So long, and thanks for all the frogs

This blog as been carrying on in one form or another since October 2001. Probably because it started so long ago, it has been hard for me to recognize that it has stopped.

I’m going to leave this site up as an archive, in part because it always makes me a bit sad when I click through from somewhere to an old blog only to see an error message. I always wonder what happened, how it came to disappear.

This site has been many things to me over the years: a side project that saved my sanity more than once; an outlet to vent; a way to stay in touch with other geeks; and most importantly my own little place on the web, as I felt it has been important to have one.

I’m planning to have one again. Fifteen years have brought changes in perspective, and, I hope, a good bit of growth. Fifteen years also creates a hefty bit of legacy content to deal with, and starting with something new finally appeals to me more than maintaining longevity does.

Until that something new gets started, you can find me on twitter or flickr or, if you are really old-fashioned, I still read my email.

because a group of frogs is called an army because a group of frogs is called an army because a group of frogs is called an army

Willing to write

The longer between posts on this blog, the harder it is to get started again.

I collect open browser tabs full of interesting things to point to, then close them. I start lists, make notes, and wander off before doing more than the preparatory work. I stop before I really start.

So today, a rainy Sunday afternoon, I’m sitting here with my computer. Just a plain white box to type in, edged with the photo of sun streaming through a stand of trees in early in the morning which is one of my desktop pictures.

This past week, where even to start?

The news broke of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, and I cried.

I watched the President’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney on Friday, and cried.

It was a heavy and full heart week.

One that I want to be writing about here, even when I am not sure what to say. Perhaps particularly when I am not sure what to say, because I often write to think.

I thought I’d be a very old woman before I’d see our marriage legally recognized across the country. That may sound like a long time to wait. (Chief Justice Roberts doesn’t seem to think so, but then I am not generally interested in folks who have never had their rights in doubt talk how those of us who have are going about things the wrong way.)

I think: people have been waiting as long and longer. And had it much harder than I ever have.

I think: people need to commit an act of civil disobedience when patience has been stretched beyond imagination.

I think: not saying anything when something should be said really isn’t an option.

Things like: the very least, the absolute very least we white people can do is to tell the truth about what is happening. What happened at the church is Charleston was terrorism. Racism is a problem today. We can do more.

Do you know how many black churches burned this week? Six.

May I have more patience where I need to exercise it, and even less when it comes to tolerating what should not be tolerated.

My analog year

It was a little odd for me to not be recording some of my biggest projects in 2014 on the web.

analog stack

I made a few references to Sketchbook Skool on twitter, but didn’t blog about it. Instead, I put my energy into making things with my hands that didn’t later show up online. No special project websites, no flickr album, just three full sketchbooks. Each and every page, full, even the inside covers. The advice to keep drawing and move on — no ripping out pages — really helped.

I took all three semesters (Beginning, Seeing, and Storytelling) at SBS because once I got started, I didn’t want to stop. I have been telling myself for years that I wanted to draw and then doing absolutely nothing about it. Until Danny Gregory and crew were around week after week to nudge and encourage me, I was stuck. Stuck in believing I couldn’t draw, that I couldn’t learn to draw, and that my monkey would never shut up enough for me to try.

Going from zero drawing to filling 372 pages feels like a big deal. Committing to ongoing creativity is a big deal. It feels great.

The other book I filled in 2014 was my logbook; it was the second year in a row I stole Austin Kleon’s idea.

I used up several pens, discovered watercolor, played around with permanent and water soluble pens, and developed a crush on watercolor pencils. I took my sketchbooks out in public — years of carrying around cameras helped that feel less conspicuous; if you want the image, you’ll do what you need to in order to try and get it.

Lots of pages, not many posts in 2014. I am okay with that. This year, though, I’d like to see how I can manage both.

Share what you know

Those of us who work on and love the web all have Jeffrey Zeldman to thank. He certainly didn’t do it all (and he didn’t invent it) but he did make it possible for many of us to build things and to more productively tinker.

Remember tables? Nested tables? Yeah. Back in the day, before they were a bad thing, they were a good thing. Web standards made everything better for everybody. Not perfect, but better.

This documentary about Zeldman brings it all back, and more:

Sharing what you know was at the heart of the web, particularly the independent web. Zeldman took “share what you know” and built A List Apart, first as a email list then as a website. He brings people together and amplifies the right signals for learning through An Event Apart. There is so much, now there’s A Book Apart.

In the video he talks about failure, about how he tried things that didn’t work. He didn’t come out of computer science. He struggled as a writer, in advertising, as a cartoonist, as a musician. He got sooner than most that web was a communications medium. He understood that to make it even more effective, people had to share what they know.

The technology is the underpinning, but it isn’t the end goal: “Web design is for people.” I think it is important to recognize that not all web pioneers have been programmers. Engineering is invaluable and on its own incomplete.

For a web video it’s long, but I’ve listened to it twice now. One of the things I loved about it was being reminded of the ethos of early days of web design/development/publishing: “If you don’t see what you like, you make your own.” You share what you make.

You keep it by giving it away.

Zeldman isn’t really practicing anymore — he’s not working with HTML and CSS these days. He’s passed that baton to the next generation, and I was surprised to feel a sense of relief and possibility in this. I mean, the expert in web design isn’t really doing web design anymore. He’s not solving problems at that level now.

I used to roll my websites with text editors. My HTML and CSS validated. I created my own blog themes, I ran my own installs on my rented server space. This week I setup WordPress on my local machine, set up bootstrap, and got them talking together so that I could use bootstrap to do theme development.

Then I realized, this isn’t how I want to spend my time.

I’m happy about being technical enough to get those things done. I also know that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. So I decided to do something I never thought I would and for the first time in over a decade of blogging, I bought premium themes. Why not start with something I liked, and spend a little happy time tinkering so it does things in ways I like a little bit better?

Then I can spend more time doing other things. Like writing posts. Solving problems different problems. I hear maybe a long overdue re-flowering of blogs and independent websites is imminent.

We can dream. And we can do the parts that make sense for us to do to help.

Brené Brown’s “Sweaty Creatives” talk

I have watched this Brené Brown video at least a half a dozen times.

The video has been open in a tab in my browser for over a week. I’d think about how I wanted to write about it, but then I’d get busy with work or poking around online or zoning out with too much HGTV.

There’s so much goodness in these twenty-two minutes, so many points that made me go yes, me too! and ouch, yes and even, oh crap, yeah… that’s right. And I’d think, there’s some way to talk about these points, to connect them, that I should be making. And it kept not happening.

She opens the talk by telling a story of how she considered trying to get out of it. “I had tricked myself into believing this was my tribe,” she tells us. That’s the first point: recognizing the feeling of maybe not belonging where I think I do, where I want to belong.

The one that caused me to stop and watch the talk all the way through the first time (I’d read a quote, and this happens near the end) was “Not caring what people think is its own kind of hustle.” That was my ouch moment, because I’ve been there, and there was a long time when that was my hustle.

A healthier reaction to critics is to recognize them, but not give them the power you think they have to have. Saying “I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to show up and do this anyway” is a more grounded and realistic perspective than I don’t give a shit ever was.

I find the way she talks about her clarity of values inspiring. I want more women to talk about “the messages that keep us small” and how showing up and being seen is worth the ass kicking that inevitably comes our way when we really show up. How if you aren’t also in the arena getting your ass kicked, your feedback doesn’t matter. How if you think you are a member of the tribe, you probably are, and you don’t need to orphan the parts of yourself that don’t fit the ideal of what you are supposed to be.

All these talks won’t be the same — some of them won’t even be talks, but ways of living and sharing and creating — and that will be part of the joy and part of how it works.