Stephen Hara

Blog Refresh

Published on 10/28/2021

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Welcome to the new Stephen Hara blog! This isn't the first time I've started a blog, but hopefully it's the one that sticks. I've had a few other blogs over the years for things like frugal college cooking (it was called the Frugal Undergrad College Kitchen for reasons that most people probably aren't as amused by as I am), Japanese learning, and a personal blog much like I intend this one to be. In isolation none of them are particularly interesting, but maybe it'd be a good exercise to talk about them as a reflection of my attempts to be a better communicator through the written medium.


This was the "safe" shorthand I used for the college cooking blog. Based on some googling, it's not easy to find, as even searching for the name gives an abundance of "top N college recipes" and similar list-based aggregate pages. This was a fun little blog, as I tried to keep it relatively high quality for what it was, using pictures, accurate measurements, and approximate costs to demonstrate the frugal aspect.

One of my friends read all my posts and did give me some important feedback that it was tonally confused. I like to think of myself as a decently funny guy, and I tried to inject humor in the form of dumb joke stories (like Abraham Lincoln inventing bread) as precursors to the straightforward formulas of the recipes. It was good feedback, and the few posts I made after that were less jokey which I think helped keep it more focused.

Ultimately, FrUnCoKi was too low on my priority list at the time (being someone who absolutely would have benefited from that kind of content, I was trying to juggle too many things as most low-income college students do) to keep it going for more than a few months. But it was fun, and I think it was a good exercise in keeping to a writing/creation schedule which is a skill I certainly needed to improve at those days.

My Medium Blog

I have a Medium blog with exactly one post in which I wax poetic about the topic of melancholy and enjoying, or even expecting, depressing shit content. Very personal kind of thing, but my friends were receptive and supportive. I don't really have much more to say on this one, but I think writing is an excellent way to exercise communication of the complex, absurd maelstrom of abstractions that is one's emotional state. That may sound obvious, but I recommend doing so occasionally, even if you don't publish it anywhere. No one has ever wished they understood their own emotions less, after all.

The Previous Incarnation of the Stephen Hara Blog

My most recent attempt went online about four years ago in 2017, built with Ghost and hosted on Google Cloud Platform. I mostly posted thoughts about software dev career things, with a couple of demos/tutorials thrown in there (I was one of the first people to post about how to build Windows Terminal when it was still only available as source!).

On the technical side, I was trying to also host a static personal site that had the blog under /blog with Nginx handling the reverse proxying, but then my Nginx would just randomly die frequently taking the whole site offline. This was solved with brute force by adding a cron job to start Nginx on some sub-daily interval.

Hilariously, after fixing this, I found out that sometimes the blog would just die as well. So I added forever to the mix to make sure the Ghost server stayed online. This seemed to work, but I suspect the GCP instance would go down periodically, which resulted in the forever configuration dying. At this point, I was barely using the domain and not really writing anything, so I decided to just turn the instance off indefinitely until I could come back to it. Which brings us to more recent times.

This One You're Reading

I considered a few website generators, but I'm a cheapskate (remember my cooking blog?) and I'm also getting to the point in my life where I don't really care for cool, complicated, and most likely fragile tech stacks. An appealing option for free, simple, and stable, is static site generation. I briefly considered writing my own for fun, but sketching it out a bit convinced me otherwise.

I didn't really want to use a JavaScript SSG, though I did give one an honest shot, and it turned out to be a miserable experience. After muddling around with a couple, I settled on Still, written in Elixir and very small, and very simple. It's a bit rough around the edges since it's pretty new, but it fits my needs great and I think it's also got a lot of room for contributions, which I think would be cool to get into for myself.

As far as the content, it'll probably be mostly software dev and career related. I've lately decided I have career aspirations of becoming a staff engineer at my current place, and this blog is one way I want to document the journey, however it ends up. I'll probably have some personal thoughts kind of posts, maybe some "big event" posts, and who knows, maybe I'll even turn this segmented stream of consciousness into a book someday!

Closing Thoughts

I like writing. Around middle school was when I first started writing creatively, mostly for fiction as happens with nerds who have too much free time. But since then I've done a lot of other forms of writing, like documentation, these blogs, or even just discussing with strangers on the internet about highly nuanced topics that demand precision and clarity. I think writing, as a form of communication, is one straightforward way to increase your flexibility in life and make it easy to get along with different groups of people. And who doesn't want to make more friends?