The Parable of the Leaf

As we walked in the woods one day, Nona reached out a hand without looking, and took a low-hanging leaf from a maple tree. She examined it, seemingly lost in thought, and then slowed to a halt, extending the leaf in my direction. I stopped, too, and took it. It was a sullen red, but far from the reddest on its parent tree; and it was ragged around the edges, with grey-brown dead spots carelessly arranged across its width. It seemed wholly unremarkable.

I looked up to see Nona regarding me with the same thoughtful expression she had worn while examining the leaf. That unsettled me, and I raised the leaf in her direction. “I think I’m missing the lesson here, if there is one.”

She was silent for another moment, then smiled; in the fall afternoon, her wrinkles became a joyous map of light and shadow.

“Is that leaf whole?” she asked.

“Well, it’s a little torn here and there. It’s hard to say. It might be missing a small piece or two.”

The smile had vanished again, and her eyes were oddly intent as they met mine. “But you see it as a distinct entity. As a leaf, rather than part of a leaf. A whole in itself.”

I allowed that that was so.

“And is it the same leaf that grew on that tree from a bud some months ago?”

“It’s been through some pretty big changes since then. Whole seasons. Storms, high winds, hundred and ten degree weather. But I guess it is the same leaf. The same… what did you say?… entity, the same whole in itself.”

She smiled again. “And if you imagine the bud it grew from, was it beautiful then?”

I smiled too, remembering those first green days of spring. “Absolutely.”

“And if you look at it again, is it still beautiful now?”

I looked at the leaf again. Thinking about everything it had been through, the grey-brown spots looked like marks of defiance, the tears around its edges like scars of unflinching endurance. The red that faded to yellow and even almost green at the very ragged edges suddenly seemed to glow in a way it hadn’t just moments earlier.

“It is,” I said, looking away and fighting a sudden urge to burst into tears.

Nona took the leaf from me, and set it gently on the stone wall that ran beside the path. “And so it is with every leaf. Even those that fall from the tree too soon. Remember that.”

And then we continued our walk.


Everything that follows is a result of what you see here.

A Skyrim screenshot showing a bearded Nord man in mage robes commenting on the number of flowers in the player's inventory.

Since the release of Skyrim Anniversary Edition back in November, I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim again. To make Skyrim feel properly new again, I also added a number of custom-voiced follower mods to my load order, including Inigo, Lucien, Auri, Remiel, Xelzaz, and Thogra. I’d tried Inigo and Lucien before, and bounced off of both, but a lot of people swear by them. What the hell, I figured—they’re just followers. Worst case, I dismiss them and I continue my Skyrim adventure without them.

Well, about that.

Long story short: they’re good. They’re really good. Whatever their effect on game difficulty—which was never really what I played Skyrim for, personally—these followers all have a level of personality to them that makes it hard to dismiss them. Beyond that, they comment on things like your current location and quest. Even more impressively, they talk to each other! When Inigo needles Lucien by calling him “Julian”, or Xelzaz gives Remiel a new drink to try when the party stops by an inn, it makes the world feel that much more real—or, in the parlance of Skyrim modding as a whole, “immersive”. What was once a solo gaming exerience is now a seven-person adventuring party, complete with bickering, flirting, and friendships that grow and change over time.

So it was probably inevitable that I looked at these mods and thought: “Hey, I could do that.” What’s less inevitable, given my history with projects like this, is that I’ve actually implemented my follower in the Creation Kit, bringing him roughly up to par with Skyrim’s vanilla followers, like Lydia. I’m continuing to work on him when I have some downtime, and I plan to get him ready for a 1.0 release on the Nexus before the end of this year.

Ganbald is a very Nord-y sort of wizard, or perhaps a very wizard-y sort of Nord, who lost his home at the same time the Dragonborn nearly lost their head. For 1.0, he’ll have a lot to say about the world at large, but especially about Skyrim’s main questline, the College of Winterhold questline, and some of the most popular other follower mods already out there. He’ll also have a lore friendly summoning solution, making sure you can take him anywhere your adventures take you.

I look forward to sharing some initial feature-incomplete test releases over the next few weeks! I can’t wait to get Ganbald into the hands of other players. 🧙‍♂️


Is it 2008 again already?

A screenshot of the Mac App Store showing MarsEdit 4, MindNode 5, Pixelmator Pro, and Scrivener 3.

I just opened the Mac App Store and wondered whether I somehow time-traveled almost ten years into the past.

According to Wikipedia, the original version of Scrivener was released on 20 January 2007. MarsEdit 2.0, the first version I ever used, was released in September 2007, and Pixelmator’s initial release came toward the end of the same month. I had to do a little digging for this one, but MindNode’s first release happened on March 15, 2008.

The discovery of indie software was one of the things that made me really fall in love with my first PowerBook, and it’s fantastic to see these brilliant apps still receiving brand new releases 10 years later. (I’m writing this post in MarsEdit 4, of course.)

Go check ’em out.


Goodbye, and hello again.

I finally threw out my old Middleman site and put up a new version backed by WordPress.

This is mostly a placeholder until I have more to say.

It’s good to be back.