Let’s Talk Politics

It seems to be political season, which is always kind of depressing.

I have been trying to collect thoughts on Brexit, and hoping for a calmed-down environment in which to post it.

The American political circus is in full swing as well, and the ante really seems to have been upped in terms of a lack of candidates to vote for, and the abundance of the quality in the candidates that make people want to vote against them.

I have been kind of hesitant to discuss politics here, because most of my political views disagree with those of many of my friends. And I can understand where they are, I used to share many of the same opinions and unquestioned assumptions.

Many years, and several experiences, have aided my paradigm shifts. I can try and condense some of that down, but a blog post on its own is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

If it’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind, what’s the point of writing? Perhaps the release will be nice. Perhaps people might understand, even if they don’t agree. Perhaps it’ll plant seeds that’ll bear fruit later. Perhaps, if I want a break in all the nonsense I see on my Facebook feed, I need to provide the alternative content. Be the change that you want to see, and all that.

So, let’s give this a go, a series on politics.

Looking forward to: Obduction and Zed

A couple of months ago, I found out about a game called Obduction, a puzzle game that was Kickstarted by Rand Miller of Myst fame. The Kickstarter ran quite a while ago, and the project was recently publicly announced as having a June release date (since pushed back to July).

A few days ago, another Kickstarter game was pointed out to me, being run by Chuck Carter – who coincidentally also worked on the design for Myst and Riven, and also designed for some Command & Conquer games (Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, and Renegade, all of which I own), Emperor: Battle For Dune (by the same studio that did the Command & Conquer games, and I also own it), as well as design work for the TV shows Babylon 5 and Crusade (which I have watched all the way through).

This second  game is called Zed, and the company’s site has a demo of the game on their Download page. The demo is intended more to showcase the art style of the game, so you can’t do as much running around as you will in the final  version of the game, and there’s only a couple of basic push-a-button puzzles to give you an idea of the interactivity. I played through it this evening. It is possible to go off the prescribed path, but not by very much. Looks interesting, though.

The last Myst game, Myst V: End Of Ages, came out in 2005. In the decade since, we haven’t seen, as far as I know, the kind of free-roaming non-violent puzzle game that Myst and its sequels were famous for being, and I don’t think we’ve seen anything as conceptually out-of-the-box, either. So, I’m pretty interested in both of these games. Also, with their non-violent character, should be stuff the kids can be around.

Obduction made over a million on Kickstarter. It’s shown up as “Coming Soon” on Steam, with no price attached. I used my Amazon “Add to Wish List” button, which surprisingly revealed a price of $14.99. Might be able to scrape together some Steam credit for that.

Zed is over 50% funded a few days into its campaign, with 20 days left on the clock. I’m aiming to get in on it, just wondering whether I’m going to go for the tier where you just get the game, or if I can scrape together enough pennies to get the soundtrack as well.

Following Egeria

A few days ago, I finished a book that I got for Christmas but had only recently gotten around to reading, “Following Egeria” by Lawrence Farley.

The gist is, there was a 4th-century nun who went and visited the Holy Land, and she wrote to the folks back home the things she saw and experienced.

Her writings were known about, then lost for a time, then reappeared in the 18th Century… but missing the beginning and the end. Still, the extant part is quite informative, about Christianity that had recently emerged from the shadows of persecution, of an Israel that has been somewhat buried over the centuries.

Father Lawrence (Orthodox priest) is treated to a trip to Israel by his deacon, and is familiar with Egeria’s writings, and also familiar with the scholarly research as to the authenticity of sites.

Fr Lawrence quotes Egeria where their travels overlap, and comments on which sites have the better claim as to Where Something Actually Happened, and why, and also expresses how he was impacted by each site.

This book made my wish list about as soon as I heard about it, so it was obviously a book I was expecting to enjoy, and enjoy it I did.

Egeria herself isn’t really quoted at length, so I was definitely left wanting to hear more from her.

Also, the scholarly research into the sites, mentioned fairly frequently, is only lightly touched upon, and I was left wanting more of that, too.

Also, after reading the book, I really wanted to go back and visit the places again (there were quite a few “been there!” moments). The thing is, I knew rather a lot less then than I do now. Was completely ignorant about Orthodoxy, and nearly-completely ignorant about Catholicism (as a Protestant, oftentimes one just has an unsympathetic view that Catholics Are Wrong, with perhaps a few specifics). Unfortunately, this ignorance doesn’t really help when the majority of sites are Roman Catholic or Orthodox. And then, one of the places I’d been to, that Fr Lawrence talks about, he’s not interested in what’s obviously there, he’s interested in looking at the remains of something that was there before. And for some reason I can’t jump back into myself-of-10-ish-years-ago.

That said, the book is partly aimed at people who haven’t been over there, so they might perhaps experience it second-hand, so I won’t moan too much (or dwell on being jealous of myself-from-around-a-decade-ago).

So, thumbs up, but definitely wanting more (not that that’s a bad thing).

Yertle The Turtle, and other stories (not necessarily the ones you’re expecting)

Spent a bunch of time today wrestling with a format change over at History Basics. As the gathering of all the possible resources, writing a bit about them, and formatting all the links, was a time-consuming part of the old process, and the long full-format entries that I aspired to were a bit too much to read (according to some feedback), it seemed a good idea to split different segments out. Hopefully the Research Guide, containing the gathered resources, will be a manageable format to sustain in the future.

As my friend Rob feedbacked yesterday that he’d like me to discuss a book that I mentioned I’d read to my kids, I thought I would do it. I’m not sure whether or not he meant it as a serious suggestion, but it sounded like a fun idea to me, so I’ll do it.

Yertle The Turtle, by Dr. Seuss.

Yertle is the King of all he surveys, which at the start of the story consists pretty much of just the pond. He orders some of his subjects to climb on each other, to create a living pedestal which would allow him to see further, and thus have more to be King over.

Unsatisfied, he orders the pile higher and higher, until he spies the moon and becomes jealous of its height.

Meanwhile, one of his underlings towards the bottom of the stack is getting rather uncomfortable. Mentioning this, and receiving no sympathy, eventually he burps, which wobbles the top of the stack so much that Yertle falls off.

There’s an obvious moral here, don’t make things unbearably hard on those you’re in charge of, it could be your downfall.

Historically, we can see this bear out: it wasn’t for nothing that the American colonies split from Britain, similar with India and South Africa. The list goes on, it’s easy to single out Britain as imposing its will on the rest of the world, the same could be said for America through the latter half of the twentieth century through to the present.

It was probably from watching Gandhi that I really got the concept of “home rule”. I think with how unstable the West has made the Middle East, that we could really use that lesson.

So I didn’t really understand Welsh “devolution” at the time, but more recently have been in favour of Scottish independence, and would rather Britain left the EU.

I think that those that govern should be accountable to those they govern, and the further removed that people are from their overlords, the worse it is.

About the only “Remain” meme that I like, is “Help! I don’t want to be stuck on an island with the Tories!”. Though I find the Labour Party equally as distasteful as the Conservative Party.

I think it does show, though, that politicians on a national level are too far removed from the people they are supposed to represent. It bugs me, both in the UK and the US, where election winners are declared before all the votes are counted. Even though mathematically it may be impossible for another candidate to win. All the time, you’re told how important your vote is. The thought that anyone might not actually vote fills people with horror. And then, if you happen to live in the wrong area, your vote literally doesn’t count. If the vote is such a sacred responsibility, and really that important, you should be absolutely ashamed that peoples votes (and in hard numbers, not a small number of votes) are disrespected so.

Switching to the US, government on a State level can be pretty bad. And while several states are more populous than Scotland, no state is as populous as England (source: Wikipedia and Wikipedia). Several States have ludicrous laws like those forbidding farmers from selling raw milk to those that would like to buy it. See Joel Salatin’s book Everything I Want To Is Illegal. But still, there are States that have declared that there are certain Federal laws that they won’t enforce.

So let’s get smaller. County? Still seems too big to me. City and surrounding area? Well, you know how you hear all the time about how bad it is that the politicians dictating on education have no experience with teaching. You may have heard about city folk with no farming experience passing laws about farming.

Just keep going smaller.

Neighbourhood could work. Although some Home Owners Associations are pretty bad, micromanaging the height of your grass, or what you’re allowed to keep visible to the street, at least you can move out.

Onorous neighbourhood-local government could lead to the ultimate literal application of “home rule”.

In a strangely converse manner, Yertle is toppled when he has many people under him, in reality it’s easier to depose someone when there’s fewer other people he’s accountable to.

Anarchy is not the absence of rules, but the absence of rulers. You can have equal-to-equal agreements, without delegating it all to those that crave power (aka, those least suited to having power).

And that’s where a Remain argument falls apart (I can’t say it makes all of Remain’s points fall apart, though most Remain arguments have nothing to do with my points). It assumes a cutting Britain off from the rest of the world, whereas it is perfectly possible to be friendly with many other countries, without a slow uniformity being imposed. Independence does not necessitate isolation. In fact, some Remain treatises get very close to this point, that immigration won’t stop if we vote Leave.And yet they poke the Panic button that trade will stop if we vote Leave. There may be some cheese we don’t get from the trap, but it doesn’t mean that all opportunity will suddenly dry up.

I could probably elaborate more on some of those points, but this is eating up too much of my sleep time.

As I’m not planning to be there to suffer the consequences of either a Leave or a Remain vote, I don’t think it’s my place to vote in the referendum, though Facebook has been advertising to me for weeks to register. I voted with my feet to leave the nanny state a few years ago. The US is, of course, far from utopia, just in some (but not all) important regards, the eye of Sauron Big Brother doesn’t seem very interested in my corner. And long may it remain so.

Reading Program Starts

Yesterday the Summer Reading Program started up. I signed myself and my kids up. I thought this might make a good point to resurrect the writing here.

So much I could have written about in the break: some books, some movies (including the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, Captain America: Civil War), even games (bought and have started Final Fantasy X). Depressing political stuff, UK and US. Soul-destroying lack of progress on so many things. And then a bit of progress on a few things. The garden’s doing well.

For now? I’m going to start by talking about books and audiobooks, and other entertainmenty things, it’s easier writing about those. Be sure to holler if you want me to opine on anything, mentioned above or otherwise.

I start the reading program partway through the following books:
Harlan Ellison’s I, Robot screenplay
In Search Of The Trojan War, by Michael Wood

I have loaded up the MP3 player with audiobooks, the first one I am listening to is:
Infected, by Scott Sigler.

Sitting around near the computer, on the radar to be read during the Program:
Infected, by Scott Sigler
Star Trek Deep Space Nine Companion

And of course, plenty more on shelves in my room.

Also today, I read to kids, which included Yertle The Turtle And Other Stories.

KonMari, part 1

Last night we started KonMaring.

“The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo is a best-selling book detailing the author’s method for decluttering your home and making it a nice place to live in. The short version is, go through all your possessions by category, one by one, holding it and seeing if it “sparks joy”, in effect deciding what you want to keep, and ditching the rest.

It sounds like an enormous task, and it is, but part of the concept is that you only need to do it once, then you won’t go back. Having only stuff you like around, encouraging you to not keep stuff you don’t like.

The first category is clothes, which is broken down into several smaller groups. Clothes I felt I could probably manage, the enormity of Everything Else was entirely too overwhelming for my brain. My poor wife was trying to construct a cheat sheet list of all the categories, and most of the subcategories (except from the last category, which was kind of long). She asked me if there was anything else I could think of that should go on the list.

I looked at the list, and my brain just started shutting down. I already have rather a lot of Things I’m Supposed To Do, with so much of it already falling between the cracks, seeing that much about to be added to the bunch, was overwhelming. I managed to gather enough brain to ask if we could just do the clothes for now.

You’re supposed to grab all your own clothes, and put them in a pile. Mine from around the house weren’t a problem, and we had some boxed in the garage which I brought in. Technically I should have had a check through all my other boxes out there for clothing and accessories (hats, jewellery and so on), but there wasn’t the space out there to do that amount of shunting.

First up was shirts, t-shirts, jumpers/sweaters and the like. Some things were easy to keep, and I was surprised by the volume of stuff that ended up being easy to let go of. There were some points where I just needed to sit and zone out, to recoup some mental energy for doing more.

There was a yellow shirt that I kept. If I remember right where I got it from (I wouldn’t rush to put money on that, if I were you, dear reader), then I got it somewhere around 1998 or ’99. I remember choosing it, because I like yellow, but then for years it wasn’t ever something I felt like wearing.

But in the last couple of years, I’ve been wearing it more. Well, at all would be more, but I’ve chosen it quite a few times, more in the summer because it’s not one of my thicker shirts. It probably would have failed the “spark joy” test for most of its time in my possession (perhaps it would have passed the “spark guilt” test instead), but now it was pretty easy to keep.

Similarly, there was another shirt. It was medium-dark gray. It was a gift from my grandparents. I was a bit disappointed in it when I got it, it’s not a colour that I wore before, and that unfamiliarity brought discomfort. Or maybe I was just an ungrateful little git.. But it was less of a gap, and it became a shirt that I took to wearing quite a bit. I’ve got the feels getting rid of it, but the collar’s started wearing out, so I don’t wear it any more.

By the time I stopped last night, I had decision fatigue. But it was actually nice deciding what I wanted to keep, and letting some other stuff go. I’m looking forward to getting to the socks. I think anything there with holes in the wrong places, will soon be disappearing from my collection.

Encyclopedia Brown

On the basis of an off-topic recommendation on a podcast, I ordered the first book in the Encyclopedia Brown series from the library, for Oldest.

He enjoyed it, then I read it. Call it an “after-the-horse-has-bolted what’s-my-kid-actually-reading” check.

The format is straightforward. Encyclopedia Brown (“Encyclopedia” isn’t his real name, but everyone except his parents call him that because he’s so smart) is the son of the police chief, and is actually the secret weapon reason so many crimes get solved.

There are a bunch of short chapters, set around Encyclopedia, his friends, enemies, and clients, and each time there’s some sort of puzzle, which Encyclopedia works out from the information presented. The answer and explanation are given in the back of the book, to give you a better opportunity to really think about it and work it out.

Oldest enjoyed the book, but he said he didn’t try and figure the answers out, he just looked at the back. I enjoyed it, and did manage to figure the answers to most of them out, and the explanations for most of those answers.

Recommended, I’ll probably look for more in the series, for Oldest, at some point. Not yet, still giving prime time to the new books from Christmas.

A Mausoleum, A Magazine, and Networking

More History Basics today. The post on Bushmead Priory took about a week to concoct. That was the only completed post I had in reserve. So today, I rather anticipated putting up a bunch of researchy links for some posts, to come back and edit later.

But the place I wrote about over there today, didn’t seem to have a lot in the way of work that had been done on it, and there were a lot less Other Things that it was part of, so I surprised myself by writing the whole post in a day (which is kind of the intent).

The post over there was about a 17th century mausoleum. It’s intact, and stuck on the side of what looks to be a functional church. Not much in the way of research has needed to happen around the site, though there has been some. I had a bit of fun when there was a reference to “‘The Gentlemans Magazine’ in Monuments of the Grey Family at Flitton”. What’s a gentleman’s magazine doing there? Turns out that The Gentleman’s Magazine was a twice-yearly publication that went for nearly 200 years, and when I found the volume in question, it turned out there were over 650 pages. Some magazine. The first digitised copy I found was on archive.org, and it was missing those particular pages. Google Books had a scan with those pages intact. The Gentleman’s Magazine also has the distinction of being the first magazine to use the term “magazine”. So while 678 (IIRC) pages sounds like a lot, it just means our current magazines are just slacking.

You learn something new every day.

I’ve been thinking about doing Facebook pages for this site and History Basics. On the plus side, if I invite my friends to like those pages, that’s an initial burst of awareness. On the negative side, someone going back over their feed isn’t guaranteed to see all that they are subscribed to, unless you pay Facebook. And, maybe it’s down to the time of day that I post that I’ve blogged here, but I don’t get a great deal of interaction on the stuff there. I’ve been considering using Ello, as they don’t hide content that you’ve subscribed to see, the drawback there being that I don’t think many people I know are on there. If you are on Ello, follow me at https://ello.co/commander_frog, and I’ll start doing more stuff over there.

The New Site Is Live!

Let me start by saying a little about what I did.

I installed the plugins. One to help with site administration is Google Analytics by Yoast, and one to help with content presentation is Geo Mashup.

The site I unveil today, is History Basics.

Sometimes, information about the past is very forthcoming, and sometimes it’s not very forthcoming at all. There has been a lot of archaeological work that has happened, but sometimes finding out about it is non-intuitive. Documentation may be in a local, national, or international publication, or in a book, or perhaps it may be entirely unpublished.

There are frequently articles about archaeological finds, and it seems that a lot of them do not mention who’s doing the work.

Also, what we do have isn’t necessarily safe. Sometimes finds corrode or erode quickly after they’ve been discovered. Sometimes care isn’t taken with objects: how much more might we know about ancient Egyptian practices if rich Victorians hadn’t had a penchant for mummy-unwrappings. And in the riots in Egypt a couple of years back, some mummies were destroyed, museums in Iraq were looted during the Coalition invasion, Joseph’s tomb in Israel has been attacked several times, a proposed high-speed rail line in England has archaeologists scrambling to find out what might be in its path.

And so on.

Also, conclusions are drawn from findings, and sometimes new findings generate new conclusions (sometimes new conclusions arrive all by themselves). The conclusions might not manage to accommodate all the available evidence. Like life, it’s kinda messy. So I don’t mind presenting conclusions, but I do want to emphasise that on which the conclusions are based (and that which the conclusions ignore).

So, a disorganised field to organise, a world to save (in the “archive” sense of the word, like Donna Noble in the Library). And hopefully make research easier for anyone who wants or needs to (I’m trying to aim the writing so it can be engaged by teens in school, and anyone older than that).

I’m not strictly limiting myself to archaeological sites, as the messiness rears its ugly head again: there’s a 12th-Century church I know of that’s still in active use, and there’s certainly many archaeological sites contemporary and much more recent, so while I intend to have an archaeological focus, it’s not a criteria I will rigidly adhere to.

So that’s something in the way of the underlying idea behind the project.

I spent much of today cleaning up the showcase entry on the site: I noticed surprisingly little spelling that needed cleaned up, but some bolding, italicising, and rather a lot of making links look not-dorky. It’ll take you a while to read it, but check out the entry on Bushmead Priory over there, to get the feel of what I’m going for.

Why Bushmead Priory, you may ask?

When I was looking for a starting point, I found a list of sites that would make a great base to build from. It was Wikipedia’s list of English Heritage properties. I went through the whole list, finding the co-ordinates on Google Maps (and occasionally Bing, when Google’s image wasn’t quite adequate). Then I started over, gathering the PastScape data. And a few months ago, when I decided I really needed to get a full-fledged post done, that was quite literally the top of the list.

After I got that entry all finished, I had a bit of a battle of wills getting the forum set up. I don’t want to start with too many sections on the thing until there’s a bit more of a demand, but I got some sections set up and described, and a couple of threads started. Such is the state of things, though, that I’m using the Admin account and another account that I’ve set up for myself, and I’ve had to use the Admin account to approve the posts that I have made with the other one (one more to go).

So there, we go, this actually feels like a start, now. To invert a line from a movie (the original line including the movie’s title), “we must go forward… to the past!”

Installing Sections Of The Site

Watch out, today’s going to be technical. I’ll try to not make it too obscure, but I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid all the technical stuff.

So, with the domain name and hosting bought yesterday, and the Internet caught up to the fact that there’s actually something at the web address, today I started turning it into one of those website thingies I’ve been hearing so much about.

First up was the WordPress install, for the bulk of the actual content on the site. WordPress is what this site is built on. Now an issue I have been running into, but haven’t been troubled enough by to fix, is the url. The web address. You’ll notice that on this site, rather than being http://www.thelimeyfrog.com, the site shows as straight http://thelimeyfrog.com. I’m not sure that there’s functionally a lot of difference, but I think the www is more familiar to a lot of people.

Some searching on the issue yesterday didn’t yield any results, to today I went straight into experimentation, installing to some subfolder that, long story short, didn’t to what I wanted it to. So I deleted the folders, deleted the database, tried to start over. This second time, the installer ran, but loading the site threw up some errors. So I deleted files, deleted the database, tried it again… and the installer threw up errors.

Now this installer is some automatic “we’ll set it up for you” program that the hosting service provides, but that’s not the only way to do it. The easiest, if you don’t overthink things like I do, but not the only way. The other way is to download the WordPress program, edit a configuration file, and upload the whole shebang to where you want it. Then you point your browser to the installation file, and then it’s all set up pretty quickly.

I started uploading the files via a couple of web-based file uploaders that the host provides. There are two File Managers that let me do this (hence the trying with the plural), but they only let me select one. file. at. a. time. Well, to borrow a phrase, “that ain’t working”.

The other way to do it is via FTP, which stands for “File Transfer Protocol”. Practically, this involves downloading a program and installing it on the computer, which you have to set up with the right settings to actually connect to the web server (second time lucky, there), then it’ll let you drag-and-drop files onto the server. But not from the Explorer window you already have open, you have to browse to it again in the program.

In the end, this worked fine, and stood me in good stead for a bit later on in the story. And then I implemented the solution I found to the www issue that I’d found in the meantime.

There’s a setting in WordPress, in the General settings, where it gives you a couple of fields to enter the site URL and the WordPress URL – you can just add the www to it. Which in hindsight should have been obvious, but I was somehow still expecting it to be a folder-based problem.

That part all sorted out, I turn my attention to the other big install that needed doing: the forum. I’ve spent a bunch of time on phpBB forums, and I’ve played around with them a bit, so that seemed like the obvious choice. I set up the subdomain (forum.[I’m not telling you what the site is yet].com), then used the site’s automatic installer to install it there. Worked just fine.

But.

Going into administrator settings revealed that there was a newer version of phpBB (if I remember correctly, it was on 3.0.12 and there was a 3.0.14), so I went to get that. Going to download the newest 3.0.x, it asked me if I didn’t really want the newest 3.1.x. I tried having a look into what the difference was, and a cursory look suggested that the main reasons to keep 3.0.x was that a bunch of add-ons that work on 3.0 wouldn’t work on 3.1.
Not being that interested in these add-ons at this point, I looked up how to upgrade from 3.0 to 3.1. It involved downloading the files (unzipping them and all that), there were three folders and a file to delete from the download, then on the server delete all the forum files except those three folders and the file, then upload everything else. This is where the FTP program came in handy a second time.

Next on the list of things to do for the site, is to add some plugins to WordPress, and set up how I want that to be displayed, and fiddle with some basic settings on phpBB so that at the very least it’s branded as my site, and not the generic defaults.

After that: enough content that I’ll be happy to give people a link to the new site.