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Trying The New Posts Carousel Block

WordPress dot com have just introduced a new block that lets you display a carousel of posts. It’s called the Post Carousel block. The post that introduced it says that ‘by default, the block will display your most recent posts’.

I wonder whether that means that there is (or will be) a way to get the Post Carousel block to display older posts if one wants? I can’t see a way at the moment. Maybe I am missing something.

Actually, I can see one way to show older posts and that is to take advantage of the options to specify author, categories, and tags of the posts.

I could tag certain posts with something that is unique – such as ‘top-charlie’ and that would force those posts to show. But that workaround is isn’t a good use of tags.

A better idea might be if WP was to introduce an option to specify a date range for the posts.

Carousels For Self-Hosted Sites

It just so happens that over the best day or two I have been looking at carousels or sliders for a self-hosted site. I settled on one using a plugin named MetaSlider.

The pro version allows you to overlay text. And even better with the theme I use (GeneratePress pro version) it is simple to integrate the slider right into the header element.

Now having worked out how to do it, I am not 100% sure whether to do it.

On the one hand I know I myself am magnetically attracted to anything that moves. If I walk into a shop and there is TV with an advertisement for a headband to wear when out hiking, I stare at it.

On the other hand, developers say they hate sliders/carousels and that people hate them.

‘Sliders’ implies sliding, but the option I like in MetaSlider are where one image (with a text overlay) fades out and another replaces it.

In other words, nothing slides and nothing moves – left to right or whatever.

Imagine a slider at the top of a web site, with an image fading out and being replaced by another, and then another. That’s what I am thinking about. Do you love or hate them?

Horse Chestnuts: White v Red

White horse chestnut leaves
Red Horse chestnut leaves

In the comments on my post about European (White) horse-chestnut trees and Red horse-chestnut trees, Deb Weyrich-Cody helpfully posted a link to the Morton Arboretum in Illinois.

It explains that the Red horse-chestnut is a cross between the European (White) horse-chestnut and a red buckeye.

And it says the Red horse-chestnut is non-native. Is that a reference to the buckeye or to the European (White) horse-chestnut?

Well the Morton Arboretum says that red buckeyes are native to the southern United States, up into the southern tip of Illinois.

So that makes sense and ties up nicely with the information that European (White) horse-chestnuts originally comes from the Caucasus in south-Eastern Europe.

According to the Morton Arboretum, red buckeyes grow to 15-25 feet, and that perhaps explains why Red horse-chestnuts are smaller than the white, at least in all the ones I have seen.

Another Look At The Trees

One thing I have learned is that it is easy to look and hard to see. But armed with that bit of tree architecture I went out to look at the trees again.

Now I see what I had seen before but brushed under the carpet of my brain – that the leaves on the red and the white are not the same. You can see that in the photos above.

Of Chestnuts and Conkers

Another thing I know from last year is that unlike the familiar spherical shape of the conker on the White horse chestnut, the Red is more oval in shape – a bit ‘walnut’ in shape.

Let’s see what the Latin names say;

European (White) horse-chestnut: Aesculus hippocastanum
Red buckeye: Aesculus pavia
Red horse-chestnut: Aesculus carnea

The name “hippocastanum” means, literally, “horse chestnut” from the use of the seed to treat coughs and broken wind in horses and to distinguish it from the chestnuts that people eat (Spanish chestnuts).

Here are the young conkers forming on a European (White) horse-chestnut.

Conkers In The Making

When I can, I will go searching for the conkers of the Red. Although, it is a question as to whether they can properly be called conkers at all. Nuts, yes. But conkers?

Would any self-respecting conqueror / conker-er use a nut from a Red to battle his or her opponent?

Moorhens in May: The Beak In The Riverbank

First we saw dad with a chick. Then dad picked some food out of the water and delivered it mum in a nest tucked into the riverbank.

Then dad swam off to the right and the little scruff-ball of a tiny chick was all alone.

The chick pootled around for minute and then started to climb up to the nest, it’s tiny little winds flapping to help it along.


It slid back down the steep bank.

Would it make it, could it make it?

Yes! Another try it was in the nest.

Oh what joy.

Where Is The Nest?

The site of the nest highlighted
Can you see the yellow beak peeking out of the nest?

In truth I do not know whether moorhens split their time on the nest with dad on the nest some of the time.

So where I have said that dad passed the food to mum, and dad swam off, it might be the other parent.

The Delight Of Horse Chestnut Trees In Cambridge

This is a follow-up to my earlier post The Trees Don’t Give A Hoot, that featured a young horse chestnut tree.

What I meant by that title, if it is not obvious, is that the trees do not care that the world is being ravaged by COVID-19.

For the trees it is Spring, and time to blossom.

And on that theme, Tamara and I have been feeling more connection with nature on the walks we take, seeing more and appreciating more. Many, many people must be feeling this.

Tamara and I have felt truly blessed to be able to see these trees, to have some open countryside in the heart of town to visit. Cambridge has a number of deficiencies, mostly because it is flat (near the Fens), but it also has some absolutely lovely places to walk.

One of these places is just a couple of hundred yards from where we live, and this is where I took these shots (with my iPhone).

This Horse Chestnut tree is big by any standard but I hope you get an idea of how very, very big these trees can grow. Do you see the person exercising on the ground in front of the tree?

The second shot is of the candelabras. I don’t know whether that is the ‘proper’ name for the arrangement of flowers, but most people who know trees would know ‘candelabra’ for the flower arrangement.

And Why ‘Horse’ Chestnut?

Who knows whether this is the proper origin of the common name, but I learned that the name originates from the shape of the join where previous year’s leaf stalks sprouted. Can you see how it looks like a horse’s hoof shod with a horseshoe? Can you see the pin marks?

And finally, you might notice that the flowers on the candelabra behind the twig are pink. There is a pink tinge in the white candelabra, but the pink variety is something else.

By the looks of it, this pink variety has been grafted on to a different base – probably a white variety.

Here is the complete tree – in winter with snow on it. I posted this photo of the snow-laden tree in an article about this tree, on December 25, 2017.

What a long time ago that seems.

Cambridge in the snow on 10 December 2017

Does This Look OK? It’s Sideways

I rotated the image anti-clockwise because I want to use it on a greeting card. Usually when I rotate images of flowers I can see that the image is not going to work. The image just looks like what it is – on its side.

But when I rotated this photograph, it looked OK. So let me ask you, does it look OK to you or does it look wrong?

Crow At The Bird Feeder

Almost too big to fit in the bird feeder, the crow pecks at those tiny mealworms.

The blackbird has to get in early in the day if it wants a meal. Now it isn’t going to get a look in.

Then the crow flies off and a horde of starlings arrive.

Starlings don’t get enough press. Perhaps because they are so ubiquitous.

And here’s another shot of the crow.

We are right in the middle of the town, just ten minutes walk across the parks, and it’s taken ages for the birds to start coming regularly to the feeder in our garden.

When I put a camera out there a few months ago we found that a jay had visited in the early morning.

We still don’t get a huge variety of visitors, but it is so nice to know we are on their radar.

The Wind Blows Across The Water

This is a small section of the moat that runs north of the grounds of Jesus College in Cambridge. For months it has been covered in algae. But yesterday when we passed we saw that the wind had blown across the water from the east. This is as far as the wind had pushed the algae. And beneath the surface the water was clear, with leaves brown on the bottom.

The leaves must be from last year of course (it now being May) and they were in almost perfect condition, not rotted away. Perhaps the algae keeps the oxygen levels low and slows the decomposition?

Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

I finally figured out what was preventing me liking other people’s posts or commenting on them.

Well not exactly preventing me doing that, because I could go into the WP Reader and click ‘like’ from there. And if I clicked on the ‘W’ in the comments section on the person’s blog it would allow me to be recognised as me (as in, me on in order to comment (but not to ‘like’)

What would happen normally is that when I tried to click ‘like’, a little box would appear superimposed over the site and it would do a little drum roll as thought it was going to link to the site below, and then…. nothing.

One other niggle is that when I clicked to look at who had commented on my posts, as often as not one of the tabs – the ‘Unread’ tab for example, would spin and spin but not show the content.

I noticed it might be particular to this machine because of what happened when I was using our MacBook Air, in the living room. The Air is the machine we use when travelling (not much of that on the horizon). And with that machine there was no problem.

So I just went into Safari / Preferences / and then under ‘Privacy’ I unchecked ‘Prevent cross-site tracking’ – and it worked.

Then I checked ‘Prevent cross-site tracking’ again – because after all, who wants cross-site tracking?

What Is Cross-Site Tracking

Cross-site tracking is when you go to a site and there’s an advertisement for the thing you looked at on another site. The king of the ‘we’ll follow you everywhere we can’ sites I go to at the moment is a second-hand camera site that I visit sometimes.

I Could Be Wrong

Of course, I could be wrong about this, and if you know better – please comment because having to deal with it by checking and unchecking is painful (a little bit painful – not a big deal).

Red Hartebeest

When Tamara and I were on the Eastern Cape in South Africa last September, I photographed quite a few Red Hartebeest.

By and large they were pretty cool and undisturbed. I shot this with a pretty long lens, but still we saw hartebeest that stayed closer than other animals when we encountered them.

Although they may not look it, Red hartebeest are antelopes. That is, they are even-toed ungulates, which is one of the characteristics that indicate they are antelopes, and within the Bovidae family. That puts them in the same family along with sheep, goats and cattle.

We never got over how very alien they look with their long, long faces. Quite the most unusual animal we saw.

I posted a photo back in January of an adult with its young. The young animal is just crazy lovely.

Lioness Drinking

I almost didn’t take a photo of the female lion drinking because I was shocked by how she was down on her haunches. I forgot for a moment that lions don’t have to worry who is near them because they are not prey animals. We were used to seeing antelope and zebra, who stand nervously when they drink, ready to take flight at the slightest disturbance. Lions can relax and drink however they like.

Jack By The Hedge

As a youngster in Leeds, I used to walk to Roundhay Park . On the way there I would suddenly catch the smell of patches of wildflowers by the hedges. They smelled of a mixture of garlic and onion, sweet and not very strong, and you had to cock your head and catch the wind and hunt for it.

It was Jack by the Hedge, a name I have always liked. The Latin name is Alliara petiolata. This particular plant is growing in our garden, unbidden. And it’s possible that in a busy year, in the general course of ‘tidying up’ I would have rooted it out almost before it appeared.

Well maybe, but what I do know is that this lockdown has slowed me down. I am simply appreciating more the things that do things on their own – plants that grow, for example.

One thing I learned now, researching for this short article, is that it is a biennial and in its first year’s growth the leaves are heart shaped. Then in its second year a spike grows in the middle of the plant and the second year leaves are pointy like an arrowhead, with serrated edges.

So, I can conclude that I did not grub it out in previous years, because if I had then it would not be showing second year leaves now. Good for me!

Other names for the plant are Hedge Garlic, Garlic Mustard, Poor Mans Mustard, Penny Hedge, but I like Jack by the Hedge.

Hillray Font

Hillray comes in three varieties, and I have used two of them here (outline and regular).

The first section, working from the top, is a whole load of random text with line spacing that puts the separate lines of Hillray outline on top of each other in a mess that looks interesting.

Then there’s the alphabet – straightforward enough – and then the two styles with their names.

Finally, I rasterised the line of outline text, filled in the colour and then laid it on top of a line of regular text and blended it with Hard Light blend mode in Photoshop to produce this effect.

Hillray is a free font from Creative Market, who do a freebie Monday every week. There’s often something that interests me, and this Monday the offerings include two fonts, a collection of  abstract shapes and patterns, some butterfly graphics, and a set of triangle seamless vector patterns.

Through The Fence

On our walks allowed under the lockdown strictures, we sometimes pass the grounds of one of the Cambridge University colleges. The grounds adjoin a road, and then as one walks into the parkland, the grounds back onto what is effectively a moat. The moat divides the grounds from the public parkland.

When we first moved here I thought the water might be a branch of the river Cam, but the river is about three hundred metres further north.

The water here is just a ribbon that goes from point A to point B, and at the moment it is covered in fine green algae. I’ll photograph it at some point.

This scene however, is looking through the fence by the road. Can you see the bluebells just within the frame at the bottom? And a horse chestnut tree dominating the scene.

The thing is that I shot this with my phone (and iPhone 8) and I think that’s a done a pretty good job.

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