Server rebuild status


So the nice thing about cleansing fire is it makes me realize that I had a lot of websites that I didn’t really need to keep going, just because I, like, never touch any of them or they’re just for fun.

For example, I was the only user of Reminder Me, and I’ve been moving all of my chore reminders over to the iOS Reminders app anyway, now that it does a better job of it than my crappy little RSS “app.” Given that it was one of the first Python things I wrote (and was a Python CGI, no less) and I’d been planning on rewriting it entirely if I decided I needed it anymore anyway, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort of getting it working with nginx. Plus, it was on Python 2, which is a major pain to even deploy anymore.

It was fun having a “band” website but I hadn’t substantially updated it since the release of Refactor back in 2015. So, I’ll just make it redirect to my bandcamp. I’ll probably want to get my static large-file storage bit up separately though.

Similarly, I don’t really see any point in putting my professional audio portfolio back online at this time; it was woefully outdated and never got a lot of traffic from people looking for what I was offering anyway. So, meh to that one.

I was hosting a couple of small websites for my parents and another for a friend, and I unfortunately didn’t think to back them up in advance. It would have made my life a lot easier if I’d not been going so impulsively. Impulse control, what even is it? Anyway, hopefully all that content still exists elsewhere.

Mostly I’m just noticing just how many heckin' domains I have and how pointless most of them are. Especially now that most browsers don’t allow emoji domains anymore.

Swag and marketing “gifts”


On IndieWeb Chat, the topic of conference swag came up, in the context of a bigger discussion about freebie giveaways and the apparently unending demand for free t-shirts.

I have multiple drawers stuffed full of free t-shirts that I have no intention of wearing. And I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to wear them, either, and donating them to thrift shops just feels like it’s offloading my problems onto someone else.

Much of the swag that places hand out (be it at conferences, first days of work, awareness campaigns, or whatever else) seems like it’s at best well-intentioned but at worst a gigantic environmental burden, both in terms of peoples' environments and the environment of the planet as a whole (materials, energy expenditure, landfill, etc.).

So here’s some thoughts on common bits of swag that I’ve received and my personal usage of it. This applies both to conference swag (provided by conferences and vendors thereof) and employee swag (i.e. given out on employees' first days or during internal events or the like).

Writing stuff (pens, notebooks, etc.)

I am in favor of things like this. I’m always losing pens, and taking notes on things is a lot easier if I have notebooks to take the notes in. So, I generally do use this stuff. But I preferentially use ones that are on the nicer end of things; spiral-bound notebooks with hard covers, pens which aren’t just crappy ballpoint pens, that sort of thing.

I definitely prefer paper that is either unlined or gridded/graph paper. I’ll use lined notebook paper but it’s not as useful to me as a sketchbook or something with grids.

And of course, some people don’t care for this stuff and won’t use it. So, make it opt-in.

Clothing items

Clothes almost never come in a size or style which is comfortable for me. I hate wearing shirts with large swaths of non-breathable logo printed on them. I also hate wearing shirts that are just plain advertising for other things.

I also do not wear polo shirts. Even when I was male-presenting I didn’t care for that style.

Also, “unisex” t-shirts really mean “men’s.” Worse, if I show up at a place and people tell me the shirts are “unisex” (and don’t tell that to other people in line) I just feel called out for being visibly trans. You might think you’re being inclusive, but you’re not.

If you’re going to have t-shirts as a thing to give out, please make sure to have both crewneck and scoop-neck styles; crewneck are more masculine, scoop-neck are more feminine. And provide a complete range of sizes for both styles; there are small men, and there are large women. And make the shirt something that people want to wear on its own, rather than being purely a marketing vessel for your thing.

Like seriously have you ever seen some random person on the street wearing a t-shirt saying “Do everything, believe more! IT IS WHAT WE BELIEVE” and then decide to look into rackmount server hardware or whatever?

Hats are similar; some people love baseball caps, others can’t stand them. Same goes for knit caps, beanies, trilbies, fedoras, and so on.

Also, in this day and age, it seems likely that going forward a lot of places are going to be handing out face masks. In addition to the t-shirt issues (especially regarding breathability — that is obviously way more important here!) you’ll also probably want to make it obvious that they’ve not been handled directly by people at the conference (for example, being in a sterile plastic bag), and of course different people have different head sizes/shapes and material preferences. They should also probably have flexible metal for shaping around the nose, and a pocket for a removable filter.

So basically: give people choice, make it something that people would want to wear, and make it opt-in.

Water bottles

Oh my god I have so many reusable water bottles that I never use. These seem to be especially favored by companies where they have disposable paper cups and want to discourage people from using them. When I worked at HBO we got a new reusable water bottle pretty much every month. Some of them were nice, some of them were crap.

All of them go unused.

Like, I get the intention behind reusable water bottles: Hey, let’s be good to the environment, let’s not use single-use drink containers like disposable cups or single-use water bottles.

But look at it this way: anyone who’s going to not use disposable drink containers probably already has a reusable drink container they really like. And unless this drink container is better than an average one, it’s probably just going to take up space in a cabinet or landfill. This is especially true for low-grade “sports” bottles where they aren’t even usable in a sports context (for example, being made of a rigid, thin plastic but having a squeeze-bottle top).

Like, don’t try to replace single-use bottles with never-used ones. That’s not actually helping anything.

And I don’t know about other people, but if I’m in a situation that I’m using a disposable container, it’s because I don’t have my reusable container with me. Giving me another one to not have with me isn’t going to solve the problem. If I’m visiting an office I won’t have my own personal coffee cup. Maybe just have reusable drinkware available for visitors to use, or something?

As far as bottles go, different people have different tastes for what sort of material and shape and so on makes for an acceptable experience. Especially among folks with various sensory sensitivity issues and so on.

Basically: make it opt-in.


Some people love stickers. Some people don’t. Some people will take the stickers and never have any idea of where to put them and they just accumulate in a drawer somewhere until the backing falls off and they make a big mess and oh god why didn’t I just throw them out oh no now there’s gunk all over the place

Make it opt-in.

Random cosmetic items

There’s a tendency at women-focused conferences especially to provide random “girly” things. They seem to always focus on the audience being women, and not aspects of the audience itself. I’ve been to women in tech conferences where the swag bag is full of things like press-on fingernails, makeup mirrors, nail polish (usually in gaudy, branded colors), and so on, never anything to do with the audience of the conference.

What’s even worse is when someone makes a gendered comment when they hand me the bag, in a way which implies that I wouldn’t want this stuff because I’m not a “real” woman. (Which also implies that men shouldn’t want these things, either.)

So, basically: make it opt-in.

Pronoun pins

I love pronoun pins. They’re great. I especially like ones with a write-in spot and which can be rewritten (such as being able to write on them with a “permanent” marker and then erase that with an alcohol wipe or something).

These go into a bigger category of thing but it’s good to at least consider the following things:

  • Make the pronoun itself the central focus
  • Make it easy to read at a distance
  • If you use color as a shorthand, don’t use commonly-gendered colors (e.g. pink or blue), and also consider colorblindness for readability
  • Offer at least he/him, she/her, they/them, and “ask.”
  • DO NOT PROVIDE A JOKE PRONOUN OPTION. I cannot stress this enough. Joke pronouns as an option only serve to delegitimize the entire thing (although it’s handy to see who to avoid by who’s wearing the joke pronoun badges, I suppose).
  • Also, it’s nice to let people take more than one, as a shorthand for “these options are all fine.”

And make it clear that this isn’t just for trans people! Encourage everyone to have one. But encourage, don’t force — some people are still in the closet or otherwise aren’t comfortable disclosing.

Basically, do what you can to normalize the idea of cis people declaring their pronouns, and to make the pronoun declaration obvious, but also accept that people might have reasons not to declare them, and at least make allowances for the fact that not everyone’s pronouns are going to be in the set that you consider.

(This obviously applies more to conferences themselves than about individual vendors at conferences.)


So, the summary I have on marketing swag in general:

  1. Make it opt-in
  2. Make it opt-in
  3. Provide utility
  4. Provide choices
  5. Don’t treat everyone as an external marketing vessel, especially when your goal is just to market to the recipient
  6. Make it opt-in



The plus side of using sqlite for everything: all my site data is just stored in files that are easy to recover!

The minus side of using sqlite for everything: way too easy to clobber newer content while incrementally restoring backups.

Well that blew up…


So, I found out that my wildcard SSL certificates weren’t being renewed, which in turn was because certbot needed to be able to edit DNS records in order to do so. In investigating that I found that I couldn’t install the latest version of certbot and its Linode plugin, which led me to discover that my server was actually running the i386 ubuntu core with amd64 grafted onto it, instead of being actual amd64, which was in turn because this server had been provisioned years ago and i386 was the supported configuration.

So I went through the exercise of trying to switch over to amd64, found that the best path forward was to back up all my data (which was already done since I keep incremental backups every night) and just reimage. Which seemed like a pain. But the alternative for a more graceful transition was to set up a new VPS, migrate stuff across, and then decommission the old VPS, which would have also been a pain.

So anyway I decided that since my server was still basically running 32-bit and would be stuck there forever if I didn’t rip off the band-aid, I’d rip off the band-aid.

While I was at it, I’d been meaning to switch to nginx for years, and this was a good enough excuse as any.

Read more…

Three triumphs


Three nice things happened today:

  1. It turns out my favorite dress has pockets which I somehow didn’t realize at all and now it’s my even more favorite dress

  2. first day at work went well

  3. Hacked my camera to make it Better

Read more…

Song Fight! Live(stream)! Last night!


Hey y'all! Song Fight! Live(stream) has gone really well. A bunch of us learned a lot about live streaming online and I’ve picked up many more tricks for the future. And maybe we’ll be doing more of this stuff!

In the meantime: tonight is going to be the live fight (where people can vote in real time for their favorite new song), and I have a song in it. ANd it starts in about 20 minutes from the time of this post! Please show up and show your support.

I also had a lot of fun being background support on night 4, and it was also a thrill to be involved in the Seth Gibbs tribute and for my set to be so well-received on night 3.

It’s actually pretty cool how this whole thing is accessible to everyone in the world (who’s awake at this time, anyway) and not just being limited to people who could physically come, and I hope even post-pandemic we’ll keep doing online events like these.

But anyway. All that said I’m glad this event is soon to be over with: I need some heckin' sleep tonight. (And I start my new job tomorrow!)

Current state of things


So let’s see. It’s been a few days since I decided to stop going to social media (specifically, Twitter and Mastodon) and things are feeling pretty okay. I’m still getting plenty of chatter, but it’s with groups of friends instead of the entire Internet. All of the bad news still manages to make its way to me but I’m not, like, immersing myself in it, and when I have conversations about stuff it’s with actual people and not a gigantic abyss of torment.

It’s helpful that right now Song Fight!’s chat is being fairly active due to the not-quite-live stuff taking place, and it’s nice having real conversations with these people I’ve known for so long. In some ways I feel like the pandemic is the best thing to happen to Song Fight!; the in-person live events were starting to feel like we were all just going through the motions, for the most part.

Read more…

Song Fight! Live(stream) Night 3


Two major things happening Song Fight!-wise:

  1. At 10 AM PDT today (that’s in about two hours!) I’ll be participating in a game show called Masoquiztic; the contestants will be me, Glenn Case, and Spud, and the host is a songfighter from days of yore who’s recently returned to the community
  2. Tonight’s livestream is at 5 PM PDT; tune in on YouTube for the full live chat experience.