Ian's Comment

book cover

Over the last two years or so, I've made some pretty fundamental changes to my life priorities: what I spend my time on, and what I avoid. I'll have more to say about this in future articles (these changes have transformed my life for the better, so are worth discussing), but one of the biggest is the drastic reduction in time-wasting activities that used to leech away my life. The usual suspects: social networks1, video streaming, video games and aimless web browsing all had to go. Not completely in some cases, but by at least 90% in all of them. These are all things that I'm sure many of us tend to allow to control our lives, a kind of default time-filler for want of the wherewithal to do something worthwhile.

I've even cancelled all my magazine subscriptions, freeing up time to start reading actual books again. My knowledge of current events will undoubtedly greatly decrease, but frankly I no longer care; I want to focus on a few genuine interests at a deeper level, and I don't see why it's important whether or not I have a detailed understanding of (for example) the strategic implications of China's nuclear policy, or the extent of the parallels between the geopolitics of the 1930s and today. There's nothing I can do about these things2 (professionally or personally), and they serve only to increase my anxiety.


On the previous platform that hosted my writing, Silvrback, comments were available by linking a Disqus account.

I've now moved over to write.as, and just about the only feature I was using on Silvrback that they don't have here is commenting (at least, not yet). As I was considering the switch, this initially gave me pause, but as I thought about it more I realized that, firstly, considering the very infrequent posting and thus tiny readership that I had commenting was in any case pretty much moot; and, secondly, in order to reduce spam, comment systems need to present some kind of barriers to commenting, all of which are an annoyance either to the commenter, the blog owner, or both.

Furthermore, as anyone who's read just about any comment forum anywhere on the web can attest, another big problem with commenting is the very small signal/noise ratio. Low-quality comments are easy and therefore ubiquitous, a problem that increases in direct proportion to a website's popularity. Genuinely high-quality, original and insightful comments, that actually add value to a discussion, are much more difficult, and thus far less common.


the United States' 2017 total solar eclipse

Note: This article was first published on 15th August 2017. I've republished it here, followed by a brief update.

On 21st August, 2017, across a narrow band of land from Oregon to South Carolina, the summer will briefly be interrupted. The sky will dramatically darken, revealing bright stars and planets, the temperature will drop and any summer breeze will die away. Even birds and insects will fall silent. This will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States since 1979; the next two after this will be in 2024 and 2045.

Most of us have seen a lunar eclipse, when the Moon is obscured by Earth's shadow. A solar eclipse is very different; much rarer and far more spectacular. In this case, it is the Sun that is obscured by the Moon.

lunar versus solar A comparison between a lunar and a solar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon passes into the shadow cast by Earth. A solar eclipse occurs at New Moon, when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon's shadow is cast on Earth's surface. Note: image not to scale.


an enhanced card game for the new meleenium

This is a modified version of classic Dig, which itself is a descendant of the game Crazy Eights and is played in obscure parts of Lancashire, England.

The object of the game is to play all your cards onto the discard pile, primarily by matching the suit or rank of the top discard. A standard 52-card pack is used, ranking from 2 up to Ace. Several cards have special powers, which are described below.


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