Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

What awesome song covers have you found on YouTube? Here's some of my faves.

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I'm sure there's more guys (and gals? Are there women doing this? I want to know!) covering things in a metal style, but these three are currently my favorites, and I'd like to share them with you. If you like 'em, consider backing them on Patreon (the links on their names are to their Patreon campaigns).

First, Eric Calderone (or ERock), who I first mentioned back in 2012. He's still going strong, covering mostly (but not just) theme songs from pop culture. He'll arrange them so that they're with a guitar. It sounds like that wouldn't be a big deal, but... well, check these two out:

Next up is Leo Moracchioli, who runs Frog Leap Studios. He does full-on covers - both metalizing songs (and they're a bit brutal, but good), and doing acoustic covers of previously metal songs. Here's a good example of each:

Finally, Anton did me the service of introducing me to Jonathan Young, who does a lot of great work with Disney songs (and some other fun pop culture stuff). Check this out:

These tickle the same neurons that the best mashups do for me. Like these kids covering "46 and 2".

What awesome covers have you run across on YouTube?

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Cargo : The Best Zombie Short (You Might Not Have Seen)

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Really, there is no need for setup.  It was a finalist for Australia's TropFest 2013, but that's really irrelevant. Just watch.  It's only seven minutes.

NOTE: Yes, this is about the only time I've seen "children (or baby) in peril" done in a way that's emotionally satisfying and not a cheap gimmick. But yes, there's an infant in peril, so if that's a problem, back away.

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The Economic Reason Why Self-Worth Is the Only Worth

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I never really grokked why people emphasized "love yourself" and made such a big deal about self-worth. I mean, I guess I kind of intellectually got it, but it didn't make sense to me.

If you already understand why that's important at a fundamental level, this post may not be for you. Everybody else...

This came up in a conversation with a friend of mine, who's in a bit of a tough spot with his new boyfriend. He said, "With him it's never enough. I can never do enough. I'm not enough. So I'm not sure how much I am worth, really."

There was something about the starkness of the way he said it that clarified the whole thing for me; the rest of this is an expanded version of my reply to him.

This is Economics 101, really, along with a bit of crappy linguistic bleed in the way we use language. 

So first, language, and using "worth". We're using the same word that we use in economics to talk about markets and exchanges. While it's a bit (okay, extremely) tacky for us to talk about the economic worth of different people, and the whole discussion totally discounts the idea of love and affection, this is the word we use in our heads to describe our sense of self-value, even if that's not how we'd describe the way we care about the people we love.

Right. Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about "worth" and "value".

Those are both relative and subjective terms - fundamentally, inherently, and always.

I mean that the value of anything varies hugely from person to person, and sometimes even moment to moment.  I am not talking about market fluctuations, though those make things even even less uniform. 

In the global West, it's easy to forget that "worth" and "value" do not have some concrete value.  We put stickers with the price (or "value" or "worth") on most things, but that's simply an illusion.

The value, worth, or price that we see is the highest price that the maximum number of people will pay (or alternatively, the price that maximizes profit if a lower price has more people buying the item). But that's an aggregate valuation.

Take a candy bar. When you're hungry, it's worth a lot - you'd pay more. After you've had a bunch of candy bars? You would pay less.

This example is often used to illustrate how demand curves change, but its most important aspect here is reminding us that demand curves are individual.

Let's illustrate: I am not a small guy. I am fairly hairy.  I am a nerd and a geek, and a bit of a goof. I describe myself as a cross between a tanuki, a bear, a golden retriever, Ben Wyatt from Parks & Rec, and a bit of Silent Bob (without the silent parts). 

For some people, that means I'm... well, repulsive. Not just "unattractive", but downright gross.  For some others (thankfully, though I don't understand it!), I'm really attractive. My worth as a sex object to the first group is a negative number.  My worth to the second group is a positive number.

And if you try to reconcile those both into how to value yourself... well, good luck with that.

So for your life - because you do have to recognize that the only person you have to live with is yourself - trying to base your self-worth on other people's valuation of you simply doesn't make economic sense. 

Your self-worth has to be based on, quite literally, your self-valuation of yourself.

Amusingly, doing that - and then identifying how to increase your satisfaction with yourself - will probably raise your value in other people's eyes as well.

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Sharing Time Together, Apart: Watch2Gether

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Let's not mince words - we're more separated than ever before. As we've become virtually connected, we're often friends, family, or lovers with people who are further and further apart.

And anything you can do that creates some kind of connection is worthwhile.

Which is why I'm so tickled by Watch2Gether.

It's a free service that lets you watch videos.  But it's more than that, really.  You can create rooms - temporary or permanent - and invite who you want to be in there with you.  (Note that once you give out the URL of the room, though, people can pop in without an invitation.)  But unlike a regular chat room, you can watch videos from a number of sources (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion) together... at the same time.

Unlike some other options for this, you can have as many people as you like in there, and it doesn't require a specific browser or any addons.  (It doesn't work on mobile, though...)

So, for example, you can get a playlist of videos from Alliteration Ink and put them in a room, and share the URL like so:

and watch the videos together.  That particular room is moderated as well; only I can add videos and toggle playback, which is another nice feature.

So if you're separated from your friends, family, or other loved ones, this is a nice way you can do something really together while still apart.

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Make the Web Nice and Dark (and still work) - updated Stylish styles

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If you use Stylish (and if not, why aren't you? Get it for Firefox and Chrome) and like dark global themes, you might want to check out my global dark web theme. It's a fork (meaning I'm starting with someone else's template), but I'm slowly making it my own and keeping it updated. And this is also the style I use on a regular basis, so things that are irritating are gonna get fixed.
You can also exclude sites; I've excluded several by default (mainly Google and RTM) because their UI changes too frequently for me to keep them in track as well. If you're using the new Remember the Milk UI and want a dark theme for that, I've got you covered there as well with Darker Remember The Milk. I also use Remember The Milk for my chores and stuff on a daily basis, so this gets updated when things break.

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Volume Normalization Made Easy with MPD (and a few scripts)

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If you use MPD (Music Player Daemon) like I do to provide whole-house audio or to give you simple command-line music queuing, these two scripts won't look like much, but they're definitely useful.

I wrote a wrapper script to help mp3gain and do their magic quickly and to allow MPD to accurately and nicely do replaygain. The MP3Gain utility apparently writes by default to APE tags, which aren't used by MPD. But apparently mp3gain has issues corrupting ID3 data if you write directly to ID3 tags, and will just crash and abort if it runs into an error instead of continuing onward.

If you use MPoD or any other smartphone MPD controller, it usually has an option for fetching album covers from your webserver. But the directory tree has to be the same as your music directory setup...and who wants to expose their whole music directory to the internet?  I've got a script (using rsync) to help with that as well.

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Odds and Ends: Optimizing SSHFS, moving files into subdirectories, and getting placeholder images

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And to start up this week of various little scripts and tweaks, we're going to collect some SSHFS tweaks and two single-use-but-damn-when-you-need-it-you-need-it scripts I wrote.

First, the subdirectory moving script: It takes every file in a directory, creates a subdirectory the same name as the filename without extension, and moves the file into that subdirectory. So, for example,  ~/bob/example.txt becomes ~/bob/example/example.txt, and ~/bob/examples becomes ~/bob/examples/examples. It's one of those things that looks like it should be a one-liner, but in order to do proper error checking (thanks for training me well, Mom!), it's about 30 lines. It's a gist over at

The second script is for getting placeholder images in BASH. Need a 300x300 image for some reason? Boom. There's a node.js script that does the same sort of thing, but I wanted something simple and only requiring curl. Snag it at

The final thing is optimizing SSHFS. What's nice about it is that you can mount a separate filesystem (or even parts of one) like it exists on your own hard drive without too much difficulty, and pretty transparently. I've been moving stuff between my main computer and the old laptop that runs Kodi pretty easily, as well as a Mac, and I'm about to set up a CHIP and a USB drive as a simple NAS without having to use OwnCloud or anything.  (There's lots of guides on how to install SSHFS at varying levels of technical difficulty and for different OS's.)

The thing is, SSHFS can be slow. It's meant to be secure and to compress data, but those strategies don't make sense when you're moving things around inside a LAN. Between this post from Admin Magazine and this one from Benjamin I discovered that this series of command line switches made a huge difference in both transfer speeds and CPU power:

sshfs -o cache=yes -o kernel_cache -o large_read -o Ciphers=arcfour -o Compression=no -o ServerAliveCountMax=3 -o ServerAliveInterval=15 -o reconnect -C -o workaround=all -o idmap=user remoteuser@server:/remote/directory/ /media/mountpoint

Which is a hell of a lot to keep retyping, which is why I highly recommend you make the mount and unmount commands into bash aliases.  :)

Note: If you get "connection reset by peer" after this, follow the instructions at to make it work.

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You gotta hear this: The Fallen London OST (and you should probably give Fallen London a shot too!)

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Okay, first, let me put Fallen London in context for you here.

They use the term "browser game" to describe it, which frankly put me off of it for the longest time. I played Sunless Sea ("Lose your mind. Eat your crew.") first, and thought it a rather nice quasi-roguelike with an interesting backstory. But I resisted Fallen London itself for the longest time.

And then I realized my mistake.

You see, Fallen London is perhaps most accurately described as the most elaborate choose-your-own-adventure story to date.

London has fallen into the underworld during the gothic era. Hijinks - and murder, and strangeness - ensue. The artwork is gorgeous, the web design is a delight (though not particularly mobile-friendly... yet), and it's just a great way to spend some time every so often.

Sure, it has an amount of multiplayer interaction, but for the most part, it's all about the story, and what choices you make for your character. It's free to play in your browser (though there are paid perks for some bonuses and to unlock some storylines, they are not necessary to enjoy the game). Give it a day or two to sink its tentacles of story into you, and you'll find yourself as compelled as I.  (Senor Wombat, if you're interested in sending me a calling card).

And then there's the soundtrack.

Yes, a soundtrack to a freaking browser game. (Though parts of it are used for Sunless Sea as well).  And it's a nice, creepy, steampunky kind of soundtrack that works well for writing.

It's available on Bandcamp for £7 or better. Take a listen, I suspect you'll be as entranced as I was.

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Prisma - or as a nerd might call it, !(#nofilter)

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Prisma is a smartphone app (free) that is pretty much the opposite of #nofilter. It's kind of like having some of the "artistic" filter effects of a more sophisticated image editing program without any of the fine-tuning controls.

The end result is that when things look good - they look good...and you may have to try five or six filters that look horrible before you find the one(s) that look good. And because the processing is apparently done server-side instead of on the phone, it is... not fast.

But regardless, it's free, so you can grab it for iOS or Android.

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