Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The Terrifying Leap of Belief

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You have a belief that is central to your life.

I know I do.

You may not recognize it as such.  It may be so important, so fundamental, that you aren't even consciously aware of it.

You may even deny that it's true.  It's frightening, knowing that your sense of... everything, really... centers around one pivotal point.  Knowing that there is one spot that if it were gone, would break you.

But it's there.

It is beautiful.

And it is terrifying.

Because if that belief fails, you know it will break you.  Destroy you.  Shatter you.

But living without that belief - denying that belief - is the slow greying of the world around you.  Not a potential cataclysm of pain true, but instead the slow mildewing rot of decay.

There is no safe choice.

But there is a beautiful one.

And I wish and I wish and I wish.

And I work to make my belief come true.

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Fortune Cookies

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There are some fortunes that I hope for more than others.

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Mark Freeman's Statement on Context

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This is a post from Mark Freeman, who was the President of the FANACO board that was formed after it was dissolved back in NovemberMy own thoughts and opinions are here.

Please forgive the length of this post, but I thought that some of the details of this situation needed to be stated somewhere. I give permission for interested persons to copy this into their own posts and are welcome to use my name, as long as they don't tag me or simply share it from here:

The Context Convention is run by Fanaco (legally registered as Fannish Activities, Inc. of Ohio), a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The Board of Fanaco had failed to hold the annual elections required by its Constitution, went for some time without the legally required minimum of five Board members, and could not even locate a complete copy of that Constitution. Janet Province, the Chair of this dysfunctional Board, failed to show the necessary leadership and decisiveness to resolve the issues surrounding the numerous allegations that a staff member was harassing women at Context 28 in September 2014. She then failed to respond to demands that she follow through with implementing the actions she had committed to in a Board vote regarding this issue. (The details of all this can be found in posts by others, so I won't get into all that here.) This resulted in many department heads, the corporation's legal counsel, and other staff members of the convention committee resigning, I among them.
Apparently unable to attract new Board or committee members that were willing to work with her, and rather than holding an election for new Board member (including one to replace herself), Jan dissolved the Board completely on November 30, 2014 (see the link) and committed to resigning (per the meeting minutes and the statement of several witnesses). Of course, committing to resign from a Board that no longer exists it may seem redundant, but she never did officially resign.

I am not a lawyer, but it is my opinion that dissolving the Board effectively dissolved the corporation, which was already in violation of its own Constitution and could have been dissolved by the State for operating without the required five Board members if the State found out. Because of its non-profit status, that would trigger a government requirement that the corporate assets be transferred to another 501(c)(3) corporation.

Despite that, a group of volunteers (which included the two co-chairs of the convention committee for the 2014 convention, several staff members, panelists, and others) felt that there might be a way to keep the convention alive. If Jan were to sign the form from the State of Ohio necessary to transfer the corporation's agent of record to a new Board Chair/President, we could all just overlook the fact that the corporation had been legally dead and have the new Board move forward with creating a convention committee to run Context 28 in September, 2015.

The group formed a new Board consisting of seven members and I was asked to become the new President/Chair. We began to draft a new Constitution to replace the incomplete one that failed to provide any guidance on how to handle the current existential crisis.

At a cordial meeting with me and the aforementioned convention co-chairs on December 19, Jan agreed to the plan and the new Board. As (very reluctantly) authorized by the new Board, I offered her an Associate (non-voting) membership on the new Board, which she accepted. Due to a communication error, we did not have a copy of the Transfer of Agent form at this meeting, but Jan said that I could bring it to her house at 8:30 on December 22 and she would sign it then. Jan told us that when the previous hotel liaison had resigned (before all the controversy), she told the hotel to take her name and credit card off the contract.

We contacted the former Treasurer of the Board (who had resigned months before any of the controversy) to arrange for getting our new Treasurer on the signature card at the bank (letting him know that he could call Jan to verify that this request was from authorized people). I contacted the hotel to ensure that the originally contracted date was still available and to let them know that we would sign a new contract as soon as we had a new hotel liaison in place. (I didn't mention that we didn't think that anyone was legally authorized to enter into contracts or disburse corporate funds until the State form was filed.) We contacted the Guests of Honor for the 2015 convention to let them know that the convention would be going ahead as planned (which was in much doubt after the mass resignations in November) and to get them to recommit to attending. I sent an email to the volunteer that had been given the responsibility for the P.O. Box key and requested that he turn it over to the new Board's VP. Basically, we started to get things moving forward based on Jan's promise to sign the form.

 I arrived at Jan's house at the agreed-upon time but she wasn't home. I left a message on her voicemail, and she returned my call hours later with a flimsy excuse. We agreed to meet on Friday, December 26 at the same time and place.

At any time, she could simply have said that she would not sign the form, either because she preferred that a different group take on the responsibility for the corporation, or for some other reason, or without giving a reason at all.

She sent an email on the 24th saying that "There is no big rush to change the agent of record. We should update our constitution first, and hold an open election of officers, and then change the agent of record...". I forwarded this to the new Board, which greatly angered and disappointed those members that took time away from their Christmas celebrations to respond. I replied to Jan that this was unacceptable, that there was indeed a need to move quickly (the convention is in only nine months and there is no convention committee), and "If you fail to sign on Friday as you previously agreed in our meeting on December 19th and on the phone with me after you stood me up on December 22nd, I will recommend to the new Board that we all walk away and make public the documentation of the events that led up to the failure to authorize a new Board."

 Instead, on the day of the scheduled meeting, she had a lawyer send a rather over-the-top email to me saying that she would not sign the form and threatening me with police action if I went to her house, among other things. The new Board is, of course, now walking away.

For the sake of the hundreds of people to whom Context is so important, I hope that Jan and the few staff members that are left (many of whom are the same people who were obstructing, defending, or waffling with regard to taking positive action on the sexual harassment problem) can somehow manage to form a Board that meets state requirements and to organize and legally finance a quality convention that provides a safe and hassle-free environment for the attendees. But I think that I can be forgiven for having doubts about all that.

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CONTEXT is dead. Thank Jan Province and Dennis Palmer.

This post is mine.  For background as to why I originally resigned, see this post.

The actual statement written by Mark Freeman is the next post.

The FANACO Board (the Board behind the ConCom) dissolved November 30.  In technicality, the Board had already ceased to exist, as its own bylaws required a minimum of five members.  (See the bylaws here; we'll come back to that.)  Yes, the bylaws end suddenly;  a complete set of bylaws apparently does not exist.

However, because a new board was to be formed, we all thought things were good.  That group met the 14th of December and constituted a new board.  Those folks were good, competent people.

It's worth nothing that while I was at the meeting, I was not a member of that board, and in fact insisted that I not be.

The new board needed to get the PO Box key and official paperwork done so that the task of putting a convention together could actually get started.  Nine months is a tall order for a convention; but technically doable.

The assets and legal documents of FANACO (and therefore the convention) were in the possession of Jan Province.  She insisted that there was no need to change the agent of record.  The key to the PO Box is (was?) in the possession of Dennis Palmer.

Both of these individuals were part of the problems handling sexual harassment that originally caused me to resign. 

When the president of the new Board, Mark Freeman, sent an e-mail to Dennis asking for the key to the PO Box, he reportedly called another member of the board and threatened a lawsuit.  His wife, Sharon Palmer (yes, "He was guilty of being OLD... We banned the guy for FIVE YEARS for an unacceptable level of social cluelessness." that person) reportedly suggested the new board make a "bid" for legitimacy to the Con-Com. 

When the president of the new Board, Mark Freeman, arranged to meet with Jan Province to get her to sign the paperwork to change the agent of record, she first insisted there was no rush, then he recieved a threatening e-mail from a lawyer claiming that contacting her in any way would be considered "harassment" and that there would be no new board.

At which point, all the new people who wanted to be part of the new board, who wanted to see Context survive and thrive, realized that they couldn't fight a (frivolous) lawsuit and simultaneously prepare a convention.

Context is dead.  

Thank Jan Province and Dennis Palmer.

Because there have been insufficient members (and the Board was dissolved), it's arguable that the corporation FANACO ceased to exist back in November.  Which according to the bylaws, means that the assets have to be dispersed to another non-profit.

It is worth noting that Dennis Palmer - again, one of the individuals who was part of the problems caused me to resign originally - are on the Board of SOLAE, which is the parent organization of MARCon.  (As is Becca Testerman.  If you are unaware, she posted something that I never did - the name of the person who harassed folks at Context 27, and her close relationship to him.  If you're on FB, the post is publicly viewableScreencap if you're not.)

Ms. Province should go with the default option and give whatever funds remain in the FANACO coffers (after refunding pre-registrations) to the Columbus Zoo instead of SOLAE.  The conflict of interest is palpable.

Further, MARCon may wish to examine that relationship with SOLAE.  Given Jan and Dennis' reaction here, I would wonder what would happen if next time the harasser was the husband of someone on the Board instead of just a volunteer.

I know I'd be worried.


There's more than just deciding to "round up" a partner

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Dan Savage often talks about there not being a "the one";  he says there's a 0.67 and you round up.  It's a nice turn of phrase, and skewers the existing myth nicely.

But it has a weakness:  its quantitation.  It implies that there is a certain set of checkmarks or critieria that a potential partner (or spouse, or primary partner, or mate, or what have you) must meet before they can be potentially considered.

There's a qualitative side to things as well.  I propose this complement to Dan's otherwise excellent point:

Choose who you want to be with, not what you want to be with.  Then decide how you're going to make it work.

Neither of these should stand alone.  It takes an absurd amount of "rounding up" to make someone who is a "0.1" into anything like a "1".  Someone who is a partner shouldn't be damaging to your mental health, and should meet a majority of your needs. 

Like any good mixed methods application, it's vital that you consider both aspects.  And in considering those aspects, you may have to consider - or even change - both the roles a potential partner could fill, and more importantly what those roles look like.

The latter is not harder to do, but harder for people to typically think about, but is that last part of how you make your who work.

We have certain images and ideas in our heads about what a "partner's" role should be.  Maybe your idea involves separate checking accounts - or the opposite.  Maybe you expect someone who fills typical gender roles - or someone who inverts them.  Maybe that person who you want as a partner can't (for whatever reason) do all the things you think a partner should do.

But that just means that you have more than one relationship in your life.  Perhaps you have a friend who is a great handyman.  Maybe you need to be more flexible in your gender roles.  It will vary from situation to situation.

But if all of you know who you want, then you have a shared goal.  When you know who, then it is possible to work together to help each other round up.

And then your who provides a why you should do the how.

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Burnt Flowers Fallen: A Holiday Wish

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This isn't your normal Christmas essay from me.  And I am talking about some things that are deeply personal for me.  I worry about that when I write these posts - that someone I care deeply about will think that I'm trying to hurt them.

But I'm not. You have to take that much on faith, that I mean no harm.

Which is the point of this.

There's two posts from last week (How Not To Weaponize Your Desires and The Worst Thing About Bad Transitions) that Ferret made. And like many of his posts, I agree with large chunks of them.  He often talks about ways to avoid getting into problematic relationships - like this one, The Instincts I Should Act On.

But when you're already in a relationship, it can be problematic to read well-intentioned (and well-written) posts like these.

They are predicated on the assumption that what you see is really what's happening.  They are predicated on the assumption that you know what will happen.

And making that assumption can destroy things just as easily.

It is easy to believe in what Dan Savage calls "worst case scenario disorder". And the way Dan uses it, WCSD makes sense.  When he uses it now (as he mentioned in last week's Lovecast), he thinks about what the worst possible outcome might be. That way he's not surprised by it, or has a contingency plan if it does happen.

That makes sense. You do want to have alternatives when things go bad. You do wish to know what you can do if something catastrophic happens. That's a healthy way to deal with your fears.


It is a very short small step from being prepared for your fears to always seeing your fears.

If you start from the assumption that your fears are reality, then you will always see your fears. It will be hard - if not impossible - to see things as anything but your fears.  It's the Law of Fives (or if you're a pink, confirmation bias, a type of confirmation bias).

We are all fallible people.  It wouldn't be hard to look at anyone's behavior and explain it in the most awful way.  It's all in the way you choose to interpret their behavior.

Like many horrible things about human behavior, we turn it into running jokes in sitcoms. When the spouse is unexpectedly nice, the joke is supposed to be that they want something. The kid is only nice when Christmas is near, or got bad grades.  The "joke" is supposed to be that there can be no expression of love or affection or kindness without an expectation of a return.

At this time of year, we should be especially able to see through that charade. This is the time of year that we give gifts - gifts of our time, gifts of things, gifts of money, even flowers and food - and we give them not so that we get gifts in return, but for the joy of giving them.

For the joy of seeing those we care about be happier.

And that brings me back to those posts about relationships.

In any relationship - at least any committed relationship - you give of yourself. You may change things of yourself. You may give up things, accept new things or do things that are different.

You may deal with difficulties with your partner.  Things may not be ideal.

But that doesn't mean things are doomed.

As Plato said:  "Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow."

As long as you're making choices knowingly, as long as you're seeing the progress as well as the failures, that isn't lopping off parts of yourself or being untrue to yourself. It isn't manipulation or threats.  It isn't simply appeasing a partner in some quid pro quo kind of deal.

That can be an expression of real love.

So this holiday season I ask only this simple thing of you:

Do not give up considering the worst.

But make a choice.

Choose to presume the best of those who love you.  Accept thier gifts in any form - time or energy or things or just simply caring enough to say "yes, dear" when they agree with you - as the offerings of love that they are.

Accept them not as bargaining chips, not as manipulation, but as them telling you that they love you, and want you to be happy.

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searchraw - a surfraw launcher for openbox

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searchraw - a surfraw launcher for openbox

I like surfraw. It's a command line tool that helps you search the web quite well - but I often forget exactly how much power and utility is there. And since I'm usually in a graphical environment, I waste time running about and not using this amazing tool.

Add to that fact that there are a TON of helpers (or elvi) - full list here - and I frequently forgot when there would be a useful one.

So I wrote this script for OpenBox to help me use surfraw to its full potential. You can see the results below; the full script and install/configuration directions are on GitHub at

selected elvi

elvi list

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Check your credit score for free with the Mint app

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To my surprise, it was really easy to check my credit score with Mint. And it was a pretty darn good result - the efforts I've made to conserve money and pay down debt lately have helped.

Free, and definitely worth checking out.

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True SURVIVAL Zombie Horror - Project Zomboid

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Think you're tired of zombie games?  Here's a different (and delightfully crossplatform) take on the whole genre:  Project Zomboid.

Surviving isn’t just about blowing off zombie heads. Depression, starvation, loneliness, illness, insanity. These are just some of the things you have to deal with…
And that's what makes PZ stand out.  The game is technically still in alpha, but it's totally playable (and in multiplayer), and available both on Steam and Desura.

Let's get this part straight right off the bat:  This game is about survival.  And, well, the title card puts it pretty succinctly:

Project Zomboid is one of those games where it's worth checking the wiki out a bit - you'll have to combine and use items in order to build barricades, plant food, and otherwise generally survive.  It's more important whether or not you close the curtains:

Than whether or not you're a zombie-killing machine. 
Hint:  You're not.

It's well worth the $15 in the state that it is now, but the developers are still hard at work on it.  Check it out.

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Workaround for bug messing up mail merge and label printing in LibreOffice

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If you are having trouble printing mail merge or labels from LibreOffice (see this bug report here), there is a workaround:

1. Set up your merged document.

2. Save the set up document without trying to merge it

3. Close all LibreOffice applications.  Kill the daemon if you have it running (I don't).

4. Re-open your set-up document.  It will ask you if you wish to reconnect to sources.  Answer yes.

5. Print.

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Graphically See Your Home Network With jNetMap (Win/Mac/*Nix, FREE)

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My home network is a little... complicated.  With two routers, a switch, and multiple devices and computers attached to it, sometimes it's useful to visually see what the heck is going on.

And for that purpose, jNetMap is an excellent crossplatform tool.

Sure, if you're on *nix or a Mac, you can probably use

nmap -sP

to see a raw version of what's going on.  But does that have the same impact as this:

This is everything that has been on my network lately, all noted by where they tend to connect.  (I'm using the reflection icon theme here).  jNetMap will conveniently scan your network for you, finding connections and doing a lot of the hard work automagically for you.

I had to move some of the connections (it didn't recognize my stupid desk hub for example, and put all the wireless connections to jillboot), but for the most part it makes it easy for me to see what connects where.

There are all sorts of plugins so that you can use this tool for a lot more, but the base functionality is great for making sure your basic network layout is the way you want it to be, and keeping track of your devices.

And yes, there's a marsupial theme.  Because WOMBATS.

jNetMap is free crossplatform software - (Win/Mac/*nix) available at Sourceforge.

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Not Allowing Downloading Is The New DRM, and Only Effective At Pissing Off Paying Customers (Like Me)

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I just bought an eBook.

This is probably no surprise.  I've been reading eBooks for a while now, and still fondly have old eBook readers.  I'll sometimes load different books onto different readers ("work" versus "play" books).

I was about to buy it from B&N (I tend to prefer ePub), but just discovered that the download option was gone;  I'd literally last bought books from their store less than a week before that happened.  So, nope.

Google Play?  No obvious download there like there was with B&N, so I skipped it.  (I later learned that I could do the Adobe Digital Editions dance with them as well - see here for instructions.)

But I remembered that Kobo had made a big deal about reading freely back in 2012.  I even mentioned it here.  So I just found the book I wanted it and bought it right away.

And found out I could only download an .acsm file.  Which means DRM.  Which means Adobe Digital Editions... which is a frakking Windows/Mac program.  I don't run Windows.  

Yeah, yeah.  Buy a new computer.  Buy a new version of Windows.  Buy a new smartphone and read it on that. 

That's not a solution.

There's two reasons:

First, I was able to make the eBook work in a virtual machine, which still loads my (legal, actually) copy of XP from back in the day.  But that will only still work while Adobe doesn't obsolete that version out of existence.  It happens;  I also found out that Kobo has stopped supporting XP, and the Nook PC app is on the way out as well.

This reinforced the reality:  DRM means you don't own it.  Which leads us to - and keeps us from solving - the second problem.

I remember very clearly having a discussion with Seanan McGuire about eBooks, and her very passionate rationale for hating them.  They're hard to get if you're not already affluent

It's an excellent point, and my original counter-point was that the standards for ePub (and even Kindle files, to some extent) aren't tech-dependent.  My old Sony eReader still works just fine.  ePub doesn't give a damn what operating system you're running.  There is a commandline ePub reader written in Python, for crying out loud.

But that means you have to be able to get to the eBook.  You have to own the book.  And the big retailers seem more and more anxious to figure out any way possible to keep you from doing that.

And before anyone says it, earlier today I found a torrent including my own writing.  TODAY.  (And that's after The Pirate Bay went down earlier this week.) My views on pirating eBooks is pretty clear (here), and my big piracy post is still one of the most-heavily trafficked posts on here.  So don't wave "piracy" at me as that old excuse, thanks.

I couldn't read the book I bought from Kobo on any of my eInk devices without jumping through some significant hoops.  It was a pain in the rear.

I am not going to put other readers through that experience.

You love books.  You should be rewarded for that, not punished.

Alliteration Ink provides files DRM-free.  Period.  Whether you buy them from me, from another retailer (if they give me the ability to do so), or via BitLit.

I am not going to punish the people who pay money to buy our books who support the authors and artists who work with me.

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Your Reasonable Statement Can Be A Silencing Statement

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Women should be able to tell men "no" directly.

Women should be able to report harassment and abuse openly and publicly.

Women should be unafraid to use official channels to report harassment.

Those are reasonable statements.  I've actually said them before.

But they can also be used to silence and minimize reports of harassment.

In this very straightforward (and pretty obviously hostile work environment) article about the work environment at Zillow there's a telling comment:

Unfortunately, I think "TheTruthIsHere" means that the bigger problem is with the victim, when the bigger problem is society.

Reality is that women frequently don't feel safe or comfortable saying "no" to guys, that they frequently don't have faith in official channels, that they frequently fear (and are given reason to fear) being public about having been harassed.

Their experiences are blamed on them ("What did you do?") or worse, minimized ("I've had worse happen and I dealt with it.").

Right now, those in leadership positions must communicate and demonstrate that they will take reports seriously.  It is only by understanding and reaching out to others at their comfort level that we will create an environment where women need not be afraid.

Right now, telling women that they must report harassment in certain ways, or must respond in certain ways, or that what they've experienced isn't so bad only communicates that you don't care.

Keep that in mind when people react badly to your "reasonable" request.

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My Most Used Android Apps - What are Yours? (Dec 2014 edition)

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It's been a while since I posted a list of my favorite Android apps and a bunch of people I know have just gotten new 'droids, so here's a new and updated list!  As before, I'm omitting some of the "obvious" ones like Dropbox, Gmail, and ones that require rooting or mad tech skillz.

Radar Express - NOAA Weather

Simple, ad-supported radar and hazardous conditions alerts.  For radar junkies like me, this is wonderful.

Clean Master (Speed Booster)

Like many cleaning apps, it tries to suggest a bit more than you really need, but dang it's good at getting rid of extra stuff you don't need.

Nova Launcher

Fast, super-customizable, but with stock options familiar enough that new folks won't be confused either.


About the only app I've found that actually makes contact management easy.  Integrates easily with most social media networks as well... without borking them up. 

Lux (link to the lite version)

Your screen is the biggest energy drain on your phone.  Lux helps make it less so.  (And also helps you not be blinded at night...)

Juice SSH client

If you know you need this, you should also know you need this one.

WiFi File Transfer (Pro Link)

Move files onto your phone.  Move them off.  All over WiFi.  Period.  Very straightforward, simple, and a pleasure to use.

Clipper - Clipboard Manager

Clipper is a powerful clipboard manager that automatically saves everything you copy. Access your clipboard history later and organize clippings in lists. Copy, paste, view, edit and share their contents. Store repetitive pieces of text in Clipper and copy them whenever you need to. Take control of copy and paste with Clipper!


Own a paper copy of a book?  If the publisher participates (and Alliteration Ink does!), you can get the eBook copy for free or a discounted price.  Like Amazon's Matchbook, but works with any retailer and for books you already own.

Galaxy Universal Remote

Does what it says on the tin.  Easy to configure and use.

Moon Reader

Closest thing to a decent ePub reader.  (The official Kindle app is the only decent mobi reader I've found.)


Corkboard-style organization.  While it has a pro version, the free version is awesome enough, and you can access it from any browser as well.


Highly recommended RSS reader.  Works with Feedly on the backend. 

Andmade Share

Configurable "share" menu so you don't have to see all the stuff you don't WANT to see.


If you actually want to write (anything other than code) on your tablet, this is the app you want.  Syncs with Dropbox, supports markdown.


Excellent for writing code.


Compatible with KeePass and KeePassX with dropbox syncronization, so you can have your passwords secure AND portable.


I like Plume for my power-user Twitter needs

What are your favorite (or most useful) Android apps?

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Making Google Plus and Google Contacts a little better (with userstyles)

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Back in 2012, I wrote a userstyle to widen up Google Plus and started using one that made Google Contacts a little more compact.

Google, of course, has changed things since then.

So I updated my script and made the one for Contacts work again as well.

If you're not already using Stylish, you probably want to give it a look.  This tool can easily tweak websites to look the way you want them to look, no matter what, and works with both Firefox (and Iceweasel) and with Chrome.

The Google Plus script keeps the two column view, but widens it up:


The Google Contacts script makes better use of the screen real estate:

 If you install from userstyles, it will keep you automatically updated.  The scripts are also in a GitHub repository, though I was having some problems installing directly from those files.

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I Couldn't Understand Her At The Restaurant: Experiencing Sensory Overload

I experience sensory overload easily, and it's been getting worse as I get older.

I've sort of known the symptoms for a while;  I just thought it was more akin to my friends who are introverts who have to withdraw for a while after being around other people. 

But I really realized this was a problem after simply going out to dinner with my girlfriend.  We got to the restaurant early, and I was fine, but as more people came in and it got louder and busier, it was harder and harder for me to maintain focus.  The problem disappeared as soon as we left, but returned when we stopped in a store that had a lot bright flourescent lights and lots of people talking.

And she thought I was disinterested in being there with her, when that wasn't the case.  Which is, obviously, a big problem.

Of course, I turned to the internet, and almost immediately ran across this passage with some examples of sensory overload:

  • When lots of people are talking around me, at the same time, such as in a pub, I get overwhelmed and start to zone out, and can’t make sense of any of it.
  • Fluorescent lighting makes me feel dizzy and unwell, and I can start to shake and sweat. When the lights are turned off, I can feel a tangible difference – my whole body relaxes, and I feel a huge sense of relief, even if I hadn’t been consciously aware of the fluorescent lighting.
  • I have a hypersensitive vestibular system – I could never go on merry-go-rounds as a kid without feeling very unwell. I would fall on the ground after getting off the merry-go-round and be unable to stand up for a while. As an adult, I get this feeling to a lesser extent in buses and sometimes in cars, from the motion, particularly in areas with winding roads.
All three of these are really accurate descriptions and true for me now (I didn't have the motion issues as a child).   There's some other things I've known for a while - for example, I can only process words in one format at a time.  I can listen or read or write or talk... but doing two at the same time can be nearly impossible for me.

And then I read this account:

I went for a meal with my wife and kids. When we arrived at the restaurant it was quiet but it quickly filled up. The restaurant became very busy and was fairly loud, with lots of different conversations, piped music, etc. For the first time in my life, I became aware of sensory overload. Previously I would have zoned out and hid in my phone or found something to allow me to isolate myself from the background noise.

Being on my best social behaviour, I persevered and tried to continue take part in the conversation. I found I was totally unable to understand anything that was being said. I heard words but they did not make any sense to me. It was very much like listening to the teacher from Peanuts. My hearing kept homing in on the voice of a guy on the next table. Often he was all I could hear. I wasn’t even eavesdropping, because he was a local guy and I don’t speak Cantonese. I was so stressed that I had a strong urge to get up and leave. I stuck things out until after the peak time and the restaurant eventually started to quieten down. There must be a certain threshold background noise level for me, because I started to understand the conversation again and felt less stressed. The peak time was hell though.

That one gave me chills, it was so much like what I experienced.

I've had some experience dealing with other people's sensory integration disorders, but it's still good to see you're not the only one who experiences this sort of thing.  I don't seem to have all the possible triggers, and some things that are problematic for others actually help me. 

One big example there is that loud, fast, repetitive music (particularly trance electronica and speed metal) makes a huge difference in my ability to focus...but usually only on one thing.  While at a con last year, I had to occasionally step outside and put on my headphones and listen to Generation a time or two in order to clear my head.

Before someone thinks I'm trying to self-diagnose myself with anything, I'm going to say that I do not think I'm what used to be diagnosed as Asperger's.  I do, however, seem to have these symptoms and traits that are remarkably similar to what Aspie folks report.  (Of course, Wikipedia says sensory overload can also be caused by other things, so there's that.)

Yes, I'm going to talk to my doc about this at my next appointment.  And I'm going to more consciously crib tips and tricks that have been hard won by other people (like here, here, here, and here).

I am posting this here because I remember how much the Road To Mo*Con 8 posts helped me (to the point of inspiring me to write a guest post there myself).  Having found these other accounts of sensory overload makes me realize that there's probably quite few other people out there in the position I am/was in:  Knowing how you feel, and not knowing why.

Hopefully this helps.


A Short (but significant) Update About Context

EDIT: 27 Dec 2014:

Forget what I said below.  Thanks to Janet Province and Dennis Palmer (in particular), this convention is dead.  You should see these two posts for updates:

(end edit)

Hi folks.  A few days ago, I told you I was resigning from my position as programming director for Context.  To put it mildly, quite a bit has happened since then.

I learned late last night that the board met and dissolved itself.  The convention is starting over, with last year's Con Chairs (who were not part of the resistance I experienced) starting over.

I am uncertain what, if any, role I will personally have at this point.

There's two things I'd ask of you:

* Help spread the word that there has been a significant change in the composition of the leadership of the convention.  This change resolves the concerns that led to my resignation.

* They're going to need help.  If you would like to see Context to continue and build on all the excellent stuff that happened with Context 27 (and it was excellent), I'd ask you to volunteer to the extent you are able.  They will need people for the board, Con-Com (I'm told that's the right abbreviation), and volunteers for the event itself.

Thank you for your support and patience through this difficult weekend.


A few notes replying to some replies about my leaving Context (UPDATED)

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EDIT: 27 Dec 2014:

Forget what I said below.  Thanks to Janet Province and Dennis Palmer (in particular), this convention is dead.  You should see these two posts for updates:

(end edit)

EDIT: 1 Dec 2014:  

I learned last night the Board met and dissolved itself. The Chairs from last year are taking over and reforming everything. This resolves my concerns.  I'm not certain what, if any, role I will have in the new iteration of Context, but if you're local to the area and want to help out, I'm sure they would appreciate it.

Just collecting a few notes, mostly because I (deliberately) left comments on with my last post (and there's stuff on social media too) and I wanted to keep everything in one place.

I deliberately did not name any names, and haven't throughout this whole thing.  The person who was reported as being a harrasser (and his wife) outed themselves publicly, but I still haven't named him.  There's one big reason:

I am not out to punish any particular person.  My goal is simply for Context (and other conventions) to get their stuff together and provide a safe and fun convention.

I did not (and do not) feel that I could guarantee that at this point.  

Perhaps my (and other's) resignations will be sufficient impetus for Context and other regional cons to take things more seriously and be more transparent.

I kept being told that nobody really cares about harassment policies.  That even mentioning that there might be harassment would be a turnoff.  That small cons (or ones where there aren't cosplayers) don't have harassment problems.  That policies should be shorter or less wordy.

My pal Jaym Gates posted this earlier this month:

If you are a congoer, saying things like this publicly is important.  Facebook, twitter, blog posts - and contacting the convention organizers directly or using feedback forms - is vital.

Without hearing from the congoers directly, it can seem like those who are advocating change and reform are overreacting, throwing fits, on witch hunts, and so on.

And stop assuming that if you don't hear about harassment that it's not occurring.  Lack of reporting doesn't mean it's not happening.

Regarding my decision to resign:  My decision did not come out of the blue.  Few people know the full timeline of events or all the things that were said  (some of them were not public;  at least one person kept saying different things to different people).  

I stated my (and several other person's) boundaries about this issue in a letter to the Board a full month ago.  I also alluded to it in this post from the end of October about the difference between threats and boundaries.  This is not a new decision.  In fact, it's been delayed a month by last-ditch attempts to see if things could be fixed to a point where I/we felt that our boundaries could be honored.

As I acknowledged in the posts yesterday, I made mistakes in handling the situation.  I alluded to that in this post made earlier this week.

Finally, I'm certain that others have points of view different than mine, or see the way things unfolded differently.

I would encourage them to try to understand why I (and others, now) see events so differently than they do.  Because that might be the key to starting to really fix things.

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Why I Am Resigning As Programming Director For Context (UPDATED)

EDIT: 27 Dec 2014:

Forget what I said below.  Thanks to Janet Province and Dennis Palmer (in particular), this convention is dead.  You should see these two posts for updates:

(end edit)

EDIT: 1 Dec 2014:  

I learned last night the Board met and dissolved itself. The Chairs from last year are taking over and reforming everything. This resolves my concerns.  I'm not certain what, if any, role I will have in the new iteration of Context, but if you're local to the area and want to help out, I'm sure they would appreciate it.

TL;DR: Without myself and a very few others, I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.  I do not have faith that the harassment policy will be enforced or that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future. I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28.

Therefore, both out of my ethics and as a signatory to John Scalzi's harassment pledge, I must resign as programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.

This should have been simple.

The first report came to me in a personal e-mail.

She told me about her experience, about one convention volunteer making her feel creeped on to the point that she and her friends avoided a major area of the convention.

She told me that she originally wasn't going to report it at all, but a mutual friend assured her that I would take the report seriously.

Unspoken was the fear: That she would be mocked. That she would be treated like the problem. That nothing would happen, and it would only get worse next time.

Hers was the first report, corroborated by several other congoers. Then came the other reports, other people reporting the same behavior. Reports of the same behavior from prior years. Congoers saying they'd simply learned to avoid parts of the con where this guy worked.

One person posted about their experience with this volunteer publicly. I assure you, that report was the least of them.


The fear from the first report kept popping up. Fear of having their name smeared across the internet. Fear of being ridiculed or mocked. Fear of not being taken seriously, fear of the harassed being seen as the problem instead of the harasser.

I have tried for the last two months to believe that would not have happened.

Instead, I have come to realize that without the actions of a few people, that is exactly what would have happened.

I made a mistake early on in the process; after I had gotten several reports in the first week after the convention, I sent a summary report (without any names) to an e-mail list that I thought just went to the core convention committee and FANACO board. [1] Instead, it went to pretty much everyone who volunteered at the convention. I was wrong, and I should have simply sent it to the Con Chairs.

But that is not why I am resigning.

This should have been simple.

I cannot imagine a more clear-cut and simple harassment case (without video evidence). Multiple reports, with multiple witnesses for each report, over a period of years. Some chose to remain anonymous; most agreed to release their names to the Board.

It should have been simple. Someone does a creepy thing - and does not deny the reports. A consequence is enacted, you move on.

There were a few people who clearly and unambiguously understood that creeping behavior clearly violated the harassment policy, and supported taking action. [2] Several of those people have already resigned or quietly decided to avoid the convention in the future.

The other voices, including members of both the Board and the Convention Committee argued against taking action, reducing actions taken, and not making things public. [3] This cartoon by Jim C. Hines - though not written about this situation - describes it perfectly:

That cartoon is not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

One ConComm member asserted that no report of harassment could be taken seriously without an uninvolved third party witnessing it. Another stated that unless reports were made at the convention that they couldn't be taken seriously. In e-mail, a board member used sarcasm quotes referring to the "victims" of harassment. A board member mused about undoing the consequences that were decided upon after the meeting had adjourned. Others blamed those reporting harassment, ignored all but the public reports, and advocated that nothing be said or done publicly. Much was made of the feelings of the harasser - who never denied these multiple reports - while the feelings and safety of congoers were ignored.

That is still not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

As I said at the top, the public response has largely been driven by a few people. [2] I am one of them. At each step, I have been glad to see that my peers and friends saw the initial reaching out to victims, restatement of the harassment policy, and eventual final statement as the correct and necessary steps to deal with a bad situation.

The statement that was posted simply outlines the situation and consequences.

Approval of the statement was repeatedly delayed. Members of the Board refused to sign it. When it was posted - at the direction of the Con Chairs - I was accused of assuming authority and refusing to work through the administrative structure of the convention. That statement had the signature "Convention Committee", and members of the Committee objected to the implication that they agreed to the statement.

This is still not a comprehensive list of the pushback that occurred.

I hate to have to say this.

I cannot stress this enough:  I hate to have to say this. I have been attending and recommending this convention well before assuming any kind of role in the organization of it. And with only this one small exception, Context 27 was pretty freaking awesome.


Without myself and a very few others [2], I do not believe there would have been any public response to the reports of harassment at Context 27.

I posted this on the Context blog as this began unfolding:

I referred to this document during the opening ceremonies, and we as a convention stand behind our Anti-Harassement (or as I call it, Respect) policy.

Please do not hesitate to let me personally know of any problems you have had at this convention.

This policy will be enforced.

-Steven Saus, programming director of Context 27.

I no longer have faith that the policy will be enforced.

I do not have faith that reports of harassment would be treated seriously at Context in the future, and I do not realistically have the ability to make that change before Context 28. [4]

Therefore, both out of my ethics and as a co-signatory to John Scalzi's Convention Harassment pledge, I must resign as programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.

I will hand over whatever files and planning documents that I used for Context 27 to whomever takes on that role.

[edited 29 Nov 0850:  I wrote a reply to some of the comments below (and on social media) in this post here.  I'm probably not going to reply much to comments below.]

[1] FANACO is the organization that officially runs Context; the Board is not the same as the Convention Committee.

[2] I am not naming anyone throughout this document. My intent is to explain my decision, not to personally attack anyone or tell another person's story.

[3] Many of whom used the construction "I don't approve of what happened, but I don't think we should do ...".

[4] I could continue to argue the point, but within the bureaucratic structure that exists, I do not foresee the ability to effect actual change. Further, fighting for that change would detract from my ability to do my actual *job* at the convention.


I am resigning as the programming director for Context, effective immediately.

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I wish I could personally thank everyone - the panelists, workshop leaders, and congoers - who made Context 27 such a great event.

 However, I am saddened to say that effective immediately, I am resigning as the programming director for Context. Further, I will not be attending Context 28.

If you are interested, the explanation for my decision is in the next post

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No, You Move

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There was something special about Civil War.  (Relax if you've not read it;  it looks like you'll get a good chance to see it with the MCU here in a few years.)

The something special was Captain America.  Because Cap seems to understand something very important:  The rules exist for the people, not the other way around.

If you agree on the desired outcomes - and that's a big if - then the only measure that matters is whether or not the rules bring you closer to that outcome.

Yes, rules are important.  Bureaucracy exists for a reason, to prevent a different kind of abuse.

When bureaucracy is what keeps us from reaching our goals, then the rules need to change.

When we recognize that the rules are preventing justice, it is time to change them.

And those who value the rules and procedure over the safety and welfare of those the rules and procedures are there to protect and serve... those people no longer share our goals.

(Added today; I originally wrote this post last week)

Here's the fun thing.

This post is NOT inspired by the events in Ferguson, though it fits that situation all too well. 

This principle is more universal than that.

Those people who'd argue you have to stay in an abusive marriage because you made a promise, those people who'd argue that you can't count a harassment report because they didn't report it the right way, those people who complain that you can't kick someone out of your group because the toxic person just managed to stay inside the rules....

They sound like they're on your side.  They sound like they want you to succeed.

They don't share your goals.

They want you to fail.

They just don't want you to blame them for it.

Remember that.

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Your Ears Need This: Face to Face (covers of Major Tom & Back on the Chain Gang)

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You know I'm a sucker for some good pop-punk, and Face To Face seems to have that down:

But even more so than original pop-punk, I'm a huge sucker for pop-punk covers of 80's pop and new wave:


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The Cool (and slightly creepy) Thing @Bufferapp Did Awesomely

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I'm one of those people who hits the interwebs hard, for short periods of time.  I go through a lot of content and find a lot of stuff to share in a very short period of time.

Yeah, you know that guy who tweets or posts twelve things in five minutes?  That could be me.

Luckily, I discovered Buffer a while back (see my writeup about using Buffer and IFTTT here), and I've been really pleased.  Buffer lets you create a schedule to post social media updates which works great for

Even though I'm still on the free plan1 Buffer does what it says on the tin, and does it well.

And then I discovered this bit of awesomeness when I tagged my girlfriend in a post that I Buffered:

Notice?  It changed from her Twitter handle to her Facebook name.  WITHOUT ME DOING ANYTHING!

Slightly creepy, Buffer.  But damn cool at the same time.

I really do recommend Buffer - check them out!

1 I would love if more of these web apps like Buffer, Trello, or Notify had a slightly more incremental plan - like "pick one perk from this list for $1 a month" that I could afford more easily.

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Review: You by Caroline Kepnes. Good Book, Lousy Marketing

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Trigger warnings for stalking and sexual assault in the book.

(To take a cue from Pseudopod: Trigger warnings are provided solely to allow those suffering from trauma to still enjoy thrillers and horror on their terms. They aren't a rating or inclusive content advisory.)

Caroline Kepnes' debut novel, You, is a mixture of Gone Girl and American Psycho with tonal dashes of Goodfellas and Red Dragon thrown in for seasoning.

And some absolutely horrific (not in a good way) marketing.

Here's the plot in two sentences: Joe is a bookseller, who meets an aspiring writer who goes by Beck, and falls obsessively for her. Emphasis on obsessively.

The plot is almost - almost - irrelevant, though. It is the writing and the characters that make this book distinctive.

The writing is where I'm reminded of Gone Girl and American Psycho - in a good way. The writing is written like undated letters from Joe to Beck, and they're clever - almost too clever, almost too snarky and self-aware. Writers are often advised to kill their darlings; instead, Kepnes has created a book out of almost nothing but those selfsame darlings. My personal favorite:
I hope that most people at this point in time realize thatt Prince is one of the great poets of our time. I didn't say songwriter -- I said poet. Prince is the closest thing we have to e.e. cummings and people are so stupid because they don't come in here and buy books of Prince poems.
But that's my favorite because it reminds me of my girlfriend, not because it stands out. And that's what makes the darlings work here. The cleverness in turns of phrase and pacing is so consistent that they quickly just are, and it works.

Remembering my girlfriend is also where the characters work as well, and where I'm reminded of Goodfellas and Red Dragon. She and I have remarked how frightening being in love can be - both in terms of insecurity, and in how our own feelings seem almost out of control. Kepnes uses this excellently in You.

In the first chapter, Joe is a mostly relateable guy, who is totally smitten by Beck... and then he naturally (for him) moves straight to sitting on the stoop across from Beck's apartment and stalking her. Joe is not a normal or well guy... but so many of the feelings and thoughts he has are normal for someone just falling in love, just turned up a little too high.

 That's where I'm reminded (particularly) of the film Goodfellas. Every time I'd start to empathize with Ray Liotta's character, there'd be something to remind me that this guy was A Bad Man. Kepnes pulls this trick off well throughout most of You, and even when Joe goes totally off the rails, it's very very easy to still understand how he got there in a way that reminds me of the best bits of Red Dragon.

The ending wasn't quite as satisfying as I would have liked, and here's where I'll blame the marketing. The inside cover flap contains this passage:
Beck doesn't know it yet, but she's perfect for him, and soon she can't resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. When a string of macabre accidents tears her world apart, there's only one person she can turn to. But there's much more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her perfect facade.
Yeah, um. No. None of this. Beck is never a viewpoint character; the book is entirely from Joe's point of view. This makes it sound like there's a mystery in here, and there isn't.

Sure, Beck's got some secrets, but they're nothing like what Joe has been keeping from her. Beck is a flawed person, but this is a story where Beck is completely and totally the victim, despite the marketing attempt to make the plot of You sound more like the plot of Gone Girl or Natural Born Killers.

I think this is why the ending was unsatisfying for me; I wanted more out of Beck; and the climax and resolution (as well as Beck herself) seemed rushed and weak after the buildup.

You is not (again quoting the flap copy) "a thriller more perversely clever and dangerously twisted than any you've read before".

You does take you inside the mind of someone you aren't, and (hopefully) never will be... but shows you how you could be them, if things were just a little bit different.

In that it succeeds very well, and Kepnes' use of language further recommends this book.

There's one more serious thing about the marketing: I got a review copy of this book from Klout; enclosed was a postcard with the phrase "Stalk the author @CarolineKepnes".

What. The. Hell.

No. Hell, no. 

It's tempting to say that this is problematic and tone-deaf marketing in a year where women have been stalked, doxxed, and threatened.

But that minimizes both the horror of the novel and the horror of stalking in everyday very real life.

  • 6.6 million people are stalked in one year in the United States.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
The degree of tone-deafness of multiple someones to allow such a marketing tactic go forward - while marketing a book about a stalker - is stunning.  

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