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Site Notes

Side notes on Site Notes

Designing and building this website is in itself part of my process of inquiry – something that is very much in the origin story of this blog.

While I was formally trained as an architect and have dabbled in other forms of design, I do not consider myself a web designer, a a graphic designer, and most definitely not a UI/UX designer. My limited knowledge of these fields are based on casual exposure to it (because I am quite the nerd) and some learnings from more than a decade ago (which makes it grossly irrelevant today). Essentially, I do not have the ability and knowledge of techniques or technologies to be employed in the design & creation of this website but I plan to make all sorts of experiments and mistakes in this becoming process.

I imagine this internet place of mine to be gradually and lovingly built piece by piece over the years, and I am thinking of documenting and sharing that process as well. Where possible, I will share the thinking behind my decisions and indecisions, and would be glad to have conversations with you dear reader about these. All of this will be in the category “Site Notes”. 

For now, here are some starting points for what is to come.


Visual Design

I do not have an aesthetic direction for the website yet. By nature, I tend to lean to a minimal, structured aesthetic. However, I am also getting curious about design elements that spark joy and delight, like Easter eggs and whimsical touches. How that will turn out will be part of this exploration.

I do however know that typography will be a big part of what this place is going to look like. Legibility, contrast, and hierarchy will be key considerations in the design when I get started on it.

For now, to kick things off, I am going default with Automattic’s WordPress theme, Twenty Twenty.

Technology

Being a website, the technology behind it is intertwined with its design. Given my limitations that I’ve mentioned above, my technology decisions are based on a few basic principles.

Freedom

I like the idea of having the freedom to create something, break things along the way, and having control over how the content is used. Because of that, I have chosen to go with a self-hosted web solution instead of a hosted service like Squarespace or even Notion. At the same time, publishing content on platforms like Medium or worse Facebook, who monetise what I do and use their algorithms to decide what is worthy of being read needs to stop. At the end of it, I’m embracing the extra hassle, in favour of freedom and control.

Backend

There are many website engines (is that the right term for it?) that I could have employed upon going down this self-hosted route. I browsed open source solutions like WordPressGhostHugo and at the end of it, decided to go with WordPress because I was somewhat familiar with it from my occasional usage of it over the last decade. It also seemed to have a wider community of users from which I could possibly lean on in the future. 

Information Architecture

I feel that this is the key to determining what kind of website this will turn out to be. My desire to keep things neat and organised is a way of dealing with my anxiety and that has gifted me with a certain obsession with how things are structured or as some say ‘architect-ed’.

Structured Semantics

My limited knowledge of the world wide web tells me that having properly structured content is an important thing. It means using proper semantic markups and use of microformats where possible so that the content lives on the Internet as a useful and responsible piece of digital thing.

Content Structure

How to organise all these words and images on this website? What would the navigation structure and experience be like? How should I link and build up one piece of content with another? Categories and tags, which one? What’s the logic behind their use? Clarity vs serendipity?

There’s a lot going on in my head about this and there might be a lot of words written about this in the future.

Content

What kind of content will live on this website?

From my Brain

I will inevitably be writing new things which will come in all forms. What things will end up here depends on life itself and where the boundaries lie will be a conscious work in progress. There are words meant for my personal journal, for my family, for my friends, for my therapist, and there are some that is meant for the Internet.

From the Archives

I’ve written in many places over the years and most of that have been filed away in a folder. I may dive into it to uncover some that may be worthy of re-posting for context, for reflection, or for its timeless relevance. However, that may be far in-between.

From Elsewhere

I may cross-post things related to me that exist elsewhere on the Internet. I may also share links to things that I find interesting here. As this place becomes a confluence of a great variety of my interests and lives, this place may get a little messy which makes the ‘Information Architecture’ component above more critical.


There’ll be more considerations and further elaborations in the future and you can discover these documentations under the category “Site Notes” in the navigation place of the blog. Till next time.

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Understanding Joy

It’s the human experience that we’re fighting for … so that life is not defined primarily, for so many people, by suffering in violence and hardship, but actually that thing that all of us possess — which is this incredible capacity for joy and beauty – Imani Perry at On Being

Write about one moment of joy in my life, daily, for an entire year, even when and especially when I feel like I’m struggling to find something to be joyful about. This is the task that I am setting out for myself as I explore the concept of ‘Joy’.


I’ve read about it, I’ve heard about it, but I often forget about it. In the midst of staying afloat with what life has to bring and my ongoing challenge with depression & anxiety, ‘joy’ has been a difficult concept for me to make a part of my life. Sometimes I don’t even know where these ‘joys’ are hiding but I’m sure they exist. They have to.


This will be as much an exercise in writing as it will be an exercise in noticing and feeling. To do this, I will need to muster the courage to embrace the audacity of joy in the face of hardship. I shall squint my eyes and my heart to seek the simple beautiful moments that exists in daily life. I will train my muscles to acknowledge and reflect upon happiness, no matter what size they may be. I want to notice these fluttering glimpses of delight and celebrate them and challenge my blindness to them in recent years. By the grace and will of a greater power, I pray to be given the strength and wisdom to not give up on this exercise, and hopefully emerge a different person when I reflect back on all this next year.

This will be a daily practice done in my private journals but I will give an update in a few weeks time about my progress. If you’re doing, have done, or plan to do a similar practice, I’ll be glad to chat with you about this on Twitter or IG.

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Ground Zero

It is 11:00pm on New Year’s Eve of 2019. I am sitting in a hospital room with a deafening silence which is only broken by the periodic beeping from the monitoring machine that has been preset to measure a patient’s vitals at regular intervals. It is a cold place. One that could not be warmed by the yellow-orange lights shining on the desk, not by the wooden laminate finish in a room that I could only afford thanks to adequate insurance coverage, not by the view of the city that is on offer through the tall windows. The sight of a loved one asleep, spent from battling pain for the past couple of days and succumbing to the chemicals being pumped through her veins is heartbreaking and strangely reassuring at the same time. The peacefulness of the room is piercingly sterile.


The potent melancholy of the clinical environment and the looming new decade invited me to reflect on the previous one, and I saw a life that was better than I had ever imagined it to be, while concurrently being the worst nightmare I could ever have. I travelled on my timeline and saw my career taking amazing uncharted routes and my heart being filled with love and joy that I never knew existed. However, as I got closer to present day, the highs to be grateful for were slowly taken over by the devastation of having my closest ones stricken by illness and losing my mental health to unseen darkness. I found myself with scar tissues all over, standing in a blackened debris of broken dreams and my obliterated self. 2019 felt like the year I was reduced to my ground zero. 

Barn’s burnt down –

now I can

see the moon.


~ Haiku by Mizuta Masahide

It was in these ruins that I stumbled upon a wisdom that implored me to look up and see the full moon above. When I celebrated my birthday in November, I committed to nourish myself and it is that intention that I carry with me as I plant my hopes for 2020 and the decades beyond. It is from this place that I am writing these words for myself and for you dear reader. In a way, this is the origin story of this personal blog, an old-school traditional weblog starkly outmoded in this 20s era.

I hope for this place on the internet to serve as a public record of my learning, un-learning, and re-learning. I hope for this labour of love to be some kind of commonplace journal for ideas, wisdom, and curiosities uncovered in my mental and physical expeditions. I hope that at the end of this year, I can browse this site and see an ongoing record of thoughts and experiences encountered in my questioning for what it means to live a fulfilling life.

Much of what I hope to write in this blog probably had its seeds planted in the Dispatches newsletter which I started in July 2018 as a writing exercise. That project has been dormant since June 2019 for a variety of reasons, and it may return in 2020 as a kind of newsletter that will complement this blog. I do not what that will look like, but if you want to take the plunge into the unknown, you can subscribe to it here.

I’ll be very humbled and glad if you think that you might find (or already found?) something interesting here and plan to come back again. I’ll probably post on my Twitter or IG if there’s something new and the newsletter may be a way for you to be kept in the loop too. Or if you are still getting things via RSS, there’s a feed as well.

Till the next words, may the light of hope and love be with you.