Tag Archives: culture

The 5-Minute Off Switch

My brain seems to have forgotten its “off switch” on occasion. Has yours?

I’m not only describing the next-to-impossible fight to go to sleep every night, when all my electronic devices are beckoning me to DO MORE THINGS on the Internet, etc. I’ve actually found myself disconnecting from my artistic side more and more as I have become involved with things on the Internet. There just seems to be less time for me to be creative when there’s one more article or video I haven’t seen yet. (This very blog post is late because I started out trying to write it and ended up wrapped up on Pinterest for an hour!) Because I get so thoroughly involved in what I’m doing on a screen, I end up locking out the outside world–and thus, my creativity sense is dulled. How can I write or sing about a world I’m no longer in direct contact with?

The “Off Switch:” An Abrupt but Necessary Change for Creativity

What if we all turned off our devices, our news feeds, our constant stream of data from the outside world, for 5 minutes? I don’t mean just locking the screens and putting the devices aside, but literally turning every device of distraction off and going to another room. What could we start to be aware of? Our own bodies? The tick-tick-tick of time passing? Our family members in the house? The feel of the seat we’re sitting in? The weather outside the window?

As connected to my devices as I am now (and I’d guess that most of us are like that), I think such a disconnect would be VERY difficult–almost impossible at first. We’re all Internet junkies these days, relying on constant connectivity to avoid being bored in line, to avoid difficult conversation, etc. A 5-minute “off switch” would force all of us to confront what’s truly in our minds, and perhaps an idea or two can begin to synthesize at last. Even if you don’t think of yourself as creative, simply not being bombarded with everyone else’s thoughts and worldly data can be incredibly freeing!

Give It a Try!

When you turn off all your devices and go to another room to sit quietly, allow your own thoughts to bubble to the surface. This is what makes the “off switch” different from meditation (I can never clear my head of ALL thoughts, so this is the next best thing). If you find yourself at a loss for what to think about (or are itching to get back to being connected), think about this: what are you missing in the world? What do you wish existed?

Take these 5 minutes and generate something from within your own head, instead of what you think about the daily headlines and that annoying person’s status message. Who knows, you may come up with something brilliant that would have never seen the light of day without the “off switch!”

Why AutoTune Annoys Me

AutoTune, the darling of the modern music industry–the software that can make even a honking duck sound like an opera soprano (supposedly). It’s supposed to make singers sound better and more on-key, and it does.

Well, it makes them sound more on-key, as well as fake.

Time.com and HowStuffWorks have explained AutoTune, its history, and its use within the vocal music industry to subtly enhance singers’ vocal performances, fixing the pitch where it went a little flat or a little sharp, making a rough voice sound just a little smoother, etc. This is generally accepted use to ease and shorten the recording process, which is understandable.

But, starting with Cher’s “Believe” in 1998, a lot of recording studios have not only used it to gloss over singers’ natural flaws, but also to “overproduce” the voice, making it sound robotic, unnatural. And sadly, this is the use of AutoTune that prevails today; rather than subtle editing of the voice, there are painfully obvious pitch changes that result in odd voice tambres, like nothing that ever came out of a real human’s throat.

I have perfect/absolute pitch, and one would think I’d enjoy the perfection of precisely-struck notes no matter what they sound like, but instead, it annoys me, and bothers me. I like human voices to sound, well, like human voices, and yet these days, it’s as if the humanity has been scripted out of the recorded voice, leaving something that is technically perfect but without the necessary miniature vibrations (also called “vibrato”) to give it that human touch. Though the pitch-perfect sound makes my ear happy, it sounds soulless; it has no emotion, because all the tiny variations of pitch that GIVE a sung sound emotion are gone.

Perhaps this is my years of choral singing and private voice lessons talking; perhaps I’ve simply grown used to the sound of an unedited voice or group of voices, and it’s only a preference issue. But I worry about where we’re headed as a musical society, if we keep editing out all the imperfect/human bits of music. Pretty soon, if we’re not careful, there won’t be any real humanity in music left.

Songs to Make You Think

One of the things I love most about being a songwriter is that I can write songs that make people think. I can raise awareness about issues, I can talk about my own personal struggles, and I can even champion a cause with my voice and my piano.

Many, many songwriters have done the same over the years (and centuries!), often with amazing results. Here is just an itty-bitty teeny-tiny cross-section of songs that have made people think, reason, and change their views over the years:

Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins

About how we can all too easily miss the signs that someone else is in need.

Allentown – Billy Joel

Describing the consequences of job loss and falling economy in Allentown.

Soldier in the Rain – England Dan and John Ford Coley

About a soldier who comes home from war, only to feel that his old life is closed off to him.

Imagine – John Lennon

About revisualizing the world’s boundaries (in personal, religious, and social ways)–even if you don’t end up adopting the mindset.

Not Ready to Make Nice – Dixie Chicks

About conflict and forgiveness (or being too mad to forgive), both for the specific political situation the band faced as well as in general.

Dirty Laundry – Don Henley

About the increasing sensationalism in the media, and the public’s increasing hunger for it.

Hurricane – 30 Seconds to Mars

Asks a good question: “Would you kill to prove you’re right?” Describes the “hurricane” of conflicting opinions/factions we all live in today, and the desire to just hide from them all “underground.”

Jesus, Friend of Sinners – Casting Crowns

About the modern church (and the historical church, too) and all the human sins we let pass for “standing up for God”. Also teaches what “loving like Jesus” really means.

The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young

About drug addiction and the pain/heartbreak it brings.

HOPE (feat. Faith Evans) – Twista

About maintaining hope in the face of tragedy, whether personal or social.

American Pie – Don McLean

Does this song even NEED an introduction? …NAAAH!

One Day (feat. Akon) – Matisyahu

About the gritty reality of our modern life, contrasted with the dream of worldwide peace.

Hypnotize – System of a Down

About social protest and society’s attempt to cover it up or silence it…and how it affects even those who think they have no stake in the issues.

Find The Cost of Freedom – Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Short but poignant song about war’s real cost.

Alyssa Lies – Jason Michael Carroll

About child abuse and how it affects others who see the evidence.

Hotel California – The Eagles

Describing the bleakness and hollowness of the California drug scene in the ’70s.

The Trees – Rush

About political unrest and ideological clashes.

Ohio – Crosby Stills Nash and Young

About protesting the Kent State shootings in 1970.

The Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

About social and political awareness, and how the impulse to make positive change begins with each individual person.

Home – Phillip Phillips

About belonging, and having a home to return to.

9 Ways You’re Accidentally Annoying Your Opponent

We don’t always give a lot of thought to how we treat our human opponents in games. In fact, sometimes we can get so lost in the actual playing of a game that we forget we’re playing against another human being.

Today, as both a reminder to myself and to raise awareness about respecting other gamers, I’ve written this article to help us all remember to treat each other better. We help make others’ gameplay experience either fun or not fun, based on many of the issues I’ll be covering today, but it all comes back to respect. Read on, for the surprising ways you may be annoying your opponent!

#9: Disrespecting Their Stuff

As gamers, we don’t appreciate it if someone handles our stuff without asking, flipping through Magic decks or picking out random Clix figures while we’re in the middle of another game. Yet many gamers do this to each other as if it’s accepted behavior. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been playing another game, only for someone to go rifling through my stuff, picking out things they want from my boxes without asking whether the items are for trade. Not only that, they sometimes handle my Near Mint collectibles with dirty or sticky hands, drop the items everywhere, or shove them back into the boxes willy-nilly.

It’s important to ask before you handle anything that isn’t yours; it’s doubly important to be careful with their items if they give you permission to look through. When you look through someone else’s stuff, remember that they probably spent a good bit of money to get what you’re looking at, and treat it accordingly.

#8: Not Stating Your Actions Clearly, Every Turn

Silent games may be fun for some, but not for everyone. I, for instance, like to know what kind of combos or actions my opponent is doing, so that I can have time to respond if there’s a game opportunity. But if you’re hunched over your side of the table, and you either don’t tell me what’s going on or you mumble it where I can’t understand, you’re in fact making it harder to play the game.

It’s tempting to leave the explanation of your game actions out–believe me, I know. We get so familiar with our strategies that we think they don’t need explanation anymore. But to someone who’s not familiar with them, those strange silent moves seem incomprehensible. Take just a little time to explain what you’re doing–this will help all players understand what’s happening in the game and enjoy it more.

(I do realize that extreme shyness or even medical conditions can lead to silent games as well. If you’re uncomfortable or incapable of speaking loudly, you can also simply offer your opponent the chance to look at the cards or figures you’re playing, so that they may see the abilities for themselves.)

#7: Only Playing Games/Game Types that You Can Win

It’s boring and sad to play a game that you know already is a foregone conclusion…well, at least for most gamers. But there are some gamers who truly enjoy soundly defeating others, so much so that they only play games they know they can win. Unfortunately, this can be very annoying to other gamers, who might like at least a chance of winning. Soon enough, a gamer who only plays what he or she can win will find themselves fresh out of opponents.

We all like to win; that’s natural. But the most fun experiences of gaming, I find, come from a real tooth-and-nail struggle, a game that’s truly “anybody’s game”–not a game where the same person always wins and it’s over in 5 minutes. You grow more as a player when games are not easily won, for one thing, and it’s just more fun for everybody when every player can share in the (imaginary) carnage. If you’re always playing one type of game, allow someone else to teach you a new game similar in style, and branch out. Who knows, you might find out you have a new favorite game! (Just don’t monopolize it… xD)

#6: Not Being Careful with Food/Drinks

You wouldn’t want your hard-earned collection ruined with someone else’s careless positioning of a drink or food item, would you? One of the more annoying things that a fellow gamer can do is to put an open drink right next to where they’re playing, well within range of getting knocked over by a careless hand gesture, or even another player. Greasy food items also come under this heading: if the grease splatters out from the food as you’re trying to eat it, where is that grease going to go but onto the tabletop, where possibly hundreds of dollars of gaming stuff lies?

Using drink cups or bottles with tight-closing lids (and keeping lids closed!), and having napkins handy for surrounding greasy food, are both easy solutions to avoid annoying or worrying your opponent. Plus, you run less risk of messing up your own gaming stuff, too!

#5: Whining About Your Luck

“Yes, I know the Dice Gods are smiting you and Lady Luck is not being a lady for you. You’ve said that 10 times this game already.” I find myself thinking this often during tournament play, when it seems the whole community of gamers becomes overly superstitious. xD A few mentions of luck not being with you is one thing–it can lighten up the mood. But talking about it over and over as if luck is the only thing against you? It sounds suspiciously like whining to most people, and whiners are not happy gamers to play against.

If you’re really having a tough time of it, try talking about other topics other than the game to get your mind off it–anything where you’re not focusing on how bad your luck seems to be running for you. I can be whiny about my luck, too, and this strategy surprisingly works, especially if you’ve got an opponent who’s a little more laid-back. And, if you’re facing an opponent who is doing nothing but whining about luck, try getting him or her off the topic–distract them from the bad dice rolls and card pulls, if you can. One person’s whining quickly casts a pall over other people’s games, and the quicker you can stop the negativity train, the better.

#4: Being Continuously Distracted During the Game

It’s great to have an opponent who’s interested in lots of different games. It’s not that great to have to play someone who’s involved in about 5 different games at various tables, or who has his or her phone out texting the whole time, etc. If you’re playing one game, stick to doing that activity and nothing else if at all possible. After all, who wants to be stuck at a table waiting on your opponent to get back from winning/losing two other random games?

Focusing on one task at a time will make you a more alert player, make the game more enjoyable for everyone, and might actually help you win instead of lose because of player errors and distractions. It also lets your opponent know you respect them and their time enough to play the game in a timely manner.

#3: Taking Forever to Do Your Turn

Slightly dovetailed with #4, “taking forever to do your turn” could mean you’re highly distracted during the game, but also could mean having small nervous crises over which card to play this turn, or which figure to move into combat. It also could mean an impossibly long, detailed, combo-ridden turn, in which the other player(s) are forced to watch you basically play and win the game by yourself. Any of these scenarios are incredibly annoying to opponents–they can end up thinking, “why did I bother even playing?”

If you’re unsure of how to play a new strategy, or just aren’t certain how to move forward, it’s not a sin to ask someone else for strategy help. These are games, not real war tactics, after all. And, if you look around the table and notice that most of your opponents’ eyes are glazed over after your 15-minute turn of ultimate doom, you might want to rethink how you play–at least, if you ever want to play against human opponents again. Super-combos of supreme ownage are great against computer-generated opponents, but we humans like to feel that we’ve got at least a fighting chance of winning. Instead of proving your authority by taking over the game, allow others to be part of the experience, and perhaps take time to observe how they play the game, too!

#2: Being Loud/Inappropriate/Offensive, and Refusing to Act Otherwise

Telling slightly offensive jokes (or hearing them bandied about) is pretty much par for the course amid gamers, but there’s a difference between being funny and just being loudly offensive/inappropriate. Most especially, if you’re playing a game and your opponent is having trouble concentrating because of your “humor,” you could end up alone at the game table in a matter of moments. Not to mention that someone might just decide to leave if you’re talking offensively and refuse to stop even for polite requests.

It’s important, especially in a large group environment, to be sensitive to how others are responding to your words and actions. If you notice that someone looks a little uncomfortable with what you just said, apologize; if someone asks you to tone it down a little, simply do so and make no further comment on the issue. I admit, I’ve made some pretty inappropriate remarks in my past, but learning how to apologize and keep going is part of getting along with others in general. We don’t have to self-censor all the time, but being aware of the people around you can keep you from making major verbal faux pas.

#1: Showing Poor Sportsmanship

Nothing is more annoying to a fellow gamer than to see his or her opponent stalk out of the gaming shop, mad because he or she lost. Mild fits of temper, especially in high-stakes tournaments, are naturally going to happen, but when a gamer lets one loss color the rest of the experience, both for themselves and for the other players, you know the poor sportsmanship has gone too far.

I’m preaching to myself here a good bit, because I don’t like to lose, and I don’t like to lose in 5 minutes with barely any time to fight; it angers me, much more than it should, and I can’t seem to let the anger go easily. But it’s important to realize that every game will have a winner and a loser, and you can’t be the winner every single time. The best thing you can do is to be a cordial, pleasant loser, so that the winner doesn’t end up feeling bad about it. Angrily stomping around, or getting in your car and speeding off, is not going to change the result, but it will disturb the other players and cast a good-sized shadow over everyone else’s games.


As I said at the beginning, many of these points go back to respecting other gamers and being considerate. I’m not saying that gaming should be conducted with the pinky finger perfectly extended, but perhaps we could put the middle finger away, just for a while. 🙂

Try the “White Slime” in NEW and IMPROVED Ammonia/Spoiled Flavor!

A few days ago, I got a few chicken tacos from my local Taco Bell, fixed like I always have them fixed–just chicken and cheese. (It’s been months since I’ve eaten the beef at Taco Bell because the quality has REALLY gone down, at least in my opinion–more about that later.) But the chicken has usually been a refuge for me.

I bit into the first of my tacos, only to realize that the chicken had an unusual sharp flavor, almost a cleaning-product flavor. Not only that, but it was oddly-textured. One more bite, and I realized there was another dimension to the bad taste–it tasted off, as if it had been kept past its expiration date.

As I peered into the depths of the taco shell, wondering if I’d gotten hold of some strange ingredient by mistake, a piece of “chicken” fell out…and it didn’t look the slightest bit like chicken. Instead, it looked like something that had been formed into the vague shape of chicken pieces. The color was nearly pure white–it almost looked like meat fat that had been reshaped.

I honestly don’t know what I got hold of that day, but all three of my tacos were like this–I tried bites out of each one, in the hope that maybe only one or two was affected. That wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, it was what I had spent my eating money on that day and I had long since left the store, so I had to try to salvage what I could of the meal. I ended up eating around the meat entirely and just throwing away the horrible “meat” product I had been served.

This disgusting taste, plus the slight nausea and dizziness I experienced about an hour and a half after eating what I could, convinced me that I had gotten hold of something terrible. And it looked and tasted a lot like what most people are describing as “white slime.”

What Exactly IS “White Slime?

The technical term is “mechanically separated chicken” (some pictures are available here). During mechanical separation, meat is basically sieved like flour (just under really high pressure) to get all the bones out, making it look a lot like meaty cake batter.

While the process sounds (and is) a little disgusting, in ways, it’s a more efficient way to get all the meat off an animal carcass, and it does reduce waste. And, after all, mechanically separated meat forms bologna and hot dogs, two things I’ve eaten in great quantities most of my life. In fact, this process has probably helped food prices over the years since it was introduced back in the late 1960s, according to the Wikipedia article.

So What’s the Big Deal?

There have been health concerns about MSM before, especially concerning connections between mechanically separated beef and mad cow disease. But, since outlawing beef from mechanical separation, this has been widely reduced. Unfortunately, keeping mad cow disease out of the meat does not stop other health concerns. The standout issue to me is that both mechanically separated chicken (“white slime”) and pork (“pink slime”) are treated with ammonia to kill bacteria before being packaged.

Knowing that ammonia is poisonous, and knowing that it’s used in a lot of industrial-strength cleaning supplies, this bothers me. Is ammonia what I was tasting in those tacos? Was the meat perhaps treated a little stronger with “bacteria-killing” solution to disguise the fact that it was a little past its expiration date, perhaps?

I worry that the addition of ammonia is actually making the meat product less nutritious and more poisonous. Whatever was in those tacos (whether it was simply spoiled meat, ammonia-treated meat, or a combination of the two), it did make me nauseated and dizzy afterwards, and I don’t usually react badly to any food. I don’t have the answers, but I do have some disturbing questions which need to be answered. Are we cutting corners too much just to make a profit, if slightly-spoiled or over-treated meat products are now being served?

The Wider Picture: General Fast-Food Quality

In the last few years, quality in fast-food cuisine has gone measurably down–I used to love Taco Bell’s ground beef, for instance, but ever since they got sued over it recently, the taste is no longer rich and slightly spicy, but kinda flat and over-reheated. Most people I talk to don’t seem to notice a difference, but then again, I get my tacos without lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, so the flavor of the meat itself is not overshadowed for me. I’m left wondering what exactly I’ve been eating all these years, to be honest.

It’s not just Taco Bell, though; foods at other fast-food restaurants that I used to love are no longer as good as what I remember, and I’m a very picky/sensitive eater, so I pick up on taste subtleties more often. The “cleaning flavor” has been sneaking into other types of food, too, and I’m wondering if the addition of ammonia is as necessary as people make it out to be.

Now, I know fast food is definitely not health food, but at least it’s supposed to taste like food, right? Even if what I got in those terrible tacos wasn’t “white slime,” I’d like to know what it was (or what it was supposed to be). The production of “white slime” and “pink slime,” while having existed for decades, seems to have taken a turn for the worse, and I’m afraid it’s mostly because of the bottom line.


More (and professional) research is needed to discover whether these strange tastes are a result of individual franchisees trying to stretch their dollar, or whether corporations are trying to cut corners to make a little more profit. But I really hope we all can get to the bottom of why cheap food production seems to be going a little too cheap. After all, when one cannot afford to eat anywhere but fast-food places, as is increasingly the case, that cheap and available food should still be edible!

For More Information

Mechanically-separated meat (MSM) article @ Wikipedia
Meat Product Chart @ ProPublica
Specified Risk Material article @ Wikipedia
Meat slurry article @ Wikipedia
Pink and White Slime: Videos @ Gothamist

You Might Be a Webmaster If…

For a little lightness and humor in today’s Webdesign post, I thought I’d include a Jeff Foxworthy-style list of ways you know you’re a webmaster. See if these aren’t as true for you as they are for me!

You Might Be a Webmaster If…

  • …you instantly know what font a business’s sign uses.
  • …you find yourself admiring the gradient effect of a sunset.
  • …you can type the following code in your sleep: <html><head><title></title><link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”style.css”></head><body></body></html>
  • …you routinely have nightmares about a PHP script that just won’t run right.
  • …you find yourself bracketing your sarcastic comments on the Internet with <sarcasm> and </sarcasm>.
  • …you make the analogy that kudzu is like a Javascript without a </script> ending tag.
  • …you have been known to shout at sluggish uploaders, FTP programs, code editors, and any other program which dares to get in the way of your creation.
  • …you see a bottle of AJAX brand dish soap at the grocery store, and wonder idly what part of the aisle it’s updating.
  • …you have been known to dance around your room upon getting a page to display properly.
  • …you use the Copy and Paste keyboard shortcuts on your computer more than the Spacebar itself.
  • …you often curse the existence of old Internet Explorers (especially version 6).
  • …you have officially broken up with GIFs (especially the animated kind).
  • …you cringe inwardly when someone asks you “Hey can you look at my website and fix it?! I think it’s pretty cool cause I have a lot of colors and tables and I’ve got links all over the place…?!”
  • …you saw this comic at The Oatmeal, and wept for joy that someone else finally understood your last freelance job.

Know any more funny “You Might Be a Webmaster If…” moments? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

“Derp:” It’s Not Just a Facial Expression Anymore!

You might have seen this strange word on the Internet, perhaps not known what it was…yet it always occurs in the funniest or strangest circumstances. What is a “derp?”

“Official” Internet Definitions

According to UrbanDictionary.com, a derp can be many things, such as a silly facial expression, incomprehensible speech, or an idiotic moment. I, however, find definitions #3 and #5 to be most applicable to my experience of “derp”:

  • #3: A literary or spoken phrase that combines elements of “WTF” and “cool story bro”. Laced with condescension “derp” is a common form of web-based libel that is almost didactic; however not quite as it is generally a sardonic gesticulation rather than moralistic chastisement. The spoken sense of the world itself conveys an intrinsic feeling of disappointment with a subtle hint of disgust and an overtone of rebuke.
  • #5: A word uttered when one screws up. origin: Matt Stone and Trey Parker in BASEketball. Used as an interjection.

Additionally, according to KnowYourMeme, derps arose from pure stupidity and remains that way today (see the exhibit of “derp” faces, with eyes pointed in different directions and a strange smile). KnowYourMeme also gives important background information as to the origins of the “derp.” Many more of these stupidity examples and distorted speech/facial expressions can be found on Derp.com.

However, I have come up with my own definition of the derp, from my own life:

DERP: n. a silly, almost instinctive mistake; a brain fart; a moment of abject ignorance.

DERP: v. making a silly, almost instinctive mistake; having a brain fart; acting ignorant.

Derivatives: derpy, derping

Pictorial Examples of This Definition

All images from Derp.com

I am quite capable of acting like this–saying stuff that doesn’t make sense, making crazy facial expressions, etc.–and have proven that wondrous ability on several occasions (much to my dismay). Sometimes, I have no idea why I derp, and that is one of the inherent qualities of the derp: it happens, and it happens to everyone at random times!

Derps I Have Done and Seen

  • Self-Derp: I carefully saved 10 picture sources (web addresses) for a future blog post. Later that night, I apparently went on a file-deleting spree and got rid of the entire file.
  • Self-Derp: I knew that I needed to stop for gas, but I drove 2 miles past the gas station I meant to go to anyway.
  • Self-Derp: Upon stepping up to the pulpit microphone to introduce another person at church, I stumbled over pronouncing their name, the title of the song they were doing, and the word “the”, all in one sentence.
  • Driver-Derp: In an unfamiliar city, I got into a traffic lane that I thought would continue on, only to look ahead and see that it ended in 500 feet. Fastest lane-change-back I’ve ever done!
  • Driver-Derp: A person I was driving behind in Charlotte traffic switched lanes precisely four times, from far left to middle left, from middle left to far left, from far left to far right (not kidding), and then back to middle right. Not sure what that was about, as there were no other cars to pass on the road.
  • Pet-Derp: Maggie, my boyfriend’s family cat, ran into the kitchen, started doing a big back stretch, then abruptly faceplanted and skittered a couple of feet like she was after a bug or mouse. Afterwards, she did an “I completely meant to do that” paw-washing.
  • Pet-Derp: Reesie, my boyfriend’s family dachshund, tried at least 50 times to get up on the armchair, jumping and jumping. When she finally succeeded, her first action was to slide back off, then try to jump back on again, for no apparent reason.

Derps in Entertainment: Why Are They So Funny?

From misspoken words to wardrobe malfunctions and other bloopers, derps appear on TV funny reels more often than anywhere else. Heck, there are even whole shows dedicated to the derp (America’s Funniest Home Videos, anyone?).

And, as I’ve referred to before, nowadays there are zillions of websites about derpy moments, either photographed or retold in words. Submitters to The Cheezburger Network and Spartz make tons of contributions to the derp culture every day, from funny cat captions to iPhone autocorrects and everything in between. And we eat it up, because it reflects our lives and our own derpiness. (If that isn’t a word, I’m making it one now–that’s not a derp in itself. LOL)

Derps are funny, random moments in life that are occasionally captured in a picture or memorialized in a video (and usually hastily put up on the Internet, LOL). They are reminders that we’re human and we make randomly funny/strange mistakes. They are also reminders that none of us is safe from derping; in fact, the most enjoyment comes from seeing that the richest, kindest, most put-together or most famous among us can still derp, too!

Have a Funny Derp?

Have a derp story to match the ones I’ve already told in this article? Got a funny derp picture to share? Tell me in the comments!

The “Internet Snobs:” Elitist Webmasters

We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of meeting them. From somewhere within the murky depths of the Internet, they arise, to purportedly “help” beginning webdesigners and developers…but they manage to “help” while sounding incredibly snarky and condescending. They are the “elite designers,” the peddlers of snobbery on the Web.

For sure, their reputation as “elite” designers is well-deserved, generally. They make beautiful designs, seamless coding, and always seem to be fluent in the right Web languages. But their abilities to make such lovely streamlined sites lends itself all too easily to critical judgments of others, who may not be as fluent or as strong, but who are still learning their craft.

Don’t think they exist? Never run into them? Well, here’s a couple of personal experiences I’ve had with Internet snobs:

Web-Snobs in Authority: Anecdote #1

As a fledgling designer back in ’05, wanting to drive more traffic to my site, I ended up applying to various topsites and site directories to get my link “out there” in front of others’ eyes. All was going well, until I visited a particularly beautiful web directory, which had a little “Help Wanted” box on the front page–they not only wanted more links in their directory, but wanted people who would be willing to evaluate submissions.

I jumped at the chance to help evaluate–I figured that the more websites I saw, the more understanding I would get about my own coding, and perhaps it would help me grow at the same time I helped others get admitted to the directory. I submitted my link, as well as an application to become an evaluator, and happily waited for an email back.

But alas, a few Web snobs got hold of me. A few hours later, I received a curt reply that went something like this:

Dear Robin:

To be an evaluator for (site name deleted), we feel it’s important to have a strong grasp of good design techniques. We have reviewed your site, which you submitted to the directory, and were honestly unimpressed with your content presentation skills; we do not believe you’d know the right criteria for admissions.

We are hereby rejecting your application for evaluator. Also, we suggest that you perhaps take some graphic design courses and resubmit your link at a later date, so your site will be better up to par with the rest of our directory.

So, not only was I rejected as an evaluator, but my link was rejected from the web directory. Why? Because someone had a bug up where the sun don’t shine, basically. They believed my site was designed badly, and they wasted no time making me feel like a pile of poo over it.

I admit, the design in question was not my best work ever (in fact, you can see what it looked like here–it’s Version 4), but it was an example of me trying out new things, trying to be different, trying to get comfortable with doing various design styles. I had been teaching myself web design for only two years at that point, and I didn’t have access to any courses in graphic design; I was going off of what I believed to be best practices.

I know that as a busy web directory, these guys didn’t have a lot of time to waste with nicely-phrased replies. But rejecting a link to their directory, which could have driven traffic their way no matter how badly designed the referring site was? Even now, I regard that as a pretty stupid move, motivated more by snark than common sense. It was an unnecessary flourish; I could have taken the criticism of my design alone and learned from it, but their added sucker-punch of rejecting my site in totality made it seem like an attack.

Needless to say, I was secretly very glad to hear the directory had shut down a few years later. Reason? They didn’t have enough submissions coming in, and the directory was too small to drive links. (I enjoyed quite a nice belly laugh over that irony.) Good to know that snobs don’t always win in the long run!

Mod Gone Mad: Anecdote #2

Along with trying to submit my sites to topsites and directories, I also had joined a few web design forums to learn more and maybe help other beginners out. I joined one nameless webring clique, which was a site review clique as well as a link directory, but quickly found out that according to one of the mods, I didn’t belong there.

She was a popular webmaster and builder of several useful webmaster tools and software; she also knew a whole lot more than I did about the backend part of web design. I respected her and was quite willing to sit at her proverbial feet and learn from her. But I also wanted to bring my unique perspective on web design to the clique’s forums, helping other beginners like me, writing articles much like this very post. To my surprise, she wasn’t having it.

It started with a couple of posts I made about praising websites instead of being overly critical–due to my past experience with critical judgments, I was alarmed at the amount of snarky, cutting reviews on the webring. I knew what harsh judgments could do to a beginning webmaster’s confidence, and I sought to shore up confidence and offer constructive criticism, pointing them to resources and offering to help where I could. But when I posted about praise, her response was simply “I don’t have time for praise. Next.”

OK, I thought, well, I’ll just make a few comments to some beginning designers on here and stay off the forums for a while. So I visited a couple of sites, offered each webmaster detailed help with some encouragement mixed in, and generally felt good about myself for being the bigger person and not continuing the argument. Little did I know, one of my paltry human judgments clashed with the mod’s omniscient, eternal judgment…she followed up both my review comments with suggestions that the other person should completely ignore my “sugarcoated BS,” since I didn’t know what I was talking about.

The stink of her elitism was strong in my nostrils, and in angry haste I responded to her on the forums; I told her exactly what I thought of her following me around the place and acting as if I had no right to be there. Her response: “Well, I’ve seen your designs. You tell me: does someone who doesn’t even know how to validate HTML have ANY right to advise anybody else here?”

I put up a weak response, something along the lines of “I deserve to be here as much as anybody, but I don’t deserve to be talked to like that”, and logged off. Of course, years later I thought of better comebacks, like “Well, since you apparently own the Internet and are so blasted good at this, why does your profile say ‘unemployed’?”…but of course, you never think of comebacks when you need them. That was the last time I accessed that forum, and I promptly took down the webring link and removed myself from it. I had enough snobs in my everyday life–I didn’t need another faceless snob on the Internet trying to shout me down.

What annoyed me the most about this particular mod was that I had been willing to learn from her, and had indeed sought out her advice before this incident. But her advice was always tinged with disdain, as if I “should know better” than to ask, as if I were an idiot for even forming the question in my mind. I had no issue with her being critical of my designs (though it stung badly); I took issue with her tone and how she treated me like a lesser human being. Poorer designer I may have been, but I still deserved better.

A Dirty Secret: My Own Inner Snob

I’ll admit, however, that I am not free from my own inner snobbery, and it has bitten me on the backside more often than not. When I accepted a web design job from a business halfway across the country, for instance, I privately scoffed and laughed at the previous webmaster’s poor attempts at design. I kept thinking to myself, “I could wipe my rear and end up with a better-looking design.”

Little did I know, the company’s owner had apparently loved the previous, awful look and was disappointed with my more web 2.0, sleek and modern design. (I didn’t even really get paid for the work I did, but I was glad to be rid of that contract!) I felt terrible about how I’d passed judgment on the other designer after the fact–that person was just trying to work within the (terrible) design concept, and ended up doing a better job than I did with it.

Web Elitism is Everywhere…How to Fight It?

As my stories show, it’s possible to be both a victim of Web-snobbery and a perpetrator. The key is to realize when you’re being a snob yourself, and tone it down (with an added apology to affected parties for good measure).

Truth is, we all pass judgment on each other, always trying to size each other up to see how skilled we are in comparison to others, etc. It’s like middle and high school all over again, with the “popular” crowd making all the pretty designs, the “geek” crowd with all the l33t coding skills, and the complete “n00bs” who don’t know any better than bright pink backgrounds and tabular layout designs.

Instead of playing on other people’s lack of confidence or apparent lack of skill, and hoarding all the l33t coding hacks and software tricks to ourselves, I think we web designers and developers should be more a community of designers. We don’t have to be in competition with each other–after all, we’re all trying to do the same thing, just in different languages and different programs. Elitism gets us nowhere; in fact, it can kill off confidence in newbie designers who have great potential, but little access to knowledge and tricks.

So, why don’t we put the one-upmanship aside, just for a while, and try helping out someone who might not know everything you do? Who knows, a new friend might be behind that screenname, wishing someone would chat with them and show them how to make a cool website like yours. 🙂

Why Do Modern Gamers Love MMOs?

Even just 7 to 10 years ago, most gaming took place on consoles, on games that took place on discs or cartridges. Once you played all the way through the game, found all the hidden stuff (and plugged in all the cheat codes), you were done. Oh, and if you wanted to play with more than four players, the extra people had to wait their turn.

But gaming has changed. Wow, has it ever changed! Most modern games now include a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) experience, where you can play with tons of people across all different regions (and countries)!

But why was there this major shift in game development? Well, it seems that modern gamers naturally gravitate toward MMOs, and I believe there are several social and gaming reasons for that.

MMOs Make More Individual, Innovative Game Experiences

Because of the online component of MMO gaming, there are a lot less “scripted” dialogues/events, and more off-the-cuff, genuinely new experiences. Basically, when you start the game, you’re never sure what new challenges await you.

I think of my experiences playing City of Heroes–you’re never sure whether there will be a Rikti Invasion special event while you’re playing, or which of your online buddies are going to be there to play with. It’s always a little unexpected, which is part of the fun. Unlike a cartridge or disc game, which is played thoroughly and then often set aside, MMOs give a player a truer, more responsive and “human” gameplay experiences, which continually rouses mental curiosity.

MMOs Provide Social Interaction

Instead of being cloistered away in a bedroom or basement utterly away from other humans, modern gamers have the option of real social interaction with other players through the MMO system. Now, sure, some of this interaction is made up of insult exchanges, random outbursts of rage, and the like, but some of it is actually worthwhile. You can actually find yourself talking about stuff other than the game, with people who are just as thoughtful as you. You just have to be willing to start a conversation–and MMO gaming gives you the chance to do exactly that.

For instance, I’ve met several good gaming friends through my City of Heroes experiences, and we have since become friends outside the game as well. We don’t just have to talk about “the game” or what characters we’re building next–we can actually talk about what we do when we’re not on the computer, any work-life stuff, all the kinds of things that friends talk about. This makes the “game” almost more than a game–it’s nearly a social network of its own.

MMOs Give Players Endless Replay Value

Because of the individualized, responsive gameplay I spoke of earlier, MMOs can be continuously replayed. Playing the game does not get rid of storylines, to be replayed the same way when you “finish” the game and start over; in fact, MMO gaming constantly builds on old storylines and introduces new plot threads in a fairly seamless experience. In essence, it’s never the same game twice, to paraphrase Disney’s Pocahontas.

This differs greatly from console games, which are generally locked into one major story that is only successfully played through one way. Even though returning to an old favorite game to replay it can give you warm fuzzies of nostalgia, it can also be a little boring to hack through the game the same way all the time. MMO gaming most certainly does not have that problem.

MMOs Always Have More Stuff to Do and Find

Because of developers and content creators working consistently behind the scenes, there are always new expansions, new story threads, new Easter eggs to find, and new graphic creations. Unlike console games, which don’t have much capability for innovation beyond what was programmed into the disc or cartridge, MMO games can always be updated, changed, patched (and repatched), etc.

City of Heroes, for example, has various timely expansions called “issues,” in which new costume pieces, new storylines, and other game developments are introduced. This ensures that the game is always fresh and has more challenges (which we gamers love!).

MMOs Can (Usually) Be Played by Anyone with a Computer

Lastly, unlike most console games, which are inextricably tied to a particular console to play, MMOs can generally be played by any computer. This makes MMOs more accessible to a wider swath of people–most humans these days have a computer for work or home use, but not everyone has a particular gaming console. When the computer becomes your gaming console, it’s a lot easier to game overall!

Having more potential players means that more people can meet and play together, increasing the strength of the game’s social network and boosting the innovation of the game experience. Plus, you no longer have the console wars to get in the way of good communication (i.e., you don’t have a bunch of Xbox players ragging on the Wii players, etc.).


Because of the massive multiplayer online genre, we are seeing more interactive, responsive, and social games than ever. This has changed gaming, and I believe it’s for the better.

Now, do I still like console games? Sure, because they are simpler and better suited for one-player experiences. (They are also a nice change, and a little hit of nostalgia never hurt any gamer.) But if I really want an involving game experience, I’m much more likely now to turn toward an MMO myself. MMOs provide something no other digital game experience provides–a sense of real, human community.

Why Abortions Happen

Before I begin: I am not discussing the legality or ethics of abortion in this post, as that part of the issue is way too politically hot to handle. Instead, I am attempting to define the reasons behind why a woman may choose abortion, rather than choose to have her baby and raise it, or have her baby and give him or her up for adoption.

The “whys” of this decision are often lost between heated debates on whether abortion should be legal and whether it is moral. But I believe that “why” is a very important facet of this issue, and must be discussed.

Worldwide, annually, 40-50 million women choose to have abortions, according to the World Health Organization. Why would any woman choose this dangerous procedure, which could end up endangering her own life as well as destroying the life of her child?

I believe, personally, that the women who choose abortion do so out of shame and fear, because a large percentage of these women have become mothers outside of marriage. As far as society has come in women’s rights, even in America, there is still a stigma against “unwed mothers” that almost refuses to be obliterated. This, I believe, is the root cause for many abortions, if not all.

For these women, their growing bellies are an exterior mark of their “sin,” not unlike Hester Prynne’s iconic “A” sewn on the front of her dress. For these women, this time of bearing life within them, which should be happy, is marred by the harsh judgments of others, often to the exclusion of all other human contact. They may no longer feel accepted by family, friends, religious acquaintances, or authority figures; their very way of life is threatened. “How will I provide for this child?” they might ask themselves. “How will I go on with my life now, when no one will help me?”

In this state of emotional turmoil, then, these women are daily faced with their bodies changing, their pregnancy becoming more and more apparent, and it can build a wall between them and even their closest friends. Any person undergoing such a trial is going to try to seek a way out, to remove themselves from the shame and terror they feel. For millions of women around the world each year, they choose abortion (whether legal or illegal), to utterly remove from themselves the condition which has turned their lives completely upside down, and which has threatened to cut them off from the love and support they count on.

How do I know the inner turmoil these women might be facing? Well, for one, I am a fairly empathetic person–I can all too easily imagine the suffering of others. But I can also speak to a personal experience which brought me a little closer to this type of ordeal than I might have been otherwise.

(This is the first time I’ve talked publicly about this experience, and I’m very nervous about revealing this, but I believe it’s key to understanding my individual perspective on this. I am afraid that others will think less of me for admitting to this event, but indeed going through this trauma made me a much stronger person, and brought me closer to God as a result. I fully admit my fault and part in this event, and am by no means considering myself blameless, but only human.)

My Personal Brush with This Issue

When I was 19, still a freshman in college, I began my first serious romantic relationship, with a young man my same age. He was, at first glance, just the type of guy I’d been looking for–ambitious, hardworking, honest, a very “decent” sort of guy.

Everything he told me about himself matched up to the kind of man I had been searching for pretty much all my life. He didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, he had a steady job, he was going toward a college degree, and he had a job plan for when he graduated. He also spoke often of marriage and children, of wanting to settle down and raise a family once he had graduated college. Not only that, he was intelligent and philosophical, and I found I could talk with him easily. He seemed perfect for me, and said many times that he was falling deeply in love with me, as I was with him.

Not long into our relationship, though, he wanted to do more physical things with me. I told him, even on the first date, that I wanted to remain a virgin until marriage, and he seemed to understand. However, he began to ask me to do more minor physical things, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, either. When I was reticent, he said that “good girlfriends” did these things for their boyfriends, and that his recent ex had done these things…which implied to me that if I didn’t do these things as well, I would stand to lose the bond we had begun to forge.

It’s important to understand my mindset at this point. I was almost literally starved for male romantic attention at this point in my life. I had been thought of as fat, nerdy, and unattractive by most of the male population in my school, and had been rejected by all the guys I liked. For a man to say that he loved me was a heady thought indeed. I didn’t want to lose my chance with this rarest of men (as I thought of him at the time), just because I wasn’t willing to compromise.

So I did compromise a bit, just on the minor things he wanted me to do, telling myself that I was showing him how much I loved him by putting aside my own wants and needs to please him. He had already told me that he planned to marry me one day, and I had pinned all my hopes to that promise. Since I believed he would eventually become my husband, I was reluctant to tell him “no.”

But the compromises kept getting a little bigger, and a little bigger. Finally, one evening a couple of months into our whirlwind relationship, he became entirely too insistent for my liking, and I finally put my foot down. “Honey, I really don’t want to,” I said.

I wanted to say, “Look, there ain’t a ring on my finger, there ain’t a white dress hanging up in the closet–you ain’t gettin’ this.” I wanted to say that I’d done everything he wanted up until that point, and he was making me uncomfortable, but I was too chicken. I was too spineless to really stand up to him, because I still didn’t want to lose him.

He took this in silence, and then suggested another “compromise.” This one was only slightly less crazy than what he’d wanted to do, but at least I wouldn’t be breaking the nearly 10-year-old promise I’d made to myself and to God to be a virgin when I married. I nodded my assent, if a bit fearfully.

…And about a minute later, I pushed away from him and sat on the edge of the bed, literally trembling. I hadn’t had sex with him, I hadn’t done anything, I knew that…but I had never been that close with a man before, and it frightened me. In my horribly naive mind, it suddenly occurred to me: even with the “compromise,” had I done enough to become pregnant?

Looking back on it, I know that it would have been akin to the second Immaculate Conception if I had indeed become pregnant. I really didn’t do ANYTHING. But I was scared enough (and admittedly stupid enough) at the time to fear it.

So began the longest and most frightening week of my life. I was too scared to tell my parents, too scared to tell my friends, too scared to tell anyone. Before that night, I had been a carefree young woman; was I now in danger of becoming one of “those” girls, an unwed mother? I was absolutely terrified of my future, and ashamed of what I had almost let happen, and ashamed that I had compromised my values so much, for someone who should have loved me enough not to ask me for “compromises.”

During this time, my supposedly loving boyfriend tried to ease my mind by telling me “we could just put it up for adoption.” Easy for him to say; it wasn’t his life and his body that stood to be completely changed by this. He had no idea–and made no attempt to understand–why I was in the state of irrational panic I was in. I was 19 and decidedly NOT ready for motherhood; I knew I was partially at fault for agreeing to the “compromise” in the first place, but it was his fault, too, for manipulating and coercing me into doing things I wasn’t comfortable with. I was angry with myself for allowing such a breach of will, and admittedly angry at him that he had put me in this position and was fairly unsympathetic about its repercussions.

In this thoroughly rattled state of mind, thoughts of “escape plans” filtered through. Abortion, as nauseating and repugnant an idea as it was, promised a possible way out, if the worst had happened. I didn’t want to think about killing my baby, if such a child did exist, but I felt I couldn’t live with the shame and the stares, the judgments and the angry questions; I also feared the loss of my own life as I knew it, to be completely subsumed in the (very poor) raising of my child (I had no confidence in my mothering abilities at all). I thought of abortion in the darkest, most terrifying moments of that week, my very brain cells twisted around by my fear running rampant.

Thankfully, almost exactly a week later, my admittedly overblown fears were put to rest by my own body, to put it delicately. But the furor of the event scarred my relationship with my boyfriend and eventually poisoned it. I resisted further attempts he made to be physical with me, which led to his ardor gradually cooling toward me. In the end, I found out, all he had wanted was sex–it didn’t matter which woman gave it to him. All his talk of marrying me, having kids with me after marriage, picket fences, and “happily ever after” (not to mention his graduating college and having a steady job) had been lies, all means to an end. And I was an easy mark; I might as well have had a giant bullseye painted on my heart.

How This Gave Me Perspective

This event in my life gives me a unique female perspective on abortion. I have never had the procedure done, nor have ever needed it, and God willing I never will. But when I found myself in the direst of straits, I thought about it. I, who values human life in every sense, was overwhelmed with such shame and fear at the very thought of being pregnant before I was socially “supposed to be” that I started seeking ways to cover it up, just like any other human being whose mind is stretched taut with stress.

I believe this very mindset, steeped in shame, is what forces a woman to choose abortion. It’s not a happy-go-lucky decision, like “Hey, I’m gonna go get something to eat on my lunch break and then pop over to the clinic for a quick abortion.” It’s a decision made by a person who is likely in a high state of stress, scared, ashamed, and isolated. It’s a decision made by a woman who feels that her pregnancy would bring social shunning, pointed questions, harsh judgments, and the total loss of her family and friends.

Why Might Women Feel This Way?

You might wonder why, in this day and age, women might feel this sort of fear just because they have become pregnant outside of marriage. I believe that it is largely because of our culture.

Our culture is one which still harshly punishes a woman who chooses to engage in sex outside of typical patriarchally-defined states of being like marriage. An unwed mother is a “bad example” of femininity, a “fallen woman,” whereas a man who has many children outside of marriage might be considered a “player” and a “good example” of masculinity. Even though a child is created by two people (and God, of course), if the resulting pregnancy is outside of accepted social bounds, the woman is always “to blame,” and it is the woman who suffers social shame and eventual exile.

Changing Our Thinking

Sadly, in my experience, the very people who champion the life of the unborn baby are most likely the same ones who will point fingers and make negative judgments about the single mother pushing her stroller in public.

I’ve actually been there to witness a couple of my conservative Christian acquaintances making snarky comments under their breath, about a passing woman whom they apparently knew to have had her child outside of marriage. They noted her un-ringed hand and the lack of a man walking with her, and one of them said, “Ugh, look at that–she just flaunts it like she didn’t sin at all.”

This double standard must be addressed! If we claim to love unborn babies enough to fight for them in moral and political arenas, then why can we not show support to the mothers who helped create these children? Why is an unwed mother’s life considered wasted, useless and sinful, while her child’s is held sacred? I do not and never will understand this.

When we uphold this double standard, we are basically telling unwed mothers, “You can’t abort your child because we think it’s wrong, but we won’t support you, give you any helpful advice, or point you to resources that help you with raising it. Oh, and we won’t be your friends either, because you have sinned.” I’m not saying that every unwed mother is entitled to entourages of cheering fans, dinners of caviar, and fancy cars to ride in, but turning our backs on her is as good as signing her unborn child’s death certificate. If there is no financial way for her to raise the child she carries, and every friend and family member has turned from her because of her pregnancy, what is she going to choose to try to stabilize her life?

If God sees fit to create a child, even if we think it happened in “sin,” even if we judge her as a “fallen woman,” then surely Christ’s compassion should drive us to be at least a little more sympathetic. I am reminded here of John 8:2-9, where Jesus saves an adulterous woman from being stoned, reminding the crowd that they, too, have sin in their lives.

I am a Christian myself, and I have read the Old Testament enough to know that part of our society’s customs and mores concerning women who become mothers outside of marriage come from God’s own Word. But God did not tell us to completely abandon anyone to their sin, either. And from what I understand of the New Testament, Jesus wants us to reach out to those who have sinned and lift them up. God also wants us to care for those who are poor and needy, and many unwed mothers find themselves in poverty because they are too busy trying to care for their children to hold down jobs effectively.

In fact, we are all sinners, and we all have to lift each other up and support each other every day. When we ignore and shove aside any woman who finds herself in this situation, we are actually pretending that we are sinless ourselves. In essence, we are lying to ourselves and to God, pretending that our sin isn’t as bad as hers.

I believe that if we stop thinking of unwed mothers as “fallen women,” and if we stop punishing them socially for a “sin” that took two people to do, then perhaps we might stop talking about abortion altogether, because it won’t be an issue anymore. If we remove the climate of female shame and fear from pregnancy outside of marriage, maybe more of these mothers would feel better about carrying their children to term.

In Conclusion

I’m not arguing for or against abortion, because that’s not the focus of this post. Instead, I am trying to define the culture that both ridicules abortion and makes it feel necessary for so many women per year. This is what’s happening–a huge double standard, a huge catch-22 for women everywhere. It’s up to us to think differently about this issue, and see ourselves in these women long enough to empathize and support.