Cursed to Wander

Until recently, my 3-year-old boy was up every day at least an hour before anybody else. Because he gets upset and noisy if left alone, we’d usually end up on the couch downstairs, quietly playing Xbox games until it’s time to get everyone ready for the day. A perennial favorite of his was Farming Simulator ’22, a game I have come to loathe.

When we first tried it, I attempted to genuinely engage with the game, even though I didn’t find the subject matter very thrilling. My boy just saw a big tractor on the game thumbnail and got excited about that. I did a bit of the tutorial, moving between different farming equipment and getting a grasp of the controls, and then we discovered the Red Truck.

The Red Truck is a 1980s pickup truck that comes with most new save files, and driving it around became the only thing my boy wanted to do. From a certain point onward, if I tried to do any actual Farming, he’d angrily demand that we return to the Red Truck. Since it’s not the real point of the game, however, the Red Truck’s driving physics are terrible and there’s almost nothing to do that isn’t directly related to farming activities. Which I wasn’t allowed to do.

After a long enough time aimlessly driving the Red Truck around the game’s (pretty big) map, I began to slowly lose my sanity and imagine my farmer character to be in some sort of digital hell. Homes, stores and buildings can’t be entered, and peering in windows reveals the same couple of distorted, forced-perspective images. There’s very light traffic, and it will simply stop dead if interrupted, until the path is clear. Pedestrians walk serenely and silently around sidewalks and trails, but disappear completely if you try to make contact. Some roads lead out and away from the community, but you’ll be abruptly stopped by enormous, floating red X’s. The radio stations play generic, lyric-less music with no commentary or ads between. Time itself drags on during the day, or skips ahead by months when you sleep.

Again, I know these things aren’t the point of the game — it is first and foremost a Farming Simulator, and this isn’t a developer with the resources to make a ‘living’ world like Red Dead Redemption 2. All of the preceding is largely the rambling of a sleep-addled mind. Please ignore it! Farming Simulator characters are not self-aware and do not suffer in their silicon prison.

Let’s talk about a tumblr post that knocked me off my feet a couple weeks ago:

I’ve always been somebody who didn’t want to “wear out” the stuff he enjoys. I sample, I savour, I almost always stop myself from really indulging in the things I like as much as I want to. I have a fairly strict system for rotating the shirts I wear because I don’t want the ones I really like to get worn out “too soon”, whatever that means. Recently, I was putting clean dishes away and decided I should be stacking the clean plates on the bottom of the existing stack, so that we don’t use the same four plates over and over, but spread the usage evenly.

My kids don’t have this, and it’s hard to watch; if they get a sticker book they are absolutely gonna put those stickers everywhere and on everything, and not worry about “using them up”. Because sticker books are mass-produced and there will be more! And they’re having fun! I have to work hard to rein in the impulse to stop them.

That’s why this post hit so hard. I re-read it multiple times on the day it came across my tumblr dashboard, and then thought of it daily for a week. “Your life should not be a museum” and “Being alive is as special an occasion as it gets” are amazing ideas. I have decades of habit to work against, but I’m trying. We’ll see what happens.

Thing I Saw: Some Canada Geese strutting across my workplace yard, honkin’ it up. Reminder to give those guys a wide berth, everybody.

Thing I Learned: Lori and I started the latest season of the British panel show Would I Lie To You? and across two episodes I have guessed correctly Zero times. Apparently I no longer have any ability to discern if somebody is telling the truth or not.

I’m Grateful For: Speaking of Lori, we got to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary!

There is a lot going on in this video and it’s pretty much all great

2023 Gaming Roundup

A few weeks ago, I dreamt I was playing Starfield, the first-person role-playing game that came out last year. I had completed a quest chain of good/helpful deeds, and I stood on a raised circular platform in the middle of a busy, colorful city. I looked toward the sky, where an enormous silver hand, floating in space, curled into a thumbs up. For me!

At the top of the screen, the game showed four icons. Three were darkened. Then, the one with a thumbs-up symbol lit up. “WIN THE FAVOR OF THE GODS 2/4” I ran off to find the next quest chain of good deeds so I could stand in another spot and get a third god’s approval. “Wow,” I thought, as I moved through the city, “this game is actually pretty good!”

I woke up soon after, slightly disappointed that Starfield wasn’t really the game of my dreams.


Since 2019 I’ve been keeping track of every game I’ve completed throughout the year, AND I’ve started doing annual roundups — 2021, 2022. Some of the games I mention will have links to my tumblr capsule reviews. You do know I have a tumblr, right?


  • Horizon: Zero Dawn* (PC)
  • TMNT IV: Turtles In Time (SNES)
  • Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
  • Forza Horizon 5 (XSX)
  • Stray (PC)
  • Unravel (XSX)
  • Manifold Garden (PC)
  • Unravel 2 (XSX)
  • The Division (PC)
  • Kirby’s Dream Land (GB)
  • Uncharted 4 (PC)
  • Super Metroid (SNES)
  • Mega Man (XSX)
  • Quake II Remastered (PC)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (NSW)
  • Pikuniku (XSX)
  • Cocoon (XSX)
  • 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim (NSW)
  • Hot Wheels Unleashed (XSX)
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (PC)
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC)
  • Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PC)
  • Wolfenstein (PC)
  • Donkey Kong Country 2 (SNES)
  • Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery (XSX)
  • Maptroid: Worlds (PC)

*the caveat here is that I stopped Horizon about two hours before the end of the game, and watched the ending on YouTube lol. I figured it was close enough and it’s my list, so


  1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  2. Final Fantasy VI
  3. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  4. Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery
  5. Manifold Garden


  1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  2. Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery
  3. Cocoon
  4. Quake II Enhanced


I’m still playing Forza Horizon 5 with my boy, and recently bought the DLC on a good sale. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was good but just not quite good enough to make the toplist. I once again spent a surprising amount of time with Vampire Survivors. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a lot of fun, but I’m not quite done yet.


The main one I can think of is Call of Duty: World at War, a “gritty and chaotic” WWII shooter that was a little too gritty and chaotic for me. Also, annoying. My daughter and I played a fair amount of a game called Spirit of the North but I think she might have lost interest. I definitely have, because the game is tedious and dull. Starfield happened!! And I played a few hours and said, “eh, I’ll get back to it sometime”.


Let me just copy-paste part of last year’s: “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.”

Other than that, I’m not sure there’s a lot on my radar! But I’m sure I’ll find more things to play 🙂

In Recovery

Wow, I have no idea how to start this off! Hello! Welcome to reading this blog post with your eyes. Or maybe you’ve somehow convinced me to read it aloud to you? Then welcome to hearing it with your ears.

I made a Winter playlist in the same vein as the Fall one I put up last time:

My self-imposed rules were the same; 20 songs with Winter vibes, no need to explain myself, try not to pick songs that directly referenced the season or its attributes. I think I did okay again!

The play I was in, Back to the 80s, ran last weekend, and it was an absolute blast. We had so much fun each night, and appreciative audiences each time. My lines as The Terminator parody character “D-800” got good laughs and some big ol’ dopamine hits for me. Biggest show surprise was that we never did secure costumes for the Transformers parody characters that myself and Eric were playing, so at his suggestion and the director’s approval, we pivoted to just holding toys of the characters and sort of puppeteering them. It felt incredibly silly — moreso than the rest of the show — and doing it took a surprising degree of focus not to burst out laughing myself. But we thought it worked and so did the director, and people laughed, so. No worries!

I realized as the show opened that I would be sadder when it was over than I’ve been in previous shows, and I was right. There’s a well-known effect in theater (and probably other performance spaces) that the week after a show is over can be very hard, and empty, which makes sense! You’ve made connections with people and worked so hard, and spent so much time, to put on this thing and then suddenly — poof, tear down the sets, see you all another time maybe? So I’ve been feeling a bit low this week, and tired, and recovering. It’s okay, it’ll pass.

Well, I’m writing this in the last two hours of being 40 years old. Can’t think of anything I’d like to cross off before turning 41, or at least nothing that can be achieved in the amount of time I have left. Forty, you were okay; you had your highs and lows like any other year. Maybe the most grappling I did with aging was brought on by an offhand comment of my wife’s…

and let me just add here; Lori if you read this, I’m really not upset, you apologized afterward and I said it was fine and it still is!

…wherein I was looking at pictures of myself from around the time we were dating in 2011-2012. It was a simple photo of me sitting at a table with a plate of food, sort of a neutral expression on my face, clean-shaven. I didn’t think much of it. Looks like me. Lori passed by, saw it, and affectionately said something like “look at that young buck” which set me back on my heels.

Because I genuinely hadn’t seen a difference between that guy’s face and the face I see in the mirror now! But of course, on subsequent looks (at that guy and this guy), I see the differences. What haunted me, a little bit, for days afterward, was the fact that I initially didn’t see it at all.

Anyway. I came around to a kind of acceptance, I think, and 41 doesn’t seem bad at all. Let’s do this.

Thing I Learned: The longer this blog goes on, the more I worry that I’ll accidentally repeat my YouTube song at the end of the post. However! I just now I realized that I can get the video URL and run it through the blog’s search bar to see if it comes up! Crisis averted.

Thing I Saw: Whoops, I usually start with the thing I saw. I’m hooked on the anime Jujutsu Kaisen which is dark and funny and tense and has some visually bonkers fight sequences. The new season is airing right now, and it’s fun to look forward to a weekly episode of something.

I’m Grateful For: *gestures at everything around him* just, all of it, right now. And you, reading this, right now. Thank you!

A song to listen to when you are feeling grateful for all of it

Tumble Backward Into Autumn

(Or, Fall Into Fall)

It’s fall! I’ve written in the past about feeling weird and restless during this season, because for a big portion of my life it always meant a time of change and new things. Until it didn’t, and things were more stable for me, and then the restlessness began! This year I’m noticing in myself that the itch for change is a lot quieter; I actually think what might be helping is having kids and living vicariously through them.

Anyway, this year I decided to compile a Spotify playlist to try and capture some fall vibes. My main criteria when selecting songs was whether it would feel appropriate while walking among autumn leaves. I set a target of 20 songs and also had a soft rule that the song couldn’t mention Fall in any way — I think I mostly achieved that.

No idea what, if anything, the list says about me and my relationship to autumn. But I think it’s nice and I’m enjoying it myself. Here!

In other news:

In just a few weeks I’ll be performing in Flatlands Theatre Company’s production of Back to the 80s, a broad parody of Back to the Future that includes a zillion walk-on cameos by your favorite 1980s pop culture artifacts. Think Ready Player One but silly on purpose.

Rehearsals have been loads of fun and a big boost to my mental health in these past few weeks. I do hope people enjoy it when it premieres, but the most important thing to me has been putting the thing together.

Also, I’ll be 41 in a couple of weeks! It looks like I didn’t write about my experience with my 40th birthday party last year: the short version is that it was cancelled at the last second because everybody in my household got super sick, starting with my boy. A huge disappointment because we had food, venue, and people ready to go; I ended up driving around and distributing bits of food and drink (while masked) to various friends.

This year we’re going to try again, and the way it’s gone it’ll probably be the last party I try to plan for myself. Not that planning the thing has been that terrible, but my personal anxiety levels have been way up and down, and I’ve been totally sure that I was going to cancel the entire thing at least twice.

I want to do a PowerPoint party! This is an idea that took off during the pandemic, where everybody invited brings a short (like, 2-3 minutes) presentation on something they’re excited or passionate about. We’re renting a boardroom at a local hotel and bringing in food and drink. Invites are out and a few friends have responded very positively to the idea, which is encouraging. But even so, this is probably the last time I’m going to try and have a birthday party; watch this space next year to see if I stick to my promise.

Thing I Saw: A Field In England, a film I can’t really recommend but made me feel nice and nostalgic for a time in my life when I had the space to watch movies I didn’t love. Does that make sense? I used to have time to watch a lot more, and now that I have less time, I’m more likely to zero in on things I’m really interested in or am sure I’ll like.

Thing I Learned: Well, I’m learning about Numbers Stations for one of my PowerPoint party presentation ideas. Because of this, I’ve discovered that the Conet Project is on Spotify as well! If you’ve ever wanted to listen to haunting, scratchy recordings of people reading cryptic sequences of numbers, now’s your chance!

I’m Grateful For: My Super Nt and a couple of wireless controllers, so I can play Donkey Kong Country on cold October nights.

Not one of my fall songs, but nice anyway

What Have I Become

Yesterday was Monday, a hot and muggy day off from work in which I decided to clean the garage floor. This is usually done a little earlier in the year, like Spring? And not August? but eh, life’s busy. The process involves backing the cars out, taking out all the stuff that’s on the floor, and sweeping / washing the caked-on layers of dirt and muck. Not thrilling, but it needs doing. I usually play a bit of music and try to hydrate a lot.

Unfortunately, the process left me with a lot of mud at the top of my driveway, just outside the doors. So I grabbed the hose and stood there, quietly trying to wash the mud down the driveway. The kids had been playing outside but were elsewhere, and I had turned off the music a while back. Not sure why. Vibes were wrong, who knows.

While standing there, spraying water back and forth and watching debris float away I start thinking: I am such a stereotypical suburban dad at this moment. Let’s run down the list:

  • 40 years old
  • Dirty cap, shorts, old running shoes, and a t-shirt from a 5K I ran in 2018 (past glories haha)
  • One hand on hip, the other holding a garden hose
  • Using a holiday to clean the garage
  • Bluetooth speaker playing old rock songs (currently off)

In that moment I kept thinking that, at 20, I would have never expected to become the person I’m describing. And my first reaction was that it was bad somehow, that I’d betrayed my past self. On reflection, however, I realized that at 20 I would have had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be like at 40. It’s not as though I had big dreams then either! I’m where I am because of choices I made, and it’s fine. It’s good, actually. Life: good. Not without challenges and dark days, mind you, but overall, today I can say: is good.

I don’t know, I guess I just found this interaction with myself interesting enough to note and share with whomstever will read this.

Thing I Saw: A children’s entertainer doing magic tricks while my daughter’s mouth hung open. She’s 6.5 now and I often go back and forth on how rational or how mysterious I should make my explanations of things, when she has questions about the world. In this case, I don’t know how he did some of the things he did, so I can honestly say: “magic, I guess!” when she wants to know the answers. I like that.

Thing I Learned: You can beat the boss and get the third medallion in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past without getting the item in the big chest for that dungeon. (Unfortunately that item is crucial for the game going forward, but almost everywhere else you have to use the dungeon’s item on the boss, so)

I’m Grateful For: My household has been remarkably healthy this summer! Right around this time last year was when things hit the fan for us, and it felt like somebody was infected with something for pretty much the rest of the year.

If you’re looking for music to clean a garage by, start here.

Middle of Nowhere

Last Wednesday was extremely stressful for me, and later in the day while trying to have a breathing exercise about it I thought: I should do a float tank again.

The previous (and only) time I did a float tank, or sensory deprivation tank, or float therapy, or what have you, was late 2019. We’d been through a particularly difficult time and I had to drive up to Winnipeg to try one. It was neat but not something I was extremely keen to jump back into, at the time. Since then, a tank has been installed in a business fifteen minutes away rather than an hour and a half, and it felt like its time had arrived again. So I booked an appointment for last Friday and off I went!

You’re shown into a warm room that you have to yourself for 90 minutes. There’s a shower and of course, the tank. It’s basically a large, enclosed bathtub with a sealed door. Inside is a foot or two of water that is set for your approximate body temperature and loaded with epsom salt. When you lie down in this, close the door and turn off the lights, you’ll be floating in the void, and you can have a think or just let your body relax.

There’s a smell to the water that is not so strong as to be unpleasant, and the water has an oily quality to it. You absolutely do not want to touch your eyes after getting in the water, because that is how you get salt in your eyes, and your calm will be diminished for a while to say the least.

So you disrobe, rinse in the shower, put in earplugs and climb in the tank, closing the door behind you. There is a dim light with a toggleable switch just above the water line, reachable when you’re floating in the water and you’re ready for things to get real dark. The fluid dynamics of lying down in a shallow bathtub means that, even though you’re floating, you’ll spend a couple of minutes gently nudging up against the sides of the tank before things stabilize. In this environment you may begin to lose a sure sense of where the edges of your body are, which is interesting. Some people report visual and auditory hallucinations in the absence of external stimuli. Many folks will tell you that it helps to have a ‘creative’-type problem in mind as you’re going in, like puzzling over some aspect of a story you’re working on, or a name for something, or a colour that your spare room walls are lacking, etc.

I had one or two ideas but nothing definite and in the end decided to just let my mind go where it wanted to go. Just to relax and be curious about whatever came next. Here are my stars (things I liked) and wishes (things I wanted to be better) about the experience:

⭐A spot on the back of my neck was desperate to be scratched when I laid down or adjusted my position, but I found that if I merely noticed it, didn’t do anything, but went back to letting my mind wander, it gradually faded away and I’d forget about it.

⭐At one point I randomly imagined an elderly man saying something cryptic, then spent the next few minutes trying to work backwards from the sentence to figure out a context in which it could make sense. I think I might have been falling asleep. Later I would be unable to remember the quote at all.

⭐I tried a few different positions for my arms to see what was most comfortable, and of course my movements meant a few more nudges from the tank walls as the water stabilized again. I could never predict where the nudges would come from.

⭐At one point I spent a minute having fun by gently pushing off the ‘top’ wall above my head, then gently pushing off the ‘bottom’ wall with my feet, when I’d feel them make contact. It always took much longer to feel the top and bottom walls than I expected, and with no frame of reference for my movement speed, the tank suddenly felt huge.

⭐I did one or two other little experiments like that, trying to notice physical stimuli but also my expectations about them? Sounds pretentious when I write it out, but it was kinda fascinating.

🙏Which brings me to my wishes: at one point mid-float I opened my eyes, expecting more pitch darkness, and found to my dismay that I could dimly see. There’s one more extremely dim light in the tank, it turns out, and now I could see the outline of the door. Suddenly, instead of existing in a weird void I was back in a bathtub. I did not appreciate having a frame of reference again, and though closing my eyes was fine, I would have preferred to be able to keep them open.

🙏At times, even with earplugs and being sealed in a tank, I could hear somebody with a heavy foot tread walking past the room several times. Same as above: not horrible, but definitely unwanted.

🙏This last one isn’t the fault of the tank or the business hosting it, it’s on me: I think I gave myself motion sickness? It’s that or the mild smell finally got to me. Similar to my ‘up-and-down’ experiment, I tried something with my perception of motion, only this time I imagined I was gently spinning. After touching one of the side walls and heading back the other way, it was easy to feel like my whole body was turning slowly, so I leaned into that feeling and started visualizing that I didn’t stop at all, just continued to turn like I was laying on a record player. Then I tried picturing that I was spinning faster and faster, and then an ugly little feeling took place in my stomach. I actually got out a little before my allotted time was up because of it; here was something that was actually too distracting. It didn’t really clear up until after I’d gotten back home.

So when there’s 15 minutes left, soft ambient music plays to let you know, and you can climb out and use the shower to rinse the weird oily water from yourself. Distractions aside it was actually an enjoyable experience, though I’m not certain I’d recommend my local tank place without some caveats. Of course, the place makes some big claims about the mental and physical health benefits of floating, which I can’t really attest to either. It’s a little like a spa day; are you super chill and relaxed specifically because of the spa treatment, or was it because you finally took a day for yourself and did whatever you wanted without judgment?

Thing I Saw: the new Zelda game, Tears of the Kingdom came out last Friday as well. Players are already using its extremely robust toolset to make anime jet fighters?? Meanwhile I’m struggling to properly stick a hook on a platform haha

Thing I Learned: The “10,000 steps a day” goal that many pedometers set by default is a basically arbitrary number picked by Japanese marketers in the sixties. Moving your body is good, but maybe don’t feel guilty or ashamed for not hitting that number every day.

I’m Grateful For: It’s By-Election season and I’m the Automation Coordinator for our local voting office. I’m grateful for the flexibility with my job and life to be able to stretch myself a little bit in this way!

My daughter’s been binging Bluey episodes lately and this song actually slaps


Last post I said I might talk about what happened with my cat, and in a tumblr post I said I’d talk about my life as a gun owner, so there’s two topics for today.

Almost exactly a month ago, on a Friday afternoon, I had come home early from work to start getting ready for a family outing. I noticed when I got home that Gideon Cat had thrown up downstairs — not uncommon — but when he came upstairs to greet me he was unsteady. He wasn’t walking straight, he was nearly falling over, and even sitting still he continued to gently shake.

Obviously we couldn’t leave him that way and just head out for our trip, so as soon as I could I took him to the local veterinarian. They said he’d probably had something like a small stroke. He was prescribed with anti-anxiety meds for two weeks and a liquid medication to manage his blood pressure for the rest of his natural life. He was also assigned a new diet of (much more expensive than my usual) kidney care food. It was bewildering and a bit stressful, and a lot to process all at once, but I managed somehow. Thankfully, he was much steadier by the end of our visit, and we still got to have our outing.

He’ll be thirteen this summer. He’s an old man now. He’s also had a remarkably healthy life the entire time I’ve had him. I know intellectually that most pets aren’t just perfectly fine until the moment they tip over and die peacefully of old age, but having such a long run of good health did kinda make me feel like…maybe things could go that way?

In any case, we’re managing the new medication…reasonably well, though I do worry about how I’m going to instruct anyone else to give him his dose. Currently I sit down on the floor, scoop him up and cradle him like a baby (though much tighter so baby can’t climb away). We’re still getting used to it, I think. He’s doing a lot better and putting on some weight, which is good, because he was too skinny before.

Anyway that’s Cat Update 2023. On to the other topic:

I grew up around guns and was always fascinated by them. I had a pump-action BB gun as a kid on the farm, and though I wandered around and took potshots at some birds I never hit anything (and honestly don’t think I would have felt good if I had). My older brother is also a collector, so I’ve had some fun experiences through him. I didn’t necessarily seek them out for myself as an adult, but at one point I had an opportunity to take a firearm course and get a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License) of my own.

Actually, there were opportunities to take the course all the time, but my collector-brother knew the person running this particular course and said “you will never have an easier time getting your license than with this instructor” and he was right. It was almost comically simple for my friend and myself to get our licenses. My brother gave me a small, .22-calibre bolt-action rifle [I think this one?] and maybe once a year I went out to a disused gravel pit in the countryside and plinked at targets to my heart’s content.

My license lapsed shortly after Cassidy was born, and I missed the period of time where you can renew without taking the course again. At that point I hadn’t been out shooting in absolutely ages, and the gun was quietly locked away under a spare bed in the basement. So it was mainly for that reason that I decided to drop the whole thing and get rid of it.

If I’m being honest, I also didn’t like the idea of a kid potentially getting hold of it, even though it was locked and the ammo was hidden in an entirely separate part of the house. It sort of nagged at me, knowing that the potential for harm, however remote, existed. I can hear the argument that kids can find myriad other ways to harm themselves, and guns shouldn’t be singled out when appropriate safety precautions are taken. Okay, sure, a kid in a house can get hurt in a lot of ways; but then I think, why knowingly provide another one? I don’t know.

(And look, none of this is meant to convince anyone else to never have guns in their homes. I’m just going through my own thought process)

I also have to admit that the escalating numbers of mass shootings and the culture around gun ownership made me uncomfortable too. It wasn’t and isn’t a world I really want to be a part of. I think target shooting is fine, I think subsistence hunters and even sport hunters should be allowed to do their (registered, tightly controlled) thing. But I can’t really imagine the mindset of a person who feels it necessary to be armed while going to church, or shopping at the store. Nor do I really want to!

Anyway, that’s my gun story. I had one for a while, and that surprises people, and then I let it go, and I haven’t missed it.

Thing I Saw: Big goose tracks in the mud near the dumpster at work.

Thing I Learned: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories will be ten years old next month and I don’t care for this fact at all, thank you, it makes me feel just that much older.

I’m Grateful For: Children who went to sleep relatively easily so that I could sit at the kitchen table and write this post, undisturbed 🙂

Miss these robots

Forever Wandering

In the past few weeks I’ve been having fun experiencing and thinking about spaces in fiction that can’t physically exist. Like a door that should lead outside but goes to a hallway instead. Or rooms that are too big to fit in a building. Or corridors that twist and turn so that you ought to have looped back to where you came from by now, but for some reason you haven’t. I like it all!

(There’s a big overlap with the recently-popular “Liminal” aesthetic, where you take or create pictures of eerily empty spaces* and pretend that they’re just outside of our regularly scheduled reality.)

Anyway, I want more, and I wanted to make a list of where I’ve been already. Not all of these are things I’ve taken in very recently; some are from several years back, but all of them tickled that part of my brain that says “this place shouldn’t be like this!” In games particularly, I often enjoy things that mess with my sense of geography and direction. It’s a list-based blog post, everybody! Let’s go!

*note: Not everything in this list is a strong recommendation from me! But, if something here seems interesting to you, by all means, check it out.

  • House of Leaves – This book is layered and crazy for a variety of reasons, but the main story involves a new door appearing in a house one day, and instead of leading out to the yard it leads to a black labyrinth.
  • Superliminal – Parts of it, anyway. This a first-person puzzle game set in a sort of dream hotel.
  • Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2 – These are third-person psychological horror games both that delve into late-game spatial shenanigans. The first game has a mapless area called “Nowhere”, which mashes together rooms from previous places you’ve visited. The second has a section with stairways, holes, and elevators that lead the protagonist impossibly far down into the earth.
  • Piranesi – This was a really recent read! This is a book about a nice man who lives in a house of endless corridors, stairs, and statues. The lower floors are flooded by tides, the upper floors are collapsing in places and open to the sky. Piranesi (the main character) had such a fascinating mindset to me.
  • Manifold Garden – This was also very recent, like last week (as of this writing). A gorgeous Portal-style first-person puzzle game in a strange world with no boundaries. Sort of?
  • The Backrooms (Found Footage) – A YouTube series, soon to be a major motion picture, based on an old meme in which people find themselves in an infinite series of kinda bland and flourescently lit rooms. There is a monster in some of these, and I tend to agree with the folks who think it isn’t necessary; I enjoy the unease of the place just existing all on its own.
  • Severance – This is an Apple TV series about a group of people working in a dystopian corporate nightmare, and while it’s not a focal point of the series, the hallways and corridors that the workers traverse are deliberately mazelike and confusing for viewers.
  • Control – In a game full of creepy ideas and wonderful brutalist architecture, one particular section (The Ashtray Maze) really stands out for a lot of players. The design of the area is based on the hotel in Barton Fink, which I just learned. Walls and corridors open and close around you with this intricate folding animation, and even before any real action goes down there, it feels delightfully uncanny just to stand in. [Also, can I just note, what a heckin’ trailer! Wow!]
  • Ikea stores – I mean, have you been to these places IRL? Even though they’re very large, they seem even bigger inside, and the showroom disorients you immediately and then taunts you with “shortcuts” that seem to lead directly back to where you just came from.

That’s the list so far! What I want to note is that several of these are at least horror-adjacent, but I don’t need them to be in order to enjoy them; Piranesi had no scary elements (beyond the idea of living mostly alone in a house of mystery) but I enjoyed it immensely. If you have further recs for me, you can’t put them in the comments here because I’ve disabled them, so find another way to tell me about them lol

Thing I Saw: I should note somewhere, for posterity, that “AI” technology is absolutely blowing up everywhere. I use Microsoft’s Edge browser and as of pretty recently there’s a dedicated button to let you chat, in conversational English, with their Bing AI thingy. I don’t really know what it’s for, aside from helping you do really specific searches in your own words? And let’s be honest, at this point most “AI” is fancy autocomplete based on tons of our own writing on the internet. But still it is having a moment and I wanted to note that here.

Thing I Learned (Feat. Guest Writer, Bing AI) “AI-generated content can be a useful tool for bloggers who want to create engaging and relevant posts for their audience. AI can help with generating ideas, writing catchy headlines, summarizing key points, and adding some personality to the text. AI can also save time and effort for bloggers who need to produce content regularly and consistently. However, AI-generated content is not a substitute for human creativity and expertise. Bloggers should always review and edit the content before publishing it, and make sure it reflects their own voice and style.” So there you have it.

I’m Grateful For: Trustworthy local veterinarians. I recently had a small emergency visit with Gideon Cat, which I may describe in a future post, and every time I visit I’m aware that they have the power to make up pretty much any price for any service and people will probably pay it because…what’re you gonna do? You likely have no frame of reference for the cost of these services, and it’s your beloved pet’s health on the line! So all this is to say that I think we have good vets here.

In case you need a soundtrack for your 30-second video of raytraced chrome spheres on a chessboard

Expectations (Un)Met

The dog we were sitting went home at the beginning of the month and I am okay with that. This is Fudge:

Laying on the puppydog eyes because I wouldn’t play tug-of-war anymore

He is tall and energetic and just over a year old so basically a giant, extremely mischievous puppy. For the month of February it was like having two toddlers in the house. We had our moments of connection but he was a lot.

On the other hand, part of what we wanted to know was: are we good with having a dog again? And the answer seemed to be yes. My daughter loved him and my son was sorta hit-and-miss, but I think partly that was because Fudge was like, the size of Clifford the Big Red Dog to my boy. Aside from the mischief, he was a good reason to get out and go for walks, so that was nice.

So, a dog that is not as big. We’re keeping our ears to the ground, folks.

Two other things:

Fudge’s owners gave us a bunch of different gift cards to thank us for dogsitting, one of which was a Tim Hortons card that I took. I rarely go there. The lineups are often very long and my time on this earth is too short to wait for mediocre coffee. But I won’t argue with essentially free food, so I tried it. Wouldn’t you know, it’s Roll Up The Rim time!

For those unfamiliar, Roll Up The Rim is a popular annual contest where you win prizes by buying coffee and rolling up the cup’s rim to find a little printed message to see what you got. Only, what I did not know was that two years ago they shifted to a digital format; there’s not actually any prize information printed on the cups and no rolling is required anymore. What is required is an online account in their stupid app, so that you can scan a code at the restaurant and enter that way.

I bought my coffee, drank it, and rolled up the rim, hoping to win another. But nothing was there. I was confused, and a quick Google search shows I’m far from the only one, even though this change was made in 2021. I guess…why call it Roll Up the Rim anymore? I don’t think the change would have bothered me quite so much with any other name. I felt old and disconnected, angrily muttering that maybe living in the future has cost us too much this time.

The other thing was that I just wanted someplace to put my thoughts about The Mandalorian. I’ve had this idea for a long time, but starting the third season very recently has brought them back to the forefront.

When I watch a show I love to peruse discussion groups afterward. And every time people complain about the writing quality or silliness of the show I want to say, “yeah those things are to be expected” because guess what? The Mandalorian is just a super high-budget Saturday afternoon syndicated TV adventure.

I had that thought early in the first season and it’s helped me excuse any part of the show that didn’t really click. When I was a kid & before I had cable, there were always cheesy adventure stories on TV on Saturday afternoons, after the infomercials had finally died away. No big budgets, few big stars, not always a very big cultural impact but often lumbering on for way more seasons than you could’ve thought possible for something that hardly anybody in your orbit actually seemed to watch. Like Xena Warrior Princess or Earth: Final Conflict or Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. This show feels to me like those, but with way higher production values.

This part is harder to articulate but the thing that sealed the deal for me was the theme song.

This plays in full over the credits and when it winds down I always expect there to be one of the Disney TV logos I saw a million times, like Buena Vista or Touchstone. I think it’s a good show and I enjoy it, but I am sort of keeping my own expectations low haha

Thing I Saw: The parking lot of a local grocery store is a popular hangout spot for young adults in their cars; gosh I sounded so old to myself when I read that back, wow. Anyway there are now large signs in the parking lot reminding people not to make so much engine noise, which I think will be 1000% ineffective.

Thing I Learned: Kung Fu: TLC, as mentioned earlier in the post, had four seasons. Humorously, Warner Bros. apparently just released the first two on DVD and then never bothered about the rest.

I’m Grateful For: A (slightly) less chaotic house now that Fudge has gone.

This blog is one of my favourite wastes of time

Hello Jay

Two things happened recently that really made me feel my age (one bigger and one smaller)

Bigger Thing: Encountering “Jay”, the Wal-Mart Floor Cleaning Robot

Try to find the spot where my phone erased a guy with a cart (difficulty: easy)

I was headed for the checkouts and came around a corner to see this thing, which was slowly and awkwardly inching around a display in the centre of an aisle. I’ve seen pictures of robots in stores online but this is the first one I’ve actually encountered, and I was completely caught off-guard. I stood there, watching it, with a feeling I was not immediately able to identify. (And thought: I should blog about this moment so maybe I can figure out what I’m experiencing)

A nearby store worker saw me staring, and helpfully informed me that I was fine to walk past it, and that it would stop for me. “No, I know, I’m just looking at it,” I hastily replied.

Looking back, I think maybe the feeling was a mixture of:

  • The Future is here, right in front of me, and I’m not ready for it
  • Is this really better than just having a person do it?
  • Also, I sort of wish they hadn’t tried to put a ‘face’ on it, but that’s an aesthetic preference and not really a philosophical issue

All of this was a little confusing to deal with because I’ve always considered myself a ‘heck yeah, tech is awesome, bring on the sci-fi-stuff’ kind of person. But I realize now that events of the last few years have really damaged my notions that Big Tech has our best interests at heart and will make things better. And, the last month or two in particular has seen a big rise in conversations around AI and machine learning and I just have no idea where any of it’s headed and yeah! Frankly, it all kinda concerns me. So this robot is just an outcropping of that general sort of Future-related anxiety.

Anyway, I finally went past it, but glanced back and noticed a screen that said its name was “Jay”, which is where I got that little factoid. Lastly, you’ll notice from the picture that the machine’s work was pretty uneven (streaky), so here’s the kicker; the store had a human being with a mop following the robot, too. If that isn’t some kind of metaphor for the broken promise of a Better Living Through Tech, I’m not sure what is.

Smaller Thing: Cassidy Asks a Simple Question

At breakfast with my daughter, my wife and I reminiscing about our elementary school days. I told Cassidy (age 6) that my school even brought in Ronald McDonald once to talk about how great reading is. (I was in grade 3. Ronald had a puppet friend that kept interrupting him, and the bit killed)

“Who’s Ronald McDonald?” she asked. She loves McDonalds, so I just assumed she’d know, because who doesn’t? But I guess they really have scaled back his appearances a lot. The question honestly kinda winded me. On the other hand, when she heard about his being a clown, she immediately asked us not to show her any pictures, ever. So maybe the McDonalds corporation has the pulse of today’s children better than me.

Thing I Saw: What, besides the robot? We’re dogsitting for a co-worker of Lori’s, so he and the cat have had tensions that I haven’t witnessed since our old Yorkie was around. Gideon Cat is getting braver every day, but I actually saw him hiss, which is super rare.

Thing I Learned: Discord voice chat is integrated at a system level in the Xbox user interface. I might not have the terminology quite right but it means you don’t have to download a separate app. On the other hand, if you’re used to chatting via your phone, you’ll abruptly end the voice chat when you forget and turn off your Xbox for the night haha

I’m Grateful For: Lori. The days of late have been challenging, particularly with a rambunctious dog to sit upon, and I’m grateful to have a partner to do the days with.

We’re experiencing a bit of a Wiggles Renaissance with Avery now, so here’s this. I got Wiggles on the brain