Kyle Shevlin

Front-End Web Developer

Upcoming Changes to Kyleshevlin.com

Hello folks,

If you’re still hanging around these parts, color me impressed. I don’t write often and my ideas are so sporadic and disjointed that I don’t know who would ever read them. That being said, I’m going to write like you care because maybe you do!

I have come to the decision recently that I would like to move this blog towards focusing on my life as a web developer, my skills, and potentially attracting a small, freelance clientele. I am still happily employed at FINE, but it would be nice to augment my current income with some extra sources. As you know, the rent is too damn high!

So Kyleshevlin.com will get a makeover and transition into a more focused blog. What will happen to my music? Or my other musings and writings?

I haven’t written any new music in a year. I’m sorry to say that. Honestly, the pen is pretty dry, I’m pretty tired, broke and I can’t find any time to write and when I do I hate it all. Seriously. I’ve got like 100 started songs and I hate everyone of them. I know that’s harsh, but it’s the truth. So for now, I’m not going to worry about being a musician anymore. I’m going to move my music stuff to a subdomain, music.kyleshevlin.com and allow it to still be accessible, but it will no longer be a focal point of this website. Perhaps there will come a day when my pen once again has ink and I have something to say. I will reconsider my music’s prominence on this site when that time comes.

As for my writings, those regarding church, theology, philosophy, etc. I’m moving those to a new blog. The blog is a place for me to put into writing all my “crazy thoughts” that get all the trolls are riled up. I want to leave some record of my thoughts and beliefs, and I don’t have the patience for a physical journal, so a blog will suffice. You can check them out at crazytalk.kyleshevlin.com.

So check back in the near future. You might not recognize any of this anymore.

Susy 2 Snippets is Now in Package Control

A while back I created a set of Sublime Text snippets for Susy 2 mixins and functions. This past week, I made that collection of snippets into a Package Control package.

If you haven’t already installed the snippets, you can do it now by searching for “Susy 2 Snippets” with Sublime Text’s Package Control. Here’s the link to the package: https://packagecontrol.io/packages/Susy%202%20Snippets

Etched Synaptic Pathways

I wrote this on my Facebook page the other day. Thought I would share it here in its entirety:

Long, reflective, and introspective post to follow:

Today, at ultimate, after making a good play, a bunch of people teased me about it. I know, beyond any doubt, that not a single one of those jokes was intended to hurt me. In fact, it was a sign of solidarity, it was appreciation for the play I made, it was an indication that I am part of the group.

Reflecting on this moment, I didn’t handle it the way I really would like to. I didn’t handle it too poorly, but I didn’t roll with it and go along with it like I would like to when people interact with me in this manner.

The real question is, why do I respond the way I do when people interact with me in this manner? I respond defensively almost every time. It’s instinctive, compulsory. What make it worse is that I know why I do this. I respond defensively because for the first 20 or so years of my life, the teasing was always intended to hurt me.

And so, I find myself at an impasse. Yes, I want to hold responsible all of those people who bullied me incessantly in my childhood. You put me, day in and day out, into a situation that I was not prepared to handle, and that conditioned my brain to respond in the only way I knew how to survive at the time. To lash out, to be defensive, to condescend, to hurt those who hurt others. But, and this is a big “but”, I also recognize now that those kinds of people are largely non-existent in my life. People are not trying to hurt me, and that I am responsible for how I respond and perceive these interactions. How do I hold this in tension, the knowledge that the way I was treated for all those years etched synaptic pathways into my brain such that my immediate response is to be defensive, while also trying to recognize my own autonomy and responsibility in the manner to recognize unhelpful patterns and work to eliminate them in my life.

I don’t really have a resolution to this story. Seems fitting given that this is an unresolved issue in my life. To that end, allow me to say, I hope that your life has gone in such a way that you do not have to struggle with overcoming bad, ingrained social habits. I hope your life has been free from this and that you have always trusted that you are loved and cared for by those around you. This would be the ideal. However, if you, too, continue to struggle with overcoming your instincts, your defaults, your habits you are less than proud of, then I offer my solidarity to you and pray that we both find what it takes to outgrow these, that we might find grace and love in our lives such that we can recover, relearn and regroove into our hearts and minds new patterns of behavior. Best of luck to you all. Amen.

Small Gripe: Target=”_blank”

I’m often asked to make small, almost trivial changes to our clients’ websites. One of these changes that grinds my gears is the frequent request to “Make this hyperlink open in a new tab/window.”

This bothers me because it changes the default behavior of links and takes away the user’s control over his or her browser. Default behavior of a link is to open in the current window. Now, every browser/system I know of provides the user with an action that can open a link in a new tab (for example, cmd + click on Mac will do this). Adding a target="_blank" to a link robs the user of this ability.

Clients’ reason that opening a link in a new tab will prevent a customer from leaving a site prematurely and not converting a sale. Shouldn’t we have faith that our customers will stick around and buy products if they want to? One might even reason that removing the default behavior might be discomforting enough to turn away users.

My thoughts, don’t selfishly change default behavior if you don’t have to.

Here’s a much better written article on the subject: http://css-tricks.com/use-target_blank/

Silent Night: The Result

Hey folks! I had a few of you fine ladies and gents make contributions for the song Silent Night. I took your lovely voices and through them in a mix I worked on and made a tune that’s not too shabby. Have a listen!

Sing With Me: Silent Night

Hey folks! I’ve been having some fun recently getting back into writing and recording music. I’d really like to do a version of Silent Night before Christmas and I want you to help me out.

My idea is to get as many voices as I can in my mix. So what I’ve done is make a very simple scratch track of me singing along with guitar and some percussion. Check it out here:

What I’d like you to do is download the song and record yourself singing along to it.

“But Kyle? How do I do that?”

Great question. I’m not looking for professional quality recordings so record it in whatever way is easiest for you. Put the scratch song on your computer and record with your phone or vice versa. If you have nicer equipment, then use it. If you feel like singing harmony or singing multiple takes, please do. Don’t worry if you’re on key, just do your best (I’ve got auto-tune ability to tighten up those sour notes). You can even do it as a YouTube video and I can get the audio out of the video. Really the sky is the limit. Well, actually the RAM on my computer is the limit, but at 16GBs, it can handle a lot.

So, get to it! Can’t wait to hear your lovely voices.

Update: Lyrics

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King
Christ the Savior is born
Christ the Savior is born

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Lovers and Haters

or Why You Shouldn’t Write For Trolls

For those who follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen that I started a new project, Postchurch-PDX, recently. I’ve been writing once a week about the necessity for a genuine alternative to church. I don’t plan on rehashing what I’ve written on that blog here, you’ll have to go read it for yourself if you would like to know that information. What I want to share with you today is a personal observation about a bad trend that constantly creeps into my writing. I hope to both encourage myself to put an end to this bad habit (some people have encouraging self-talk, consider this encouraging self-blogging) and hopefully warn and help others avoid making similar mistakes.

What I noticed about my writing is that I tend to write in response to imaginary critics and their criticisms instead of writing for the people who are supportive or interested in the material. Pretty big difference.

I know why I do this. It’s a combination of responding to a childhood of incessant bullying and verbal abuse and a blogging history fraught with “trolls”. From the first time I was beaten up for wearing glasses to the umpteenth time I’ve been told I’m going hell or to “get the fuck out of this country,” I’ve taken more than my share of flack. And while I’ve matured enough to avoid bullying and to not feel so personally attacked by trolls anymore, attempting to break a lifetime habit of responding to attacks with a defensive posture has left me with an overwhelming tendency to write defensively. This can’t be a good thing.

While it might be wise to exercise some caution while writing, e.g. avoiding incendiary statements or making sure that facts support your conclusions, being cautious to the point of being defensive seems like a harmful practice. Defensive writing means writing for your haters, not your lovers.

Whenever you write, whether it be prose or poetry or music, I think it’s helpful to consider the audience. Your audience informs everything from topic, to vernacular, to style. However, any audience is going to have its lovers and its haters. Your target audience might be middle-class people, but not every person in the middle-class is going to love or agree with what you write. If you’re writing to avoid hatred from the haters, you’re not going to create enough love from the lovers for your writing to have the impact you want. Sure, you might upset fewer people, or keep the haters smoldering instead of engulfed in rage, but you’re not feeding the people who love what you do enough to inspire them, to ignite their passions and creativity.

I’m realizing I make this mistake constantly, and it’s time to change it. Moving forward, I’m going to work hard on writing for my lovers and less for my haters. It might be occasionally beneficial to respond to haters, especially if they offer a valid point, but by and large I think it’s a waste of my energy.

I want your help with this. If you notice I’m writing for haters, could you let me know? And if you realize you’re doing the same, I’m happy to help you out as well.

Have any of you had any experience with this before? How have you practiced not writing defensively? Leave your thoughts, politely, in the comments below.

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Power outage

Power outage

Susy Snippets

For work, I’ve been preparing to share a presentation on Susy 2, a Sass grid implementation system. I’d call it a framework, but that’s not accurate. It’s a collection of functions and mixins that allow you to create customizable grids via the CSS for your site. It’s your grids, when and where you want them.

To make using Susy even easier than it already is, I made a collection of snippets for Sublime Text. You can clone the repo here: git@github.com:kyleshevlin/susy-snippets.git. Be sure to clone these into your User directory under the Browse Packages… folder.

Tab Triggers

Most of these are just the first two or three letters of the mixin name, though there are some exceptions( like layout, global-box-sizing, etc. ). Here is the full list in alphabetical order:

  • al – Alpha Mixin
  • bl – Bleed Mixin
  • blx – Bleed-X Mixin
  • bly – Bleed-Y Mixin
  • br – Break Mixin
  • cof – Container Function
  • co – Container Mixin
  • fi – First Mixin
  • fu – Full Mixin
  • ga – Gallery Mixin
  • gbs – Global Box Sizing Mixin
  • guf – Gutters Function
  • gu – Gutters Mixin
  • is – Isolate Mixin
  • la – Last Mixin
  • lo – Layout Mixin
  • nef – Nested Function
  • ne – Nested Mixin
  • nb – Nobreak Mixin
  • om – Omega Mixin
  • pad – Pad Mixin
  • po – Post Mixin
  • pr – Pre Mixin
  • px – Prefix Mixin
  • pl – Pull Mixin
  • ph – Push Mixin
  • sg – Show Grid Mixin
  • spf – Span Function
  • sp – Span Mixin
  • sq – Squish Mixin
  • sx – Suffix Mixin
  • wl – With Layout Mixin

Hope this helps you and makes using Susy even easier for you!

One Year In Portland

It has been one year since Anna and I moved from Pasadena to Portland. I thought it might be a good idea to recap some of what has happened during that time and review some of what we had hoped would happen in moving.

Arrival

I think I can safely speak for both of us that we were really nervous about the neighborhood and apartment we were moving into when we first got here. We had not had the fortune of visiting the city before our move to try and find apartments, and knew so little about the town that our search would have probably been as futile as our internet searches 800 miles away. Yet, after the initial shock of the move, we began to realize that we had actually been incredibly blessed with our find. Here are a few of the reasons why:

  1. Our neighborhood is great. We live next to a fantastic park that we can go on evening strolls in with a gorgeous rose garden. There are several great coffee shops within walking distance. Not to mention…
  2. Transportation is a breeze for us. We live a 10-minute walk from the Yellow Max Line (the local train line) which goes directly into downtown where it’s a short 5-minute walk for me to get to work. This has been incredibly convenient for us (despite how much I’ve grown to hate the train for other reasons meant for another blog post). Also, we live right next to I-5, which provides us with a faster means of getting around the city than if we were to live more in the heart of any of Portland’s five quintants (think quadrant with 5 zones. Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and then North Portland (which we live in)).
  3. Our rent is about as cheap as we can find it and still live in the city proper. When we first moved, we were worried that we actually had found a place too far north, but because of our access to I-5 and the 30 bypass, we actually have it easier than most to get around the town. And anything with a rent about the same price is much further to the east or west than we really want to live right now. There may come a time where we make the choice to move to a more affordable area of Portland (to get a bigger place), but for now, it’s hard to complain about what we pay when considering where we live.
  4. We can get to some great neighborhoods very quickly. Mississippi, The Pearl, Alberta Arts District. All of these are less than 10 minutes away from us and it’s a lot of fun to be able to get to these great parts of Portland quickly.

The Weather

How could we move to Portland without discussing the weather? When we first arrived in Portland, it deluged for two straight weeks. Having moved from SoCal, Anna and I were really worried that we had gotten in over our heads in regards to the rain. Everyone we met assured us that it was more rain than usual. We didn’t believe them. Thought they were lying to us to make us feel good. Turns out, they were telling the truth.

Crazy factoid: Average rainfall per year is greater in New York than it is in Portland.

Portland weather is actually pretty fantastic, once you get used to the pattern. From November to April, the sky is mostly gray and constantly misting or drizzling. However, it rarely drops cold enough to actually snow (we had one good snowfall this winter). While this was a bit colder than Anna had ever experienced, it was still really mild compared to the winters I knew growing up. This meant that if you were willing to get a little cold and little wet, you could still do physical, outdoors activities year round. I love that about Portland.

From May through October, we have had fantastic weather. It’s hardly rained all summer (the grass has actually turned brown), with most days sitting in the 80-85 range. I personally love that level of heat, for other native Oregonians, it’s a bit warm for them. Regardless, summer has been beautiful here, perfect for camping and hiking and being outside all day.

Not to mention, it stays light out until 10pm! Because we are significantly further north than either Anna or I have ever lived, we get much longer days in the summer than we are used to. Granted this means we get shorter days in the winter than we are used to, but it comes with the territory.

Our Expectations and Hopes

Last year, I wrote a goodbye letter that you can read here. In it I laid out a few things we had hoped to find in Portland. I want to review those.

  1. The cost of living has been significantly cheaper in Portland than it was in Los Angeles. The lack of a sales tax goes a long way. It’s pretty nice to buy things for the price actually listed on the sticker. That being said, housing is still pretty high, especially for renters, which of course makes it more difficult to save to get into a home. We’re working on it though.
  2. Having been here a year, we certainly are right that there are many opportunities for the artist and musician here in Portland; however, neither of us (and especially me) have put in the time or effort needed to really engage in this community. Honestly, I’ve found it difficult to write music since marriage. I’ve gone into this before, but the short version of the story is that I used to write when I was alone, and frankly lonely, and depressed really late at night. Now, we share a tiny apartment, work takes up most of my time, and the hours in the evening that I used to spend alone with my thoughts and my guitar get taken up by other things. It’s kind of the same with Anna’s painting and photography. We’re trying to come up with solutions that will allows us more time to work and the privacy and space we need to be creative, but it is difficult. I think you can expect more blog posts about this idea, since the creative process fascinates me so much. Regardless, having looked back and realizing I have not pursued my goals has made me realize that it’s time to refocus and get back to working on my music.
  3. Anna did find work in a non-profit, though not working for one of the ones she was originally interested in. I think that is the nature of the beast though. NPOs tend not to have the freedom to hire liberally.
  4. Anna’s love of sweaters still abounds, but we don’t get to actually wear them year-round. Summer has actually been pretty toasty, especially without air conditioning. Though just this morning, I put my beanie (toboggan to those of you who call it that) for the first time in many moons, so fall is quickly approaching.

Our Disappointments

I have saved this section for the last because it could honestly be this biggest one and, in fact, is worthy of several posts (I’ve actually been working on a bunch, I have about a dozen drafts, but its hard to find the right words to express some of the challenges we have faced). I wanted you all to read what we’ve enjoyed of Portland first before we expressed our disappointments.

Specifically, the number one issue we have is a lack of community and friends. Being perfectly honest, at this point we have made really good friends with one couple, and would say we have budding friendships with a handful of other people. Yet, it is still nothing compared to the friends we left behind. Weekends have become difficult times. We both desire to interact with people, to simply have conversations with people other than ourselves, but it seems really challenging and difficult to arrange.

I think that is part of the issue itself. They never teach you this as a child, but adulthood makes being spontaneous with others incredibly difficult. If you work at a full time job, 10-11 hours of your day are taken away from you between work, commute, and prep time. This leaves you with enough time to do maybe one thing in your evening and if your friends live further than a house or two down from you, it might be months before you see them again, because in order to get together you need to plan that time together. I think anyone reading this understands what I mean. It’s not that planning is a bad thing, but I think most of us desire the freedom and leisure to actually be able to be more whimsical and free with our time. I know I often wish, generally around 9:30pm, that it was more socially acceptable to call someone up to spontaneously hang out for an hour or so. But lack of proximity and the daily grind inhibit such interactions. I could go on and on, and probably will in some other blog posts. I need to address another point before I lose you entirely.

Part of our struggle to find friends has been that we simply don’t have many means to meet and engage new people to make potential friends. This is what we had hoped to accomplish by finding a good church community. However, this search has been in vain, and we have actually largely given up on going to church. Now this is a topic that I am certainly trying to write about (though trying to do so without simply being cynical has been a big challenge), but I will give you the tl;dr version here.

We tried well over a dozen churches when we got here, but we left each one of them with the same frustrations. We’ve been able to nail down why we felt this way, and why we stopped going.

Churches all across America focus on primarily two things, providing education via sermons and providing worship via music. All other things become tertiary to these two things. Anna and (especially) I have come to believe that this is a fundamental mistake. I don’t have the time or space to get into that right now, but we believe that we need to decentralize these foci and instead design a church whose primary focus is community. Rather than treat community as the accidental by-product of being in proximity of people in pews on a weekly basis, we would like to make the Sunday service specifically about developing community, friendships, and relationships with others (since this is something so many of us, not just Anna and me, are missing). We really aren’t interested in sermons, most of them being some kind of wish-washy, feel-good, teach-white-people-to-persevere-when-they-really-don’t-have-the-kind-of-problems-the-Bible-was-addressing-in-the-first-place, forty-five-minutes-longer-than-they-should-be sermon that I don’t want to listen to anymore. Honestly, Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments. Go and live those out and I think you’ll do alright for yourself. And worship music has never felt more vapid; what with Christian worship music being musically uninteresting and the lyrics devolving into little more than a Mad Lib for Christianese. If we are going to invest time on a Sunday morning, when we could easily be doing other things that bring us joy (like sitting at home in our sweats, enjoying chocolate chip waffles, a cup of coffee and each other’s company), then it needs to be as beneficial and restorative as those other activities. Thus, Anna and I have been discussing the idea of beginning a new type of gathering. I’ll write more about it later, but for now you get the gist.

Having given up on churches, though, has meant that we have had to try other avenues for meeting people, most of which have also not worked out for us. We tried Meetups, but most of them were so clique-ish that it felt like we were both back in high school (not a good time for either of us) and rendered us incapable of penetrating into a social group anywhere.

We thought that our workplaces might provide us with some social interaction, but Anna more or less works alone all day, and well, the things that made me a popular person at Fuller do not make me a popular person at FINE. I love working at FINE, and I’ve got a few work pals, but I just don’t seem to gel as well as I did at Fuller. My humor, my interests, my personality, I’ve always seemed to rub just enough against the grain to not be able to be embraced by a group. I’ve come to realize my time at Fuller really was something special and will likely not be experienced again. Oh well.

I also had hoped that I would be able to find some friends through the ultimate community. I have played a lot of ultimate since getting here. Though I have made a lot of on-the-field friends, I have yet to successfully transfer any of those friends to the off-the-field category.

Anna has had it even rougher than I have. She was out of work for many months. Very bored and home, and honestly, depressed. Now that our finances are starting to stabilize, we are hoping to maybe find some activities and groups that we can join together, but also that Anna can explore on her own. It’s always important for people to develop their individual passions and interests.

I think the shortest way I could have summed all this up would be to say, in the event of an emergency, we’d quickly run out of people to call up here. I don’t think this is how humans were meant to be, but a full reflection on the topic needs to be reserved for another time.

Conclusion

Portland’s a great city, but the Northwest Freeze is hard to get through, especially when you simply aren’t meeting people. What we thought would be the source of community, turned into a source of our greatest frustration, though we are hoping that God will continue to motivate us and provide us the opportunity to pursue something different than the Church and Portland has ever seen. Lastly, we are striving to be patient, positive, and creative in our approach toward building community, as we have become more certain that it is simply one of the most important things to have in life.

Thanks for reading all of this if you got this far. Here’s a gif for you as a reward.

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