You'll find these in reverse chronological order because I'm not insane
What is poppin’ my bois? (Using, of course, the gender-neutral b-o-i spelling). I’m currently sitting in DIA, which, as I have been recently informed, is a haven of conspiracy and dark secrets. As I’m sure many of you cultured readers are aware, there’s a statue of an angry looking blue horse outside the airport that has actually killed someone. Spooky stuff, my friends.
Now then, allow me to jump right in. I was watching YouTube the other day when an ad came up featuring a musical artist who was talking about her work. She presumably has some level of fame, but I had certainly never heard of her before. The last thing she said before I swiftly and mercilessly skipped the ad is that her work is incredibly important to her because it gives her a platform to talk about her anxiety and depression. To be perfectly frank, blessed reader, when I heard that, I didn’t find myself to be sympathetic towards this artist. I was honestly super bored with everything she was saying.
A case can always be made that I’m just an emotionless unsympathetic wench. Perhaps I am. I think the better case to be made is that I’m a machine who’s more interested in code than some people’s lives. I think I could probably build a strong case against that, but that’s for another time.
Regardless of my potential sociopathisms, I found it quite interesting that my first response to this artist’s video was boredom. I’m of the opinion that mental health issues/depression/anxiety are incredibly important issues plaguing our society, and I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m trying to minimize their importance. For those of you thorough readers who have read the “About” page, you will know that I myself am prone to depressive thought patterns if I am not careful. So then, why was I bored by the artist?
To answer this question, I retreated deep within myself to have a quick conversation with my emotions. These conversations tend to be quite violent, overly anthropomorphized, and altogether unstructured, so I will leave out the details of this particular interaction. The general consensus among my emotions, however, was that I found the artist to be boring because it seems like every artist and their mother are all talking/singing/writing/dreaming about anxiety and depression. It just so happens that one of my favorite albums is about depression. Incidentally, that is also my favorite album within which to engulf myself when I (even I, rumored to be sociopathic, asexual, machine-like) am depressed.
Upon having this (incredibly straightforward) revelation, I began thinking in my brainicles about why it seems depression and anxiety are all the rage in pop culture. After doing some light thinking on the subject, I have formulated a hypothesis. For those of you nerdy or aggressively legalistic readers, no, I haven’t formalized any of these claims, and as previously stated, this is only a hypothesis. If you disagree with me or have a different opinion, please feel free to drop a hot comment down below. You are then urged to ring the bell, like this video, and subscribe to my channel.
My hypothesis is built upon four of my personal observations. My first observation is that the average human is hardwired to seek out and be fulfilled by interaction with other humans. As a sub-observation, I have found that I’m prone to my greatest fits of anxiety and depression when I am isolated (either by accident, or by my own doing) from other people. My second observation is that human interaction is difficult. Not only does it take planning and time, but I personally tend to feel some level of discomfort during most of my conversations. My third observation is that literally everyone around me is constantly on their phone. I realize this implies that I live in an area where everyone has the economic means to possess a smartphone, but regardless of wealth, I have found any exceptions to this to be the statistical outlier. My fourth observation is that social media is a frackin’ drug. Throughout my life, I have rarely posted on social media, but whenever I have, I get an unreasonable amount of satisfaction and pleasure when people like something I’ve posted. And if someone comments on one of my posts? Goodness me, the feeling is ecstasy! During my time on social media, I have found that I am frequently overtaken by the desire to open my insta, regardless of whether I would visually intake some dank, dank memes or photoshopped pictures of attractive human beings or videos of Fabio Wibmer being the most epic human to walk the Earth.
Now then, I will take these observations as temporary axioms, and I’m going to paint you the word picture that is my hypothesis. Basically, before phones, people felt the compulsion to interact with each other, and so they would overcome the discomfort associated with human interaction, and just talked to each other. Once my boi Zuckerberg came around, people suddenly realized, “OMG I can, like, talk to all my friends and post about my life on the internet! Now I don’t need to constantly be with people to interact with them! Yaaaaas!” This seemingly innocent desire almost immediately gave way to a deeper subconscious realization: “Wait hold on. Now I can spend time making everything I put on the internet perfect. Also, I can say whatever I want because the people I’m interacting with can’t actually hurt me, right?” And so, through digital media, humanity found a way to temporarily fill its desire for human interaction, and my oh my did it feel good. What an amazing feeling it is to know both the people you know and don’t know like something you’ve created. Amazing how that can quench your fundamental anxieties and give you a feeling of superhuman pleasure. And better yet, you can achieve this without putting a toxic chemical into your body! What a wonderful creation.
And so the world fell prey to this digital drug. This wouldn’t really have been a problem if social media was a perfect substitution for regular human interaction. Unfortunately, it isn’t. I can’t give you a definite reason why it isn’t, but I doubt many of you would disagree. And so, the fundamental issue with social media is the following: it gives the temporary impression of filling our fundamental desire for human interaction, but it doesn’t actually. What is it called when you want human interaction, and you don’t have it? Loneliness. So basically, social media creates a population of people who think they aren’t lonely but actually, fundamentally are.
This really isn’t groundbreaking stuff. I’m simply attempting to formalize the loose thoughts cascading around my psyche. Now then, what are the fruits of loneliness? You guessed it! Depression and anxiety. Given that the average modern artist relies on social media to market themselves, it really is no wonder they all are writing about how depressed they are. However, there is even a better explanation for this phenomenon. Talking about depression and anxiety is a remarkably effective way to garner sympathy from the masses. Anyone who doesn’t take mental health seriously and makes their views public is at high risk of large-scale public shunning, so there are incentives for even the people who don’t give a snort about mental health to pretend like they do. And what does sympathy do? It promotes the sharing of deep emotions which furthermore promotes more natural human interaction.
So then, this hypothesis is centered around the notion that your average population of humans are desperately striving for meaningful interaction, but through a twisted play on the human being’s natural fears and desires, people have been diverted from natural interaction by social media.
It appears as though I’m about to hit 5 pages (I’m of course typing in Word, with standard margins and font), so I feel as though I ought to wrap this pupper up. One last tidbit, if you will. At the end of the day, social media really ought to be thought of as the tool. I, for instance, am shamelessly using it to try to increase the number of people exposed to my incalculably vast stores of wisdom that have come through my many long decades of life. However, best to not let the hammer be the one calling the shots, don’t ya think?
Just as a brief warning, this post is going to be quite technical. I imagine this content might be dry for those of you who aren't computer science-ically inclined. For those of you who are computer science-ically inclined, I can only hope this will be useful, but know the following content is mostly for my own benefit. If you're looking to be entertained, I suggest hitting the next/previous buttons on the bottom of the screen.
Now then, I have largely finished the architecture for the XFA site. I think it is very likely that I will build more web apps in the future, so I’m going to write what I like to call a documentation story for this project. The “Quasi” prefix is there because the last time I wrote a documentation story it was incredibly long and detailed, and here I’m only really going to include important points from the project. This is going to be in mostly chronological order with respect to when I completed the various parts of the project. I should also note that this is also mostly for my benefit, and this shouldn’t be taken as a comprehensive guide.
There are five main parts of a Django web app (when you’re using Django templates): Models, Views, Urls, Templates, and Settings. I will go over each in order.
HTML / CSS:
This is really only my second web dev project, so I learned a great deal about HTML/ CSS in this project. I’m going to include points that I find valuable. Some of these are quite basic.
I used the Materialize CSS framework for some of the CSS heavy lifting. Here are some important things to be done with Materialize:
This was very daunting, but thanks to Corey Schafer, everything is up and working. This was my process for getting the XFA site up on the interweb.
Setting up Git: This is super important because it allows you to develop on your local machine and easily push changes to the server. I will redirect you to this link which has much more information about this. Somethings to note about this process. Include your settings.py and your db.sqlite3 database in the .gitignore because you will have different settings for your live Django app than for your local Django app. It is also best practice for the server to have its own database. I used PostgreSQL for my live server. It’s super easy to setup and configure with Django, and Django migrations worked just as well for the Postgres as they did for Sqlite.
I think that just about covers everything. There are, of course, a ton of other nitty gritty details to figure out, but that’s how any software project goes. Once again, I’m mostly writing this as a way for me to remember the main steps for building a web app with Django. Perhaps this may be of some use to the rest of you.
I did despair, my friends. I had sunk low into the darkness. I thought all was lost. I thought that all the work I had done on the XFA site was for naught. I thought…it’s almost too difficult to write. I thought I would have to…*gags*. I thought I would have to build my website with WordPress. Wow, that was hard to say. Allow me to explain.
Yesterday, I had finished the first version of the XFA site. I happily, giddily even, danced over to the BlueHost website and almost mindlessly bought a 3 YEAR shared hosting plan. Up until that point, like the good lil programmer I am, whenever I had run into an issue, I waltzed on over to StackOverflow to figure out what I was doing wrong. After I looked at the BlueHost interface, I thought to myself, “self, I have no idea how to deploy a website on a shared server, I should probably bop on over to StackOverflow.” But then, to my overwhelming horror, the internet absolutely failed me. As much as I looked into the revolting bowels of the interweb, I couldn’t find a single (applicable) tutorial about how to deploy a Django web app on a BlueHost server.
Ya boi was all like, “what the flippin’ heck?” In my confusion, I did a bit more research into general Django deployment practices, and it was there that I found the truth. It turns out that it is SUPER, SUPER, SUPER, SUPER overkill to use Django to build a blog site, which is precisely what I had done. Because it is SUPER, SUPER, SUPER, SUPER overkill to build and deploy a blog with Django, no one really ever does it. And because no one ever does it, there’s no one to make a tutorial for how to do it. And thus, the internet community failed me.
It was in that moment that I reached a nadir. I very, very angstily arose from my computer perch, vented to my brother, and then took a walk outside in the cold, cold Colorado air.
I decided that the only reasonable way to deal with this situation was to be brutally honest with myself. I know that I have no experience with server programming. You don’t either, so stop judging me. I knew that I might be able to get Django to work on BlueHost, but it would likely require a knowledge of Apache that I don’t possess, and several long heart-to-hearts with the Support Team of BlueHost. As a quick aside, the Support Team of BlueHost is hands down the best customer service with which I have ever interacted. Let be the first to tell you: if you are building a WordPress site, or a static web page, look no further than BlueHost. They’ll be the Obi-wan to your Qui-gon Jin.
And that is when I began to despair. BlueHost is super good at building and deploying WordPress sites, so there I was with my 3 year subscription, thinking I would have to sell my soul to the abusive mistress that is WordPress.
But then, when all hope was lost, a single beam of light shone through the dark stormy chaos that is the world-wide web. I was desperately flinging myself at every forum I could find, desperately searching for answers I never hoped I would find, when Reddit in all of its glory deposited a single comment into my lap that would come to fundamentally change the entire course of my afternoon.
The comment said something like, “…check out Corey Schafer’s tutorial on Django Deployment. He probably will have something that can help.” While to the untrained eye, this comment may have appeared as an emotionless recommendation for an online tutorial, I saw it for what it truly was: a supernatural sign of hope, where no hope could be found. Blessed readers, I will have you know that I did go to Corey Schafer’s website in an almost delirious fervor, and I found his tutorial on Django Deployment.
I’ll leave out the juicy, juicy details associated with the process of setting up SSH keys, configuring apache, and massaging linux, but I am here to tell you that as I sit here tonight, you yourself can go to exfizzassist.com, and there you will find the XFA site. I know, I know. I can hear your whoops and hollers from across the bounds of space and time itself. The XFA site is comfortably siting on a Linode Server somewhere in Fremont, California.
But I think the true moral of this story is not that the XFA site is finally up. The really, truly fundamental take away from this post is that Corey Schafer is a sexy, sexy beast. For all you girls out there trying to find a strong, yet sensitive man, you’ve got your priorities all wrong. There is really nothing more animalistically sexy than a man who can battle a Linux web server and emerge the victor. To be perfectly honest, I have absolutely no idea if Corey Schafer is romantically involved with anyone. But by the hammer of Thor, if he’s not, then citizens of the world, hop on over to that hunk of man-meat!
Ugh. It’s 11:30pm. Last night I got like 5 hours of sleep, so I told myself that I would be in bed by 11 tonight. Well, that didn’t happen. Anyway, I best be off. However, one more quick thing. If you do happen to be looking for tutorials on Python, Corey Schafer is your man. Don’t go to pythonprogramming.net (I love you Harrison, but Corey is better). Don’t ask questions and go directly to Corey Schafer’s YouTube channel. Peace.
What’s good, people? I’ll tell you what’s good. I basically finished all the source files for the XFA site. YEET! I won’t make any effort to hide my emotions. I am deeply, deeply stoked.
Now then, what’s bad, people? I’ll tell you what’s bad. Deploying the website. For some reason I figured the deployment process would be a walk in the park. Not so, readers, not so. It turns out that there is a tremendous amount of hullaballoo associated with getting servers up and working.
After I finally finished the source code for the project, I began poking around at which hosting service to use. I decided on BlueHost because the internet told me to. If the internet told me to jump off a bridge, would I do it? Well, readers, that depends. If the bridge was sufficiently high and I had a ballistic parachute strapped on, that might be a wild ride. In that case, I would probably have the internet to thank for its peer pressure. As a brief side note, in High School we’re taught that peer pressure is a bad, bad thing. While I have found that this is mostly true, I have found that mountain biking and longboarding are two activities where peer pressure is invaluable. If you are longboarding, however, please for the love of Thor’s hammer, wear a helmet. Perhaps this statement has shattered your perception of me as an invincible Coloradan (which I am, don’t you forget it), but I will have you know that one of my friends almost got into a horrible longboarding accident involving a pendy slide and an aggressively placed curb because he hadn’t strapped his helmet on. No one cares if you’re cool. Wear the fracking helmet. If nothing else, how on earth are you going to understand the covariant form of Maxwell’s equations if you have brain damage? That alone should hopefully scare you into keeping that helmet on whenever you’re on a mountain or boarding down a road.
Wait, hold up a moment. I believe I hear coyotes howling. It honestly sounds more like wolves, but we haven’t had wild wolves in Colorado for ages. What an interesting sound. I don’t really know why they howl like that. They can’t howl before a kill because it would alert the prey. The can’t howl after the kill because it might lure other predators. Maybe they just do it because it feels awesome. I can certainly understand that sentiment. I have been known to make bizarre noises for the good, good mouth-feel. Yowl on, coyote brethren (and sisthren), yowl on.
Back to the main matter at hand. What to do about website deployment? In a courageous and noble effort, I shall strive onward. I shalt not let the tribulations of restricted Shell access keep me from that for which I conquest. I conquest for glory! I thirst for honor! I strive onward empowered by the vision of a day that may come when our sons and daughters can deploy their Django applications without fear of bad documentation and bad tutorials. Yes, my readers, yes! Let us not by hindered by the afflictions of server programming! Let us draw together, and march on toward the glorious horizon, a future where we are no longer at the mercy of nefarious hackers cloaked in scripted shadows, trying to steal or personal information from the whois database! (the whois database, btw, seems like one of the most anarchical creations of man. I openly condemn it. Do I fully understand it? No. Did I learn about its existence tonight? Yes.) For honor! the crowd roars in agreement. For glory! the crowd stamps their feet and pounds their fists. For our sons and our daughters! one member of the crowd becomes so impassioned he starts performing a ceremonial jig. The rest of the crowd openly shuns him and tries to pretend he doesn’t exist. To me! with an army of programmer-warriors at my back, I rush forward into battle I know we may lose, but will no doubt be sung about for generations to come.
Goodness me. Nothing like leading a pack of hypothetical programmer-warriors (a lovely oxymoron, you’ll agree) into a hypothetical battle against a metaphorical manifestation of my troubles with web app deployment. You may be amused to know that I’m currently propped up on my queen-sized bed (yeah, I know. It’s absolutely egregious that I possess a queen-sized bed) which is covered in snowflake flannel sheets. The morning light has been waking me up at ungodly hours, so I have placed a green flannel blanket around one set of windows (this blanket’s original purpose was as a green-screen for a project I did in seventh grade about caecilians), and a brown fitted sheet over the other. The green and the brown really come together to produce a wonderfully swampy effect during the day, which only solidifies the “Cave of Sorrows” motif I’ve been trying to cultivate in my current living space.
Goodness gracious, to my left is An Introduction to Analysis, Calculus, An Introduction to Astronomy, and Modern Physics. Those of you who are rightfully concerned about my sanity are probably wondering what these books are doing in my bed. Well, my friends, I honestly don’t know. I could try to pull off the ultimate weird flex and tell you all that I sleep with them, but we both know in our heart of hearts that isn’t true.
I am fast approaching… wait hold on. I can hear an animal prowling right outside my room. If it weren’t 12:40 am, I could try to see if it’s a mountain lion or bobcat. Drat. Anyway, I am fast approaching the hour of 1am, so I feel I should wrap this sucker up.
I can assure you all that I will remove the textbooks from my bed with extreme prejudice. Toodles!
What a faux ominous title! The title of this post could easily be the title of a grade school book series, like The Boxcar Children, or The Magic Treehouse books. As much as I hate to miss the opportunity to take us all back on a jaunt down memory lane where we could all reminisce about pre-prepubescent times, I do have a purpose behind the bland title.
I was in the car today with my father, two brothers, and my mother, and as one typically does while in a car, we were driving from one location to another. The nature of the two locations will be omitted for the safety of everyone in the vehicle. During the drive, my father and younger brother engaged in a conversation about afternoon plans. The nature of the conversation was such that at one point my father stated, “Some people devote their entire lives to being fans of professional sports teams.” The rest of the conversation is irrelevant in this context, but that one statement awakened something deep within me quite familiar but that had long been asleep.
The something that awakened was an acute feeling of one very specific fear: the fear that I may end up living a meaningless, unproductive existence. This fear is particularly dangerous for two reasons:
What is the point of this loosely logical discussion, you might ask? Well, as I was returning a ski boot rental today, I was able to identify the highly unconformable feeling that had plagued me since the comment my father made as this specific type of fear. Once I had done this, I came to a sudden realization. Fear is itself a manifestation of our inability to confidently know the future. If you knew the future, there would be nothing of which to be afraid. Perhaps if you had knowledge of some highly unfortunate or painful event that would occur in the future, you would have reason to be anxious or filled with dread, but there would be no reason to be afraid.
So then, as I pulled away from the ski shop, I understood that my feeling of existential discomfort stemmed from my compulsion to control my future.
But, my dearest of readers, we don’t control the future. All we can do is decide what to do in the present moment. Perhaps I may someday live a life that some might consider meaningless. That is a probably a definite possibility. However, when I arrived home, I decided to continue working on the XFA site. I figured out how to incorporate markdown into my posts, which will allow me to easily insert pictures and media into XFA entries. That certainly filled me with a level of irrational glee.
Tomorrow, I will likely finish my work on the XFA files. I simply need to add some pretentious pictures of myself and a schmeagy bio section, but then I’ll be ready to send that bad boy off to a server. And then, treasured reader, you’ll be able to read what I write.
This week I will also need to read through the material about quark gluon plasmas and relativistic collisions I was given in preparation for the research project I will be carrying out this semester. I will also begin work on Orchid, which is all works according to plan (which it won’t) will allow us to finally be able to digitize mathematics.
If nothing else, my friend, remember that life is the gift. Our ability to interact with reality in each present moment is intrinsically precious, and ought to be treated as such.