September 1, 2015 ::

“Ain’t natural, Karl.”
“‘Course not.”
“Fog’s ‘sposed to burn up in sunlight, not pile up against the edge of a man’s property like it’s beatin’ on a wall.”
“Ever’body knows that, Carl.”
“Yeah? Well somebody ‘parently forgot to tell ol’ man Hemp. Ain’t natural.”
“Ya’ said that already.”
“Well, mebbe that’s ’cause it bears repeatin’.”
“How long do ya’ reckon it’ll be ’til it burns off, Karl?”
“Thar be a question with a diff’cult answer, Carl. Seems like that there fog sticks around a little longer ever’ day. ‘Fore ya’ know it, it’ll be hangin’ ’round all day and all night.”
“Lordy, Karl. Ol’ man Hemp’s gotta be quakin’ in his polished boots right now.”
“Mebbe. Or mebbe he’s the one done brung it on hisself now, ya’ think? A judgment from the good Lord Hisself.”
“Ya’ think so?”
“Aw, hell if I know, Carl. But you see anyone else around with a danged cloud parked on their lawn?”

Weight of the Kraken

August 27, 2015 ::

Chaz raises the weapon he holds in his left hand. He can feel the Weight of it dragging his arm back toward the earth, but it is that very same Weight that allows him to wield the hand cannon at all. When he first claimed the Kraken, when he first held the Object that had laid him on this path, this disparity had been distracting.

But he has long since made his peace with it. The weapon is now a part of him, an extension of himself that transcends the steel he now holds.

The creature before Chaz barely blinks. It is indifferent to the cold gaze of the Kraken. It knows Objects of this type, has lain waste to their bearers before. Chaz knows this, knows the creature will not be easily dispatched, knows that even with the force of the Weight behind each bullet he fires the creature will not go down easily.

Chaz has no words for the beast. It wouldn’t care even if he did. No, he knows the creature respects only action.

“Ok,” he says.

A deep breath, then, his finger squeezes the trigger, and time stops.

Fear, Faith, and Writing Dark Fiction

March 20, 2015 ::

Several years ago, someone once asked me how I resolved having faith in God with writing dark fiction. Much of the fiction I’ve written over the years has put characters in dark, hopeless corners where death, either their own or someone they loved, or worse was imminent. It was a question I myself had already wrestled with quite a bit before being formally presented with it. After all, the point could easily have been argued that dark fiction finds itself at odds with a God of love and grace and deliverance. I fudged my way through the answer by talking about art and gifts from God and using said gifts to give Him glory, all the while not being entirely sure I believed that answer myself.

I think I have a better response now, or at least part of one. I think I understand myself a little bit better now than I did then.

I’ve been at odds with my faith for a good many years now. I’ve resisted it, run from it, denied it even — and all the while I’ve been running in the dark, lost and alone. I’ve always been fearful. To some extent I think that’s human nature. But in denying my faith, I lost whatever grounding I had to face my fears. I effectively cast myself off from the shore in a leaky rowboat with no motor or oars or any other way to steer. I consigned myself to the storm, even as that was the very thing of which I was most afraid. I forgot about the thing that gave me strength, that got me through each and every day. I forgot about my faith, and I forgot — deliberately — about my God.

So I think it’s safe to say that I have such an affinity for dark fiction because I harbor a lot of fear. Faith helps me cope with my fear, albeit imperfectly. I’m human, after all, and weak. I’m finding my way — slowly — back to faith, but my grip is tenuous. I suspect it always has been. Writing helps me work through my fears. It lays them out for all to see. And in so doing, writing robs my fears of at least some of their power. It’s a bit like talking about a nightmare the next morning while sitting in the full light of day. The fear that woke you just hours earlier in the deep dark of night now seems like little more than silly nonsense with the sun beating down on your face. Writing dark fiction is, for me, a bit like that. It allows me to present my fear in a safe context, to process it in a way that helps me cope with it. And even if the outcome of the story isn’t a happy one for my characters, it at least allows me to put words to the things that most bother me in the night shadows. It helps me to see that maybe those fears really aren’t so scary after all.

My faith is still very weak, I admit. I locked it away pretty deep inside my heart. I suspect I will be some time in strengthening it, longer still in marrying it with the way I write stories. But it’s a journey, and one I’ve long tried to avoid. I don’t like pain, after all, and life is nothing if not painful. But I’ve put this particular fear to words now, denied it a bit of its power over me, and am trying to learn to have faith again in a God I’ve all but forgotten that things will turn out all right in the end.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is that step.


February 27, 2015 ::

She is tied to a rack. The ropes at her wrists and ankles dig cruelly into her skin. Her fingers and toes have long since gone numb. She barely notices. This is as it should be.

Figures move in the shadows around her, checking her bonds, adjusting her garments, preparing her. Somewhere in the darkness beyond, she hears the sound of the bloodman’s knife on the sharpening stone. She relaxes into it.

“When I was nine, I stole two rolls from the bread lady. Times were hard, and we were hungry.”

The words tumble freely from her lips. She is not ashamed of her sins, does not fear her penance.

She holds nothing back.

“Two years ago, I spoke false words against a friend. She died. I did not.”

“Once I kicked a dog. It had done nothing to deserve it, but I was angry.”

She has found the rhythm of confession. One sin to six strokes of the bloodman’s knife on the stone. Her sins are many, and so the confession lasts for hours. This penance will be harder than most. She may not survive it. But she *will* welcome it.

These are the first words I’ve written and published — in any form — in months. As per my usual style, the content is somewhat dark (and so my wife will undoubtedly hate it), but not so much because it’s a reflection of my current state of mind (though it certainly could be, given my present state of affairs). Rather, the image of a woman giving confession while a priest — of sorts — prepares to offer her penance with his blade is the first that sprang to mind when I saw the video below some weeks ago.

My usual practice with micro-fiction of this type is to take that initial impression and follow it until space (1024 characters) runs out. This story, as it happens, uses every bit of that space, and so is shorter than I’d like. I was forced to cut details that would have fleshed out the scene and circumstances of this young woman’s confession, details that I think likely would have enriched the nature of her situation and added depth to her choice to give confession.

I don’t have it in me to feel bad about shortchanging my character this way, however, what with this being my first foray back into writing in quite some time. It’s also possible — nay, certain — that I borrowed no small amount of inspiration from this story that appeared on Tor last month. In any event the ideas are so entwined in my own mind that I see no reason to flesh this particular idea out any further. It’s enough for me right now that I’m back writing again.

The Casual Gamer: Destiny First Look Alpha

June 18, 2014 ::

For a week and a half, I was privileged to be able to play BUNGiE’s First Look Alpha build of their upcoming new title Destiny. This has been one of my most anticipated gaming titles, and being able to get a sneak peek at their next big thing was an amazing experience. With the lifting of the media embargo last week, there are already a lot of resources out there to get a sense of what Destiny is all about, so I won’t rehash those. A quick Google search will turn up a wealth of information about this new IP. I do, however, want to add my own take on the game with regard to what I most enjoyed about the Alpha and what I’m most looking forward to about the finished game.

1. Activities for Any Mood

One of BUNGiE’s goals for Destiny is that it would contain activities to fit any mood. If you’re looking for something narrative, run a story mission. If you want something a little more challenging, form a fireteam and head into a Strike, or double up with another fireteam and taken on a Raid. If you want competitive multiplayer, head into the Crucible and match your skills against other Guardians. Or just free roam the world in Explore mode and see what kind of trouble you can get into. As someone with not a lot of time to game, this formula works very well for me. For much of the limited time I had to play the Alpha, I was in Explore mode, roaming across the wastes of Old Russia, taking out Fallen patrols and taking on Hive whenever I encountered them. Loot chests were scattered throughout, as well, making the exploration both profitable and interesting. Public Events added to the fun whenever they popped up, and it was highly enjoyable taking on the challenge of destroying a Devil Walker or defending an objective alongside other Guardians.

Forming fireteams is easy and fast, so whenever I needed support, it was a simple matter to pull two other Guardians into my party with me and head out toward an objective.

2. The Crucible

Destiny’s competitive multiplayer can be found in The Crucible. You form a fireteam of up to six Guardians and head into matchmaking. The Alpha provided only two multiplayer maps — one on the Moon that provides long sightlines and vehicle recreation, and one on Earth that’s more close-quartered and fast. I did not spend much time in the Crucible. All total, I think I played maybe three games there. Competitive multiplayer has not been my personal cup of tea in years, not since Halo Reach, and I doubt that The Crucible is going to pose much interest for me, either. That’s not to say that Destiny’s competitive multiplayer is a bad experience because it’s not. It’s fast-paced and challenging, and with the vast array of weapons, vertical movement, and the addition of class Supers, it’s a very different experience from Halo’s multiplayer environment.

3. The Tower

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140610223259

One of the things that differentiates Destiny from any previous BUNGiE title is the social aspect of the game. The Tower is your Guardian’s safe haven, the place he can go after a fight to relax, chat with friends, restock his inventory, and find new gear. It’s the one place in the game where your point of view shifts to third-person, so you can admire all that sweet loot you’ve acquired. The Tower overlooks The City, which resides below the Traveler and is the last safe place on Earth, indeed, in the whole system.

4. The Director

Navigating between missions is accomplished by using The Director. It’s a navigation menu that you access while in orbit that gives you the choice of which locations you’d like to visit. The Alpha limited access to the Tower, Old Russia, and the Crucible, but even so it gave us a nice taste of things to come. Within Old Russia, three mission types were presented — the story mission, which is the same mission you play when you first create your Guardian; the Strike, which you can play on two difficulty settings, Brave and Legend (make sure you have your very best gear); and Explore, which allows you to freely roam the countryside.


Destiny also features both public and private spaces throughout the game. Public spaces are freely accessible by anyone. Most of the free-ranging areas in Explore mode are public, and it’s very common to run across other Guardians in these areas as they explore or head toward other missions. Public events take place in these areas, drawing Guardians from all around to tackle the latest group challenge. Private spaces occur whenever a fireteam is on a story mission, a Strike, or a Raid. The fireteam will travel in public space for a while until they reach their objective, at which point the public space transitions seamlessly into a private one, and you’re alone for a little while. The only visual clues you have of the transition is a brief fuzziness that creeps in around the edges of your HUD and the absence of any Guardian other than your fireteam on your radar.

5. Classes

Of the three classes presented in the game, the Hunter is one I spent the most time with. It’s also the last one I took for a test drive, primarily because I already knew it was going to be the one I gravitated toward and I wanted to give the other two classes a fair shake before I did. I started with a Warlock build but found it not much to my liking, so I soon switched to a Titan. This one felt more familiar to me, since it’s the closest thing Destiny has to a Spartan (Halo). Shortly after, I switched to a Hunter, confirming my choice of favored class. One of the things I love about the Hunter is the focus on precision. My gaming style is more of a distance fighter rather than a brawler. I tend to get my head handed to me more often than not in close-quarters combat, so I tend to prefer to hang back and snipe from a distance. The Hunter’s Super is the Golden Gun, a three-shot insta-kill that requires precise aiming (though it is more forgiving than firing a non-Supered weapon), where both the Titan and Warlock Supers are more area-of-effect, explosive types. The Hunter also has a throwing knife that can be used as a sort of melee attack from range to inflict massive damage, but again, it requires some degree of precision to use effectively. Otherwise it can go wide and you have to wait for it to recharge again before you can use it. All three classes have their own distinct combat styles, but the Hunter is going to be my go-to for the long haul.

6. Gear

There are a lot of weapons, gear, and other collectibles to be found throughout Destiny. Loot chests sometimes yield up more than just Glimmer (the in-game currency). Enemies frequently drop weapons, engrams, and other equipment. Vendors in the Tower sell guns, armor, ships, and more. Nearly everything is upgradeable and customizable. Each class has its own sets of armor and flair (though weapons can be used by any class), all of which becomes more flashy as you gain higher levels or complete difficult quests. The very best gear is found through completing difficult objectives, so that your favorite items are more likely to have interesting stories attached. The Alpha put a lot of gear on display, which is exciting because there’s so much more to come in the final version.

Below you can see the progression of some of my Hunter’s gear as she moved up through the four levels available in the Alpha:

7. Vertical Movement

Destiny also introduces vertical movement to a BUNGiE shooter, which is something I learned very quickly to love. Each class has its own version of vertical movement: the Titan has lift, the Warlock has glide, and the Hunter has double-jump. Each allows your Guardian to get to places they might otherwise not be able to and also alters the flow of combat, both PvE (Player versus Environment) and PvP (Player versus Player). It’s possible to get the jump on an enemy by coming in over their heads and laying waste to them with a well-place Nova Bomb or sneak up on another Guardian in the Crucible by jumping up through a gap in a wall behind them. I found myself using my Hunter’s double-jump a lot to get to places that would normally be just out of reach or as a means of taking shortcuts as I traversed the countryside.

8. Vehicles

Every Guardian comes equipped with their own ride. She starts with stock hoverbike called a Sparrow that, like nearly everything else in the game, can be upgraded and customized. You can summon it at anytime (provided the space allows it) by calling up your Ghost. You also have your own personal interplanetary transport, which can be similarly customized. Each of these items allows you to tailor your Guardian’s personality.

9. Clans


Destiny is also being built with support for clans. Groups will be able to form on that will serve as something akin to an alliance, which can then split down into smaller groups that will be more intimate clans. Having built-in clan support is something we haven’t seen in a BUNGiE title since the Halo 2/Halo 3 days, so I’m very much looking forward to having this feature built into Destiny.

(Fast-forward to 7:07 for the relevant bit about clans.)

10. Story and Lore

The one thing that I am probably looking forward to the most about Destiny, though, is the fiction that drives it. I’m not generally a first-person shooter type of gamer. That’s part of why it surprised me so much that I became such a hardcore Halo addict. I attribute part of my love for that franchise to the way BUNGiE builds shooters. They’re fun and competitive so that even gamers like me who aren’t particularly good at shooters can have a good time. The larger part of that formula, however, is the fiction around which the Halo franchise was built. The story drew me in and kept me engaged in that universe, kept me vested in the outcome of the story itself.

Destiny has already had that same effect on me and will continue to do so. The lore that has been created for this game is deep and rich and incredibly complex. The little bit of information we know has served only to whet my appetite for more, and I can’t wait to dig deep into this universe this fall.

One of the additional benefits from the Alpha was being able to take BUNGiE’s alpha site for a test drive and get a sneak peek at some of the features that will be coming to in the future. The Grimoire is one of those features that adds to the lore behind Destiny.

The first introduction I had to the Grimoire was when I was roaming the Tower. I stumbled across a faintly glowing object and when I drew near it, a prompt appeared on my screen to revive the dead Ghost. (More dead Ghosts can be found scattered Easter egg style throughout the world.) Once I did so, it activated, hovered into the air for a moment, then disappeared in a flash. A message appeared at the bottom of my screen that mentioned unlocking a card in the Grimoire and that more details could be found at Once I had access to the alpha site, I learned that the Grimoire is an encyclopedia-type reference composed of digital cards that can be unlocked through a variety of methods. Finding dead Ghosts is one of those methods. Hitting benchmarks in terms of enemy kills is another, and I assume there are other ways than these. And while many of the cards in the Grimoire were redacted to prevent spoilers, each one that wasn’t revealed a little more about the Destiny universe, including tantalizing tidbits about the Guardians’ origins.


If it has done anything, the Alpha has increased my excitement for Destiny. It was clear to me many times throughout that what the Alpha showed us about Destiny was just the very tip of the iceberg. There was so much more below the surface that I suspect there will be hundreds of hours of exploration that will go into unlocking all of its secrets. BUNGiE knows how to present a gripping story — they demonstrated that time and again with the Halo franchise — and already their presentation of Destiny has me asking for more. Every facet of the game is wrapped in lore, and I can’t wait to start weaving all those disparate threads into a cogent tapestry. September can’t come soon enough!

See you starside.


When Melancholy Becomes Something Else

June 3, 2014 ::

Earlier this morning, I sent this to Twitter:

It seems I spoke too soon because my mood has deteriorated since then. Tears have been threatening — and occasionally more than threatening — to spill over all morning. It’s frustrating and maddening because feeling like this is so completely pointless. It’s wasted emotion because it’s directed at… nothing. What’s worse is that it’s crippling and destructive, which makes it all the more scary to me because of the way it interferes with daily living.

Depression, when it’s not flattening my affect and overwhelming every single other thing I feel, makes me angry. I feel like I should be above this, better than this, able to mash down on this with ferocity and conviction, able to banish it to the darkest reaches of my mind whenever I like. And yet, I can’t. The damnable thing rears its ugly, vindictive head at the most unexpected — and unwelcome — of times and makes me think and feel things that aren’t actually true. Depression, among its multitude of other vices, is a liar. But even knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to shove aside. Depression also has teeth, and claws, and it has no problem sinking them into the soft, sensitive tissues of my brain and heart where it will hurt the most.

Therapy for me, then, is to write, when I can summon the strength to shove depression aside long enough to do. And so I write, exposed and vulnerable (which is scary in its own right), because it helps me process some of the things I’m feeling. Plus, it’s something I can actually do, instead of allowing the depression to simply have its way with me. So much of depression is about being passive and letting it do whatever the hell it wants to — which is why physical activity is also such good therapy. Activity, doing, is fighting back and refusing to allow the depression to win.

I wish there was more I could do because even doing feels passive when it doesn’t make the depression go completely away. The best I can hope for is survival and subsistence and hope that this thing will not kill me. My mind says it won’t, but my heart declares otherwise. Apparently depression is also cognitive dissonance.

The Casual Gamer: Console Wars

June 3, 2014 ::
Xbox One vs. PS4

This past week I entered the ranks of next-generation gamers. What’s remarkable about this, at least for me, is that this is probably the earliest in a new console cycle that I’ve acquired a next-gen system. When I received my first-gen Xbox as a gift, that system had already been on the market for two or three years. The Xbox 360 had been out for nearly two by the time I acquired one. This time around, both the Xbox One and the PS4 have been out for just a handful of months. It’s… odd being a (relatively) early adopter, and the decision about which console to purchase first was not an easy one.

I’ve been an Xbox fan for years. I originally acquired an Xbox because I wanted to play Halo, which was surprising in itself. Shooters aren’t typically my bag. When the 360 came out and the Halo franchise continued on that system, upgrading was a no-brainer. I barely even looked at the Playstation line. Sony had few exclusive titles for its console that interested me, and the few that did still didn’t make it worth investing in the Playstation ecosystem.

Then this past year, Microsoft and Sony both revealed their next generation consoles, along with several titles that would be appearing in the first year’s library (and beyond). Most of these titles were cross-platform, and both consoles touted powerful features that made them highly attractive options. For the first time, I actually found myself actively interested in both consoles. The decision to upgrade was suddenly vastly more complicated, since the individual price points for the consoles would make it impossible to adopt both at the same time. Whichever one I purchased first meant it would be a while before I could acquire the other.

Ultimately, the decision came down to a single game, ironically one that will be available on both systems. Which, of course, is the reason why I ended up acquiring a PS4 first.

1. Destiny

The one title I’ve been looking forward to for the better part of two years has been the forthcoming Destiny from Bungie. Ever since Bungie passed the Mantle of responsibility for the Halo franchise over to Microsoft and 343 Industries, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their next Big Thing. Destiny is that thing. Originally, I’d planned to follow with tradition and play Destiny exclusively on the Xbox One. I’m already well invested in that particular ecosystem, after all. But the more I’ve learned about Destiny over the past few months, the more I’m convinced that the premium Destiny experience will be found on the PS4. All other things being more or less equal, this ultimately was the final tipping point in my choice of next-gen systems.

2. Tied the Leader

One of the factors in this equation that made this decision so difficult was considering the clan I’ve been a part of since the Halo 2 days — Tied the Leader. The Gunslingers have been like a second family to me for years, providing an armed escort that is focused on sportsmanship, camaraderie, and teamwork whenever venturing into the killing fields. TTL has taken a casual stance of adopting the Xbox One as our clan’s primary next-gen console, which meant that if I went with the PS4 first I would potentially be cutting myself off from my allies on the battlefield. Many of the Gunslingers have stated, however, that they plan to keep at least one Guardian in the PS4 ecosystem, so I’m optimistic I’ll still be able to have my Gunslinger escort whenever I go out to reclaim our lost worlds from the encroaching Darkness.

3. Time Is Scarce

With a full-time job, a farm to run (which may as well be a second full-time job), a family that includes two small children (one currently less than three months old), and various other obligations, my time to game is sparse. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve gotten any games in with my fellow Gunslingers, who have themselves moved on to other shooters. TTL is no longer a Halo-exclusive clan, and that’s a good thing. What that translates into, though, is that, even if I had more time to game, I probably still wouldn’t be playing much with TTL. The shooters they play aren’t generally attractive to my own interests, so I feel like what little time I have to game is better spent on titles I’ll actually enjoy. Trying to ramrod gaming sessions into an already busy schedule just to have a little face time with the Gunslingers doesn’t make sense. Destiny will, of course, be the exception to that rule because A) it’s a Bungie shooter, B) it’s going to be a rich mythic sci-fi story, and C) it’s a multiplayer game I’m actually interested in. Knowing there will be Gunslingers playing Destiny on the PS4 made it that much easier to move in that direction first.


There are a dozen other little factors that played into my choice, ultimately, very few of which would be interesting or relevant to anyone but me. I’ve had my PS4 for just under a week now, and I’m already very happy with the decision. I do plan to acquire an Xbox One sometime in the next year, hopefully before Halo 5: Guardians launches (which, incidentally, is another case of a single title driving a console purchase decision). Most of the games I buy for that system are similarly likely to be single-player games, because that’s what I can fit into my busy schedule. It’s an interesting time to be a gamer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new titles are added to the libraries for both systems in the next year.

This Weight Upon My Shoulders

May 30, 2014 ::

Every couple of weeks or so I go through a spell of feeling like the weight of the world is resting solidly on my shoulders. During these times I feel tired and overwhelmed, certain that I’m doing too many things, that my hands are in too many projects. These are the times when I most seriously consider scaling back my activities and obligations in order to retain my sanity (such as it is), such as cutting out certain portions of our farm operations or dropping optional obligations to which I’ve committed.

Photo: rawlands under a Creative Commons license

Photo: hannah k (rawlands) under a Creative Commons license

For some reason, it always takes me a couple of days of this to realize that what I’m experiencing is a mild bout of depression. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like the deep, crippling depression that pushes me into suicidal ideation, and so it takes me longer to identify what’s going on. It also settles in slowly, a bit at a time over several days so that, at first, it simply feels like the kind of exhaustion born out of a busy lifestyle. To add insult to injury, this usually coincides during times of actual sleep deprivation, which is indicative that the two things are actually related. Either way, the feeling of being tired masks the fact that this is really the onset of depression, albeit a minor case. (That really soul-crushing depression typically only happens to me once or twice a year, the first always in January/February during the deepest, coldest part of winter, and once sometimes in the middle of the summer.) These smaller episodes occur more frequently — every two to three weeks — and are usually easier to bear up under, gritted teeth and shortened temper not withstanding.

These minor depressive episodes almost always pass within a couple of days, but while they’re here, this weight — it’s an actual, physical sensation — never leaves my shoulders. Identifying it and talking about it sometimes helps it abate more quickly, sometimes it doesn’t. At the very least, it is always something of a relief to recognize it when it’s happening.

Responsive Design

May 23, 2014 ::

I’ve been playing around quite a bit with responsive web design the last few days as a result of a recent client requesting their new site be mobile-friendly. I’ve had to read up quite a bit on responsive design, but I’ve learned a lot both about what makes it a powerful tool to have and also about the various frustrations and pitfalls that come with designing a site that’s mobile-friendly. Not all themes make good candidates for responsive design, as I quickly discovered.

Responsive design is something I haven’t been altogether concerned about with my own sites since I was more or less content to default to the Jetpack mobile theme that comes bundled with that plugin. Building this design for my client, I realized how nice it would be if my own site was more mobile-friendly and customized to match my current style. So, yesterday, I rolled out version 2.1 of my theme.


If you’re viewing this on your mobile device, you should see a layout similar to the one above. This version of my site also got a couple of simple tweaks to its layout. I put a new social media bar at the top of the page for those links as well as for the search form, which frees up some real estate in my nav menu and sidebar. Everything else is built with relative dimensions, so the site should scale well on most mobile devices. The desktop and smartphone layouts work pretty seamlessly; some tablets may see a bit of jankiness. As it turns out, building a layout that accounts for every viewport size on every device is a large and daunting task. I’m not entirely convinced I’ve got everything in the middle quite right. If you see something odd on your device, I’d appreciate it if you could shoot me an email with a screenshot and the device you’re using so I can try to correct any issues.

That said, I’m chuffed about the updates to the mobile feature set of my site. Responsiveness is something I’ve had way in the back of my mind for a little while, but I honestly thought it was going to be more difficult to implement (i.e. building a whole separate theme; I didn’t even know media queries existed until this week) than it actually ended up being.

Next iteration of the site will be almost completely behind-the-scenes: shifting my stylesheet to SASS.

Backing Slowly Away From Facebook

May 16, 2014 ::

So, everyone knows that Facebook has been on a tear the last couple of years to force their user base to use Facebook the way they think you should use it. (Right? This is pretty much common knowledge at this point, yes?) Every design update and developmental decision they’ve made in the last who-knows-how-many iterations of the service have been centered not on improving the user experience but on making more money for Facebook. They’ve thumbed their collective noses at us and jabbed their fingers in our eyes and basically told us that they know better than we do what information and updates we actually want to see. Nevermind the fact that there are dozens of browser extensions out there designed to force Facebook back into a more user-friendly format. Facebook knows best, and we’re supposed to just shut up about it and let them serve us.

When Facebook implemented Top Stories into the news feed in the mobile app, it was frustrating because, even though it gave you the option of showing the most recent updates (well, some of them, anyway), it wouldn’t allow you set your feed that way permanently. It still doesn’t. Because Facebook knows best, remember? But at least they put the option to change views in a relatively easy to access location. Just pull down slightly on your news feed to reveal the toggle, select Most Recent, and let the feed refresh.

In the latest update for the Facebook mobile app (iOS), they decided to do away with that option. Sort of. Oh, you can still choose to view the Most Recent version of your feed, but now you have to work at it a little harder. That easy-to-use toggle? Gone. Now if you want to view the Most Recent items, you have to dig for it.


The path to Most Recent is now about three layers deep. In order to find it, you have to tap on More in the lower right corner, then scroll down the screen until you find the Feeds section. It’ll be below the Favorites category, the Pages section, Groups, Apps, and Interests. Facebook really doesn’t want you to find it. To the right of the Feeds subheading is a tiny little arrow that points to the right. Tap this and a list of all the different feeds you can view will drop down. In the screenshot below, Most Recent is at the top of my list. That probably won’t be the case for you, at least not for the first few times you select it. It took a good half dozen times to get it float to the top of my list because apparently that’s how many times it takes before the app decides I’m serious about viewing it.


This is just one item in a long list of complaints I have about Facebook. I’ve written about them before, at length (see the Related posts below, if you’re interested), and very few of my concerns have ever been corrected. If it wasn’t for the fact that Facebook is so entrenched in the social media stream, I’d delete my account right now. As it is, I’m starting to back away and use it less and less because A) I find it so gosh-darned frustrating to use and B) they’ve demonstrated time and again that they exist not for their users but for lining their own pockets. Which is good for them, I guess, but I’m tired of supporting a social ecosystem that I loathe and despise, and that loathes and despises me in turn.

I keep waiting for someone else to step and provide a competing solution that actually puts the users first. Google’s attempted to supplant them with their G+ service, even going so far as to ramrod it down their own user’s throats, with only minimal effectiveness. And Google has data privacy issues of their own in certain areas. Nothing else really exists. WordPress has a great little social media system called BuddyPress that you can set up and customize to your heart’s content, and I’ve been more than a little tempted to try going that route myself. What BuddyPress lacks, however, is the reach that Facebook (and even G+) has, and there’s no way you’re ever going to get your entire social network on Facebook to convert to a new, smaller network.

So here we wait, hoping something better comes along or that the Facebook executives will finally decide they don’t like making money hand over fist (yeah, right) to make a product that users actually like. Anyone wanna built a better social network with me?