21 minute read

So — new year, new me. And hey, new blog theme too. Well, how about that.

Yeah, so I ditched the (somewhat default) minima theme that nearly everyone and their mom who uses jekyll likes to roll with. I mean, don’t get me wrong — It’s great, it’s awesome, and really it’s superb for beginners (like me) who’re starting to dip their feet into the strange, wide world of self-hosted blog sites, or at least blog sites where one isn’t forced to shell out more than a reasonable amount of cash.

For full transparency, all I really pay to maintain my blog site and ensure it’s running is about $10 per year, and that’s just for the domain hosting alone, which one cannot reasonably handle themselves. I pay that amount for the domain ritviknag.com — AKA myname.com — which I own, and pay an annual fee or tithe or whatever for the ownership of the domain. It’s rather a minor inconvenience, in my opinion, but more importantly it provides peace of mind knowing that yeah, it just works, and I don’t have to think about how, how exactly that’s functioning behind the curtains up on stage. Like the domain ritviknag.com exists, it just automagically works when I visit it in a browser, and redirects to my github.io url that I’m hosting on GitHub Pages, and all the SSL certificates and email forwarding is all automagically set up as well, and I’ve never had any problem with it, and like seriously — “It Just Fucking Works™”.

This is more than acceptable and actually a much-welcome boon, in my books. When things automagically fucking work the way you want and need them to, then one will be more than happy to shell out a measly amount of cash each year, just to ensure that things don’t automagically break and continue going on as they’re meant to go on, perfectly until the end of all time or at least a reasonable distance partway, like a serene, calm river that hasn’t done anything wrong to nobody nohow.

Anyway, excuse my language there. When I become animated, it is usually around this time of the year. The cold, relentless heart of Winter. Most people I know hibernate during the better part of this season, and every year I resist the urge to do exactly that. This year it was harder than most. For one, it actually snowed here in Virginia. Twice, actually, but I don’t know that the first time really counts, as it was a half-inch of snowfall or less. But yeah, recently it snowed a lot more. Last Friday, to be precise.

If I have photos, I’ll add them here when time allows. Actually, I posted about it [on my Instagram]. Just the one photo, but I have a few more. Maybe I can add them to here later as and when time allows. Lately I’ve found that it’s hard to be consistent, not just with adding photos but with really almost everything including blogging and journaling and that’s for a few reasons, the foremost of which is — I feel as if I’m a perfectionist. Like, I really am an “all or nothing” kind of person. If I go all-out, I go all-out. Insane speed and strength, headstrong, unstoppable like a rhino. Or rather like a hippo. Did you know that hippos are one of the strongest animals on the planet? Even the supposed king of the jungle, the Lion, is scared of them. Isn’t that laughable? Why have a formidable moniker that includes the catchphrase “king”, if another creature, not even an apex predator in its own habitat, can topple it at the drop of a hat and instill in it such muscle-freezing and mind-debilitating fear without any consequence or return? Anyway, I digress, but to go back to my earlier point, either I go all in on something or I never do it at all. I never “just” dip my feet into the water. That is almost incomprehensible to me. And honestly, this carries into any walk of life that I find myself carrying along in. Also why I’ve been having such a damn hard time finding time to write more posts to my blog and personal site.

I’ve had some words of advice though, that haven’t echoed in some dark cavern somewhere, and died like a tree in a forest with no one to hear it die. Simply put, I was there. I heard it. And it struck a chord in me. Maybe not a deep, resonant chord, but it struck just deep enough. Enough for me to take pause, and really think about it. To consider it, and roll [the thought] around in my noggin. And the word of advice for this: Sometimes, to write consistently, you have to throw caution to the wind, and stop being such a goddamn perfectionist. You can write crap, that’s perfectly ok. Not all that you write has to be gold. And it’ll most decidedly be reminiscent of a steaming pile of horseshit, because you’re writing at close to the speed of light or thereabouts, and you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have time to proofread it, and tell yourself to “backspace it up” and correct that egregious, horrendous error. And even if your mind tells you that, squash that thought relentlessly like it’s a spider, or a cockroach, or some other bug that you loathe with a passion that can’t be matched or eclipsed easily enough. Just. Write. “Just do it”, as Nike says. Nike might be a strange company with some pretty strange design choices in their sneakers and shoes at times, but they got that right at least. “Just do it!” Nothing is stopping you but your own psyche, your own goddamn insistence of being an all-or-nothing perfectionist. No one asked for that. You didn’t ask to be that. So get out of the pristine box you’re in, and think outside the box for once, in the frigid cold in the Winter evening outside. Just pretend you’re in your pajamas in a snowstorm outside, for all that matters. But just. Write. Even if every word is utter and total crap, that no one is ever going to read or applaud you for.

Also, just to clarify, but the above was my botched attempt at trying to “paraphrase” the word of advice that I saw floating around the web. And by paraphrase, I mean of course, that I ended up butchering the intent and ended up inflating it like a distended, engorged balloon that looks extremely red in the face like it’s going to “pop” at a moment’s notice. Maybe not the smartest thing that, but I believe my heart was in the right place, at least when I initially boarded that train of thought, and before I ran it to the ground.

But anyway, so yeah. I forgot my train of thought for a second there, but I’m slowly starting to pick up the pieces again. Or rather the ceramic shards. It’s like I or someone threw a vase agains the wall, and I’m scrambling to pick up the upshot of that. It’s not fun work, it’s not even rewarding work, but you do it because it rewards you on a deeper level — personal improvement, I guess. Even if there’s no personal improvement to be had, because your head is full of rocks for days, then it’ll reward your mood. Your feeling of contentment. Of hard-to-come-by happiness. Like an oasis in the desert. A mirage. A fairytale. But deep within you, it resounds and causes the waves to flatten out, the stress to evaporate. This is the outcome. This is the desired result. It is important to remember that above all else.

Anyway, let’s try to collect all the pieces of the broken ceramic vase once again, for not the final time. So there was the talk of the new blog, and then the recent events of Winter. It’s better to chase one strand of consciousness at a time. Otherwise, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed.

Then, let’s tackle the first one, the easiest one. So yeah, not much has changed, but as mentioned above albeit briefly, I switched from a minima theme to another. Whilst I still retain jekyll as my primary tool of trade and staple pick for the purposes of a static code generator, I switched to another theme that I’ve been looking into, and actually was aware of for a long time now — probably months if we’re being honest. The timeline is a bit vague, but yeah, I certainly knew about minimal-mistakes, and honestly if you do a quick google search for “best template for my blog-slash-website” or something like that, or even do a quick GitHub search for topics, and bear in mind I forget which topic I was searching for, maybe either github-pages or theme or jekyll-theme, but eventually I ran (once again) into minimal-mistakes that way. Like I said, I’ve been delaying for a long time, primary due to obstinate, lifelong laziness, but finally I decided to bite the bullet and say, you know what, why the heck not?

Like what’s stopping me. Me, that’s what. I’m stopping myself. I’m limiting myself! I can do whatever the heck I want to. If I want to go out and do my own thing, and change the theme on my goddamn blog-slash-personal-website, then who or what in the world is stopping me? No one but me, and that was the answer I needed to finally make the dive into uncharted waters. Well that, and a sufficient amount of free time — since classes and vacation have both ended — and no noose around my neck, and no one on the back of me, telling me what to do with my life. Sometimes that’s all the impetus you need to stand up and turn things around. In this case, all I really did was switch the theme on my personal website that no one really reads — no one except me really. But hey, baby steps, right? After all, Yoda himself started off as a baby once upon a time. Did I mention that I started watching Mandalorian recently, and loved it? Anyway, I don’t want to digress once again, as I have an unfortunate habit of doing that, so I’ll try to hurry this along.

Anyway, long story short, I was bored one Friday evening, the same day that I was completely snowed in — a colleague at work called it a PoW day, or a “prisoner-of-war” day, and I think that’s rather fitting — and I decided to kick the bucket around and do something goddamn useful with my blog, since I’ve been neglecting it for too long and haven’t written or published anything useful. Honestly, at a certain point, even writing about useless things that no one really cares about, like stream of consciousness or random, extremely strange and somewhat disturbing thoughts, would be vastly, nope scratch that — infinitely — better than writing absolutely nothing at all. When you think of “nothing”, what do you think about? Everyone has their own definition or vision of it, in their mind’s eye. I picture a dark void, similar to a black hole. Or maybe it is a black hole, I haven’t decided. Anyway, it sucks up everything it comes in contact with. Turns it into utter nothingness, which is the domain that it lords over. That’s a rather depressing vision of it, truth be told. But anyway, the point here that I’m trying to make, is it’s better to write anything, even this utter rubbish that hopefully no one else is reading, than to pen down nothing at all. A blank page really ought to trouble you more. It should get under your skin. It should be like that creepy girl from that insanely well crafted, horror movie “Smile”, staring deep into the very depths of your soul, not blinking, not breaking eye contact, just staring with that perfectly crazed and utterly insane look, as she carves out her name in blood on the throbbing heart-wall of your very soul. Point is, anything is better than a blank page. If you see a blank page, it should make your blood boil. Your hands shake. Your mouth should get dry. Then you should have a sudden urge to throw that notebook of blank pages into the burning, communal bonfire. But don’t actually do that. Open that notebook, and start writing something. Anything, even if it’s at the back of your head, eating away at you, nibbling like a fat rat on a hunk of cheese. So anyway, to lead the horse back to the water, I decided to change up the theme of my site on that insanely cold, snowed-in, and utterly depressing Friday evening.

The challenge was daunting. I simply just checked out the GitHub-hosted documentation page on the minimal-mistakes theme. I was stone-cold afraid to death of messing up, and making a mistake. Mistakes were made, in my mind’s eye. I didn’t want to mess up, and make a stupid mistake, and end up having the whole world hating on me. Sometimes, you gotta talk yourself down, and tell your brain that you know what you’re doing. Especially and exactly when you have no goddamned clue what you’re doing. But this was my exact scenario. I did not know what I was doing, at all. But I was pretty bored, and curious I suppose, or maybe it was adamant. Maybe the latter is the right word. I was just in a stubborn mood. The best things happen when I’m in a stubborn mood like that. I don’t give up. So I decided to get off my ass, and when the docs said switching to this theme is so easy, just update one little thing in one little file, and when the cake turned out to be a lie, well guess what — I just rolled up my sleeves, and I cloned the goddamned repo, then I cloned the mm-starter repo, and then I just started basically from scratch, all over again. Well, I copied over my existing posts. And my images. And some of my custom HTML files, or whatever. My custom configuration, I guess you could call it. So I didn’t start entirely from scratch, but I did start pretty close to it. It was a bad feeling initially, like being homeless on the streets for a single day, having nothing to your name. That’s awful to be that way in any case. But anyway, just imagine, you’re starting from basically scratch, just some existing posts, comprised of just useless words, words upon words upon words, mountains of words, like a house of paper cards, and it’s like Jenga, all of it can fall down at anytime. But it can be productive, and potentially even fun. It wasn’t really fun for me, more stressful actually. But you know what? One treats it like an experiment. Just like, it’s something new. If it doesn’t work out, you can always roll back to your current revision. That’s the beauty of Git — perfect version control. A “start-over” button within arm’s reach at any point in time. Oops, accidentally deleted all your project files? No problemo, here’s the fix-o for that oopsie-o. What’s that you say, accidentally wiped all the files in your whole file system? Well hey bud, Git can’t help you with that, and no your Macbook doesn’t know what the heck you were thinking either, so good luck you’re on your own probably. If only there was a Time Machine … oh wait, [there is]. Just back up your Mac periodically, for goodness sake. You shouldn’t go around accidentally deleting everything on your hard disk anyway. What the heck is wrong with you, for goodness sake? Actually, that reminds me, I need to get on that Time Machine thingy. That’s a good reminder. Worthwhile investment, for sure. In case one royally messes up, beyond all hope of redemption. But to thread the needle back, I cloned down the starter repo, copied my posts to there, made some minor changes, and by minor I mean that I started around 6pm and stayed up blearily wide awake until 5:30am or so working frantically on ironing out the troublesome kinks in that migration, but hey, that aside, off we go! It’s just that easy. A little all-nighter, staying up until 6am? No problem-o! A little lack of sleep and insomnia never hurt poor old Jack. Actually, it did hurt him, it hurt him a lot in the long run. Insomnia’s pretty serious stuff, and lot of people everywhere in the world suffer mightily from it. So it’s not a lighthearted jest, not at all. I suffer from insomnia too, time to time.

So long story short, in this case it was like I was a dog with a bone, and I needed to follow that trail of cheese, wherever it led, heedless of any consequences. So follow it, I did. Man, but were there a lot of bugs when I was testing it. A lot of issues. Even the posts, I had to change the format of them, for example the dates and the tags and categories. It was not fun, not at all. It was grueling, tiresome work. And I have a full-time job too, and this was more exhaustive even than that. Which is saying something. But honestly, sometimes one can treat it as a necessity. When it’s the journey that matters. And maybe it wasn’t exactly a labor of love. But it came close. And hey, there were perks. For example, this homepage of my site now looks as I had long envisioned and wanted it to look like! I have a miniature profile photo of me, stuck there like a post-it note traveling forever through the winds of time, and I have all my social links on the side, and even on the bottom, hey! And I’ve linked my reviews, which I sorely wanted to retain, yeah sorry but not sorry, that was a deal-breaker for me otherwise, and I also gained a whole lot of things along the way! A whole slew of useful goodies, one could say a decent-sized bag of goodies and treats. For example, I got RSS Feed automagically working. Hey, forgot I needed that! I’ve never used RSS much or even known what the heck was really the purpose of it (and I’m not ashamed to admit that either!) but hey, sign me up! Apparently RSS is kinda popular, at least some sort of folks, so the more options, the better in my books. Also, I have new sections at the top – Categories, Tags, Search — those all work, by the way! How cool is that, to be able to search by Tag or Keyword? Pretty out of this world, I’d say. Twenty years ago, I’d say that sort of stuff is like 2024-ish style stuff. And hey, you know what, I wouldn’t be wrong, not even in the slightest. Because apparently this sort of stuff exists in 2024. Huh, who’d have thunk it?

Anyway, what else did I gain? Potentially innumerable other (little) stuff. Stuff like the font. The font size is now bigger. Bigger and better, isn’t that what they say? Also, we got a note on how long it takes to read through an article. Hey, that’s useful! A table of contents on the right?! Woah, right on. Lastly but not least-ly, we’ve got “share to social” buttons. This one I worked long and hard on perfecting, the colors of the buttons, the CSS, and especially the “WhatsApp” and “Email” buttons — those were not there natively, not bundled with the new gem or theme or whatever I incorporated into my site. Nope, that I had to make it my own, and that meant spending long hours searching online, and trail-and-error and experimentation. All in the name of something good. Science, right? Uhh, I forget. Anyway, I tested out that handy “Share to WhatsApp” button, ‘cause I have WhatsApp and use it all the time with friends and family and stuff (who doesn’t have WhatsApp now in this day and age anyway?) both on my Mac laptop and iPhone, and it appears to be working perfectly fine on both, so I can breathe a shaky sigh of relief, and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. “Share to Social” part, aced! High five, bud! Also, the “Email” button seems implemented perfectly, insofar as I can see. It’s comparatively much simpler, after all it’s just a modified mailto: link which is universally supported AFAIK, but the colorizing and stylizing was still the daunting part of it.

All in all, a job well done after a long, grueling day’s work. The one last insanely useful boon I found that my new, brand-new overhauled site has, is a comment system. A comment section at the bottom of each blog post, even this one, now exists! How cool and awesome is that. Makes your eyes go wide and want to pop out of their sockets and into the bowl of cereal in front of you, doesn’t it? Nope? Well, you can’t argue that it gets it close enough. After all, comments are the backbone of any social interaction to be had. And the need to socialize is a large part of why most of us go online. It’s practically beaten into us, and stamped deep into our DNA — the need to socialize, is just so widespread and prevalent and ubiquitous, it cannot be captured into words! Anyway, having a neat little comment system on my blog now, is like the perfect bow-tie to wrap it up and tie it all together.

So yeah, all in all, it’s not perfect, it’s not 100% original or where I’d want my blog to end up as forever, but right now it feels like home, it feels like this refresh is what my blog page needed, and I’m glad that I was able to carve time out of my hectic, meaningless schedule in order to renovate it and give that “refresh”. Like a sorely needed back massage. I guess you can say that I gave a back massage to my blog. And I didn’t charge anything for it, either. Not a single dime. ‘Cause I’m a nice guy. Not really. But most importantly, I did it for myself. To show and prove to myself that I could do it. That I could achieve this vision that I had, of how I wanted my site to be. After a long year-or-more of running that hackneyed minima theme on my site, I feel like I almost ran it to the ground, and it was like a dead horse I kept beating over the head. For goodness sake, stop beating up dead horses. Like, they literally cannot fight back or defend themselves. They are dead, so what even are you doing at that point? Seek help, please.

Jokes aside, I am now glad that I don’t have to perform any dead-horse-beating, at least in the immediate feature. I’m all set! My site is all set. This is probably not much better than where I was with the minima theme — at least thinking long-term, as I’m still dependent on jekyll and Jekyll-style gems for my website — but at least now, I’m not forced into the idea of “rolling my own” and running off with a trusty steed with my pack on my back, like a lone gunslinger from the Wild West. I’m not forced into that life. I have Jekyll, and I have goddamned minimal-mistakes, to hold me up when I’m down, and yes, to hold my hand and tell me where to step. Because I’ll be honest. I’m tired of making mistakes. I want to minimize on making mistakes. I don’t want to think about website design too much. I just want it to fucking work, please. Minimal Mistakes gets that, though. It just fucking works. Hallelujah. It’s like a godsend. Like it’s perfectly OK that I have no idea what I’m doing with my blog. No idea how to run my site, or even what the heck to blog about. That’s perfectly OK! ‘Cause I have things like jekyll and minimal-mistakes to hold my hand, and guide me when I’m blindfolded on purpose. Wait, why the heck did I blindfold myself, again? Anyway, let’s ignore that. It just works. That’s the message I want to convey. And I like that I don’t have to think about things regarding my website design that normally hurt my head, like the UI or CSS or SCSS especially, and it all just works automagically, just like my domain hosting, it just works the way I want it to, and I have zero downtime, and that gives me infinite peace of mind. I like that I can let out a long breath, a sigh of relief, and take pride that I have a blog now that has all these awesome features that I’ve been envisaging for a long time and wanting really dearly to implement but never really had the goddamned time to get around to. Because life sucks. There’s either work, or there’s family, or there’s personal stuff, or there’s academia. It’s just a never-ending train of endless cars (I think you call them cars, right?)

But now, I have peace of mind. Finally. I can just focus on getting the words down and written (or typed) out. I can just let the stream of consciousness flow, and go wherever the flow takes me. And not question it. Not in the slightest. So yeah, thanks jekyll, and thanks minimal-mistakes. You guys nailed it. I have free time now, to focus on the stuff that I need to do, stuff that I’ve been sitting on for too long truth be told.

Time to get out there!

And yeah, I’ll update this article to talk about that other point when I have time.

Tomorrow’s a fitness benchmark for me, and I’m confident and I’m looking forward it and dreading it at the same time. Gotta turn in. Wish me luck!