brycewray.com

Now I’m a Gatsby geezer

Gatsby Experiment III proves the winner

Project Purple isn’t over, but today is worth celebrating.

published:  October 27, 2019
 

While stubbornness is by no means always a virtue, it has its moments. What I’ll be announcing in this post is proof.

But first, a little bit of context . . .


One weekend back in the 1990s, my wife and I were visiting a neighbor who was having difficulty with her cable TV feed. What the exact problem was, I don’t recall now. But, back in those halcyon days, I was much more able to crawl around on the ground behind stuff, yet just as geeky-curious as I still am today.

I rolled back the TV cart and got down on all fours, soon finding myself scrunched down amidst the bottom rear of the TV set, the wall jack for the cable service, and the coaxial cables connecting them. Meanwhile, she and my wife told me what they could see on-screen as I fiddled with the setup in an attempt to resolve the problem.

Soon, the neighbor, embarrassment in her voice at the effort I was expending down on her carpet in an area that obviously couldn’t get vacuumed often, suggested I’d spent enough time on it already and should just give up, however much she appreciated my attempt.

Nope, I told her, I’m just about there; just need a few more minutes. And I kept working on it.

Those “few more minutes” passed and I still hadn’t fixed the problem, so she told me again to let it go. Once again, I told her it was no problem and continued my work.

Moments later, I finally did have it fixed.

As I crawled back out and moved the neighbor’s TV back into its usual spot, she said something that has stuck with me ever since: “I can see you’re one of those people that, when you’re given a puzzle, you’re not going to turn it loose until you solve it.”

She was right.

I was never an athlete, so solving conundrums is where my competitive fires have burned over the years. Whether it’s the daily New York Times crossword, some work-related issue, or just something that seems weird: when I’m given something to figure out, I can’t let it go.

I may stop and rest just because my body needs a break, but my mind never really stops the fight. Not until The Thing is solved.

Not until The Dragon is slain.


 . . . all of which brings me to what this post covers: a virtual fist-in-the-air of triumph.

Why? Because this site now comes to you via the Great Rebeccapurple Whale known as Gatsby.

Yep, I did it. This geezer got Gatsby to work, at long last—despite all evidence to the contrary.

Purple reign

What I’ve been calling Gatsby Experiment III had its fits and starts, as did its two predecessors, but within just a few days I could see I was getting farther and with fewer problems than in the earlier attempts. Apparently, those were not total wastes of my time. Reminiscent of the famous Thomas Edison statement about developing his light bulb1, I learned plenty of things not to do. To be sure, I amassed some other mistakes; but, at least, I did a better job of working through them than I did with the glitches from the two earlier tries.

By the end of the first week of Gatsby Experiment III, it was clear that, this time, I’d be able to make this happen. I just needed to do the work. But this time it was clicking. It was no longer an experiment. It was Project Purple.

There have been many times over the last few months when I never thought I’d get here; but, sure enough, I pointed Netlify to my gatsby_site_css-grid repository today and, bam, this site was riding Big Purple at last.

Miles to go before I sleep

While this launch of the site-on-Gatsby is something I’m really happy to have behind me, the migration is still a work in progress. Project Purple isn’t over yet, by any means.

For one thing, I still don’t know that much about React, the JavaScript framework on which Gatsby is based, or the webpack bundler that enables many of its coolest features. But I’m learning as fast as I can.

Also, I still can’t get MDX to work in Gatsby, at least not the way I want. Apparently right now there’s a bug regarding how the Gatsby MDX functionality works with the defaultLayouts setting.2 Otherwise, I’d have implemented it from the get-go rather than starting off with just regular Markdown files. MDX-izing the site is my next big goal. (Gatsby Experiment IV? Project Purple 1.5?) Maybe I’ll be able to get there before too long. I hope so, because I’m really interested in what MDX, as opposed to just Markdown, makes possible.

Still . . .

Considering where I was just a few weeks back—repeatedly flailing away at an elusive solution and unable to make any headway or even imagine how I could make any—I am elated to be here.

There are few things more satisfying to a brain wired like mine than fitting the last piece into an especially vexing puzzle.

Until the next puzzle, that is. But that’ll come soon enough.

For now, forgive me while I sit back, grin like a fool, and savor the moment.


  1. Edison said of his early swings-and-misses about his light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

  2. This article on alligator.io mentions it as follows: “This behavior doesn’t currently seem to work as expected with MDX files sourced from the [/src/]pages directory.” The Gatsby team is working on it, as nearly as I can tell from reading several related GitHub issues.

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