Ten years of Born This Way

Reflections on ten years of a song that changed everything

I’ve seen a lot of tweets from people being like “wow. ten years, it doesn’t feel like that long ago” but for me, it feels exactly like ten years.

Ten years ago I just graduated high school. I was still living at home in a small town, and working at a cell phone dealership slinging Blackberries.

I did not have a lot of bravery. I was paralyzed. I didn’t know how to dream, I didn’t even know that allowing myself to have any sort of big dreams was even an option. I was having fun, but I knew the time was coming for me to lace up my boots and begin to take the first steps towards my future.

I just didn’t really know how.

In comes Born This Way

The song, I mean. The song literally changed everything. Mostly, it helped put me in a state of mind unlike a lot of pop music up until that point. It was profound how Born This Way didn’t beat around the bush.

The lyrics *specifically* called out to gay people. That was powerful for me because it was subversive in it’s directness. So many other pop songs alluded their support for minority communities in the most subtle ways (Beautiful by Christina Aguleira comes to mind). It was transcendent to to be able to hear someone call out to me using the thing I was most ashamed of and say “no, this part of you is like it or not, one of your biggest strengths”.

It gave me the words I needed to hear to help me look at the world and shout “I am brave. I can do this. I am special. I have what it takes, and I can dream!”

Born This Way helped me take the first step I needed to take to start my journey.

Ten years passes by in a flash, but also, it’s a hell of a long time. A lot of things happen in ten years, especially your first ten years on your own in the world.

The journey from that moment to this day has been a slow, one foot in front of the other type journey. Every day, you do your thing, try and be a good person, work hard, and nurture relationships with the ones you love.

Every single thing you do builds on the last thing you did, and slowly but surely, the next thing you know… everything is new. Ten years have passed, you’ve realized dreams, climbed mountains, and lived lives you didn’t even fathom before that first step was taken.

And so I sit here writing this, I find myself wondering… where will I be at twenty years of Born This Way?

Once again, thank you for reading. Happy Pride. 🏳️‍🌈

New issue(s)

An update about my new job, new projects, and a new desk setup

At the beginning of February, a curious set of events led to me accepting a web design position with the folks at Remote Brand. They are a strategic brand development agency, mostly specializing in the sustainability space.

For a long time now I’ve wished there was some kind of way I could pivot my career and do something that is involved with sustainability. I never really considered that I could just keep doing what I am good at: working with content, layout, and web technologies, and use those skills to make a difference. I was excited to start with them for that reason.

At the time, I had been living in Vancouver for a year and I decided that it would be a good thing for me to start trying to work with people in and around this area, because up until then most of my work was for freelance clients back home in Sask and Alberta. So I was really pumped to jump in with a new team that is also based in Vancouver.

Things are busy and I’m working really hard on my projects, which involve designing and developing websites for their clients.

I wanted to share one thing we recently shipped: a product page for one of our clients, Smart Plastic.

One of their products is a chemical, that when added to regular plastic during its manufacturing process, makes it so that plastic literally completely decomposes in a matter of 4 years leaving nothing more than water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. It’s so cool.

Now they’re coming out with a single use plastic straw which uses the technology. You can check that the product page I designed1 and developed here.

The new job is 100% remote (which I LOVE and am so grateful for), and it’s been interesting learning how to properly work from home. Naturally, I spend a lot of time at my desk. Which brings me to this email’s next topic…

Weekend desk update

My desk is kind of like my happy place. I spend all day here, most if not all of that time on the computer.

But I knew that we were entering a long weekend, and I wanted to just kind of get the computer out of my sight, and have a more chill weekend. I find that if technology is around, I want to just play around on that rather than really enjoy my leisure time or rest – so I did a bit of an analog desk makeover.

I unplugged my computer, and put it away on a shelf. Also, I removed my LG external display and moved that to a corner. I really wanted to be able to disconnect from everything a bit more than usual this weekend.

This is how the desk is looking now:

It’s super zen, I’m really enjoying it. I feel like having the computer gone just makes the room feel more restful and it’s interesting because as you all know, I’m obsessed with technology and love having it around. But I find that honestly, when I’m not using it, I really like being able to put it all away, and have it out of sight.

It also makes the process of using the computer more intentional. Like how I’m writing this article right now: I was like “oh yeah, I really want to write something to send to my list this weekend”. So I actively grabbed my iPad and started writing this.

I think that the habit of putting technology away when it isn’t being used is one that will really aid me in my journey of learning how to effectively work from home as well.

Just being able to put the computer away when I’m not using it will make me be more intentional about how I spend my free time. Because lord knows I have many hobbies I want to spend more time doing, rather than wasting time online.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you again soon.



In collaboration with my talented colleagues Landon and Jon, of course.

Attempting to control my YouTube addiction

In 2020, my personal YouTube usage got out of hand. Here's what I'm doing to reclaim my free time in the new year

Happy new year, subscribers! I hope you’re all happy and healthy and excited for the new year. I’ve been thinking about ways to improve certain aspects of my life going into the new year and my YouTube usage is something that’s on my mind a lot lately because it got a little bit toxic in 2020. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a while now and now that I’ve done it, I wanted to share the things that I did to make YouTube a healthier pastime for myself… thank you for subscribing and I hope you enjoy the article. – G

For various reasons, my YouTube usage in 2020 was really heavy. Looking back, I can see I was using it as a way to distract myself from the things in my own life I was procrastinating on.

Basically, since I spent a significant chunk of the year at home being jobless, during idle moments I would just go to the YouTube homepage and have fun watching video after video, letting YouTube’s algorithm do precisely what it was designed to do.

I was watching stuff from all sorts of creators: not just tech and gaming content, but also beauty stuff, and vloggy stuff, and towards the end of the year more budgeting and personal finance stuff too. There’s nothing wrong with the videos these creators make – in fact a lot of it is really high quality and I was learning a lot in the process. But I could tell that I was just spending too much time on it.

The amount of channels I subscribed to ballooned to over six hundred channels. My Subscriptions feed became basically useless, because there was just too many videos released daily for me to keep up with.

It was just way too much content for one Gary to handle. So I began thinking, what are some things I can do to make YouTube a more healthy place for me? I had to do something big…

So I unsubscribed from everything

As I scrolled through my list of channels, I just clicked unsubscribe on each and every one.

Now, I really didn’t want to give up YouTube totally, because there are a few channels I truly love. I knew in my head a list of about 6 or 8 creators who made videos I wanted to keep seeing. So in my notebook I wrote down each of those.

And then going through the list unsubscribing from everything, I found a few more channels that I knew I had to keep, and added them to my list.

So you may be wondering: why would I unsubscribe from everything and then resubscribe to the ones I wanted to keep? That seems redundant. Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave the ones you wanted to keep, rather than unsubscribe from them and them resubscribe?

This actually really worked because it’s kind of like cleaning off an old bookshelf, or a drawer. The best way to clean something effectively is to just remove everything, wipe the surface clean of dirt, and dust, then put back just what you want to keep, and discard everything else.¹

Once I had a list of all the channels I wanted to keep, and I’ve unsubscribed from absolutely everything, I resubscribed to only the channels I wanted to keep. The 24 channels I decided to keep are:

Before I unsubscribed from everything, I had notifications turned on for quite a few channels, so a nice side-effect of unsubscribing and resubscribing to these channels is that they all now have notifications OFF! I really don’t need any of these channels to be sending push notifications each time they release a new video.

So that brings me to the last part of this plan: I needed to find a way to be able to watch my subscriptions without even looking at the YouTube homepage.

For me, the YouTube homepage is what was actually the addictive part. YouTube has gotten really good at showing people videos that will keep them want to watch more videos. It regularly introduces new channels you haven’t seen before, all with cleverly written titles and thumbnail images that make me want to just watch everything.

My new way of consuming YouTube is to only watch the videos I’m subscribed to and totally miss out on the homepage experience. So I found a simple way to do this by using the Shortcuts app on iOS to make a new icon on my homescreen which takes me directly to the Subscriptions page within the YouTube app. If you’d like to add this shortcut to your device you can tap here to view the Shortcut.

I’ve been using this new setup for about two weeks so far and I find it’s going quite well. There has been a few times where I have visited the YouTube homepage and gotten sucked in, but overall my usage has went wayyyy down.

How do you deal with your YouTube

¹As opposed to the half-assed way of cleaning that involves picking each item up one at a time, wiping the surface, and then deciding if you’d like to keep the item or not. You end up getting rid of far less junk that way.

Let’s talk about waterproof phones

The last few months have been… crazy (to put it lightly). I didn’t feel like sitting down to write about the normal things I like to write about for a long time, so I took a bit of a break for a couple months. I’m trying to get back to my normal state of mind, so I thought I’d write an article about dropping my phone in the sink. Anyway, I hope you all are as healthy and happy as you can be. Let’s get started. ‘

Remember that for the first 8 versions of the iPhone, getting your phone wet was such a big fear? I remember walking around with my brand new iPhone 6 Plus and it started to rain, and being terrified to even take it out of my pocket.

A year later with the 6S they started to implement a little bit of water resistance. They didn’t really talk about it in the marketing or anything, but device teardowns from the time showed things like rubber around certain internal components, adding more protection from moisture. 

But then a year later (2016), it was when the iPhone 7 came out that Apple said hey, this thing is actually water resistant. iPhone 7 had a new solid state home button that vibrated instead of clicked, and they also got rid of the headphone jack with that phone. These two things did a lot to seal up some of the major points where water damage could leak into the phone.

Now, I currently own a almost three year old iPhone X. To be honest, it’s not in great shape. On the front and the back, it’s completely smashed. Still works fine! And I’m not looking to get it fixed because in all honesty that would probably cost $800, and the iPhone 12 is supposed to come out in just a couple of months.

Anyway, the other day I accidentally dropped it in the sink and I was like “shit”, with the screen so smashed, I was sure it would fry instantly. But I dried it off, and it was absolutely fine.

I really have no idea how it is still working. I guess they’ve just gotten so good at waterproofing phones you can completely smash both the front, and the back of it, proceed to drop it in a sink full of dirty dishwater and just pat it dry and it’s fine.

I’m just really impressed that they're able to seal up every little part of the phone where water can get into it and protect the batteries and microchips inside from liquid damage. 

I think that phone waterproofing is not something a lot of people really notice and it happened just slow enough that people kind of take it for granted now. But personally, that's one thing about modern iPhones that I'm really thankful for is that I can use my pocket computer in any weather without having to worry about it short circuiting if one little droplet of water gets into it. Im also glad that we don’t have to buy those ugly $120 lifeproof cases anymore either.

The magic of real memories created in fake worlds

Considering the worlds within games, the experiences games can give us, and the unique, new kind of memories we can draw from them

I grew up in a really small town, and I think that is a part of what got me so interested in the worlds that exist within games from a young age. Being somewhat isolated made me really apprecaite the adventures I could go on within games. Though I didn’t hate growing up in the middle of nowhere, I was looking for ways to see more, do more, and be more.

Millions of people are more isolated now than they’re used to, and that’s why they’re looking for new ways to have experiences, just like I did when I was a kid. People are looking for ways to experience adventure while at home, so naturally videogame sales have gone way up. Nintendo sold more than double the number of consoles in March 2020 than they did in March 2019.

This is what’s got me thinking about the worlds within games, the experiences games can give us, and the unique, new kind of memories we can draw from them. 

Though similar to starting to read a new book or watching a new movie, the experience of booting up a game is enhanced in my opinion. When you boot up a new game, that’s a world you inhabit. Just like the real world, games are worlds you can explore at your own pace, go on adventures: fall in love, experience loss, gain power, and lose everything within. As time passes you become familiar with these worlds, just like the real world.

The profound thing about these worlds is that they’re created – from scratch – by other humans. How incredible is that. Now, for the first time in human history (aka millions of years), we can now create our own worlds, and share them with each other. These new worlds are unbound by the laws and physics of the real world. 

Game developers are the god of their worlds, they make all the rules. Real people spend years of their lives painstakingly creating every single part of these worlds with nothing but their computers. And it’s worth it, because once they’re finished, they can share their new worlds with us.

A game world is not a solitary world like ours is. Game worlds are an interesting kind of shared world where each of us gets to experience it as the protagonist. This world was made for you. But at the same time, everyone else who has purchased the game gets to experience it in their own way, and create their own memories. And sadly, those who don’t play don’t get to have those experiences and thus, take part in these new shared memories.

It’s so easy to forget that games have only really been around for the last 30–40 years. That’s approximately two generations out of the thousands of generations of humans that get to jump into imaginary worlds. Now, for the first time in human history, we can create a world – any type of world we wish – and create memories of real experiences for others. 

These are a new and contemporary type of memory, because after all games don’t actually exist in the real world. All they are is just a machine doing some weird things with electricity. 

Games are essentially a computer crunching numbers and then outputting a stream of electricity to a screen which in turn flashes thousands or millions of pixels different colours 60 times per second. To the computer, games are meaningless. The computer is just following directions, but hand a human the controller and have them look at the screen with their eyes, and boom: it’s a real world that they get to go into, become a new person, and create memories. It’s through our human senses that we are able to see what’s happening in front of us, control it, extract meaning, and create memories.

Games are the illusion of a world, but the memories they create for us are just as real as something we can experience in the real world. Like i said earlier, these worlds do not exist. They exist only within the minds of humans.

It’s something that I consider myself to be grateful for, that I get to be alive during this time. Games are something to treasure and something to be thankful for because we get to do things in them that would be impossible in the real world. 

What do you think?

What are your favourite memories have you created within a game world? Do you also think it’s profound how humans now have the ability to create new memories for others using games as a medium? Or am I just overthinking it? Lol

Let me know by replying to this email, or let me know on twitter.

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