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

Year 1: 8/11/2003 - 8/9/2004
Year 2: 8/11/2004 - 8/10/2005
Year 3: 8/11/2005 - 8/9/2006
Year 4: 8/11/2006 - 8/10/2007
Year 5: 8/13/2007 - 8/8/2008
Year 6: 8/11/2008 - 8/10/2009
Year 7: 8/12/2009 - 8/9/2010
Year 8: 8/11/2010 - 8/10/2011
Year 9: 8/12/2011 - 8/10/2012
Year 10: 8/13/2012 - 8/9/2013
Year 11: 8/12/2013 - 8/8/2014
Year 12: 8/11/2014 - 8/10/2015
Year 13: 8/12/2015 - 8/10/2016
Year 14: 8/12/2016 - 8/9/2017
Year 15: 8/11/2017 - 8/10/2018
Year 16: 8/13/2018 - 8/9/2019

4/1 More games

Happy(?) April Fools, I guess. Should have done something special for PV but I'm not really in that kind of mood. Not that things have been bad, per say, but there's still a lot of stuff going on that really annoys me. But I don't really want to talk more about that today either. So, let's get back to favorite video games.

FPS
First Person Shooter is a popular genre these days, but it's honestly never been one I've been especially into. One reason is that I'm rarely all that into competitive gaming (outside of a bit of Smash and Pokémon) and when I was growing up the FPS genre tended to lack any sort of decent stories, so it held little appeal for me. Over the years though, there has been the occasional FPS that got my attention.

Metroid Prime
The Metroid Prime trilogy successfully married the Metroidvania exploration elements of the 2D Metroid games with the action and gunplay of a FPS. There's a lot more exploration, platforming, and puzzle solving than a normal FPS (to the point where I could argue that they're more of a combo genre than a pure FPS) but they're fantastic games regardless and appeal to a lot of people who aren't really traditional FPS fans, like myself. While the entire trilogy is good, the first game is my favorite due to its focus on a single expansive planet to explore.

Portal 2
Portal is another game that isn't necessarily a true FPS (see a trend here?), it's more of a first person puzzle game where you use a gun of sorts. Anyway, the puzzles are clever and unique thanks to the portal gun mechanic and the humor takes everything to the next level. While the original Portal is a classic, Portal 2 is bigger and better with more diverse environments, more crazy characters, and additional puzzle mechanics.

Bioshock Infinite
The Bioshock series is unusual in the FPS space due to its focus on story and world building over combat (though there is plenty of that too) and single player over multiplayer. Both Bioshock and Infinite feature fantastically creative settings and thought provoking storylines. Of the two though, I strongly prefer Infinite for a number of reasons, especially the much more developed main characters and smoother combat. It also doesn't dip into full-on horror like the first Bioshock does at times, which is a plus for me (though perhaps not for everyone).

MMOs
As previously discussed, I don't do a ton of multiplayer games. I've also never been a fan of monthly subscription fees, which were the norm for MMOs for quite a long time. Even today, with more and more of them going free to play, a lot of the best still use subscriptions. As such, while I've toyed around with various MMOs over the years, there's actually only one I ever spent a significant amount of time on. Hard to say if I'd truly call it a favorite, but it's worth listing here. I'll also note that Final Fantasy XIV interests me quite a bit so I may give it a shot sooner or later.

Guild Wars
I initially picked up Guild Wars because of the ways it shook up the traditional MMO model. For example, the lack of a monthly fee (or any serious micro-transactions, for that matter) and focus on strategy and build instead of grinding. It was a fun and refreshing change of pace. Unfortunately, I never really had a dedicated group of people to play with, but the game still kept me engaged enough that I played for hundreds of hours across multiple characters and campaigns. Even now, I'm still occasionally tempted to load it up again to finish that last campaign.

Later!

Josiah

3/30/2020 Quick rest

I'm running a little late today and I've had a couple late nights so I'm gonna just keep it short today and continue talking about my favorite games next time.

Later!

Josiah

3/27/2020 Even more favorites

Continuing my list of favorite games...

Beat 'em Up
You can debate whether or not this is really a genre, but it's sorta a side scrolling 2D action game which involves smashing your way through lots and lots of enemies. It's mostly an arcade genre and much of my experience with it involves a few quick games here and there. But I have played all the way through a couple of these at home. And I've been meaning to try out the River City / Kunio-kun series. For now though, I've only got one favorite.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Video Game
The Scott Pilgrim graphic novels are a must read for any gamer and, despite all the changes, the movie was pretty awesome as well. The game took the story and converted it into a fun retro style beat 'em up. It perfectly captures the vibe of the source material and has a good bit of depth to it with lots of unlockable characters, abilities, and the like.

Casual
Technically, casual isn't really a genre. It's a descriptor you tack onto games in other genres to show that they're east to learn, inoffensive, and playable in short bursts. While it's easy for more hardcore gamers to look down on casual games, some of them are still a lot of fun. While there's probably only one casual game I'd truly consider a favorite, some runner-ups include Peggle and Kairosoft's series of Story games (Game Dev Story, Hotel Story, etc.).

Plants vs. Zombies
The game that not only introduced a lot of core gamers to casual titles, but also revived the Tower Defense sub-genre. I was a bit hesitant to pay full price ($20) for this at first and ended up waiting for a Steam sale and getting it for half that. Turns out, I shouldn't have waited, the humor, smooth progression, and depth kept me playing for around 100 hours. The sequel is fun as well, but held back a bit by its mobile free-to-play design.

Fighting
The "problem" with many fighting games is the massive amount of time and practice you need to put in to get to even a competent level of skill. And since I don't do a lot of competitive play, it's not one of my top genres. I do, however, occasionally pick up a fighting game because I really like the style (like Skull Girls) or I'm interested in the story (like P4 Ultimate). Generally, the more over-the-top the better. Following today's trend though, I've only really got one game, or series I suppose, that's a true favorite.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
I've been playing Smash since the N64 days and I've enjoyed every entry. While I do miss a handful of things from the previous games (trophies, Pokéfloats, Subspace Emissary, etc.) there's no denying that Ultimate is the "ultimate" version of Smash. It's fun to play on your own but a true blast to play with friends. If you're wondering, Kirby has been my main ever since the original Smash Bros. and is the only one I'm tournament level with. Other characters I enjoy playing include: Greninja, Joker, Inkling, Mega Man, and Young Link.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/25/2020 Favorites 2

Time for more of my favorite video games, by genre.

Action RPG
Action RPGs have RPG style length and character development but with more fast paced action game style battles. I got into them thanks to my love of RPGs.

Kingdom Hearts II
I love the entire Kingdom Hearts series, but II is still my favorite, especially the Final Mix version. It's the biggest and most complex entry in the series with a ton of different worlds to explore, has my favorite version of the gummy ship, and tells a great a story which is a lot more straightforward than that in some of the later entries (though, to be fair, I enjoy the series twisting complex plot).

Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga
The Mario & Luigi games could either be called Action RPGs or Platformer RPGs but anyway, the mix of light platforming and heavily timing based battles with RPG mechanics is a win. It doesn't hurt that the Mario & Luigi titles are also some of the funniest games out there. Personally, I still like the first one the best, but they're all good.

Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII
Most of the FF series are traditional RPGs but this prequel to the classic Final Fantasy VII took a more action focused twist. While the overall plot got a little crazy, the story of Zack as he went from a naive Soldier candidate to a true hero, while overcoming death, betrayal, and dark secrets is gripping and emotional. It also features an absolutely brilliant ending and is one of the very few stories (in games or otherwise) that actually made me cry.

Adventure
Adventure games focus more on exploration and puzzle solving with little to no combat. I got into them pretty early, back when I was primarily a PC gamer (primarily because I didn't really have the money for consoles).

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney 3
I love the Ace Attorney series. The clever mysteries, quirky characters, tense courtroom battles, and touching character arcs keep me hooked. While the entire series is great, if I had to pick a favorite I'd go with the third for the way it ties together so many elements from the first two.

Myst III
The Myst series got me into Adventure games in the first place with its beautiful graphics, haunting environments, and interesting plot. While the original game probably sticks in my head the most, I think the third still manages to be my favorite overall.

Ico
The lesser known first game by Team Ico of Shadow the Colossus fame. It's the dreamlike story of a boy and girl trying to escape from a crumbling castle. There's a lot of things to like but I think it's the atmosphere and relationship between the characters that stand out the most. It's a game I like to replay every once in a while just to relive the experience.

See you Friday!

Josiah

3/23/2020 Favorites

My university decided to cancel all summer travel, including the Japan trip myself and another professor were going to run. I'm pretty disappointed (and so are the students, for that matter), but nothing to be done except try again next year. I still might go to Japan this summer, and I certainly want to, but it's a bit iffy.

Anyway, I'm tired about talking about how screwed up everything is right now. So I figured I'd talk about something a bit more fun, like my favorite video games. Yes, games. It used to be easy to name a single favorite game, but now, not so much. So instead, I'll break it down and talk about my two or three favorites in each genre. I'm not going to get through all of them today, but let's get started.

Action
I didn't really get into action games until one of my cousins gave me a used copy of God of War. While it's a genre I enjoy, it's not one I've played quite as extensively as some, and there are still some very popular titles I haven't had a chance to try yet. But anyway, here are my favorites.

Bayonetta
While the violence and fan service is a bit over the top, Bayonetta has the fastest and smoothest combat of any action game I've played. And I love how just about every button combination pulls off some sorta of cool combo attack. Add in a ridiculously over the top story, and a lot of depth, and it's my favorite 3D action game by far. I'll note that Bayonetta 2 would likely be on this list as well, except that I haven't played it yet. I fully intended to back on the Wii U, but I got sidetracked replying the Wii U port of the original...several times. But I recently ended up buying the Switch port on sale, so maybe I'll get to it soon.

Viewtiful Joe
A crazy 2.5D adventure based on Japanese henshin (transforming hero) movies. The movie special effects powers, crazy level design, and colorful cast make a extremely memorable. Interestingly, some of its key developers went on to work on Bayonetta years later.

Shadow of the Colossus
Not quite sure if this goes under Action or Action Adventure (I could argue either way), but even all these years later it still features some of the best bosses to be found in any video game. The thrill of taking on monsters as tall as a building with nothing but a sword, bow, and your trusty horse, never fades and the mysterious dream like atmosphere ensures that even the downtime between battles is memorable.

Action Adventure
These games have more more combat than pure Adventure games, but far more exploration, puzzle solving, etc., and a pure Action game. It's a favorite genre of mine and has been for quite some time.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Currently, my favorite Zelda title, though I haven't found the time to dive into Breath of the Wild yet, so that may change. While the difficulty is, perhaps, a touch on the easy side, the world design and puzzles are fantastic, Midna is a great companion, and the ability to turn into a wolf opens up all sorts of interesting gameplay and puzzle options. To avoid filling this list with Zelda games, A Link to the Past is my second favorite in the series and Majora's Mask is probably the third.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
The highlight of the series, or at least of all the ones I've played so far (I fell behind when it moved to the PS4) in terms of story, gameplay, and general structure. Many of the later titles either tried to do too much and over reached, or felt a bit rushed, but Brotherhood really struck the perfect balance.

Gravity Rush 2
The original was a bit more focused, especially in regards to the story, but the sequel really took advantage of the PS4 to create a large colorful world to let Kit and her gravity bending powers truly shine. There's just something about running up walls, flying through the air (well, technically controlled falling), and constantly shifting gravity to stay one step ahead of your opponents. The series is really an underappreciated gem.

Lots to do, so I'll stop there for today and pick this back up next time.

Josiah

3/20/2020 Is it worth it?

Sorry, it's another coronavirus related post as more and more places here shut down or at least put significant limits on their operations. Now, there was a recent paper by a respected researcher at Stanford. He points out that we really don't have anywhere near enough data to have an accurate picture of how infectious or deadly this coronavirus is. Initial guesses about the mortality rate were around 2 - 3% based on what was happening China. And, while it's hard to get any reliable data, Iran could be a good bit higher. However, they don't seem to be the norm. The most realistic mortality rate I've seen for a country that has good sanitation, a decent medical system, and doesn't feature serious government incompetence (China) or sheer stupidity (Iran) is around 0.68%. Of course, there are probably some deaths due to the virus that have been missed. At the same time, pretty much everyone agrees that there are a lot of undiagnosed cases of the coronavirus since, in most people, it's mild enough (like a regular cold or flu at worst) that they won't seek medical attention and therefor won't get tested. Which means the actual death rate is probably a lot lower. That researcher I mentioned said that, based on all the data available, the potential mortality rate in the US is somewhere between 1% - 0.05%. Now that's a pretty big range (relatively speaking). Let's add some more perspective to that. First off, remember, of course, that all deaths are terrible. But, realistically, people are going to die from all sorts of things. Illness, car accidents, allergies, etc., etc., etc. So the question is whether or not the coronavirus is much more dangerous than anything else we encounter in normal life. If the actual mortality rate is around .05% (the low end of the scale) that would mean that the virus is less deadly than the normal yearly flu and everything has been one major, major, over reaction. If it's 1%, well, that's a lot higher than 0.05%. Though it's not like that means 1% of the entire US population is going to die. It would mean 1% of the people who caught the virus, and even in Wuhan (ground zero and with a horribly botched government response that let the virus run free for months), only around 11% of the population caught the virus (I will grant that all numbers from the Chinese government aren't necessarily reliable). Now I like China, but the sanitation there isn't great so it's reasonable to assume that the virus wouldn't spread nearly so well here. But hey, let's assume 10% of the population gets infected with a 1% mortality rate as a worst case scenario. Remember, that's likely the worst case. Also remember that the virus is only real dangerous to people who have immune and/or respiratory problems (mostly the elderly), and that those people likely already take extra precautions against illness since even the common cold can be kinda deadly if you have those kind of health problems.
So we have a virus that, at best, is less dangerous than the regular flu. At, at absolute worst, could perhaps kill 0.1% of the US population. But the thing is, we really don't know for sure where the coronavirus falls between those two extremes and we probably won't know for quite a while. So the question you have to ask is, is our country's (or, for that matter, the world's) reaction to the virus worth it? Once again, any deaths are terrible. But we don't ban cars to prevent deadly accidents. We don't shut down everything for the annual flu. We don't ban peanuts because some people have dangerous allergies. For this coronavirus, we've shut down entire cities. It's not just about the inconvenience of not being able to go to the gym or a movie. The economy has taken a major nose dive. This is hurting big business, small business, and regular workers. Places are going out of business. People are losing their jobs. The falling stock market puts many people's savings at risk. In China, there are people who have committed suicide after losing everything due to the quarantines. Yes we probably reduced the number of infections and deaths at least somewhat (how much is impossible to say), but given what we know (and don't know) about the virus, can you really say that the damage we've caused to so many people's lives is worth it? That's not a question with an easy answer but, personally, I'm not so sure.

Josiah

3/18/2020 Recovering

Zack is, thankfully, back to normal and I'm feeling a bit better after a full night's sleep. Though I've really busy with work this week thanks to the university moving everything online for the rest of the semester.

Seems I just keep getting more and more exasperated with the reactions to the coronavirus. But if I keep writing about it, it's just going to turn into a full-on rant. It's ironic that civilization is being brought to its knees not so much by an illness, but by the reaction to it. But there's no way people can keep up this level of panic and inconvenience for long. If there were millions of people infected and bodies piling up, sure. But the reality isn't even the tiniest fraction of that. No matter how much the media tries to fan the flames, sooner or later people are going to calm down, even if it's only because they get burned out on the whole thing. Personally, I'm predicting most of this will die down within the next month. At least I hope so...

Later!

Josiah

3/16/2020 Ugh...

It's been a rough weekend. Not because of coronavirus panic. Though that did result in some annoying cancellations and more issues with grocery shopping. Instead, Connie and Zack got sick again (once again, not coronavirus). Zack was the real problem. He had a fair bad fever, which meant checking on him at night and giving him medicine (which he often really didn't want to take). He didn't sleep especially well either. That meant I didn't get a lot of sleep for a couple of nights. It's been pretty exhausting. Fortunately, it looks like the fever finally broke, though I'll need to check a couple of times over the night to be sure. Good thing to, I've got a busy week ahead. Although it's technically the second week of extended spring break, I've got to finish switching my classes to online format and do a bunch of grading.

So yeah, I'm going to check on Zack and then, hopefully, get some sleep.

Later!

Josiah

6/22/2020 Getting more complicated

Reactions to the coronavirus are getting more serious (reactions, not the virus itself). My university, for example, decided to extend spring break and then switch to online classes for a while. On the one hand, that sorta means I get more vacation. In practice though, I actually have a lot of extra work to do in order to change all my classes around to fit the new schedule and format. It's gonna be...interesting.

Though that's not all. I went shopping in Costco yesterday morning and it was like Black Friday with the crowds and the lines. I didn't see anyone stocking up on toilet paper, though I'm guess that's because it was already gone, along with the tissues and sanitizer. Now I understand sanitizer (though I don't think people need to go crazy and stock up) but why toilet paper? Unless you're expecting a full scale quarantine where you can't leave your house for weeks, why the heck would you need a giant supply of toilet paper for a virus that that mostly just causes mild flu-like symptoms? And that's if you somehow manage to beat the odds and catch the virus to begin with. Even stranger than toilet paper though, was that most of the people at Costco were stocking up on bottled water. Now that, I can't figure out the logic for at all. This is a virus, not a hurricane or a blizzard, so it's not like there's any chance that the plumbing is going to stop working. And the virus isn't transmitted in water, so it's not like there will be a contamination or anything. It's just general panic without any actual thought behind it. I've done a bit of reading lately and it seems like every couple of years there's some new scary disease. And many of the recent ones, like SARS, Swine Flu, and Ebola, were far more dangerous than coronavirus yet they didn't receive anywhere close to this level of reaction and panic (thank you media, government, and WHO). The amount of things that are being shut down and canceled is crazy. If this is the new norm, we're in trouble. Like I said, there's a new one of these things every couple of years, give or take, and we can't shut down significant portions of the planet and the economy every time. I really hope that people come to their senses sooner rather than later. Take precautions, sure. But don't incite panic and don't lock down anything and everything "just in case."

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/11/2020 Taking it easy?

Did I mention that I'm on spring break this week? Not that I'm really just relaxing or anything. I've been taking care of Zack a lot and I've got some chores and errands I've been putting off that need taking care of. Not to mention that, as a professor, I'm not 100% on holiday. I still have a handful of work related things to do over the week. So really, I haven't been less busy exactly, just busy doing different things. Connie and I did, however, take advantage of the best weather we've had since returning from Hawaii to take Zack to the zoo the other day, which was fun. But so far I haven't really had any more time than usual for reading, gaming, or the like. But hey, the week isn't over yet. Right now though, I've still got some work to do.

Later!

Josiah

3/9/2020 Virus

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the coronavirus. It's certainly in the news enough. And, because it started in China, I've been paying fairly close attention. While it's always good to be careful when it comes to health, the reaction to it strikes me as overblown. The risk of catching it here in the US is currently very low, so people really need to stop freaking out so much. Heck, even in places like China and Italy that have much larger outbreaks, the number of cases is pretty low compared to the population of the country, or even the region. On top of that, even if you do catch the coronavirus, it will most likely be no worse than a regular flu. The death rate isn't very high and nearly everyone who did die already had serious problems with their lungs or immune system (mostly the elderly). While coronavirus is dangerous to people in that condition, so is just about everything. I don't want to downplay the deaths that have happened but, when you actually study it out, you're far more likely to catch, and even die from, the regular flu than the coronavirus. That's true in China and even more true here in the US. But the regular flu is a normal thing that's always around, not some new named virus, so no one reports on it or freaks out about it. Once again, not to make light of the deaths coronavirus has caused, but it's looking like the damage done (emotionally, economically, etc.) from both the efforts to contain the virus, and the panic it's caused, are going to be far worse than the virus itself.

While it's a relatively minor thing compared to what many people have had to go through, the virus has left my summer plans in a bit of a limbo (we had originally been planning a Japan and China trip). Right now, I'm taking a wait and see approach. While I'm not especially worried about catching the virus myself, I don't want to get caught up in a travel ban, quarantine, or anything like that. So, we'll see.

Regardless though, don't panic. If you don't believe me, do some research. The experts (not the reporters and such trying to drum up viewers and clicks) agree that, while you should always be careful, there's really not much reason to worry. Panic never helped anyone (except for those reporters).

Josiah

3/6/2020 I still hate Dreamweaver

I just want to restate that I hate Adobe Dreamweaver. I mentioned a while back that I was creating a new web site in Dreamweaver and I was complaining about it then. Well, I had to take a break from the site for a while to get some other things done and I just came back to it. Dreamweaver didn't get any better. Just to give an example, I had a big block of text to put on one of the web pages. It needed some editing, but I figured I'd just paste what I had and do the editing in Dreamweaver. Big mistake. First off, even just getting my cursor where I wanted was a chore that often took several clicks while Dreamweaver kept deciding that I wanted to select something different, not what I was actually clicking on. Trying to just get the cursor somewhere in the text and then move it with the keyboard didn't work either since, after moving it a few spots, Dreamweaver would decide I actually wanted to scroll the page or select a different element instead of move the cursor. Then, once I actually did manage to get the cursor in the correct place, I had to deal with Dreamweaver adding in extra spaces and deleting nearby letters when I tried to type. I mean seriously, this isn't just some minor bugs or love it or hate it design choices, this is completely broken. How do they release a professional level product that can't even handle simple text editing? I am seriously tempted to transfer the site into GoLive. No matter that was discontinued years ago. It works, which is more than I can say for the current version of Dreamweaver.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/4/2020 Catching up

Now that I'm done with my current batch of grading, and everyone is finally over the flu, I finally managed to take some time to work through most of the items on my latest to-do list. Didn't really leave me with much time to write a news post though (especially since I needed to get this strip done), so I'm off. I'll try to have more written for Friday.

Later!

Josiah

3/2/2020 Up and down

After several years here, I think I've finally figured out Virginia's temperatures. The consistent thing is that the temperatures never stay stable for any real length of time. Instead, the temperature bounces up and down by ten or twenty degrees at a time. For example, over the past week or so, we've gone from low 50's, to low 30's, and back to low 50's. Up ahead, it's going to hit 60 soon...then back down to mid 40's. While I do appreciate the early warm days, some consistency would be nice.

Later!

Josiah

2/28/2020 Leap Year

Tomorrow will be a rare February 29. Too bad it's not a PV update day.

Anyway, I think I'm just about over the flu. Now, as long as I don't somehow catch something else, I should be fine. Though now it might be Connie's turn to get sick... So, while I might be feeling better, I may have to spend extra time taking care of Zack over the weekend.

Well, here goes...

Josiah

2/24/2020 Here I go... UPDATE

UPDATE 2/26/2020: I think what happened is, just as my cold was nearly gone, I caught something else (possibly the flu). Might have been what Zack had, since we never really had the same symptoms last week. Ugh... Anyway, it's not terrible and hopefully the worst is already past. However, I'm a bit out of it and I need some extra sleep so no comic today. Updates should resume on Friday.

Here goes another week of classes, grading, and the like. I did manage to get over my cold, though it might be another day or two before I completely lose the cough. My voice isn't quite 100% yet either, though it's close enough. At very least, I think I can probably get through my lectures and stuff without too much trouble. Hopefully. Zack got sick as well, so it wasn't the greatest weekend. But anyway, that's all finished and now I've got to get back to it.

Later!

Josiah

2/21/2020 Legos

On the bright side, my sore throat faded away. But I mostly lost my voice in the process (having to lecture with a sore throat tends to do that), which also left my throat feeling annoyingly scratchy. I still feel a tiny bit sick as well, though not too much. Fortunately, I don't have any meetings or anything today so I can probably get through the weekend without doing much talking if I need to.

In other news... Um, not much I guess. Other than trying a new Chinese restaurant, it hasn't been a particularly exciting week. Let's see, what else? I've been watching Lego Masters, a new game show which challenges teams of two to build all sorts of elaborate LEGO creations. I loved Legos as a kid. Still do, for that matter, though I haven't really had the time and space to do much with them for quite a while, beyond making some little Duplo (kids' Legos) builds with Zack. I'm kinda looking forward to when he's a bit older and can play with all the regular bricks. Anyway, Lego Masters is fun to watch. It also makes me wonder if I could have gotten to that level of building skill if I'd really stuck with it through university. Well, maybe someday...

Have a good week!

Josiah

2/19/2020 A bit too much

I might have been pushing myself a bit too hard over the past week or so and now I've got a cold. So far, it's not much more than a sore throat, and hopefully it won't get any worse than that. Hopefully...

Josiah

2/17/2020 Recharge

Well, I had a fairly nice weekend so I'm more or less rested and caught up on things. Now for a new, and less busy week. Hopefully I can make some serious progress on Death Stranding as well. With Persona 5 Royal and the Final Fantasy VII remake coming out next month, I really need to get it finished. It's an unusual game, but I really am enjoying it. Maybe I'll write more about it later in the week. For now, I'm going play a bit and then get some rest before work.

Later!

Josiah

2/14/2020 Home

If you're a fan of the Pokémon games (which is a fairly safe guess if you're visiting this site), you probably know that Pokémon Home was released yesterday. It's the latest game/app/program for storing large amount of pokémon and transferring them between games. This looks like the most full featured one yet, though said features are split between the Switch and mobile versions (speaking of which, I had a really hard time finding it in the Google Play store for some reason). I spent some time the other day transferring over the bulk of my pokémon collection from Bank (the storage system on the 3DS) and organizing them. Still need to grab a few others from my various 3DS cartridges but most of the work is done. Anyway, a few oddities aside, it seems to work ok, has a nice pokédex, and, most importantly, works with all the newest games (well, mostly, Go is going to be added later). I'm looking forward to playing around with the features later on (maybe using the trading system to pick up a variations that I'm missing) but I had a really busy day with grading and MFA work, so my time was pretty limited. It also left me rather burned out (again), so I'm afraid I don't have much to say. Anyway, it's nice that Home is finally out and I'm looking forward to once again having my complete pokédex worth of pokémon at my fingertips.

Later!

Josiah

2/12/2020 Still working

Still lots of grading left to do. I'm not feeling so burned out, but I think I picked the wrong TV shows to watch while I worked on this update, as they're leaving me rather annoyed. Plus, I need to get some sleep before I get back to work, so I'm afraid that it's another short news post today. I'll hopefully have the time and motivation to write something more interesting for Friday.

Later!

Josiah

2/10/2020 ...

It's been an exhausting day (not due to any major problems, just a number of small things) and I'm too burned out to write much of anything. I need to get some rest and them throw myself into a whole lot of grading.

Later!

Josiah

2/7/2020 Here it comes

Things are about to get a lot busier for me this coming week thanks to my first big batch of grading for the semester combined with some MFA work. Can't say I'm really looking forward to that (I've been busy enough as is), but it is what it is. Ordinary life and all of that. I'm trying to get a little bit ahead of the work, but there's only so much I can do in that regard.

So yeah, back in the swing of things and all that.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/5/2020 Back to it

The furnace is fixed and I'm keeping busy with Zack, work, and some stuff around the house. And things will be getting a bit busier soon, as the semester really kicks into gear. Hopefully I can strike a decent balance this semester, it can be tough with a three year old in the mix. Well, nothing to do but try.

Later!

Josiah

2/3/2020 Heating

We woke up Saturday morning to find that our furnace had died. Well, more specifically it won't ignite. I tried what I could but couldn't get it going. I'm still trying to get a repair appointment scheduled (that's the problem with something breaking on a weekend). On the bright side, our house has two furnaces to so we still have heat on one floor (where the bedrooms are). The rest of the house, however, is rather cold. At least the weather has warmed up a bit over the past few days, so the temperature is staying within a livable range and I don't have to worry about the pipes freezing or anything. I think we probably just need a new igniter so hopefully it'll all be taken care of soon.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

1/31/2020 Editing

Between my MFA classes and some side jobs, I've been doing a lot of editing over the past months, both fiction and non-fiction. While I'd rather be writing my own things, I think I make a pretty good editor. Probably not something I'd want to do professionally though. How much I enjoy it is directly related to what I'm editing and, more often than not, I'm fighting off either boredom (when I'm not that interested in what I'm editing) or frustration (when I actually dislike what I'm editing). Regardless, I've got a few more months to go before I can really take a break from it so, for now, I guess I'm an editor.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/29/2020 Bobobo!

They just released a new Blu-ray collection of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. And yes, that's the correct title. Bobobo is a zany and rather random comedic anime. Normally, I don't actually get into those much since I find them to be high on random weirdness, but rather low on comedy (I don't find weirdness to be automatically funny). Bobobo, on the other hand, is certainly weird and random, but it's also consistantly hilarious. To briefly summarize, there's an evil empire that's out to shaves off everyone's hair because...well, just because. However, they're opposed by Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, a martial arts master (sorta) who fights them off using his nose hair and whatever random stuff pops out of his big blond afro. Along the way, he amasses a team of allies (or at least living shields) including a large piece of jelly, a guy with ice cream (or is it poop?) as a head, a young man who fights with his farts, and a torpedo, among others. Together they fight against the empire's champions and generals such as a talking fishcake and a really depressed guy with a bag over his head. And no, I'm not making any of that up. It's completely and utterly ridiculous, but in a really fun way.

Bobobo holds a bit of a special place in my memory. During my fist visit to Otakon (which was also my first time at any anime convention) back in 2004 (about a year after I started PV), I had a bit of time to kill and dropped into the nearest screening room just in time to see the second episode of Bobobo, which had only recently started airing in Japan. I loved it, but that was it for a while since, at the time, it didn't have any sort of official US release. So it just kind of stuck in my memory until, around a year later, it got a fantastic English dub on Cartoon Network. Viz also released a little bit of the manga, but only a few volumes from the middle of the series (something I'm still rather sore about). Unfortunately, the home release of the anime was similarly problematic. It was first released on DVD by a brand new anime localization company, but they botched the whole thing in a number of ways and only released the first couple of discs before going out of business, leaving the series in limbo for years. It did finally get a complete DVD release much later on, but that one was also flawed (though not as badly) and quickly went out of print so I was never able to get a copy. But now, finally, there's a new Blu-ray set which contains the complete unedited series with both the English dub and the original subtitled Japanese (subtitles were one of the biggest issues with the past releases). While I'm slightly disappointed that it's not in HD, over all I'm just really happy to finally have the full series in both English and Japanese. Especially since, to my knowledge, it's never been available for streaming in the US either. If you're like me and have fond memories of Bobobo, this is the set to get. If you've never heard of Bobobo, but you like crazy funny anime, give it a try. There's nothing else quite like it.

Later!

Josiah

1/27/2020 Now playing

Now that I'm back from Hawaii, I have my PS4. So it's back to Death Stranding. Though I might take a break from it to play the new Kingdom Hearts III DLC. Or maybe I'll just start a new game on Critical and work the DLC into that playthrough. Though, if I do that, I'll probably wait until after I finish Death Stranding. Hmm... Well, I'll figure that out in another day or two. While I have a pretty massive game backlog, the next must play titles for me are coming out in the spring. Specifically, I'm waiting for Persona 5 Royale and the Final Fantasy VII remake. Of course, I've already played the original versions of both of them, but I'm still really looking forward to the new ones.

I could go into more depth about that, or write about something else that's been on my mind, but I'm a bit burned out today so I think I'm just going to get some rest. Or maybe take a little time to actually play a game, which I don't get to do nearly as much as I would like these days.

Later!

Josiah

1/24/2020 Finishing the travelogue

Well, let's get the Hawaii travelogue finished.

January 14th - 16th (Tuesday - Thursday): The End of the Trip
My brother's family returned to Maui Tuesday morning, just as my dad arrived. We didn't do anything too special on our last couple of days on Oahu. Walked around, visited a couple more restaurants, took Zack back to the Discovery Center, and the like. Unfortuantely, it wasn't really beach weather, but it was a pleasant couple of days and we did see a nice rainbow and one last sunset on the beach.
I always get a bit pensive when it comes time to leave Hawaii. I'm pretty happy with things in Virginia, but I can't help but think about what life would have been like if I'd been able to stay. Sigh...
Anyway, we flew out very late Wednesday night. Zack managed to stay awake a whole lot longer than I thought he could to, but over all our flights went very well and, unlike last year, everything back home was totally fine. No water leaks or anything. While I may not live in Hawaii anymore, I am glad that I at least have the means, reason, and oppertunity to visit every year. It's nice to be home but, as always, I'll be looking forward to our next Hawaii trip.

Later!

Josiah

1/22/2020 Back to it

Sorry about the missed update on Monday, but now my classes are all ready to go and things are settling down. I still have a couple travelogue posts left so let's get back to that.

January 13th (Monday): Fish and Horses
It wasn't really beach weather so, after discussing a few options, we decided to take the kids to Sealife Park, which happened to be one of the few tourist attractions on Oahu that I hadn't visited yet. It's not really an aquarium, because there aren't a whole lot of tanks (a few, but not many). If anything, it's a bit like a small version of Sea World. Anyway, after watching the fish and sea turtles for a few minutes, we moved on to the touching pool where you can touch the usual sea creatures (urchins, starfish, etc.). Fun for kids, but nothing too special. However, at certain times of day you can touch a young sea turtle, which is pretty cool since, as they're endangered, there are really steep fines if you touch one in the wild. Zack's attention was soon grabbed by the nearby bird area (he loves birds). Not exactly "sealife" but whatever. There were a lot of very colorful birds inside and, unlike similar attractions I've seen at various zoos and parks, here they gave you feedsticks for free. Zack was thrilled to feed the birds and we stayed in there for a while. Next up, the sea lion show. While Sealife Park isn't all that large (you could easily see all the habitats and exhibits in less than an hour), its specialty is its shows. The sea lions were well trained and the show was pretty entertaining. Of course, the kids loved it. There was some time before the next show (dolphins) so we took the kids to the playground for a bit. Connie and I actually didn't stay for the dolphin show (though the others told us it was pretty great) because we had a reservation elsewhere. I'd say Sealife Park is worth a visit with kids, but easy to skip otherwise, unless you really love sea lion and dolphin shows.
Connie and I left Zack with the others and headed north to Kualoa Ranch. I've written about the ranch in the past. Specifically, I've done the ATV tour there twice which, aside from getting to drive ATVs through some beautiful scenery, gives you a chance to see a bunch of film locations for a variety of TV shows and movies including Lost, Jurassic Park, and Godzilla. This time, however, Connie and I were back for their horseback tour (her birthday present). I have a bit of riding experience from a camp I used to go to in Colorado, but it was Connie's first time on a horse. However, the horses were very well trained so that wasn't really a problem. I had to lightly guide mine from time to time, but it mostly just followed the others at an easy pace without any real input. The horses follow a similar route to the ATVs, but mostly ignore the roads in favor of smaller paths through cow pastures and forests. Kualoa Ranch is extremely scenic no matter how you experience it, but I would say that the horse path is prettier than the ATV route. That said, if you really want to see the filming sites, the ATVs are a better option. While the horses still pass many of them, you can't get off to take a closer look and listen to the guide like you do with the ATVs. But, since we'd already done the ATV tour, that wasn't really an issue. The horseback tour was a pleasant two hours and Connie enjoyed it quite a lot.

Ok, one more travelogue entry to go. I'll aim to get it posted on Friday.

Later!

Josiah

1/17/2020 Back home

We made it back home with no real problems. I've got a couple travelogue posts left to write, but I'm pretty worn out (an overnight flight with no sleep and a big time change) so I'm going to save them for next week. Actually, what I really need to focus on over the next few days is getting my classes ready for spring semester. Two of them will be fairly quick and easy. One requires some moderate updates, and the last could be a ton of work. There's a chance I'll have to skip Monday's update if I end up running really behind schedule, but hopefully it won't come to that.

Anyway, for now I'm going to get some sleep then get to work.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/15/2020 Last day

It's our last day in Hawaii. Tonight, Connie, Zack, and I will be flying back home to Virginia. While I kind of hate to leave Hawaii and go back to the winter, it will be nice to get back home. Though I'll be pretty busy for the first few days getting everything ready for the start of spring semester. After that, things should calm down, at least for two or three weeks before the semester really kicks into gear. I'll note that Friday's update is a little iffy. On the one hand, if all goes well I should be home with a perfectly good internet connection. However, there's a chance I'll be too busy and/or tired after the flight, so we'll see.

And now, more travelogue.

January 3rd - 12th (Friday - Sunday): Back in Honolulu
Connie, Zack, and I left Maui on a Friday morning for a short flight back to Oahu. We spent most of the following week there on our own. The weather, unfortunately, wasn't nearly as good as it was at the start of the trip, but we still had fun going to the lagoons at Ko' Olina, visiting the zoo, and otherwise doing things in and around Honolulu.
The following Thursday, my mom and my brother's family came to join us. We went to the water park the next day (Zack, unfortunately, wasn't in the best mood) and the beach the day after that. On Sunday, the weather took a turn for the worse so we decided to take the kids to try out the Honolulu Children's Discovery Center. I wish I'd known about it last year. It's a huge (and very reasonably priced) children's museum. It's been around for a while so it's not quite as snazzy as some of the newer ones I've visited, but it's the largest one by far and has a huge variety of activities and play areas that are both fun and educational. There's even a little Asian village. Highly recommended if you have young children and need a way to pass the morning indoors.
That wasn't the end of the trip, but the following day's activities deserve a post of their own.

I think that's enough for today. I'll finish the travelogue back in Virginia.

Later!

Josiah

1/13/2020 Dreamweaver sucks

Well, our time in Hawaii is almost over. The travelogue still has a few entries to go, but I need to get some photos sorted before I can write the next entry.

So today, I just want to say that I hate Dreamweaver. I learned how to use it years ago in a class, but I didn't have a copy of my own. Then I got the Adobe suite, which included a different professional web editor, GoLive, and I started using that. Eventually Adobe bought out Macromedia (creators of Dreamweaver) and started including both programs. Then, finally, they discontinued GoLive in favor of the more popular Dreamweaver. I thought about switching over to Dreamweaver, but it didn't work well with the drop down menus I use on Pebble Version, so I stuck with GoLive. And I still use GoLive today. Whenever I sit down to create a new web site, I think that maybe I should do it in Dreamweaver (since GoLive hasn't been updated in years and has a few issues in Windows 7). Well, finally I decided to do just that. And I really wish I've just stayed with GoLive. I'm willing to admit that some of my issues with Dreamweaver may be simply because I don't know where some of the different tools and options are. But that's only part of the problem. First off, it just seems to be missing a lot of tools that are front and center in GoLive so I've had to frequently resort to writing the html and css code directly. Even worse, the program is buggy. The preview interface sucks, the editor keeps adding extra spaces to my text, table cells aren't sizing properly for no apparent reason, etc. Sigh... I'm kinda committed to sticking with it for this one new web site, but unless there's some major improvements, I don't think I'll be switching my other sites to Dreamweaver so long as my copy of GoLive still runs.

Later!

Josiah

1/10/2020 More Maui

And now for a bit more travelogue.

December 29th - January 2nd (Sunday - Thursday): Enjoying Maui
Our last week on Maui was a mix of family time and repeating a couple of favorite activities from last year. Once again, Connie and I went to the Grand Wailea's luau on New Year's Eve. Nothing really changed from last year, but it's still a great luau in a beautiful setting. I won't go into too much detail, since I already gave it a full write-up last time, and I didn't take too many pictures this year either (I decided to just sit back and enjoy). Though I couldn't resist taking some time lapse shots of the fire dancing.
The following day, we took Zack to the Ocean Center (aquarium). While he visited it last year (when I also wrote about it in more detail), and we've taken him to the Baltimore Aquarium a few times as well, he's never shown a ton of interest in fish (he prefers birds and small animals). He rushed past the first few rooms pretty quickly so I was worried he'd get bored. But, fortunately, he suddenly took a liking to the sea horses and then began to pay more attention to the fish as well. So it made for a pretty good outing after all.
Nothing else we did is especially worth writing about. Our time on Maui was enjoyable, and we got to have a lot of fun with Zack and with my family. It wasn't exactly as relaxing as I'd hoped (between Zack and some assorted projects and such I kept pretty busy) but it was a good time none-the-less.

I think I'll stop there today. I've still got things to work on (and that's not even taking into account my spring class prep). I'll write about our return to Honolulu next week.

Have a great weekend!

Josiah

1/8/2020 Making time

I'm running a bit late today (despite this being a vacation, I really haven't had a ton of free time) so no travelogue entry or anything, sorry. I'll try and have one ready for Friday instead.

Later!

Josiah

1/6/2020 Back in Honolulu

Connie and I are in Honolulu. At the moment, it's just us and Zack, but my family will be coming over to join us on Thursday. We're having a good time, though Zack seems to be having a bit of trouble sleeping at night so I've been getting less sleep as well. On that note, I'm going to keep this short.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

1/3/2020 A bit of hiking

Connie, Zack, and I are leaving Maui today and returning to Honolulu for the last phase of our trip. We'll be there by ourselves for a while and then my family will come for the last few days before we return home. I still have a couple Maui travelogue entries though, so let's get one of those done.

December 28th (Saturday): The Waiakoa Loop Trail
Unlike some of the other Hawaiian islands, Maui isn't especially known for hiking. There are some trails, however, and I figured we might as well try to do at least one hike while we're here. Though hiking with a couple of toddlers is rather limiting. You either have to stick with simpler trails or carry them a lot of the way. My brother ended up choosing the Waiakoa Loop Trail, which is up in the mountains. It was also in the clouds (literally). Thanks to the clouds, there wasn't really any view, but the forest was nice. There were a lot of banana guavas (a longer yellow guava) around. Not one of the best types of guava, but possibly worth collecting anyway. There were also a lot of berry bushes around but, unfortunately, only a few ripe berries (wrong time of year).
Zack fell asleep during the drive up so I carried him in our Ergo for the first part of the hike. We all ended up going at different speeds due to kids and other reasons. And, due to some miscommunication, I ended up going the opposite way around the loop as the others. I eventually decided that, rather and push on and hope to meet in the middle (which I wasn't entirely sure would happen anyway), I should just turn around. But by then Zack was awake so I let him walk back with me. It was a little slow, but he did surprisingly well, walking a mile or so on his own.
I'm a little annoyed that I didn't complete the hike, but it was still a fairly nice time. It was fun to get into the forest for a while and Zack enjoyed the exercise. While I don't think the hiking on Maui can't beat Oahu, I'll have to try another trail or two next time I'm here.

Later!

Josiah

1/1/2020 Happy New Year!

Here's to a great 2020! Also, happy birthday to me!

Josiah

12/30/2019 Snorkeling trip

Time for the last update of the year. And it's a travelogue entry!

December 24th (Tuesday): Snorkeling off Molokini
I like to do at least a little bit of snorkeling when I'm in Hawaii. This time, my mom wanted decided to take a few of us out on a snorkeling boat tour. I've done some similar tours before, but on Oahu. This was my first time doing any serious snorkeling on Maui. We got up pretty early to get to the boat. However, there was some confusion with our tickets (long story short, someone in the booking office screwed up). We did manage to board, but at the last minute and only because another group didn't show. Annoying, but it all worked out in the end and we were off with the sunrise.
It was the biggest snorkeling boat I've ever been on, with a full three levels and around 150 people. Our destination was Molokini, a small island surrounding an old volcanic crater. The island itself is a bird sanctuary, but the crater contains a large reef and is Maui's most popular snorkeling spot. The ride over there was a little rough, but we did spot some whales on the way. There were already a lot of boats by the time we arrived, but the reef was easily large enough to avoid feeling crowded. I really need to get an underwater camera sometime. The reef was large, with some nice coral and a ton of fish. I didn't see any of the really unusual ones (which I've occasionally spotted when snorkeling off Oahu), but that aside, Molokini is a great snorkeling spot and we had pretty much perfect conditions with sun and very clear water. There was even a seal hanging out on the rocks. And, once we'd had our fill of snorkeling, the boat also had a couple of slides and a jump point, which were a fun little addition.
As we ate lunch, the boat headed back towards Maui, but not to the docks. Instead, we drew near the coast and stopped at another reef. This one didn't have many fish, but it is a popular hangout for sea turtles. I saw at least half a dozen while snorkeling, plus the one on the surface that I got a picture of. In the future, I could probably swim out there from the nearby beach if I want to, no boat required.
Finally, it was time to head back. But it wasn't over quite yet, as we spotted some more whales along the way. Ticketing issues aside, it was a good snorkeling trip and the best snorkeling boat I've been on. I don't think I'd rank it quite as highly as my favorite snorkeling boat tour on Oahu (which also has great reefs, turtles, and a chance of whales, plus dolphins), but if you're looking for some snorkeling on Maui, you can't really go wrong with a trip to Molokini.

Later!

Josiah

12/27/2019 Sorting

Now that I'm done with grading and a couple other things, I'm busy sorting through my photos from the past couple of weeks so the travelogue will have to wait until Monday.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

12/25/2019 Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Or, in my case, Chanukah. And now, on with the travelogue.

December 16th - 23rd (Monday - Monday): On to Maui
On Monday, my parents, Zack, and I flew to Maui for the next part of our trip. You may remember that they got a place there a bit over a year back. Connie and I stayed there for a couple of weeks last year and plan to do the same this time around. This time though, my brother's family will be there too, as they just moved to Maui a couple of weeks ago.
After arriving, I settled down to spend the rest of the day finishing my grading. The following day, we went to Lahaina. We spent a bit of time at a "baby beach" (meaning that there's a little sheltered spot good for young children) then walked around and got dinner. After which, my mom took the kids (Zack and my nephew, Isaac) on a Christmas train ride. Meanwhile, Connie arrived on Maui and met up with us when we got back home.
The rest of the week was pleasant, but nothing too exciting. We spent time with family, took Zack to playgrounds and beaches, and the like. Maui, or at least the parts of it that I'm familiar with, doesn't seem to have changed much since last year. I guess things move more slowly here than on Oahu. But the slower pace can be nice. Maui may not be as exciting as Oahu, but it has a lot to offer. And we are going to be doing more here than just relaxing...but more on that another time.

I'll stop there for today. Expect a most interesting travelogue entry next time.

Josiah

12/23/2019 Hanging out in Hawaii

Ok. I still don't really have a whole lot to write about, but let's try and get the new Hawaii travelogue started at least.

December 9th - 15th (Monday - Sunday): Hanging in Honolulu
Winter break means it's once again time to spend a few weeks visiting family in Hawaii. This year started out a little different though. Connie had a seminar she wanted to attend in China so we split up at the airport. She headed to southern China and I took Zack to Honolulu. This was my first time flying alone with Zack but, fortunately, by this point he seems to understand that plane rides involve staying in his seat. While his Kindle didn't hold his attention as long as I hoped, and I did have some trouble keeping him from standing in his seat, or kicking the seat inf ront of him, the flights went really well for the most part.
After landing in Honolulu, I met up with my mom and then it was off to the condo and a curry dinner at Coco Ichibanya. The next few days passed in a bit of a blur. For the most part, my mom (and my dad, who arrived a few days later) kept Zack entertained while I graded final projects. I did join them for meals and a handful of outings (a bit of shopping, an outdoor Christmas movie, etc), but I spent most of my time working. I finally got to take a break over the weekend to walk around and get in a little pool and beach time. Then, Sunday afternoon, it was back to work as my last set of finals came due while also preparing to fly to Maui for the next phrase of the trip. So yeah, despite being in Honolulu for a week, I feel like I really didn't do all that much.
I did get to walk around Ala Moana and Waikiki a bit. As usual, there's been some changes. Some places I liked have disappeared, and some cool new places have sprung up. The Shirokiya Japanese food court has revamped a little bit, and the Yokocho Japanese food court added a bunch of free to play classic arcade games. There's some good new bubble tea places (though one I liked has closed and another had to move to a smaller location due to construction) and a neat (if expensive) Japanese figurine store opened up near the mall. Not to mention that lots of new buildings are going up. As usual, I think most of the changes are for the best, though I will really miss some of the places that have closed. I'm looking forward to spending more time in Honolulu, and on Oahu in general, later in the trip.

Not the most exciting opening, but it's a start. Look for more next time.

Josiah

12/20/2019 Family time

It's nice spending time with my family. Still not too much to write about though. I'll try and get a travelogue entry ready for Monday. For now though, I'm just trying to work though a few assorted tasks that have been sitting on my to-do list.

Have a great weekend!

Josiah

12/18/2019 Vacation!

Well, grading is finished and Connie has arrived so I think I can say that I'm now fully on vacation. Not that I won't be doing any work in the coming weeks. I've got a couple side projects to do and spring classes to prep. And, if I have some extra time, Aurora's Nightmare. But still, mostly vacation.

Later!

Josiah

12/16/2019 Off to Maui

I'm back to grading. Though I'll hopefully finish later today and then be totally done. Zack and I are also off to Maui for the next couple of weeks. It feels like I barely had a chance to do anything here on Oahu...and that's kind of true since I've spent most of the past week grading. But we'll be back here again for the last leg of our vacation so there will be more time then. Anyway, expect some travelogue entries eventually, once that grading is finished and I have something interesting to write about.

Now for one last push...

Josiah

12/13/2019 So close...

Well, I've finished grading three classes and also got my own final projects done. Now I've finally got a couple of days to relax until the finals for my last class come due, then it's another couple days of grading before I'm fully on break.

So yeah, still not much to write about but I'm getting there.

Josiah

12/11/2019 Hawaii time

Made it to Hawaii without any issues. Zack even behaved himself pretty well on the planes, despite not getting nearly enough sleep.

Anyway, I'm currently in the midst of grading and stuff so nothing too exciting to write about yet, but it's nice to be back.

Later!

Josiah

12/9/2019 Off to Hawaii

Not much to say. In a few hours Zack and I will be off to Hawaii. If all goes well, PV updates shouldn't be affected (though they will take place a few hours later than normal due to the difference time zone).

Later!

Josiah

12/6/2019 Last weekend

Just a few more days and then off to Hawaii. Pebble Version updates shouldn't be affected, though the update time will shift by a few hours due to the big change in time zones. At this point, I'm done with classes (though I still have a meeting today) but will have a ton of finals to grade (and one to write). And, well, I guess that's it for now. Still need to pack and get a few other things done before the trip.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

12/4/2019 Rush to the finish

There's a lot going on right now. This is the last week of classes and there's a couple other work related things (one rather exciting, one extremely annoying) that I'm also trying to get done before the week ends. And not just because of the end of the semester, but because on Monday Zack and I are off to Hawaii (Connie will be joining us a week later). That means there's also a handful of around the house type things that need to be taken care of before we leave. And then, immediately after arriving in Hawaii, I actually need to jump right into grading finals so I can get them finished before deadlines. So yeah, I'm really looking forward to winter break, but I still have a pretty hectic week or two ahead of me.

Later!

Josiah

12/2/2019 Museum day

It's the last week of class. And then it's off to Hawaii, though I'll still have to grade finals and stuff when I'm there. Anyway, let's get the travelogue entry done.

November 24th (Sunday): The National Museum of American History
Before Connie and Zack returned, I wanted to go to DC for a day to see a museum or two that I hadn't gotten to yet. Top on my list, the National Museum of American History. It's a huge museum with a wide variety of exhibits. They're not really organized in any particular way, so I just went from floor to floor. I started out with the founding of the US and creation of the government. Next up, immigration, followed by one tracing the history of an old house and the families that lived in it. All were fairly interesting, and they had some cool artifacts, especially from the country's founding. But one of the coolest things in the museum (though you can't take pictures) is the original Star Spangled Banner. As in, the actual flag that inspired (and is sung about) in the national anthem. Then, for something quite different, a section on American innovations, which featured some notable American inventions and a few pop-culture items from famous TV shows.
I ate lunch in the cafeteria (the menu isn't as diverse as, say, the Native American Museum, but still fairly good) then on to another floor for more pop-culture, both modern and classic. There was even a little section with video games that heavily feature the US (such as Earthbound and Red Dead Redemption 2), and another about the history of audio/music playback devices. Moving on, there was a section dedicated to American presidents and first ladies, and another about wars in which the US was involved (with the main focus being on the Revolutionary and Civil Wars).
Moving on to another floor...an exhibit about food? Um, ok. Sort of about the history of food production and distribution in the US, tied into how people at different times ate. It even had Julia Child's kitchen. Next up, the Hall of Transportation, which was a lot more interesting than I expected, as it was less about showing off different types of vehicles, and more about how the creation of different methods of transportation, roads, and the like, changed the way people in the US lived. For someone like myself who has driven all over the country, it was interesting to think about how many of the highways that we currently take for granted didn't even exist when my parents were young. Next, a bit more pop-culture with the Batmobile and Ralph Baer's workshop (if you don't recognize the name, he was an important figure in the early days of the video game industry and also electronic toys in general). Finally, I finished in a section on American enterprises (which also had a lot of notable inventions and pop-culture items).
I'm pretty sure I forgot to mention a few exhibits but that's the highlights at least. I took a fairly leisurely pace through the museum, though I did tend to skim a bit in some areas, and it ended up taking me most of the day. Personally, I found it to be one of the more interesting Smithsonian museums (though that certainly depends on personal preferences). There's a kids play area as well, which would have been useful if Zack was along with me. I'm a little disappointed that I only managed to visit one museum, but it was a fun and interesting day.

Later!

Josiah

11/29/2019 Back together

Connie and Zack have returned and we're all set for our slightly late Thanksgiving today.

I still need to get those photos done, however, so I'll aim to get that travelogue entry up on Monday. Enjoy the holiday weekend and I'll see you then!

Josiah

11/27/2019 Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers! I'll be celebrating a day late due to Connie and Zack not getting home until tomorrow afternoon.

Back on Sunday, I spent the day in DC exploring a museum. I'll have a travelogue entry about that up at some point, but right afterwards a couple of things came up that, while not especially serious, have been rather annoying and time consuming. As a result, I'm not really in much of a writing mood, plus I'm behind on my grading and photo sorting so it'll have to wait. Right now, I have to get back to that grading and then it's off to get some of my Thanksgiving dishes cooked ahead of time.

Later!

Josiah

11/25/2019 Moving on

Sorry, really not in the mood to write about anything today. There will probably be a travelogue entry on Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah

11/22/2019 One more week

Connie and Zack will be returning on Thanksgiving day (it was supposed to be a couple days earlier, but the flight got canceled). So we'll actually be celebrating the holiday on Friday instead. Anyway, it will be nice to have them back, though I still have a couple more things I want to get done before that. I did, however, totally finish the work I was doing in my office and library and nearly everything else on my list. Took longer than expected, but I'm happy with how it all turned out.

Anyway, I think that's about all for now. I need to get some rest and then finish a final few tasks.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

11/20/2019 Catherine Full Body

Well, I've been saying that I'll write about Catherine Full Body so I might as well do it today.

The original Catherine for the PS3 and Xbox 360 was a favorite of mine for its very original story and gameplay and how much nuance it gave to the central conflict. Basically, Catherine is the story of Vincent, a 32 year old guy with a dead end job whose long time girlfriend, Katherine, is pressuring him to get married. He, however, likes the status quo. Then, he meets a flirty younger girl, Catherine, who is all for having fun and living in the moment. The story focuses on Vincent's struggle to decide between these two women and, on a larger scale, how he wants to live his life, while also trying to keep his relationship with each woman secret from the other. Meanwhile, Vincent begins having strange and deadly nightmares which connect to what's going on in his waking life. It's unique, clever, and, remarkably enough, avoids being preachy and forcing a "correct" answer on players.
Fully Body is an upgraded port for PS4 and Xbox One. It adds a lot of excellent gameplay tweaks, including a whole new set of puzzles in Remix mode for both the nightmares and the Rapunzel arcade game, lots of online play features, etc. Even the sections with Vincent and his friends in the bar have been improved. So, lots of quality of life improvements, lots more puzzles (if you like the puzzles), and a super easy mode (if you don't like the puzzles). So far, so good. Then there's the additions to the story. For starters, there's a few new cutscenes which further flesh-out Vincent's relationships with Catherine and Katherine. Both of them also get a new ending (which, after fulfilling a very simple condition, replaces their respective bad endings), which are interesting (Catherine's especially). Once again, so far, so good.
And then there's Rin... Rin (short for Qathrin (yeah, they really had to grasp at straws for that spelling)), is an entirely new character and potential love interest. She's integrated surprisingly seemlessly into the game, to the point where, if you never played the original, you wouldn't know she was added in. However, she's given so much emphasis and screen time early on that she pulls a lot of attention and tension from the Catherine / Katherine dynamic, which is a problem. What's worse, if you don't end up on Rin's route, she leaves very abruptly about two thirds of the way through and is barely mentioned afterwards. That's needed to get the focus back on Catherine and Katherine, but it feels really awkward and will leave you wondering why she was even there to begin with. Of course, that's not an issue if you end up on Rin's route (which diverges a good bit from the other two, complete with a new final level and boss), but it has its own problems. To avoid spoilers, I won't say what the theme is. However, I'll say that some people will be thrilled that a route based on said theme has been included. Others will appreciate that it's there, but have no real interest in exploring it. And still others will hate the very concept. There's also the fact that Rin's route carelessly spoils a few major plot twists and it gets really weird the further you get. I feel really bad for any new players who manage to trigger Rin's route on their first playthrough (which, given the conditions, seems unlikely though certainly not impossible). So I have to say that, whether you like her theme or not, the over all story is just better without Rin. And most of the reviews I've read, even those who really like Rin's theme, seem to agree with me on that regard.
Which puts me in a weird position. Catherine Fully Body has a lot of great gameplay additions and tweaks and the new scenes with Catherine and Katherine are good as well. So if you liked the original Catherine's gameplay and want more, Full Body is easy to recommend. If you just want to re-experience the story, you might (or might not) find Rin's content interesting, despite the issues, but I wouldn't say that the new story content on its own is worth buying Fully Body. On the other hand, if you're a new player who never played the original Catherine... Full Body is the better version in most ways, but Rin's presence hurts the main story enough (outside of her own somewhat problematic route) that I kind of want to recommend picking up a copy of the original version of Catherine instead.

See you Friday!

Josiah

11/18/2019 Stranding

I spent a while yesterday playing Death Stranding. First off, it's one of the best looking games I've ever played. The story setup is rather intriguing as well. As for the gameplay... It's very unique. I almost want to call it a walking simulator. The one true walking simulator (as opposed to all those games where you just move around and look at things), thanks to the emphasis on balance, terrain, etc. But there's a lot more to it than that. Anyway, I might give it a more detailed write-up after I've gotten further. Right now, I'm only 6 or so hours in. I probably will write a bit about Catherine Full Body later this week though, now that I'm pretty much done with it.

Anyway, I don't have any grading to do this week so, other than yesterday's half-day Death Stranding marathon, I'm planning to use the time to work through the remaining items on my to-do list. A bit disappointed that I'm not done with it yet, but nothing that's left should take all that long.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

11/15/2019 Weekend

Looking forward to the weekend. I'm hoping to get most of the remaining things on my to-do list done and I also want to start Death Stranding. Of course, Pokémon Sword and Shield are coming out today to. But I probably won't be starting on them for a little while. Not because I have any particular complaints, but because I want to play Death Stranding and finish my Alola dex in Sun/Moon first.

So, off to it.

Josiah

11/13/2019 Getting fit

I've been playing Ring Fit Adventure nearly daily for the past couple of weeks so I'm going to write a bit about that today.

Ring Fit is Nintendo's latest attempt at a fitness video game, following Wii Fit and Wii Fit U. As a long time DDR player, I'm no stranger to mixing games and exercise. I also played Wii Fit U for a little while a few years back, though it failed to hold my attention for too long. Anyway, Ring Fit was one of the rare games that caught me completely off guard. As in, I don't remember ever hearing a thing about it until release, when I happened across a review. And, being a game designer, I follow game news pretty closely so I'm normally at least somewhat aware of every notable upcoming release. Anyway, that review interested me and, with Connie and Zack having left for China a couple days before, I had already been planning to get my exercise routine restarted, so I grabbed a copy and gave it a try. But enough with the backstory.

Ring Fit is a Switch games that comes with two accessories, a leg strap and a pilates ring and you attach one Joycon to each while playing. Unlike most other exercise games, Ring Fit actually has a full fledged story mode. At the start, you accidentally release a very muscular dragon who was sealed away by Ring, a talking ring. Said dragon it out to...do something that's probably not good (so far, I'm not really sure what he's after beyond working out and making monsters appear) so you team up with Ring to put a stop to him...by exercising! The game is part platformer, with you running through the levels (by jogging in place) while getting past different obstacles (squatting to activate spring boards, squeezing the ring to create blasts of air to blow open doors and such, pushing the ring against your abs to crush rocks, etc.). The environments are actually pretty scenic (if a bit repetitious), and the game does a good job steadily introducing new mechanics and mini-games along the way. Though navigating the levels is only half of it. A good chunk of gameplay is made up of RPG lite type battles against various monsters (mostly themed after different exercise gear). But instead of stabbing or shooting the monsters, you defeat them by exercising at them (while drinking the occasional smoothie for buffs and healing). Yeah...best not to think about it too much. The story isn't meant to be taken very seriously but it's kind of amusing and gives you a reason to keep going. Anyway, battles involve choosing from your selection of exercises and doing a number of reps (based on your chosen difficulty level) to attack. Early on you'll be doing a whole lot of squats and ring presses but soon you'll be unlocking a steady stream of new exercises. as you gain experience points and level up. Add in AOE ranges and enemies that are weak to certain types of exercise (legs or arms, for example), and there's enough depth to keep things fun and, as with the exploration, new mechanics are periodically introduced as well. The story seems to be long enough to last for at least a couple of months of frequent play (though that's a guess; all I can really say is that I'm nowhere near the end).

Anyway, there's a ton of different exercises and activities to help you get and stay fit. One complaint I had about Wii Fit U was that it just wasn't a very intense workout. I never felt like it really pushed me. Well, I have no such complaints about Ring Fit. Based on my age and fitness level, the game started me out at a difficulty of 21 (out of 30), which I bumped up to 22 about a week later. I've been playing for 20 - 40 minutes a day and by the time I finish I'm often hot, out of breath, and a little sore. But I can tell that my muscles and stamina are improving. Assuming you play the game properly (use a mix of exercises and don't try to cheat the movements) it actually makes for a surprisingly intense and balanced exercise routine. Plus, it makes doing all of those exercises a lot of fun. I often find myself falling into the "one more level" mentality, just to push myself a bit harder and/or see what's coming next.

Long story short, I'm really enjoying Ring Fit. I'm finally getting back in shape and I'm having fun doing it. Plus, unlike many exercises tools or routines, I think it'll succeed in holding my attention for quite a long time.

Later!

Josiah

11/11/2019 Phase 2

When Connie and Zack went to China last year, my big project here at home was setting up my library and office downstairs. Which came down to assembling a lot of shelves then unpacking all my books, games, movies, etc. Well, Connie and Zack are in China again and my big project this time is...doing more stuff in my library and office. Specifically, I'm finally putting in some wall shelves to display my figurines. Which means unpacking and organizing said figurines (a pretty big job). My parents also sent me a few boxes of stuff that had been sitting at their place for a while. But now that they're moving to Hawaii full time, and I have a house again, we figured it was time I finally got it back. So I need to sort and unpack all that too. Anyway, that's what I've been working on lately and I'm making good progress, but I probably need another two or three days to finish. Unfortunately, the next few days are going to be dedicated to grading. But hopefully, by early next week, I'll finally be fully unpacked for the first time since I left Hawaii. Maybe I'll post some pictures when I'm done.

Later!

Josiah

11/8/2019 Busch Gardens

Ok, travelogue time.

November 3 (Sunday): Busch Gardens and Howl-O-Scream
When I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg back in the Spring, I was mostly focused on Zack so I didn't get to go on many of the rides. But, with Connie and Zack in China, I decided to go back get a better feel for the park. This ended up being their last full day of the season, and the last day of Howl-O-Scream, their Halloween event. While Howl-O-Scream doesn't really kick into gear until the evening, there were still decorations up all over the park. Anyway, as previously mentioned, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is sorta European themed. You start out in England and there's also, Ireland, France, Germany, Oktoberfest (which is essentially still Germany), Italy (which is also broken up into two areas), and...Northern Canada? Not to mention the two kids areas (Land of Dragons and Sesame Street).
Anyway, I made my way slowly through the park, checking out all the rides, shops, etc. as I went. In addition to that VR motion simulator I rode last time, there's a number of roller coasters. I'd say The Griffon is probably the best one in the park. Though all the big ones are fun, if sometimes a bit on the short side. One that really surprised me was Verbolten, which looked like a pretty simple and low intensity coaster at the start, but ended up having a lengthy dark section with a surprising twist. The newest ride is Finnigan's Flyer, which is a giant swing, not a coaster (there's a new coaster coming next year). A lot of fun, at least as long as you're ok with heights.
There's also animals. Not as many as, say, Disney's Animal Kingdom or Busch Gardens Tampa, but they've got wolves, bald eagles, and a lot of other birds. I even ended up hearing the eagles chirping(?) at something when I passed by in the evening. Didn't sound like I expected. There's also that pet show that I saw with Zack last time.
So I walked around and tried different things out. Unfortunately, my neck was a bit off (it's a chiropractic thing) so I had to take a break between coasters to avoid getting really motion sick, but it was still fun. Due to the time of year, a few attractions were closed (water rides, for example). Maybe next time. I will note that the European theme isn't especially deep. Not like, say, Epcot, which can be fairly educational in addition to fun. But it works. As a note, the best place to eat is in Italy (which has a lot more than just Italian food).
While I'm not big on Halloween, I figured I might as well stay for a bit of Howl-O-Scream. And besides, the sun sets really early these days. Before the main event there was a family friendly Halloween...disco? There was still a bit of time to kill before it got dark, so I decided to save some time and line up by one of the haunted houses. I ended up going through three of them (out of six), just because I was there. They seemed pretty much in line with the other theme park haunted houses I've been in (not counting Disney's Haunted Mansion, which is much higher quality but also much more family friendly). You follow a twisting path through loosely themed corridors filled with creepy decorations, dismembered limbs, and people in costumes trying to scare you. All fine, I guess, but they just don't do it for me. For one thing, stuff like that doesn't scare me in the least. Plus I'm extremely hard to startle (you basically have to catch me entirely off guard and even then it's iffy). In the end, the only time I was even a little surprised when when the girl behind me freaked out and hit me in the back. And since I'm not in love with the bloody horrific style Halloween aesthetic (pumpkins and ghosts can be kind of fun through), there just isn't much attraction. At least when I'm by myself. They can be kind of fun to visit with a friend, especially if he or she scares a lot more easily than I do. Outside of the haunted houses, there were also sections of the park where costumed actors roam around and try to scare you as you pass by. Once again, I don't care that much either way, but watching some other people scream and run was amusing. What I would have been more interested to try were the special Halloween escape rooms, but they cost extra and weren't open that weekend anyway.
So, to summarize, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a pretty good theme park. In this general area, I'd still give Hershey the nod for its larger selection of rides and coasters, though Busch may have more for younger kids and a bit more variety when it comes to food. As for Howl-O-Scream. If you're looking for a big fancy teen - adult Halloween event, it seems like a pretty good one, even if I personally don't care too much either way.

Later!

Josiah

11/6/2019 To-do listing

I haven't had a chance to sort my photos from Busch Gardens so no travelogue entry today. Probably on Friday.

Without any grading this week, I've been trying to work hard on my to-do list for the last couple of days. And I'm making decent progress. Unfortunately, at the same time, I've been coming up with new things that need to be done and taking care of those things has slowed my progress on the original list. With a bit of luck, I'll have most of it done by the end of the week...but who knows.

Another thing I've been doing a lot of lately is exercising. I picked up a copy of Ring Fit (Nintendo's latest exercise game) and have been putting in around 45 minutes on it nearly every day. I'd always intended to get my exercise routine going again while Connie and Zack are gone (lack of free time is the usual reason when I skip it) and Ring Fit is giving me a new way to go about it. It's actually pretty fun and a serious workout. As both a game and an exercise method, Ring Fit is far superior to the old Wii Fit series. I'll probably right a more detailed review of it in a week or two once I've made a bit more progress.

And, I guess that's it for now. Got a full day of work (my job) and then back to the to-do list.

Later!

Josiah

11/4/2019 Recreation

I was thinking about switching to a different character for strip #2300 but decided that it's not really a good place in the story for that. So, instead, here's the start of a little bonus series I've thinking about. I suppose it's a few years late to be making Pokémon Go jokes, but what the heck?

Things have calmed down a bit for me. Enough that I've been able to get a bit of extra video game time in. I also went to Busch Gardens yesterday for their last regular day of the year. Expect a travelogue entry later in the week. Now though, I do need to get back to work. It won't be too busy (at least not this week), but I've still got a lot of things on my to-do list and, without too much going on for the next few days, I'm hoping to get through most of it.

Later!

Josiah

11/1/2019 Rush

Sorry, I'm running really late today so I don't have time to talk. But I'm looking forward to a much calmer and more relaxing week ahead.

Later!

Josiah

10/30/2019 Ugh...

It's been a long day. Teaching, MFA course work, then grading around 70 papers. So I'm pretty burnt right now. And in the morning I've got another day of teaching, MFA stuff, and grading to look forward to. With a bit of paperwork mixed in. Yay... Ah well, things should be a lot more relaxed come Thursday.

Later!

Josiah

10/28/2019 Changing plans

I was hoping to go to Busch Gardens yesterday but the weather had other ideas so I'm putting it off until next week. I was thinking that I'd go watch a movie instead, except that the only one currently in theaters that I want to see isn't playing near here. So I decided to stay home and keep working on my to-do list. But even then things didn't go my way since my vacuum broke, which kind of screwed up my plan to get the vacuuming and mopping done. So yeah, kind of an annoying day. But, on the bright side, I did get a lot done. Just not many of the things I originally had planned. Anyway, I'll be keeping busy this week. The next couple of days I'll be focused on grading and then, after that, back to the to-do list. I could spread things out a bit more but the sooner I get everything done, the sooner I'll be able to focus on Aurora's Nightmare, and some more fun activities.

So, back to work.

Josiah

10/25/2019 On my own

Connie and Zack left for China on Wednesday to visit my inlaws for the next month or so, which means I'm home alone. So what am I going to be doing? Well, I do have a couple of fun outtings planned but, for the most part, it's not going to be anything too exciting. Aside from my usual work, I have a big to-do list I want to work through. A lot of stuff around the house and the like. And, after that, I'm hoping to do some work on Aurora's Nightmare, which I haven't had much time for over the past month. So yeah, that's all for now, though I may have a travelogue entry next week, if the weather cooperates.

Later!

Josiah

10/23/2019 Still more commentary

Looks like I forgot to announce that I was skipping Monday's update due to the last day of Sukkot. Oops... Anyway, barring something unexpected, there shouldn't be any more skipped updates for quite a while.

The commentary for strips 356 - 360 is finished, completing the current batch.

Later!

Josiah

10/18/2019 More commentary

The commentary for strips 350 - 355 is up!

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/16/2019 Commentary!

I owe you guys some commentary from last month's donations, so here's the first batch covering strips 341 - 349.

Later!

Josiah

10/11/2019 And continue some more

Yom Kippur is done and I'm caught up on my grading...at least for a few days. Nice to have some calm days for a change. Speaking of which, the High Holy Days aren't over yet so there'll be no update on Monday since it's the first day of Sukkot.

In other news, it looks like I'll be going to Japan next summer! Another professor and I are going to be taking some students to Tokyo for a tour. It'll be part sightseeing, part visiting various game developers. Doing a Japan tour is something I've been thinking about for quite a long time, so I'm excited to actually give it a try. And hey, as long I'm going over there, I plan to follow it up with a family vacation to other parts of Japan, and possibly a bit of China as well. For now though, there's still a lot of planning that needs to be done.

Anyway, have a great holiday weekend (happy Columbus Day!) and I'll see you on Wednesday.

Josiah

10/7/2019 The holy days continue

There will be no update on Wednesday due to Yom Kippur.

We took Zack to a local carnival yesterday. Would have been kinda boring for me, but he had fun. Otherwise, I've just been trying to get caught up with all my work. With a bit of luck, I should be done with it later today. Not much else to say. I've got a couple of things I wouldn't mind writing about, but I need to unwind and rest a bit before I get back to work so I'll save them for later.

See you Friday!

Josiah

10/4/2019 Catching up...again

That virus, or whatever, hung on a bit longer than I expected but I'm pretty much full recovered now. Even managed to finally do some apple picking yesterday so I'm looking forward to doing some cooking. But, before that, I still have a bunch of work to catch up on. I got behind a bit thanks to Zack's illness and then the combination of the holiday and getting sick myself really didn't help. On the bright side, I think things will be calming down for me soon. But I'll have another busy week or two before that happens.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/2/2019 Double ugh...

Fortunately, Zack has completely recovered. Unfortunately, I caught whatever it was he had (too little sleep plus a couple too many drinks from Starbucks because of that). It didn't really hit me until Sunday afternoon as we were getting back home from the Renaissance Festival (which was great, as usual, though I don't think it needs another travelogue entry). I've had worse, and I'm probably 80% better at this point (hopefully 100% by morning). But it made an already busy week even crazier.

So yeah, lots to do. I'll write more on Friday, if I have the time.

Josiah

9/27/2019 Ugh...

That title really sums up how I feel right now... Anyway... It's the last few days of the Aurora's Nightmare Kickstarter so if you've been on the fence, now's the time. Also, there will be no update on Monday due to Rosh Hashannah.

But that has nothing to do with my how I'm feeling right now. Zack got a bad fever starting Tuesday night. It eventually got the point where I left work early on Wednesday so we could take him to urgent care. Fortunately, it seems that it wasn't anything too serious and he's doing pretty good now. But it led to a lot of stress and a couple of nights with very little sleep. It also left me a bit behind on work, which I'm currently struggling to catch up on. Add in a few other things and I'm exhausted and kind of burnt out. Hopefully I'll be able to relax and recharge a bit over the weekend, though I still have a lot of work that needs to be done...

Anyway, I'll see you Wednesday.

Josiah

9/25/2019 Final stretch

There's only a few days left in the Kickstarter for Aurora's Nightmare, my visual novel. It still has a ways to go to reach the goal so I'd appreciate any pledges, shares, etc. That said, from the beginning I knew there was a good chance that it wouldn't be successful. Getting a game successfully Kickstarted these days is pretty difficult if it's not tied into an already famous designer, development studio, or license. It's not impossible, but there's a ton of luck involved. Or you can spend a whole bunch of money advertising, which is a big risk since, worst case, the campaign still fails and you wasted the money. Best case, you might have to use a decent chunk of your Kickstarter money to pay back those advertising fees. Fortunately, even if the campaign fails, I'll still be able to complete Aurora's Nightmare with the save level of quality seen in the demo. I just likely won't get to add in some nifty (but unnecessary) extra content.

Anyway, we'll see what happens. Oh, and speaking of money, the PV donation gauge has gone up so I'll be writing another set of commentary soon. For now though, I'm off.

Later!

Josiah

9/23/2019 Pokémon Masters

I try not to play too many mobile games, since it can be easy to get sucked into the daily grind that a lot of free to play games revolve around and I can only keep up with so much of that before they start eating up way too much time. But after reading a review, I decided to give Pokémon Masters a try. It involves a whole bunch of characters from throughout the series gathering on an island for a special tournament where each trainer can only use one pokémon. They can, however, form teams of three trainers (except for your opponents, who can sometimes use up to six for no good reason). Battles are real time and fairly fun and strategic. And while there is a gatcha system for recruiting new trainer/pokémon pairs, it's not really needed. You recruit a lot of characters over the course of the story and, shockingly, some of them are actually pretty good. And any of them are good enough to clear the story content if you power them up enough. If you want to max out your team's power, the game can get ridiculously grindy, especially for the last few upgrades, but at present that's unnecessary for all but the hardest optional content and there's really no good reason to tackle those battles anyway except for fun. The only annoying thing about battles is how they handled types. Basically, every pokémon only has a single weakness and no resistances, which really throws off people like me who have the normal weakness/resistance chart memorized. It also means that you ideally want to power up lots of different teams so you have a good attacker of every element, which gets back to that whole grindy part again. Fortunately, like in the regular Pokémon games, you can overcome a type disadvantage with a big enough power difference.
Masters is also the best looking Pokémon game yet (though Sword and Shield will change that soon) and has a good soundtrack. But the main reason to play isn't the characters. As previously mentioned, Masters features a wide variety of characters from all the main series games including player characters, rivals, gym leaders, Elite Four members, and even random trainers. As a long time fan, seeing them interact is both fun and occasionally amusing. For example, listening to a Youngster and a Lass debate the merits of shorts vs. skirts, or a swimmer complaining about how all the other swimmers just happened to wear the same suit as him. The writers really know the games and had a lot of fun with the script.
So far, I've enjoyed with Masters. I got lucky and pulled Brendan early on. Who, conveniently happens to be one of the stronger attackers, though I am disappointed that he uses a treeko instead of torchic. I just finished the all the currently available story content (which is quite a lot) without any real trouble other than the current last battle, which I had to power-level a little bit for. At this point, I think I'll keep logging in for daily rewards and some daily battles while waiting for the next set of story missions, but I'm going to avoid getting caught up in a big grind. Besides, I don't really need to. Anyway, while Masters isn't perfect, it's a fun take on the franchise, especially for long time fans, and a good choice if you need a Pokémon fix before Sword and Shield.

Later!

Josiah

9/20/2019 All the grading

It's a grading week for me, and a rather busy one at that due to the mix of assignments and some other things going on. I've probably gone though around 100 papers at this point and still have a bunch to go, plus a short paper to write. So I'm running late and a bit too burned out to write much of anything here. Hopefully I'll be caught up, or at least close enough, come Monday.

Later!

Josiah

9/18/2019 Games, games, games...

Maybe I'll start writing about video games more in these posts. On the one hand, I already spend a good portion of my days talking about video games at work so it's nice to focus on other things a bit at times. On the other hand, when I'm teaching class I tend to talk about very specific games in very specific ways so I don't always get to discuss the games or elements of games that are on my mind at the time. So maybe I'll do more of that here instead. Or maybe not... Travelogue entries aside, I generally don't plan my news posts too far in advance, it just depends on my mood at the time. So we'll see. At very least though, I'll probably be writing a bit about Pokémon Masters soon. But not today since I'd like to have a bit of time to play Catherine Full Body (the main game I'm focusing on now that I've finished Bloodstained) before turning in.

Later!

Josiah

9/16/2019 Taking Google on the road

I've had some issues with Google but I'm still stuck using them for a lot of things. For example, in our new van. It didn't come with a built in GPS. Actually, I'm fine with that since, from my experience, built in car GPS systems tend to be rather lacking compared to stand alone models. I could take the GPS out of our other car, or buy another one, but the van has Android Auto, which lets me hook up my phone to access Google maps, stream music, etc. Actually, it's kind of weird how it all works. I can connect my phone via Bluetooth to stream music and send and receive phone calls and messages. Or I can plug it in to get the full Android Auto experience which includes using Google Maps for navigation. Though there's some weird inconsistencies between the two. For example, when connected over Bluetooth, the car works with both text messaging and Facebook Messenger but not What's App. However, What's App works just fine if the phone is plugged in. Also, over Bluetooth, I can use the car's interface to select any track from my music library (well, sorta; it chokes a bit and only manages to load the first couple of dozen albums) and, when playing, it shows the track name, artist, album, art, and song length. But when the phone is plugged in, I can only select recently played music and playlists (to access anything else, I need to use the phone itself) and, when playing, it doesn't show the album name or length. Not to mention that, when I have the phone plugged in, it still needs to connect via Bluetooth as well for some reason.

Then there's Google Maps itself. While I didn't notice it in the past, after using Google Maps several times to go to the same location, I've realized that, unlike a regular GPS, it doesn't consistantly follow the same route from point A to point B. I assume it changes things up to try and avoid traffic (it does have much better traffic info than the regular GPS). I suppose that can be useful, but I'm not sure that frequently getting rerouted onto back roads is always a good thing.

Anyway, just random musings. For the most part, I like Android Auto, some weird design issues aside. I'll keep using it as long as Google doesn't start giving Google Map blacklists of businesses it doesn't want people to visit (with some of the stuff that's come out about them lately, it could happen).

Later!

Josiah

9/13/2019 Food and traffic

The Kickstarter for Aurora's Nightmare is slowly making progress, but has a long way to go if we want to reach the goal by the end of the month so be sure to tell your friends.

I went to the Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore yesterday. I've written about it before so I won't go into detail. But it was fun and I found some cool products. And then I got stuck in traffic for nearly three hours on my way home because of road closures. That was considerably less fun. Though hey, I was driving our new van so it was comfortable and I had plenty of music to listen to. So it could have been worse.

Anyway, have a good weekend!

Josiah

9/11/2019 Never forget

It's been eighteen years and I still clearly remember that morning. And it's probably better that way. History shouldn't be forgotten, not unless we want it to happen again.

Josiah

9/9/2019 Corn maze

It's week two for the Aurora's Nightmare Kickstarter, and a great time to make a pledge!

And now for that travelogue entry...

August 30th (Friday): Cherry Crest Farm
Connie and I were planning to go to Cherry Crest Farm when we did our overnight trip to Lancaster. But the weather had other ideas. So we went back today for a day trip. This year, Zack was old enough to enjoy most of the different activities on the farm. There's a huge variety and they keep adding more each year. In addition to feeding the goats, which were the surprise highlight of his visit last year, Zack especially loved the water pumps, the wagon train, mini-town, animatronic chicken show, and the corn barn. Speaking of which, I went in the corn barn with him for a while. The dried feed corn they fill it with has got to be at least a foot deep. It's also surprisingly comfortable. I think I'd take a beach of that stuff over sand. Though it does really get stuck in your clothes.
We decided not to take Zack into the big maze this year. There's no way he'd say in a carrier or stroller the entire time, unless he was asleep, and I was worried that he might run off and get lost. So Connie played with Zack while I did the maze. The theme this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. As usual, I went for the "ultimate challenge" which means not only finding the exit, but also tracking down every hidden map piece and crossword puzzle answer. It was a pretty good maze design and I scored one of my better times, making it out in a little under an hour and a half.
All in all, went spent several hours at the farm and, if he didn't need a nap, Zack probably could have played there the rest of the day. But he was getting pretty tired so we left mid-afternoon and decided to get an early start driving home. It was a fun day. The maze was great, as always, and Zack had a blast. Looking forward to going back next year.

Later!

Josiah

9/6/2019 Last chance for Kickstarter specials

While the Kickstarter campaign for Aurora's Nightmare will be running through the end of the month, you only have until the end of the week to take advantage of the Early Morning specials, which let you grab the Angellus or Nightmare reward tiers for a discounted price.

I'm still working on my photos (though I have gotten through everything else on my to-do list), so the travelogue entry will have to wait a little longer, sorry.

See you Monday!

Josiah

9/4/2019 Kickstarting

If you didn't see Monday's update, I just released the demo for Aurora's Nightmare, the visual novel I've been working on. I'm also running a Kickstarter to fund some extra content and features. There's a couple of special limited time discount tiers that are only available until the end of the week, so this is a great time to get onboard if you're interested.

In other news, Connie and I did get back to Cherry Crest Farm over the holiday weekend so I'll have a travelogue entry for that up sometime soon. But not today since I also had to spend a lot of the weekend reading through Walden for the first time for one of my MFA classes. Now, I know it's supposed to be a classic but I was pretty thoroughly unimpressed. The occasional good line or description aside, it was pretty boring and the author was as self righteous and arrogant as he was ignorant. I also had to read a critique on him and his writing afterwards and, apparently, the guy was a serious hypocrite as well. Honestly, I enjoyed the critique a whole lot more than I enjoyed Walden itself. It just goes to show that not every classic holds that designation for a good reason.

Later!

Josiah

9/2/2019 Aurora's Nightmare

For those of you who haven't heard, Aurora's Nightmare is the visual novel game I've been writing and developing in my free time. While the full game isn't going to be finished for a while yet, I've just released the official demo so you can give it a try for yourself. To coincide with the demo's release, I've also launched a Kickstarter campaign. I've been funding Aurora's Nightmare on my own and the game will get finished regardless of how the Kickstarter goes but, if successful, I'll be able to recoup the development costs and devote more time to it. And, if any of the stretch goals are met, I'll be able to add some cool extra features and content like animations and voice acting. If you're interested, please considering backing it. There's even a couple of special backer discounts for this week only. And even if you can't afford to donate right now, please tell all your friends. Kickstarters can live or die by word of mouth, so the more people who hear about it, the better.

I hope you enjoy the demo and I'll see you Wednesday with a new PV strip.

Josiah

8/30/2019 Trying again

The Aurora's Nightmare demo and Kickstarter will be launching on Sunday! I'll tell you all about it on Monday but, if you can't wait, you can check the dev blog on Sunday morning.

In other news, it's the start of a holiday weekend! One week into the semester... Anyway, Connie and I are heading back to PA today to go to Cherry Crest Farm and the corn maze. Though it's just going to be a day trip this time. So I've gotta run.

Have a great weekend!

Josiah

8/28/2019 Long day

While my work schedule this semester is better than the last one overall, Wednesdays are a little ridiculous as I have to be on campus from around 9 AM - 10 PM. At least I have a decent amount of time between classes to work on things. Anyway, I've got one more travelogue entry.

August 23rd (Friday): Hands-On House
We were planning to spend the day at Cherry Crest Farm. Unfortunately, there was a very sudden change in the weather over night and what was supposed to have been a nice sunny day turned into steady rain, wrecking our plans. As such, I ended up spending much of breakfast on my phone, looking up nearby indoor activities that would be good for Zack. On a side note, the breakfast buffet at Hershey Farm is pretty good. It has all your classic breakfast foods along with less well known local specialties (such as scrapple, though that's not something I eat).
But anyway, we settled on a visit to the nearby Hands-On House, a children's museum and play area. It was a pretty nice place, though really crowded since it looked like quite a lot families in the area had the same idea as us. There were several different themed areas including a farm, grocery store, dress up area, and factory. There was also a large outdoor area, but we didn't get to check it out due to the rain. Zack had fun, though there were a few things he wasn't quite old enough to enjoy. If you need an indoor kids' activity in the Lancaster area, it's a good option.
Eventually, we decided to get a quick lunch and drive back home a little early. It wasn't a bad day, but missing out on the farm and maze was pretty disappointing. We're planning to head back there for a day trip sometime soon.

Later!

Josiah

8/26/2019 Dutch Wonderland

It's back to work for me. I have a fairly simple teaching schedule this semester, though I'll have to see how much work my latest set of MFA classes end up being. Regardless, I should have two or three weeks before work starts getting especially busy, which is good since I have some other things I need to get done in the meantime. All that aside, I've got some travelogue entries for that PA trip Connie and I took last week.

August 22nd (Thursday): Dutch Wonderland
Connie and I always go to the Lancaster area in PA for a day in the summer to visit the Amazing Maize Maze at Cherry Crest Farm and do some other sightseeing. This year, we decided to spend the night and make it a two day trip. Both to break up the driving and to give us time to do some more stuff.
Speaking of the drive, I decided to use it to test out our brand new Honda Odyssey, which we just bought a week ago. As hoped, it's great for road trips. It'll also be really useful when we have visitors. On top of that, it was Zack's first time facing forward in the car seat. I think the combination of that and the van's big windows kept him pretty happy since he managed to make it pretty much the entire drive without needing a phone, tablet, or anything besides a couple toys.
But anyway, we decided to use the first day of our trip to take Zack to Dutch Wonderland, which is a theme park in Lancaster that's been around for over 50 years. Now, before you read any further, I should make one thing clear. Dutch Wonderland is for kids. Specifically, little kids. If everyone in your group is at least 10 years old, there's absolutely no reason to go. Head to Hershey Park instead, it's got plenty of stuff for all ages. Honestly, I suspect even a lot of 8 year olds would have more fun at Hershey. That said, Dutch Wonderland is great for little kids. All the rides are kid friendly (either solo riding or with parents). Even Zack, at 2 1/2, was tall enough to go on the vast majority of them. And he loved it. He rode the whip five times in a row, and would have stayed on longer if we didn't lure him away to try other rides. The park isn't overly large, but there's a good number of kids rides, some shows (which we didn't watch so I can't comment on) a big sandbox and playground area, and a water park (mostly a large elaborate splash pad, with handful of small slides).
We stayed until mid-afternoon, at which point Zack really needed a nap, so we left to check into our hotel. For convenience, we stayed at Hershey Farm (not related to Hershey Chocolate), since Connie and I always eat at the buffet there anyway. While it's not the cheapest hotel in the area, the rooms are fairly nice and they've got a pool, two playgrounds, farm animals, and the buffet (breakfast is free, and you get 20% off other meals). You can even buy smoothies and ice cream 24 hours a day in the lobby, which I saw quite a lot of people take advantage of. They can also get you discounted tickets to a number of local attractions. Anyway, after Zack's nap and a bit of time in the playground, we hit the buffet for dinner (very good, as described in previous years' travelogues) and then Zack chased geese for a while before bed. I knew he loved chasing birds, but it was a bit odd to see him chasing a after a whole flock of geese that were each as big as he is. It's good that they're not especially aggressive.
Unfortunately, despite being tired, Zack really didn't want to go to sleep (he's been fighting it a lot lately), which made our night a bit more exhausting than it should have been, but otherwise it was a pretty good day.

More on Wednesday. Later!

Josiah

8/23/2019 Last hurrah

Connie and I are on our annual trip to Pennsylvania to visit my favorite corn maze. But this year we decided to make it a two day event and do a bit more in the area to wrap up the summer. Expect a couple travelogue entries next week. I was debating trying to sort through my first day's photos and get the first entry done for today...but I've had a lot of late nights lately and there's no telling how well Zack will sleep in the hotel, so I'm going to go to bed early for once.

Have a good weekend and I'll be back to work and back to PV (probably with a travelogue entry) on Monday.

Josiah

8/21/2019 So close...

Not much to say. I've been spending a lot of time doing stuff with Zack, so I'm still not quite done with my last class. I should get it finished today though. Then it's off to Pennsylvania for a last couple days of summer fun. Speaking of which, there's a chance I might miss Friday's update because of the trip. Though that hopefully won't be the case.

Later!

Josiah

8/19/2019 One more week

The demo for Aurora's Nightmare, the visual novel game I'm developing, will be released to the public on September 1st!

It's the last week before fall semester. I've got three out of my four classes ready to go, but the last one still needs a solid day or so of work. Connie and I will be taking a little trip later in the week though, which will be fun and should lead to a couple travelogue posts. For now though, I've got a busy day or two ahead of me.

Later!

Josiah

8/16/2019 On a Friday?

Been awhile since I've posted a regular comic on a Friday. Though in this case it was due to an updating error back with Monday's comic. I originally started posting Blooper Reel comics on the main page on Fridays because I was having trouble getting Top Web Comics to update its voting incentives. Eventually though, I stopped checking TWC and just made Friday Blooper Reel comics on the main page the norm. I wouldn't mind getting back to three regular strips per week, plus a Blooper Reel but, between my work, studies, and family, I'm a lot busier than I used to be and having to make one less strip per week really helps sometimes. So I think I'll stick with the current approach, at least for now.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

8/14/2019 Oops...

It looks like Monday's comic didn't update properly (been a long time since that happened). It was added to the archives but didn't appear on the main page like it was supposed to. So, I'm putting it back up today for everyone who missed it and I'll post the comic that was supposed to go up today on Friday instead of a Blooper Reel.

Sorry for the mix-up.

Josiah

8/12/2019 Another year

Pebble Version has passed yet another anniversary. Honestly, I never thought it would continue this long. Not that I thought I'd give up or anything, but I never thought it would take anywhere near this long to finish to the story. To be fair, that's kind of my fault. I certainly could have abbreviated a lot. But whatever, we're getting fairly close to the end so there's no point in changing things up now.

Here's to another year!

Josiah





Pokemon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.