Rules to live by

Okay… not so much rules, definitely not laws. Principles in name only. But there are some truisms that stand the test of time.

Hello! Have you missed me?

Sorry for not writing sooner, but I have been a bit busy and a bit preoccupied. No, I don’t have a job. Frankly, there’s more chance of me contracting coronavirus. But I have been doing some electronic sorting-out.

You might recall that I said in a throwaway footnote to a previous thought that I’d finally acquired garytaylor.uk. Well, now begins the long process of transferring everything over – bearing in mind that the .xyz domain won’t expire until next Valentine’s Day.

Replacement email addresses have been set up, with the old ones forwarding. New subdomains for the family tree and maps sites are working (ish). That just leaves this web site.

For which, I have decided to go the whole hog. The site was started almost 14 years ago, and WordPress has changed quite a bit since then. We have the block editor now, but there’s no built-in method of converting all the old content into the new format – and even if there was, you’d have to check each one out to ensure nothing had gang aft aglay.

Constant chopping and changing of plugins and themes has an effect on the database as well. The id for this post is 51,390 but it’s only the 370th actual post. Even allowing for other database items such as images and menu items, that’s quite high.

Rule(s) of thumb(s)

As for the theme; there was something I wanted to do with it. Merging those new bits in and tidying up the rest immediately think of the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. (See? We got there in the end.)

On the theme I’ve spend 80% of my time so far on 20% of the functionality; the 404 page, search results layout, fixing inconsistencies between desktop and mobile versions, wondering how SVG files can be coloured, deleting old or unwanted code and CSS calls, and a few other bits besides.

In general, the 80/20 rule can be applied to anything. It takes me 20% of my time to fill in 80% of a job application form, for example.

In my younger days I and my fellow students would routinely come across similar rules. The Peter Principle, for example, which states that people are usually promoted to their level of incompetency. That was how I felt about doing my first degree, although I subsequently got a Masters degree, so perhaps I’m not there yet.

Expansion

I was always been rather fond of the Iceberg Principle: Nine-tenths of everything can’t be seen. This rule could be applied to anything a PR person does in the public sector.

That has now been superseded in my affections by a line from the Futurama episode Godfellas (S03E20) in which Bender meets a God-entity (oh… just watch the episode, it’s excellent): When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.

And, of course, Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available to complete it.

Actually, in a follow-up book (which might still be in the library at Leeds Trinity University), Cyril Northcote Parkinson postulates a more generalised version of the Law: Everything expands to fill the space available to it. This is the reason we need larger computers and storage devices, as file sizes have grown (and as we store more things electronically). Almost makes me pine for the days when I wrote a Blackjack game for the ZX81, in 1k of memory. Mind you, I was only 15. So perhaps not.

End of days

My all-time favourite is something I’ve misremembered. And it’s an actual scientific fact, not some pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo.

It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which can be expressed in a several different ways for several different areas, but the basic premise is: entropy increases or stays the same.

This explains why your jeans or shoes get holes in them – you’ve used them, so entropy (or the amount of change, destructive or otherwise) increases over time. You also can’t decrease entropy, the best you can hope for is a no-change state.

This law explains why the universe will eventually die a heat death, as all the warmer bodies (stars) reach temperature equilibrium with colder bodies. It also explains why we die, as the entropy in our own biological systems increases with each passing day; more so when our in-built regenerative processes start to fail.

It’s the ultimate law of everything; and a bit depressing, which is probably why I like it.

And on that cheerful note I shall get back to my re-theming work…

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