Vikings and Climate Change

I remember reading Albion’s Seed and thinking “These waves of migration seem roughly tied to the pulses of Europe’s Little Ica Age. Surely I’m not the only person noting that?” I wasn’t a historian, and I wasn’t prepared to undertake the research required to substantiate such an observation, but I had a sense that I wasn’t alone. Ars Technica has a arstechnica on some recent work exploring the relationship between the great Viking raids at the end of the first millenium CE and possible changes in the climate. What I like about the work being done, as reported here, is that it isn’t a “climate change done it” approach. I have encountered way too many strictly biological or environmental explanations to phenomena that are better considered a mixture of nature and culture at best, if not a very complex cultural dynamic. Could climate change lead to population pressures that might lead to raiding? Sure, but it could also have been “Hey, it sure easier stealing from other people than making our own way.” The truth is almost always somewhere in between.

More Typefaces in LaTeX

Like most academics, I have long kept my vita — the academic version of the resume — in a word processor file that I would regularly open and add items. For a long time, my vita lived in Word, and then at some point when I no longer used Word for anything else, I moved my vita into a Pages document, which is where it still lives in some form. Keeping it in Pages, however, means that it’s really only good for printing or exporting as a PDF: Pages doesn’t export to HTML at all — though it will readily export to EPUB — and while it does export to plain text, it’s not a very useful form of plain text.

For a short time I tried keeping my vita in a Markdown-formatted plain text file, but as I have previously noted, Markdown really wants to convert lines that begin with numbers into numbered lists, which doesn’t really work for a document that is mostly a series of lists organized chronologically by year.

For now, my vita lives as a LaTeX document. It’s clean enough, but I would really prefer to use fonts like Minion Pro, which I have owned for a long time and that I use in almost everything else I do — yes, most people don’t care about type faces and so they traffic in Time or whatever the default is in Microsoft Word these days, but I do care and I like being able to choose my typeface, which is the genius of computers and I really don’t understand why LaTeX makes this so hard.

One place I’ve started is with this tex.stackexchange. It links to a GitHub repo for github.

The latter requires tlmgr and it appears that the version of TeXlive that I installed using MacPorts did not install it. Oof.

Backup Solutions

I’m in need of a remote backup solution — and of a better, more clearly thought out backup system in general. I’m currently looking at Backblaze’s www.backblaze. From what I can tell, their current pricing puts them at one-quarter of the Amazon price per gigabyte.

Right now, I am looking to backup our household’s NAS remotely, but it looks like a popular way of backing up individual Macs is to use Arq.

Write Once, Convert to Many

The idea of having one text, kept in an easily edited format that is viable in the long-term, that can be outputted into whatever the format du jour is — HTML, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, RTF, whatever — remains as frustratingly elusive in 2017 as it was in 2007. Things have not gotten better.

Of course, LaTeX is an option, though tweaking the default containers to something you prefer and using a non-default type face requires incantations at the Merlin-level. Keeping a document in Markdown and then converting it to HTML and then adding CSS is, to my mind, a preferable option, if only because I understand CSS in a way that I do not understand LaTeX, but the ability to create printed versions remains something that requires using Prince (expensive) or wkhtmltopdf (wonky) to do. (See rachelandrew.co.) In addition, I have not found a reliable way to suppress the impulse of most implementations of Markdown to convert any line that begins with any number into a numbered list.