Home Archives Books



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

4/14/2021 Another week, another batch of assignments

Haven't had a chance to get to those photos yet. Busy with grading and family stuff. That said, I just realized how close it is to the end of the semester. Just a few more weeks until finals are due, then a little time to grade... By this time next month, I'll be finished. Wish I could say that I've got some great summer plans. Unfortunately, that's all still up in the air thanks to travel restrictions and such. Was hoping for Japan but, sadly, the odds aren't looking great right now. Of course, there's plenty to do in the US, but some places and attractions will probably keep a lot of restrictions up for at least the next few months as well (no matter how pointless that may be).

Anyway, I've got a lot to do so I'll see you Friday.

Josiah

4/12/2021 April showers

We've been enjoying the good weather here. Being Virginia, it can be expected to rubberband a bit, but I think I can safely say that we're done with the cold for a while. That said, we're also going back and forth between sun and rain. At the moment, it's rain. But that probably won't stay for long.

Actually, I might have a travelogue entry later this week, but I need to sort through some photos first and it might be a little while before I get to that since I've got a bunch of grading to do. But we'll see. For now, I'm off

Later!

Josiah

4/9/2021 Still with the isekai

Here's a few more isekai series that stuck out to me.

The Eminence in Shadow
The main character in this series never wanted to be a hero, or even a villain, he wanted to be a shadowy mastermind and, when he's reborn in a fantasy world, he sets out to make his dream a reality. He even creates a detailed story about an evil cult to fight against and recruits some friends to play along. The only thing is, it's all real and he's the only one who doesn't know. Part action, part comedy, and a lot of fun, plus very unique, I really enjoy the light novels and they recently announced an anime, which I'm looking forward to.

Mixed Bathing in Another World
Despite the title, this series isn't especially ecchi or anything. It's just that the main character's special ability upon getting summoned to another world is the power to access an other dimensional space with his own private bath house. And, as dumb as that sounds, he actually finds a lot of good uses for it. This is one of those series that turned out being a lot better than I expected. It's not amazing, but it's pretty solid all around and has a couple of interesting twists on the formula.

My Instant Death Ability is So Powerful That Nothing in this Other World Stands a Chance
Um, yeah... The title sort of says it all there. To be perfectly honest, this series should be a trainwreck. The world is a jumbled mess of different battle systems, aliens, dark gods, robots, eldritch horrors, and everything else you can think of. Plus, it features the single most overpowered main character I've ever seen in any anime, manga, or game. Yes, that's even taking the likes of Light and and Goku into account. Yet, despite all that, the series actually works and it's entertaining, despite the ridiculousness.

Restaurant to Another World
Everyone likes cooking series, right? So why not cooking in a fantasy world? Believe it or not, there's actually several different isekai cooking series, and that's not even counting the regular isekai that include a moderate amount of cooking on the side (such as Reincarnated as a Sword). So if you like cooking and fantasy worlds, you've plenty to keep you busy. Of the pure cooking isekai, I'd say this one is probably my favorite, although Izakaya Isekai is pretty close (and pretty similar, for that matter).

And...I think that's about all of them. Not all of the isekai and portal fantasy stories I went through as research for my upcoming book. Just a small fraction, but that covers most of the more interesting ones anyway.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

4/7/2021 Another Wednesday

Well, I'm caught up on work and through nearly everything on my to-do list. Managed to get a bit more sleep as well. But I only just got today's comic done so, once more, I don't really have time for a news post. By Friday though, I should be good.

Later!

Josiah

4/5/2021 Resting up

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get all my grading done last week so I'll still got a day or so of work left before I'm caught up. But anyway, I was going to write about more isekai series today, but I've got a bit of a headache. I think it's a mix of too much computer time and not enough sleep so I'm going keep it short and get some extra rest. Hopefully I'll be 100% by Wednesday.

Later!

Josiah

2/2/2021 Final push

It's been a busy week and I'm glad it's almost over. If nothing comes up, next week should probably be one of the more relaxing ones I've had in a while. For now though, I still have a few things to get done so I should get going. Sorry for the week of short news posts. I'll try and finish that list of isekai stories next week.

See you Monday!

Josiah

3/31/2021 Keeping up with things

Between Passover, family, and work stuff it's a pretty busy week and I'm just doing my best to keep on schedule with everything. Next week, by contrast, doesn't seem to have much going on, which will be a nice change. For now though, I should go.

Later!

Josiah

3/29/2021 Happy Passover!

It's Passover! We had a nice seder with some friends and an all around pleasant start to the holiday. However, because of all the Passover stuff I'm running a bit late today so I'm gonna get to work.

Later!

Josiah

3/26/2021 And even more isekai

And still more...

Reincarnated as a Sword
It gets harder and harder to make an isekai stand out, so why not have the hero reborn as an inanimate object. In this case, a sword. He teams up with a young cat girl and helps her as she becomes an adventurer. This one doesn't have any sort of big save the world plot (at least not yet), but it's an all around fun adventure story.

Reborn as a Vending Machine I Now Wonder the Dungeon
Because getting reborn as a sword just isn't strange enough. That said, as ridiculous as the premise is, this series is actually a lot of fun. I only wish it would get some new volumes.

Overlord
A bit on the dark side, especially in the later story arcs, but the characters are interesting and the light novels have a really well done opening.

Faraway Paladin
This series actually feels more like an western style fantasy than Japanese light novels, which helps it stand out in the crowd. Add in some good characters and solid world building and you've got a series worth reading.

I guess that's enough for today.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/24/2021 Isekai continues

Here's some more...

No Game No Life
This one is unique in that the entire world that the heroes are sent to operates on games instead of combat. Fortunately, while the siblings who act as the protagonists have some serious issues, they're master gamers. I really like the concept for this one, though the way the siblings win seems a bit contrived at times. It also gets a bit too echi. Generally fun though.

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom
If you want an isekai that's more focused on politics and nation building than combat and adventure, this is the series for you.

So I'm a Spider, So What?
A girl gets reborn, not as a hero but as a spider monster inside a dangerous dungeon. There's a big focus on the struggle for survival, at least for a while, which is cool. And, while the world starts out seeming a bit generic, there's actually a lot of interesting mysteries and backstory buried beneath the surface.

My battery is dying so I'll stop there for now. Later!

Josiah

3/22/2021 A calmer week

This is probably going to be the least busy week I've had since the start of the semester. That said, I've still got a stack of proposals to go through, a meeting or two, maybe a little grading... Note that I said "least busy," not quiet or relaxing. Still, it's nice not to have any big deadlines to worry about for a change.

Anyway, I'm going to take it a bit easy tonight and I'll write about some more isekai series later in the week.

See you Wednesday!

Josiah

3/19/2021 Even more isekai

Here's some more interesting isekai anime/manga/light novels I came across while researching my upcoming book.

The Vision of Escaflowne
A classic anime from before the big isekai boom. It's got an interesting plot and actually inspired some characters and plot elements in a couple of my own stories. Plus, it's one of the rare isekai that features giant robots. Because they're a completely natural fit in fantasy worlds, right?

Gate
After a large gate (portal) to another world opens in the middle of Tokyo, an invading army pours out only to be soundly defeated by the Japanese Defense Force. They then go back through the portal and establish a base to explore and keep Japan safe. The swords and magic vs. modern weaponry angle is rather interesting and the whole story follows a bit of a different arc than your standard isekai.

Outbreak Company
Sorta similar to Gate, a portal to a fantasy world is discovered in modern day Japan. But rather than engaging in armed conflict, the Japanese government decides to flood the other world with anime, manga, and video games. Yes, seriously. Honestly, hard to say if this or Gate is the more realistic scenario... There's a weird tonal shift partway through the story, but it's certainly unique.

My Life as a Villainess
In a nutshell the heroine is reborn in a world based on her favorite dating sim. Only problem? She's been reborn as the game's villainess. Destined to be either killed or banished (depending on the route), she quickly sets out to change her fate. This one is more for girls, but it's a nice change of pace from the usual isekai plots.

Trapped in a Dating Sim
Sort of a deconstruction of the previous series, this one is about a Japanese businessmen who also gets reincarnated in a world based on a dating sim. Problem is, it's a dating game for girls that his sister forced him to play and it has a seriously misandrist culture (as in, men are looked down upon and treated extremely poorly). Even worse, he's reborn as a side character stuck with extremely unfortunate circumstances on top of all that. This is a pretty new series and the second volume only just came out in English. Loved the first one though, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the story continues.

Later!

Josiah

3/17/2021 ???

So, this was originally supposed to go up on Monday but for some reason it doesn't seem to have uploaded properly and I only just noticed. So, here it is today instead.

Well, it's a new week. Unfortunately, while I did finish my thesis work (minus, perhaps, a handful of minor revisions in the future), I didn't get quite everything else on my to-do list finished. And this week I have a lot of assignments to grade so yeah, more busy days to come. If not quite as busy as before. In other news, the university Japan trip I've been trying to put together with another professor has been canceled again (as has most university summer travel). Sigh... Maybe third time will be the charm? That said, my family would still like to visit Japan this summer, though they haven't announced their reopening plans yet so we'll have to wait and see for a bit longer.

Anyway, back to work.

Josiah

3/12/2021 PS5 get!

It was a given that I would get a Playstation 5 sooner or later. Sony always has plenty of exclusive titles that are must plays for me. But I didn't really care about getting one at launch. Trying to get a new console at launch is always a challenge. I've tried several times in the past, with mixed success. Plus COVID restrictions made things a whole lot more complicated this time around. And, with some PS4 and Switch games I wanted to focus on, and no PS5 launch or near launch titles that I just had to play right away, I decided to hold off for a bit and pick one up when they were a bit easier to find. That said, I didn't expect that they'd still be so hard to get ahold of several months after launch. Anyway, after the announcement of the PS5 version of Final Fantasy VII Remake, specifically the PS5 exclusive Yuffie DLC, I decided that it was time to start looking. That said, FFVII Remake Integrade doesn't launch until June, so I wasn't in a rush, but I started to keep an eye on a restock tracker. A week and a half and a couple failed attempts later (they sell out in minutes), I managed to pick one up from Target yesterday. Initial thoughts? It's huge. Easily the largest console I've ever owned. The controller is fantastic, especially the new enhanced rumble. And the interface... Unfortunately, Sony's continues their tradition of making GUIs that look cool but aren't especially convenient to use. Hopefully they'll do what they did with the PS3 and 4 and patch in some improvements over time.

I spent a couple hours playing Astro's Playroom, a free 3D platformer that they include with the console to introduce you to the controller's new features. While the graphics won't take your breath away (though they are very sharp in 4k), it's a really fun little game in its own right. To the point where I wouldn't have minded paying for it. On top of that, it's crammed full of (virtual) Playstation memorabilia and references to many of the consoles' greatest hits, from PS1 - PS4, along with the PSP, Vita, etc. For someone like me, who has owned every single Playstation over the years, it's a great nostalgia trip and reminds me of a whole lot of good times and great games. That said, I'll probably still be primarily playing on my PS4 and Switch for a while (looking at the upcoming releases I'm waiting on) but I'm certainly looking forward to doing more with the PS5 as well.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

3/10/2021 To do listing

I don't have much in the way of grading or meetings this week, so instead I'm working through a bunch of other stuff. I actually still have a tiny bit of thesis work, which I should have done today. But that's only one thing on the list. And, on that note, I'm going to cut this news post short so I can work on some of that stuff.

Later!

Josiah

3/8/2021 More isekai

Well, let's continue my list of isekai...

Do you love your mom and her two-hit multi-target attacks?
That is one ridiculous title...and the actual light novels and anime adaptation are even more so. Basically, a high school student is given the the chance to test a new super realistic MMO, kind of like Sword Art Online except that it doesn't kill you. Only problem is that our hero's mom gets to come along for the ride and, despite knowing nothing about games, she turns out to be way more powerful than he is. There's a bit of a message about family relationships (good and bad), though be prepared for a lot of ridiculousness and a ton of really bad mom puns.

The Hero is Overpowered by Overly Cautious
A ditzy goddess summons a hero to save a fantasy world. Luckily for her, he ends up being extremely powerful. However, he's also a bit of a jerk and takes "be prepared" to utterly insane extremes. One interesting element is that, while the characters and situations are comedic, the worlds they visit are actually pretty dark and edgy. The light novels are hilarious and the anime adaptation (though it only covers the first story arc) is really well done. Speaking of which, I highly recommend the English dub for its corny awesomeness.

Rising of the Shield Hero
An all around excellent isekai about a young man who becomes one of four summoned heroes, each with a legendary weapon. Unfortunately for Naofumi, he is summoned as the universally maligned shield hero. He has to overcome prejudice, false accusations, and the sheer incompetence of the other heroes, while still doing his best to save the world. You really can't go wrong with either the novels or the anime.

Ascendance of a Bookworm
This is a really unique series because the heroine not only lacks any real powers or abilities, but because she isn't out to save the world, become a powerful warrior, start a kingdom, or any of the other usual fantasy tropes. She just wants to read lots and lots of books, even if she has to create them herself from scratch (literally, including making her own paper). It's different and a little slow, but a nice change of pace.

That'll do it for today. Later!

Josiah

3/5/2021 Isekai

Honestly, sometimes these days I worry that a large portion of the country has gone crazy... But let's not get into that here. A while back I was talking about some of the portal fantasy / isekai stories that stuck out to me when researching my upcoming book. I already talked about western novels, movies, and the like. But I never did get around to talking about Japanese ones. Rather than make separate lists for anime, manga, and light novels, I'll just talk about them all together. The reason being that popular isekai manga generally get anime adaptations and popular light novels usually get manga and anime adaptations so most of these are available in multiple formats. As a note, in most cases I prefer the original format of a given story. Though there are some cases where the anime adaptations are just are good as the original. Actually, there's also a handful of rare cases where the anime is actually better (usually because the original novels or manga had some serious pacing issues that the anime ironed out). Anyway, I won't get through all of them tonight, so maybe I'll start with the more popular series and work my way towards the lesser known ones...

Sword Art Online
A "classic" even if it isn't all that old. This story of 10,000 players trapped in killer VRMMO is one of the reasons isekai stories are so popular these days. It's had a number of different story arcs over the years. The original SAO arc is great. The following ones are kinda up and down in terms of storytelling. But it really hits its stride again come Alicization. A lot of people love this series, and a lot hate it because of its popularity, but it's worth checking out, especially for SAO and Alicization.

Re:Zero
Unlike in many isekai, the protagonist of Re:Zero doesn't have any special skills. He's not even all that talented. In fact, he dies pretty quickly. Turns out though that he's been given some sort of save point like ability where, after dieing, he returns to a predetermined point and gets a chance to try again and hopefully get a better outcome. But he has no way to control it and, without any other powers, finding a way to get himself and his friends through some pretty dark events without being horribly killed along the way isn't easy. The story and characters are interesting, just be aware that they all have some serious emotional trauma to work through and the story gets progressively darker as it goes.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
An office worker gets reincarnated in a fantasy world as a slime. While slimes are normally the weakest monsters around, this one gets a crazy mix of skills that mark him insanely powerful. Long story short, he ends up finding a lot of great subordinates and forming his own country. While there's rarely a whole lot of danger, or any complex overarching plot, this series is a lot of fun with a good mix of characters, action, and a little bit of comedy.

Konosuba
One of the best comedy isekai series around. The anime is excellent but, unfortunately, only adapts about the first third or so of the light novel series. Hopefully it's get another season sometime... But anyway, the story is about a loser who gets reincarnated in a fantasy world to defeat the demon king. While Kazuma is actually fairly clever, he's also a slacker and gets stuck with some of the worst and quirkiest party members imaginable. Hilarity ensues and never lets up.

Well, I think that's enough for now. More to come.

Josiah

3/3/2021 Zzzzz....

Zack woke up early and I didn't get enough sleep and it's really hitting me right now. Had a couple of things I was thinking of writing about but I'm just too tired.

Later!

Josiah

3/1/2020 Enjoying life

I mentioned Disney+ plus the other day and one relatively recent addition that's very much worth watching, besides The Muppet Show, is Pixar's Soul, which should also be getting a Blu-ray release soon. Now Pixar's movies pretty much always range from good to fantastic, so it's no real surprise that Soul is worth watching, but it really stands out from the rest of their work. Pixar has been working rather deep themes into many of their movies for a long time. Just look at Toy Story 3, Up, or Monsters U, to name a few. And Soul is no exception. But, unlike the others, Soul doesn't really even try to be a kids movie. There's enough fancy animation and cute creatures that kids probably won't be totally bored. Teenagers might be able to appreciate it more, but it's really written for adults, or least those of college age. To really get into the lessons it contains and why the movie is so brilliant, I'd have to summarize a good chunk of the plot, which I don't really want to do here. But essentially, it's about enjoying life. If we become unduly focused on grand goals, dreams, and passions, as great of those may be, we run the risk of missing out on everything else that makes life worthwhile. It's something I myself have come to realize as I've gotten older. Life rarely goes the way we envision it when we're young. That doesn't mean we should stop dreaming or striving for our goals, but we need to remember to enjoy what we do have, even the little things that make up our daily lives. If you remember to do that, you'll have a much happier and more fulfilling life, no matter where your path takes you.

Later!

Josiah

2/26/2021 Happy Purim

It's Purim! Though, of course, there's limits to what we can actually do to celebrate it this year... But I'm making hamentaschen at least. Other than that, the weather is definitely improving, we've finally got two cars again, and I probably only have one more really busy week (grading plus thesis work) before things calm down a bit. On a different note, I keep meaning to write about some more of the isekai stories I came across in my research but lately it seems like I either don't have time, or just aren't in the mood. I'll get to it sooner or later though. Today is a bit of both. I've got some other stuff I need to do plus I decided to try catching up on some of the things on my DVR while working... I should have kept watching The Muppets instead.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/24/2021 It's time to meet the Muppets

Earlier this week, I was really happy to see that Disney has finally added the original Muppet Show to Disney+. (On a side note, it's nice to have some positive news about Disney+ compared to what else has been going on there recently.) Anyway, The Muppet Show is a fun, funny, classic. Though it's actually one I discovered relatively recently. I didn't really grow up with The Muppets. As a kid, I saw a few random episodes of the old Muppet Babies cartoon, and a couple of the movies (Muppet Treasure Island is great), and I was also familiar with some of the characters from their spots on Sesame Street though, actually, I didn't watch a ton of that as a kid either. So anyway, I had a little experience with The Muppets but wasn't really a fan either. Then, back in 2011, I randomly decided to go see the new movie, just called The Muppets, in theaters and I loved it. It was a hilarious and heartfelt comeback. I even bought the soundtrack. Its direct sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, was great too. That got me wanting to watch the rest of the old movies (which are mostly good, minus a couple missteps) and the original show. The Muppet Show surprised me with just how much fun it was. Unfortunately, only the first three seasons had ever gotten an official DVD release, and nothing was available for streaming. Well, now all five seasons are up and available...minus a handful of skits and two episodes. Apparently all the guest stars and musical numbers make the show a licensing nightmare. Even the DVD sets I got a while back were missing some skits here and there. While it's too bad that it's not 100% complete, it's close enough and very much worth watching if you want some good old-fashioned fun. Watching it also highlights just how mediocre the most recent Muppet shows have been. The success of the movies led to a new Muppets TV show a few years back. Unfortunately, the showrunner clearly wanted to be working on The Office instead and the show pretty much forgot about everything that made The Muppets good. It did improve a bit in the last episode or two after they got a new showrunner, but by then it was too little too late. Most recently, Disney+ tried their hand at another Muppet revival with Muppets Now. It's...ok. Unfortunately, it's lacks a lot of the magic present in the better Muppets projects and only has a few types of sketches that just keep getting repeated nearly every episode. But it has potential at least so maybe next season, if it continues. In the meantime though, I'm going to enjoy the original and, if you have Disney+, I suggest you do as well.

Later!

Josiah

2/22/2021 The end of winter?

While we certainly haven't it had nearly as bad as some states, this is by far the coldest and snowiest winter since I've moved to Virginia. To be fair, I've only lived here for around four and a half years, but I know people who have been around a lot longer than me who have said the same thing. That said, cold and snowy by northern Virginia standards is still rather mild compared to the mountains in Colorado, where I used to live. It's kind of funny / annoying how half the stuff here has been shutting down in fear of a quarter inch of snow when we used to routinely deal with a foot or more (or several feet, in some cases) without issue. Fortunately though, a bit of snow, ice, and sub-freezing temperatures really aren't that bad. We don't have multiple feet of snow, frozen roads, or power failures. I hope my readers are doing ok with all the winter storms. Fortunately, at least over here, the weather is set to improve quite a bit over the next few days.

As for my work, I made decent progress on my thesis revisions last week, though there's still a lot to go. That said I'm feeling a bit better about my chances of getting it all done on time. But I'm really looking forward to putting this all behind me. Just a little longer...

Later!

Josiah

2/19/2021 Pushing through

Grading is finished, at least for a little while. And now it's back to the thesis. I made pretty decent progress yesterday, but there's a lot left to go and not a whole lot of time so we'll see how much I can get through today. And next week... Sigh... I should not be this busy so early in the semester...

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

2/17/2021 Busy, busy, busy...

Ugh... I'm a little burned out. The car stuff has been part of it, but I've also been running around getting various things done. And when I'm at home, I've been doing lots of grading. There's a ton of assignments that were due over weekend, plus I'm trying to get through them quickly so I can find some time this week to spend on my thesis revisions, which I have a rather tight deadline on. Especially when trying to fit it around my teaching and grading and such. I do want to write more about isekai stories sometime soon, but right now I need to get some rest. Got another busy day ahead.

Later!

Josiah

2/15/2021 It continues

Over the past several months, beyond all the ridiculous COVID restrictions and crazy political goings on, I've had a real streak of bad luck going. Though it did, thankfully, take a break while we were in Hawaii. Fortunately, it hasn't been anything "too" serious. No health problems or major financial issues. But all this stuff has been very expensive, time consuming, and at times, extremely stressful. It kicked off last year when my computer died suddenly and completely. Then my new one did the same and needed replacement parts. Then there were some issues at work. Then last week's car accident. And yes, they ended up declaring my car a total loss. Fortunately, I have great insurance and I was able to get a good deal on a new car, which I'll be picking up later today. Though, good deal or not, I'm still spending a lot of money beyond the insurance settlement. Not to mention all the time involved. And, of course, there were various smaller things inbetween (a broken TV remote, busted light fixture, etc.). Well, it continued yesterday when another car scraped me while changing lanes. His car get some minor scrapes and such, so minor that, if it were me, I wouldn't have really cared (the driver, however, was pretty angry about it). My car got a rather large dent which cracked a light. Not horrible, but enough damage that I should get it repaired. As with Connie's accident last week, it's pretty much a he-said, he-said situation in terms of who is at fault. And we ended up wasting half an hour or so because the other driver insisted on calling the police instead of just trading insurance info. In the end, as I knew they would given the situation, the policewoman just took our info, couldn't determine fault, and said that insurance would have to sort it out. Fortunately, I still have great insurance (though I am a little worried that this could raise my premiums). Unfortunately, I'll still have to pay my deductible and send the van in for repairs. Fortunately, it drives just fine in the meantime and, as of later today, we'll have our new car so we won't be carless (though we'll be stuck as a one car family for a while yet).

On the bright side, everyone is healthy. I've actually been doing pretty well financially lately (which is good considering I've had to buy a new high-end computer and a new car over the span of a of several months). I got my book written and submitted on time (now let's see if I can manage to pull that off with my thesis). And other normal life stuff is generally going decently. But let's just hope that nothing else expensive breaks or gets destroyed any time soon. Especially before that thesis is due. My schedule is tight enough as is...

Later!

Josiah

2/12/2021 One thing or another

Lately it seems like there's always something that's run out or needs to be fixed. Nothing major (except for the car, which I'm still waiting to hear about), but it all makes more work for me. Most recently was the TV remote. On the plus side, I took advantage of the situation to get a fancy Logitech one. It's not one of the super expensive several hundred dollar models, but it's a pretty nice improvement over the $30 remote I was using. Setting it up was a little problematic and time consuming through, Logitech really needs to update their software to work better with Windows 10.

Anyway, I've gotten quite a lot done over the past couple of days and have started revising my thesis, though there's a whole lot to do in that regard. And it's only going to get busier since I'll have a ton of papers to grade this coming week. Hopefully I can relax a bit over the weekend before things get too crazy.

See you Monday!

Josiah

2/10/2021 Moving forward

I'm still waiting to hear back about the car. On the bright side, I completed the revisions and submitted my new book to my publisher! I decided to hold off on formally announcing it until after the title has been finalized though. Still, that shouldn't be too far off. But that doesn't mean I can take it easy yet. Now that I'm in the third week of spring semester, things are starting to get busier at work and, on top of that, I only have until early March to finish revising my thesis so I really need to get on that. Add in the car and some family stuff, and I'll be pretty busy for another few weeks.

Anyway, I've got a lot to do so I'll keep in short for today. In the future though, I think I'll write some more about various isekai / portal fantasy series that stuck out to me during my research, like I was doing before the Hawaii trip. For now though, back to work.

Josiah

2/8/2021 Car shopping?

Unfortunately, Connie and Zack were in a car accident Friday. Fortunately, they're fine and it was the other driver's fault (though in terms of provability, it might end up being a she-said, she-said type of thing). Unfortunately, my trusty Honda Civic (which I got just over nine years ago when I was living in Florida) took some pretty serious damage. I'm currently waiting to hear back, but there's a decent chance that it's too far gone to repair. That would certainly suck but, on the bright side, I have good insurance and I actually happen to have a bit of extra cash right now so I can afford to buy a new car if needed. Not really what I was planning to do with that money...but that's the way things go sometimes.

That aside, things are going ok right now. Our temporary return to being a one car family is messing up my schedule a bit, though it's not that bad since I'm working from home right now. Anyway, I might have to start doing some car shopping soon but, for now, let's see if I can get that final draft of my book finished...

Later!

Josiah

2/5/2021 Lots to do

It's been a busy week. Right after catching up on post-trip stuff I jumped into a big to-do list and began working on the third and final draft of my new book. I've got a lot done so far but, on that note, I was working rather late and don't really have any time left for a news post.

See you Monday!

Josiah

2/3/2021 Sun to snow

Well, we made it back home...just in time for the biggest snow storm I've seen since I moved to this area. I mean, it's nothing compared to the snow storms from back in Colorado, but it's still a pretty big change coming from Hawaii. Anyway, time to finish the travelogue.

January 27th - 31st (Wednesday - Sunday): More Time in Honolulu
The second part of our Honolulu trip was, like the first, pleasant but not especially exciting. My dad joined us on Wednesday and then my brother's family came over on Friday. We walked around, spent some time on the beach, ate at a few more restaurants, and the like. We also took Zack to the Honolulu Zoo one day. In retrospect though, I'd say it's not really worth the money right now. They made a bunch of changes due to COVID, with the end result being that the zoo is harder to navigate and a number of exhibits are closed, including most of the kids stuff. That aside, we had fun and saw a bunch of rainbows, big and small. The condo really does have a great view.
Saturday night, we caught a red-eye back to Virginia. Once again, we had to go through a whole process to get a medical exemption for Zack not wearing a mask. I got the feeling that the people at the counter didn't entirely know what they were doing. There's also a pretty good chance we could have skipped that since no one actually asked about his lack of a mask anyway. But whatever. I was a bit worried about our second flight since the weather forecast back home was predicting a big snow storm. Fortunately, we arrived before it got too bad so the flight wasn't canceled or rerouted. It certainly made for a big contrast to Hawaii though. All in all, it was a very smooth trip and Zack even slept most of the way, despite the plane change.
I kind of wish we'd stayed in Hawaii a bit longer, as this was a couple weeks shorter than our usual trips, but that's just the way it worked out this time. And hey, if international travel hasn't re-opened by summer, maybe we'll head back to Hawaii instead. Regardless, we enjoyed the time we had, inspite of annoying COVID restrictions. If you're looking for a winter getaway this year, Hawaii is still a valid choice. Though, if you're tired of dealing with all the stupid COVID restrictions, you may want to give Florida a look instead, as I've heard that things have mostly returned to normal there.

Later!

Josiah

1/29/2021 Wrapping up

Well, our time in Hawaii is just about finished and we'll be heading home tomorrow night. While it'll be nice to get back in some regards, I'm not entirely looking forward to it either. This trip was a bit shorter than our usual Hawaii visits as well. But anyway, it is what it is and February is actually going to be a very busy month for me since I need to both finish the final draft of my new book and do a bunch of work on my thesis. Come early or mid March though, all that will be done and my schedule should be the most open it's been in years. But before that, I've got a lot to do.

Anyway, there will be no update Monday. We should be home in time, but our flight is a red eye and I normally can't sleep on a plane so I'm probably going to be way too tired. Updates should resume on Wednesday, assuming everything is ok back at home. I'll try and finish up the travelogue on Wednesday or Friday as well.

See you then!

Josiah

1/27/2021 Oahu time

I do have some non-travel related stuff that I want to write about soon-ish, but I think that can wait until after the travelogue is finished. So, let's get back to it.

January 22nd - 26th (Friday - Tuesday): Hanging Out in Honolulu
Since coming to Oahu, I actually haven't done much that's worth writing about. Haven't taken a lot of pictures either. We've mostly just been hanging out and doing the type of things we normally do when we're here. Walk around the Waikiki and Ala Moana mall, hang out on Waikiki Beach, play in the pool, eat at some favorite restaurants, and the like. We did go to Wet 'n Wild one day, though I spent the entire time playing with Zack. Sometime over the past year, he seems to have gotten rather afraid of water that goes over his waist. Not exactly sure why. Maybe because we didn't have access to a pool over the summer so he kinda forgot about it? That said, he still managed to have fun for a while in the kiddy section. And on Monday, due to heavy rain, we spent a while in the Pearl Ridge Center mall which, unlike Ala Moana, is fully indoors. While it lacks the high end fashion and luxury brands (not that I care) it's got some good restaurants, a couple of fun anime and media type stores (including a Book-Off), and some good things for kids (Zack loved the go-karts). Other highlights? I found a few old games I'd been wanting at Book-Off and got a couple of nice sunset pictures at Ala Moana beach.
So how are things with COVID? I'll address that more in the following RHC but there's a lot of weird, arbitrary rules that vary from place to place. Just to give one example, the building where my parents' condo is doesn't allow you to sit by the pool (it's their own rule, not a state thing). You can swim, but no sitting or laying down outside of the water. Nevermind that, in all my years of coming here, I've never seen more than five or six people in the pool area at a time. Not to mention that the beach chairs they used to have there were already spaced around 10 feet or more apart so there was absolutely no danger of sitting anywhere close to some random person with COVID. Sigh... Just one of many stupid little annoyances.
COVID aside though, it's been a peaceful and enjoyable few days. Enough to make me wish we were staying a bit longer (our Hawaii trip this winter is rather on the short side compared to past years). But I'll just enjoy what we have.

Random Hawaii Comment: Oahu During COVID
Out of all the Hawaiian islands, Oahu is currently making the biggest push to get its tourist industry up and running again. Makes sense since it's probably also the island that's most dependant on tourism in the first place. So, unlike Maui or the big island, for example, they haven't kept adding extra hoops for tourists to go through in order to visit (at least beyond that whole COVID test I already talked about). Maui, meanwhile, just started requiring an almost certainly useless contact tracing app (though nothing is really stopping you from deleting it right after you leave the airport) and the big island is forcing all visitors to quarantine regardless of test results. Anyway, US tourists are starting to trickle back onto Oahu, to the point where your main tourist hot spots aren't totally dead like they were earlier in the year. Though they're not very busy either. That said, you may end up having to wait in line for a store or restaurant due to capacity limits (which are much more reasonable than Maui's, but still big enough to be rather inconvenient). Unfortunately, said limits have led to some smaller restaurants only offering take-out right now. There's also a whole lot of inconsistencies in terms of measures stores and restaurants are taking beyond what the government requires. For example, Genki Sushi requires someone in every group to complete an online form with contact info. Strangely enough, the food court in Ala Moana is the most strict I've seen, roping off the seating area into different zones and requiring you to fill out a contact tracing form to enter. As a side note, they were trying to bring back Japanese tourists to the island as well but President Biden killed that with his recent and ridiculously illogical international travel restrictions, but that's a rant for another time.
Masks are required indoors and out, except when eating/drinking, swimming, or on the beach. Not everyone is actually wearing them outdoors, but the vast majority of people certainly are. At least in downtown Honolulu (it wouldn't surprise me if the percentage drops in the residential areas and suburbs). I've heard stories of people getting ticketed by police (though supposedly, judges will usually dismiss the case if challenged), but the one policeman I saw had his mask pulled down so low that he might as well not have been wearing one. Actually, there was one time I saw a ton of people mostly without masks, and with little effort to social distance, and that was a Saturday evening at Ala Moana beach park, which honestly looked almost just like it normally did on a weekend pre-COVID. How come? Well, it's a beach that's frequented more by locals than tourists and there's a strong tradition here of having big weekend beach hangouts with family and friends. Personally, I though it was nice to see so many people out and enjoying themselves, though I'm sure some would be freaked out by the scene.
Of course, for a area whose economy is primarily built around tourism, the island hasn't come out of its strict lockdowns unscathed, especially in the more tourist centered areas. While it's not quite as bad as I feared it would be, quite a lot of shops and restaurants have been forced out of business, including a few personal favorites and some that I would have called iconic. And there's others, such as the awesome Shirokiya and Waikiki Yokocho Japanese food courts, which haven't folded yet, but are closed indefinitely due to the various COVID restrictions, so their future is pretty uncertain. Fortunately, the majority of my favorites are still around, though there's no telling how many more might have to shut down in the future given the limited number of customers right now. Several notable tourists attractions (not to mention all the free hula shows and such) have yet to re-open as well so there's certainly less to do around here than there usually is.
Beyond that, there's a bunch little things as well. For example, public seating is closed in its entirety. Whether you're in a mall, walking by the beach, or whatever, chairs, benches, and other public seating is either roped off or plastered with signs warning you not to sit there (though the signs, at least, are often ignored). This is another one I can't see any logic behind. If you're worried about sitting next to someone who might have COVID, just don't sit near anyone else, or ignore the seating entirely. There's no good reason not to let anyone sit. Things have also gotten a bit...trashier. There's more litter on the streets and graffiti on the walls. Probably due to the increased homeless population. Hawaii is one of those states with a lot of homeless but no real desire in the government to takes the steps needed to solve the problem. However, a couple of years ago they did start making a real effort to at least keep the homeless camps away from the tourist and business areas. But those efforts seem to have fallen by the wayside this year and I'm seeing quite a lot of homeless people, trash, and vandalism. There's also a notable uptick in crime in many of those areas. It's no California, New York, or Chicago, but you do need to be at least a bit careful at times, even in some of the tourist areas.
So over all? Oahu's current COVID restrictions are rather annoying but not as bad as that of some of the other islands and they're mostly manageable. A lot of stuff is open, but a number of great events, attractions, etc. and still shut down, making Oahu a somewhat less fun and vibrant than normal. This isn't helped by the increase in homeless, crime, and trash. It's not at critical levels yet so I wouldn't let that dissuade you from coming, but the Hawaiian government will need to address those issues soon or they could become a serious problem. In the end, this is still a fun and beautiful place to visit, but the COVID restrictions have and still are doing some real damage and casting a bit of a pallor over any visit.

Later!

Josiah

1/25/2021 On to Oahu

The travelogue continues.

January 21st (Thursday): Paragliding
I was having trouble thinking what I wanted for a birthday present this year when my family, surprisingly, suggested a paragliding trip. Well, I've done parasailing and sky diving has been on my list for a while, so this seemed like a fun mid-point. I had originally planned to go Sunday morning, but it got postponed due to weather. Fortunately, I was still able to squeeze it in the morning before our flight to Oahu. I signed up with Proflyght Paragliding and headed up the same mountain where we'd gone hiking on Saturday. Though this time we didn't have to go nearly as far up. The entire thing is about an hour, but only around 10 - 15 minutes of that are actual paragliding. A good chunk of it is the drive from the parking lot at the landing zone up the launch site higher up the hill (though still not as far up as that hiking trail). I left my main camera with my mom to get some shots of me from below but, unfortunately, that didn't work out too well. I did, however, keep my phone with me.
Naturally, it was a tandem ride with an instructor. My instructor was a nice guy who has been doing this for decades and really loves it. We weren't the first to launch, so I got to watch a couple others take off while I got strapped in. The harness was pretty simple and even had a seat built in so it was comfortable as well. The instructor said we could use phones or cameras while flying, though you naturally didn't want to drop it. Since the take-off and flight process sounded simple enough (at least for me as a passenger), and I trust my grip, I decided to try video recording the whole thing as I went. It ended up turning out pretty well (I just wish I had my regular camera). I won't share the whole ~12 minute video, but I've got a few clips to show you. First up, the take off. Assuming you're in a suitable area with good wind and such, it's actually just a matter of power-walking and then running for a few seconds and the wind does the rest. I had actually expected to stick a lot closer to the group and was quickly surprised by how high up we were. While we were only going a few thousand feet down the mountain (you can see the landing zone in the distance in that video) my instructor said he's flown all the way to Kihei (down on the coast) and, with the kind of height we had, that seemed easily doable. The ride was incredibly smooth. No bumps, no motion sickness, or anything. The wind was a little cold but not too bad, even though I was wearing shorts. And, of course, the view was amazing. One really neat thing you can see while paragliding but not from the ground is a glory, which is a circular rainbow that appears when your shadow passes over a cloud. By the time we got to the landing zone we were still way up in the air so we circled for a while, eventually getting low enough to buzz the fields and cows before coming in for a smooth landing.
It was ann amazing experience, I'm glad I went, and I would definitely recommend it to others. That said, considering the length of the ride, it is pretty expensive. Honestly, the whole thing seemed easy enough that, if I ever ended up living in the right place, I'd be tempted to learn how to do it myself. According to my instructor, if you avoid tricks and only go out when the conditions are good, it's actually a really safe sport. From what I saw, I would guess that judging the proper conditions and aiming to land in the correct spot are probably the hardest parts as the take-off, steering, and landing all seemed fairly simple. One thing that surprised me a little was that I wasn't scared in the least. Of course, heights don't really scare me in general and I've done all sorts of thrill rides and other such activities, but I thought that I'd at least feel a bit nervous leading up to the ride or during the very beginning. But no. Guess I've gotten even more used to this type of thing than I realized. Either that or it just seemed so smooth and safe from the outset that there was nothing to worry about.
That afternoon, we headed to the airport for a flight to Honolulu, where we'll be spending the rest of our vacation. That had always been part of the plan. And Maui had just tightened their COVID restrictions again, which would have made dining out and shopping a bit challenging, so it worked out pretty well. Since Oahu is, more or less, trying to restart its tourism industry, they're a not as strict. On a side note, given the current COVID rules in Hawaii, it's much simpler to fly from one of the other islands to Oahu, rather than the other way around, so if you want to plan a multi-island trip, like we did, it's best to make Oahu your last destination.
Anyway, the flight went smoothly and we made it to my parents' condo in time to unpack and then grab dinner. I'll write more about Honolulu, Oahu in general, and how they are with the current COVID restrictions, in a future post.

Well, that post ended up being fairly long, and we honestly haven't done anything too exciting on Oahu yet (it's been nice, but nothing I haven't written about before) so I'll wait until Wednesday to summarize the past few days and talk about the COVID stuff here.

Later!

Josiah

1/22/20201 The whales of Maui

While I'm still in Hawaii, Connie, Zack, and I have relocated to Honolulu for the rest of our vacation. But, for now I've got more Maui stuff to write about.

January 17th - 19th (Sunday - Tuesday): Rainy Weather
So far, we'd had pretty good weather on this trip. Way better than our previous visits to Maui. Unfortunately, that couldn't last forever and the forecast was showing some pretty heavy rain during the first half of the week, which really messed up our plans. In the end, we were able to reschedule the things we were going to do on Sunday and Monday for later in the week. However, we did end up canceling a planned overnight trip to Hana (a very scenic but remote town that I've yet to visit). Maybe next time... It's good we did cancel though, since the rain was pretty bad, especially on Monday, leading to minor flooding on many parts of the island.
So what did we do? We hung out, watched the movies, and went back to the trampoline park so the kids could burn off some energy. On Tuesday evening, after the rain had passed, we ended up Keaka Beach for a little while before dinner. Can you find the crab in this picture? It's not covered with sand, its shell just has a really impressive camouflage pattern. Crab aside, we also saw a really nice sunset. All together, it was a pleasant enough time, despite the messed up plans.

January 21st (Wednesday): Whale Watching
We had originally planned a whole family outing on a whale watching boat for Monday but it was canceled due to the weather. Fortunately, we managed to shift it to Wednesday morning, by which time the weather was back to its usual sunny self. Due to COVID, everyone had assigned seating which you weren't really supposed to leave (not terrible, but it made it a little hard to see the whales at times) and you had to wear masks even when on the boat (annoying). That aside, it ended up being one of the best whale watching trips I've done. In case you didn't know, the waters around Maui are the world's most popular breeding and birthing grounds for humpback whales (though you can see some around the other islands as well). Of course, going out on a boat offers some good views of the island itself. And we also saw lots of whale blows (water spouts), backs, and tails. But all that is pretty normal for whale watching. This time, however, the whales were especially active. We saw a number of breaches (where the whale jumps up out of the water) and I even managed to get a picture of one. For the record, photographing whales is pretty tough. In addition to the fact that you're on a swaying boat, by the time you notice one, move your camera to the right spot, and zoom in (most of the whales aren't especially close to the boat), it's probably gone underwater already. So there's a decent bit of luck involved. But I was able to capture that breach (if not quite as zoomed in as I would have liked) and I also got some shots of a whale calf sticking its head out of the water. For a bit of trivia, although the calves nurse, the adult whales don't actually eat anything when they're down in Hawaii. Instead, they eat as much as they can during the summer when they're up north (near Alaska and such) and use that to carry them over when they spend the winter in the south.
Anyway, COVID restrictions aside, we had a great tour (we went with the Pacific Whale Foundation, if you're planning your own trip), saw a ton of whales (adults and calves), and got to witness a lot of really cool behaviors that I've seen little if any of on my previous whale watches. And we wrapped up the day with a family Chinese dinner (cooked by me, with some help from Connie), so fun all around.

That's a good place to stop for now. I should have a pretty special entry ready for Monday so look forward to it!

Josiah

1/18/2021 More Maui

As a note, there might not be an update on Wednesday (not 100% sure yet). If it does get skipped, updates will resume on Friday.

January 13th (Wednesday): Lahaina
Wednesday morning, we work up to rain. Fortunately, we had already planned to visit Lahaina for the day, and the weather over there was fine. We started off at the beach. Like on our previous trips, the Whaler's Village mall makes a great (though not free) place to park for one of my favorite Maui beaches. Good sand, just enough surf, scenic, and even decent snorkeling if you go up to the far end near the rocks.
After a while on the beach, we headed into Lahaina itself and stopped for lunch at Fu Lin, possibly the only nice (not fast-food) Chinese restaurant on the island. While it wasn't on the level of some of the Chinese places on Oahu, it was still good. Afterwards, we spent a while walking through the town. Lahaina itself is as scenic as ever, and still fun to stroll though, though there were notably fewer people on the streets than during my previous visits and some of the shops and restaurants had permanently shut down. It was a nice day, but hopefully things will be more lively next time.

January 16th (Saturday): Hiking Upper Waiohuli Trail
Thursday and Friday consisted of hanging out with family and another visit to the trampoline park, but on Saturday we decided to go on a hike. Getting to the trail required a slow drive up a mountain with a long series of switchbacks. Nice views though. There are a number of trails up there, but the one we went to required going past the end of the pavement and over a chunk of dirt road that's limited to four-wheel drive vehicles. Though, if the weather is ok, the road condition doesn't really require that.
The trail itself started out in a forest. To be honest, while they're pretty, I'm starting to feel like all these Hawaiian mountain forests look pretty much the same. Especially when the trees block out the view. Fortunately, going a bit up or down in elevation changes things and makes for some more interesting terrain. Our original plan was to check out a lava tube partway up the trail. Unfortunately, you couldn't actually go very far inside the tube before it became blocked and there was a big wasp nest or something nearby so we ended up just taking a quick look and then continuing on the trail. Eventually, we got high enough to make it out of the forest and into a more desert-like climate. From the top, we could see Haleakala in one direction and the peaks of the Big Island in the other. Instead of returning along the trail, we followed a dirt road down instead (yeah, you can drive all the way up if you have a good enough car). It ended up being longer, but a bit easier, and offered some good views of the coast. It was a pleasant hike, if a bit longer than we'd originally planned. And the views were good, at least once you got out of the forest. Length aside, it wasn't especially strenuous either, even on the ascent, but Zack really impressed me. He's never really done a proper hike before (well, not on foot anyway) but he managed to walk 99% of the way up and about 50% of the way down.
After we got back down, we stopped for a bit for a very late lunch at a picnic table on the side of the mountain before making the slow drive back down. Over all, Upper Waiohuli is not going on my list of favorite Hawaii hikes, but I still enjoyed it.

Later!

Josiah

1/15/2021 Jump!

On to the travelogue.

January 11th (Monday): Trampoline Time
When traveling with a young child, you generally need to devote a large portion of your itinerary to things that he or she will enjoy. So, Monday morning we joined my sister-in-law and nephew and took Zack to Ultimate Air Maui, a trampoline park. Despite the COVID restrictions, it's open and operating pretty normally (thankfully, masks are not required when jumping). Plus, they've got some blocks of time set aside during the week specifically for toddlers and pre-school age kids (and their parents).
Growing up, we had a trampoline for much of my childhood and I've got a lot of fond memories of jumping and playing around on it both on my own and with others. That said, I'd never been to an actual trampoline park before. Ultimate Air has a wide variety of trampolines in various shapes and sizes spread across the floor and even the walls and I spent quite a while running and jumping around with Zack and Isaac (my nephew). I also got to mess around a bit with wall running, bouncing up onto high ledges, and using some special extra high bounce trampolines, which was a lot of fun. They also had some basketball hoops, a slack line, and a giant pit full of foam blocks to play around with, among other things. As a side note, that pit is a lot deeper than it looks in the picture (probably 6 - 10 feet) and I actually had trouble getting out of it sometimes. Anyway, we spent a fun, if rather exhausting, couple of hours there. It's certainly great for kids and I'm sure plenty of adults would have a blast as well. I'd go back again even without Zack.
Afterwards, we went to the town of Wailuku (though it's more like the outskirts of the island's main town/city of Kahului). It's a rather weird mix of artsy shops and restaurants and crumbling industrial buildings. Apparently, they're trying to rebuild it into more of a touristy shopping and dining town but are only partially done. Our destination was The Empanada Lady, a nice looking restaurant serving empanadas (duh) and an assortment of island and South American food. The empanadas themselves were pretty good. The rest of the food wasn't bad either, but could have benefitted from a stronger spice mix, or at least a bit more salt. I'd eat there again, but would probably skip a main course in favor of more empanadas.

That's all for today. I actually have one more entry in the works that I wasn't able to get done on time. I really haven't had a lot of time to spend on my computer and a lot of it has been taken up but a couple of work related things that I needed to get done. We've actually got a few fun things planned for the coming week, so expect some interesting entries in the future.

Later!

Josiah

1/13/2021 Maui time

Let's get straight to the travelogue.

January 6th - 10th (Wednesday - Sunday): Hanging Out on Maui
Our first few days on Maui were mostly spent relaxing, doing things with family, and the like. My parents' new house is in a somewhat more central location with great views. It doesn't have the all the fruit trees or chickens that the previous house (now my brother's) does, but it's a nice place and it came with a giant trampoline, which is always cool. Zack spent a lot of time playing (and sometimes fighting) with his cousin. We went to some playgrounds (also with good views), hit up a couple of favorite restaurants (Paia Fish Market and Nuka, if you're curious), and visited two different beaches. Speaking of the beach, this was my first time at Malauaka Beach and it's a nice one. It's actually pretty close to some more popular beaches, but considerably less busy (if a bit smaller). Even better, it's a pretty decent snorkeling spot. Not as amazing as some of the ones I've been to but there aren't many places were you can see so much so close to the shore. And most of the better beach accessible snorkeling spots require some kinda tricky swimming, which Malauaka does not. Honestly, with all the crazy stuff going on these days, it's nice to just enjoy some family time and relax. Kinda like when Connie, Zack, and I went to Ocean City back in the summer. It's just so much more peaceful to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad. As crazy as things have been over the past 11 months or so, it could be a lot worse. It's too bad more people don't realize that.

Random Hawaii Comment: Maui During COVID
For quite a while, Hawaii had one of the strictest COVID lockdowns in the country, despite having one of the smallest (possibly the smallest) number of cases. But they had to relax it a bit eventually and while the rules and restrictions have fluctuated back and forth since then, so far they've resisted going the way of states like New York and California and closing everything down again. When it comes to COVID restrictions in Hawaii though, while there are statewide rules, there are also some separate rules from island to island, which makes things a bit more complicated. Everywhere in Hawaii, you're supposed to wear masks at pretty much all times outdoors, including on the beach. Though, from what I've heard, enforcement is pretty spotty (though not nonexistent, so you do need to be careful). That said, while most of the people I see in towns and shopping areas have masks on, the majority of people I've encountered in parks, on the beach, and walking around in other areas have been maskless. As such, it's rather annoying but tolerable. Restaurants here do allow for indoor dining, but at a measly 30% capacity, which can make it a challenge to get a table at times, even with the reduced number of tourists present. They also limit the number of people per table to six or less, which can be a problem if you want to eat out with friends or family. I mean, I even know some couples who have more than four kids and they would run into real problems trying to eat out around here. At this point, a lot of the stuff on Maui is open and running again, but some notable attractions and other destinations (such as the Aquarium and the Kihei playground where Connie and I took Zack a lot in the past) have remained closed and others have shut down for good. I haven't checked everything, but at least several shops and restaurants I enjoyed on previous visits were killed by the lockdowns, which is sad. So over all, Maui is still a nice place to visit in its current state, but a good bit less convenient and not quite as much fun as it used to be.

Later!

Josiah

1/11/2021 Hawaii stuff

Before I get to the travelogue, I have to say that the way Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. are rushing to censor and ban people these past few days is really disturbing (though it's really only an extension of what they've been doing for a while). They're essentially setting themselves up as the sole arbiters of what's allowed to be said and who is allowed to say it. If they can ban the president of the United States, they can do it to anyone they want. No matter where you stand politically, it should be very worrying. And I'm glad that I've even seen some people who really hate the president speak up against this censorship (not a lot, unfortunately, but some). This isn't about politics. Sure you may think it's fine if they ban someone you dislike, or a viewpoint you disagree with, but what happens next month, or next year, when they decide that you, or something you believe in, should be silenced? Technically, all the social media and big tech companies are private companies so they can set whatever rules they want but, if they're going to ban people they disagree with politically, they should just be honest about it and become proper publishers rather than lying and hiding behind legal double speak. They say it's about violating their terms of service, but said terms are vague and applied very inconsistently. For example, they blame President Trump for inciting and glorifying violence. But you have to read quite a lot into his posts to come to that kind of conclusion. If complaining that an election was fraudulent is inciting violence, Hilary Clinton and a ton of Democrat politicians, reporters, celebrities, etc. did that for years after the 2016 election. On the other hand, I can point to a ton of Twitter posts (for example) from world leaders, politicians, reporters, celebrities, and regular people who blatantly and indisputably called for violence against a particular person or group. And there are plenty of other people who very obviously praised and supported that violence. Most of them even got so much as an official warning, much less a ban. If you're going to have rules, you have to apply them to everyone, not just the people you don't like, or the whole thing becomes a farce. Once again, this isn't about politics. This is about honestly, freedom, and integrity. Remember, if Facebook, Twitter, Google and the rest can lie about their policies and twist their rules to ban, block, or otherwise suppress whatever their owners or moderators don't agree with, it's only a matter of time before they turn on you or someone you care about. This needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

Ok, rant over. Let's do some travelogue.

January 5th (Tuesday): Traveling to Maui
Since we were stuck taking Delta Airlines (see the previous post for the reason why), we weren't able to get the greatest flights in terms of times or connections. Nothing terrible, but we had to get up earlier, take more plans, and spend more time traveling than usual. So what's flying like during all the COVID restrictions? Well, both the DC airport and Detroit (where we first changed planes) were dead. Everything was closed and there were hardly any people. Los Angeles was packed (at least the tiny part of it we were able to access), though a decent number of the shops were still closed. On the planes themselves, you have to wear a mask at all times. You can, of course, still eat and drink, though Delta gave a whole speech about how you need to raise your mask between sips or bites, which struck me as a bit ridiculous. For that matter, while they leave some seats empty for the sake of "social distancing" they're rather inconsistent with it. You're not even remotely close to being six feet apart from others. And in the grand airline tradition of giving you progressively less and less service for your money, they don't even offer drinks anymore. At least, not on Delta. Instead, once or twice per flight you get a little ziplock bag with a pack of crackers and a water bottle. Really lame and I don't know how that's supposed to keep anyone "safe." Guess it saves the airline money though. There was one person at check-in in DC and one flight attendant in LA who questioned us about Zack not wearing a mask, but we were able to work things out with them eventually (took a bit of doing though) and the rest didn't seem to have any problem at all so it didn't amount to more than a minor inconvenience.
COVID annoyances and inconvenient connections aside, the trip actually went very smoothly. The check-in staff in DC was rather late but that was it. Zack behaved really well about 95% of the time, which was a massive improvement over all our past trips. And all the flights themselves were on time. It was just a really long day. We had to get up at 3:00 AM and, by the time we landed in Hawaii, it was already 10 PM Virginia time. After you disembark, Hawaii makes you go through a COVID checkpoint. If you already got your test from a "trusted partner," filled out their travel site, uploaded your negative test results properly, and make sure to have your barcode handy, it's a pretty simple procedure. Though I've heard that the line can go really slowly if you're unlucky.
Fortunately, we got through pretty quickly. After that, we met up with my parents, got dinner at some food trucks, and did a little shopping. By the time we got to their new house we were too exhausted to do much of anything else. Since I didn't sleep on the plane, I was up nearly 24 hours straight. Been a really long time since I did that, and it was especially tough coming off a week when I hadn't been getting enough sleep to begin with. But hey, I should be able to catch up that here.

Ok, I'll end there for today and start talking about what I've been doing here in Hawaii next time.

Josiah

1/8/2021 Back on Maui

All in all, the trip to Hawaii went pretty smoothly. And it's nice to see my family and enjoy some good weather. Beyond that, I'm still recovering a bit, not from jet lag but from the trip itself. Between the checking in, security, flights, layovers, etc. I was up for just a bit under 24 hours straight. And that was after a rather fitful several hours of sleep...following a night of very poor sleep...on the tail end of a week when, for various reasons, I just didn't get enough sleep in general. So yeah, I was pretty exhausted and I'm not totally over it yet. Hopefully a couple more days will do it and I'll have a travelogue post ready for Monday.

Later!

Josiah

1/4/2021 Off to Hawaii

We're hopefully off to Hawaii to visit my family. There will be no update on Wednesday since I'll probably be too worn out from the trip. At least assuming the trip actually happens which isn't actually 100% certain. And, on that note, let's start a new travelogue.

January 4th (Monday): Preparing for the Trip
Normally, Connie, Zack, and I would already be in Hawaii by now but this year our trip got pushed back a bit. Not due to COVID-19, but since my parents are moving into a new house (they sold their previous one to my brother and his wife) so we delayed until after the move. That said, COVID causes a lot of other issues. Which is what this post is about. As a side note, I'm really not worried about COVID and I wrote a lengthy series of posts about the reasons why, which you can read in my Virginia Travelogue if you're curious.
Anyway, although Hawaii never had very many cases of COVID, they had one of the strictest lock downs in the country for much of 2020 and anyone traveling there was required to undergo a two week quarantine. Towards the end of the year, they relaxed their restrictions a bit (though they're still restricted way more than I'd like) and finally started allowing tourists back in. However, there's a lot of people in the Hawaiian government who didn't really want to open things back up (nevermind that most of the state's economy is built on tourism) so they seem to have compromised by making everything a big pain in the neck. For starters, you have to sign up for their "safe travel" web site which requires a bunch of personal information and all your flight info (including a return flight). You then have to take a COVID test with 72 hours of your flight. And said test costs around $150 - $200 per person. Annoying and expensive? Yeah. But potentially reasonable depending on how dangerous you think COVID is (I don't think it warrants that, but some people certainly do).
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. First off, Hawaii only accepts COVID tests if they were done by one of the state's "trusted partners." What exactly makes a company or lab "trusted?" They don't say but, considering that some major national labs and testing centers aren't on the lab, it's clearly not a matter of skill, reputation, or anything like that. Going off my knowledge of the Hawaii state government (remember, I did live there for a while), my guess is that "trusted" labs are the ones that agreed to give the state of Hawaii a cut from the testing fees. Annoyingly, the majority of the "trusted" labs are on the west coast. Live anywhere else and it's a bit of a crapshot whether or not you'll find one nearby. Connie and I, for example, despite living near in a very developed area and right near Washington D.C., have to drive around 90 minutes to Maryland to get tested. The next closest one is more than two hours away. There actually are a couple of mail-in tests that are approved but the problem is the timing. At first, if you went to Hawaii before receiving your test results, you could get out of quarantine once your results came back negative. But Hawaii very suddenly and unexpectedly changed the rules saying that you need to have the results in hand before boarding your flight or you'll be forced to quarantine for the full two weeks regardless. Which, on a side note, angered some of their partners who couldn't guarantee results that fast. While there are COVID tests that provide results in a matter of minutes, the tests many places use take days or even a week or more. And the mail-in tests are also subject to shipping time (remember, you need to take the test 72 hours or less before your flight). As a result, you can only use the mail-in tests if you're going to be flying on certain days of the week and even then you need to make sure you get them in early in the morning so they arrive ASAP. As for Connie and I, our flight is on the wrong day of the week for a mail-in test, so driving it is. Apparently, even with all that, there's a whole process once you get to Hawaii, but I'll comment on that once I've been through it.
Flying is also a bit of a challenge these days, at least if you have you kids. I can't say I'm thrilled with having to wear a mask for the entirety of the flights (not to mention all the time in the airports inbetween), but I can do it. Zack, however, is another matter. Trying to get a young child to just put on a mask to begin with can be near impossible (not for every kid, sure, but many). But even when you do get it on, expecting him or her to wear it for hours on end without ever taking it off is completely ridiculous. Unfortunately, most airlines don't really seem to care about that and require that everyone over the age of two wear a mask at all times while on the flight. And, judging by all the stories of parents who have been kicked off of flights and even banned for life because their three-year old wouldn't keep a mask on, the airlines, or some of their flight crews at the very least, take those rules very seriously. As a result, flying with a young child these days is difficult to impossible. In fact, Delta is the only US airline to allow an exception for young children who can't keep a mask on (though they still want them to wear a mask if possible) and, from the sound of things, some of their flight crews don't always follow that policy. If we were traveling somewhere in the continental US we could always drive but, for Hawaii, that's not an option. That means we're stuck flying Delta even though it doesn't have especially good connections from the nearby airports, and even then we have to hope that no one decides to stir up trouble about Zack not wearing a mask the entire time.
So yeah, first we have to hope that Connie and my COVID tests come back negative. I think we'll be ok there but if not, that means the trip will have to be delayed and we'll have wasted a bunch of time and money on the tests. Passing that, we then have to hope that we don't get kicked off a flight and stranded in an airport somewhere along the way. Here's hoping everything works out...

Later!

Josiah

1/1/2021 Happy New Year!

It's the first day of 2021 and my birthday. Here's hoping that this year will be a whole lot better than the last. Though, honestly I'd say the signs are pretty mixed at this point.

Anyway, I've been writing about some of the isekai / portal fantasy stories that particularly stuck out to me among the many, many I went through to research my upcoming book. Today, I'll go over some American movies. Since I already mentioned Alice in Wonderland as a book, I guess I'll leave that out, though I do like both the original Disney animation and the more recent Tim Burton version.

The Wizard of Oz
While the original novel is a classic, it was completely eclipsed by the film. And said film still holds up surprisingly well today. Dorothy's journey through Oz is just and entertaining and magical as it was 80 years ago. As a side note, I rather enjoyed the much more recent Disney prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful, as well.

Labyrinth
I like most of Jim Henson's works and this movie about a teenage girl searching a magical labyrinth for her kidnapped brother is no exception. It's fun, imaginative, and a bit weird. That said, it's got a fairly strong 80's vibe going, for better or worse. I actually like this one the best of Henson's non-Muppets movies and will no doubt end up watching it again sooner or later. Apparently there's also a modern sequel in the works. Can't say I'm too confident, but hopefully it'll manage to live up to the original.

Coco
Pretty much every Pixar movie is brilliant (though some, perhaps, a bit more than others). I can't really say how accurate their take on the traditional Mexican afterlife is, but Miguel's journey into its strange and colorful depths is full of adventure, music, and, of course, heart. Like just about every other Pixar movie, it's very much worth watching.

Jumunji: Welcome to the Jungle
Growing up, I never liked the original Jumunji (which, for the record, is not an isekai) as much as some of my friends, but I still remember it pretty clearly. I can't say the idea of a modern sequel thrilled me but I ended up getting the chance to watch it for free so I gave it a try. Unlike the original story of a board game intruding on the real world, this time around it involve a group of teens getting pulled into a magical video game while getting stuck in some seriously mismatched avatars. And, to my surprise, it was actually pretty good. If you're looking for an amusing comedy, it's worth a look, whether or not you liked the original.

See you Monday!

Josiah

12/30/2020 After Christmas report

I'm going to take a break from talking about portal fantasy and isekai stories today for a quick travelogue entry. Well, technically a Random Virginia Comment (haven't had one of those in a while) since we haven't done any traveling lately.

Random Virginia Comment: Christmas Spirit Revisited
Since moving to Virginia, Connie and I have normally spent the holidays visiting my family in Hawaii. Our first year here was an exception due to the birth of Zack (my son). At the time, I noted that there just didn't seem to be a lot of "Christmas spirit" here compared to other places that I've lived. Well, this year our Hawaii trip got pushed back a bit (not due to COVID, surprisingly enough) so I decided to take another look and see if my first impression was correct. To be fair, this probably isn't the best year to judge due to COVID and all, but Virginia's current restrictions aren't nearly as strict as some states.
So, how was Christmas this year? Unfortunately, I'm going to have to stick with my initial assessment. Sure the shopping malls all had Christmas decorations and places to take photos with Santa (well, more like take photos while in Santa's general vicinity). But only a handful of the the numerous shopping plazas were decorated. The majority of individual stores also seemed to be lacking in both decorations and Christmas music. Some houses were decorated, but less than I would expect. And I only ever encountered a single bell ringing Santa collecting donations for charity. So, while it's not like "Christmas spirit" was entirely absent, there was certainly a lot less of it than in any other part of the US I've lived. Heck, I think even Japan had northern Virginia beaten in some ways. Though I don't celebrate Christmas myself, the lack of Christmas stuff here felt a little sad. But, I guess given both the demographics and the politics in this area, that's just the way it is.

Later!

Josiah

12/28/2020 More isekai

As previously mentioned, I've been going through a ton (over 100 different series) of isekai / portal fantasy books, anime, games, etc. as research for my upcoming book. I'm not going to write about all of them here (that would take way too long), but I did want to mention some that particularly stood out for one reason or another. Last time, I wrote about some of the classic American and European novels that gave the genre its start. Today, I'm going to follow that up with some more modern ones (if you're waiting to hear about Japanese novels, anime, manga, etc., don't worry, I'll get to them in future posts).

The Keys to the Kingdom
Garth Nix has written a lot of great Young Adult novels. The Keys to the Kingdom series is one of the more unique ones, following the adventures of a young man who becomes the heir to a mysterious "house" (though each section is pretty much a world of its own) at the center of the universe. It's got a good story in general, but what really stuck out was the house itself, which is a very unique and varied setting.

Otherland
I've been a big fan of epic fantasy novels for a long time, which is what originally turned me on to Tad Williams, though that's not all he writes. Otherland could be a portal fantasy...though you could also argue that it's a sci-fi considering that the story revolves around a diverse cast of characters who get trapped in a highly realistic virtual world. Honestly, sometimes it's a bit hard to draw a line between portal fantasy and "trapped in a game world" stories, at least if the game world is more fantastical than futuristic. Anyway, Tad Williams' stories usually have a rather slow start but get really engaging the further you go. If you're not familiar with his work, Otherland is a great place to start.

Pendragon
D. J. Machale is another YA author that I like. His Pendragon series honestly has a bit of Doctor Who vibe now that I think about it, with the title character joining his mysterious uncle on a world hopping adventure through time and space. The ending threw me a little, but it's a fun ride over all.

The Spellsong Cycle
Back to epic fantasy, another of my favorite authors is L. E. Modesitt Jr. His Saga of Recluce and The Imager Portfolio are particularly good. Though I will admit that most of his books tend to feature rather similar themes and progressions and, as such, can be a touch repetitive at times. The Spellsong Cycle is his take on portal fantasy. It follows a a middle-aged music professor who is summoned to a fantasy world where magic is controlled by song. Due to her training, she almost immediately becomes the world's most powerful sorceress and plays a major role in a series of wars and rebellions. It's not my favorite series of his, but it's still good and the heroine is pretty unique.

And that'll do it for today. See you Wednesday!

Josiah

12/25/2020 Isekai

Merry Christmas! I don't celebrate it myself, but I'm sure most of you do (along with vast majority of people in English speaking) and there's a lot of great things about it as a holiday.

But anyway, I said I'd talk a bit about some of the massive number of portal fantasy or isekai stories I've been reading/watching/playing as research for my next book. First off, in case you're not familiar with the genre, a portal fantasy or isekai (the Japanese name) is a fantasy sub-genre where a person from the Earth somehow (via portal, reincarnation, rebirth, etc.) ends up in a fantasy world. Said person then proceeds to do...something. Save the world, usually. But at times it may just be going on random adventures or even living a peaceful life. The person is generally aided by some sort of special power or knowledge either brought from Earth or gained when traveling to the other world. Anyway, I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the ones I really like, and maybe some I really dislike. There's too many to cover in one post so today, let's start off by talking about some of the classic American and European books that gave the genre its start.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Most people these days are probably more familiar with one of the Disney movies (original or live action), but Lewis Carroll's original novel came out in 1865. And if you thought the movies were weird, they've got nothing on the book. Honestly, I can't really call this a favorite. It's certainly interesting, but it really reads like a crazy drug trip. And, unlike in the movies, there's no real point to Alice's journey. No grand self-realization or anything like that. She just experiences a lot of weird random stuff and then makes it home. Or maybe just wakes up from a dream. Anyway, I can appreciate the novel for its creativity and its influences on modern literature, but it's not really my thing.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
When it comes to classic American novels, you can't really beat Mark Twain. While his most famous works are about life in America in the early 1800's, in 1869 he published the story of Hank Morgan, an American engineer who inexplicably wakes up in medieval Europe during the time of King Arthur. He then precedes to use his knowledge of industrial era science and technology to remake Camelot, for better or worse. In a way, this can be considered the first proper isekai story (and also one of the earlier time travel stories). While Hank didn't really have a grand quest to complete, his story is far more structured than Alice's and has him starting a new life in what is essentially a fantasy world (despite being kinda sorta historical) and using his modern knowledge (his special power, essentially) to get ahead. While the ending is kind of depressing, it's an interesting story with a number of thought provoking elements.

The Chronicles of Narnia
Jumping forward by about 100 years (1950 to be precise) we have C.S. Lewis's classic series, which began with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I grew up with this, starting with the BBC film adaptations before moving on to the novels proper. More recently, Disney did some pretty good movies based on the first three books as well. The Narnia series spans thousands of years, with kids from Earth visiting the fantastical world of Narnia at various points between its creation and eventual destruction. There's talking animals, grand adventures, and a lot of good Christian values (though disguised enough that you can enjoy the stories whether or not you're religious). Plus, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe doubles as an awesome Christmas story, which makes today a great day to check it out. I wasn't especially fond of the last book in the series (a lot of Christian fantasy tends to get apocalyptic at the end, generally to the detriment of the story), but the rest is good, clean fun for kids of all ages.

I think that about does it for classic Western literature so I'll see you later! Have a merry Christmas!

Josiah

12/23/2020 Working through the list

With Christmas coming up, a lot of stuff is closing this week. Add that on top of stuff that's closed due to COVID, and some bad weather, and Connie and I have been working hard this week to keep Zack busy. Despite that though, I'm trying to get through my to-do list and I've got something on said list that I really should be working on now so I'll start talking about isekai stories on Friday. Besides, one of the ones I want to talk about first is a good fit for Christmas.

See you then!

Josiah

12/21/2020 What I've been working on

If you've been reading these news posts, you probably know that I've been writing a new book. Actually, I've written a number of books. The majority are currently unpublished, but I've got a rather successful game writing textbook which was picked up by a major publisher years back, and I've self-published a few of my fantasy novels on Amazon Kindle. My unpublished works (which I hope to publish eventually) are all fantasy and sci-fi novels spread over several different series. Anyway, I do have a publishing contract lined up for this new book, which is why I've been working so hard on it lately. The title hasn't been finalized yet (I know what I want it to be, but my publisher needs to approve) and neither has the release date, though it will probably be in fall or winter next year. That stuff should all be figured out shortly after I submit the final manuscript to the publisher (aiming for mid to late February) so I can't go into too much detail until after that.

At this point, I haven't quite decided if I want to formally announce the book before or after I submit said manuscript. But today I'll give you some hints. First off, it's very different from anything I've written before. It's not a textbook or a novel, though I would say that it has a bit of a connection to both. Second, I've been doing a lot of research over the course of the year. That research has involved a ton of books (novels, Japanese light novels, and manga), movies, anime, and games. All fantasy, but in a specific sub-genre known as portal fantasy or isekai, which is about normal people from Earth who, somehow or other, end up transported, reborn, or reincarnated into a fantasy world. Some popular examples include: Chronicles of Narnia, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Rising of the Shield Hero, Re:Zero, and Konosuba, just to name a few. A very few. I don't have an exact count but at this point I've read/watched/played well over a hundred different series. Of course, I was already familiar with a number of them before I started on this book due to my own interests and hobbies, but ever since I started formally researching the genre, I've found more, and more, and more... Some of them were ones I'd already been meaning to check out for a while, but I also found a massive number that I'd never heard of before. Japan especially is experience an isekai boom right now, with a seemingly endless stream of stories across all forms of media. Some are great, some are terrible, and a lot are just kinda so-so.

So, to summarize, my upcoming book isn't a textbook or a novel, and it has something to do with the portal fantasy / isekai genre. On that note, I might as well go ahead and say that no, it's not a list or review book either, it's something considerably more interesting, humorous, and meta. Ok, I think that's enough hints for now. I'll reveal more about the book soonish. In the meantime though, seeing as I've now read, watched, and played more isekai stories than probably just about anyone else (especially anyone outside of Japan) I think I'll take some time in future news posts to talk about some of my favorites. Maybe some of my least favorites as well. But that's enough for today.

Later!

Josiah

12/18/2020 Completed!

I've finished the second draft of my new book! It's out to my beta readers now and, after I get their feedback, I'll do one last editing pass and then it'll be totally done. Hmm... Now that it's this far along, it might be about time to publicly announce it. Though it probably won't actually hit the shelves (real or virtual) until fall 2021 or so. Hmm... Yeah, I'll probably announce it soon. Maybe next week even.

So, with that done...I still have work to do. Got to get my spring classes ready and do a bit of work for my dad. And then I will need to get to the second draft of my thesis at some point... Ok, so I probably won't run out of things to work on any time soon. But I'm getting there.

Have a good weekend!

Josiah

12/16/2020 Break time!

Grading is finished! That said, I may still be fairly busy for the rest of the week, and that's not counting class prep and work on my book (some other stuff came up). Today though, I'm finally going to take some time to make a proper Chanukah meal. Here's hoping I can both de-stress and get my work done before spring semester starts.

Later!

Josiah

12/14/2020 Final push

My plan is to spend all day grading. If I'm lucky, that will be enough to finish. Though it might take part of tomorrow as well. After that, I'm done! Well, sorta. Over the break I need to prep my spring classes (though I already got a bit of a head start on that) and finish the second draft of my new book. Still, it will be nice to have some more free time, even if it's only a little. I've been feeling increasingly burned out lately, so I could use the rest.

Later!

Josiah

12/11/2020 Happy Chanukah!

Happy Chanukah to my Jewish readers, or anyone else who wants to celebrate (it's a fun holiday). As for me though, I've got another two or three solid days of grading to get through.

Later!

Josiah

12/9/2020 Here I go...

I'm kind of burned out today. No major reason though, so I should be fine tomorrow...just in time to start grading finals. Chanukah will be starting too. I'm looking forward to making a bunch of latkes and having a proper Chanukah meal, though that'll have to wait until next week due to grading. Anyway, time to get to work and bring this semester to a close.

Later!

Josiah

12/7/2020 Coming together

Despite some annoying COVID restrictions, we're going to try and do our usual winter trip to Hawaii. But, instead of leaving in mid-December, we're putting it off until early January. That, however, has nothing to do with COVID. It's due to some stuff my family has scheduled. It may end up being a shorter trip, however. Although they're sorta trying to bring back tourism (which the state really needs since that accounts for most of its economy), Hawaii also still has rather strict COVID restrictions in-place. To the point where we'll probably focus more on visiting family without a whole lot of sightseeing. And all that's assuming that Hawaii doesn't further tighten restrictions, which they might. My feeling is that the politicians didn't really want to re-open tourism (or even travel to the state in general), but got pressured into it by all the businesses that are failing and people who are out of work. Sigh... Anyway, I don't really want to get on the whole COVID topic again right now, that would just put me in a bad mood. Hopefully we can still have a decent trip, even with all the closures and restrictions. Guess we'll find out in a month.

Later!

Josiah

12/4/2020 Getting there...

Starting in a bit less than a week, I'll be grading finals so the semester is almost over. I'm also nearly finished with the second draft of my book (just waiting on my editor's feedback for the last few chapters). There will be a third draft too, after I get some feedback from beta readers, but that should be fairly quick. Other things on the agenda? Prepping my spring classes, which I actually just started on since I have a little down time before I get back to grading and editing. And then the second draft of my thesis, though that's my lowest priority at the moment. I'm really looking forward to winter break. Though I probably won't be able to fully relax until summer. No thesis, no book, a whole bunch of assorted work related stuff finished. And, hopefully, and end to all of these COVID restrictions. Hopefully... But summer is quite a ways off so, for now, I'll take what I can get.

Later!

Josiah

12/2/2020 Phantom Thieves

I'm currently 90+ hours into Persona 5 Royal. That's one playthrough and I'm not done yet. No real surprise there though. My first playthrough of the original (around four years ago) took 120 hours (followed by another 60 for New Game+). I'm skipping a handful of things this time around, but not much. Plus, there's new content. But, most of all, I'm really enjoying the game, it's just that good. Honestly, I probably wouldn't mind going for New Game+ on Royal... But I'm pretty much doing a 100% clear this time around and I've got a lot of other games to play so maybe not. Still, Persona 5 is one of my favorite games ever and Royal just makes it even better.

But something really stuck in my head the other day. I wish we had Persona 5's Phantom Thieves in real life. Just think, the ability to change people's hearts, making them come to realize their own lies and crimes, confess, and change. It would certainly come in handy with a lot of the crazy stuff going on these days in the US and the world as a whole. On a smaller scale, there are people I'm personally familiar with that could really use a change of heart. We like to dream about how great it would be if the world had super heroes, but honestly the Phantom Thieves would probably be more useful. Of course, there's no palaces, persona, or Phantom Thieves in real life which means we just have to hope that people will listen to their own conscience and find the strength and desire to change within themselves. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to happen very often. Never hurts to dream though...

Later!

Josiah

11/30/2020 Back to it

While it's too bad we weren't able to have any visitors, it's been a pretty nice and relaxing holiday, which I really needed. But now, I've got to get back to work. Fortunately, I don't have any grading to do this week, so I can focus on my book (nearly done with the second draft!) and some assorted other tasks and issues. And hey, there's really only a bit over two weeks left in the semester. Hopefully we'll be able to visit my parents afterwards though, for various reasons, the trip wouldn't be until late December or early January anyway. Regardless, it'll be great to have a longer vacation wherever it is, though I'll still need to spend a lot of time writing. But hey, writing is usually something I enjoy.

Anyway, here's hoping the semester, and the year, finish on a strong note.

Josiah

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.