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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
Year 17: 8/12/2019 - 8/10/2020
Year 18: 8/12/2020 - 8/09/2021

9/20/2021 Another to-do list day

I did manage to get a lot done on Friday and a bit more yesterday. Now if I can get most/all of this week's grading done today I'll be in good shape. And hey, sukkot should be fun so I've got that to look forward to as well, even if it does mess with my schedule a bit.



9/17/2021 All the Holy Days...

All the High Holy Days, combined with my work and other stuff, has kept me pretty busy the past couple of weeks. Hopefully I can get caught up on a lot of things today. Though there's still Sukkot coming up so the holidays aren't finished quite yet. Anyway, back to it.

Have a good weekend!


9/15/2021 Still more Amiibos

Managed to grab a few more Amiibos for a decent price since my last post and now, as long as everything arrives ok, all I need is Qbby and Rathian and Cheval, which I probably won't be getting anytime soon given how much they cost. On a side note, I forgot to mention it last time, but there are a few Amiibos I didn't list. Namely silver and/or gold variations of the Mega Man 11 Amiibo and some of the Monster Hunter Amiibos. But those were made in super limited quantities and given away as contest prices so chances are I'll never even see one for sale, much less be able to afford it. So I'm not really counting them as being part of a complete set.

What's next now that I've almost finished my Amiibo collection? Well, there's a few cool Amiibo display stands that were released years back. They'd be a fun addition to my setup, but most of them are pretty expensive these days so I'm keeping my eye out for deals, but none of them are must-haves for me.

I've also been grabbing a few Skylanders. Not to collect (once again, I have no real desire to collect them), but since I decided to play through the series with Zack, I figured I should grab what I need in order to 100% the games (you actually don't need much to clear the story modes, apparently, but there's a lot of extra areas you can't reach without certain types of characters). Anyway, since this isn't for a collection, I'm going for function over anything else, though I want decent condition. Anyway, most Skylanders seem fairly cheap and easy to grab, though there's some rarer ones, a few of which are actually needed to 100% some of the games, which is a bit annoying. Maybe I'll skip those...

On one other side note, the only toys to life game I actually got serious about playing back during their heyday was was Lego Dimensions, which I'd say is the best Lego game out there, even without all the cool physical mini-figures and vehicles. Back when it was being released, I made sure to get all the figures I needed to access every world and level, and grab every golden brick, along with some additional ones that I just really liked. So I've got quite a lot. Seeing as I already have enough to 100% the game, plus all my favorites, I don't have a really strong desire to get a complete collection or anything. Though I have to admit, I'd be curious sometime to dig up a checklist and see just how close I am. If I'm only missing a handful of cheaper ones then maybe...

Ugh, I've definitely got my dad's collection bug. I'd better be careful about that...



9/13/2021 More Amiibos

Might as well finish talking about my Amiibo collection. So, picking up where I left off last time...

Splatoon Series: Splatoon and Splatoon 2 got eight Amiibos each. Will Splatoon 3 be the same? No idea. Anyway, a lot of this series is actually rather expensive these days. Fortunately, I had gotten nearly all of them at launch. Unfortunately, nearly all isn't all. Specifically, I skipped the recolors of the original Splatoon three pack since they were just recolors and, of the three, I liked the original colors better for two of them anyway. Actually getting the full recolor three pack is pretty expensive but, with some shopping around and a bit of luck, I managed to get them piecemeal for a more reasonable price.

Legend of Zelda Series: The third largest series (after Smash Bros. and Super Mario). Nothing horribly rare, but some moderately rare and expensive ones mixed in. Fortunately, I already had almost all of them. The two exceptions being Skyward Sword Link and Twilight Princess Link (two of the rarer ones, of course). At the time, I figured they looked pretty similar to other Link figures I had (including Link's Smash Bros. Amiibo) so I didn't bother. I mean really, how many different Link Amiibos do I need anyway? Apparently the answer is 13 (between the Zelda and Smash series) and counting. Yes, there's really that many Amiibos of just one character. Though, to be fair, Link has had a lot of different incarnations over the course of the series. Anyway, I recently picked up one of the two I'm missing, still waiting for a good price on the other though.

Yoshi's Woolly World Series: This extra special series features knitted woolen figures. The three different colored Yoshi's, which I already had, are pretty cheap and easy to find. Poochy, who I thankfully also had, is pretty rare and expensive. But the most expensive Amiibo in this series (and the only one I was missing, of course), is the extra large Mega Yarn Yoshi. An unopened one can easily sell for $250. I managed to get mine (which should arrive today) for a good bit less, but I'm still rather upset at myself for not getting one in the past. They were kind of hard to find in the US (being a Toys R Us exclusive) but my friend in Japan offered to grab one and I turned him down, thinking that three yarn Yoshi's was enough. Actually, I started regretting my choice not long after once I saw how cool the regular Yarn Yoshis were. Definitely a mistake on my part.

Skylanders Series: Of course, Skylanders is an entirely different toys-to-life series with its own set of figurines. However, for Skylanders Superchargers, the Wii and Wii U versions added in Donkey Kong and Bowser as bonus characters, complete with their own figures. And they can be used not just as Skylanders figurines, but Amiibos as well. There's the two base figures (Bowser and DK) and each has a matching vehicle. The vehicles don't have Amiibo functionality (though they do work in Skylanders) but I feel like if you want a complete set you should include them as well. Now, used Skylanders figures are super easy to find these days and a lot of them are pretty cheap. However, while it seems pretty easy to find sealed Amiibo and open ones in very good condition, sealed Skylanders seem to be considerably rarer and the condition of the used ones is pretty hit or miss so while finding the Skylanders Amiibos isn't too hard, getting them in good condition can be. It doesn't help that most sellers sell the figures and vehicles separately. Anyway, turns out that you can still get new copies of Skylanders Supercharges for Wii (which includes Bowser and his vehicle) and Wii U (with Donkey Kong and his vehicle) for pretty cheap. Probably cheaper than buying the figures and vehicles separately, plus you get some other Skylanders and the game. Easy enough. But then there's the "dark" versions, which are the exact same but with black coloring. Those are rare (they only came with the game's special edition dark starter set). They're still not that hard to find, but they're much more expensive and, as previously mentioned, finding used ones in good condition is tough. You can get a sealed copy of Superchargers Dark for Wii (with Dark Bowser) for around $80, which is worth it. Unfortunately Superchargers Dark for Wii U is more like $200 (I assume it had a much smaller production run) so I had to gamble on used figures with mixed results.
On a side note, I have no desire to collect all the Skylanders figures. Though, now that I actually have a few and one of the games, I realized the series would be a good one to play co-op with Zack so I'm going to grab a few just for that purpose.

Shovel Knight Series: One of only two non-Nintendo games to get an entire Amiibo series. Not super rare, and I got all of them back when they launched anyway.

Monster Hunter Series: The second non-Nintendo series, it also features some of the rarest Amiibos around. The most recent six, three from Monster Hunter Rise and three from Monster Hunter Stories 2, did get a US release and, while they sold out pretty quickly (I totally missed the launch at the time), you can still get them pretty easily, though you may have to pay up to twice retail. I suspect they'll go up quite a bit over time though, so grab them soon if you want them. The real challenge here is the original six that were released for the first Monster Hunter Stories. They were exclusive to Japan and are all rare and expensive. Though some more than others. I managed to grab a sealed copy of the cheapest one for $50, but he's the exception. Most of them run from $100 - $250 new (and probably $80 - $150 used). But then there's Navirou, who can easily go for around $200 used. And finally Rathian and Cheval, one of the two rarest Amiibos around, who're more like $300+ for a used copy. This is another set where I'm really kicking myself since I was actually in Japan when these Amiibos were released and I remember seeing them on store shelves. But, while they looked cool, I thought I'd wait and see if Monster Hunter Stories came to the US first. Sigh... If I'd picked up a few sets back then to hold onto I could have made some serious money.
Anyway, I get the newer Monster Hunter Amiibos easily enough and I've been working hard on the originals. And, so far, with a lot of searching and a bit of luck, I managed to get decent prices on all of them except Rathian and Cheval. That said, along with Mega Yarn Yoshi, they're still my most expensive acquisitions.

One Off's: There's also a bunch of single Amiibos for various games. For example, Detective Pikachu, who is, surprisingly enough, the only non-Smash Pokemon Amiibo. Or the Loot Goblin from Diablo. Some of these are common and cheap, some are pretty rare and expensive. Fortunately, I already had most of them. Of course, one of the couple I'm missing is Qbby (from BoxBoy), a Japanese exclusive and one of the two rarest Amiibo there is. Like Rathian and Cheval, you can easily spend $300 for a used copy.

And that's all of the Amiibo figurines. So how's my collection coming? At this point, assuming my remaining packages arrive ok, I only need another half dozen. Four of those are within my budget, but I'm waiting a bit to see if I can find a better deal. But then there's Qbby and Rathian and Cheval. Even the best prices I've seen for them are a good bit above what I want to pay for a single Amiibo. Maybe, given enough time, I'll get really lucky and find a great price. But I may just have to save up for a while and bite the bullet in order to complete my collection. Anyway, I'll be sure to post some pictures once I actually do have them all.



9/10/2021 Amiibos

Earlier in the year I backed the Kickstarter for the Unofficial Amiibook, a handbook for Nintendo's Amiibo figurines. It was a fun read, but between going through it, and talking collections a bit with my dad (he's a pretty serious baseball autograph collector), I began thinking that it might be nice to try and get a full set. Now, I've been buying amiibos since they were first released, but I never really tried to collect all of them. In fact, while I do buy a lot of stuff for my hobbies (books, video games, movies, music), it's hard to say if any of that is a proper "collection." I get what I want, but it's not like I'm trying to collect "every" Playstation 4 game, or every RPG, or anything like that. The last thing I seriously collected was Yu-Gi-Oh cards and I stopped when I first moved to Japan back in 2007 and never really started up again after that.

As for Amiibos, the first batch was released a few months after I moved to Hawaii. Initially, I thought I'd just grab ones for my favorite characters, though it wasn't long before I decided that I should at least get the entire Smash Bros. series since I was having fun using them to make custom fighters in the game. Though that was easier said than done. There were some serious supply problems early on and being on an island with a very limited number of stores didn't really help. There was ebay, of course, but the prices tended to be pretty crazy. However, not long after, one of my friends from Florida moved to Japan (where Amiibos were generally easier to find) and offered buy and mail them to me and some of our other friends so long as covered the costs. Between his help, and some eventual reprints of the rarer ones (like Marth), I mostly managed to get all the Amiibos I really wanted. The one exception being gold Mario, which somehow managed to sell out before I arrived at the store even though I went early in the morning on launch day. I was still mostly focusing on the Smash Bros. series, though I did pick up some from the various other series (no complete sets though, just the ones I wanted the most). Over time, Nintendo got much better at judging supply and demand (for Amiibos at least, not the special editions of some of their games (still a bit annoyed I missed out on a couple of those)), to the point where any given Amiibo would normally be relatively easy to get for at least a few weeks after launch. Plus, Amazon Japan eventually started allowing more and more of their stuff (Amiibos included) to be shipped directly to the US as long as you were willing to pay the shipping fees. So things got a lot easier and, over the years, I've kept up with Amiibos pretty well. Though, once again, other than Smash Bros. I wasn't actively trying to complete any particular set, just get my favorite characters. But, like I said, a month or so ago I started wondering what it would take to get the ones I was missing. Not neccessarily unopened (I tend to take them out of the box anyway), but in good condition. I started by looking up that gold Mario I'd missed out on years before and found that, unlike back then, you can actually get it for a fairly reasonable price these days. So I bought one on ebay then started looking at the other Amiibos I needed.

To be fair, collecting Amiibo is actually rather easy. Between Amazon sellers, Amazon Japan, and ebay, it seems that there's always at least a few copies of even the rarest ones available, both new and used. So, if you've got the money, there's no need to go to great lengths to track down any of them (unlike many collectables). Though money can be an issue. There's a limit on how much I can spend at any one time. Not to mention a limit on how much I'm willing to spend on a single figurine, even if I can afford it. I'll also note that I'm focusing purely on the Amiibo figurines. I don't really care about the Animal Crossing trading cards (which also have Amiibo functionality), the Super Mario cereal box that can be scanned like an Amiibo (yes, that's a real thing), or the like. But anyway, I've been having fun checking different web sites and such and trying to fill in the gaps in my collection without breaking the bank. Though I've also been kicking myself a bit for not buying some of these back when they first came out... So how am I coming along? In no particular order...

Smash Bros. Series: This is, by far, the biggest Amiibo series and it's still growing with the remaining DLC characters from Smash Ultimate coming in the future. Fortunately, I've kept up with it from the beginning (though I had to wait until the second printing for a couple). Most of these figures are worth at least what I paid for them, often two or three times that, even out of box. But few of them are extremely rare and expensive. The main exceptions being the alternte outfit Player 2 ones that several characters have. Fortunately though, I bought those at launch so I don't have to worry about them.

Super Mario Series: At first, I was only getting the characters that didn't also have Smash Bros. figures. So I had the goomba, boo, and Waluigi, and wedding set, for example, but not the reuglar Mario or Bowser. A lot of the figures in this series are still pretty affordable, but silver and gold Mario tend to go for at least several times retail. As do the relatively new, but apparently kind of hard to find, wedding and cat sets. Right now, I'm still missing Wario, Rosalina, Donkey Kong, and Diddy, who are some of the rarest and most expensive single Amiibos in the series. That said, they tend to be in the $50 - $80 range, which is a lot more than they originally cost at retail, but not horribly expensive either.

Kirby Series: A small four figure series. I made a point of getting two of these back from they first came out (Kirby and Waddle Dee), and randomly picked up the others in the past when I happened across them at a good price. Since I already have them, I haven't actually checked prices so I don't know if they're especially rare or expensive, though I don't think they are.

Animal Crossing Series: There's 16 of these (ignoring the aforementioned cards, which number in the hundreds) and, since I don't play Animal Crossing (nothing against it, I just have a tendency to avoid open-ended life sims) I never actually got any of them in the past. Fortunately, these Amiibo either really common or just not very popular. Most of them can easily be bought sealed in-box for their original retail price or less (sometimes a lot less). There's only two or three that regularily go for more than that and even those can be gotten for around $20 - $30 if you shop around. While not all of them have arrived yet, I was able to pick up the entire set for less than the cost of some single amiibos.

Fire Emblem Series: Most Fire Emblem Amiibos are actually part of the Smash Bros. series but there were a few others released as well, and they've all gotten fairly rare. Fortuntaely, I bought them all back when they first came out so that's not a problem for me.

Metroid Series: As with Fire Emblem, this is a small but popular series and I already had all of them. On that note, I'm looking forward to the new Metroid Dread set next month.

Hmm... There's more but I'd better stop there for today. Lots to do (work and family stuff, not Amiibo hunting). I'll finish this on Monday if I have time.


9/8/2021 Back to work

Well, this has been a nice extended weekend and we certainly took advantage of it. Malls, Busch Gardens, the Maryland Renaissance Festival... But now it's time to get back to work and also catch up on some of the things I hadn't been able to get around to over the past week and a half with everything that was going on. Now much to say, just a lot to do.



9/6/2021 Holidays

It's Labor Day! Immediately followed by Rosh Hashanah, which is a more serious holiday but still a holiday. It's going to be a busy week... Fun, at times, but busy.

As for what I was talking about last news post, the final arc won't begin this week, but likely next week or the week after. More on that when it comes.



9/3/2021 Planning...

This has been a busy weekend. On top of work, Zack didn't have any preschool which meant he kept me busier. Plus he had a cold for several days... And now a holiday weekend (double for me, since Rosh Hashanah is right after Labor Day). Probably still pretty busy, but at least we'll have some fun as well.

In other news, many of you have probably realized that, at this point, Brendan and May have pretty much wrapped up all the major post-game stuff from Ruby and Sapphire. All that's left is to tie up the original plot threads. I've known for a while, but it only really hit me recently. The end is coming. Pebble Version's final story arc will be starting soon. In fact, I just took a little time to jot down my plans. I'll write more about it when the arc officially begins, but it won't be long now...


9/1/2021 Staying busy

I just cannot seem to find enough time to keep up with everything that needs doing this week. Anyway, at least I got a comic done, but that's about it.



8/27/2021 VR Games UPDATE

Update 8/30/2021: Sorry, no new strip today. Had a couple of things come up over the weekend that I needed to take care of right away and, as a result, I wasn't able to get a strip done in time. Updates should resume on Wednesday.

As I mentioned before, my gaming time has been somewhat limited lately and I'm currently playing Neo The World Ends With You, which I've been looking forward to for a very long time, so there's still a lot of VR games I want to try that I haven't gotten around to yet. But, as for the ones I have played...

Hatsune Miku VR
This seemed like a given seeing as I love the Project Diva series and Vocaloid music in general. Unfortunately, it is not Project Diva, or even remotely close. You only get two costumes, a handful of rather boring stages, and a small number of songs (though they, at least, are pretty good). Add in mediocre graphics and really dull gameplay, and this one is easily skippable, even for hardcore fans like me.

Beat Saber
This is the VR music game you want to get. If I'm being honest, it would probably work equally well on the Switch (or any console with motion controls), but playing in VR really gets you into the music and serves are a nice showcase for VR gaming. While the music selection could use some work, they are releasing new DLC packs from time to time and it's just a good music game in general.

Space Pirate Trainer
This is more or less a classic arcade space shooter (like Space Invaders or Galaga) in VR. You get a weapon in each hand (choosing from several types of guns, a melee weapon, and a shield) and shoot down everything that moves. You also have to physically dodge or shield against enemy fire. It's fun and intense but not especially deep and you can't expect much from it beyond the arcade style score chasing experience.

Spice and Wolf VR
Not so much a game as "VR experience" this one is purely for fans of the anime or light novels. You can essentially think of it as a lost anime episode or short story, with you looking through Lawrence's eyes as he and Holo engage in their usual banter. At about half an hour in length (plus another 10 or 15 minutes in the bonus mode where you get to interact with Holo), it's kind of expensive, but probably worth it if you really like the series.

Job Simulator
One of the earlier popular VR games. You work in recreations of several different jobs (office worker, mechanic, etc.) created by robots who don't really understand how any of those jobs are supposed to work. A lot of the fun comes from the humor, and from just messing around with all the different objects. It can get old after awhile, but it's amusing and a decent VR showcase.

Tetris Effect
This one isn't VR exclusive, but VR is clearly the best way to play it. It's basically just Tetris (with one new ability tossed in), but what sets it apart is the audiovisual presentation. The visuals, the music, the falling blocks, it's really engrossing, artistic, and meditative. I don't normally even like Tetris all that much. I'd say this is one of the better VR showcase titles as well, despite its simplicity.

In the end, I wouldn't call any of these games "system sellers." Though I do like Beat Saber and Tetris Effect quite a lot. But they're fun and the VR does really add another level to them (even if it's basically a non-essential one). When I have the time, I am looking forward to trying out some of the bigger full-scale games like Half-Life Alyx. But the might not be for a little while yet...

Have a good weekend!


8/25/2021 Trying VR

I've been pretty busy between family stuff and class prep, and I'm still working on those new lectures I need to finish. I am squeezing in a bit of gaming here and there though, to keep from getting burned out. Mainly Neo The World Ends With You, which I'm enjoying, but I'm not far enough into it to write anything yet. I've also been playing around a little bit more with my VR headset from time to time, and I do want to write about that.

Anyway, around a month back I picked up an Oculus Quest 2. Why? Well, no big reason. I'd been wanting to get a VR headset for a while, though there wasn't (and, honestly, still isn't) any must-have games for me so it was never a high priority. I was thinking that I'd maybe get a PSVR when there was a good sale. Then my brother got a Quest 2 since he liked his friend's and Costco had a bundle. So I did a bit of research. I certainly liked the idea of untethered VR. Unlike the other major headsets, the Quest has a computer built in so you can play a lot of games directly from the headset, without having to run a cord to a computer. Of course, the game selection is a bit limited due to hardware constraints and such, but it can run a lot of the major VR games. In the end, what sold me on it, as opposed to any other headset, was that the Quest 2 actually can be plugged into a PC as well, giving it access to not only the full Oculus game store, but Steam as well (including Half-Life Alyx). While there's still one or two PSVR titles I would have liked to play, the Quest 2 seems to have access to the largest library of any VR headset, much of which you can play untethered. Plus, it has pretty good motion tracking without the need for a camera array. All things considered, I'd say that the Quest 2 is the best VR headset currently on the market. So, when I saw the same Costco bundle, I decided to give it a try (though I'll note that the Costco bundle isn't really discounted, you just get a free (kinda ugly) carrying case).
So how do I like the Quest 2? Well, it works quite well. All the games that I've gotten from the Quest 2 store have run fine untethered and the battery life, while not spectacular, is good enough seeing as you probably wouldn't want to play a VR game for more than two or three hours at a time anyway. There are some issues though. Your account is tied to Facebook (since they own Oculus). I don't especially care, despite not liking Facebook much, but some people who really hate Facebook aren't thrilled about that. And you have to be ready to pay for some accessories up-front. No one seems to like the included straps so you'll probably want to get the pro-set (overpriced, but fairly good) or a third-party, and the foam lining is kinda uncomfortable and doesn't provide the best seal so you may want a silicon cover. And if you want to be able to plug the Quest into your computer to play regular Oculus and Steam games that requires a special cable. The official one is ridiculously expensive, but there are much more reasonably priced third-party options. Some people also say you should get silicon grips for the controllers. I didn't really find those necessary (they're nice, but for me at least the normal grips were fine). All in all though, you can easily spend an additional $75 - $150 on accessories on-top of the Quest 2 itself (at least the motion controllers, which work well and are fairly comfortable) are included.
In use, I do have some issues with the lenses fogging up (though you can mostly mitigate that if you're careful), and they rarely seem to align 100% perfectly with both of my eyes (good enough, at least). And I have to tuck my headphone cord under my shirt to keep from accidentally catching my arms on it (wireless headphones aren't recommended, though the built-in speakers are passable). I could nitpick a few others things but, in the end, it's easy enough to forget about those things once you've got a game up and running. Could the Oculus Quest 2 stand to be a bit more polished? Yeah. But none of the issues really hold it back. As I said, when you take everything into account, I'd say it's the best VR system available and VR gaming is pretty cool. Don't get me wrong, if I had to I'd take any current game console or a good PC over the Quest due to the variety and quality of the games available. But if you have the extra money, VR is worth the investment.

I'll write a bit about some of the games I've been playing in the future. For now though, I should get going.


8/23/2021 And go!

Well, today is the first day of fall semester. I haven't been on campus, much less given a live lecture, for something like a year and a half at this point. The university still has a number of restrictions and such in-place due to COVID as well. Let's just say that this semester will be...interesting, and leave it at that.

Here's hoping for a good fall semester, here and elsewhere.


8/20/2021 Getting there

Well, I've taken care of nearly all the annoying things going on (though they didn't all work out the way I wanted). And my class prep is coming along nicely. I'll have the last of the critical tasks done today, though I have to write and record a few more lectures for an online class and that might take another week or so to finish. After that though, this should be the least stressful semester I've had in a long time. At least as long as nothing crazy and unexpected happens...

Anyway, have a good weekend!


8/18/2021 Keeping busy

Still dealing with a couple of those issues I mentioned last time, plus lots of class prep left (I'm restructuring one of my classes a bit and adding a bunch of new material to it as well), so I'm pretty busy. Things should actually be calmer next week when classes start. Or maybe the week after, depending on when exactly I get all of that new material done.



8/16/2021 The little things

I've had a lot of stuff going wrong lately. Nothing major, but it all gets annoying and I have to waste time dealing with it. Honestly, I kind of want to rant about it a bit...but I should work on the travelogue instead.

August 7th (Saturday): Cherry Crest Farm
Seeing as we were spending the weekend in Lancaster County, we naturally had to take a day to visit Cherry Crest Farm. I've already written about it many times so I won't go into detail, but it was just as good as always. The theme for the corn maze this year is thanking fire fighters, police, paramedics, and the like. I had fun with that and, of course, Zack loved all the different activities and play areas. As always, it's a great place to spend the day, especially with kids.

August 8th (Sunday): Dutch Wonderland
For the final day of our trip, we headed to Dutch Wonderland, a theme park aimed at younger kids. We took Zack there once two years ago and had planned to go last year but they were closed for much of the summer and, when they finally reopened, were requiring everyone (kids included) to wear masks at all times, so that was a no go. Anyway, with that requirement gone, we headed back this year. As before, most of the rides are for little kids. Though they did have a roller coaster that I don't remember seeing last time. It's certainly the most intense thing in the park, though not on the level of what you can find at Hershey or Busch Gardens. But it was fine for Zack. That kid has absolutely no fear of rides. While he'll probably outgrow the place in another couple of years, for now he still had lots of fun and went on nearly every ride he saw. We also checked out an area of the park we'd missed last time, which had a gondola ride, car ride, and a bunch of dinosaurs. Also, while we only caught a couple minutes, it looks like they have some fun shows to watch. Once again, I wouldn't recommend Dutch Wonderland for adults, or even older kids (probably 8 or 10 and up), but for families with young kids it's a pretty good choice.
After leaving the park, we got some food and drove home. It was a fun and relaxing trip and it was nice having my parents along this time.



8/13/2021 Some time in PA

My parents are back home and I've got a lot of class prep to do. But I do want to keep my travelogue more or less up to date so here's a bit about our weekend in Pennsylvania.

August 6th (Friday): Lancaster and Sight & Sound
We wanted to do a quick overnight trip while my parents were here and we settled on Pennsylvania. For the first day, we started out by heading to downtown Lancaster. While I've been to a lot of places in Lancaster County, I don't think I've ever actually been to the town itself before. It's a nice area to walk around, lots of old buildings, shops, restaurants, etc. Our main destination was the Lancaster Central Market, a sort of indoor farmers market with a good mix of local produce, meat, etc., handicrafts, and food stalls. We walked around, snacked, and explored the town a bit.
Afterwards we drove over to The Hershey Farm Inn (our favorite hotel in the area) to check in and unpack. Then it was off to Sight & Sound Theater. Sight & Sound is a place I've been hearing about ever since we moved to Virginia. It's a theater that specializes in plays based on various Bible stories. They do a different one every year and this year is Esther. Lots of people have told me that their shows are a must see, but in previous years I didn't think that Zack could sit through the entire thing. This year though, we decided to give it a try. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but the theater itself was pretty impressive both outside and inside (and, conveniently, a very short walk from our hotel). And the theater wasn't the only impressive part. I've seen a lot of versions of the Esther story over the years but I can safely say that this was the best. We're talking Broadway (or better) production values with fantastic sets and costumes. As a neat touch, the stage wrapped around more than 180 degrees and they made really good use of the space and always had something to see wherever you looked. The acting was solid as well. But, most importantly, they nailed the script. I'm really picky about adaptations of stories I've read but this one hit all the key points, filled out the parts that needed it (unlike a modern novel, Bible stories do need some expansion when adapted to stage or film), but didn't add any dumb fluff scenes either. Add in some good musical numbers, and you have an absolutely top-notch production. My whole family was really impressed and we already want to go back next year to see their version of David. If you're Christian or Jewish, you'll love it. Even if you're not religious, so long as you don't mind that it's based on a Bible story, you'll probably still enjoy it since it's such a well-done production. If you're in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Sight & Sound Theater.
After the show, it was back to the hotel for our usual buffet dinner, then we let Zack play around outside for a while before calling it a night.

There's more, but I'll stop there for now. Have a good weekend!


8/11/2021 Fall is coming...

More specifically, the fall semester. And, for the first time in around a year and a half, I'll be teaching in-person classes again. Well, one anyway. Most of my classes are still online. But it's a start I guess. And my parents are heading back to Hawaii today so it's time for me to knuckle down and finish getting my course materials ready.

There will be some travelogue entries coming soon (probably Friday), but I've got a few more photos to sort first. And now, back to work.



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