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Five WordPress Plugin Recommendations

I thought I would share five WordPress plugin recommendations with you. They are all in use here on this blog and the reasons why you might like to give them a try too. This particular batch are good for keeping on top of writing, measuring your progress as you go, and keeping things running smoothly:

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Understated Classics #27: A Ghost Is Born by Wilco

I have already given some of the personal background to why I love this album and now it’s time to give a bit of love to the music itself so I’ll stick to giving a track by track account of “A Ghost Is Born”.

If you are familiar with Wilco’s first few albums, you’ll know that A Ghost Is Born is on the line of best fit through Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It continues its predecessor’s experimentation, but also gets reined in a little. Great songs – some of my favourite Wilco songs – were left off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (“Venus Stopped The Train”, “A Magazine Called Sunset”) so the follow-up could easily have been more of the same and everyone would have gone home happy.

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The Joy of Typing

I find that lots of interesting jobs require you to know the Python programming language. It’s useful, famously easy to learn, and quite a fun language to boot. I decided to work through the Python course on Codecademy because the Ruby and JavaScript courses were excellent. It’s partly the fault of my Latin American Macbook but I found I wasn’t typing out the exercises very well: my brackets were always coming out wrong. Open/close brackets are over 8 and 9 on this keyboard but on the English layout they are over 9 and 0, and for the life of me I cannot train myself out of following the labels on the keyboard. This was confirmed by a site that I’d meant to check out for ages called typing.io, which lets you type over examples of code – I was slow but accurate, I did OK on everything except for brackets.

At this point I decided that it would be best to improve my speed — if I were not bothering to look at the keys at all, perhaps I would type the brackets automatically as well. I discovered a site called Typing Study which will teach you typing for free. It works the same way as most of the typing training software ever has by telling you where to put your fingers and then making you perform repeated drills.

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South America Trip Part 10

Picking up from where I left off at Machu Picchu, we headed down into Aguas Calientes (trans. “hot waters”) by coach and by the time we got there it was torrenting down with rain. So much for exploration. We waited out the downpour in a pizza place and deliberated over whether to buy souvenir snaps from the tour guides. Ironically for a town named after hot waters, it was bitterly cold. One of those places where the sound of running water follows you wherever you go, the best thing about it was the huge trains that ran down the middle of street – big clanking hulks pulling huge passenger trains.

We took one of those trains back to Cusco, though darkness fell about 30 minutes in. Enough time to see the rain’s effect on the Urubamba river, now a raging torrent filled with peculiar eddies and whorls. I fell asleep to the sound of my mp3 player despite the piped in Peruvian music and the coach being as bright as day. We transferred back to Cuzco in a stuffy coach that smelled of feet. I can’t even remember going out to dinner once we got back: I’m not certain that I did. All I remember is washing about a week’s worth of dirt off me in the shower.

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New Things, New Ideas, Or Both?

So this came to me one morning last week when I was thinking about programming:

  1. Find a giant
  2. Get up on to its shoulders
  3. Have a look at your problem from up there
  4. Get the giant to help you

This rather barmy heuristic is basically teaching you that when approaching a new programming language, in fact programming in ANY language, you should get on with working out how to do a particular thing at the conceptual level rather than reinventing the wheel. If you attempt to build things from scratch you are doomed to the impossible task of building a giant on your own. Far better to appraise the work of others (use libraries, frameworks etc) and trust in those so that you can get things done.

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What IS That Noise?

I recently spruced up a post I wrote four years ago about Biosphere’s wonderful album Substrata. I added the following footnote about the difference between voice samples and found sound:

I suppose I am distinguishing between found sound and vocal samples here. Perhaps there is very little difference, or that one is the other? When is a vocal snippet something more than found sound? Is it the fact that one has meaning? Isn’t a “meaningless” sample – like the ones here in Russian that I can’t understand – little more than found sound anyway?

These are rhetorical questions and they have gone unanswered. That’s a shame but I appreciate that the passing traffic for that particular post is quite low, let alone the footnotes. Perhaps we could address them here?

And wait! I have more. These are some other similar questions that sprung to mind at the same time:

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Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

Cover of hour of the star by clarice lispector

Hour of the Star is a short novel by Clarice Lispector, a Ukrainian-born Brazilian author with an interesting life story. This is her last novel and is a remarkable book: inventive, funny, and sad, all at once. I found it in a special selection at the local library dedicated to Brazil because of the World Cup.

First some biography. Born Chaya Lispector in Chechelnyk, Ukraine, in 1920, her family escaped the pogroms and emigrated to Brazil in 1922. She was given the new name Clarice as the family settled in Maceió in north-eastern Brazil. Later she and her family moved to Rio de Janeiro1 and she started law school there in 1937. Her first published short story appeared around 5 years later.

She later married a diplomat and travelled the world as he conducted various foreign missions. Up until her death at the age of 57, she wrote nine novels. Eight were published in her lifetime and Hour of the Star is the eighth of these. It was published shortly before her death and is the most popular of her novels.

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The Sticky Stick You’re Stuck With

Jetpack, the WordPress plug-in, provides, among other things, a link to the hosted service’s stats service. I set it up so that I see the most popular posts that people have visited over the previous week. When I don’t post, people generally tend to visit unless I appear in search engine results, so the figures I see in my dashboard stats are a reasonable proxy for the number of people who click on the link when my post appears in their search results.

That’s quite an intersection of events and so narrows the usefulness of the stats. I can think of many questions I want answering about who visits my blog and that statistic doesn’t answer very many. It is a start though.

The people who click on the link who get my post in their search results are looking for posts about programming computer games, specifically UNO and Carcassonne. These posts are the only serious pieces about programming to appear here (so far) and when I haven’t posted for a while they consistently appear as the most visited. Does that mean that people who look for posts about programming are most likely to click through to links to my blog in their search results? Or is it the games, UNO and Carcassonne?

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Fifteen Observations

Saw Guardians of the Galaxy today. Here are fifteen observations about the film that may or may not constitute a short review.

  1. At least two Oscars for Best Use Of Body Paint (Green) and Best Use Of Body Paint (Blue) are sewn up.
  2. Chris Pratt basically plays Star Lord as “Andy Dwyer in space” and this is fine by me.
  3. Best movie to feature a talking raccoon in a long time.
  4. Watching the entirety of the end credits of Thor 2 paid off!
  5. WE are Groot” — aren’t we just?! All of the feels.
  6. It features a dance off as a major event, something that it shares with the Step Up movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is a waaaay better movie.
  7. The first words of the credits are “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return”. It is in fact a movie that reviews itself.
  8. The 3D version might have been pretty good. I watched the 2D version but the scenes with lots of action might be improved with a bit of depth.
  9. A great soundtrack, but there is a cheesy “smooth rock wins chicks” bit that’s a little icky half way through.
  10. That said, the description of the legend of Footloose is hilarious. Especially the callback toward the end of the movie.
  11. I especially enjoyed the scene with the Collector.
  12. Karen Gillen is wasted as Nebula, but hopefully she will be back. Karen’s also in what may well be one of the most ill-conceived TV shows of all time later this autumn.)
  13. I thought it was Bruce Willis playing Drax the Destroyer (I’m useless at this guess the actor game). I loved his taking things literally: “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it.”
  14. If you text me at any point in the next month, I will probably reply with “I am Groot”.
  15. No Raccoons or tree creatures were harmed during the making of this film.
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Beetles, A Short Story

I tried not to think too loud, as impossible as that sounds. Close to talking to myself, I pushed the towel to the bottom of the glass to scour it dry, thinking of all the ways things had gone wrong. I tried to keep my thoughts quiet, tried to keep them from explaining to all manner of invented bystanders – old teachers, dusty uncles, errant cousins, library staff, the general public – exactly the context and how much I wished I’d avoided saying or doing such-and-such.

The kettle comes to the boil in the corner. Like it I feel everything rising in me all at once, rattling me, too many rumbles and roils of time’s great water, too much steam building, of humiliations forgotten by everyone save me, all given no import by anyone save me, no solenoid to trip there. I imagined flicking over into a calm state but still they came, a sports day where I picked my nose and Simone and Carly conspired to pull down my shorts – a smirk, at least what everybody saw was not too small for them to forget – another race to last place, who knew why I bothered at all?

The kettle’s water begins to settle but mine does not, I rove over ill-timed and ill-judged protestations of love and remember one love gone horribly awry because I did not trust that the future could be better than the past.

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