Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The True Lesson of Halloween (and problematic costumes)

I shared the image presented below on Facebook.

The image had this caption: "Halloween is all about having a good time! Just make sure you're not having fun at someone else's expense. "

Notice how passive that phrase is. Notice how unoffended it is.

And then a bunch of people took offense at this suggestion. Maybe they weren't hearing themselves as they filled my bingo card with "but it used to be okay"/"PC police"/"taking all the fun out of it"/"you're looking to get offended". The comments ended with (as I'm writing this, though I'm sure there's more by the time this post goes live) a person saying (paraphrased) "So I guess we're not going to dress up and celebrate Halloween, then."

I don't expect children to understand the differences or the nuances or the politics around racial, gender, and ethnic identity. I don't expect children to understand what fetishizing the other means, or how reducing groups of people to a stereotype is offensive, or how dressing as a different gender for a laugh minimizes the experiences of those experiencing gender dysphoria.

I remember making Polack jokes as a kid. I didn't know any better and nobody stopped to correct me. They didn't even seem like racist jokes to me until I heard the exact same jokes being used with black people instead of Polish ones.

I remember being taught about "Indians" (yes, I'm old enough that I remember before we said "Native American", though this applies to that term as well) in school and in Scouts, and not realizing until much much later that the various First Nations were very different with distinct cultures and ways of living.

I didn't know any better because I was a kid.

We aren't children. We are adults and parents and we can teach our children to be better.

The mock outrage of the "I guess we can't dress as anything" crowd is pretty easy to dismantle. Go for imaginary characters like werewolves and zombies and vampires. Or better, go for professions like lawyers and doctors and firefighters.

And if your child insists on dressing as a character portrayed by someone of a different race or gender, take a cue from the cosplayers: gender or race bend that character. A female Joker. A black Superman. 

I have to wonder if these folks have stopped and listened to the words they're saying. How close their arguments about costumes sound like those who decry "how you can't say anything anymore" as they hurl insults and slurs at women, PoC, LGBTQIA folks, or anyone different than themselves.

But that really clarifies it for me.

Sure, this is to some degree political. This is, to some degree, about privilege and power in society.

But it's simpler than that.

This is about being empathetic and kind to others. About treating people the way they want to be treated.

And that's a lesson we definitely want to teach our children.

Getting Covers To Show Up From MPD to MPDroid - SOLVED

I use MPD (the music player daemon) for my everyday music playing - both around the house and streaming to my phone. It's great being able to play whatever music (or playlist) I want without relying on someone else's webserver, decisions on what ads to play, and so on.

There's a little bit of a hiccup, though, in serving out covers to your phone client. (I use MPDroid (Google Play, GitHub), but this happens with other clients.)  You can try having it search online sources, but sometimes they're wrong, and dammit, I didn't spend all this time tagging my music collection properly to have it screw up.

You can have your covers on any server - I put together a one-liner script to be able to export your covers (only) to your webserver - which is nice.

But I kept having problems where MPDroid wasn't pulling in covers from the LAN, even though I followed the directions on the wiki. (I use apache instead of nginx or lightppd, but still.) Which is strange, because when I looked at the server logs, MPDroid actually looks for LOTS of variations of the cover name, even when you've got it set up to look for a specific file name:

So what was going on? Turns out that I was a little too smart for my own good, and the answer was implied in the wiki page. See all those 301 redirects? I'd set up my server to only serve out HTTPS links (as one should). And that's what screwed me up.  I had this in my .conf file for my server:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

It was easily fixed by adding a line (or two, because I couldn't remember whether it was "cover" or "covers") so that those are served directly over HTTP:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

And with that, boom, I was getting my covers quickly and smoothly, directly from my own server again.

Easily create a native webapp for your operating system for ANY web page

While looking for something else, I stumbled upon Nativefier today. It promises to wrap up "any" web page as a native application for your operating system, and so far, it seems to fit the bill.
 I used it here to make applications for Blogger (what I'm writing this on now), Out of Milk (the shopping list app I use), and Remember The Milk (which has the things I'm supposed to be doing instead of this).

In terms of technology, it's simply an Electron wrapper around the site, but what's pretty cool about it is that it does allow you to have each site in it's own sandbox... but does two important things.  First, you can see that each application has its own icon (in some cases, that I've defined myself) in my taskbar.

 This is something you're not going to get if you're running, say, web versions of all your messaging apps in a different browser.

Second, unlike running a separate browser (or browser window), it's trivial to open links from one of these created Electron apps in my normal browser where I do the heavy-duty work.

It's also super easy to install Nativefier (and then super easy to install anything else) if you've already got Node/NPM installed.  Highly recommended and available on GitHub.

Trump's Legacy: Dishonoring the Troops

I'm having a hard time formulating my thoughts about the Trump Administration and the way that it is currently treating immigrants who signed up for the Armed Forces.

(Yes, it's real.  See the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom post as well as the DoD memo.)

I am having a hard time formulating my thoughts because I am so shocked and ashamed of this administration.

I am having a hard time formulating my thoughts because I remember being in AIT.

I remember my classmate at Ft. Sam Houston, an immigrant who came from Italy, and chose to serve in the armed forces though she was not yet a citizen  because she loved America so much.

She has loomed large in my memory.

When I read Starship Troopers, with its central thesis that the best measure of citizenship is the willingness to put the good of the citizenry and the country above one's own well-being, I thought of her.

Because for all Starship Trooper's flaws - and it does have flaws - that central thesis is still powerful. That central thesis is why people keep telling me "thank you for your service" even though I only served in MEDDACs and troop medical centers. Because though I was not a combat arms MOS, though I never served in a combat zone, I was willing to fight and, if needed, die. I signed up knowing that. Every recruit signs up knowing that, and knowing it's a very real possibility.

Especially now.

I spent a lot of time while I was in the military around new recruits. Some of them were the stereotypical Steve Rogers type. Far more were like me, wanting to pay off student loans or support a family.


Regardless of our reason for signing up, we were all soldiers. That is what was important. I was continually impressed by those who signed up for the most banal and mundane of reasons who were still willing and ready to do what was necessary for their country.

And none impressed me more than those who were not yet citizens but who were willing to place their lives on the line to defend a country they believed in.

And with this action, this Administration dishonors them all.

This action is disturbing because it harkens to the paranoia of the Japanese internment camps and Korematsu v. United States. This action is disturbing because it harkens to the nationalism and jingoism of the pro Nazi rallies (dressed up as pro-American ones) by the American Bund that we have largely forgotten.

But what makes this action shameful, what makes this action deplorable, is the gross disservice and dishonour that it does to those who want to defend our country, though they are not yet citizens here. 

This is a decision that does not support the troops.

This is a decision that dishonors them all.

Ignore stupid "scary" music. More creepy stuff for this season.

Were there not enough spoopy sounds for you last time? Very well; let's continue with more creepy-ass music for your amusement.

First, let's start with some game soundtracks that I've mentioned previously that are go-to tracks for me when writing creepy stuff: No More Room in Hell and Project Zomboid.  Both take different (and nicely creepy) takes on the zombie theme, and feature gorgeous soundtracks well worth a listen (and purchase).

And can we somehow forget the master of creeptastic: Trent Reznor? The Quake OST is delightfully dark (though not able to be purchased outside of the game, AFAIK) and definitely points the way to the atmospheric sounds later developed in the soundtracks for films like The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  This is nowhere as evident as his (along with Atticus Ross) cover of the Halloween theme:

And that brings us to Cristobal Tapia de Veer, who did the soundtracks for both Humans and The Girl With All The Gifts, both delightfully understated and creeptastic scores that raise gooseflesh and will serve you well for your macabre feasting.