Learning Something New

About a month ago, I realized that in the face of overwhelm, I was looking for any input I could to shift my thoughts elsewhere. The easiest and most readily available places, of course, are feeds. They do little to help, I realized, in part because they shifted my thoughts to too many other places In some cases, these feeds served to either fill time, amplify my anxiety, or provide new sources of anxiety.

What’s interesting to note is that I took Instagram off my phone months ago, deleted my facebook account at the beginning of 2019, and almost never look at my twitter feed. And yet, feeds were finding me, whether in links from sites to twitter threads (which should be blog posts), or to searching for specific information there (even while signed out), since so many people post there.

To try to address this, I decided about a month ago to spend more time each day reading books, and that if I was to spend time in front of a screen, I would either write or I would use my time to learn something. I opted for the latter, and decided I’d spend some time learning to code. I first tried Codecademy, which is nice but I found it to be laggy on my computer. After searching for alternatives, I decided to give freeCodeCamp a try. I’m very glad I did, since the lessons were short enough to complete in small chunks of time in the evening. I’ve done all the lessons for responsive web design, but haven’t yet completed the projects for it.

While learning, I realized I wanted to make some improvements to my own web presence. And in my zest to do so, I found myself searching out other sites to learn from, then wanting to figure out how that was done and replicate it myself. It’s not a bad goal, but it’s also not a realistic one to accomplishing something. My search ended up being another feed, a new way to look at things, visually think about how they were designed, and then diving into source code to see, only to find myself lost amid thousands of lines of code and realizing how little I know. This was discouraging and, I realized last week, not as helpful a way to learn. I’d made no progress on any of the ideas I’d had that lead me down this path.

Last week, to try to move the needle forward a bit, I decided to take another stab at doing some light customizations to my site here. I thought about simply using the custom CSS I’d slowly added to make those changes, or to try writing my own plug-in to do the same. But ultimately, I decided it might be most interesting to simply clone one of the micro.blog themes directly from Github and then customize it from there. This turned out to be both doable and fun, since it allowed me to start fresh and also not have to worry about any missing code specific to micro.blog. I opted to use the default theme as my starter, since it was the simplest of them all and so made my customizations easier. I did all my custom edits from within the editor on micro.blog, which is a bit slow-going for a novice like me, since I made changes gradually, and saved often in order to make sure those changes worked. In the end, it was time I enjoyed and I’m pleased with the site. For typography, I borrowed code from Brent Simmons for system fonts (his site is a great resource to learn simple, effective coding), and otherwise I simply changed some existing CSS and added a handful more to bring it to life.

In the case of dark mode, I’d previously had that as custom css, and I brought that into my new customized theme and then refined it into something more colorful and fun. I’d eventually like to add a button so anyone reading can select their preference, but for now I’m going to leave it as is and focus on other projects.

It’s a little thing, but it’s something that kept me going. I’m proud of it. And especially proud of the dark mode. Definitely check out the dark mode.