Spain had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to combat against the coronavirus. After the worst of it had passed, the government instituted a deescalation period of various phases. It seemed hasty, but for a country that never really recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and depends on summer tourism, it was clear regions were looking to return to normal, even if we qualified with it the adjective ‘new’. Now it’s back.
Within the containment zone, people are still free to move around without extraordinary restrictions, but without a good cause, no one enters or leaves A Mariña. Around 70,000 people live in the 14 concellos, municipalities there with undoubtedly many more vacationing for summer.
We knew a second wave would come sooner or later. I haven’t read anything about patient zero for this outbreak. We knew the first in March came from Madrid, which isn’t surprising. Talking with friends and acquaintances here, some of us had wished for summer of Spanish residents remaining in there autonomous communities. These regions are big enough to allow city-dwellers to escape to the countryside (sorry to La Rioja, and the North African enclaves), promote local tourism closer to home, and reduce the points of contact and potential travel of the virus.
This would have angered a lot of people, definitely some of the 80,000 madrigallegos who live and work in the capital, and eagerly await the summer months when they can relax at their beach house or return to their home villages. Not to mention the sons and daughters Galician emigrants who left for Basqueland and Catalonia while they were rapidly industrializing and Galicia was still practically a pre-capitalist society.
But as the husband of a family friend said, “It’s one summer.” We’ll see what the rest of the months brings.
On a recent walk to O San Salvador via the monte, we noticed new kilometer markers on the vía de la plata, a less known route of the Camino de Santiago. Though plata means silver, the word actually derives from the Arabic al-balat, the cobbled paving of the old Roman roads.
I haven’t yet walked the camino (rather, camiño), but it’s been on my mind lately. Rather than traverse camino frances, I’d walk the camino mozárabe starting from Granada, which meets up with the vía de la plata at Mérida in Extremadura. Along the way, one would discover Muslim, Roman, Hispanic, and Celtic histories.
I love using GeneratePress (Premium + GenerateBlocks) for WordPress projects. I’m still relatively new to everything but after using Divi, I’m blown away by how versatile developer Tom Usborne’s products can be in replacing traditional page builders. It also works surprisingly well on an iPad. With the block editor gaining more traction, the future of WordPress development seems different to me. My ship for learning tons of code and hand building custom web pages has sailed. It never docked. But that’s okay. The people I build for are friends and small business owners and GeneratePress will get the job done perfectly.
But I’m keeping Among the Stones in Sami Keijonen’s theme Simppeli, for a long time probably. Like the name suggests, it’s simple and I love the bold headings, typefaces, and lack of a dropdown menu. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.
In early iterations of Among the Stones, I tinkered much more than I wrote, usually without much knowledge on how to do it. So I would switch from Raam Dev’s Independent Publisher (a very good blog theme) to a thousand others, searching in vain for that desired look. Then switch back, change some things, become restless again, then go hunting on GitHub and WordPress’s themes directory once more. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I hated it.
Lately, I’ve tried to focus on writing more. I’ve used the space to journal, to link and comment on things around the internet, and to share photos and some ideas.
Now, and especially after seeing a nice blog redesign, I have a list of changes I want to make to the design of Among the Stones, all within a child theme of Simppeli.
Here’s the thing though. I’m trying to prioritize offline time after my classes, so some of this might get done, and others might not. I’ve sat down to finish up a shortcut or dive into a problem only to be pleasantly pulled away by a walk in the woods, or one of the unread books sitting on my nightstand. Most of these unfinished tasks are small tweaks, such as highlighting the tagline of the blog to break up the black and white. I also added a vertical line of the same faint yellow #fff9c0 to block quotes to better differentiate quotes. So here they are, to be done or not.
Really the only thing I must figure out quickly is securing the blog with SSL. My knowledge of the backend is admittedly pretty shaky. I found my first host, Media Temple, through Mike Rockwell’s Initial Charge. I’ve since switched to a Digital Ocean droplet and this means the command line. I go to make a password on the droplet and it fails. Every time I’ve sat down to figure it out, my eyes glaze over and my short attention span (or undiagnosed ADHD) forces me to get up and go outside or read something about autochthonous forests or the history of emissaries.
Automatic dark mode on iOS13 is something special. I have it set to sunset to sunrise. Most of the apps I use have a dark mode that defaults to the system now. And the web can also take advantage of @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark. I have a snippet that I’ve pieced together but it’s incomplete.
The metadata below the post and the typeface color with highlights don’t switch, so I haven’t implemented it yet. Until then, the white background at midnight is a little jarring.
Square Search Bar
It’s proverbial low-hanging fruit but the search bar that appears in About and Archives is rounded, where every other text field is square. I want to change this to make it more consistent.
Simppeli doesn’t come with a great archive, so I’ve used short codes for recent posts and months with a search bar. I’d like to include post dates after recent posts’ titles, a smaller month and year view like kottke.org: use years and months in a line, include most-used tags with the number of posts next to them in a simple comma-separated list. I’m not a fan of tag clouds with each larger or smaller tags.
Add image borders? I go back and forth between loving a thick black image border or not. Earlier, I used to upload photos with these included already. Have a thought on this? Let me know in the comments.
Remove the drop shadow from text boxes.
Customize Jetpack’s Related Posts feature to blend in better with the metadata and post.
Leveraging Shortcuts for A Better Blogging Routine
Alongside some aesthetic changes, I’d like to take advantage of more automation so I don’t have to fiddle inside the dashboard after publishing. I have not fully harnessed the power and time-saving capabilities of Shortcuts in my writing workflow. I have a ton of things to figure out to make more customized Publish to WordPress shortcut for markdown editors like iA Writer, my text editor of choice on iOS/iPadOS. I think most of this requires regular expressions, again, something akin to hieroglyphics.
iA Writer is also a very simple text editor app. With its main competitors, Ulysses and Drafts, moving to subscription price, iA Writer has intentionally stayed one price. I think I paid 4.99 USD for it in 2016 or 2017, but now it is 29.99. Only you can decide if it is worth it, but the amount of updates and ease of use suggests it might be for writers looking for just a blank page.
It utilizes iOS’s Files so you can see and move around your text files (not so with the two aforementioned apps). For organization, you can use Folders and hashtags. Hashtags are also used for titles H1-H6 in markdown. For instance, this section has three hashtags ###, a space, then the title Hashtags. To use iA Writer’s organizational hashtags, leave out the space. They will appear on the Library view at the bottom in alphabetical order. When you preview a filed with the keyboard shortcut ⌘+R, these do not appear.
What I’d like to do is add a few actions in Shortcuts to recognize these organizational hashtags (probably located at the bottom of a page) and use them as tags to be included in WordPress’s publish action, without them appearing in the finished post at the bottom of the page inside the body.
Utilizing iA Writer’s highlights
I like highlighting physical books and PDFs. I also like the look of them in posts to draw attention more than bold type. iA Writer recently added == as a way to bracket and highlight text inside the app rather than using HTML <mark> and </mark>. Unfortunately, WordPress does not recognize this. I need a few actions to find these, replace the beginning equals signs with the first HTML tag and the ending equals signs with the second.
Captions for Images in Markdown
If I use photos in posts, I run a shortcut that resizes and compresses it, uploads it to WordPress, and gives me a markdown URL, such as !(amongthestones.com/...jpg). Theoretically captions go in the brackets, like any text that will turn into a link. While WordPress recognizes links, it does not render properly for captions. This means I have to go in to each publisher post, add the media manually and use HTML if I want to link to an image source that isn’t mine in the captions text box in the media library. It takes time and can be cumbersome from a phone or tablet, which is where I write.
I try to avoid footnotes, but for some posts, they could be helpful but I haven’t found a WordPress plugin or other solution that correctly emulates how markdown and iA Writer adds footnotes, which is simply [^text here] that automatically numbers them down at the bottom of a list. If you have any suggestions, let me know.
This one’s a bit meta and nerdy, but maybe I’ll find some solutions to these from someone reading this. The next post will be about Galician elections coming up on 12 July.
Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) wrapped up yesterday. This year’s was pretty different. With the coronavirus pandemic unabated, the whole conference was moved online and made more accessible and streamable for all, providing safety and convenience to regular attendees as well as enthusiasts who have never made the trip to San Francisco or San Jose.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I no longer desire the latest and greatest hardware, so iPhone events don’t interest me greatly. While iPhone prices have risen (excluding the new very affordable and cool iPhone SE 2), Apple has extended the shelf life of older iPhones by continuing to support them with iOS updates. I was never one to upgrade every year, but that didn’t stop me from wanting shiny new things. As I’ve adjusted to a lower salary (but improved quality of life), secondhand iPhones with a home button and an older but functional iPad totally work for me. This is a testament to how well Apple supports these devices and it’s commendable.
But I’m still a software geek at heart and enjoy seeing what the company and the dedicated iOS developers around the world bring to the operating systems, iOS and iPadOS, every year. I’ll write something more about the things I’m most looking forward to, but today I wanted to write something about software keyboards.
It’s not a particularly flashy topic. Anglophones have typically taken for granted that our language dominated the internet, which means technology is much more accessible to us than others. Before smartphones, my friends and I quickly learned to type with T9 as we relied on the system to understand which words we wanted to use depending on the combination of numbers we pressed, rather than press 2 thrice for the letter c. For speakers of other languages, this might not have been the case.
When the iPhone was revealed all those years ago, it did not feature a hardware keyboard with buttons like the once-popular Blackberrys had. This allowed the iPhone to have a larger screen, since it could hide the keyboard when it wasn’t necessary. It also allowed for different keyboard layouts. Most of us primarily input information into our iOS devices through typing. If we’re quick or careless, we rely (heavily) on autocorrect and keyboard suggestions. Some of us have reduced or even stopped traditional computers with hardware keyboards in place of phone and tablet screens.
Having a good keyboard with its own dictionary and intelligent suggestions is an important and often overlooked technology. And while there are apps that we can download to add keyboards for other languages like N’ko or that provide certain functions like Gboard, nothing beats having a default, system-wide keyboard built into the OS.
I live in Galicia. It’s one of the few historical nations and regions inside Spain. I go to the bank and I’m able to request the ATM’s language in various languages, including English, before I make a transaction. If I go to Eroski, a Basque supermarket chain found all over Spain, most of the products are labeled in Spanish, Catalan, Galician, and Basque.
But when I try to add a Galician keyboard to practice writing (and learn spelling and where to place accents via autocorrect), it’s missing. It’s time for Apple to add a Galician keyboard.
Galician, or galego, has a legitimate need for its own keyboard on iOS/iPadOS (from here on, just iOS). Adding it would further Apple’s mission of connecting more people together using its devices and service in a language that a few million people speak and feel comfortable in using.
The Galician-speaking community in Galicia, around Spain, and worldwide is sizable. With around 2.4 to 3 million first- and second-language speakers, Galician has a deep history, intertwined with the broader history of Castile/Spain. From the late 12th to the 14th century for example, Galician-Portuguese (then a single unified language) was almost exclusively the language of lyrical poetry in Christian Iberia.
It is a co-official language of the autonomous community of Galicia, used in schools and universities, at home, in gaarden, churches, amongst political party members, at sea, on television channels and radio stations, in newspapers, and in town halls. It a language with a rich lyrical tradition dating back to the 13th-century. And it is a language with speakers dedicated to preserving it, and thereby, their culture, in spite of the more historically dominant Spanish language.
There are also significant numbers of Galicians living in other parts of Spain and around the world, especially in the Americas and other European countries, due to a history of emigration in the mid-20th century.
While related to Portuguese, Galician is a separate language with different orthographic norms officially administered by the Real Academia Galega. Simply, Galicians care deeply about their language and culture and strive to valorize it in myriad ways.
During the fascist regime of Franco, who ruled the country from the civil war in the late 30s to 1975, Galician and other regional languages like Catalan and Basque were suppressed. And even before, Galician was thought of as a backward, rural language for farmers, lower in value than the “urban, sophisticated castellano”.
But this is changing. There are countless people, socialmovements, social media campaigns, and organizations dedicated to the preservation, use, and advancement of Galician. There is a desire for a Duolingo course to learn Galician. Some quick searches in in English, Spanish, or Galician will prove this. In short, many people learn, speak, and write in Galician. Those of us who don’t, want to.
Just Following A Trail
Apple providing a native, system-level software keyboard with autocorrect and suggestions would deepen its commitment to fostering creativity, education, and productivity for Galician speakers. This would have enormous benefits for different groups of people; younger generations of digitally native Galician speakers, neofalantes (people who did not grow up speaking Galician but choose to learn and speak it for various reasons), immigrants such as myself who wish to learn it to better communicate, and of course older Galician speakers who rely so much on Apple’s intuitive ecosystem to stay in touch with family.
What I’m writing isn’t anything new. I haven’t necessarily seen anything in English but I first saw the website Queremos Galego years ago. The last post is from the days of iOS 8. On Twitter, Galician triple jumper Ana Peleteiro is just one of many to lament the fact that they must either use a Spanish or Portuguese keyboard when they write, both of which are insufficient given orthographic and vocabulary differences between the three related Romance languages.
I find it very sad to have to put the keyboard in Portuguese to be able to type in Galician on my iPhone. I think Galicians should be more proud of our language and give it much more use. — Ana Peleteiro
There have a few Change.org petitions that get passed around the internet. While it is true that iOS users can add Galician (Galego) to a list of Preferred Language Order in Settings > General > Language & Region, they cannot change their iPhone language to Galician nor can they add a keyboard to write properly in Galician.
How Apple Can Help
So where does Apple fit into this? Simply, they can help people write in Galician on their devices by adding a systemwide keyboard. This would eliminate the need for lower-quality third-party keyboards. Then, Galician speakers and learners could use it everywhere, with correct spelling, autocorrect, suggestions, etc. Catalan, another regional language of Spain, has its own keyboard. Why not Galician?
Millions of people use iOS everyday. With the current global pandemic and during the quarantine, we rely on our iPhones and iPads even more. This is of course anecdotal but from my own perspective, younger Spaniards prefer iPhones to Android. My sister-in-law is a university student in Madrid and the vast majority of her friends have or want iPhones.
Keyboards for Languages With Less Speakers Than Galician
Presupposing that Apple cannot include every language keyboard (even though I think they should try), I’ve listed a few languages that, according to various census data pulled from Wikipedia, have fewer speakers than Galician. Some of these figures include L2 (second-language) speakers.
If these languages have been prioritized and given a keyboard, it is because there is a need, a demand, for writing in them. It is because there are users or employees inside Apple who have petitioned for them, spoken up for them. If this is the case, then surely Galician deserves one too.
While I am writing to show a specific absence of a default Galician keyboard, other language communities should support the Apple in Galician effort, just as we should support other communities petitioning for better accessibility and more multilingual keyboards. Basque does not have its own keyboard, for example. And this is only Spain. Wherever there is a sizable language group, we should be pushing for more multilingual accessibility to Apple products. So let’s reach out:
Make some noise: Tweet this article, send it to Apple employees, translate it into Galician and Spanish, use the hashtag #AppleEnGalego, etc.