I’ve finally done it. As a chronic late adopter it did take me forever, but I finally changed themes on this site, which is now running Twenty Twenty, the latest WordPress default theme. It’s going to take me a while to get used to – I’ve been running my beloved Writr since first launching the blog in 2013 – but it was overdue, so here we are.
I also switched over to the block editor – aka Gutenberg – another embarrassingly late move to the modern WordPress world.
It’s been a good “empathy exercise.” As a full-time Happiness Engineer helping users build and customize their sites, it’s so easy for me to tell someone, “Go ahead and switch themes, it’ll be fine!” or “Oh yeah, activate the block editor, you’ll love it!”
Doing it myself is another story.
But… it’s been alright so far. No, really! OK, I’ve already encountered two small visual bugs that I’ll report when I’m back at work, but that’s what dogfooding is for, isn’t it?
Speaking of bugs, if you spot anything amiss, do feel feel free to let me know. In the meantime, I hope you like the new look.
May 2020 be good to you all, whether you decide to shake things up or not.
Back in what truly feels like another lifetime, I made a bunch of short movies, most at summer camp, CEGEP or university.
After spending most of my youth determined to pursue an acting career, discovering filmmaking felt like a revelation. Now I could tell my own stories! No one judged me on my appearance! Good riddance to all the discouraging casting calls!
So I produced a slew of short films and videos on Super 8, Hi8, SVHS, 16mm, and other now-obsolete or prohibitively expensive formats. I graduated with a Communication Studies degree, and had a career in the industry. I felt a particular passion for documentaries. While I had no problem getting work as an associate producer, production coordinator, assistant director, and script supervisor, it turns out I never loved working in film and TV. In fact, at times, I hated it. The interpersonal politics were sometimes stifling and the work could vary wildly between stressful and exhausting, to mind-numbingly boring. Government tax-credit applications, anyone?
Eventually, the World Wide Web (yes, we called it that in the 90s) became a thing, and I taught myself HTML and started building websites on my own. The rest, as they say, is history.
During my recent sabbatical, I decided to get my old film and video productions digitized before the tapes deteriorate even more. Rewatching them now makes me cringe for many reasons – Why did I put myself in so many of them? Why is the editing so awkward? Why did I often pick such cheesy music? – but some are also fun to watch.
Here’s one I made about the then-obscure Drawn & Quarterly comic publisher, produced as a demo for a CBC show I was trying to get onto – an English version of Course destination monde, if anyone remembers that from the 90s in Québec. I made it to the final round, but ultimately wasn’t chosen as one of their globetrotting videographer-journalists. (I cannot for the life of me remember the English title of the show, so evidently it didn’t become a hit.) Instead I spent the next two years working as assistant director on Iris, The Happy Professor for TLC, alongside a wacky local crew and a cast of raunchy puppeteers. But that’s a story for another time.
While on sabbatical I’ve had a few songs on repeat as I’ve been reflecting on the past, processing the present, coming to terms with some big changes in my life, and trying to just be. Hard stuff, but this music has helped.
Alanis Morissette – Unsent
I was inspired to give Alanis another listen after seeing Tranna Wintour’s homage Dear Alanis: A Musical Comedy. Theme song of this post.
Sara Bareilles – Armor
I’ve loved this song since I first heard it on CBC Radio and realized it was a new track from one of my favourite singer-songwriters. In a strange twist, I only first watched the video this week, and it clicked that the song shares the title of one of my favourite posts from last year, and echoes similar themes.
Tegan & Sara – Where Does The Good Go
Theme song for my Year of Big Change. Also my Year of Binge-Watching Fifteen Seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. (Still have several seasons to go. Holy moly they made a lot of episodes.)
When my beloved cat Sophie recently escaped, I postponed the departure date for my sabbatical trip to Southeast Asia – and seriously considered cancelling it altogether. I didn’t feel right leaving with her still out there somewhere, and certainly couldn’t imagine enjoying a vacation.
When Sophie joyously returned home, I went ahead and took the trip, only having to delay my departure by a few days. One of the things I’m so grateful I still got to do was visit Villa Kitty.
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When I was planning the Bali portion of my trip, I knew I wanted to try to get off the beaten tourist path a bit. Beaches and waterfalls and temples are lovely, but what do I really care about most? Animals are high on the list. And of course, more specifically, cats.
In the process of researching photo tours, I learned about Villa Kitty, an Ubud cat rescue founded by Elizabeth Henzell. Reading about their work struck a chord, so I wrote to Elizabeth, who graciously invited me to spend some time volunteering. While the rescue pays staff like vets and animal technicians, there’s never enough time to cuddle and play with all the cats and kittens, to help heal and socialize. That’s where volunteers come in.
When I got to Villa Kitty, Elizabeth welcomed me warmly. The whole operation blew me away – a huge serpentine maze of brightly coloured corridors and open spaces full of cats and kittens playing, sleeping, curled together in cages, quarantine rooms, and play areas, depending on their age and health status. The place is currently bursting at the seams, housing 300 cats, but the space is well organized and efficiently run.
People walk into Villa Kitty with tiny kittens found in gutters, ditches, and river banks; cats who are injured, orphaned, or abandoned; and every other heartbreaking scenario you can think of. Staff bottle-feed the littlest ones, perform free sterilizations for the community, and continually spread the word about caring for cats responsibly. They place kitties in foster homes and find adoptive homes for as many as possible.
I wish I’d had more time to spend with all these cuties, but I know I’ll return if I’m ever in Bali again. And if you’re a cat lover who finds yourself in Ubud, your cuddles are needed at Villa Kitty – so don’t hesitate to reach out!
When I was planning a sabbatical trip to Southeast Asia, I looked around to see if there might be any photography-related excursions along my route. I stumbled across a morning market photo tour in Ubud, Bali, that sounded intriguing. As it turned out, not only did the person offering these tours run them on a donation basis – with money going toward local animal charities – Mark Chaves is also a WordPress developer with a site hosted on WordPress.com! It seemed meant to be, so I signed up for a tour and hoped for clear weather.
When Mark asked ahead of time what kind of photography I’d like to focus on, I mentioned that I’d like to get better at street photography, but tend to feel shy about taking photos of people. He said this was a common problem, and that he’d compile some tips in a blog post. Within a few weeks he made good on his promise, and I found the post about how to approach “making” photos in public places extremely helpful, even inspiring: Strangers Are Friends We Haven’t Met Yet. I vowed to put into practice what I learned.
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It was my last day in Bali and I met Mark at 7am outside the bustling Pasar Ubud. While I’m far from a morning person, I knew it would be worth it!
Mark seemed to intimately know every nook and cranny of the market, pointing out details and interactions I never would have noticed on my own. He encouraged me to take lots of photos quickly, which helped me avoid overthinking and capture more spontaneous shots. He knew many of the regulars working the market, and made people smile when he asked if it was OK for me to take photos. We even stopped to greet some of the resident stray dogs and feed them the treats he’d brought along in a small plastic container.
I’m so glad Google led me to Mark’s site that fateful day. It was a memorable experience, and I love the photos that resulted.