ナム

2022 Retrospective

I look back on 2022 as a year where my personal life started to move forward, after a good three years of nothing really happening.

Marriage

For more than two years, coincidentally starting before COVID hit, I'd been waiting on a marriage visa process. The communication was scarce, deadlines were never met (by the government office), and everything was perpetually taking longer than expected.

I'd taken this period to reach out through social networking services and video games to connect with my spouse, Raindare. We met over a shared love of Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II on Tumblr ages ago, perhaps then-present-day Twitter could offer some fun dynamics.

By now I've come to and left Twitter about four or five times since 2008. Each time I end up being a little more jaded by the nature of social networking, usually as it's marked by an initial period of finding friends (give or take the first six months) followed by a long period of nothing else happening, getting diminishing returns from the grind of feeds and ephemeral content. My thoughts then were put in Twitter thread, which brings me to the next milestone...

I got married. The visa process in Montreal took much less time than expected, thanks to a consulate that understood what Tumblr was. No background was needed besides job and financial history. Marriage hastily took place outside a courthouse in COVID with two co-workers serving as witnesses. We are very fortunate that this all happened as quickly as it did.

Raindare had been providing translations not just for articles that came to be on this website, but also has been translating tweets I'd send to Japanese artists and Megaten fans. Consequently the well-wishes were very much by Japanese Twitter users that I'd met over that past year. I had a good time getting to know them.

One major highlight from then was having Metoles draw the family cat. This was her first Skeb commission, she was grateful to have someone send her a request.

A number of my co-workers had been asking me how on earth I managed to do that. Really I thank Raindare for all of the logistics and translation work to figure out how to communicate the intent of a request without leaning on flaky AI and handle the sending through a courier on Tenso. Non-Japanese speakers should use sister site Buyee, which has a representative handle communications and logistics on the buyer's behalf. I tend to juggle between both myself, as my knowledge of Japanese is... lacking, to put it lightly.

Sunsetting SNS

Though I'd made some very good friendships through Twitter in its latest incarnation, I still wasn't happy with checking feeds with a less reliable timeline. Eventually I suspended the account, to the surprise of some, and I have no plans to return at this time.

I'll be honest, nothing on social networking services gives me the sense that I properly own my words. All of it is ephemeral, trying to find your own content without being a search wizard is nearly impossible. The returns on the "social" aspect are lacking unless I want to become a hyperactive caricature of myself to try to compete with everybody else's noise. It's a losing prospect.

Right now I'm giving Mastodon half a fair shake via Kris Nova's Hachyderm. I don't have plans to put many words there, those will all stay here. However, I do appreciate what Mastodon tries to be, and the flexibility of being within a series of "federated" social services that can monkey patch their own features in a chaotic snapshot of the old bulletin board culture.

I'm just tired of social anything for the most part. Not even a phpBB revival could really bring me back; I'm happier as a spectator or a window shopper than an active participant.

Website Development Meta

Which brings me to where this website's going.

When I was able to see my then-fiancée after a full year and a half of being unable to visit her between pending visa and COVID flight restrictions, I hacked up a prototype of a website for us both based off of the ANSI C version of Devine Lu Linvega's Oscean, aka xxiivv.

Ignoring an old software koan to always throw out the prototype, I stuck with it and ended up with what you see today on Juraku Bookstore. My one regret is that I wanted to totally redo the layout, but by the time it felt like I should be off of Twitter dot com, it made sense to stick with what worked.

Why the ANSI C version? Simple. I work with clang and clang-format at work. A static site generator that generates text from a clang-built binary loosely fitting the ideas of a memex happens to be extremely comfortable territory.

There's been efforts to make the site slightly more distinct through a PNG-optimized means of committing to grayscale, no more than six colors per image, and an emphasis on words and linking to other's content when the source isn't a scan from my personal collection of things. I'm sure there are better ways of doing these things, and I'm hoping to learn through process

For now, I'm proud of how cheap this site is to keep running, between small-sized lossless images, no JavaScript, and an emphasis on serif text. I like to think Ted Nelson would be particularly proud of the serif font-ing.

People

Someday I'd like to open up a "People" section, and I'd like to lead with a dedication to Ted Nelson.

I worked with Ted on a small project for "Ted Nelson day" built around a visual from a design document, serif fonts and colored connections. As far as Ted himself is concerned, I'm happy to have him as a friend, and I'd love to write about some personal anecdotes from working with him in the time that I could from his house boat in Sausalito, CA.

The E-Ink Mac LC II

I've been doing the original fiction pieces from a System 6 equipped Macintosh LC II connected to a front-lit DASUNG Paperlike HD screen.

This is horrendously expensive to put together if you haven't been collecting old Macs when they were cheap fifteen to twenty years ago, and if you have no means of subsidizing the cost of an e-ink monitor. For that, I can make no apologies for the cost of this setup.

Nonetheless, this configuration has been cozy. I've been able to write for four to six hours straight without interruptions thanks to the screen's gentle effects on my aging eyes, on an operating system that can be easily configured to work in black and white or sixteen grays.

There will certainly be something explaining how to pull this together on the media section in due time. I imagine a more cost efficient version of this setup can be scrounged together with Mini vMac (Mac II variant) and a Raspberry Pi, though a high refresh rate E-Ink display will still be out of most people's reach.

Fiction

There will be more originals, and less that gets shared with Archive of Our Own. Further, as easy as it is to write slice-of-life fiction, we're both trying to challenge ourselves to do different kinds of stories within this space.

More Moss Bay writing, then. Maybe I'll have a setting doc put together to lend more proper structure to that space, but I make no guarantees there.

Myth II

I blame Myth II for giving me an impression of how strategy games should work and it is unfortunate that very little followed its lead.

On paper the appeal is that you command a small group of unimpressive, not individually heroic soldiers that need to work in tactical formations on a 3D, almost fully deformable plot of terrain. The game is intentionally structured to force the player to keep the units alive, avoid suicide tactics or putting your troops in harm's way, and think carefully in real time (mod the ability to dynamically adjust game speed to slow down or speed up) how to overcome an "endless" army of the undead.

When my spouse tried to show me Tactics Ogre, I confess I had trouble focusing on account of how it just didn't feel "right", like Myth.

I'm aware that this is not a popular opinion, which is no doubt why Raindare has requested that I write something about Myth II. Perhaps an intro, or some words dedicated to one of the lesser known mods, or even setting materials from the RPG setting expansion. We'll see.

Wizardry

My wife and I like dungeon crawlers, and Raindare has pitched the idea of a screenshot LP of Wizardry Gaiden IV.

I have played this game with her on more occasions than I intended to, unfortunately thanks to a save bug with a certain spell that causes all progress to be magically erased. Despite that particularly bad glitch, Wizardry Gaiden IV does have a surprisingly accessible feel to it, with many choices at least initially as far as what quests to do and how to advance in an eastern-inspired fantasy setting.

Other Japanese Wizardry games might receive coverage at some time. Raindare and myself have played through Wizardry Xth, Wizardry Gaiden III, Wizardry DIMGUIL, and started Wizardry Empire GBC and Wizardry Gaiden I.

Of these, I think Wizardry Gaiden III with it's Might and Magic meets Diablo inspirations are of particular note, and Wizardry Xth has a particularly quirky if interesting gameplay loop and setting that merits some discussion. DIMGUIL probably left the worst impression; it's buggy to a point that I've not seen with any other Wizardry, and it feels surprisingly unfinished for what it gives, which is a shame.

I'd rather focus on the games that I have positive things to talk about. That should inform future coverage of what games we choose to discuss in this space.

Next year?

As for any other specific plans for next year... I have no idea!

Besides that rough draft of what to do for content on the website, I don't know what the next year will bring.

Hopefully good things for all of us, positive news, and less badness in the world.

Bonus Material

Meanwhile, a small list of commissioned works from Skeb, Pixiv and Wayback Machine archived Twitter.

Something that kept me going through the last few years, while waiting for visa troubles to wrap up for my wife.

2020 to 2022 Commissioned Artworks