Blog: May 2020

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

This is how it begins

Last year one of my spring CSA boxes included a cute little basil seedling. And I said "huh -- I wonder if I can help it make more basil or if I should just recognize my ineptitude and eat it now". But lo! I decided to be daring, and I was rewarded -- that picture is from July, and it it just kept going and going (with periodic trimmings, a subject I still consider black magic). And I said to myself that hey, we should try that again. I entered this spring with plans to buy a basil seedling.

Then the pandemic happened, and the food-supply network is not as reliable as it once seemed, and Siderea wisely counselled people to grow food if we can. And I said to myself that, well, I'm not going to try to plant a whole garden with attendant kneeling-on-ground (or in my case pavement) and weed-battling and the like (and anyway I don't have places with the right sun exposure), but I can expand from one pot. I ventured out to buy two seedlings, basil and rosemary, and one more pot because I only had the one.

But herbs, while delicious, aren't really food in the sense of sustenance, so I thought some more about what I use a lot of and what is practical in pots and durable enough to withstand my ministrations, and so when Grow Pittsburgh (the people who supplied that basil seedling to the CSA) started its weekly seedling sale and one week I was able to get stuff (as opposed to everything being sold out in the first few minutes), I decided to add cherry tomatoes and lunchbox peppers (those are the miniature ones that come in red, orange, and yellow) to my plans. And because my basil seedling that I'd had for a few weeks now was not looking super-perky and the basil had been the whole point of this excursion, I ordered a couple more basil seedlings, and a little redundancy for the others (for parity). I ordered a couple more pots from Amazon to hold them.

Once they were in proper pots and getting more quality outdoor time they started to perk up, and the Internet told me that I was overcrowding some of them. And, well, this is how it begins.

Photographic evidence:

"Click here" is usually weak, but not always

It's generally held among professional writers (and presumably some others) that constructs of the form "for more information click here", with "here" being a hyperlink, is not good style. It's far better, in general, to incorporate some clue about the content into the link -- "See the formatting help for more information", with "formatting help" being a link to documentation, provides more information at a glance and just reads less clunkily.

When answering questions on sites like Stack Exchange and Codidact, one sometimes wants to refer to another answer (for example to elaborate on it or disagree with a point made in it). I posted such an answer recently and used link text of "another answer" instead of "Joe's answer". If I had said "Joe's answer", somebody who's just read that answer would have context without having to go look. Someone who knows my general writing style asked me why I used the vaguer formation.

This is my general style on sites like these now, and I do actually have a reason. Two, actually, the more significant of which is caring about people's feelings.

On Stack Exchange, Codidact, TopAnswers, and presumably others with which I'm less familiar, users can change their display names. Using a name as text rather than an '@'-reference in a link can thus decay. I've seen too many posts that mention "Joe's answer" but there's no Joe evident on the page now, years after that text was written. So that's confusing and I try to be careful; some people change names frequently, leaving trails of dead references in their wakes.

But it's not just about avoiding confusion. For me this name-avoidant practice crystalized some years ago when a prominent SE user transitioned gender. I realized that old posts of mine (from before I was careful about this) now dead-named this person. Ouch! Also maybe dead-pronouned, though if you write posts in a gender-neutral way like I try to in such contexts, you can minimize that damage.

We don't know who's going to be someone different later. My desire to attribute properly is at odds with my desire to account for future changes that affect writing I might not actively maintain. For in-page references the post is right there; omitting the name in favor of a generic reference is not harmful and is more future-proof. For regular citations, I attribute by name because giving credit is important, and just do my best.

I know that people who transition -- even just names, let alone gender -- just have to deal with the fact that they had lives before and those references don't vanish. My friend Owen understands that sometimes we need to talk about Zoe. But sometimes we can do a small thing to alleviate a little bit of unnecessary frustration and not make people's lives more difficult. It seems worth doing in these cases where the cost of being mindful of these possibilities is small.

I don't do this everywhere. My blog, being more personal in nature, is more likely to refer to people by name, use gendered pronouns, and otherwise bake in current context. My blog isn't a public knowledge repository like Codidact is. We write differently for Wikipedia, Codidact, blogs, and email, and that's ok.

Neat bird pictures

There is a new Outdoors site on Codidact, and they are run a series of (monthly) photo contests. The theme for May is birds, and there are some really striking pictures there. (I did submit one, but really, most of the others are way better!)

It occurred to me that some of y'all would enjoy these. They also have a bunch of questions about birds. (In case you're wondering about the low scores, data was recently imported and it all came in at score 0, so until people browse and vote on the imported data, even good questions and answers will show with low scores.)

The next site to launch will be Photography, coincidentally.