A General Update

May 23rd, 2021

I don't mean to jump on a "Let's bash 2020" bandwagon but man last year fucking sucked. I didn't have especially high expectations, but I was also tentatively hoping for a small rebound after 2019 was the worst year of my life. Two back-to-back years of soul-crushing suck have been exhausting. It feels like everything in my life has suffered, not the least of which is my website and ability to write articles.

Recently I spent some time working on a blog redesign and consolidating cspray.io and blog.cspray.io into one, cohesive site. I figured if I was gonna make that many changes to the site I should write an article about it. So, this post talks a little about why the last 2 years have been so challenging, and the changes that have come to my site.

Last year, for 2 months I spent virtually every waking moment spending time with my mother and making her comfortable as she died to cancer. Watching the life leave one of the strongest women I've ever known and hugging her on that fateful day knowing she would never hug me back is something that I have not truly recovered from… if I ever will. It feels like there's a huge void, and it will always be there no matter what I, or anybody else, do. There's nothing to do except continue trudging on. Some days are better than others but that void is still there.

The beginning of 2020 started well enough. I was able to spend some time with my sister and her family. I was able to find a new job. My wife and I were eager to get back on our own, to start recovering from being put through the wringer in 2019. Then… the coronavirus pandemic happened.

My new job would have seen my family move to the Boston area. As the year dragged on it became more and more obvious, as a society & government, that we were poorly handling the coronavirus. I had to make a hard decision. Was I _really_about to move into a dense, urban area in the middle of a global pandemic? A disease that has killed over half a million Americans and has drastically altered the way our society functions? All while our government appears completely inept at actually handling our country's response to the pandemic?

Tracy Morgan acting out my answer to this pivotal question by emphatically shaking his head NO!

Unfortunately, my new employer was not a remote-friendly workplace, so my time there was much shorter than I originally anticipated. It has been a real punch in the gut after I already feel like I've been knocked down since the end of 2018. I have been able to find a steady stream of work but I was really hoping that the job would work out better than it did.

Going through all this has made me reflect back on what was going on before my mom started dying. Occasionally think about all the things I wanted to do with my website. I have a follow up to Fighting Against Surveillance Capitalism. I wanted to port older articles from cspray.net. I wanted to write new articles about programming and non-programming content. I wanted to better incorporate the design of cspray.io and blog.cspray.io into something cohesive. While the hellscape that was 2020 prevented me from accomplishing most of those items I was able to consolidate my 2 sites into a more cohesive design. For the first time I'm also fairly pleased with the technical foundation for my web presence!

My first blog, cspray.net, was written mostly in plain old HTML and some Markdown using Jekyll and GitHub Pages. I think Jekyll is awesome software there were some things I wanted to do programmatically during the building of the blog that I felt cumbersome. My second blog, the first version of blog.cspray.io, was hosted on the blogging platformWrite.as. Again, I believe that this is awesome software and if you're looking for blog-specific, ad-free, managed-hosting I definitely recommend checking this platform out. However, to get the functionality I wanted to introduce on Write.as would require me increasing the level of my paid account. Being a small, personal blog that just doesn't get many viewers increasing my plan any higher is not in the cards. I really wanted a static site with complete control and the programmatic bits written in the programming language of my choice.

The new design that was used to publish this article was built using Jigsaw and hosted on Netlify. The styling uses Bulma and a mix of my own attempts at front end design. While there's been a slight learning curve getting used to the Blade templating engine used by Jigsaw, I've found it easy to use and configure. I've also found that the ability to make programmatic changes during the build process to be much easier to reason about and implement compared to Jekyll. I'd also just rather personally work with PHP over Ruby.

I have some projects in the pipeline that I'm excited about. I have some interesting projects going on in my professional life that I plan on writing some articles about. I don't have high expectations for 2021 at this point but... fuck, it_has_ to be better than 2020... right?