Adventures in Windows – approaching 10

Microsoft announced a while ago, that users of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 would get free upgrades to Windows 10. Today, ArsTechnica released an article called “Here’s how to get Windows 10 for free even if you don’t have Windows 7 or 8“. The short version is, you need to sign up for the Windows Insider program, install a preview version of the software and run it, then you get to run the final build, and get subsequent updates.

I first used Windows with Win3.11 at school, then when we got our first PC it came with Win3.1 (about a week before Windows 95 came out – Dad picked that up about as soon as it came out). We ran 95 and 98 a long time, my own first PC ran 98 and 98SE a long time – I had a brief experimentation with running Windows ME. ME had some cool features, but due to a lamentable shortage of stability, I upgraded back to 98SE.

When I first built a computer, I got XP Pro. That computer is still running it.

Now other computers in the house are running Windows 7 and 8.1. 7 I could probably get along with, 8/8.1’s change of style irritates me when I’ve tried to use it.

When I built my current computer (such a satisfying thing to do, upgrading some components recently was really cool, too), I didn’t buy an OS. There was a spare Vista Ultimate sitting around the house that I was allowed to use. I’ve heard bad things about Vista compared to good things about Vista SP1, but I managed to miss that whole debacle.

There’s a very apocryphal story, goes something like this:

———-

Bill Gates died. As he got to the Pearly Gates, St Peter greeted him. “Welcome, Mr Gates. According to our records, you’ve done some really good stuff, and also done some not-very-nice things over the years. You are one of the very few true Neutrals we get around here. What we will do for you, you can have a look around Heaven and around Hell, then you can let us know where you’d like us to allocate you.”

Bill Gates thought this sounded reasonable, and so started off the tour of Heaven. There were the fluffy clouds and harps, it seemed quite pleasant. After a few days, his time was up, and so he got into the elevator to the Other Place.

He braced himself for what he might find. As the doors opened, he was pleasantly surprised to find himself on an open golf course. The clubs were weighted perfectly, it was great. As the tour progressed, he found himself sampling all sorts of sumptuous foods, fine wines, craft beers, the kind of music he didn’t know that he’d always wanted to hear…

After the tour, he was taken back to the Pearly Gates. St Peter shuffled over. “Well, Mr Gates, what’s your choice?”

“Well, St Peter, I find myself very surprised to say this, but I’m going to have to choose Hell.”

“Right you are, sir.” St Peter didn’t seem very surprised. Bill Gates walked back towards the lift. As it started descending, the temperature began to rise. It was already unbearable by the time he was halfway down. When he reached the bottom, he realised that Dante was more optimistic than anyone could have imagined. The chains, the tortures, the screams.

“Welcome, Mr Gates”, came a voice from behind, a voice that sent shivers down his spine despite the heat, a voice that threatened to tear his head apart. It was the Devil.

Barely able to speak, Bill Gates managed to stutter “What… happened? It looked… different before.”

“Oh, my deepest apologies, Mr Gates. That was the Beta.”

—————————

I think I heard that one round about Win98, and some OSes (Vista, 8) seem to have deserved it more than others (XP, 7). Still, there does seem to be wisdom in not being an early adopter.

I’m doing the 10 Preview upgrade, a) because it’s free, and b) because of the longer-term support. I think I’ll turn my computer into a dual-boot machine, and keep Vista as the primary OS, and play around in the 10 Preview and upgrade that when the time comes. Keep updated, try out the apps, see what legacy programs might still run, see what runs better.

Got some preparation and backup to do before I get to that point, though. Let you know how it goes.

Review: The Market For Liberty

The Market For Liberty is a book by Morris and Linda Tannehill. I found it on Podiobooks, read by Ian Freeman.

Starting from the notion that government is always a coercive force, and it can do nothing without violence and the threat of violence, the book goes through various ways that the coercion is applied, how even when government tries to be constructive it ends up being destructive, and goes on through ways the market (even when it’s not totally free) can signal the reality of things, how things could work out in a society without a government, and How We Can Get There.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure I quite agreed with everything, and perhaps I should have paused it at certain points to I could think more: Mr Freeman kept the words coming thick and fast, there.

The quickness didn’t all seem to be down to the reading style, though. Because a wide range of subjects were covered, there wasn’t quite enough time to spend giving more than a cursory look at alternative viewpoints. They do spend some time on them, all too often to quickly dismiss them. Some of those quick dismissals seem justified, some less so. As ultimately a free market, anarchist society would be a breeding ground for competing ideas, and the best ones would theoretically do better, it seems that in places a “well ok, give it a go, see how that turns out” response might have been better. But when your publication is restricted in size, and you’re trying to spread your particular ideas, it’s probably pretty hard to not come across as heavy-handed.

I know the book was written in the ’70s, and a certain industry hadn’t become quite the monolithic parasite it is today, and that many of the problems we have with that industry are precisely because of government meddling, but still, I can’t say I was very fond of the emphasis the book places on insurance.

If you’ll forgive me a little tangent:

One thing I liked about Asimov’s Robot series of books, was that he wrote the Three Laws of Robotics, and then a lot of the stories were spent trying to break them. What if this law was modified? What if a law was accidentally broken? What if all these robots were programmed with the laws, but one of them had certain knowledge that would make the application look different? What would the long-term effects be on society?

Similarly, in Babylon 5, the creator JMS talked about creating your characters, writing them up into a tree, and then throwing rocks at them. It’s the same sort of concept: create the world, and then try to break it.

By the end of this book, it really seemed to me that we need to see some good strong stories coming out of the voluntaryist/libertarian/anarchist communities.

I mean, this book did give sketches galore about what this could look like, how that could work, and so on. That’s well and fine, it just doesn’t have the scope within it of really putting it under a microscope, trying to break it and see what happens. We need to start seeing fleshed-out fictional societies working in this model, to help us figure out a clearer way to get there, and envision what problems there might be along the way. The Market For Liberty said spreading the idea of liberty among everyone was a good way to help them desire it. I don’t disagree, but I think that fiction is going to have the edge in this regard.

1, fiction is less threatening, less didactic and more exploratory. 2, fiction doesn’t demand immediate action when the reader isn’t ready for it. A lot of people comfortable in the status quo.

Having said this, regularly listening to The Survival Podcast might just do it for ya, even though it’s not fiction. Jack sometimes manages to get quite a bit of mileage out of “what if?” questions on this topic. I like his concept, “you can be as socialist as you like, just don’t make me participate.”

Review: The Ra Expeditions by Thor Heyerdahl

In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl set out to prove that South American people could have reached the Polynesian islands before Christopher Columbus’s time. Using just the materials and technologies that were available to the people back then, he made the balsa raft Kon-Tiki, based on illustrations by Spanish conquistadors, and made the trip, proving it was possible. Recent DNA evidence seems to back him up.

Following that trip, Mr Heyerdahl recreated a reed boat found in Egyptian archaeology, to prove that the Egyptians could have reached South America. This connection was theorised due to the similarity between step pyramids in Egypt and South America. Following the advice of modern shipbuilders, he modified the design, which proved to be a big mistake. Ra I fell apart in the ocean.

Armed with the knowledge gained from experience for why the original design was the way it was, Mr Heyerdahl and his team built Ra II (the right way), and indeed proved that the Egyptians could have reached South America.

There was lots of extra interesting stuff in the book about anthropological similarities between ancient Egypt and some South American cultures, as well as finding exactly which cultures have built reed boats, when, and how easy it was for those people to do. It’s really interesting.

The book itself I found a bit dry, translations can be hard to convey the same kind of feel. So it was a bit of work, that was more to do with the style than the content.

Western culture has a notion of Progress that it clings to. Oversimplisticly, it says “What people used to think, do and believe was dumb, we know better now”. You can see it in religion (easy example, after splitting from the Roman church, Luther changed some stuff but still kept some other stuff pretty dear, a lot of which has now disappeared even from the Lutheran tradition). You can see it in politics and society, how many times have you heard “This is the 21st Century, we don’t do that kind of thing any more!” (as they protest someone else doing “that kind of thing”, thus rendering their argument ridiculous). Sometimes it seems we’re quick to remove parts of the walls and parts of the foundation of the house, more as time goes on, without any thought to whether this might end up having negative effects on those who happen to be in the house.

In short: people in previous generations were a lot smarter than we think: we could stand to learn some stuff from them.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that Older Is Always Better, just that we’re quick to disregard what those who came before us have to say, without any real effort to understand the underlying Whys and Wherefores.

This book contains some vivid examples of this, and seems to be easy to explain and describe.

The Ra Expeditions is available Used on Amazon.com, and New at Amazon UK.

Footage of the expedition can be found on YouTube. IMDB lists a documentary about it, but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere.

Comment below with your favourite stories of ancient wisdom putting today’s to shame.

Reading Program – Starting On Audio

I haven’t managed to regular-read quite as much as I would like so far in this summer’s Reading Program (so much to do!). But as I said in an earlier post, reading to people and being read to by people counts, and so do audiobooks.

I caught up on the episodes of a podcast that I was listening to on my MP3 player, cleared them off the player, and added some audiobooks (for the most part from podiobooks.com) that I’ve downloaded but haven’t listened to over the past few years. I’ve got folders labelled that I downloaded the contents in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – some I obviously didn’t get to last time round.

The first book I listened to this time round, though, was not from Podiobooks, and I already had it lurking on the player.

Some background: Back when I was working nights in a distribution center, I came across the wonderful world of podcasts. One of the shows I listened to back then, was The Signal podcast, which is/was for the most part Firefly/Serenity themed. (Their segment about other shows you might enjoy was the main exception to the theme, and I’ve investigated, watched and enjoyed some of those shows.)

One episode (Season 3 Episode 7), an ambitious young writer weaselled his way onto the show, talking about a novel he was serialising on Podiobooks. The author had managed to get Nathan Fillion to read “The Story So Far” on one episode of the book. The show’s hosts, in their banter between segments, mentioned enjoying the progress of the book, “7th Son”, over a bunch of following episodes.

The 7th Son Trilogy (Descent, Deceit and Destruction – you get to the end of Deceit and say to yourself, “The NEXT book is called Destruction?!??!”) was the first audiobook I listened to in my grown-up life (the Transformers Tell-A-Tales and Disney Read-Alongs of my childhood being very distant now). J.C. Hutchins sucked me into his world (which I periodically revisit), and set the stage for me enjoying many more worlds.

In January 2014, Mr. Hutchins set out on a new project: The 33. The 33 are a a bunch of misfits with particular skills. When something beyond the scope of public knowledge threatens the world, a few would be selected to go on a mission and save the world. J.C. intended to release one episode a month, a sort of experiment.

As experiments are wont to do, this one didn’t go quite as intended. He got 7 episodes into the project: less than he intended, but not a bad run.

I think Mr Hutchins had a plan for each months’ episode to be about an hour long, and had a notion of how many parts each story would be. Unfortunately, he’s a wordy bastard like me, so the first story, “Pramantha”, was advertised as 4 parts: Part 1 clocked in at an hour and ten minutes, Part 2 was an hour and a half, Part 3 was two hours and a quarter, and Part 4 ended up split into two files (“Side A” and “Side B” – 1hr58m and 1hr52m respectively).

“Ten Minutes” was kind of a bonus episode that was sort of “Thanks for being patient” (13mins long). Then we were back to regular episodes, “Needles” Parts 1 and 2. Part 1 was again an hour and ten minutes, Part 2 was 2hrs37m.

One can’t help but wonder if announcing in advance how many episodes a story would be, pushed J.C. into a corner: if you’ve allocated the time for writing, editing and recording an episode that’s 1hr10m, and two of your episodes end up twice that and another is nearly four hours long, coming to the conclusion that such effort is unsustainable, is very understandable.

I hadn’t listened to Needles, yet, so that became my first audiobook of the season.

J.C.’s reading voice is solid, as always. J.C.’s writing is characteristically suspenseful, and again he was on fine form. Lots of these scenes are easy to picture in your head. There’s some stuff that has the potential to make really good screen (and it’s already really good audio and book).

Needles seemed less “Oh dear, the world is going to crack open like an egg” that I felt with 7th Son and Pramantha. That did not seem to be a particular weakness. There was still plenty of tension, plenty of characterisation, the team when it got along and also when it didn’t.

Most memorable part: probably a point in Part 2 when there was something that shouldn’t move, and it did. (Not wanting to be too spoiler-y.)

I hope Mr Hutchins finds a way to resume experimenting.

J.C. Hutchins’ stories are not “family friendly”. I enjoyed notorious horror author Scott Sigler’s comments at the end of a 7th Son episode, saying that J.C. writes material that is much more screwed up than Sigler’s. There is plenty of language (most of it English, and some of which is swear words).

But remember folks: it’s only Not Safe For Work if you share your headphones. Stay safe out there.

Dystopia

I came across the thought that dystopian fiction was popular among teens these days, because it reflects their reality.

The example used was The Hunger Games. Katniss starts off as a regular subjugated citizen, already testing the borders (that become more strictly enforced before too long). As an entrant in the Hunger Games, she’s a pawn in someone else’s agenda. As champion, she’s coerced into keeping up a front, in service of the President’s agenda. Then as Haymitch and co try to find her allies in the arena in Catching Fire, she pushes back against their agenda. As she becomes the Face Of The Resistance in the last book, we can understand her reluctance to assume the role.

I found some similarities in the Softwire series. JT and the other children of the Renaissance soon find themselves slaves, moving between owners over the course of the books. And their owners aren’t the only ones who are trying to use the kids for their own ends.

I think I can see why kids would identify with this.

At school, they’re pushed through many tests,and if they’re being “taught to the test”, as we so often hear, as opposed to really understanding the material, then they’re there to make the school or the teacher look good.

We see and hear parents say something along the lines of “you must go to a particular college/university, because I did and it was the Best Thing Ever”, or try to push the kid down a particular career path from a young age, without finding out if the child was particularly suited to, or interested in, it or not.

We hear of Scotland appointing state overseers for every child. And everywhere else in the Western world, the state acts like it owns the children before the parents do.

Case in point: while we were in England, we decided to not take Oldest for a developmental check (we knew he was fine, and going anywhere in the day is hard when you work nights). When the State decided it Really Needed To Meddle in our lives, it got used against us and we were made to take him for the development check (spoiler: he turned out to be fine. What do you know). When the State-sent busybody was whining about it, I ran through the list of all the things we’d taken him to, vaccines he’d had, and all that. “Those are optional” she whined, unconvincingly. It was obvious that if we’d declined any of that other stuff, and gone to the development check, that check would have been labelled “optional” and the other stuff not. Anyway, while she was whining about the development check, I pointed out that Oldest was fine. “But we don’t know that.” Yep, the State thinks it owns your kids.

You hear politicians and talking heads going on about the things we “must” do, “The Children!” are always an easy excuse to do it. No matter that it usually won’t help them, just another drudgery added to the burden they’ll have to carry when they’re of age.

School already felt like a prison to many, back when I went, these days we see, in some places, that they have to go through metal detectors and the like, just to get into school, each day.

Kids are told what they can and can’t eat, all with the best intentions, I’m sure. You hear stories of kids not allowed to bring packed lunches to school, or having the contents of such scrutinised, or being chastised when they share it with a hungry friend.

The list goes on and on, and I’m sure I don’t know most of it. But thinking about it, it’s not a surprise that they identify with stories set in dystopic societies.

They live in one.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” – C.S. Lewis – I’ve seen it variously as from “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” and “God In The Dock” – I haven’t checked.

I believe that where I heard about The Hunger Games reflecting the experience of kids today, was in the talk “Systemic Abandonment, “The World Beneath,” and Postmodern Adolescence”.

“We must dissent.” – M. Godwinson.

Square Notes Into Round Clefs

Today I was working on stuff for the Holy Transfiguration site.

I went back into MuseScore and converted the Beatitudes from four staves (as I did it initially) to two (soprano and alto together on the treble clef, and tenor and bass together on the bass clef).

Copying and pasting first the alto and the bass, changing them to Voice 2, and then copying and pasting the soprano and the tenor, worked for the most part. Things like triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets (which is how I work around the notes that are chanted quicker than a quaver) didn’t survive being changed between the voices, sometimes slurs needed redoing, and fermatas didn’t survive the voice-switching either, so it was a bit more work than I hoped, but it went ok.

I tried following that up by transcribing “Vouchsafe, O Lord”. I’m not really happy with its’ current state: some parts seem a little slow, and I’m not sure if it’s that the whole thing is slow. The tuplets I put in seem ok, I’m a bit paranoid that they will be too fast if I end up needing to up the tempo for the piece as a whole. I’m not happy with this piece, yet. Not ready for the limelight.

I did, fairly quickly upon searching, find an image that would be good to use on our service books. When I’m closer to having all the pieces ready for one of the service books, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the right email address to ask for permission to use it. I found them on a blog, which linked back to another site, who credited someone for giving them permission, I’ve found the email address of someone with his name, so with any luck…

Not entirely happy with the free hosting place I’m using there. Throws up an ad when you go there, and it disagrees a lot with Internet Explorer. A friend has offered me a very charitable rate for hosting the Transfiguration site with him. Very much tempted to go with that. Need to discuss it before I jump into that.

Adventures in Computer Security

My first email address was a Hotmail one. I was in college, and kept trying lots and lots of different things until I found one that they didn’t try and stick a number after. It was frog-themed, and I’ve kept that theme ever since. Even when I branched out into other webmail, even with a slightly modified name on message boards. I had a different website for a while, that had an amphibious motif to it.

I ran Outlook for a while, but have kept coming back to webmail.

These days, of course, we know that email is collected and analysed, some by the email providers to advertise to you better, some by the government because they’re fricking control freaks.

When America was still The Colonies, the British would intercept and analyse mail, looking for treasonous, rebellious and terroristic intent. The colonies set up their own mail system to get around this. Now the US government collects the world’s emails for the exact same purpose. What they’re saying (and not just with this issue), is that the British were right all along.

Well done, you public officials who swore to uphold the Constitution (which was rather against this sort of thing), but let this happen.

Just like the American colonists of yesteryear, there are digital colonists who rightly think that perhaps today’s government is overreaching just a little bit. And then finding ways around it.

Encrypting emails is one way that people are reclaiming their liberty and freedom.

A while ago I read an article on things you could do to improve your internet security and privacy, and a new one just did the rounds in the last couple of weeks. I gave the SeaMonkey internet suite a go, partly for a “try a different browser” challenge (I now use SeaMonkey, IE9, Vivaldi and Opera 12 daily, with FireFox as a “guest” browser on the machine proper, and FireFox as the default browser on my Lubuntu Virtual Machines). I chose SeaMonkey also for email encryption, but I haven’t tried setting that up until today. I read about it months ago, and I’m mainly getting around to it now because I’m finally setting up (after about a week now) the email for this site.

SeaMonkey’s email program doesn’t do the privacy stuff on its own, you have to install a couple of other things.

I followed the instructions for Enigmail. The first thing to do is install GnuPG (which was very straightforward). Installing Enigmail for SeaMonkey was a bit less obvious, but I found it by going through SeaMonkey’s menu, and looking for addons. Setting everything up was straightforward. Well, might be not-entirely-easy for the not-techie, especially throwing in the POP3 settings and everything (POP downloads your emails from the web server to your computer, IMAP leaves them on the server – figured the less time on the server the better). Fairly straightforward to do, but a bit of work.

If you’re looking through the instructions, I didn’t put my Public Key up for the world to see, yet, or really any of the steps after that.

Start small. One step at a time. and work up to sending everything encrypted: cat pictures, puns, world domination plans, the usual :)

Late-night ramblings

Been a long day, not sure what to say.

In the past few days, I’ve had good feedback about a couple of websites I’ve made (one of them’s not live yet, I’m itching to make it live).

Tonight we had some out-of-town visitors, who were here relatively spontaneously. We had a nice chat, then one settled down to watch Serenity (we hope you liked it!), while the other sat down for board games.

First game of the night was The Settlers Of Catan, the classic gateway drug. I did really well when we first got that game, but more recently I’ve been struggling to do even partway well. A lot of it’s luck of the numbers, of course (two early 7s when I was just about able to do something with the cards, set me back quite a way), and everyone having the same resources, so trading was awkward. A couple of thievings when I was consistently behind.

All part of the game, though. I ended with a tragic 4 points.

The second game of the night was one I backed on Kickstarter, Harbour. I played it once just with Oldest, and once with parents-in-law a little while after that, and it’s been ages since then til now, the third play.

It’s a lot easier learning it the third time – remembering what to do, from the mistakes we made before.

Once I’d arranged my resources, I bought the clock tower – high in price, high in points. Not one that fit with my strategy, got a couple of resources when others wanted to use it. My next purchase was the similarly high-point, high-price Abbey. Helps you a lot, helps your opponents a little.

After that, I needed to recoup my resources. I built up, and got a bit lucky right at the end of saving, so that I could have 20 to spend. A 10-cost item I had my eye on got bought. I got a bit lucky, getting my purchasing power increased right before my turn.

I set my meeple on an unbought card that gave me 2 buys that turn. I bought two expensive buildings.

It was getting really late, so the other players forwent their last turn, because no-one really stood a chance of catching up.

Fun. Tired. Night, all!

Children, Language and Meddling

When I grew up, I was fond of Enid Blyton books. I think she told good stories. It was cool how kids were given free reign to do extraordinary things. She did very well at writing books for very different levels of reading. Noddy was for very young kids, Secret Seven was at a lower level of reading than Famous Five. She told the adventure/detective stories like Seret seven and Famous Five, but also much more fairy tale and fantasy with things like the Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree series, I enjoyed the Mallory Towers and St Clare’s series, and all of this was fairly far removed from my own experiences.

It seems to be the case that the world of the not-fantasy Blyton books, that innocent, idealised, Fifties England (we assume it’s England, at any rate), never really existed. Except in our heads. And that’s OK.

In recent times, kids have been absorbed into the fantasy world of Harry Potter. At school I remember being exposed to a bit of Chaucer, and I think we’re still teaching kids Shakespeare. Expelliarmus and forsooth.

There are worlds, like Chaucer’s and Dickens’ and Shakespeare’s, that expose us to English cultures that are very different to the culture of today. We joke, of course, that we wish these books had been written in English (even without the assistance of General Chang). we expect kids to be able to grasp differences in culture and language (sometimes with the aid of footnotes. “Get thee to a nunnery!”).

Worlds like Harry Potter’s, Middle-Earth, and (not so much for kids but worth mentioning) the world of Stephen King’s Dark Tower (do ya kennit?) invite us to learn new languages, as a significant aid for introducing these new places to us.

This isn’t exclusively the realm of books we expose older children to. If you think that way, you really haven’t read enough Dr. Seuss, who sometimes writes in an exaggerated real-ish world, sometimes in super-crazy nonsense world, and sometimes switching between those places where it doesn’t make any sense.

And of course, it’s not just these. Gilbert & Sullivan. The Eragon books. Jane Austen. And it’s not just books: Disney (bibbedy-bobbedy-boo, supercalifragilisticexpialedocious). Doctor Who. Star Trek (“taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vlqelnlS. quv’a’, yabDaq San vaQ cha, pu’ je SIQDI’? pagh, Seng blQ’a’Hey SuvmeH nuHmey SuqDI’, ‘ej, Suvmo’, rlnmoHDI’?“).

And as a rule, even when we do revise the text (there’s been modern-day retellings of Shakespeare, for instance), the original versions are widely available.

So I don’t understand the revisionism we see with Enid Blyton books.

The word “queer” gets changed to “weird”, “gay” gets changed, too (probably to “happy”?). Spankings get changed to something more politically correct. We can explain Chaucer and Shakespeare to kids, but can’t explain slightly archaic uses of words, or the fairly recent cultural appropriateness of corporal punishment?

“Dick” and “Fanny” get renamed to “Rick” and “Franny”. I know people with these names. If kids can’t get their giggles out of the way while reading the books, and getting invested in the characters, what happens if they meet people with these names (or hear secondhand of someone with these names)? Especially if they find out about the doctoring of these books.

I find it disappointing that I can’t be sure my kids are reading the same books that I read. That I probably didn’t read quite the same books that my parents read. That the publishers don’t trust my kids with Blyton, the way that they (and the schools) trust them with Shakespeare or Chaucer. That they respect practically every other author enough to not rewrite their work, but don’t respect Mrs Blyton enough to give her the same courtesy. That it’s just about impossible for the general public to find the text as-originally-published (not to completely dismiss the role of the editor), even just for comparison. Heck, when buying the Secret Seven books for Oldest recently, prior to purchase I couldn’t find out which revision of the text it was (I don’t think that anybody’s been able to keep track of the incremental changes that have happened over the years – I went looking).

I might joke about the publishers needing forty lashings, but I’d much prefer the original texts as an option. Let the market decide how much the revisions are worth (you can tell my opinion).

I’ll keep the lashings of ginger beer, though.

Learning Three Things At Once

I’m attempting to teach my oldest to ride a bike.

I remember that my Dad taught me, but I don’t remember how he did it.

There are three separate things that you have to pick up all at the same time:

  • Balance
  • Steering
  • Pedalling

Of these, all three are the most important.

I can mitigate pretty much all three by walking alongside, holding handlebars and seat. That ends up being quite hard work, though: there’s quite a height difference. On our first outing, we started like this on the path, and after we’d picked up speed we’d move onto the grass, where it was safer to let go. Sometimes he’d coast for a couple of meters before crashing, sometimes he’d start his descent before I let go.

Trying something different this second time out, I tried to get him to sit on the seat and kind of walk with his tiptoes. He wasn’t really into this, the experiment didn’t last long.

Next, I held the front wheel between my legs, and had him try pushing from one foot to the other. He got bored with this quickly as well, even with the challenge of trying to stay between legs.

It also didn’t help that there was a kid (maybe 4 years old) going around the track, on a bicycle, with training wheels, saying about how he could go faster than us.

Oldest wanted to go back to the method we’d tried before.

Most of the way round the track, I hit on something else to try, a trick I’d picked up, possible after I learned to ride.

Had Oldest hold the handlebars, standing to the left of the bike. Had him put his right foot on the left pedal, and push himself along with his left foot. It’s learning balance, not centered, you have to push and lean right, but hopefully it will help.

We went the rest of the way round the track like this, taking a sit-down break partway through when he didn’t want to do it anymore. After that I insisted he try it the rest of the way.

He fell off a couple of times, leaning or pushing too far to the right: that’s the way the bike went over. One time he found himself kneeling on the side of the bike (the side facing up). It was spectacular, but hurt. He was doing pretty well, though: this might be the most promising method so far. He was managing to coast reasonable lengths for someone starting out. He was wanting to abandon the bike and go onto the slides, from before even the sit-down time (I got him to carry on scooting to the gate to that area, then let him play a little). He was happy the times he managed to coast along for a little. Might try this again next time :)