I'm not sure how many people have "midnight snacks". I've never had any inclination to do it myself, nor has anyone in my immediate family, so as far as I can tell maybe it's one of those things that you only ever see in fiction. I first came across the idea in Blondie comics, in which Dagwood Bumstead is a famous big eater who often raids the fridge in the middle of the night. Then of course there's that other well known comic strip eater, Garfield, who has also perpetrated the odd midnight snack. I seem to recall seeing Scooby Doo and Shaggy making late night snacks as well - usually before getting interrupted by the "ghost of the week" who turns out to be Old Man Smithers and who would have gotten away with it if not for those pesky kids. And in more recent times, Nigella Lawson has become known for ending her cooking shows with herself raiding the fridge in the middle of the night.  This essentially qualifies as fiction too, as I'm pretty sure she doesn't really have a TV crew camped out in her kitchen all night just hoping to catch her in an unplanned late night snacking expedition.
After all that trouble I went to last time to make sure the off-screen voice would have a speech bubble pointing in a sensible manner out of the entire comic, I went and messed myself up here by having more off-panel speech in panel 4.
Ryan North, I totally blame you.
2017-08-16 Rerun commentary: ... For the practice of having speech coming from off-panel, that is. He does it quite a bit in Dinosaur Comics. In fact he has several characters that only ever appear off-panel, including God and Batman.
I've spent a lot of my free evenings for the past couple of weeks playing Mass Effect (and restarting it). Like I expect I always will, in first playthroughs at least, I'm getting sidetracked by minor missions and not spending much time with the main plot quests. Sitting in my recliner with mouse on clipboard on are of chair is probably causing me some impediment to skill level, but I'm far from good at that sort of thing anyway.
Over the past several months I've been making use of an app on my phone to update and clarify play records at BoardGameGeek. I had been inconsistent with how I recorded some places, and I wasn't consistent with all colours in the records. My checking has led to finding a few errors I'll likely not be able to fix as the paper records were limited, or scrap paper that I no longer have. The next big push will possibly be going through the 7 Wonders games and ensuring that the Boards are named consistently, Rome/Roma is one of the simpler issues that exists there. Having recorded 5870 plays it's unsurprising that I've not been completely consistent, especially when I hadn't given thought to the record keeping when it started. Not being sure of the names of many of the people I played against has also led to some issues, there have been close to a dozen different Sams for example, differentiating isn't always possible.
Customs authorities seems mostly concerned with the flow of goods into the place where they are based, and not so concerned with picking up illicit things heading out. Which kind of makes sense: if you're smuggling something out of the country, then it's mostly the problem of the country you're trying to take it to. This extends to people, too. I was a bit surprised on a business trip to the USA last year, when I was passing through security to depart for Australia, that nobody whatsoever bothered to look at my passport. In my previous experience, normally someone takes a look at it and at least checks the name on the boarding pass matches. But this time nobody seemed to want to even that. I asked one of the women working security, "Don't you need to see my passport?" She replied, "We don't care who's leaving the country, we only care about who's coming in." There are exceptions to this rule though. Several African nations, for example, run very strict checks and searches for anyone trying to carry ivory out of the country. I suppose if kangaroos were as endangered as elephants, you wouldn't see all those kangaroo-scrotum coin purses for sale at Australian airports.  Kangaroos aren't endangered at all. All four extant species are officially listed as Least Concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In fact, they are thriving, and in some cases have extended their range and populations over what existed when Europeans arrived in Australia in the 18th century. About the only place you can't find kangaroos is in heavily built up city areas.
I had a devil of a time coming up with a script for this strip. I knew what had to happen: They had to come across the library door and the da Vinci lock, but I had a complete writer's block coming up with a gag.
I sort of roughed out the first three panels in my mind and recorded the dialogue, but the last panel still eluded me for days. In desperation, I decided to throw in the twist that Minnesota Jones is actually keeping his options open on claiming to have met Leonardo da Vinci. So what I originally wrote for the last panel was:
Minnesota Jones: Oh? He was a time traveller, you know.I tried this out on a friend, who was less than enthusiastic, but said it would be okay if it led somewhere later on. Well, of course it leads somewhere later on. Everything does! But when I went to type it into my scripts file, I realised that if da Vinci was a time traveller, it'd be more fun to imply that he's still flitting around. Sure, he may have died back in the Renaissance, but that doesn't stop you meeting him tomorrow. Thus:
Minnesota Jones: Oh? He is a time traveller, you know.A subtle change, but I think that improves things, by adding that tinge of surreality, and causing the suspicion that maybe Minnesota Jones really does know what he's talking about and isn't simply either talking through his hat or in the opening stages of senility. So I was kind of happy with that, enough to go ahead and shoot photos, but thinking it was still fairly weak, really. Then when I was putting the photos together and adding the captions, I realised I had some extra space and could squeeze in some more dialogue into the last panel. And what better than to add contrasting reactions from the two people who matter most?
Finally, I'm happy with this strip.
2017-08-13 Rerun commentary: More properly, one should call him "Leonardo", since that's his name, and not "da Vinci", which simply means "from Vinci", which is a small town in Tuscany. It's not a surname in the same sense as we understand it today - it's merely an indicator of birthplace so that you can distinguish this Leonardo from any other Leonardos you might happen to know. Contemporary Italians at the time would certainly have referred to him as "Leonardo", not "da Vinci".
This ended up with me having a discussion with friends, one who's been in the military and has attempted to train people in this kind of circumstances. The following are my own thoughts on the matter. Would be keen to know if any of this sounds like it doesn't make sense, but no "but some people are just plain evil!" please. I'd like us to fix what we can for who we can.
People seem to think it's the ordeals of basic training in the armed forces which "straightens them out", but it's really not that at all. Those who flourish in a military environment tend to do so because they're in a place where they can build skill, will and trust in their relationships with other people. Perhaps counter-intuitively, because it's a safe place with a lot of predictability and clear paths of positive action.
Taking a large number of deliquents and social misfits and putting them through a "toughening exercise" doesn't usually give you that. It gives you hardened delinquency. If they are forging relationships, it's more likely to be camraderie against the experience instead of with it.
Even the very best leaders and teachers will have trouble getting good results out of people if they have to start out as wardens rather than mentors.
Harsh discipline may train them to obey you when they must, but it won't make them respect you. And as soon as they don't have fear of immediate retribution to motivate them anymore, they have no reason to continue being compliant. It gives you short-term suppression, not long-term prevention.
If you're from a rough home environment where betrayal and manipulation is just a part of daily life, where trust is seen as a weakness rather than a strength, you can't just say "okay, you're in a team now" and have it magically happen. There needs to be some kind of anchor in respect and trust first.
Ironically, that mindset is one of the reasons that some do gravitate toward towards gangs and other forms of organised crime: they're a social structure with rules about respect, trust, loyalty and belonging; an outlaw society for when the rest of society has already turned its back on you, that finds value in some of your antisocial behaviours and turns them into a kind of positive.
To get away from that, you need to find people other ways to make a real positive difference. That doesn't just mean being going from an all-stick approach to an all-carrot approach, or putting them in a hug-box to talk about all their feeling. Those won't work for another set of reasons. Giving someone a place where they can gain some mana for choosing to do good things, even very simple things, can be a place to start.
At the moment, some do get that in the armed forces. Some eventually get that through the prison system, in one of a variety of ambulance programmes at the bottom of the cliff. And some, some never do. If we want to help at-risk people at scale, it's better (and cheaper overall) if we can do that earlier, before they start letting the poor choices of people in unstable circumstances dominate their path in life.
This strip is dedicated to absent friends and readers: Raffi, missed, but not forgotten.
2017-08-12 Rerun commentary: Wow, that's a big blue wall of bricks. I normally use the large slab-like Lego bricks to make walls, as you need far fewer of them than the more regular sized bricks. But this wall looks like it was built out of dozens of small bricks if not a hundred or more. It may not be as obvious any more, but George's "little ruse" was the first "Han shoots Greedo" edit to Star Wars made in the Special Edition release of 1997.
Another one where I'm not entirely sure if the intent of the joke will be obvious to everyone. Hopefully it'll be clear to someone, and then everyone else can catch up on the forums. Anyway, this introduces the third and final in the series of spells named after Kickstarter backers for the Fantasy book. Thanks to backer Mr van Doorn for the inspiration, and sorry to have taken so long to get here!
When it's all set and done, if you can curve your enthusiasm, resist the urge to signal people out for criticism about their mixmatched words and chuck it up to experience, you won't be straddled with all this hard take and you'll have a new leash on life.
It's not worth getting a mindgrain over. I mean, who among us is really beyond approach?