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General maintenance tips for website owners

Websites require maintenance, even those with the smallest of footprints.

This is a list of what I consider “bare minimum” website-related maintenance tasks followed by some brief tips on what to do if your site suddenly goes down. Some of these are relevant to any website owner, particularly the login security. Others are most relevant to owners of self-hosted websites, such as those using content management systems like WordPress, Craft, Kirby, ExpressionEngine, etc.

These are the tasks that do not require a web developer or IT person for the most part, that can be completed by almost anyone* so long as you have access to the relevant platform accounts and can follow instructions. The guidance here is based on similar guidance that I have given to many clients in the past (in fewer words!) at some point during or just after a project.

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Maintenance is everything

I don’t expect most of the opinions that I hold now to have the same shape in 10, 20. years. I don’t think any of us is the same person every day, identity shifts with every tiny experience, so it’d be a silly thing to suggest or expect.

But one that I think might stick, the thing that might last if I ever wrote a manifesto: Maintenance is everything.

Bikes, physical health, mental health, roads, relationships, furniture, websites, clothing, parks, plants, sewers.

If it’s worth creating/buying/doing in the first place, it’s usually worth maintaining. And I love maintenance, fixing things, so that’s lucky! (Don’t like cleaning so much, which is another major part of physical maintenance, but I’m working on that.)

The problem is that new/shiny is a lot more lucrative than old/broken (more on this). How do we shift that mindset?

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First day of the rest of my life

Just got my first vaccine dose yesterday, my appointment was at the Moscone Center. Good lord, they’re running a slick operation over there. The staff are clearly working very hard to keep things smooth and quick. And the unrelenting torrent of small talk they have to put up with! They are saints.

I’m happy to have had mountains of very clear (but un-pushy) reference material and guidance from my OB/GYN practice about whether or not to get the vaccine when expecting. The endorsement by the OB/GYN community in the US is very different to the approach in the UK though, which has made some conversations with UK-based friends and family interesting! None of them have said I shouldn’t get it, but some have expressed a bit of trepidation, which is fair enough. There are a lot of factors making up this sort of public health guidance, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. We’re all making do as best we can.

All things going to plan, I should be fully vaccinated by 21 April. 🤞 I know this is terribly hyperbolic, but it sort of feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

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Dev environment issue related to MySQL and missing OpenSSL v1.0.0 symlink

I woke up early this morning to get some work done before a call and suddenly my local dev environment stopped working without warning and with seemingly no reason. The root issue was that MySQL wouldn’t work, /usr/local/opt/openssl/lib/libssl.1.0.0.dylib was not loading.

TL;DR: This may have been related to some automatic cleanup on Homebrew’s part. But regardless, a simple restart sorted it. If this happens again and restarting doesn’t sort it, try uninstalling and reinstalling MySQL.

The rest of the detail is below for posterity if I run in to this in the future.

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it’s a wild world

A woodcut by Albrecht Dürer of the northern hemisphere celestial globe, from the Minneapolis Institute of Art collection

Albrecht Dürer, The Northern Hemisphere of the Celestial Globe, woodcut, 1515 | (CC-PDM) Public Domain, Minneapolis Institute of Art collection (source)

Came across two tweets today that have jointly taken up residence in my head. This tweet:

i don’t want a career, i want whatever bilbo baggins and the rest of the hobbits had in the shire

And from this tweet, a short clip of Ethan Hawke’s TED talk:

I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, ☝️something that the world will consider good or important☝️. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good. If history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic.

The shire is tiny, quaint, communal. That’s part of why it “works”.

Our world, on the other hand, is enormous and increasingly fractured. We can be exposed to nearly every possible facet and product of humanity via our phone screens. The desire to make a mark is as strong as it has ever been, but it’s hard to do anything that feels of real consequence when you’re effectively a sea-monkey navigating the Pacific Ocean.

You can make it feel smaller by limiting media consumption (traditional and social), but it has to be a daily, conscious action. And the pressure to engage can be enormous depending on your age and career. It just wears you down.

I suppose the goal is a balance, cultivating a smaller, more meaningful personal world (friends, collaborators, family, acquaintances) that you can retreat to and just occasionally reaching out in to the hurricane. But when making a decent living feels tied to the hurricane, or the hurricane seems like all you have left… it’s not an easy truce.

This is why the silent retreats, the off-grid living, the hamlet cottages are so compelling. It’s easy to think that physically moving somewhere less frantic will automatically offer peace, but unless you can temper the virtual arena that makes up your world, it’s just more of the same.

No answers here, as usual. Just more thoughts for the whirlpool.


Edit: I just re-read this and it makes me cringe a bit. It’s so obvious, and it has occurred to me a thousand times before. Why is it an epiphany every time I think about it? I always forget, it’s like Groundhog Day. Maybe this is what mantras are for. Something like the perennial I am enough, but more My sphere of influence, the way I define it, and the way I engage with it is enough. Ugh I don’t know!

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NOW v4: Big personal news, frustrations about current events, a tiny bit of hope

Updated my Now page, contents below for posterity. This one contains probably the biggest news in my personal life since we moved. 🐣 Fewer emojis in this update because it just feels too casual considering the somber state of things right now.


It’s late February 2021. We’re coming up on a year since we hastily moved out of our flat in London a week+ early to avoid getting stuck in top-tier pandemic 🦠 lockdown without a home.

Personally, these past few months have looked largely the same as every other month since early 2020. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate throughout in that every sticky situation caused by the pandemic or current events has turned out alright. Sometimes this has been down to luck or timing, but more truthfully, it is directly related to the privilege of having very supportive family, friends, and collaborators.

Of course it’s been just more chaos in the wider news. Since my last Now update there was the election in November 🗳, an astronomical spike in Covid cases and deaths tied to winter holiday travel and celebrations, then the Capitol insurrection in January followed by a pared-back, pandemic-appropriate presidential inauguration. There was the very recent terrible freeze in Texas which resulted from a catastrophic combination of extreme weather and exceptional incompetence on the part of state legislators and the Texas Public Utilities Commission. How can we blame wind turbines freezing when people in Arctic territories manage to keep theirs running smoothly? And how did state regulators not see this coming considering the 2011 federal report explicitly recommending winterization efforts? Friends in Austin reported being without power for over 50 hours, indoor temperatures around 48F or below. Many Texans lost their homes or lives, a child in Conroe died of suspected hypothermia in bed next to his three-year-old stepbrother. The US coronavirus death toll just passed half a million. And all of these headlines are from the US alone.

But the vaccine 💉 distribution also started towards the end of last year, and the curve is dropping. Even though there’s some uncertainty surrounding the vaccines’ efficacy, particularly in preventing transmission or against new virus strains, even though there have been problems with efficient distribution, it still gives me a bit of hope. It’s a drop in the bucket when you consider all of the broader problems, but it’s something. Sam’s parents got the jabs a while back, then my grandpa, then my parents. I should be eligible for the vaccine in less than a month according to California’s current schedule.

The reason I’m eligible so soon is that we’re expecting. Some very happy personal news. 🙂

Perhaps it’s an odd time to have a baby, but it’s not like we’ll be disrupting a busy social calendar. They’re due to arrive this summer, possibly right around when we can start seeing people again. At least I really hope.

Navigating self employment and maternity leave has been interesting. I plan to get back to work when I can, I really like what I do and the people I get to work with. And it’s going to be very stressful not earning for a bit! But I’m under no illusions that it will be easy and am planning to take a solid few months completely off. Will probably have to find childcare ASAP, which I hear is a tortuous and expensive undertaking in SF… Talking to friends and collaborators that have been through this has been essential. It’s reinforced my feeling that planning and flexibility are two sides of the same coin. The unknown aspect of it (did you know that only roughly 5% of babies come on their due date?) makes it a little difficult to figure certain things out, but we’ll get there.

Work-wise 👩🏻‍💻 I’m currently focusing on wrapping up big preexisting projects before my maternity leave and fitting in maintenance work to pre-empt requests that otherwise might have arisen while I’m out for a few months.

My bigger projects include: working with Nick Sherman to add some exciting functionality to the super-useful Variable Fonts website; developing a new site for Danish art 🎨 school Det Jyske Kunstakademi designed by Sara De Bondt studio; helping out long-term collaborators Corridor8 with some major website improvements; developing a website designed by John Morgan studio for a major London-based gallery 🖼 including the automated migration of over 4000 entries; developing a new website for Gort Scott Architects designed by Polimekanos. I’m still collaborating with Bec Worth on the WIP 🚧 open-source WordPress theme that powers this website, though that project has been dormant for a bit due to maternity leave prep busy-ness.

I’m still offering free 30-minute open office hours sessions on Wednesday mornings Pacific Time for anyone that has web-related questions, but am now just using email to schedule this. Dropped Calendly for scheduling since it felt like unnecessary admin. My most recent sessions included walking someone through how I worked with the Are.na API on Gemma Copeland’s site and discussing how best to make content adjustments to a personal site for SEO purposes with a lovely former collaborator who is embarking on some exciting new personal projects.

Limited free time at the moment is mostly taken up by mindlessly watching feel-good shows like The Repair Shop and Taskmaster, and by anxiety-driven research. That all needs to change. Some of the research has been dedicated to wrapping my head around the blockchain and NFTs since so many of my colleagues are now jazzed about it despite prior misgivings. But most of the research is made up of learning more about what on earth having a kid is supposed to entail in 2021 and beyond. If anyone has tips on teaching kids about social media safety let me know, I’m already worried.

Besides that, I’m still contributing to the Feminist Open Source Investigations Group. Cooking and baking 🍲 used to be my main pandemic pastimes but that fell seriously by the wayside due to first trimester woes. I did successfully bake my MIL’s top-notch lemon drizzle cake 🍋 recently, which was a big win. Sam and I have been doing a little more walking and exploring outdoors, not enough. And we just started making some furniture based on Rietveld’s crate designs. More on this to come soon. I haven’t kept up with my anti-racism reading recently, nor other reading, so need to revisit the reading list 📚 I set for myself a while back. And I need to make more effort to make IRL friends in the SF Bay Area. I put it on the back burner since lockdown measures combined with being extra-cautious due to pregnancy made seeing people in person seem unfeasible. But that is changing as numbers go down. Have had a lot of luck reaching out to people on Twitter though, every one of those digital encounters has been really nice. Still looking for a new choir 🎵 in the Bay Area, though I’m not expecting to find anything that rivals Musarc in terms of breadth of repertoire and experimentation. We’ll see!

Am I allowed to say that things are maybe, just barely, looking up? 🤞 Don’t hold me to it, time will tell.

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Lichens are not plants

I’ve been taking pictures of “little plants” for a little while. The most consistent aspect of this photos is that they contain lichen, sometimes moss.

Turns out a lichen is not a plant. See Wikipedia for more info but in short: “A lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species in a mutualistic relationship.”

Ah well, still going to refer to them as little plants. But let the record show that I now know my error.

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“It is also difficult to express the full magnitude of our disinterest in passing some Internet Randolorian’s ‘free speech’ litmus test”

I’ve hosted this site with NearlyFreeSpeech.NET (NFSN) for a few years now and have always been happy with their service.

It’s super bare-bones and no-nonsense—probably not the right platform for people or orgs that need more hands-on support or maintenance, so not one that I usually recommend to clients—but it does exactly what I need it to at just about the lowest cost out there (about $1.96/mo for my site at time of writing). This blog post by Blake Watson is a decent introduction to what they’re like as a host.

They don’t have a flashy website and aren’t ones to post often on their blog, but they did recently post a response to the extremists that have been trying their luck on the platform post-insurrection in no uncertain terms.

We’ve received quite a few emails (and signups) from them in the past week or so. They appear to believe that “free speech” means they can say whatever they want without repercussions. (It does not.) They expect us to agree with them about that. (We do not.) And they believe they’re entitled to our reassurance and, in some cases, assistance. (They are not.)

We have zero time and even less energy to waste on such nonsense. It is also difficult to express the full magnitude of our disinterest in passing some Internet Randolorian’s “free speech” litmus test.

It’s worth reading in full, read “Free Speech in 2021” on the NearlyFreeSpeech blog.

They know what they’re about, as they say they’ve been in the game for 20 years. This post reinforces my satisfaction with them as a hosting provider.