A road in winter
Photo by Jay Mantri, courtesy of Pixabay.

It seems that 2016 was the year to say good-bye—a lot. In fact, 2016 was especially hard on celebrities: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Merle Haggard, Garry Shandling, Anton Yelchin, Natalie Cole, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee all passed away in 2016. I doubt there is any statistical significance here; we’ve simply become better at noticing these things.

Of course, I knew none of these people personally. Their deaths affect me only to the degree that I like or care about something they produced, which most of them did on a regular basis. In the end, though, it’s all “thanks for the memories and life goes on, doesn’t it?” Sad, but true. And inescapable.

More specifically, I said good-bye to two computer-based entities: Instagram and DreamHost.

You probably know Instagram. It is (or rather, was) a fun photo-sharing app. As with a lot of things on the internet, it started out as an independent company and then got eaten up by something larger (in this case, Facebook, which is one more reason for me to hate Facebook). I came aboard somewhat after that, but it was still a fun ride, until they decided to adopt a curated feed, which was the breaking point for me. I am, after all, a grown ass man who knows how to press buttons and can therefore curate my own damned feed, thank you very much.

There’s nothing wrong with a curated feed, as long as it’s an option. If I could have turned it off, I’d still be happily posting things to Instagram. But there is no way to turn it off. I follow(ed) people who are photographers or some type of visual artist who tell stories through pictures—so getting those pictures in the order that Instagram thinks I should see them is far less important than getting them in the order their creators think I should see them.

I wrote about this earlier. For what it’s worth, I did periodically go back in and check my feed for a few days. It used to take me about thirty minutes to get through my feed every day. (I judicially pruned any accounts that I lost interest in.) But after the switch to the curated feed, it only took about ten minutes to get through the entire thing. So either people were posting less to Instagram, or Instagram wasn’t showing me the entire thing. I gave them a second chance. But it came to nothing.

I also said good-bye to my webhost, DreamHost. I had been with them for almost a decade, so this was a far more difficult decision. But still, it needed to be done. Like most companies, they suddenly felt the need to make some changes. Some of this was good, such as the development of cloud-based storage that also works as a CDN, to the complete redesign of their control panel (including a mostly responsive design). Unfortunately, they also made a lot of changes at a (seemingly) moment’s notices, such as removing sudo from VPS (which I don’t need often, but was willing to pay extra for on the few occasions that I did), adopting a new email system (atmail and Vade) while actively making it difficult for users to continue using their old email clients (namely, Squirrel Mail—old and not very pretty, but efficient and reliable—and RoundCube—which has a good combination of pretty and features), and being petulant and/or childish when called out about these changes. At times I felt like I was dealing with an angry eight-year-old whose dignity was impugned when I failed to adequately appreciate the picture they made by gluing macaroni onto construction paper.

I certainly understand working hard on something and being justifiably proud of it—I’ve done this plenty of times myself. But just because you like it and your boss likes it and your coworkers like and your mom likes it, doesn’t mean anyone else has to like it. In fact people have a right to not like it. And when people are paying for it, they have a right to not like it and to take their business elsewhere. Which is what I did.

Add to that the fact that their email system is, and always been, the electronic equivalent of a dumpster fire, and that whether they are unable or unwilling to do anything about is not nearly as bad as the fact that they keep everybody in the dark about it. If you ask, they either say “we’re aware of the issue and are working on it” or “file a support ticket.”

(Incidentally, I tried to write about this over half a dozen times, but couldn’t. I filled a lot of sheets of paper with futile amounts of ink, but the emotional attachment I felt to DreamHost wouldn’t let me make any logical sense of it. It’s only now that it’s a a done deal that I can write about it clearly. And now that I can write about it clearly, I find that I don’t have a lot to say. The feeling of being let down, of betrayal even, is gone, and now there’s not much to write about except thei cold hard facts. And the main fact is that we had a relationship, but it was merely a business one. And that business is now concluded. That said, I did manage to write this, which is far less than I wanted to say.)

Given all that, though, this was also the year of saying hello. For instance…

I’ve said hello to Ubuntu in a very real way. Although it was always something that I’ve played around with in my spare time, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is now the operating system I’m using at home. (I’m still stuck on Windows 10 at work, but you can’t have everything.)

I’ve said hello to a new webhost: WebFaction. It’s taken a while, a bit of research, and a couple of calls to support, but I’ve got everything except Moodle up and running even faster and cheaper than before. (I’ll explain the “faster” poart on my techblog later.)

I’ve also said hello to podcasting again. There’s been a lot going on, frankly, and not much of it worth getting into, but it has taken time and it has taken energy. As I see it, life is divided into have-to, want-to, and get-to. Most of us spend far too much time with the have-to, and few of us manage a get-to on a regular basis. But if you can make it to the center of the Venn diagram where those three things overlap, and your get-to and want-to is also the have-to that pays the bills, then count your blessings, because such a turnout is a combination of hard work and pure dumb luck. (Which reminds me—when you do make it big, you have an obligation to help others.)

All of which is a long way to say that podcasting, like crime, doesn’t pay, so it’s still a want-to and on occasion becomes a get-to. But even if it’s a long stretch between episodes, I intend to go on doing it because it’s a blast. I just have to stretch those muscles more often.

I’ve also said hello to a new job with a company I hadn’t even heard of before. I wasn’t looking for full time work, to be honest. As a freelancer, I was mainly looking for a reason to put on pants and get out of the house on a more regular basis. But never look a gift horse in the mouth, right? When opportunity knocks, answer that door with a big “yes,” and then ride that ride until the carnival shuts down.

So yeah, I’ve said good-bye to a lot this year. Part of it was just life doing what life does, part of it was my choice, and most of it was, ultimately, inevitable. Stephen King once wrote that friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, and my experience proves that idea is mostly true. Restaurants close, people move away, you move away, and in the end, we are little more than quantum-mechanical effects write large. So you try to make good choices and realize that saying good-bye makes room in your life to say hello to other things. Change is inevitable. How you deal with that change is up to you.

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