Almost a Winter Wonderland

I’ve complained often enough about the lack of snow in January, so I really should acknowledge that we actually did see some yesterday. What’s more, it has survived the night and is still visible today.

Apparently, between 2 and 8cm of snow fell across the country yesterday. While we’re very much at the 2cm end of that range, any snow is better than no snow.

It’s a toasty 5°C as I type this, so the snow isn’t going to last long. But it was glistening quite nicely when I went for a walk.

Quote of the day: After the meltdown, the climbdown

Trump’s attack on Congress was an attack on America and all who hold its values dear. It was a desperate bid to cling to power by a weak, ignorant and selfish demagogue who has shown himself an enemy of democracy, a friend to tyrants and unfit to be president. When he belatedly realised, amid near-universal condemnation, that he had crossed a line, he caved and cravenly disowned his own supporters.

From The Observer view on Donald Trump’s assault on US democracy.

Also worth a read is John Scalzi’s post, But What If We Didn’t, which looks at the way that the Republican party’s deliberate and consistent abuse of the country’s constitution has led directly to the rise of Trump and the events of last week.

Much has been said about what happens next but, for me, I don’t think the US will be able to seriously describe itself as a functioning democracy until the Republican party finally collapses. Once that happens, the Democratic party would be able to split into the centre-right and centre-left parties it clearly want’s to be, rather than the uneasy coalition of the sane that it currently is.

But let’s not pretend that these authoritarian impulses are a particularly American thing. In Britain, Johnson, Gove and the rest of the Conservative party have spent the past four years fawning over Trump. They are trying to back away now, but it shouldn’t be forgotten just how much they embraced Trump and what he stood for.

Elsewhere, there’s Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Andrzej Duda in Poland and others.

Democracy only works when those in power are willing to embrace democratic norms. This is something we should never forget.

January

The weather forecast keeps promising snow, and the snow keeps on refusing to turn up. So, this morning, I took the photo at the top of this post with the intention of saying that it almost felt like spring.

And then it started to hail.

Synchronize Your Dogmas #6

After a bit of a hiatus, the weekly link dump is back, with a collection of posts and articles that are all worth a look.

As yet another third world country struggles with its experiment in democracy, David Allen Green looks at the contest between violent populism and constitutionalism – and why it was not inevitable that yesterday’s attempted coup in the United States would fail.

Alex Woodie looks at The Benefits Of Endless Modernization. I was surprised to see that replacing a software application and starting from scratch had a 26 percent success rate — I expected it to be much lower.

Yvette d’Entremont explains Herd Immunity and why it isn’t a viable approach to beating an active pandemic with a large swath of at risk people.

“It might be no accident that our worst PMs disproportionately attended private school”. Chris Dillow on bad government.

And finally. If you’re a WhatsApp user, you’ll have to share your personal data with Facebook’s empire from next month – or stop using the chat app.

Mageia

Back in the mists of time we acquired a second-hand laptop and I installed DouDouLinux on it.This is a Linux distribution aimed at young children and it does achieve its aim of enabling young children to find their way around a PC without needing constant parental supervision. But time moves on and the boys are older, all have their own laptops now and the old laptop hasn’t been looked at for a couple of years.

So, over the holiday period, I started looking around for a distribution that still supported 32 bit architectures and discovered that Mageia still has a 32 bit edition which I immediately downloaded. It’s rather nice.

As with many — probably most — Linux distributions these days, the installer is graphical and takes you through the installation process quite painlessly. The only choice I really had to make was for the desktop environment, which was easy for me because I always go for Gnome. Once everything is installed, you are led through a configuration process which involves setting a root password and a main user profile, and then clicking through and accepting all of the defaults.

The installer is a little different to ones I am more used to, but it all proved to be a very painless process and one that worked well.

Many distributions now are providing a welcome screen when you boot your PC and Mageia is no exception. In this case, it’s reasonably nicely done and provides an easy way to quickly find your way around the operating system. Of course, once you have finished looking around this screen, it’s easy to disable by simply unchecking a box.

Mageia comes with a wide selection of applications that cover all of the obvious uses, and then some. While I can see that having everything available as soon as you start is useful, I have picked up my own preferences which I keep falling back to. So, helpful as all this software is, I know that I will end up replacing it with the applications I’m already used to.

And then there’s the Mageia Control Centre. This handily brings all of your administration tools together into a single application and is something about which I am still a bit ambivalent. One one hand, I can see that having everything managed by a single application is convenient. On the other hand, I have gotten used to doing things differently and, for me, the control centre feels a bit like reinventing the wheel. This is all down to personal preference, though, and I strongly suspect that, if Mageia had been the first distribution I had used, I would think it’s wonderful.

In fact, the only real gripe I have is that I had to tell the control centre not to look for CDs when doing updates. And this took all of one click.

Overall, Mageia strikes me as a solid, if unspectacular, operating system with several helpful touches. More importantly, it has helped me to revive a very old laptop.

Now all I need to do is figure out what I want to do with it.

In 2020 I was mostly listening to…

Reel Big Fish, according to Last.fm which has counted up all of the tracks I’ve scrobbled over the year in order to tell me where my tastes have been over the course of the past year.

The Album I have most listened to has been Life Sucks… Let’s Dance by! the same band which, and I hadn’t really thought of it before, does sum up the year remarkably well.

The song I have listened to most, though, goes all the way back to 1997 with Save Ferris‘ cover of the Dexys Midnight Runners song, Come on Eileen.

So here it is.

Lightly Seared in 2020

It’s nearly the end of the year, so now seems to be as good a time as any to take a look back at 2020. Looking back at the most popular posts that were actually written in 2020, and then excluding all of the ones that were just a link (or collection of links), I have come up with the following arbitrary selection of the best of the blog.

First up, and the most popular post written this year is Life’s too short for bad books in which I face the realisation that acquiring freebies gets in the way of buying books I actually want to read.

It appears that there are a fair few coffee drinkers looking at this site. The second most popular post is the one about my (not so new anymore) Aeropress. I’m still using it — a lot — and am probably now drinking even more coffee than I used to.

It being 2020, the Coronavirus can’t be ignored and nor can some of the absurdities that cropped up as various rules and restrictions conflicted with each other. Like this Spanish edition which revolves around working and cycling.

Surprisingly, since it was only written four weeks ago, my experience with Scratch comes in at number four.

Belgium held federal elections in 2019 and the coalition negotiations continued into 2020. Long into 2020. And in August, the country broke the record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government.

The sixth most popular post on this site this year was Dead animal disposal. And I was slightly surprised that The sound of solitude, which wasn’t really about anything (I was trying to maintain a streak at the time), was the seventh most popular post on the site.

Oops is the amusing tale of backfiring public-spiritedness and number six in on-site popularity terms.

2020 was the year in which I started taking a camera with me when going for a walk. The photo I took of a Speckled Wood butterfly comes in at number nine.

All the way back in February, I talked about The Prisoner episode Hammer Into Anvil. In April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. In November I went Back to work. In October, we had a laptop disaster and an emergency upgrade.

I have been ranting about Brexit — on and off — for most of the year, but it wasn’t until December and the post Brexit Hell that anyone started reading any of these posts. That said, A classic of the genre, which was about Brexiters, was only slightly less popular.

And finally, Not a dragonfly was about a damselfly.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

So, 2020. It’s been quite a year and it’s still not (quite) over. And, with this being the first year for a long time that we will be spending at home, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no last-minute packing to do, no long journeys to worry about and all of the presents are already under the tree.

So all that remains is for me to open a bottle, pour myself a drink and wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.