Sweet Home Alabama

Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, as of Thursday, has opted to no longer perform any kind of marriage at his office.

He said the decision was largely related to an increasing work load within the Probate Office, but acknowledged that he’s “morally opposed” to same-sex marriage.

Russell, who has been the county’s Probate Judge for five years, said he’s committed to conducting one more marriage—a heterosexual marriage to a former county employee—but, after that, he’s done.

— AL.com

When I was 17 I got my first job that didn’t involve fast food, as a technology assistant in the central office of the Baldwin County Board of Education. The job was a new one they’d created for a high school student who had shown promise in computer science. It seemed glamorous to me then, but really it was a way to find someone who was willing to string ethernet cable through schoolhouse attics in the middle of July for minimum wage. It was a legitimately great job as a kid, though, and I loved most of it. The people I worked with at the central office were pretty entertaining, like the finance director who made everyone turn off the lights one afternoon in the hopes that it would make the computers run faster.

It was eye-opening in some sad ways, though. I felt overwhelmed by what happened one day when I returned from a job in the field. The women who worked in the upstairs offices near mine had gathered around the window that faced Courthouse Square, Bay Minette’s main gathering spot. They were laughing and quietly whispering to each other, so I walked over to see what was going on. On the courthouse steps, across the street from our office, stood a man and woman who had just been married. They were an interracial couple, a white woman and a black man. And I felt my stomach drop when I realized that they were the source of the laughter and gossip in the office that day. I heard a woman I’d always seen as a kind, grandmotherly figure posit that “they must have had to drive over from Mississippi; they don’t allow that there.”

In hindsight, my naïveté as a teenager is startling. I knew racism was alive and well in my small town, but I’d foolishly believed the lie that it was some certain kind of behavior that was the target of scorn. I’d never seen it so openly directed toward people simply living their lives, having their pictures taken with their family on a happy, beautiful summer day, outside on the courthouse steps.

Today, men and women in Alabama, some who have been in dedicated relationships for decades, can marry for the first time. I’m filled with emotion for those couples—it’s a day I honestly never imagined would come when I was a teenager still living in the closet. But it’s also a terribly sad day for those couples in Baldwin county, my birthplace, because their county’s probate judge has chosen his personal bias over the orders of a federal judge, common sense, and simple human decency. No one can get married on those courthouse steps ever again, according to Judge Russell.

Marriage equality will be federal law by the end of the summer, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides their pending case the way many legal experts expect them to. But thirty years after Loving v. Virginia, as a teenager in that school board office, I learned that gaining equality in the eyes of the law wasn’t the same as gaining the respect of your neighbors. Alabama, and the rest of the south, still have miles to go before we live up to the values on which our nation was founded—and many miles to go before we live up to the Christian values so many southerners claim to hold in their heart. The south may never find a place in its heart for queer people, and there will always be those who laugh at us. But they can’t deny us our rights forever. We will always be a part of the south, and this will always be our home.

Hearts Fell on Alabama

“The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children … He proffers no justification for why it is that the provisions in question single out same-sex couples and prohibit them, and them alone, from marrying in order to meet that goal.”

— U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade, overturning Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Birthday Pup

When I adopted Maggie back in 2006, I’d been desperately wanting a dog for years. But I was moving a lot, and most of the places I lived wouldn’t allow dogs. So when my friend Charlie said he was moving and needed a new home for his dog, I didn’t ask many questions. When I got her, I knew she was a year old and had been born in January. So, at some point, I decided that her birthday was January 15th. Over the years, I have to admit, I haven’t always remembered. But this year is big, because it’s Maggie’s 10th birthday. And she’s had a tough year, with me traveling a lot in advance of our move, my new dog Kramer joining the pack, then getting adjusted to a new place. So this year, when I remembered her birthday was coming up, I may have overdone it when shopping for her.

Here’s to you, Maggie. You’re a better dog than I ever dreamed of having, and I can’t imagine what the last 9 years would’ve been like without you.

WordPress Holiday 2014

Be Merry with This Year’s Holiday Theme and Wallpapers

It’s hard to believe the year is already coming to a close. As 2014 ends, it’s time to celebrate the holiday season with our WordPress.com tradition of teaming up with talented artists to create a cheerful WordPress illustration. This year, Mads Berg has dreamed up a scene of togetherness to capture the spirit of the season.

It’s that time of year again. I love all of the holiday illustrations we’ve commissioned over the years, but secretly this year’s just might be my favorite. Pro tip: it works really well as a desktop background on your laptop or phone.

Making it Home

I haven’t posted since moving in to the new place. Spoiler alert: it’s great. It’s been a lot of work, too, and a huge emotional adjustment to getting back to living by myself again. Sunday will mark one month since I moved in. I can’t wait to see what it looks like and feel how it feels when I’m celebrating one year.

Goodbye, TextDrive

In 2004 I was a recent art school graduate desperately trying to get a job in my field, and I decided that I should dive into learning web standards to try to gain a skill that would set me apart from my competition. I’d had a very low-paying, part-time job since high school updating the web site for the local school board, but since they were paying a college student about $100 a week to keep it updated, it clearly wasn’t a priority for them and as such there wasn’t much to it. I got to work learning the basics of how to build a site. I was looking for something I could teach myself, and first tried Movable Type, finding it to be impossible to learn. I was a fan of Dean Allen’s Textism, so I decided to give Textpattern a shot. I set up my old Power Mac G4 Cube to run it and rapidly was able to figure out what the hell I was doing, quickly enough that I learned that my “server” connected to my mom’s DSL connection wasn’t going to work for much.

I learned about TextDrive’s launch because I was spending a ton of time around the Textpattern forums at the time. I absolutely did not have $200, but I convinced my parents that I was pre-paying for a hosting plan from a reputable business, something I’d have to have to get a job as a web designer. I left out the fact that I was using their money to help fund a startup (five years before Kickstarter was born). But it worked, holy shit did it work; my handbuilt personal site turned into a proper blog with an installation of Textpattern and a real server to host it on. I started hosting sites for friends and small businesses I conned into hiring me as a freelance designer. And along the way, I even did some design work for TextDrive — I had stars in my eyes doing work for a web startup way back in those days. That gig, like signing up for TextDrive in the first place, turned out to be a great idea — it led to the recommendation that got me my job at Automattic. And while I obviously switched to WordPress.com, I’ll always be fond of the Textpattern & TextDrive communities for what I learned from them.

I know the story of TextDrive had many ups and downs, and its ending was less than sweet. I understand why many customers are unhappy with the way things ended. But I’m grateful to Dean, Jason, and all the “VCs” who got TextDrive off the ground. It came along at a crucial time for me, helped teach me how to be a web developer, and helped me launch my career. A lot of where I’ve come in the past 10 years has to do with the opportunities that arose from those early days. So as unlikely as it is that he’ll see this — thank you Dean, for everything, and I hope that you are well.


I don’t have good records from that far back, so I’m not sure about the dates. But based on my rough calculations, as best as I can figure, I spent around $3.50 per month for the life of my TextDrive account. I got almost 10 years of hosting and my dream job, but I never did get the t-shirt.