All posts by Tim

Site upgrade

The chickens have come home to roost.

After not upgrading the Protozoic server for roughly five years, running an end of life version of WordPress because I couldn’t upgrade PHP, I finally had to pay the piper. Protozoic has been running WordPress since 2004, and all (well most) of the posts are stored in the database as Markdown. I chose this setup when WordPress was only about a year old and Markdown was only months old. Sounds like I had great foresight, no?

No, I did not. Apparently the Markdown plugin I’ve been using for WordPress was retired back in 2013. It took me some casting about to find a setup that worked with the way we write posts, and the way most of the posts are stored in the database. Much of our media is stored in directories, since I think they predate the WordPress Media Library. I have made an attempt to bring all that media into the library to ease future migrations at the cost of my whole Sunday.

Even our poor theme has suffered. Apparently the widgets at the bottom of the page were legacy widgets – those too have now been upgraded.

There’s a lot of link rot in those old posts and I know we are less active, but here’s to another five years. Let me know if you find any issues that I missed in the transition.

Music discovery

Somehow I missed a ton of great music in the last decade. I blame it on a couple of things:

  • The decline of radio. It got so bad that I just stopped listening around 2012. Thus it became much harder to discover new stuff that way.
  • I moved to Ohio in 2012. This is coupled with the above point. I knew of a couple non-mainstream radio stations in Philly, but the decent ones in Cleveland didn’t quite broadcast to where we lived on the far East side.
  • The rise of streaming music. I have a ton of ripped music in a carefully curated collection. When Apple Music came out, there were lots of stories of it screwing up your local library in various ways. As a result I stayed away for a long time.

As a result, I got in a rut where I was purchasing music from bands I was already aware of, but finding anything new was getting difficult. During the early pandemic, I finally finished ripping the last of my CDs in a lossless format and tagged everything right. I also bought a new drive for music backup; if anything happen I would be good.It was time to try some of the streaming services. I tried Amazon Music for a tiny bit. I tried Spotify for a bit longer and finally settled on Apple Music. We have a lot of Apple devices so it just made sense.

Long and short of it, I’ve gotten recommendations for a bunch of albums that came out in the 2010’s that are really great. I’ve added a number of new bands to the rotation. I’ll write about some of them at some point.

It’s clear each service has its own algorithm for recommendation. They suggest different bands; they also get stuck in a rut sometimes. I’m starting to branch out to some streaming radio and curated playlists to keep things fresh. I’m also playing around with We’ll see it goes.

It still blows my mind that I have access to all this music so easily. 1995 me would be so very jealous.

  1. How very 2000’s of me. 

The Wheel of Time

Roughly 30 years ago, at the age of 11 or 121, I was in the library looking for books in the fantasy/sci-fi paperback section and The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan caught my eye. I think the only reason I checked it out was because it was massive.2

Over the next decade, I continued to read the series, never quite knowing how long it was going to be or when it would be finished. In the early years, the books came out quite quickly, and I’d just read the new book. As time progressed, the cadence slowed to every other year, and I’d start to forget details in the preceding novels. I’m sure all the distractions and changes associated with highschool and college didn’t help. As a result, I would periodically have to start over from the beginning. I’ve probably read the first novel 5 or 6 times by now.

Sometime in graduate school, I decided to shelve the series and reread it from start to finish when it was all over. I’m not sure how far I actually read; I own the 10th and 11th books, but do not recall reading them. My copy of the 10th book doesn’t even have a cracked binding.3 Around this time, Jordan became terminally ill and passed away before finishing the “final” novel. Another author was chosen to work from Jordan’s notes and finish the series, though it was understandably delayed for a few years.

It must have registered at some level that it was finally completed in 2013, but, I guess time got away from me. A lot has gone in the last 8 years, and I never got around to picking up the series again. Recently, I decided to finally read the whole thing from start to finish. Approximately 270 hrs of reading later, I am now done.

Ravens chapter header image from the book

It’s a bit strange to finally be done with it. I have been reading this series more or less since I was 11–I’ve been carrying it with me most of my life. It’s always been there as this thing I’m reading, either actively or passively. I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the reading of it straight through. I loved the series when I was younger, and for the most part, it holds up. It will always hold a special and unique place for me, due to how it bridged so many different parts of my life. I’ll never be able to start another series at the age of 12, only to finish 30 years later…

Now, I’m not saying the books are all amazing or everything in them is perfect. In one of the volumes around the fifth,4 some of the characters, descriptions, and phrasing get a little monotonous. The story remains good though, and things smooth out in the next book or two. They can also be a bit verbose in certain places as well–who would expect that in a series that spans 14 novels?

On the other hand, the first few books are really good. I remember Mike taking the first novel on a trip to England one summer and loving it so much that he had to purchase the second volume overseas to continue reading. He was too impatient to wait the two weeks to come back home and read the copy we had there. This is the same person who leaves bookmarks in unfinished books like a squirrel burying acorns before winter.

Another quality of the series that was mostly lost on me is Jordan’s weaving of many bits of myths and legends into the world and storyline. One very obvious allusion is Callandor (the Sword That Is Not a Sword), which happens to reside in a fortress called… the Stone.

Callandor resides within the Stone of Tear at its heart, just as the sword which Arthur first draws resides within the heart of a stone, and just as Excalibur resides within a lake which surrounds the heartstone of Avalon. Excalibur was returned to the lake after the battle of Camlann, and Callandor is apparently left behind in the Pit of Doom (formerly a lake of lava) after the Bore is sealed.

The Thirteenth Depository

Details like this make for a very rich reading outside of the face value entertainment value. It goes much deeper than a simple retelling of Arthurian legend. Much, much deeper.

It is kind of amazing that the story is captivating or coherent at all. After all, this work spans almost 12,000 pages and over 4.4 million words. Is it a bit derivative of Tolkien? Sure. Is everything perfect in it? No. But it is still very enjoyable, and I’m glad to have finally finished it.

Wheel and Great Serpent  chapter header image from the book

  1. I can’t remember if this was 1990 or a year or two later, so I was probably about 12 at the time. The book was definitely the mass market paper back version, which came out at the end of 1990. If I recall correctly, our library didn’t keep paperbacks like this on the little carousel racks forever, so it was probably early 1991. 
  2. About 800 pages. 
  3. On the other hand, my copy of The Eye of the World is absolutely tattered. 
  4. It was one of the books between #4 and #6. Also, Jordan goes a little heavy on “bosoms” and the phrase “plumply pretty”. 

July 4th, 2014

As I stated in the July 4th, 2015 post, here are all the photos from July 4th, 2014.

Looks like we did the normal thing 7 years ago. Ate crabs, etc. We also made Maryland Beaten Biscuits. I used to eat those growing up and hadn’t had them probably since college. Now I haven’t had them since we made them in 2014. Maybe this year we can make them again. Hopefully we can get together this year. We did get together this year and we did not make them.

Tom also brought a drone. I don’t think we got it stuck in a tree.

Pictures (mostly of Poot) from this year will be uploaded in the coming weeks on a daily basis.

Click on the picture to go to the flickr album.

July 4th, 2015

Nothing like 6 years late on this! Here are a few pictures from July 4th, 2015. Finally got around to developing and scanning a bunch of old film. Many more pictures from July 4th, 2014 will follow at some point.

Click on the picture to go to the (


Bird strike

Approximately 47 years ago, back in May of 2020, during the ‘early days’ of the pandemic, we had a bird strike. This was the most exciting thing that happened that week—most definitely the most exciting thing for the cats.

I noticed a small bird on our 2nd floor balcony. We called the local Dept. of Natural Resources, who informed us that we should let the bird sit for about an hour. They usually recover in that time period. If not, chances were slim that the bird would survive. They also gave us some locations we could take the bird to if it needed some sort of care, though the guy asked what type of bird it was. His reasoning was that if it was a nuisance species, whatever bird sanctuary we took it too would probably kill it. Merlin Bird identified it as a Brown Creeper.

We decided to let birdo sit on the deck, and sure enough, about an hour later, it started moving around. It hopped across the decking a bit, pooped, and then decided to scale the screen door. When it started to move, the cats noticed it. They lost it. It was quite humorous, as both cats wanted to get the bird, but when Neutron got too close to Alice, Alice would swat Neutron, and Neutron would get offended that she didn’t have unfettered access to the window to watch the bird.

The bird rested on the screen a bit, pooped again, and then flew off.

Turd on the Run

Sometimes it amazes me that one of the biggest rock and roll bands of all time, The Rolling Stones, on one of their definitive albums, Exile on Main St., released a song called Turd on the Run.

Turd on the Run

I guess I should not be surprised that in the 48 years that have passed since that song was released, it has never been played live on tour.

Addendum: A cactus story

I recently wrote a brief history of a cactus I own. There were two more pictures of the cactus during and immediately after the repotting process that I just found. I have updated the original post, but for those who don’t want to reread it to look at the two new pictures, they are below.

First up is the main cactus and the small cutting removed from the pot. The main cactus was replanted up to the top of the brown part on the base.

This the cactus pup, not shown above, immediately after planting. It was always very green, but at first it was very shriveled.

A cactus story

I have a cactus that I got some time ago. I think it came from our house in Salisbury, possibly from Dad’s office when he was still working. That part I am unsure of. This is possibly an early sighting of it from 2005 when it was still in Salisbury.

At some point, it moved in with me while I was living in the Philadelphia area. Here is a shot of it on the windowsill (2012), about 8 months before I moved from Pennsylvania. It looks very green, nice and healthy.

I don’t have many pictures of it in the intervening years. I did not intend to document the life and times of a cactus. It moved with me to Ohio, and then again to our house in Cleveland. At some point, it started to get a bit yellow at spots. You can’t see it in this photo, but it had started around this time (2016).1

The cactus continued to look worse and worse over the next 2-3 years. I didn’t know what to do. I continued to water it to no avail. Finally, I looked up how to repot and transplant cactuses. I then proceeded to wait a few more months to do anything before I finally took action. Here is what the cactus looked like at that point in time, one year ago in 2019.

Notice how most of it is dead. There was a quadrant of it that was still yellowish-green, and a tiny cactus pup on one of the rightmost stalks that was still green. It’s also a bit hard to see, but one of the yellowish-green stalks on the left had been broken, but it was still alive. It was time for surgery.

Upon removing the cactus from the pot, I realized it was originally 3 cuttings. Two had completely died except for the little cactus pup—he got cut off. The remaining original cutting was cleaned and set aside. The broken nub was also cut off. You are supposed to let the cuttings callous and dry out for a few weeks before repotting, so that was what I did. I didn’t expect any of them to make it. The cactus pup was only about 1/2″ long, the little cut knob was maybe 1″, and the main cutting didn’t look great.

Here is the main cactus and the small cutting removed from the pot. The main cactus was replanted up to the top of the brown part on the base.

This the cactus pup, not shown above, immediately after planting. It was always very green, but also very shriveled.

Nothing really happened for about 6–8 weeks. Then they slowly started to get greener. The main cutting was first as it had already had developed roots. Then surprisingly the little cactus pup started to plump up and get a little taller. The following two pictures are from about 2 months after repotting. The other small cutting took a bit longer, but also started to turn greener and plumper.

By the end of the year, 6 months after repotting, everything was looking really great. The original cactus was growing new nubs, the cactus pup (in the center) was actually bigger than the cutting that was originally twice its size, and the cutting (on the right) was coming along nicely as well.

I’m sure they have more to grow. As they stand now, the originally cactus is about 8″ tall, the 1/2″ cactus pup is now 4″ (in the middle again), and the cutting is about 2.5″. They all have new nubs growing off of them. It’s quite amazing.


I found two more pictures of the cactus and have inserted them into this post. The changes are summarized in the addendum.

  1. Yes, those are the same succulents to the left of the cat that are in the previous photo as well. They are still alive and kicking. 

Shaving: Pt. 4 – the final chapter?

Several years ago, Mike made the comment that since our dad had a beard, the instruction on shaving when we were younger was slightly lacking. He wanted me to write something about it. We ended up writing a few posts on it: part 1, part 2, and part 3.

It was a somewhat timely discussion as I had grown tired of shaving with the Mach 3 and switched over to an old Sensor Excel. As I chronicled in part 1 and part 3, the blades became hard to get and I had to move to the disposable version.

Shortly thereafter, Mike got me a double bladed safety razor with a assortment of blades. During the government shutdown of 2019, I taught myself to shave with it (very few cuts!), and settled on which blades I like. I’m here to report that while it does take a tiny bit longer to shave with one of these, and I still need to keep the disposables around for when I travel, the double bladed safety razor is far superior for me than standard cartridge razors.

For what it’s worth, the blades I decided to keep around the house are Gillette Platinums, Bic Chrome Platinums, and Feather Hi-Stainless. The Feathers are the most expensive, but can be a bit harsh if you aren’t careful. The Gillette blades might be a tiny bit nicer than the Bic’s, but I alternate between the two without really noticing any difference. I have to be a bit more careful with the Feathers.

I toss a blade after 6 shaves, 3 uses per side. I shave every other day, so a blade lasts 12 days. I could easily go longer as I notice no specific degradation after 6 uses. The Feather blades were $25 (including shipping) for 100 blades. The Gillettes were $16/100 and the Bics were $14/100. They really are cheap. ebay is where I purchased them all.

Lastly, I like the basic pre-shave cream and soap that Mike got me, the Proraso. I’ve tried the green and the white, and they are both nice. The alum block irritated my skin, so I stopped using it.

At some point, I’ll buy 1000 blades or so, and be set for the rest of my life.