Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Like blasters, tentacles... but also like poetry and well-written fiction? We do too.

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Okay, so I've sent out the formal announcements about recompose

So let me take a second to talk informally about some of the things that make recompose special and worth a few bucks.

  • We're paying professional rates. For both fiction and poetry. Without markets that fairly compensate authors and poets, there will be less art in the world.
  • Getting art out there is the main goal. I had an allergy to poetry for a large part of my life - because I didn't realize what was out there. As David Mitchell recently pointed out, separating literary and genre works is an act of "self mutiliation".  We want to be part of the solution. While backers will get exclusive content throughout the year, the majority of recompose will be available for free at
  • Anybody can support the arts. Sure, there's some high-level backer rewards. But after seeing a lot of crowdfunding projects lately where you wouldn't get the rewards unless you ponied up $20, $50, or $100 or more, I wanted to make sure that everyone could participate.
  • More backers means more stuff for all backers, period. We're taking a chance making recompose almost entirely digital (except for the print annual)... but that also means that we can easily add content without worrying about costs going up.
That last one is especially cool to me. We can keep adding poems and stories and artwork, and all backers from the $3 level and up benefit the same.

Which means that the very most important thing you can do to support this project is to tell other people about it. If you're gathering with others this week for the holidays, mention recompose. Show to folks on your phone or tablet.  (Yes, it's mobile-friendly.)

And if you haven't yet, be sure to back the project on Kickstarter so that you can be part of this new venture.

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Automagically Sort Downloads By Category with uGet on Windows and Linux (and replace KGet if you need to)

I like customizability with my computer interface. The more I can automate certain tasks - like where I put my downloads so I can get back to them later - the happier a bear I am.

So, a download manager for me.

And I've settled on uGet.

I tried out uGet and quickly realized it was far more lightweight than what I'd been using, had categories like I wanted, and could integrate easily with Firefox/Iceweasel using FlashGot.  And always a plus - it's cross-platform, so I could easily recommend it to Windows users as well.

Consistently, uGet feels light, snappy, and quick.

I had two problems.

First was that certain apps I use - in particular Liferea - do not support uGet. But they do support KGet.  While KGet was good, it just felt ... bloated, and I had crashes with it, so I didn't want to keep using it.

Second, the one feature that KGet does natively that uGet does not is automatically sort downloads into categories. You can specify what categories to use, but it won't automatically detect them.

Turns out the solution to both was the same thing.  So I, um, did the thing.

I wrote a bash script for us linux people and a Windows script for the Windows folks, along with pretty straightforward and step-by-step instructions. The whole thing is over on Github: .

I've done all the heavy lifting; it should be a matter of 20 minutes to set it up (including FlashGot for Firefox), and it's all free. If you have any problems with it, let me know!


Playing with MPD - covers in the terminal and easy selection from the commandline

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MPD (the Music Player Daemon) is an...interesting bit of software. Rather than being an all-in-one music player itself, it acts as a service that provides you music when you give it commands. That makes the learning curve a bit higher, but also means that you have a lot more flexibility.

For example, you can control it with a simple command line program called MPC .  Yes, looking at the instructions make it look like a bear.

Luckily, its complexity also makes it super powerful when you use the right tools. And I like making tools like this. Using pick, I wrote a script that lets you control the most basic MPD playing - playing specific albums, artists, and genres - easily from the commandline.  Take a look:

There's also (less useful, but amusing) a way to show the album covers in a terminal window:

Both are available in my collection of MPD scripts and utilities over on GitHub at

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The Emotions Chart

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I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but I can't find it if I have, so it deserves to be posted again.

This is an "emotions chart". It's really useful when you're struggling to identify - or communicate - the emotions you're having, and it's simple to use.

The emotion words are written on either side, and there's a scale in the middle.  So you can easily say "I'm feeling mad at you at a 5, and need space at a 7 right now."

The tool was originally designed for children (this specific iteration was created by my ex-wife, Aubrey), particularly those on the autism spectrum. However, I've found it's really useful for anybody who is struggling with identifying how they're feeling... and in our culture, that means just about everyone.

You can click the image to get an embiggened version.

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What's the most important thing in (or reason for) a relationship?

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In a recent conversation, it became clear that Amanda and I had very different views on the most important thing in relationships.

“I want someone to go on adventures with,” I said. “To have fun with. That’s the most important thing to me. To watch stupid TV shows with. Someone to simply have fun with and talk with. What about you?”

“For me, the most important part of a relationship is getting things done. I want a partner to help me take care of things,” she said. “I don’t want to have to take care of everything by myself.”

“That sounds… depressing,” I said. “That almost sounds more like a business contract than a relationship.”

“Everyone has to do the boring stuff, so why not have someone to help you?. Sure, adventures are fun, but life isn’t always fun. And if you’re only in a relationship because it’s entertaining, aren’t you going to split as soon as it gets boring or routine?”

“Would you split as soon as someone had problems doing their share of the housework? Isn’t there something more to life than just work?”

It was pretty obvious that either of our viewpoints - if taken to extremes - was unbalanced and potentially unfulfilling. But I think that conversation between friends is an important one for people in the early stages of a relationship.

The people in the relationship do not have have to agree, nor do they need to put the same value on the same portions of a relationship. But they do need to know what is most important to the others in the relationship, so they can make sure that everyone’s needs… including their own… are being met.

Do you agree with either of the views above? Or is there something else that you think is most important?

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The Most Important Question On OKCupid (As Far As I'm Concerned)

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It is perhaps the most important question on OK Cupid:

Would you rather date someone who almost never made a mistake but doesn't admit their flaws, or someone who often messes up but takes full responsibility for their mistakes?

This isn't a dealbreaker question, but if it's not addressed, it can definitely destroy any kind of relationship - romantic, business, or otherwise. [Edited for clarity: If this question is not addressed, it is a dealbreaker.] It's about the assumptions that we make both about ourselves and the behaviors of others in the relationship.

It's a spectrum (isn't everything, really) between "deliberateness" and "forgiveness". Someone who's being deliberate will attempt to have everything they say and do be intentional, and assumes that you are doing the same. Someone high on the forgiveness scale will sometimes say or do things that do not have the repercussions they wanted.

As with all spectrum stuff, being too far on either side is bad. An overly deliberate person will see intentional hurt everywhere, and an overly forgiving person will excuse the person torturing them. An overly deliberate person will not admit their errors, and an overly forgiving person may expect that they do not need to consider consequences due to the likelihood of being forgiven.

Okay, so an example. (My artistic license applies, as always.)

I'm attempting to reconnect with someone who I had a big argument with. It's a little dicey; in the past, attempts to reconnect ended up with triggering a resumption of the same argument and bad feelings all around.

It wasn't intentional (as far as I know); one of us just said the wrong thing at the wrong time, or the tone wasn't "heard" right over text, and so on. The problem - at least on my part - was that I was expecting deliberateness.

And in that kind of a situation, where you're trying to patch up or rebuild after a problem, deliberateness is important. That kind of intentional empathy is vital after you've been hurt.

Yet I wasn't forgiving enough myself. By expecting deliberateness, I interpreted anything that could be hurtful as being hurtful. And even worse, I didn't leave room for that person to sometimes fail at their own deliberateness and just react out of their own pain and hurt and frustration.

To the frustration of many an economist, we've learned that humans are not "rational actors". We do not always live up to our own ideals or act in our own best interests.

The only choice I have is to do my damnedest to remember to be forgiving and deliberate with everyone.

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Take A Quick Break From NaNoWriMo With A One Hour Flash Challenge TONIGHT at 8pm EST!

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Shock Totem hosts a series of flash challenges on their forum (free account required). The next one is tonight (7 November) at 8pm EST.  It's a one-hour prompted challenge, and I'll be posting the prompt this week.

Why am I suggesting this in the middle of NaNoWriMo? Because of the shower.


You know how you get your best ideas or figure out problems when you're in the shower? That's because you stop focusing on it.

So take a brief break and write something completely different for an hour... and then return to your work with a fresh perspective.

Go make a free account now (you won't be able to see the challenges until you log it - that's so it protects your first publication rights), and I'll see you there at 8!

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Identifying the Common Brain Weasel

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I've mentioned brain weasels a few times to people and in blog posts.

Brain weasels are the little voices in your head that tell you that everything you fear is going to happen. That your self-doubt is simply being reasonable. That whatever you imagine will go wrong, is currently going wrong.

Like this.

They're always negative, always telling you that you're going to fail, that nobody likes you, that everyone hates you, that you'll never.

"But," some people ask, "why weasels? I mean, look at them! They're cute! And smart!"

long tailed weasel

Which is absolutely true. They are cute. They are smart.

They will also eat your face off, if given the chance.

This is just like your brain weasels. They look cute (or reasonable). They are clever enough to show up no matter how smart you are.

And they will eat your face off, if given the chance.

Here's one example of a brain weasel. My friend gave hers the name "Nargle". (Mine are "Argle" and "Bargle"), and after I'd said something nice, she said this:

"You're fine. Nargle the Brain Weasel is informing me, persuasively, that people don't just LIKE me, they always want something. Just like people don't compliment others out of the blue, or shower money on someone else. Everyone always wants something."

Which doesn't sound crazy at all. Some people do just want something. As the Russian saying goes, "Doveryai, no proverya" -- trust, but verify.

But it's much easier to just listen to the brain weasel's prediction. And the thing is, if you predict bad things all the time... it'll happen at least some of the time. And then, thanks to survivorship bias, we'll remember those which matched the brain weasel's prediction and forget the rest.

There's only one way to really deal with brain weasels: Drag them out into the light. Blatantly and baldly address your fears - including how irrational and baseless they might be.

Because that way you get to deal with the truth. And even if your brain weasels were right for once, finding out the truth will give you the ability to actually deal with it.

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The Most Important Comic You Will Read Today (Hint: It's today's Sheldon)

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I want to draw your attention to one comic, here in a second.

You should go check out the rest of Sheldon - it's a damn funny webcomic, gently snarky, and classy.  You really should.  I was first introduced through "Coffee! It's What's For Dinner!" that I got through a Humble Bundle.

But this comic... this comic, needs to be spread far and wide. (Click the comic to embiggen.)

I just bought a print of it.  This comic, this idea needs to be spread far and wide.

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Why we need Android to become a truly open source phone OS

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When the serious SSL exploit "Heartbleed" was announced, I was at lunch. By the time I got home from work, there was already a patch in the Debian repositories, and there was one in the Ubuntu repositories before I went to bed.

Both Debian and Ubuntu are distributions of linux, and are installed on all sorts of different computers - from laptops to desktops to servers to the tiny Raspberry Pi, so the "oh, Android's on lots of different hardware" argument seems a little thin to me.

Contrast that with the response to the "Stagefright" Android security hole. Announced at the end of July, it still took the big Android manufacturers a week to simply state that they were going to provide monthly security updates.

What they didn't say was that the patches would roll out slowly, and only for selected models of phones. If you look at this list of patched phones, you'll see that whether or not you're patched has a lot to do with how new your phone is and who your carrier is. Have a Galaxy S3? I hope you've got Sprint as a carrier.

This, unfortunately, isn't new. A vulnerability discovered in older versions of Android (and by old, I mean "the primary version in mid-2013") simply will not get a patch.

Which is kind of crap. It's leaving people who can't afford to get a new phone every year or two (or simply don't want to give up a perfectly good phone) in the dust.

And yet, my near end-of-support cycle Ubuntu laptop got a software patch for Heartbleed within 24 hours.

But this is not just a customer service issue. This is a national security issue. Take a listen to RadioLab's story about Darkode. Realize that everything that applies there also applies to your smartphone.

Yes, I realize that our government (hello NSA!) thinks that there's a benefit to having the code be closed. But just like ISPs and PC manufacturers realized it was less expensive to provide antivirus software to consumers, so must our defense industry realize that having the ability to quickly and easily stop exploits will be far less expensive than dealing with the fallout from huge mobile botnets.

We don't have to abandon Android (or iOS with its linux-style backend); we do have to make it so that these commercial providers have the same kind of security consciousness and responsiveness that free and open source software does as well.

It's entirely possible there's a real reason what I'm suggesting couldn't happen. If so, please educate me.

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