We’re Back! A Tired Father’s Story

Hi y’all, I’m hoping to get this habit going again but who knows. Let’s see. It’s been quite a while, and I’ve spent the last bunch of weeks thinking “I should blog again” but then just playing more Control on my Xbox Series X (yes! I got one a few days after launch! that was a big hanging plot thread from last season!)

[admin edit, march 6th 2021 — I had mistakenly identified my new console as the Xbox One X when it is in fact the Series X. See, the naming convention is so subpar that even I, an owner, cannot keep it straight.]

So let’s start off light. I’m sitting on the couch, and Spotify’s on shuffle because I’m sifting through my Liked Songs trying to find one in particular. I know some lyrics and the tune but can’t remember the name or band, and Google’s not bringing me any hits from the lyrics that I remember. Every so often, while writing this, I’ll switch over to Spotify and try a few more songs I don’t entirely recognize. No luck yet. If I get it by the end of this post, I’ll post it as my usual song link.

Maybe I’ve talked about this in the past, but I often run conversations in my head as some sort of…”preparation”, I think it’s meant to be. From heated arguments to benign things like visits to the doctor, I often try to visualize what I’m going to say and and anticipate responses so I can feel prepared, I suppose. But lately I’ve come to realize that even the conversations that don’t really stress me out — picking on the doctor’s office visit again — are just another form of worrying. I think I’m worried that I won’t say the “right” thing, or waste someone else’s time. Things like that.

The thing of it is — as meticulously as I prepare my script in my head, it almost always flies right out the window in the moment. Or the situation I prepared for never even happens. My preparing is usually a waste of energy that takes me away from wherever I currently am, which is sad because I do a lot of visualizing while I’m taking nice hot showers. Think of all the nice hot showers I’ve not been present for, or actually come out of more stressed because I’ve gotten into an argument in my head again.

All that to say; I’m going to try adding my habit of Conversational Prep to the umbrella of things I can label with Just Worrying. (This is a very good technique, and very simple: please check it out. I particularly like this PDF’s summation at the top: “Saying hello to the worry, but don’t stop to chat”)

Thing I Saw: A sort of lockdown protest vehicle caravan around town today. Caravan might be overstating things — it was like four or five vehicles making a racket. One was a truck with a “FREEDOM” banner across the front, pulling a trailer that had a sign. The sign had an all-caps message to Manitobans, urging them to stand up and revolt? I guess?? against the COVID measures our government has taken. “THIS ENDS WHEN YOU SAY IT ENDS” the sign urged. Oh! I had no idea we, collectively, had the power to say a global pandemic was just “over” because we didn’t feel like doing it anymore. I shook my head at them and considered honking my horn in dismay, but they probably would’ve taken it as support.

Thing I Learned: I’m reading The City We Became right now, and looking up pictures and maps of New York City to try and actually understand where the boroughs are in relation to each other, and get a sense of their look and character. It’s fun! I really want to visit NYC now!

I’m Grateful For: A healthy pregnancy for Lori so far. We’re just under a month until the due date, and while it certainly hasn’t been easy for her, it’s at least been medically normal!

This is not the song I was trying to find, but it came up in my shuffle and it’s amazing

Afraid of the Boredom

Two things have occurred to me recently, about myself, and I’ve no idea how significant they are. But I’m writing them down here.

A long time back my counselor suggested, and I’m going to paraphrase, that it seemed to him I was “easily bored”. I wasn’t sure I agreed, at the time, but it’s sat in the back of my mind for quite a while. I pushed back against this at first because I see myself as a person who likes routine, who likes things to be a certain way. A “boring” way! “Interesting Times”, the name of my comics, is meant to be ironic because I’ve always joked that in real life I’m very un-interesting. My counselor George was speaking to my periodic dissatisfaction with my work, among other things; suggesting that I need new challenges to stimulate me.

No, I thought. Challenges take energy that I don’t enjoy expending.

But here’s the thing; over the course of 2020 and nearly every year of my adult life before that, I’ve picked up projects, dabbled with them for a bit, and put them down. I’m back on my YouTube videos right now. Can’t say for how long. Earlier this year I was all heated up about volunteering with LibriVox, which is a group turning public domain books into audiobooks for free distribution. I got the equipment I needed, set everything up, submitted a few chapters, fixed whatever small errors I made, and haven’t felt compelled to sign up for more in…weeks now.

Thinking back on that, it’s finally dawned on me that my counselor was…right? On reflection, it seems the real excitement for doing LibriVox was in setting everything up, and figuring out how I was going to do it. Once my setup was ready and I’d submitted a few chapters without major incident, the project became…known. Something I understood and could now do comfortably. And thus the interest has drained away.

I think back to all the times I’ve bought a new gadget and looked forward to setting it up. I’ve got a Raspberry Pi; I’ll happily spend a Saturday afternoon trying out a new software image, setting it up, tweaking it, and then never touching it until months later when I start all over again.

Do I…do I need challenge? Do I need to find things to expend my energy on? What does it mean when contrasted with the story I’ve told about myself? How can I find motivation to keep going on projects, and not just abandoning them once they’re ‘familiar’?

I don’t know! I’m still turning this stuff over in my brain.

The other thing, not brought up by my counselor but something I hadn’t named until recently, is good old-fashioned FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. This manifests in a few ways, but mostly I’ve been thinking about my gaming habits. I read tons of forum chatter and gaming news, and I’m down to try almost anything that people say is good — to the extent of reinstalling games I’ve already tried and didn’t like, just to give them another chance. If somebody’s having a good time, I want to do that as well! I want to try all the things, because I don’t want to miss anything extraordinary! Even if it means disregarding my own tastes and preferences, which of course is not going to work!

Thanks to Game Pass (Microsoft’s version of Netflix, but for games) my Xbox hard drive is littered with saves from games I’ve played for an hour and moved on from. Even things I really like are difficult to see through to completion, because I keep wanting to try the new things that are coming out on a regular basis. Or I buy things to play “sometime” because the deal was just too good. Like a lot of people who play games as a hobby, I have a backlog, but I think I’m a little unique in that I’ve sampled almost everything in my backlog. It’s like a person having a shelf full of books that they’ve read the first chapter of.

You can see how this also calls back to the First Thing, which seems to be boredom with the known, and how the two together try to make me Get More Games. Always. Hardly finish any of them, but hey.

Again! I’ve no idea if realizing either of these things is significant. I just wanted to write down where I’m at these days.

Thing I Saw: Beautiful orange and yellow trees on my in-laws’ street. Our street is still relatively new and our trees are small, but theirs are gorgeous and showing full fall colours.

Thing I Learned: Weirdly, I’m reading reviews and watching video clips of the new Super Mario 3D All-Stars game due out tomorrow for Switch, and…I don’t need it? Not yet, anyway. It’s supposed to be removed from stores next spring, and I’ll probably grab a copy before that happens. Thanks FOMO

I’m Grateful For: Sleeping through the night. Lately I’ve been up most nights at least once, because Cassidy’s had a bad dream or something, and while she drifts off again almost immediately, I’m usually up for the next hour, wide awake. But when I sleep soundly, a whole night through? It’s glorious.

Big summer vibes for me

Look Up, Wayyyy Up

This isn’t a joke: I’ve been admiring trees lately. Yes, I’ve been sober while doing so — no more than a cup of coffee in my body as far as substances go. Trees, around here, are just…so tall. And they start so tiny. They’re incredible. They’re beautiful and make a pleasing noise when there’s a bit of wind, and because we don’t have a lot of very tall buildings in our area, they’re the biggest things around. I wish I could be more articulate than that. I guess it goes with spending more time outside this summer than usual, given that our church services take place on the lawn outside the building, and Cassidy would probably live outside if she could. I’ve just enjoyed sitting there and looking up, and up, at the top of a tree looking down at us from on high.

Again, I cannot stress enough that I am not under the influence of dangerous or illegal substances with doing so. Probably this feeling will pass eventually. But trees: I appreciate you!

COVID-19 tiny update: I overlooked writing about Phase 3, and now we’re just into Phase 4, which was supposed to be pretty expansive but got rolled back to like 3.5 levels when our cases started ticking up in the province again. We went a long time, something like two weeks in July, without any new cases, but now they’re starting to happen and it’s making some folks nervous. Phase 4 allowed more non-essential businesses to reopen (at reduced capacity), eased capacity restrictions that were already in place, and was going to entirely drop the idea of self-quarantining after travel. But there was a lot of feedback by Manitobans and the last thing was adjusted back to Phase 3 levels. (Self-quarantine if you came from the East, but not the West for some reason)

Things have felt mostly normal around here for quite a number of weeks; almost too normal, as if we’re forgetting that anything was wrong. I’m concerned that another wave is going to bowl us over again, because while we don’t have a vaccine, it WILL keep coming back.

Lastly, an update to my musings from last blog post about selling my collection; I’ve sorta been doing it! Slowly and with no particular goal in mind.

What happened is this: I had a copy of Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch that I’d purchased around Christmastime, more or less on impulse. I had used it less than half a dozen times, and while it’s good and well-made, it was a Whole Thing to clear a space every time I wanted to exercise. (The TV is in the corner of our rec room, so I have to move furniture and pick up very many small toys)

All the lockdown stuff earlier this year made the Switch very popular and Ring Fit pretty popular as well, as a way for people to stay fit indoors. So I thought well, this should be pretty easy to get rid of for at least what I paid. I saw multiple posts on ResetERA about people trying desperately to get copies, and that the game had been sold out with online retailers for weeks and weeks.

Well, VarageSale (the local online classifieds) was a bust. No takers after a few weeks. Tried some local game stores, and they either weren’t interested or offered a pittance for it. Finally, I took to eBay; I’ve had an account for almost twenty years but mostly bought things off-and-on and sold very little. Lo and behold, the auction ended at over what I’d paid, and all I had to do was box it up and ship it off.

eBay is lovely right now for me, because I’ve always hated the negotiation that comes with selling things via classifieds. Mainly over price, but even just figuring out when and where to meet for the exchange; I don’t like any of it. If I turn off the “Make an Offer” feature, and I do, there’s no negotiating, no deciding. The auction ends where it ends and practically everything else is automated. There’s maybe a little more setup to get the auction off and running, because I like to be detailed in my descriptions, but when it’s done? Just pop the thing into a box and bring it to the post office. Done and done.

Since Ring Fit went so well, I took a look at my consoles and realized my Atari 2600 no longer sparked joy. It was something I picked up on impulse when I worked at the game store, and I have no real nostalgia for it. Onto eBay it went, with no real expectations about price; but it fetched more than I thought.

At this exact moment I’m listing a TurboGrafx-16 and games, which I hope will do pretty well. I have no solid plans for the next thing to sell. But I like this idea of just sort of…chipping away at stuff that no longer seems necessary to keep. Thinking about boxing up and listing everything at once was super overwhelming; this is a manageable (and kinda fun??) way to target parts of my collection. The proceeds are going to an Xbox Series X, which, I’m saying it here:

For the first time ever I’m going to try getting a console on launch day?!?! I’m really looking forward to this thing, is what I’m saying.

Thing I Saw: Our seemingly endless blue prairie skies, dotted with perfectly fluffy lil’ clouds.

Thing I Learned: Not to hold my breath, even a little, for The Doors of Stone, the third book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles series. My brother Lloyd and I shared enjoyment of the first two novels, but the 2nd installment came out in 2011 and there’s been nothing ever since. Recently, his editor took to social media to address some swirling rumours and basically confirmed that even she hadn’t seen anything about the book in years. It’s frustrating, because many giant and intriguing plot threads will be left unresolved, but I totally sympathize with Pat; if he doesn’t want to write it, then I don’t want to read it. I’ll live, and I know he owes us nothing.

I’m Grateful For: Being able to do mostly normal summer things for at least a little while this summer, while things were calm in our province.

The Purge?

Lately I’ve been considering getting rid of my retro game collection. I tried starting a blog post about this earlier in the week but my thoughts were too jumbled, and I had trouble even beginning the post.

I have a large PlayStation-branded cabinet full of cartridges, CDs, DVDs, boxes & what have you. The cabinet was recovered from a Canadian Tire, where it was being thrown out as they stopped carrying video games.

Life Pro Tip! Get a friend to work at a large retailer like Canadian Tire who also doesn’t mind doing some dumpster diving. It’s possible their policies have changed, but years ago CTire threw away piles of returned items that were either usable or needed only a little fixing to be perfectly fine. It’s apparently more cost-effective than shipping it back to the manufacturer, which is sad. Anyway!

I keep the related hardware for these games in large storage tubs, stacked near to the cabinet. I’ve also kept a large Sony CRT screen in an old entertainment unit for the purposes of playing, although I did try to get rid of the screen when we moved into our new house, with no takers. The CRT falls out of use for long stretches of time, because it’s more convenient to just hook things into my newer flatscreen, even if the picture quality suffers.

Life Pro Tip! Images from older consoles were designed for CRT screens, so pixelated images will look better / more naturally blended AND you won’t experience the kind of input lag you get on an LCD screen.

The problem is that Lori and I are not especially good at managing space in our household, and the cabinet, tubs, and entertainment unit feat. CRT TV take up a substantial footprint together. Also, I’ve been asking myself why I’m holding on to all these things, and it’s tougher to answer. I used to collect more or less indiscriminately, but I’ve pared a lot of my older collections down to just the things I loved or that made an impact. Digital storefronts, backwards compatibility and emulation have continued to grow in prominence and availability. If I’ve had the impulse to play something in my collection, I’ve brought out all the hardware because I have it, not necessarily because I want to use it. Does that make sense? I’d often rather use modern, convenient options, but I’ve felt compelled to drag out the old stuff because…well, why did I keep it otherwise?

I’ve kept some of it because, like I said, the games meant a lot to me. I like the idea of a physical copy of something that I enjoyed, because I like to look at and be reminded of those experiences by looking over my collection. I like the tangibility of them. But what of it am I actually going to set up and play again? Also, the original impact of those experiences will never come back; chasing that feeling is a fool’s errand. And letting go of a cartridge or disc doesn’t mean that my original experience with it didn’t happen.

I’ve been down this road before and always decided to keep the collection, but the other day I asked myself what I would do if somebody appeared at my door with a big bag of cash and offered to haul everything away. If I’m being honest I’d hang on to my SNES and a couple of games…and probably let the rest go. I’m pretty sure that in a month or two I’d have real trouble remembering what I’d given up. I’d be hard-pressed to name everything now. So I think what’s mostly held me back is, well, effort. It will take a lot of work to properly catalog and sell everything, even if sold in lots. Easier to just let things sit there, and then eventually forget about the decision until it comes around again.

Something my counsellor said to me a little while ago was to apply “gentle persistence” to problems or uncomfortable parts of my life. I have a well-honed ability to let my mind slide off of any problem that takes more than a little effort; same as difficult conversations, where I tend to mentally check out when there are too many feelings to sort out. But it’s been helpful to remind myself to Gently Persist; not necessarily to power through and solve the problem all in one go, but just to try a little more. So this blog post is me Gently Persisting, and when I have a chance again, I think I’ll keep filling my Google Doc with game titles so that I can offer them to my friends before hauling the remainder away.

That, or, somehow I’ll figure a better and more compact storage solution for all the hardware, and just get rid of the stupid TV.

Thing I Saw: I’ve been obsessed with the BIGTOP BURGER series by animator Worthikids. All of the episodes released so far have been a treat, but this is the one I’ve gone back to multiple times–

Thing I Learned: A pony is not a baby horse, because a baby horse is a foal. A pony is just a little horse. Look, I’m not kidding about this. I never realized the distinction until a few weeks ago, when a social media post asked how old you were when you learned that fact and I said to myself “Well, 37. I guess.”

You in Your Small Corner, and I In Mine

It’s been a month since I’ve written anything last. Let’s do an update on The Pandemic, because I was sorta trying to keep tabs on that for…posterity I guess.

When last I wrote we were just about to start Phase 1 of re-opening services, which went really well overall. Phase 2 began yesterday, so restaurant dining rooms can operate at half capacity, gathering sizes are increased (25 people indoors, 50 outdoors, provided of course social distancing and other health guidelines can be followed), some outdoor sport programs and things can maybe resume I guess. Parks & playgrounds can carefully admit people again. A friend asked if I was “excited” about this development, but honestly there’s not much I’ve been burning to do, lately, that I haven’t been able to. So no, not really.

I have a nice mask made by somebody local that Lori knows, and I’ve worn it out and about a couple of times, but around here there is decidedly a Low Emphasis on mask-wearing when out at the shops. Makes me feel a bit weird but I dunno, I’m trying to do my part.

Manitoba has been a remarkably safe province overall so I’m glad that we can relax in some ways, but there’s still lots of opportunity for a 2nd wave to roll through, and I’ve almost no doubt it will.

I’m getting my hair cut Thursday morning. While scheduling the appointment I was asked several questions about my overall health and recent history of travel or interacting with unsafe/infected people. I was expecting this, and now that I think about it, it’s interesting how normal the conversation seemed. A year ago such questions would have seemed strange, maybe even invasive. New normal indeed.

Since I’m writing about big events I’d be remiss not to mention the huge protests going on daily all over the United States, as well as here in Canada and around the world. On May 25th, an African-American man named George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer during an arrest. The officer held Floyd to the ground with a knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, and a video showed George exclaiming “I can’t breathe!” among other things before going unresponsive.

There is video circulating, taken by a bystander. I haven’t seen it. The whole thing is so brutal, and so senseless, and so tragic. Outrage boiled over into protesting almost immediately in Minneapolis, and the rest of the nation, then the world, have joined in.

I’ve been struggling with maintaining my sense of optimism and hope for the future, but I’m so privileged in so many ways. I have no idea what it’s like to deal with systemic racism and injustice, and to see tragedy after tragedy befall my community and loved ones while the wider world continually tries to walk past it and “move on”.

So I hope and I pray that meaningful, lasting change can come from all of this unrest. Reading back what I’ve written doesn’t seem like I’ve said enough, but I don’t have enough words or insight. Take this opportunity, if you can, to research and learn about the names listed alongside George Floyd, as victims of police brutality. There are so many names. Or, find and follow creators and writers of colour on your favourite social media platforms. Or, donate to nonprofits and organizations that are trying to make the world better. I personally supported this one, a Canadian initiative to bring low-or-no-cost mental health counseling to the Black community of Toronto. As they put it,

It is not enough to “not be racist,” we have to be actively anti-racist by striving to rededicate ourselves, love our neighbours, and become the change we wish to see.

Thing I Saw: My own list of Recently Completed games, an ongoing attempt to catalog everything I’ve played to completion since the beginning of 2019. I try to find a nice representative screenshot and write a lil’ capsule review of the game. Everything on that list has something positive about it, because if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t play it all the way through, I guess. If you want game recommendations, go look.

Thing I Learned: Despite owning and driving our green 2000 Honda Civic for a while, I’ve never known to push the hood lever back in after opening the hood. I always thought there was something wrong the the latch and the hood had to be shut multiple times before it ‘caught’ – turns out I can close it instantly with One Weird Trick. (Lori has owned the car for longer, and had no idea either)

I’m Grateful For: Games that draw me in and remind me why I like to play them so much. Currently, that’s Nier: Automata.

Under The Bus

First, quick COVID-19 lifestyle update — we’ve been continuing to stay home as much as possible. Our province’s numbers of new cases have stayed very low. 280 confirmed and probable cases as of today. “Re-opening” things has been the hot topic for the past few weeks, and Phase 1 of the plan begins Monday, with certain non-essential businesses being allowed to open if they follow certain restrictions. These include limiting the number of customers and workers onsite, emphasizing delivery and curbside pickup options, and cleanliness standards for employees. The provincial authorities and local media are saying over and over that this doesn’t mean things can go “back to normal” anytime soon — whatever normal looks like after all this — but we can carefully begin to do some of the things we miss. Like get haircuts.

Summer festivals in the province are cancelled, which will feel very strange come August. The closure that hit me hardest was actually the shuttering of our long-running Winkler Times newspaper by its parent company PostMedia. I mean, it’s complicated. Papers have been struggling for relevancy in the age of digital for ages now, but the Times soldiered on, until now. Whether or not I took the time to read it, it’s always been around, for my entire life. And next week is the last issue. I’m genuinely going to miss it.

What I really wanted to write about was two stories of our 3-year-old daughter expertly trolling us. These both happened within the last few days.

Incident One: Lori asked me if I knew the origin of a joke Cassidy had been repeating; something to the effect of

What kind of Tiger rakes the yard?
An ordinary one.

We often check in with each other if she confuses us individually, just in case one of us happens to know the show or song or other place that Cassidy gets this stuff from. I laughed and shrugged. Cassidy was around the corner having a snack. Lori called out the question to her to see if she’d repeat the punchline for me. “Cassidy,” she said again, “What kind of tiger rakes the yard?”

“Mom, you’re being silly,” came the casual reply.

Incident Two: Over the past few months we’ve learned a silly song that Cassidy made up called “Han Is A Ladybug”. I have the chords worked out on my uke and we’ve sung it together many times (it’s short but pretty catchy). Often, when Lori and I try to sing the words back to her she’s loudly corrected us, but for the most part we’ve practiced to a pretty consistent version of the song.

Until the other day, when I sang the version we’ve all sung dozens of times, and Cassidy dismissively said “Daddy, that doesn’t even rhyme.”

We learned it from you, kiddo!!

Thing I Saw: Arrival, finally. I read the short story on my honeymoon in 2012 and really liked it, and the movie’s been on Netflix forever, but sometimes…it’s one of those things where there’s just always something you want to watch a little more. Lori and I talked about how some of the events of the movie — a mysterious outside force causing widespread panic and lockdown around the world — took on a new, accidental relevance in our current world. But then, maybe all the media we take in is going to be recontextualised right now.

Thing I Learned: I kept my giant, extraordinarily heavy old Sony CRT around for a good reason. I’m in the mood for retro games while I use my recumbent exercise bicycle, so I dragged the thing into the games room and have been playing with different older systems that I keep around. And y’all! That TV still looks great! Also, and keep this under your hat, but I might actually get around to finishing Majora’s Mask of these days. Better 20 years late than never??

I’m Grateful For: A relatively safe community and province. We’re flattening the curve!

No special significance, it’s just what I’m listening to while I write

Right Now, It’s Like This (pt.2)

It’s been just under two weeks since I last wrote about what’s going on, but reading back that post it also feels like months. Ages. I’ve been working from home almost exclusively since then, stopping in at the office only for a brief moment or two. I got over the cold I’d developed at last writing, and have been fine, but being physically present there isn’t worth the risk. I just wonder what’ll become of my cactus. It’s probably thriving without me there to dote on it.

I’m a person with a fair number of ‘regularly scheduled’ activities and friend hangouts, but those are suspended. Working from home also means I’ve gone days in a row without leaving the house at all, which is unusual for me. It has the effect of blending the days together, which I’m not used to. Last night, in comparing my experiences with Lori’s I realized she’d been through this sort of thing before — on maternity leave. I don’t love it.

At the ends of the days, just before bed, I’ve also been feeling unsettled, tense, and uneasy. It occurred to me that I’m still hanging on to this notion that I’ll wake up the next day and everything will be back to normal. I think I’m suffering because I’m clinging to the hope that this, even though logically I don’t think it will. This pandemic, and our precautions, are set to extend into the indefinite future, and they’re going to leave a mark. We’re not going to be the same on the other side of it.

It seems to me that this is what people talk about when they talk about grieving, but I don’t entirely know what to do with that information. Maybe I don’t need to “do” anything right now, but to open myself up to experiences and feelings the way I tried to when Mom passed; give myself space to get angry, or sad, or reminisce happily, or just feel whatever I feel without judgment.

I’ve got a (video) chat with my counselor coming up. I’m definitely going to be bringing this stuff up.

Let’s look wider. Manitoba has 103 confirmed and probable cases as of yesterday. We’ve officially been in a State of Emergency since the 20th, which gives the government extra powers to tackle the situation. Gatherings are now limited to 10 people or less, so the choir I’m in is almost definitely cancelled (he said bitterly) though I haven’t heard it for sure. The order also came down on Monday that non-essential businesses are to close for the duration, and restaurants have to stick to take-out or delivery only. Somehow, construction is considered an “essential service” so our jobsites are all still going great guns. I heard yesterday that schools are also closed indefinitely. It’s technically Spring Break now, but playgrounds and activity spaces are closed anyway.

I went to the Co-op grocery store yesterday to do our household shopping for the week. Per provincial guidelines, there are handwashing / sanitizing stations in the entrances, and workers are wiping down the shopping carts constantly. There’s signage everywhere about maintaining safe distances from other shoppers and employees, and you’re encouraged to shop alone. Many stores have implemented a hard limit on the number of shoppers inside at any one time.

Inside, the music has been changed from our local country radio station to soothing instrumental guitar tunes interrupted by pre-recorded announcements. The announcements were focused on reminding shoppers about our “current global situation” and things like keeping a safe distance, not touching products you don’t intend to buy, and so on. They mostly ended with a reminder about Community and that we’re all in this together. They were a bit unsettling at first, then started to fade into the background as I shopped. Except! Except for the announcement that tagged on a “Keep smiling!” at the end. Highly dystopian. Do not recommend listening to detached feminine voice reminding me to ‘keep smiling’, zero stars.

Happily, most of the panic-buying seems to have tapered off and only sanitizing wipes were completely out of stock. A lot of stores have implemented policies to limit buying of specific items on a per-family basis. Also, they’re really leaning into grocery pickup and delivery, which is probably something we’re going to keep on doing once the pandemic recedes.

The trip was not tense exactly, but I felt wired up and incredibly aware of my actions and surroundings in a way that I’m not usually dialed into while shopping. It felt like being back in Japan, famously a country of customs and rules and politeness, and feeling entirely too aware of trying to do the “right” thing at all times. People can get used to almost anything. Eventually even this style of shopping will become second nature.

Anyway: Let’s stay hopeful, but realistic, and help each other out where we can.

Thing I Saw: Two Canada Geese on their way North, honking to one another as they flew. They were some distance apart; I guess they get the bulletins as well.

Thing I Learned: A Dazzle DVC100 USB Video Capture device doesn’t get on terribly well with OBS. The Dazzle is for importing console game video and audio to my computer, and OBS is for streaming it online – but they’re so mismatched in age and features that I’m having to tweak a lot of video settings and (apparently) use weird old Japanese programs as go-betweens or something.

I’m Grateful For: After being sick individually and together all year long, everyone in my house is fine these days.

well, we are

Right Now, It’s Like This

I haven’t blogged in a while, and this last week has been quite a year so far. This is one of the few blog posts I’ve ever started in order to “chronicle” what’s happening around me.

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is taking the world by storm. It’s started in other countries around the end of last year, then inevitably made its way to Canada and now Southern Manitoba. As of yesterday there are 17 presumptive cases in Manitoba. Where it’s really being felt for everybody is the number of event cancellations, and the relentless (but important) messaging to practice good hygiene and distance ourselves from each other as much as possible for the foreseeable future. Many public spaces and restaurants are voluntarily closed.

We had a spate of panic-buying of supplies & food last weekend, and it seems that’s evened out somewhat as the supply chain is still functioning. Everybody went quite mad for toilet paper in specific, based on a vague notion that we, our nation I guess, were going to run out (and who wants to be without toilet paper?) Flour and pastas were also quite popular, as were hand sanitizers & disinfecting wipes. Stores have implemented policies and posted signs reminding us to only buy what we need and not stockpile, because that really isn’t necessary and of course impacts people in the community disproportionately.

Bottled water was also very popular, and I’m not entirely sure why. My best guess is that making sure they’re well-stocked is something that people feel they can Control, in these unsettled times, and any measure of control you can gain on a situation is gonna be a plus.

And of course, things are tense. There’s a nonstop flood of discussion and breathless updates everywhere you turn, and misinformation is out there too. The atmosphere becomes oppressive. Seeing the way an event like this bring out the worst in certain people, the isolation, the…up-ending of normal society. I was at my worst on Monday, listlessly trying to shop in an electronics chain store in the mall (which is now closed until further notice). New gadgets or games are my go-to when trying to distract myself or somehow soothe the uncertainty of modern living, but it hasn’t really been working. I’ve tried hard to curtail my consumption of the news, but even so, my favourite online spaces for video games or silly jokes have been taken over by constant reminders of the virus.

Here at home we’re tense too. Cassidy is blissfully unaware, and her biggest problems are power struggles over how much Mario Odyssey she’s allowed to play and what happens when you put cucumber slices in your glass of milk. We totally want to keep it that way for as long as can. This whole thing will be a distant memory to her, though she may live with the fallout forever. Lori suggested that this would be the sort of event that we’d mark historical time with, like pre- and post-9/11. I’m in daily discussions with the management team at our business about how to keep jobs moving while respecting employees’ and customers’ health, as well as the safety of the office. Lori just had her first hospital shift in a while and says the mood is “heavy” — people waiting for the shoe to drop and things to get uglier.

I’m taking a day off today, but I’ve got a scratchy throat brewing and I may be working from home after today. Guess we’ll see.

Thing I Saw: A Gentylle Dogge curled up next to me on the couch while I blog. He gets a skritchy now because he is cute.

Thing I Learned: A good thing you can repeat to yourself to help calm down is “Right now, it’s like this.” This helps bring you an awareness of how things are in the present moment, rather than letting your brain run all over time and space. It also acknowledges that what’s happening now isn’t permanent. Read more about mantras if you want! (h/t MetaFilter)

I’m Grateful For: The resources and ability to work from home, and that our livelihoods isn’t currently threatened by the pandemic. We’re truly privileged that way.

1980s Electro-Funk is an amazing rabbit hole to occasionally fall down


Comic Con was a lot of fun. Not tons of traffic, and I didn’t quite recoup my $25 table cost, but I wasn’t expecting to. I expected to have a fun day and chat with good people, and I did. I think it’ll build into something bigger next year, and I’d definitely go back. Not least because I still have boxes of books to sell.

So the thing about the books is like this; I’ve got about 100 copies left. Which isn’t tons, but it’s still a lot more than I believe I can sell. Also, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not satisfied with them. They’re okay, but it’s embarrassing that they’re so much slimmer than the first volume (despite including three years of selections, instead of just two), and it’s embarrassing that there are at least a couple of pretty bad printing errors that I wish we would have caught. After we got the first book in our hands and discovered the issues we’d missed, I had hoped at that time that we’d learn and take a more careful approach to proofreading volume 2.

What I didn’t anticipate was that we (myself and my friends, who were also the creative team that put the book together) would both have life situations where we didn’t have a lot of extra time and energy for such things. We had little kids! We also put ourselves under a lot of time pressure for dubious reasons — the campaign started at the beginning of December 2017 and we wanted to have the books ready for Comic Con in February 2018, which we did, but barely. As in, we got the shipment of books literally days before the con.

So our approach to the campaign felt rushed, proofing was rushed, and afterward I felt like I was stuck with running around and delivering books and all the goodies we’d promised. Which again, wasn’t the end of the world, and I’m not bitter, but it was a lot of time and energy (and we still made mix-ups, even though we’d hit our initial deadline and could relax a little). The readers who had contributed to the campaign were wonderfully patient and understanding, but I still had a lot of guilt for making them wait and then ultimately delivering a product that I wanted to be better.

Since the comic was officially on hiatus, I tried to create a few opportunities to promote the books over the course of the year; I set a goal of doing a monthly Facebook / Instagram post, which fell by the wayside fairly quickly after the first few got very little attention. 2019 didn’t have a comic con in Winkler, and since then the books have been this kinda low-grade albatross, hanging around my basement, getting lugged to and fro when I need to get to something behind them in the closet or whatever.

I guess what I can learn from it is to try and be more realistic about what’s possible given my life situation, and next time to be more upfront with whomever I’m teaming with about what our expectations are from each other. I felt like I ended up handling tasks that I didn’t necessarily want, but probably that could’ve been dealt with from the outset over a cup of coffee and some pointed questions about who will do what. Unfortunately the whole thing has had a pretty chilling effect, in my mind, about the possibilities of a volume three, or of a reprint of the first one. I don’t want to think about storing more books in my house if I haven’t reduced the number of books I already have, and at this point I’m not sure how long that will take. The good news is that I’m writing comics again, and getting back into peoples’ brainspace. I guess we’ll see.

Woof. I lollygagged like crazy at the outset of the post, not really knowing where to start, but once I got momentum going it all kinda tumbled out. Feels a little better.

Thing I Saw:

Thing I Learned: Speaking to a person that was cosplaying the 11th Doctor, I learned that the pop-up Spirit of Halloween stores in Winnipeg are a good place to find a fez. One step closer to my Sallah costume!

I’m Grateful For: The volunteers and organizers of the Winkler Comic Con, and all the people who came by to say hi!

Let’s get wistful. Get full of that wist

Taking Stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy V-day!