Don’t Have To

This past week I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives far out of province, and we were talking about the challenges of maturing and changing. That might seem pretentious; we certainly didn’t start there in the conversation, but this friend is one in particular that I’ve often talked on this level with. I really value the friendship! He’s done a remarkable amount of personal growth in the past bunch of years, and when I pointed that out, he fired it back at me.

As I often do, I deflected and self-deprecated, claiming that most of the learning I’ve done, especially in my 30s, has been “against my will”. I also made a sort of half-joke I’ve made pretty often, which is that personal growth is exhausting (this is sometimes true) and every so often I’d like to just announce that I’m stagnating for the next few months, and hide under a pile of coats from any and all ‘learning’ and ‘growth’.

(The “pile of coats” is key for some reason. It’s an image I borrowed from The Simpsons and I use it every time. I even searched this blog for “coats” to make sure I hadn’t already done this bit here)

Reading my words back after I’d sent them to my friend, I remembered a bit I’d heard recently in the audiobook of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall P. Rosenberg. In it, he talks about the things we tell ourselves we “have” to do; dishes, pay bills, go to work, or in my case, mature as a human being. He goes through an exercise where you write out the thing you have to do–

I have to keep growing as a person

Then, change the “have to” to “choose to”

I choose to keep growing as a person

And finally, add “because” at the end, then fill in your reason.

I choose to keep growing as a person because I really do think it’s better than the alternative.

Rosenberg encourages this exercise for all areas of our lives, and it clicked with me that I really don’t have to be making any progress in terms or growth or maturity at all. I could absolutely ‘check out’ every day. Probably untold numbers of dudes in my position have, throughout history. Disconnected from things that fill them up, never trying to understand another’s point of view, never bothering to do the work of improving themselves, even for the sake of a partner or family.

But I don’t, and I don’t want to, and I really don’t give myself enough credit for trying. I know growth isn’t linear, and I won’t do it perfectly every day, but I am trying, and I do myself a disservice by pretending that I’m just some dullard who’s somehow forced to accept new ways of thinking about himself and the world.

So I’m gonna try to stop! Time to put the metaphorical pile of coats in a closet, or better yet, give them to metaphorical goodwill. I don’t know what the goodwill represents in this scenario. This metaphor got away on me extremely quickly.

Thing I Saw: A creepy YouTube short called Backrooms, which apparently has a few related videos by the creator and has spawned a cottage industry of fan creators AND of course those annoying “SLIGHTLY MYSTERIOUS THING FINALLY EXPLAINED!” videos. Gosh, I dislike those. Let something weird just…be weird. Anyway, this short reintroduced me to the concept of “liminal spaces” which is a great search on Tumblr, and the whole thing was apparently created by a 16-year-old using free tools! Amazing!

Thing I Learned: If you’re watering an African Violet, water the dirt, not the leaves. I know this because Cassidy gave me one for Father’s Day (she is 5 and we are still working on “picking a gift based on what the other person likes, not what you personally like and think they should”. It is in my office, in indirect sunlight, recently transplanted into a proper little clay pot and everything. I hope it lives. It sounds like a challenging flower to keep alive, and I’ve killed two cacti so far lol

I’m Grateful For: Kids that react positively to my presence.

I’m Dreaming Of: Continuing to play/record the game INSIDE which I will probably do after I finish this post. Future Nathan Plays?? We’ll seeeee

Bonus Thing I Learned: This artist is the bandleader for Stephen Colbert’s show? huh

NaShoStoWriYe (National Short Story Writing Year)

I was just sitting in bed, on my laptop, sort of itching to write something but not having any idea what. Then I remembered: I have a blog! Just prior to that thought, I was reading what I’d written during a “100 Days Writing Challenge” I’d done a while ago. My Google doc shows I made it to Day 16, back in September of 2020. I was just starting to write story snippets. And reading them back now…I actually kinda liked them!

This feels novel (ha) because for most of my life I’ve come to despise the art I’ve made when enough time has passed from the making. My major exception to the rule is my old comics, which can still be quite funny to me. Or, if not funny, at least something that I don’t hate and want to destroy on sight.

I may just pick up where I left off with that 100 Days thing, and ride it for a while longer. Of course, like with unfinished video games, my impulse is to start over from scratch (because “what if I don’t remember some crucial bit”) but there’s a good chance that if I did I’d get back to where I was, on Day 16, and then drift off again, getting no further in the challenge.

It’s funny; I tried the National Novel Writing Month thing some years back and got halfway through before giving up, realizing that no, I actually did not enjoy the process of trying to write a whole long story. (My wife got a little miffed — she’d been following along with my updates and actually wanted to know where it was all going, so I had to give her the sketched out version of the 2nd half of the story).

Ever since then I’ve still been tempted, hit by the urge every few months when I feel creatively dissatisfied (or just existentially bored) and I think “I should write a novel! Surely I have a story in me” but I reflect on the NaNoWriMo experience and remind myself of the wasted effort it will bring. But maybe I should just go for it anyway. Who cares about not finishing? Maybe it would be good to try and scratch the itch anyway, rather than forcing it down until it passes. Maybe the next time I get the writing itch, I might learn to pick up where I left off, against my nature of “got to start over from scratch”. Let the end product feel disjointed! It might not! Who knows?

Thing I Saw: The rock band Big Wreck is coming to do a free show at a local summer festival. Discovering this aged me terribly; it means that bands from the 70s and 80s have probably run their course, and the bands of my formative musical years (the 90s) are now the washed-up old fellas doing the summer festival circuits. Aw.

Thing I Learned: “Bonsai” isn’t a species of tree. Bonsai is the art of maintaining and shaping the tree, but the trees themselves can be common varieties like junipers, pines, and so on.

I’m Grateful For: Moments of quiet reflection, few and far between though they may be. Not to imply that my life is too crazy to have them; I’m sure I’ve passed on opportunities to sit and think for my own reasons. Anyway I’m glad for this one!

I’m Dreaming Of: Writing stories, I guess??

This is actually a cover of a Japanese band, and the original didn’t have lyrics so Greg’s good friend Michael Jackson helped him write some

The Question Nobody Asked

The other day, as a thought exercise, I asked myself what kind of game I would make if I made a video game. My assumptions for this scenario were:

  • I can code as well as I need to to make the thing I’m thinking of
  • A small, short (1-2 hours) game, like the kind you’d make for one of those Game Jams
  • Mainly just me working on it. In other words, not a team or company.

It might surprise you to learn that, for all the games I enjoy playing, I rarely consider this question. There exists a game for basically every concept I can think of. Making one myself would probably only crib from other, existing, successful ideas. Also, I’d have to learn to code, which, ugh. But: if I take on the assumptions I listed above, those things matter a lot less; in my mind it becomes more okay to crib from existing ideas and intellectual properties because it’s just a short, fun, proof-of-concept exercise in development. It’s easier to imagine than putting yourself in the position of a lead developer at Ubisoft Montreal or something.

So, I let go of trying to be original and just decided to roll with whatever I’d come up with. And what I came up with was:

*ahem*

Untitled Sprawl Trilogy Hacking Game! (working title)

The Sprawl Trilogy is a loosely connected series of pioneering cyberpunk novels by William Gibson. The first, Neuromancer, was published in 1984, and coined a lot of the terminology and concepts we associate with the genre. It also happens to be one of my all-time favourite books. Stories of ethically shady computer hackers, sentient artificial intelligences, badass mercenaries, and gritty, neon-soaked future cityscapes. It’s my jam!

The first novel in the trilogy also puts forth the idea of the matrix (or cyberspace), a pre-WWW virtual reality in which folks put on a special headset and zoom around through towers and polygonal structures representing various corporations and institutions. It is famously described thus:

The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.

William Gibson, Neuromancer

This conception of cyberspace forms the backdrop of the game. Your character is a hacker, a console cowboy, a cyber…uh…samurai? And this is a game of doing cybercrime. I picture much of the game looking like the classic Star Wars vector-based arcade game (which came out in 1983, and probably was one of the “primitive arcade games” Gibson was thinking of). Or more accurately, in my brain it looks a lot like Rez:

…but rather than being on rails it would allow for full freedom of movement in any direction.

There would be three maps, like explorable cities in a Grand Theft Auto game (but mostly not as interactive because again, programming team of one). The starting map has some towers but is mostly rows of smaller polygons representing homes, with a few larger towers that are small-to-medium-sized businesses. You would do a few missions of basic hackery stuff; change a grade, plant incriminating evidence, get an employee list for a rival company, something like that.

The hacking itself is probably a typing-based minigame. I imagine that the earliest stages would be you squaring off against simple countermeasures, represented by simple shapes; as the game progresses the hacking would get more difficult and the shapes more complex. Let’s keep it straightforward, though; keywords fly at you like Typing of the Dead or Epistory and you have to knock them down before they get closer. Maybe in the later stages I’d figure out some new mechanics to toss in, give the player more things to juggle.

2nd map is below the first one, and is the Industrial part of the matrix.

See the source image

Picture a refinery, but the pipes, towers, and warehouses are neon polygons as before. Now we start getting into more serious infrastructure crimes and corporate espionage stuff.

Third zone, highest on the map, is megacorporations and (remaining) world governments. Countermeasures here are the most complex and difficult to defeat. We’ve worked our way up to the big time, and since we’re knocking off the Sprawl books, there’s almost definitely something about an AI to set loose, or something.

Let’s take it easy on the music side, and just have our game link to a Spotify playlist of bands like Yellow Magic Orchestra and Tangerine Dream. Done!

Last note: the game’s controls will be entirely designed around the keyboard. The novels don’t really mention extra peripherals, and mostly just talk about people working the keys as they fly around cyberspace. A very quick bit of research shows that mice only started getting popular around ’84-’85, so it’s likely that Gibson didn’t really have them in mind when he first started writing about the Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 deck, for instance.

See the source image
People have done some fun hardware mods to create their own cyberspace decks, but we can also look to real-world examples from the early 80s, like this Japan-exclusive MSX system. it’s so preeeettyyy

Anyway that’s my game pitch! To date, I’ve never seen a movie or game that exactly matches the way I picture Gibson’s descriptions of the matrix, so it would be fun to try and express that for myself. There was an actual Neuromancer game as well, but it was more of a point-and-click adventure. Not what I want!

Would you play my game? Sound off in the comments! Or don’t, actually, because comments are disabled, and I’m never going to make it anyway, so it’s a moot point. But thanks for reading this far!

Thing I Saw: More beautiful MSX systems.

Thing I Learned: It’s somehow canon that the Jawas in Star Wars communicate with scent as well as their chirpy language. My daughter was disappointed that the Wookieepedia article does not specify the kinds of scents, however.

I’m Grateful For: Speaking of my daughter, she spent a day in hospital earlier this week due to what everyone at first thought was appendicitis. It turns out that some of her lymph nodes may have been inflamed by a recent nasty cold. She bounced right back!

I’m Dreaming Of: Starting Horizon Zero Dawn, which I purchased today and want to boot up immediately after posting this.

Canadians of a certain age will remember this as the theme from The Raccoons, a fun kids show about environmentalist raccoons thwarting evil capitalists. They’ll also remember it because it goes so much harder than it needs to

Ten years! TEN years! Ten! Years!!

Ten Years GIF - Ten Years Ten Years GIFs

Today’s my 10th wedding anniversary day! It’s gone a little sideways from what we planned, because my daughter and I both have coughs and sore throats (so far the COVID Rapid Tests are saying it’s not that, thank goodness). We’re getting good food delivered. I made a photo montage of the worst / most awkward photos I could find of us. It’s a good day.

I got a little reflective this morning, thinking about our wedding photos and the phrase that often comes to mind– “look at those kids,” we tell each other. “They didn’t know anything.”

2012 – The day after our wedding, waiting for a flight.

But of course, ten years from now I’m going to look at 2022-us and say the same thing. But my focus now is to look at the past version of myself with kindness and humility, rather than derision or an air of superiority. That guy had to go through what he went through so I could be me, now, looking back.

A tradition we have is to write letters to each other that we open a year later. We started shortly after we were married, reading them on our first anniversary, and so on. The format is usually:

  • The specific moment in time that we’re writing from (the day and time, where we are while writing, etc.)
  • What’s been going on lately
  • Questions / speculation about the year to come
  • Some sappy, lovey-dovey stuff, as expected
On a West Coast adventure in 2018.

Some of the things we write about, when read a year later, make you say “Hoo boy, you’re in for a ride there, buddy.” Most recently: Me in 2020 hoping the pandemic has died down in 2021. Some of the things we write about make us want to gently pat our past selves and say “it’s going to be okay, you’re going to get through it.”

And what’s really interesting is that there are some challenges that we’ve completely forgotten about in less than a year! So many times we’ve read our letters out loud and said “Oh yeah, that was a thing back then!”

We’re often reminded to extend grace and kindness to other humans because we don’t know their struggles. And that’s where I’m coming from today, only it’s not to other humans, it’s to myself. When I look at that young punk from a decade ago — see, there’s that judgmental language already! Let me rephrase that. When I look at myself from ten years ago, I want to remember to be kind to that guy, because I don’t know everything he’s going through, and…he’s me!

Taken this last Christmas.

Anyway, I’ll see you in ten more years, when I reverse course on everything I’ve just said and describe in detail how much of a dingus I really am.

Thing I Saw: Areas in Final Fantasy III that I haven’t seen in over 25 years. I’m playing it again, and this might actually be the year I finish it. I got really far in junior high before I had to give it back to my friend Steve, and though I’ve made lots of attempts, this one’s really sticking! It’s a good game!

Thing I Learned: Cuckoo birds are “brooding parasites” because they leave their eggs in other birds’ nests, for them to raise. This from one of Cassidy’s cartoons, which is neat and colourful and 80s-tinged in a way she may never fully understand.

I’m Grateful For: Ten years of marriage to the woman I love <3 and the kickass Lego set she got me for our anniversary (this one)

Rediscovered this tune recently!

2021 Gaming Roundup!

Since 2019 I’ve been keeping track of every game I’ve completed throughout the year, but mostly I haven’t done a lot with that information, except to decide for myself what my favourite new game that year had been. [2019’s was Outer Wilds and 2020’s was Animal Crossing: New Horizons — ed.] I post individual entries about each game on my tumblr, but this year I thought I’d post something like an end-of-year roundup. Haven’t thought this all the way through. Let’s see what happens.

The Complete List:

Spyro the Dragon (PSX)
Super Mario 64 (Switch)
Tomb Raider (PSX)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (XSX)
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (XSX)
Donut County (XSX)
Katamari Damacy Re-rolled (Switch)
Bowser’s Fury (Switch)
Control: Ultimate Edition (XSX)
Halo 2: Anniversary (XSX)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC)
Rage 2 (XSX)
Halo 3 (XSX)
Super Mario 3D World (Switch)
New Super Lucky’s Tale (XSX)
Pikuniku (XSX)
Halo: ODST (XSX)
Rain On Your Parade (XSX)
PAW Patrol: Mighty Pups Save Adventure Bay! (Switch)
Halo: Reach (XSX)
Halo 4 (XSX)
Borderlands 2 (PC)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
Borderlands 3 (XSX)
Super Metroid (SNES)
Metroid Zero Mission (GBA)
Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Planet Alpha (XSX)
Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams (Xbox)
Streets of Rage 4 (XSX)
Recompile (XSX)
Rain On Your Parade (XSX)
Metroid Fusion (GBA)
Superliminal (XSX)
Bowser’s Fury (Switch)
Quake Mission Pack 2: Dissolution of Eternity (PC)
Metroid Dread (Switch)
Quake: Dimension of the Past / Machine (PC)
Lego Jurassic World (Switch)
Picross 2 (Switch)
Carrion (PC)
Unpacking (PC)
I Am Fish (XSX)
MO:Astray (Switch)

This was a big year! Obviously the Xbox Series X is pretty heavily represented on the list (thanks Game Pass!), followed by the Switch and PC in distant third. I set down my Switch for a lot of the year but in the past few months have really gotten back into it.

The Top 5 Games I Finished in 2021:

  1. Unpacking
  2. Metroid Dread
  3. Control: Ultimate Edition
  4. Bowser’s Fury
  5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Top 5 Games I Finished That Actually Came Out in 2021

  1. Unpacking
  2. Metroid Dread
  3. Bowser’s Fury
  4. Quake: Dimension of the Machine
  5. Recompile

Honorable Mentions

A few games that I spent time on but for one reason or another didn’t finish. Maybe I’m still working on them, maybe I dropped them after feeling “done”. Who knows? Oh wait, I do.

  1. Forza Horizon 5 (XSX) – I played this pretty intensely for a couple of weeks, and got nowhere near crossing off all the race events. Probably I’ll pick it up again some time this year and make more progress. Same thing happened with FH4.
  2. Far Cry 5 (XSX) – My favourite thing about these games is picking apart the enemy compounds, from a distance, with an enormous sniper rifle. Unfortunately, the main bad guys in this one will not shut up and drone on endlessly about their apocalyptic vision for humanity. Near the end of my time with the game I started mercilessly skipping cutscenes, something I rarely do. I finished two out of three major areas in the game and won’t be going back.
  3. Metroid Prime (Wii) – I was putting in time on this one while working from home (teehee) and when I returned to the office fulltime I let it slide. However, I’m nearly done and recently I’ve gone back in to try and cross this off. I want to replay 2 and 3 as well.
  4. Outer Wilds – Echoes of the Eye (XSX) – Nearly done, but progress was very slow and as of this writing I’m stuck. Which reminds me, I’m going to go try and find out the answer to my question… [and he did find it. -ed]

What Am I Looking Forward To in 2022?

  1. Pupperazzi – A cute looking game about taking pictures of good dogs.
  2. Far: Changing Tides – I finished the first Far just after New Years so it didn’t make my 2021 list, but I really liked it!
  3. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands – The Assault on Dragon Keep DLC was one of my favourite things about Borderlands 2, and this looks to be an extension of that.
  4. Starfield – It’s Skyrim in spaaaaaace (I assume)

ok thanks for reading, enjoy 2022

TBD(estroyed)

One of the other boxes we had to move out of Cassidy’s closet was a banker’s box labeled “EA STUFF”. This means it’s supposed to be stuff from 2006-08, when I was a high school educational assistant. It turned out, the top layer is also stuff from when I went back to University to attempt getting my education degree. (This was right after I was an EA, so 08-09.)

Those papers are jarring to look at. As in, education went so poorly for me that even looking at my notes and photocopies, twelve years later, makes me uneasy. It’s clear that back then I just chucked everything into a box and told myself some combination of “you’ll sort it out eventually” and “this could be useful again sometime” and then neither of those things ended up being true.

I haven’t really written at length about my Bachelor of Ed. days, though I’ve told other people the story plenty of times since my experience there. After working as an educational assistant, and already having an undergraduate degree in English, the next logical step was to become a teacher myself. I’d always respected the profession and I seem to have a patient way with people, particularly kids. So I applied and was accepted.

The courses went fine. The in-school practicum did not. At my request I was placed in a rural school not far from my folks’ place, so I stayed there for the duration (although my bedroom had by this point been turned into an office, so I slept around the corner). The kids were great, the other staff and practice teacher were welcoming, and despite everything I went through what I have later come to realize was a major depressive episode.

editor’s note: at this point I went into detail about how exactly things were going but it wasn’t necessary. suffice it to say I was in a dark place for several weeks. I hit pretty much all your common signs & symptoms.

In any case, thanks to the gentle encouragement of my faculty advisor, I stuck it out and finished my practicum blocks as well as I could. I really made every effort, because as the adviser put it, if I didn’t, I’d always wonder if it was just a question of motivation and willpower toward the work. It wasn’t. It was my (lack of) heart for the job and my personality that held me back. But things had to get very, very bad for me in my head before I’d actually open up to ask for help from others; something I’ve slowly been getting better at ever since.

So! All that is to say that when I look at the assignments I made up for my grade fives, I still feel a complicated mix of mostly negative sensations and emotions creep over me. As such, I’d resolved to burn everything in the box and purge it from my life. Then my green conscience got the better of me, and I’ve been going through and laboriously removing the staples so I can recycle everything instead.

Thing I Saw: Outer Wilds, one of my GOAT games, is getting new story DLC in September and there was a trailer that look super cool and I’m hyped.

Thing I Learned: Even though we can know and infer a lot about the dinosaurs, we really have no idea exactly how they looked and sounded. Neat??

I’m Grateful For: Every little bit of rain we’ve gotten this summer so far. I’ve never cared so much about rainfall before, but before last fall we didn’t have a bunch of expensive new shrubs and trees in our backyard either.

I’m Dreaming Of: Getting a cheap PS4, even though I have an enormous backlog of games I mean to finish, and then a boatload of games on Game Pass beyond that. Still, I wanna play the Last Guardian, gimme

This album probably didn’t do the depression any favours but there are some pretty good songs on it

Days Go By

I’m going to try and get a little heavy today. Real introspective. Bear with me, or you know, skip this post and come back another time.

We reorganized Cassidy’s closet, and that meant hauling everything out of there that had lurked in it since we’d moved into the house. One of those things was my Box of Memories, a sturdy box full of a disorganized mess of pictures, documents, souvenirs, and other carefully collected useless junk. I haven’t opened this box in quite a while and Cassidy was, naturally, quite curious about it. One of the artifacts within was a fake book filled with printed photos from 2001-02, which I began poring over in earnest. (She lost interest and started pawing through the rest of the box almost immediately. She is four, after all)

The photos were of me at twentyish, getting my first car, my first apartment, going on road trips, goofing off with friends. My mom is in a couple of them, healthy and smiling. I have memories of this time, but they aren’t as specific and full-colour as photos tend to be. And there are things and people I haven’t thought about in a long time. So going over these was certainly making me feel ways about stuff.

A day or two later I was having lunch with my family, and somehow we got to talking about memory and the passage of time with Cassidy. I still had these photos on my mind, I suppose. And I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I was trying to articulate to her that things can be a long time ago and still feel like they just happened recently. I knew it was futile, but she asks a lot of questions, and we’ve always tried to give honest answers in ways that she can understand.

In trying to find the words for this effect, I suddenly teared up, and couldn’t speak. All I could do was sit at the table and silently cry, making small hand gestures, and eventually giving up. I’ve often been profoundly affected by things that remind me of the passage of time in this way. Cassidy asked me why I was crying, and I truthfully answered that I didn’t know.

“Are you sad?” she asked. No, I replied, that wasn’t it, not exactly. And that’s actually the feeling I’m probing at right now. There’s I think an element of sadness to the feeling, but it’s more. A little overwhelmed, maybe, at the rush of memories when I really get to thinking about my entire life to this point. All the things that come back, places I’ve never been back to, people I’ve not seen in years. But with it, the good times, too. I was free in ways I’m not now.

Part of the feeling is awe at the beauty and mystery and twists and turns of life. I don’t know a more concise way to put it. That guy, back there, he has no idea about what’s coming, and the profound ways he’ll change, or the unexpected directions he’ll go in. And this guy, right here in 2021 has no idea what the next twenty years (Lord willing) have in store. 2041-me is going to look back here in the same way as I’m looking back at 2001-me, saying oh, you sweet summer child, please enjoy all you can while you can. Good things are coming, to be sure, but there are things you have that you will miss one day.

So we finally come around to Tales from the Loop, and the post I threatened to write months ago. For being a sci-fi anthology show it is surprisingly, deeply interested in grief and the ways we change and grow over time. And sometimes, as in episode 4, there are no flashy science-fictiony tricks that will save the day; sometimes, someone you love will be go away and there is simply nothing you can do, even if you know what’s going to happen.

In the finale, a young boy named Cole disappears for a number of years, although no time passes for him. Early in the episode, before his disappearance, Cole and his mother share a moment where she sees he’s reading a book that she signed out of the library as a child some decades earlier. “Does it feel like a long time ago?” he asks. “Blink of an eye,” she replies.

When he’s returned to his mother, he’s still as young as the day of his disappearance, though she’s aged noticeably and quite a lot has happened in her life, as we see in a series of dialogue-free flashbacks through her life. Rebecca Hall, who plays Cole’s mother Loretta, is an incredible actor in these scenes, and the events of the episode put me in a highly emotional headspace, even though I was only following along peripherally, working on my illustrations while it played on a second screen. Although I admit that as things went on I ended up turning my attention away from my drawings entirely.

The final scene hit me like an emotional truck. We the viewers suddenly time-jump forward, and Cole is in his forties, with a wife and child of his own, standing outside of the house he grew up in. His wife mentions this fact, and his son asks, again, if it feels like a long time ago. Backed by the series’ excellent music, Cole shakes his head slightly and says: “Blink of an eye.”

Reader, that is the line that wrecked me. Because it’s true! So much has happened, and will happen, and yet somehow the present moment often feels like it’s the way things have always been. And I know a lot of art has been made about this exact phenomenon, and I’m far from the first person to have been affected by the idea that time marches on. But goodness gracious, I don’t mind telling you that I full-out sobbed for several minutes while the credits rolled and the show’s beautiful score played the series out.

It’s life, I guess. It’s strange and beautiful and sad, but it’s also good, and it’s the one we have. You realize that time goes fast, sang the Flaming Lips. It’s hard to make the good things last. Enjoy what you can, while you can.

(Looking over this post I really don’t know if I’m any further on understanding why I reacted the way I did, but maybe I’ll understand things better one day)

Thing I Saw: A fascinating speedrun of GeoGuessr, of all things! This last week was Summer Games Done Quick, a marathon of speedruns benefiting Doctors Without Borders. I watch as much as I can during the week it’s on, but almost nobody I know does, so I end up excitedly trying to contextualize my hype levels to anyone in earshot. Or as I put it on twitter,

Best part is that nobody reacted at all to this tweet, so I had to show it to my wife and say “was this good? did I do a good joke?” she said yes

Thing I Learned: You can soak ground flaxseed in water for like 15+ minutes, and hey presto, you’ve got a nice egg substitute for your crepes recipe. Attempted this morning when we only had one egg left, and I needed one more.

I’m Grateful For: Being Vaxxed + 14 days as of last Monday, so I am now officially Totes Vaxxed. Made going to the zoo yesterday a bit less stressful, because despite the heat there were a good number of people. I’m also grateful that Cassidy is seemingly not bothered by having to wear masks in certain areas, and has never made a fuss about it.

I’m Dreaming Of: Finishing my Nathan Plays Silent Hill 2 series. I cracked the project files open for the first time in a long time, just recently.

I’ve never seen the video for this and it’s freaking me out

Invaded!

Canada Day was on a Thursday, and felt like a Saturday. Then today, Friday, I didn’t do any work either, so it felt like another Saturday. Tomorrow, confusingly, is also Saturday. It’s fine. I’ll figure it out.

I have a Canada Day tradition of playing Super Metroid to completion. Sometimes with an audience, sometimes not. Last year I streamed it. Canada Day is as good a day as any to do this sort of thing, because one usually has the day off and most shops are closed.

Side note! I mainly started this tradition because I felt like, as an adult, I didn’t have any good traditions. Much like the Imaginary Friend I wrote about earlier, I suppose I started doing this because I felt as though I “should”. Again, on-brand for me.

This year, I hadn’t decided if I was going to play it until about half an hour before I actually did. I’m most of the way through Metroid Zero Mission so I felt like my Metroidy itch was being adequately scratched, plus it had been a lengthy (and hot) day overall. I hadn’t made the space to do it before putting Cassidy to bed, and bedtime with her is often an epic, multi-hour test of will and determination that had been a bit draining overall.

Side note the second! One of those bedtime sessions is happening as I write this post! It’s taking me quite a long time to do even a few words, because she’s quite distracting!

Anyway, my daughter was finally winding down, and a couple of friends had asked if I was doing it, and I thought what the hey. Let’s grab an Adult Beverage, slap a stream together, and play the game. I decided that if nobody was watching by the time I got to about the Maridia (underwater) section I would probably call it a night. Maridia isn’t terrible, but the pace of things slows down and it’s usually where my runs go to die if my heart isn’t in the game.

So, I let me friends know I was doing the thing and went live at around 9:30pm. For about the first half hour of the game there were…2 viewers, one of which I was pretty sure was me on a second PC as I occasionally made sure the stream was working correctly. I was trying to keep talking and sip my beverage, but there was absolutely nobody chatting back. About a half hour into the session, I got a notification that I was being raided.

Explainer! On twitch.tv, where I stream my things, streamers can “raid” others by designating another stream that the audience will be magically shifted over to. This is often done at the end of your stream; if there’s still a decent number of watchers, you can sort of pass them off to another streamer and the viewers can keep the fun going. (Or not. Viewers are warned and can opt out of the raid, or just, you know, close the tab)

The raid was by a channel called “Neebs Gaming“, and suddenly, over 700 new viewers flooded into my stream, spamming my chat with greetings and emotes I didn’t recognize. They were, by and large, super positive and supportive, and exactly the kind of audience that would go along with someone like me casually playing through Super Metroid as I bantered with them. They were mostly North American, but at least one person was from Norway, which is crazy!

Eventually I gathered that the Neebs Gaming streamers had wanted to raid a Canadian streamer in honour of Canada Day, and I was the lucky recipient. And I had a blast! Sailed right through Maridia and onward to the end of the game, answering questions, making it weird at times, and continuing to drink adult beverages in a responsible manner. After about two and a half hours I was at the finale of the game, and down to about 100 people left but even that completely eclipses any amount of viewers I’ve ever had. Honestly it’s probably more than I’ll ever have again.

But you know what? It’s really turned me on to streaming again. Lori pointed out that I seem quite energized after most of my streams, even if they only draw a few people. I was positively buzzing on this one well through the day today, messaging my friends to brag about the party they missed. Again, I know that the energy of future streams will probably not be quite like this. But if there’s just two or three people chatting with me while I do something I love, it seems to make all the difference to me. I have a lot of fun with it, and I come away happier than when I started. I want to do that some more, on a regular basis!

So! I’m talking with Lori about how we can make even a weekly, part-time stream work. I’m definitely not planning to quit everything and go fulltime, but I want to do this more, again. We’ll see what happens!

Thing I Saw: The ending of the 5th book in the Dog Man series. These are deeply silly graphic novels for kids about a Cop with the head of a Dog who is also the Best Crime Fighter of Ever. They started out quite random and crude, and as they’ve gone on, the crudeness has diminished in favour of a remarkable amount of heart and good lessons for kids. The silliness very much remains. But the introduction of a tiny, adorable clone of the main villain marked a real turning point for the series, and as they keep reminding readers, you’ve always got the choice to do something good in the world. I kind of love them.

Thing I Learned: Metroid Zero Mission is almost perfect to play on bathroom breaks, because the frequency of save rooms means you can play in 5-10 minute sessions easily. This is probably by design, because almost any GBA game you can name is set up to be played in short bursts given the nature of the system.

I’m Grateful For: The streamers and community of Neebs Gaming for making my Canada Day one to remember 🙂

I’m Dreaming Of: A new phone. Not because mine (an LG G7 ThinQ) has anything wrong with it, I just like shiny new things. We recently changed phone providers at work, and since this is a work phone I could have used the opportunity for an upgrade. Unfortunately, my brother Lloyd, who handles such things, says he specifically asked me if I wanted an upgrade already and I said “No, I’m fine”. I don’t remember doing this. He and my Dad are getting new phones. Bleh.

Summer drive vibes for ya

2 Pokes

I got my 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine today, hooray! Both times I visited the “Supersite” in Morden, and it was efficient and pleasant and the staff were very nice.

10/10 would recommend to mitigate effects of disastrous global pandemic!

There are anecdotes of people experiencing a wave of relief, people breaking down in tears, and so on. I have to admit I haven’t felt that. Mostly because

  • I still have to wait a couple of weeks for it to be maximum effective,
  • Even when it’s in effect I still have to obey mask / distancing / store capacity regulations
  • The province is doing better, but still Not Great and there will probably continue to be restrictions on gatherings for the foreseeable future
  • And if I’m being honest, I’ve been very privileged to be shielded from the worst effects of the pandemic.

Still, it’s nice to do, get the vaccine. For myself and for others, and for the future of our communities. I think, anyway! I had to strongly resist the urge to be snarky or glib when I posted to social media today; I wanted my post to be an encouragement for folks, not preaching to the converted about “those people” (conspiracy-minded anti-vaxxers) who think I’m magnetized now or something.

Did you ever have an imaginary friend as a child? I hadn’t thought about the idea for a long time until I was reminded of it recently, and remembered my own childhood. I did, but there are two main things I remember about the experience: it was short-lived, and unless I’m entirely wrong, it was a performance. As in, I conjured up stories of an “imaginary friend” and told them to my family because I remember thinking that it was a thing that all kids did. That might be kind of a weird distinction, but I don’t at all remember having an imaginary friend because I particularly loved the idea. Like, some people can still remember their friend’s name, adventures they thought up, and so on. I can’t. Because I’m pretty sure I was faking it, with the idea that it was something all kids were supposed to do.

I’m sure this says something about my essential nature, but right now I can’t figure it out. I will say that it seems very on-brand for me.

Thing I Saw: This excellent, mind-boggling text adventure game called You Are Jeff Bezos. In it, you play as Jeff Bezos, the Amazon guy, and it’s your job to spend all of his money. This proves surprisingly difficult. On account of, you know, the vast quantities of it.

Thing I Learned: Some spiders have fewer than eight eyes. This thanks to Cassidy, who was wondering, and then made me fact-check myself when I insisted that it was always eight, end of story.

I’m Grateful For: my 2nd vaccine dose!

I’m Dreaming Of: A complete Metroid series playthrough to prepare my mind and body for the recently announced Metroid Dread. I have dramatically reduced the scope of this project for feasibility purposes, but a man can dream. (Right now I think I’ll just try to do Zero Mission, AM2R even though I own the remake of Samus Returns, Super, and Fusion. Mayyyybe mix a Prime in there somewhere. But the mainest mainline titles are actually fairly short, so I think I have a shot of pulling this off by October.

Lori recently found this entire song, which I didn’t even know was a song to be found. You get 1200 internet points if you know where I know this from. Redeem them in the Internet Store!

Hi-diddly-ho, Neighborino

So, how was the week for you? Mine flew right by. The beginning of the week was rough, again; I was exhausted and declared to Lori that I was “tired of having opinions about things.” By which, I meant that I was really bummed out about the seemingly increasing polarization around discussion of like…every issue currently facing our community? And world? I know this isn’t a new drum to be banging on, but it really got to me. How do we find common ground and work together to make the world better when it seems like we can’t even agree on what’s…real?

I expressed this to some friends that I play online games with on a roughly weekly basis, and one of them gave me a valuable reminder. He said that disagreeing with a neighbour doesn’t necessarily make them a bad neighbour. People can have nutty views and still be decent people. I know that for some issues and some neighbours, disagreement doesn’t just mean “we don’t see eye to eye” but more like “my neighbour doesn’t think I should exist” which is very different. But I’ve been reflecting on what my friend said in the days since and realizing that I’d gotten to a place where I was getting afraid to learn anything about anybody. I was getting scared that any divergence on issues I care about would somehow “poison” the relationship altogether.

I mean, as a Christian, I don’t really suppose that Jesus called us to only hang out with the people we already agree with. But it’s scarrryyyyy

Anyway, I often get in my own head about having to have the Right and Most Convincing answers for people I disagree with (see: posts about trying to “script” difficult conversations) and this is just another good reminder from a friend that I can let that anxiety go. And that it’s okay to have and express my own thoughts about things. One conversation with someone doesn’t have to change their entire worldview. Even my daughter’s Dog Man comics reminded me in the past few days that you don’t have to be able to move the whole tree at once; sometimes just one branch can make all the difference.

Thing I Saw: Lori and I are working our way through WandaVision and we really like it. I’d like it to be about 20% creepier, but there you are.

Thing I Learned: [Content warning: this is about the recent discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School] So, another friend of mine works for the city administration. Our city, like many across Canada, decided to collect and display 215 pairs of shoes in front of city hall to memorialize the horrible discovery announced at the end of May. My friend told me that apparently this display had garnered some vehemently negative feedback on social media; I wasn’t told the specifics, but knowing that people could be angry about this small acknowledgement was troubling enough. In response, I told them about the article I’d recently read, in which archaeologists and researchers talked about the painstaking process of finding these mass burial sites. They said that because these things can be so difficult to find after time has passed, they start with primary sources: they interview survivors, the people who attended these schools as children. Because very often, the children were made to dig the graves that their peers were buried in.

With that fact in mind, I have only profane words on my mind for those who would complain about a small acknowledgement of a horrendous tragedy. I don’t want to reprint them here.

I’m Grateful For: Wise friends.

I’m Dreaming Of: A Skor McFlurry from McDonalds, to be honest

I love BDG, and as somebody who’s also watching his way through the Backstreet Boys video catalog with his wife, I can tell you that his moves and voice are on point