A Year in Review

The year draws to a close; today is in fact the last day of the Christian liturgical year, and the new year will begin tomorrow with the season of Advent. Last year at this time I looked back over the history of this blog in a three part retrospective; today I’ll take you through the past year since that series. (My Thanksgiving post earlier this week serves as my personal retrospective. And as I follow a schedule for my posts, I’ll be following each “department” separately, so this won’t be strictly chronological.)


I began the year, last December, with a series of three Advent meditations, followed by one for Christmas.

After that I introduced the topic of forensic policy debate, a beloved “academic sport”, with an essay on why I love it; while I hoped to write about debate somewhat regularly this year, I didn’t return to the subject until this past month, with an argument against the presumption that making contradictory arguments in different debates should be acceptable. And after that point in January my schedule became so very hectic that I fell behind on blogging, and I didn’t resume regular Saturday posts until May.

In mid-April I floated the idea of maybe splitting this blog, so as to not mix dissimilar topics in a single blog; what little feedback I got on that was negative, so for the foreseeable future “the Shine Cycle Online” will remain as you see it.

In mid-May I wrote another entry in my list of programs that don’t exist but should: a (desktop-agnostic) manager to automatically persist sessions in Linux. Later, I added another: a universal package manager for source-based Linux distributions.

Next, I wrote an essay (a comment that spiraled beyond comment-length and demanded its own post here) on “edginess” in art. (To paraphrase my main point: It’s acceptable to push the boundaries if doing so serves the goal of advancing the Kingdom of God; pushing the boundaries for the sake of pushing the boundaries is another matter entirely.)

Over the course of the year, I wrote several more somewhat lengthy reviews of books on my list of books everyone should read, explaining why they belong on the list: Descent into Hell, Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, The Return of the Native, and the Republic.

I continued (and, in light of recent news, probably finished) my series on the recent Narnia films with a review of the Dawn Treader film. This was soon followed by a more general discussion of book-to-screen adaptations.

In June, I reintroduced myself (more on that under the other “departments”, too) and posted a summary of projects I’d like my readers’ help on, which I now try to keep more up to date in a Help Wanted page.

After exchanging files for revision with some people, and trying to explain my feelings concisely enough for IM, I wrote a more in-depth explanation of what file formats I prefer to be sent.

In August, I decided to start cleaning up my blogroll, and announced this and recommended some of my favorite blogs that will stay there.

I finally set the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head about a mathom trading game down. Later, after considering the matter and being reminded of some old favorites, I decided that that the educational games market is underserved, and “one of these days” if I ever have more time to spare I’d like to work to remedy that.

After some discussions with friends and Internet acquaintances, I wrote an essay explaining what allegory is, what it isn’t, and why neither Narnia nor The Lord of the Rings is one.

In October I finally formalized a sharing policy for this blog, which is also a more-easily-referenced Page.

Most of the rest of my essays this year have been more or less about issues of religious politics: lamenting deliberate ignorance and near-heresy in the matter of liturgy, meditating on what “the free gift of salvation” means, condemning an avoidance of Christian holidays combined with scrupulous observance of secular ones, and attempting to correct misunderstandings about the nature and purpose of prophecy that lead many in the American church today astray.

Last of all, I ended with my meditation on God’s blessings this past year this past Thursday and, now, this post.

Shine Cycle

On Mondays, I’ve been posting (mostly) background material for the Shine Cycle. As part of my reintroduction of myself and my blog in June, I reintroduced the Shine Cycle. My posts this year could (and probably should … a project for next year …) be organized into several subcategories:

Status updates describing how much I’ve accomplished in this and other writing since the last update. (Usually not much.) For example, this past Monday’s update. Also, back in April, I specifically requested help revising my novelette “A Murder, a Mystery, and a Marriage”.

The annotated outline, which I had almost finished last year, I continued and then finished. Later, I followed this by beginning a series of précis of the planned books in the series: after an introduction, I began with Vayna, The Dragon Wars, and Anarchy. I wrote introductory posts for two sub-series of the Shine Cycle, the “Game of Life” sub-series and the High Powers sub-series, but haven’t gotten to those in the series of précis yet.

I wrote several profiles of places, including Transylvania, the Waste, and Greyhawk. Somewhat related was an excerpt of An Internal Conflict I posted as an example of “characterization by place.”

Because one of the sub-series of the Shine Cycle is to be set in our world in the future, I began a series of posts on our future history as I project it, beginning with an introduction and continuing with posts on several projected trends, including space travel (my story requires there to eventually be some form of quick interstellar travel), computing (ever-more-distributed networks; resource crunch to the Nth degree), resource usage (history proved Malthus wrong; I see no reason to pay much attention now to those who make the same arguments he did).

I wrote descriptions of several races in the world of the Shine Cycle, including fairies, dragons, dwarves, and giants.

Several posts described various aspects of the society of the Empire, including faith and religion, calendars, holidays and celebrations, honor, music, money, and guilds. One other post, on the major event of the Council of Capitol, was somewhat related to this theme.

A few other posts described aspects of my worldbuilding outside of societies, including synergy in teams of mages, travel to other worlds and universes via wormholes, gates, and other means, the economic effects of the limitations of “applied metaphysics”, and time travel.

Strategic Primer

On Wednesdays I post about Strategic Primer. As part of my reintroduction of myself and my blog in June, I also reintroduced Strategic Primer. Like my posts about the Shine Cycle, these can be roughly divided into several subcategories.

Recruitment: Every few months I try to recruit more players, a couple of times for a possible new campaign but mostly just for the current campaign. (The October call-for-players is a more or less representative example.)

I continued the series of Strategic Primer’s distinctives (compared to other similar games) with a post on real diplomacy. After much popular demand, I decided to add a story to explore and cultural elements to the game; I subsequently asked for story ideas and described the first cultural feature, morale.

Turn summaries: I wrote a summary of each turn the current campaign completed soon after I finished running it. This year, this included the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth turns. And I described how I run each turn.

And every month or so, I wrote updates on my progress designing and implementing the “assistive programs” that help me to run the campaign and the players to play. [This month’s report]((https://shinecycle.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/strategic-primer-assistive-programs-progress-report-and-roadmap-2/) is a somewhat representative example.

I continued the series on the history of the game by describing its immediate predecessor.

Early this year, I described how “other worlds” and “parallel worlds” work in the game.

Several posts over the course of the year traced the development of the “encounter model”, the way I determine what an explorer (or other unit) encounters beyond the bare terrain type. I began with a post describing the problem, my first solution, and my plan to use “encounter tables” to solve it better, then gave more details and asked for readers’ help checking the tables … then, once I started using this new encounter model, found problems. So I started to work on the “Encounter Model Mark III”.

The second encounter model introduced, and the third model is formalizing, the existence of many villages in the game-world. I also described two other game features, delegation and messages, that players should be using by now.

In September, I began posting an annotated version of the log of the first campaign, which was played (very differently …) way back in 2001. I started, again, with an introduction, then dove in with three parts so far.

Over the course of the year, I’ve often asked for readers’ help designing the game, including something like “score” or “achievements”, a list of all possible orders, a way of handling simultaneous motion and related issues in the map viewer as it becomes a more general strategy-creation and turn-running tool, and improved new models of agriculture, worker advancement, and scientific discovery. And, most recently, I described the advance conversion project I hope to make significant progress on next year.


I’ve posted a poem (one of my poems, unlike some of the other poet-bloggers who supplement their own work with good poems by the great poets of the past—not that there’s anything wrong with that) almost every Friday. (During the tremendously-busy period that forced a hiatus last winter and spring, sometimes I couldn’t even get a poem posted. But there were only a few weeks like that.)

Also, after beginning (in May) to ask which poems are my best, in preparation for putting a collection together, and receiving little to no response, I began posting more manageable (smaller) groups of links to poems from the archive in September.

Unlike the preceding “departments”, I won’t link to all of them—there’s the archive for that. But here I will list several that I think worth noting—some because they don’t follow my usual pattern of blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), and some because they’ve still got that spark that moves me (which I wrote a poem about).

(As in the Poetry Archive posts, quotation marks around “titles” here mean I’m using the first line of the poem as a title until I come up with a proper title for it.)

Some poems for specific days:

  • Incarnation: a meditation for Christmas.
  • Remember: One of many poems about memory (which was one of my major themes this year, it seems), written for the turning of the year.
  • Epiphany: For that holiday.
  • Pascha: A meditation on Good Friday.
  • Ad Trinitas: A prayer for Trinity Sunday.

Poems about nature and the changing seasons, one of my common subjects:

The last poem of that list turns us to perhaps my most common theme of late, memory:

And a few more miscellaneous poems I’d like to highlight:

As I mentioned above, today is the last day of the Christian year, so I wish you all a blessed year to come.


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