My posting-every-day resolution may well fall at the thirtieth hurdle. I’m visiting friends over the weekend, and don’t want to spend our time together hovering over a keyboard. Queueing up posts in advance goes against the spirit of it, too. So... we’ll see.
A moment of Twitter synchronicity from yesterday.
Hail, Poesie! thou Nymph reserv’d!
In chase o’ thee, what crowds hae swerv’d
Frae common sense, or sunk enerv’d
’Mang heaps o’ clavers:
And och! o’er aft thy joes hae starv’d,
’Mid a’ thy favours!
—Robert Burns, Poem on Pastoral Poetry (excerpt), 1791
Nothing exciting to post today. There’s been a bit more design reworking going on behind the scenes, but mostly it’s another January weekend of catching up on marking.
A few grumpy tweets by Times journalist Camilla Long, who once tweeted about crying over Michael Jackson’s death but said Bowie fans doing the same should get over it, prompted an article on “grief police” at The Atlantic which led to a Metafilter thread on the whole subject of public grieving, and whether that’s even the right word for it. I pitched in a few thoughts, reproduced in edited form below for the benefit of the all-consuming daily-posting schedule.
For the sixteenth time, I’ve been marking a bunch of weblogs from students taking our course An Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (which I’ve taught on twice a year since 2007, apart from a break in 2009). It occurs to me that I should turn our assessment criteria on myself.
A story in Saturday’s Guardian about a Transport for London trial of getting commuters to stand on both sides of the escalators at Holborn tube station, rather than standing on the right and walking on the left, has drawn a pretty predictable response from the British commentariat. “Over my dead body, which I will position at the foot of the escalators just to make my outrage felt” seems to be the gist of it. I kept an eye on this Mefi thread about the trial because I knew that watching London Mefites turn a virtual shade of purple at the very idea would be online entertainment of the first order.
So, we have a trial that demonstrated that this simple change increased peak-hour carrying capacity by almost 30%. We can assume that the only other way to achieve that would be to build 30% more escalators in the affected stations, at a cost of many millions of pounds that we keep being told we don’t have, with endless disruptions to commuters during their contruction, which would more than cancel out a lifetime’s worth of whatever time-savings they get by being able to walk up the left now and again. Even those time-savings must be illusory, though, if the gain in being able to walk up the escalators is more than cancelled out by being stuck in a crowd at the bottom of them first, as it must be if the throughput under current arrangements is 20% less.
But we will now spend that extra money, at enormous cost to the nation and inconvenience to Londoners themselves, because having to stand behind someone when you’re trying to get somewhere is unconscionable. Evidence-based policy meets an unstoppable force, and stands on the right to keep out of its way.
104 symphonies—who knows what treasures are Haydn in there? This guy does.
More links of a Bowie nature in the comments on last Wednesday’s post.
Snow at last. Not a lot of it, but snow—the first we’ve seen since July. (Wait, what? Not here.)
A new design at last, remixing elements of all the designs from 2003 onwards. Not my initial concept, but I might work on that for next year. Still a bit more tinkering to be done to get everything just so, but this’ll do for now.
Rather than keep creating new Bowie-related entries, I’ve been adding comments to the ones already posted, and in my infinite wisdom have decided that these count as adding something new to the blog every day. So there’s no need for a new post today. Apart from this one.
That is the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.
That first bread recipe needed far too much explanatory detail for a daily-posting blog, but as I add a few more I’ll gloss over the details a bit.
I’m still going to bang on about Bowie, even after posting twice about him in two days. That’s one of the side effects of a daily blog-posting schedule; what otherwise would have been saved up into one longer, more reflective post ends up as several.
I may have described myself as an unobsessive fan on Monday, but just as happened after the death of Elliott Smith, this may be what tips me over the edge to full-blown completism. After a day of shock and repeated listens to Blackstar, I’ve been filling the gaps in my listening, those mainly being (like many people) the post-Tin Machine, pre-Heathen 1990s, and (gasp) half of the 1975-1980 era. Why I kept putting off a closer engagement with the Berlin albums I’m still not sure. Why I never got into Scary Monsters, when I spent my early twenties obsessed with the 1978-1982 work of Split Enz, and loved “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion” from the time they were released... well, the only explanation I can muster is that by the late ’80s, when I might have done something about it, Bowie was falling out of fashion, and when my interest was revived by a friend a few years later it was very much in his glam years.
All being addressed now, though. As soon as I can stop listening to “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”.
Blackstar is sounding more amazing each listen. Blows away The Next Day and a lot of other post-1980 Bowie besides.
One of the trials of middle age in the 21st century is seeing more and more deaths of people who have been cultural icons for your entire life. I was one year old when “Space Oddity” was a hit. The video to “Ashes to Ashes” was one of my formative pop moments. No matter how good I think the current crop of pop and rock stars are (and a lot of them are), they can never compete with that; they haven’t had time to.
Given that mass popular culture has a finite and relatively recent history, the scale of this phenomenon feels relatively new. Our great-grandparents only had to deal with the deaths of kings and presidents and artists who were little more than names on a page or engraved reproductions. Not people who recorded dozens of albums that tracked their entire lives, and left behind countless hours of filmed interviews, videos and movie performances. Even bringing to mind images of the man is like flipping through shots of a crowd scene, and imagining that everyone in the crowd has just died.
If I’m going to keep up this daily posting over weekends, I’m going to have to succumb to the inevitable and start food blogging, or more specifically bread blogging, because it’s a big feature of my weekends nowadays.
It’s been an unusually mild winter here so far—but not this morning.
It turns out I’m the perfect target audience for Victorian Bakers, having enjoyed The Great British Bake-Off, become a keen home bread-baker, and once spent a year learning about Victorian Britain (1984, the last year you could take Late British History at higher school certificate level in Tasmania). I quite enjoy a bit of food history, too, and visiting National Trust properties, and watching BBC documentaries. So it all comes together nicely, unlike some of the loaves the four bakers on the programme attempted. I’m looking forward to next week’s instalment where they start adulterating their loaves with chalk and alum.
A busy week has slowed down my tinkering with the redesign here, but I have managed to convert the blog’s index page template to HTML5, after a decade and a half of using XHTML. Turned out that half the tags on the old templates were deprecated anyway.
It should mean that the next design can be more than an incremental change on the last one.
In the summer of 2014, I introduced my seven-year-old son to Star Wars, which made him a few years younger than I was when I saw it at the Hoyts cinema in Hobart in 1978. And I do mean Star Wars—that is, Episode IV, the retrospectively renamed A New Hope. I’d picked up the special edition DVD with the bonus disc of the original (taken from old LaserDiscs) a few years before, so that he could see it as I had, a long, long time ago in a cinema far, far away. His first sight of Darth Vader Force-choking an underling freaked him out, but he liked the movie, and enjoyed V and VI when we watched those (again in their original forms) over subsequent weeks. The Ewoks, he told me, were his favourites.
The Website Obesity Crisis (via Mefi): “Overcomplicating the web means lifting up the ladder that used to make it possible for people to teach themselves and surprise everyone with unexpected new ideas.” A brilliant talk about more than page bloat.
Democracy and the policy preferences of wealthy Americans (pdf). No surprises, but useful to see some firm data.
For the first time, the Street of Light took over a stretch of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the lead-up to Christmas. It was all taken down before Hogmanay, but here’s a memento of it.
Plans for new posts went on hold today while I tinkered with possible new designs; the aqua banner above isn’t it, but may end up being it if I spend too long pursuing redesign dead-ends. Meanwhile, I’ve made a table of bread to index the 2015 archives, a fitting end to my first full year of bread-baking.
Happy new year! I haven’t come up with a new banner for the blog yet, but I have resolved to post something here every day (again) for as long as I can last, although without the arbitrary word target of the last time I tried it. A burst of blogging every leap year seems fitting—like the Olympics, but without the collective gaze of millions.
Back with something more exciting tomorrow. Possibly even a banner.