apartment photos) on Monday. For now, I could use a rest.

Have a great weekend!

Josiah

8/31/2016 Hard at work

I got a lot more unpacking done yesterday, but there's still a little left. And that's not mentioning my to-do list... Anyway, while I don't have any apartment pictures yet (I'll take them once the unpacking is totally finished), here's a little bit of travelogue stuff.

August 15th - 30th (Monday - Tuesday): Settling In
It's been a really busy couple of weeks. First off, Connie arrived on the 16th. Unfortunately, the movers hadn't arrived yet (they ended up running around the high end of their estimate) so we had to rough it until the 24th. On that note, even then they were pretty late, not arriving until after 7 PM (from an original estimate of 9 AM). Though I did have some orientation and division meetings to go to on the days leading up to their arrival, so at least the timing didn't conflict. Since then, it's mostly been a mix of unpacking (nearly done), running various errands, and doing prep work for my fall classes, which started on the 29th.
Connie I and did walk around the area where our apartment building is for a bit. Turns out there's a lot of fancy townhouses around here. They look rather nice, though if we end up buying a house in the area eventually, I think I'd rather have a stand alone...
We also found a pretty nice farmer's market at the Mosiac shopping area. I actually looked at some apartments there back when doing my initial search, but being near a metro station and part of a fancy shopping plaza, they were pretty expensive. Anyway, while I'm going to miss the pineapples, apple bananas, and other tropical fruit in Hawaii, it's great to have all the fresh berries, peaches, apples, and nectarines. Not to mention all the vegetables.
Anyway, it's mostly been work, work, work on one thing or another. Connie and I did have a fun outting on the 28th, but I'll cover that in it's own entry. I do have a lot of cool ideas for future day trips when things calm down (hopefully next week). This should be a fun area to explore...

Josiah

8/29/2016 Not quite...

Class prep has been taking longer than I expected. Mainly because I forgot just how long it takes to setup an online test. They're super convenient, but entering all the questions and answers takes a long time. I did get all my tests finished, but it really slowed me down. At this point... I probably still have two or three hours of prep work left and, with classes starting today, that means I'm going to have to put off those travelogue entries yet again. Honestly, I'm getting annoyed by how many times I've pushed them back at this point. Definitely Wednesday though. I'll have the last of the class prep done later today and, once that's out of the way, my schedule will be a lot more open.

Josiah

8/26/2016 Unpacking

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Well, the movers did arrive on Wednesday, but the original arrival estimate of 9 - 10 AM got changed multiple times until, in the end, they arrived around 7:20 PM. It was pretty late by the time they finished getting everything off the truck and into the apartment. Late enough that Connie and decided to just let them leave at that point and deal with unwrapping and assembling the furniture ourselves. Not ideal, but we would have been dealing with a sleepless night and likely noise complaints if they'd done it then. We made pretty serious progress with the unpacking on Thursday. We're probably... 80 - 85% done. At least for now. At some point I want to get a few shelves so I can get some of my books, games, and DVDs out of their boxes. But that's a project that can wait for a week or two (or three).

Anyway though, after a full day spent unpacking and putting together furniture, it's late and I'm tired. I barely got today's strip done and, on top of all that, I still have somewhere between half a day and a full day of class prep left. So yeah, the travelogue will have to wait a little longer.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

8/24/2016 Almost ready...

I just finished two days of orientation meetings combined with more class prep work (which will likely continue until the end of the work). In more exciting news, the movers are supposed to arrive today. It'll be really nice to have a real bed again, and a couch, and a full set of kitchen stuff, and a whole lot of other things. Hopefully that all goes smoothly without any missing boxes, broken stuff, or anything.

Anyway, I'll hopefully get all of that sorted out and get a travelogue entry about Virginia up on Friday. If the unpacking is done, I may include some apartment pictures as well.

See you then!

Josiah

8/22/2016 Prepping

Connie and I found a nice farmer's market yesterday but I forgot to bring my camera, so I'll take some pictures and write about it next time. Actually, I don't think I'll be writing much today at all. I've been spending a lot of time over the past few days doing prep work for my fall classes. I'm not done yet, but I'm pretty far along. However, I've got meetings to attend most of the day today and tomorrow. The movers are also supposed to be coming with the furniture and other stuff sometime in the next couple days, so hopefully that happen and nothing will be missing or broken. Anyway, things are going to be pretty hectic for the next few days but I actually think that, come next week when the semester starts, they'll calm down considerably. At least I hope so.

Later!

Josiah

8/19/2016 Otakon

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I'm feeling a bit more well rested so the travelogue can resume. I'll probably talk a bit more about my initial impressions of Virginia next week but, for now, Otakon!

August 11th - 14th (Thursday - Sunday): Otakon
Otakon holds a special significance to me as the first anime convention I ever attended, back in 2004. As a side note, I actually learned about it from playing Metal Gear Solid back on the original Playstation. One of the characters is nicknamed Otakon after the convention. That led me to look it up and notice that it wasn't too far away from where my grandparents lived, so I talked my mom into giving me and a cousin a ride there one day when visiting them. It was pretty amazing and led to me finding several anime that would later become favorites. That was also when I get my Final Fantasy VIII Griever pendant (a replica of Squall's), which I've worn ever since. However, due to university schedules and the like, I wasn't able to go again until 2013. Not only did I go with the same cousin (well, technically second cousin once removed or something like that) as before, who had since moved right near the Baltimore convention center, but I also got to meet several of my Pebble Version Forum friends, including Silver, one of the longest and most active members, in-person for the first time. It was awesome and I'd hoped to return in 2014 and 2015 but the timing didn't work out.
And that brings up to this year. I was originally thinking that Connie and I would do some traveling around the continental US during the summer and that we might wrap it up with a visit to Otakon. Then the whole mess at my university caused all travel plans to be abandoned so I could focus on job hunting. However, as soon as I got the interview for a job in Virginia, Otakon came back to mind. So, after getting the job, I made sure to time my moving plans so I could attend Otakon 2016.
With Baltimore only an hour from my new apartment in Fairfax, I didn't need to worry about finding a place to stay or anything like that. Parking in downtown Baltimore isn't exactly cheap, but it beats hotel prices. Actually, this was Otakon's final year in the Baltimore Convention Center, at least for the time being. For various reasons, it'll be moving to Washington DC next year, which is actually even more convenient for me.
Anyway, while the main convention was Friday - Sunday, they have early badge pickup on Thursday. And, to make the day a bit more interesting, they also started the Thursday matsuri (Japanese for festival). I'd never been to the matsuri before, so I decided to go in Thursday, get my badge, and check it out.
The matsuri took place by Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which is a nice plan to stroll around and browse a bunch of shops, restaurants, and some of the city's major tourist attractions (more on that in some future travelogue entry). It also happens to be a good place to play Pokémon Go, especially with tons of anime and game fans and filling the city and using Lure Modules everywhere. Anyway, the matsuri had a few booths up for local anime clubs and the like and a performance stage, but there wasn't much going on at first so, after hanging around for a little while, I decided to go get in line for my badge. The line was pretty long but, once the doors opened, it actually moved really quickly so I headed back to the matsuri to kill time. There was some music and random dance groups, but nothing too interesting. After a while my cousin showed up (yep, same one as before) so we went to get his badge and grab dinner. Then it was back to the matsuri, which was getting a lot busier, for the main event, and the main reason I wanted to go. While there were several concerts as part of the matsuri, the best (and the one I was interested in) was the final, featuring Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata, two of the singers who did much of the vocal work for the songs in the Persona games (a favorite series of mine). Despite a few technical difficulties towards the end, that was a lot of fun. One my way home for the night, I snapped a picture of the Inner Harbor at night to wrap things up.
As for the convention itself? Just like my previous two visits, Otakon was huge and a whole lot of fun. I went back and forth between hanging out with my cousin (and another cousin who was there for only one day), hanging out with Silver and Colly from the forums, and doing my own stuff. There were panels, there were anime screenings (When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace was pretty funny), there were video games, there were artists, there were cosplayers, there were concerts, there were dealers, and there were lots and lots of people. Rather than a full description, here are some highlights...
They had a Pokémon league of sorts running throughout all three days where you could find and defeat various "battle masters" scattered around the convention (using the 3DS games) to win badges. Get enough badges, and you could challenge an Elite Four esque group on Sunday. I had fun dusting off my battle team and did pretty good, taking down all six of the battle masters I challenged, though one of them took two attempts. Unfortunately, due to the timing, I wasn't able to fight the remaining two I needed to go on to the final round, but it was still a lot of fun.
The dealer's room at Otakon is one of the closest experiences you can get to shopping in Akihabara without leaving the US. Not on the same level, but still pretty awesome. That said, I didn't buy too much since I was short on spending money, plus I'm hoping to get back to Japan in the next year or two, and things are usually cheaper there. But browsing was still quite enjoyable. I even got to meet Katie from Awkward Zombie (she drew a torchic in my book).
Aside from Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata at the matsuri, I went to two other concerts (and skipped a third I didn't care about). The Friday concert was Yui Makino, who I knew from her work on Tsubasa and Aria. About half of her concert was fairly typical bubbly J-Pop and the other half featured her playing piano while singing some slower ballad type songs. I could take or leave her regular stuff, but the piano numbers were pretty good. No videos allowed though, so you'll have to take my word for it (or look her up on Youtube). There was also a mini-concert Saturday night in the middle of the masquerade. Actually, that was the main reason I went to the masquerade, despite not being familiar with the singer, Michi (my reasoning being that I like concerts and she's cute, with a cool outfit). Actually, not many people were familiar with her since she debuted rather recently and only has three singles so far. Despite that, she was really good with a great voice and a solid set of songs. I was impressed enough that I got a CD and went to her autograph session the next day (where I got to chat with her a little since the line wasn't very long). Hopefully she'll have a full album out in the not too distance future. She's great as is and I think she has the potential to become one of my favorite J-Pop singers going forward.
Though, going back to the main convention center from the masquerade that night, a friend of a friend got his wallet snatched despite being on a nice busy street. (General note, it's best to ignore panhandlers and keep moving quickly, no matter how persistant they may be, especially after dark. Try to look calm and confident as well. It was the person that didn't that got singled out.) My friend and I saw it happen and ran at the two perps a moment later (maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I was pretty certain they weren't armed and I am a third degree black belt). We were too far away to catch up so the chase didn't last long before they dissapeared down a side street, but we did force them to run for it and toss the wallet before they could do anything except grab the cash, so losses were, fortunately, minimal. We did call the police and gave statements afterwards, though who knows if they'll catch the guys or not. First time I've ever been involved in something like that, but I remained really calm throughout the whole thing. I really don't get freaked out easily... Probably because I think everything out very logically and was convinced that we weren't in any real danger.
That one thing aside, Otakon was a lot of fun and, while there are some pros and cons to living in this part of the country, being near Otakon is an awesome benefit. I'm really looking forward to next year's in DC.

Josiah

8/17/2016 Tired...

I figured that, between Sunday evening and Monday, I'd be more or less back to normal but I think I underestimated how worn down I'd gotten from this move. Didn't really help that I got to sleep pretty late on Monday and then Connie arrived on Tuesday, but her flight was delayed a couple of hours, so things ran kind of late as well. Anyway... What I'm getting at is that I'm running behind and I really need some sleep so I'm going to have to push my Otakon travelogue entry back until Friday. I did get the pictures sorted and everything, but I just don't trust myself to do any serious writing when I'm this tired.

Later!

Josiah

8/15/2016 Recharge...

Well, Otakon was a blast but a busy con after a very busy week has left me pretty tired. Fortunately, while I still have things to do this week (I'd like to get started on class prep, for one), I shouldn't have any more early mornings or late nights for a while. Anyway, I was hoping to do my Otakon travelogue entry today, but didn't have time to finish sorting the photos yesterday evening so it'll be up on Wednesday instead.

See you then!

Josiah

8/12/2016 Con time

Click the TWC button to vote and see the new bonus comic! And with this, Pebble Version begins its 14th year. Wow... Hard to believe it's been so long. But I don't have time to talk about it today. It's also the start of Otakon. And, with pretty much everything on my post-moving checklist finished, I'm gonna enjoy myself this weekend. Expect a travelogue Monday or Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah





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