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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

4/17/2019 Kingdom Hearts III

Now that I've finished Kingdom Hearts III (minus some item farming and the last couple post game battles), here are my thoughts.

Kingdom Hearts III has been a long time coming. While the franchise has always remained active, Kingdom Hearts II came out around 13 years ago and even the last major new entry in the series was 6 or 7 years ago. I've been following the series ever since the first game and have picked up and played every new entry (except the mobile titles) at launch. As such, I've been waiting a long time to see how the story of Sora, Riku, Xehanort, and the others ends. Or at least, how the story arc ends. While Kingdom Hearts III ties up a lot of loose ends and marks the official end of the Xehanort or Dark Seeker story arc, it's not the end of the series, or even the end of Sora's story. But more on that later.
First, the basics. Kingdom Hearts III looks fantastic. Each world has a distinct graphic style that expertly mimics the movie upon which it's based. And the music, both Disney and original, is fantastic. The gameplay builds on everything that's come before. It's got a lot of Kingdom Hearts II, but with some elements from Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance (such as shot locks and flow-motion) and new abilities (keyblade forms and attractions) mixed is. As such, Sora controls really well and combat is more fun and over the top than ever (though I do miss all the enemy specific quick time events and such from KHII). Sora's new ability to run up many walls also means that many of the environments have a lot of verticality to them, which makes for some fun designs. Most of the worlds are really large and diverse as well...except The 100 Acre Woods, which is so small and short that you kind of have to wonder why they put it in at all. There's also Twilight Town, which is nice to revisit, but smaller than it was in KHII as you can only visit certain parts of it. There are also fewer worlds than in KH or KHII. Eight Disney worlds (including the ridiculously short 100 Acre Woods) and two original (one of which is the smaller Twilight Town) and, unlike in KHII, you only have to visit each of them once (though they do all have a bunch of collectables and a mini-game or two). I also really miss the coliseum and lack of optional bosses (there's only one). You can still spend 60+ hours if you want to do everything, but the main story itself is on the shorter side for the series.
The Gummy Ship is back and now revolves around exploring several large sandbox areas, each with a lot of collectables and scripted battles. While I know it's divisive, I always enjoyed the Gummy Ship and I still did in KHIII. Especially the customization. But while exploring the different parts of space to find new worlds and collectables was fun, I didn't get quite as into it as I did the intricate rail shooter levels from KHII. Speaking of mini-games, the the others are all fun as well, if not especially deep.
So what about the story? First off, KHIII takes place shortly after the end of Dream Drop Distance and brings together all the dangling plot threads from the previous main series games. As such, if you haven't played most/all of the previous games, you're probably going to get lost pretty quickly. For long time fans, like myself, however, it's awesome to finally see Sora team up with Donald and Goofy once again and set off to rescue lost keyblade wielders such as Aqua, Ven, and Roxas in preparation for the final showdown with Xehanort and his True Organization XIII (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, forget about KHIII for now and go play the recent HD rereleases of the past games). I'll also note that, towards the end, there are a lot of nods to the mobile game, Unchained X, especially in regards to what will come after KHIII. Though if you haven't played it, the movie included in the 2.8 collection covers the most important parts.
The main plot moves at a fairly steady clip, interspersed with the stories of the individual Disney worlds, and features a lot of moments that fans will love. Though I do wish that the Organization took a more active role in things early on. They mostly just pop in to taunt Sora and monitor the situation and you don't get to actually fight any of them until the end. Maleficent and Pete are also pretty passive. They pop up from time to time, searching for a mysterious black box, but they're only there to start laying the groundwork for next major story arc. But at least they're present. The Final Fantasy characters, such as Leon and Yuffie, are entirely absent. Though, to be fair, their story pretty much wrapped up in KHII. I also wish we got to spend some serious time exploring the dark world and some of the other worlds that only really show up in cut-scenes. The other issue I had with the story is that in a couple of the Disney worlds (such as Arandale) it doesn't really feel like Sora, Donald, and Goofy are a part of the story so much as they happen to be in the general vicinity when the story is taking place. But while the story isn't perfect, the plot is fun, engaging, and features an epic and emotional final act that is pretty much everything I hoped for while also setting the stage for another major story arc to follow (especially in regards to the mysterious secret movie).
I know there was a lot of nitpicking in there but KHIII really is a great game. It's not quite everything I hoped it would be, but it's still full of fun and heart and provides a stirring conclusion to the Dark Seeker arc. I loved it and I'm really looking forward to both the inevitable Final Mix version and the next game (which will hopefully come out a lot sooner than KHIII did).

Josiah

4/15/2019 Lacking sleep...again

It's been kind of a long weekend. Zack got a cold. Fortunately, it was fairly minor and he's already mostly over it. However, the congestion made it really hard for him to sleep for a couple of nights, which means that Connie and I didn't get much sleep either. So we're still recovering from that.

So I'm going to get some rest and I'll see you Wednesday.

Josiah

4/12/2019 A long time coming

I'm in the middle of the last world of Kingdom Hearts III so I'm going to keep this short and leave myself some time to hopefully finish it. After that there's still the post game though, since I've already cleared pretty much all the rest of the optional content, it probably won't take too long. Expect a write-up with my thoughts sometime next week. For now, I'm off to see how it all ends.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

4/10/2019 Spring is here

Looks like we're finally getting consistantly good weather. Hopefully that means we'll get out and do some sightseeing sometime soon as well, though it's a little tricky since we've got various appointments scheduled for at least the next couple of Fridays and Connie has been trying to get together with some friends on Sundays which, with my current schedule, are really the only two days we can go anywhere. Oh well, we'll see what happens. There's only a little over a month left in the semester anyway.

Speaking of which, summer is coming fast and our travel plans are starting to come together. Or at least I thought they were. A last minute wrench may have gotten thrown in the works. Nothing that would derail our trip as a whole, but it may make us reconsider the where and when. Anyway, I'll fill you in once I've figured it all out.

Later!

Josiah

4/8/2019 Captain Marvel

I finally got a chance to see Captain Marvel. There's been a lot of controversy surrounding it. Depending on who you listen to, it's either the great movie ever or a dud that focuses more on scoring social justice points than anything else. Of course, the truth in somewhere inbetween. First off, I will say that I'm not especially fond of the lead actress as a person. Her attitude is the main reason behind all the controversy in the first place. As an actress though, she's decent. I didn't have any real issues with her performance. She's not terrible like some people claim, but the MCU is filled with amazing actors and actresses and she doesn't stack up to the best of them either. Also, as much as she would like people to believe, the movie isn't some hardcore life affirming ultra feminist masterwork. Yeah, Captain Marvel is a women, but she's not the first female action hero, or even super hero, to have her own Hollywood movie (for that matter, neither was Wonder Woman) and there's always been plenty of strong female characters in the MCU anyway. Plus, her gender really isn't any sort of major focus in the movie. There's a few very brief nods to "girl power" and the incorrect assumption that she's not as good as the men but they're essentially minor footnotes from flashbacks that only get a quick mention and have little to no relevance to the plot. So, honestly, unless you're extremely invested in the political posturing, it's easy enough to look past it all and judge the movie on its own merits.
So, on that note, how is it? It's big, action packed, and entertaining. Being set in the 90's (before all the other Marvel movies except Captain America), it also fills in a few interesting (though not especially important) bits of backstory. It also gives a lot more info about the Kree and Skrulls, which could be important if they end up playing a major role in later MCU movies (which is certainly possible, but by no means guaranteed). That said, the movie has a couple of major issues and they all center around Captain Marvel herself. First off, she has almost no character growth or development over the course of the movie. She makes a perfectly serviceable action girl, but without a good character arc, she's not especially compelling or memorable compared to most of the other Marvel heroes. The other issue is that's she's just too powerful. Not at first, but once she unlocks her full power she immediately becomes one of the most powerful beings to ever appear in the MCU. Thanos with the full Infinity Gauntlet might have her beat...but I could also just see her flying up, punching him in the face, and taking him out in one hit. She clearly outclasses all the other heroes by quite a good bit and doesn't seem to have any weaknesses or shortcomings. To give an idea of why this is a problem, let's take the final battle of the movie. Now, the final battle in super hero movies is normally a flashy epic showdown, and Captain Marvel's is as well. However, in other movies, that final battle is hard won, with the hero only barely succeeding even when using every last bit of their strength, skill, and ingenuity. Or, in some cases, failing despite all that and having to live with the consequences. Captain Marvel, however, masters her new powers almost immediately and uses them to effectively curbstomp all her opponents. She takes a couple of hits here and there, but shrugs them off and comes out without a scratch. Elite alien soldiers, a barrage of planet destroying bombs, a fleet of space ships...none of them pose the least bit of challenge. As such, while it's a visually impressive battle, it's seriously lacking in tension. And that makes me worry a bit about her role in the upcoming Avengers Endgame. I don't want her to be some big Dues Ex Machina that outshines all the other characters and single-handedly owns Thanos. Though Avengers will have different writers and directors so they should avoid that...probably.
Anyway, in summary, Captain Marvel isn't the worst MCU movie (not that any are bad, but some are certainly better than others), but it's not one of the best ones either. It's entertaining, but lacks the depth and heart that characterizes many of the others. And if you're gearing up for Avengers Endgame, it's not really a must see in terms of plot. All you really need to know is that Captain Marvel is ridiculously powerful and has been in space for a while, which is why she's only just showing up now. The stuff about the Kree and Skrulls might, or might not, be important later. But certainly not for Endgame.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

4/5/2019 Moving on

Taxes are done and it looks like I'll be getting a pretty substantial refund. Thank you, tax cuts! But I'll definitely be reducing my quarterly payments this time around. I've also gotten through some work related stuff and I think I have my schedule worked out for fall (I'm waiting on confirmation for one thing).

So what's up for the coming week? Well, I have some yard work that really should be done now that the weather is improving and some things I want to work on with Zack. Other than that? Aurora's Nightmare, I hope.

See you Monday!

Josiah

4/3/2019 Tax day

I get to spend this afternoon doing my taxes. Yay... Honestly, I would have liked to file a couple of months ago (I hate waiting until the last minute) but I only just got the last bit of paperwork I needed. I used to actually fill out all the forms by hand. Wasn't really that complicated, though it'd take me the better of a day. A few years back I switched to Turbo Tax. Honestly, I'm not sure it does any better than I can, but it is a bit faster, allows for easy e-filing, and my taxes are more complicated than they used to be. On the bright side, with the recent tax reforms, I might end up with a good refund. Though, seeing as that means I overpaid over the course of the year, the ideal is actually if I don't have to make additional payments or get a refund. Not that I'm going to complain if I get some money back, but having that money earlier in the year would have been even better. Anyway, I'll see what happens when I get all the numbers in.

Later!

Josiah

4/1/2019 Another April

I really should have done an April Fool's comic for today, but I totally forgot about it. Oh well... Anyway, the cherry blossoms have just started to bloom. I'm not sure if/when we'll make it into DC to see them there, the way my work schedule is this semester, but there are some trees near our home as well so I did spot some over the weekend.

And now, back to work. Most of my to-do list may be done but most isn't all and I've got grading and MFA work to do this week.

Later!

Josiah

3/29/2019 It doesn't take much

Zack had trouble sleeping the other night. No obvious reason, he just woke up in the middle of the night and had a really hard time getting back to sleep. Problem is, when he doesn't sleep Connie and I generally don't sleep either. And that tends to make the following day kind of miserable. It's worse for Connie, since she has more trouble than I do operating while sleep deprived. Hopefully he sleeps ok tonight.

In other news, I knocked most (but not all) of the items off my to-do list. Hopefully I can take off a couple more over the weekend before the next batch of grading. Though, thankfully, I won't have as much to grade during this half of the semester so things shouldn't get overly hectic again.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/27/2019 To-do's

Not much to say today. I'm making really good progress on my to-do list, but that's about it. And I'm running a bit late tonight so I don't really have time to write much at the moment.

See you Friday!

Josiah

3/25/2019 Calming down

For the first time in ages, I actually have a week without grading or any other majors projects I need to get done. Well, there was spring break, but with Zack, Connie, and then myself sick during that time, it doesn't really count. Anyway, I still have work, of course, but I'll also have some time to work through a whole bunch of little things on my to-do list and hopefully get some Aurora's Nightmare work done as well.

In other news, I've been slowly but steadily making progress in Kingdom Hearts III and I think I'm getting fairly close to the end. I'm enjoying it quite a bit. It's not perfect, but it does have a lot going for it. I'll probably write up my thoughts in detail once I'm finished.

Later!

Josiah

3/22/2019 To the weekend

Zack still hasn't been sleeping as well as he should, but he's getting there, I think. And other than that I'm getting caught up on things and having a decent, if fairly busy, week all around. Hopefully by the end of the weekend I'll be totally caught up and ready for a calmer week.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/20/2019 Back to work

Ok, I'm over my illness, back at work, and updating Pebble Version again. Looks like everything is finally back on track. It's a kind of busy week (grading plus various appointments) and I'm still a bit sleep deprived, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Later!

Josiah

3/15/2019 All better? UPDATE

UPDATE 3/18/2019: Sigh... Come Saturday, Connie was pretty much better but it ended up being my turn to get sick instead. Fortunately, it didn't hit me too hard but, combined with a general lack of sleep from when Zack was sick, it left me a bit too tired and out of it to get a whole lot done over the weekend (including, unfortunately, the next PV strip). I'm feeling around 80% better now but, with classes starting up again today, I don't want to push it. Certainly not the spring break I hoped for, but that's the way things go sometimes. I'm going to get some rest and by Wednesday I should be back at 100%.

Zack has completely recovered and seems to have all his energy back as well. Connie, on the other hand, still isn't feeling good. While I suppose it's good that they got sick over spring break since I was free to help out, it does mean that my spring break was pretty dull. Instead of doing some family outings, sightseeing, and working on Aurora's Nightmare, I spent most of my time either running errands or taking care of Zack. Still, it was nice to have some time off from work and deadlines. And hey, there's still a couple days left before work starts up again. Maybe we can still do something fun, or I can knock a few things off my to-do list.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/11/2019 Sick days UPDATE

UPDATE 3/12/2019: Sigh... I know I said that I didn't think I'd need to skip any more updates any time soon. Well, Zack didn't sleep well when he was sick, which means that I didn't sleep well either. I also had less time to work on things like PV. So I didn't have a strip ready ahead of time and, when I was working on the one for today, I noticed a big error in a previous strip that I needed to go back and fix (I'm not going to tell you where it was, but you're welcome to look back and try to figure it out if you want). Anyway, I don't have the new strip finished yet and I'm too tired to keep working on it. Sorry. Hopefully this will be the last skip for the foreseeable future.

On the bright side, Zack's fever broke fairly quickly. On the down side, he transitioned to a stomach bug about a day later (not sure if it's different thing or part of the same illness). Connie seems to have come down with something too, though milder. So we spent the weekend hanging out at home, watching TV, and trying to get Zack to keep some food down. Certainly not the greatest start to a week. These things usually don't last long so we're hoping he'll be over it by morning. And that he sleeps well. The last couple nights have not been fun.

See you Wednesday.

Josiah

3/8/2019 Made it!

It's spring break! Well, technically the break doesn't start for another couple days, but I don't have anything else to do before that. Grading and my other stuff is done. The repairs at home are finished. So it's time to relax. Well, maybe not quite. I've got some non-work related things on my to-do list and Zack seems to have come down with something. Hopefully he'll be better in a day or so...

Anyway, have a good weekend. I hope to have a relaxing one.

Later!

Josiah

3/6/2019 Final push

I'm on my last bit of grading (about half of one class left to go) and, with any luck, will have it finished today. The floor is done as well, though there's still some finishing touches and cleanup that will run through today or tomorrow. Then I just need to run some errands and make a few phone calls and I can finally relax, especially with spring break starting next week. After that it will be back to work, of course, but just my normal work without any extra projects or home repairs to deal with, which will be a great change. The past seven weeks or so have been really busy and this is not a pace I want to try and keep up until summer.

See you Friday!

Josiah

3/1/2019 Ugh... UPDATE

UPDATE - 3/4/2019: Sigh... I hate to do this but I'm skipping one more update. I'm in the midst of a big push to try and get that grading finished (I'm running a little behind in that area after delaying it to get all that other stuff done). Anyway, I ran into some complications and the part I was working on ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated. This should be the last time though. Grading should either be done or nearly done by Wednesday and, after that, my schedule should calm down a bit for the rest of the semester.

PowerPoints are done. My committee work is done. Grading...is barely started. Looks like I have a few more days of work ahead before I finally get a little free time...which I can use to get through other non-work related stuff on my do-to list like chores and financial stuff and all that. Sigh... Well, I'm getting there anyway. Zack's weird sleep schedule over the past week hasn't really helped. But hey, they'll be starting the floor replacement on Monday, so that's finally nearing the end.

Anyway, I need to get some rest then try to get more work done inbetween some errands and stuff.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/25/2019 It continues UPDATE

UPDATE - 2/27/2019: Zack had trouble sleeping which means that Connie and I did as well. Add in a very busy day and I just don't have the time or energy to get a strip done (I tried, but only got about half way through), so I'm going to have to skip today. Sorry.

I'm down to two PowerPoints, one of which will be really quick and easy, a batch of assignments to grade, and some proposals to go over before things calm down a bit. Ideally I'll be done by or before the end of the week. After that... Well, I'll still have lots of things to keep me busy, but just regular grading and MFA work. No additional work related projects or such, which will be a really nice change of pace.

I did get a little bit of a cold over the past few days but, fortunately, it's about as mild as possible while still being a cold. So it hasn't slowed me down much. Just a little longer now...

Later!

Josiah

2/22/2019 Forth and back

It did end up snowing on Wednesday. Several inches in fact, which was a lot more than I would have expected. It was enough to get them to close the university for the day. That was probably overkill since the roads were fine, but I got to stay home and play with Zack most of the day, which was fun. Even got him out in the snow for a little while. This wasn't the first time I've tried, but it was the first that he actually wanted to stay out and play for a while. But it was back to work the following day and most of the snow is already gone. The question now is whether or not it will stay that way. Sunday is looking really nice but beyond that the weather is still a little iffy.

Anyway, time for another push to get more work done before the weekend.

See you Monday!

Josiah

2/20/2018 Back and forth

The weather here can't seem to make up its mind. We've been jumping back and forth between low 50's and sunny (60 one day) and low 30's - 40's, cold, and cloudy. And today there's supposed to be snow. I kind of wish it would either stay nice or stay cold for a while. Ideally nice, of course, but consistency would be good either way. They're closing the university today as well. I doubt the weather will really warrant that (it usually doesn't), but they're overly worried about that kind of thing here. Which, being from Colorado, I find a little laughable.

There aside, there's still not much going on with me. Lots and lots of work, though I'm on schedule with what I want to complete and when. Just need to keep it up for another week or week and a half and things will be better. Next up, the final batch of PowerPoints I've been working on all semester for my class on the Unreal Engine. It'll be really nice to finally have those done (both for my current schedule and for future semesters).

Just a little longer...

Josiah

2/18/2019 Getting there

They finished the first batch of home repairs. Now we're waiting for the floor replacement. Meanwhile, I've finished a good chunk of my to-to list. I might actually get caught up by the end of the week. Maybe. Though I'll have more grading next week before things actually calm down a bit. Anyway, wish I had something more interesting to talk about but lately I've spent just about all my time either working or playing with Zack.

Anyway, back to it. I'll try and think of something more interesting to say on Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah

2/15/2019 It begins...

They've started doing the repairs on our house. Right now it's drywall, painting, and some other stuff like that. Replacing the floor will come later. It's kind of inconvenient, but they're doing it in a way that we don't have to move out or anything, so that's nice.

Other than that... It's still work, work, work. I've currently got some paperwork and a whole lot of grading I need to take care of. Plus a MFA assignment or two I need to squeeze in somewhere. Get all that done and I can move onto a set of PowerPoints I need to make. After that... After that, things might finally calm down a bit. But that's a week or two off. Hopefully around then the house repairs will be finished too.

Anyway, have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/13/2019 Work, work, work

That pretty much sums up the past couple of days for me. And today. And probably the next couple of days as well. Sigh... Back to it, I guess.

Josiah

2/11/2019 More busy days

Here goes another busy week. Probably another two or three to go before things start to calm down a little. But now, I'm off.

Later!

Josiah

2/8/2019 Going, going, going

Constantly going... That's how it's been for me this week. I've gotten a lot done, but there's still plenty more to do and I don't think the coming week is going to slow down one bit. Things may calm down a little later in the semester once I've gotten a couple of ongoing projects finished, but that's probably still at least a month away.

Anyway, I'm off. Have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/6/2019 Monster Jam

Sorry for the missed update Monday. I'll try to avoid skipping any more updates going forward but, with how hectic my schedule is, it may have to happen from time to time. Anyway, for now here's a new comic and a travelogue update.

January 26th (Saturday): Monster Jam
If you're in the US, you've probably heard of Monster Jam whether or not you know much of anything about it. But for those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's a monster truck rally or competition. Now, as much as I like sightseeing and trying new things, I never really thought of ever going to Monster Jam, or any other monster truck type of thing. So why did Connie, Zack, and I end up at Monster Jam? Basically, my brother was given tickets for himself, his wife, and son as a birthday present and they enjoyed it so he decided to get Connie, Zack, and I tickets for our birthdays as well.
So off we went to Monster Jam. Which, surprisingly enough, was being held in a stadium in the middle of D.C. Off the top of my head, I would have thought D.C. would be too "high class" for something like that. But the stadium was pretty full so I guess it has plenty of fans in the area. Another surprise was the number of women in the audience (several of the drivers were female as well).
Anyway, Monster Jam isn't exactly what I expected. From my extremely limited knowledge of monster trucks, I expected lots of big crashes and smashed cars. Actually, it was more of a driving and stunt competition. There weren't any crashes and only one car got smashed (and even that was more of an afterthought than anything else). Basically, the roughly two hour show was broken up into several different competitions, with each driver earning points that would be added up at the end to their standings for the season. The opening event was a a time trial, with each truck trying to complete a simple course as quickly as possible. After that, they moved onto some ATV races and then it was back to the monster trucks for the two wheel trick competition. Some of those were pretty impressive. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take many photos or videos of that, or any of the events for that matter, since I was keeping Zack under control. Actually, when the trucks were moving he would settle down and really focus on them (he started getting really into toy cars back in Hawaii). The problem was that he refused to wear the ear protectors we'd gotten him so I had to keep my hands pressed over his ears most of the time. On that note, I'd say that, for adults, it's not really necessary (it was loud, but not as loud as I expected). For kids though, probably a good idea. I did manage to get one video from the two wheel competition. Not the best performance, but I'm pretty happy that this is the one I recorded. The next round, after an intermission, was focused on doing fancy donut spins. Kinda neat, but we didn't stay for the whole thing. I would have, but Zack had been having trouble sleeping the last couple of nights and refused to nap earlier in the day as well so, as much as he was entranced by the trucks, he was starting to nod off so Connie and I figured that we should head home.
In the end, Monster Jam wasn't really what I was expecting, though I did find it moderately entertaining. I wouldn't watch it on TV, or make a point of going again in the future but, if Zack's current love of cars persists, I could see taking him again sometime in the future.

Later!

Josiah

2/1/2019 Problems at home UPDATE

UPDATE 2/4/2019: No comic today. I had a lot to do this weekend and wasn't able to get it done in advance and I'm coming off several late nights in a row in order to get all the work I had done. I really need to get some rest. Hopefully things will be back on track come Wednesday.

And we're back...with a bonus comic. It's really been rush, rush, rush since I got back. At work I'm teaching four classes, one of which I have to create a whole new set of PowerPoints for (which is very time consuming). I'm also taking two MFA classes and doing some other work related things. And, of course, there's my family, the usual errands, and all that. But that's not all. Shortly after getting back from Hawaii, we noticed that some of the floorboards in our kitchen were warped. At first I thought a pipe had burst. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Unfortunately, the end result wasn't that much better. Apparently the fridge's water input had gotten a slow leak. Probably even before the trip. A big leak would have gotten noticed, but a small one just slowly ate away at the floor until it was too late. Fortunately, I think we managed to avoid any big mold problem, but they had to tear up a lot of the kitchen floor. And, since we have a pretty open floor plan, the contractor wants to replace the floor on the entire second level (which also involves repainting most of it). At first, they were talking about us having to stay in a hotel for a week and a half or so. Fortunately, it looks like they've worked things out so that won't have to happen, but it'll still be a big inconvenient mess. In the meantime, we have to deal with missing flooring (there's still the subfloor, so it's not like there's a hole or anything, but it's rough and messy). So yeah, it's all been stressful and time consuming.

So that's what's been going on with me. I actually do have a travelogue entry to do, but that can wait until Monday.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/28/2019 Staying busy UPDATE

UPDATE 1/30/2019: This week has been more hectic than anticipated and I really want a little time to play Kingdom Hearts III so I'm skipping Wednesday's update. Updates will resume on Friday.

Barely got this strip done and I'm running late so I have to go. I'll write more on Wednesday if I can.

Later!

Josiah

1/25/2019 Wrapping up Hawaii

Here's this week's bonus comic. Now let's get the travelogue finished.

January 6th (Sunday) - 16th (Wednesday): Back in Honolulu
Connie and I were already scheduled to fly back to Virginia from Honolulu and we wanted to spend a bit more time there as well so we said goodbye to Maui, and my parents, and flew back to Oahu for the last 10 days of our vacation.
It was kinda interesting to go back to it being just the three of us (Connie, Zack, and myself) after having one set of grandparents or other around for the past few months. It turned out that Zack really missed having a stroller when on Maui and he constantly wanted to either go for a ride or push the stroller himself (with a bit of help from Connie or myself since he could barely reach the handles). Sometimes he'd even climb in and sit it in while we were in the condo. He also really loved a toy car he got a little while back and I got him a couple others from a gatchapon machine at Shirokiya which he carried around all the time.
Anyway, we did some shopping and ate at a bunch of favorite restaurants, but a lot of our time back in Honolulu was spent keeping Zack entertained. We took him on walks and to different places to play, we went to various beaches a few times, and took him to the zoo twice as well. While there are better zoos out there, it's still a decent one, and a pretty nice place for kids with lots of space to run around, a good size playground, and a kids' zoo as well. Here's one more zoo picture, just cause I like how it turned out.
So we didn't really do anything new or different while we were there. I tried a new bubble tea place (which I really liked) and also got Taiwanese fried chicken at the mall (good and huge), but that was about it. Despite that though, we had a really nice time. Honolulu is always fun and I still feel pretty at home there so it made for a nice way to wrap up the trip.
We left late Wednesday night and had a smooth couple of flights back home. There were some issues after we got back...but that's another story.

And with that, the travelogue is finished. Next week I'll talk about what's been going on since I got home and I may have a Virginia travelogue entry as well.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/23/2019 Memories of vacation

Between the cold and the problems we've been having since getting back (more on that another time), I'm wishing I was still in Hawaii. But nothing to do about that. Anyway, let's continue with the travelogue.

January 5th (Saturday): Beach Day
We decided to spend out last day on Maui at the beach. We were originally planning to head back to Makena Beach, but my mom really wanted to try out Wailea Beach so we ended up there. It's a pretty nice stretch of beach as well. Not as long as some, and a little crowded, but with good sand and surf. It also turns out that the path along the beach goes far past the Grand Wailea. We walked on it quite a while, past lots of other fancy hotels, before turning back. It looked like it might actually go all the way to Kihei.
We spent a pleasant few hours there and, on the way back, stopped at another beach, but not to swim or lay out on the sand. Ho'okipa Beach is a relatively small beach out near Paia. It's kind of rocky and has a lot of waves so it's not a good spot for sunbathing or swimming, though some surfers seem to like it. Its real claim to fame, however, is that it's a popular hang out for sea turtles. Lots and lots of sea turtles. Yeah, that's pretty much all turtles in that photo. There's supposed to be larger numbers at night but there had to be 50 - 60 when we stopped by that afternoon. They were mostly just sleeping on the beach, though occasionally a new one would come up on shore or one of the ones on the beach would decide to go back in the water. That involved a lot of awkward shuffling as they tried to climb over each other to get where they wanted to go. While I've seen sea turtles before I'd never seen anywhere close to that many at once and it was pretty cool.

Random Hawaii Comment: Thoughts on Maui
Maui is certainly slower than Oahu and, while there, I missed the convenience and walkability of Honolulu and the heavy Japanese influence. That said, Maui has its charms as well. The small towns like Paia and Lahaina are fun to visit and, while Maui doesn't have anywhere near the restaurant selection of Honolulu, there are still some very good ones. Plus the beaches are great. Oahu is definitely the place to go if you want a lot of things to do but, if you're looking for a slower vacation with lots of beach time Maui is a pretty good choice. Connie and I both enjoyed it there more than we expected and look forward to going back.

Well, I was hoping to finish the travelogue today but my web editor crashed while I was writing this and I had to start over so I'll stop here and continue next time.

Later!

Josiah

1/23/2019 Memories of vacation

Between the cold and the problems we've been having since getting back (more on that another time), I'm wishing I was still in Hawaii. But nothing to do about that. Anyway, let's continue with the travelogue.

January 5th (Saturday): Beach Day
We decided to spend out last day on Maui at the beach. We were originally planning to head back to Makena Beach, but my mom really wanted to try out Wailea Beach so we ended up there. It's a pretty nice stretch of beach as well. Not as long as some, and a little crowded, but with good sand and surf. It also turns out that the path along the beach goes far past the Grand Wailea. We walked on it quite a while, past lots of other fancy hotels, before turning back. It looked like it might actually go all the way to Kihei.
We spent a pleasant few hours there and, on the way back, stopped at another beach, but not to swim or lay out on the sand. Ho'okipa Beach is a relatively small beach out near Paia. It's kind of rocky and has a lot of waves so it's not a good spot for sunbathing or swimming, though some surfers seem to like it. Its real claim to fame, however, is that it's a popular hang out for sea turtles. Lots and lots of sea turtles. Yeah, that's pretty much all turtles in that photo. There's supposed to be larger numbers at night but there had to be 50 - 60 when we stopped by that afternoon. They were mostly just sleeping on the beach, though occasionally a new one would come up on shore or one of the ones on the beach would decide to go back in the water. That involved a lot of awkward shuffling as they tried to climb over each other to get where they wanted to go. While I've seen sea turtles before I'd never seen anywhere close to that many at once and it was pretty cool.

Random Hawaii Comment: Thoughts on Maui
Maui is certainly slower than Oahu and, while there, I missed the convenience and walkability of Honolulu and the heavy Japanese influence. That said, Maui has its charms as well. The small towns like Paia and Lahaina are fun to visit and, while Maui doesn't have anywhere near the restaurant selection of Honolulu, there are still some very good ones. Plus the beaches are great. Oahu is definitely the place to go if you want a lot of things to do but, if you're looking for a slower vacation with lots of beach time Maui is a pretty good choice. Connie and I both enjoyed it there more than we expected and look forward to going back.

Well, I was hoping to finish the travelogue today but my web editor crashed while I was writing this and I had to start over so I'll stop here and continue next time.

Later!

Josiah

1/21/2019 Here we go again...

Well, it's been a nice vacation. Not quite as relaxing as I hoped, and I didn't get as much work done as I would have liked, but still good. And tomorrow it's back to work. Unfortunately, there's been some issues since we got home...but I'll talk about that another time. Today, let's get some more of the travelogue finished.

Around Maui: Haiku
Haiku is the town on Maui were my parents' place is. It's up in the mountains near Makawao (another artsy tourist town, though smaller than the others) and there isn't really much of a town, so to speak. Though there is a large park with an enormous playground. It's really not a tourist destination and there isn't much of anything to see. That said, if you're in the area visiting Makawao or some such, there are a couple of good restaurants. My top recommendation there is Nuka, a Japanese place that, though not entirely authentic, is good and has a very creative menu. Though it's only open for dinner, doesn't take reservations, and tends to fill up quickly. So you really need to get there around 4:30 or so if you want to avoid a wait.

January 4th (Friday): The Mill House
My mom had been wanting to go to the Mill House for a while so she decided to take Connie and I before we left Maui. So what's the Mill House? It actually reminds me a lot of the Dole Plantation back on Oahu if you're familiar with that (or read my travelogue entry on it). Basically, it's an old farm and mill house that's been converted into a tourist attraction. There's a huge gift shop, and a few smaller gift shops scattered around the area amidst some nice little tropical gardens you can walk through. It's a pretty place, and there's a zip line course and some bus tours of the farm (naturally, those cost). The biggest draw though, is the restaurant. It's a farm to table place with a very creative menu and neat decor. Really good food (some Italian, some Japanese, some fusion, etc.) and a great view. A little on the expensive side, but if you're ok with that it's certainly worth a visit. If you're not going to eat at the restaurant, it's hard to say if visiting the Mill House is worth it. It's a pretty setting, though Hawaii is hardly lacking those, and there's nothing special about the gift shop or anything. There's other (probably better) zip lines around too. Though there is the farm tour if that sounds interesting. Anyway, we had a great meal and Zack got to run around and chase birds for a while afterwards, so it made for a fun stop.

If I remember right, there's two more travelogue entries to go so I'll try and get those posted later this week.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

1/16/2019 Heading home

It's been a fun trip. I didn't exactly relax as much as I would have liked, or get as much work done as I hoped, but it's still been good. Tonight though, we're heading back to Virginia, winter weather, and (in a few days) work. There's only several travelogue entries left and I was hoping to post a couple more today but I need to get some sleep (since I probably won't be able to on the plane). Everything should update normally on Friday so long as things are ok at home and I'm not too worn out from the flights.

Later!

Josiah

1/14/2019 Luau

Only a few days left in Hawaii... It'll be nice to be home, but I can't say I'm thrilled about leaving the beach and perfect weather for winter in Virginia. This is looking to be another busy semester as well. But hey, I've got Kingdom Hearts III to look forward to. Might take me several months to get through with my limited game time, but I'm still pretty excited. PV updates will probably not be interrupted by travel, though I suppose there's a slight chance I might miss an update later this week depending on how things go.

And now back to the travelogue.

December 31st (Monday): Drums of the Pacific Luau
As a birthday present, my mom got Connie and I tickets to a luau. We left Zack with my parents and headed to Wailea. It's the part of the island with the fanciest resort hotels. There's also a shopping plaza with all the high-end name brand stores if that's your thing (the rest of the shopping areas on Maui tend to be either boutique or fairly ordinary). The luau was at The Grand Wailea resort and we got there a bit early to look around. You know, as much as I love having free places to stay in Hawaii, the downside of getting to stay with my parents (or living here, back before I moved to Virginia) is that you don't get to stay in the fancy resorts. The Grand Wailea is right on the beach and has beautiful grounds and an awesome water park style set of pools (connected by slides, a lazy river, and the like).
The luau itself took place in a grassy courtyard near the beach, making it a good spot to watch the sunset. Connie and I went to a luau once before, shortly after we started dating, at the Hilton on Oahu. The Grand Wailea definitely had the nicer setting (though in other ways, they were pretty comparable). Anyway, they started letting people in around an hour before the meal. Since Connie and I had checked in fairly early, we ended up with some of the best seats you could get without upgrading to a premium package. While waiting for the main events to begin, they had some tables featuring local crafts, a place to try out a traditional Hawaiian game (similar to lawn bowling), and an open bar. Now, from my own experience and what I've heard, luaus and other similar events usually give you a couple of free drink tickets and after that you have to pay. Drums of the Pacific, however, gives you unlimited drinks for the entire duration of the luau, which is rather impressive. Now, if you've been reading my travelogues for a while you may know that I don't really drink alcohol (no deep reason, I honestly just don't like the taste), but they offered virgin versions of a number of different cocktails (in addition to the standard punch and soda), so I had fun trying some different ones.
The buffet, when it started, was nice and orderly and they had three sets of tables to keep lines to a minimum. The food was pretty good, especially for a buffet, with a nice mix of traditional and modern Hawaiian items (poi, Hawaiian rolls, mac nut crusted fish, teriyaki chicken, etc.). And, of course, there was a dessert bar as well. During the meal, there was live music and a bit of hula dancing as a lead up the main show.
The show was divided into a number of different acts including, of course, various types of hula. There were also some more unique performances that I wouldn't have expected in a luau show such as ribbon dancing and this poofy dress cloud dance (which I've never seen anywhere). Like most luaus, it ended with fire dancing. While it didn't have as many fire dancers as the Hilton luau, the one they did have was quite good.
All in all, it was great luau (not that I've been to very many) and a fun night out. Nice for Connie and I to get away by ourselves for a change. If you're looking for a luau on Maui, I'd certainly recommend it. I'll also note that, at least when I was there, the local Costco had tickets at a very good discount.

January 2nd (Wednesday): Lahaina
Wailea is the fanciest resort area on Maui but there's one other town with a lot of beachside hotels. Not quite as fancy as the ones in Wailea, but still pretty nice. That's Lahaina, another old town converted into an artsy tourist destination. My mom took Connie, Zack, and I there to hit the beach and look around a bit. Parking by the beach was a bit of a pain. There's a free parking lot at one of the hotels (the state of Hawaii requires that), but it's tiny. Some of the hotels had pay parking, but we found a nice shopping plaza that validated parking with a purchase, which is clearly the better deal.
Black Rock Beach is one of the nicer ones I've visited with good views, a long stretch of beach, clear water, and really great sand. The area around the black rock at the north end is also supposed to be a good snorkeling spot. We didn't make it quite that far, but my mom and I did try snorkeling a little bit where we were set up and it actually wasn't bad. Nothing spectacular, but there were some simple reefs and a good number of fish.
After a nice morning on the beach, we swung by Maui Brewing Company for lunch (as a note, if you're like me and don't drink, they have really good root beer, ginger beer, and cola) then drove to downtown Lahaina, where we lucked into a very convenient parking spot. Lahaina's main drag is right along the coast and features a long strip of old buildings converted into restaurants and boutiques. Wish I could have taken more pictures, but we hadn't brought the stroller so I was too busy keeping Zack under control as we walked around. Anyway, it's a nice town and makes for a fun stroll. There were some pretty interesting places to shop and eat as well. One especially notable feature is the town's banyan tree (the largest in the US), which fills an entire block all by itself.
We had a nice time and I'd like to go back to both visit the beach and explore the town a bit more. If you're planning to visit Maui, I think Lahaina would be a pretty nice place to stay (especially if Wailea is a bit out of your budget), though it's a little far out from many of the island's other attractions.

That's all for now. See you Wednesday!

Josiah

1/11/2019 Towns and beaches

Here's the newest bonus comic. And now for more travelogue.

Around Maui: Paia
Paia is an old sugar mill town turned tourist spot. It's a decent drive from most of the hotel areas, but not too far from my parents' place. There's a few blocks of boutique shops, great restaurants (including a Paia Fish Market and the best shave ice on the island (though not as good as Island Vintage on Oahu), just to name a couple), and the like, including a surprisingly good health food store. Even if you don't like all the cutesy shops, it's worth a visit for the food. There's also several beaches right outside the town and, while Maui does have better beaches, they're all fairly nice. For a tourist town however, it is rather lacking in places to stay. There's a very expensive restaurant with some hotel rooms a bit down the road, but Paia itself just has a few small rental and B&B type places. So, while it's not necessarily the best place to stay, it's one of my favorite towns on Maui and worth a visit or three.

Around Maui: Makena Beach
Maui has a lot of great beaches. More than Oahu, in my opinion. Makena is one of the most popular ones. One reason is that it's situated just a little bit past Wailea, which is the area with all the big resort hotels. Plus, it's just a nice beach. It's long, fairly wide, and has really good sand. There's also a great view of Kaho'olawe, which is a deserted island that was used to test bombs back during World War II. Not really a place you want to visit, but it really adds to the view. I visited a number of different beaches on Maui and I'd say Makena is easily in my top three, maybe top two.
A couple other things to know... There's three different entrances to the beach, with the one furthest down the road tending to be the least crowded, and with a shorter walk from the parking area. It's also important to note that the main beach is also called Big Beach. Naturally, that mean's there's a Little Beach as well. It's a short hike over some rocks at the north (near) end of Big Beach. It's smaller (obviously), and it's also clothing optional. Officially, Hawaii doesn't allow nude beaches, but Little Beach seems to the exception. So, if that's you're thing, it's the place to go. If you're wondering, no I haven't actually been there.

Ok! That leaves one more travelogue entry to wrap up 2018, and two or three after that for Maui itself.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

1/9/2019 Working on it

I have some travelogue entries in the works (just finished the pictures) but haven't got the write-ups done yet so I'll plan to get them posted on Friday.

Later!

Josiah

1/7/2019 Goats and dreams

Connie, Zack, and I are back in Honolulu for the last week and a half of our vacation. After that's it's back to Virginia, winter, and work. Anyway, I'm hoping to be more or less caught up with the travelogue by then so let's get to it.

December 27th (Thursday): The Surfing Goat Dairy and Steven Tyler
A goat farm / dairy normally wouldn't be too high on my sightseeing list, but Zack loves goats and my mom found some tickets on Groupon, so off we went. If you're there the right time of year, you can see some of the baby goats without taking the tour, and there's a little play area for kids right there as well. As for the tour itself, it lasts maybe half an hour. First off, you walk to one of the fields and get to spend 10 minutes or so feeding the goats while the guide talks about the history of the farm, raising goats, and the like. The feeding is clearly more for kids, though there's no reason adults can't join in. After that, you move to the milking platform to learn a bit about how they milk the goats. If you come at the right time of day, maybe you can see the milking, though we didn't get to. We did, however, get a quick look at the cheese making, though without much detail. The final part of the tour was a cheese tasting where we got to try several of their goat cheeses. Now I'm normally not a big fan of goat cheese, but these were actually pretty good. There's also a store were you can buy some cheese to take home, or a cheese flight (board with sample sized portions of several different cheeses) if you want a snack. In addition, they had a wide variety of truffles made with goat milk/cheese (good if you like chocolate, but in the one I tried the chocolate flavor mostly overpowered the cheese) and goat milk gelato (pretty good).
All in all, the tour was mildly interesting, though probably not worth the money unless you love goats or have kids who will get a kick out of touching and feeding them. Even without the tour, the dairy might be worth a visit if you're a fan of goat cheese and/or unusual truffles, though there are stores in some of the tourist towns that sell their products as well, so you don't necessarily have to drive all the way out to the farm to try some.
Later that day, my dad and I split off from the others and headed into Kahului to see Steven Tyler (of Aerosmith fame). Now, I'm not a big Aerosmith fan (I was raised on 60's and early 70's music, so they're a bit after my time, so to speak) but they have a couple of songs I really like. It's the same with my dad, but the tickets were pretty reasonably priced since Steven Tyler lives on Maui. Willie K was the opening act. He's most famous for his ukulele playing (which I'd heard before) but he also has a blues band (though more rocky blues than classic), which is what he did that night. I can appreciate how good of a guitar player he is, but it wasn't really my style.
Steven Tyler dressed, talked, and sounded pretty much like he walked right out of the 80's. I wasn't quite sure if that's just his persona or if he literally hasn't really changed much since then. As such, he's pretty vulgar. His singing voice seems to have held up though. In the end, we didn't stay for the entire concert, but we heard the Aerosmith songs we liked and he also did some pretty good covers. Sorry about the lousy video quality, by the way. Cameras weren't allowed in the concert, though they strangely enough had objection to people recording with their cell phones. Anyway, if you're an Aerosmith fan I'd certainly recommend going to see him if you get the chance. Just be prepared for the language.

Later!

Josiah

1/4/2019 More Maui

Here's the bonus comic. Now for more travelogue entries.

Around Maui: Kihei
For some of these posts, I'll be talking about places rather than specific dates.
Kihei is a coastal area around 15 minutes away from Kahului (the largest town on the island; good for shopping but otherwise not too interesting). It's got a number of small beaches, apartments, rental villas, and the like. There's no major hotels, but it does remain fairly popular with tourists and, as such, has a nice collection of restaurants (Connie and I like Paia Fish Market and Kamana Kitchen (Indian)). We went to Kihei on several occasionas since it made a good place to spend time with Zack. In addition to the beaches, there's also a very large park with sports areas, a skate park, and a nice playground, which made for a good place to pass the time. Especially since the weather was a whole lot dryer than at my parents' place. If you don't have little kids, Kihei isn't really an essential location, but between the beaches, restaurants, and the like, it's still not a bad area to visit.

December 24th (Monday): Maui Ocean Center
While Maui has far fewer tourist attractions than Oahu, some are quite popular. The Maui Ocean Center, for example, was rated one of the world's top ten aquariums according to Trip Advisor. So my mom took Connie, Zack, and I to go see it. As a side note, I will note that I'm a little dubious about it being one of the top ten in the world. It's nice, but I've been to several better aquariums myself (not ten, but three or four at least).
Anyway, the Ocean Center is off mostly by itself (along with a small shopping center) a bit outside of Kahului. It's divided between two main buildings and a courtyard with a few outdoor pools. The first building focuses on reef life, especially fish and other creatures that live in the oceans surrounding the Hawaiian islands. While some of the tanks could have been labeled a bit better, it was a good exhibit with lots of interesting fish, eels, and other sea creatures such as jellyfish, an octopus, and glowing coral. Though I ended up going through it mostly at Zack's pace, which involved lots of dashing about from tank to tank.
After that, we ended up back in the courtyard and took a look at the petting pool and a large pool where they raise young sea turtles. We stopped for lunch in the restaurant, which was quite nice, if a touch pricey (there's a much simpler and cheaper cafe as well) then moved on to the next building.
Zack fell asleep on the way, so it gave us a bit more time to examine the exhibits. The first was about fishing in ancient Hawaii, along with a few small movie rooms featuring different underwater videos. There was also a fancy 3D theater, but that wasn't scheduled to open until a week or so after we visited. Then it was back to the fish with an underwater tunnel featuring more deep sea life such as sharks, tuna, and giant manta rays.
And, of course, what attraction is complete without a gift shop? The one at the Ocean Center was especially large and varied so my mom and Connie ended up spending a while browsing before we left.
While I'm not sure if the Maui Ocean Center is really one of the top ten aquariums, it's pretty nice and worth two or three hours to visit if you come to Maui.

Later!

Josiah

1/2/2019 Life on Maui

Sorry to reuse the same New Year's comic from last year. I'm running a bit behind today and didn't really want to stay up real late to get it done. I do have a travelogue entry though.

December 19th (Wednesday) - January 5th (Saturday): Maui Life
In this post, I'm going to talk a bit about how I and my family have been spending our time on Maui. Specifically, I'll be focusing on my parents' "farm" (well, more like a large garden). I'll talk about sightseeing and other parts of Maui in detail in future posts.
As previously mentioned, my parents got a place with a large fenced in farm/garden area which includes ducks, chickens, some monarch larvae, and lots of different fruit trees. While it's not really a full on farm, they keep fairly busy clearing brush and weeds, harvesting fruit, looking for eggs (the ducks and chickens don't always lay in their coops), planting some new things, and the like. Connie and I haven't done too much in that regard, though Zack likes to help feed the ducks. As for me, I cut down a banana tree. See, they not true trees and they only ever get one bunch of bananas so, if you want a steady crop, you have to cut down the tree once the bananas start to ripen and let a new one grow in its place. I also helped my mom get honey from the bee hive. It did involve dressing up in one of those bee keeper suits you've probably seen on TV, but my parents' hive is some fancy new design, which makes getting the honey out really easy. You basically remove a panel from the back, plug in a spigot, open up the gates for one column of the hive, and the honey flows right out. Very simple, though you have to wait a while for all the honey since there's so much of it. My mom and I emptied two columns (out of six) and ended up with a bit over a gallon.
The newest addition to the place is a tortoise, who they adopted from the humane society a few days after we arrived. Why a tortoise? Because it's cool, can live a long time, and requires virtually no work to take care of since it can eat the grass, weeds, and any discarded fruit. It's a male tortoise, six and a half years old, and already a pretty good weight (I've had to carry him from place to place a few times). He spent a lot of time hiding in his shell at first, but is starting to get more comfortable around people. For a while though, every day we basically played a round or two of find the tortoise, combing the entire area to see what obscure spot he'd hidden in.
While we have done some sightseeing (more on that in later entries), a lot of our time has been spent hanging out at my parents' place and keeping Zack amused. Fortunately, he likes the animals and there's a huge playground only ten minutes or so away. Unfortunately, this is in one of the rainier parts of the island and winter is the rainy season. As such, I don't think we've had a single 24 hours period without rain. Actually, anything less than half a day of rain has been pretty rare. We could always get out of the rain by going to other, dryer, parts of the island, but it did prevent us from enjoying the farm as much as we otherwise could have. Hopefully we'll get better weather the next time we come here. All in all though, it's been fun and fairly relaxing, just a bit wet.

Random Hawaii Comment: Maui Roads
Fortunately, thanks to a much lower population (both permanent and temporary), traffic on Maui is a whole lot better than Honolulu. The roads, however, often leave something to be desired. They're not bad if you stick to the most developed part of the coast, which encompasses areas like Kahului (the main town), Kihei, and Wailea (the fancy resort area), all of which I'll talk more about later. The speed limits are often a little lower than it feels like they should be, which leads to an extreme speeding problem (there are places where it seems like just about everyone is going 20+ over the limit), but the roads are pretty well laid out and easy to drive on. But once you get a little ways out in the country, things get a lot worse. The roads are barely wide enough for two cars (and some bridges aren't even that), feature tons of sharp curves (some with really poor visibility), and are often in sore need of repaving. This trip is the first time in years that I've had any real problem with car sickness. And, knowing how the Hawaii state government tends to work (or not work, to be more accurate), I don't think the roads here are going to improve any time soon.

Happy new year!

Josiah

12/31/2018 End of the year

It's the last day of 2018. Not as crazy a year as some, but certainly a busy one for me and my family. We've had some fun though, and I've got a little more scheduled for today. But that can wait till a future travelogue entry. For now, I've still got catching up to do.

December 11th (Tuesday): Beat-lele
I might have mentioned before that my dad is a big fan of oldies (60's) rock, and he got me into it growing up. Anyway, he got tickets for him, my mom, and I to go see Beat-lele at the Blue Note (a small but popular club on Waikiki). Beat-lele is a Beatles cover band, but what's special is that, instead of guitars, they use ukulele (and a beat box). And they're pretty good. It was a fun show and, if you're a Beatles fan, it's worth seeing Beat-lele if you happen to be in the right place when they're doing a show.

December 18th (Tuesday): Off to Maui
In an earlier post, I mentioned that this Hawaii trip is being split between Oahu and Maui. So here's the story. My dad always had a dream of having a whole bunch of tropical fruit trees so he could just walk outside and pick his favorite fruits every day. Well, he and my mom ended up looking at a place on Maui that kinda fit that dream and decided to give it a go, at least for a while. They're not really farmers, so I'm not too sure if it'll last, but we'll just have to wait and see there. Anyway, Connie's parents left Saturday night and today the rest of us headed over to Maui to spend the next couple of weeks at the place there.
Flying between islands is really quick. While you still have to deal with airport check-in, security, and all that time consuming stuff, the actual flight from Oahu to Maui was only around half an hour. Though it was also the first flight were we had to buy Zack his own seat since he just turned two a few days ago. While the extra space is nice, having to buy an additional ticket for every flight from now on will be annoying.
My parents' new place is half an hour outside of the main town, up in the hills. It's a nice enough house with a large fenced in garden or back yard of sorts with a whole lot of fruit trees and some ducks and chickens, which Zack really enjoys. However, it started raining soon after we arrived so we only had time for a quick look around before heading indoors to unpack. I'll write more about the place, "farm life", and Maui in general in upcoming posts.

Random Hawaii Comment: General Notes on Maui
Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island (after the big island) and the second most populated (after Oahu). That said, it only has one large town (or maybe small city) and a collection of small towns, many of which are kind of old Hawaii style and touristy. There's also an area or two with bunch of resorts but overall the island isn't especially built up (really, not much of Hawaii is outside of Oahu). There's some mountains as well, including one that's known for stargazing, and a lot of beaches (some of which are very famous for surfing). While Maui lacks a lot of the events, shopping, and dining of Oahu (it has some, but certainly a lot less), it's fairly popular with tourists and also home to a number of famous singers, actors, and the like. I'll go into more detail about the island in the future, but that's the basics.

Later!

Josiah

12/28/2018 Logging

In case you're wondering, at some point I do intend to figure out what the issue is with TWC, get the bonus comics back on there, and resume regular strips on Fridays but, with how busy I've been, it's just not a priority. Anyway, I'll get to it eventually.

Now, time to start getting caught up on the travelogue. It's pretty far behind, though I actually don't have that many posts I need to make. Here's the first couple at least.

December 2nd (Sunday): Zoolights
Most of our recent outings have involved taking Zack and Connie's parents to places I've already visited and written a lot about, so I didn't feel the need for new travelogue entries. There was also Thanksgiving, which saw a lot of family visiting and trips to the zoo and a new escape room place near our house (where we not only cleared our room but got the fourth best time).
Today though, we went to a familiar place but for something new. Zoolights is an annual event held at the National Zoo in D.C. where, for a month or so, they keep the zoo open late and fill it with lights and light art. I wanted to go in the past, but the timing never worked out. This year, we decided to finally go and meet up with some friends there. Unfortunately, the only day that worked for everyone was a Sunday, which meant extra crowds. The main issue being the traffic and parking situation around the zoo. If I go again next year, I'd ideally want to go earlier in the day (before all the parking lots fill up), spend some time in the zoo when it's light, and just stay there when the lights switch on. Unfortunately, that's not what we did. We got to the zoo area easily enough but by the time we arrived they had closed off all the official lots and trying to find other parking within walking distance was tough, especially with so many other people trying to do the same thing, slowing traffic on the nearby roads to a crawl. Poor signage didn't help. We did eventually find parking and make it to the zoo. The majority of the lights run along the main path through the zoo, though there are some side paths to special areas (such as the gingerbread village). There's also some food and souvenir stands and, on certain days, live music. The one thing you won't see is animals, since most of the zoo is closed off so as not to disturb their sleep patterns. Besides, it'd be pretty tough to see most of them in the dark anyway. Since we got there so late due to the traffic and parking, we didn't end up seeing all of Zoolights but the part we did was nice and it made for a fun after dark stroll. Definitely need to plan better next time though.

December 6th - 17th (Thursday - Monday): Back on Oahu
We left for Hawaii a little early this year since Connie's parents were coming with us before returning to China on the 15th. The first week or so was spent showing them around a bit, though not anywhere I haven't written about before, and doing stuff with Zack. Then I had to spend several days grading finals while the others did a bit more sightseeing without me. It was nice to walk around, enjoy the good weather, and relax a bit (before the grading started, anyway). It was also interesting to see what had changed (mostly for the better) since last year. There were one or two things that I'll write separate travelogue entries for, but mostly it was just a nice vacation without anything especially new or exciting. The big difference is that this year's Hawaii trip is split between Oahu and Maui (where I expect to have more to write about), but more about that another time...

Well, it's a start. Hopefully I'll be able to get fully caught up over the coming week.

Later!

Josiah

12/26/2018 Gaming

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. I'm pretty much caught up on photos, so I should be able to have a travelogue entry or two ready for Friday.

I started watching a new anime on Netflix called High Score Girl. I suppose it's technically a romantic comedy, but really it's a love letter to classic video games, especially the Japanese arcade scene from the early 90's. I teach game history, though I focus more on how the industry developed in the US, so seeing more of what it was like in Japan is rather interesting. I also have to admit that the main character's pure undiluted love of games is cool (if a little ridiculous at times). If you're into retro games, it's certainly worth checking out.

Later!

Josiah

12/24/2018 Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers! I don't celebrate it (I've got Chanukah), but that's no reason not to enjoy the season, or hope others have a great time.

As for me, I'm still working my photos but, other than that, have pretty much gotten through everything on my to-do list. That means time for Aurora's Nightmare and hopefully same gaming (along with various family stuff, of course) for a couple weeks before I have to start prepping my spring classes. Once the photos are done (should be soon), I'll see about those travelogue entries as well.

Have a great Christmas!

Josiah

12/21/2019 Catching up

Here's the new bonus comic, since my issues with TWC continue (though still feel free to vote if you want).

I've been spending the past couple days helping family with things and catching up on some stuff of my own. Photos are my weekend project so hopefully I'll be able to start on the travelogue on Monday.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

12/19/2018 Maui

Grading is finished! That'll make things a lot more relaxing and less stressful, though I have other things to work on now.

Connie, Zack, and I will be spending the next couple of weeks of on Maui. That means we'll be seeing some new parts of Hawaii. Though I'm not quite sure how much sightseeing we'll be doing. But anyway, now that things have calmed down, I should have time to sort through my photos and get the travelogue up to date so I'll be ready to write about whatever it is we do here.

Later!

Josiah

12/14/2018 So much grading

UPDATE - 12/16: It's the last day of grading, Zack hasn't been sleeping the best, I'm worn out, and the next strip is only half done so I'm afraid I'll have to skip one more update. Really sorry. Comics will resume on Wednesday.

One of these days I'll try and figure out what is going on with TWC so I can start updating these bonus comics there again. But for now, here's the new one.

As previously mentioned, I'm in the midst of grading finals which basically means spending all day staring at my computer. I'm making good progress, but there's a long way to go and it tends to leave me burnt out so I'll write more another time.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

12/12/2018 Here goes...

While Zack adjusted to the time zone change pretty quickly, he's been having trouble falling asleep at night and, since getting him to go to sleep is my job, that's eating up a lot of my time that I would normally spend on things like Pebble Version. So no travelogue entry tonight. Sigh... It's always something...

Anyway, starting tomorrow I'll be spending much of my time grading final projects. Once that's done (probably Monday) I'll be fully on vacation...and able to work on other things instead. Seems I never have a time when there isn't something to work on. Oh well, it'll still be relatively relaxing.

Later!

Josiah

12/10/2018 Hawaii Time

We all made it to Hawaii without any problems. PV updates should continue normally for the rest of the trip, though they'll be posted a few hours later than normal due to the time zone. I'll get a travelogue going eventually but, for now, I'm just playing with Zack and showing Connie's parents some places that I've already visited, and written about, multiple times before. So it might be a week or more before I have much to write about. Though I do have a Virginia entry or two that I should get to sometime soon... Can't forget grading finals though, which will start in earnest the second half of this week. At least I got my MFA work done over the weekend.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

12/5/2018 And I'm off

Tomorrow morning I'll be heading to Hawaii on vacation. Well, half vacation until finals have been submitted and graded. Still have a lot to do before leaving though.

As a note, there might or might not be an update on Friday. I'll have internet access, assuming a flight doesn't get canceled or or something, but I might just be too exhausted after after a long day of travel. This semester has worn me out quite a lot already. But we'll just see how things go.

Later!

Josiah

12/3/2018 Time, time, time...

Just a few days left to get ready for the trip. I do have a travelogue entry or two to write, but I'm short on time at the moment so it'll have to wait. I've got a lot to do and only a few days to do it.

Later!

Josiah

11/30/2018 One more week

One of these days I'm going to have to figure out just what is wrong with TWC since I still can't get the bonus comics updated. Well, here it is instead.

There's one week of classes left. Though I'll need to spend a few days grading finals after that. But I get to do the grading in Hawaii. Which is...nice, I guess? Better weather anyway. Though when I'm just staring at my computer it doesn't matter that much. It will be nice to go on vacation though. Next semester is looking to be just as busy as this one, quite possibly more so. I'm looking forward to relaxing, sightseeing and, hopefully, finally finishing the Aurora's Nightmare demo.

Right now though, I've got a paper to write and some trip prep to do.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

11/28/2018 Revenge of grading

Zack is doing better but I'm still pretty busy thanks to a lot of grading and some other work related tasks that I really need to get done in the next couple of days so, back to it.

Later!

Josiah

11/26/2018 Sleep

I'm running late and Zack has a stuffy nose which is making it hard for him to sleep, which means less sleep for me. So I've got to run.

Later!

Josiah

11/23/2018 Holiday weekend

Still having issues with TWC, so here's this week's bonus comic.

Thanksgiving went very well. We also got to go (and successfully beat) an escape room the day before. I might do a travelogue entry about that sometime soon. Anyway, my brother's family left yesterday evening and my aunt's is leaving later today, so things are winding down. Now there's two fairly normal weeks ahead and then Hawaii. Though, since we're going a little early, I'll have to spend a few days there grading final projects.

Anyway, have a great weekend!

Josiah

11/21/2018 Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all my US readers have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow! As previously mentioned, Connie, Zack, and I have a bunch of guests this week. So far we've done a couple smaller dinners with friends and family and taken Zack and his cousin to the zoo. And today we're going to an escape room. So yeah, fun times, if a little hectic with two toddlers around.

Have a great holiday and I'll see you Friday.

Josiah

11/19/2018 Upgrade

Thanksgiving week! I've got work today, but the rest of the week is off and my brother's family and my aunt's family are coming. Should be a fun week.

But that's about all I have to say right now. I'm running late on stuff.  Over the weekend, Pebble Version, and all the other sites I run and/or manage got moved to a new server. It means more features, reliability, bandwidth, etc. But there were a few complications along the way. I think everything important is working now, though I still have a little behind the scenes work left to do, but I ended up using most of my Saturday night (and stayed up late at that) troubleshooting.

Anyway, got to run.

Josiah

11/16/2018 Suddenly weather

I still can't seem to get TWC to update so here's the new bonus comic. It's a bit annoying though, honestly, it saves me some time, which is nice these days with everything I have going on.

The weather here has been slowly cooling down for a while now, though it really hasn't been that bad. Until yesterday, when we suddenly woke up to somewhere between half an inch and an inch of snow. I'll admit that I hadn't been paying too much attention to the weather forecast, but it really came out of nowhere. It'll probably be gone by this afternoon, but it was a bit of a pain yesterday, to the point where I had to buy a snow shovel (our driveway is on a small slope and I couldn't get the car up it) and boots (I had errands to run and my shoes were getting soaked in all the slush), both things that I hadn't needed for many years. So yeah, that was "fun". Not sure whether or not we'll have any more snow days this winter (there was only around two or so the last couple of years) but at least now I'm prepared. All that said, people here are kind of wimps when it comes to snow. They shut down the universities and everything for an inch or so of snow. Back in Colorado (which I consider my home state), that much snow is barely worth a notice.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

11/14/2018 Back and forth

Last week I had a little more free time. This week, not so much since I've once again got a bunch of assignments to grade. I'm making good progress though and next week is Thanksgiving break, which should be a lot of fun. For now though, lots left to do.

Later!

Josiah

11/12/2018 Air and space

Ok, finally ready to do a travelogue entry. I'll skip writing about a couple of places I wrote about before (the Renaissance Festival and the National Zoo) and just do the new one.

October 28th (Sunday): Air and Space
The Air and Space Museum in DC is one of the more famous and popular parts of the Smithsonian. However, turns out that the building there doesn't have enough room to house their entire collection. So they built a second location out near the Dulles airport. Looking at it, I'm betting they converted an old airfield. Connie heard it was good for kids, so we took Zack and her parents over there for a morning. Anyway, the museum itself is mostly made up of a massive hanger where they keep all sorts of planes, copters, and other flying vehicles. Quite a lot of them are actually experimental prototypes and such which I actually found a bit more interesting than the more ordinary ones they have at the main museum. A side section was dedicated to space craft, including a complete shuttle. There was also an IMax theater, a pretty high end looking flight simulator, and a shuttle bus to something Mars related. But we had Zack with us so I didn't really get to check any of those out. For that matter, I didn't get to look at all the aircraft on display either. I'll have to go back another time to see the rest. So what did Zack enjoy the most? While he did start to get interested in the planes eventually, his favorite part of the museum...was the call button for the elevator. Had to drag him away from it in the end. Oh well, at least he had fun.

Later!

Josiah

11/9/2018 This and that

TWC isn't updating right so here's the new Blooper Reel comic.

Even without a stack of papers to grade, I still seem to find way too much stuff to occupy my time. At least I'm knocking a bunch of assorted stuff off my to-do list this week. Still haven't gotten around to anything travelogue related though. Zack is doing better at night, but actually getting him to sleep is still a bit problematic. Sigh... I'll try and write some more interesting stuff next week.

Later!

Josiah

11/7/2018 Getting back into it

Well, it still seems like I never have enough time for things. But with most of my things set up on the first floor, I was finally able to play DDR for the first time since leaving Hawaii over two years ago (not counting a couple rounds in arcades). I also finally got to spend a bit of time working on the Aurora's Nightmare demo, which I've barely touched since early summer. I do still need to get some photos ready for a travelogue entry or two. Hopefully soon. Fixing Zack's sleep habits (again) has limited the time I have to work on PV related stuff, but that shouldn't last too much longer.

Anyway, I should get some sleep, since that's been a bit lacking as well.

Later!

Josiah

11/5/2018 Another week

We had to do a little more sleep training with Zack over the weekend (he had gotten a mild cold which messed things up a a bit). Fortunately, it's going much more smoothly than last time, but I still lost some sleep and wasn't able to get a lot of work done so no travelogue entry today. Though I will try to have one read for Wednesday. Also, by Wednesday elections will be over, which I'll be really glad about. Well, how happy depends on who wins, I suppose, but either way I'll be glad that all the political ads and such will be over (at least for a while). While I do care about politics, I'm not one of those people who goes crazy or gets depressed if their candidate loses. Though I'm afraid I can't say the same for a lot of people I know. Depending on how things play out on Tuesday, it could be a rather "interesting" week or two on campus. Not to mention Facebook... But enough about that.

Later!

Josiah

11/2/2018 Half way there

TWC isn't working, so here's this week's Blooper Reel comic.

Well, I've still got two class left to grade and a short story to finish writing. Guess it's not going to be an especially relaxing weekend. We did take Zack to the zoo yesterday though, which was fun. He really liked the small mammal house.

Anyway, I should get back to work. Hoping for a more relaxing time next week.

Later!

Josiah

10/31/2018 Grading, grading, grading...

Not too much to say. Zack (and everyone else) is sleeping ok now and I'm managing to keep up with everything, finally. Though it's a grading week so I'm keeping pretty busy. Hopefully I'll get to that travelogue entry on Friday, but we'll just have to see how it goes. For now, I'm just glad things are a bit less hectic. Though it would be nice if my voice would fully recover...

Later!

Josiah

10/29/2018 Staying ahead

And here we go! A normal strip, finally. I do have some travelogue stuff I want to do, but first I need to make sure I stay ahead on comics.

Later!

Josiah

10/26/2018 I'm back...sorta

Nice to be updating again, even if it is just a Blooper Reel strip (TWC is still having issues). I wanted to have a regular strip ready but this week has been tough. Getting Zack used to the time change and sleeping in his crib again proved to be far more difficult than expected. Before, sleep training him never took more than four days. Now, it's been a little over a week and he's still not sleeping as well as should be (though he's a whole lot better than he was a few days ago). So I had some serious sleep depravation going on for a while. And besides that, I had to spend a long time trying to get him to sleep to begin with, which ate up a lot of the time I usually use to work on Pebble Version and other things, leaving me pretty behind. But that wasn't all. Back at the start of the week I got a cold or something. Whatever it was, it was relatively mild and only hit my throat. Doesn't sound so bad...except I then had to give a bunch of lectures at work and that really wrecked my throat and my voice. I haven't totally recovered yet (though I can talk at least, I couldn't really for a day or so). Things do seem to be getting better though so, hopefully, all will be well in a couple more days.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/19/2018 Sleep? UPDATED UPDATE

UPDATE 2: Zack's sleeping better (though not quite back to normal yet), but I'm still recovering and behind on a bunch of things as well so, while I really hate to do this, I'm going to wait until Friday to resume updates.

UPDATE: Getting Zack sleep trained again has proven far more difficult than ever before. We're making progress, but neither Connie nor I have gotten much sleep for the past few days. So I don't have a comic done and I don't trust myself to make anything decent in this condition. Plus I've got work today. Yay... Updates will hopefully resume on Wednesday, if I can get enough sleep.

TWC isn't updating for me, so here's the new blooper reel comic instead.

As previously mentioned, Connie, Zack, and my in-laws got here on Wednesday. It's nice to have Connie and Zack back, but I didn't properly account for how little sleep I'd get thanks to Zack adjusting to a twelve hour time difference. Add in a bunch of grading, and I've got a busy and tiring couple of days so I'm off.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/17/2018 The return

Assuming everything is on schedule, Connie and Zack will be getting back today and Connie's parents will be coming with them to stay for a while. It'll be nice to have them back but that'll naturally mean less time to focus on my own stuff. Fortunately, I did manage to finish most of the things I wanted to do while they were gone. There's a couple other things I would have liked to get to, but didn't quite have the time for. I suppose I could have stayed home and worked the past couple of Sundays instead of going sightseeing, but spending three straight weeks working every day would have really left me burnt out. And hey, I got enough done. Speaking of sightseeing, I went back to the Renaissance Festival this past Sunday since there was a lot Connie and I didn't get to see when we went with Zack. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to do a travelogue entry about my return visit or not. We'll see.

Anyway, I've got a full day of classes and grading to get through before they get home (well, technically they'll probably get home a few hours before I do) so I should get to it.

Later!

Josiah

10/15/2018 The World Ends With You

The World Ends With You on the DS has long been one of my favorite video games. Unfortunately, while it did gain a strong cult following, it wasn't a big enough seller for Square Enix to ever make a sequel. Still, it seems that Tetsu Nomura and possibly some others at SE still have a soft spot for it. It got a iOS/Android port, though I passed on that one (I'd rather just replay it on my DS), and then the main characters got a cameo in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. I was hoping that would mean that there was a sequel, or at least a 3DS port, on the way. Unfortunately, neither materialized. However, they finally did decide to bring it back, not on the 3DS, but on the Switch. Not a sequel, but an enhanced port with some new content, which is still pretty cool. And hey, if it sells well enough, maybe they will make a second one. Anyway, I've been really looking forward to the Switch version of TWEWY (subtitled Final Remix) and picked it up on on launch day (this past Friday).
So how is it? Well, I haven't had a ton of time to play but I'm nearing the end of the first week (the game is divided into days) and I've gotten a decent feel for things. So how does it hold up on the Switch? Well, TWEWYFR (wow, that's a long acronym) looks great both in handheld mode and on a big screen TV. It looks good enough to be a brand new game. The soundtrack was awesome on the DS and is still awesome now. I also like that there's a menu option to switch between the original DS soundtrack and the new Remix version too (which, so far, is equally good). How about the gameplay? Well, first off, I should mention that the original TWEWY was designed specifically to take advantage of every aspect of the DS's hardware. To that end, it had a unique battle system that utilized both screens and two separate control schemes (touch screen and d-pad) at the same time. Took a while to get used to, but it was incredibly unique and a lot of fun. They naturally had to simplify things for the iOS/Android version and that, unfortunately, is the version they used as the base for the Switch. On the plus side, the main character, Neku's, gameplay is pretty much identical how it was on the DS. In handheld mode you control him with your finger (sadly, my 3DS stylus doesn't work on the Switch, but a finger is almost as good). When the switch is docked, you use a single Joycon to simulate a finger/stylus. Admittedly, I've mostly played in handheld mode. The Joycon worked well enough for the most part, though I had to re-center the pointer more often than I liked (fortunately, all it takes is a single button press). I also had a lot of trouble consistantly pulling off slashing attacks (though I probably just need more practice). Overall, I feel like the Joycon controls worked ok, but even with practice I doubt I'd have the same speed and percision that I do with the touch controls (though character movement was a little better with the Joycon). I appreciate that they were trying to recreate the touch screen controls as much as possible but, as a game designer, I think breaking away from that just a little could have led to a better control scheme. But anyway, over all Neku controls pretty well (just better with the touch screen).
The one real negative with the Switch version (and why I wish they'd gone with the 3DS instead) is that, with the loss of the second screen, they went with the iOS/Android version of the battle system which greatly simplified the role of Neku's companions. Instead of getting their own set of controls, you summon them into battle sort of like an extra attack. You still have to combo attacks between them and charge up special moves, and it's still a very good and fun battle system (and has a gentler learning curve), but it's not quite as good as it was. You lose the unique dual control scheme setup and a bit of depth and complexity with it. They also had to tweak some of the more epic boss battles that really took advantage of the two screen setup (they try to replicate the experience, with moderate success, but it's still not as good). There is a two player co-op mode if you have the switch docked, with a second Joycon used to directly control Neku's partner. It's kind of neat, though it just gives them a couple more attacks, nothing too fancy. And, in case you're wondering, I've tried and playing co-op mode solo is pretty much impossible despite only needing one hand per Joycon. I think the new version of the partner system was a must on iOS/Android devices given the screen size and lack of physical controls, and is pretty good in general. But, even though the Switch only has one screen, I think that, with a little more effort, they could have successfully recreated the original (superior) DS battle system (once again, speaking as a game designer, I have some ideas on how it could have been done).
Finally, while there is new content (an additional day/chapter), I haven't gotten far enough in the game yet to see it so I can't say how good or substantial it is. That's about it though. Unfortunately, they didn't even bother to add full voice acting. It's not really needed, of course, but it would have been a nice addition.
So, I'm a little conflicted about TWEWY Final Remix. On the one hand, it's still a unique and utterly amazing game and in most ways (HD graphics, optional remixed soundtrack, additional content, etc.) it's better than ever. But I feel that the developers' determination to stick as closely as possible to the controls and battle system from the iOS/Android version was a mistake that kept this from being the perfect rerelease. So, at least in regards to the battle system, the DS version is superior (though a bit more complicated). So should you you play TWEWY? Yes, without question. Though if you want to know which version to play, that's a little harder. Don't bother with iOS/Android, unless that's the only one you have access to. There's nothing wrong with it, but the Switch version surpasses it in every way. That said, while the Switch version looks and sounds better and offers new content, tracking down an old DS copy would give you one of the most interesting and unique battle systems to be found in any RPG. But it's an amazing game either way. I'm really enjoying returning to TWEWY on the Switch and I just hope that this time it sells well enough to get the sequel it deserves.

Later!

Josiah

10/12/2018 Hitting the museums

If you didn't notice, there was a big server outage earlier in the week, which is why I didn't update on Wednesday. But everything seems to be up and running ok now. And the new bonus comic is up too, so vote on TWC to give it a look. And now, a travelogue entry...

September 7th (Sunday): Museum Day
With Connie and Zack visiting family, I've mostly been using the extra free time to get caught up on work and various projects around the house. But I wanted to take a day or two to have fun as well. I had a few different options, but on the first Sunday of every month, Bank of America gives people with one of their credit cards free admission to a bunch of different museums around the country. Only one of those museums in near here, but I've been meaning to check it out for a long time so I figured I should finally take advantage of the discount.
Most of the Museums in DC are part of the Smithsonian and, as such, always free. But DC has its share of private museums as well and one of the most popular is the Newseum. In case the name didn't clue you in, it's about the news. Specifically, the history of the news and some especially newsworthy events throughout history. Following the recommended route I started in the basement, watched an intro video, and then took a look at an exhibit about the Berlin Wall, complete with an actual section of the wall. I remember studying about it in history class, of course, but I had forgotten that it really didn't fall all that long ago. Next up was a really interesting exhibit about the FBI, including details about some of their most famous cases and the ways they're adapting to deal with terrorism, cyber attacks, and other modern threats. There was also a small exhibit about newspaper comics. I ended up right near the cafeteria and I hadn't eaten much, so I decided to grab an early lunch before continuing on. Not bad, though there are certainly better places to eat in the area. Anyway, from there I took an elevator to the top floor which featured a nice view of Pennsylvania Avenue, a collection of award winning photos, and a set of current front pages from newspapers from all 50 states and a few different countries. It was kinda of interesting to see how the tone varied between them, even when reporting on the same stories. The next floor was focused on the history of news reporting in the US, from the early days of the country up through modern times, along with a collection of newspapers and the like from the entire period. One thing I appreciated was how balanced it was, pointing out some of the news media's greatest triumphs and biggest mistakes. That applied to the rest of the museum as well...mostly. All the info in the exhibits was very fair and balanced...up until you got to things from the last five or ten years (and especially the last two) and which point the information presented all had a very clear political slant to it. That was annoying, but at least it was only a very small part of the museum. Anyway, other notable exhibits included one on the history of different media used to report the news (radio, TV, and the internet), a section on journalistic freedom around the world, and a section where you could do a faux news report on a greenscreen, to name a few. In the end, it took me about four hours to do a pretty thorough tour of the museum (though I didn't watch all the videos). I can see why the Newseum is popular. It has a number of fascinating (and mostly fair and balanced) exhibits. It's not really good for kids, or anyone who doesn't want to read a lot (though there are a bunch of photos and videos as well), but if you don't mind spending some money to go to a museum in DC, it's certainly worth a look.
I left the museum around 3 and figured that, as long as I was in the area, I might as well go somewhere else for a couple of hours until things started to close. While I was thinking about what museum to visit next, I noticed a building next to the National Gallery that I didn't recognize. Turns out, the Gallery, which I thought Connie and I had explored pretty thoroughly before, has an entire Eastern building that we totally missed so I went in there. If you read my travelogue entry about the National Gallery, you might remember that I really appreciated the fact that it was focused entirely on old classics, without any modern art. Well, turns out that all the modern art is in the East Building. So yeah, looks like Connie and I didn't miss much of anything after all. Anyway, it didn't do anything to change my opinion of modern art. I mean, the giant blue chicken was kind of cool, as were the plaster casts of things you really shouldn't be able to make plaster casts of. And there were works by guys like Picasso where I can appreciate the work involved, even if it isn't my style. Most of the artwork though wasn't just bad, it felt to me like it was both lazy and lacking in creativity. For example, blank canvases with a border, a fiberglass board, and what looked like some props from a toy store. Many of the pieces didn't even have titles, which felt to me like the artist not only couldn't be bothered to put any effort or creativity into their "art", but they didn't even feel like putting in the effort to come up with a name. It was close competition, but I think this one was the worst. It's literally an empty room with a piece of string stretched from one corner to the other. Sometimes I wonder if some of these artists like to get together and laugh about how people spend massive amounts of money on these things, not to mention hours upon hours contemplating them and writing about them. Anyway, the best part of the East Building was the underground passage to the Main (West) Gallery. Not only is it cool and sparkly, but it takes you to where all the good art is. There's a nice cafe down there too.
It didn't take me too long to finish up there, but I wasn't sure if there was really enough time left before closing to go anywhere else. That said, I didn't want to go home yet so I started walking around the National Mall and noticed that I still had a bit over an hour before the Museum of the Native American closed, so I decided to go in and see the exhibits I didn't get to last time such as the exhibits on Pocahontas, the Trail of Tears, and American Indians in pop-culture.
By the time I finished, the museums were all closing and I didn't really feel like staying until supper so I headed home. It was a fun and interesting day, though it reminded me just how many museums and other attractions in DC I still haven't seen yet. But hey, that just means I've got more to look forward to.

Later!

Josiah

10/8/2018 A new week UPDATE

UPDATE 10/10: There was a lengthy server outtage so I'm leaving this update up until Friday so everyone gets a chance to see it.

It's really nice to have all that work behind me. I did some sightseeing in DC yesterday (expect a travelogue entry later in the week) and I'm hoping to finally finish setting things up and unpacking downstairs. It's still work, but it's a bit more fun and something I've been wanting to do for months.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

10/5/2018 Catching up

You can see the new Blooper Reel comic here or by voting on TWC, or both. Sorry that this week has been so much of a mess in terms of updates. Monday was planned, since it was a holiday. For Wednesday and today though, I was working on stuff that took longer than planned.

So what have I been doing? Well, first I had a new bunch of assignments to grade to avoid falling behind again, which I finished up yesterday morning. But I also had some chores and a few other work related tasks that I needed to get to. Well, I made good progress on the chores (and I'm spacing those out anyway) and I'm down to my last work related task, which I'm hoping to get done today. That'll leave me with a lot of free time this coming week to get some other (more enjoyable) things done and relax a little.

But now, I need some sleep. Have a great weekend!

Josiah

9/28/2018 All the grading... UPDATE

UPDATE: Comics will resume on Friday. I apologize for having to skip two updates in a row. It wasn't planned but I've been extremely busy. More details on Friday.

Sorry for the Blooper Reel Comic today. TWC is working so you can vote to see it as well. Yesterday was divided up between getting my car serviced and grading lots and lots of stuff. I think I got trough something like 60 papers and a few dozen discussion posts but I've got probably another 80 or so papers and some assorted small assignments waiting for me today. Plus I have a paper of my own to write. I'd really love to get it all done, but I think there's a good chance I'm going to have to work over the weekend as well if I want to get caught up. Though that only means I'll be free and ready to deal with a whole bunch of new assignments waiting for me on Tuesday. It's going to be a long several days... Anyway, after all the grading yesterday, I didn't really have the time or energy to get a strip done.

I should also announce that there will be no update on Monday since it's the last day of Sukkot. That's the last holiday for a while though, so I shouldn't have to cancel any more updates after that. At least not for a quite a while.

Well, I need to get some sleep then get back to grading. Later!

Josiah

9/26/2018 On my own

Connie and Zack are going to China today to visit her parents. I, however, have to work, so I'll be staying here. It'll be kind of strange since the longest we've been apart since getting married was about one week. More than that, I don't really like to be away from Zack for too long, given how young he is, but it will be nice to have so much free time for a change. Though I'll probably be spending the first week or so catching up on grading and the like. And after that's done, there's my other projects... Hopefully I'll have some time for fun as well.

Anyway, we'll see what happens.

Josiah

9/21/2018 Sukkot is coming

This week's bonus comic is up here and on TWC if you vote. I was hoping to have a regular strip ready for today but with the high holy days and everything else going on right now, I'm kind of crunched for time. It didn't really help that there's a battle starting, since those strips always take extra long to make. Anyway, hopefully I'll be able to get caught up on things by Wednesday. And yes, I said Wednesday. There will be no update on Monday as it's the first day of Sukkot. Sorry, but that's just the way it worked out this year. There will be one more update I'll have to skip the following week and, after that, things will hopefully stay on track.

Anyway, I'm off. Got a lot of grading to do along with prep work for Sukkot. Have a good weekend!

Josiah

9/17/2018 The high holy days continue

There will be no PV update this Wednesday due to Yom Kippur. And...that's about it. The storm was delayed and hasn't reached this area yet but it's supposed to hit today so we'll see what happens. That said, we're far enough away from the coast that I'm not expecting much. Though I may have to walk back and forth across campus in the rain, which isn't going to be a lot of fun.

Anyway, I've got a lot of work related stuff to do this week (grading and such), and Yom Kippur isn't leaving me with a lot of time to work on it so I'd better go.

Later!

Josiah

9/14/2018 Here comes the rain

As usual, you can use the TWC button to vote and see this week's new bonus comic.

You may heard the news about the big storm that's supposed to hit the east coast this weekend. It sounds like it could be really bad on the coast itself but, as Connie and I are several hours away, it's looking like we're just going to get some rain, and not even a really massive amount. Hopefully things will work out ok for those on the coast as well.

In other news, Connie, Zack and I went to the Natural Products Expo East yesterday. I wrote about it last year and don't really feel like it needs another travelogue entry, but we had a good time looking at different products (mainly food) and trying lots and lots of samples.

Well, have a good weekend and all the best to my readers who are in the hurricane's path.

Josiah

9/12/2018 Ren Fest

Well, it's a little late, but let's get that travelogue entry from Labor Day done.

September 3rd (Monday): The Maryland Renaissance Festival
I heard about the Maryland Renaissance Festival last year, but Connie and I never made it over. This year though, she reminded me about it and we decided to make a point of visiting. Why Maryland? Well, there's a Pennsylvania one, but it's around three hours away. And Virginia? I would assume there's at least one in Virginia, but I don't know when or where (I should probably Google that sometime). Maryland, on the other hand, is only an hour away so it's not a bad drive.
Anyway, we ended up going on Labor Day, pretty early on (the Festival started late August and goes through mid October). The most impressive Renaissance Festival I've been to in the past is the one in Phoenix. A big advantage the Phoenix Festival has over many others is that is has a large dedicated space, meaning that there's not only plenty of room, but that they can build permanent buildings, rather than having to put up tents and booths every year. Turns out that Maryland has a similar setup. It's also in a forest, which not only offers some shade, but also enhances the whole medieval fantasy feel a bit. It's probably not quite as big as Phoenix, but it's still the size of a small theme park and certainly has enough stuff to keep you busy for a few hours to a full day.
Since Connie and I had Zack with us, we didn't spend a lot of time watching shows (though it looked like they had a good variety, including a joust), but we did really appreciate that they had a playground in the back. There was also the usual selection of neat handmade crafts and medieval stuff, along with turkey legs, steaks on a stake, soup in a bread bowl, and a few more "exotic" foods as well (like Japanese). While I wish we could have stayed a bit longer, and watched a few more shows, we still had a fun several hours and Zack really enjoyed the playground and the bubble wand booth. I wasn't expecting to find a Renaissance Festival that could give Phoenix a run for its money, but I'm pretty happy to have one nearby and we'll certainly be going back next year.

Later!

Josiah

9/7/2018 This again?

Well, I was all set to have a new strip (not a Blooper Reel) and a travelogue entry up today. Unfortunately, Zack had other plans and, instead of getting those finished, I had to spend the time trying to get him to sleep. So they'll have to wait until next week. Wednesday to be precise since, because of Rosh Hashanah, there will be no update on Monday.

Sorry about that, but I'll see you Wednesday!

Josiah

9/5/2018 Between holidays

Labor Day is over, but I've actually got several Jewish holidays coming up over the next few weeks. As a result, I'll have to skip a few Pebble Version updates here and there, but I'll announce those as they come. It was a nice holiday weekend though, and I'll have a travelogue update related to it soon. But not today. Zack hasn't been sleeping the best lately, so neither have I.

Later!

Josiah

9/3/2018 Holiday weekend

You know, in my opinion, if you're going to have a holiday during the second week of the semester, you might as well just wait and start classes that week instead. Having a holiday so early really throws things off. That said, I'm certainly not going to complain about a day off. So far, this holiday weekend hasn't been too exciting though. I've been playing with Zack (fun, but not exciting), running errands, and getting assorted work and home related stuff done. Today though, Connie, Zack, and I are off to do something fun. Expect a travelogue entry sometime soon.

Happy Labor Day!

Josiah

8/31/2018 One week down...

Sigh... I really don't intend to make a habit of posting Blooper Reel Comics on the main page (you can also see today's by voting on TWC, of course). But the first week of school has been a bit busier than I expected. Not entirely because of the classes either. Partly them and partly all the assorted other stuff I've been trying to get done. Plus, I've been staying up late way to often and I really need to break that habit. Hopefully I'll be more or less caught up and back on track next week.

Later!

Josiah

8/29/2018 Exercise

The first floor is finally completely fixed so now I just need to put together a bunch of shelves and then I can get all my books, games, and the like put away. I also have my own desk again, which is great.

In other news, the first week of classes is going fine so far. However, they're tearing down one of the main buildings on campus so they can replace it with a new fancier one. That's all well and good, except that there's now a whole lot less classrooms available for the next few years. As a result, some classes that would normally be either in my building, or at least relatively close, are now on the opposite end of campus, so I'm going to have to do a lot of walking this semester. Good for exercise, I guess, but annoying when I've got back to back classes that are really far apart. Well, I'll just have to hope that there isn't any bad weather on those days...

Later!

Josiah

8/27/2018 Maze time

Well, back to work. Here's hoping for a good first week. Anyway, here's a travelogue update.

August 23rd (Thursday): Cherry Crest Farm's Amazing Maize Maze
Connie and I continued our annual tradition of going to Cherry Crest Farm's Amazing Maize Maze. This year, however, we needed to keep Zack entertained. Fortunately, the farm has a lot of activities besides the maze, many of which are well suited for kids of all ages. I never took a really close look at them before, but there was everything from playground equipment, to giant slides, to a play town, just to name a few. There was even a giant sandbox type thing filled with dried corn. Zack's favorite part though, was the goats. He hadn't really interacted with animals much in the past, aside from chasing pigeons in Italy, but he was moderately interested in watching the goats in the petting zoo area. We thought that would be it, but he saw some other kids feeding them and, unprompted, actually went and picked up some food and started feeding the goats himself. He loved it and we spent a while there. He tried to feed a pig too, but it was a little too eager and ended up licking him in the face.
After letting Zack play around for a couple of hours, we finally headed into the maze. This year's theme was board games and, to better fit, they swapped the usual crossword puzzle with some mini-games (dice, spinners, etc.), which made for an interesting twist. As usual, I made a point of fully clearing the maze and finding all the hidden map pieces. It was a pretty good design and a lot of fun to navigate. It took us around 1 hour and 45 minutes to finish, though we had a pretty good run in terms of choosing the correct paths and such so I probably could have knocked 20 - 30 minutes off that time on my own.
We finished a little before the park was slated to close for the day so we drove over to Hershey Farm to let Zack play around a little more and then hit up the buffet, like we've done the past couple of years.
Cherry Crest Farm is always a fun outting and I'm looking forward to next year's maze.

Later!

Josiah

8/24/2018 A little more...

The bonus comic is up on TWC if you want to vote, but it's also here on the main page. Connie, Zack, and I went to the big corn maze on Wednesday (travelogue entry coming soon) and didn't get back till late and then yesterday just ended up being really busy and I didn't have time to get a comic done.

Today should finally mark the end of the various home repair and improvement projects that have been going on. Though I still have a ton to unpack downstairs.

Anyway, I'm off for now. Back to work on Monday, though things shouldn't get too busy for another couple weeks.

Later!

Josiah

8/22/2018 Prepped!

My classes are all ready to go! So what's planned for the rest of the week? A last couple of home improvement projects, some errands, and possibly a day trip (weather permitting). But first, I need to catch up on some sleep.

Later!

Josiah

8/20/2018 One week

Well, classes start in a week so I've got to finish prepping and finish the stuff on my to-do list (almost there). Hoping to have a little fun this week as well, but we'll get to that later. I've got things to do.

Later!

Josiah

8/17/2018 Otakon

You can vote to see the new Blooper Reel comic or just look right here. I'm running a bit late today so I decided to prioritize getting the travelogue entry for Otakon written. Why am I running late? Since Otakon, I've spent most of the week focusing on a whole bunch of assorted around the house type things. We've been here a bit over a month, but that doesn't mean everything is all set up yet. That said, I'm also trying to relax a little. It's been a really busy summer and work is starting up again pretty soon. So I've finally been able to get in a bit of game playing. But anyway, let's get to that travelogue entry.

August 10th - 12th (Friday - Saturday): Otakon 2018
This was Otakon's second year in Washington DC after moving from its long time home in Baltimore. While they handled the move pretty well last year, they smoothed out a few kinks this time around (faster bag check, for instance) for an all around solid experience. As usual, there were lots of panels and videos. Though Connie and I didn't get go to much in that regard. Last year, Zack wasn't doing much besides eating and sleeping. This year, he's down to one nap a day and doesn't like to sit still for too long, which limited our options a bit (that should change in a year or two). He did like looking at the cosplayers and playing with the escalators. Of course, we also spent some time in the dealers' hall and artist alley. So we were able to have some fun with him.
The video game hall was pretty great this year, with a lot of cool Japanese import arcade games. I went by myself Saturday night, so I had time to play around a bit and watch some AMVs.
The big highlight of this year though, was the concerts. I've been wanting to see an official Final Fantasy concert ever since I knew they existed (probably around 10 years or so), but I never managed to be in the right place at the right time. So I was thrilled to hear that Distant Worlds was coming to Otakon this year. And not just with one concert, but two. I would have been willing to spend half the day waiting in line, but fortunately they offered a limited number of VIP tickets a while back which, for a reasonable price, guaranteed a seat. They sold out in less than a day, but I grabbed mine the moment they went on sale so I was good. Connie isn't as into Final Fantasy as I am, and we weren't too sure Zack would sit through a concert, so she graciously offered to do other stuff with him when I went.
Friday's concert was the normal Distant Worlds show, which featured a full orchestra playing a diverse collection of music from Final Fantasy I - XV, along with full video accompaniment. It was amazing with a great set list. It didn't have all my favorites, of course, but I really don't have any complaints about the music selection or arrangements. It helps that Nobuo Uematsu is fairly heavily involved. In fact, here was there! He mainly just popped onto the stage a couple times to say hi, rather than playing any instruments himself, though he did join the orchestra at the end for One Winded Angel. Really, my only complaint about the concert was that, at one hour and fifteen minutes, I wish it were longer. It was awesome and very much worth it for any Final Fantasy fan, or anyone who enjoys good music for that matter.
Sunday's concert was titled A New World. Billed as a more intimate experience, it had only a handful of musicians, no video, and a smaller audience. It also had a mostly different set list (including a Tactics song). As such, it was a much different experience, but still excellent. The string quartet arrangements, for example, really stood out. While not quite as epic as Distant Worlds, I enjoyed it just as much and highly recommend it as well.
The VIP tickets actually offered more perks than a good seat and avoiding hours in line. After each concert, VIP ticket holders got a meet and great with Uematsu and the conductor (Arnie Roth for Distant Worlds and his son Eric for A New World). Basically, we got to say hi, get a photo, and an autograph. So that was pretty awesome as well. Now I've got my copy of Final Fantasy VII signed by both him and Sakaguchi, and I've got an art book signed by Amano. If I could just get Nomura's signature...
Anyway, while Zack kept Connie and I from getting quite as much out of Otakon as before, it was still fun and the concerts were fantastic. As always, I'm looking forward to next year.

Josiah

8/15/2018 It's about time

I haven't had a chance to go through my photos yet, so no Otakon write up today. Been getting a bunch of stuff done now that the con is finished. And today they're finally going to repair the water damage downstairs so I'll be able to get everything unpacked and set up down there.

In other news, poison ivy sucks. I knew that, but I hadn't gotten any since I was a kid, so I forgot just how annoying it could be. Definitely going to be more careful when doing yard work here in the future.

Later!

Josiah

8/13/2018 After the con

Otakon was fun, even though Zack limited what Connie and I could do a bit. Anyway, I'll sort my photos sorted and get the travelogue entry posted later this week.

For now, I've got plenty to do this week. The repairs for the water damage have finally been scheduled as well so, with any luck, I'll be able to finally start unpacking the rest of my stuff in a few days.

Later!

Josiah





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