ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Take an hour long break and write with us this weekend! (attn: @WriterSymposium )

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Tired of politics? Or perhaps you're at GenCon and need to get away for an hour? Or even better, you've attended sessions at the GenCon Writer's Symposium, and want to put what you've learned to the test?

Then take an hour to write with us this weekend!
 
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while.  It's also great if you have problems with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it) or self-doubt.  Here's why:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary.  :)



The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Dr. Q (a newcomer to the forum!) is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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Your silence gives Nazis and other extremists strength

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I've seen a number of people post both that if you don't disavow Nazis then you must be supporting them ...and I've also seen people say that not supporting Nazis that it is the assumed default, and that you don't need to post about it.

Both are true. 

First, social media is not life. I am pretty active on social media and there have been entire controversies that I have missed or not commented upon.

Sometimes that's because other people have already said what I would have (and frequently done so more eloquently than I), sometimes that's because I'm simply too busy with my real life to comment on social media.

So I am not going to presume that people who don't explicitly say so must be supporting Nazis.

At the same time, we cannot assume that silence means disapproval of Nazis - and we definitely cannot assume that silence does not empower Nazis.

Those who are silent very well might disapprove of Nazis (though many of us have had nasty surprises last weekend).  More importantly, there are plenty of studies, from people who researched extremist groups like these for decades, that show that extremists believe that silence is approval. Extremists like Nazis and the KKK assume that not speaking up against them means that you are just quietly supporting them.

So I exhort you to say something. In real life. On social media. Whenever and wherever the opportunity arises.

They draw strength from your silence.

Because while I and your friends and family may know that you would never support Nazis, they are assuming that you do.

Nazis are nazis, no matter how they brand themselves.

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You are either against Nazis or you support them.  They do not allow a middle ground.

A few relevant notes:

From Patrick Tomlinson (on Twitter, lost the link):

"Because there's some confusion, fighting for civil rights, and fighting for genocide, are not morally or ethically equivalent positions."

Trump wanted (wants?) to focus counter-terrorism solely on Islam.






This isn't just about race. As Patrick Tomlinson articulately said about the Daily Stormer article about Heather Heyer (archive.org link, triggering):

Nazism isn't just about racism. It is also deeply misogynistic. It is about not just preserving white power, but male domination.

Just look at how these troglodytes talk about an innocent woman MURDERED by one of their number. Look at how they reduce her value to nothing more than the productivity of her womb. How they call her a slut for engaging in the simple joy of human sexuality while they themselves preen about their ficticious "conquests." Look at how they reduce her deliberate, calculated assassination by their compatriot to a mere "road rage" incident as if she'd refused to let him merge instead of being run down in a crowded street while on foot.

Look these people, in the face. See what they really are.

This is not a somewhere else problem. These are people who live among the rest of us. The scum who killed Heather Heyer is from Ohio. The author of that article is in Columbus. Two others photographed there are from Centerville, just down the road from me.


They live in your town.

While the ones photographed in Charlottesville are being identified, there are others who weren't there.

They might be quieter. They might offer false equivalencies or excuses.

But it is simple.

You are against Nazis - no matter how they rebrand themselves - or you are for them.

No comments :

Think writing is hard? THEN WRITE WITH US THIS WEEKEND ANYWAY.

No comments
Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.




Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary. 


The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Author, and editor Sarah Hans is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

Seeing red flags on reality TV in real time #BB19

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My amour has gotten me into Big Brother; and in this case, I'm particularly glad.

You don't need to know much about the show - other than that people get "evicted" after being nominated - in terms of setup for these two clips.  You absolutely need to know that Jessica and Cody (you'll know who they are right damn quick) formed a relationship early on this season.  They were both put up for eviction ("on the block") this week, and then Paul - the guy who put them up for eviction - tried to have a conversation with them.


If you can't watch the video, Cody totally got aggressive with Paul, far out of proportion to anything else that was going on. And then something ... interesting ... happened.




Jessica called Cody out on being overly aggressive.  She tried to lay out that his aggressive response not only messed up the work she'd done in the game, but also would be something she simply could not tolerate in the real world (they'd previously discussed dating after the show was over).

Cody's response:  Silence and a total lack of reaction, until he started to say how he wasn't good enough and couldn't say the right thing.  A total pity play.

This is required viewing for seeing a red flag being thrown in real-time, in real life (and just happening to be televised).  Cody never actually answers Jessica's concerns about his behavior, instead redirecting the entire conversation to be about how sad he is and trying to elicit her sympathy.

As two folks on Twitter put it:




No comments :

It's a decision: Your life and health means less than profit statements

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My amour has a prescription jumping from $40/month to $130/month... making the third maintenance medication that she's on that's in that range.

A friend of mine has a generic version of the maintenance medication she's on jumping to $450/month.

Neither is referring to a particularly obscure or new medication.

Both of them are citing prices with insurance.

They aren't the only people I know who have this problem. Not by a long shot.


When I see my friends and loved ones share this information on social media, there's usually two types of replies that show up.

The first suggests workarounds:  physician samples, discount cards, and ways to somehow make things work.

The second is purely sympathetic, for example:  "I'm sorry that's going on."


Both types of replies miss the point. 

They mean well, but still, they miss the point.

Because this is not a "situation".  This is not some act of God, some natural phenomenon.

No.

This is deliberate.  Each and every instance of the price of your medication skyrocketing, every time you're told you can't have the medication that actually works for you, it was designed and crafted by other people.

They try to hide behind charts and graphs.  They try to hide behind the names of corporations and closed board meetings and excuses about shareholders and profit statements.

But someone decided.

Someone - let's say a group of someones, even a whole damn corporation of someones - decided that you shouldn't be able to afford the medications you need to keep yourself healthy.  That you shouldn't even be able to get the medications you need to keep yourself healthy.

They decided your life, your health, was less important than making a bigger profit.

Maybe it's not hit you yet.  Maybe it's affected just a friend, or a loved one.  But sooner or later, all of us are going to be affected by this.

Sooner or later, all of us will discover that to them, our life is less important than a hedge fund making a couple extra bucks in dividends.

Are you angry yet?

Good.

Angry gets shit done.




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The GOP Dishonored Itself Last Night. Will Republicans Care?

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Never tell me there is no difference between the parties in the United States again.

Never.

Never tell me that your third-party vote for President - at least until the third parties have strong local and state representation - is anything other than handing a vote to the other party.

The events of last night - the cowardly and dishonorable late-night no-vetting attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (y'know, that policy that was originally created by a right-wing think tank and whose "failures" largely rest with states who have refused to participate) make it clear that there is a hugely stark difference between the parties.

There are problems with the Affordable Care Act. But - unlike the bill that was up before the Senate last night - it doesn't allow employers to stop covering you. The bill last night would - according to the Congressional Budget Office - lead to 20% increases in all insurance premiums year after year and a massive increase in the number of people who are no longer insured.

That bill would have led to medical jobs going away.  That bill would have reduced your access to healthcare.

That bill would have killed American citizens.

NOT PRETEND that the now (strangely) lauded McCain is somehow on board with making sure that people are covered. Read his statement: his concern was that Democrats weren't on board with it.

It wasn't so much that people wouldn't be covered.


It was that the optics were bad.


This is the time, RIGHT NOW, to talk to your friends and loved ones. This is the time to talk to those Republicans who still believe the party of Eisenhower is still in there. 
 
Because I can believe that there are Republicans who still believe in the values of the party of Eisenhower.  Who believe in taking care of people while practicing fiscal conservatism.

But the politicians of the GOP have not been the party of Eisenhower for at least a decade now.  

And even if you believe that the ACA needs to be replaced or reformed, I'm willing to bet that the honorable Republicans out there think that their ideas are strong enough to stand the test of daylight.

I'm willing to bet that honorable Republicans think that their ideas should be tested and challenged so that they can be stronger.

I'm willing to bet that honorable Republicans realize that the actions of the GOP last night - trying to sneak a bill literally written on lunch break through in the middle of the night, with no chance for public input, examination, or debate - are the actions of those who do not believe in honor, decency, or the rule of law.

This is your moment, you average citizens who hold the values of Eisenhower.  

This is your moment, those of you who still believe in the GOP's "big tent".

This is your moment to scream through the phone lines and faxes and e-mail lists at your representatives.

Because they have dishonored the Republican Party.

And by association, have dishonored you.

No comments :

Sometimes we're all sociopathic. That doesn't mean it's okay.

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The person who sets off fireworks all night long on the 4th of July (or the weeks before or after it) is the same sort of sociopath who wears too much cologne or turns up the car radio to 11 and rolls down the window when their jam comes on.

That is to say, that person is all of us, sometimes.

That doesn't mean it's okay.  I totally understand fireworks on the 4th of July (or even the weekend closest).  Even until midnight.

But this year, for example, the fireworks went on that weeknight pretty much all night.  And the week before.  And they're still going on sporadically over two weeks later.

And I bet those people who are setting them off are thinking about nothing except how cool the fireworks are.  How enjoyable they are.

They aren't thinking about, for example, my dog cowering and afraid to go out after dark during the summer.


Again, there's nothing wrong with enjoying fireworks.  Or your cologne. Or your favorite jam while in the car.

But there is something wrong with being so selfish that you don't stop to consider how what you're doing is effecting all those around you.

No comments :

Flash Writing Challege This Weekend! Prompt at 8PM EST TODAY! FREE! NO EXCUSES!

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.




Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
3. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
4. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
5. We are friendly, despite all appearances to the contrary. 


The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Author, and editor Sarah Hans is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

And look, I'm getting e-mails from Grammarly asking me to take down pages again!

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If you've been around for a couple of years, you might remember when I talked about Grammarly.  My review of the service was that it wasn't worth the price, though my girlfriend at the time (who teaches college level English) gave it a much more scathing review:
I would NOT recommend such a program for my students or my school for a bunch of reasons. First, I can't see the quality of the feedback provided. If I can't see an actual sample, I wouldn't ever endorse its use. Period.

Second, the program appears to give A LOT of commentary on work, as if quantity indicates quality. Students need help not only finding problems but also PRIORITIZING them. An omitted Oxford comma is a stylistic choice; pervasive run-on sentences are a much more pressing issue.

Third, this program should be used ONLY under the guidance of competent real-live writing teachers. But admini$trator$ will see $12 a month as a wonderfully cheap way to get a new "teacher"; they'll get what they pay for. And without guidance as to HOW to use the comments, students may think that a properly edited piece of writing is GOOD, that the correctness somehow proves their content is okay. However, editing isn't revision. If I could give students grades based solely on where they placed their commas, my job would be much simpler and grading much more efficient.

There's a body of research out there, and more being conducted all the time, about computer-assisted writing assessment on products such as Criterion and My Access, which purport to assess content as well as correctness. Do they work? Finding of most researchers indicate, in short, that they don't.

Now, I'm back to grading. And not only for the commas.

But aside from the quality of the service, I also took exception with their scammy PR tactics, where they (under the guidance of Nick Baron) tried to essentially bribe me and other bloggers to get positive linkbacks and reviews, and then trying to get people to take down their negative reactions to said tactics.

That was four years ago.  You'd think they would learn, right?

Nope.

Karen Hertzberg, Grammarly's current "content specialist", sent me this e-mail today:
Karen from Grammarly’s team here with a quick request. We’re working on cleaning up our backlink profile, and part of that process involves removing certain links pointing to our site. Would you help us out by removing the Grammarly hyperlink on the following page?
 
ideatrash.net/2013/06/a-pr-person-from-grammarly-wanted-pr.html

Understand that we’re not questioning your website’s quality; we’re just doing all we can to comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. I’d be grateful if you’d email me to let me know when the link has been removed.
Thanks in advance for your help!
So once again, Grammarly is wanting folks to take down negative reviews (and reminders about their history of scammy promotion tactics).  But rather than being straightforward about it, they're claiming it's because of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Maybe - just MAYBE - they've hired a new PR person who is going back and undoing the damage that was done.  But considering that my response was as follows:
Are you kidding me?  Oh man, going about trying to get a negative article about you removed by pretending it is just complying with Google...oh wow.

Hell, you're gonna get another link now, detailing this conversation. 
You'd expect that they'd respond with a clarification that they were trying to walk the straight and narrow now instead of... well, silence.

So maybe Grammarly is trying to go back and remove all the scammy and spammy backlinks they generated years ago.  But if so, they're going about it in a particularly tone-deaf way. 

No comments :

Review: RimWorld

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RimWorld isn't your normal kind of game. The official description gives you a
hint of this:
RimWorld follows three survivors from a crashed space liner as they build a colony on a frontier world at the rim of known space. Inspired by the space western vibe of Firefly, the deep simulation of Dwarf Fortress, and the epic scale of Dune and Warhammer 40,000.
But before you think this is just another game like so many others, there's a big twist:
In RimWorld, your colonists are not professional settlers – they’re survivors from a crashed passenger liner. They'll be accountants, homemakers, journalists, cooks, nobles, urchins, and soldiers.
There's a lot to like about this game - though it's technically still in alpha (and has been since its first release at the end of 2013), it's more polished and developed than many other independent final releases. It's also very actively developed, with new releases bringing performance and feature improvements. Like many indie games, graphics aren't its biggest draw, but they're stylized and quite acceptable.

It's crossplatform - Windows, Mac, and Linux - and whether you use Steam or a direct download, there's an active modding community which lets you tweak and enhance gameplay significantly.

RimWorld has aspects of worldbuilding, RTS, and 4x games, and should appeal most to those who enjoy those kinds of games.

Rimworld is $30 (which includes all updates and the final game), and is well worth it.

No comments :

You don't seem too happy to see me.

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"You don't seem too happy to see me."

There are some phrases where tone of voice is everything.

This is one of them.

Admittedly it's disconcerting when someone you care about doesn't react the way you expect. Especially when you haven't seen them for a while.

It's possible to say this in a caring way.  If your loved one seems out of sorts, there's probably a reason. Saying this in a caring tone gives you an opportunity to find out what's wrong and to help.

The other way, though, is something completely different.  The other way is a demand for an emotional performance. It's a demand borne out of a sense of entitlement.

And that sense of entitlement is a giant red flag.

It might seem that the difference between the two tones is obvious, but too often our caring natures makes us want to excuse the latter. 

Don't. 

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When a hate site claims it's not a hate site, because religion

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The site linked to at the bottom is - and you've been warned - some concentrated, distilled, and purified self-righteous fuckery dressed up and pretending that it's a follower of an itinerant Jewish rabbi that lived two thousand years ago. 
 
There's almost too much on this page to really get it in one go.  From the predictable gender policing and anti-feminism to '9/11 was an inside job' to anti-Catholicism to the insistence that (somehow) only King James's version of the Bible is the only accurate translation (which also posits that English somehow hasn't changed since that time, but anyway).

But it's worth taking an eyeball-searing look at this yes quite probably triggering supposedly "Christian" website.  Especially if you're a Christian.
 
First, because It's stunning and horrifying and worth reminding yourself that yes, people like this actually exist. 
 
But the more important thing is easily missed if you don't scroll to the bottom.  There's a link where they claim "This is NOT a hate site" and "explain" how it's really a "love" site. I'm reminded of one of the street preachers who explained to me that since he was "born again", it was impossible for him to sin, since that would mean he wasn't actually born again.
 
And that's terrifying

It is not difficult at all to see how this kind of zealotry leads to extremism, or how prominent quotations of "...Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here" can become dog-whistles to violence.  (Christian terrorism in the US is a thing)

The dominant Christian narrative in the United States keeps claiming that Christianity is different than "those" religions.  They keep claiming - implicitly or explicitly - that it is a difference in the quality of the religions.

Sites like this do serve a valuable purpose: They show, quite clearly, that extremism isn't about which faith tradition or religion you follow. It's about the people following that religion.

With that warning: http://jesus-is-savior.com/

No comments :

TELL EVERYONE: If you're not freaking out about Net Neutrality, you're not paying attention.

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Imagine your grocery store only carried the brand of soda (or bread or soup or...) you hated. Or, worse, they'd let you get the kind you wanted - but only if you paid an extra fee.

And worse - you'd have to go to the next town over (or two towns over, or more) to find a grocery store that didn't stiff you like that.

That's what a world without Net Neutrality would be like - except with your e-mail, your web browser, your games, your music, your shopping, and more.


TODAY (12 July) is the Internet-wide day of action to support Net Neutrality.

It doesn't matter what your politics, views, or lifestyle is; you want net neutrality.

Help preserve Net Neutrality by heading to https://www.battleforthenet.com and letting your representatives know that you value a truly competitive free market and the ability to choose how you communicate rather than having someone else dictate it to you.

Also go to the FCC's site and leave a comment at http://gofccyourself.com (thanks to John Oliver gets you right to where you need to be) and click "Express". If you'd rather have directions (with pictures), those are here:

https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/how-to-comment-on-the-fccs-proposal-to-revoke-net-neutrality/

Fight for Net Neutrality! Fight for Imgur!

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ACT NOW to preserve the freedom of the Internet. (Yes, YOU)

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TODAY (12 July) is the Internet-wide day of action to support Net Neutrality.

It doesn't matter what your politics, views, or lifestyle is; you want net neutrality.

Help preserve Net Neutrality by heading to https://www.battleforthenet.com and letting your representatives know that you value a truly competitive free market and the ability to choose how you communicate rather than having someone else dictate it to you.

Also go to the FCC's site and leave a comment at http://gofccyourself.com (thanks to John Oliver gets you right to where you need to be) and click "Express". If you'd rather have directions (with pictures), those are here:

https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/how-to-comment-on-the-fccs-proposal-to-revoke-net-neutrality/


Fight For The Future - Net Neutrality from Nimblebot on Vimeo.

No comments :

Internet Day of Action for Net Neutrality is TOMORROW (12 July)

1 comment

Tomorrow (12 July) is the Internet-wide day of action to support Net Neutrality.

It doesn't matter what your politics, views, or lifestyle is; you want net neutrality.

Help preserve Net Neutrality by heading to https://www.battleforthenet.com and letting your representatives know that you value a truly competitive free market and the ability to choose how you communicate rather than having someone else dictate it to you.

Also go to the FCC's site and leave a comment at http://gofccyourself.com (thanks to John Oliver gets you right to where you need to be) and click "Express".  If you'd rather have directions (with pictures), those are here:

https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/how-to-comment-on-the-fccs-proposal-to-revoke-net-neutrality/

Giffing for Net Neutrality

Flash Challenge: THIS WEEKEND. FREE. NO EXCUSES. PROMPT AT 8PM TODAY EST.

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.



So what? NO EXCUSES.

Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You're supposed to write for an hour (ish); you can make that time.
2. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
3. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.




The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (THAT'S TODAY, FOLKS) at 8pm EST.  Poet, author, and editor Anton Cancre is our flashmaster!

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday. 

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

No comments :

The one economic principle politicians ignore when immigrants are involved

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Look at your politicians.

See how many of them have championed the "free market".

Realize that the free market includes the idea that labor - that is, workers - is mobile, able to move freely to wherever the work is.

Realize that this means migration.  Realize that this means immigration

Realize that restrictions on immigration are quite literally restrictions on the "free market".

Look at your politicians.

See how many of them are hypocrites.

See how many only espouse the "free market" when it benefits them or their donors.

I've long held that politicians only read the first chapter of the economics textbook - the one where they spell out the "ideal" situation - and ignore the second chapter where it talks about how it doesn't work in real life.

But now, their racism and greed makes it clear they don't even give a damn about the first chapter.

No comments :

YOU must be the advocate for upgrading the OS at your day job; here's a script to help.

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With multiple exploits of older versions of Windows operating systems in the wild, I finally wrote up a quick primer to get folks up to speed at my day job and to help my superiors make the case that these threats must be taken seriously.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, that means you ABSOLUTELY must read this too.

There's really only one viable long-term solution: upgrade your operating system to either a more recent version of Windows or a version of *nix that is supported, patched, upgraded (I've talked about a  real-life example before.)   Unfortunately, many places (like my day job) have computer systems that are part of a vendor product, and therefore are not under the purview of our IT department.

Regardless: the short, and most important take-away is this:  You cannot leave your computers unpatched and unupgraded.  This is just as vital and important as the drive to install antivirus software was last decade.

I do suggest a couple of stop-gap solutions that might protect you... but only temporarily.

I hope the following outline/precis helps you make that case to the people who administer your computer systems as well.

Problem:  

    Multiple computers used to run systems are running outdated and unpatched versions of Windows

    In the our department there are [NUMBER] boxes running Windows XP, and [NUMBER] boxes running Windows 2000.

    These are provided by multiple vendors, including [LIST VENDORS HERE]

    Multiple threats in the last few months have been exploiting unpatched Windows systems

    WannaCry: Reuters. Ars Technica

    Petya: Microsoft TechNet

    These threats not only spread through user interaction, but spread via SMB on ports 139 and 445.

    These ports are actively open and listening on at least some of the systems, verified using the following command at a shell prompt

    netstat –ano | grep "LISTENING" | grep -e ":445" grep -e ":139"

    Boxes like these that are not directly connected to the internet may be at risk because of how these worms spread through networks.

    These vendor-supplied boxes are unlikely to be patched by the vendor without significant expenditures.

    Patching software on boxes used in [INDUSTRY] may void any validity testing.

    Windows XP and Windows 2000 are both beyond "End of Support": Microsoft

    There is a special patch for XP due to the worms in #2: Microsoft

Solutions

    Reach out to vendors to provide security upgrades to the OS (not to the applications)

    Determine if applying the security patch from Microsoft to the OS will void validity testing

    If not, acquire and install patches manually.

    Provide a router for camera systems that restricts access


Stop-gap Solutions  


    Determine if any processes on these systems require SMB; if not, uninstall it.

    Utilize Windows Firewall to block TCP/UDP 139 and TCP/UDP 445

    Utilize a restrictive HOSTS file; an example is here. If you don't know how to install a HOSTS file, you definitely shouldn't be trying this.

    4. Have ports 445 and 139 blocked at the router level across the LAN.

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When it's not just sexist

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I remember my initial sexism training when I was in the military, decades ago.

I remember people being "confused" about when a compliment was a compliment and when it was objectification. It got cleared up then, pretty handily.

I'm surprised that - again, decades later - we not only have a POTUS who hasn't absorbed that training, but people my age and younger who can't see the difference.

This recent example where Trump interrupted a phone call with Taoiseach (the head of the Irish government) to "compliment" a reporter.



TRUMP: We have a lot of your Irish press in the room... go ahead, go ahead, come here, come here. Where are you from? See, we have all of this beautiful Irish press.

PERRY: I'm from RTE News [crosstalk] Caitriona Perry.

TRUMP: Caitriona Perry. She has a nice smile on her face. So I bet she treats you well.

If you can watch the video, it's worth it for the eyeroll as she walks away.


It is always useful in such situations to flip things. If he'd called over a male reporter and say "He has such a nice smile, I bet he treats you well," would we think nothing of it?

No, of course not.

Originally, I thought this was just another example of listing a woman's appearance as the primary factor about them instead of whatever achievements or other qualities they might have. I thought that partially because I misheard Trump's last sentence.

What he actually said actually exposes a bias that's even worse: That a woman's qualities as a professional are based around their "niceness".

That's not just sexist. It's an alarming bias toward groupthink.

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I can save today. You can save the world.

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Because it's needed. For her today. For others every day. You are more awesome than you think, and a damn sight more awesome than those who would tear you down.















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Flash Challenge THIS WEEKEND! Get critique on your writing for free!

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Here's why you should do it, especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
3. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.
The next challenge is scheduled for THIS weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday (TODAY) at 8pm EST.

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.  

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right now and join us!

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You need a password manager if you want to be safe online - and probably one you control

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I heard one of the more ignorant things last week:  A guy told me that he preferred a closed-source, commercial password manager instead of an open source one "because [he doesn't] trust open source software".

Amusingly, he was saying this about the same time that the news that commercial password manager OneLogin was hacked and potentially stole sensitive user data.

I tend to trust open source (and community-supported) software more for two basic reasons:

1. The source code is available, and I could examine and compile it myself.

2. Practical experience - most notably the experience I had with seeing how fast patches for Heartbleed rolled out in 2015 compared to patches for Stagefright for Android.

Additionally, this is the risk you run whenever you store sensitive information "in the cloud" (and remember, "in the cloud" simply means "on someone else's computer").  Yes, this includes the syncing that both Chrome and Firefox can do.

My advice on making your online life more secure is still valid five years on.  I still use KeepassX (Win/Mac/Linux) quite happily. You can sync the password database to your phone using a commercial service such as Dropbox (using DropSync) or a self-hosted one like OwnCloud (use FolderSync) and then use the app Keepass2Android (offline version) to open that local file.  

Why is that better than trusting it all to a company like OneLogin?  Simple.  If my OwnCloud/Dropbox gets hacked, there's another completely separate password that's locked my password data file.

I'm not going to tell you that you have to use KeepassX. You should use whatever works with your workflow.  But you should make sure that you take your own responsibility for your online security.

One more addition that I'll make to my recommendations: Your password manager should have a "notes" area.  Use that so that your "security questions" can be completely random answers and still be accessible from your phone if you need them.

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Memorial Day Flash Fiction Challenge - It's FREE (and extra time to boot!)

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Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash.  It's on a forum behind a password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.  Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Here's why you should do it, especially if you haven't been writing for a while:

1. Challenges like this are great for stimulating creativity.
2. You don't have the time to critique yourself.
3. You'll get helpful feedback from published authors and editors like myself, Donna Munro, Anton Cancre, and more.


The next challenge is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.  The prompt will go up this Friday at 8pm EST.  You'll have twice as much time to write as normal.

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing this weekend!

Here are the rules:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within
24(48 THIS WEEKEND) hours of the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.  BUT BECAUSE I'M THE FLASHMASTER, and it's Memorial Day Weekend, you've got 48 hours! Stories are due on 8pm EST on SUNDAY

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.  Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm EST on Sunday. But because it's Memorial Day Weekend, the critique is due on 8pm on MONDAY.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next contest.  Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can get away with.

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Going on hiatus for a while

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I'm going to stop writing blog posts for a while, especially about relationships and self-improvement and that sort of thing.

This pains me, as I've seen people respond positively both in comments here, in e-mails, and on social media.  It sucks for me personally, as I'll often realize further things about myself and ways I can further improve while actually writing the posts.

But I have to stop, at least for a while.

It's important to know how I typically write posts for the blog.

I write them in fits and spurts - for example, the posts in May were pretty much all written one weekend in April. In some cases, the ideas for the posts were floating around longer than that, and I'd just not gotten around to writing it. 

Sometimes I'll dash off an immediately relevant post - like the one about inviting dictators over for tea, or how we already have the worst form of socialized medicine - and I'll bump the rest of the posts even further down the queue.

I can also say that most of the posts in May were directly inspired by my own screwups, failings, and realizations as I overcame my own mistakes.  And in the cases where they weren't, they were completely covered by my artistic license - something I made sure to occasionally point out.  (In short - if you recognized yourself in a post and I didn't name you, I was talking about someone else.)

Despite this, it's come to my attention that to some, it's seemed like I was aiming my posts at a specific individual. 

They weren't. 

Regardless, a number of people whose opinions matter to me believe this, even when I've (privately) shared the reasons and inspirations for why I wrote the posts that went up this month, or pointed out that I wrote them before the events that they were supposed to be in response to.


And it's costing me in my own personal life.

If you've found resonance in the posts I've written, or meaning, or clarity, or a point of view that made you stop and think, I'm glad. That was the purpose for writing them here.  If you've found yourself uncomfortably reminded of yourself, you're welcome to ask me directly if I was talking about you.

But I wasn't.

Because I know others have gained value from these posts, I'm not going to take them down.  Maybe I was naive to think that writing things weeks ahead of time or publicly making a point of obfuscating details would be enough to keep people from getting upset and think I was writing about them. I hope that me writing this publicly is enough for those who've thought I was writing about them to think differently.

Regardless, I'm going to take a break for a while. 

Have a good one.

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Moral Judgments and the end of relationships

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I was recently recounting the end of a past relationship, where I was dumped - and found out I was dumped by another person trying to sympathize with me via text message.  I mentioned that I'd pretty much cut all ties with that ex immediately.

The person I was telling said: "Wow, you must have been hurt".

And the thing was, I wasn't.

I was upset, sure. But it was a pretty casual relationship in many ways, so it didn't experience the deep core-level hurt that I've experienced at other times.

Which got me thinking.

In all the instances where I'd either been the person doing the dumping - or cut ties with the person who dumped me - it wasn't because I'd been hurt.

It was because I'd been morally offended.

To back up:  We all have some things where we make a moral judgment. Maybe it's abortion, or the death penalty, or cheating, or lying about money.  The specific offense doesn't matter so much here as the reaction.  They're the thing(s) that are simply unforgivable and elicit an immediate, visceral reaction from you.  Those are moral judgments.

What occurred to me is the possibility that when I (at least) break up with someone or cut ties with them, it's not because they've hurt me, but because they've crossed one of those absolute lines.  For example, explicitly trying to poison a kid's relationship with a parent because your relationship with that parent sucks is definitely one of those lines for me.


Maybe this is just me.  But if it's not just me, then this gives us a different way of looking at how relationships end and how (toxic) relationships persist.

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Luring the thing with feathers - Seeing past the limits of what is "possible"

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I asked her what she wanted from her life.

"I don't see how it can be any different," she replied, and it nearly broke my heart.

Let's back up.

She's (see my artistic license policy; and let me explicitly state this is an amalgam fictional character) in a pretty awful relationship. There's abuse - mostly emotional, but some physical and sexual - as well as the logistical entanglements of money, having been a homemaker for years, and children. She's female, but I know this can happen to men as well; I've been there myself.

I've been talking with her, trying to help her decide what she wants to do. Hell, just what she wants, and it keeps coming back to this exchange. So fast-forward again.

I sigh. "That's not what I asked. I want to know what you would like to have happen if you... I don't know... waved a magic wand."

"I don't have a magic wand."

"Pretend."

"It couldn't happen."

I'm reminded of my dog Taylor. The first house he lived in had the kitchen off to the side, and he was trained to keep out of it. When we moved, the door to the backyard required him to go across the tile floor of the kitchen - and he wouldn't. As far as he was concerned, the back door might as well not exist, even though we were begging him to walk across it.

All of us - but especially women, thanks patriarchy - are trained. We are trained to see the walls of what society says is possible... even though these walls aren't based in anything real. If we don't have a concept for something, it's impossible to comprehend (such as the color blue in early Western history, or the concept of progress prior to a few centuries ago).

In this case, it was the walls of society's assumptions that kept her in this abusive relationship. She'd internalized them so much that she couldn't envision changing the relationship, let along leaving.  It did not matter how many ways I tried to phrase it, how many resources or options I pointed out. Her aspirations and dreams were limited by what she'd been told - both explicitly and implicitly - by the walls society (and her boyfriend) had set up around her.

I remember not being able to see a way out. I remember feeling hopeless. I remember thinking that since it wasn't a big blowout fight that day, it counted as a "good" day.

I remember not having any hope.

And so I keep trying to coax the thing with feathers to perch within her mental line of sight, and to sing so that she can no longer ignore its existence.

And maybe someday, she'll be able to imagine a better future for herself.


Because this scenario - or something so close to it - has played out so frequently in the last few years, I'm going to again note my artistic license policy, and add in that if the shoe fits, you should probably check out the signs of being in an abusive relationship.

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Don't let the loops and whorls of self-improvement throw you for a loop!

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I've written a lot of posts about relationships and communication over the last few years.

Sometimes that causes a problem for me.

I usually tell people "If I sound like I know what I'm talking about, it's because I'm either quoting Dan Savage or it's something that I've screwed up in the past."

And I have screwed up a lot in the past.  And I've done a lot of work on and with myself to improve.

But.

Sometimes I get overconfident. Sometimes I forget that I have to keep doing the work.  And then I screw up, and things get worse, and I recover, and improve.

And that's the way it usually works.

Look, here's a graph to illustrate:

Improvement tends to have loops and backsliding and be irregular as all hell.  The important thing is that the overall trend is upward.  It's great if your best is way better than you were before.  But it means something if your worst is better than your worst before.

That said... if you're dealing with someone who is trying to improve, that does not mean that you have to put up with behavior that violates your boundaries or hurts you... even if they're improving.

Don't forget that either.

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We already have (partially) socialized medicine; just the worst form of it.

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Shared from a friend:

If you're saying "people without heath insurance can just go to the ER!", you've already conceded the argument. You've admitted that people should have health care regardless of ability to pay. Now, you're just insisting on the least effective and most expensive way to pay for it.

To put it another way: you've agreed to help pay for your buddy's tractor repairs. But instead of chipping in for oil changes and regular maintenance, you're insisting he wait until the engine seizes up and the transmission drops before you'll give him a dime.

An addendum: To say nothing of the fact that certain long term or chronic conditions (cancer, MS, Parkinson's, to name just a few) can only be ameliorated by preventative care - once it's reached "emergency room" levels, it may be too late, and long term damage is already done.

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Three things that mess up communication without you even realizing it

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Brains are tricksy things, and you've got to do some due diligence to make sure that the things that are going on in your head are actually... well, real.

I don't just mean "better communication" things - though those are vital.  I mean things like external factors that can completely alter and shift the ways we interact without us being aware of them.

Here's three ways it happens - and the odds are good that at least one of them effects you.

1.  While "hangry" might be a marketing slogan, it's also a real thing. Aside from it meaning that you're low on energy (including willpower), it also kicks in adrenaline and physiological effects that often lead to anger.


2. The weather can have a significant effect on your mood - and almost entirely negatively.  It's not just through things like SADD or general light levels, but can even do a number on you if there's a rapid change in barometric pressure (I'm noticing the latter).  This effect seems to be greater with people who are already in an unstable emotional state.

3. The autonomic nervous system - the part of your body that controls "fight or flight" - tends to react differently in men and women (PDF link).  In particular, the sympathetic nervous system (e.g. "starting fight or flight") kicks in faster for men, and the parasympathetic ("calming down from fight or flight") is slower to respond for women.

How does this work in real life?  Let's say that Anastasia and Fabio are a couple and have an issue that requires a hard discussion.

1.  Anastasia and Fabio have the discussion before eating, and are both "hangry".  As a result, when Fabio brings the issue up, Anastasia responds defensively.  Fabio gets defensive in turn, and so rather than a productive discussion, it turns into an argument.

2. They try again, but this time there's a storm front moving in and the barometric pressure is dropping precipitously.  Fabio is already on edge from the first discussion, so the weather change is really doing a whammy on him, but he's not consciously aware of it.  So when Anastasia brings it up, Fabio is out of sorts, throwing Anastasia off.  Another argument ensues.

3.  After about twenty minutes of arguing and discussion, Fabio and Anastasia sound like they've reached an agreement.  Fabio breathes a sigh of relief, just in time for Anastasia to say "...and ANOTHER thing!"

All three operate on the same principle. When there's something off with our mental state, our brains - the wonderful, tricksy pattern-matching machines they are - try to find something to explain why we feel off.  In all three cases, neither Fabio or Anastasia is aware of the external influences that's pooching their communication.

The first two are pretty obvious, but the third might need a bit more explaining.  While Fabio's parasympathetic nervous system has kicked into gear and calmed him down, Anastasia's isn't done yet.  She's still in "fight or flight" mode.  The actual thing that started "fight or flight" is done and over with, so her brain - without conscious intent - finds something else to explain why she's still feeling that way.

It's the same kind of effect that happens with scary movies on date night - the excitement from fear is physiologically similar to the excitement from attraction.  Our brains try to find a reason to explain why our bodies are all worked up, and...

The cool thing is that if you're aware of these effects, you can start to work to minimize how you're thinking.  Postpone arguments until you're not hungry.  If you're out of sorts, check the weather.  Be aware of how your body handles its autonomic nervous system so you don't accidentally start a new argument just after you've finished the hard discussion you started out to have.

And above all, be kind and understanding of yourself and those you love.

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