Migrated the site … again.

Having my website be static using Jekyll as generator was nice. Except that I couldn’t really edit and publish posts on mobile. I’ve been working a lot, and doing lots of politics things, and have a toddler, and have miscellaneous other things going on so I honestly spend 99% of my non-work computer time on a mobile phone. The majority of posts in the last year or more have been composed in whole or part on my phone and published on Medium, then gradually moved over when I had time to spend.

So, on the advice of my friend Cate who, full disclosure, works at Automattic as their 📱👑 (emoji for head of mobile development), I moved my blog to hosted WordPress. Even using my own domains (I also have an owl-themed sub-site), it’s only a bit more expensive and I get a quite functional mobile app. Plus I can change the colors when I get bored without having to go mess with CSS. I’m really not all that good at the theming and CSS and stuff.

Unfortunately while there are numerous guides and posts out there on how to migrate your blog from WordPress to Jekyll, there are none that I could easily find for the other way round. Fortunately, I found someone who migrated from Jekyll to Medium. That process involved using Jekyll to generate a WordPress (WP) export.xml file. Unsurprisingly, you can use a WP export file to import into WP too. So I followed the author’s tool and it went pretty smoothly, dumping my entire blog (essentially) into one big file, formatting and all. It did not import comments but that’s okay. They were a headache to moderate because I don’t believe in having comments unless you moderate and I’ve had comments turned off on all newer posts (and disabled on older ones). If people are dying to get to their comments, they are in Disqus … somewhere.

The only annoyances were that self-hosted media didn’t import right, all my footnote anchors broke and none of my tags carried over. The media presumably broke because all my posts had image source values like /images/something.jpg and the import process couldn’t infer where they came from. Most media I have in blog posts is actually on Flickr though so it was only a few posts. The tags were pretty quick to fix as I just don’t have that many and I didn’t even have to refer to the original site very often to remember which ones. The footnotes on the other hand was kind of obnoxious to fix and I had to go through each post and edit the HTML directly. I was going to go through all of them and at least glance to make sure they looked right, but this made it a bit more time consuming. Footnotes: never again1.

But done! Getting my DNS (how your computer figures out how to talk to web sites) squared away was probably the most stressful part because despite doing computers for a living, me and DNS aren’t good friends. Being able to post on mobile will be 💯 and maybe instead of twitter threads or long facebook posts, I’ll just write a darn blog post instead!

  1. As if I’d give up footnotes.

Nerdy Reminders

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Part of me broke on the day of the election. Hillary Clinton quoted that verse in her concession speech. While I would have gone on if she hadn’t, those words have sometimes given me the ability on some days to not snap at someone or not snark or dismiss or even just to stop crying and get up. I’m not really religious anymore but I went to a Presbyterian church for many years and went through confirmation. Even as an adult many of the ethics underlying and certainly the words of Christianity resonate with me.

I work at a company making a laser cutter so I decided after the election to make something to carry with me to remind me of my values. I’d been planning to make an IDIC for a while. So I made this on the Glowforge:


The woods are unfinished walnut and padauk with a small chip of mussel shell glued at the center. The wood is stitched together with some copper wire and then small metal posts were drilled to attach the chain. Everything was cut on the Glowforge except the metal (low power CO2 lasers just don’t cut metal).

Why I would want to carry around that quote – a reminder to pick myself up again – is obvious. The IDIC is perhaps less well-known. Spock wears one in the original Star Trek television series and the symbol was explained in one episode. I was often a loner as a kid and my devotion to Star Trek extended to being home every afternoon for a summer so I could record every episode of TOS on VHS. Spock was a figure I looked up to. The concept of the IDIC was barely explained in the show barely telling us more than it stands for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”. It expresses the Vulcan belief that the diversity and strangeness of the universe was to be embraced and celebrated. I was saddened to learn as an adult that the symbol in this world was really created as a prop to sell merchandise to fans. But as a kid I knew none of this and I read every Star Trek novel I could get my hands on. A book provides a lot more space to create emotional resonance to a simple idea – and they are often written by very good authors with real ideas even if they are “only” writing franchise fiction.

One of my favorites has always been Spock’s World by Diane Duane and it holds up well enough as an adult. The structure of the plot is alternating chapters with a “present day” story of Spock, Kirk and the rest arguing against the planet Vulcan seceding from the Federation and past chapters presenting episodes from the supposed history of Vulcan, including eventually the life of Surak and the philosophy that turned (most) Vulcans away from war and fear. The chapter on Surak carefully does not try to explain the philosophy too much. How can a Star Trek franchise novel invent the full philosophy in enough detail to make it credible? But the philosophy was enough to emotionally attach to the pre-teen me. As an adult the bare strokes of the supposed philosophy are recognizable in different real traditions or thinkers.

Most days I remember to wear it and after a few months I feel naked when I realize I’ve forgotten it that morning.

We must turn and realize that the Other is afraid—and then say to him, ‘You have nothing to fear from me,’ in such a way that he knows it to be true. Another thing we have no desire to say! Each of us secretly desires to keep the Other in some slight fear of us, so that he will not harm us. But if we can only bring ourselves to say those terrible words, and have them be true, then the Other will become what he should have been from the earliest days—the constant companion, the source of delight in all his differences.
(Spock’s World)

Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
(Galatians 6:9)

Toward a feminist future

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day which is a much bigger deal in every country that isn’t the United States. I only learned about it as an adult at a company with offices all around the world. It’s not really surprising that a day created by socialists is ignored here. This year in the United States, a “women’s strike” or “a day without women” is being organized for the same day. I guess we can thank one of the more openly misogynist political campaigns and administrations for all the newly activated feminist agitation.

I feel weird about a strike, even in solidarity. I like my job. I’m at no risk of losing my job (nor have I been for a long time). I’m appreciated at work. I’m paid well. I believe the men who run my company try to be aware of the contributions of women, both in our workplace and elsewhere in society. It seems hollow for me to not be at work for the day as my absence won’t teach much of anything. Working in tech, often it feels like my presence in a room is an uncomfortable statement. Plus we have a lot to do at work and I want to work on it.

Instead, I’m giving a day’s salary to Living Goods. In the words of the Life You Can Save, Living Goods “employs and trains local people — the majority of whom are women — to sell goods and life-saving medical supplies at competitive prices. Living Goods provides businesswomen and saleswomen with employment and entrepreneurial skills while improving health outcomes in their communities.” They even did a randomized control trial studying the outcomes of their model and it saves children’s lives. Sounds about right to me.

I’m doing pretty well in life. I attribute a lot of that to a lot of luck. Our household normally gives money to international aid organizations because luck isn’t distributed uniformly. Women everywhere, but especially in less wealthy countries, do most or all of the work needed to maintain households and raise children with less social or political power and less wealth. A day’s salary for our family is not really a lot, but that’s a lot of luck to pass on to another.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking tomorrow off, consider giving some money to an organization working to improve the lives of women. You’ve got a lot of choices because there’s a lot of work to do.

“Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We should accept more refugees not make it harder for them

We already require refugees to go through absurd hoops. We admitted just barely over 12,000 people last year. I say admitted because clearly many Americans do not wish to welcome them. The Syrian war — which partially exists because of our war in Iraq — has caused millions of refugees to leave Syria (plus millions more who have had to move within Syria). Most of the external refugees have gone to neighboring countries and some to Europe.

We have accepted maybe a few tens of thousands of those millions. We are the wealthiest nation that has ever existed in the history of humanity. We consider ourselves the most free country to have existed in all of human history. We believe in the ability of any human being to be and do great things. We believe the accident of your birth should not define the scope of your life.

We have only accepted a few tens of thousands of people from Syria.

I am deeply ambivalent about religion and the possibility of God. But that our President is about to further restrict people fleeing war and death based on little more than bigotry and xenophobia makes me look over my shoulder. That feeling that I — that we — are being watched and judged haunts me.

I am holding back tears that all I can do here is write, to call my Democratic representatives who can do little to change this and give money. There are so many things I can care about that I have to partition them off and ignore them much of the time.

The president is planning wrong today. The congress is going to encourage him to. History will look back at us and judge, even if God may not.

March and Call and Write!

I know a lot of folks don’t like protest marches or don’t think they are useful. But they are IF you then get more engaged.

Call and write your elected officials. You can have more impact locally in a lot of cases so don’t just call people in national office! You’ve probably got a mayor, city councillors, maybe a county council, probably multiple state legislators, a governor! They all matter a lot and people are generally even less engaged in state and local politics. Pick a couple issues (or even one) you care a lot about and find out what they are all doing, then call and write.

Write media outlets about their coverage. Subscribe and pay for some media if you can. Yes they will make mistakes covering politics. Write them when they do. Mention you are a subscriber.

Show up to local activist groups. The local Democratic Party needs and wants you to show up. They have meetings where they decide what to focus on and who to support. If you’re conservative but don’t like some of what Republicans are doing, then please, please show up. Your voice is needed. I don’t believe we are as polarized as it seems — I just believe the most extreme voices control the parties. If party politics isn’t your thing, find a local group on a cause you care a lot about and show up to their meetings and events.

And if the main way you want to engage is to push back against Trump and radical changes by Republicans controlling all branches of government, there’s a guide just for that.

Finally, think about running for office or supporting a friend do it! Politicians really are just people like you. I believe most do actually mean it when they say they run for office to make peoples lives better. You can too.