People's opinions and ideals change over time. It's part of growing as a person; sometimes you realize that you were wrong or had an incomplete picture of something. This is normally fine. The people around you are growing too, and it's generally something that friends will celebrate and respect. This isn't always the case, though.
Some friendships are based around a strongly-held viewpoint, belief, or ideology. In particular, I'm talking about the sort of polarizing beliefs that people take personally. These are usually beliefs about one's identity or morality, and they tend to be very black-and-white. Religions are a good offline example, as are political alignments. Online, you usually see this sort of belief involved in flame wars and Internet Discourse™.
Friendships based on a shared polar belief can thrive, but they can also be risky. If one person changes their belief and the other is unable to accept that change, then the friendship might be affected. To use religion as an example again, there have been lots of religious schisms over the years because of disagreements within a sect. People couldn't reconcile different beliefs, and the groups broke apart as a result. People in the same group stopped associating with each other. In some cases, they villified the other side for having a different opinion (take a look at how many religions claim that different sects are going to suffer eternally for disagreeing on something!).
As mentioned before, this also happens a lot online. People meet because they share a hot-topic opinion. They go online looking for others that "get it", and they're glad to find people that agree with them. Those friendships are great until someone changes sides or expresses a contradictory opinion. All bets are off after that. Disagreement on a discourse topic is enough to get someone socially outcasted or harassed. I've seen a lot of communities fall apart because of differing beliefs that people couldn't accept or reconcile. This can destroy entire friendgroups.
The simplest way to avoid winding up in this situation is avoiding "friendships of opinions"- relationships based on a shared polar belief. Friendships formed through other means (shared hobbies, common interests, location, etc.) will usually survive changes in opinions, as will relationships where hot-button beliefs don't really matter.
A better option is screening potential friends for the ability to disagree peacefully. The kind of person you're looking for is one who's willing to listen to opinions they dislike; not just tolerating them, but actually listening to them. People who are open to opposing ideas will often be able to disagree without making a fuss about it. (They also tend to have excellent conversations on these topics- you're in for some truly interesting discussions with these folks.)
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Electronic Music
I see two main camps of people that have never written electronic music:
"That looks easy. My toddler could do that."
"That looks hard. I could never do that."
The first group tends to get the most attention. I've seen a lot of people respond by showcasing how much effort their workflow takes and otherwise making electronic music out to be such a difficult art form that it takes someone special to do it. This doesn't help the second group or the first group.
The core problem is that both groups are telling the truth. Anyone can sit down at a keyboard and plonk out some notes. It's the same as sitting down at a piano at a store- you can probably make something that sounds nice even if you're just starting out. What's difficult is mastering the craft. Anyone can make a nice loop, but it takes some practice to use all the goodies in a DAW to their full potential.
The folks who think it's easy are right, and they should give it a try. They might just make something incredible and find a new hobby in the process. The folks who think it's hard are also right, but that shouldn't stop them from trying either. It takes a little time to figure out how to fit a song together, but every artist alive has been through that same learning process. Everyone starts from zero. It's part of the fun; the more you compose, the more you improve. It can be really rewarding to watch your own growth.
If you'd like some easy ways to get started, I'd recommend checking out these sites:
BeepBox: a MIDI-making tool that runs in your browser. You can share the resulting URL with friends if you'd like them to hear what you made.
Chrome Music Lab: even simpler than BeepBox, and a fantastic way to get started if you're new to music.
Online Sequencer: another MIDI tool that has a surprising number of features for a browser DAW. Also allows you to view songs made by other people, which is a great way to learn.
12tone: while you don't have to know any music theory to make music, this YouTube channel is a great resource for learning some theory if you're curious. (Seriously, though, you don't need to learn music theory to write good music.)
Song Exploder: an excellent podcast that deconstructs songs and shows how they were made. Picking apart other songs is a fantastic way to learn how to make your own.
It's supposed to work like this: first, you prove that you own your website in one way or another. Then, someone writes an article mentioning a page on your website. They send a webmention message (specifically, a POST request) to your website saying where they linked you. Your website sees that message, checks that the link actually works, and adds a bit of code to your website saying you've been mentioned by that person. In the specification, this is all done without any human verification or intervention.
Let me say that again. In the specification for webmentions, it's never specified that a human should inspect the mention request before it's posted. The "reviewer" is software.
Most people will use this as intended, and that's great- it lets people link their sites together much more easily. The trouble is that it involves adding content to a page that a human didn't review. People have gotten very good at exploiting intended functions to cause harm. Comment boxes can be vulnerable to cross-site scripting, for example.
Something that immediately comes to mind is similar to SQL injection. A lot of websites store passwords in a database. Databases often use SQL to retrieve a password and compare it with whatever you entered. If whoever coded the password test didn't think about security, then it's possible to enter text so that the password test always succeeds. There's more information on SQL injection here if you're curious what that looks like.
Webmentions don't use SQL, but they do involve sending a request to the website containing some text. Specifically, it needs to include a link and a hostname. webmention.io has a lovely example of what sort of information might be shown on a page with an accepted webmention.
"text": "This is some example text that's replacing a Twitter thread in the original example https://www.example.com",
"html": "This is some example text that's replacing a Twitter thread in the original example https://www.example.com"
POST /webmention-endpoint HTTP/1.1
You can handcraft a POST request. So let's do that.
The target URL seems to be the one that gets linked in the URL section. Suppose I sent a target URL with a double quote tacked onto the end, something like https://www.example.com". If the implementation weren't coded with this in mind and just chucked the URL into the resulting page code, then that would close the double quotes. That wouldn't do anything too interesting, but what if I added something else after the quote? Something like this?
While there is a section on security considerations in the webmentions specification, I'm not sure that all implementations will pay enough attention to these specifications to prevent problems. Even if a given implementation manages to dodge this sort of issue, there's still plenty of potential for misuse if a human reviewer isn't made part of the process. A mention could link to a page containing malicious code in hopes of convincing a reader to follow the link. If this mention is added to a reputable page, it could easily redirect users to a page containing malicious code.
Are webmentions uniquely bad? Not at all. Any software that adds to a page without human review can have this sort of issue. It doesn't mean "don't use the software", but it does mean that you should be careful and assume that someone out there will use it to cause harm. Plan accordingly and ensure that whichever implementation you choose has thought about what attackers might try.
I guess the takeaways from all this are:
If something is adding content to your website without human review, then try to keep an eye on what's being added. Consider implementing a way for people to report suspicious links or pre-scan for known malicious sites before posting. If it looks suspicious, toss it into VirusTotal and/or remove it from your page.
Always try to think about how someone might misuse a new technology before deciding to jump on the bandwagon. Is it worth the additional risks?
Choose your implementation wisely. Make sure that the developers understand and address potential security issues.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on This Website
Why do I write and maintain this website?
Aside from it being fun (it very much is), there's a few things I try to get at when writing articles. Some of my articles are meant to be fun or enjoyable, maybe get a smile if I'm lucky. Entertainment is a perfectly good purpose. The hardest articles to write are those meant to inform or teach, though. I was taught in school that informative essays were meant to be impartial. No emotion, no personal thoughts or experiences, and even the words "I" and "me" are discouraged. I think that this approach loses out on the human element of teaching. Every lesson carries with it the mistakes of someone that came before. When you remove the teacher from their lesson, you often lose the context of where the lesson came from. Unless I'm explicitly writing a research article or something where removing myself from my writing is standard, I prefer to keep myself in my writing. And that means it's flawed.
I'm human. When I write things, all of my feelings and memories and biases get tangled up in the point, and sometimes they manage to push the point out into the shadows. It's easy for me to lose the intended purpose of a piece during the process of making it- it happens pretty often, actually. I just took down an article because someone messaged me with their response to it, and their feedback let me know that I missed my mark that time. Take it down, weed out the important bits, and put them back up. It's part of how I create things. I plant the seed and see where it goes, then trim off loose branches and hope the trunk grows straight.
I always hope that there's still a nugget of something valuable in there. That's what I try to edit for. I think of all the blogs I've read where somebody's mundane insights were transformed by writing into something others could share, and then I think of my own attempts to offer up a little glimpse to those that might need it. People are more similar than we'd like to think. Someone out there might make use of it all.
And that's the core of why I write. Maybe, just maybe, someone might stumble across an article when they most need to see it. I want it to be there for them.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Boredom
Recently, I've spent a lot of time being bored out of my mind. It ranges from standing in line for ten minutes to spending all day stuck at the counter when customers aren't coming, and each time, it feels a little different. There's flavors to boredom.
Doing absolutely nothing but sitting there for extended periods of time has made me realize that boredom is valuable. So many of us live in a world that drives us to be productive 24/7. Even recreational time is expected to serve some purpose like enhancing future work or making money. Being bored? That flies directly in the face of that grind mindset. Allowing oneself to be bored is the act of existing with nothing to do. It's time in which your existence needs no justification or purpose- you simply are. It's wonderful.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Uncertainty
If you're not sure about something or have complicated feelings, then it's a good idea to say so. Aside from telling the person you're talking to that you don't know everything, admitting uncertainty lets the other person work with what you actually know or believe.
When I've admitted that I don't know what to do or how to feel about some of it, I've noticed that people often work with me on that. It helps the conversation instead of muddying the waters. When people talk about communicating, this is part of what they mean: not oversimplifying or taking a hard stance, but admitting everything, especially the things you're not sure about. It's okay to have complicated or confused feelings. Just don't lie and say that you're more certain than you are- that rarely ends well. If you're uncertain, then say so.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Resin
I've started using two-part epoxy resin recently, and it's a whole different beast from UV resin.
Add slightly more hardener than you think you need. You don't want your model turning into a gummy puddle, and a little too much of the hardener won't hurt anything.
If you're trying to measure small amounts of resin, then you want a small measuring cup- the big ones make it harder to get the right ratio. Medicine cups work great for small measurements.
Have a spare mold ready. Odds are that you'll mix more resin than you need, and it's better to use it on something than to let it go to waste.
Wash containers immediately after you're done with them. Trying to remove hardened or partially-hardened resin from a cup sucks.
Pigments are great if you can get them! But acryllic paint works just fine in a pinch- just don't use more than a drop or two of it. Too much pigment (even resin pigment) throws off the two-part ratio and might leave you with a puddle.
Hollow syringes (no needle) are great for precise work.
If you're making your own silicone mold, then be mindful of how thick the bottom is. It's better to make it too thick and have a little more trouble removing the cast than it is to have leaks. On a similar note, be mindful of your master's shape and be very, very careful if you have anything that sticks out more than a few centimeters. Also be aware that there are multiple types of silicone, and some aren't compatible with certain mediums (e.g. platinum silicone supposedly won't work if you have a resin master).
Mold release spray is magical if you use it correctly.
When in doubt, let the resin cure for a day or two between layers. It should stick together just fine.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Being Wrong
You will never persuade people to change their minds if they don't want to hear you out. Similarly, you're unlikely to change your beliefs if you refuse to listen to people you disagree with. Sometimes this is a good thing. More often, it's a problem. Learning often involves discarding old beliefs to take on newer, more accurate ones. If you refuse to listen to contradictory beliefs, then you won't learn that your own beliefs are flawed. You'll just accumulate proof that you're right (even if you're not).
Listening doesn't mean "there are sounds coming into my ears". It means keeping an open mind and considering the viewpoint presented to you- not just picking on all of its flaws, but finding its virtues. It's knowing that you might be wrong, then seeking out more information from all sorts of different perspectives. And it is okay to be wrong. Very few people get it right the first time. Most topics turn out to be more complicated the more you learn about them, and plenty of folks think they understand something and then find out they had the wrong idea altogether. The important part is that you're willing to admit "yeah, I had it wrong" so you can learn from the experience.
I think that this step is where most folks misstep, myself included. It's hard to admit that you're wrong. Confronting your own misconceptions can be really uncomfortable, and it's a lot easier to find "evidence" that you're right than it is to admit that you might be wrong. Learning means dealing with your own discomfort. It seems safest to hunker down and cling to old beliefs, but this just pushes your discomfort onto everyone else. It doesn't make you right. It makes you confidently wrong. If it's bad enough, then you become that one person that everyone's afraid to challenge on an obviously wrong belief because you're so gung-ho about it. In the long run, it's best to be open to differing beliefs. You've got the best shot at learning and growing that way. Yes, it's hard in the short term, but it'll make your life better overall.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Friend-Therapists and Boundaries
An acquaintance introduced me to the Karpman Drama Triangle a while back. In short, this triangle explains three common (but maladaptive) roles people take in relationships. No one is stuck in any one role- people often move between them until someone breaks out into a healthier pattern. None of the roles in the triangle are healthy, though.
A while before that, I read an article about boundaries. It said that boundaries aren't something that you expect other people to do for you. Boundaries are something you do. If you tell someone that you don't want to talk about cats with them, then you've told them you have a preference. They can still talk about cats all they'd like. Your preference becomes a boundary when you do something about it. "If you talk about cats, then I'm going to end the conversation" is a boundary. "I won't give you advice on relationships, but I can listen if you need an ear" is a boundary. "Don't vent to me" isn't a boundary unless you do something about it.
The drama triangle happens very easily when boundaries aren't set. As an example, a lot of folks I know have wound up acting as a stand-in therapist at least once. It can become out-of-control very quickly. It's neither healthy nor sustainable to be in this sort of friend-therapist relationship, and it takes a toll on everyone involved.
There are a few tricks I've learned that can break this cycle when you're getting stuck in the "must save friend" trap:
Assuming that someone will die or collapse without your intervention discredits their own capabilities. Your friends aren't helpless. They're people with their own skills and strengths. They can help themselves if you let them.
If you do all the work to help someone else, then they'll never choose to help themselves. They need to learn to fix their own problems without you stepping in.
Listening and being supportive is not the same as getting involved and trying to fix the problem. Listening gives someone a chance to rubber duck their issue, and they'll often solve it themselves in the process. Fixing the problem denies them the chance to learn from it.
People are responsible for their own decisions. If someone decides to do something harmful, then that's their choice. If someone really, truly wants to die, then nothing you could say is going to change their mind. You are not responsible for their choices. You are not responsible for redirecting their choices. The only person you're responsible for is yourself (and possibly your children).
Real friends want you to be happy and comfortable, not miserable for their sake. They'll appreciate you setting boundaries.
You have your own lives outside of each other, and that's a good thing. It means that you can trust each other to stand up for yourselves and be your own people. Don't take responsibility for someone else's life, because then it becomes your own.
Ultimately, it all comes down to communication. Talk to each other. If someone goes too far, then tell them so. They can't change their behavior if they don't know that there's a problem. If talking doesn't work, then put your boundaries into play and take action. You're the one responsible for getting yourself out of the triangle.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Healthcare
People shouldn't have to pay a premium to stay alive. I really, really wish that this weren't controversial in any way, shape, or form; unfortunately, it is. Plenty of healthcare systems don't understand that forcing people to pay for their survival is awful. If you have a disability and require periodic refills of medical supplies to keep yourself alive, then your life has a price on it. You can get food, water, etc. through other means if you're truly desperate. Medical supplies aren't quite the same. If you pawn off a friend or eBay, you're betting your health against someone else's old supplies. It only takes one re-used needle to spread disease. An ill-fitting wheelchair or prosthetic limb can cause more pain than it solves. You'd better hope that those pills are what the seller claims they are.
Many people are kept poor by their own survival. Thousands of dollars have to go towards medical costs instead of life goals. Wheelchairs cost as much as cars, if not more- and if you can't walk at all, then home accomodations and caregiver staff are further expenses on top of the cost of a wheelchair. Insulin is one of the most expensive liquids in the world (to say nothing of the price of test strips, pumps, lancets, etc.), causing many to ration it in hopes of living long enough to see the inevitable complications of doing so. Even "cheap" disabilities aren't cheap when you look at the social costs, or the difficulties finding work, or any of the many areas that disability makes life more costly.
"But insurance!" you might be thinking. Don't get me wrong, insurance helps a lot if you're stuck somewhere that doesn't offer free healthcare. It's not free either, though. Insurance is expensive. It costs money, and it costs time. I can't count how many phone calls I've had to make just to keep my insurance on board with what it claims it'll pay for. It covers only the bare minimums, and only when coerced into doing so. If your mobility aid breaks before insurance deems it time for a replacement, you're screwed. If you need more medication than what your insurance covers, you're screwed. And thanks to the insurance industry, medications are too expensive for the average person to afford on their own (doubly so if they're on a disability income or can't work full-time), so it's not like you can go shopping and buy medications for cheap.
Non-disabled folks don't have to pay for their body's innate functions. Disabled people do, and that's messed-up.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Validity
"Am I valid?" is a stupid question. The whole concept of needing to be "valid" is terrible in itself, but outsourcing your sense of self-worth and acceptance to internet strangers is where it really goes wrong.
And really, what does it mean to be "valid" anymore? Does it mean being socially acceptable and pleasing to others? Does it mean being normal or common? Is any of that something you want to prioritize over self-acceptance? Why ask if you're "valid" when you're really asking if you're a terrible person for having an experience? Why ask when no one can say "no" without looking like a jerk?
Like I said, it's become a stupid question. Ask what you really mean instead.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on Internet Specificity
The internet lacks tone and nuance. It's part of the medium- we're mostly engaging through text, so a lot of the extra information carried in a face-to-face interaction is missing. Folks have tried to solve this problem in all sorts of ways. Text formatting to convey tone (eg. "oh really, you've got to be kidding me"), emojis, tone tags... every so often, another solution gets added to the mix in hopes of fixing the issue once and for all. None of it solves everything, but people sure do try.
The issue is that these solutions tend to worsen the problem instead of solving it. The markers usually start out simple enough. There's a sarcasm sign, maybe one for jokes. As time goes on, more markers start showing up to clarify other intents. It starts becoming hard to keep up with them all. Eventually, some of these systems develop into a whole sub-language of their own, muddying the waters for anyone who can't remember the list. Ironically, this makes them less accessible to the exact people that need them most. If you don't use these markers in a space where most people do, then folks tend to make hostile assumptions or demand that you start using them "because they can't tell". To compound the problem, the intended meanings of these markers often don't match their actual uses, making the whole thing into another layer of missed communication.
This is more than a hypothetical problem. I've watched it happen with the advent of tone tags. Tone tags started as a simple, practical addition of a /j or /s to indicate jokes and sarcasm. This was simple, effective, and memorable. As tone tags became more widespread, people made new ones to cover other edge cases. Nowadays, using them means memorizing a laundry list of arbitrary letters: /nbh, /srs, /nay, /npa, /nm... if you want to see how bad it's gotten, here's a list. You'd think that most of these aren't ever used, but I see at least half of them often enough to have a dictionary bookmarked. On top of the massive list, tags are starting to drift in meaning. Even common tags might have multiple meanings depending on who's using them, making them very difficult to interpret even with the help of a dictionary.
We're at a point where if you have to say /gen, then maybe the problem isn't with the other person misperceiving your tone. Tone tags often fail to serve as the immediate, simple marker of intention that they were created to be. They were meant to make the internet more accessible to those that struggle to detect tone over text. Now, they've compounded the problem.
This post isn't about tone tags. It's about how the internet is becoming more hyper-specific in the name of accessibility and "validity", creating solutions that worsen the problems they were meant to solve.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Everything has a justification.
When you do something, it's for a reason. You tell yourself that you cut your hair because it's getting in the way. You buy a new shirt because the old one has holes and you need to replace it. Dinner happens because you're hungry.
This might sound obvious; of course your actions have reasons behind them. Why would anyone do anything otherwise? Life is one long chain of cause and effect, each event sparking the next until we have nothing left to do but die. It's a lovely story. It has clear motives, connections, logic connecting it all together into a coherent narrative. Any loose threads can be woven back into the chain easily enough if you can figure out why they happened. Everything seems so simple.
There's an experiment called the Split-Brain Experiment where people who had their brain's halves disconnected (usually to treat something like severe epilepsy) were tested on a few different things. It's often used as proof of "oh, the left brain does this and the right brain does that", or sometimes as justification for consciousness being weirder than anyone thought it was. One part of the experiment has stuck with me ever since I first read about it: the left-brain interpreter. The participant's right brain was shown something. Their left hand was able to point at it. When asked why they pointed at it, the participants came up with entirely different answers from "because this is the object you showed me". They were unaware that anything else had prompted that action.
Our stories about ourselves might not be as accurate as we think they are. I know that my own justifications for an action can be very different from the real reasons behind it. I can't count the times I've done something out of fear and justified it as something more acceptable, only to later realize that it was fear all along. It's all too easy to rationalize things so that they make sense in the larger story I'm part of- so easy that I miss the unconscious motivations behind them. I doubt I'm alone in this. Language lends itself to stories, and stories are easy to get trapped in.
While it's easy to tell a story about yourself, your story isn't who you are. Everything about your story can be changed. Even if it becomes unrecognizable, you'll still be there. You're the narrator, not the plot. More importantly, you get to decide how to direct that plot. You're an ongoing act of creation, and you're the one with the paint. The rest is up to you.
Thoughts from .
Thoughts on 24/7 Availability
It used to be that contacting someone meant reaching them in person or by letter, either of which could take days to weeks. Waiting was expected. Nowadays, if someone wants to reach me, they can send me a message that I'll near-instantaneously receive. I can reply to that message just as quickly. It's effortless to communicate with one another thanks to technology.
This speedy conversation comes with a cost: people expect each other to be available nearly 24/7. Waiting days to respond is now seen as rude. People want replies as soon as possible, and there's pressure to be constantly on-call in case someone needs you. To catch all the digital stimuli thrown our way, we check our phones first thing in the morning, during every lull in daily life, and right before we go to bed. Notifications control many people's lives.
About a month ago, I set up my phone to turn off push notifications after 20:00 (8 PM). All of the pings and badges were keeping me from getting to bed at a reasonable time. I was expecting that change to help me establish a better sleep schedule- it did!- but what I wasn't expecting was for it to point out one of my biggest problems with social media, internet culture, and the modern world: there's no stepping away from the constant steam of stimuli and notifications. There are no breaks from being available.
Is that constant availability healthy? I can't speak for others without digging into research that I don't feel like doing today, but I know how it affects me. Maybe this sounds familiar: one person is asking me about computers while another talks about their personal issues, a third is asking me where to find a link, a fourth is documenting a problem that I'm expected to handle immediately, my friends text asking when I'm free, my inbox lights up with an email about a task I really should be working on right now, another text interupts me while I try to respond to my friends' texts... and that's all on top of my offline life. Before I know it, I'm drowning under overload. The tension that results is often so severe that I can't wind down to sleep, and I always put down my phone feeling worse than when I picked it up. Despite that, I keep picking it up out of fear that someone needs me. Those little red badges call me back every time.
Ever since I turned off my notifications at night, I've felt calmer. More specifically, I feel less pressured to do everything now. I don't have to be online if I don't genuinely want to be there. The digital world can wait, and wait it does. It turns out that I don't particularly enjoy being online. I'm spending a lot less time on my phone now that I've removed the siren call of notifications, and I'm able to focus better on the things I really want to do. I wound up turning off push notifications for most apps completely because I've felt so much relief each night when they turn off. It feels like I've been given control over my own time again.
I'm also less stressed over internet things that never mattered to begin with. All of the petty chatroom slapfighting and bickering over words/theoretical morality is ridiculous when you step back from it for a while. Some online things still matter (like my friends- hey guys!), but I'm able to choose when and how I want to engage instead of being lured in by a red badge on an app. People can wait if I don't feel like getting around to answering yet. If they can't wait, then they can find someone else to help them. I shouldn't be the only source of support in anyone's world.
With any behavior change, it's important to find something else to replace lost time. Checking notifications is an activity in itself, and turning them off doesn't magically get rid of the urge. If you don't find something else to fill that time, then you'll turn right back to checking. I filled that time with journaling since it can be done quickly and has a clear positive impact on my life. One solid example of how to replace checking with journaling can be found here if that sounds appealing. I've also replaced it with reading blog posts via RSS. That fills a similar niche but has a positive impact on my life: I learn things without the crap that's ubiquitous on social media.
It's nice to not have to be available 24/7. I'd recommend it.