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.

Over the past twenty or so years I have spent many hours in the pages of his books, reading and re-reading, until I forgot where I was and instead just disappeared into the wondrous world he’d created. His novels have made me cry, have swept me up in a rush of adventure, and have made me laugh so hard I couldn’t find my breath. I can say without hesitation that among all my favourites, he is my favourite author of all (is, for his work lives on). I owe my love for Science Fiction and Fantasy mostly to him, and I like to think the first sparks of my desire to write were also ignited by his stories.

I got goosebumps the first time I read Reaper Man and saw death walk up a hill to hone his scythe’s blade on the first ray of the rising sun and was alternately dumbstruck and in hysterics as I made my way through Thief of Time. As mentioned before, I consider Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes two of the greatest characters ever written, but really, he didn’t create a single character who wasn’t exceptional in their own way, just like people here on Roundworld. And I will never cease to be astounded at how he managed to teach us so much about our own world through a fantastical disc balanced on the backs of four elephants, riding on a giant turtle as it swims across the galaxy.

Personal collection of Terry Pratchett books

I don’t own them all yet, but one day…

Everyone is talking of what a loss his passing is to the world of literature, and a loss it is. But let us also remember what a gift he was: all the books he leaves behind for us to enjoy and enjoy again, the countless lives he touched through his stories and his work in supporting research and raising awareness for Alzheimer’s. Yes, he will be missed. But I hope he was able to leave with knowledge of a job well done.

I think his own Twitter account describes his journey’s end best:

It appears the Terry Pratchett website is down at present – probably due to a high volume of traffic – so I’ll update tomorrow with links to the titles mentioned in this post.

A Grammar What? Part 2

Following up on yesterday’s post, if we don’t call someone who is strict about grammar a “Grammar Nazi”, what do we call them?

If you have other suggestions, feel free to add them below. (Bet you can’t guess which one is my favourite ;-) )

A Grammar What?

A few weeks ago, on an online writer’s forum, a user posted a request for a “Grammar Nazi” to beta read their manuscript. I knew what they meant. They wanted someone with a sharp eye, a good grasp of grammar and a brutal approach to editing to specifically check for language errors in their writing. However, I did not expect the response this poor user’s post evoked.

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Speaking of commas…

As she was busy making us some sandwiches for dinner the wife asked me, “What’s an Oxford comma?” This, of course, in reference to my closing lines in yesterday’s post. To her great consternation I burst out in laughter, not because I thought the question silly (two years ago I did not know of the Oxford comma, and I’d taught high school English for five years), but because at that moment I was reading a rather entertaining discussion of the serial comma (to use it’s more humble name) by Mary Norris, Comma Queen and copy editor at The New Yorker.

Holy Writ is a long read, but very much worth it. Thanks to R.A.B. over at You Knew What I Meant for sharing this.

Also, four for four. I’ve no idea what’s going on this week. I appear to be slipping back into my blogging habits from back when I started out. Let’s see how long I can keep it up. Tomorrow there will be a quiz (unless there isn’t ;-) )

Happy Grammar Day

Three posts in three days. I know, right? Better not make this a habit. But how could I let National (not my nation, but who cares?) Grammar Day pass without a tip of the proverbial hat? Especially after coming across this totally cool grammar quiz on the Grammarly Blog via Grammar Girl’s Twitter feed? (Goodness! I’ll stop typing “grammar” now. Okay, a couple more times: grammar; grammar. I’m done now. Promise.)

I lied. I’m not done. But you need to click here to see the rest.

One of a kind

My country is messed up. Our rivers run bright green with sewage (I would know – I live next to one), you can seriously damage your car if you hit a patch of asphalt between all the potholes in the road, we have a president that makes Nixon look like a boy scout but keeps getting away with it, and a few weeks ago we managed to break democracy when half the opposition was thrown out and the other half walked out during the State of the Nation address.

But at the same time we have an amazing country with amazing people.

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