Google wished me a happy second coronaversary this morning.

Google Photos notification with 2 years ago, today, March 8, 2020, and a picture of a curving coastline

Well, not in so many words. But I count March 8, 2020 as my last normal day, the day I went out to de-stress by taking pictures of the ocean, seagulls, and a zillion tiny clams, grabbed coffee at Peet’s on the way home, and came down with the flu that afternoon. By the time I recovered a few days later, everything had shut down.

I never did get back to the office. I’m still at the same company, but they let the lease expire, tossed everything in storage, and set up a new, smaller office for people to come back to when things settled out.

I finally got to see the new office last month. And see some of my co-workers in person. And pick up the stuff I’d left on my desk, like a coffee mug that I would have washed on Monday morning if I hadn’t been sick.

It’s weird how it feels both longer and shorter than 2 years. Everything kind of blurs together. And yet it’s so different now from the start of the pandemic.

We’re not locked down. Just about everything that’s still in business is open, with precautions. Schools and playgrounds and parks are open. COVID tests are little boxes you buy at the pharmacy and use at home instead of driving through an improvised clean room for someone in a hazmat suit to stick a pole through the window.

It’s not “normal,” but it’s a lot closer to the old normal than those first months were.

The virus is still out there, but we understand better how it spreads and how to treat it, and vaccines make it a lot less likely to be severe for those who’ve gotten them.

(If only more people actually trusted the people who know what they’re talking about, rather than the ones telling them what they want to hear.)

On the down side, lots of people are still getting sick and dying, prices are up, the global supply chain hasn’t recovered, cynical politicians have taken advantage of the pandemic to further divide society and cement their hold on people who just want to be told what they want to hear instead of what they need to know, and a large nuclear power has decided now is an excellent time to invade their neighbors and possibly spark a bigger conflagration.

Things are still in flux. Which is probably part of why it’s still blurring together. We’ve still got problems to fix (or mitigate) at every level from home to global. Whatever the new normal is going to be, we haven’t made it yet.

But not having a direction, not having milestones, not having a sense what the landscape is going to be, makes it hard to see accomplishments, hard to be motivated. It’s been a draining two years. And even though a lot of things are better, other things are worse, and it’s still so damn draining. I’m exhausted, my wife’s exhausted, our kid’s switched school situations so many times he barely participates anymore.

I want a new normal. A better normal. But the last few years have also made it abundantly clear that more people than I thought don’t want to make things better, they just want other people to have it worse than them.

And yet I know so many people do have it worse than me. I have a job I can do from home. Even in the lockdown, I was quarantined with my family, not alone. I live in an area with enough open space that even during the heaviest restrictions I could still go out for a walk. My immediate family hasn’t caught COVID, and the extended family members who did recovered from it. And of course I’m not dodging mortar shells or fleeing a battle zone. So what am I complaining about? By some standards my life is charmed, so what business do I have feeling depressed and anxious?

Brains are weird. You spend a little time in fight/flight/freeze mode and you’re able to stop or dodge danger. You spend a lot of time in it and your brain just stops classifying input properly.

Over the years I’ve written a lot of troubleshooting posts on my blog, describing problems I’ve run into and how I solved them in hopes that other people with the same problems might find it helpful.

I’m starting to collect them on a mini-site that’s not a blog: Hyperborea Tech Tips.

Several things came together to inspire me to reorganize those posts:

  • Tinkering with IndieWeb.
  • Building a Gemini capsule.
  • Opening the developer tools on one of my WordPress-powered blog pages. There’s no reason a 500-word article should need 400KB and a dozen connections!
  • Keeping multiple WordPress blogs up to date with security fixes.
  • Reading about the garden and stream metaphor. (via)

The essence of the garden and stream is that we’ve gotten used to a constant, time-based stream of information, but some things are better handled as an idea-based, organically-growing and cultivated collection. Sometimes you want to post a status update to social media (into the stream), but sometimes you want to update a Wiki page (taking care of the garden).

A lot of stuff isn’t here because it belongs in a stream. It’s here because it became more convenient than copying a template, writing the page, adding links and uploading everything over FTP.

I’d already mirrored some of these troubleshooting posts on my Gemini capsule, so I figured they’d be a good place to start.

My goals with the sub-site:

  • Deeper dive into Eleventy, the static site generator I’d used to archive my Les Misérables commentary.
  • Dig into IndieWeb.
  • Light as possible. One CSS file, images only for content, system fonts, no JavaScript unless I have a specific thing that needs it. (And if I do have to add JavaScript, only include the parts I need, not half a megabyte of some framework or another.)
  • Look somewhat decent (and legible!) on screens from cell phone up to widescreen desktops.
  • Create a reusable template, both for my own projects and for other people.
  • Be at least as useful as the original blog posts, if not more!

From this afternoon’s walk along the greenbelt: About as many monarch butterflies in one photo than I’ve seen in the last few years!

A lot of orange-and black butterflies on a pine branch, most of their wings closed.

There were a whole bunch of them clustered on a pine branch above the path. I wouldn’t have even seen them, but other people out walking had stopped to check them out.

I was just reading that this year’s overwintering monarch count is up to over 200,000 – a huge improvement over last year’s count of, I kid you not, 1,914. Though still not up to the millions that were regularly seen as recently as the 1990s. That article lists ways you can help the iconic species rebound, or you can follow the Xerces Society’s Monarch Call to Action.