What I want in a blog

July 12, 2018 - Reading time: 1 minutes

Just throwing out some thoughts on what I really want in a blog

  • Cross-device accessibility - compose, read, and manage from any device.
  • Decentralized - Easy, lightweight setup on my own server (or Raspberry Pi)
  • Federated - this provides:
    • Discoverability - my feed shows up elsewhere, others can follow (ala Mastodon)
    • Interactivity - webmentions, re-sharing, quoting, commenting, etc.
  • GUI - essential for quick and easy posts or admin work
  • Plugins - probably best to keep the core light yet allow for easier customization
  • Theme-ability - same reasons

The current state of things is very centralized/siloed. Medium, Wordpress.com and Tumblr make it easy to discover and interact, but at any moment they can tweak something and the features you love disappear, or you are forced to wade through a deluge of ads, and you can't block bullies, and in the end they kick you off or just disappear altogether. The end user has very little control.

Or you self-host and regain all the control, but lose all the discoverability and interaction. You're on an island.

I've been on Mastodon for over a year, and for the most part it really has replaced Twitter for me. Facebook is another thing altogeteher. I look forward to the day when I can just dump that behemoth. But for blogging nothing is up and running yet. Plume looks very promising, but I fail to find anything else out there. Maybe I'm just missing something? If so, please let me know!

Room With a View - Mexico Update

June 1, 2018 - Reading time: ~1 minute

We've been on the lookout for a better rental - something perhaps a little quieter, with a better view and, hopefully, less expensive. As it turns out, we managed to find all of those in the same place!

Update From Mexico

October 10, 2017 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Just an update from our new home

Just a quick update, and a timestamp marker -- for when I look back and wonder "Hey, when did we move back to Mexico exactly?" 

So the blog has been offline here and there recently. The first time was after we packed everything to get ready for the flight to Mexico. And then the flight, which was scheduled on the last day of our apartment lease, was cancelled. So we stayed with a friend for a couple of nights. Then we flew to Mexico and stayed in a hotel for a couple of days. Then we moved into a rental home. I was finally able to unpack and install my Raspberry Pi again, and that's where this blog lives.

Then we moved again. The first house wasn't quite as nice as we had hoped and we got *very* lucky with a tip from a friend and were able to snatch a much nicer house for a long-term lease. Basically the landlord started us off with a never-ending month-by-month lease. We had hoped to save more money on our lease here, but this area (Ajijic, on the shore of Lake Chapala) has seen an increasing influx of expats like ourselves over the last several years. Rentals and home prices have risen dramatically. But while our rent is about what we paid in Austin, Texas, all other costs, utilities, groceries, eating out, etc. are all much lower. Plus we probably tripled our space, got off of the third floor, added an amazing lake and mountain view, have a nice courtyard garden and the rent includes a weekly visit from a maid and a gardener (her husband). So really, what's not to like?

Now that we have unpacked and settled in, the Raspberry Pi is reconnected and the blog is back up. Unfortunately, I can't stop tinkering so I'm toying with the idea of moving this blog and possibly my current tools for reading news and collecting things to 'read later' over to a wiki system, probably TiddlyWiki. We'll see how that goes.

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My Career In Desktop Support

June 5, 2017 - Reading time: 3 minutes

The benefits of staying off the corporate ladder

The first time I came even close to having a clue about my 'career' was when I felt 'called' into the ministry. But even then it was just a vague idea - pastor, missionary, music director. It could have been any of those. After marriage and my first child priorities shifted to just paying the bills. I left college and started working. I could type a bit faster than ninety words per minute, so I started doing clerical work, then advanced to word processing. That definitely paid the bills for many years. 

I was once fired from a job where I was trying to basically be an executive secretary. I truly sucked at that. But the man firing me said I seemed more interested in the computer/software end of things and that if he had an opening in that area he would have kept me. It was a light-bulb moment. As soon as I could I transitioned to tech support, then desktop support. I've been doing that ever since.

For most of my I.T. career I have been an hourly employee. I've had many opportunities to apply for positions that were salaried: Sys Admin, team lead, etc. I declined to apply, because I could not justify the tradeoffs. Sure, more money! Prestige! Upwards mobility! But I have always viewed my job as a means to an end. It pays the bills and provides benefits, but it never gave me a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. I always understood that I was a maintenance worker. I was facilitating everyone else's jobs, keeping the cogs greased and the wheels rolling. I was never in danger of being awarded a Nobel Prize for anything, or landing an interview in a major magazine. So my search for significance was always outside of work. For most of my life I sought this through church. 

Once I was no longer in church I spent a fair amount of time exploring various adventure sports and hobbies: swing dancing, rock climbing, motorcycles, storm-chasing, genealogy, cigars and pipes, wine-making,  antique reselling. I also began work on a memoir, more of a writing exercise than a serious attempt. Later, when we began making serious efforts toward retiring early, I explored multiple means of making money 'online' - drop-shipping, ad and affiliate revenue from traffic, etc.

Most of my co-workers had little time for such pursuits. I watched them give an extra 10-20 hours to our employers, often for some weak form of compensation that could rarely be used. If you can't get your job done in a 40-hour work week, how can you afford to take vacation, much less any form of 'comp day' you might be given? Soon they maxed out the allowable comp and vacation days. I knew that I would lose much of my time for things I truly enjoyed if I were to be promoted. So I stayed in desktop support, and I'm glad I did.

In the end, we're both leaving work with pensions and social security, small 401k's and a decent savings account. Just by living minimally and keeping expenses low we were able to save additional money back even while living in one of the more expensive cities in Texas, even on just one salary. I never had an impressive title or made big decisions yet I think we're going to be ok. I hope I live to 100, because it may take me that long to catch up on all of my unfinished projects - writing, genealogy, travel photos, blog, etc. I may be technically retiring early, but it doesn't really feel like its early enough...

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Giving Up On IndieWeb

June 4, 2017 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Mood: very ranty!

While I love the IndieWeb *concept* and the general ideas behind it, the current set of implementations are so complex, so mind-blowingly difficult to implement that I am making a self-care decision and deleting almost all of it from my computer and sites. There is a *reason* that the handful of people who actually care and talk about this stuff have careers in programming. At this point, that is what is required to get this up and running.

What this means is that a decent level of implementation and adoption is still *years* away. Yes, I've read how the W3C is about to officially 'recommend' it, and how there is a WordPress plugin for it. Still, just spend some time with Google and read some sites. It's a god-damned ghost town out there.

The only way this is going to gain any sort of widespread momentum is for it to become baked in to other services. Core, not plugins. If it takes an extra effort, or a lot of command-line typing, people just aren't going to do it, and the adoption levels will remain close to where they are now, almost zero.

After the initial spurt of activity surrounding IndieWeb as a concept, there was a brief flurry of activity. Almost every solution I looked into shows this same pattern. Since 2014 a few plugins were built for the Kirby CMS. Known started up. An IndieWeb plugin was created for WordPress. So how is the adoption rate for these things?

* WordPress IndieWeb plugin - 3 years, 300 installs
* Known - no longer catering to individual bloggers - targeting education market
* Kirby plugins - I installed both micropub and webmentions - as far as I can tell, neither work as expected.
* Brid.gy - almost 4000 accounts in six years, but no idea how many are active and connected to a real blog

And that's about it. That is as much traction as this concept has been able to get. A few scattered developers have worked on bits and pieces of it in their spare time and have implemented it for their *own* sites, but it's still all small disjointed strings of code floating around, waiting for you to lovingly hand-code into your own html.

So I'm calling it. No more indieweb implementations for me. I'll still have my own blog, and it will still be closely tied to my 'silo' identities around the web, but I'm not going to waste any more time trying to get micropub or webmention code to work. Maybe someday someone will get this packaged in a more user-friendly way. Until then, I'm just going to blog and share and interact when and where I am able.

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The Last Paycheck

June 3, 2017 - Reading time: 1 minutes

Many milestones that have come and gone in the last couple of years:

* We had to move back to Texas
* I had to go back to work
* We had to move to Austin
* I vested in my pension

One future milestone is when my wife officially retires (legally, as in receives a pension -- not just stops working, which actually happened in 2011). But mostly I have just been counting down the days. Last year. Last month.

And today I officially started my last pay period. The last day of this two-week period will be my last day at work. If all goes as planned, it will be my last wage-earning W2 type of job, ever!

It's starting to feel real now.


Retired I.T. - expat life in Mexico - aspirational writer, hacker, activist, musician, genealogist

You can reach me here: https://octodon.social/@donblanco