blog.NOVALISTIC

Today’s tiny win

This might be a very unusual post given that the blog has thus far remained on a “post something substantial once in a blue moon” basis since the last time I discussed that, but I’ve been in a very rough place over the last couple of weeks and I believe this will make things momentarily interesting. If you’re familiar with the concept of asides in blogs, you’ll understand this post’s existence right away.

This post is inspired by a series of posts my friend Georgie recently started. You can learn more on her blog. We’ve been exchanging tiny wins privately for some time so this is not unfamiliar territory to me, I just never posted about it before now.

So, today’s tiny win: shipped an update to this blog’s WordPress theme that does nothing except remove the calls to body_class() and post_class().

The rationale is simple: no point keeping dozens of class names in markup you know you will never use. The vast majority of custom themes and themes made widely available will of course use them one way or another, but mine won’t.

Sure, I may not be saving kilobytes of bandwidth per page load, but it’s still something, and bandwidth does add up pretty quickly no matter the scale. And for the author of the markup — the human — it means less polluted and therefore more readable markup. Maybe you don’t care about that sort of thing (it sure seems that way for most authors these days), but I do.

That is all.

It’s my 27th birthday!

Today is my 27th birthday! As a Weird Al fan, this amuses me.

But this entry isn’t about Weird Al. It’s about me, and more specifically, me as a LEGO fan.

Because I’ve spent the past year getting back into my LEGO hobby, this year I’ve decided to take things up a notch. Oddly, though, it’s not purchases that I’m taking up a notch (in fact, I’ll be dialing that down a bit), but my involvement in the LEGO fan community, as well as things related to the LEGO Room.

First, I’ll be launching an Instagram account dedicated my LEGO! For now, I’ve populated my feed with my LEGO reviews from the past six months. I won’t be publishing as many this year, but I look forward to what I will be putting out, as well as some MOCs that I have in the works. I look forward to participating in the community!

Screenshot of Instagram displaying my new public Instagram account, @legosonicboy.
My new public Instagram account, @legosonicboy!

As for the LEGO Room, I’ll be working on the backend again and adding some enhancements. Here are some of the new features I have in mind:

The review-specific additions will be my top priorities as I’m hoping to roll those out in time for my upcoming reviews.

And of course I expect to deal with other aspects of life as well, such as my health and my personal and professional development. As with every other year I’m continuing to take each day as it comes, and hopefully I’ll write about some of it here on the blog.

What Microsoft Edge moving to Chromium means for open web standards

When Jonathan Sampson (now at Brave) invited me to join the Internet Explorer userAgents program in 2013, I jumped at the opportunity to embrace and advocate for Microsoft’s commitment to an open web. I’ve been a strong backer of Microsoft’s web platform efforts since Internet Explorer 8 — so, for almost a decade now — and especially so in the face of an increasingly “Chromium-plated web”.

Today I’m a Microsoft Edge MVP, specializing in HTML, CSS, and web standards. Like many people who pride themselves standardistas (though I don’t use that label myself), I’ve firmly held the belief that a healthy web platform requires accountable, innovative, and most importantly independent, implementations of open web standards to thrive. And this is why, even though Firefox continues to be my daily driver 12 years on, I have been working very closely with the IE-and-then-Edge team to improve their browser product as well as to educate and help the developer community about the browser — regressions and innovations alike.

When Opera buried Presto and jumped ship to Chromium, it was seen as a great loss for web interoperability. Today it remains a great choice for users, but for web developers (at least, for me), it’s as good as irrelevant. To the average web developer, it’s “one less browser to worry about”.

Now, my worst fear has become a reality: EdgeHTML, the engine powering Microsoft Edge, will be sunsetted in favor of a Chromium-based desktop browser architecture. In other words, Microsoft Edge will soon become Yet Another Chromium-based Browser. But more importantly, Microsoft has given up on their independent implementation of the web platform and is focusing their efforts toward an existing one. A competing one. On the basis of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”.

I know a lot of the big names in web standards are grieving EdgeHTML’s demise as I write this. Even Mozilla has posted a eulogy. But, as a Microsoft Edge MVP and someone with a very personal stake in the matter, I want to provide some context, and perhaps a different perspective. There is a lot more to this than “Chromium wins” and “monoculture, monoculture”. Or at least, I hope so. Let me break this down a little bit.

(Yes, this blog post will be somewhat emotionally charged, but it’s by no means a rant. I really want this to be as informative and balanced as possible while still being very much an opinion piece.)

October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month

First of all, if you’re new to my site, or you’re just learning about this condition for the first time, welcome! I’m a software developer with a variety of interests, who fights a number of personal battles every day. One of these battles that, well, I don’t fight every day but I do fight on a regular basis, is an anxiety disorder called selective mutism. My anxiety manifests in several ways, but SM is the single most noticeable and predominant since I stopped experiencing panic attacks a few years ago.

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder characterized by a consistent failure to speak in either specific situations or to specific people, in an individual who is otherwise physically able to speak (and can often be quite chatty in safe spaces such as home!). It affects people of all ages, but more children are diagnosed than adults as the childhood onset is better-researched and more widely understood. The Wikipedia article on selective mutism used to be incredibly barebones but it seems to be much more comprehensive now.

Although (and perhaps because) selective mutism is more commonly understood and treated in children, my article will not be focusing on children; instead, the focus of this article is on adults and teens with selective mutism. One big reason for this is that I never had selective mutism as a child; I grew up quiet and introverted, but not silent. I’m 26 years old now, and I’ve lived with selective mutism full-time for 9 years and 11 months, accurate to the day of the month. Thus, I believe that my experiences and tips will be more relevant to grown-ups than to parents of selectively mute children. (If you’re one such parent, I strongly encourage you to see a pediatrician and/or a speech pathologist.)

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome

What a flippant-sounding name for a debilitating functional disorder that in reality significantly impacts a person’s daily life, and is neither fun nor funny to deal with one bit.

You may have read about my health issues in my post about missing the Insider Dev Tour. If you haven’t, here’s an excerpt that summarizes the symptoms:

One of these health issues actually began manifesting relatively recently — early last year. Long story short, no matter how well I eat and sleep the night before, if I leave or even just have an intention of leaving the house before 11 am and too soon after waking up, I run a very high risk of experiencing (stress-induced) stomach cramps, nausea, and generalized weakness. These have usually ended in me abandoning my journey or, if I was already where I was supposed to be, being rushed home by a friend or family member.

Well, I’ve had a couple more incidents since then, as recently as this month. And, last weekend, while spending 7 hours in the A&E on a wheelchair with my parents because I was too weak and sick to get around on my own, I was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). (The X-ray also found something in my gut but I’m told it should go away on its own with no medical intervention required.)

So, what exactly is IBS? It’s a functional disorder characterized by stomach cramps and intestinal spasms with varying degrees of pain, along with related symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes it gets so bad it can send you reeling, sweating, whimpering, and even collapsing (this is what put me in the A&E last weekend). But unlike most gastrointestinal (GI) diseases (i.e. diseases pertaining to the digestive system), IBS isn’t caused by injury or food poisoning or bad bacteria or acid reflux; it has no known cause nor cure, and the symptoms come and go seemingly as they please, mostly influenced or exacerbated (but not necessarily caused) by a number of other factors including

I’d bet that my episodes of generalized weakness have a part in it as well, or at least that the two seem to interact.

And yes, IBS does make the first three more difficult. So it’s a vicious cycle. One that’s going to be incredibly hard for me to get out of.

So what does this mean for me, and possibly my web work (or work in general, really)? Well, in terms of building things, writing articles and helping others on the Internet, not much. While IBS does affect me at home, it’s not nearly as disabling as it is when I’m out of the house. Here’s another quote from my Insider Dev Tour post:

However, it was an all-day event that began at 9 am and ended at 5 pm, and Microsoft Singapore is a little over an hour away from home, which meant I had to be out of the house by 7:30. These are typical hours for most full-time working adults, but I have a number of health issues that make getting a nine-to-five basically not an option for me. In fact, I had given January’s Microsoft Tech Summit a miss for the exact same reason.

That means working remotely isn’t just a luxury or convenience but practically a requirement for me now (unless the on-premises hours are so flexible I can come and go pretty much any time I can manage). And I’m sure there is no shortage of remote opportunities out there, but it does bum me out knowing it’d be silly at best and perceptibly dishonest at worst for me to apply for roles whose on-premises demands I know I’ll be unable to meet.

In the short term, I’ve had to miss Talk.CSS #32 today, not because I’ve been in pain again but because I didn’t want to take any chances. But, you know, meetups aren’t significant commitments unless I’m speaking (which I can’t) or organizing (which I don’t). Going to work, whether physically or remotely, is a commitment and a responsibility. And there are far more reasons than just IBS that I have a long way to go before I’m ready to enter the working world.

But, at least over the last 18 months, IBS has had a significant impact on my daily life, and will probably continue for a while yet (hopefully not for the rest of my life). I’m fortunate that it’s no cancer (not yet, knock on wood), but IBS and generalized weakness are not just in my head. My body doesn’t pretend to experience weakness or pain.

Having said that, I will continue doing my best to take ownership of my health, and you would not be remiss to take care of yourself too.