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Ruth Carter

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Star Trek Saved My Life

Captain Carter, circa 2001

Captain Carter, circa 2001

I credit Star Trek, in part, for giving me a reason not to commit suicide in the darker days of my teens. I was hooked from my first episode – a syndicated episode of The Next Generation on a Saturday evening. From that day on, Star Trek gave me a weekly respite from my life where I often felt alone and I expected to be treated badly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had many dreams about walking the corridors of the U.S.S. Enterprise and being a member of her crew.

Watching the Star Trek gave me hope. It instilled the idea that the future was going to be better, and that there would be people who confront hard issues with strength, conviction, and grace. It gave me hope that someday I might have a community of people who know that I was an abused child, who understand my pain, and who would stand with me and for me.

Star Trek taught me about loyalty and integrity. The crew of the ship is devoted to each other and the mission. With each challenge they faced – whether an enemy combatant or a crew member facing a personal dilemma – no one went into battle alone. Their crewmates put their lives on the line to support them or called them out when they were wrong. They showed me what true friendship looks like. I’d never seen that level of devotion before. I was used to being used, ignored, or people who allegedly cared about me bail at the first sign of trouble. The Star Trek community (including the actors, writers, and fans) taught me even though I felt alone and dealing with emotional turmoil to daily basis, that I wouldn’t feel bad forever. It gave me hope to survive, that there would be a day at the time where I would thrive and be surrounded by people love and accept me as I am, and who wanted the best for me without selfish thoughts for themselves.

At the Star Trek 30th anniversary celebration, a woman sang “Somewhere” from West Side Story. I knew I had to do this song when I studied voice in college. To me, this isn’t a ballad between young lovers from feuding families, but an anthem for all the outsiders who are looking for love and acceptance. The feeling I put into this song is the same feeling I get when I walk into a convention – a rush of love, acceptance, and comfort. I don’t have to explain myself there. I can look at my fellow Trekkies and everyone just gets it.

I could go on and on about what Star Trek means to me, but I think the best way I can end this post is by saying thank you. Thank you Gene Roddenberry for creating this amazing program that sparked the beginning of this community. You gave me an emotional anchor from which to cling and rebuild. For that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you to everyone who put their hearts and efforts into continuing his vision. I never feel alone in the Trekkie community. Special thanks to Leonard Nimoy who appointed himself the honorary grandfather to anyone who needed it. You are dearly missed.

Happy 50th Anniversary of Star Trek to us all.
Live long and prosper.

Trek Friends - We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Trek Friends – We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Gotta Love the Klingons

Gotta Love the Klingons

I Want my Hair Back | Experiment with Biotin

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

I shaved my head over Memorial Day Weekend – number zero clipper. I’m going back to my natural hair color after dying it for 10+ years and I didn’t want to deal with the grow out. And I thought it would be awesome – every woman I know or know of that has shaved their head had no regrets.  I didn’t need hair products for at least six weeks except for spray sunblock. It was refreshingly cool in the Phoenix heat.

I felt powerful, strong, and beautiful with my buzzed head, and I liked having a fuzzy head while it lasted. I pet my head daily for the first month.

And then the awkward grow out period began.

biotinGrowing my hair out from no hair to short hair may be as annoying as growing my hair out from short hair to long hair. I measured my bangs today; in the nearly three months since I shaved my head, at most they’ve grown an inch! The side and the back feel longer so I’m afraid I’m inadvertently growing a mullet. I’m not sure what I want my style to be for now so I don’t want to cut it yet. I just want it to grow out faster so I have something to work with.

Let’s do some science!

A neighbor claimed her hair grew faster when she took biotin. Being a man of science, I’m willing to do a $10 experiment. I picked up a bottle of biotin – 120 pills with 10,000mcg of biotin in each one. The directions say take one pill per day.  We’ll see if there is a positive correlation between biotin and hair growth. It would be great to have a proper hairstyle by the end of the year.

Hat Tip to Ms. Donovan

With few exceptions, reading fiction does nothing for me. Since I know it’s not real, I don’t have motivation to remember it. I sucked at writing stories in school and I didn’t care about the books I read in English class. I read, but I can’t tell you what happened, in Beowulf, Pride and Prejudice, and don’t even ask me about anything Shakespeare wrote unless I’ve seen the movie. (On my bookshelf, I have a copy of Hamlet in Klingon – Shakespearian English on the left and Klingon on the right. I like to say I have a book in two languages, neither of which I can understand.) Looking back, I have no idea why we were ever tested on the “facts” of any story. It would have been much more interesting to use excerpts from books to learn about their historical or cultural significance, or merely tools to learn about literary concepts.

Sometimes going analogue is the only way to go by Tobias Vemmenby from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sometimes going analogue is the only way to go by Tobias Vemmenby from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It never crossed my mind that I would ever be a writer – until I was required to take expository writing during my senior year of high school. That was the class that taught me the art of ranting on paper and being a truth-teller (well as least as we knew it as a bunch of 17 year-old kids).

Ms. Donovan taught us that not all writing needed to be academically correct or high-brow impactful. She exposed us to different styles of writing that demonstrated that being raw, direct, and creative was powerful because the writer didn’t get tangled in the minutiae of how he/she wrote and focus on the what message they wanted to convey.

This was the first class I ever took that provided a truly creative platform for my thoughts, where rawness and thoughtful feedback was encouraged. I still remember some of the essays we read, things I wrote, and I’m pretty sure I have some of the notes from my classmates in my memory box.

Taking expository writing challenged me to give a voice to my perspective and values – an undertaking I face every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This was the course that taught me not to worry about being right; just be real. Being a writer is one of the most usable and transferable skills in my arsenal. For the rest of my life, not matter what I do, I hope I can honestly say, “I’m a writer.”

I am thankful that St. Vincent High School made me take this class and I am especially grateful that Ms. Donovan was there to lovingly nurture me (and I hope my classmates) to not only create quality works in her class, but become writers for life.

Ms. Donovan still teaches at St. Vincent High School in Petaluma, CA. I hope her students know how lucky they are to have her.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

If I Were a Minimalist in High School

Kristin at Buzzfeed did a video recently where she followed different high school dress codes for a week. At first, this made me wonder if I could follow my high school alma mater’s dress code but that it made me wonder how I would have been different if I had been a minimalist when I was a high school student.

Oh yes - That's my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

Oh yes – That’s my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

I went to a Catholic high school in Northern California, and our dress code was fairly strict – no shorts, no shirts with writing or images on them, and no open toed shoes were some of the restrictions. If I were the confident self-accepting person I am today back then, I think I would have gone the Jobs/Zuckerberg route and had a personal uniform that I would where every day. Judging by my current closet, probably would be blue jeans and a dark gray v-neck T-shirt. I can picture my childhood closet with 5 matching T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and a solid-colored hoodie for cold days. The only things that might have changed day-to-day would have been the color of my underwear and socks, which shoes I wore, and whether I wore jewelry and/or make-up.

Given my experience with shaving my head this summer, I could easily see myself going through high school with a shaved head – or as close to it as the school’s dress code would allow. (Students weren’t supposed to shave their heads, but some guys would do it over summer break. It would be unfair for the school to punish them for something they did during vacation.)

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

If I were a minimalist in high school, I wouldn’t be surprised if I used a capsule wardrobe, inspired by Project 333, for the rest of my clothes. A person doesn’t need many material goods to be happy, so why accumulate it? I am not sure if I would apply the same minimalist rules to my leotard collection. As a gymnast, I had about 2 dozen beautiful leotards and I loved them, but I also wonder what it would have been like to have 6 matching leotards that I would have worn each night to practice. Some people might wonder if it would have been weird or boring; I wonder if it would have been a badass.

If I were a minimalist in high school, I would have done a lot more and a lot less with my time. I would hope that I would understand that school was my job, and accepted that there were a lot of classes that were required for graduation but pointless for my life – like literature (most fiction does nothing for me because it’s not real, especially really old fiction) and religion (I’m Agnostic). I would have cared even less about school spirit days and other functions and cared more about spending time with the people I liked. I suspected I would have done more, with less, and been happier and put more energy into developing myself as a person.

What’s in a Name?

“I’m trying to reach Ruthie Carter… Ruthie has been recommended to me by Mary and Jeff. If she could give me a call back …”

Yup – that was the message that was left on my law firm’s voicemail last night that went to the firm’s partners and our receptionist. I wonder if any of them are going to notice that the caller used my nickname and not my legal name.

When I was in my 20’s I was much more strict about only using “Ruth” in my professional life. I worked at an agency where it wasn’t uncommon to see friends and acquaintances who called me “Ruthie.” If I met you in a social setting, I didn’t care which name you used, but with work colleagues, it was always “Ruth” never “Ruthie.” On more than one occasion, I had to correct our receptionists who tried to get away with using my nickname.

As a lawyer, I always refer to myself as “Ruth” and everyone seems to go with it. This voicemail may be the first time a non-friend referred to me as “Ruthie.” In the caller’s defense, Mary and Jeff call me “Ruthie” so it makes sense – but it was weird to hear. I had to listen to it twice to verify that she said what I thought she said.

Who hires “Ruthie the lawyer?” While mulling this over, I was reminded of the Buzzfeed videos where men shared their impressions of common feminine names and women share their impressions for masculine names.  It was interesting to hear their views of variations of the same name:

So what does this mean for me and all the Ruths of the world?

  • Ruth is an old stuff Jewish woman (but she also might be the one who mutters the funniest things under her breath). (We’re sassy.)
  • Ruthie is a four year-old child with pigtails.

My friend said if Dora the Explorer had a lawyer character on her show, her name would be Ruthie.

Rosie: Dominating the Dog Park

I live in a dog-friendly complex. A group of resident – including Rosie and me – regularly hang out in the center courtyard and let our dogs play. There’s nothing like the sound of a basset bark or watching Rosie try to keep up with the other dogs with her stubby legs. When they run in circles, she always takes the inside track.

Rosie and the Rope Toy - Trooping Home

Rosie and the Rope Toy – Trooping Home

Often when someone brings a dog toy to these gatherings, it becomes communally owned, and at the end of the play session, it will be left on the grass for other dogs to play with. The same is true for big sticks we find near and around the complex.

Rosie doesn’t care for dog toys except sticks and ice cubes. She loves to chew on these. Besides giving them a cursory sniff, she generally ignores tennis balls, Frisbees, and the like. I was surprised to see her pick up a rope toy the other day during our morning walk. She scooped it up and triumphantly trotted home with it in her mouth where she promptly dropped it on one of her beds and left it there for the rest of the day.

That afternoon, I grabbed the toy as we headed out for her afternoon stroll, and I tossed it back into the grass. Rosie didn’t seem phased by this. She ignored the toy and took herself on a smell tour of the area, until it was time to head back into the house. As she crossed the lawn, she picked up the toy nonchalantly and carried it back to our condo again – where she dropped it on our doorstep.

She doesn’t play with this toy. She doesn’t chew on it. She just brings it home and drops it – almost every time we go out for the last five days. Does she do this to flaunt her dominance over the other dogs? She may not be able to keep it up with them when it comes to running, but she can control their rope toy.

Rosie’s such a funny dog. Follow her on Instagram to see more of her adventures.

Which Pronouns Do You Prefer?

Have you ever thought about which pronouns you prefer? In the U.S., a child is referred to as she/her or he/him based on their biological sex. Why does this culture feel the need to divide people based on genitalia? It’s weird.

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Nametags with Pronouns by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Would you be offended if someone referred to you as the opposite gender than your biological sex? Why? I asked my neighbor Ana this question, and she said it would be offensive because she would interpret it as someone not acknowledging what she knows to be true about herself. That made sense to me. Asking a person which pronouns they prefer is really asking the person, “What is the respectful way to refer to you (including when I talk about you behind your back)?”

At some LGBT groups, including One-n-Ten in the Phoenix area, at the beginning of each meeting, everyone introduces themselves by first name and what pronouns they prefer. Including this information in the introductions not only provides a platform for each person to disclose their pronoun preference, but also acknowledges that gender is a non-binary social construct.

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I’m somewhat gender non-conforming socially (always have been, always will be), but biologically speaking, I’m female. One of the advantages of being bisexual is I don’t feel obligated to conform to any social constructs regarding gender or sexual orientation. In my wardrobe, I have beautiful dresses and neckties (yes, I can tie a full Windsor knot by myself); and my underwire bra is right next to my chest binder. My appearance ranges from very feminine to androgynous, and I don’t feel obligated to act any particular way.

I considered the pronoun question for myself. Given the option to be referred to as she/her, he/him, they/them, I’m fine with any of those (as long as the person is speaking respectfully), though I prefer she/her/he/him to they/them because they acknowledge me as a singular person. Although they/them are used as plural pronouns, they can be used to for individuals too. Perhaps this is the best option we have in American English for a gender neutral pronoun.

And of course, as a Starfleet officer, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” though I won’t correct a person if they’re just trying to be polite.

Which pronouns do you prefer?

Every Post Is Not About You

Yesterday’s blog post focused on posting with integrity. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, it’s better to be quiet than to make ambiguous statements.

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Breathe Deeply by Amanda Hirsch from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Let’s look at the flip side: Every vague statement on the internet is not about you.

When I became a blogger, I learned early on that I had to grow a thick skin. By sharing my thoughts and ideas, I became a target. It hurts every time someone attacks me, and not just my perspective.

Whenever I read a vague post, my default is it’s not about me because the people whose opinions I value, don’t make vague posts. If they have something to say to me or about a community I belong to, they say it. Likewise, I try to do the same for them.

This and yesterday’s post was inspired by a person who was confronted by their supervisor at work because a coworker assumed a vague post what about them. If you insist on making unclear posts, you can expect that sensitive people may assume it’s about them – which shows their insecurity more than anything. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to respond to such an accusation.

A fellow prankster had an awesome sign at one of Improv AZ’s Fake Protests that said, “Stupid Should Hurt.” I love that saying. The world would be a better place if being thoughtless were physically painful. If this was the post that upset a coworker, I can think of two ways to respond to a confrontation by a superior:

“What makes coworker think this is about them?

“Does coworker think they’re the only stupid person on the planet?”
“So you admit the post is about them?”
“No, but by complaining about such a vague post, coworker revealed that they think they are stupid or have insecurities about being perceived as such.”

I’m not sure I would be so bold to respond so audaciously, but there’s a reason I don’t work in corporate America anymore. I would hope that the supervisor would respond to the complaint by challenging the coworker before asking the commenter about it. Managing a team includes managing feelings and being a rationalizing force, not just overseeing job tasks.

That being said, this situation highlights why it’s imperative to treat every post as if it will end up on a billboard. There is no expectation of privacy in anything you post online and you never know when you by be confronted with a past post.