So what if I gave this a try today?


A friend either doesn’t know or forgot that I blogged once-upon-a-time. We weren’t acquainted when I blogged “for real”, a time period that ranged roughly from 2004 to 2014 (I’m completely pulling that date range from vague recollections, when the research would take just a minute). When I adopted and didn’t attempt to obfuscate my identity, my blogging became severely curtailed. Self-censorship increased manyfold. I think, for years, my blogging had already been on the decline due to Facebook and social media. For many years, everyone thought all of their thoughts warranted sharing, so I put increased scrutiny on the question of whether my thoughts were worthy of an audience (not less scrutiny, as might be the conventional wisdom). I didn’t mean to devolve into yet-another-meta-blogging post as my first post in nearly two years.

My idea, my ad-hoc idea, was to use this friend’s recent comments to me as a springboard to a very cursory update, a wading-back-in, sort-of. (I have to tell myself not to spend any time scrutinizing my verbiage and sentence structure, lest I’ll never post this).

Ok, let’s do this:

As I was reading your email (and I have thought this many times before when reading your emails), it occurred to me that you write in a very articulate and relatable way about things that other people must struggle with too.

This was a kind compliment. Yes, once-upon-a-time, back in the LiveJournal days, and perhaps beyond, a few people here and there had a positive response to what I wrote. I think I’ve become increasingly less articulate as I’ve gotten older. I probably peaked as a writer back in high school, when all journaling was still private, and the only writing anyone saw was the occasional English paper.

Not that you are looking to get into writing or anything, but I was thinking that you have had a lot of difficult and unique experiences that other people in comparable circumstances might take comfort in reading about.

Maybe. I think their comments were in response to my frequent thought that there is a mighty relatability gap between me and everyone else. In short, I feel isolated from everyone, constantly. (Perhaps I’ll elaborate if I ever post again).

Like your struggle with depression and anxiety, with bisexuality, with physical health issues (your kidney transplant and health issues that may or may not be spurred by that, such as your increased susceptibility to BCC), with complicated family issues (divorce, losing your mom, your relationship with your dad, etc.).

  • Depression – yup, still got it
  • Anxiety – yup, still got it
  • Bisexuality – yup, still am. Oops, was that a surprise to anyone?  The most understated coming-out in the history of blogging. How ridiculously anti-climactic. You didn’t know? Well, now you do. Again, perhaps I’ll elaborate if I ever post anything again. It’s amazing how I went some may years contemplating some lengthy cathartic post about this, and now, I’m just throwing it out there as a footnote, like, by the way, I’m drinking a large cold brew at the moment…
  • Kidney transplant – eight years on; it still works
  • Health issues – I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my scalp about ten days ago. Immunosuppressants–keep my kidney healthy, give me cancer, but not a cancer I should actually refer to as “cancer”. I’m also extra-susceptible to real cancers. All good for now.
  • Divorce – my parents got divorced 36 years ago. Yes, that still sucks.
  • Losing my mom – my mother passed away on September 18, 2018 rather unexpectedly. Yes, that sucks.
  • Relationship with my dad – he’s probably reading this, so this topic might fall into the category of “unfair to write about without first consulting with the party to be discussed”. Then again, my Facebook posts are the primary way he knows what’s happening in my life (to the extent I share on Facebook these days, which isn’t much other than pet photos). Again, who knows if I’ll ever blog again.
  • Etc. – oh, and there’s so much more!

All of those experiences, combined with your writing style/ability and your wry sense of humor would make you a fantastic blogger of sorts.

My writing style/ability…only works, for me, when it’s extemporaneous, and I self-edit and self-censor as infrequently as possible. To the extent that it is ever amusing or of interest to anyone doesn’t make much sense to me. But I often used to say that it was therapeutic to throw thoughts out into the world, even if only one or two people saw them, rather than keeping them hidden in a void, so…

…so, I think my friend was just being nice to me with compliments, because I was so damn depressed in my previous email. But that’s awfully dismissive of their opinions, is it not? I tend to do that. Give me a compliment, and what the fuck is wrong with you?

Do people still do that? I feel like that’s a way of establishing a sense of community with like-minded people who have been through similar things or have similar feelings.

I don’t know. I suppose I tried this many years ago with mixed-results. Is it worth trying again? I don’t know.


The Murray Ave Era (An experimental post)


111wmurray-dayone11:42AM Bull Street Gourmet & Market

I was engaged in a fairly typical Saturday mid-day activity, settled at a coffee shop (though this place has real food, not just impossible-to-resist quiches and pies), ready to catch up in my “private” blog about whatever I felt the need to catch up on. And then it occurred to me. Bull City Dave (this site) remains stuck in time. It’s been mostly devoid of content since it became Bull City Dave three years, when I began The Iron Yard and thought I needed a real public social presence. My public writing was always too personal, too raw, too potentially alienating, too potentially offensive. I stick to the Toastie pseudonym. And then, suddenly, I move everything Bull City Dave and put my name on it.

But that was never a comfortable exercise. I was in an intensive coding bootcamp in order to reboot my career. If potential employers were going to see this, I’d need to steer clear of anything too personal. It would be a blog about Javascript problems I’d solved, happens around Durham, NC, and pet photos and vines. It would be a fractionally authentic blog. But I’ve never had much desire to blog unless that fraction comes close to 1/1.

Each time I’ve contemplated a return to my old-school blogging style, I’ve mindful that my career-in-transition might require a new job search in the near-term. In fact, unfortunately, it has, a few times. I had quite sincerely hoped to go from The Iron Yard to a the Next Job that would be The Job for years to come. I had moved around enough in my career. But most people in start-up/code school sphere advised that any first job after a career change would likely be a means to another job. I truly did hate that. But that was my reality. In fact, I’ll bluntly lay out here, it was one job which led to another job which lead to another job…which led to my current job.

As I recently posted on Facebook, which has bene my de-facto blogging platform for years, I say with mixed emotions:

The Iron Yard is shutting down nationwide. I’m not entirely shocked. I’m glad it helped some folks. Personally, I wish I had found a different path from A to B that didn’t involve going through TIY. It was what it was, and that’s I’ll I’m saying. (I hate that expression, too). I’m grateful I will never again be asked if I recommend it, since I always felt like I had to do contortions to provide an honest answer and remaining objective with regard to what might be best for someone else’s circumstances.

(For years, I think I had a lengthy Iron Yard post at hand, ready to get it all out of my system. But I kept it to myself, for the same reasons I keep most blogging to myself, but for even more compelling reasons. Every company in the Triangle knows of and has some opinion of The Iron Yard. I doubt anything I could write, as objectively as I might try, could avoid some variation of the “bashing your former employer” taboo that one looking for employee is supposed to refrain from).

But I digress… (as is the norm for my blogging…digressions, tangents, non seqiturs…)

I told myself in Private Blog that I only had time for a bullet-list catch-up. I’ll attempt that here, though, in here, the a lack of context is going to confound. Private Blog doesn’t care about lack of context. Private Blog somewhat akin to a higher power, is omniscient. I don’t need to provide context there. I can skip a week or two, a Private Blog just knows what the heck I’m talking about.

  • The Murray Ave Era – First, yes, I know it’s not widely viewed as the safest thing to blog your name and the street on which you live. But there are only two people with my name in Durham, and I can’t afford the other house. So anyone who wants to harass me (or send me gifts) can easily figure out where I live.
    • I closed on the house yesterday, and it’s a huge relief, but perhaps not as much as you’d think, for a few reasons.  A couple of months out of work plus paying a little more than I could afford plus some flat-out dumb financial decisions means I am in somewhat of an analogous place to where was almost exactly a decade ago when i closed on Lancaster St. Back then, a construction loan that would’ve fixed the house up to what I wanted it to be fell through at the last minute. This time, a laundry list of fixes and nice-to-haves has to be put on the back-burner, because I’m out of home improvement funds for now. So I’m a little frustrated that there are some things I’d love to take care of now that I simply can’t.
    • The difference between the Lancaster house and the Murray House is that, with the former, people who’d say, “oh, you can do a little at a time” didn’t realize that there was really ridiculous about to do, and I was in no position to afford to do any of it. With the latter, the improvements needed are less drastic, and, knock-on-wood, if I can kick-ass at my new job, I should be able to take care of these things in due time.
    • I’m not moved in yet. Too much going on to plan anything. Job requires focus. I have three weeks left on the short-term apartment lease. I’m torn between hiring someone and just doing a little at a time, asking for a few favors of help. I already asked for help to move things from Lancaster to storage and from an Extended Stay to the temp apartment. But I didn’t ask everyone I know. I hate asking for help. Always have. Whether it’s in my personal or professional life, I am so reluctant to ask for help. I’ve tried to get better over time. It’s all tied together, really. Not asking for help in one area or another adversely impacts the other.
  • So, in Private Blog, this would be a very quick bullet list, but, since I haven’t done this in awhile, actually blog, I’m rambling on in detail and breakneck pace. (If I were to stop for even 30 seconds to contemplate what I’m writing, I’d freeze up, and there’d be no blog post).
  • Non-profit blog work. I have to fairly simple tasks I need to do. I want to continually apologize for falling behind, but the time spent on apologies could be spent doing the simple tasks (which often aren’t all that simple, because they involve some edge case using a WordPress plugin that has no documentation, and perhaps that’s why I procrastinate…I don’t know what I’m getting into once I start). Anyway, if you’re reading, I owe you some work. Soon. Today, I hope!  I really means a lot to me that,, when I may do work day-to-day that isn’t all that inspiring (quick shout-out to my current job, which I’m really enjoying; I swear; it’s nice that different projects have to duke it out over who gets my time; it will be even nicer once I’m moved into the house and the dust storm around me calms down).
  • Work work. I need to put in some time this weekend because I know I didn’t put in enough time Monday through Thursday. I just need to do it. I wouldn’t mention it here if these were tasks I loathed and people I didn’t care about helping. There are people counting on me, and I want to do right by them.
    • Brief tangent, as what I just wrote reminded me of my last job. I should not write about my last job in any specific terms at all, but I want to say something for the record. I felt like, at every turn, I was doing my absolute best to do right by my employer. And wanted to stay there for the long-term. I hate that the relationship didn’t work out. Such are the perils of working for a very small company. There is no room for unresolved conflict. There’s no one to mediate. There’s no space to take a break and come back to the conflict later.
    • I’ve thought for a long time that finding a company of perhaps 100-200 people would be ideal. I hate disappearing into bureaucracy in a job of questionable value to the organization. I hate being the one individual with a particular job role at a very small company, where I know very well what I don’t know and expertise is needed in the role.
  • I’ve to take a look at my finances (the old Money spreadsheet, which I still prefer to a service like Mint). It’s an odd, discomforting feeling to live your live for a few months where thousands and thousands of dollars are received and spent in a fairly arbitrary way. For instance, the range of potential selling prices for the old house was in the tens of thousands of dollars. So, too, was the amount of money I was willing to spend on a new home. I chose to live fairly comfortably for three months on a three-month lease, even though it was ridiculously expensive compared to a standard lease. The air compressor on my car broke. I need AC working in my car. I was going to pay whatever it was going to cost.  But now that the dust is settling, I must return to a practice of looking at every dollar. I must return to caring if the Halo Top is on sale for $3.99 or if the supermarket has jacked it up to $6.49. I must return to caring that 20% at Bed Bath and Beyond still render most items more expensive than getting them on on Amazon. I must returnto (or really start as a regular practice) of considering if what I’m looking for at Amazon is available on Craigslist or The Scrap Exchange.

So battery power is at 6%. I’ve got my charger, but I don’t think there’s an outlet nearby. Good time to conclude this entry.

I’n going to feel uncomfortably exposed in a few minutes, when I post this and share the link on Facebook.  But I’ll also feel a sense of relief.  Writing into the void just contributes to an overall sense of isolation that I need to chip away at

Bringing Back Buster (Day 9)

I was going to settle in for an evening of household chores, work catch-up, whatever, and absolutely not engage in a battle of wits with my demon cat. No, he’s not a demon. He’s never scratched or bitten me. He’s just never liked me all that much. In reverting to feral mode since getting out last week, he ignores calls of his name (or, at least, presents a stoic front; perhaps it’s possible that calling his name helps keep him close).

Buster in the crawlspace

Tonight’s negotiations with Buster once again went poorly.


So…I returned home tonight with some KFC, not because I enjoy the Kentucky Fried Cruelty so much (really, I don’t, but I did eat it; I’m sorry, Wayne Pacelle), but presented itself as a convenient solution to following a suggestion from a member of the animal rescue community who had suggested fried chicken as a lure. So I’d leave a trap with some fried chicken out over night.

But when I got out of the car, I heard Buster meowing. He seemed to be meowing to get my attention. I found him under the neighbor’s car, where he has spent considerable time. Unfortunately, I knew that he would not simply come when called. But I could get within feet of him.  We chatted and ate KFC popcorn chicken together. He let himself be vulnerable and got on his back and stretched and let me pet him. I was in no position no grab him, though, and I know he knew that. If I got too close, he relocated to another corner of the car. If I tried to sneak up on him, he ran to the grassy area between my house and my neighbor’s. It was a 30-minute game of cat and mouse, where I was the cat, and Buster was the mouse, and I lost.

I tried to be patient, but I knew I could spend the night in a standoff with him only to come up empty. I had a neighbor come over, and I hoped her approach would scare Buster toward me, and I might be able to snag him.

But Buster veered sideways, into the thicket in front of my house, and where there’s an accidental entrance to my crawlspace. (The front and back entrances have been alternately opened and closed throughout the week, as I’ve employed various strategies to catch Buster).  I was able to get within a couple of feet of Buster, but I was lying flat on my stomach on the ground, and he was recessed from an opening perhaps ten inches high.

Eventually, the negotiations, as in the past, failed, and he retreated.

Ooh, but I had him trapped there now! I thought. No, I had the other side of the house wide open. He certainly sprinted out the back.

So after getting scraped and dirty and humiliated once again, I came back inside, and I’ll now go back to the original plan of trying to trap him again.

So there’s the narrative of this evening’s episode.  I hate to have spent so much time on it. I really wanted to get to the emotional side of this saga.

This has been an emotionally draining saga. Yes, Buster has remained close, and I’m grateful for that. But the cat doesn’t like me. I’ve known that for the past two years. I’ve had cats who’d come to me when called and when not called. I’m being rejected by this cat in the worst way. Ok, still most reading don’t take this too seriously.

Look, I’ve been kidding about having too many pets for the past four-and-a-half-months, since I got kitten Desmond. Four pets is too many for me, but they’re mine. I’ve accepted responsibility of caring for them as long as they’re able to reasonably enjoy life. And they all fit in well together. The pit, the tabby, the tortie, and the black kitten. It’s insane at times, but as I exist day-to-day struggling to discover my identity, I do strongly identify as the guy with too many pets, who is glad to have all of them. It hurts a lot to lose one of them. It doesn’t matter that it’s only been two years and not twelve. It doesn’t matter that he never comes up to lie on my chest. It feels like a real lose.

So now I’ve jumped the shark, in case no one has ever read one of my blog posts before. “Struggling to discover my identity.” What?  It gets more existential….

I feel quite alone in this struggle. I have a lot of Facebook support. But I’m home alone with this, as I am when I struggle with illness or career woes or whatever the self-doubt of the day is. It sucks–for me–to be alone. And this cat episode is a trigger for that frustration. (Indeed, there are many. Perhaps I’ll touch on others some other time).

Also, it’s September, and I generally consider this month and next to be the small window of the year in which I can really make progress. The heat starts to abate. Cool breezes can be felt. I sweat less. The world is a prettier place. Time to find activities…

9:49PM Interrupted by a ruckus outside. I spotted a puffy dark cat running away from my porch, and it seemed another creature was near. I’m thinking the latter was Buster. In any case, I decided it was a good time to set up a trap. So there’s some semi-raw chicken in a shiny new trap on the porch.

Where was I? Basically, my last nine days have been about finding Buster and then getting Buster back inside. It’s been more physically and emotionally taxing than I could imagine.

But, then, I know others who have been dealt far more severe hands, and I know that, on many levels, obsessing over my lost cat is too much. I know it is, and I feel guilty about it.

So, this is a blog entry. What’s up with that? That’s subject for another day.

Drinking coffee on a Sunday in Durham

image2:41PM Why is nobody at the Durham Coop Market? On a wondrous fall day, I am one of only two people sitting outside in the the spacious seating area off Chapel Hill St. I bet Cocoa Cinnamon is packed. I bet Weaver Street Market is packed. (Or perhaps not. It’s only 55 degrees outside, which may be too chilly for most, although, for me, this is perfect!) Your loss, my gain, because I don’t need the crowds.

I need to get out of my house to do “work”. My house is too impossibly cluttered and devoid of natural light and air circulation to remain there, even with a seemingly infinite list of to-do’s that are dependent on being home.

But where the heck to go in the Great Awesome Cool Dirty City of Durham? For what one ridiculous study called the country’s most caffeinated city (from a clock app maker?), there is certainly a dearth of coffee shops, particularly on a Sunday afternoon.

I sought to find an option other than my usual on Broad Street. I headed downtown. I thought I’d go to that nifty little place by Brightleaf off Duke Street, but it’s closed on Sundays. Coffee shop closed on Sundays? C’mon. Fine, I’ll go to that upscale grocery place by Brightleaf where half of Trinity Park is probably brunching. (The other half is at the artisan bakery cafe 0n Chapel Hill Blvd, and I realize my math is off, since I can name four or five places where half of Trinity Park is currently brunching. And I’m intentionally not naming establishments, other than Cocoa Cinnamon, because you are annoyingly too crowded, though your beverage and food offerings do warrant the trip). Oh, so before my parenthetical aside…

4:10pm Before my parenthetical aside, I was going to say that the upscale grocery place closes at 3:00 on Sundays, and I was going to say ‘C’mon’ to that as well.

After my “before my parenthetical aside”, the population of the outdoor seating area spiked. A friend of mine happened to come by, along with the friend of the friend. And the friend remarked to the friend that my blog was worth reading, and I was a great writer, and I was quite embarrassed, because, really?

Reread that last sentence. That is not quality writing. Can I really write about anything, and it would be great? Am I really so bad at accepting a compliment?

I’m not sure where this post was going before the welcome interruption. I was going to expound a bit on the lack of coffee shop/sit-and-work options around Durham. And I was going to declare that I must frequent the Coop much more often. It’s like Whole Foods without the “excuse-me’s” every 5 seconds. (I really don’t have many complaints about my local Whole Foods.)

That’s all I can muster for this afternoon. One day, this blog will get back on track. But that day will not be today.

Gray, overcast, desolate, and perfect


12:54PM On a typical 89-degree, sunny, humid July day, there’d be 40 people eating their lunches out on this courtyard. Today, it’s gray, cool, and breezy. Chairs and tables are dry. It’s abandoned. I don’t get it.

To me, this is ideal weather for sitting outside. I’m not sweating a lick. Not a spot on me is cold. The rustling of the leaves is calming. This is my normal. The rest of you, you think it’s gorgeous on those July days. I don’t know what is wrong with you.

I know, from years of experience, that no one takes me seriously when I say I actually prefer this weather to that weather.

My problems with the weather are a microcosm of my difficulty finding my place in this sphere. I can’t even present myself authentically during the most banal small talk about the weather without presenting a disconcerting contrary view. To put everyone at ease, I have to lie. Or pretend that the rain is such a downer or that I can’t wait to get outside on a warm, sun-soaked day.

How I experience the weather isn’t merely a point-of-view or a quaint preference. It’s me. But looking around, there is no one else out here. Everyone traversing the courtyard is going from inside one building to inside another building. No one is lingering. It’s…what is It? 60 degrees. It’s not 30.

Since I never blog, I’m very aware that a post like this might play better if I spent time to thoroughly think through what I’m saying, to actually spend some time crafting this. But I haven’t been making the time for that. And I’d be afraid to do that, anyway, because I’d still be unhappy with the result.

Why blog today? Now? Why not the thousands of other times I have something to say, something far more important to say than something about the weather?

Same reason I never do anything I’d like to do. Fear. What if I’m judged? What if I’m dismissed? What if I don’t receive any validation? What if I’m typing into a void?

I am so behind. On everything.

It’s difficult to just start and write when there’s no context for anything I’m writing. You’ve got no context here.

Quick story:

I needed a career change.

I took a couple of grad school classes. Not a bad decision. Didn’t work out like I’d hoped.

Quit job to go to code school. Immense risk taken. But not a bad decision. Hasn’t worked out like I’d hoped.

Got a job doing web development. Some interesting work with good people. I think I was quite productive and learned a lot. But not a good fit. (I am making a conscious decision to be sparse on details but still be authentic).

Got another job doing web development. So far, not a good fit. Learning a lot. Productive? I’ll measure productive like this–what have I done to help anyone else’s job, health, or general well-being?  Nothing yet. And that’s the worst feeling for me. I need to be useful. Shouldn’t this be a conversation I should be having with the people I work with? Yes, and I will. Of course I’m being vague here.

Ok, that’s enough damage for one lunch break.

Starbucks Cold Brew No Classic With Cream 2 Splenda

4pm @Starbacks, Guess Rd.  – I thought I’d get away from Hipsterville for my attempt at laptop productivity. But fuck Starbucks. I’m spoiled by Hipsterville coffee. I was confused when I was asked if I wanted cream and how many sweeteners. I do that shit myself. I want control over the creaminess and sweetness of my beverage. I’m used to that. Now I’m stuck with a $4 beverage I am not enjoying, and it’s been a waste of brain energy to consider the pros and cons of calling Starbucks on their “if you’re not happy with your drink” pledge. As misanthropic as I feel, I don’t have it in me to tell someone that the beverage they prepared for me sucks, and they should make it again. I don’t do that. I’ll return items that have been pre-manufactured. I’ve taken to returning half-consumed frozen foods to Costco. But when I see people doing jobs I would never last a day at (essentially, any service job), I am loathe to (just stone me for even using that expression) make a complaint.

Of course, not everyone is as thin-skinned as I am. Were I to complain about this coffee-flavored piss they call “cold brew”, I would do it very politely, probably in the upper five or ten percentile of politeness for beverage complaints.

In the end, I’ll eat or drink anything. It’s a beverage. It’s neither cold nor even presented in a manner that implies some craftsmanship of brewing. I wanted my mason jar, not the mega-plastic cup that screams overwhelmingly with mainstream global consumerism. (Stream-of-consciousness writing leads to a lot of poorly constructed, poorly expressed, flat-out bad writing. I’m immune to the fear of exposing my inadequacies right now. Who knows why I’m choosing right now at this place and time to break a long hiatus from writing in here. Actually, I know, but that’s an explanation I probably won’t provide today).

So…back to…mason jars….I long for the iced coffee of Bean Traders in South Durham. But I didn’t want to drive down there. It’s crowded. I’m likely to run into someone, and one never knows if it’s going to be someone I want to run into or someone whose mere presence overwhelms me with post-apocalyptic despair. There’s no one to run into here in North Durham. Well, that’s not entirely true. If I wanted to go somewhere and be sure not to run into anyone I know, I could go to one of the I-85 McDonald’s. The internet at these can be pretty good and the seating and noise-level actually conducive to work. And if I did run into someone, we’d bond instantly over our shared secret of McDonald’s being an awesome place to get work done. Ok, way off topic now. (And what exactly is the topic at hand today, Dave? Because I don’t think it was going to be mason jars).

For the record, I love Joe Van Gogh and Bean Traders, and I’m just not hipster enough for Cocoa Cinnamon, though I’ve got some new sunglasses and record beard growth that might make me look just obnoxious enough to blend in. (Oh, I love the beverages, and I’m sure most people are quite lovely. I’m just going through a trust issue with people right now, nothing personal. True, the trust issue has lasted a few decades, but I still think it’s just a phase.)

(More parenthetical asides. (There’s another phrase that triggers the thought, “I just used that expression.) Writing this was just interrupted by my attempt to link in that Starbucks image. There’s no quick, easy way to take a photo on my phone and get it somewhere such that it’s immediately embedded in this post I’m composing on my laptop. That’s annoying. Almost as annoying as hearing the tinny voice coming from the mobile phone of the guy next to me. I’m so very easily distracted, and that’s a topic for another day…)

Seriously, where was I, and was my original intent here? Alas, I don’t think there was one. I think it was just to get a post up here, and, with that, perhaps some momentum to doing this regularly, even if this communication with the world isn’t bidirectional.

So, this cold brew? Really, lukewarm sweet coffee piss is the best description my unread mind can come up with. I don’t see myself coming back here. But I suppose a venue of this size that’s mostly empty near downtown wouldn’t last. (A moment of silence for Intrepid).

It’s probably time to click on Publish. I’m starting to feel anxiety bubble up, and that anxiety is going to tell me to click on Save Draft and never look at it again.

(I did just save this, and the WordPress app pops up a message saying something to the effect of, “Great! Keep on goin’!” I hate, hate, hate when web apps try to be cute with their messages. Google started it. Now all web developers like to try to be clever with their error and confirmation messages. Just say “post saved” and be done. But the error messages are worse. You’ve just had your whole day ruined by a crashed web app, and you see, “Oops! Oh, no 😦 we’re so sorry! :-(” instead of “We rushed out this build and have no QA. If there’s a better app to do this, you should use it. But there’s not, and this is free. Hahaha. Joke’s on you for relying on a free web app!”)

I’ve got a million more of those tangential thoughts. And pet pictures. Why am I not blogging pet photos every hour on the hour?

pettio splash image

February 28, 2015
It’s time to get this blog post posted. It originated in early January, and then I was close to getting it out about a week later. And then crickets. Today, as February concludes, and stunningly for me, it’s been over six months since I presented my code school project, I think I ought to declare to myself that I’m placing a moratorium on development.

I’m going to annotate the draft I’ve had sitting in WordPress for two months and then perhaps compose some concluding thoughts. But I just want to get this done and move on…

January 12, 2015
I wrote this over a week ago. I was going to insert some screenshots and post it, and I never got around to it / lost enthusiasm for entire post. Constantly overwhelmed by what I observe to be brilliant, expert work out there, I find myself questioning if it is foolish to call attention to my pet project. It’s not just a few tweaks away from being something impressive and meaningful. Alas, I started this post. Some part of me will feel better if I get it out there. I suppose the idea is that, someday, I’ll have something impressive, and I’ll point back to this and appreciate how far I’ve come.

[2/28] I don’t know if I am personally capable of appreciating how far I’ve come in any discipline. But over the last two months, I’ve done very little other than some mostly experimental stuff that hasn’t even made it into the website. It still looks like a three-week code school project to me.

January 3, 2015
So what’s going on with this pet profile website? I really should’ve figured out an idea for a simple website that did one task really well when I was considering a final project over the summer. But I didn’t come up with any sparkling ideas at the time. If I was going to do something pet related, it was suggested that I make a dog park map/review application, but I had just developed a strong resentment towards dog parks as a result of the treatment Moksha and I had recently received at the hands of the Northgate Dog Park bully. That was the impetus for the suggestion, but I could only imagine such a website becoming a cess pool of internet comment trolls. But this was just a project for a coding class. It didn’t have to be a real-world app. But I wanted to do something that COULD be a real-world app.

Unfortunately, what came to be called had too large a scope. A generic profile site, by it’s very nature, could potentially include everything about a subject—photos, videos, descriptions, characteristics, vital statistics. Actually, it doesn’t seem that involved when I describe it like that. I think I’ve already written about this. I could focus on elegant design, a complex data structure, integration with a social networking app, a robust descriptive profile, or a photo management system, but not all of the above.

As a result, since I presented the project at the end of August, whenever I’ve looked at to do some work on it, I’ve been overwhelmed by the unlimited action items that the application requires in order to be presentable and usable. Even when I’ve had a list of bugs and necessary enhancements, I’ve found myself sidetracked by the need to attack nagging issues or to tackle problems that didn’t impact usability but seemed like worthy programming challenges. This has been my platform for learning more than anything. But learning new concepts, libraries, and frameworks would be better accomplished through far-smaller exercises. I’ll start such smaller exercises, but then I’ll be so bothered by how unfinished is that I am compelled to turn my attention to it.

I’m going to rattle off some thoughts about the site, in no particular order.

  • Photo layouts
    • This has been a time drain. From the get-go, I was insistent that I wanted a layout for photos that didn’t compromise original dimensions. No cropping. No distortion. Lots of sites no how to intelligently pan and crop photos, like Flickr and Google. On the individual pet profile page, I opted for a skyscraper approach, like what Pinterest and Tumblr use. There’s a popular library Masonry that should intelligently place objects Tetris-style so they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. It’s cool when it works. But it’s a mess when it doesn’t, when you’re loading images from multiple sources asynchronously and are having trouble figuring out how to implement JavaScript promises to postpone that rendering until the images have been loaded. So that was frustrating for quite awhile. Eventually, I gave up on Masonry and now use a homemade squeeze function.



      November (later)

    • For the Browse, I just went with a fixed height. This works out ok, except when photos have a high height:width ratio. I didn’t prioritize implementing a way for a user to choose a primary photo nor some library that allows for cropping. I randomize the primary photo on each reload. I have had an animation that is distracting, for the purpose of playing with transformations. I was going for the look of a bunch of polaroids. I don’t feel like it works well and want something better.

      September (later)
    • So I implemented a justified view for both screens so there’d static margins on each side of the montage, and then I spent a bunch of time on a squeeze function that should intelligently calculate where more images can fit. But it’s far from perfect, and a lot of skinny images wind up grouped at the top.
    • I don’t even have a pop-up or carousel or slideshow to see images on a larger scale. I just have a link to view an image at full-size. There are a million libraries to do these things, and I could definitely implement something simple on my own, but I just never got around to it.
      [2/28] – I did recently play with Flickity, brought to the world by the same guy who did Masonry. I had posted on here an example. Of the many things I might do with this website, implementing something like this would be one of them.
    • I was proud of myself for figuring out how to save smaller copies of the full-size images on the Parse Cloud server.
    • I recently spent a lot of time implementing a method to allow a user to actually remove an image that had been uploaded to the profile. But implementing a photo management system from scratch just seems like a ridiculous undertaking. See section on ‘Purpose of this site’ if I get around to it.
  • Fonts
    • I haven’t gotten those right yet. Pusekatt might be clever for a main title, but it doesn’t work anywhere else. For awhile I used something called Gruppo, which i thought looked nice, but it turned out it only looked alright on a retina display. On a standard screen, it looked horrible. In an act of desperation, I switched to Montserrat, which I’ve come to loathe since I’ve found that Bootstrap sites all default to this, and it’s so blocky and generic. I’m looking at thin, crisp fonts now.
    • [2-28] I’ve currently got Nunito going on. Still not ideal.
  • Overall design
    • I have no training in design. I know what I think looks great in a website. I’ve accumulated a lengthy bookmark list of elegant designs. But I’m not emulating any of them. It bothers me a lot. I want a site that “pops”.
    • I keep switching between a light background and a dark background (and I think it was gray for a little while). I think I’ll wind up with white with a lot of whitespace, with enough orange to satisfy my need to make everything orange these days.

I have more to write, but I think I ought to stop. I’d be surprised if more than two people actually read all the way through this. (There are lots of satirical pieces about how sad bloggers often self-deprecate and write about how they wonder if people are still reading.)

Bottom-line…this ain’t ready for primetime. I really do own the domain, which cost me all of $0.99 for the first year. I know pettio is trademarked by a Chinese company that makes pet strollers, so it wouldn’t be viable in the extremely hypothetical event that I found a focus for this site. Anything using .website probably isn’t viable, either, since the term website itself is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

And back to the present…

January 13, 2015
I just took a few minutes to insert some screenshots I had pasted to I realize that I almost prefer the original August 2014 styles to what I’ve got now. Background colors, fonts, sizes, layouts… I haven’t gotten a combination I’m happy with yet.

I had said I only wanted five minutes worth of reading. There’s far more I would say if I were to continue. The main page…I’ve struggled with how to present that. The account admin page, which no one actually sees unless they try to be a user, always needs work. The whole page needs to look better on mobile. The profile information needs to render better.

So much to do. But there’s so much else I want to learn and to work on that does not align with worked on this project.

But, hey, if you’re reading this, please do feel free to add your pet or pets to

Otherwise, check out the pages of the 2015 edition of my menagerie.

Buster on

Moksha on

Lucille on




And back to February 28, 2015
Phew…just getting this post into publishable condition was a chore. What else to say? From a technical standpoint, there are some things I’m proud of. Unfortunately, to a site-visitor, these aren’t apparent, and to an experienced developer, they’re far from impressive.

Ultimately, I am disappointed that I never got this to a state where I felt comfortable telling the world, “Here it is…have at it!” I could rattle off a long list of what’s wrong with it. Suffice it to say, if you notice that the site renders badly on a particular platform, or some admin action is difficult, or the app should support something or other, or the ideal design would be to have x, y, and, z, I’ve probably thought about it a lot, and I’m disappointed that the site doesn’t do that. I think I’ve beaten myself up enough about it, though.

I’m going to try to focus on smaller projects as I have the time. There’s a whole topic bubbling beneath the surface of this post of what it’s like to try to gain expertise in a field you know you’re still very green it and yet have also technically been dabbling in for two decades.