Even the pessimists got it wrong, revisited

The perception, the ‘ideal’ and… the reality. If democracy had teeth, the 1% would be quaking in their boots instead of laughing all the way to the bank.

Eight years ago, almost to the day, I reblogged a post by David Robertson that featured the above video, entitled ‘Wealth Inequality in America’. I’ve tried more than once over the years since then to get that post to actually show the video — not just the link to it — but for whatever reason, WordPress just doesn’t want to do it. The ‘reblog’ function seems to be badly borked.

So, to get around that, I’ve decided to do something I rarely do: repost the content. David Robertson’s WordPress blog, though still active, hasn’t been updated for years. I got in touch with him about three years ago and he admitted that he’d moved on to another blog (only that one also seems to be in the doldrums, too).

The video above was uploaded to YouTube on 20Nov2012. Some argue that, as such, it’s dated. Well, yes, it is; but the numbers aren’t irrelevant because of that. In reality, the problem it highlights has only gotten worse. (Much worse.)

Some others would argue “Oh, it’s talking about the USA, and I don’t live in the USA, so those numbers don’t apply to me.” I would argue that, if you think that, you’re in denial. You’re deluding yourself, in much the same way as those who believe that we never landed on the Moon, or those who believe the Earth is flat.

I would urge you to watch the video. But if you do, you have to pay attention, because the crucial point it makes is easily missed. At first glance it appears to be bemoaning wealth inequality, and it’s all too easy to focus on that. However, The important point it makes is not about the extent of the inequality (which is in itself truly shocking); it’s about the perception of the extent of the inequality. The video highlights that while most people accept that the wealthiest get ‘a lot more’, they are totally oblivious to exactly how much more wealthy the wealthiest in society truly are.

As David Robertson says in his original post:

This is one of those “you bunch of bastards” moments.

Moments that the people on the right don’t want you to have.

It’s not that I’m against people having lots of money, or even a disparity in wealth. I get by just fine on what I have. But money is power, and the amount of money in the top 20% – hell, the top 1% – is enough to bend society and democracy and markets and business and media. And that’s dangerous.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Business, Capitalism, Communication, Core thought, Education, illusion, Phlyarology, Reblogs | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Say his name (with a towel)

Jill Dennison posted something yesterday on her blog Filosofa’s Word that suddenly made me sit up and pay attention. Her post begins with a simple statement of fact:

Seven jurors were selected this week for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who, on May 25th, 2020 brutally murdered a Black man, George Floyd, by throwing Floyd facedown on the ground, handcuffed, and then keeping his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes.

This is how it appeared, for me, in the WordPress Reader:

Image of the post announcement on the WordPress Reader of Jill Dennison's post about George Floyd

And, yes, that date leapt out at me as though it were highlighted, for the simple reason that it coincides with Towel Day, the annual celebration of the life and works of the late Douglas Adams (1952-2001), author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I guess the reason that I didn’t didn’t spot that coincidence last year was because it would have taken a few days for the horror story about George Floyd to begin to spread, and the date itself was not, at the time, as important as the event itself.

Regular visitors to Wibble may have spotted the ‘Milestone widget’ I’ve had on the site for some time now, which acknowledges the time remaining until the next Towel Day. The Towel Day website provides a similar, though naturally more prominent, countdown.

Mitakuye Oyasin — we are all connected.

Connections, once made, are difficult to unmake — not that I’d want to forget this one. Though born from an horrific act of violence, I like to think that Douglas Adams would welcome this connection between his legacy and the ongoing struggle to improve humanity. In my mind, these two things — Towel Day and the murder of George Floyd — will now be forever linked. The race issue has been with us for a very, very long time, and it won’t be cured overnight. Because it is such an intractable problem, we need reminders of it, so that it can’t be kicked into the long grass; I think this is a particularly good one.

So, I’ll continue to carry my towel every 25th of May, but I will at the same time be haunted by the continuing spectre of racial prejudice and injustice. And, every year, I will hope that this year is the one that brings change.

The clock is ticking.

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Communication, Core thought, Culture, Drama, memetics, News and politics, People, Tributes | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Adventures with a dumbphone: Elevate — Brain Training

There’s a serious amount of dross in the ‘Play Store’, but there are some real gems in there too. My plan is to offer some thoughts about Apps You Might Enjoy; this is the second in that series, following on from my earlier post about Morse Mania: this one is about the brain trainer from Elevate Labs.

Elevate – Brain training personalised for you

  • Cost: Free* / regular subscription / lifetime subscription 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Availability: Android and iOS
  • Storage space: 284 Mb 🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • User interface design: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Advert intrusiveness: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Music: None (but it doesn’t need any)
  • Audio: Essential for a couple of the games

A boss of mine some years ago (nice chap) was adamant that he had reached a stage in his life in which ongoing decline in his mental faculties was inevitable. “As everyone knows,” he preached at me, “the brain reaches a peak in your mid-twenties, and then you start to lose brain cells — and they never regrow.” I didn’t believe a word of it at the time; I was convinced that if he was experiencing a drop-off in his mental abilities, he was simply suffering from a severe case of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Recent advances in neuroscience have borne out my belief. Common sense, ‘what everyone knows,’ has failed again: brain cells can regrow. The brain can be thought of as a muscle: it benefits from exercise.

Seeing the real world, April 2012§

My email records tell me that in 2011 I signed up for (the free version of) a brain training program called ‘Lumosity‘ (there’s an app for that too; but, be warned, it’s huge — 500Mb!). I found Lumosity (on the PC) engaging for a while, but its appeal soon waned; I couldn’t maintain the daily practice I had originally set out to do to give my brain a proper workout. I also found the incessant spam trying to persuade me to purchase the ‘premium’ offering intensely irritating. And so, I kicked Lumosity into touch.

In 2015, an effectiveness study carried out by an independent analyst (a sociology professor) showed that users of the Elevate app improved their performance on tests of grammar, writing, listening, and maths by 69% compared with non-users, and that regular use of the app resulted in greater benefits.

I only found out about that study today, when I was creating this post; I was blissfully unaware of it when, in February last year, I began to use a dumbphone for the first time. This act naturally led to me searching for apps to install on it, and, equally naturally, one of the terms I searched for was ‘brain training’. I found Elevate.

Improve your skills

Train with 35+ games that are designed to boost productivity, earning power, and self-confidence in skills like math, reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Marketing spiel from https://elevateapp.com/

I’ve had no difficulty in maintaining a regular workout. Elevate tells me that my current ‘streak’ (unbroken tally of sessions) is 156 days; the only reason that’s not longer is because I missed a couple of days by thinking I’d actually done them, but not checking!

I’m hard pressed to think of any criticism at all of this fine app. After considerable head-scratching, I finally came up with the following:

  • In the game ‘Commas’, one has to tap on spaces between words to either remove commas (in the first part of the game) or add them (in the second part). Taps are sometimes not recognised at all, resulting in the need to tap multiple times (using up valuable time); and sometimes a ‘tap’ will be allocated to a space I could swear I hadn’t tapped on. (I accept that this may possibly be due to flaws in the surface of my handset rather than a problem with the app.)
  • In the game ‘Precision’, the objective is to identify speaking errors (it’s one of just two games that requires audio to play). It features a very small selection of audio clips. After just a few plays, the game becomes more of a memory test. (Admittedly, audio data is bulky, so including more clips would increase the app’s storage footprint.)
  • The app limits you to a maximum of three plays of each game per day. There’s a minor bug relating to this: upon completing this maximum for a game, the list is supposed to show an exclamation mark to indicate this — but that helpful sigil sometimes doesn’t appear.

With reference to that third point, the support team — who, in my experience, are very responsive — have confirmed that this is only a problem in the Android version. (Having said that, they said that they were working on a fix for it… no sign of that yet, and I reported the fault three months ago.)

You can find out more for yourself on the Elevate website. So, without further ado, here’s a short video clip I’ve made to demonstrate Elevate’s gameplay. I hope you find it informative!

A run-through of one of the 35+ brain-training Elevate games

* A caveat: When I installed the app, a year ago, it asked me for my credit card — and then I had trouble cancelling the recurring payment subscription that it automatically initiated (which turned out to be something to do with Google Pay being confused between a gmail.com address and a googlemail.com one — though I had a devil of a job getting sense out of Google Pay about that; they insisted at first that there was no difference). Elevate support assured me that during the installation process it should be possible to “hit the X” to opt out of providing a credit card, and thus use the free version of the app; but I can’t check that… Impressed by the app (it’s streets ahead of Lumosity) I succumbed to their offer of a lifetime sub (for £60, which was a big discount on the original price quoted — if memory serves, that was £150) — and I have to say that I haven’t regretted the investment.

If you have a favourite app, how about leaving a comment to recommend it?

§ Yep, you spotted it, I’m quoting me ;)

I used the AZ Screen Recorder to record, and edit, my gameplay.
Special thanks to Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash for the phone image I used in the post header :)

Posted in art, Communication, Education, Games, Health | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

What price privacy?

The Dumbest Blog Ever§ recently highlighted that ‘together, Apple and Google phones account for 99% of the smartphone market in the US‘.

I avoided the dumbphone trap myself for years, relying on a ‘burner’ phone that did only what it said on the tin (phone calls and text messages). I’ve had it for years. It only cost me a fiver, and as I kept it for emergencies I haven’t actually had to top up its (pay-as-you-go) account for ages. Just call me a cheapskate.

My brother gave me his old dumbphone when he ‘upgraded’ his, and I’ve been using that for a year now. I can’t deny that this new (to me) widget is useful in many ways, and don’t resent the monthly tenner I pay for the connection. I find it especially invaluable in waiting rooms and queues; I’ve never mastered the knack of chit-chatting with strangers, despite that being a time-honoured tradition.

I am leery of the creepy tracking issue, though. When 99% of dumbphone users adopt a sheep-like mentality, refusing to rise up as one in united outrage against the constant spying, those who care are backed into a corner, with no way out.

‘The American Dream’ promotes this vaunted thing called ‘individuality’. Ironic.

'Stupid Sheep' by Nina Paley, CC BY-SA 3.0
Stupid Sheep‘ by Nina Paley, CC BY-SA 3.0

While it’s true that this perpetual intrusion on our privacy makes this marvellous technology so (relatively) inexpensive, it does so by allowing its vendors to hawk our personal information to all and sundry.

There are alternatives.

  • Once upon a time, we used to send letters in things called ‘envelopes’, protected by custom — and in some cases, regulation and even law — forbidding their opening by anyone other than the addressee. Most email systems these days do not have this feature; but some do. ProtonMail, for instance, features both ‘end-to-end‘ and ‘zero knowledge‘ encryption, which is a geeky way of saying that nobody but you and the other party can read your messages.
  • Many seem to be addicted to messenger apps to keep in touch with friends and family. But we needn’t use the ones that allow snooping: you can choose to switch to Signal for its secure text conversation facilities.
  • Cloud-based storage is in the ascendant. But, because of its convenience, most avail themselves of the offerings of the ‘Big Tech’ giants (such as OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox); the data stored there may be secure from loss, but not from prying eyes. Secure cloud alternatives exist (I use Sync.com myself).
  • Your Internet service provider (‘ISP’) can record every bit of your data traffic. ‘Virtual private networks‘ (VPNs) protect against this (and some offer encrypted services too) — though you do have to choose your VPN provider carefully, as they can potentially snoop on you, too.

Impressed by its simplicity and speed compared with the bloated, sluggish, advert-riddled competition such as Lycos, AltaVista and Infoseek, I used to be an advocate of the Google search engine. That was back in the days when they proudly espoused the motto “Don’t be evil” — which has been quietly ditched since Google’s reorganisation (placing it under the ‘Alphabet’ umbrella). The insidious danger that lurks beneath the tracking is that Google’s search learns what I like to search for — and in so doing it insulates me from differing opinions. It places me in a filter bubble, an echo chamber where there are no dissenting voices; and that’s where extremists such as flat Earthers, Moon-landing and global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers and Trumpists reside.

These days, I use — and advocate — DuckDuckGo instead, which is just as simple, just as fast; and the ‘Duck Side‘ doesn’t track me, doesn’t ‘helpfully’ learn what I like, and doesn’t offer biased results.

Meanwhile, all I hear these days when I raise the subject of privacy is, “It doesn’t bother me, I have nothing to hide.” Yeah… I think that will be the last free thought most (are allowed to) have as we are frogmarched into a totalitarian global corporate state….

§ Here’s a pingback, Herb, as a thank-you for the thought-provoking link!

Header image: ‘Stupid Sheep‘ (image size reduced, canvas size increased)
by Nina Paley (“Nina’s Adventures”) CC BY-SA 3.0

Posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Capitalism, Communication, Computers and Internet, Core thought, Education, Ludditis, Phlyarology, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

Announcing: ?Random Raiders!

A year ago, almost to the day§, I wibbled about crowdsourcing blog maintenance. Here’s the rationale behind the concept:

I bet your blog is like mine in that it has lots of new posts going on the top which get all the attention, and very little action for all those leading up to it, no matter how deserving they might be. Some content doesn’t age well, it’s true, and perhaps some of that deserves to be culled: but then again, some content does stand the test of time. With an ever-increasing repository of blog posts, it becomes more and more difficult to do effective housekeeping.

The idea — getting together to help each other maintain old content — appeared to be well received at the time… but I haven’t followed through, and I apologise for that. I also realise now that my Cunning Plan may have been perceived as an attempt to encourage you, Dear Reader, to visit more pages on my site; I assure you that this was not my intent. In the revised Plan, I’m turning this on its head: if you choose to participate, I will visit a random page on your site, and then leave it up to you whether you want to reciprocate.

The Enhanced Cunning Plan:

I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine
(if you feel so inclined)

  1. If you want to take part, please use the form below to indicate your interest.
  2. I will then use the ‘?random’ thingy to visit a page on your site.
  3. If the page I visit is OK, all is well (and maybe I’ll have enjoyed the trip).
  4. However, if there’s something wrong with the page (link rot, broken images or missing embedded videos, typos, out-of-date content, that kind of thing) I’ll leave a comment on that page (or try to get in touch with you some other way) to alert you to the need to investigate…
  5. … and then — if you choose to — you visit a ?random page on Wibble to return the favour. If you do that and let me know you have, I’ll go back to (2) above for another trip on the merry-go-round!

What say you? Are you in? Of course you are! Join ?Random Raiders!

Every day, and in every way, I’m getting better and better!

§ It can’t be exactly to the day, because last year was a leap year, and that post was published on 29Feb2020. The next true anniversary of my original post on this concept will be on 29Feb2024. I’ve put a note in my diary to remind me… three years should be long enough to determine whether this idea has any legs, I think?

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Computers and Internet, crowdsourcing, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Adventures with a dumbphone: Morse Mania

Just over a year ago, I finally joined the smartdumbphone crowd (I wibbled about my experience at the time, in case you’re interested). I’m proud of myself in that I haven’t succumbed to the urge to become a meanderthal — I never use it when walking.

I learned a valuable lesson (recounted in Part Five of my earlier ‘Adventures’) when I was a teenager: Early Adopters get Kicked in the Teeth. I’m immensely grateful to all of the early adopters who teased out the bugs before I jumped on the bandwagon… and it’s time for some payback.

One thing I’ve learned (that’s probably no surprise to you) is that there’s a serious amount of dross in the ‘Play Store’; but there are some real gems in there too. My plan is to offer some thoughts about Apps You Might Enjoy; this is the first in that series, and it features an app I recently discovered. It’s called Morse Mania, by Dong Digital.

Morse Mania – a brilliant way to learn Morse code!

  • Cost: Free! (at least initially) 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Availability: Android and iOS
  • Storage space: 34.10 Mb 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • User interface design: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Advert intrusiveness: 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠
  • Music: None (but it doesn’t need any)
  • Audio: Essential!

I’ve known about Morse code for donkeys’ years, but before now I’ve never felt the urge to learn it. It didn’t seem like a skill I needed. It’s still not a skill I need, but learning new things is good for keeping the mind sharp. And when you can do so and have fun doing it, well, that’s a bonus!

One of the things I like most about Morse Mania is that there are absolutely no irritating, intrusive adverts. And, at least while you’re learning the basics, the app is free to use. Also, it doesn’t feature that other bane of my life: annoying constant nagging to ‘upgrade’. I haven’t even been able to find a way to donate to its maker, ‘Dong Digital’. Having said that, from the (admittedly minimal) investigation I’ve done, I gather that there is ‘premium’ content available; my guess is that this is introduced once the learning mode is complete. I haven’t got there yet, but I’m so impressed with this product that I suspect that I will be quite happy to hand over some of my hard-won cash when that time comes.

You can find out more for yourself on Dong Digital’s website; I see no point in copy-pasting the information from there to here. So, without further ado, here are a couple of short video clips I’ve made to demonstrate Morse Mania’s gameplay. I hope you find them entertaining!

Morse Mania Level 1
Morse Mania Level 6 (Challenge)

If you have a favourite app, how about leaving a comment to recommend it?

H/T to DoingHow for pointing me to the AZ Screen Recorder, which allowed me to easily record, and edit, my gameplay; and special thanks to Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash for the phone image I used in the post header :)

Posted in art, Communication, Education, Games, Health | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

How to time travel using WordPress

Disclaimer: this is how it currently works; I offer no guarantees that this information is valid in your epoch!

The only constant is change.

Heraclitus (c.535 BC – c.474 BC)

The ‘permalink’

Each WordPress post is allocated a permalink (short for ‘permanent link’), a URL (‘web address’) that needs to remain the same after publication. It has to be permanent, or the web would simply unravel.

Importantly, a permalink is generated when a post is scheduled for publication in advance — and this feature enables time travel. Well, hyperbolically, anyway (yep, my post title was clickbait; sorry about that 😅, hope you forgive me — and if not, thanks for coming and enjoy your day!).

Time travel into the past

That’s easy; we do it every time we follow a link to a published post.

Time travel into the future

This may seem like a bit of a digression, but bear with me, please; there is method in my madness. Well, I think there is.

Towel Day 2021 -- 91 days to go as at 23Feb2021

Regular visitors to Wibble may have noticed that I’m a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the late, great Douglas Adams. As such, along with a great host of fellow-minded lunatics, I celebrate Towel Day each year on the 25th of May. For last year’s festivities, I composed a trivia quiz, one that was so well-received that I was encouraged to create another one for 2021. And another for 2022. And, yes, I got carried away, and made one for 2023, too.

Naturally enough, I wanted to ensure that I didn’t forget about these posts. It would be all too easy to lose them in the quagmire of my WordPress drafts. And so, even though the dates were far off in the future, I scheduled them for publication. They will go live on their respective dates, even if I get run over by a bus (assuming that WordPress is still around, naturally — hopefully that’s not an issue).

WordPress offers the ability to copy the permalink when scheduling or publishing

The point is that, when you schedule a post, WordPress offers the option to copy its permalink, enabling you to refer to it in advance. This is the link to the Towel Day 2021 quiz — if your ‘now’ is before 25May2021, don’t bother clicking that link as the post is not yet live; it will present you with a ‘404 error’§. I shared that link with the froods at towelday.org, and they were hoopy enough to put it on their website — and because of that, if I make any changes to that post, I have to be careful not to upset its permalink. Because, as it turns out, the ‘perma’ part isn’t so permanent after all….

The not-so-permanent permalink

The construction of a permalink is pretty standard. It’s composed of various parts:

https://[domain name]/[YYYY]/[MM]/[DD]/[slug]
  • [domain name] is, well, it’s the domain name, innit?
  • year, month and day (YYYY, MM, DD) are the publication date
  • [slug] is based on the post title (with spaces replaced by hyphens, and characters that aren’t legal in a URL removed)
Screen clipping of the 'permalink' information in the WordPress editor
The permalink information can be found in the ‘Post’ section of the WordPress editor

The final permalink is allocated when the post is published. Although it is possible to change this, doing so would be unwise as you never know who, or what, may have linked to it. The WordPress Reader, for instance, is probably one of the first things to grab and use a link to a published post.

Before publication, a temporary permalink is generated while the post is being developed; and, importantly, this permalink can change.

While the post is in draft (and before it has been scheduled), the slug changes dynamically to reflect the current title.

When a post is scheduled, the slug part (only) of the permalink lives up to its name: it becomes fixed. It will no longer change dynamically, so if the title is altered it may be necessary to consider amending the slug (which then changes the permalink) to match. This is true even if you revert the post to draft. I believe this behaviour may be a bug (sorry, I mean ‘feature’), as the date portion of the permalink does still change to reflect alterations to the publication date, even on a draft that was previously scheduled.

When a draft is manually saved (by hitting the ‘Save draft’ link in the editor), any changes to the publication date (year, month, day) are reflected in the current permalink. Note that autosave doesn’t appear to do this every time (though I could be wrong about that).

It’s an unlikely scenario (one I haven’t tested), but I suspect that if the domain name were to change between scheduling and publication, the post’s URL wouldn’t reflect this change. For example, if I were to register the name ‘wibble.blog’ again, and set it as the main site address as I once did (I explained the reason why I reversed this in an earlier post), the permalink of this post would, I think, retain ‘pendantry.wordpress.com’ as the domain name.

§ A caveat: Usefully — but also confusingly if you’re not aware of it — WordPress provides the illusion of being able to actually ‘visit’ a post that’s scheduled for publication in the future; it doesn’t report a ‘404 error’ iff the post is on your account and you’re currently logged in. The Towel Day 2021 quiz post appears, for me, in my browser as though it’s live — even though there are still (currently) 91 days to go:

An image from a post that doesn't actually exist yet
Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Computers and Internet, Education, Phlyarology | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

How to quote someone else’s words in a WordPress comment

A couple of people (Sam “Goldie” Kirk and… someone else, whose comment I’m unfortunately unable to find) have asked me how I quote others’ words in WordPress comments, so I thought I’d pen a quick blogette about it.

For many years now, WordPress has allowed some HTML in comments — other systems often strip such code out to avoid abuse. To quote someone else’s words, one uses the blockquote HTML element. This is very simple to do: you start with the element’s ‘opening tag’ (‘<blockquote>’), and end the quote with the ‘ending tag’ (‘</blockquote>’), like this:

The more they overthink the plumbing, 
the easier it is to stop up the drain.

The result would look something like this:

The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

Note that the ‘ending tag’ begins with ‘</’. If you forget that forward slash symbol (as I often do!) the element isn’t closed, and everything from then on will be treated as a quote… and as site visitors can’t edit their own comments here in WordPress, it’s wise to double-check you’ve got everything right before hitting ‘send’.

If that’s interesting to you, you might also like these two posts of mine:

Posted in Communication, Computers and Internet, Education | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme, revisited

The preamble to the preamble

I spent three hours (!) this morning talking with ‘a’ WordPress Happiness Engineer, (to whom I shall refer as ‘HE’ and ‘they’, for reasons that will become apparent, should you actually make it that far; this is quite a long post — and the more I add to it, the slower editing it gets, sigh).

I learnt a lot during this live chat session.

But before I get started on that, I want to point out that I’ve had to delete yesterday’s post, which was a reblog of a post on Bear’s blog Scribblans. I don’t think that, in all the time I’ve been blogging on ‘Wibble’ (first post was in 2007, when the system was Microsoft’s ‘Live Spaces’), I’ve ever had to do that before. Link rot is the scourge of the Internet, and I try hard not to contribute to it. So to be fair to Bear, I’ll begin with the preamble I gave to that reblog, and here, up front, is a big link to it. Please visit his site: it’s well worth the trip.

Scribble: Rant –
No Variations on the Theme

The preamble

I’ve been doing a lot of ranting lately (regular visitors may have noticed that).

In my defence, I’ve been uncomfortable all this year so far. I fell over on New Year’s Day (my own silly fault, I got legless) — and cracked some ribs. They hurt like hell for a month and a half. Just as the pain from that was starting to subside, I caught an ear infection. That was just as painful in its own way (and, so far, it’s not been responding to antibiotics… I’m hoping it won’t need surgery to clear it out, as happened last time, a few years ago).

So, anyway, that’s my excuse for being extra-special curmudgeonly recently.

I’ve been looking for ways to compensate for this grouchiness. And Bear, of Scribblans fame, gave me the perfect opportunity to do something more-or-less non-cantankerous — by gifting him a repost. Of a rant, naturally :) What gave me the idea was the spiel at the very end of his post:

Thank you for visiting Scribblans today. Sorry it probably wasn’t very good. This bit of text here used to be me wittering on and effectively begging you to share the post, but I have decided not to bother with all that for 2021. Most people ignore it anyway.

Actually, his script doesn’t include a link. I added that as an experiment in inline CSS; with luck and a steady wind it’ll come out orange. If you read Bear’s post, you’ll understand. (And if it doesn’t come out orange, I’ll have no option but to edit this preamble to curse appropriately….)

The rant

OK, so, that’s what I posted yesterday. I did make that threatened edit, to add:

Grrr… the link colours are fine: what’s not fine is all the white space between the paragraphs. O.0 I feel another block editor rant brewing….

… and here we go with that rant:

Image of WordPress reblog rendering problem (far too much white space)
The broken reblog, now trashed.
White space: more is not more; it’s less.

My previous post, the (now deleted) reblog of Bear’s post, showed huge gaps between the paragraphs. The formatting rendered correctly in the block editor itself — although that didn’t include the initial snippet from Bear’s post (which also featured these enormous breaks between paragraphs). My preamble to the reblog was initially presented as a ‘Classic block’, and, as I’ve been — grudgingly — using ‘blocks’ for a while now, I chose the option to ‘Convert to blocks’, thinking that this might cure the white space problem. It didn’t. And I couldn’t revert to the original version containing the ‘Classic block’, as that had mysteriously disappeared entirely.

There was also an issue with a ‘Quote block’ in that, while it was being rendered correctly in the editor, was appearing as an indented paragraph in the published post.

These problems were clearly bugs in the current iteration of the reblog process and/or the block editor (this klunky abomination that has been foisted on the entire WordPress community without sufficient testing having been done prior to that roll-out).

And so, as I mentioned up top, I appealed to WordPress support for assistance. The Happiness Engineers have often come up with solutions to problems in the past. Not so much, however, on this occasion.

I learnt a lot during that live chat….

The terms of the WordPress ‘Personal Plan’ have changed

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 6:16 AM
Good morneve! I have another problem that I’d appreciate your help with. It’s to do with reblogs… [description of problem elided: see above]

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:19 AM
Hi there.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 6:20 AM
Hi! :)

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:20 AM
It looks like your site is on Personal plan. We currently don’t provide a live chat support for Personal plan users. However, I’m happy to take a look today and provide you some support here as an exception. Please give me a moment.

Wait, what? “… provide some support as an exception”? That’s very gracious of you in the circumstances: to wit, that my contract with you currently includes live chat support.

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:21 AM
I’m wondering if this has something to do with the theme on your site as Twenty Ten is a retired theme. Let me quickly do some test on my end.

(Note: 6:21am, HE suggests it’s a theme issue. That time gets important later.)

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:24 AM
Oh ok. It looks like you purchased the plan before the change. So you still have access to the chat support :)

So, it transpires that the terms of the WordPress ‘Personal Plan’ have changed (and I do not recall ever having been notified that this was happening). When I signed up for the two year plan, it included live chat support; something I have found to be very useful (well, most of the time). But, as it turns out, when the plan renews, I’m now going to be denied that facility unless I ‘upgrade’ to a Premium Plan.

Reblog is broken — and not just in my ‘retired’ theme§

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:35 AM
[…] as for the issue about Reblog, I have just tried to reblog the same post on my test site with our current theme. And I got almost the same gaps like this: https://d.pr/i/dnnf9s

So it looks like the issue is not on your theme. I’m having a further look now. Thanks for your patience.

(Note: 6:35am, HE agrees the problem is not due to my theme.)

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 6:51 AM
FYI. I just tried to add some paragraphs with Paragraph Blocks to my test reblogged post. And I could reproduce the issue where each paragraph creates some unnecessary gaps in between. So it looks like the issue is specific to reblogged posts. Thank you so much for reporting this. I’ll be reporting this to our relevant team. I hope it will be addressed and fixed soon.

The next hour, while I was thinking HE still had the original problem in mind, was spent examining various issues, including:

  • editor ‘visual’ view differed from the ‘preview’
  • quote block being incorrectly rendered in ‘preview’
  • disappearance of the original version of the post (after ‘Convert to blocks’)
  • inline CSS (link colour style) not being transferred on copy-paste
  • discussion about whether inline CSS should actually work on a Personal Plan
  • a digression because I somehow inadvertently opened the Firefox ‘browser inspector’
  • confirmation that Classic block made no difference

… and at the end of that HE was still working the problem:

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 8:06 AM
Time for more coffee, I think! brb

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 8:06 AM
Sure, I might take couple more mins :-)

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 8:17 AM
Still with me?

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 8:17 AM
Yep, I’m here :)

When is a HE not a HE? When it’s another HE :/

I think the most revealing thing I discovered in the course of this live chat session was that Happiness Engineers change their spots. I thought I was having a continuing conversation with a single individual, one who was trying hard to find a resolution to the original excessive white space problem on a reblog. They tried various things. Time passed; and a number of side-tracks occurred during the discussion — my fault, I guess: I do have a tendency to digress, although part of my reason for waffling was to reassure them that I was still there, patiently waiting to see if they could fix the problem.

Almost an hour after the ‘other HE’ had indicated he would need ‘a couple more mins’, there was this exchange:

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 9:00 AM
I see that you are using an old theme on the site. I’m checking if this is an issue with the theme.


Clearly ‘they’ had… suffered a memory lapse. Or something? My guess is that the other HE had ended their shift, or whatever, and had handed me over to a new HE. Now, that, I can understand. But to pretend that the change hasn’t happened is, shall we say, a tad impolite.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 9:01 AM
Uh. So you’re not the same Happiness Engineer I was talking to earlier? You may want to scroll up, we’ve already covered that it’s an old theme.

pendantry Sat, Feb 20, 9:03 AM
[Another aside: if you do swap out Happiness Engineers, some might consider it polite to announce that fact, rather than leading me to believe that I’m having a conversation with the same person.]

WP.com Sat, Feb 20, 9:04 AM
Without switching themes, the only possible way to get rid of this problem is by adding custom CSS codes. For that you would need to upgrade to Premium plan or higher.

Two hours and twenty-five minutes after agreeing that the problem was not my theme, suddenly the ‘old theme’ raises its ugly head. Again.

The conversation went rapidly downhill from there, and ended at 9:15am. Three hours of my life I’ll never get back.

And now: it is 14:12hrs; 2:12pm. I’ve spent the last five hours composing this post.

I’m getting too old for this shit.

§ The ‘Twenty Ten’ theme, which I’ve been using happily now for the last decade — it’s like an old friend to me — is now ‘retired’. I actually knew this already, from previous discussions with HEs; various issues have arisen in recent months (since the advent of the block editor, unsurprisingly), and although some have been fixed by the HEs, they have on a couple of occasions fallen back on ‘this theme is retired’ as their reason for not being able to deal with the more intractable issues.

I’ve been looking for a theme that might serve to replace ‘Twenty Ten’, and I may have found a candidate (it’s called ‘Colinear’). But I am somewhat reluctant to make the switch, as there’s no going back — and no guarantee that the bugs are actually theme-dependent in the first place (at this point I’m pretty much convinced they’re not).

Posted in ... wait, what?, Communication, Computers and Internet, illusion, Phlyarology, Reblogs | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Scribble: Rant – No Variations on the Theme, redirector

D’oh. Silly me… I unpublished this reblog post and replaced it with another due to the fact that WordPress’s reblog facility is currently broken (you need not go far for proof of that; there’s far too much white space between paragraphs here, and there’s nothing I can do about it).

In the replacement post I had a mini-side-rant on the concept of linkrot. I awoke this morning with an epiphany: “Why not republish the post with a redirection link to the new one, dummy?”§ So here ’tis. And for good measure, here ’tis again :)

It’s true that this here is an ugly post. But the fault lies with WordPress, not me, and perhaps its existence will serve to shame WordPress into fixing the flaws in the reblog feature sooner, rather than later.

Of course, the purpose of the original post was, being a reblog, to add visibility to Bear’s post on Scribblans, so here’s a link to that:

Please click me!

§ Postscript, FAO WordPress: Here’s another bug in the reblog function: the <em> element, while it is rendered in the editor, is not honoured in the published post (my ‘epiphany’ text above should be in italics, and it’s not).


Visitors to this blog yesterday would have seen the site using a new look. It’s something I had been playing with for a week or so, on and off, and I had finally decided that this was my preferred style.

In the end, I went for this Premium theme ‘Opti’, which cost £71.00. Plus points for me were that it had a clean but ‘newspaper’ type feel and gave me the opportunity to show some extra featured content on the home page without it being too overwhelmed in huge irrelevant pictures.

After all, this site is about the nonsense that I write, I have another one that is about the images I take.

So far, so good.

The theme cost me the money to purchase because I had only chosen to use the ‘Personal’ plan for my blog. That allows me to remove the adverts and use the scribblans,com domain…

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Posted in ... wait, what?, Phlyarology, Reblogs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments