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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.

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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.

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Home

glow

We have a framed, signed print of Jane Cooper’s “Rent” in our hallway. It suits us, and our home:

If you want my apartment, sleep in it
but let’s have a clear understanding:
the books are still free agents.

If the rocking chair’s arms surround you
they can also let you go,
they can shape the air like a body.

I don’t want your rent, I want
a radiance of attention
like the candle’s flame when we eat,

I mean a kind of awe
attending the spaces between us—
Not a roof but a field of stars.

In the past week or so, we’ve pulled over three hundred books off our (still miraculously full!) bookshelves. We’ll be giving them away. This is in preparation for putting most of the others in storage, a step in getting our place ready to show. That’s right: we are going to sell.

the art section (141/365)

We’ve lived here eleven years now. I still love it — I love our deck, I love the light, the city view — but my knees don’t love the climb up to and down from the fourth floor. (Especially the one operated on this past summer.) While the cane I’m still using to get around may be temporary, the fifty stairs represent a permanent problem, so it is time to say goodbye to this place.

It has probably always been true that there are poems for every occasion; I just don’t know them. So I’m grateful when folks like Carpentrix, who has been saying goodbye to an old and much-loved family home, share what they know. This is from Mary Oliver’s “On Losing a House”:

1.
The bumble bees
know where their home is.
They have memorized
every stalk and leaf
of the field.
They fall from the air at
exactly
the right place,
they crawl
under the soft grasses,
they enter
the darkness
humming.

2.
Where will we go
with our table and chairs,
our bed,
our nine thousand books,
our TV, PC, VCR,
our cat
who is sixteen years old?
Where will we put down
our dishes and our blue carpets,
where will we put up
our rose-colored,
rice-paper
shades?

We’ll go somewhere, not far — not past the limits of the subway system, at any rate — but it will take awhile to get used to the idea of here not continuing to be home.

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Birds on a wire and otherwise

This is photo is of Emily Belknap’s installation “Flight Zones”:

Flight Zones by Emily Belknap

Flight initiation distance measures how close you can get to wildlife before you trigger an animal’s need to escape. Belknap hasn’t so much visualized this distance as made the zone palpable: if you were to step into the circle you’d disturb the dirt and become aware you were crossing a boundary.

It’s commonly called flight initiation distance (or FID, because people seem to love inscrutable to outsiders acronyms) even though it applies to wildlife in general, not just birds. I think it applies to animals in general, meaning us peopley animals, too. I wonder what our FIDs might look like.

two small birds on a wire consider flight

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Testing the theory that constraint breeds creativity, or playing with my new toy

haiku

These haikubes were a birthday present from my cousin. The idea is you roll out all the many-worded cubes, then create a haiku on the theme suggested by the prompt.

In order to keep it interesting and not torture myself I don’t spend too long coming up with each one, but I do try to stick to the prompt and the correct form (five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third).

I don’t think that I could tell myself to sit down and write a poem, but I can tell myself to play with these.

I suspect it’s good for my brain, and is another exercise in paying attention. I’m going to collect pictures of the haiku in this flickr set.