Monday Miscellany #4

Ralph Emerson famously said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” but I also like what Wilde Oscar said: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” The last two words in both sentences signify something important. Consistency is the enemy of creativity, art, and philosophy, although it’s generally welcomed in other places (one’s airline pilot, surgeon, or government, for instance).

Which is all by way of excusing the dreadful consistency of this so-called Monday Miscellany series. Episodes in 2012, 2014, and then not again until 2020, is barely a series. Another one so soon is definitely suspect.

Chalk it up to “creativity, art, and philosophy.”

Suffice to say I’m in a weird mood these days. Life has gotten so strange, and the bizarre seems to be accelerating. It says a lot that, compared to now, 2016–2019 seem almost like normalcy. (They weren’t, not at all normal, but that’s how far down the rabbit hole we’ve fallen.)

I really do wonder what form of us (and of the US) comes out the other side of all this. November is going to be a huge statement about who we are now.

That said, I’ve been avoiding getting too political until October.

§

Or at least until after the Autumnal Equinox, which is tomorrow.

(That is, tomorrow for me as I write this and also for you if you read this today when I publish it. If you’re late to the party, sorry, the smoked salmon is all gone.)

The Equinox is at 13:31 GMT, so tomorrow morning here in the US of A. It’ll be at 8:31 AM for those of us on central time.

Sunrise is at 7:00 AM tomorrow, so if I head out on my morning walk just before that and head east down an east-west street, I should see the Sun rise directly in front of me — dead east.

For you evening walkers, it, likewise, sets dead west. Depend on it!

The bummer is the part about how, for the next six months, it will rise and set south of east and west. The days of the northern Sun are over until the next Equinox.

As much as I love fall, the Autumnal Equinox is my least favorite Solar moment. The dark cold is coming.

§

There is, or was, something about being out at night in bitter winter cold that evokes strong childhood memories (of cold dark winter nights).

Now that I’ve been back in Minnesota for what is now more than half my life, that association has faded. I have plenty of adult memories of cold dark winter nights.

But when I first moved back here in 1984, those memories were really strong. Weirdly so, almost. I think part of it was due to how smell evokes memories. There is a smell to bitter cold (actually, kind of the lack of one).

§

I’m not going to say which post it is just yet — I want to avoid affecting the numbers as much as possible — but I noticed something really weird regarding a post of mine from 2014:

For the last three years (with a hint in the fourth), there’s been a surge of page hits on this post in September.

There were a lot of hits when I first published it (off the chart, in fact), but those died out over time. (Which is what one would expect.)

There’s a tiny September bump in 2017, but what in the world is going on the last three years?

There’s also a bit of a surge that starts last November and builds in the first part of this year before dying off. I might know what that’s about, but I’ll need to do some research.

I have a guess this September bump might be related to school starting, but that’s just a guess. (Mostly it’s the only thing I can think of that might explain it.)

There has been no activity the last few days, so the bump may be over. Once I’m sure it is, I’ll post about this again and reveal what post it is.

§

The short season (60 games) for the Minnesota Twins is just about over — only five games remain. (Weirdly, we end the season with three games hosting the Cincinnati Reds.)

The Twins were in first place in the Division for much of the year, but some struggles at the plate knocked them down to second. Since the top two teams from each Division are going to postseason, the Twins will be in postseason again this year after clinching the second place spot this past weekend.

Overall, it’s been a good season. Their record, with five games remaining is 33-22 (.600 exactly). They finished two games behind the first place Chicago White Sox (who were really strong this year).

Between COVID-19 and everything triggered by George Floyd’s death, plus some personal weirdness in June, and on top of the last four political years, this has been a surreal year for me. I think for a lot of people.

I’ve never in my life felt existentially threatened, but I have of late. We live in “interesting” times.

Which is all to say that baseball hasn’t seemed real to me this year. It’s in part the lack of crowds, in part the perception it’s being done mostly for money along with the perception that maybe it shouldn’t have been done at all.

This is the first year since 2010 I haven’t tracked the stats. I have had nearly all the games on (was out of the house for a few), but they’ve been on in the background while I did something else.

Just didn’t care this year. Too many distractions.

(I feel really bad for my sister team, the Texas Rangers. They finished last in their Division and last in the American League. Ouch. The Twins were in that spot for many of the years since 2010, so I know how much it sucks.)

§

Speaking of life and death, largely for lack of anywhere else to stash them, I have a couple other charts. They come from my looking into population data for the line, “Worldwide, on average, almost 12 million babies are born each month,” from my recent Zodiac post.

The first one is the worldwide annual data from 1950-2030 (predicted data from 2015 on):

The number of births from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s indicates the post-war “baby boom” — there’s another surge in the 1980s (general prosperity accounts for that, I’d guess).

The second chart is the same thing, but for the USA only:

These are raw numbers, not rates, so naturally the number of deaths increases over time — there are more people. What’s interesting is how the number of people born fluctuates.

Overall, both worldwide and in the USA, the number of new people added each year has declined, so that’s a good thing.

§

I’ll leave you with two other charts. This first one shows number of errors per day (the colors break down error type):

The average is around 80 per day, which is seriously bumming me out.

This second one shows, over the month of collected data, the number of errors per ten-minute slot during the hours of the day:

All things being equal I’d expect that data to be relativity flat, and it clearly isn’t. So part of the mission is explain that bump between midnight and 8 AM.

I need to run tests from my other devices, and, when I do, I’ll write a post explaining in detail. For now I’ll just say the errors in question are my laptop trying to connect to a website (my personal website).

Preliminary tests on my iPad show zero errors, so I’m very much of the opinion this Dell XPS 15 laptop has a problem. (I’ve written of my disappointment with it. This just amplifies all that.)

Suffice to say I am very unhappy with my Dell purchase. (And the amount of snail mail and email spam those folks send has gotten offensive. Dell has managed to make me hate Dell. I was originally inclined to favor an American company. Next time I’ll try HP.)

§

By the way, one last bit of business. The previous post, Perfect Albums, was a Draft post for several months, and at one point I accidentally clicked [Publish].

That probably sent an email notice to those of you who get them (the accidental post got four hits before I changed its status!), so that was confusing. When I did post it, I didn’t get an email notice, and I assume no one else did (apparently it only ever happens once, like losing your virginity).

So if you depend on the email notice, just a heads up that I published Perfect Albums last Friday. (WordPress has a lot of nice features that make it an excellent blogging platform, but total control over your posts just isn’t one of them.)

Stay warm, my friends! Go forth and spread light and beauty.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

14 responses to “Monday Miscellany #4

  • Wyrd Smythe

    BTW, RIP RBG.

    (I kinda got a kick out of how her initials had the letters of RGB — Red-Green-Blue — but not quite in the right order.)

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I actually kinda prefer the winter months. I think it’s because down here the summer months are a hot sticky mess and the winters relatively mild.

    I finally bought a new laptop, which was just the new version of the MS Surface Book. (Yeah, I’m old and stuck in my ways.) The first one was far from perfect, but not nearly as bad as the experience you describe with the Dell. My desktop is Dell, and the crapware Dell put on it annoys the hell out of me. (I’ve ripped most of it out, but I’m scared to rip out the stuff that keeps the drivers updated.)

    On the mail notifications, I think they only happen once per user, although I’m not certain of that. The reason is when I played around with the publish status on an ancient post on my test blog, I got a notice, but didn’t on subsequent publishes after I cycled it back and forth. It means that for my hack to get a post in the Reader that doesn’t initially make it, I usually cycle a recent post so the subscribers don’t get weird notices on ancient posts. (And also because I’m not sure a post no longer in the RSS feed will trigger the Reader to pull again.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      If I lived where you do, I’m sure I would, too! Los Angeles was largely without seasons, but up here they can be extreme. In the summer, sometimes that moist Gulf air comes up the Mississippi river valley, and we share the soupy pain. In the winters, it can be -20 for a week straight (although serious cold bouts have become more rare).

      Others have commented on Dell’s crapware. Most of the computer manufacturers do it, I guess (Sony had a bunch of crap on the Vaio I had). I know what you mean about what could be removed. I had to reinstall one of their “support” packages at one point because I realized I wasn’t getting updates.

      I’ve wondered what might trigger a notification, and I’ve noticed the same thing. Seems to be once per user. (I’ve wondered, for instance, if I edit a comment, does that trigger a notice to those getting email notices about new comments. Apparently not. (Or no one has ever said anything.))

      There is something called sitemap.xml that’s available in the “root” of our blog sites. It lists up to 1000 of the most recently modified posts or pages, most recently modified first. It’s apparently an alternate way to keep up with changes to a site, and it has the advantage of showing any change. (It doesn’t list any post content or change deltas; just that a page/post was modified at a certain datetime.)

      I haven’t found any use for it, but maybe whatever mechanism keeps that updated is the same as what keeps the RSS feed XML updated? If so, modifying an old post might trigger the RSS, but I’d still be inclined to think the triggering mechanisms were different. But totally a WAG on my part.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m pretty sure comment edits don’t send notifications. I’ve noticed on other blogs when the host has edited their comment and it’s different than the notification I got.

        One thing I wonder about are the link comments that go in whenever I link to an old post. I’ve had some people from the older post show up in the newer one, which makes me think it does, but I’ve never gotten one from anyone else’s blog.

        Interesting on sitemap.xml. I wonder if the process that reads it and the one that reads the RSS are the same, or maybe different parts of the same one. It would explain why some posts show up in places like the tags and from searches, but not in the followed blogs tab.

        Oh well. At least posts not showing in the Reader is only a mild annoyance instead of the aggravation it was before I had a workaround.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I do sometimes silently correct my guests’ more glaring typos on their behalf (if there was one feature I wish WP had it was the ability to edit our own comments). Or if they’ve mangled some HTML, I’ll just quietly correct it. Other than that, I only edit my own comments, and I’m pretty free when it comes to fixing errors. I don’t alter content or meaning, of course.

        I’m not sure what you mean about link comments.

        As I mentioned, I’ve never seen much use for it, so it’s been a while since I gave sitemap much thought. Just went and refreshed my memory. It’s a Google invention from 2005 intended to extend the idea behind robots.txt. Listing recently modified documents, especially those that might not have obvious links to them, aids web crawlers. One of the big deals about sitemap.xml is that it just lists documents, no hierarchical site structure, so it makes pages visible even if they’re not linked by other pages.

        I do have some Pages with no links that I’ve either retired or am working on (or maybe have hidden from special view; invitation by offered link only). The sitemap would expose those pages. Something to think about.

        (Thing is, sometimes I find Google a better way to search for an old post than WP’s search engine, which seems to have some funny blind spots.)

        I mentioned WP’s sitemap seems to only include the most recently modified 1000 posts and pages. The protocol allows much larger sizes, so that’s something WP is doing.

        It would be interesting to know if whatever system WP uses to monitor blogs only pulls the feed.xml file or also uses sitemap.xml. The latter would be handy for a quick peek at what’s been modified. If a system kept track of the last crawl date, it potentially need only look at the newly created or modified stuff.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I correct typos on my own comments, but generally stay away from everyone else’s unless they ask, or express frustration about a mistake. (The exception is when they post a link that expands into a big obnoxious embed that doesn’t work well on some clients.) I’m with you on wishing people could edit their own comments, or at least see a preview before posting. But some blog owners modify their own comments heavily, which is what clued me in that the edits don’t trigger emails.

        On the link comment, sorry, I meant the pingbacks. (They show up in the comment section, which is why I think of them as comments.)

        That explanation on sitemap actually explains some things I’d wondered about before: Google catching pages I couldn’t see how they found. But if the site autogenerated a file like that, it would.

        I’ve noticed that the Reader seems to only keep about a year of stuff in it. For most blogs, sitemap would have a lot more than that. On the other hand, if I update an old post, the Reader does seem to know about it, so unless it’s pulling it every time, it must have a way to track it, and sitemap seems like a good candidate.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        My standard is whether I’d be embarrassed if the typo were mine. Or, as you say, if there are disruptive aspects to it. I’ve deleted a few video links in comments due to content. (And always told the commenter why, of course.)

        Pingbacks, ah, gotcha. I tend to delete them (almost always) when they’re mine. I’ll keep one if I really want a link from the old to the new or, more likely, between this blog and my programming blog. I think if someone is subscribed to comments, they definitely get a “new comment” notice if a pingback is submitted (and approved).

        One thing I’ve noticed — because I tend to always delete them — is that if I have a given pingback in my trash, editing a post with links to old posts doesn’t create a new pingback. But if the trash has cleared, editing such a post creates new pingbacks I have to then delete.

        I would hope (and assume) editing a post with links doesn’t create multiple pingbacks on the old post, but I’ve never checked that out.

        Since I read that Wiki article I’m toying with the idea of creating a sitemap.xml for my personal website. It would be an easy thing to whip up in Python…

        It would be interesting to know more about how WP works under the hood. I wonder if I’d be impressed or horrified. Large applications maintained over time sometimes have a coral bed growth aspect to them. They get so large no one can spend the time to clean them up.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Interesting on the pingbacks. I guess most people don’t use them. But I’ve always kept them. Now that I know they send notices, they can serve as a notice to people subscribed to the old post that there’s a new related one.

        Sounds like WP checks to see if it has a pingback before it creates one, and being in trash is enough to make it hold off. I don’t recall ever having duplicates from editing a post, but I usually keep them so WP probably sees the existing one.

        If you always delete them, I think there’s a config option to just refuse them entirely.

        I’ve thought about digging up the source code for WP. But decided it’s not worth doing unless I moved to self hosting or the WP business plan, where I could install my own theme. Based on my experience fixing the CSS issues with themes, I’d anticipate a mess in there.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I often keep pingbacks from others, and I sometimes keep my own, so I’ve left that config option allowing them. (I’m not sure why I got it in my head to delete ones to older posts. I think way back when I decided I didn’t like the look of it or something and just got into the habit. Haven’t questioned it until now. OTOH, I link back to a lot of my older posts, and some of them would end up with a lot of pingback comments.)

        I wonder if there are books that go under the hood of WP — books that people self-hosting might be likely to need… 🤔

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Some of my old posts do have a lot of pingbacks in the comments. I’m okay with it because if someone stumbles on that post through a web search, maybe they’ll see them and know I have newer things to day about the topic. Of course, that presupposes they’ll look at the comments. But I like the idea that those still subscribed to that thread will get a notice of a new post too.

        I just did an Amazon search on WP books and did get some pretty technical seeming ones, such as WordPress Design and Development, which judging by its ToC, gets into the core, plug ins, theme development, etc. The biggest issue I’ve seen with books these days is they tend to be dated, but they can still be good for an initial overview.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s pretty much what I figured had to be out there, given the product supports self-hosting. Unless the architecture has undergone major revisions, even somewhat out-of-date books would cover that architecture (which is probably about as far as my interests go — some curiosity about how the system works).

      • Wyrd Smythe

        For that matter, even WP’s own documentation for people hosting sites likely provides that info.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        It’s been several years, but from what I recall, most of the self hosting documentation focuses on getting it installed and configured, how to install plug ins and themes, and issues like that. I’m sure the more technical stuff is there somewhere, but you have to specifically seek it out.

        The biggest headache with self hosting is keeping up with all the security updates. A lot of self hosted sites get hacked just because the owner’s attention to it wanes.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That’s been very much my impression, too. I can’t say I’ve ever had a desire to self-host. My personal website is hosted by In Motion, and they do offer WP as something they support that someone with a site can use for blogging. It’s literally an option I can select and configure.

        They don’t just support it, they provide it. The interesting question would be how well they stay on top of updates. They’re a major hosting site, so I would like to think they’re completely up-to-date, but self-hosting still isn’t something that interests me.

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