Yesterday was Monday, a hot and muggy day off from work in which I decided to clean the garage floor. This is usually done a little earlier in the year, like Spring? And not August? but eh, life’s busy. The process involves backing the cars out, taking out all the stuff that’s on the floor, and sweeping / washing the caked-on layers of dirt and muck. Not thrilling, but it needs doing. I usually play a bit of music and try to hydrate a lot.
Unfortunately, the process left me with a lot of mud at the top of my driveway, just outside the doors. So I grabbed the hose and stood there, quietly trying to wash the mud down the driveway. The kids had been playing outside but were elsewhere, and I had turned off the music a while back. Not sure why. Vibes were wrong, who knows.
While standing there, spraying water back and forth and watching debris float away I start thinking: I am such a stereotypical suburban dad at this moment. Let’s run down the list:
40 years old
Dirty cap, shorts, old running shoes, and a t-shirt from a 5K I ran in 2018 (past glories haha)
One hand on hip, the other holding a garden hose
Using a holiday to clean the garage
Bluetooth speaker playing old rock songs (currently off)
In that moment I kept thinking that, at 20, I would have never expected to become the person I’m describing. And my first reaction was that it was bad somehow, that I’d betrayed my past self. On reflection, however, I realized that at 20 I would have had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be like at 40. It’s not as though I had big dreams then either! I’m where I am because of choices I made, and it’s fine. It’s good, actually. Life: good. Not without challenges and dark days, mind you, but overall, today I can say: is good.
I don’t know, I guess I just found this interaction with myself interesting enough to note and share with whomstever will read this.
Thing I Saw: A children’s entertainer doing magic tricks while my daughter’s mouth hung open. She’s 6.5 now and I often go back and forth on how rational or how mysterious I should make my explanations of things, when she has questions about the world. In this case, I don’t know how he did some of the things he did, so I can honestly say: “magic, I guess!” when she wants to know the answers. I like that.
Thing I Learned: You can beat the boss and get the third medallion in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past without getting the item in the big chest for that dungeon. (Unfortunately that item is crucial for the game going forward, but almost everywhere else you have to use the dungeon’s item on the boss, so)
I’m Grateful For: My household has been remarkably healthy this summer! Right around this time last year was when things hit the fan for us, and it felt like somebody was infected with something for pretty much the rest of the year.
Last Wednesday was extremely stressful for me, and later in the day while trying to have a breathing exercise about it I thought: I should do a float tank again.
The previous (and only) time I did a float tank, or sensory deprivation tank, or float therapy, or what have you, was late 2019. We’d been through a particularly difficult time and I had to drive up to Winnipeg to try one. It was neat but not something I was extremely keen to jump back into, at the time. Since then, a tank has been installed in a business fifteen minutes away rather than an hour and a half, and it felt like its time had arrived again. So I booked an appointment for last Friday and off I went!
You’re shown into a warm room that you have to yourself for 90 minutes. There’s a shower and of course, the tank. It’s basically a large, enclosed bathtub with a sealed door. Inside is a foot or two of water that is set for your approximate body temperature and loaded with epsom salt. When you lie down in this, close the door and turn off the lights, you’ll be floating in the void, and you can have a think or just let your body relax.
There’s a smell to the water that is not so strong as to be unpleasant, and the water has an oily quality to it. You absolutely do not want to touch your eyes after getting in the water, because that is how you get salt in your eyes, and your calm will be diminished for a while to say the least.
So you disrobe, rinse in the shower, put in earplugs and climb in the tank, closing the door behind you. There is a dim light with a toggleable switch just above the water line, reachable when you’re floating in the water and you’re ready for things to get real dark. The fluid dynamics of lying down in a shallow bathtub means that, even though you’re floating, you’ll spend a couple of minutes gently nudging up against the sides of the tank before things stabilize. In this environment you may begin to lose a sure sense of where the edges of your body are, which is interesting. Some people report visual and auditory hallucinations in the absence of external stimuli. Many folks will tell you that it helps to have a ‘creative’-type problem in mind as you’re going in, like puzzling over some aspect of a story you’re working on, or a name for something, or a colour that your spare room walls are lacking, etc.
I had one or two ideas but nothing definite and in the end decided to just let my mind go where it wanted to go. Just to relax and be curious about whatever came next. Here are my stars (things I liked) and wishes (things I wanted to be better) about the experience:
⭐A spot on the back of my neck was desperate to be scratched when I laid down or adjusted my position, but I found that if I merely noticed it, didn’t do anything, but went back to letting my mind wander, it gradually faded away and I’d forget about it.
⭐At one point I randomly imagined an elderly man saying something cryptic, then spent the next few minutes trying to work backwards from the sentence to figure out a context in which it could make sense. I think I might have been falling asleep. Later I would be unable to remember the quote at all.
⭐I tried a few different positions for my arms to see what was most comfortable, and of course my movements meant a few more nudges from the tank walls as the water stabilized again. I could never predict where the nudges would come from.
⭐At one point I spent a minute having fun by gently pushing off the ‘top’ wall above my head, then gently pushing off the ‘bottom’ wall with my feet, when I’d feel them make contact. It always took much longer to feel the top and bottom walls than I expected, and with no frame of reference for my movement speed, the tank suddenly felt huge.
⭐I did one or two other little experiments like that, trying to notice physical stimuli but also my expectations about them? Sounds pretentious when I write it out, but it was kinda fascinating.
🙏Which brings me to my wishes: at one point mid-float I opened my eyes, expecting more pitch darkness, and found to my dismay that I could dimly see. There’s one more extremely dim light in the tank, it turns out, and now I could see the outline of the door. Suddenly, instead of existing in a weird void I was back in a bathtub. I did not appreciate having a frame of reference again, and though closing my eyes was fine, I would have preferred to be able to keep them open.
🙏At times, even with earplugs and being sealed in a tank, I could hear somebody with a heavy foot tread walking past the room several times. Same as above: not horrible, but definitely unwanted.
🙏This last one isn’t the fault of the tank or the business hosting it, it’s on me: I think I gave myself motion sickness? It’s that or the mild smell finally got to me. Similar to my ‘up-and-down’ experiment, I tried something with my perception of motion, only this time I imagined I was gently spinning. After touching one of the side walls and heading back the other way, it was easy to feel like my whole body was turning slowly, so I leaned into that feeling and started visualizing that I didn’t stop at all, just continued to turn like I was laying on a record player. Then I tried picturing that I was spinning faster and faster, and then an ugly little feeling took place in my stomach. I actually got out a little before my allotted time was up because of it; here was something that was actually too distracting. It didn’t really clear up until after I’d gotten back home.
So when there’s 15 minutes left, soft ambient music plays to let you know, and you can climb out and use the shower to rinse the weird oily water from yourself. Distractions aside it was actually an enjoyable experience, though I’m not certain I’d recommend my local tank place without some caveats. Of course, the place makes some big claims about the mental and physical health benefits of floating, which I can’t really attest to either. It’s a little like a spa day; are you super chill and relaxed specifically because of the spa treatment, or was it because you finally took a day for yourself and did whatever you wanted without judgment?
Thing I Saw: the new Zelda game, Tears of the Kingdom came out last Friday as well. Players are already using its extremely robust toolset to make anime jet fighters?? Meanwhile I’m struggling to properly stick a hook on a platform haha
Thing I Learned: The “10,000 steps a day” goal that many pedometers set by default is a basically arbitrary number picked by Japanese marketers in the sixties. Moving your body is good, but maybe don’t feel guilty or ashamed for not hitting that number every day.
I’m Grateful For: It’s By-Election season and I’m the Automation Coordinator for our local voting office. I’m grateful for the flexibility with my job and life to be able to stretch myself a little bit in this way!
Last post I said I might talk about what happened with my cat, and in a tumblr post I said I’d talk about my life as a gun owner, so there’s two topics for today.
Almost exactly a month ago, on a Friday afternoon, I had come home early from work to start getting ready for a family outing. I noticed when I got home that Gideon Cat had thrown up downstairs — not uncommon — but when he came upstairs to greet me he was unsteady. He wasn’t walking straight, he was nearly falling over, and even sitting still he continued to gently shake.
Obviously we couldn’t leave him that way and just head out for our trip, so as soon as I could I took him to the local veterinarian. They said he’d probably had something like a small stroke. He was prescribed with anti-anxiety meds for two weeks and a liquid medication to manage his blood pressure for the rest of his natural life. He was also assigned a new diet of (much more expensive than my usual) kidney care food. It was bewildering and a bit stressful, and a lot to process all at once, but I managed somehow. Thankfully, he was much steadier by the end of our visit, and we still got to have our outing.
He’ll be thirteen this summer. He’s an old man now. He’s also had a remarkably healthy life the entire time I’ve had him. I know intellectually that most pets aren’t just perfectly fine until the moment they tip over and die peacefully of old age, but having such a long run of good health did kinda make me feel like…maybe things could go that way?
In any case, we’re managing the new medication…reasonably well, though I do worry about how I’m going to instruct anyone else to give him his dose. Currently I sit down on the floor, scoop him up and cradle him like a baby (though much tighter so baby can’t climb away). We’re still getting used to it, I think. He’s doing a lot better and putting on some weight, which is good, because he was too skinny before.
Anyway that’s Cat Update 2023. On to the other topic:
I grew up around guns and was always fascinated by them. I had a pump-action BB gun as a kid on the farm, and though I wandered around and took potshots at some birds I never hit anything (and honestly don’t think I would have felt good if I had). My older brother is also a collector, so I’ve had some fun experiences through him. I didn’t necessarily seek them out for myself as an adult, but at one point I had an opportunity to take a firearm course and get a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License) of my own.
Actually, there were opportunities to take the course all the time, but my collector-brother knew the person running this particular course and said “you will never have an easier time getting your license than with this instructor” and he was right. It was almost comically simple for my friend and myself to get our licenses. My brother gave me a small, .22-calibre bolt-action rifle [I think this one?] and maybe once a year I went out to a disused gravel pit in the countryside and plinked at targets to my heart’s content.
My license lapsed shortly after Cassidy was born, and I missed the period of time where you can renew without taking the course again. At that point I hadn’t been out shooting in absolutely ages, and the gun was quietly locked away under a spare bed in the basement. So it was mainly for that reason that I decided to drop the whole thing and get rid of it.
If I’m being honest, I also didn’t like the idea of a kid potentially getting hold of it, even though it was locked and the ammo was hidden in an entirely separate part of the house. It sort of nagged at me, knowing that the potential for harm, however remote, existed. I can hear the argument that kids can find myriad other ways to harm themselves, and guns shouldn’t be singled out when appropriate safety precautions are taken. Okay, sure, a kid in a house can get hurt in a lot of ways; but then I think, why knowingly provide another one? I don’t know.
(And look, none of this is meant to convince anyone else to never have guns in their homes. I’m just going through my own thought process)
I also have to admit that the escalating numbers of mass shootings and the culture around gun ownership made me uncomfortable too. It wasn’t and isn’t a world I really want to be a part of. I think target shooting is fine, I think subsistence hunters and even sport hunters should be allowed to do their (registered, tightly controlled) thing. But I can’t really imagine the mindset of a person who feels it necessary to be armed while going to church, or shopping at the store. Nor do I really want to!
Anyway, that’s my gun story. I had one for a while, and that surprises people, and then I let it go, and I haven’t missed it.
Thing I Saw: Big goose tracks in the mud near the dumpster at work.
Thing I Learned: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories will be ten years old next month and I don’t care for this fact at all, thank you, it makes me feel just that much older.
I’m Grateful For: Children who went to sleep relatively easily so that I could sit at the kitchen table and write this post, undisturbed 🙂
In the past few weeks I’ve been having fun experiencing and thinking about spaces in fiction that can’t physically exist. Like a door that should lead outside but goes to a hallway instead. Or rooms that are too big to fit in a building. Or corridors that twist and turn so that you ought to have looped back to where you came from by now, but for some reason you haven’t. I like it all!
(There’s a big overlap with the recently-popular “Liminal” aesthetic, where you take or create pictures of eerily empty spaces* and pretend that they’re just outside of our regularly scheduled reality.)
Anyway, I want more, and I wanted to make a list of where I’ve been already. Not all of these are things I’ve taken in very recently; some are from several years back, but all of them tickled that part of my brain that says “this place shouldn’t be like this!” In games particularly, I often enjoy things that mess with my sense of geography and direction. It’s a list-based blog post, everybody! Let’s go!
*note: Not everything in this list is a strong recommendation from me! But, if something here seems interesting to you, by all means, check it out.
House of Leaves – This book is layered and crazy for a variety of reasons, but the main story involves a new door appearing in a house one day, and instead of leading out to the yard it leads to a black labyrinth.
Superliminal– Parts of it, anyway. This a first-person puzzle game set in a sort of dream hotel.
Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 – These are third-person psychological horror games both that delve into late-game spatial shenanigans. The first game has a mapless area called “Nowhere”, which mashes together rooms from previous places you’ve visited. The second has a section with stairways, holes, and elevators that lead the protagonist impossibly far down into the earth.
Piranesi – This was a really recent read! This is a book about a nice man who lives in a house of endless corridors, stairs, and statues. The lower floors are flooded by tides, the upper floors are collapsing in places and open to the sky. Piranesi (the main character) had such a fascinating mindset to me.
Manifold Garden – This was also very recent, like last week (as of this writing). Agorgeous Portal-style first-person puzzle game in a strange world with no boundaries. Sort of?
The Backrooms (Found Footage) – A YouTube series, soon to be a major motion picture, based on an old meme in which people find themselves in an infinite series of kinda bland and flourescently lit rooms. There is a monster in some of these, and I tend to agree with the folks who think it isn’t necessary; I enjoy the unease of the place just existing all on its own.
Severance – This is an Apple TV series about a group of people working in a dystopian corporate nightmare, and while it’s not a focal point of the series, the hallways and corridors that the workers traverse are deliberately mazelike and confusing for viewers.
Control– In a game full of creepy ideas and wonderful brutalist architecture, one particular section (The Ashtray Maze) really stands out for a lot of players. The design of the area is based on the hotel in Barton Fink, which I just learned. Walls and corridors open and close around you with this intricate folding animation, and even before any real action goes down there, it feels delightfully uncanny just to stand in. [Also, can I just note, what a heckin’ trailer! Wow!]
Ikea stores – I mean, have you been to these places IRL? Even though they’re very large, they seem even bigger inside, and the showroom disorients you immediately and then taunts you with “shortcuts” that seem to lead directly back to where you just came from.
That’s the list so far! What I want to note is that several of these are at least horror-adjacent, but I don’t need them to be in order to enjoy them; Piranesi had no scary elements (beyond the idea of living mostly alone in a house of mystery) but I enjoyed it immensely. If you have further recs for me, you can’t put them in the comments here because I’ve disabled them, so find another way to tell me about them lol
Thing I Saw: I should note somewhere, for posterity, that “AI” technology is absolutely blowing up everywhere. I use Microsoft’s Edge browser and as of pretty recently there’s a dedicated button to let you chat, in conversational English, with their Bing AI thingy. I don’t really know what it’s for, aside from helping you do really specific searches in your own words? And let’s be honest, at this point most “AI” is fancy autocomplete based on tons of our own writing on the internet. But still it is having a moment and I wanted to note that here.
Thing I Learned (Feat. Guest Writer, Bing AI) “AI-generated content can be a useful tool for bloggers who want to create engaging and relevant posts for their audience. AI can help with generating ideas, writing catchy headlines, summarizing key points, and adding some personality to the text. AI can also save time and effort for bloggers who need to produce content regularly and consistently. However, AI-generated content is not a substitute for human creativity and expertise. Bloggers should always review and edit the content before publishing it, and make sure it reflects their own voice and style.” So there you have it.
I’m Grateful For: Trustworthy local veterinarians. I recently had a small emergency visit with Gideon Cat, which I may describe in a future post, and every time I visit I’m aware that they have the power to make up pretty much any price for any service and people will probably pay it because…what’re you gonna do? You likely have no frame of reference for the cost of these services, and it’s your beloved pet’s health on the line! So all this is to say that I think we have good vets here.
The dog we were sitting went home at the beginning of the month and I am okay with that. This is Fudge:
He is tall and energetic and just over a year old so basically a giant, extremely mischievous puppy. For the month of February it was like having two toddlers in the house. We had our moments of connection but he was a lot.
On the other hand, part of what we wanted to know was: are we good with having a dog again? And the answer seemed to be yes. My daughter loved him and my son was sorta hit-and-miss, but I think partly that was because Fudge was like, the size of Clifford the Big Red Dog to my boy. Aside from the mischief, he was a good reason to get out and go for walks, so that was nice.
So, a dog that is not as big. We’re keeping our ears to the ground, folks.
Two other things:
Fudge’s owners gave us a bunch of different gift cards to thank us for dogsitting, one of which was a Tim Hortons card that I took. I rarely go there. The lineups are often very long and my time on this earth is too short to wait for mediocre coffee. But I won’t argue with essentially free food, so I tried it. Wouldn’t you know, it’s Roll Up The Rim time!
For those unfamiliar, Roll Up The Rim is a popular annual contest where you win prizes by buying coffee and rolling up the cup’s rim to find a little printed message to see what you got. Only, what I did not know was that two years ago they shifted to a digital format; there’s not actually any prize information printed on the cups and no rolling is required anymore. What is required is an online account in their stupid app, so that you can scan a code at the restaurant and enter that way.
I bought my coffee, drank it, and rolled up the rim, hoping to win another. But nothing was there. I was confused, and a quick Google search shows I’m far from the only one, even though this change was made in 2021. I guess…why call it Roll Up the Rim anymore? I don’t think the change would have bothered me quite so much with any other name. I felt old and disconnected, angrily muttering that maybe living in the future has cost us too much this time.
The other thing was that I just wanted someplace to put my thoughts about The Mandalorian. I’ve had this idea for a long time, but starting the third season very recently has brought them back to the forefront.
When I watch a show I love to peruse discussion groups afterward. And every time people complain about the writing quality or silliness of the show I want to say, “yeah those things are to be expected” because guess what? The Mandalorian is just a super high-budget Saturday afternoon syndicated TV adventure.
I had that thought early in the first season and it’s helped me excuse any part of the show that didn’t really click. When I was a kid & before I had cable, there were always cheesy adventure stories on TV on Saturday afternoons, after the infomercials had finally died away. No big budgets, few big stars, not always a very big cultural impact but often lumbering on for way more seasons than you could’ve thought possible for something that hardly anybody in your orbit actually seemed to watch. Like Xena Warrior Princess or Earth: Final Conflict or Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. This show feels to me like those, but with way higher production values.
This part is harder to articulate but the thing that sealed the deal for me was the theme song.
This plays in full over the credits and when it winds down I always expect there to be one of the Disney TV logos I saw a million times, like Buena Vista or Touchstone. I think it’s a good show and I enjoy it, but I am sort of keeping my own expectations low haha
Thing I Saw: The parking lot of a local grocery store is a popular hangout spot for young adults in their cars; gosh I sounded so old to myself when I read that back, wow. Anyway there are now large signs in the parking lot reminding people not to make so much engine noise, which I think will be 1000% ineffective.
Thing I Learned:Kung Fu: TLC, as mentioned earlier in the post, had four seasons. Humorously, Warner Bros. apparently just released the first two on DVD and then never bothered about the rest.
I’m Grateful For: A (slightly) less chaotic house now that Fudge has gone.
Two things happened recently that really made me feel my age (one bigger and one smaller)
Bigger Thing: Encountering “Jay”, the Wal-Mart Floor Cleaning Robot
I was headed for the checkouts and came around a corner to see this thing, which was slowly and awkwardly inching around a display in the centre of an aisle. I’ve seen pictures of robots in stores online but this is the first one I’ve actually encountered, and I was completely caught off-guard. I stood there, watching it, with a feeling I was not immediately able to identify. (And thought: I should blog about this moment so maybe I can figure out what I’m experiencing)
A nearby store worker saw me staring, and helpfully informed me that I was fine to walk past it, and that it would stop for me. “No, I know, I’m just looking at it,” I hastily replied.
Looking back, I think maybe the feeling was a mixture of:
The Future is here, right in front of me, and I’m not ready for it
Is this really better than just having a person do it?
Also, I sort of wish they hadn’t tried to put a ‘face’ on it, but that’s an aesthetic preference and not really a philosophical issue
All of this was a little confusing to deal with because I’ve always considered myself a ‘heck yeah, tech is awesome, bring on the sci-fi-stuff’ kind of person. But I realize now that events of the last few years have really damaged my notions that Big Tech has our best interests at heart and will make things better. And, the last month or two in particular has seen a big rise in conversations around AI and machine learning and I just have no idea where any of it’s headed and yeah! Frankly, it all kinda concerns me. So this robot is just an outcropping of that general sort of Future-related anxiety.
Anyway, I finally went past it, but glanced back and noticed a screen that said its name was “Jay”, which is where I got that little factoid. Lastly, you’ll notice from the picture that the machine’s work was pretty uneven (streaky), so here’s the kicker; the store had a human being with a mop following the robot, too. If that isn’t some kind of metaphor for the broken promise of a Better Living Through Tech, I’m not sure what is.
Smaller Thing: Cassidy Asks a Simple Question
At breakfast with my daughter, my wife and I reminiscing about our elementary school days. I told Cassidy (age 6) that my school even brought in Ronald McDonald once to talk about how great reading is. (I was in grade 3. Ronald had a puppet friend that kept interrupting him, and the bit killed)
“Who’s Ronald McDonald?” she asked. She loves McDonalds, so I just assumed she’d know, because who doesn’t? But I guess they really have scaled back his appearances a lot. The question honestly kinda winded me. On the other hand, when she heard about his being a clown, she immediately asked us not to show her any pictures, ever. So maybe the McDonalds corporation has the pulse of today’s children better than me.
Thing I Saw: What, besides the robot? We’re dogsitting for a co-worker of Lori’s, so he and the cat have had tensions that I haven’t witnessed since our old Yorkie was around. Gideon Cat is getting braver every day, but I actually saw him hiss, which is super rare.
Thing I Learned: Discord voice chat is integrated at a system level in the Xbox user interface. I might not have the terminology quite right but it means you don’t have to download a separate app. On the other hand, if you’re used to chatting via your phone, you’ll abruptly end the voice chat when you forget and turn off your Xbox for the night haha
I’m Grateful For: Lori. The days of late have been challenging, particularly with a rambunctious dog to sit upon, and I’m grateful to have a partner to do the days with.
One of the items on the list I posted last time was to “just sit and listen to music”. It was about a year ago that I realized that, even though I love music, I didn’t make space to just sit with it and listen. I have music on almost constantly throughout my day, but always as I’m doing something else. And sure, there’s points where I’ll stop and listen, or jam out, or sing along. It’s not that I’m not hearing it. But the experience I had a year ago was different.
My boy was about 10 months old at the time, and (as he still does) he needed to be held and rocked to sleep. So you create a quiet, dark space in his room, and of course bring headphones along because you’re gonna be there for a while. Sometimes I’d listen to an audiobook or music on shuffle, but recently I’d learned about something called Vinill Vikunnar. It means “Vinyl of the Week”. An Icelandic radio DJ talks for a few minutes, then plays a record front-to-back without interruption. Every show goes online and stays up for a year afterward. And when I can’t decide what to listen to, I just hit play on the next thing on their list.
The next thing happened to be this:
This album is actually one continuous 46-minute track, divided into ‘movements’ as it rises and falls. There’s a pattern of notes established in the very beginning that persists the entire time. And while I rocked my boy and listened, I was enthralled — though the album was so unusual to me that I couldn’t have said that I was really enjoying it at all.
Still, the experience of sitting quietly and just…going along for the ride left a big impression on me. I kept returning to the album on Spotify because I wanted to hear the pattern of notes again, and usually got pulled into listening to most or all of it every time. Eventually I could say: yes. I do enjoy it. It was initially pretty far from the kinds of music I enjoy, but like good art does, it stayed on my mind afterward.
To bring the story back around to my initial point, that kind of experience is something I want to try and keep making space for. I don’t expect everything to make an indelible impression, but I do want to relax and let my mind voyage, and maybe discover something brand new.
Thing I Saw: I tried to find one years ago and gave up, wondering how anybody ever got their hands on them. Suddenly, today, a local department store has aluminum can crushers for sale. Big stack. Too bad we hardly drink cans of things around here anymore 😐
Thing I Learned: You can substitute coconut oil for butter/margarine on a 1:1 basis in recipes. But! If you melt the coconut oil and don’t mix it fast enough it can start to harden again and then you’ve got big chunks that you’re not sure what to do with (melt again)
I’m Grateful For: Financial stability. I can go out to the shops and pick up random lil’ things without worrying how they’ll impact our budget. It’s a big privilege!
‘Round these parts, we don’t like to use the word “resolution”. Too many made and too easily broken (by me). Lori suggested I approach the New Year list like our Saturday to-do lists, which we call our 100% List.
I got the idea from a MetaFilter post I saw one million years ago. The idea is that you jot down everything you would do if you had things 100% your way, all day long. Work things, relaxing things, fun things, whatever. We both write things down on the same sheet of paper in the morning, usually over coffees, and then set about prioritizing the items and discussing how we can get them done. Importantly, the expectation is not that we will get everything done, because that is almost never possible. But it’s good to identify the important stuff and communicate our wants to each other.
So this is my 100% list for 2023. I’m not gonna get all of it done, maybe not even most of it, but here’s some things I’m aiming for!
[Update: The day after posting the original list I decided it would be fun to make this a sort of “living post” that I’d update throughout the year, both as I do things and as I think of more things. So check back from time to time for my progress, if I remember to mark it haha]
(The games room / office downstairs has been in a perpetual state of disarray since we moved here almost a decade ago. Sometimes it is more under control than other times, but it has never been entirely Organized and Tidy. Made some strides last year though!)
Make more music
sub-item to this, learn one (1) accordion song
Make a new site banner for my comics
(The current one is  missing my son and  includes a dog that is no longer with us)
Keep playing Disco Elysium with my neighbor across the street
Keep working on mental health
Update my work procedures
(There are some critical tasks at my work that I’m the only one that knows anything about. I should probably write something down in case I’m not there for one reason or another [i.e. I’m in Acapulco, or just really sick])
Travel somewhere by aeroplane
Play through Super Metroid at least once
Finish the books on my nightstand
That’s Ducks by Kate Beaton andThe Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron
Install Christmas lights on the house
That’s a pretty solid list! Probably I’ll think of more as I go throughout the year. Let’s check in at the end of 2023 and see how I did.
[Below this line: items added after the original post was made]
Get my Raspberry Pi-powered arcade machine up and running properly
Just sit and listen to some music sometimes
Blog more times than last year
(That one should be easy, because last year’s total number of posts was six)
Thing I Saw: Curiously mild winter conditions frosted the trees in the area for several days on end, and it was beautiful. The effect is usually rare and doesn’t last very long, so it was a treat to get to see it every day for a while.
Thing I Learned: There’s an upstairs bathroom at my in-laws place. I’ve been there many times in the ten or eleven years I’ve been with Lori, but all this time I thought there were only bedrooms up there. In fairness I didn’t go upstairs super often, and I guess that door was always closed when I did? Still, this is the perfect moment to go join those redditors who are convinced that reality has been altered because they misremembered or didn’t notice something lol
I’m Grateful For: Managing to stock up on cold/flu/infection medicines today. Viruses have been running rampant in the area and a lot of pharmacy stock is depleted, so it felt very pleasant to be able to find a few things we’d been keeping an eye out for.
Since 2019 I’ve been keeping track of every game I’ve completed throughout the year, but until last year I didn’t really do much with that information. I liked having the end-of-year roundup I did last time, so I’m going to do it again, along with links to my tumblr reviews of some of the games. You do know I have a tumblr, right?
The Complete List of Completed Games
FAR: Lone Sails (Switch)
Metroid Prime (PC)
Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye (XSX)
Ratchet & Clank (PS3)
The Gunk (XSX)
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (XSX)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (PC)
FAR: Changing Tides (XSX)
Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Switch)
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (360)
Black Mesa (PC)
Hook 2 (PC)
Gears of War 5 (XSX)
Beasts of Maravilla Island (XSX)
Cave Noire (GB)
Cyberpunk 2077 (XSX)
DOOM (2016) (PC)
Mega Man X (SNES)
Grant Theft Auto V (PC)
Super Metroid (SNES)
Interestingly, this year saw my lowest number of completions since starting the list in 2019. I wonder if having two rambunctious children in the house had something to do with that? Anyway, unlike last year, I played a decent amount of Game Pass games but actually completed very few of them. And I got a pretty strong gaming laptop early in the year, so a good amount of time was spent on games like Horizon Zero Dawn which I’m not quite done but can’t convince myself to finish. But Here’s:
This year I spent a lot of time playing three games in particular that I haven’t completed, and I wanted to shout them out: Horizon Zero Dawn which I’ve already mentioned, Vampire Survivors which I’ve just now gotten my friends hooked on, and Final Fantasy VI. I started FFVI near the end of January and have been picking at it off and on for the entire year. I’m now at the final dungeon of the game, and you better believe I’m gonna be telling everybody I know if I finally manage to beat the game that’s hung over my head since junior high.
A new spot for notable games that I played a few hours of and dropped because I didn’t like them. Usually, when I stop playing something it’s because a shiny thing has drawn my attention elsewhere. But sometimes I actually get a ways in before deciding I don’t like a thing! This year, those games were:
Red Faction Guerilla – ReMARStered (Switch)- Loved this when it came out, but playing it now I really do not. Time has not been kind.
Watch_Dogs 2 (XSX) – I actually didn’t dislike this game and put in lots of hours, but it just didn’t compel me to see it through.
The Ascent (XSX) – Played lots of hours in single player and co-op, but when you’re doing the same things over and over forever it’s hard to stay interested. Unless your game is Tetris I guess
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA): so stilted, so many boring rooms
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA): a bit less awkward but too much backtracking
What Am I Looking Forward To In 2023?
The new Zelda has a date of May, and I’m 100% there for it. Also, this might actually be the year that Metroid fans hear something about Prime 4 lol. I’m stoked for Silent Hill: Townfall, because I’ve really enjoyed the developer’s previous games, but there’s no date on that one so we’ll see. I mentioned Starfield already last year and of course I’ll give it a go when it hits Game Pass. Diablo IV will probably make me want to play it.
“What are five songs where it Just Isn’t Christmas if you haven’t heard them?”
It’s as good a blog prompt as any, and it’s something Lori and I were discussing the other day, so let’s put up my list. Please enjoy adding these five songs to your own Christmas canon, because they are inarguably that good. (lol jk but I hope you like them)
I didn’t grow up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas or listening to the music. I’ve mentioned in other places that my mom once DVRed every Christmas-adjacent program she could find on their satellite TV one year, and then made it her mission to at least try every recording she made. (She was still watching Christmas stuff well into the next year)
This program was one of the recordings. I was an adult when I joined her out of curiosity to watch it, and we both enjoyed it so much that it instantly became a staple of our holiday tradition. Of course, with that comes listening to the soundtrack on its own. However, each year I forget that this song is not the first track on the album, and I’m mildly surprised by this fact.
Anyway. The first thirty seconds are so cozy and warm that I want to build a little house in there and move in.
Now on the other hand I absolutely did grow up listening to Boney M on the house radio at Christmastime. So, I suspect, did many folks of a certain age in Southern Manitoba Mennonite households. This song was an absolute staple of the local AM radio’s programming, something that hasn’t really puzzled me until this year. I mean, how did a flashy German/Carribbean disco band become so beloved by such traditionally conservative people?
I guess musical greatness transcends boundaries.
To be clear on this one, I don’t mean the Beta Radio version of this song in specific, although it is very nice. O Holy Night is the pick no matter who does it. It’s lovely, has lyrics that are meaningful to me, and if you want to you can really ham it up and belt out parts of it as loud as you can. It’s got range!
Most years I try to find new Christmas music to enjoy, because as much as we all love Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey, listening to the same twenty standards for a whole month gets old. And so I followed a rec from a random user on MetaFilter to Awake Arise – A Winter Album, which has become a staple of my December. To the point that I really look forward to the holiday season just because I know I’ll get to put this album on.
When discussing this list with Lori I actually slotted the entire album into one of my song choices, because it Just Isn’t Christmas without listening to the whole thing at least once. But if I was forced to narrow it down, I’d say one of the standout tracks for me is this one, Snow Falls. Over and over I resonate with its idea that the cold can’t last forever, that the hard times will give way to better ones. And likewise: the good times aren’t infinite either, so cherish them while you can. Also the harmonies are lovely and it’s comfortably in my singing range, so I get to join in.
Sometimes jokingly referred to as the Mennonite Hallelujah Chorus, this Low German multi-part choral song is the only legal way to end a Christmas Day church service in Southern Manitoba. Well maybe not, but it sure is a favorite. And listen, even if I only know enough Low German to understand maybe one in ten words, I am absolutely going to be trying to make the appropriate mouth sounds to sing along as strongly as I can.
Every video is a poor substitute for actually being in a church on Christmas Day as the first line — “Horch! Die engelchöre singen” (Hark, the angel choirs are singing!) goes out. Because, as you’ll hear, the -en part of “singen” is when it explodes from unison into four-part harmony and I experience such the frisson and everybody is trying to raise the roof of the church right off.
Also, it was saved for the last slot because in my experience it is almost always sung to close out a church service.
Thing I Saw: My little (now nearly 2-year-old) boy turning heads as we walk past the school to its attached daycare. I’m biased, but he is a total cutie pie, and he’s often bright-eyed and smiling when he gets to “go-owsai”. More than once we’ve passed junior high girls that have openly squee’d at his cuteness, and he just tramps along, oblivious.
Thing I Learned: We have a small humidifer with a water reservoir that you have to flip over onto the base after filling. But if you don’t replace the cap after filling, you’ll just, you know, pour a bunch of water on your daughter’s bedroom floor when you flip the tank over
I’m Grateful For: Getting out for an evening to watch Die Hard with friends and drink a beer called “The Toques of Hazzard”. Both were really good.
I’m Dreaming Of: Wassailing! The aforementioned Awake Arise album has been a gateway into learning about Wassail (the drink, usually a combination of apples, hot beer, and cinnamon among other things) and Wassailing (the English tradition of going around with a bowl of the stuff and giving it to your neighbors while singing a delightful tune). I have found a recipe I’d like to try, and I can think of at least two nearby households to bring it to. Unfortunately, I don’t know anybody who’s going to learn the song with me, so probably I’ll just have to show up with a travel mug and say “here, Happy New Year” and scuttle away.