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The online journal of Ashur Cabrera.

/away

Ask almost any nerd my age about AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and I’d bet you $8 they have a whole medley of memories about “away messages,” the ephemeral statuses you’d set when you were online but (ostensibly) away from the computer.

On a lark — which is to say, after months of thinking about how companies always seem to gobble up the best parts of the web and then shut them down — I built /away, a silly little page on my website that recreates the simple, versatile fun of setting a short message for my friends to read:

A web page styled to look like a Windows 98 window with the title 'Away' and a message that reads 'setting up my away message'

Like AIM, there’s no timeline to get lost in; no faving, no boosting. Just text, some simple formatting, and maybe an anachronistic emoji or two ☺️

Under the hood, a Markdown file that (crucially, in 2022) is easy to edit from my phone gets smooshed through Eleventy and extruded into HTML styled with 98.css, bringing back the AIM-on-Windows vibes I remember so fondly.

There’s also a JSON-formatted version available at /away.json, which is maybe even sillier than the page itself!

{
    "message": {
        "markdown": "setting up my away message",
        "html": "<p>setting up my away message</p>"
    }
}

But it’s fun to think about hosting little barnacles of information served at informal, well-known URLs or micro-endpoints — like /uses and /now pages. (I’m imagining a group of enterprising pals might build something like Robin Sloan’s “Spring ‘83” — a board (or list!) of their friends (i.e., “buddies”) and their away messages. Silly? Absolutely. Fun? Maybe!)

For now, though, it’s enough to send secret messages with song lyrics.

Brocc Sandos

My pal Neven changed my life a few years back, and I’d like to do the same for you:

Hi, good day to you. I have been eating broccoli breakfast sandwiches for breakfast since 2017, and I’m here to spread the good word to you: broccoli breakfast sandwiches are great.

When it comes to cooking I’m what you call a chef de deux mains gauches. You name it, I’ve ruined it. The broccoli sandwich, however — “brocc sando,” in our house — is the rare dish I find both easy to make and delicious to eat.

Best of all, it really lends itself to getting a little jazzy. Neven:

Depending on what’s in the fridge and how sassy I’m feeling, I might drop the ketchup or sub it with hot sauce; I might toast the whole thing in the manner of a grilled-cheese sandwich; I’ve been known to use black bean purée instead of cheese, for a Mexican torta vibe.

Amen. Here’s the version I just ate, the one I love most:

  • Broccoli roasted slightly too long, so every bite is good and crunchy
  • Fried egg, the way Jacques makes ’em
  • Brioche bun, with a slice of cheddar on one half and little Kewpie mayo on the other
  • A healthy glob of yellow mustard; French’s, nothing fancy
  • Red onion, sliced nice and thin

Simple. Sublime.

Follow Twitter accounts in Feedbin

If you’re like me, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter feels like a good sign it’s finally time to peel away and do something different.

I’m spending more time on Mastodon again, the vibe feels… good. It’s more bumpin’ than I ever remember seeing, and — maybe for the first time ever in one of these mass migration spikes — the majority of the day-to-day discourse in my timeline isn’t completely dominated by meta chat about Mastodon itself. There are jokes and cool show-and-tells, and unlike contemporary Twitter it just feels like a genuinely nice place to hang out.

Still, not everyone I follow on Twitter is ready or cares to try out Mastodon, and there are some people and accounts I don’t want to completely lose touch with.

Feedbin, my RSS service of choice since 2013, has a nice little Twitter integration feature: add accounts by username, and tweets appear right alongside other feeds and newsletters.

Feedbin’s standard UI showing tweets from @ashur in the sidebar and tweet details in the main view.

With the drastic changes have been announced in just the first week, I’m not sure how much longer Twitter’s 3rd-party API access will be around. For now, though, this feels like a nice way to “follow” old Twitter pals without spending any time there.

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