I just want to blog/write on the Internet. What platform should I use?

A friend recently asked me what he should use if his usecase is that he just wants to pen down some thoughts on the Internet. I thought I’d list all the different ways I host my different websites that I have for different usecases. Maybe one of these will help someone else stumbling across this page as well –

I initially started off with Static Site Generators and later adopted Medium, WordPress and Substack over time. I’ve abandoned Medium now.

Regarding the ease of usage, I find WordPress (abhiwrites.com) to be the most dependable – from a long-life perspective because Automattic (the company behind WP) has been around for a looong time and I feel like I can rely on it. Add to that, the convenience factor is unbeatable. Even the latest post, I just typed it up on my phone and posted. I pay around 3200 INR for the domain name and hosting per year.

The second most convenient is the Substack website. But I’m wary of it (Like I was with Medium) because it’s new and I don’t know if they might pivot to something else at some point. I’m using them cautiously but they’re also ridiculously easy to post on. The block structure of usage and what formatting you can do on Substack is limited as compared to WordPress but it works. It is fully free as of now because I haven’t paid for a custom domain. I haven’t even looked into what a paid plan offers.

The third most convenient is my Hugo website for BBB. Go gets easily installed and deploying the site once you’ve put in the initial work of choosing a theme is minimal. I like that there’s flexibility there in terms of how I want my structure to be etc. Being a programmer, there’s some lee-way there. But the limitation there for me is I am not very good with UI. So if you check the website, the roughness will show. The plus point though is that I only pay for the domain name on Bigrock and hosting is on Github pages . Approx 1.6k per year for the domain name , security etc.

The last and most tedious is my Jekyll website. While it’s posh-er than the BBB website, Ruby is a pain to work with on some machines. So I don’t like it much. I will migrate this eventually.

I used to use Medium and some of my friends still do. There is a lot of discovery that’s possible for your articles because of related “Medium publishers” picking up your writing based on the content, tags etc, but the reason I stopped using it is because I started seeing articles being put under a Premium paywall even when the content was sub-par. An elitist’s garden that doesn’t let most people smell the flowers. That didn’t sit well with me and I’ve since migrated all my content to one of the above mentioned sites. But if you want to use it, that’s up to you. It is convenient to publish on Medium akin to Substack.

tl;dr –
If all you want is to pick up a place to write on and just …write, WordPress/Substack are your best options.
If you feel like you’d like to take up the technical challenges of setting up your Static Page Generator, Hugo or Jekyll or Ghost are good alternatives!

The end goal however shouldn’t be lost in all this hungama Writing.

T is for Tripping

Most days while on the road, I normally have an objective, a destination and a reason to be traveling but that day I found myself with a lot of time and I was in no real rush. So I took a normally forgotten turn on a commonly traveled road just to see where it led. It opened up to a pathway on one side and a lake on the other. An unfenced lake.
At one point on the road, it became clear that vehicles weren’t the way to travel any further. Instead there was a semi spherical wooden thing that people were seemingly supposed to get in and slide down the rest of the way. There were a bunch of these arranged alongside a wall on the left side of the road.
I got into one and set myself in motion. It was very cool. I slid down the road and up when the road curved up and sideways left and right similarly. When it finally stopped, I was precariously (I’d just noticed) close to the edge of the lake. The water was sparkling under the sunlight. I forgot myself in the shimmer for a bit. Then I looked around me to see where I’d ended up and that’s when I spotted the sign – “Beware of snakes”. I immediately decided my little trip was over and set my semi sphere in motion down the nearest slope again. This time after a little while it stopped suddenly. And while I was examining the reason for my abrupt halting, my eyes fell upon a heap of a coil sitting motionless. I decided I wasn’t going to wait for it to move and ran, semisphere dragging after me. In the hurried motion, the part of the semisphere I was holding broke from the whole into my hand and the rest of it rolled away into the water. But I was so panicked to understand what happened that I kept running. I ran and I ran and hoped to run up to my vehicle I think but on the way, I tripped and fell. And passed out.
When I woke up, I saw a pair of beady eyes staring down at me. My vision cleared up and I realized I was face to face with either a mongoose or a badger, not knowing which because I’d never seen either in the flesh before and even the pictures I’d seen weren’t very clear in the difference or I’d just not paid enough attention. The latter is more possible. It must have been the shock of the sudden sight but I passed out again.
I woke up this time in the safety of my bed. I rubbed my eyes groggily and decided I must have dreamt it all. “These dreams are getting way too realistic these days” – I mulled. I fell back again on the bed, my head hitting the pillow with a heavier thump than I was used to. I felt under it and retrieved the reason for the thump –
The piece of the semisphere that had broken….

S is for Silence

When was the last time you were silent?

Not in the sense that you were listening to someone and for that interval you said nothing, but truly silent. That feeling of calm emptiness both because there’s nothing on your agenda that demands your urgent attention and because you’re completely actively unengaged – no phones, no conversations, no thoughts.

Just …silence.

I can’t remember the last time I was silent. Perhaps it was in an age before Uninterrupted Power Supply and smartphones. On evenings when mum wasn’t back from work but the power had gone out. I’d carefully make my way to the kitchen and feel around for one of the candles, guided sometimes by the moonlight streaming in through the meshed window, sometimes merely by touch and a mental memory of the kitchen layout. And once it was lit, I’d sit and look at it. The flame was always beautiful to look at. Sometimes I’d poke my finger into it rapidly and sometimes just place my palm a little over the tip of the flame – foolhardy actions of a young boy and yet, some of the most fun I remember having. And after I’d had my fun, I’d just sit in front of the candle and slip into a daze of conscious nothingness. I’d look at the wax dripping, not really paying attention to it. And for that remaining period of 20 minutes to an hour – while waiting for the candle to die out or the power to return, all that was there would be peaceful silence.

This thought bubble about silence isn’t going to end with a plan to simulate that state of being. Because I think I’m far too down the road of continuous stream of random thoughts to try and muster silence in my brain.

I’ll settle for a state of perpetual satisfaction.

The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden

I’ve come to understand that while I do not know all the forms of humor I love, I Undoubtedly love the Swedish sense of humor – that form of writing that elicits a laugh not at the end of a line or two or even ten, but at the end of three pages when you understand how the irony works, how the accidents work, how the coincidences work, That form of humor is beautiful. There is also another form of writing Jonas Jonasson Nails and that is dry humor – when he performs reveals about the three Chinese women or about how a group of the unlikeliest people are bundled together in a place you’d never expect, or when a Mossad agent finds himself outwitted by a cleaning woman but that isn’t written in a slapstick sort of way, but extremely gracefully – like a bird gliding to a slow and steady landing. I suppose that’s the only way to describe This humor style – graceful comedy.
Then there’s the whole drama with the Twins – Holger and Holger II and the way the non-existence of the latter (you Have to be there) is portrayed both as extremely tragic to the afflicted and as hilarious to the reader – the whole set of experiences left me grinning ear to ear on walks as I heard the encounters one after another and many a passerby probably wondered why I was smiling so much.
You simply must read about The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden, because Nombeko, the star of the book has had quite the interesting journey 🙂

R is for Repeat

The man stood on his crutches on the pavement watching the sea of vehicles speeding by, each trying to make it over the imaginary finish line before the next red light would arrive, indicating the end of the current race. And arrive it did. A few errant motorists ignored it.

The other vehicles dutifully halted, a new tetris grid forming. The man took this as his cue to hop onto the road, aided by his good leg on one side and two crutches on either. His hand stretched out mechanically as it had for hours before that for days on end.

Many ignored his eyes that bored into the side of their helmed faces. Some obliged, fishing into their pockets and digging out spare change that they surprisingly found and some came back empty-handed with sheepish looks as if to say – “I wanted to… :-/”

The man repeated this exercise with as many vehicles as he could before hopping back with timed precision onto the pavement just as the traffic lights turned green. This went on for hours. An hour after sunset as the traffic dwindled, the man began counting his earnings for the day. No grumblings, just silent counting.

Finally he sighed.

He looked around cautiously.

The other leg miraculously appeared out of the folds of his “lungi” and he walked back home with his crutches held at his side.

He had to rest for tomorrow.

M is for Material

I didn’t think I cared for many things material. There’s a small wooden bird figurine I bought on a trip to pondicherry that I’ve grown extremely fond of. When its tail broke off, I remember feeling very sad. And I remember how happy I felt when I realized I could superglue it back. That’s probably one of the countable material items I care for in my life as of today.

Among the tiny list of things I care about, I did not think my kindle was among them. Nor did I think a Keychain I had as a primary would be on that list. But the old saying about knowing how much you care about things only when they’re no longer with you is true. I lost both of these items earlier this week and when constant efforts looking for them in every corner I could think of proved futile, my nonchalance of “yeah, they’ll turn up eventually” broke. And I’ve found myself thinking about them every now and then all evening. I did not know I’d miss them so much. But I do. The Keychain was a gift from a friend who’d brought it for me from China. It’s not a terribly rare Keychain, just Spiderman themed. But he’d thought about me when he saw it, enough to ping and ask if I’d like it if he bought it for me. And that act of his meant a lot to me. The Kindle was also brought for me by another dear friend from Germany and I’d taken it from him on the day of his wedding, when I’d attended it. I’m leaving out a lot of details but I guess those details are the reason I find myself regretting not being careful about these two specific items.

I don’t know if I’ll get them back. If I’ll remember suddenly with a jolt where they might be. I probably won’t. This post is acceptance of that.

But it’s good to know I care. About things people give me or make for me.

It’s a nice feeling.

And Then There Were None

I’ve tried to start this book thrice before and everytime I’ve stopped short of moving past the first chapterfor reasons I cannot remember anymore because this time, I crossed the first 20% within minutes of picking the book up. The rest of it built up in excitement and intensity with each….milestone and the crescendo culminated in a loud bang at one point (in my mind 😉 ). A childhood poem “Ten Little Indians” is used as the template around which the plot is woven, but just when it seems like things could be predictable, the story takes a turn. Now, generally, towards the 80% mark, one is able to atleast guess what the ending might be like. But this book gave away nothing till the very end and That was the most satisfying part of all, to me. There are ten characters that are of importance in this story and while none of them is memorable, all of them were extremely interesting in their presence whenever they appear. I’ve been told that this is “the Best Christie”. The description leaves a sour taste in my mouth because it makes me wonder if it’s all downhill from here, given that I’ve only read 4 other Christie novels.We’ll see! 🙂

Subjective Rating: 4.5/5

No one can write just one..word

Today (prompted by a breadcrumb of other thoughts), I found myself thinking about how Lays used to be called Ruffles Lays, atleast in India. But when I looked it up, I couldn’t find a shred of textual evidence on the Internet. Pretty much everything listed Ruffles and Lays as two separately owned brands under Pepsico.

And this wasn’t actually the first time I’d thought about this. I’d thought about it before but was just to lazy to search more and prove my memory right.

Until today –

I found this video from years ago – published 2012 , but I know it’s atleast from a decade more ago – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhXog54Ipaw

that proved definitively that it used to be called Ruffles Lays !!

(Image from video)

Then came the inevitable rabbit-hole-diving that led me to reading about the supply chain journey of potatoes ending up as Lays – well, whatever’s public info anyway. Thank you Meeta Punjabi, 2015 – http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ivc/PDF/Asia/15_Punjabi_potato_contract_farming_for_Pepsi_India_formatted.pdf

Then there was a thought about the whole “which flavors are in India (since 1995) and which ones aren’t” and how new flavors are introduced. One of the first major introductions-in-forever came with Lays Maxx made it here in 2015 –

https://www.prnewswire.com/in/news-releases/lays-launches-the-global-superhit-lays-maxx-in-india-504672291.html

But there were older ones surely? When was that Caribbean flavor introduced? Wasn’t it called West Indies something? And that meant some association with Cricket…right?

I thought about this a lot before I finally hit upon 2 articles – one that proved that this flavor was atleast as old as 2012 –

a) A guy reviewed it here as received from an Indian friend of his in 2012 – http://www.thejfg.com/2012/11/23/review-lays-west-indies-hot-n-sweet-chilli-potato-chips-the-ghost-town-of-dc-black-friday/#sthash.s7KAiiqP.dpbs

b) I searched for Lays in association with flavors in 2011 after I found article (a) and this led me to finding DING DING DING

https://www.indianretailer.com/news/Lay-s-Flavours-for-World-Cup-2011.n2937/

There were SIX flavors introduced as part of the World Cup 2011 promo! Each for one of the countries playing in the WC :

  • Herb ‘n’ Lime (Aus)
  • Peri Peri Sauce (SA)
  • Sweet Onion Sauce (SL)
  • Grilled Cheese (Eng)
  • Hot & Sweet Chilli (WI) aaand
  • Magic Masala (Ind)

Somehow 3 of the 6 from this list have gotten all but phased out from the Indian Market. The Grilled Cheese flavor makes an appearance every now and then, but let’s be real. It isn’t reeally going to make it back here…(awkward)…

I have never heard of Mango Mastana or Hip Hop Honey. But if either of these were on shelves I would not buy them.

Image

2013 apparently saw the arrival of French Salt & Pepper and Chile Lemon. How are these winners of over 120 available flavors across the world?

“The company recently launched two new flavors – Lay’s Chile Limon and Lay’s French Salt & Cracked Pepper. To promote both the flavours, the brand has also launched a set of TVCs beginning with Chile Limon flavour. The Lay’s French Salt & Cracked Pepper, which will have a universal positioning would be unveiled after 20 days.”

– Prasant Naidu, 2013 – https://www.business2community.com/social-media/lays-india-announces-two-new-flavours-but-cuts-down-on-social-media-buzz-0428683

And yes, there are at least 120 flavors of Lays globally – https://taquitos.net/snack_guide/Lays_Potato_Chips… Of course, filtration was probably done by way of availability of raw product and what was Feasible to sell while making a profit. But still..come on Pepsico -.-

Also Lays, Cheetos and Uncle Chipps are All owned by PepsiCo. So next time you say “I hate Cheetos but I love Lays”, you should know that it doesn’t matter.

But you probably knew that… I didn’t.

Aug 05, 2021

There’s this thing I need to get done by August 22. A person whose inputs I’ve come to really value said I need to get the first cut by Aug 06 if I’m to realistically get the final cut by 22nd, so that gives me just a day to go.

Where I am in the process- I’m still being a little clandestine about the whole thing, so I am going to publicly talk about it in code. Maybe as a recipe for something to be baked or cooked.

So if I think of it as stages for the entire task to get done, there’s

a) Deciding the overall ingredients
b) Deciding which ingredients need to go where i.e. which ones need to be processed first and which ones follow and so on.
c) Outlining the recipe itself
d) Preparing the dish
e) And serve.

I’ve completed (a) and I’m just about done with (b) – an hour’s work should sort it. Which gives me around 40 hours to get done with (c) and (d). (e) isn’t applicable till a week later atleast.

This is good. Outlining it all down is giving me some clarity, even if it isn’t in the most explicit terms.

Alright. Game on.

Update – This did not work out the way I planned. Stashed for later implementation.

July 14 2021

Didn’t work much today. Did some stuff that was pending at home though. Had tea at an administrative office. Got extremely drenched after probably more than a year.

Oh and also started watching “The Indian Detective” starring Russel Peters late today. I’m on episode 2. It’s a cringe-y, cliched-jokes-filled piece of mindless production so far. But then again…it did make me get to episode 2 at least. The “detective”-ness is still very much in the making but Russel Peters is alright. Anupam Kher is bearable and somehow they picked all the worst Hindi speakers to speak Hindi while shooting in Bombay. Good stuff guys…

God…Is this what hate-watching is?