• World Mental Health Day

    World Mental Health Day

    It’s World Mental Health Day, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share a list of tools that have helped me:

    • Wysa: A free app that helps you self-manage stress with an AI chatbot that’s great at its job and seamlessly integrates with various tools and actual human therapists. Wysa is the app I go to first when I need help. It may be a chatbot, but it always helps me out of whatever’s going on or at least sets me on the right path. It’s also one of the few mental health apps to get a good score on Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included.
    • Apple Fitness+: This one is not free, but it’s also a lot more than mental health. Moving your body is a good way to break out of whatever is holding your attention. Besides that, there is a vast library of guided meditations, and their mindful cooldowns are a great way to de-chair your body and de-work your mind. Free trial opportunities pop up often, so keep a lookout and pick one up when you can.
    • Labyrinthos: I know what you’re thinking, but Tarot gets a bad rap. It’s neither magic nor mysticism, but people pay a lot of money for that, so I guess they’ll keep that angle going. Tarot is best described as a solitary card game that presents icebreaker questions for yourself. You start with a question (“What’s bothering me right now?”), you draw cards, those cards and where you place them have incredibly vague meanings, and you use that to dive right into “What does that mean for me right now?” You’re essentially using icebreakers to walk yourself through whatever’s bothering you step-by-step. This free app helps you do precisely that, and if you want to dive even deeper, Sarah wrote a book I highly recommend.

    That’s my toolbox! Combined with regular therapy, they’ve been an enormous help!

    And if you’re in crisis right now, that’s ok! The 988 lifeline is available in the United States 24/7, and many other countries have their own national lifelines. For more specific help, The Trevor Project and The Trans Lifeline are here for you 24/7 too.

  • Back on WordPress.com (again)

    It’s been a while, so before I dive in, let me clear this up quickly; There are two WordPresses: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Briefly, WordPress.org is site-building software offered for free and built and supported entirely by volunteers. WordPress.com is a site-building service that uses and contributes back to the WordPress.org software, adds lots of cool built-in features, and takes care of all the hosting and management tasks for you. But, you don’t have to take my word for it! You can read more about the differences from the folks at WordPress.com and from the folks at WordPress.org.

    This site has a long history of moving between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, with the last move to WordPress.org back in 2014 because I wanted to use plugins again. Plugins are powerful tools that extend the WordPress software, and the free directory alone currently has 60,175 of them, so not being able to use plugins on WordPress.com at the time was a big deal for me and finally led me to move. Folks would say that WordPress.com was not the whole WordPress experience, and I wouldn’t blame them for saying that.

    Well, good news! Since the Business Plan’s introduction, WordPress.com sites have been able to use plugins and install third-party themes! That means you can now get the whole WordPress experience on WordPress.com without the hassle of dealing with a separate hosting provider and handling all the management yourself. So are there other managed WordPress hosting providers out there? Sure, but WordPress.com’s Business Plan is priced very competitively, and you don’t even have to worry about page view or bandwidth limits!

    So, before I continue and this starts to sound like an ad (because disclaimer: I do work for Automattic), I just wanted to mention that this site is finally back on WordPress.com, where you can finally get the whole WordPress experience without the hassle.

  • Tumblr vs. WordPress

    Before I begin, I don’t mean this to be a hit piece. I love both platforms dearly, and as I’ve been noticing myself spending much more time on one than the other, I thought I’d explain why.

    Let’s start with my old friend, WordPress. WordPress is an open-source publishing platform. It’s software, provided for free and developed and supported by volunteers, that you install on a hosting provider. So you take this free software and install it, your site is entirely self-contained, and that is its biggest strength, something no other platform can claim. You own and can do everything. And I’ve been doing that a long time, since the start. This year, I’ve been using WordPress longer than I haven’t, and that’s mind-blowing!

    WordPress is powerful; it does so much. Its editor can’t be beaten if you want complete control over your posts. If you want full control over how your site looks, the site editor will let you easily reach your heart’s desires. That is power, real power, for free. Is that not enough power? No problem, there are currently 59,271 free plugins available. Don’t want to customize your theme from the default? No problem, there are currently 9,603 free themes available.

    That’s a lot! It’s truly incredible, in many ways freeing, but it’s also a lot. Sometimes, or I guess often these past few years, I need less, and that’s where Tumblr comes in. I’ve been on there for 2 years now, and the more I’m there, the less I’m here. One word can summarize that: convenience. Or, more specifically, convenience by ease of use, and most important, lack of options.

    That’s not to say Tumblr is crippled; it’s not, and far from it. Tumblr’s editor may not have as many options as WordPress, but it’s more than enough, and it’s getting better every day (and now powered by Gutenberg). There are no plugins, and theme editing is limited to editing raw HTML and CSS, but you can still find a theme that’s close enough to what you want.

    You simply get your Tumblr site looking the way you want, then use the app or visit the site and start writing and sharing content you love. And I know what you’re thinking right now; WordPress has an app too, but again: convenience and lack of options, just write and share.

    So, that’s where I am right now. If I have something short to share; a few paragraphs, an image, a video, or an article I love, it will be on Tumblr because I can do that with nothing in the way. But if I’m writing a long post like this, something I’d be happy to know is on a platform where I fully own the content, it’s going to be posted here with WordPress. A long post is by no means a quick process, and the tools here are just more suited for that. This is by no means a character limit thing, just to clear that up. Tumblr is not Twitter. A single text block on Tumblr can have 4,096 characters, and a single post on Tumblr can contain 1,000 blocks.

    So, at the end of this stream of consciousness, it’s all about using the tool that’s best suited for the purpose. Tumblr is quick and convenient, and excessive options don’t get in my way. It’s perfect for short and immediate content creation and sharing. WordPress is powerful; it’s perfectly suited for building longer content that I don’t mind spending time on.

    In short, use the right tool for the job, or perhaps, more importantly, use the tool that feels right to you.

  • About a year ago, I shared how I made GIFs. Since then, a lot has changed, so I figured it was time for an update.

    A few months back, Automattic sent me a new computer, complete with an M1 Max SoC (we’re hiring, btw). If you’ve heard anything about Apple’s new M1 chips, it’s probably that they’re ridiculously fast, but only on apps built for M1, so of course I had to find one for GIFs. It didn’t take me long to find Gifski. It’s free, fast, and the quality is excellent!

    My process for cutting the videos hasn’t changed since the last post, so let’s dive in with Gifski. When I say it’s fast, I mean it. GIF Brewery took minutes to convert GIFs, and Gifski takes seconds. It also estimates the file size first, so you don’t have to waste time repeatedly generating GIFs to get them under your platform’s limit. Just open the video, make sure the settings are good, double-check the estimated file size, convert, and you’re done in seconds.

    GIF Brewery maxed out at 256 colors, but Gifski supports thousands of colors via whatever “cross-frame palettes and temporal dithering” is (hey, I just make GIFs, I don’t understand them). The added colors make a huge difference in vibrancy, and I’ve noticed an especially huge improvement in darker scenes, they’re no longer washed out. Gifski also supports up to 60 frames per second for crisp slow motion scenes. The downside though is that more colors + more frames = larger files. Watch out for green bar artifacts too. The green bars are a problem upstream that can’t be fixed, but you can get rid of them by making sure your dimensions are divisible by 4, which is fine.

    Gifski is free, it’s fast, and the quality is impressive, but it does lack GIF Brewery’s built-in text and sticker features, so I still keep it around for that. With that said, GIF making is more about fun than perfection.

    You won’t learn anything about making GIFs by not making GIFs, so have fun! If you don’t know where to post your GIFs, consider opening a Tumblr or WordPress.com site just for them, and don’t forget to share your GIF’s source. If you’re using Tumblr, they have a special field for that.

    If you’re just getting started with your own GIFs, I hope this helps! All of the GIFs embedded in this article were made with Gifsky, and for more, check out my GIFs from Ultraman Z.

  • Yesterday, Sarah and I went back to the California Botanic Garden. Since our first visit, the garden is now completely open, so naturally I took more photos.

    I’m absolutely in love with this place, and while I expect more photos to come in the future, it felt wrong to let the previous post stand alone with only photos from half the garden. Please enjoy, and I hope you can visit the California Botanic Garden in person some day!