Categories
family savannah

Random Pandemic Thoughts

This isn’t really a retrospective, because it ain’t over, but we’re doing a relfection on how we’ve been affected by COVID at work today, so I decided to write some things down before the meeting so my thoughts are in some kind of order. I’m sharing it here because, well, I wrote it down.

  • Now that I’m vaccinated, I’m scared of what’s next. What do I want to do? Who am I now after being in a house-shaped cocoon for thirteen months? I don’t want to do what I did before. Going back feels impossible, not just because it is, but because of how little I want to.
  • Every time I try to think about the magnitude of suffering from the past year, I get completely overwhelmed and shut down. It’s unquantifiable, and makes me furious to the point of blackout that no one will be held accountable for all the avoidable failures at the national, state and local levels.
  • I feel guilty for being grateful for all of the time I got to spend with my family this year.
  • I feel guilty for not having done more to help others, but also feel like keeping my family safe, sane, fed and housed has to be enough… which I understand is a whole bunch of privilege and others had it way worse than I did.
  • I feel like I adapted to being at home all the time a little too well, and I’m going to have terrible social anxiety for a while.
  • I’m still disappointed every time I see people wearing masks incorrectly. I just don’t get it. At all. It’s not hard. Over your mouth AND nose.
  • I really miss a lot of things, and people, and the weird only-in-Savannah moments that used to happen all the time. So many of them that I can’t begin to write them down.
Categories
computing os x

Browsing For Work

I have a lot of personas when I’m at the computer. There’s me, the person, who has social media accounts and personal email and an Amazon account and various streaming services. There’s work me, who has gmail and a million github tabs open. There’s TechSAV me, and several SKTCS versions of me.

All of them have their own GSuite accounts, and various other things for getting things done.

I think I’ve finally got the setup for managing all of them without them running into each other too much! This post is very Mac-centric, but the guidance for Chrome still applies.

The trick is to stop trying to do everything in the same browser. Thankfully, with Chrome, you can create multiple profiles so you can keep your various identities distinct!

In Chrome, as long as you’ve logged into a Google account with it, will have your little user icon in the top of the menu bar. It should look something like this:

A screenshot of my Chrome menu bar showing my bald head… that’s my user icon!

If you click your icon, you’ll get a menu that shows your current Google account and then a list of your other profiles. If you don’t have any, it’s time to create some!!

The Google profile window from Chrome

If you click the + Add button, you’ll be able to set up entirely new profiles that give you a “clean” browser experience so you can keep your various personas separate so you don’t end up trying to join a Google Meet with your school account or wonder why you’re not seeing that email from your boss when you’re in your personal GMail.

That’s great in isolation, but I get links that open browsers from email, text messages, etc… and I need a way to route them to the correct browser so I can handle them with the right persona. That’s where things get Mac-like (I know there’s something similar for Windows but I don’t know what it is because I don’t use Windows)! I installed Choosy a few months ago and it’s made this part of my life so much easier!

Choosy lets you choose which browser to open when you click a link from another application, and the coolest feature is that you can set up rules to open a specific browser based on the URL, which app you clicked on it from, etc. For example, I have a rule that says to open any URL with “outvote” or “impactive” in it in my Impactive Chrome profile, so I don’t have to choose which browser to open every time I click a link to a Github ticket. Another rule is to open any link I click in my feed reader (the wonderful NetNewsWire) in Firefox, which I use for personal stuff (I like that it fences Facebook things by default, and I love an underdog).

With this setup, I can keep my personas separate and make sure things open in the right place.

Categories
current events politics

Write Your Reps

Yesterday, my representative objected to the electors from Georgia based on nothing more than rumors. He continues to support Trump, and well, that’s unacceptable. I wrote him this afternoon. If Buddy Carter is your rep, I think you should let him know how you feel.

Dear Mr. Carter,

Your objection to the electors from Georgia yesterday based on nothing more than rumor and innuendo is an act of sedition. Your continued support for President Trump as he put your life, and everyone else who works at the Capital, at risk yesterday is unacceptable.

You supported an illegal coup. You continue to support a president who has incited violence and lies continually about the results of the election. You help magnify his lies, destroying public trust in our democratic process, our institutions and the Constitution.

Please resign and allow the first district to choose a representative who will uphold their oath of office.

Sincerely,

Kevin Lawver

Categories
current events

Strong Ties, Weak Ties, No Ties

Doug March sent me this Nieman Lab piece by Ben Collins that asks some good questions, but doesn’t have many answers. I keep thinking of our web of social connections that’s been tattering for a while; I think a lot of peoples’ just completely collapsed during COVID.

Without that web of strong and weak ties (strong = family, close friends; weak = coworkers, acquaintances, neighbors), we’re left to our own devices of what’s “real” and acceptable. If we fall into these bubbles (cauldrons?) of conspiracies and nonsense, there’s no one to pull us out. There’s no reference point back to the “real” world, and we just sink deeper.

And that’s the core of it, I think: loneliness. The world is a very lonely place for a lot of people, and the pandemic has turned that into a crisis. People are looking for a place to belong, and unfortunately, the internet has a WHOLE lot of corners to find it in, and most of them aren’t healthy.

There are a lot of bad actors willing to profit from that loneliness and the anger that comes along with it. It’s time to call them out, and start reclaiming our friends and family from these cauldrons.
I just wish some of those experts mentioned in the piece would tell us how to do it… because I have no idea.

Categories
music

My Favorite Songs of 2020

I don’t even have anything pithy to say about 2020. Everyone’s already said it, and everyone knows it, so it doesn’t need to be said.

But, on the bright side, a lot of great music was released this year! Every year, I keep a playlist of songs I like that were released that year. It’s a good way not to forget something that I liked, and I can always go back and cherrypick songs for my annual roadtrip playlist, or rediscover albums I’ve forgotten from past years’ lists.

This year’s playlist is the longest since 2015, clocking it at almost exactly 18 hours. 2015’s was almost 24 hours. Here’s 2020’s playlist in all its glory. Enjoy!

And if you want to see past years’ lists, they’re here:

Categories
politics racism

Clinging to This

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Rabbi Tarfon

I don’t really have much else to say right now.

Categories
cooking

The Wonder of Pantry Staples

Jen wasn’t feeling well, so I made dinner tonight in between work things. It worked, but it got me thinking about how much easier life is when you have a pantry of staples you can throw together to make something yummy.

Tonight’s recipe was a Mexican-inspired pork stew. Measurements are going to be difficult, but here’s what I rummaged from the kitchen:

  • 2/3 of a frozen pork loin
  • 2 big russet potatoes
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 glugs of dark soy sauce
  • 2 large dried ancho chilis
  • 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes and chilis
  • 4 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 2 big glugs of white whine
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • A bunch of random spices like cumin, dried cilantro, onion powder, etc

Aaaaaaand, here’s what I ended up putting together with all of that:

  • Chopped up the onions and potatoes
  • Soaked the ancho chilis and chicken boullion cubes in 6 cups boiling water for 10 minutes
  • Sauteed the onions in some olive oil until they started to brown
  • Added the garlic
  • Deglazed the Instant Pot with the white wine and let it simmer a bit.
  • Added the potatoes, tomatoes and chilis and the pork.
  • Poured the liquid and chilis over everything in the Instant Pot, put the lid on, sealed it and turned it on to the Soup setting.

Since the pork loin was frozen when I put it in, I quick released it when it was done, then pulled the pork out and cut it up into cubes. I put the pork back in the Instant Pot for 10 minutes to make sure it was cooked, and then served in a bowl topped with some sour cream.

It was delightful.

All of that to say that making dinner tonight I was struck by how easy it was to throw dinner together because I had the pantry staples to make dinner happen. Having things like dark soy, ancho chilis, canned tomatoes, etc made it possible to make dinner without it being an ordeal. It’s so much fun to have all these “toys” to play with!

So, get yourself some dark soy sauce and dried chilis, then play around!

Categories
family

The Cultural Event That is Blaseball

I started playing (watching? participating in?) blaseball about six weeks ago. Imagine fantasy baseball where everything is fantasy. The teams are fake. The players are all generated by computers. The games are simulated. But, there’s play by play you can follow along with during the games, betting to do, favorite teams to pick, new rules to vote on and now idols to choose.

It’s ridiculous and a lot of fun. It’s become a totally partipitory thing on Twitter too, where fans of the game come up with backstories and cards for the favorite players and teams, and come up with ways to play with the “world” of the game and cause trouble (and they have… delightful silly trouble).

With work, I can’t keep up with everything going on with the fans on Twitter… so I recruited my kids! May and Brian are both now signed up and playing along. We have an epic text thread where we share betting strategies and they keep me up to date on the latest news. Brian comes in at least once a day with some crazy thing going on, or to discuss a new betting strategy. May will give me the latest gossip while we’re hanging out in the kitchen making lunch.

It’s been great to have some new thing to do with them that doesn’t involve trying to get each other to watch some movie or anime.

So, if you’ve got slightly nerdy, competitive, lore-obsessed kids, check it out! It’s free. It’s weird. It’s great.

Categories
W3C web standards

A Web Standards Adventure

The amazing Molly posted a tweet yesterday with a photo of a bunch of us at the 2006 W3C Plenary in Mandelieu, France. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but that plenary was the site of one of my few accomplishments in the web standards world.

A little background, since this is now ancient web history. I was on the CSS Working Group at the W3C, representing AOL, from ~2004 – ~2008. I was just a front-end developer who was passionate about the web and standards-based development. Kimberly Blessing, who was already a member of the group and my co-conspirator at AOL, encouraged me to join, so I did. It was surprisingly easy. I just had to ask my manager, who had no idea what it was, and Roger Martin, AOL’s director of all-things-standards, and I was in. There was no test or interview.

And that’s how a college dropout who didn’t build web browsers and had no idea what he was getting himself into joined the standards body that creates CSS, the members of which are geniuses who invented the language in the first place or actually build the web browsers I used every day. It was intimidating, and I spent my first two years in the WG trying to figure out what the hell I was doing there and how I could contribute. Kimberly and I figured out fairly quickly that we were the voice of the “authors” of the web – all the people who build web pages. So, we advocated for things that would make our lives easier and make it easier to build the complex layouts our bosses were demanding.

If you were involved in this story and I’ve left you out, I’m sorry. It was a long time ago, and my memory is a little foggy. If I’ve gotten any of the facts wrong, please let me know!

Now on to 2006 and the Plenary. This was when the WHATWG and their “guerrilla” HTML5 standard were really starting to gain traction with web developers, to the point that browser vendors were actually starting to implement pieces of it. We were still stuck with IE6, but I think there were rumbles at that point that Microsoft was starting to budge and was going to start working on IE again.

That was a lot of preamble, I’m sorry. Every year at the Plenary, there’s a big cocktail party / reception thing where the nerds can all cut loose and talk about something other than web standards (we still end up talking about web standards). The day of that party, the CSS WG spent what felt like 72 hours in a meeting with the XHTML 2 working group discussing the standard and aaaaaaaaall of the many issues they needed us to address so CSS would work with it.

I left the meeting completely frustrated by what felt like a betrayal of the web’s real innovation: fault-tolerance and ease-of-use. It felt like XHTML 2.0 was reinventing the wheel and leaving out the best parts. It felt like we were wasting our time when HTML5 was right there, which felt like an iteration on the web that exists and added important missing ingredients to it.

So, I get to the cocktail party and I’m in a funk. I start talking to Daniel Glazman, one of my all-time favorite W3C people and a legendary dinner companion, and asked him what probably felt like a million questions about why this and that and the other thing and eventually, “Is anyone even going to use XHTML 2?” He laughed and said, “Why don’t you go ask them?”

And that’s when the lightbulb went off. After two years on the CSS WG collaborating with legendary geniuses, I realized that not only were all the browser vendors represented, but so were the web’s largest publishers of content. Hell, I represented AOL. Yahoo was there. Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, Apple… all there. So, I made the rounds and asked all the browser vendors and publisher folks I could find, “Are you planning on doing anything with XHTML 2? What about HTML5?”

The answers were unanimous: no one was planning on doing anything with XHTML 2 and everyone was planning on implementing at least some of HTML5 (some had already started).

I think what happened next is that I grabbed Daniel and Arun “World’s Greatest Werewolf Player” Ranganathan (who was AOL’s AC Rep and also way smarter than me, and better looking) and told them what I’d found and that’s where the idea of writing a letter came from. We decided that if we could get the major browser vendors and web publishers to jointly sign a letter throwing our support behind HTML5 and the WhatWG and asking the W3C to bring HTML5 into the W3C that it would be way more effective than us doing it individually.

Arun and I gathered all of our victims… umm… potential co-conspirators and pulled them out in the hallway. I explained the idea, Arun got all diplomatic, and we did it. The letter got written (this part is all fuzzy for me – I don’t remember who wrote it or who ended up signing it), sent, and things happened. The HTML Working Group was reformed, HTML5 became a standard within the W3C, and the web is a whole lot better for it.

I wasn’t qualified to write standards. I couldn’t even write the complex test cases used to test implementations. I gave feedback and tried to advocate for things that would make life easier for web developers and end users.

But, I am a professional troublemaker. I’m really good at it.

So, when you think you’re not qualified, or can’t get anything done, remember that an idiot without a college degree convinced a bunch of geniuses to do something crazy and in a small way helped make the web better. If I can do it, you can too. It takes creativity, perseverence and a willingness to ask the question everyone’s thinking out loud.

You can do anything. You are a being of infinite potential constrained only by the sack of meat you use to navigate the world and your brain’s idea of what’s possible. I believe in you.

Categories
racism

It’s Not a Sprint

I’ve been talking to my coworkers and a bunch of friends all week, trying to help them come to terms with privilege and racism. I can feel their urgency to know everything and do everything… and I get it.

I saw a tweet the other day that white people are all “cramming for the racism test”, which I think is a great metaphor for that urge to try to learn everything all at once and get right with it.

(the whole thread is great and largely inspired this post)

It’s not going to happen. You will burn yourself out. You’re not giving yourself time to process all this new-to-you information.

I’ve been working on a metaphor for the opposite of that, and I think I have one I’d like to try out on you.

Racism is not new, and the work to fix it has been ongoing. White people, we are late to the work – so very late. We are so far behind the work that it’s not a sprint to catch up, it’s a marathon.

You don’t win a marathon at a sprint. You win a marathon with pace. We need to find the pace for ourselves that allows us to catch up, without giving up, without stopping and deciding it’s too hard.

Marathons take training and patience and practice.

We need to pair up with other people and hold each other accountable for our progress. Look up SURJ and find your local chapter. Reach out to your friends and buddy up. Have regular check ins and make sure you’re keeping a pace that will allow you to catch up. Ask for help.

Your practice might be starting today. That’s OK. Welcome to the team.