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

Year 1: 8/11/2003 - 8/9/2004
Year 2: 8/11/2004 - 8/10/2005
Year 3: 8/11/2005 - 8/9/2006
Year 4: 8/11/2006 - 8/10/2007
Year 5: 8/13/2007 - 8/8/2008
Year 6: 8/11/2008 - 8/10/2009
Year 7: 8/12/2009 - 8/9/2010
Year 8: 8/11/2010 - 8/10/2011
Year 9: 8/12/2011 - 8/10/2012
Year 10: 8/13/2012 - 8/9/2013
Year 11: 8/12/2013 - 8/8/2014
Year 12: 8/11/2014 - 8/10/2015
Year 13: 8/12/2015 - 8/10/2016
Year 14: 8/12/2016 - 8/9/2017
Year 15: 8/11/2017 - 8/10/2018
Year 16: 8/13/2018 - 8/9/2019
Year 17: 8/12/2019 - 8/10/2020

11/27/2020 Happy...Black Friday?

Actually the sales I've seen so far this year don't interest me much. I picked up a couple games online, but that's been it. Maybe Cyber Monday will be more interesting. Not that I really "need" more anything right now. Sure there's some things I want, but I've got more then enough books, games, and TV shows / movies to keep me busy for ages and I don't really need anything for the house either.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was nice, even without guests, though I do hope we can get a group together next year. It was both fun and relaxing to spend a while cooking. Not to brag, but I'm pretty good in the kitchen. I used to make one or two fancy meals every week but, over the past couples of years, I've gotten busier and busier to the point where, these days, I seem to rarely make anything that takes more than 20 minutes of work. Not that I don't want to cook more, but it seems like I always feel that there's something more important I should be doing with my time. Fortunately, if things continue as planned, my schedule should become more relaxed come summer. For now though, it's really nice to have a break, even if only for a few days. And hey, winter break isn't all that far off either, even if travel plans are going to be tricky.

Anyway, I hope everyone (or at least everyone in the US) had a good Thanksgiving. Enjoy the weekend and I'll see you Monday.

Josiah

11/23/2020 Thanksgiving week

There's something else going on but this isn't the time to talk about it and I'm feeling a lot better compared to Friday. I'm mostly past the point of worrying and just getting on with normal life. Like Thanksgiving! Can't say that I'm nearly as excited about it this year as I usually am, but Connie, Zack and I will do our best to enjoy it, even if it's just the three of us. For now, I need to spend the next two or three days grading and then it's time to cook.

Later!

Josiah

11/20/2020 Ugh...

Yesterday was stressful. Let's leave it at that. Hopefully I'll have a nice relaxing weekend and be feeling 100% come Monday. For now though, I just want to unwind a bit.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

11/25/2020 Happy Thanksgiving!

Honestly, at the moment I don't feel especially happy. This whole year has been insane, of course, but the past month has just been one thing after another for me, starting with that whole mess with my laptop. Right now, that issue I mentioned before is ongoing and while, as I said before, I'm past the point of driving myself crazy about it, there's some back and forth involved that keeps it in mind. Then, we just discovered another water leak (honestly, what it it with this house and water damage?). Fortunately, we caught this early and it looks like it shouldn't be a really big deal but finding yet another leak certainly hasn't done much for my mood. Hawaii also keeps making things more complicated in regards to travel, so out winter vacation is looking more and more iffy.

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving though, as previously mentioned, it'll just be myself, Connie, and Zack. Now that my brother's family is living in Hawaii along with my parents, it doesn't really make sense for any of us to visit each other for Thanksgiving. Even without the mess COVID has made of traveling, it's too long of a trip for such a short break. Especially with winter vacation coming up. And the other friends and relatives we might normally celebrate Thanksgiving with are more worried about COVID than we are so they aren't going out.

Sigh... On the bright side, I've got the latest Brandon Sanderson book to read (he's one of my favorite authors) and, even better, they just announced a sequel to The World Ends With You, one of my favorite games ever. And it's coming next summer! Hopefully by then, at least, things will be back to normal.

Anyway, I hope things are going better for all of you than they are for me. Have a great Thanksgiving and I'll see you Friday.

Josiah

11/18/2020 Enough already

Time for another COVID rant. I really don't like Dr. Fauci. Honestly, I haven't liked him much from the start, but it's gotten a lot worse lately. In my opinion, and based on all the data I've seen, he's greatly exaggerated the dangers of COVID-19 from the start. I suppose I could be generous and say that, early on, he simply bought into the bad data floating around (such as that bogus UK study) and assumed COVID would be much more dangerous than it turned out to be. But that doesn't excuse the fact that he hasn't really changed his stance as we've gotten a better understanding of things. He spent the past couple of months saying how we wouldn't have a vaccine until at least the middle of next year, though I presume he had access to the same info as the president. Turns out, President Trump was right and Fauci was wrong. There's now two vaccines with very high effectiveness rates that are likely to be approved before the end of the year. Fauci himself, in recent interviews, has been very positive about them. Yet, at the same time, he says that, even after people have been vaccinated, we should keep wearing masks and social distancing for the foreseeable future, just to be extra safe. How stupid is that? Does he warn people to do the same after getting vaccinated for any other illness? As a disclaimer, I personally don't think we really need a COVID vaccine in the first place (remember, for most people it's less deadly than the seasonal flu). Or, perhaps only the elderly and people with certain medical conditions that make them more vulnerable should be vaccinated. It's certainly not something that everyone really needs. That said, I hope the existence of a vaccine will finally convince various national and international government to relax and start removing all these ridiculous restrictions. But if f Fauci has his way the vaccine won't actually chance anything for months, or maybe years.

Honestly, I think that, if he had his way, he might want to keep masks and social distancing in place more or less permanently. But why? Now, there's two reasons that an expert like him would advocate extreme measures when they aren't really needed. The first would be to play politics and advance an agenda of some type. Early on, I didn't think that was what he was doing. Now I'm not so sure. Some of his more recent statements and actions seem more politically motivated than anything else. And he's already shown that he's perfectly willing to lie to the public if he feels that it's for a good reason. Early on he specifically told people not to wear or buy masks. He later did a complete 180, saying that he initially lied about the effectiveness of masks to prevent a shortage. Ignoring the fact that the effectiveness of masks is highly debatable depending on which doctor or scientific study you want to trust, Fauci believes masks are effective but deliberately lied about it early on. Whether or not you agree with his reason to do so, it doesn't say a lot for his trustworthiness. And others are certainly playing politics. Such as the governor of New York who has been going on for months about how deadly COVID is and how the state can't really reopen until there's a vaccine. And now that we almost have a vaccine, he says that it should be delayed until after the presidential inauguration (supposedly because he doesn't like Trump's distribution plan but quite obviously because he wants Joe Biden to get the credit instead of Trump). Now, if he really believes that COVID is super deadly, he should want to get the vaccine to his citizens as quickly as possible, regardless of any distribution issues (which no other state seems to be worried about). Everyone, regardless of political views, should find his stance despicable.

Anyway, back to Fauci. Aside from politics, there's one other reason he might take a more extreme stance than necessary. It's a sort of expert's bias. Experts in various fields tend to focus almost exclusively on their specialty, to the exclusion of all else. For example, an expert on network security would say that you should always use a firewall and anti-virus program on your computer (true enough), but you should also always use a VPN, completely avoid public wi-fi, use passwords that are a nonsensical mix of letters numbers and symbols such as JWo17^*aG, have a different such password for every single web site you use, and change all your passwords every few months, if not weeks. Now, will doing all of that reduce your chances of getting hacked or having your identity stolen? Yes. Is it a huge inconvenience? Yes. Is it complete and total overkill for most people? Also, yes. But many experts just focus on one aspect, reducing risk, without taking everything else into account (such as striking a balance between security, cost, and convenience). Plus, as an expect, Fauci doubtless spends most of his time studying the worst scenario cases to the point where, to him, those begin to seem like the norm, rather than rare exceptions. My dad's a doctor and, while he's pretty good at avoiding tunnel vision, even he becomes overly cautious at times because some of his patients had a particularly bad experience with one thing or another, even if it's safe 99.9% of the time. That's why you should approach experts for advice, but not have them dictate policy directly, to avoid having things spiral out of control.

So is Fauci playing politics or just overly cautious due to his job? I'm not a mind reader so I can't say for sure but, if I had to guess, probably a bit of both. Regardless, he never should have gotten this much fame and influence and I would really like to seem him go back to his research and stop trying to run everyone's lives.

Later!

Josiah

11/16/2020 Another week

I'm pretty worn out today (no special reason) and have some other things I need to take care of so no news post.

See you Wednesday.

Josiah

11/13/2020 New consoles

The Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X are out, though a bit of a pain in the neck to track down since, thanks to COVID, they decided to sell them only online for the time being. So what am I doing? Well, at present I have no real interest in the Xbox Series X. I skipped the original Xbox and the Xbox One as well. I do have a 360, but I got it pretty late in the console's life cycle and only have a handful of games. There just aren't many exclusives I care about. Maybe the Series X will eventually get some games that I just have to have but, for now, there's nothing. I do want a Playstation 5, but I'm not in a huge hurry to pick one up. It does have some launch games I'm interested in, but nothing I'm dying to play as soon as possible and most of them are also available on the PS4 (with a free upgrade to the PS5 version) if I really can't wait. The PS5 will have a lot of exclusives I want in the future, but it'll be a little while so I can easily wait until they're a bit easier to find. That said, if I just happen to be on Amazon or something when they're available I might go ahead and order one now. But, for the moment, I'm more interested in trying to grab one of those Super Mario Bros. Game and Watch handhelds coming out today. Not really a must, but it'd be a fun little collectable. Zack might have fun with it too.

See you Monday!

Josiah

11/11/2020 Fixed?

Finally got the new cooling system for my laptop. It's working fine so far, though I haven't had a chance to really put it to the test yet. When I have a some time, I'll load up a high-end game for a little while to be sure everything is good, but for now I'm cautiously optimistic. Between the cooling system and the motherboard, I think the majority of the internals have been replaced at this point (guess that means I got a lemon initially). Of course, it was probably only a couple of components that really needed to be replaced (one fan and a RAM chip or something), but these newer laptops have a tendency to weld nearly everything together so you can't just replace one piece, you need to replace half the internal hardware at a time. There are some advantages to that approach, but it's really inconvenient when it comes to upgrades and repairs. Anyway, with this my recent string of computer troubles has hopefully ended.

Not much else to say right now (at least nothing non-political). Thanksgiving isn't too far off but most of the people we'd normally get together with either aren't traveling, are holed up at home, or both so I'm not too sure if we'll have any sort of group or not. Then there's our usual Hawaii trip in mid-December to visit my family, but that's a bit iffy as well. While Hawaii isn't totally locked down anymore (though you do need to get a negative COVID test to avoid getting quarantined), they seem to be trying to make your visit there as miserable and inconvenient as possible (many in the Hawaiian government really didn't want to lift the lockdown or travel restrictions). So, other than seeing family, a visit there might not actually be much fun if things don't change. There would also be the problem of getting there. It's not like we can drive to Hawaii and airlines all have this ridiculous policy that everyone over the age of two has to wear a mask at all times. Zack is three and there's absolutely no way we'd be able to keep a mask on him for the duration of a long flight (or a short flight, for that matter). There's a number of stories about families getting kicked off of flights and put on airlines' no-fly lists because a toddler took a mask off. Delta seems to be the only airline whose policy allows for young children not to wear masks, though it's more of a "we require it but don't enforce it" thing...unless they do. Apparently some flight crews are far less forgiving than others. Ugh... Makes me want to rant about COVID a bit.

Anyway, assuming my computer really is fixed, I'll see you on Friday.

Josiah

11/9/2020 Playing it safe

I'm keeping a rather close eye on my computer's temperature as I use it. In theory, it should automatically shut down if it gets too hot, but considering all the trouble I've had lately, I don't want to risk it overheating and damaging another internal component. Plus, if it gets too hot it might just lock up and I'd lose my work, which is always annoying.

In better news, we're having a run of really nice weather right now. Quite possibly the last one of the year, so we've been taking advantage of that. Playing with Zack outside is a nice way to relax and get my mind off all the other stuff going on right now.

Later!

Josiah

11/6/2020 Ugh...

That new cooling system is back-ordered so I'm being very careful with how I use my new laptop for the moment. Looks like I can make PV strips though so here's a new Blooper Reel. I'm hoping to continue updating normally from now on, but until I'm 100% sure about this computer, there's still the chance that I'll have to skip another update.

Anyway, if I try to write anything else right now I'd probably end up ranting about the election and, as previously stated, I don't want to discuss politics on this site. So, I'm just going to stop here for now.

Have a good weekend and I'll hopefully be back with a new strip on Monday.

Josiah

11/4/2020 Spoke too soon

Updates should resume Friday or Monday. Keep reading for the details.

My new computer occasionally hard locked ever since I got it. But I chalked it up to random errors since I was installing lots of programs and copying over massive amounts of data. Turns out, it wasn't that simple. On Friday morning, it locked up and then died completely. After a bit of time spent trying to get it to turn on, I spent 40 minutes on the phone with tech support before it was determined that the motherboard had probably failed. Fortunately, being a new system, it was under warranty and Alienware has very good support so a technician came out Tuesday evening to replace it. That got the computer booting again. Unfortunately, it also started giving an error about the cooling system, so now that's going to get replaced as well. In the meantime, I can at least boot up the computer and get some work done. Though I should probably avoid anything too processor intensive until I've got the new cooling system (the current one works, but probably not as well as it should). Of course, thanks to all of that, and not having a computer for the past several days, I haven't had a chance to make any PV strips, much less work on a whole lot of other things. So I'll resume updates once I both have the chance to make some strips, and am reasonably certainly that my computer isn't going to overheat and shut down when I start using Photoshop. Hopefully Friday, but quite possibly not until Monday. Or hey, maybe even later if my streak of bad luck continues. Sigh...

Later!

Josiah

10/30/2020 Back up and running

And I'm back! So, what happened? Well, Thursday of last week, I went to my office after setting Zack down for his nap to find that my laptop had blue-screened while I was gone. That type of thing is very rare, but not unheard of and usually not a big deal. So I restarted the computer...and nothing. It's not that Windows failed to load, I couldn't even get a boot screen. I'm pretty tech savvy, so I spent the next few hours trying to fix things, including opening up the case to force reset the BIOS. In the end, all I got was a warning light code about the cell battery. I'm not entirely sure if that was part of the original problem, or if I somehow damaged the connection when I was doing my repairs (though I doubt it since I checked that at least half a dozen times). At that point, I had to admit that repair was beyond me. And probably most of the tech places around here are well. So that left me with two options, send my system back to Alienware / Dell for repairs and pay whatever it ends up costing, or get a new computer. On the one hand, I really loved that laptop is was still working very well. On the other hand, I was four years old and I normally get a new system every three. So it basically came down to a matter of convenience since I really couldn't afford to be without my main computer for long given my workload. Even with expedited service, a repair would take at least a week, probably longer, and there's no telling what it would cost until they identified the problem. Custom ordering a new Alienware would take a similar amount of time. But I really needed something sooner. The local stores didn't have the model I wanted but Amazon had one that was very close with one day shipping. And Alienware has drastically reduced their customization options anyway. So, Amazon it was.

I got my new Alienware m15 R3 Saturday evening and got to work that night. While my old laptop was dead, I was able to pop out one of the hard drives and stick it in an external case to transfer the majority of my files over to the new system (I have everything on cloud backup as well, but downloading hundreds of gigabytes takes a lot longer). Unfortunately, my new laptop, while powerful, was a bit lacking in hard disk space (less than my old one) so I had to order a second drive off Amazon as well. Normally installing a new hard drive is pretty simple, even on a laptop. Unfortunately, Alienware is shipping even their single drive systems with a RAID setting which kept it from recognizing my new drive (it was a different capacity, so it wouldn't take a RAID configuration). That's an easy setting change in the BIOS...except apparently Windows has a tendency to become massively unstable when you change that setting. Eventually, after a ton of restarts, lots of Google searching, and such, I managed to get Windows running in safe mode without crashing long enough to input a fix and stabilize it with the new BIOS setting so I could setup my second drive. Then it was a matter of copying over the rest of my files, some from my old drive, some from cloud backup, installing a lot of software, changing settings, etc., etc.

In the end, I was able to get most of that stuff done by the end of Monday (though I was still doing a few things here and there for a few days after that; and will probably keep stumbling across the occasional issue for weeks), but then I had a bunch of work to catch up on from going several days without a working laptop. Normally, when I upgrade to a new system, I have it running side by side with the old one and I make the upgrade when I have a few days free. This time though, was a pain in the neck. It could have been worse (for example, my system could have died during finals), but it was still a mess and I really hope nothing like that ever happens again. Doesn't help that I got a mild cold over the last couple of days either.

Here's hoping that the coming week will be much more relaxing...

Josiah

8/26/2020 Crash and burn

Sorry for the missed update on Friday. Unfortunately, there's no new comic today either. Updates may resume on Wednesday, but there's a decent chance that it will have to wait until Friday. The reason? I don't have time to go into all the details now, but it basically boils down to serious computer problems. Updates will resume once I've got everything up and running again.

Later!

Josiah

10/19/2020 Back to the movies

Movie theaters here started to reopen a month or so ago, though there really isn't that much playing (not too surprising, when you think about it). With my mom here to watch Zack, Connie and I tried going out to see a movie for the first time in ages. Having to wear a mask in the theater was kind of annoying (especially since it was nearly empty). I should just buy a popcorn or something next time so I have an excuse not to. Though, if it's "safe" to not wear a mask when eating or drinking, it should be just as safe not to wear it the rest of the time. Anyway, I won't get into that whole issue again now. Suffice it to say, despite what you might hear in the news, if you actually look at the research, there's no real scientific concessions on whether or not regular masks (as opposed to the ones medical professionals use) make any real difference in stopping the spread of COVID or anything else. Moving on... We like a lot of Christopher Nolan movies so we went to see Tennet. At it's heart, it's a spy / heist movie, but combined with some interesting time twisting mechanics. I liked it, but even for me it was a bit hard to follow. Partly because a lot of things aren't fully explained until near the end. And partly because it was actually really hard to hear the dialogue at times over the gunfire, crashes, and other sounds. I thought it was the theater's fault but I saw other people online complaining about the sound mixing so apparently it's an issue with the movie itself. Anyway, while it does have some issues, it's still an interesting movie and it was kind of fun to go back to the theater, even with the masks.

Later!

Josiah

10/16/2020 Another weekend

Mid-terms are finished! Well, my students finished them a week ago but now I'm done grading them as well. My current focus? Finishing the first draft of my book before I get another stack of assignments to grade. With nothing special scheduled for the coming week, we're also hoping to do a nice outting or two while my mom is still here. COVID limits our options a bit, but there are still some places we can go. Anyway, I've got a few things I need to take care of so I should get going.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

10/14/2020 Prime

It's Prime Day...though I haven't been all that impressed this year. Maybe it's just me. I mean, there isn't much I particularly want or need at the moment. Or maybe the just aren't as many interesting things on sale this time around. Meh... Anyway, I just came off two long days of grading. While I did manage to get it all finished faster than usual, I'm a bit burned out after cramming so much into both days. But, with that out of the way, it's time to finish the first draft of my book...

Later!

Josiah

10/12/2020 Happy Columbus Day!

Unfortunately, the weather report was correct so we're getting a lot of rain this holiday weekend. It should clear up tomorrow, but we've got a lot of little things scheduled throughout the week (appointments and stuff, nothing fun). Meanwhile, I've got mid-terms to grade (yay...). Hopefully we can do something more interesting next week.

On the plus side, I've only got one chapter (and some closing stuff) left to write in the first draft of my new book! I would have liked to have finished it by the end of last month, but this is close enough I guess. If I get it done by the end of this month, that still gives me about two months each for the second and third drafts. And if you're wondering what the book is about...I'll announce that soonish.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

10/9/2020 Into the weekend

My mom is here, I've been making good progress on my work, and there's a holiday weekend coming up. Not that a holiday weekend means all that much when all my classes are online to begin with. Unfortunately, the weather early next week is looking pretty bad so we probably won't do anything too special anyway.

Not much else to say I guess. I've still got a bit I want to get done before the weekend so I should probably work on that.

See you Monday!

Josiah

10/7/2020 Busy, busy

It's been a long day and I've still got a bit of a to-do list I need to work through so I'm just going to get back to that.

Later!

Josiah

10/5/2020 Writing time

Nothing to grade this week, so I'm hoping to get a lot of writing done. Thanks to various work, family, and home stuff lately, I've fallen a little behind on my book. Well, it's not like I have a strict schedule as long as I get it all finished by the submission date, but I'm a bit behind where I would personally like to be at this point. Hopefully this week will get me caught back up. My mom is also coming to visit in a few days. Thanks to COVID, and Hawaii's ridiculous lock-down rules, I haven't seen my family since January, so that should be fun. Though I don't know if we'll actually do much of anything special considering that DC is still locked down fairly heavily, amusement parks are either closed or require kids to wear masks, and all the fall festivals and such have been canceled. Anyway, should be an enjoyable week all around.

Later!

Josiah

10/2/2020 COVID in October

Since I wasn't able to update on Monday, I decided to do a regular comic today instead of a Blooper Reel.

Anyway, I said I was going to talk a bit about COVID again since the situation has been getting on my nerves again lately. Specifically, how many states (Virginia included) seem to have no plan to ever remove their remaining restrictions. Some have even tightened restrictions recently. Meanwhile, some events scheduled to take place next year are already being canceled and my university is going to be keeping its current restrictions in place for spring as well. Environment that, in general, case numbers are far below what they were at the peak and deaths have gone way down.

But haven't over 200,000 people died from COVID-19 in the US? Well, sort of. Let's take a closer look at that. First off, according to the CDC, only 6% of that number (around 12,000 people) died solely from COVID with no other co-morbidity factors (conditions that can cause or contribute to death). As a side note, a number of fact checking sites (including the ones partnered with Facebook) rushed to label that claim false but it is the official data from the CDC. If you actually read the fact check articles, their "reasoning" behind the false label was that people might take the data out of context and misunderstand it. But you could make that claim about literally anything. There's clearly an agenda at play there. Anyway, that aside... So, around 12,000 people died solely because of COVID. What about the remaining 94% of deaths? Well, that's where it gets complicated. First, there's an unknown percentage of them whose death had nothing to do with COVID-19. We know this because, as I preciously explained, most states are reporting everyone who dies after receiving a positive COVID test as a COVID death, even if their cause of death was clearly unrelated. Washington state, for example, admitted to counting a number of gunshot victims. Some states even count people as COVID deaths if they were never tested but the doctors think they might have had COVID. Why take such a liberal approach to counting COVID deaths? I already went over that in a previous post so I won't go back into it now, but there are multiple reasons why doctors and officials might want to inflate the numbers. Next up, we have an unknown percentage of people for which COVID was one of the major causes of their death, but not the only one. Finally, there's another unknown percentage of people who already had a number of serious health problems and COVID was, at worst, the straw that broke the camel's back. In which case, they probably would have died soon regardless of COVID. So where does that leave us? Honestly, it's kind of hard to say. We can safely say that COVID-19 killed more than 12,000 people. But we can also say that it has almost certainly killed less than 200,000 people. As for what the actual number is...we'll probably never know.

To add a little more context to the numbers, in some man-on-the-street interviews I've seen, when asked what percentage of the US population had been killed by COVID, I heard guesses anywhere from 1% to 25%. For convenience sake, let's just go with the 200,000 number. Now, the popular of the US is currently estimated at 331,000,000 So some basic math tells us that COVID hasn't killed 25% of the population. Or 10%. Or even 1%. It's closer to 0.65%, give or take. So even if the number of deaths doubles before COVID is over (which seems unlikely), we'll still be only a little over 1%. Not a particularly scary number. And that's calculated using what we know is an inflated death count.

It all comes back to the question of how deadly COVID-19 is. Well, the CDC recently released its latest data, which reduces COVID's estimated mortality rate even more than it was before. To quickly summarize, if you get COVID-19 (and not everyone does, even without any restrictions), your chances of dieing based on your age group are...
0 - 19: 0.003%
20 - 49: 0.02%
50 - 69: 0.5%
70+: 5.4%
Combing those numbers with other available data once again hammers in that, if you're below around 60 or so years old, and don't have any serious health problems, you have virtually no chance of dieing from COVID-19. In fact, using these numbers, if you're younger than 50, your risk is, at worst, the same or less than that of the season flu. Yes, the one that happens every year and that virtually no one worries about. Yes, the numbers do get notably higher among the elderly, but that applies to nearly every illness since elderly people have weaker immune systems and, often, a large number of pre-existing health problems.

Of course, we should do what we can to protect the elderly, but this data clearly doesn't show any reason to close schools, or lock anything down, really (at most, you could make a case for locking down nursing homes). But will that matter? Probably not. The CDC announced months ago that COVID didn't really spread via surfaces but that hasn't stopped everyone from constantly disinfecting everything. The actual scientific data on masks is really inconclusive, but if anything I see more people wearing them when and where they're not required. And, while the newest data shows the mortality rates to be extremely low, the previous batch of estimates showed them to be pretty low as well and nothing changed. There's too much fear mongering, too many political agendas, and too many reputations on the line for any companies, politicians, or media sources to change their tunes now. Nevermind how many jobs are destroyed and lives are ruined. At this point, it's not at all a matter of when we'll be safe (we always have been, or at least as much as always, give or take), or when COVID will go away, but when the media and politicians who have been fanning the hysteria from the beginning will allow this "pandemic" to end.

Josiah

9/30/2020 Avoiding politics

Well, Yom Kippur went relatively well considering all the restrictions this year. Sukkot is coming up this weekend, though I doubt we'll be able to have our usual celebration. Right now though, it's a grading week so I've gotta focus on that.

I kind of want to write another post about COVID-19, since there's been a lot about it lately that is getting on my nerves. But I think I'll save that for Friday. I'm watching the presidential debate and the candidates are talking over each other so much that I really have to pay attention (I actually feel a little bit bad for the moderator). If you're wondering, I'm not going to write about the debate. I have my thoughts and opinions of course but, as I've previously mentioned, I don't want to get political on this site. I'm not one of those people who feels the need to cram my politics into everything. This is supposed to be a fun site and I try to mostly focus on fun things in my news posts (games, TV, travel, etc.). I do rant about something occasionally, but even then it's usually related to hobbies and such. Besides, politics these days involve so much anger and hate (much of it rather baseless) and I don't want to bring that to Pebble Version. My COVID posts are the closest I've gotten to talking about politics on this site and that's only because there's a significant political angle to the whole thing so I can't fully cover it without touching on politics. Though even then I tried to keep it as factual and even handed as I could. So yeah, no politics but possibly more COVID on Friday.

Later!

Josiah

9/25/2020 Here we go again...

After this weekend, it's time for another really busy week thanks to a combination of grading, Yom Kippur, and the start of Sukkot, among other things. Meanwhile, the writing continues. I'm now working on Chapter 15 of my first draft. My plan is for 18 chapters plus a couple of supplementary sections, so I'm getting close to the end, though I'm slightly behind where I would ideally like to be. If I'm lucky, maybe I can get that chapter done today, though I have my doubts. Anyway, lots to do and all that so I should get going.

As a note, there will be no update on Monday due to Yom Kippur so I'll see you on Wednesday.

Josiah

9/23/2020 What's on TV?

Normally the new TV season would be starting up again around now, give or take a couple weeks. But, thanks to COVID, most of the new shows I care about have been delayed until next year. The Simpsons is starting up again soon, but that might be the only one. That said, I haven't actually checked my DVR in weeks so there's a chance there's some stuff recording that I didn't notice. Why haven't I checked? Well, I've been watching a lot of shows in a certain genre as part of the research for the book I'm writing. I ended up having to subscribe to two more streaming services (beyond what I already had) to get access to all of them. But hey, it's work related so that means I can count the fees as a business expense. Since I set myself a rather tight schedule to get this book done, I've been focusing nearly all my TV watching for the past few months on those research related shows. And, with all the live shows Connie and I watch together currently the off-season, there just hasn't been a reason to turn on my cable box or check the DVR. Honestly though, I've got subscriptions to six different streaming services right now (overkill yes, but two are for research and two I get for free as part of various package deals). Maybe I should just ditch the cable entirely. It's not like I've ever going to run out of things to watch. Though I'm pretty sure that would result in losing access to a few shows I really like... I really should take a little time one of these days and double check. If I don't lose out on anything too important, or if I could get whatever I'm missing by adding in Hulu (the only really big steaming service I don't currently have), it might be worth it.

Later!

Josiah

9/21/2020 Maintenance

Grading is finished (the current batch, at least) and there's nothing much going on this week. Next week, on the other hand, will be pretty busy. But for now, time to rest, recharge, and keep working on my book. I also did a bit of maintenance on this site that I hadn't gotten around to for quite a while. But, since I was working on that, I don't really have a news post ready. So I'll see you Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah

9/18/2020 Still at it

The grading continues. I was hoping to finish yesterday, but there's been several other things I've had to work on this week as well, so it's going a little slow. Hopefully today though.

In other news, there's been a lot of new grocery stores popping up around here lately. First, we got a new, Indian store that's considerably bigger than the once I used to go to. Then H Mart (the Korean grocery store), moved to a new, larger location and added a pretty nice food court (which somehow seems to have weathered the shutdown without losing any restaurants). Then we got a LiDL (which I don't really care about). And now we've got a new Chinese grocery store, also with a nice food court. I'm not quite sure if there's really enough business here for so many specialty grocery stores, but I hope H Mart, the Indian, and the Chinese all do well. Unfortunately, while there are large Korean, Indian, and Chinese populations in the area, there isn't really any notable Japanese community anywhere nearby so I don't think there's any chance of a Japanese market joining in. Still, I'm pretty impressed with what we have. It's not quite Honolulu (though we do have them beat when it comes to Indian and non-Asian stores and food), but it's way more than I would have expected.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

9/16/2020 Grading...go!

It's my first big grading week. That's always when I feel that I start to get an idea of how the semester is going to go. Especially when it comes to online classes since I'm not interacting with the students face to face. Grading weeks also keep me busy since, the way my schedules are set up, I usually have assignments due in all my classes at the same time. It also depends on what classes I have. This semester is better than most in that regard, but I've still got around 100 papers that need grading this week. Well, I guess I don't technically have to grade them all this week. I'm the professor so it's not like I myself have many due dates I need to follow. That said, when I was a student I always hated it when some of my professors would take weeks or even months to grade my assignments. In some cases, they didn't seem to grade anything until after finals. That's not the type of professor I want to be, so I make a point of grading everything within a a week of the due date (or two weeks if I'm really swamped). The students appreciate it, and it keeps my from building up a huge backlog, which would be a real problem later on.

Anyway, I've still got lots more papers to go so I'll see you later.

Josiah

9/14/2020 That thing about the thing

I completely forgot what I was going to write about today. Sigh... Guess I'm too focused on work. I've got a lot going on this week. Grading, writing, yard work, cleaning, errands... Next week, on the other hand, should be more relaxed. Right now though, I'm just trying to keep track of everything on my to-do list. I'll try and write more next time.

Later!

Josiah

9/11/2020 Never forget

I think the title says it all. I hope everyone takes at least a moment or two today to remember.

Josiah

9/9/2020 Moving along

Now that my classes are running smoothly, and some other things are done, I'm back to focusing on my book, which is progressing nicely. I might actually be able to finish my first draft by the end of the month, which would be great. Though I suppose finishing in October wouldn't be bad either. Of course, that's just the first draft. But the second and third should go progressively quicker. I'm pretty sure I can get everything finished on or ahead of schedule.

Anyway, I've still got plenty to do so I'm off. See you Friday!

Josiah

9/7/2020 Fruit

It feels like I kind of missed the peach season this year. They're not exactly out of season yet, but a lot of the pick-your-own places are finished with peaches. But it's more than that. I haven't seen much of a peach selection in the farmer's market. That might be due to COVID, as the market has been considerably smaller thanks to all the restrictions. But even the local grocery stores haven't had the big selection of peaches that they usually do in-season. Maybe COVID has something to do with it. Or maybe it was a bad year for some other reason... It's a shame, but I guess I'll just have to buy what I can at the store and make do, and I still have some frozen ones from last year. I missed berry picking too. I mean, I was here all summer, but during the height of the lock-down, all the restrictions made even outdoor activities like berry picking more trouble than they were worth. At very least, I'm going to make sure to go apple picking. My favorite farm has lifted most of the restrictions. Now I just need to wait for a good time when the varieties I want are ripe.

Later!

Josiah

9/4/2020 Whew...

It's been a rather exhausting week. Fortunately, the timing worked out pretty well since the second week of the semester isn't normally all that busy for me. But I am running a little behind where I'd like to be on some other things like writing and housework. Hopefully I'll be able to get caught up over the coming week. At very least, I don't think I'll have to skip any more PV updates.

Just need to rest up a little and then work hard...

Later!

Josiah

8/31/2020 Back at the beach UPDATE

UPDATE 9/1/2020: It's been a very long day and I had to go into it with minimal sleep. Don't worry, no big diaster or anything (though nothing fun either), this was planned (and I might write about it in the future). Anyway, I wasn't able to get today's PV strip done ahead of time so I'm afraid I'm going to have to skip it. Sorry about that. Comics will resume on Friday.

This is going to be a bit of a weird week, and I've got a lot to do...but I don't really want to talk about that right now. It's travelogue time.

August 25th - 27th (Tuesday - Thursday): Ocean City Round 2
Since we weren't able to do any big trips this summer, Connie and I had been thinking of going back to Ocean City for a few more days. But this has been a really rainy summer, which limited our options. Fortunately, we finally managed to find a good time before things got really busy. Though, since our last visit, Maryland passed some stricter mask laws, with the end result being that masks are now required on the boardwalk. That actually made me consider going to Virginia Beach instead, but we were already familiar with Ocean City so we decided to just keep it simple. That said, I'd say that only around 50% - 60% of people on the boardwalk were actually wearing masks and I didn't see anyone enforcing the rule. Not to mention that you're allowed to take the mask off to eat or drink, so you could just carry a drink or some fries around to legally go without a mask. In the end, I didn't end up wearing a mask on the boardwalk too much. Which is good because we hit some pretty hot days and wearing a mask in 90 degree weather is not fun. If you're wondering why I'm not more worried about spreading/catching COVID... You can read my series of COVID posts for more details but, long story short... I'm not very worried about COVID in general (it's fairly contagious but the mortality rate is really low). There's no scientific consensus on whether masks actually help much. And the science seems to indicate that you generally need several minutes of close contact with someone to spread the virus, so briefly walking past someone in a large outdoor space seems unlikely to be an issue.
That aside... We once again divided most of our time between the beach and the hotel pool. The beach was just as great as before. Long and wide, with great sand and water. As a note, the only reason it looks rather empty in the photo is because I took that picture fairly early in the morning. There was normally a pretty good crowd. Of course, we also spent some time on the boardwalk, especially when Zack wanted to ride in his stroller, or on his scooter.
This time around, I did manage to go out walking at night, which I didn't have a chance to do before. I also took advantage of the time to go all the way to the south end of the boardwalk. As you get further south, you hit fewer hotels and more shops and restaurants, including some more high end ones than I'd seen before (though Ocean City is no Waikiki in that regard). There's also some assorted attractions on the beach, including a fake dinosaur skeleton, a playground, and some large sand sculptures. Near the end, there's also not one, but two amusement parks (there's also a larger one a bit off the north end up the boardwalk), complete with the usual assortment of ride and games. It was rather late when I made it out there, so I didn't take a close look around the parks. But I did win a prize for hanging from a bar for awhile (it's the grip strength in your fingers that's the main issue, not arm strength). Next time, I'll have to bring Zack down there for some rides.
Anyway, we had a nice low key trip, enjoying the sun and the water. That's probably the end of our beach visits for this year, but I'm sure we'll be back next year (and hopefully not have to deal with any more masks).

Later!

Josiah

8/28/2020 Work and family

Not much to write about today either. I'm getting back into the swing of things with my book now that class prep is finished. There's also some family stuff going on that's going to keep me fairly busy for the next week or so. I should have a travelogue post ready on Monday, but for now, I'm going to go with another super short news post. Sorry about that.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

8/26/2020 Resting up

Outside of the Pennsylvania trip, it's been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks getting ready for fall semester and taking care of a number of other tasks. And while yesterday was somewhat more relaxing, I'm pretty worn out at the moment so I'm going to skip the news post and turn in a little early.

Later!

Josiah

8/24/2020 Off to the farm

Time for a travelogue entry!

August 18th - 19th (Tuesday - Wednesday): Cherry Crest Farm
Connie and I planned to do out usual trip to Cherry Crest Farm in Pennsylvania this year, though COVID made everything a bit uncertain for a bit. We had hoped to go to Dutch Wonderland and maybe Hershey Park as well, since Zack likes the rides so much. But, while all of them did reopen by mid-summer, Cherry Crest was the only one of the three that didn't require young children to wear masks. And, aside from the fact that trying to get a three year old to wear a mask all day would likely be impossible to begin with, it would just be cruel on a hot, humid summer day. We thought about just doing a day trip but it's a long enough drive that it's tempting to spend the night and we figured that the farm could easily keep Zack occupied for two days.
Of course, the big attraction for me is the corn maze. The theme this year was in celebration of the maze's 25th anniversary and it was a fun one. On that note, I think I've been there somewhere around 18 - 20 of those 25 years, starting with the second. Makes me feel a little old when I say it that way... Anyway, back in the beginning there was nothing but the maze. Now though, it's practically a full amusement park in its own right and we had no trouble keeping Zack busy for two days (probably could have done a third). There's animals, hay mazes, slides, wagon rides, a very large play town, multiple playgrounds, the corn bin (like sand, but better), and more. Zack really liked the big jumping thing (more like a giant bounce pad than a trampoline). He stayed on it for more than a hour straight the first day. It got to the point where he was too tired to jump anymore but still couldn't bring himself to leave. It's not all for kids though, there's a bounce pad for adults too, paintball, and a few other things that'll appeal to teens and up. This year, we made it to the far end of the farm, which I hadn't visited before, and found a number of attractions I hadn't seen on previous visits, including pig races. Next year, I think I'll try taking Zack through the maze's easy route. Though I'll naturally go through on my own first so I can search out all the map pieces and such.
Like last year, we spent the night at Hershey Farm, which had recently reopened their restaurant. While self-service buffets aren't currently allowed in Pennsylvania (and it appears that some in the area have closed for good), Hershey Farm is trying to provide a similar experience. They offer around 90% of what was on the buffet, you just mark the items you want on a paper and then a server will go and get it for you.
While it's a shame that we couldn't visit an amusement park as well, we had a great trip. It was nice to get away for a couple days and enjoy one of the things I look forward to every summer here (especially considering that just about all the others have been canceled this year). I'm glad Cherry Crest is still going strong. Hopefully they'll still be around in another 25 years.

Later!

Josiah

8/21/2020 Back to work

Pennsylvania was fun. Not that we went anywhere besides the farm and hotel. But it was certainly a nice change of pace. I'll try and have a travelogue entry on up Monday. For now, I'm not done with my photos yet. That aside, classes start on Monday but I've pretty much gotten all my prep work finished Of course, I've got plenty of other work to do now that that's out of the way. So yeah, back to it.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

8/19/2020 The coolest Lego set

I'll have a travelogue entry on Friday or Monday, after I've sorted my photos. Today though, I want to talk about something else.

I think I've mentioned before that, when I was a kid, I loved Legos. Especially the sci-fi themes. It got to the point where I had a pretty large collection and by my early teens I was putting together some of the biggest and most complex Lego sets out there. As I got older though, while I never stopped liking Legos, more and more of my time and spending money started going towards video games, manga, and anime DVDs. Then, when I went off to university, I had to leave all my Legos back at my parents' place. Of course, I couldn't bring them with me to Japan either and my Florida apartment didn't really have the space. I was planning on bringing them over to Hawaii...but I didn't get to stay there as long as I'd planned. And, of course, when Connie and I first moved to Virginia, we went from our Hawaii house to an apartment and were very short on space. Finally, after getting our house here, we had more room and, as my parents were moving to Hawaii full time, they wanted to cut down on stuff so my Legos finally made their way back to me. Unfortunately, I still don't really have the space for them (maybe if the house had one more room) so they're currently sitting in a closet until we either move to a bigger place or Zack gets old enough to play with them (probably a couple more years). So, for the past...fifteen years or so, the only physical Lego sets I've played with have been the Lego Dimensions stuff (the fun but now discontinued toys-to-life game) and Zack's Duplos (Legos for little kids). When Lego Super Mario was announced, it made me curious (and I may write about that in the future) but then they announced the Lego NES, which completely blew me away. Despite the high cost, between my love for the NES and Super Mario Bros, and having had my love of Lego somewhat rekindled by the Lego Masters TV show a bit earlier this year, I couldn't resist, and managed to get an order in the day they went on sale. Despite Fedex delivering it to the wrong house, I got my set about a week and a half ago and promptly started building.

Of course, I had a lot of work to do with class prep and such, not to mention home and family stuff, so I just did a little bit each day over the course of a week, rather than sitting down for a full day of building like I might have done in the past. Fortunately, that wasn't a problem. Despite the set being a massive 2,646 pieces, Lego's instruction manuals are as well made as ever and, some time after I stopped doing much Lego building, they started breaking up the pieces into a series of numbered bags so you can approach each section one at a time with only the necessary pieces rather than digging through a giant pile of bricks to find what you need. Since I haven't done something like this in such a long time, and it's a really cool set, I decided to take photos of my progress after I finished each bag. Here's around three bags in, after finishing the internal (working) cartridge slot of the NES. Here's a couple of bags later, after finishing most of the exterior. And here's the completed NES along with the controller and Super Mario Bros. cartridge, all made of Legos. You can open the flap, insert the cartridge, and eject it just like a real NES. And here's a little Easter Egg if you pop off the side panel. Look familiar? For a comparison, here's the Lego NES next to my real NES. Unfortunately, my copy of Super Mario Bros. is a combo cartridge so it doesn't quite match. Anyway, the two are very close though the Lego NES is a little bit smaller (but the controllers is 1:1). The color is a little different too, but that's mostly due to the plastic on the real NES getting a bit discolored over the years. The Lego NES matches the original color.

But that was only half the job. After the NES, I moved on to the included TV. Here's an early pic, mostly focused on the internal workings. This one's from the back a bit further along. Then onto the diorama. Yes, diorama. And into the TV it went. I have to say, it's an incredibly clever bit of engineering. Making a Lego recreation of an object is challenging enough, but coming up with a such an elegant scrolling mechanism like this is really impressive. Here's the fully completed build. It actually looks a lot like the old TV that I had my NES hooked up to as a kid. The back of the TV and NES are equally realistic. But wait, there's more! The diorama is designed in a way to properly move Mario up and down as it scrolls and, by sticking Lego Mario on top (you have to buy the Lego Super Mario starter set for that), you get music and properly synced sound effects (another clever feature of the diorama is that it includes cues for Lego Mario to read). I didn't time myself, but I'd say it took a pleasant 8 - 10 hours to build. Not counting the time spent rearranging my library a bit to give the Lego NES a place of honor. It's without question one of my all time favorite gaming collectables and one of the coolest Lego sets ever made. Now, if they could just make Lego versions of ROB and the NES Zapper to go with it...

Later!

Josiah

8/17/2020 A bit of fun

I should be able to finish my class prep today. Connie and I had been thinking about a quick beach trip this week, but we're going to go to do our annual Pennsylvania visit instead. No amusement parks this year, unfortunately. While the ones in Pennsylvania are open (unlike in Virginia), they require masks for everyone at all times, including young kids. Connie and I don't particularly want to wear masks outdoors in the sun and heat, but there's no way we could get Zack to keep one on regardless. So we'll just focus on Cherry Crest Farm this year. I love the maze, there's plenty of things for Zack to do, and they don't require masks outdoors. We'll probably still try to get to the beach one more time this summer, especially since I'm honestly not entirely confident that we'll be able to go to Hawaii this winter considering how ridiculous they're being with lockdowns. But anyway, visiting the farm and maze will be fun. It's nice that at least one of the summer activities I look forward to every year isn't getting canceled.

Later!

Josiah

8/14/2020 Recording

My main focus this week, other than family stuff, is getting my classes prepped for the upcoming fall semester. They're all online this time around. While my university is going to be having some on-campus class, there's a lot of rules and restrictions involved, many of which would be especially troublesome when it comes to the computer labs that my department uses for most of our classes. To the point where we decided that, although many of us wanted to do some on-campus classes, it just wouldn't work. While I don't mind teaching online (though I do think that some classes work much better that way than others), due to my class list for the fall, I need to record a bunch of intro videos and audio lectures in addition to my usual prep work. That takes a lot of time and tends to wear out my voice. On the plus side, getting it done now really helps keep my schedule more manageable during the semester itself. Especially since I've got that book to work on. I've made a lot of progress, though I kind of doubt I'll be able finish them all this week.

Anyway, not much else to talk about right now. Have a good weekend!

Josiah

8/12/2020 In memoriam

No, no one died. I don't even know anyone who has gotten sick lately (from COVID or anything else). There have been a number of stores and restaurants nearby that have closed though. We don't live in a tourist area so local businesses don't have it as badly as some places, but it's still been hard for many of them. I've seen a number of places close up permanently. Most recently, I lost my favorite Chinese restaurant (well, my favorite here in Virginia), HHM BBQ. It had great, authentic food, reasonable prices, and a pretty good location. Unfortunately, it opened not all that long before COVID and I guess they weren't able to build up a big enough customer base in time to survive with nothing but take out. I do wonder why they didn't re-open their dining room once restrictions opened a bit, but they're not the only nearby restaurant to stick with take-out only for the time being. I assume that for some, the owners are really worried about the virus, other don't want to deal with all the additional rules and restrictions, and still others don't think they'll get enough business (while many people around here are eating out again, local restaurants aren't nearly as busy as they used to be). HHM is the place I'm going to miss the most (at least so far), but there's several other restaurants I like that, while I don't have confirmation that they've closed for good, have never reopened so I assume that's the case. There's some others I had wanted to try that aren't around anymore either. Plenty of shops too, though none of the ones I frequented. We also lost a really great nearby clinic a while back, which was rather depressing. I'd like to say that the wave of closures is finished, but I'm not too sure that's the case. Sigh...

See you Friday.

Josiah





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