Published

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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“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.

Published

NOW v3: Adjusting to US life, fires in CA, poll worker training

Another Now page update. Contents below for posterity.


We’ve been in SF 🌉 for four and a half months now. The first month or so was strange but it was beautiful in the city, we went for a huge walk and I went swimming in the Pacific 🌊 for the first time in probably a decade. Then the Bay had an intense dry lightning storm and the fires 🔥 started. We started checking PurpleAir every day, and on 9 September it was if the sun never came up, like we were stuck in Blade Runner 2049. Have very rarely been able to meet up with old friends between the pandemic 🦠 and the air quality 🌫. But it will get better at some point.

We got a used car 🚗 about a month ago. I’ve learned more than I ever expected about cars and can recommend a great mechanic in SF. Now that we’ve got a car, we’re spending a lot of time at my family’s place in Nevada to escape the smoke and be a bit more active in general. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to spend some time out of a city. It’s pretty interesting to experience both SF 🟦 and rural NV 🟥 politics and pandemic approaches in the run up to the November election. In SF it’s considered super rude (and borderline illegal) not to wear a mask around others at all times. In NV, it’s considered very rude to wear masks around others unless you’re in a store. The contrasts are… stark.

Speaking of the election, I’ll be a poll worker 🗳 in SF on November 3rd. Just finished my poll worker training last week. It will probably be equal parts exhausting and fascinating. I’m thankful that I don’t live in a swing state considering how dicey everything feels.

Work-wise 👩🏻‍💻 I’m currently: helping out long-term collaborators Corridor8 with some website improvements; rebuilding a website for NY-based visual artist reps Camera Club 📷; developing a bilingual website designed by John Morgan studio for a London-based gallery 🖼; developing a new website for Gort Scott Architects designed by Polimekanos; collaborating with Bec Worth on the WIP 🚧 open-source WordPress theme that powers this website; and consulting with a few orgs and individuals in North America and Europe 🇪🇺.

The most recent sites I’ve developed are the Open-weather 🛰 site with Sasha Engelmann and Sophie Dyer, the new Open School East ✏️ site designed by Sam Baldwin, and “Eternal Return” designed by Jules Estèves for artist Elizabeth Peyton. Read a little bit about “Eternal Return” in the New Yorker.

I’m still settling in to life in the US, but I’m very open to new projects and particularly teaching / talking opportunities. Get in touch if you’d like to learn or work together.

Limited free time is currently taken up by: walking and foraging 🍄; working harder on how I confront obvious and not-so-obvious racism in myself and others; catching up with distant friends on FaceTime and Signal; figuring out how to make friends in a new place during a pandemic 🤷🏻‍♀️; contributing to the Feminist Open Source Investigations Group; cooking, baking, making drinks; remotely contributing to the choral collective Musarc 🎵; and finding a new choir in the Bay Area.

Published

On personal sites, and adios analytics

I’ve been getting approached more and more by people that want to put a link to their company’s content on specific pages of my site. I’d be up for it if the linked content was super relevant and unique, the sort of thing I’d bookmark, but it never is. The link usually leads to a generic article filled with ads, pop-up newsletter requests, trackers, etc on some faceless blog. Often the actual link they send me has a URL parameter to track whether or not I’ve clicked it (where is the self-awareness?!). I get that their employer is probably making them do it, but it feels pretty icky.

Alongside that uptick in ick, I’ve felt my relationship with my site shifting over the past few months. I loved cultivating my own little slice of the internet for so long, and some of that joy is slipping away. Some of this is probably related to the pandemic, some of it is busyness and stress, and some of it is for sure related to our SF move.

I came across this tweet from @lil_morgy, she’s definitely identified part of the problem. I’ve spent more time on Twitter in the past few months due to both moving and the pandemic. While it has introduced me to some great people, it has also started warping my idea of what success can look like. Does it mean having at least 2k followers and firing off hot takes? Sure as hell feels like it when I open up Twitter. I don’t have hot takes, my brain isn’t wired that way and they leave me with a bad taste. I like the ones that simmer, a messy family-sized stew as opposed to a perfectly formed amuse-bouche of a thought. Where does that leave me?

On a separate topic, a few days ago I came across Jim Nielsen’s post Comparing Data in Netlify and Google Analytics. (To be honest, I came across it via @davatron5000, probably wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. So there are good sides to it…) It reminded me of the often-futile role of analytics on so many sites. So many of my clients have added analytics because they thought they had to have it, or they’ve been forced to have it by some public funding body. But more often than not they have no time or inclination to make use of the data they collect and even if they did, how accurate is it actually in the end? The analytics platforms usually get so much more out of that data than they do.

Anyways, this is a roundabout way of saying that I just pulled the plug on my self-hosted Matomo analytics instance. Feels good. Consider it a first step towards repairing my relationship with this site that I have cared for over many years.

Note: I still feel like Matomo is one of the better options out there if you must have client-side analytics (more on this), but it was just pointless for me. I rarely looked at it, and I think even the presence of it was pulling this site father away from what it is at its core.

At its core, this is a personal site. A personal site, to me, is a website whose primary editor and intended audience is one and the same, a single, solitary, individual. My personal site is a repository for my memories, experiences, feelings, recipes, tips, photos, and more. A lot of it stays private. The things that might be interesting or useful to others are made public. Regardless, it is an ever-growing extension of myself that I have total control over, my mirror and memory aid. I want to be able to look back at this when I’m eighty and thank my past self for surfacing things that I otherwise would have forgotten, the good and the bad.

But a personal site can be anything, and that’s the beauty of it. This is my site, long may it change.


An additional thought.

What is yours?

I love coming across personal sites, and I love helping people set them up. If you give it a stab and run in to trouble, or just have no idea where to start, reach out to me and I’ll try to give you some pointers or at least bore you to death with some worthwhile questions.

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Commonplace WordPress theme

I’ve been gradually updating the WordPress theme that powers this site with the help of a very talented designer and thinker, my friend Bec Worth.

It began with conversations about overhauling her own site. She had a few disparate Tumblrs with a ton (and I really do mean a ton) of great references, photos, and more that had accumulated over the years. All of them had fallen in to disuse for one reason or another, but she still felt like some sort of outlet for collecting these sorts of snippets and longer-format writing would be really useful. She brought up the Commonplace book as a particular inspiration. I’d never come across it before but it really resonated.

We continued talking about her site, and I started to restructure my old color-heavy Notebook theme (view in Wayback Machine) to strip out the less necessary functionality, improve the accessibility, etc. I wanted to make it something that could be more widely useful to not just me and Bec, but others as well. The early version of this new theme used variable Work Sans (view in Wayback Machine)

She liked where it was going, so we got her set up on a WordPress instance and used the Tumblr importer to pull in all of that old content. Since then, we’ve been using her log and my site to test out ideas and continue pushing the idea of what a Commonplace Book could be on the web. For more along these lines, I recommend reading her post “What would a Commonplace Book feel like on the web?

What’s next

It’s far from finished. The type is nowhere near as tight as Bec’s designs, I need to spend a bit more time on that! Amongst other things, I need to clean up the table of posts, add a thumbnail view, and improve the gallery block styles. We’re also going to figure out a way of highlighting work and other projects, something that draws a bit more attention than normal posts.

And color! We’d like to make it possible for people to select preferred text colors, maybe on a post-by-post basis or per category. Color is tricky though, I’d like to preserve some baseline of legibility and I’m not sure how much I could do as the developer to enforce that. Also, how do we handle this if we introduce dark mode support? The HSL or LCH color spaces might be helpful.

I’m not planning to submit this to the WordPress theme directory. Right now, this means that installation and updates are pretty manual, the theme has to be uploaded via FTP before it can be installed. Because of that, I’ll eventually set up an update server so that anyone using the theme can perform one-click updates from the WordPress admin area. Note to self: see this article for more on how to do this.

Realistically, people using the theme might want to change up certain aspects of the theme to be more “them”. Instead of adding a ton of theme options like font pickers and that sort of thing, I’d like to encourage people to tinker with it themselves. This is going to require a bit of documentation to point people in the right direction. I’ll probably start with how someone with little-to-no CSS experience could go about changing the font (i.e. upload font files in the Media library then add the necessary CSS lines in the Customizer, or setting up a child theme).

Clearly, it’s a work in progress!

But anyone is welcome to give it a try for themselves. I recommend it if you’ve been looking for a place to keep important references or get thoughts out of your head. Head to the commonplace-wp-theme GitHub repository to download it and read a bit more.

If you do end up using it, we’d love to know.

Published

NOW v2: Moved to SF, not much else b/c pandemic

Updated my Now page. Here’s the contents, for posterity.


After a tumultuous few months, we’ve landed in San Francisco 🌉. It is both wonderful and strange to have ended up in the exact place that I left when I moved to the UK 10 years ago. I’m more than a little melancholic—about the friends and family we’ve left, about the complicated state of the city, and more—but I’m also excited to reconnect with old faces and meet new people. As the virus 🦠 allows!

Work-wise 👩🏻‍💻 I’m currently: developing a bilingual website designed by John Morgan studio for a London-based gallery 🖼; developing a new website for Gort Scott Architects designed by Polimekanos; collaborating with Bec Worth on the WIP 🚧 open-source WordPress theme that powers this website; working with Sasha Engelmann and Sophie Dyer on an archive and online community for people that collect NOAA satellite 🛰 weather imagery; and consulting with a few orgs and individuals in North America and Europe.

The most recent sites I’ve developed are the new Open School East site ✏️ designed by Sam Baldwin and “Eternal Return” designed by Jules Estèves for artist Elizabeth Peyton. Read a little bit about “Eternal Return” in the New Yorker. Writeups on the build process for these sites coming soon, hopefully…

I’m still settling in to SF, but I’m very open to new projects and particularly teaching / talking opportunities. Get in touch if you’d like to learn or work together.

Limited free time is currently taken up by: navigating what it means to be an adult in the US; working harder on how I confront obvious and not-so-obvious racism in myself and others; finding a used car 🚗; walking and foraging 🍄; catching up with distant friends on FaceTime or Whereby; figuring out how to make friends in a new place during a pandemic 🤷🏻‍♀️; contributing to the Feminist Open Source Investigations Group; cooking, baking, making drinks; remotely contributing to the choral collective Musarc 🎵; and finding a new choir in the Bay Area.

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NOW v1: Hunkered down in Yorkshire, prepping for US move

Added a NOW page to this site. 👍

Here’s the first version, for posterity when it gets changed in the future.


We moved out of London in March. Originally we planned to live with family in West Yorkshire for two weeks before moving to the US 🇺🇸, but that’s been quite delayed by the virus 🦠. Now we’re living in temporary accommodation until moving to the US is more feasible. This move will mark the end of a 10 year period that I’ve lived in the UK 🇬🇧. I’m looking forward to a new adventure, and I’ll get to show Sam a few of the places I spent earlier years. But I’ll miss a lot, particularly the friends and family I love.

Work-wise 👩🏻‍💻 I’m currently: adding some new functionality to the Modern Art website; wrapping up a bunch of coding-for-designers workshops for the LCC MA GMD students; developing the WIP 🚧 open-source WordPress theme that powers this website; chatting with folks about tech and other stuff in free weekly digital coffee sessions 🤖☕️; and consulting with a few orgs in the US and UK.

Limited free time is currently taken up by: sorting through belongings to prep for the move; Animal Crossing 🐻; walking and foraging 🍄; catching up with friends on FaceTime or Whereby; cooking and baking with a limited subset of kitchen tools (challenging!); and remotely contributing to the choral collective Musarc 🎵.

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Instagram be GONE

My old Instagram account has been languishing unused for about two years, finally got round to moving the images and videos over here. Now I’ll be keeping all that content on this site in a photolog. If they open up their API a bit someday then I’ll syndicate from here to there, but I’m not holding my breath.

Note to self: use Handbrake to convert .mov videos to .mp4. The standard “Fast 1080p30” preset (see docs) is fine for now.

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A web color space that respects *real* lightness

Lea Verou just published a blog post about the LCH color space. This is super exciting, see her post for detail. Specifically, the improvement has to do with the perceptual uniformity and lightness being visually consistent no matter the hue.

The best way to get a feel for this is to experiment with her LCH color picker. Drag the hue value back and forth, and you’ll see that the tonality of the background remains consistent. It doesn’t suddenly feel a lot lighter in yellow than it does in blue. Do the same thing in an HSL color picker and you’ll feel the difference.

This would help a lot with the color on my site. I’ve never been 100% happy with how the color is handled because it is too hard to control the lightness and thus the legibility. See the List page for a clear example of this, posts in June and February are particularly hard to read. LCH would solve this!