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A few more panels today, in which Hain would like to know what that was about.

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Something in composition always slows me down, and this time it was the presence of the bridge, which logically should be right there, but I couldn't work it in. Finally I decided to trust in the space-slicing power of the picture plane, which is not a camera.

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meta 

The learned helplessness of a monolithic internet:

"I've moved to the city, so if you want to visit me, my address is 12."
"12 what?"
"Huh? It's number 12."
"I probably don't live in your building or on your street. I can still find you, but only if I know the rest of your address. What's the name of your street?"
"There are different streets? All with different names? Why is it so CONFUSING here"

Creation and pastime 

So I got some ideas in my head and picked up Escape Simulator, a game-cum-game-engine that makes it pretty easy to construct and share puzzle rooms despite having next to no documentation. I immediately became absorbed in planning the puzzles, decorating the room, and using the assets creatively; I've been intensely focused on it for at least a week.

What it makes me think is, this must be how it feels to have a hobby. It's not as if I am really rewarded for anything I do, but I still think of most of it as my "work", and I can't remember the last time I was willing to spend all day and night on it like I am with this thing of no consequence, just because the satisfaction of it is an end in itself.

One sticking point with my first room is that the puzzle I've built all the lore around requires me to assemble the complete workings of a segmented digital display from the game's logic objects. That's getting less fun, but I think I've nearly cracked it.

(SPOILER) Things I did not like about Return to Monkey Island 

Right away, the framing device cast a suspect shadow over the whole affair. All these nonsense errands hang on a story, and whenever the actual narrative is engaged with, the thrust is that Guybrush is actually a stubborn dick, that his rivalry with the murder monster is petty, and most of all that he really shouldn't be trying to find the Secret of Monkey Island and will regret it when he does. Occasionally, for laughs, Guybrush commits a callous atrocity that is not intentional on your part as the player but is also not really accidental on his part. Followup cutscenes imply a reckoning is due for these actions. But this isn't a game of moral choices, it's a story you either progress through or don't play.

Halfway through, I was already fairly convinced this was all going to culminate in Guybrush and LeChuck being shamed into putting aside their differences. I strongly suspected that at the end, LeChuck and Madison would show up in the park to pick up their kids Chucky and Dee, chat amicably with Guybrush and Elaine about how all the kids are getting on and rib each other a little about the good old days, and they would all head off to dinner together. An eye-roller, but a coherent story, at least.

What we got was worse. The Secret, after a weird ambiguous fake-out about the whole thing being an imaginary carnival game (again), is that "it doesn't matter how the story ends."

Notably, no character is taught a lesson for their hubris, so all those warnings for Guybrush and LeChuck to abandon their reckless quest for the Secret were for the player after all. What they meant was, don't try to finish the game, because then you'll be out of puzzles, and you'll be made sorry you expected an answer to a mystery. The traditional way to play an adventure game is to get stuck on one part, never come back to it, and forever wonder what would have come next!

I mean, I get it. I know what it's like to be associated with something you did a long time ago that people want you to make more of because it didn't seem finished. Just this week I told a fan that Absurd Notions is unsalvageable and that thinking about it is bad for me. But I would never tell someone they were wrong for liking it. And it's a little different when that thing is a worldwide success. You either gladly accept the shower of riches for making what people like, or if you don't want to, you don't.

Things I liked about Return to Monkey Island 

🗝️ It is long-lasting for a point and click game. I repeatedly expected to be almost done, and then it kept unfolding. It is something you can keep around for a while and not feel like your money evaporated.

🗝️ The interface is finally streamlined in a practical way. It assigns the few things you can logically do with any one object to left and right click on a case-by-case basis, instead of making you pick through a bunch of verbs. The free descriptions of the possible actions become a new place to put clever writing.

🗝️ The puzzles are easy enough to to keep things moving, but there is a satisfaction in being a step ahead of them. The situations can be nonsensical, but the solutions are not. Looking up a hint when necessary neither feels like cheating nor being cheated. It is neither "How the hell was I supposed to figure that out" nor "Dammit I should have figured that out" but "Oh, okay."

🗝️ The scissor-craft art style is good, actually. Recognizing familiar places from the first game is fun but only by depicting them in a fresh style do they become spectacular again. The crudeness of it is more true to the original experience, really; it takes the place of low-res pixels, where adding more realism and fidelity to the woodgrain would add nothing of interest. It even looks fine on the characters, except for Guybrush, but what I've noticed about playing games is that control and situational awareness turns the player character into a kind of blind spot anyway, even in a non-action game like this one.

🗝️ It is visually detailed in a different and more deliberate way, which is to say there are sight gags that are not even for interacting with, just to notice for yourself. My favorite: The doormat in Wally's map store.

🗝️ Not just a throwaway reference but a full-fledged homage to the Colossal Cave Adventure.

At last, the AQI has just now dropped to code green and I can open my window and let out the freak 80℉ day we had a week ago.

Now that I do not have to be so circumspect, I have been trying to draw myself for new profile icons, and it hasn't really been coming together. I'm not sure I still have a coherent self-image. There may be some residual fallout from when my folks were taking random candid photos that showed me how much worse the reality is than I thought. I tend to try to incorporate an element of visual honesty, but that may no longer be reconcilable with how I want to present myself. The only result so far in which I think I've suppressed it well enough is this oddly heraldic composition.

sharps 

Got my new and improved booster and a flu shot. When I showed up to my appointment, they said Kaiser doesn't cover flu shots at Walgreens anymore so it'll be $60, which sounds like BS to me because they're both practically local monopolies, but I have the luxury of saying "whatever" when these things happen.

Discovered a game called Taiji and was engrossed enough to 100% it over three days. 

It is essentially Pixel The Witness, both in its art style and in that the core mechanic is poking out bitmaps. Beautiful visual effects in the scenery. Not every puzzle device is a winner ("I want cherry orchard branch stuff too" is awfully forced in), but the better ones carry it. Special attention is given to the experience of wayfinding, opening up the interconnected passages and shortcuts, and incorporating puzzles into bridges and conveyances. The late-game twists are good. The Big Secrets rely on some less-than-reliable interpretation of where puzzle elements are artfully suggested, which leads to not knowing if a puzzle is just hard, or unsolvable because it is incompletely perceived. But neither ever kept me stuck for too long. Recommended.

I see smoke season has started here. Bothersome, but at least it should remind people these masks are still useful for something they can't easily ignore.

out/mh 

After my parents made it home, my mom e-mailed to say that she might not be able to understand, but she's more concerned that I'm depressed, and wants more open communication. I responded with a dump of as much as I could articulate, relatively unfiltered. That was a couple days ago, and I'm afraid things may be tense again.

The problem with being asked to share feelings is that often the only possible response to feelings is "Those negative thoughts are wrong! You need to do something about that!" And like, yeah, I know, they're feelings, they don't sync with objective reality, and I've just now done the one thing I can do with them. The other thing I can do is to find something nicer to think about, which is hard when you turn it into some kind of responsibility to fix instead.

If you're an artist who needs hand references, and have trouble using your own hands for whatever reason, you could do worse than ASMR videos. Close-up good-looking hands in relaxed poses and holding a variety of objects, organized so it's not hard to find what you need.

My week with the parents. out+? shifts between past and present tense I won't clean up 

Monday: I finished packing up, drove down I-5 around the sound, encountered 10mph traffic around every major city and casino, and arrived in Hoodsport a few hours later than estimated.

Tuesday: We settle into the house. I am allowed to "sleep in" until 9. Lunch is at an truly excellent Mexican restaurant nearby with outdoor seating (El Puerto De Angeles). We get groceries. I see all mom's wildlife photos she's taken with her new zoom lens in state parks (bison, lots of prairie dogs, antelope, and a bighorn ram). We watch TV.

Wednesday: We drive all day through logging country just to see the Pacific Ocean. Ruby Beach turns out to be closed for repairs (moose out front shoulda told ya) but there are similar smaller stops down the road with access to the shore. Photos of water are got. We search for any source of food on the way back and finally eat in a busy small-town Dairy Queen. Back at the house, I keep my eyes open through one of dad's rambling lessons about money and death and beneficiaries and tax rates. I am told it's about time I ought to write a will, and that it's far past time I ought to get a passport because I'm "so close to Canada" and they want that on the agenda the next time we do this.

Thursday: Lunch is at the same Mexican restaurant because it's basically the only thing for miles around and it's still excellent. We sit in the house and prod our devices all day. This is the time, I think, but I'm too anxious. I go back to reading and lose myself in the troubles of Mona the baker wizard instead of my own. With dinner, we watch the film "Lost City" which is pretty good.

The evening brings the explicit prompt that if there's anything I want to talk about face to face, now is the time, but we will still always have other forms of communication. Spurred by the knowledge that it would be a dreadful phone call, I finally told my parents that for the past couple decades I've been putting together feelings that I am not at home with my given gender, and been too afraid to let them find about it, and that by this point I still don't know if I'm going to do anything about it because look at what I have to work with, but I must have ticked over from the attitude of "far too late" to "nothing left to lose" just because I'm finally willing to say it.

They seemed neither surprised nor unsurprised; their reaction is "It's your life." We had a real conversation, which was not too hard because we are at least on the same page about right-wing maniacs and the things they say. I segued into the defeatism that had kept me going though the past couple years and that did finally get me crying. But after then, my folks never deadnamed nor misgendered me once, not that I left them very much time to make the mistake.

Friday: We clear out first thing in the morning to beat traffic. I get my one hug for the year. We go and beat traffic. My parking space still isn't painted, so if it never gets done, it's not my fault. Back in my lair, I take several consecutive naps while my body and brain tries to re-learn that I can have as much sleep as I need and I'm not being timed.

on holiday 

Tomorrow I'm off to spend 4 days in a remote rental house with my parents. I agreed to this far in advance, but I am anxious because I don't know exactly what to expect. To me, it seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to sit in the heat together.

This has dominated my month just like one scheduled phone call blows a day. I've been regulating my sleep for it, which means going to bed around the time my brain starts to work. After spending so long safely in my apartment, my instincts have been regarding this like a countdown to the gallows instead of a couple of hikes and awkward conversations and maybe even a nice time.

Anyway, I'll be getting a box of old stuff I left behind in the move. And I've told the building office I'm going to be away so they can finally paint my parking space.

I am having a week all about being haunted by my past, so what the hell. New 1990 Absurd Notions.

I even did all the html to update the website, but once again I can't figure out what's missing from the ftp connection, and I just don't care today. I'm probably just not going to do it. The comic is right in front of you.

Unlike WA, NJ requires car inspections every 2 years, and puts a big sticker in the windshield to indicate when yours will expire. Today I finally went out and got a scraper tool just so that I wouldn't have to see "2020" there anymore.

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Dragon Style

I'm a grumpy queer dragon lady and this is my quiet cave for me and some friends.