Derik Badman's Journal

January 2020

2020-01-01 15:42

Just updated my online D&D 5e Character Sheet app for the various changes I've been working on. I have even had someone else put in a pull request on Github this week. I didn't realize anyone was paying attention. It should be a lot more usable now, and easier to organize information. Glad to get that resolved since we'll be starting a new campaign next week, with Ian taking over as DM. He started running it for me and another friend earlier last year, but we didn't get too far. I'm going to use the same character though. I guess I'll just pretend for a little while that I didn't already play through some of the events.

We also had an online meeting to make characters for Eric's next one-shot off his "tasting menu" of RPGs. This time we're trying Colonial Gothic 3rd ed., which is like Call of Cthulhu in colonial America but with d12s. I'm not convinced the rules are going to add anything that we can't already get from just using D&D or CoC and putting it in a historical setting. Though it is surprising how little support D&D in historical settings gets. TSR put out a few books for 2nd edition back in the 90s, but they weren't actually that good for helping someone run a game. They were more like history light with a bit of mechanics thrown in. I made up a pacifist Quaker doctor for this game. We'll see how I can do completely avoiding combat (not sure how combat heavy this game is). I don't even have a weapon on my equipment list, but I took a bunch of soft skills to help in conflict.

Work up at 3am this morning feeling shitty, and it has not totally abated as the day has gone on. Hopefully not an omen of the new year. Going to go drink gin and watch... probably more of The Expanse, as I've been working my way through the new 4th season. It's really good so far. It's a show that I kind of forget about, and am not too excited about a new season until I actually start watching it. They really manage to keep the plot interesting and to work with a surprising number of new and old characters. Often the disparate storylines feel completely separate until something late in the season pulls it all together.

I did read the first book the series is based on and was completely underwhelmed. A case where the adaptation is much better than the original.

2020-01-02 21:00

Started work again too early and then didn't ever really stop. So much for a new start to a new year. On the other hand, I've not played any video games in quite a few days, and I have gotten a lot of things done of my character sheet project.

Started Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, one of the Nobel Prize winners of last year. Not sure yet how I feel about it. Also started the new volume 5 of The Complete Crepax which features some letters Crepax engaged with Louise Brooks, whom he modeled the look of his character Valentina on.

2020-01-03 07:09

I gave up on Flights last night. It wasn't really drawing me in, and I've learned to just move on when that happens, too many other books to read or reread. It was all these little short sections mostly about travel. There seemed to be a consistent narrator behind most of them but not all of them. Some were like short stories or microfictions, some were a little more essayistic. Many were either autobiographical or written to sound like it. I'm not that into reading about travel qua travel and nothing else was really grabbing me in it, so that'll go back to the library.

Not sure what I'll pick up next to read. I'm sure there's something on my shelf or one of the piles laying around that I could dig into. Maybe I'll read this edition of Walden I got a little while back. It's annotated, and I've read that it is very good, got recommended in the back of the Waldenx40 book I read.

It's dark and wet this morning, though not very cold. The weather forecast seems to indicate the lack of lots of cold will continue. Guess that's what Januaries are like now here. Not that I am too bothered if it means less chance of snow.

Filed a bunch more issues for my online character sheet. I've been enjoying adding things to that project: it's nice and uncomplicated to have an idea for improvement and just do it. It does't take forever, and I don't have to change a bunch of styles or really worry about what other people will think about it. I am the main audience and since I actually use it, it's easier to find ways to improve the user experience and the user interface for actual use. I was really trying to keep it static and just one html file served, but I think the only way I can do good reliable backup/restore data storage is if I add a small server side component so I can integrate with APIs for external services. I don't think I'm going to go the way of a database, but I guess I could, something lightweight maybe would give me a chance to try out some new things I've been wanting to try like GraphQL. This could be a simple project to try. We'll see.


2020-01-05 13:19

I've spend a large part of the weekend (late morning through late afternoon) mostly work on my character sheet app. Lots of UI changes and accessibility changes to try to make it work better for me. I'm learning some new things code-wise and having fun with it, even though it is also very much like how I spend my weekdays working. I should have a whole new set of features released by the time this entry gets posted.

Started on The Witcher series on Netflix. Two episodes in, I quite like it, and am impressed with how they are handling the adaptation. They are showing multiple timelines simultaneous, which is pretty interesting. I've heard that viewers have complained about being confused by that, though the first episode offered some dialogue for those paying attention to clue us in that Geralt's and Ciri's plots were happening at different times.

They are also adding elements to the story, in particular, episode 2 starts giving us backstory on Yennifer as a girl. That's not in the books, though I know some of it is mentioned, and the show is using it to work in various character, location, and setting introductions, in an effective way.

The fight scenes are well done so far. In episode 1 there is a brutal fight between Geralt and some thugs. It is violent and there are cut off limbs and the like but it all happens really fast (as it would in a fight) without the camera lingering on the blood or the mutilations. It makes the action brutal but doesn't make it seem glorified.

2020-01-06 11:43

We went and saw Greta Gerwig's Little Women yesterday at the theater. I've never read the book so I can't speak to it as an adaptation, but I do believe it deserves all the acclaim it's been getting. It was beautifully filmed, the script seemed interestingly done - at least as far as I know she messed around with the timeline rather than making it linear, and all the actresses were pretty amazing. In shifting between different times Gerwig was super effective at matches on action and match cuts so that you could tell time had changed even if you were seeing the same location or people. There are probably no cases where the switch in time was confusing or disorienting, at least as far as knowing that the time had changed not necessarily whether it was previous or later than the last scene.

One really effective use of the multiple timelines was when Meg the youngest sister is sick and dying. It happens twice. In the earlier time, she does recover. We see Jo fall asleep next to her in bed and when Jo wakes up, Meg is no longer in the bed. It is empty. Jo trepidatiously goes down the stairs and turns the corner to the kitchen, and then you know Meg has survived that time because we see her at the table eating breakfast. Jo is joyous. Later, we see the same scene replay almost identically. Jo wakes up; Meg's bed is empty; Jo walks down the stairs; she turns looks into the dining room; but this time, it's just her mother alone crying. That repetition and call back was really effective and moving.

Through episode 3 of The Witcher and I keep being impressed with it. The writers are doing a so far excellent job in adapting and modifying the original source material into something that tracks Geralt, Yennifer, and Ciri simultanously, but also cleverly mixes the timelines and what stories they are showing to resonate with each other.

It's getting compared with Game of Thrones a lot, but so far I think The Witcher is much more of a fantasy show, and a much more interesting show. GoT was so much about tons of characters being moved along by a slowly (so slowly) moving plot. It took forever to learn about the different characters and the world and it was much more about political maneuvering than a fantasy world. The Witcher on the other hand, by focusing on a few main characters let's one learn about them faster. It also is already much more fantastical in nature, which is likely, a reason it won't ever be as popular as GoT.

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2020-01-07 08:32

Finally started making a little progress on some comics reviews, which may mean less journal writing in the near future. I have comics to reread, notes to take, paragraphs to write, images to scan, all of which will take up some of my non-working time.

We watched 2 episodes of His Darkest Materials on HBO last night. I've never read the books (I associated them, perhaps unfairly, with Harry Potter, which I have also avoided), so it is all new to me. I'm enjoying it so far, though it is not... amazing. The protagonist, Lyra, is engaging and the actor is doing good work. Ruth Wilson is awesome as a character who so far I do not have a handle on, but is clearly struggling internally with something (it's to Wilson's skill I think how much this is evident in her expressions and actions without her having to explicitly say anything). The effects of the characters' daemons (some kind of animal representation of one's soul?) is well done too and looks pretty seamless.

Where the show falls down a bit is the context of the fantasy world. At one point Lyra opens the door of her new keeper's (Ruth Wilson's Mrs. Coulter) private office and sees her monkey daemon in there. Lyra looks shocked and afraid, though it is not clear why. She turns and Coulter turns around the corner down a long hallway. It is only in their following conversation that we learn the daemons are not supposed to be that far away from the person. By not explaining that world context to us sooner, the show completely deflates any feeling we have about Lyra's shock when she opens that door. We have no explanation for why she is shocked, and by the time we do the effect is gone.

It's almost like the showrunners wanted to avoid doing any info dumps (though they do put in a few lines of text right at the beginning to spell out some very basics), but then failed to naturally work the context in at the right time. Two episodes in and I'm still unclear about what the "Magisterium" actually is (I think a theocratic government), or who exactly the Gyptians are (I think a Romani stand-in). Also, in that regards, a plot thread involving the Gyptians searching for some lost children is oddly used, as it gets a decent amount of screentime, but we never really get much sense of any of the characters. There's a mom who does clichéd dramatic grieving mom things. There's a brother who... wants to help, but is told he's too young. There is a gruff guy who is somehow in charge. It's telling I remember none of their names. Maybe their plot line is not an ongoing part of the story, but it feels like its more important by dint of screentime than it does by the depth of attention given to the characters involved.

2020-01-09 08:16

These days when it's dark in the morning and I'm dressing, I am always surprised to see this light on the ceiling above me. Then I look up and realize it's the light from my alarm reflected in the reflective surface of the ceiling light.

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Still enjoying the Witcher the way they are manipulating some of the timelines and plot threads of the stories allows for a wonderful mix of surprise at new scenes and new uses of characters but also delighted seeing familiar scenes played out on the screen.

Still rereading Walden in the annotated edition it's very slow going. Something about that book it's filled with interesting sentences and thoughts paragraphs but for some reason reads so so slow.

2020-01-10 11:14

Decided on some new plans yesterday for ways to manage my day, try not to work too much, and get some non-work things done. For one, I'm going to start tracking the actual number of hours of working, so I don't go crazy over what I'm actually being paid to do. Also going to more clearly schedule time in the morning for sitting and writing or working on projects so that I do those everyday before I start work. We'll see how that goes, but I think I tend to work better when I have a schedule and repetition. Otherwise, I just end up doing my job work which oddly I don't really need as much structure for. I guess my mind has made its priorities.

In illustration, the use of your materials follows logically from your conception of the picture. In fine art, your conception of a picture follows intuitively from the use of your materials. (Franklin Einspruch, reviewing an N.C. Wyeth exhibition)

Read this just now, and as many things do, it made me think about comics of different sorts. How many comics artists work from the materials? Many get very skilled with their materials, but not many create the work because of the materials. Many times, the materials end up being the most prominent part of a work (think any work Sienkiewicz did with Miller), but they are following from a script. I feel like many of the 4 panel works I made were created from the use of materials. I was interested in found text or photographs or what I could do with making images in Javacsript, and then the comics were made out of those investigations. But eventually, I felt like I ran out of ideas of new ways to use those materials, so I stopped making them.

2020-01-11 09:04

Started reading Junji Ito's No Longer Human which I got sent to review for The Comics Journal. I've never read any of his manga before as he tends to do horror. This one is horror too, but it's more of an existential horror, based on a novel of the same name. We'll see how it goes, and hopefully I will have opinions enough on it to write a review.

We have our game today, with Ian taking over DMing the 5e D&D adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. I'm excited to take a break from DMing and play some, and to put all my online character sheet updates to use. I'll probably right up a recap tomorrow.

Still working my way through The Witcher season 1, 6 episodes in now. I'm noticing more and more how the show writers are altering the original story plots. Some of the changes are clearly to allow for the overlapping of timelines (so they don't have to wait until season 2 to show Ciri as anything but a little girl) and to fill in backstory (most of the Yennifer content so far). Other changes seem to be more about ramping up drama. And some, I'm not totally clear on their purpose or what they add to anything in comparison to the originals. The characters like to talk about destiny a lot, which is overdone, it almost makes the case for the opposite. If someone keeps urging you onto follow your destiny and do this and that, then it feels less like destiny and more like manipulation and choices. One of the major points in the early stories, when Geralt first meets Ciri as a child is that he isn't looking for her and, as I recall, doesn't even know who she is when he first meets her.

They also seem to be adding some kind of religious aspect to the Nilfgaardians, which I don't at all recall from the stories. I feel like that tempers the work some. Instead of just an invading nation of people, they are... religious fanatics or something? That seems more conventionally fantasy than just having all the war and death and chaos caused by an invading, expansionist kingdom.

2020-01-13 17:19

Watched Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story last night, and, like Little Women it lived up to all the hype. I can't say I have a lot to say about it, except that it was very well done and engaging to watch. It feels rare to have watched 2 movies in a row that got a lot of end of year praise and that didn't disappoint. Though I just heard that Greta Gerwig was apparently snubbed for best director in the Oscar nominations, though both movies are up for picture, screenplay, and various acting awards.

Finished up The Witcher season 1, sadly, I think the last episode of the season was the worst one. It might not be a coincidence that it is the one that seemed to most be original show material. It depicted (and heavily changed) an event only summarized in the stories, and in doing so added a lot of stuff that seemed unnecessary, irrelevant, or just pointless. It seems like the writers want to build up Yennifer's character more, and also provide extra... narrative investment for a few side characters, but in the end it feels like they stray too far from the main characters and end up getting a little too dispersed with the narrative focus. They also went with a lot more effects and big fights and such than really needed, all of which seemed a little too Game of Thrones-y to me. I still really enjoyed the series and am looking forward to a second season, but I do wonder if knowing the original made me enjoy it less for seeing the differences and thinking that many of the differences were unnecessary or tonally inconsistent. It did also make me want to reread the books again, or play the game some more.

Was feeling crappy today, so gave up on work early to sit on the couch this afternoon and watch tv. Ended up finishing up The End of the Fucking World season 2 which was a darkly funny pleasure. It doesn't seem like it needs another season, nor would I be excited for one, the ending felt like an ending.

Then watched Under the Skin which I've been wanting to watch since it was on some best of lists for 2014. It's a hard film to easily describe. Science fiction but mysterious, plain, slow... lots of long takes and unmoving camera shots. Aliens (clearly, though one must just infer that) with no explanation or backstory. The filming and the sound were beautiful and occasionally disturbing. Scarlett Johansson plays this alien woman and is really amazing in it, completely different than she was in Marriage Story. Seems like one of those movies that I'd need to watch again to better understand it. Not something I would recommend to a lot of people.


2020-01-14 07:10

We started _Waterdeep: Dragon Heist_ on Saturday with Ian DMing. As is traditional, the party started in a tavern, The Yawning Portal, one famous in Waterdeep mostly, I guess, because it has a big hole like a well in the middle of it that leads down to a dungeon beneath the city, the Undermountain. We were all there sitting around a big table to watching a celebratory send-off for a party of brave adventurers going down into the portal.

We all introduce our characters since this was the first session.

Mine is Ludo Travers, a quarter-orc rogue from the city itself he likes the finer things in life and is in love with an equestrian named Annaliese. He's uncomfortable about being kind of ugly cuz he's partial orc.

We also had Marfaen Grimm, a human woman, who had some kind of tragic child story and is now somehow cursed by spirits. That's Eric playing some kind of non-standard class called a Malefactor.

Bimpnottin "Nottie" Sniggleboom (a.k.a. Pimpbutton Snuggleboom) is a gnome who loves children, blowing things up, and working in a toy store. She is also a bard who plays the ocarina. She was very enthusiastic.

The half-elf monk, Fawzi Greynore, had come to the city searching for the fulfillment she could not get at the monastery where she had been living and studying.

And finally, a halfling druid, Ellai Rickzer, who was also from the city and had lots of siblings.

After introductions we watched the party go down into the portal. Not long after, a commotion started nearby as a bald headed dude with eyes tattooed on his head started a fist fight with a half-orc woman. He was backed up by four other guys. Ludo recognized his contact Yagra, so he leapt in to assist, stabbing the bald man once. A fight began. Ludo ended up stabbing one of the other brawlers, critically hitting, and killing him. Nottie cast a spell, some kind of thunderwave, that shot forward hurting both Ludo (ouch!) and some of the other brawlers, knocking at least one over, and killing another (or maybe the same one). Others in the party held back and observed. After another round a loud animal-like noise erupted out of the pit in the middle of the room and a large troll crawled out, holding a detached human arm wearing the same clothes as one of the adventurers that just went down the hole. Attached to the troll were a few stirges along for the ride.

This new arrival caused true chaos to erupt as much of the clientele fled the scene. This also caused more of the party to become engaged in the combat. The druid cast entangle which sprang up weedy growth around the troll and a few of the brawlers helpfully holding them in place for a time, giving everyone else the advantage of location and movement.

I forget all the order of what happened but one of the stirges killed one of the brawlers, and the remaining one ran away. The unlucky party member ran outside to get the attention of the city watch, who merely observed until the troll was dead, then arrested Yagra and her bald-headed opponent, who was pretty badly hurt by that point. Durnan, the proprietor of the tavern and a former adventurer, leapt from behind the bar with a greatsword and engaged the troll, doing significant damage to it, aided by a number of party members, mostly using missile weapons like thrown daggers. The final blow was struck by the gnome critically hitting with a thrown dagger, getting the troll in the eye and taking him down.

So we ended up killing two guys pretty quickly despite having a conversation before play about how doing that in the city was a bad idea because you'd get arrested. Thankfully the troll's arrival seems to have wiped away that issue, as we could just blame the troll and stirges.

Durnan thanked us for the assist, and back in our seats we were approached by a flamboyant man named Volo. Most everyone knows Volo because is famous for writing travel guides (over the years the publishers of D&D have published a few books with titles that begin "Volo's Guide to..."). He hired us to find his missing friend Floon. Volo and Floon had been drinking (and gambling) at The Skewered Dragon the other night and since then Floon has not been seen. Volo provided little in the way of leads or clues, but he's paid us 10gp each up front with 100gp each when the job is done, and it never hurts to help a famous guy who writes books.

2020-01-16 06:53

It's release week so of course my scheduling plans fell apart almost immediately. Too many days needing to start early to get code out or fix bugs. Too many bugs which means more stress because we shouldn't be making these mistakes so much, though they are not all my fault. I still somehow feel responsible, even though I don't want to. There's not another option.

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I've been watching Castle of Cagliostro on Netflix it's one of the early Miyazaki animes. I haven't seen it in a really long time. It's pretty amusing and nice to see animation that's still the old hand drawn style. Oddly what I'm finding most interesting as I watch is the difference between the audio dub and the subtitles. I pretty much always watch things with the closed captioning on because of my crappy hearing, and in this case I guess the captioning is the subtitles, and they are clearly very very different from the dub.

It's not just slight changes and phrasing it's places where there is dialogue and no subtitles or subtitles and no dialogue, and also sections that have rather different meanings. Some are subtler than others, but they show kind of a different view of the events. For instance, the princess of the small country in the movie in the subtitles was sent away to a convent but in the dub she was sent away to school. That is not just a difference of word choice. That's the best example that I can remember at this point but it's a lot of things like that which are kind of interesting.

In the end it's entertaining but not amazing. It's been a while since I watched any other Miyazaki movies to know how I feel about them now. The one I remember liking best is Totoro which I am amazed to see my speech to text can spell right. Maybe I should watch that again if it's on any of these services.

I kind of have this weird obsession with adding things to lists and then checking things off the list or removing them. So wish lists like on Amazon or queues like on Netflix become an issue. Either I just want to remove things to get them off the list, or I need to watch/buy/read them to get them off the list, so depending on the mood I'm in at the point when I am weeding the list, I have to do one or the other. In this case it was a combination of the two going through my Netflix queue which is how I ended up watching this movie over the past couple days in dribs and drabs. Actually don't have many other things in the Netflix queue but have a ton of things in my Criterion Channel one.

2020-01-18 08:18

Another day mostly flew by working. Then happy hour and dinner and socializing, and the day is over. Just noticed a little chickadee flitting around the tree in the frontyard. I feel like I haven't seen any of them in awhile. The bird population in the yard seems to mostly be house sparrows right now. Did see a bright cardinal huddled up on the ground outside the kitchen window yesterday. Maybe I just haven't been looking out at the feeder enough lately, I used to walk by and check more often on my way between rooms.

I have a three day weekend just starting and I'm hoping to accomplish something on some of my projects. I've still got a review to write about Junji Ito's No Longer Human which should probably take priority, since I get sent a review copy of it (and will get paid). I've been taking notes on a review of some other recent manga I read, though that was more an idea I had that I offered. And then there are more changes to my D&D character sheet app. I was trying to work out some views for it (as in model/view/controller), but after reading yesterday that with the new Edge release all evergreen modern browsers now support native Web Components, I really want to try writing some for the app instead. There are a bunch of parts of the sheet that I think would benefit from a Web Component approach, and it would be a good education for me. I've read about them at different times in the past, but with our legacy support at work I never got to try them out. I'll probably watch a movie or two also, see what will be leaving the Criterion Channel this month in case there is something I really want to watch. They have a series of 70s sci-fi movies for this month only, that I am sort of tempted by, but also sort of expect I might not like any of them and just be wasting my time.