While I’m on a streak writing about my favorite places on Earth, I may as well complete the trilogy. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky shares space in that list with Avebury and Dunino Den as somewhere I can go and feel the weight of the world lifting off my shoulders. In fact, it was the first place I ever felt this way in my adult life.

Shaker Village was an exercise in building a religious Utopia in the Bluegrass. In many ways the Shakers achieved this purpose twice over: once when first created and once again for those of us today. Founded in 1805, Pleasant Hill started out small and relatively poor. Over time the settlement prospered as they attracted new converts to the Shaker religion and as they sold their seeds, produce and other products.

What makes the place special to is the focus the Shakers placed on functional simplicity. Everything they built is beautiful, in my opinion. What sets them apart from other religious sects who pushed simplicity in life is the Shakers did not sacrifice comfort in the name of denying themselves. They eschewed gaudy decoration, choosing instead to add beauty with the lines of the designs themselves. You can see this reflected in their furniture and architecture. Staying onsite lets you enjoy this aesthetic firsthand as each room is furnished with reproduction Shaker pieces.

Over time, the community at Pleasant Hill died off and finally dissolved in 1910. It was inevitable, as the Shaker faith dictated abstinence. The property changed hands over the years, but 1961 the Friends of Pleasant Hill was established and eventually purchased the village in order to restore it as an attraction.

If ever you are near Harrodsburg, please have a visit. Whether you go just for the day or stay for a few, you will feel happier for it. They have a fabulous dining room, gift shop selling reproductions, miles and miles of trails and, most importantly, peace. As the Shakers used to say, “We make you kindly welcome.” That is just as true today in the heart of Kentucky as it was 200 years ago. You can find more information on their website.

Avebury’s Neolithic Landscape

Oh, Avebury… There are few places in the world that make me feel as happy, relaxed and in tune with something greater. It’s a magical place that unfortunately gets dwarfed by Stonehenge, its partner in the UNESCO World Heritage Site to which they both belong.

One of the most obvious features of Avebury is its 4,500 year old stone circle with the town woven into it. Houses, pubs and shops sit within the banks of the feature. Some of the buildings even incorporate a dew of the stones themselves, a relic of less archaeologically enlightened times. With the recent changes to push the traffic and visitor center further from Stonehenge (rightfully so), it’s so different to be somewhere where locals still live their lives among the stones.

But Avebury isn’t just the stone circle, oh no. It’s part of a larger landscape of Neolithic sites, like:

  • Silbury Hill, a 100 foot tall, 4,000 year old chalk mound of which we’re still trying to decipher the purpose .

  • The 5,500 year old West Kennet Long Barrow, a prehistoric burial place, one of the oldest features in the area. I would recommend not trying to push a buggy up the hill to the barrow if it’s muddy. It’s further than it looks.

  • "The Sanctuary", the site of an older circle that was originally made from timber posts roughly 5,000 years ago, then converted to stone.

  • Windmil HiIl, an enclosure that may have once been a settlement or gathering place starting over 5,000 years in the past.

Aside from the prehistoric sites, visiting Avebury Manor is well worth the time. The manor was restored a few years ago via a BBC show, The Manor Reborn. The benefit is that they restored it as a hands-on attraction. You can sit on the furniture, touch things and interact with the place. It’s perfect for children and adults. Give the Georgian exercise chair, designed to mimic riding a horse, a go.

I find myself hauling the family out for a day at Avebury every other month, regardless the season. If you ever have the chance, please, please, please find a way.

Color Blindness & Indicator Lights

Why do the majority of electronic devices still rely on color as their only indicator for charging status?

I own a little portable battery booster for use when I’m travelling. Given that my smartphone is not only my navigation unit, communication device and primary camera, it’s handy to have the extra power if I’m running low halfway through the day.

It’s an awesome little thing but I can never tell when the booster has finished charging before I pack it up for the trip. I’m always bothering my wife to verify what the color the indicator is show. I’ve recently noticed that it looks like the “charging” and “fully charged” LED indicators are set slightly off to one side of each other so that helps a little.

Sadly not every device is like that. Some, like our battery charger, only have one LED that switches between red and green to indicate status. It’s 2014… have companies not realised there are colorblind people out there? I realise it’s not the end of the world, but I feel this is such a simple thing to fix that I’m at a loss to understand why it hasn’t.

I feel there are a few valid options to fix this problem:

  • Use two individual LEDs to show charging vs charged
  • Use colors that are better distinguished by people, such as white vs deep blue or something similar
  • Blink the light while charging then keep it lit  once done, or vice versa

I doubt that any of those options would vastly increase the cost of devices that use them. Even so, I’d be willing to part with a few extra pennies to make my life easier.

Media Mogul

My wife has recently published her three volume eBook series focused around the life of legendary gunfighter Doc Holliday. I’ve been filling the role of web developer, marketer, tech support and all-around cheerleader. It’s been an interesting experience seeing behind the curtain of the online self-publishing industry.

So far, I’ve learned a few things…

  1. Facebook’s recent changes to how many fans will see a fan page’s post are mildly infuriating, though I do understand that if all users saw all posts by all their friends, fan pages and groups they would be swamped with information. Yes, they could opt out of the information in their timeline but not many people are savvy enough to do that. Still, doesn’t make it any less of a pain to see only about a third of my wife’s fans ever see a post on average unless we do a promoted post.

  2. You see that friends and family only go so far in terms of helping the social media posts go viral. Very few people actually share the posts on their own unless specifically asked. You obviously eventually hit a plateau among this audience that is difficult to push past in terms of getting new people outside your social circle in. Once that wall is broken down, though, things should grow steadily.

  3. It’s not easy justifying a marketing budget when you’re selling an eBook at $0.99 and Amazon is taking 70% of that in royalties (keep in mind that if you sell at or above $2.99, Amazon only takes 30%). Sure you have to spend money to make money, but it’s difficult to convince yourself to go too far into the hole for so little profit. Based on the experiences of friends who have also self-published, word-of-mouth and eBook site promotions or contests tend to have a better ROI for the self-published author than traditional online advertising tools like AdWords or promoted Facebook posts. Given in those cases your cost is close to nothing, it’s awesome.

  4. There are so many places to get eBooks aside from the obvious Amazon, Apple or Google Play sources. I’ve never heard of Smashwords.com until now and that’s where she has made the most profit so far (thanks taking a to a much lower cut in royalties).

  5. The first sales are great but since they are usually from family or friends you still have your doubts as to what’s going to happen. Once you start getting sales from people who you have no prior connection to, then you’re on cloud nine. However that pales in comparison to a good review from the readers. It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt when you find one. Keep in mind that’s my reaction and I didn’t even write the books. I feel so much pride in my wife whenever I see these happen.

There’s a lot of work left though. We’re going to look into a print-on-demand service so those who prefer physical books can have a copy of the three volumes as one compilation.

Even more, I think I’ve almost been convinced to try writing something myself. Given I could create, market and sell the book without ever leaving the sofa, it’s almost impossible to come up with an excuse not to.

Dunino Den

Earlier this year, my family made it back up to Scotland for a week’s holiday. It always does me good to be back. Something in the air recharges my soul. It’s not only the air, but sites like Ardestie Earth House, which I’ve written about previously, and Dunino Den reconnect me with the country and with thousands of years of history.

Dunino Den is just behind Dunino Parish Church in the East Neuk area of Scotland. My wife and I first discovered it while geocaching in the area. We try to visit it whenever we go to Anstruther for a visit to the Anstruther Fish Bar.

The site itself has been an area for worship for many years. In the churchyard stands a worn Pictish stone that dates from roughly 800 AD. These days people leave coins atop it. If it weren’t for that, it would be hard to distinguish it from the gravestones it sits among.

The church itself is a lovely wee country kirk. There’s something about it that feels so welcoming. It also has beautiful stained glass windows. On previous visits, the kirk was open for anyone to enter but on our last visit the doors were locked. I hope that was an unfortunate occurrence, but I fear it is a sign of our times.

Heading past the graveyard behind the church, you approach the Den. The first things you see are a pothole with a small footprint-shaped hollow near it. This seems to be a place where kings were anointed in the distant past, though I can find no official evidence of this. In fact, I can find no mention of any archaeological study of the area at all though, to be honest, I haven’t searched too long and hard.

Descending a stairway hewn into the rock, you enter the main area of the Den. It is here you will find many small offerings sitting on rocks and stumps or tied to the branches. Dunino Burn bubbles along beside you and if you’re anything like me, you find yourself filled with calm as you take in the environment.

You’ll notice some carvings in the stone wall of a Celtic cross and another Celtic-style pattern. There’s no official evidence that they are as old as they seem to imply, which seems a slight shame. It’s nice to feel the continuity of spirit in the area and those artefacts add to it. The Den feels neutral and welcoming of all outlooks. I’m not all that spiritual myself, but I can’t help but feel connected to the Den on some greater level when I’m there. I can’t recommend a visit enough!

If you’re into geocaching, you’ll be pleased to know there are a handful around the Den. For more information, see the cache pages for the following:

Ardestie Earth House

While visiting my father-in-law over Christmas, my wife and I (along with the kiddo), took the opportunity to revisit one of my favourite locations in Scotland. Just a few miles away from his house lies Ardestie Earth House, an Iron Age souterrain.

What’s a souterrain you ask? Stone-lined passages that would have originally been underground. No one’s 100% sure of their use, though one of the most accepted thought is that they were basically Iron Age cellars to store away food. At Ardestie you can see not only the souterrain itself, but foundations of other huts that were alongside the feature.

There are actually two souterrains in the area, the other being Carlungie Earth House. Carlungie is larger, but I prefer the location of Ardestie as it’s on top of a small hill and gives a fabulous view of the surrounding countryside, the sea and the River Tay. No wonder the inhabitants built it there.

If you’re into geocaching, you’ll be pleased to know both souterrains have caches hidden in them! For more information, see the cache pages for Chez Troglodyte #1 (GCQJJ5) and Chez Troglodyte #2 (GCQJJ8).

New Leaf

lostinamerica:

I’ve thought about running away more as an adult than as a child.

I’ve reblogged this quote before, but as I was cleansing this blog in preparation for its future, I discovered it again. I felt it was appropriate in many ways to how I’ve been feeling lately, and to the recent purge I’ve started with my online identity.

I’m looking to repurpose this blog and use it for posting my various rambling observations on life and my living it. I wouldn’t expect anything to change your life but take this as a warning, my current 82 followers: you shouldn’t expect the old random Tumblr-style posts of the past. If you’re looking for that, check out my Pinterest account. Also, for the next few weeks I’m going to slowly migrate some posts out of another blog of mine, which brings me to why this is happening.

I’ve decided to fade into the background a bit. For a while I was pushing myself out on the web and publishing things under my real name. I’ve decided I’d much rather have the freedom of relative anonymity. No, I’m not posting things that’ll topple governments or get me fired. Instead, I’d just like knowing that everyone and their brother can not find my opinions on everything with a simple search. In many ways that still doesn’t bother me, but why not have the extra freedom?

So, you can look at this as me running away, in a manner… but I’m hoping it means I’ll feel freer to write more often. I’m not looking to stir the pot. Last thing I need is a virtual mob running after me. I just want the breathing room.