The problem with Facebook isn’t actually Facebook. It’s us. It’s human beings. The problem is that Facebook created the greatest tool ever to connect those human beings. And it has led to a world in which the local lunatic is now the global lunatic.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days, and I think what I’ve come up with is that there are two sides to extremism. There’s the obvious kind—the hateful and violent kind we’ve all been witness to the past half decade or so—but there’s also the not so obvious kind, the extreme kindness that feels transactional to me.
I’ve been feeling this a lot during the past decade I’ve lived in Montana, where the phrase “small town values” is worn like an unearned badge of honor, but I’ve also felt it lingering in the background in some online communities that I’ve dipped in and out of over the years. Don’t get me wrong, kind people are great, and we need more of them, but when someone online is kind to you and you don’t return the favor? Forget about it, man. That “kind” person or community kinda sorta turns on you because you broke this unwritten rule of automatic kindness that you didn’t follow.
Community is great, and we all need our clans, but an internet community? I think that’s the problem, and we as humans weren’t meant for something so big and complex.
Like when I paid off my car loan back in June, I really don’t know how to feel. Part of me, of course, is happy that I’m done with this debt—my last debt—but the other part of me is ho-hum about it because this is something I’ve been planning and building toward for the past few years. And now I’ve done it.
I can be whoever I want and no-one can tell me otherwise. I can be funny or dark, a romantic or a raging goth. I can be a typographer, a web designer, a poet. Tomorrow? My accent can change, the colors revert, typefaces flipped inside out; I can change everything about this website and reimagine who I am. Edit the bad or worrisome or downright embarrassing stuff out, throw away the unsavory stuff, until I’m only showing you me at my very best.
So what you see here isn’t me.
In a bit over 200 words, Robin articulates something I’ve been feeling lately. I’m constantly changing, constantly rethinking my behavior, my thoughts, my likes and dislikes, my mindset and view of the world.
I’ve slowed on my blogging because I want to redesign my website again but oh my god I don’t have the time for that right now, but gosh dangit I want to so much. All I’ve been doing the past month is working on my school’s website redesign, and I’ve learned so much. Not just about web development, but about design and typography and even my own aesthetic and sensibilities.
Every time I read something a new, whether it’s from a book or from the web, I add it to my mental library of facts and ideas and opinions, and I let it do its thing up there. If it improves something I thought I knew, then great! If it contradicts with something I thought to be true, that’s great, too! We humans are very good at holding contradictory thoughts in our heads at the same time. If it makes me angry, then it makes me angry, and if it makes me happy, it makes me happy.
I don’t get those stubborn types of people who feel it’s a weakness to change your mind. Why live your life like that? I don’t get it. Maybe it’s just an American thing? More reason to travel the world!
There’s really no point to this post, and that’s okay. I needed to write things down to see what happened, and I liked what happened. So let’s go and post this thing.
Earlier this year, I moved my site from Micro.blog to Cloudflare Pages, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made when it came to this site. Sure, I had to learn Hugo, some HTML, and a whole lot of CSS, but when is learning ever a bad thing? I wanted full control of my site without any handholding, and that transition helped me achieve all my goals.
If you want to do the same, I suggest watching this recent video by Coder Coder. She runs through starting your own Github repository, how to connect Cloudflare Pages to it, and how to start pushing your code online. Knowing how to run my own website has been one of the best skills I’ve ever learned, and I hope more and more people learn how, too.
And this can all be done for free. No recurring memberships, no condescending handholding, just pure freedom. The way the web should be.
The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education approved a measure Thursday mandating eligible students in the nation’s second-biggest school district to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Why it matters: It’s the first major school district to require vaccines for students — a move that may set a precedent for school districts across the country to follow.
What they’re saying: “The science is clear – vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly said in the press release. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”
I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write about the coronavirus since Axios stopped tracking active cases back in June, but that is not to be. We’re three weeks into our current school year and already we’ve had multiple cases of COVID-19 spreading throughout our student body and faculty. Because I live in a Republican-controlled state, all the important choices are being left up to the parents to make. We don’t have any mask mandates, we don’t have any quarantine mandates, we don’t have anything we can do to make our school safe. Masks are optional; quarantines for close-contacts are optional; vaccinations are optional.
In my experience, when we leave choices up to the masses, the masses will choose to protect themselves first. We are selfish. We care more about our rights than yours. This is America in the 21st century and it’s goddamn heartbreaking. In our school, because our leaders aren’t leading, our parents are having to make choices they don’t want to make. They want their children to be safe, but they also don’t want them to be bullied because they’re wearing masks when others aren’t or because they chose to stay home during the football game instead of going out there to play with their team. People would rather play a game and risk infecting so many others than doing the right thing and cancelling these events for the sake of the community.
As I’ve been redesigning my school’s website and learning more about web development, design, and Hugo, I’ve been applying what I’ve learned to my site. Unfortunately, in an attempt to clean up some code and simplify some things, I broke some things and inadvertently posted a draft of a post I’ve been procrastinating on for a few weeks. Those subscribed to my RSS feed might’ve seen it in their feed reader. If you did, please know it was just a draft and all it had were notes and some code samples. I’m still working on it! I think it’s going to be a really cool post and a useful one for people. If you didn’t see it, then nothing to see here, please move along!
The one device I’ve been craving for the past year or so has been a new 16-inch MacBook Pro. I’ve outgrown my 11-inch iPad Pro from 2018, a device I thought would be my primary device for years to come. I’ve edited and managed all the photos I’ve posted to this blog on it and written every entry on it, but I’ve run Hugo and written the code for this site on my Mac mini that’s sitting on my desk at home. I want something powerful and portable to do all my work on, including things I only dabble on at the moment, like filmmaking and web design, and a new MacBook Pro would do it.
If Apple announces this device, then you best believe they’re getting all my money, and I can’t wait to give it to them.
I think I’ve come to the end of one of the best summers I’ve had in a very long time. I don’t have anything tangible to show for it because most of the work happened internally. I was in a very dark place when I wrote The Door, but I think I needed to feel what I felt then to really work on myself, to improve my outlook on life and my role in the world. I think I said it best in this post from July:
I started to spend my time on this because I’ve been at something of a midlife crisis this summer. I’m afraid of tomorrow, of next week, of next year, because I feel like time is moving way too fast and I still don’t know how I want to spend it, and every minute lost scares the shit out of me. I’m slowly (very very slowly) building myself back up, and I’m hoping I come out of this stronger. I just don’t know what I want to do with my life anymore, so I’m pursuing every little interest I’ve ever had in my life, from these crazy ideas to the impossible ones.
It’s like I grabbed all the clothes in my closet and threw them on the floor then spent all summer slowly going through each article and hanging up only those that truly brought me joy. And I dug deep. I dusted off that old moldy box crammed in the farthest corner, the one that reeked of old memories, and I opened it up and saw what was inside. I opened every random scrapbook and set of envelopes, every rotten and embarrassing memory, and I simply experienced them all over again. Because I feel like life is a series of roads not taken, and so many of us don’t turn back and reconsider the choices we’ve made. And I reconsidered everything.
I think I’ve made my thoughts on social media well-known here, but I have to reiterate how dangerous these services can be and how much better life can be without them. But I also have to admit how often I’ve turned back to them when I’m yearning for some kind of connection with people. In early August, it seemed like every tech blog I followed were singing the praises of Glass, a social media service meant to be some sort of successor to Instagram. Did we really need another social media app? Apparently yes, and I downloaded it and tried it out. After enjoying the “new” thing for a few days, I realized how much I still didn’t like social media apps. Anything that uses the word “followers” in a non-religious context should cause everyone to take a step back and rethink what it is they’re doing. I’m not Jesus preaching to a flock of worshippers. I’m just some guy trying to figure out the world and my place in it. So I deleted my account.
I appreciate how easy it was to delete my account, but I didn’t like that I had to wait 7 days for Glass to do so.
When I decided to leave Micro.blog, my intention wasn’t to leave it forever. At the time, I needed a break from it and services like it, and I’m grateful for the time away from it, but on reflection, I think I’ll be better served if I continue to stay away from it and all social media services like it. I’m four months removed from my initial declaration to quit all social media services, but I feel like four months isn’t long enough. Hell, four years might not be long enough when social media, in one form or another, has been a part of my life for about twenty years.
So what are some of the things I’ve reconsidered? In Identity from July of last year, I wondered what kind of life I would have had if I grew up in Montana. Would I still be a writer? I explored this idea more in Abyss, and ever since I wrote that in February, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and the place it has held in my life. During the summer I didn’t really blog or journal or work on any writing project, and that’s because I really don’t think I was meant to be a writer. When I made the decision to attend USC and major in screenwriting, I think I made one of the many wrong turns I’ve made in my life. I don’t mean to imply that I don’t like writing; I do, very much. I just don’t love it, and I think that’s the big lie I’ve been telling myself for a long, long time.
Here’s how I know I don’t love it.
When I was a kid, my mom bought an old typewriter in a garage sale for us kids to use. I don’t really remember any of my siblings using it because I’m pretty sure I spent all my free time on it. I so very loved typing on that thing. I loved the clickety clackity sounds it made and the impressions the type made on the paper. I remember one time I grabbed a paperback, measured the dimensions, cut a piece of paper to the same dimensions, then transcribed the first page of whatever novel it was on both the front and back side of that paper. I remember how I then took this page to school and showed it off to my friends. How I wasn’t bullied more I don’t know.
Later, when I was in high school and had a computer with internet access for the first time, I remember falling in love with typography again and its role in web design. I remember pirating a version of Photoshop, learning it, and creating banners for one of the many blogs I started and abandoned. I remember how I would stay up all night learning how to design webpages and publishing all my changes to friends I made on AOL chat to see. I remember going to school the next day, tired and sleepy, thinking all day about going back to my computer and getting back to my designs and experiments.
Earlier this year, I rediscovered this love when I spent maybe 16-18 hours a day working on my site redesign, from learning all I could about Hugo, HTML, and CSS to asking what if? and trying my best to see if I could make that idea come to life. I remember forgetting to eat many times and going to work the next day, tired and exhausted and hungry, but so very eager to come back home so I can keep working on my designs. And this has happened all over again recently as I started work on redesigning my school’s website and simply loving the hell out of the whole process.
I’ve never felt this way with my writing. I’ve had moments of joy and exhilaration when writing something particularly good, but mostly, I associate nothing but pain and despair with writing. And sometimes that’s what I need but not something I want to do all the time. I don’t want to spend 16-18 hours a day living in despair, forgetting to eat, waking up the next day in pain and eager to relive it all over again. Shit man, I’ve been putting off writing this entry for weeks, with the only reason being that I’d rather spend my limited time on other things.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not spending all my free time wisely. I still spend way too much time watching TV and browsing the web and not enough time creating things (which I’m pretty sure is my true love). I’m also pretty sure I would not last long if I spent all my free time creating things. But the progress I’ve made this summer admitting all this to myself has been one of the most thrilling and revitalizing times of my life, and I’m so so so eager to see where all this goes.
Should I pursue design more? Should I consider devoting more and more of my time to web design and things like it? What about my photography? In the back of my mind, I’ve often thought how cool it would be if I was a National Geographic photographer or something. Should I pursue mechanical engineering again? Before I decided to focus on writing, I was on track to go to a school like UC Berkeley or UCLA and major in engineering. Shit, I was accepted to both, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to the best film school in the world. My dad was a mechanic, and I thought if I pursued something in the same world he lived in would mean he would be proud of me or something. But I didn’t, obviously.
One of the great joys from this summer has been delving back into engineering-type things. I’ve been spending more and more time on cars, on how they work, on how to fix them, on how to race them. I’ve been learning more about craftsmanship, from car design to how to build houses. Oh man, about a month ago, the lever to my toilet broke. You guys have no idea how satisfying it was to go to Ace, buy a new one, come back home and replace it. The feel of the flush now feels a million times better than it did before, if only because I fixed it. I spent the time adjusting the tension to my liking, and now every time I flush the toilet, a small piece of me is lit with joy.
And that has been the story of my summer and why I think it has been one of the better ones of my life. It’s been about having this conversation with myself, asking myself what I want to do and going out there and doing it. It’s been about giving myself permission to explore the world, to see it like a kid again, and loving every minute of it. That is what’s been the most rewarding part of the last four months, and I could not have done it if I didn’t give myself the space to explore and play.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been redesiging my school’s website from scratch. I’m using Hugo to build it because that’s what I’m most comfortable with (as dense as it can be sometimes), and even though I’m weeks and weeks away from finishing it, I’ve been enjoying the shit out of the whole experience.
I love design. I love building things. I love trying to solve problems and trying to design something that will be critically important for so many people (parents, students, and staff). The whole experience has been incredibly fun, and it inspired me to make some changes to my personal site. So I cleaned some things up:
I cleaned up both my header and footer and am mostly showing my About and Archive pages in my header and a simple copyright in my footer
I updated my homepage to show a list of all my posts instead of breaking them up into sections
I removed the related sections from the end of my posts
And I cleaned up a lot of code
I want to redesign the whole thing after I’m done with my school’s website, and I want to clean up the content folder in my Hugo project, as well as the code in my layout folder. I haven’t blogged as much as I’ve wanted to because of how I split my posts into two sections (journal and stream). Sometimes I would want to write a journal-type post but I didn’t have a photo to attach to it, and I didn’t feel like it should go in my stream. I don’t think that split works for me anymore, so I want to merge that and not think about it anymore.
I’m also thinking of removing my Typekit fonts and instead going with something more simple. I’ve been using Public Sans on my school redesign, and I’ve been really enjoying the look and feel of it. I don’t know what font or fonts I would use instead, but I find the search for them super exciting.
Finally, I bought Nova yesterday, and holy shit it’s amazing. What a beautiful and well-made app. I had been using BBEdit for the longest time but Nova is definitely my preferred code editor for now. It makes coding so much fun. And coding is so much fun.
Last spring, the school board voted to approve a 4-day school week from the usual 5-day week, and that meant adding an extra 50 minutes or so to each day, and boy did I feel those extra minutes today. My feet are throbbing, and the bags under my eyes feel that much heavier.
But one thing I didn’t realize (but that is super obvious in hindsight) is that I got to spend even more time with the kids, and I think that’s totally worth the longer days. I’m eager to return tomorrow, and I’m ready to do what I can to make this next year a great one.
Also, about two weeks ago, the exchange student from Germany flew into Missoula and met her host family, and today was her first day of school, too. I wrote about this back in April, and let me just say, she is simply awesome. Funny story: she had a nightmare the other night where she was at school but she kept entering the wrong classrooms. She somehow ended up in the elementary school and was with the little kids, and she was just worried that she would get lost on her first day because our little school is bigger than her school in Germany. But after today, it looked like her worries were just that, worries. I haven’t talked to her about her first day yet, but I’m hoping it was okay.
Sometimes my job can be stressful, and I’ve thought about quitting a few times in the past year, but it is moments like these that remind me how cool my job can be. Here’s to a great year for everyone!