On making a difference

I believe that most of us genuinely want to make a difference in this world. But we become overwhelmed. We see how big the task is before us, we become very aware of our own limitations and inadequacies, and we lose our nerve. We remember the pain of the last time we failed, the last time our work didn’t have the desired effect, the last time we were betrayed, and we shy away from taking the risk – we don’t want to feel that again.

This morning I was reminded that that isn’t an excuse.

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All men must die

Did you watch the first episode of Game of Thrones last night? Apparently it was already available on Saturday afternoon, along with episodes two, three and four. That’ll teach HBO to send advance copies to reviewers. According to TorrentFreak the first episode was downloaded over a million times during the first eighteen hours. So much for trying to keep anything secret in the digital age.

In 2012 Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia released a public service announcement in the form of a little animated video and song, titled Dumb Ways To Die. The video went viral on social media (in two years it has had over one hundred million views on YouTube), spawned a mobile game, and even yours truly have used it in a piece of short fiction.

The video has also inspired numerous parodies, the latest one featuring Game of Thrones which is, frankly, filled with dumb (or at least gruesome) ways to die. They have kept the words of the original, but the video depicts all of the most memorable deaths of the series thus far.

Spoiler alert: Don’t watch this if you haven’t yet watched season four/read A Feast for Crows. (And for goodness sake, stay away from the comments!)

On being betrayed

I hate my body. It’s an untrustworthy piece of rubbish that turns against me the moment I try doing something nice for it. Here I am, trying to get fit and stay healthy, and all it rewards me with is pain.

About a year ago I wrote how I started running. For those of you who missed it, an elliptical trainer gave me false confidence regarding my physical fitness, resulting in a painful case of shin splints when I actually took to the road. That eventually cleared up, and I managed a few more runs. Then winter arrived with  bang, I got a cold, I stopped running, and didn’t start again. I did keep up with other exercise, but not running.

Then, a few weeks ago, I actually felt like running. We had a bout of late-afternoon load shedding (the reason we don’t have to participate in Earth Hour in South Africa – government switches the lights off for us on a weekly basis) so I couldn’t use the computer, I didn’t feel like reading, and the urge to run simply overwhelmed me. This isn’t something that normally happens to me (I regularly amuse myself with quoting Proverbs 28:1 at runners: “The wicked man runs away when no one is chasing him…”) so I dusted off my running shoes and hit the road.

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O, yeah. April Fool!

Aside

I want to apologise for not having a fitting offering for April Fools this year. I’ve been trying to think of something since last week, but the perfect idea only hit me this afternoon, way too late to implement it. I’ll tell you this: next year’s April Fools will be legen…wait for it…

Instead, I’ll point you to the latest “improvement” devised by the…good people running WordPress.com, the AutoMatton.

I know this is just a joke, but I can’t help thinking the only reason they haven’t yet implemented something like this is cause they haven’t yet figured out how. And the “quote” by our esteemed WordPress co-founder and overlord merely reminded me of a comment left by one frustrated user at one point in one of the many, many Beep Beep Boop complaint threads in the support forum, regarding the aforementioned Blog King’s personal blogging habits.

Let me say no more, but snigger quietly in the background.

(Closing comments on this one, as I don’t feel like starting another conversation about the BBB editor. Been there. Done that.)

On reading the Discworld…

I’ve been in a reading slump lately. Ever since I finished Terry Pratchett’s Jingo around Christmas last year I’ve been reading only non-fiction, and slowly at that (I started a book on Quantum Theory a month ago, and am not even halfway with it yet). Among all the novels on my shelves I just couldn’t find anything I felt like reading.

Then Sir Terry died, and the next day I got Dodger at half price. I finished it on Friday (review to come), and picked up Mort (with which I’m almost done). I’ve decided to make my way through the whole Discworld again, or at least through those titles I already own, which brings up the question of which order to read them in.

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On how WordPress.com made me hate Star Wars

Beep Beep Boop loading screen for WordPress.com editor

Even frozen in time it’s irritating

Okay, perhaps not the entire Star Wars franchise, but ever since that Beep Beep Boop travesty has been foisted on us I fly into a murderous rage whenever R2D2 starts beeping.

I really don’t like the new editor. It’s missing a bunch of functions I use regularly, it’s riddled with bugs, and it’s completely removed from the rest of my dashboard. In spite of constant complaints by numerous people in the forums, myself included, over the months since the new editor became the default option for creating new posts, staff keep insisting that the new editor is an improvement on what is now known as the classic editor. (They use the same line for the new stats page that’s lacking half the information contained on the old one and the My Sites page which is missing a significant number of functions available on the WP-Admin dashboard.)

Read on if you want to know how to avoid the Beep Beep Boop

Sir Terry lives on…

Over time in the Discworld novels, the inhabitants of the Disc came up with a long-distance communications method called “the clacks” – a cross between the telegraph and semaphore. Initially they’re only used in Anhk-Morpork, and mostly by the Watch, but soon there are towers all across the land conveying messages between cities and countries.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Cover illustration: Paul Kidby
Publisher: http://www.transworldbooks.co.uk

In Going Postal we learn that the clacks have something called “overhead”, meta-data, of sorts, for the messages being sent, not unlike the header data contained in emails or web pages which doesn’t appear on the screen, but which contains important instructions on how the page should be displayed. When one character questions the presence of a name in the overhead, another tells her it is the name of an operator who was killed. A code is transmitted with his name, ensuring that it will always be sent on to the next tower, for “A man’s not dead while his name is still spoken”.

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A Pratchett Memorial Book Haul

Yesterday the wife and I headed to the neighbouring town, as she was in need of some clothes and it has the only mall within eighty kilometres. Also the only bookshop. Yeah, I know.

I was browsing the shelves, not looking for anything in particular, and as is my wont I gravitated towards the fantasy section. This particular chain has never heard or either Jim Butcher or Neil Gaiman, but they often have significant markdowns on the titles they do stock, and I was pleasantly surprised to find not one, but two of Terry Pratchett’s more recent publications at half the regular price. Considering the great man’s passing this week, I took it as a sign.

The Long War and Dodger book covers

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter and Dodger by Terry Pratchett

I also picked up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s not a Pratchett, but I’ve seen many references to this novel online, it looks like a fun read, and it was also half-price, so why not?

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

As I’m feeling all melancholic at present, I think I’ll be putting my current read (a non-fiction book on Quantum Theory) aside for now and first read Dodger.

While we’re talking about reading, head on over to The Book Notes Project for a fun questionnaire on what you’re reading at the moment.

They transplanted what!?

Warning: I strongly advise sensitive readers to skip this one.

South Africa has always been considered a world leader in transplant surgery, ever since Doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant in the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in 1967. Apparently we’ve made history in this field once again…

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Rest In Peace, Sir Terry

Sir Terry Pratchett, cropped from cover of A Blink of the ScreenPeople often talk about how they remember what they were doing when they heard the news of some or other historical event. I will probably always remember that I was washing the dishes when my phone beeped with the email from Penguin Random House carrying the news that Sir Terry Pratchett has passed away.

While Guards! Guards! was the first Discworld novel I ever read, my first Pratchett was Diggers, the second instalment of the Nomes Trilogy. Shortly after those two a friend told me about The Carpet People. And I was hooked on Terry Pratchett.

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