Don’t Move

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:

Floating Points by Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra

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!

I may have posted this before but I’ve been obsessed with it lately so it’s time for you to rewatch as well

My One Hundred Percent for 2023

‘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]

  • Finish Final Fantasy VI on the SNES
  • Continue organizing my games room / office

(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 [1] missing my son and [2] 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 and The 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.

After multiple listens I’m pleased to announce that Sloan’s latest album is: Good!

2022 Gaming Roundup!

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)
  • Ynglet (PC)
  • FAR: Changing Tides (XSX)
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land (Switch)
  • Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (360)
  • Black Mesa (PC)
  • Pikuniku (XSX)
  • Hexcells (PC)
  • INSIDE (PC)
  • Hook 2 (PC)
  • Gears of War 5 (XSX)
  • Beasts of Maravilla Island (XSX)
  • Cave Noire (GB)
  • Immortality (XSX)
  • Cyberpunk 2077 (XSX)
  • DOOM (2016) (PC)
  • Mega Man X (SNES)
  • SOMA (PC)
  • 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:

The Top Five Games I Finished in 2022

  1. Immortality
  2. SOMA
  3. INSIDE
  4. Doom (2016)
  5. Outer Wilds – Echoes of the Eye DLC

The Top 5 Games I Finished That Actually Came Out in 2022

  1. Immortality
  2. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
  3. Uh, welp
  4. It was just those two
  5. It is what it is

Honorable Mentions

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.

Dishonorable Mentions

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:

  1. Red Faction Guerilla – ReMARStered (Switch)- Loved this when it came out, but playing it now I really do not. Time has not been kind.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA): so stilted, so many boring rooms
  5. 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.

Canonizing

“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)

#1 – Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental — Vince Guaraldi Trio

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.

#2 – Mary’s Boy Child — Boney M

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.

#3 O Holy Night — Beta Radio

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!

#4 Snow Falls — Lady Maisery w/ Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith

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.

#5 Der Friedensfurst (The Prince of Peace)

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.

Imagine getting a bunch of friends to get together and go around singing this with! They’re probably all weird theatre kids, but still!

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