Things I Learned In Lockdown

While it's perhaps inaccurate to call the current Covid-19 crisis "unprecedented" (given that the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 led to many of the same measures), I think it's reasonable to say that it's unprecedented in my lifetime - and I'm not exactly young.

Accordingly, in these heady times, I don't think it's uncommon to discover a thing or two about yourself. Hell, introspection is almost inevitable, given the circumstances.

In that vein, this is my "Things I Learned In Lockdown" post. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

One thing I learned is that I'm not quite the introvert that I thought I was. I mean, don't get me wrong - I'm kind of an introvert. I tend to be subdued at parties and drained afterwards, and if I have a choice between a small gathering and a large one, I'll choose the small one. But I see people in my social feeds who are able to effortlessly go for weeks at a time without interacting with another soul and I've come to the stark realization that I am not one of them.

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On Carrots in Tomato Sauce

Not long ago, I joined an Italian cooking group on Facebook. I thought it would be a good opportunity to pick up some tips and recipes. I left the group a couple of months later, after some members became...oh, let's call it "agitated"...over whether Sunday ragu was a "sauce" or a "gravy".

It sounds like a joke, doesn't it? Personal attacks stemming from disagreements over culinary terminology seem like such a cartoonish Italian stereotype that you almost think it just can't be true. Or maybe you just don't want it to be.

I mean, I don't particularly enjoy pineapple on my pizza, but if you do my reaction is generally just to shrug and move on. My reaction, notably, does not involve calling you a "festering puke" and then telling you to go "die in a fire".

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On Being Vaguely Obsessed With Pound Cake

When it comes to food and drink, I tend to lean towards the simple. Or, more accurately, I tend to lean towards the simple and well-made.

One of my favourite memories of the Dominican Republic, for example, was the coco loco - literally just a coconut with the top sliced off and rum mixed into the milk, served with a straw and maybe a squeeze of lime. When the coconut is fresh, the drink is amazing.

Another example would be Marcella Hazan's (in)famous tomato sauce. It literally has only four ingredients (canned tomatoes, butter, onion and salt) and notably no garlic or herbs, so the sauce doesn't really have anywhere to hide; it tastes like buttery, slow cooked tomatoes which is, well, you know, delicious.

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On Gardens and Streams

I attended my first IndieWebCamp session last week, on the subject of "gardens and streams", otherwise known as wikis and blogs. Given the current global situation, the entire thing was remote; I participated via Zoom. It was fun! I'm glad I got to meet everyone.

Wikis, and how they differ from blogs, is a topic that interests me. You may not know it, but my domain sports a wiki, powered by MoinMoin. I mostly use it to store technical notes and recipes.

I'm no historian, but it seems obvious that wikis were created mostly in order to make certain kinds of websites easier to build and maintain. In the days when "webmaster" was an actual job title and when traditional websites were maintained by an elite group of technical people, using arcane languages like HTML, wiki powered websites:

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Pieces of Thinking

Jan-Lukas Else recently asked the Hacker News community why most of them don't have blogs, and published his thoughts on their answers to his own blog. The conversation was interesting and got me thinking about my own motivations for maintaining this site.

The first thing that stands out for me in the responses is the number of people who said that they quit blogging because they didn't have any readers. It was more than I expected. I don't think I fully realized how important readership was to some people in the technical community, probably because I think can safely say that it's not of great importance to me.

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How to Have a Conversation on the IndieWeb

If you've read my previous articles on the IndieWeb, you might be forgiven for thinking that its members are, by and large, loners who keep to themselves.

Consider the concept of a "like", for example. On a site like Twitter, a like is an action you perform against another person's content; you click the heart icon next to someone's tweet, and the like counter for that tweet goes up. It's an implicit connection between two people - the one who did the liking and the one who received it.

An IndieWeb "like", on the other hand, is not an action you perform on someone's content, but rather a standalone post that you own and publish to your site. It's a reversal of the way people usually think about the transaction, and it reflects the premium IndieWeb members place on controlling their own content.

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Your Website Is Your Passport

One of the themes that crops up again and again in the IndieWeb community is that your personal domain, with its attendant website, should form the nexus of your online existence. Of course, people can and do maintain separate profiles on a variety of social media platforms, but these should be subordinate to the identity represented by your personal website, which remains everyone's one-stop-shop for all things you and the central hub out of which your other identities radiate.

Part of what this means in practice is that your domain should function as a kind of universal online passport, allowing you to sign in to various services and applications simply by entering your personal URL.

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Your Website Is Your Castle

In a previous blog post, I gave a very brief introduction to the IndieWeb, hopefully giving a sense of what it is and why it matters. In this post I'll try and zoom in a tiny bit and explain something of the mechanics of how the IndieWeb actually works and what it means to "like" a post or "share" a status update.

I'm deliberately trying to avoid too much detail in this post because, frankly, there's a lot to write, and it's easy to get lost. So I'm going to try and give a rough idea of what an IndieWeb enabled website looks like at a very high level, without going into the weeds. Further posts will go into more detail.

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In the Beginning Was the Website

I don't think I've ever felt quite as old as I felt when, last year, I discovered the IndieWeb, an online community of people dedicated to resurrecting the personal website.

This makes me feel old because I've maintained some sort of personal web presence/site/blog since around 1998 or so, when I made my first hand-coded HTML pages available online at U of T. Apparently, enough time has past not only for the concept of a "personal website" to have become quaint and old-fashioned (displaced by a cluster of much more convenient social media sites) but also for it to have been picked up again by an enthusiastic band of hobbyists with a taste for the retro and a fondness for old-school fan pages.

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How I Organize my Photos

I have a large collection of digital photos dating back over 15 years. An impressively small fraction of them are actually any good, but that's a different conversation, probably revolving around my digital hoarding habits.

Such a large collection deserves a particular method of organization. Or maybe it doesn't. Did I mention they're mostly mediocre? Anyway, I have one! I thought I'd share in case anyone finds it useful (including a future version of myself, my mind being a sieve and all).

The procedure I came up with is strongly influenced by several personal idiosyncrasies. Obviously, not everyone shares these traits, so your mileage will definitely vary - though I think it's always interesting to read about how other people do things.

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