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w/e 2023-01-01

Happy New Year, bloggers and blog readers and search engine bots.

§ I was planning on the past week being a holiday, with lots of idling and reading but inevitably there was a bit more computing than anticipated, doing the final bits of setting up Pepys’ various incarnations for today’s re-launch for the third time around.

My hope that I could just change one configuration for the tweets and Mastodon posts was too optimistic, with the Redis database on Heroku having disappeared since May for some reason. But half an hour of swearing later he was back up and running with one minute to spare before his scheduled first post of this new diary decade.

I think the website will in fact “just work” with a single configuration change (changing 353 to 363) which, in turn means the RSS feed will work, which will mean the new daily email list at Buttondown will also work. 🤞 “Small pieces loosely-joined”… so long as they are all actually joined and functioning correctly.

A couple of weeks back I wondered about setting up a Patreon or something for my projects. Since then I’ve set up a Ko-fi page solely for funding Pepys, which has gone surprisingly well – my costs are definitely covered and, while one shouldn’t think of money as the sole indicator of value, it is a lovely and humbling feeling when people are happy to send you a few, or a lot of, dollars for something you’ve made for free.

Ko-fi seems pretty good, flexible, and friendly. I went with allowing one-off payments or monthly subscriptions, on a pay-what-you-like basis. I avoided the optional monthly membership tiers because I don’t have a range of different benefits to offer. Payments go direct from Ko-fi to Stripe and, a few days later, minus Stripe’s fee, into your bank account.

I also started setting up a Patreon page, as another experiment, this one geared towareds “all my projects” instead of just one. But I wasn’t enamoured of it. First, you can’t finish setting up things like payments until after you’ve made your page public. And I was surprised that it seemed less simple than Ko-fi payments-wise. As a UK limited company, I’d have had to set up an account with some third-party site I’ve never heard of which, along with the steep Patreon fees, stopped me in my tracks.

So for now, I’ll stick with the one Ko-fi page for Pepys and see how that goes for a while. Maybe I’d make other project-specific Ko-fi (or other) pages in the future. Or try an “all my projects” one somewhere. Either way, this feels like a positive start to the year so far.

§ I finished a book this week, The Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnell, which seems to be MetaFilter’s favourite book about having a dog. There was a lot of fascinating stuff about how to behave around dogs, and how to teach them certain things, which was new to me – I’ve never owned a dog but I’ve watched quite a lot of YouTube and TikTok videos about dog training. Like: if you want a dog to come to you, don’t step towards it as you call, walk away from it. If you walk towards it, it’ll think you want to chase after it. You want it to chase after (come towards) you.

There was also more general stuff, backing up the advice, about humans and animals. She did a research project looking at how people in different countries, with different languages, communicate with various animals. They universally use short, quick, repeated words or sounds to encourage an animal – like, to make it go faster – and short, calm, deeper words or sounds to stop a behaviour – think “woooahhh” to stop a horse. So, the lesson from that is, don’t try to get your dog to stop running by repeatedly shouting “stop! stop! stop!” at it.

Some of it got too far away from the practical advice I was looking for, as a possible future dog owner, so I skimmed quite a bit of the latter parts of the book. But still, recommended if you’re after what seems to me like sensible advice about having a pleasant time with dogs.

§ We watched the Christmas special of Ghosts (on iPlayer), which was as fun as usual, and the non-Christmas special of Detectorists (iPlayer) which, while lovely, didn’t feel quite as good as it once was although it did pick up at the end.

A while back we finished watching Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey which was wonderful and inspiring. This week we watched the 2021 follow-up episode The Story of Film: A New Generation (on Netflix) which was also good, although it became less interesting towards the end.

§ We also watched the third season of His Dark Materials (on iPlayer) (the books of which I haven’t read). Despite the brief recap I was never entirely sure what the various factions were, what they were trying to do, or why. It was all very high stakes – the entire multiverse was at risk of something! – but, as with Doctor Who, the massive crisis felt too remote for me to really care about the outcome. It’s only the human-level drama that was occasionally interesting: Lyra and Will by the end, realising Asriel isn’t much of a hero and is actually a massive, privileged, selfish Elon Musk-style dick and wishing him ill, etc.

I don’t think it helps that I never had any sense of where anything was happening. Is this location a few miles from that one? Or hundreds of miles? Thousands? Is it even in the same world or universe? I guess it’s “magic” that the people looking for each other manage to enter entirely new worlds only a walk away from their goal. But it does make it feel like the battle for the entire multiverse is taking place within a single county.

And it is an odd multiverse. Almost everyone speaks in a middle or upper-ish class southern English accent, in perfectly-formed sentences, which, alongside the child-friendliness (there is violence and death but no blood, never mind gore), gives it a slightly dated “classic BBC drama” feel, like it was actually made in the 1980s and has been spruced up with modern effects.

And they are good effects. It doesn’t seem that many years ago when any one of the special effects would have resulted in amazed coverage everywhere, but now it’s easy to barely notice how impressive it all is. The vast landscapes, altered and imagined cities, angels and monsters materialising or leaping and flying in, (mostly) realistic talking animals. It looks great, I just didn’t feel that involved.

§ That’s all. Have a good first week of 2023.

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