We watched the first episode of HBO's Chernobyl miniseries last night, and it is pretty brutal and horrifying in an all too real way (I was alive but too young to be aware when the Three Mile Island accident happened in my home state). One of the most effective parts, is right in the first scene (well the first that takes place in the timeline, so far, the episode starts with a proleptic introduction). A young woman is in her apartment late at night, we see a window and the horizon in the distance. A silent flash of light in the distance, except not a flash, as it doesn't go away, then a moment later her whole building shakes and we hear the sound of objects and buildings shimmying. There is no loud explosion, no visible burst of flames or shrapnel, just a silent light in the distance, far off in some sense (sound, detail), but too close in every other way.
There was a dead spotted lantern fly on the porch right next to the front door as I was on my way out to my walk this morning. I'd like to think it's the one I failed to kill the other day when doing yard work. As I was walking a car was turning down the cross street I was about to reach, I noticed the woman driving look over at me, so I smiled. She gave me a genuine smile back. I used to walk around, head down, avoiding contact with people, but over the years, I've found it's pleasant to just smile at people, wish them a "good morning". Not to necessarily engage them, but just offer some level of acknowledgement. Often you get an genuine response, though oddly one of the people that has multiple times ignored me is my one neighbor, who, after 4 years I still haven't had any communication with.
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a collection of fiction by James Tiptree Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon) showed up two days ago and I dove into it. Only a few stories in and I'm even more regretting not reading her work sooner. "The Screwfly Solution" is a dark story that is at once both about misogyny and aliens, but the latter only when you get to the very end after finding yourself believing in a more mundane explanation for the horrifying events.
I had to restart one of the stories. I got a handful of pages in the previous night, but last night, just needed to restart to reorient myself. So many science fiction (and fantasy) stories require a certain period of adjustment when you start them. There are unfamiliar words; the setting is often of an unclear place or time; the rules of reality are unclear, expected, or unknown; and it can take awhile to reorient your reading to fit the story. To me this stands in contrast to most realistic fiction where the time, place, and rules of the setting are often clearly posted before you even start reading.
Out the window of my office, I see a tall bushy evergreen behind our garage shimmying and shaking, the branches (fronds?) most prominently moving like a ripple slowly up the height of the tree, until one of them bends down, opening a gap in the growth and a squirrel appears.
█████ ██████ ███ ████ are coming over tonight to have dinner and discuss with Lianne their plans for a trip to England and Ireland next year. I'll probably be skipping out to go to ███'s instead, as I will not be going on the trip. It's not that I don't like seeing new places, museums, scenery, but I really do hate travelling. I managed to do some when I was younger, but the older I get the less I have a desire to go places. I do know what it is, but I try not to think of it as anything weird. The contemporary mania for travel is... contemporary, most people did not get far from their homes, even going back a few decades. I'll be happy staying home, though I'm sure I'll be nervous about Lianne being away.
I had a lucid dream last night. I was in some kind of apartment and thought I had woken up, then I realized that that made no sense because I wasn't in my house. I felt this shiver through my body and then I realized I was dreaming. I started walking around the apartment. There were a lot of people in it like there was a party going on, and I figured there must be someone I know, so I was going from room to room looking at all the people. Unlike most dreams I was controlling my own actions. I didn't find anyone I recognized (then where did my brain get all these people from?). I think I decided to try dancing with a group of people who were dancing in one of the rooms. But I wanted to change one of the people who was there to be Lianne. And I could kind of get her to be there with me, but then something would go wrong and the image would get distorted.
Other than that I slept horribly, was awake for all of the 1:00 hour and some of the next. That's a few nights now I've slept really poorly.
Spent yesterday refactoring code for work, I find it really satisfying taking code I wrote years ago and rewriting it to be better, testable, easier to maintain. I can really get into the flow of coding when I'm doing that, because I can usually more clearly see what I need to do, and I have a clear comparison of whether I broke something or not (comparing to a site running the old code).
Slow start to the morning, went out to get bagel sandwiches for us for breakfast. On the way I saw an odd cloud as I drove up the road, which I quickly realized was ascending smoke. Seems like the shopping center across the street from where I was going was on fire. The radio played news of the latest shooting massacres, 20 people in El Paso, and 9 in Dayton. The former apparently perpetrated by a white nationalist/anti-immigrant assault wielding asshole. The latter as yet unidentified. Time for all the right wing politicians to offer empty hypocritical words.
A package arrived from Copacetic Comics yesterday with Jon McNaught's Kingdom and Jaime Hernandez's Tonta. Read the former before bed last night and it was... boring. I haven't read any of McNaught's comics in awhile, so I thought I'd try one again as they seem like something I would like, everyday stories filled with nature and time passing, but the combination of the blobby color artwork and the lack of any clear motivating principal ends up boring me. This one has a mom and two kids going to some crappy seaside cabins and then not really doing anything. The older son is distant and mostly plays video games. Nothing really happens, and the whole thing is sad in a cheap embarrassing seaside resort way. In reading it, I'm just not clear about why the comic was made. There are these little vignettes but they don't seem to connect to any theme or any through line of plot or concept that I can identify other than "family goes to seaside." It just all feels so banal without a spark of interest to make it thought provoking in its banality.
Started again on working up a website for excerpts from this journal using Hexo, another node/js based static site generator. I was trying to use eleventy but was having a few issues getting what I wanted to work. Hexo's a little more specifically geared to blogs, so has a few built-in elements that help with that, so I don't need to do everything from scratch.
███ ███ █████ finally, after talking about it forever, adopted a puppy yesterday. She's a very tiny little reddish fox/terrier looking dog, with larger ears that are backed by fluffy fur. Neither Lianne nor I can imagine taking on the extra stress required of caring for such a small young dog (last night they apparently had to take her out every 2 hours). ██████ ████ ████ █████ █████ ████ █████ ███████ ██████ ███████ ██ ██████ ██ ████ █████ ██ █████████ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ██████ ███████ ██ ███ ██████████ ███████ ██ ███ ███████ ███████████ █████ █ █████ ████████ ███ █████ ████ ██ █████ ██████ ███ ███████ ████ ███████ ████ ███ ███ ████ ████████ █████ ████ ████ ███ ████ ████ ██ ███ █████ ███ █████ ████ ██████ ███ ████ ███ ███ ████ █████ ███████ █████ █ ████ ████ ███ █████ ███████ ████ █████ █ ███ ████ ████ ███████ ██ ███ ██████ ███ ██ ███████ ███████ ████ ██ ████ ███ █████ ███
Lianne looked out one of our back windows yesterday afternoon and noticed an animal in a small tree that has grown in the part of our yard that has been left to (over)grow. A ground hog (who she spotted on the porch a few days ago) was climbing in the tree, seemingly eating the leaves or something on it, he got too far out on a thin branch and hung upside down for bit before falling to the ground (only 2 or 3 feet maybe). Of course I had to tweet to John Porcellino to report, since he's pretty much the first person I think of when I see a ground hog.
Quiet Sunday yesterday, still working out the new website with Hexo, which I think I will stick with for now, though I have found some of the documentation inadequate. I do have a basic pages being created now, so I just have to do actual design work next. I'm think I'll base the layout loosely on a piece of three hole punched lined paper, taking the idea of the three circles on the left and the light pink/blue color combination. We'll see if that works out or just ends up awful. I don't get to use many design skills at work so I'm very out of practice (did I ever have any practice) in dealing with anything beyond very simple placement of elements without a basic framework.
Still playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey even though I've finished all the main content and DLCs, now I'm just running around finishing up whatever side missions are left and continuing to admire the scenery. It really does make me want to play a D&D game in Ancient Greece, so I guess I haven't totally given up on that idea.
Started Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Long Sun this weekend. Like The Book of the New Sun it starts with a lot of unexplained setting content and unfamiliar words. A world that is a mix of low and high technology in what I am beginning to think is some kind of O'Neill cylinder, as the characters seem to see another landscape in the sky above them that is lit when they are at night and some kind of "shade" that makes me think there is a central column with a rotating sun-like light source (that would also lend credence to the term "long sun"). Curious to see where it is going, and of course the writing is amazing.
This is the first day in a month that I've not gotten to this journal before noon. It's code release week at work, and I like to get some of it done early enough that we don't have many customers online, so that took precedence over my morning. But a few minutes ago, it suddenly got very dark in my office and then a heavy rain with some serious thunder started passing over. Up on the third floor is a little too close when the thunderstorms are going right overhead, so I fled to the ground floor.
I've been trying to be more conscious about stress and anger lately. I need to better identify and deal with my stressors. Work is often the main one, but so is Buddy, especially lately. And often those two combine: I'm working and stressed about it and then Buddy wakes up and stands next to my chair meowing incessantly. He wants pets or sometimes food, and he just won't shut up, and that combination tends to set me off into being angry and cursing. My anger is never of the hurting type, it's just cursing and sometimes banging on things. One time many years ago, when I was still pretty new at my job, inexperienced, and really struggling with some programming issues, I got so stressed and angry I kicked the wall in my old office. Put a divot in the drywall. I felt so bad about that, I've never done anything like that since. So I don't worry about breaking things or hurting myself (or Buddy), but I don't like the way I feel, tensed up, with this sense of energy that needs to be expended. It's like the build up of the stress is also a build up of energy in my body and at a certain point it reaches the maximum I can hold. I need to do something, cause it can't be good for me to feel this way.
Moving pretty quickly through the first volume of The Book of the Long Sun. Really enjoying it, and also surprised at how, in comparison with The Book of the New Sun there has been very little plot as of yet. New Sun is almost picaresque in the way Severian ends up wandering all over the place, while in Long Sun so far Silk, the focalizer, barely goes anywhere. Curious to see if that will change, or if this series is more enclosed than the previous.
Still rewatching Deep Space Nine in dribs and drabs (mostly during lunch and while making dinner), and I'm impressed this time with how well the writers deal with some of the minor characters, particularly the ones that are (or seem to be) the "bad guys." A few recurring characters of that sort (like Gul Dukat or Garak) are given enough time and story to be often sympathetic even when you know they have done awful things.
Thunderstorm seems to have passed, so I guess it's back to work.
Had a really delicious summer squash entree at Dettera last night. I believe it was cooked in their wood fire oven, with some nice small eggplants (Ola at Taproot calls them "fairy tale eggplants"), a few roasted cherry tomatoes, some kind of yellow sauce/puree, and this really thinly sliced and cooked fennel. I'd not normally say I'm a fan of summer squash or fennel (I hate licorice flavor) but both were excellent in this dish: the fennel was not prominently licorice and was a bit sweet and oniony. Chef there often seems to make dishes with food I don't particularly like that I end up enjoying (beets is another one that comes to mind). Sometimes it's just all about how something is cooked and what accompanies it.
My code releases at work seem to have gone well, which is a relief. I've not had a really bad release in a really long time, but there's always that possibility that we overlooked something and really take down our applications. We have ways to rollback the release, but we do it so rarely, that with the accompanying stress of the situation, makes it not as simple/quick as it could be, as I have to think about what to do, how to do it, in what order, etc. I guess I can return to normal work stress levels now, and also consider more ways to simplify releases and rollbacks.
I've also been thinking more about how this journal will work online. Lots of ideas that keep getting more complicated. At it's base I really don't need anything more than a bunch of html pages with a little css. But, it being my site, I do have an interest in trying out some other technology in a way that I couldn't running a blog on Wordpress (because it is so complicated and so reliant on its infrastructure). So now I'm thinking about caching and service workers and individually tagging sections of the writing, so if you just want the "comics" content maybe you can just see that content. I should probably release simple and then build up after that, as long as I get the permalinks settled.
I'm thinking the readable pages themselves will be weekly archives build up of daily posts, and the individual daily posts will just be JSON that I can then query if necessary for dynamic uses. I also want to find a good local search solution, though I'm not totally sure what that would be, as any sizable archive of posts will start to require more complicated tech to run.
While walking down to the bakery this morning I was thinking about how while writing daily around the same time is good for discipline, it is not great for me remembering things. It's easy in the morning to remember my walk and my dreams and what I read before bed, but a lot of the rest of the previous day is less clear. I probably have a few thoughts most days where I say "I should write about that tomorrow" and then I forget.
And then just now an article came up online that was about some new AWS thing for quickly making applications, but the app the author was creating was about micro journalling, the idea being writing a lot of short things throughout the day. The article linked to about micro journalling is a little too productivity focused, but it's got me thinking about the idea.
And of course then I start thinking about the right tool for the job. I've been writing in Evernote so far, but while Evernote is good for clipping and searching, I find the writing experience less than desirable, too much autoformatting and I can't easily write in Markdown so it'll convert easily for html export. I end up back at my DM organization issue of wanting a specific app to just do the thing I want to do, which leads me to say "I'll just have to make it myself" but then that could be a huge waste of my time.
Was reading A.S. Hamrah's latest column at n+1 in the bakery this morning. I always enjoy his columns even when they are movies I will never see, but also his columns always make me want to watch movies, specific movies, movies in general. It helps a lot that he covers a lot of movies without falling into endless plot rehashing, and that he tends to draw together a wide array of references, so, while you may not get them all, there are always enough that are familiar. I wanted to watch more movies this year (a vague New Year's resolution), and I haven't done as well with that as I would like, despite the riches that is the new Criterion Channel. A lot of the time it is that movie watching time is in the evening when Lianne and I are both there and I find it hard to find movies that I want to watch that I think she will want to watch, and I just never push the point of just saying "I want to want this, if you don't that's ok, you can do something else".
Finished up Jaime Hernandez's latest collection Tonta, hot on the heels of Is This How You See Me?, this latest collection is much lighter. It collects the first bunch of stories with a variety of mostly new characters that branch off a bit from his Maggie and Hopey stories. I was suprised in reading them to see the stories dated from 2012-2013, which feels like so long ago in years, but not so long in respect to how recent they feel in Jaime's work. I can't say I am as moved by this one as the previous, he can't rely on the decades of history with this story and I think it makes the stakes of the characters actions and emotions and relations feel much lower. I did notice in reading this, a trend one sees in a lot of his work where major events often happen "off screen" so to speak. In this particular book, an attack on and then death of Tonta's stepfather and then a trial of her mother for potential involvement, are both not shown. All we learn is from what characters tell us before and after the events. I feel like that is a common occurrence in a variety of other Jaime stories, though I am currently hard pressed to think of a ton of examples... Didn't Speedy die off screen? And there was Maggie's marriage... and Hopey's too. Ray's attack by Maggie's brother feels like a counter example, a rare case where this major event is shown in the "real time" of the stories, rather than afterwards or in flashbacks.
Lianne saw it last week, and I finally did yesterday, a groundhog on our porch eating parts of the bushes/weeds growing just beyond the railing. I've kind of known there was one around based on the trails in the grass that research says indicate tunnels beneath, but it's only in the past week or two that we've actually seen one.
More thoughts on a site for these writings that I should tag sections rather than whole posts, so the page or archives can have toggles for people who only want to view certain topics. localStorage could be used to save their choices. That might require broader categories than I would use normally for tags, or else some kind of hierarchical tag system (like "comics:manga" "rpgs:d&d" etc).
███ ran his sort of weekly summer evening D&D game last with me and a bunch of his colleagues. I'm still getting used to playing with a bunch of people I don't really know, and the mix of new players and guys who run games themselves can be interesting. I think there is a certain dynamic where the newer guys are ceding to the guys they know are experienced. I've been trying to not be too forward, but I'm also feeling like when the experienced guys are there, I'm not getting very far in having a voice.
In last night's game we got a hold of a letter about a meeting between a sage we tracked last session and some knight. We've stumbled onto a multi-part artifact type quest with 9 magic tomes that have 9 magic item keys that together can apparently teach you how to raise a dracolich. As we start to gather them, we are also questioning the wisdom of such, since that also seems to be the goal of anyone who might want to put the item to evil use (make a dracolich). Maybe us gathering all the keys is a bad idea and we should focus on destroying the items. We did try a bit of that without success. We probably need a better magical destruction solution, assuming
███ would let us find one.
Anyway, the sage we had tracked had been possessed by some... undead guy... who is apparently trying to get all the tomes/keys. But we ended up getting the key he had and even then opening the tome it went with (I was against that idea, but we voted and I lost). The letter we found indicated this sage was going to take the stuff he got to meet with this "Knight of the 9th Order". We decided to make the meeting instead, travelled to another town, and met the contact in a seedy bar. He took us all along to where the knight and her cohorts were camped out.
When we got nearby, our ranger scouted out the location. I charmed our contact. I wanted to pay him to go back. That way he wouldn't announce us and probably cause trouble since there were 6 PC weirdos rather than 1 human sage guy. But the other player was like we should talk to them. I should have made my point better (that one of us could talk and the rest could hide). Of course the knights seemed pretty sketchy, wanting to free some imprisoned blue dragon (who sounded crazy dangerous), and then, when we didn't want to go along with that, demanded we hand over the key we had (the one they knew we had). We stopped for the night as it seemed like we were about to get in a fight and it was late.
At happy hour yesterday,
███ confirmed my feelings about the previous night's game and the other players' deference to the two experienced guys who also DM games. ██████████ ████ ███████ █ ███ ██ ███ █████ ████ ██ █████ ████ █████ I feel relieved to know it wasn't just me being snitty.
Got a few books in the mail yesterday, mostly manga. I guess I'll say something about them when I get to reading them. Started the latest Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt this morning.
Further considering just making my own application to do all this, starting with a static site generator that will do what I want without too much complication.
Slow Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast at
███ ███ ███████, followed by a trip to the Co-Op for a few nights' dinner ingredients. This time of year that mostly means supplementing whatever we bought at the farmer's market Saturday morning. Already used some of those things up last night making an attempt at capellini pomodoro, which ended up tasting ok, but not as good as I had hoped. I think the ratio of pasta to other ingredients (hard to call it a sauce in this case) was off. Too much pasta means too little tasting the fresh tomatoes and basil.
Later today, I'm going to make some cucumber salad for dinner. I've been working on gathering good recipes for all my favorite mayonnaise-based salads: cole slaw, potato, macaroni, cucumber. The cucumber and potato, which I've made a few times, are both really good and simple to make. Most years lately when we go to the shore for vacation I end up eating a lot of macaroni, potato, and cole slaw salads for lunches there. We're not getting down there this year, so I have to make do by figuring out my own versions to make so I can have a glorious meal of them all.
Finished up vol. 11 of Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt this morning, I continue to enjoy the series as entertainment, though it is not particularly deep. I appreciate that despite the mecha heavy book dressing (I don't think the covers ever show any of the characters) the plot is more about the characters than the fighting robots. I don't think I have much more to say about it than I have already in the past.
Last night we finished the new season (4) of Veronica Mars. We didn't rush through the season, and we were still rewatching the previous one, when the new one came out, so I've seen headlines online about the "surprise ending" and how fans were super upset about it, and I'd kind of been spoiled for which character it involved, but in the end my imaginings of the surprise were much more surprising and worthy of being upset about than what actually transpired. There's probably something to be said for people who really love a show and then are immediately ready to give up on it just because a character they like is killed. The fickle love of fans.
Another night of sleep interrupted by a fairly long period of wakefulness a few hours in. That's been happening more lately, after a long time of not having that issue. I'm not sure what it is. I didn't have extra coffee yesterday (which I was suspecting was the cause, as I've been making afternoon coffee after lately); I didn't drink a lot (1 gimlet, 1 beer, and the latter was pretty early as I sat out on the porch in the light and read my book); but there I was at 3am awake and not going back to sleep.
The other day in one of his daily posts about Road House which I read every now and then (I still haven't actually seen that movie), Sean Collins wrote, in re a sex scene in the movie " If you’re laughing out of sheer delight during sex, something has gone very very right for you, that’s one thing." "209. The Pout/The Laugh" Then in The Book of the Long Sun one of the characters who works in a whorehouse says something about men who will hurt you if you laugh at them.
███ ████ ██ ███ ████ █████ ██████ ████████ ██████████ ██ ███ ██████ █████████ Those things just came together into my head this morning as flip sides.
I started back into The Book of the Long Sun, after taking a short break when I finished book 1. I was going to give it longer to breath and read something else (like some more Tiptree stories), but I just kept thinking about it. The first book ends with a few important revelations, that start the process, continuing in book 2, of expanding the world, both as a setting and for the protagonist. Through the first book, Silk, an augur, talks and thinks about the gods, and it being a science fiction novel (and knowing how New Sun went), I knew there was going to be some technical explanation for them at some point. The end of book 1 and then an early chapter in book 2 start that process, and seem to confirm my suspicious earlier that they gods are some kind of AIs (in sans-serif font that looks too much like multiple guys named Al).
The plot also seems to be moving to get Silk out of the neighborhood that is his home and the primary setting of book 1, which is a common trope in fantasy literature, going out into the world on an journey/adventure. I'm curious to see if Wolfe is leading to some kind of outward expanding journey or if the focus will stay rooted in the original setting.
My other ready yesterday was Go with the Clouds North-by-Northwest vol.1, a manga by Aki Irie. The genre falls squarely into a mix of manga tropes: teens, detectives, mysterious powers, mysterious girl. The protagonist is an older teen who can talk to inanimate objects (smartly, the author doesn't show us what the objects say). He's Japanese but living in Iceland, which gives the author the chance to show some Icelandic landscapes, though so far not much else feels particularly specific to the settings. I'm intrigued enough so far, because many of the tropes are used in a restrained way (like that mysterious power), and I quite like the art, the landscapes, the use of hashing, and admittedly the bit of fanservice is nice too.
I also did some work making my own static site generator to fit my needs. It's giving me a chance to a learn a few things, like dealing with the filesystem, but also goes pretty fast thanks to some specific libraries that do some heavy lifting (markdown, templates, front matter parsing).
Yellow jackets are building a nest in the eaves of the dormer window by my office desk. Had two or three get inside yesterday. Called the pest control people and a guy came over to spray yesterday afternoon, but it appears to not have done the job as I can still seem them out there when I look sideways out the window. A couple years ago I got a bunch of bees in the same place, where there were like a dozen that ended up inside. I really freaked out about that, as bees can really make a mess if they start to build a hive, and also you have to get specialized people to remove them. Thankfully those bees must have just been scouting cause I didn't end up getting more of them. These yellow jackets appear to be a different story though. I'll have to call pest control again and have them come back.
We were out at Dettera with Lianne's mom last night when I re-remembered it was my dad's birthday, so I went out to the vestibule to call him. He turned 84, twice my age. Dad's never been a great phone talker, and I haven't been either since my high school and college days when I'd spend forever on the phone, usually with some girl I liked (someone I was dating or one of my long distant pen pals at the time). Other than baseball, which I only sporadically follow, we don't really have interests in common, but he's also tried to show interest in what I do. In my pre-driving days, after I got obsessed with comics, he would drive me every week to the old comic book store in Quakertown and buy me some comics. And before that it was baseball cards. Unlike mom, he never had much to say about my art, and never showed interest in the music I listened to, but for awhile there we also had these hobby/consumerist things we would do. If I think too much about it I feel bad that we don't have a closer relationship, something we could share. But it's also not like we have a bad relationship, we love each other (and know it), we get along, there's no bad blood or anything even remotely like that. So I guess as father-son relations go, it's above average. At least he's still around to call on his birthday,
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An early morning rainstorm is passing over, the rain is so straight and heavy out my office window that it looks like fog between the house and the trees in the park, yet there is no wind, the trees are completely still. All accompanied to the persistent meowing of Buddy as he begs for... pets probably.
Almost at the halfway point of The Book of the Long Sun and got to one of those places where the focalizing protagonist has something happen to them mostly "off-screen" (what is the literary term for that?) that we, the reader, only hear about later via the character's report to other characters. This is similar to major elements of other of Wolfe's works: Severian in New Sun often leaves out events (slightly different because he is the narrator of his own story); Latro in his various books often leaves out information (either on purpose or because of his forgetting). The difference in this case is that Silk in Long Sun is not, as far as I can tell, the narrator of his own story (it's doesn't appear to be a book that is written as a reproduction of a diegetic narrative). In this particular scene there is a confused section of brief sentences, not totally clear, with some short dialogue, then a break, and time has passed and Silk is somewhere else, after which he recounts some information of what happened to the person with him. But, we don't have reason to believe he is necessarily being totally truthful since he thinks the person he is talking to is a spy.
This type of gap feels a little more like a trick in this book, since it is not a narration by the character. I don't believe up to this point, the narration has left any lacunae like that in the events that Silk has experienced. It feels like an inconsistency to suddenly decide to withhold a scene, but it also then gives that missing scene an exaggerated place in the story, because of that withholding. I'm curious to see how much that pays off.
Finished one of my other recent manga purchases yesterday, Ryuko vol.1 by Eldo Yoshimizu. This bills itself as a kind of sexy crime thriller and has an evocative cover (with some beautiful blue watercolor that is both a woman's long flowing hair and the lengthened shadow of her and her motorcycle), but inside it is confusing yet simplistic mess. Yoshimizu is an artist (illustration and sculpture mostly it seems) coming to manga for the first time, and that really shows. While there are a number of large illustration-like images in the book that are attractive and skillfully done, the actual pages and panels and action scenes are a mess. The art frequently has a scribbly, hatching, loose style that could be really interesting if it weren't constantly falling into murkiness (often from an overuse of dark tone), lack of clarity, and what looks like generally laziness. A number of the action scenes and settings were completely incomprehensible with a general overuse of speed lines. Characters were not always easy to differentiate or identify, and the story in general is repetitive and banal (lots of girls with father issues). This also has that ridiculous thing where while there are secondary characters prancing around in bikinis (one in a cowboy hat and boots) and clearly the book is to some extent selling itself with sexy women, when there is a completely unnecessary (to the plot) scene of the protagonist in the bath, her hair strategically covers her nudity.
A lot of hallmarks artistically of an illustrator doing a comic. I'll be skipping volume 2.
Walked down to the theater last night to see the "director's cut" of Blade Runner. So many people showed up that by the time I got into the largest of their rooms I had to sit in the second row, which is not my normal preferred viewing spot. I haven't seen the movie in a few years, and I really enjoyed it for the most part. The cinematography and set design/effects are amazing. The active exteriors and the moody interiors all with a certain type of lighting that I don't have the words to describe. The film noir vibe of a lot of the characters and fashions (as well as the deep shadows and harsh lighting in tight interiors) really appeals to me. I also noticed a lot of places where really bright light blows out the film.
The movie early on states it is November 2019, which provides that level of amusement you get from any science fiction of the past that dared give specific dates. We have about two months left to catch up with flying cars, outer space colonies, and replicants. On the other hand, Deckard has to use a video pay phone in a bar in one scene and doesn't appear to even have a radio to call for back-up.
The main part of the movie that I always feel is overdone is the confrontation at the end between Deckard and Roy. What is previously mostly a movie about atmosphere and ideas becomes an extended fight/thriller sequence that doesn't do much to enhance my thoughts or feelings about any of the movie's themes. It feels like a bone to some kind of action genre tropes and probably Hollywood.
I was conscious this time of watching for the "Deckard is a replicant too" theory, and in the end it does seem inconclusive but quite plausible. I guess I'll have to watch the 2049 sequel at some point now, even though I haven't heard great things about it. Makes me want to look up some other cyberpunk style movies.
After the movie I finished up the first half of The Book of the Long Sun where it again takes some surprising turns to move the plot along and expand the conception of the background world. On the whole so far it feels a lot more cohesive and linear than New Sun, less a picaresque, more epic narrative. As a protagonist, Silk's forward progress is more clearly divined than Severian's, who spends a lot of time going from place to place without much of a clear endpoint (I think it's not until the fourth book that he actually gets some clarity on that).
There's been a Yoshitoshi print show up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art all summer. Before it even opened, I marked my calendar because I wanted to go see it (Japanese prints (or really prints of any kind) don't often get displayed in quantity). Months later, the show closes tomorrow and I still haven't been to it. The museum is fairly close, a drive, or a train ride and a walk, but it always just seems like too much effort. Not in a lazy way, but in the way that any travel for me becomes an obstacle in my head. Even if I know it's a simple trip, the closer the travel gets in time the more apprehensive I get about it. I don't know that I can even explain it, because I'm not sure I understand it.
It's not that I haven't travelled a bit: I've taken pretty long car trips, I've flown to California twice. But in some of those cases, I like I was motivated because I wanted to get away from where I was or there was some imagined goal (often visiting a girl I liked). But for a long time now, I'm happy in my home and life (and wife), I like being in my house, and there is alway so much that I can do here already.
I do liking going to museums and seeing new scenery but I also am just not that motivated for all the bother I feel travelling is. And sometimes I feel guilt about it (Edit: clearly, as I just wrote about the topic 2 weeks earlier), because it's become this cultural expectation to travel and see places, and because I know Lianne would like to travel places more. But I also need to not feel guilty about it, because why should I? Plenty of humans have spent their whole lives without even getting as many places as I have been. If I want to stay home, that's fine, that's just how I am.
I was so distracted working on the status site generator I'm coding for the website that I never actually got around to writing anything. The coding is going well, it's nothing fancy, but it is successfully making a website out of a bunch of markdown files. There's plenty more to do, but it might be enough to at least get a first version of the site up this week.
Though I also have my Stars Without Number game Saturday, which I have not at all prepped for yet (as usual). I find myself less and less enthused about this game, even only a couple uneventful sessions in, but I'd also feel super guilty about getting everyone to try this game and then giving up right away. It's not the game itself, but my own lack of clarity for how the campaign should go. I had all these ideas, but most of them were perhaps too vague. Maybe after all this time I just wasn't cut off for game mastering. I keep having trouble translating the ideas I get enthusiastic about into something playable.
Was woken up at 4:30 this morning by a server up notice on my phone. I missed the server down notice, but thankfully it was only a couple minutes of issues with the EU servers the app I work on is running on. But that was enough to keep me up for about an hour trying to get back to sleep. Those early messages always jolt me awake (when I hear them), and then my mind races and I worry that it will be some kind of repeating issue that just wakes me up again. Thankfully, this time it was isolated, though I've now spent a good bit of my morning investigating the issue and trying to figure out what went wrong and what I can do to avoid it happening again. So my week starts with the worst part of my job: server issues.
During/after dinner last night (another try at homemade pesto), we watched the recent American Masters episode on Ursula K. Le Guin. I read the first three Earthsea books when I was young, but only came back to her work more recently. Like Gene Wolfe, she is an author I greatly regret not getting to sooner, as I have loved a lot of the books of hers I've read in recently. The film Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin was too brief but enjoyable. It was a little bit biography, a little bit about her father (an anthropologist), a little bit about Earthsea and some Hainish books and Always Coming Home, a little bit about science fiction and its relation to women. The animation they included in relation to (mostly) the Earthsea books was nice, a painted, brushy stop motiony looking style that worked as brief, vague vignettes.
As Lianne wanted to work on her weaving after that, I ended up browsing the riches that is the Criterion Channel and somehow ended up watching Elevator to the Gallows, a crime film from 1958 by Louis Malle. I was mistakenly under the impression it was an adaption of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but the one I was thinking of is Italian, so... it turns out I had it confused with Ossessione by Visconti, which I also have yet to see. Anyway, this movie was enjoyable enough, though not particularly remarkable. The most interesting aspect was in the very end, where the two murderers end up getting caught because of some undeveloped film. The policeman is like "be careful about leaving photos lying around" (I badly paraphrase) and for the time that seems like a tricky way for a crime to be solved, but in the context of the present it is pretty prescient, as we now have photos everywhere and video and surveillance cameras and that is what they use in so many crimes (and crime films).
As often happens I am behind at work. We do this process where we plan 3 weeks of code issues to work on and we estimate the issue by "points" so that we have a certain amount of points to do per 3 week "sprint". The "points" are supposed to be an abstract measuring of effort, but by using them as a basis for how much work we are supposed to do in a period of time they become a de facto measure of time. It's a frustrating process for anything that is not clear cut. When there are surprises or complicated issues, estimating the work becomes very difficult and then one gets behind (because the desire is for things to happen faster, so of course I (and others I think) end up underestimating way more than we overestimate.
So my current work was much more complicated than I expected (and I already knew it was going to be complicated) so now I'm behind which makes me more stressed out than usual, unaided by the server issue yesterday that I ended up spending most of the morning on. On the plus side, I've been learning and using some new features in node, in particular async/await functions. I actually started using them for the static site generator I'm working on, but ended up also using them a lot for this work issue.
Was thinking yesterday about how I don't (and haven't, historically speaking) written much about music. Music has been a big part of my life in different ways since I was very young, but somehow it is rarely something I think about in the same way I think about books or comics. I only recall one time I wrote about music, which was a short piece I wrote about Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music for the long defunct Philadelphia Independent. Rereading it, I see that it was for a post-election issue of 2004, which at the time seemed like a depressing election... I spend a lot of time listening to music and with songs running through my head, so maybe I'll try writing about music some more in the future.
Another stressful day at work, which I guess I don't really want to write about again.
A few comics showed up in the mail yesterday, and I already read two of them. Since it was date night, I had time in between work and dinner to read Go with the Clouds North-by-Northwest v.2 by Aki Irie. I'm still fascinated and a bit confused by this manga. The second volume starts off with a very brief mention of what seems like an important event that happened between volumes. Then it's never mentioned again for the rest of the book. The whole storyline about the protagonist being some kind of detective (or at least finder of lost things) also completely disappears as pretty much the whole volume is spend on him having a friend visit from Japan and them going around Iceland doing touristy activities. The author works in a bunch of pedantic moments with diagrams and a lot of wonderful scenery drawings. It's almost like a whole volume that is an aside to the main narrative, except, with only two volumes to compare, it could also just be a total 180 in what the main narrative of this series is. I'm excited to see where volume 3 goes. I'm also considering writing up a longer review of the two volumes to see if The Comics Journal would be interested, since I've not made any progress on the article I did pitch to them.
My other read of the day (in bed later) was Corto Maltese: The Early Years, the latest in IDW's reprints of the series. It appears they are down to two volumes left, the first and the last. This one is very brief (only 32 pages of the actual story) and rather uneventful, though at least for once we get a little context from the publisher that this was intended to go on longer but Pratt had some kind of disagreement with the publication that was serializing it. One thing that has really frustrated me about this edition, is how little they provide context to the comics. There is some Pratt biography and sketches, but they never even indicate what year the originals were from. And the numbering of the series only appears inside the back cover, and appears to be numbered via the internal timeline of the series, not the publication timeline, which adds to the confusion. I think I've been growing cold on this series over the past couple volumes, but now the two left are the ones I am much interested in reading, as the first volume is well regarded and I've read the last volume in French but was pretty confused by it (I think there was a lot of unusual terminology in it).
Watched Claire's Camera last night too, a Korean/French film by Hong Sang-Soo. It had come up in some best of year lists from last year, and somehow I remembered it when I saw it as an option on the Criterion Channel. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Eric Rohmer: a beach side city, a lot of talking, coincidental meetings, limited settings, limited camera movement, little action. IMDB says the title is a reference to Claire's Knee, which... I guess is possible. Some of the descriptions of the movie I've read make it sound more mysterious than it is, but the ending itself was unexpected. It did that thing Rohmer does in some of his films where there is an ambiguous scene and then a jump in time that helps you better understand what happened and then the movie ends.
Woken up at 2:20am last night by my phone reminding me that if I go to some website I have been selected for a prize. Calendar event spam: a new low in the shittiness that is spam.
Still plowing through The Book of the Long Sun, into the 3rd volume now. Still have no idea how it connects to the New Sun books. Still lots of skipping ahead in time and then slowly filling in what happened. I think it mainly works in the context of this book because of how Silk the protagonist has spent a large portion of the narrative injured in different ways and occasionally unconscious. The gaps in the narrative time help mirror the gaps in his consciousness and also the overwhelming events happening to him.
Each of the volumes has been starting with a list of characters, and reading it in volume 4 I noticed how much the descriptions give away elements of the plot that haven't been revealed in the book. Not only does it list characters that haven't shown up in the narrative yet, but also a few major character reveals that I don't believe were at all clear up to that point. For instance there are a couple reveals about character parentage that seen very important to the plot that get spoiled. I don't quite get the impetus of such a thing and why Wolfe would do that.
Had a few more ideas for my Stars Without Number game in the shower this morning, as I slowly piece together the characters' backgrounds (the game started with them having no memories). But it's also the type of ideas that I need to work into the game as playable. It's one thing to decide "x player was on the run because y happened", but it's another thing to figure out how that creates a playable situation I can throw at the characters during a session. Once again, questioning my previous decisions about starting this game. Once again, thinking I should have just stuck with what I was doing previous, or really, I should have just stuck with our very first campaign, as that one seems (in retrospect, admittedly) to have had the best vibe and the simplest set-up.
It was dark this morning when I woke up, a preview of Autumn to come. Really it was just cloudy and overcast, but it felt like the sun hadn't risen yet, as if time had jumped forward a month. Individual drops of rain fell on my head as I walked to the bakery for breakfast. On my way home I was excited about something, something I had or do or see, but I wasn't sure what it was, maybe just the excitement of Friday, a slower day generally. And my game is tomorrow, which I am always both excited and trepidatious about. I love getting together with my friends, hanging out around the table, but I am also always nervous about having this level of responsibility for the management of the whole thing, even though I also think I am the only one who actually makes any judgements about that when the day is over.
Another Saturday morning sitting in the parlor waiting for Lianne so we can go have breakfast at
█████ and hit the farmer's market for produce. But it's also game day, so I need to make sure I have enough material prepped for the session and I'm making a second attempt at macaroni salad as my snack contribution.
Two nights in a row of vivid dreams that linger a bit through the day. I hedge a lot on how much significance dreams have. I've had very active, memorable dreams for like half my life now (at some point in my very early twenties I noticed I was dreaming a lot and for awhile kept a journal of them), but I've never really attempted to gain anything from them. I do notice some of the repeating themes, like driving a car where the brakes stop working. Had that one again two nights again, though this time, oddly I realized after a while the breaks were working I was just looking at the RPM gauge instead of the MPH gauge on the dashboard. That's the first time that's happened, usually there's no resolution to that situation at all, just stress and worry then the dream stops (it's never about crashing into anything as far as I remember).
Anyway, I've probably already written about my game prep issues and related matters. As usual, I did have a few ideas come together at the last minute (yesterday mostly) on some larger elements of the campaign, but I'm still always worried about the smaller scale stuff at the moment. How do engage the players? How to add suspense or mystery, how to make sure I am offering the players choices. Feels like someone should have written a book about stuff like that by now. My main remaining prep is to find a decent spaceship map in case we get to the next scenario. If necessary I'll steal a dungeon map and try to adjust it, I guess.
Still need to get the site up, I've been too slow at it, and these entries are building up and it's going to be a pain to post them. I'm getting close to 2 months of entries now. I also still need to archive my old Wordpress site so that it is just static html pages. The tool I was using was crapping out on me, I think because there was too much content, probably because of images. Hoping I can do something to move all those images over to S3 and then find/replace the links in the static html. That should make the site content itself a lot more portable.
Wasted time this morning trying to get node and npm installed on my Chromebook. Not much success, as usual for when I make any attempts to make doing development possible on that computer. I just can't find enough information to account for whatever is different about the linux in ChromeOs as compared to any other form of linux. It's extremely frustrating, as I'd really hoped when I bought it that I'd be able to use it at least a little for coding. And now I'm wasting time trying to setup this journal site at least preliminarily, so I can put my old site into an html archive and at least have a home page and a feed to redirect people to for the new site. Doing server work, I always feel like there are these tiny exceptions for everything, that make it take extra long to accomplish anything, even stuff I've done before. More frustration, and now it's almost noon already.
The game yesterday went ok. We had fun, but once again it feels like we get nowhere in the game. We were literally in one room the whole session. At this rate we'll never get anywhere, more frustrations. It's all making me feel pretty stressed today already. This shouldn't happen, it's Sunday, I'm not working, and I got my one day's chore (mowing the lawn) done.
Yesterday pickup up a bit in the afternoon. I managed to get my old blog site converted into a static site. It's all just html files with images moved to S3. This simplifies the whole thing quite a lot. I can remove php and mysql from the server. Now I just need to get this journal site finished.
Late in the afternoon I watched Paul Schrader's First Reformed (2018), another movie that was on a bunch of best of year lists. I was moved and impressed and occasionally disturbed by it. Beautifully filmed (a few times the camera lingers on empty rooms like an Ozu movie), and Ethan Hawke was very good in it. It was also interesting to see Amanda Seyfried in a role that didn't involve her being dead saying "Veronica" all the time. It is probably the only movie I've seen that dealt with existential dispair in the face of climate change. The whole plot kicks into gear by a young man, an environmental activist, who finds out his wife is pregnant, and he just can't get his head around the idea of having a child who will be his age at a point when scientists are predicting all these awful things happening to the climate/environment/world. I don't feel like I see that addressed often, but I also may just not be watching for it. I've long chosen to not have children, but it's certainly something I've thought about in relation to people having children. The movie falters more thematically as it goes on, because it seems to skirt around the idea of action in the face of this environmental despair. There is sort of a tense suspenseful element around terroristic activity, which moves the plot but doesn't really offer any alternatives of action. Ethan Hawke's character is dying, so it's like he can only see dying as a path to action, which is very wrapped up in his religion (he's a Protestant reverend of some kind). But then the movies end as a kind of... love story... very abruptly... lots of abruptly ending movies lately.
For lighter fair Lianne and I watched I Married a Witch (1942) with Veronica Lake. A goofy comedy, but for some reason I always enjoy watching Lake. She's one of those old movie stars that draws my consistent attention, though I'm not sure I can say exactly why. Certainly she is attractive, but also there is often an insouciance to her characters, a slyness, a that is engaging.
A drop in the temperature and when I left the house this morning, I though about going back in to grab my sweatshirt. We are rapidly approaching my favorite time of the year, when there is a slight chill in the air for my morning walk, and I can finally shut off the air conditioning. Monday passed quickly without event: work, lunch, dinner, a bit of tv, reading, sleep.
I'm still moving through Deep Space Nine over lunch and while I cook dinner. One thing I've always enjoyed about the writing of the show is how much they seem to think about getting all the major and minor characters to interact with each other in different pairings. Both the "A" and the "B" storyline in many of the episodes are often driven by character pairings. I imagine the writers saying, "let's write an story that pairs Garak and Odo together and see what happens." I do find myself skipping through the all Ferengi "A" story episodes, they never quite work for me.
Feeling like I don't know what to say, like I forgot something interesting I had to say yesterday but didn't write down. In some sense this journal, as a daily exercise is partially about memory, what do I remember from the day before, what do I remember thinking, what do I remember from what I watched or read. And in that sense often my memory fails me. I've often felt like my memory wasn't quite what it should be, wishing I could be one of those people who can quote things they read, or even remember what they've read. Maybe that's something I had to work at and didn't, as when I was younger I remembered well enough to get through school without spending much time studying and working on memorizing anything. Perhaps now that's to my detriment.
A stressful day, internet was very slow today which makes my work very frustrating especially when I'm working on load balancing a live chat application, which means testing often involves 5 or more browser tabs connected to different servers. Even typing in the terminal to my development server was so slow, the delay of the typing, the not seeing a typo until you are three letters past it, it all tenses me up and then stresses me out. My shoulders are hunched, my jaw is clenched.
I finished The Book of the Long Sun last night, maybe it was the amount of pages I read the past couple nights as I tried to finish it, but the ending felt very rushed to me. The first volumes had a pretty leisurely pace and then the last volume seemed to squeeze a lot into it. I think because of that I ended up liking it less by the end than at the beginning or middle. Felt like a lot was left unresolved. I can't but wonder (and need to look up) if The Book of the Short Sun that Wolfe wrote later is some kind of sequel (Edit: it is). I'm also still baffled as to the relation between Long Sun and The Book of the New Sun. The names indicate there is a relation, but I'm not sure I see it in the text itself.
I also wonder if I somehow just missed a few things, or if he really left a lot of questions unanswered. Some plotlines seemed to get dropped...
Yesterday, while I took a walk to the library to pick up a book, Vegetables Unleashed, a cookbook by Jose Andres. The first two recipes I turned to while walking back both look delicious, so I'm very excited to try some of them. Anyway, on the way to the library, I noticed a whole bunch of crows around a tree next to a church, as I got closer I realized there were more than a dozen crows perched on the church and the tree, periodically swooping down to grab fruit of the tree. We used to have one of those trees in front of our old house, it was right outside my office window and I'd watch the birds and squirrels eat the bright red spiky fruit that had cantaloupe orange insides. I looked the tree up then, but have since forgotten the name. Turns out the crows really love that fruit, I've not seen so many of them all in the same place. The library also had another book for me A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, which I read a recommendation for somewhere awhile back. As I had just finished the novel I was reading the night before, it was perfect timing. I started on Olondria before bed last night, so far interesting enough, though I'm still in the "childhood of the narrator" section that seems requisite in so many fantasy books.
Yesterday also saw the arrival of Emanon vol 2. a manga adaptation by Kenji Tsuruta of a sci-fi novel by Shinji Kajio. I read this (and its predecessor) in scanlation years ago, and now Dark Horse is finally publishing the series. The protagonist is a woman who has all the memories of her ancestors all the way back to the beginning of life on Earth. It's an interesting concept, that is here downplayed as a slow introspective manga. Tsuruta's drawing is lovely. He's primarily an illustrator who has done a handful of manga, but unlike many illustrators he can make a readable comic with sequences and layouts. He does have this tick where all his manga (that I've seen) have a young female protagonist who basically looks exactly the same. Emanon, the woman in this manga, looks almost identical to the protagonist of his Wandering Island and some other manga I read of his in scanlation. It's like he really just loves to draw this one woman (and he seems to like to draw her naked a lot too, though always in non-sexual situations). This second volume of the manga, in contrast to the first, takes on Emanon's point of view and opens it up to a little more knowledge about her origin and feelings. It's more effective than the first volume which was narrated by a young man who met her, thus leaving her a lot more opaque and seeming like some idealized fantasy than an person with an unusual history. This volume also has a long color section in the beginning (70+ pages) that shows off Tsuruta's watercolor skills in coloring his drawings. Curious to see where vol. 3 goes as my scanlations only covered the first two volumes.
Another cool morning means autumn is quickly approaching. All week I've found it hard to work in this time in the morning, as I stress about getting to work and trying to get my work done. I always feel like I'm behind schedule, like there's too much to do, like I'm not getting it all done fast enough. Ironically, in many ways, what constitutes "behind schedule" are my own estimates of how much work my assigned coding issues are. I guess more generally I need to continue working on my estimates of the work I am assigned. We've been estimating our work for a long time now (getting close to 2 years, maybe more) and I still don't feel like I am accurate enough for tasks that aren't very small and contained. Whenever an issue is more involved the estimates quickly become inaccurate as unexpected aspects are uncovered or I struggle with learning something new for the task at hand (like recently having to learn a lot about handing async code in node with Promises and async/await functions, as well as writing unit tests for same).
Been thinking about how I could be more flexible about my writing. Rather than once a day, I could just write bits and pieces whenever something strikes me as worth writing down. That would be a whole new habit to form. In a way it would be like the general use of social networks for people, sharing bits and pieces here and there, but I don't currently have a way to do that so easily for this sort of private/personal space.
Ended up spending much of the day so far working on the site generator and design. Until now didn't actually get to write anything and now I'm about to head out for the evening. I think I will have the site ready to go live in a decent state at least by Monday. My only main lingering issue is converting my posts from Evernote and figuring out how much of it I actually want to make public. Do I want to leave in parts that mention specific people's names? Should I just ask them? Should I use initials? Or maybe I just remove that part. Or else I could use some form of redaction I guess. I need to think about it more.