Taking Stock

The third Winkler Comic Con is nearly upon us! It’s actually Monday! For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me until just a few weeks ago that I should get a table, but I did. I suppose I spent most of last year being out of the comics game. Anyway, I want to take this moment to take stock and think through what I have, and what I need:

Books: I still have several boxes of Book 2 (Years 3-5). No more copies of Book One, which is a shame, because I think new readers have this idea that they need to start at the beginning, even though most comics stand alone. There wasn’t really any sales momentum on the 2nd book by the time I initially ended the comic — the Indiegogo campaign made sure that the diehards who wanted a copy got one, and I’m not a salesperson so it was difficult to create new opportunities for people to check it out.

You know what, I’m realizing that I should write a larger postmortem on the campaign and post-launch of the 2nd book, because I think I’m still carrying around some feelings that it would be good to unpack.

Pins: Still have a few of the button packs from the campaign for the first book. They’re cute and come in nice packaging. There’s four little pins with different stickperson faces on them, and they’ve always been something easy to sell to readers and non-readers alike. I’ll be sad when they’re finally gone.

Business Cards: Couple years ago I got a bunch of cards printed with the site address, so I can write “more” on there and still keep handing them out. I found out a million years ago that it’s nice to have a little calling card to hand to folks, even if they don’t buy anything. A lot of the fun of a comic con, for me, is just chatting with people!

Portraiture: I’ve done “I’ll Draw You As A Stickperson!” portraiture at two different Graduation events in the past years, and suddenly it occurred to me that I could offer that at a comic con. You know, as another thing that non-readers can get on board with. I draw a caricature of you, and then you get to pick a fun background to put behind the drawing. I was pretty sure I could just dig up my old files and it wouldn’t be a lot of extra work to get set up.

Well, I did dig up the old files, and found 1.) they don’t really fit my current tools and art style, and 2.) I need to draw new backgrounds. Because a comic con is pretty specifically geeky and while I originally had one or two “geeky” backgrounds, most were generic. So this week I’ve been drawing like crazy trying to prepare new ones, which is time-intensive because I get super into the weeds on nailing specific details in my own style. Anyway I’ve got most of a Star Wars one to finish, and then hopefully I can squeeze in a Trek one, but that might have to wait. I’ve compromised and shelved a lot of extra features I wanted to have ready, because I’m just…outta time!

I still need: Change for my cash box, or a “float” as I believe they’re called, and somebody is selling a Square reader on the local classifieds that I might try to scoop up in order to take credit payments wirelessly at my table. Update: local Staples has new ones too ๐Ÿ™‚

I still need: to gather up all the stuff I’m bringing with me. Setup day is on Sunday night / Monday morning, and the doors open 10am Monday. Often I’ve gone the day of to set up and that might be just fine again. My table layout is Not Super Complicated.

I wish I had: More shirts & buttons. That’s actually about it. Something to remember for next year!

Anyway, I think the day should go well. If nobody comes to talk to me I can work on the week’s comics, and failing that just play more Super Metroid on my laptop.

Thing I Saw: The finale of The Good Place, which I thought was beautiful and funny and brought the series to a fitting end. The last season was slightly off in a way I can’t put my finger on, but it came together wonderfully well and I look forward to starting over from the beginning one day.

Thing I Learned: It’s not super hard to become a Commissioner for Oaths in Manitoba (a little paperwork and $50), and then you can say that you’re a Commissioner for Oaths which sounds awesome. Also I guess you can legally witness signings and vouch for things.

I’m Grateful For: A relationship that doesn’t really prioritize Valentine’s Day as some all-important moment. Takes the pressure off! We’re gonna have butter chicken and maybe do puzzles after Cassidy’s in bed ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy V-day!

I Get It

Today! Let’s lighten things up and think about things we didn’t like, but came around on. This was a fun conversation I had with Lori last night and I’m sharing my results with you. In no particular order!

1.) Rush

I spent years not being able to stand Geddy Lee’s voice, and since they get a lot of play on Canadian rock radio, I did a lot of cringing / changing the station. Closer to the Heart in particular, a hugely famous song of theirs, would have me diving for the dial. (Or seek button, or whatever. ‘Dial’ suddenly makes me feel old) I also have a specific memory of my friends circling around me while on a camping trip, chanting the “weedoo-deedoo-deedoo” synth riff from Tom Sawyer just to torment me. Good times.

The strange thing is that I can’t pinpoint where or when I came around on them. I think it was mainly time, during which I gained a greater appreciation of their talent and just, geez, the amount of work they continued to put into recording and touring. Probably didn’t hurt that my friends convinced me to get the Moving Pictures song pack for Rock Band, which got me to play through the entire album in one of my favourite games of all time.

I won’t claim I’m a huge fan now, but I definitely appreciate and listen to them, and was at least a little saddened to hear about the recent passing of Neil Peart.

2.)Indian Food

I grew up in a family with little-to-no appreciation for Spicy Things or Challenging Flavours. Also, the community I lived in was pretty homogeneous, and local restaurants mostly didn’t serve anything other than chicken, burgers, and pizza. I didn’t try my first Indian curry dish until I was in my twenties and attending university, on a day that I thought I’d have an adventure. I really didn’t like it, and wrote off the rest of Indian cuisine for quite a while after that!

What brought me back around was the folks that lived next to us when we first moved into our current home, five or six years ago; they’ve since moved, but they were a lovely family originally from Punjab who were celebrating their daughter’s first birthday and invited us to the party. Touched and honoured, we attended, and were treated to a feast of various homemade Indian dishes, including my new favourite, Butter Chicken.

Since then I’ve been growing in my appreciation!

3.)Euro Truck Simulator 2

I got a copy of this game a few years ago through some bundle or another, and initially bounced off of it pretty hard. It seemed extremely boring. Initially you just take jobs as they’re available, and drive, quietly, from city to city. You try not to drive too fast or do anything dangerous, because that will cost you money. I did not get the appeal at all.

And then, last fall and into winter, I went through some pretty difficult and stressful times. Suddenly, a relaxing game with super low stakes, that I can put on some music I like and just zone out to, was perfect. I decide to try it again and it clicked, and while I definitely haven’t put in the hundreds of hours that some have done, I feel like I have a much greater understanding of why things like this are interesting. Also, I’m going to upgrade my garage soon so I can hire another trucker ๐Ÿ™‚

Thing I Saw: Our poor lil’ dog is going blind (cataracts), but doesn’t seem to mind terribly. He still wants to play fetch every day, even if he loses track of the ball easily. Then it becomes a game of hide-and-seek, where he can use his nose and hunt around ๐Ÿ™‚

Thing I Learned: I always thought Gandhi’s name was Mahatma, but that’s actually a title. His name was Mohandas.

I’m Grateful For: A continued positive reception to my new comics!

Send this to all the Steves in your life

Pausing to Remember

Come, come with me out to the old churchyard,

I so well know those paths ‘neath the soft green sward.

Friends slumber in there that we want to regard;

We will trace out their names in the old churchyard.

Today marks three years, to the day, since my mom passed away. I want to sit down here and say something about it, but off and on today I’ve struggled with what exactly that could be.

That day, a Sunday, I got a text in the morning from my Dad, who had been keeping bedside vigil as Mom’s breathing had slowed considerably in the previous few days. He had wanted to go home and freshen up, but was adamant that Mom shouldn’t be alone; would I mind going over for a short time? I said yes, and brought my ukulele to sing with her awhile. I don’t remember all of the songs I picked, but one was definitely the Israel Kamakawiwoสปole version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Since their first visit to Hawaii, Mom had fallen in love with Iz’s music, so it seemed appropriate.

My brief journal entry from those days indicates she wasn’t responsive anymore, but I like to think she heard me.

Dad came back after less than an hour. I ended up going for lunch with my brothers, and as we sat in the restaurant deciding what to do next, we got the message that she was gone.

Mourn not for them, their trials are o’er,

And why weep for those who will weep no more?

For sweet is their sleep, though cold and hard

Their pillows may be in the old churchyard.

Mom had an easy, bright smile and I loved making her laugh. Her cooking and baking were legendary among friends and family. She was patient and kind, though reserved around others for much of her life. She loved coffee with good people, road trips with Dad, hidden-object puzzles on the computer, and those cheesy Christian romance novels about Amish women looking for love. She taught me much about listening to others, about the importance of music, and about never turning your back on the people you love. She used to tell me I was a “genius” when I’d fix stuff on her computer or solve difficult puzzles in her games. My own struggles with self-esteem didn’t often let me believe her — I’d brush it off with attempted humility — but I really think she meant it.

I miss her a lot today.

I rest in the hope that one bright day

Sunshine will burst to these prisons of clay,

And old Gabriel’s trumpet and voice of the Lord

Will wake up the dead in the old churchyard.

Thing I Saw: The rest of my journals from That Time, which I haven’t really looked at in quite a while. One thing I wrote near the end of my Jan.22/17 entry was “[I] Suspect I am nowhere near over this.” No, you weren’t, 2017-Nathan. But you’ll still be ok.

Thing I Learned: There’s a tabletop RPG called Monster of the Week that uses the same basic principles as the Dungeon World game I ran last year with the Whatevertown guys, only it’s based around urban fantasy and a gang of folks investigating/defeating monsters like on Supernatural or The X Files. Our group is set to get back together next week and I’m wondering if I should suggest a subject matter pivot…

I’m Grateful For: Lori, who’s been incredibly gentle and understanding about the significance of today, and who went out of her way to pick up my favourite cinnamon bun for a surprise snack.

The lyrics sprinkled throughout the post are from this song.

In with the New

Welcome to 2020! As always, let’s remember Campsite Rules for the year — try to leave things a little better than you found them. People, situations, places, whatever. Do your best out there!

In the past week, Lori’s been talking about the concept of having a “word” for the year. The idea is, I suppose, to distill your ideas and choices down to a thematic word, and act on that word to see what happens. For instance, if the word “cat” resonated with you as being thematically appropriate for 2020, you would filter your decisions and goals through that word in order to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Going to lots of parties? Doesn’t seem very catlike. Finding a sunny patch every day and dozing in it? Very on-brand for a cat.

The idea of a single word as a guiding principle seems nice because it’s more open-ended than a standard resolution, AND it’s easier to remember. But: how does one arrive at such a word? I’m not sure. I just did a quiz on a Christian site that suggested my word was “Stand”, which seems as good as any. I’ll shortlist it and see if anything else good presents itself in the next few days. Could be a fun experiment for 2020.

Thing I Saw: The weather is comparatively lovely today, so Cassidy and I toddled around the backyard. As part of our adventure behind the sheds, we discovered the freshly-dug holes that rabbits made to get in and out of the yard. Neat!

Thing I Learned: For certain versions of Rock Band 3 (yes, from 2010) it’s amazingly easy to download and add custom songs that are created by enthusiasts from around the world. Last night, at our extremely low-key NYE party, I got to play some good Sloan songs with friends for the first time — thanks to the efforts of the RB3 fan community!

I’m Grateful For: Days off with my family, and doing small but effective Habitat Improvements.

Before the usual song at the end of the post, some context; it was approaching midnight last night so I quickly found a countdown timer to put onscreen for our “party”. We didn’t have any music playing at that moment, so I quickly opened Spotify and hit shuffle play on my Liked Songs. The song it picked, and that ushered us into the new year, was Lean On Me by Bill Withers. Not sure it means anything, but it seems significant, so here it is for you, too.

Light & Shadow

Got something I’ve wanted to write out for a little while now. Or, as is more commonly said, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”

December brings early darkness in our part of the world, and for me, much increased pensiveness and moodiness. Something about driving down dark, cold streets and seeing warm light coming from house windows tends to make me feel a kind of sad longing, and I tend to get lost in my ruminations as I go from place to place. I don’t really enjoy feeling it, but have sort of accepted it as a given in the winter months.

Several weeks ago I had turned my car on to my home street and the old, familiar, sad pattern was happening again. It was dark and I felt that sensation welling up inside of me. But something else that’s happened a few times this year happened again; I saw the feelings and thought patterns coming and consciously decided “no, I don’t have to feel this way every time.” And then it occurred to me; the street, this place, isn’t any different during the day. So why doesn’t day carry this same automatic association? I supposed it was because my perspective was different.

It was like a lightbulb moment. All of that longing feeling evaporated as I repeated to myself that day or night doesn’t matter — it’s the same place. If I don’t let the sad stuff overtake me during the day, I don’t have to think of it at night either. It might seem obvious when said out loud, but to me it was an important realization.

A few weeks after that I was in Winnipeg for a First Aid training session (that’s right! I’m a certified First Aider now!). Winnipeg is also a place that has carried a lot of complicated feelings and associations ever since my time attending university, starting in 2002. I’ve had a lot of fun adventures there, but at times I was also lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’d go entire days where I said no more than a handful of words to other humans, and usually a couple of those words were just a “thank you” to the bus drivers. And of course, since University terms happen over the winter months, the dark and cold of December brings a lot of this back to me while I move through the city. Even though it’s been years!

So the First Aid session was over and I was slowly driving out of downtown. There was still some daylight left but it was fading rapidly, and I knew sundown would probably send me back to thinking about those times again, especially since I was alone in the vehicle. Stopped at a red light I caught myself ruminating on how sad and depressing and isolating city life can be, and for my “proof” I was watching the faces of pedestrians as they crossed, and drivers in other cars. I thought they looked miserable, and no wonder! They live here!

Then, my phrase came back to me — hey, this place isn’t really any different in the dark than it is in the day. I drove in during the morning hours and wasn’t assuming everybody around me was miserable, so what was different now? Just my perspective. And then it dawned on me; all of the sadness and misery I saw in the people around me was just me, projecting my own history. Pretty much everybody I saw had a neutral expression, as you do when you’re going somewhere in your own little world. But I was choosing to read their faces as negatively as possible.

Again, my rumination evaporated. The rest of the drive out of Winnipeg was far more positive, and I found myself smiling and appreciating small moments of beauty as the sun continued to set. I’ve been back to the city since then, in the dark and the cold, and have felt far, far freer as I did so. I felt like, for the first time, I’m letting some of those old, sad days go.

Anyway, I’m still thinking about the idea of things being the same in light as they are in shadow.

Hey, it’s Christmas Eve! As I write this I’m listening to the Nutcracker Suite and sitting in Cassidy’s room, hoping she’ll eventually get bored of looking at books and lie down for a nap. After posting this I might lean back in this chair and nap as well. Anyway! I hope that your Christmas season is full of warmth and good cheer, no matter how you choose to observe (or not) or with whom you gather.

Thing I Saw: A rabbit in our backyard early this morning. I thought of trying to send Bentley the Dog after it but today it just seemed unnecessary.

Thing I Learned: Rocker Jon Bon Jovi got his singing career started on a novelty Star Wars Christmas album, of all things. That’s him, on the verses!

I’m Grateful For: Christmas!

A nice song from an even nicer wintery album that I discovered recently!

Out There

I did the thing!!

My comics are up and running again. It was a little scary, committing myself to this thing, but reactions have been positive across the board. If people aren’t happy about it, they’ve been kind enough to keep it to themselves.

Actually, as I remarked to Lori last night, over all the comics I’ve ever posted, negative feedback has been vanishingly rare. I know my work is pretty inoffensive to begin with, but I have to acknowledge that it’s a mark of privilege for me to exist online and post my work while dealing with zero trolls or haters. (This is not an invitation to start, by the way). Women, minorities, and LGBT folks share that they’re often criticized simply for ‘being’ in online spaces, and that hasn’t been my experience.

I have a bunch of ideas in my Google Doc for future comics, but I realized most of them are about my daughter / interactions with her. I don’t necessarily want every comic to be about her, because I know I get sick of people who won’t stop talking about their kids, so I want to save them and just sprinkle them in every so often. One reader mentioned bringing back the mailbag, which sounds good as well. Always enjoyed the challenge of responding to folks’ questions in a fun way.

The downside to this new venture is that I’ve reactivated my Facebook account in order to retake control of the Interesting Times page there. Facebook was always a good source of traffic and engagement, so I can’t ignore it. But, you have to have an active account in order to manage a page. In the gap, after ending the initial run of comics, I promoted Lori to page manager and emailed her the rare things I wanted to share so I could deactivate my account. But now that things are happening on a regular basis, I didn’t want to give her the workload of reposting every new comic and being go-between for messages and comments; that wouldn’t be very nice.

I didn’t actually delete my account, just deactivated it, and it was surprising to me at first that reactivation only requires logging back in. No big messages or text boxes about “your account has been dormant for X amount of time”, just right back to the bottomless news feed. Then, after a moment’s consideration, it wasn’t surprising at all, because it makes sense that FB would put up the very minimum amount of barriers to entry to keep folks engaged and scrolling forever. Guh, it bothers me just to think about.

For the time being I am doing my level best to avoid the news feed altogether when I’ve gone there to do Page stuff. I let my eyes sort of glance past it while looking for the link to my Page, in the way you might have to go past really objectionable or scary video covers to get to the family section at the video store.

Ohh, that analogy dates me. Uh, it’s like how when you fire up Netflix Kids and Jim Carrey’s horrible Grinch face is giant on the screen until you scroll down to the content you actually want, and all you can do is hope that hideous thing didn’t burrow into your daughter’s subconscious in that moment.

I was happy being away from FB and I’m not happy to be back. But it’s what I deem a necessary evil so that more people can enjoy my work, so here we are. One solution I’ve considered, and may yet implement, is to literally unfriend everybody so that my news feed is completely empty.

Thing I Saw: Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley as performed by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company. Lori and I went last weekend as a night out in the big city, and it was excellent. Funnier than I expected, nice and sweet for the holidays, and the set was gorgeous. Click this and then click “Photos” and you’ll see what I mean.

Thing I Learned: A Charlie Brown Christmas, a staple of my holiday season, was commissioned by Coca-Cola and had pretty significant advertising throughout. When it was revised for re-broadcasting, the ads were cut out, and a significant number of tweaks were made to the rest of the special. This video details them pretty exhaustively.

I’m Grateful For: Supportive readers!

I posted Vulfpeck last December as well. This song really does sound like Christmas in LA, somehow

New Hobby Time, Continued

Since my last post, I’ve gotten pretty into the idea of bringing back my comic.

I know, right! It’s been about two and a half years since ending it, and for most of that time I haven’t really missed it. I jotted down a few ideas as I had them, but not with any real expectation of getting around to them. And then came last week, and my need for a hobby that energizes me and makes a viable alternative to video games. (Which again, I’m still playing, but sort of more intentionally, I guess)

I had a day off on Friday, so on a whim I took my laptop and trusty drawing tablet to a coffee shop (actually Whitecap Coffee (actually home of the best Americano in Winkler)) and did a test. I decided that I’d use the software that I currently use to illustrate for the Bolivians, pluck the first idea sitting in my old Google Doc, and just go to work, and see how it felt. Flex the old muscles, so to speak.

The result:

I mean, what do they expect! I can’t mark my own height objectively!

So, flexing those muscles felt: pretty good! In fact, it felt so good that I ended up deciding to try bringing it all back. Maybe nobody will care, but in talking it over with Lori I really think it’s a wise thing to do.

I made some tweaks to the frame (it’s a little thick) and wrote another test over the weekend, which also felt good. But now I’ve found I’m kinda killing my own momentum by getting bogged down in too many extra questions, like:

  • Do I make a splashy announcement video?
  • Do I want to try and make radical changes to the format of the comic?
  • How often do I post? Where? What about Instagram formatting?
  • Do I really want to stick with Inkscape, or go back to The GIMP or try Krita or This or That or whatever
  • How do I catch people up on the intervening 2.5 years, do I bother?
  • Do I restart the numbering sequence?
  • Do I overhaul the Interesting Times site?

And it isn’t as though those aren’t valid considerations, but today I started to think that maybe I’m just using all those questions as a stalling tactic. I think I need to just start putting my art out there on a regular basis again and answer those other questions as I go. Or maybe I don’t have to, and they really are all pointless. As I’ve said before, “perfect” is the enemy of “good”, and I know from experience how important it is to just start and build habits with the tools you have, and not worry about getting Every Duck In A Row before beginning.

It’s tough for me because I’m all about Rules and Formats once I get going (I mean, it took how many years of comics just to decide that it was okay to add speech bubbles) so part of me is saying that I need to make the important decisions up front. But maybe it will be a good exercise to hold this whole project with an open hand, as they say, and allow change to happen organically as I go, rather than bogging myself down before I even do anything at all. I mean, I’ve asked myself what a new comic template could look like multiple times in the past few days, and I really just can’t visualize something I like. So why am I even wasting brain cycles on it anymore?

One thing I want to make sure of is not to overwhelm myself, so I’ve decided that two updates a week is something workable. I want to allow myself to adjust that number upwards or downwards as I go.

Also, when I wrote comics Before, I strongly disliked 1.)using ideas that I had sat on for any longer than a week and 2.)pre-writing content for posting at a later date. My rationale was that the comic was supposed to be a “journal”, and doing either of those two things robbed the end result of its immediacy to me. I want, (actually, kind of need) to let go of those two things right now. My life is such that I’m going to have to write things down as they come to me, draw them whenever I have the space to do so, and post them later. Honestly, I am probably the only one that this matters to.

ALL THIS TO SAY: You are reading it here first that December 10th, 2019 is the planned launch date for the new comics! Updates planned every Tuesday and Thursday thereafter!

I don’t say I’m “excited” often, so Lori and I jokingly make a big deal out of it when I do. But y’all, I’m actually really excited about doing comics again.

Thing I Saw: I picked up Red Dead Redemption II for my Xbox One X on Black Friday, and the graphics are just incredible. I’m a short way in, but the game is very absorbing just to look at.

Thing I Learned: Cloudflare, a network security company, uses a wall of 100 lava lamps as a secondary source of unpredictable number generation.

I’m Grateful For: Finding a potential creative outlet again!

Somethin’ fun today

New Hobby Time

Hi. What are we doing here today? What kinda post is this? Let’s see.

Work’s been stressful again lately and Cassidy has been having nightmares and waking us up overnight to comfort her, so I’m kind of a little bleary all the time. And recovering from quite a downward spiral in the past few weeks. When I do get time to myself in a day, usually later in the evenings, I’ve felt like all I have the capacity to do is plop down on the couch and fire up the Xbox. But I’ve also been aware that this is sort of…numbing, self-medicating activity. It isn’t really time that I’m super enjoying the spending of, but like I said, it feels like all I can do.

I’m sure this isn’t new for me, but it’s one of the first times I’ve really felt aware of what I’m doing.

Last week I had to last-minute cancel an appointment with someone I consider a mentor because of stressful work things that needed completing. I was extremely upset when I made the call to my mentor, who was gracious and understanding. At the end of the conversation he cheerfully added “Take care of yourself!” and I paused for a long time before responding, because all I could think to say was “…I don’t know how right now.” And thinking that made me sad.

So, right now I’m on the lookout for things that I enjoy doing and that ‘energize’ me as I do them. Things that aren’t just ways to pass the time, or avoid unpleasantness. I’m not sure where to start, but hopefully I can start somewhere without too much hassle and try activities until I notice one that really fills me up and makes me happy to do.

(This is not to say that I’m dropping video games as a hobby; but maybe it’d be beneficial to pick up something else to do in the meantime)

Thing I Saw: this view a few weeks ago, from the corner of our company’s yard. It’s shot in slow-motion, but no other filters or post-processing have been applied (except the Instagram crop ofc)

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A moment of peace at the end of a day.

A post shared by Nathan Fehr (@npfehr) on

Thing I Learned: A surprising amount about horses from this humorous tumblr post explaining a meme. (warning, there’s a bit of naughty language)

I’m Grateful For: people who care about me as I claw my way out of yet another bout of moderate depression.

Pretty sure the new Sonic movie isn’t going to use this track and that is a terrible shame

Catching Up

The latest innovation in dental patient care at the office Lori and I visit is: TVs on the ceiling. With Netflix and Bluetooth headphones, so you can just pop on a show or movie and be whisked away while they do whatever they do in your mouth. It’s pretty great in principle, but as I expressed to Lori this morning it also led to a lot of planning and mental math as I drove to my appointment last week.

First of all, I get terrible choice paralysis when choosing something in general. On a given evening where I have free time to watch a movie on my own, I’ve often spent half an hour fretting over a few choices before getting tired of all of them and doing something else entirely. (That whole process is fodder for another couple of paragraphs; let’s just say I get hung up on trying to find the best thing for that particular moment in time, rather than just picking a ‘good’ thing and being okay with that.)

So feel like I have to start pre-thinking what I want to watch because otherwise it’ll take me half of a dental cleaning to even settle on something, which defeats the purpose of having the technology. Then there are other factors to consider like; if the thing is too funny, will my laughter interfere with the hygienist doing their job? If the thing has too much ‘adult content’, will it reflect poorly on me for choosing it in a public space? Like I said, the TV is literally on the ceiling so it’s not as though anyone working there is watching alongside you. However, people walking by can probably see what’s going on.

Language isn’t really an issue anymore, because there’s no sound coming from the TVs thanks to the headphones. They didn’t have the headphones initially, so that was another angle.

I confessed all this to Lori over breakfast this morning, with a tone of “you married a nerd and an overthinker” and because she also has an appointment today. Rather than tease me for it, she actually went right into her own decision process along the same lines. As she explained, she has a similar need to pre-decide the show to watch because when she is in the chair she feels like she can’t call to mind anything she typically enjoys and ends up watching something she isn’t interested in.

I thought she’d have a laugh, but instead she went along with me and validated my weirdness. Reader, I’m glad I married her ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, Epilogue: For my visit last week I settled on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I know, it’s R-rated, but the violence early on is largely bloodless and the language is only being transmitted to my ears, so. It was that or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I wanted something that was more action-y in the early going and Indy winds down for a bit after the boat thing.

I never wrote about the Election! Let’s try and sum things up.

For the first few weeks I went in every evening to mainly work on something called Poll Key Exceptions. Elections Canada uses a computer system called REVISE to manage elector information, as well as store all the geographical information about individual Polling Districts in our area. Refresher: Canada is divided in 338 major Electoral Districts, and each of those EDs is divided into smaller chunks called Polling Districts based on population. The lines for these PDs are often based on roads or prominent geographical features, and shift a lot in between elections because areas grow, people move, new suburbs are built, &c. These changes have a ripple effect that creates conflicts in the rest of the system.

The REVISE system generates a report of all the Poll Key Exceptions, which lists electors whose information now seems wrong somehow, and we went through each line entry to find out why and try to diagnose the problem. Typical issues were: Somebody’s information shows them as voting in one PD, but their physical address is in a different PD. Or, somebody’s address is on a road that isn’t listed in the system, and we have to find out where it is and add it. Sleuthing these things out involved a mixture of Google Maps, Elections Canada’s internal mapping system, some awkward cold calls to electors, and emailing between colleagues in different electoral districts. Also I got to learn a lot about rural Manitoba’s Civic Addressing system, which was genuinely interesting.

(These duties were done alongside light tech support & general assistance to the other Service Agents in our office)

The Advance Polling weekend happened around Thanksgiving and dumped a lot of paperwork on our desks, with the IT people getting the weird edge cases because we have the most power of anyone in the office to make changes within REVISE. People wanting address changes to their voter information but not seeming to exist in our computer system at all. People voting at the wrong stations, or attempting to double-vote because they already voted by special ballot in our office and don’t understand the electoral process.

On Election Night I switched to the Data Entry team. I entered the early polling results as they were reported from the various stations, and had somebody next to me verifying my numbers as I entered them. While we waited, we cracked wise and ate chips. It was pretty great, and since our riding is unfortunately a lock for the Conservative Party of Canada we all got to call it a night relatively early.

The last days after the election, before the office’s closure, were once again spent dealing with the mountains of paperwork generated by an election, with our desk getting the edge cases and oddballs. By this time things were feeling tedious — the excitement of the election season had passed and it felt like progress on each discrepancy was extremely slow. We all did as much as we could before the office had to close and get packed up, and we had a lovely staff party and said goodbye. It felt a lot like doing a community theatre production — working intensely with a tight group of people until the big night, and then everybody kinda just…disperses.

Everyone was good to work with, and they were incredibly supportive and kind when word got around about our miscarriage, which I didn’t really expect. It was also a lot of shaking our heads and grappling with the way that this event, this Election that has huge ramifications on the course of our nation, is just…you know, at it’s base, it’s powered by a bunch of people doing their best and “muddling through” on a daily basis. Maybe that’s society in general, I don’t know. We laughed and got frustrated and supported each other as best as we could, and in the end, the thing happened somehow.

I’d do it again! But hopefully not very soon.

Thing I Saw: The music video for “She Says What She Means” by Sloan, twenty years after I started listening to the song, no big deal.

Thing I Learned: The video is an homage to a 1967 British film called Privilege, and Much Music didn’t want to show it at the time because the band insisted on an intro and credits sequence and MM thought viewers would be confused.

I’m Grateful For: The Navy Blues Deluxe Vinyl Boxed Set, which I got for my birthday and from which I learned all about this video and its influences. I’m still working through all the material in it, but it’s a pretty great way to explore one of my favourite albums of all time.

Sloan sometimes tours with a giant ‘4’ on stage that I’ve often wondered about. Turns out: it’s from this

Checking In

I was the emcee at another EtherLAN gaming fundraiser event, and while chatting with a friend I was asked why games matter to me so much. I opened my mouth, certain that an answer would come tumbling readily out. None did. This surprised me, and I found it difficult to come up with a good answer even while thinking about the question for a while longer.

I started to think that “passionate about video games” had been part of the story I tell about myself for so long that I had long stopped questioning why that was true. And then I worried a little that an honest interrogation of this part of myself would reveal…nothing. That games had served their purpose and weren’t really important anymore, and it was time to find something new. This wasn’t implausible, because I’ve spent time on a lot of things in my life due to inertia and not because I actually wanted to spend time on them.

I puzzled about this question for a few days, then flipped things around and decided to try a new angle. I was, of course, continuing to play at least a little bit of a video game every day; so I created a Google Doc and started asking myself “what do I like about this?” while I was engaging with something.

Here, in no particular order, are the results!

  • I like seeing how technology advances. I like seeing what kind of graphics, sound, and gameplay things that become possible with each new generation of system. I like expanding my definition of what’s possible in the medium.
  • I like seeing the visual styles of games. No Man’s Sky and Gears of War 5 have been impressing me lately.
  • Feeling competent at something feels good, and games do that for me. It’s nice to feel “in control” of a situation, to feel knowledgeable, and to be able to tackle new twists in gameplay as they arise. I don’t get that sense very often from real life!
  • Listen, it has to be said that I will sometimes use video games as a way to avoid things that are difficult or stressful. In Enneagram 9 terms (and probably elsewhere) this is known as “self-medicating”.
  • I love games that let me explore and fill out a map as I go. Metroid-style games, or Action RPGs like Diablo are wonderful for this. Hollow Knight was incredible for rewarding exploration and continuing to open up new areas long after you think you’ve seen it all.
  • I like to solve puzzles! Games have those!
  • Games are exciting, and sometimes the chaos and thrill of a battle are fun too!
  • Games can be relaxing too, sometimes!
  • Lastly, games give me experiences that impact me or engage me in ways that non-interactive media can’t. Like the way Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons so effectively uses controls to reinforce brotherly bonds, or 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors drives home its final narrative twist by having you flip your DS upside-down. (It makes sense in the context of the game and a simple action makes for an incredibly powerful narrative moment). (Sorry I can’t talk more about these things without spoiling them)

So, yes, no longer worried that games and I have run out of things to talk about ๐Ÿ™‚

Thing I Saw: Snippets of a bunch of horror films this last month, before declaring them too intense and stopping, or getting interrupted and just…never getting back around to finishing them.

Thing I Learned: ‘msleepy

I’m Grateful For: My birthday coming up! Every year I get to hang around this weird planet is a year I’m thankful for.

Have a nap like me