Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The best summary of the issues and challenges of looking at charter schools today

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(image from Wikimedia Commons)
I recognize this is over a month after it went up, but I just saw it, and maybe you haven't - John Oliver's bit on charter schools.

Even if you're not a huge fan of Oliver, I implore you to watch this... because it's absolutely spot-on.

Due to a lot of circumstances - being in the military, children with special needs - I've had the opportunity to experience (as a parent) four public school systems and four charter school systems - including one that utilized distance learning, and a private school system, and also homeschooled for a while.

There were public schools that were great - and ones that sucked ... though public schools usually sucked was almost always due to a lack of funding - ironic, since the trend is to shuffle money away to charter schools.

And there were charter schools that were amazing... and a hell of a lot that sucked.

In my experience - and again, see above; I've directly experienced more school systems than most people - the variation between charter school to charter school is much much greater than the variation between public school and public school. In one case, the difference between two schools run by the same company went from "amazing" to "okay, I guess, maybe?".

I'm not saying that charter schools or public schools are all bad or all good. In fact, that's really the point here. They're treated as a huge monolithic ideological entity, and we need a lot more realism and nuance whenever we talk about them.

Because the ultimate thing that gets lost whenever you start talking about treating education like a competitive business - and Oliver nails this - is that when you get a bad pizza... you can just order another one right away.

You cannot do that with a child's education.

Take the time to watch.

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Rape Culture is A Symptom Of A Larger Problem

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A guy criticized me on twitter for using the term "rape culture" in regards to Brock "The Rapist" Turner. (Apparently he's deleted the tweets, since.)

And I could go on about all sorts of facts and statistics, or how a marijuana possession charge could land you in jail for longer than this convicted rapist spent behind bars. Or hell, I could just point you at this article with 25 examples of rape culture.

But rape culture is only an expression of the sexist and patriarchal society we live in. It isn't the cause - it's a symptom.  (A horrible, awful symptom.)

And it starts with the casual disregard of women, the unwanted objectification of women, and the insipid sense of entitlement toward women that men, sadly, tend to have.1

And there's a beautiful, poignant example of what I mean embodied in this political ad.

That someone who has - and continues to be so blatant and say such Archie Bunker levels of blatant sexist remarks is still somehow taken seriously indicates that sexism - and by extension, rape culture - is still very much a real and present thing.

Register to vote now.

1 Yes, all men. Men who don't do those things are men who continue to struggle and strive against the dominant patriarchal culture.

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Refusing the Gift of Gossip And Rumors Gives You A Superpower

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While listening to the Polyweekly podcast (#483 - "Dealing with the gossip mill after coming out") I heard one of the hosts, "LustyGuy", relate a story about the Buddha to explain how he handles the rumor mill.
From Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (Condra Enterprises, 2005).

One day, the Buddha and a large following of monks and nuns were passing through a village. The Buddha chose a large shade tree to sit beneath so the group could rest awhile out of the heat. He often chose times like these to teach, and so he began to speak. Soon, villagers heard about the visiting teacher and many gathered around to hear him.

One surly young man stood to the side, watching, as the crowd grew larger and larger. To him, it seemed that there were too many people traveling from the city to his village, and each had something to sell or teach. Impatient with the bulging crowd of monks and villagers, he shouted at the Buddha, "Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You teachers come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!"

But the Buddha was unruffled by these insults. He remained calm, exuding a feeling of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, "Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?"

The odd question took the young man by surprise. "I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it."

"Exactly so," replied the Buddha. "Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner."

The young man clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. It was an acknowledgement that a valuable lesson had been learned. And so the Buddha concluded for all to hear, "As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm."
I've had some pretty ugly rumors circulate about me in my life. REALLY ugly ones.

It's galling - especially when you try to hold yourself to an ideal - to find that others are spreading falsehoods behind your back.

But, in a strange way, it's a gift. It's a superpower, almost.

Because you'll find out who is smart enough and wise enough to find out the truth for themselves, and who is foolish and petty enough to just believe the rumors.

Because you'll find out very quickly who your real friends are.

And you'll find out just as quickly who to avoid.

All while refusing the gift of their rumors.

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How To Determine Someone's Intentions In One Easy Step

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Sometimes situations can be read in two different ways. Was that person being rude, or were they just clueless? Were they truly sensitive, or being an asshat? Were they genuinely unaware of the ramifications of what they were saying, or were they just hijacking terms of concern and caring in order to further their own agenda?

For me, there's usually a pretty simple way to determine this - but it requires cutting through the societal norm of "politeness" in order to do so.

It's by calling out the behavior in question.

I mentioned a version of this back in 2013 when working with people with Asperger's. The short form goes like this:

When someone is acting in a way that could be seen as rude, ask them if they meant to be rude.

The non-neurotypical person (or the neurotypical person, for that matter) will get upset that they upset you and apologize. They will be unaware of the way their words were perceived.

The same thing applies in other social situations as well. Simply state how you perceived the statement or action that just happened, and ask the person if that's what they meant to do.

Their reaction - and their following action - will tell you everything.

Because it's not just the initial reaction (or denial) that indicates where their head is at, but how they act from then on.

And that gives you the information to know where they're really coming from.

Without using this technique you run the risk of emotional self-diagnosis and deciding that someone is malevolent when they're just stumbling while learning to walk. Or - and arguably worse - you leave yourself vulnerable to those who would otherwise do you harm.

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Welcome Delicious Friend! - Discover The Best Hyperlinked Story Out There in Fallen London

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Hello, delicious friend!

This post will be of especial interest to those who like steampunk and the like, but all writers and authors should check it out - because something we were all looking for happened, and we didn't notice it.

I last mentioned Fallen London in terms of its beautiful soundtrack, but it definitely deserves a mention in terms of its writing as well. Because it has managed to actually create the hyperlinked story that everyone was expecting last decade (and do it last decade!) and avoid literary notice... because it's billed as a game.

The idea of a hyperlinked story excited the imaginations of many writers and publishers - but nobody really made a good one... at least, one that was recognized publicly as one.  It's arguable that the indie game revolution which celebrated, at least in part, text games like Zork also deserve a place here, but because they required a specific bit of software, I don't include them here.

Fallen London, in contrast, only requires your browser.  I mean, it even works with a text-only browser, as shown below:

Fallen London in a text-only browser
But I find myself using a modern browser and even playing the soundtrack in the background to add to the ambiance.

Fallen London in a modern browser
The basic "hook" of the story is simple:  London, sometime during the gaslight era, was stolen away by bats.  As FailBetter Games puts it:
Thirty years ago, London was stolen. Now it rests on the shore of the Unterzee, that old dark ocean under the world. Hell is close, immortality is cheap, and the screaming has largely stopped…
But that's only the start of the story. It covers so many places and locations that I have only begun to scratch the surface.

A map of most of Fallen London
It's great from a casual perspective because your actions are refreshed over time. (You can gain more by being an "exceptional friend" - e.g. paying - but it's not required at all.) Play for a little bit, leave it be while you do other work, then return for a break.

But more importantly - and the reason I wanted to write more about it here - is because there's a deep and rich story here. While you'll find areas of grinding, they're all in service of story and finding out more about the world of Fallen London and the Unterzee. A plethora of "storylets" will slowly, delightfully, spin out before you as you explore and do more in this world.

And it's this aspect - now that I've played several of the major branches - that is most impressive. Stories involving the sudden appearance of a daughter, of a rumored shop that can change your face, or strange plants growing up from your floorboards are just a small sample of the tales you'll uncover.

This is truly one of the first - and best - hyperlinked stories that exist.

And yes, you can write for them as well.

Check out Fallen London now, delicious friend. And see what hyperlinked stories really look like.

And feel free to message me as Senor Wombat there. He's from Down Under ... er, before London became even more down under.


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Remember that everyone's illogical sometimes. Even (gasp!) me.

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When someone acts - especially temporarily - in a way that doesn't mesh with either what they say or how they normally behave, it's important to not judge them too harshly while still reminding them of their ideals.

Yes, of course a persistent disconnect between what someone says and does - or between their ideals and actions - is a Big Problem.

Let me use myself as an example.1

I had an ex-girlfriend whom I wished the best to. While we didn't part on the greatest of terms, it wasn't overall a bad breakup. We stayed in occasional contact, nothing big. I told everyone I was just fine.

And then I saw a picture of her with a new significant other on social media.

I got really upset, which surprised both me and some of my friends I vented to.

"She's happier, Steve," they told me. "Isn't that what you wanted? Don't you keep going on about how people should do that compersion thing?"

And it was true.

But that did not mean I'd suddenly changed into another person.

I was being an irrational human, who espouses (and tries to live up to) ideals that I don't always reach.

Luckily, my friends quickly realized what was going on. They were empathetic about the feelings I was experiencing, understanding that I was temporarily illogical, and simultaneously nudging me back toward my own ideals and the way I want to behave.

And with that experience - with that practice - I was able to behave even closer to my ideals the next time a similar situation occurred.

One of these days, I might even get it right.


1 Remember my artistic license policy.

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Get my eBooks at almost half price and help change someone's life at the same time!

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I'll be honest - I didn't think a powered wheelchair would make that big of a difference in someone's life.

I was wrong.

I found out how wrong I was when I read about Tiffany (pictured above):

Tiffany is 35 years old and three feet tall. She has a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta type 3, or brittle bone disease.

Because of OI, Tiffany can't walk and her bones break very easily. She was born with broken bones, and has broken bones over 200 times since then. She has had surgeries to put rods in both of her legs and a spinal fusion. She has never let OI slow her down, though! She is one of the most outgoing people I've ever known, and she has always done anything she can to help a friend in need. She is a single mom to Jasmyn, who is 8-years-old and just as spirited as her mother! Jasmyn has learned to help Tiffany with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted. Tiffany has always found a way to do anything, but it warms my heart to see Jas help with things like getting Tiffany's wheelchair into their van.

Tiffany has a manual wheelchair, which works best for going out in public, as it's easy to get in their van that does not have a wheelchair lift. However, power wheelchairs are really best for her because they help her to reach higher surfaces like countertops, the sink, the stove, and the washing machine. When Tiffany breaks an arm, finger, or dislocates a shoulder, she can't push herself in her manual wheelchair. A power chair is vital to her day-to-day life. Unfortunately, hers has broken and she has exhausted all avenues of getting a new one through insurance.
After reading about this, I decided to kick in some money to help Tiffany get a powered wheelchair.  Not only did I do that, but I decided to put some of my own eBooks up as rewards to help encourage folks to do the same.

If you contribute $5 or more, you'll get DRM free copies of my flash fiction collections Pencils Made This Scar and Bought Love is a Salaried Position and my short story collection Kicking The Habit.  That's almost half off the normal price of those digital books.

They'll come to you in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats, so you should have no problem reading them no matter what technology you have.  (And I'll include a guide to help you read them as well.)

If you'd like to help - or if you just want the eBooks at this discounted rate - head over to right away - this only lasts while the campaign does!

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More like "Pokemon Stop" for me: How Niantic Decided I Was Cheating, Even Though I Wasn't.

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Edit: If you're the owner of a rooted phone with this same problem, you can follow the steps in this reddit thread.  The key bit for me:

The Google CSR sent me an email link and suggested that I report Niantic via the Report Inappropriate Apps form. Their choice to allow rooted users to make purchases and then later deny them access to the purchased content falls under the Google category of an “Unlawful Activities” --> “Deceptive Behavior” violation. 

Bye bye, Pikachu. 

After two months or so playing the game - and being one of the people who has actually spent money to support the game (and get extra stuff), I uninstalled it yesterday.

I didn't want to - I enjoyed having something to do while walking my dog. I played just enough to stay competitive, but little enough that I hadn't gotten burned out.

But that also means that I was a casual enough player that I didn't follow Niantic's Facebook posts, so I didn't realize the new update would completely make the game unplayable. 

Like this:

Not my phone, but could be.

 Yup, after two months of no problems, suddenly I discovered that having rooted my android phone meant that I could no longer play the game.

I rooted my phone a while back - before I ever thought about installing Pokemon Go - mostly so I could use applications to be able to fully use my SD card after the Lollipop update. That functionality is something I kind of need on my older phone in order to have space to... oh, play things like Pokemon Go. (I also use it with Tasker to automate some other things that should be able to be automatic, but aren't.)

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Some people used GPS spoofing in order to cheat. I actually ran into that - while at a gym in an otherwise empty park, someone kept fighting me for it, even though there was no-one else in sight. 

As annoying as that was, not being able to play is a far sight more annoying.

Add in the assumption that I must be cheating because I could be cheating, and I'm righteously pissed off. 

Nevermind that you can easily find ways to spoof your GPS without rooting. Nevermind that literally days after the ban on jailbroken and rooted phones was rolled out, there's already ways to make it so you can play the game on your rooted phone or jailbroken phone.

It's too much trouble for me to jump through those hoops myself. And I shouldn't have to.

I'm one of the people who spent money on this game, and was still playing and enjoying it. 

Now? I can either uninstall this NON WORKING game, or tweak a bunch more stuff to pretend my phone isn't rooted.  

Niantic has made a lot of mis-steps with this game, and I've forgiven them all so far. 

Treating me like a cheater when I'm not was the last straw.

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You need to have this one simple rule in every relationship you have.

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Note that when I say "relationships", I mean any relationships, whether it's romantic, friendly, or otherwise.

It's a fairly simple rule, and one that shouldn't be too big of a deal for anyone to agree to.  But it's vital.


If anyone starts getting upset in text or e-mail, stop immediately and switch to voice or face to face.
It's simple. It's also super important.

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Want to pass the 25K person long queue at Comment here!

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I've pointed out in the past that encryption based on PGP (or GPG) is something you want - if for no other reason than to sign digital documents. Three years later, there's a site/service called that's wanting to make this a lot easier for you - and I've got 20 invites!

In addition to providing a nice way to make encryption easy (including sharing encrypted documents or digitally signing them), incidentally does something pretty cool: It verifies you as the owner of your twitter account, website, github, and more.  For example, you can know that I'm really the guy behind @uriel1998 on Twitter:

This seems like a nice and neat way to help make encryption a lot simpler for folks.  (Don't think you need encryption? Mail me your bank statements, bills, or credit card statements. I'll make sure they go where they need to go.  Yeaaaaah.)

Since I have 20 invites (apparently the queue is over 25,000 people, and this jumps you to the top of the line), the first twenty people to e-mail me at

with a subject line of "I want encryption" will get an invite!

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Superman, Batman, Green Lanterns, and Mechs, oh my! A triple-play DC review!

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Over last weekend, I watched three different DC film properties; I'll give you a quick review of all three before this weekend.

In dead stinking last place was Batman v. Superman: Too Many Plots (2016).

Okay, Dawn of Justice. Whatever.

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I started fast forwarding half an hour into it because I was making comparisons between it and Balls Out: The Gary Houseman Story (easily my least favorite movie ever). Batfleck was...okay? I guess? Cavill looks good as Superman, and some of the cinematography was pretty good, but the writing was just So. Very. Awful. Not only were there too many plots (which I could tell even as I fast forwarded!), but the writing and acting for each scene was pretty awful. Honest Trailers dissected it rather succinctly.

But it was awful. How awful? Writers, pay attention: Lex's big (whiny!) motivation speech is embedded below:

Now contrast that with the power that a FREAKING TV SHOW (Preacher, spoilers for S01E08!) treats almost the exact same topic here:

So if you have three hours, watch three hours of Preacher instead. Seriously.

Now, there are five pretty awesome minutes in the movie, and they all have Gal Godot in them. Not only is she a freaking terrifyingly awesome Wonder Woman, but for once in this movie, there's some actual humor and lightness. Presented below so you can just avoid suffering through the rest of it.

I mean, everyone else is moping and when she gets knocked back by the lets-reuse-the-cave-troll-model-these-nerds-didn't-watch-LoTR-right1 Doomsday, she has this freaking expression:

THAT is someone to follow into battle.

Oh, if Warner Brothers doesn't make her movie 120 minutes of that, I will be honest-to-goodness pissed.  How pissed?  Well, let's just say that I'll be hoping some WB execs hear a noise. A high-pitched, kind of bunny-in-a-bear-trap sound...

Yeah, you get the idea.

Okay, so on to the next film... Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants (2016).

So you might be thinking to yourself, golly, that sure looks like someone decided to make Pacific Rim if Batman was involved.  And you'd be right... sorta.

And then you'd be disappointed.

"Pacific Rim with Batman" was very clearly the pitch used for this film. You can even hear PacRim-ish sounding music in the first two minutes:

...buuuuuut it's also very clearly a shoehorned way to take what could have been a really really cool twenty minute vignette and justify it into a full-length movie. There are so many unneeded bad guys and heroes, and they're all pretty much cardboard cutout versions of their most stereotypical attributes.

Throw in that the plot has so many insane holes in it that I simply don't even know where to start (and this is from someone who forgives all the plot holes in PacRim).

Sure, the Penguin's penguin is cute. Sure, the Bat-Mech (and GA Mech) are kinda cool for the first few minutes. The bad guy's plans and motivations? Make NO freaking sense whatsoever. The B plot with Robin (Damien iteration) wanting Batman's approval? Pretty flat...but stronger and more compelling than the A plot with the Big Bads. Not. Cool. 

And of course, the merch opportunities were well exploited....but given some of the toy's reviews on YouTube, you might have more fun if you spend your money on some of the toys instead of the film they're drawn from.

(That said, I'd rather have this be canon than Batman/Batgirl nookie tacked onto The Killing Joke. Honest Trailers pretty much nailed that one too.)

So that takes us to our third DC venture - and the oldest of the bunch - Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011).

I'll be honest - while I didn't hate the theatrical GL movie like others did, I only gave this animated feature a chance because I saw the fan-remix "Blackest Night" trailer the day before:

Luckily, I did not repeat NOT see the "official" trailer for this movie. Watch it only after you've decided to watch this film.

This trailer is highly misleading on two counts. First, "from the producers of the movie Green Lantern" was apparently still thought to be a good thing when they made the trailer. Second, it really gives the impression ("six interlocking stories" aside) that it's a single, continuous story - and it's not.

This is a frame story anthology. There's a framing story - the present day of the characters - and then various stories about the GL corps that are related from Hal to his new rookie, Arisia. Then there's a resolution to the framing story, which does relate in some way to all the stories that were previously told. But don't let the fact that it's not one big continous story dissuade you from this. The stories are pretty good - nothing too surprising in terms of plot twists or unexpected surprises, but they're all done pretty solidly. It's also nice to see non-humans done as characters worthy of empathy and compassion (well before Rocket Raccoon, thanks), though the Japanese ripoff culture in the "Laira" story did make me want to point out the term "cultural appropriation" to someone.

The framing story has one huge scientific mis-step thanks to someone who doesn't understand antimatter at all, but by that point I was sold enough on the rest of the film that I was okay with it.

A large part of why I'll forgive the sins of this film is due to the great voice talent at play here. There's Jason Alexander as Sinestro, Henry-Freaking-Rollins as Kilowog, Elisabeth Moss as Arisia, and Nathan "The Hammer"2 Fillion as Hal Jordan.

Yes, boys and girls, that means that this anthology movie was "Storytime with Nathan Fillion". And his dulcet (and joyful!) tones really pushed this film to the top of the heap of these three.

It wasn't a high bar to clear, mind you. If you hadn't seen any of the other DC films I've mentioned before, then yeah, the GL film is clearly on top. If you haven't, check out my prior reviews of some of the animated DC universe films. I especially recommend the animated Wonder Woman, which also had Mr. Fillion on board. It was...

1I laughed when I saw that Screen Junkies noticed it too; I came to that conclusion separately. And if you didn't... well, um... can I get you to sign onto the class action lawsuit saying that LoTR ripped of Dungeons and Dragons?
2The Hammer is his in-joke.

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Focus on reading, writing, or working with - no matter what kind of sounds you like!

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I've found various types of music to be helpful when I'm either working or writing, and I've tried to highlight some of them here. There are other times that you might just want to have just enough background noise - whether that's what you need to concentrate, or because you just need a change of pace.

That's where comes in.

To quote their website: "myNoise will never produce music in the conventional sense. Music is usually meant for active listening, and our goal — our specialty — is to provide passive sound choices: these will help our listeners to settle down, switch off external solicitations and devote their intellectual resources to a given task, such as working or meditating."

Check out this video demonstrating how it can easily block noise without sounding like it's blocking noise:

I've found to be a great thing when I'm working, writing, or reading, and definitely worth throwing a few dollars toward. Want to feel like you're on a starship? In a Tibetan monastery? Perhaps guitars are more your thing? Or somewhere in our distant past?  There are SO many options that it'd make this blog post seem like a link farm if I tried to describe them all.

Seriously, if you've ever been distracted while working, writing, or reading, check out  And if you even find a few moment's peace or inspiration from it, toss five or more dollars their way.


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Like electronic music? Like listening to it at your PC? I have good news for you....

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A while back, digitally imported, one of my two favorite streaming sources of music (the other is, give them some love) decided to restrict ad-supported streaming to only their mobile app due to "licensing agreements".  The only way you could get the regular stream was to become a Premium member at $7 a month.

Now, I do kick in money to annually, but usually around $25 a year.  (And you should support Soma as well - they're worth supporting.)

And while I'd be willing to do the same for di - or listen to ads - they insist that only counts if I'm using my phone or tablet to listen.

Which is stupid.

(Please note, you folks at digitally imported, that I'm not only saying that I would pay $25 a year for a low-quality premium service, but I'd encourage others to as well.  But alas, we can't.)

So some enterprising person posted a workaround on CommandLine-Fu. I took that base (which relies on the cross-platform mplayer) and created a quick way to peruse the current stations available by just scrolling down and playing it by pressing enter.

Technically, it will register for di as if you're listening from an Android device - which in my case, would be true, except that I just don't want to unplug my speakers and plug them into my phone. So they should still get whatever credit they would originally, so we're not stealing anything. I just heard an ad for Verizon, JC Penny, PetSmart, and Progressive insurance, so they should still be getting the ad revenue they'd get otherwise.

And should they change the format of the icecast directory or the version of the Android app, it should be a simple substitution to fix.

You can snag my script at It should work for anyone who has bash - so OSX and Linux folks.  (Windows folks, check out the CommandLineFu link so you can plug it in directly.)

And again, if someone from digitally imported stumbles across this, give us an option to subscribe for less and have low-quality streams.

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Anchors, Primaries, and Unidirectional Flows of Relationships

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I really enjoy delving into the aspects that we don't question around relationships. The problem then is that there aren't really any good terms - or sometimes even concepts - to describe what's going on.

This is a Big Problem, as far as I'm concerned - when expectations and needs are kept unstated, they're probably going to be unmet, and therefore at the root of waaaaaay too much drama.

In particular, I want to talk about "primary" partners and "anchor" partners...and how they might be unidirectional.

These are terms that have come up in polyamory, but they definitely apply in monogamous relationships as well, and are arguably more important concepts in that framework.

Wikipedia gives one definition - and yes, the definitions vary a lot depending on who you're talking to.  Some people use the terms interchangeably. Some people use one to talk about emotional attachment, and the other to talk about lives being intertwined (paying bills, living together, etc).

In my experience, it doesn't matter which term you use, or even how you use it, as long as the people you're in relationships with agree with you on that definition (or at least, are aware of how you use it, and can "translate" to their definition).

The problems come in one of two ways - and the problem that hits monogamous folks is far worse. Polyamorous folks run into problems when one person is using terms differently than the other partner(s) in the relationship.

So what's worse in monogamous-land?

Not realizing that this is a thing at all.

I had a relationship where I could have said that my amour's best friend actually filled the role of a primary partner more than I did. There wasn't physical attraction between my amour and her friend, but that's irrelevant.

That was perfectly fine, by the way. Sometimes that's what happens - and if you're able to parse out the different threads in relationships, it's not inherently bad. But when you're ignorant that there can be different roles for different people in your life... well, it just feels like something's wrong, but you don't have the words for it. And our brains being the way they are, you find things that are wrong to complain about.  Too bad they're not actually what's bothering you... so the cycle continues.  You can see how this could get really toxic fast.

The other thing is that I've come to realize that these labels can be unidirectional - and not inherently destroy a relationship or a person.

Yeah, that sounds a lot like unrequited love. Bear with me for a second.

We're not talking about where an emotion is unreturned; instead, I'm talking about where the level of intensity may be unequal.  (There's an adage that it's always unequal in any relationship, so monogamous folks need to stay tuned too.)

Remember junior high, when it was a huge trauma if you said someone was your best friend... and you were not their best friend? It didn't matter how close you were, or how good of friends you were. You weren't their best friend, and felt slighted.

How childish.

Your time, attention, and affection are a gift, just as another's is a gift to you. Ideally, we strive to give gifts that will make the people we care about happy. Period. It's not about getting a gift or thank-you note back; then it's a barter system, not gifting.1

So someone can be my emotional2 primary, even if they are not mine.

That doesn't mean their love and affection for me is any less; if anything, I'm valuing their gift of love and affection more by recognizing it for what it is.

I can hear some of my friends already wailing "but it doesn't work like that!"  They're right - because we don't take the time to make it work like that. These are learned behaviors, and they can be unlearned so that we can live happier and more fulfilling lives.

1 Boundaries need to be mentioned here, of course; I'm presuming that one isn't giving to the point that it hurts themselves, for example. If you're giving gifts of your time and attention and affection and it's hurting you... then yeah, something's wrong. And as already stated, unrequited stuff is a WHOLE different ball of wax.
2 I suppose this could happen with other "types" of primaries as well; it's clearest with emotions, though.

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