some of it isn't, but opinions differ as to which is which

Some Thoughts About Hugo

Let’s get one thing straight off the top. I really like Hugo, it’s quite fun conceptually, copying things from Scrivener into a Markdown file is not terrible, and should get quite a bit easier/automatic once I can get my hands on version 3 and get things set up properly. Now that I’ve just about got my site’s template files set up properly, that’s all that I really need to do.1 Hugo lets me fiddle with basically everything, and set most things up the way I want them. I think it was also probably the easiest way for me to make this type of website. I’m planning on using it for the foreseeable future.


This whole, fairly uncomplicated site was notably more difficult to set up than I anticipated. I have a development background,2 and that helped quite a lot, and my prickly stubbornness got me the rest of the way.3 There are a few reasons for why this was difficult.

First, I’m playing with version 0.39 (currently) of an open source tool. This probably means you should take most of my following complaints with a grain of salt, although you should also remember that I’m claiming that this was the easiest tool to use that would do what I needed. That says things about my available options. The nice thing about Hugo is that you can get it as a standalone executable. I didn’t have to install a package management system, or manage dependencies, or install an entire language interpreter. I did have to install git (a command-line version control system) to make installing themes easy. I did have to deal with documentation that was pretty inadequate at times.

I left development over five years ago, so practices and tools and workflows have changed, and also now I get pretty grumpy when software assumes I’ll be some sort of developer when I use it. Hugo definitely does that. It’s really powerful, but a lot of its power comes because any theme’s template files are written in a combo of HTML and Go inclusions, with maybe some Javascript if the theme developer was feeling ambitious, and while a lot of settings could be abstracted out from the theme files to the site configuration file, they generally… aren’t. Hugo also doesn’t come with anything useful in the way of a default theme, so you end up needing to get one from the theme site, just about all of which are community provided. I think? It’s not very clear.

Which is fine, but an individual theme isn’t guaranteed to be up to date with your new version of Hugo, and you’ll probably end up wanting to change things a bit, and maybe the template files weren’t quite complete in the first place, and the next thing you know, you have a bunch of empty pages that should be holding Stuff.

Again, this is the static site generator that had the easiest entrance requirements on a Windows machine.

So I really enjoy what I can do with Hugo, and again, I intend to keep using it, but I’m not sure I’d be able to recommend it to that many people who want to set up their own site. The learning curve is waaaay steeper than the blogposts by adoring developers who used it to put up some project notes and a two-post blog about their Hugo Experience would have you believe. This is extra true for people running things on a Windows desktop.

A lot of this could be fixed with a really solid useful template that tries to abstract out a bunch of settings to the site configuration file so users don’t have to dig into the template files until they were ready, and that is also kept up-to-date. Which may already exist! But I was having a lot of trouble trying to find it. A lot of problems could also be fixed with clearer documentation for Hugo itself, particularly by describing how to put all the various templates and functions and variables together into a cohesive whole. It’s really very by-developers-for-developers currently, and I don’t think it has to be. There’s nothing about constructing a static website that demands that only professional software developers be able do it, and I’d really like to see some more widely usable options here that don’t rely on software-as-a-service or drag-and-drop hand-holding.

  1. Well, I also need to get a script or whatever sorted to SFTP the constructed site onto my webserver, but that should be pretty minor. [return]
  2. C++ embedded, nothing even remotely frontend, but I can look at unfamiliar code and not run screaming. More importantly, I know when to expect there to be code. [return]
  3. Ask my husband how often I turned down his offers to help because “I need to learn how to make this work myself, dammit.” Apparently I felt very strongly about how it was an Important Life Skill. [return]

Help, I Want My Software Back

I’m trying to fit my head around the absurdly sudden realization that tech and software and the internet mostly don’t exist for me anymore. They exist for developers, and they exist for people that use a lot of Facebook/Google/Twitter/Apple, but they don’t exist for me, user with a Windows desktop machine and a willingness to fiddle with settings and install bits of software to do individual things, but not to install five package managers and three development environments just to get a tool running; an entire market sector seems weirdly gone, and I don’t know what to do with this discovery.

I’m probably hitting middle age a wee bit early. Is this how people feel before they have that mid-life crisis? Like everything they used to know is gone now, and nothing that remains quite makes sense?

You get apps, or you get cloud services, or you get IoT devices, or you get tools made by developers for developers. There is very little else. Why? I can see how we got to this place, via App Stores, and walled gardens, and Silicon Valley-style venture capitalism. Either you want everyone as your end-user/product, thus narrowing your design and UX choices, and your capabilities, or you want to be able to assume that the end-user will just make their own crap or cobble together a twelve-step workflow if they can’t get yours to work properly. Was this inevitable? Is this the way things should be? Why isn’t there any middle ground? Why do I keep feeling the need to yell at these kids to get off my lawn?

There are 4-5 standalone RSS readers for Windows. Maybe one or two are being currently updated, the rest have had their development abandoned. The ones that exist don’t really do what I want them to, or are annoying to use. I can sign up for an online RSS aggregator, or install my own on a server, or use a browser plugin so I will have to figure this out all over again the next time I switch browsers. None of these things are exactly what I want. It’s so weird to not be able to find exactly what I want. I need to think about my wants and needs again.

I’m starting to think I may be old and crotchety.

I set out to make this static website, and the only tools I could find for this were developer-oriented. Hugo was the only one that didn’t require me to install a full-on development environment, although I still needed to install git (a version control system) to easily download themes for it. Dreamweaver still exists, but it’s an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription app now. You can only buy the very basic set of Microsoft Office applications as a one-time purchase. Everything else is subscription-based. All of this was coming, I heard people yelling about it ten or more years ago, but it didn’t seem to apply to me then, and I didn’t think it would really turn out this way. The height of hubris, really, for me to assume that software and the internet would continue to exist in ways that I enjoyed and found useful while I waltzed off to poke around in the shiny new ecosystems that were springing up.

Now, as I want to pull back into more individualized options from the larger internet ecosystems that have taken over so much, as I want to feel like I own my own systems of working again, those options are disappearing. Or have been disappearing for the last decade. I feel like I should be in mourning, but I’ve still not really convinced myself that that’s reasonable or sane.

At least PC games have never really gone away. Escapism is vital.

An Entry Point

Here I have, finally, a first stab at a fresh website construction. Ideally this will be a place I can put bits of blog writing about various things I will never get paid to think about, maybe some random thoughts about video games and books, as well have a semi-organized place to put links to writing and non-writing projects and whatnot.

I have a lot of thoughts about the process that I took to get this up and running, and the current state of Hugo (the static site generator I’m using to make these pages) and the internet in general. I was going to put some of them here, but it got far too long. I might flesh that out a bit later, if it still seems worthwhile. For now, I’ll just end with a link to this Anil Dash piece from 6 years ago that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Gender Stereotyping, Recursively

I’m going to run the risk of defining a newly-resuscitated blog as being part of a genre I don’t actually spend that much time in, but I’ve been obsessing about something for a few weeks, and we all know that never ends well.

Some background: I grew up evangelical fundamentalist. I basically remained so, until I got out of college, started my first job, and suddenly had the space and time to form my own opinions about things. I’m also not stereotypically feminine, in a number of ways.

Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity, as it embraces gender stereotypes, reinforces them through religious and moral motivations…

Nope, nope. Far too abstracted. I’ll try again.

Suppose you’re a girl in a fundamentalist church. More specifically, suppose you’re an introvert who has a difficult time with small talk, enjoys playing video games and reading science fiction, and has way, way more of a logical bent than an emotional one. You hear sermons and lessons about what being a good Christian woman means, and you want to hear these, because seriously, who doesn’t want to be the best person they can be? But part of this is hearing that God has designed women to be emotionally-oriented, nurturing, supportive, and good at verbal communication,1 because leaders and teachers in your church believe that this sort of stereotype of what women are like is true and useful. These things, individually, are all good traits to have, but not every woman has these traits, and you definitely do not have all of these traits. So, now what?

Different people have different responses to this, but most of the responses involve leaving, changing part of yourself, or hiding part of yourself. The part that took me the longest time to figure out was how much of the changing or hiding is completely beneath the surface. The changing and hiding also explains why you end up with a situation where a lot of women in a given church really do seem to meet a stereotype, which reinforces teaching that stereotypes have a basis in fact, and look, here we go around again.

So. You’re not about to leave the church because you don’t fit in, because that’s not what you want, because you have a vested interest in being the best sort of woman you can be, so what do you do instead? You emphasize those parts of yourself that match the stereotype, and ignore, downplay, or just don’t bring up actual character strengths that you have, but which don’t match the stereotype. Or you figure out a way to describe your individual strengths in the language of the stereotype. For instance, you’re not great at the small talk thing, so you focus on being a listener in those social settings where women are talking amongst themselves. You read a lot, so you start reading what the other girls are reading, to have some sort of commonality. You resist the urge to tell people when they’re not making logical sense, because since women aren’t supposed to be good at that sort of thing, maybe you’re wrong about yourself anyway.2 The stereotype reinforces itself.

There are more complicated social aspects as well, which are actually really interesting in a social observation sort of way. I’m a bit of a loner, but I know that social interaction is important. Churches also recognize this, and conservative or fundamentalist churches, especially, really want most of your meaningful social interaction to take place within the church, or with like-minded believers. But organized or off-the-cuff social activities among women in the church tend to reinforce the sorts of things women are commonly supposed to enjoy doing, like cooking, or gardening, or talking about books, or arts and crafts, or decorating, because it’s assumed that they’ll benefit or be of interest to most women there, since the stereotype says so.

None of this is actually as intentional as I’m making it sound; it just kind of happens, as a result of everyone working from the ‘women are like this, not like that’ playbook. In order to have these social interactions (which, again, are supposed to be a Christian woman’s most meaningful interactions with other women), individual women need to either like doing these sorts of things, or learn to like doing these sorts of things. Activities like cooking and gardening and scrapbooking and visiting Victorian-esque tea houses are fantastic if you’re the sort of person who enjoys them, but so are things like building computers, playing MMOs, and fixing small engines, and you won’t, generally, find women doing these other sorts of things as social activities in fundamentalist churches. Again, the stereotypes reinforce themselves, this time through activity, rather than personality.

In fact, changing what sorts of things you enjoy doing, in order to get social interaction that you need, makes changing who you are in order to match ‘how God designed women to be’ a bit easier. Both of these threads play off of each other in complicated ways.

This whole process causes problems. Individual strengths and interests get ignored, left behind, or completely covered up, because they don’t fit into the picture that conservative and fundamentalist pastors and teachers draw of Christian women, and that these Christian women draw of themselves. Some people spend incredible amounts of time working on characteristics that fit the stereotype, while their own individual strengths wither away, unacknowledged. Because almost everyone has spent years unconsciously learning how to downplay or ignore or restate certain aspects of themselves (because almost no one matches a stereotype exactly), hypocrisy is easy. Because almost everyone has put aside vital parts of themselves, in some way, the church is less than it could be. Because everyone is focused on being the same sort of person, fewer people outside the church can see themselves in it.

I’ve referred mostly to women and girls throughout this, because that is what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve observed the most, but I’ve talked this over with male friends from similar backgrounds, and this same sort of process happens for men in fundamentalist churches as well. It makes sense. This is a human process, not a female one.

Every once in awhile, someone will say to me “Well, of course individuals have their own individual strengths, and that’s a fantastic thing, which we celebrate” about two minutes after they’ve got done telling me about how wonderful and vital God’s design for men and women is. I laugh, or I cry, depending on how much I care about the person, because you really, truly, cannot have both. Every Christian really wants to be a part of God’s wonderful design, and no one, absolutely no one, wants to be the exception that proves the rule. People will bend themselves very, very far out of shape in order to fit themselves to what they believe that design is, and will continue to do so at great personal cost.

I’m not sure where to end this. Don’t become a part of this, it’s an incredibly difficult thing to unwind yourself from? This is a way of making sense of the sameness you see in people from certain churches? There’s also an entire other discussion about how this whole concept of our gender telling us who we are influences marriages and the ways we think about them.

Maybe it’s just enough to say that this is a process that happens, and this is how it hurts people in ways they shouldn’t have to be hurt, simply because we find it so easy to categorize people and to use gender as a shortcut for talking about the complex individual differences God has given us.

  1. There’s a whole thing in here about how this sort of teaching leaves women who don’t have a lot in common with this stereotype feeling particularly accidental, or unintended, or less than those who do, but that’s another topic for another day, and I have a Tales game that needs some more playing. [return]
  2. This is actually really important. Downgrading your own strengths, because your gender is not generally supposed to have them, is a really big thing that happens really, really often in these circles. [return]