Category Archives: Rant

Friday Notes (Jun 10, 2022)

I’m really enjoying summer so far. Temperatures have mostly been moderate and the nights deliciously cool (“great sleeping weather” as they say). After a long winter, it’s wonderful to have open windows again and the ability to just walk out the door without gearing up in winter gear.

But my least favorite day of the year approaches. Summer Solstice — the death of the light. Thermal inertia makes July and August uncomfortably warm, but, alas, the days get shorter and shorter.

Meanwhile, here in June, it’s time for another edition of Friday Notes.

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The WordPress Reader

Not too long ago I wrote about an apparent issue between posts written in the Classic Editor and how the WordPress Reader sometimes displays them with no paragraph breaks. The post looks fine on the blog’s website, but the WP Reader isn’t recognizing its paragraphs. (This problem still hasn’t been fixed, and I continue to notice posts where it obviously happened.)

That post went longer than I expected because I had to explain the HTML aspects of why the problem seems to happen and how to go about trying to correct it. I meant to get into other foibles of the Reader but ran out of room.

This post adds an extra room just for the WP Reader.

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WP: Classic Editor vs Reader

The post’s title has more the sense of Ali vs Foreman than of Coke vs Pepsi. True, both are contests, but the the latter is a selection — the former is a fight. This post is about a major problem some posts created using the Classic Editor have when displayed in the WordPress Reader.

Specifically, breaks between paragraphs are lost. In some cases an entire post becomes one long paragraph. The only breaks come from the various HTML block elements that force paragraph breaks. (Things like horizontal rules, large images, or tables.)

Here I’ll explain what’s going on and how to get your paragraphs back.

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A Big Crapfest

Holy Hercules! I have a new standard for awful storytelling. My memory is mercifully short, but last night I suffered through the worst adaptation of a good novel that I can remember. As a story, it was utter trash, but as an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, The ABC Murders, I need stronger words than “appalling abomination” or “total travesty” (“grim perversion” is a good start). It was breathtaking in how it managed to corrupt every single aspect of the novel.

From start to finish, it was the diametric opposite of the original and a revolting cruel mockery of Christie’s beloved Hercule Poirot. The writing, the directing, the cinematography, the casting, the sets — each hawked a giant loogy in the face of source material.

Even casting John Malkovich as Poirot was a misstep.

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World of Lies

I’ve been thinking about an aspect of modern life that bothers me at least as much — if not more — than the anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-thought, bias of our culture.

It’s bad when emotions are elevated above rational thinking, that what matters most is how one feels. It undermines our future when that is not guided by understanding and thoughtfulness. And all too often those feelings don’t involve compassion and acceptance, but fear, hate, and rage.

What’s worse, what makes we wonder if we’ll ever find a decent path again, is that we’ve become a culture of lies.

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Chilling Sabrina

I watched the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) with mixed reactions. It had just enough to keep me watching, but I didn’t think much of the writing. It has the same problem as a lot of modern fantasy — random, irrational, downright dumb (and in this case very unoriginal) world building.

The latter season tipped the scales entirely to an Ugh! rating for me. Television shows are rarely known for their intelligence, but this one has given me a new standard of worst-ever.

To be clear here, ‘I come, not to praise Sabrina, but to bury it.’

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What About 2021?

It’s a New Year, so it’s time for that Janus backward and forward State of the Blog Post. (I did plenty looking back in the previous post, so today I’m looking mostly in the other direction.)

As I’ve mentioned, I framed 2020 as a year for changes. Many of them got sidelined (or outright derailed) but the year did result in some decisions that matter here. I find I’ve gone beyond my rope when it comes to what I’m going to begin always referring to as “fantasy bullshit” (FBS).

That’s not to say fantasy bullshit is all bad (some is fun; some might even be necessary), but I am going to start calling it what it is.

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2021: Week 1

12 Days of ChristmasAlthough the New Year is a few days off (you still have time to stock up on champagne), most calendars start on Sunday, so today is the first day of the first week of 2021. More to the point, all 52 weeks of 2020 are now officially behind us. We can begin the process of shaking the dust of an awful year off our shoes.

How many times have I said I look around and forward, but rarely backward. (Lots of times!) Of course I’m more than willing to see the tail end of a wretched year and an even more wretched Presidency. (Easily, at this point, the worst in our history.)

Anyway: On the third day of Chillaxmas, my blog post is about…

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Our BS Culture

I’ve known about Aldus Huxley’s soma as long as I’ve been a serious reader of science fiction, but it wasn’t until I finally read his 1932 novel, Brave New World, that I had a full picture of it. There is a direct avatar in the modern drug Xanax (and perhaps more so in marijuana), but it’s the metaphorical versions of soma that caught my eye these past decades.

The point of soma is that it is an external coping mechanism — a tool for promoting one’s own happiness with and in life. It can be the sledgehammer of a drug (or the gunshot of a lobotomy, to be extreme), but I see many metaphorical versions of it in our culture now.

When I look around, I see a seriously soma-soaked society.

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Our Own Words

In Through the Looking-Glass, Humpty Dumpty famously declares that words mean what he wants them to mean. I’ve known people to declare the same thing — that, for whatever reason, they can use their own meanings for words. (To be clear, Lewis Carroll was mocking the idea.)

While ideas matter more than the words used to express them, it’s a lot more challenging to communicate and discuss those ideas without a shared vocabulary. A common language that is rich and detailed makes the expression of ideas all the more precise and accurate.

This is why con artists prefer convoluted language: it’s a mask.

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