Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

More Site Changes

28 September 2020 by Nicholas in Coding and Styling

My site now has categories and tags. This involved some new functions (because, once again, I am not thrilled at how WordPress decides to produce actual html in what I would just want to be some value outputs) and more styling. I also worked up my first amended version of the theme leaning more into material design and with a few tweaks. Completely changing the colour scheme, because everything is set as variables in the header, takes only a few minutes.

I think, for now, I am satisfied with the basic look. It gives me a grounding that I can build on and tweak should I need to. It also allows me to quickly roll out other sites that are text heavy. Images and pre formatted text and quote blocks are not something I have added in, nor the ability to set the homepage as a different page. Templating will have to come later.

Tagged with categories, coding, design, functions, html, layout, php, programming, site, tags, theme, wordpress

Adding Functions

21 September 2020 by Nicholas in Coding and Styling

In further developing my theme I have decided I don’t like how some of the existing WordPress functions actually work. I have also decided that I want to be able to call in my own code blocks as functions. This has led to me creating a new functions file and being able to enforce flexbox and styling onto things that previously seemed to sit outside of it.

There is a long way to go before it even has enough basic functionality to share it with people to be able to handle their blogs, and it will never be ready to give out as a general theme, but as a basis for my own work and to be able to hand out to friends to start their own sites it is getting there.

And hopefully it will encourage me to do more writing and actually keep up to the site.

Tagged with coding, design, functions, html, layout, php, programming, site, theme, wordpress

Site Design

6 September 2020 by Nicholas in Coding and Styling

I haven’t updated the content on this site in over a year, but I have coded the theme for it three times in that time. The most recently has been today, and it is still a work in progress. This time, however, I have documented what I have done with a view to showing people as a tutorial.

I still need to add pagination and next and previous on individual posts, as well as making an author page. I will extend the theme to make it support top and side navigation so that I can help friends with their sites using it. Currently it is definitely just suited to what I am doing and no one else.

The site uses Flex Box for all the components. I think CSS Grid is just about ready for prime time so I will probably look at doing a theme based on that as well. I think it is more suited for a portfolio site whereas Flex Box definitely has strengths when it comes to text.

Speaking of text, based on what I have been doing at work (I have had a “new” job for about 10 months now) I have started working on changes to text at a really granular level. The kerning of words, line height and padding and margins. Some of the forthcoming css changes will allow for even more control.

The transparencies I am probably overdoing at the moment. I think they allow you to guarantee a sufficient level of contrast to text regardless of what colour and graphic the background has. It prevents bad tangents and can even cope with images that have text on them.

I am very tempted to play with text transforms to see if it possible to create perspective effects like Chip Kidd did on his All Star logos. More as a proof of concept than anything that I think would be particularly useful.

Tagged with coding, css, design, html, layout, php, programming, site, theme, wordpress

Avengers End Game

27 April 2019 by Nicholas in Films

I have now seen Avengers End Game twice. The first time was immediately after rewatching Infinity War in a double screening. It suffered from the comparison. In hindsight, it was always going to.

End Game has to serve many, many functions in a way that Inifnity War didn’t have to: it has to be a sequel, it has to satisfyingly resolve a huge cliffhanger, it is a capstone to a decade’s worth of plot threads and character arcs and it has to function as a narrative in its own right. It manages most of these feats to a greater or lesser extent, as well as subverting the self same expectation and doing several things that are unexpected, but it feels very much like several films stitched together as one.

Inifnity War was largely assembling people and setting a scenario in motion. It had a momentum and told one story. It also cemented a villain and his actions together. Stopping the villain and his scheme were one and the same. As the film ends the heroes face their own failure and, for many, their own mortality. End Game picks up with them at their lowest ebb, having suffered massive loss, and an the extrapolation of this loss provides the backdrop for at least two of the threads of the film. But there is also an unpicking of the combination of antagonist and his actions, as stopping one doesn’t necessarily mean stopping the other.

The opening is breakneck and ultimately subversive and anti climatic. It serves to change our expectation of what the film must be about and to suggest a greater complexity and necessary change in thinking. The next phase of the film is about these differing priorities and is very focused on the core characters at the heart of the story, the new stakes of the film and their own individual stories and characters. In many ways it looks back much more than it seems to advance the overreaching plot. As the film moves to the eventual climax we face the heroes in an arguable greater position of strength than the previous film and facing a subtly different challenge than we would have expected.

The first film is thrilling and largely upbeat and treads a very familiar path, but somehow feels largely upbeat with an absolutely shocking ending. The second film opens in a downbeat way and shows a level of desperation and bleakness you don’t normally associate with successful films before going on a far less predictable route full of character moments and genuine sadness and culminates in a way that seems true to the first film but somehow at odds with the one of the second film. Emotionally End Game affected me much more than Infinity War but I definitely prefer Infinity War. And I can’t even begin to process where the Marvel films may go from here.

Tagged with ant man, avengers, black widow, captain america, captain marvel, film, guardians of the galaxy, hulk, iron man, marvel, mcu, movie, review, thanos, thor, war machine

Ratings

19 May 2018 by Nicholas in Shopping

There is a problem with leaving ratings on shopping sites. Actually, there are several problems, but the main one is that an objectively fair rating does disproportionate damage to the product and seller unless it is truly excellent.

There is a thing called social proof. Basically people look to other people to advise them if something is desirable / useful. When I buy electronics I tend to stick to a company I know I trust or find a site that seemingly offers impartial reviews. As a last resort I will go with the reviews on the site I’m buying from. But then I will click products that meet a minimum review criteria.

Minimum review criteria means that product reviews of 4 out of 5 are problematic and anything below that can be a disaster. Think about that for a second. 3 out of 5 should be average and represent a product that does what you expect but no more. I bought some hasps recently that were a little flimsy and didn’t sit absolutely flat. They were adequate for the purpose and cheap. If I leave that review I will harm the seller although I think it is a tempered recommendation.

If I see a film I want to see has a rating of seven out of ten with a reviewer I trust, or a positive recommendation with caveats, I will happily spend money to see it and will more than likely not be disappointed. If I see the equivalent rating on an item on amazon I will skip it and move to the next.

This has led to a while industry where sellers try to get positive reviews through various means. From basically giving the product away, to significant discounts, to outright paying reviewers. I know I am lenient when I’m being positive because I know how it can affect the sellers, and will tend to skip reviewing products I feel ambivalent about, saving what would be harmful reviews for products I think deserve them. Such as an ebook I bought on Nginx which actually set me back, such was the inaccuracy of the information within.

So, basically, reviews on sites from purchasers should generally be treated with skepticism and products with more reviews treated as having a higher proportion of genuine reviews. And the reviews shouldn’t be treated as absolutes, rather the relative deviation from the average review for that type of product should be considered when making a purchase. But try to find a review on an independent site instead.

Tagged with amazon, customers, online, ratings, reviews, shopping

Headphones And Earphones

10 May 2018 by Nicholas in Shopping

Recently I have bought rather a lot of pairs of headphones. They are, in no particular order:

OneOdio Over Ear Headphones Closed Back Studio DJ Headphones – For the money, I really like these. The sound is spacious, and encompassing. You struggle to hear anything else when you have them on and the bass is pleasantly deep. They come with a nice long lead and they’re comfy enough to wear for a long time.

Betron HD800 Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones – I haven’t tried these as either a mic or for Bluetooth, so I can’t say whether those are selling points or not. The cord is shorter than on the OneOdio and I would say the sound is slightly thinner. They’re equally comfortable and I am more than happy with them. The problem is that they’re slightly edged by the OneOdio.

KLIM Fusion Earphones High Quality Audio – These are excellent by any measure. The sound is as good as over-ear headphones and they have similar abilities when it comes to blocking out external sounds. They come with a long lead and I fully intend to replace my gym pair and pair for work with some of these.

Rokerworld R1 Gun metal Noise Isolating Earphones – These are good for the money and come with lots of extra bits. The sound is adequate and I would be very happy with them but for the fact that I have fallen in love with the KLIM.

Betron B750s Earphones – I had these for about ten seconds for the gym and lost them. I can’t really comment on them compared to the others as I don’t have them to hand. Their carry pouch, oddly, was the best of any I bought and I love the flat and tangle free leads. They’re generously equipped. The sound didn’t disappoint, but I may find them less impressive now I have heard the KLIM.

Betron AX3 Earphones – Again, a good set of earphones suffering from comparison to the KLIM. They’re my work pair and up to the task of ignoring colleagues. They have a similarly good pouch to the B750s but don’t feel quite as well made overall. A slight annoyance is how hard it is to tell which is for the left and right ear at a glance.

I bought my mum some Betron several years ago and the sound is as good as it was when we got them, and they have been dependable despite being thrown in various handbags and wrapped around a phone. I also have a Bluetooth headset from them that I used at my last job. It again has a spacious sound, but isn’t as bass heavy as some others and does let external noise through. It also sometimes lost Bluetooth connection, although I was unsure if that was the headset or the computer I connected them to. Overall they are a brand that I am happy returning to and feel confident in.

Tagged with amazon, audio, earphones, headphones, shopping, sound

Brands

9 May 2018 by Nicholas in Shopping

I buy a lot of unbranded stuff. Or, rather, brands I don’t recognise and aren’t well-known. In my experience branded goods are often made in the same factories, by the same staff, to the same specifications and are frequently the same products.

Brands tend to establish themselves by building a reputation for quality and customer service. They then trade on that to build a reputation as they double down on marketing and raising their profile. Once this is done there is a tendency to become complacent or, frequently, be bought out and the easiest way to increase profitability is to cut costs. This is often done by cutting back on customer care and the product itself. The things that made the brand worth having in the first place.

Whenever I see a brand being promoted I think of a familiar logo emblazoned on a thin box with lightweight plastic goods inside. And then, if I am in the market for a similar product, I look at the name no one knows, costs less and has better packaging, responsive support and actual physical heft.

Tagged with branding, brands, marketing

Infinity War

7 May 2018 by Nicholas in Films

Avengers: Infinity War, at the time of writing, is the fastest grossing film of all time and has surpassed the total box office take of Justice League. Justice League, according to which figures you believe, cost the same as Infinity War and is largely comparable and shares some of the same DNA. As someone who favours Marvel over DC, this gives me a sense of gloating satisfaction. There is a tribalism at play that sports fans can probably relate to.

One of the interesting things about the two films is how they sit within their respective franchises and their relative trajectories. Infinity War is the umpteenth Marvel film and could yet become the most successful. Seemingly the brand is now strong enough to launch unknown or unheralded concepts and they perform respectably to spectacularly at the box office. The previous Marvel film, Black Panther, is still out on general release, still making money, and has a huge cumulative take.

Justice League, by comparison, seemed to be an attempt to run before the films could walk, is the least successful film in the franchise, and a sign of how the brand is becoming toxic. Even well-known characters portrayed by a famous cast have been unable to save the film from being viewed as a flop.

Tagged with ant man, avengers, black widow, captain america, captain marvel, film, gems, guardians of the galaxy, hulk, infinity war, iron man, loki, marvel, mcu, movie, review, stones, thanos, thor, war machine

Gotham

25 September 2014 by Nicholas in TV

Gotham is Fox’s new series set after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents in the Batman milieu. It’s developed by Bruno Heller of The Mentalist and the first episode was directed by Danny Canon. It’s somehow much less than the sum of its parts and leaves you feeling unfulfilled.

The first scene introduces a neophyte Catwoman and unfortunately encapsulates the shortcomings of the show: her movements are exaggerated and clearly not something the actress is comfortable doing, the action is confusingly staged and shows the limitations of the director and the budget and it comes across as far less impressive then you feel they were aiming for.

There is a power demonstration scene featuring James Gordon and a madman in the police precinct. The precinct looks beautiful and brings to mind Blade Runner. The actual events are so stupid they make your head hurt. It sets out to show the police force as sloppy and unafraid of oversight and shows Gordon as decent and his partner as complacent and definitely not by the book. As someone with a passing familiarity with the comics I do wonder why they used one character as his partner’s basis rather than another (one used by Nolan in his far superior take) that would fit better.

Bruce Wayne’s parents’ murders somehow feels wrong. It doesn’t feel mythic, I’m not at all convinced by the take on Wayne himself, the staging is wrong and the direction doesn’t focus on a detail that soon becomes very important. It also changes details that add layers of complications where none are needed.

Which is one of the central problems with the show: so much is being shoe horned in and interconnected when it really doesn’t need to be. Not everything has to link to characters that we already know and try to give us nascent versions of them. Too much happens and too quickly, and there isn’t a steady enough hand at the tiller to make us accept it. Things need to be stripped down and decompressed, characters don’t have to be shoe horned in and the actors don’t need to try forcing it.

The guy who plays Jim Gordon looks a lot like Russell Crowe. It’s distracting and makes it completely clear what the casting department was going for. He’s overly noble and some of his later actions defy belief. His fiancée is very telegenic but ultimately just there to serve the plot (and subject to one of the contrivances I think hamstrings the show). Various other characters aren’t particularly interesting or well done, with the exception of the mob boss, Falcon and Wayne’s butler (who is the only actor I can name, although there are a couple I recognise).

I may try watching a future episode out of boredom, but I have no interest in seeing the next one. It’s too frustrating a show and too many things about it don’t sit right with me.

Tagged with batman, gordon, gotham, tv

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

26 May 2014 by Nicholas in Films

Days of Future Past is a very highly regarded X-Men comic from the John Byrne and Chris Claremont run on the title that many people consider to be the best era on the series. It’s also consistently cited as one of the very best X-Men stories. This would arguably carry a heavy weight of expectation if it were not for the fact that X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand are also (loosely-) based on well regarded tales: God Loves, Man Kills and The Dark Phoenix Saga, respectively.

Days of Future Past is arguably closer to its inspiration, although it does depart in many significant ways and also ties into the films that have preceded it. It feels like an exercise in excising the mess that was X3, completely ignoring Wolverine Origins (and I assume it also can be seen as writing the last Wolverine film out of the movie continuity) as well as jettisoning large parts of X-Men Origins. It is the latter aim that seems most miserable, there were great ideas given short shrift and lots of characters discarded for a throwaway moment.

The film series now encompasses 7 films and 5 different directors. Several of the roles have been recast, even between successive films (I think Ellen Page is the third Kitty Pryde and the first to actually return). There’s a lot of inconsistencies in tone and timelines to iron out to make the story into a cohesive whole. And the film manages to draw threads from the series and knit them together or cut them off in a way that makes sense.

It’s a nearly film. It’s nearly great. It nearly does big action well. You nearly care about the characters. The ending nearly gets away with it. There is a brilliant action sequence part way through the film, but it sadly makes the ending feel more muted and less climatic. The best moments are featuring a character who then doesn’t appear again. The sense of inevitability that time cannot be rewritten aren’t allowed to pervade enough to create a sense of dread. There is a depressing feeling that matches the period but stops the film being entirely one thing or another.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have a chemistry together and McAvoy has a role he clearly enjoyed sinking his teeth into. Jackman has Wolverine practised now and the rest of the cast perform admirably (although a lot of the future X-Men are massively under utilised and it’s amazing Anna Paquin is even credited, let alone so highly). The script isn’t bad, but there is too much crammed in and you feel characters are under utilised to the point where you assume it could easily have been an extra 30 minutes long.

Jennifer Lawrence very nearly steals the film though. Her wig looks awful but she is brilliant. She’s the American Keira Knightley: she makes either period films (X-Men First Class, American Hustle) or films set in the future (Hunger Games) or more outre contemporary work (the Silver Linings Playbook).  Seriously, though, she does the action scenes well and shows real range as she oscillates between being conflicted and determined.

The special effects are largely good, although the entire future sequence is obviously studio bound and could have used a little more grit and detail. It compares unfavourably to the 20 and 30 year old vistas of the Terminator series, which is saddening considering the relative budgets and the technological progress in the meantime.

As much as I want to love the film I merely like it. I feel it exceeded my expectations but hinted at the potential it only manages to fleetingly achieve, if it ever comes close.