Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Software: GCalCLI (and how to replace straight quotes with SED)

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GoogleCL was a nice program to get quite a bit of your Google information in and out of the cloud via the commandline instead of a bloated interface. For example, I used it to pull down my agenda from Google Calendar and then incorporate that into all sorts of fun things.

It is (was, depending on when you read this) hosted on Google Code (and quite a few people have exported it to GitHub - here's one example.

But there's been problems with the API for the Google Calendar for a while. (Non-tech version: It stopped working.)  In comes GCalCLI, which uses API version 3 (Non-tech version: it works). 

It is also a LOT more powerful than GoogleCL's version was - especially in terms of customization and display.  Take a look at this screenshot from the repository:

This works really well for me, except for one thing - I often pipe the output through other scripts.  Many of which use "straight" quotation marks to mark where they are supposed to start and stop doing things.

...and many of my events (like Bob's birthday or Go to "the thing" at someone's place) also include straight quotes, so my scripts fail.

Luckily SED (mentioned here before) comes to the rescue.  (Presuming your terminal supports UTF-8, of course.)

gcalcli agenda | sed "s/'/’/g" | sed 's/"\(.*\)"/“\1”/g'

Obviously, this little trick will work anywhere you need to turn straight quotes into smart quotes (as long as they're paired), and you can swap the straight and smart quotes in order to reverse the effect when you need to remove smart quotes.

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The Truth About Religious Discrimination Laws

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Here's the simple truth: 

The people who fight for these discriminatory religious laws (like Indiana's RFRA) in the US are the same ones who scream the loudest about Sharia law, people saying "happy holidays", or having a Wiccan headstone in Arlington.

They are not talking about religious freedom. 

They are talking about their religion being supreme.  They are talking about their religion being the law of the land.1

I hope that we will overturn such institutionalized bigotry, and will do what I can to hasten that time.

If you are in Indiana and find yourself a target of this kind of discrimination, go to and Keeping Track.

In the meantime, I will look forward to the wailing when one of the supporters of this bigotry finds themselves unexpectedly being discriminated against because of someone else's beliefs. 

Perhaps that will cause them to re-evaluate their support.

1 You get a whole new perspective on what "their religion" means when you realize that the faith you were brought up in doesn't count as "Christianity" for a non-trivial percentage of American Christians.

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Bandits Getting Sneaky: Using randomizers and multiple forum posts to pirate material

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Here's a neat trick some bandits (here's why I say bandits instead of pirates) pulled off:  They managed to have a single URL lead to one of (at least) six different forums where there were planted posts leading to their download service.

I was able to capture images from OpenMamba, Kindle Users Forum, The Comic Book Forum, cre8asite forums, and two that didn't have the name in the header.  Screen caps at the bottom of the post, or look at this album on imgur:

So when you clicked the original url, it took you to a webpage that redirected (you can see the source here on github:  Each of the forum pages had a link in it that also led to a randomizer that took you to the download service (and clearly with a referrer code).

Which means these suckers are bandits - and are also probably generating false clicks for the download service as well (and thus racking up extra cash).

While I can (and have) issued a DMCA notice to the download service, this kind of redirect is something that I'm not sure how we can effectively deal with.  I doubt the forum owners are really aware of what's going on (yet - share this post with them!) since there's clearly posts saying "don't download stuff illegally" in several of these screencaps. 

And while they might become aware of the problem and have some strong moderation, that just means the problem moves elsewhere, to less moderated forums.

Any thoughts, gang?

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The Autofill IS ON: Check your Google + Profile for Privacy Settings

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As I've been meeting new people on dating sites, I routinely put basic contact information into Google Contacts.  After all, that's where I consolidate everything (enough so that I wrote a Stylish style to fix my one problem with the UI).

And with most conversations on dating sites, you start with chatting on the site itself, and then move to text messages and/or voice - which means phone numbers.

And so I was a little surprised when I put in a first name and a phone number... and got this (posted with permission):

From just the phone number, it autofilled her full name, where she went to school, and the like. 

Given how many women have told me that they get creepy dick pics and the like, this is kind of a problem.

See, I'm well aware that most folks haven't taken all of the privacy considerations that I advocate... so someone who gives out just their first name and phone number may be revealing a lot more information than they intended.

And from that initial amount of information, it's a short step to using any of the creepy "people finder" websites to get real addresses. 

You start to see where this could be problematic.

So with Google, I strongly recommend editing most of your profile information so that it is only for your circles or extended circles.  (You can find a guide here: .)

Example of the privacy settings
Further, I recommend that you take a long, hard look at following most (if not all) of my practical privacy tips.  They're based on the idea that you choose what information to reveal... and make sure that people who are innocently checking you out will find what you want them to find (a post office box, a Google Voice number, etc) so that there's an additional layer of protection there for you if you need it.

If that's too much work, I strongly suggest making a quick Google account (for example, using your middle initial), forward all your e-mails to your main account and start a new Google Voice account.  You will be able to associate your "real" phone with it, but when you use the Google Voice app/website, you can text to your heart's content without exposing your real phone number.

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Fixing a small problem with the new Google Contacts

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I really like the new Google Contacts user interface.  It's lots better than the old one, and finally let me merge multiple contacts cleanly and easily.


(Of course there's a but.)

I have a lot of contacts with a lot of information in them.  Multiple e-mail (and physical!) addresses, notes, web pages, twitters and facebooks and and and and...

And when I went to edit those users, the detail card with their information went off the bottom of the screen.

And would not scroll.

So I couldn't edit the groups the contact was in, or even see all the info sometimes.

Enter Stylish (Firefox / Chrome).  I've mentioned Stylish before, and I still find it to be an amazingly useful tool in dealing with some of the small aggravations on the web... like this one.

So I made a userstyle that fixes the problem:
It's all free;  you can get my userstyle "Scroll Details Card on Google Contacts" right on over at

Installing is really as easy as installing Stylish, going to the link above, and clicking "install now".  But if you'd like, you can browse the code itself on my github:

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Rasing over a million dollars: vitriol or glee?

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Remember when everyone got all annoyed with Amanda Palmer (and the rest of the band, though the vilification was for Amanda alone) for raising over a million dollars?

Remember when everyone got annoyed with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion for raising over a million dollars in like a day? 

Oh, right, that didn't happen.

I support both projects, FWIW.  I backed both projects.  I think it's very interesting that a female led project got a lot more criticism and vitriol than a male led the potato salad guy. Or Tudyk and Fillion.

There's a lot of truth to the idea that the same behavior is interpreted differently based on the gender of the person exhibiting the behavior.

I'm challenging you to check yourself - hard, unflinching - for biases.

Can you?

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Switch Up Your Dual Monitor Setup With This Tweak

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My dual monitor setup is a lot more productive since I turned one monitor on its head (color coded for your reference):

I've got the right-hand (extra) monitor in landscape mode for working with documents, and do most of my actual work on the laptop monitor (on the left). 

It's arguable if dual monitors (or one single large monitor) is more productive.  But I can definitely tell you that this setup, where one monitor is very obviously the "reference document" monitor seems to get the benefits of both.  

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I challenge you to examine your reading list by gender and race: The soft version of the Tempest Challenge

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When I saw Tempest's challenge to stop reading straight, white, cis male authors for a year, I knew that I couldn't do it.  I have professional and personal obligations that simply prohibit me from doing so.

But I'm likewise stunned by the hate tweets that Tempest got in return.  I mean, FFS, people, it's a challenge.  Like NaNoWriMo, or something.  It's not a rubric to determine if you're a decent human being or something.

But here's the thing:  I looked at my "To Read" list.  And damn, if it ain't a bunch of straight white men.  (What exceptions there are largely are due to the influence of Clarkesworld, Nightmare/Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, and

And I think that's where Tempest's challenge is pretty frakking awesome.  One of the most interesting comments at Mo*Con 9 was pointing out that folks tend to gravitate to the types of story (e.g. the cultural voice) of authors like themselves...and steer away from ones that are not like themselves.

Without impetus, we'll keep reading (and doing) the same things we're used to.  I didn't start to read "literary" works until a college class got me reading Tobias Wolff, Barbara Kingsolver, and Tim O'Brien.  And then I realized there was a lot more out there I wasn't letting myself experience.

It's like Doug Warrick's experience with Apocalypse World, or where Ferrett Steinmetz has talked about reading enough female authors and how he's caught himself "defaulting male".

FFS, it's like how I just caught myself citing two white men in an article about doing something other than that.

These sorts of habits are subconscious.  They're not your fault.  At the same time, changing those habits is entirely your responsibility.

And that's where I'd propose the "soft" version of Tempest's challenge - but only for those of you who complained about her challenge.  (And please note that this does not include Neil Gaiman, who supports the challenge...)

Look at your "to read" list.  Inject diversity.

Is it all male?  Add in more female authors until it's roughly parity.
Is it all white authors?  Add in more people of color.
Is it all straight folks?  Add in more LGBTQ folks.

And if you're saying "I don't know any authors that fit those criteria", then that should be a huge warning sign for you.

Nobody's forcing you to do a damn thing.

But they sure as hell are encouraging you to read more and different kinds of fiction.

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Fast Paced Urban Fantasy Action, Deep Thoughts to Think About Later: A review of Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz from @angryrobot

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Let's take a quick first look at the promo copy for Flex, (Angry Robot | Amazon | B&N) the debut novel from Ferrett Steinmetz:

A desperate father will do anything to heal his daughter in a novel where Breaking Bad meets Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.
This is not wrong, and if that's enough to get you interested in the book, go get that sucker right now.

But let me tell you:  You'll find more.

There's some pretty deep and intense themes in this book, but Ferrett does something pretty awesome:  They're not the reason for the book.

Let me explain.

Flex works as a great urban fantasy story, with solid worldbuilding and a unique (as far as I know) system of magic.  It's fast-paced, full of twists and turns, and a fun read.

But while giving us this action-filled romp, Ferrett's characters also have to deal with some pretty cool concepts and hard topics and emotions... and do so naturally, without smacking you with it upside the head.

The man makes bureaucracy look cool, people.

So while the main plot of the story is worth picking up a copy on its own, the underlying concepts that give it a smart and rich conceptual playground for the characters make this book stand above the pack.

Pick this book up, people.  Highly recommended.  (Angry Robot | Amazon | B&N)

Full disclosure: I was provided an electronic ARC of this book.

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