This topic has been coming up a lot in a variety of locations for me (blog posts, tweets and toots, articles, videos): it seems like it’s pretty universally agreed upon that making friends (and really, relationships in general) as an adult is hard. It definitely feels pretty true, and there’s all sorts of reasons why it’s true (and while it’s easy to point at technology or society or all sorts of external reasons, those make up only a fraction of the reality).
I’ve got no easy answers, and it’s certainly something I continue to struggle with. The answers I’ve heard really boil down to one thing: Do The Work™.
What spawned this post is that I really appreciated John Green’s video about this (I find myself deeply empathizing with and appreciating a lot of his videos, seems like the sort of person I’d enjoy knowing):
This, in turn, was a response to Hank Green’s video:
Which I think makes a certain amount of sense (though I don’t entirely agree with the notion that we valued people more — I think the factor of having more shared experiences and enforced proximity while you build that value/appreciation for each other is a big contributor).
While I’m on the topic, one of the other pieces that popped up on my radar recently was a link to this Ask Polly letter, which I can sympathize with (being guilty of a lot of the same weird behavior when I uprooted to SF), and is also at least partly what John touched on in the above video.
I think it’s an interesting project in a few different ways. On one side it shows how much we all end up copying each other, and how quickly an image concept can end up feeling trite and overplayed. But it also calls out the patterns we associate with photographic composition — often the images look similar simply because that’s the best approach for shooting a particular subject, so of course there are going to be similar photos. (The same goes for some location shots: why are there 5 million+ nearly identical shots of Half Dome in Yosemite? Because the park was designed to bring you to that reveal, where you’ll say “wow” and take the shot.)
While it’s easy to take a cynical view of this sort of project, it can be viewed in other ways, too. It’s telling to see what imagery strikes people, what patterns keep coming up, and to think about why those shots in particular seem to recur. Also, there’s a certain beauty in the collections themselves, the grids of similar photos all in a row, where the repetition is a part of the piece.
There seems to be a trend currently of announcing departures from Twitter. As a sampling (not the only ones, mind you), here are posts from Derek Powazek, Sean Bonner, and Wil Wheaton all announcing that they’re leaving Twitter and why. You’ll see a recurring trend: the indifferent (or even inimical) handling by Twitter of rampant toxicity, harassment, and abuse has effectively killed the community for a large number of people.
I’m hardly surprised by any of this — if anything, I’m surprised it took this long for people to leave. I’ve commented before that Twitter has become largely a rage machine, and I unfortunately don’t see a course-correction this happening any time soon (if it’s even possible). I’m mostly off it myself at this point — I still auto-post links to my blog posts, and respond to DMs and replies, but otherwise spend very little time there. I don’t personally feel a need to fully depart (and if I ever do, I’ll likely just ghost), but I also don’t foresee going back to it, either.
Like a lot of other people, I’ve joined a Mastodon instance, which will likely scratch that occasional Twitter itch for now (feel free to follow me). That said, I don’t really anticipate using it a lot — I’m feeling pretty done with the format, to be perfectly honest. In terms of online discourse, it feels like it fills the same sort of niche small-talk does in real life — sometimes it’ll lead to deeper conversations and connections with others, but mostly it’s just filling time.
As a project this week, I’ve been doing some backend maintenance for my web hosting, which includes getting everything set up with SSL certs through Let’s Encrypt. (The writing is on the wall: most sites that can switch to HTTPS should switch to HTTPS. Not just for the added security for you and your viewers, but also because browsers and search engines and similar are starting to give warnings if it’s NOT secure.)
Thankfully, the days of having to pay an arm and a leg for a cert have passed. Let’s Encrypt is a free non-profit service (in partnership with other orgs including EFF, Mozilla, and Akamai, to name a few), which generates free, short term SSL certificates for your site. (For larger organizations, you may want to still throw down on a longer term set of certs, but for personal use this is great.)
Using the certs is pretty straightforward: they’ve created a tool that can run on your web server called certbot which streamlines the process and also monitors and automatically renews the certificates when they’re close to expiration. Installing certbot is pretty straightforward: it’s available via various package managers (apt and similar), so chances are good that whatever OS your server is running can install it pretty easily.
That said, there are still a few gotchas that I felt like got glossed over in the docs I was reading/following when using the tool, so here’s a few notes:
Be explicit about your domains: certbot doesn’t currently support wildcards (i.e. being able to say *.nadreck.me and have that handle any subdomains like images.nadreck.me). Instead, list them all out if you want them to share a certificate, and that includes both with and without www. So, for example, you might want to do something like sudo certbot --apache -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me. If you don’t include both, someone going to your site using the address that wasn’t specified may end up getting the site blocked and the user warned of something potentially fraudulent.
If you already generated a certificate for a domain and need to update it (maybe you added a subdomain, or forgot to add www), the command you’re looking for is --expand. (I would have thought “update”, but no.) Note that when expanding a certificate, you need to re-list all domains you want included (you don’t just list the one you’re adding). So, using nadreck.me as an example again, if I wanted to add “images.nadreck.me” to the existing cert, I’d do sudo certbot --expand -d nadreck.me -d www.nadreck.me -d images.nadreck.me.
Keep it separated: the certs are free, there’s no need to overload the cert with a ton of domains. While it makes a certain amount of sense to bundle a domain and subdomains together, there’s no need to make one cert for all your sites. criticalgames.com shares a cert with nadreck.criticalgames.com, but not with nabilmaynard.com, if that makes any sense.
You can’t preemptively add sites to a cert. Certbot/letsencrypt performs a challenge response as part of the process to make sure you actually own the site you’re trying to set up, so if you haven’t actually set up that site or subdomain, the challenge will fail and the cert won’t be generated correctly. If you wanted to add, say, files.nadreck.me to your certificate, you’d need to set up that subdomain first, then expand your certificate. (The site can be empty, but the URL needs to resolve and land somewhere real.)
Anyway, hope that helps! The process really is pretty straightforward, and I recommend getting things set up to anyone maintaining a website these days.
Slowly putting more photos in my gallery. It’s been cloudy and a bit cooler the past day and a half, but that’s totally okay. Makes for a nice juxtaposition between the blue skies I posted earlier, and now:
It’s that time of year where I head back east to see family, and spend some time on Squam Lake. It’s also usually a time of reflection and taking stock for me, and it’s been a while since I wrote something like that here, so forgive the rambling post. For those that don’t care, here’s a picture:
It’s been stupidly hot in Portland for the past week, so I opted to flee to the coast on Sunday, ending up wandering through Port Angeles, Washington, and Olympic National Park. It continues to be one of my favorite regions and parks that I’ve visited. I could totally see myself ending up out there, if I’m not careful.
With my usual caveat that I’m not primarily a programmer (and thus I’m sure there are better ways to do things), I thought I’d share a quick python script I put together.
For some context: I’ve been a long-time subscriber to the KEXP Song of the Day podcast, and I’m not prone to deleting songs after listening to them, which means that podcast is up to ~3000 songs, all sitting in a single folder. My car stereo has usb support, so ostensibly I can dump the whole folder onto a usb key and play it all while driving. Unfortunately, the car stereo can’t handle a folder with that many songs, so I needed to split it into smaller subfolders of around 100 songs each.
Now, I could do this manually (and did, the first time around), but I wanted an excuse to experiment with some scripting, and also wanted to fix some of the song titles (sometimes the ID3 title tag would include the artist, other times not). Doing some searching around, it seems like there’s a pretty solid python library for reading and manipulating ID3 tags, so I decided to use that.
You can see the resulting script here. It does two things: copy the files into subfolders (in a somewhat arbitrary order, which I may try to fix later), and then compare the ID3 artist tag to the ID3 title tag, and if the title tag starts with the same thing as the artist tag, strip the artist name out of the title tag (since it’s redundant, and meant the title was often cut off from being seen on the stereo’s display).
If it’s useful for you, cool! If not, I figured I’d at least share what I’ve been puttering with lately.
I’ve quoted or linked to Wil’s depression posts numerous times over the years. Partly because his take on it resonates with my own, partly because I think awareness is important and worth signal boosting. His recent (ish, this was posted in May and has been sitting in my queue for a while) talk about living with chronic depression is another great example, and worth reading.
I was a worrier growing up (and to a lesser extent, still am), though not to the degree he experienced. I will say, in more recent years, it’s been manifesting as more social anxiety, which ain’t great, though I’m at least aware, and haven’t gone full hermit. But the chronic depression, that I definitely get. For me, it’s been sort of a low-grade background radiation in my life. The default level is functional, but present, and then sometimes there’s spikes or troughs where it’s more or less noticeable — more or less manageable. (I doubt this is news to anyone reading this, but if it is: hey, yep, and if I ever seem worn out and a little distant when we’re talking, 95% of the time this is why, and not anything you said or did. If you type “depression” into the search bar for this blog, you’ll see I’ve written about it a fair bit.)
It can be a little intimidating to publicly post about grappling with depression. Potential employers or romantic partners or friends may see this, and not take it positively. Also, exposing parts of yourself in any way on the internet these days can be a little scary. But I think it’s important. As Wil says:
Finally, we who live with mental illness need to talk about it, because our friends and neighbors know us and trust us. It’s one thing for me to stand here and tell you that you’re not alone in this fight, but it’s something else entirely for you to prove it. We need to share our experiences, so someone who is suffering the way I was won’t feel weird or broken or ashamed or afraid to seek treatment. So that parents don’t feel like they have failed or somehow screwed up when they see symptoms in their kids.
KI I don’t have a problem, necessarily, about reading for improvement. I often choose a book because I think I’m going to enjoy it, but I think also it’s going to improve me in some sense. But when you ask yourself, “Is this going to improve me?” what are you really asking? I think I probably do turn to books for some sort of spiritual and intellectual nourishment: I think I’m going to learn something about the world, about people. But if by “improving”, we mean it would help me go up the class ladder, then it’s not what reading and writing should be about. Books are serving the same function as certain brands of cars or jewellery, in just denoting social position. That kind of motivation attaches itself to reading in a way that probably doesn’t attach itself to film.
Many of the great classics that are studied by film scholars are sci-fi: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Kubrick’s 2001. They don’t seem to have suffered from the kind of genre stigmatisation their equivalents would have done in book form.
NG I remember as a boy reading an essay by C S Lewis in which he writes about the way that people use the term “escapism” – the way literature is looked down on when it’s being used as escapism – and Lewis says that this is very strange, because actually there’s only one class of people who don’t like escape, and that’s jailers: people who want to keep you where you are. I’ve never had anything against escapist literature, because I figure that escape is a good thing: going to a different place, learning things, and coming back with tools you might not have known.