ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

We never imagined our lives.

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We did not imagine the future.

We sat around tables in the late 1980's, playing games pretending to be in the far distant future of 2013 (and later, 2020) as we played at cyberpunk.

We imagined meatwagons flying through the sky, cellphone modems taking up large parts of limbs, of decks and VR GUIs that were somehow more powerful than scripted commandlines. We thought of ourselves in that far-distant future, and realized we'd be in our forties, unimaginably old.

I imagined myself a schoolteacher when the 90's came around, not someone who unexpectedly had a family. I never imagined myself in the Army; I remember making fun of "Kaneda" on the dial-up BBSes when he came back from BASIC. I now know he washed out of FTU; a path I narrowly escaped myself.

But I did not imagine that then.

I never considered that I would work in medicine, though my first Cyberpunk 2013 character was a medtech. I never considered that I'd be the kind of person who could look at lines of code in a movie and be amused at their blatant inaccuracy, surely left as an easter egg for people like myself.

I did not imagine that I would ever be in Korea. I did not ever imagine that an old classmate's parent would represent me in a divorce.

I did not imagine 9/11.

When the tree in front of my house was planted, I never imagined how large it would grow. When I moved out, I never imagined that I would end up living in this house again with later loves.

I never imagined that my biological child would brag to the police about his plans to kill us. I never imagined that my quasi-adoptive son would grow into a young man. I never imagined that my second ex-wife, the one I tried to do right by, would still harbor such resentment against me years later.

I never imagined how much my relationship with Her would damage me, shape me, and heal me.

Nor did I imagine how I would do the same to her.

I never thought that I would find love again through seeing a picture over a friend's shoulder, something so out of a John Hughes movie that it comes close to letting me forgive him for all the toxic dating advice his movies put in my head.

I never thought I'd fail, and be happy on the far side of failing, ready to try again.

You can make a similar list, at this, the end of an arbitrary demarcation of time.

A list of things you never expected, never planned for, but happened anyway.

Things that have been good, things that have been bad.

Things that have shaped you and created you.

This is what New Year's is for. Taking stock, and realizing that you never expected your life to be the way it is.

And realizing that you have no clue what comes next.

Maybe it's something good. Maybe it's something bad.

None of us know.

And that unknowing, that uncertainty, is what makes it beautiful.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Remember to breathe.  And don't sweat whether or not your watch is set to atomic time.

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A Resolution: Trolls are pathetic and boring.

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I like to have things in my life be intentional and worthwhile.

So I'm kind of done with trolls.

Not angry, not frustrated, not amused. 

Just... bored.

It's not relevant. It's not "edgy".  It's not even funny.

When it's someone you used to know and be friends with, it might be disappointing and a little sad.

It's pathetic at best.   

This isn't about disagreement.  I'm okay with disagreement.

This is about people trying to give you crap and being offensive or antagonistic.
Let me remember that the impact of criticism is often not the intent of the critic,
but when the intent is evil, that’s what the block button’s for.
I'm just done with them. 

It's like Ze Frank's An Invocation For Beginnings says:
Let me remember that the impact of criticism is often not the intent of the critic,
but when the intent is evil, that’s what the block button’s for.
So I'm going to be exercising that block (and delete) button this year.

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When The Doctor is Completely Wrong, He's Right - A review of "Twice Upon A Time" and Steven Moffat

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Let’s talk about showrunners, writers, and season endcaps on Doctor Who, especially with “Twice Upon A Time” just under our belts. Spoilers, sweetie.



First, a reminder: For all the good he did for the franchise, I hated Russell T. Davies’ season endcapsHated them...especially the end of Donna Noble’s time as a companion. And at the same time, my favorite episodes were written by Steven Moffat... Particularly “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”.

And then Moffat became the showrunner. Since then, his writing has largely suffered from two things: A desire to be clever rather than compelling, and some subtle (and not-so-subtle) sexism.

The sexism problem Moffat’s tried to solve with fairly blatant “Oh, look, women! Women! Women are people, we know that!” moments written into the scripts. I wrote about him doing this with Sherlock, but that definitely happened in “Twice Upon A Time” as well, coming across as parroting the “right” thing to say rather than understanding why people are upset.1

But this time - though I think perhaps unintentionally - Moffat’s writing was a lot more clever than he might have meant.

The Christmas Armistice (or Truce)  has sometimes been called a "miracle", but it doesn’t make any sense as a religious phenomenon at all. It is a powerful tale not of religion, but of the very flawed nature of man.  The same men who greeted and sang to each other tried desperately to kill each other the days before and after.

I still remember the story “Battle Angel” from Weird War Tales #94 . The story's pretty simple: Also set in WWI, both the Germans and Allies think that they see an angel promising them victory; the reveal is what they truly saw was Death. Likewise, the Christmas Truce may have delayed the horrors and tragedy of such slaughter, but it did not fundamentally change anything.

Early in the episode, the Doctor says that the Universe rarely turns out like a fairy tale - and that is true with the Christmas Armistice as well.

But - and here's the kicker - the episode ends with the Doctor, with the soldier he’s “saved” by returning him during the Armistice in the background, saying that the Universe rarely turns out like a fairy tale - but when it does, it’s because of him.

And it’s this echo that Moffat clearly wants us to think of. After Moffat’s near-obsession with “The War Doctor” and the horrors that the Doctor has faced, it’s an echo back to “The Doctor Dances” and his joyous cry that for once, everybody lives. It’s meant to be a cry of hope.

And it is hopeful - because it’s so horribly, awfully, wrong.

Everyone in that scene with the Doctor dies. The Christmas Armistice is a fractal microcosm  of everything the Doctor does and every intervention that he’s ever taken. The problems persist, grow worse, and continue indefinitely.  The Cybermen do more damage, in more realities. Despite every time he's defeated them, the Daleks continue. And the list goes on.

The Doctor is not a messiah. He ultimately fails, and in a world where it is canonical that (whether through defeating the Devil or Owen Harper’s report that there’s nothing beyond death on Torchwood), he knows that nihilism is staring him in the face.

And, despite the occasional bout of handwringing, the Doctor has one fundamental and unchanging flaw. One massive amount of hubris.

It’s hope.

And despite the messiness of Moffat’s time as showrunner and as a writer, that hope in the face of darkness, that hope even when you want nothing more to give up, that hope that can be refilled by simply caring again… that is what sticks with me.

And as legacies go, that’s not a bad one at all.


1 Was I the only one who thought that they wrote Jodie Whittaker’s first scene as “a woman can’t drive”?

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How To Have a Dysfunctional Relationship In One Easy Step

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If you don't have trust in your personal relationships, you have a dysfunctional relationship.

Period. Full stop.

Don't read through each other's private messages (in any medium).  Don't censor their phone calls.  Don't obsess over who they did (or didn't) see at the mall, or work, or gym.

Sure, you can ask your significant other(s) who they're talking to, or about what, but recognize that it's an ask, not a demand.  (It isn't consent if it can't be withdrawn, after all.)

Sure, you can quote Dan Savage as saying that sometimes snooping is "retroactively permissible", but let's face it: If you thought you had a reason to snoop, you'd already started to mistrust your partner(s).

Because the other things that Dan often says are that "you can't unlearn what you've learned" and that "relationships aren't a deposition".

Because if nothing else is true, this is:

Everyone - everyone - needs a space to vent privately about their significant other(s). 

It doesn't matter how good your relationship is.  Having a place to privately blow off steam might be what allows you to have a good relationship!  FSM knows that there's times - before my compersion kicks in - that I've had private meltdowns with a friend... only to be fine the next day because I could vent to a kind ear.  Sometimes I've run ideas or concerns past someone outside the relationship to see if I was being an idiot - and I am an idiot often enough to keep using this tool to keep myself in check.

You still have to use your words.  You still have to communicate with your partner(s).  You have to address your brain weasels, and stomp them into nothingness.

It's okay to have a place to vent as well.

And if you don't trust your partner to have that space, then you know exactly what you need to be working on in your relationship, and right away.

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Review: Bright (2017) - A solid urban fantasy popcorn flick with one big problem

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I'm going to go ahead and say that if you're a fan of urban fantasy or a gamer, you're going to like Bright, the Netflix exclusive movie starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, with one big caveat.  It's a solid popcorn flick that's good for hanging out and watching.

I really want to mention and recommend this movie because the critical reviews are panning it and because I think the trailers are kind of misleading.
Watching the trailers, you might think this is a funny Rush Hour style of buddy cop movie - and it's not.  While Bright definitely has a lot of humor in it, there's a pretty solid action story here that is the core of the movie.

There's two things that I think are throwing critics and reviewers off. 

The first - and this is my big caveat - is definitely a flaw: the way Orcs are portrayed in Bright is a very heavy-handed analogy for race in America today, and it's off-putting.  If - like some of the critics have decided - that this analogy is the point of the movie, then yeah, it's bad.  I took a different take, and quickly decided to utterly ignore the analogy and simply accept it at face value as part of a parallel world.  Once I decided to just ignore that analogy - because again, it can get awfully heavy handed and obnoxious - it didn't bother me any further.

The second thing that is throwing people off isn't a flaw.  Our protagonists of Jakoby and Ward are really at the periphery of what's going on.  They're an important part, a critical part, but they aren't the central part of what's going on in the world of Bright, and that's something important.

They're two street cops who get caught up in things far bigger than themselves.  The overarching story (and the complexity of the world they're in) began before them and definitely continues after them.

The feel reminds me of how Rogue One relates to the larger Star Wars canon... except in this case we haven't already seen the bigger tale.

And I, for one, would love to see more of the world of Bright.

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You're (probably) doing Christmas wrong, so quit bitching about "happy holidays"

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The below applies to religious western Christian folks.  Non-Christians who just like the holiday are welcome to ignore this and do as they like.

Hey.  You.  Person who's planning to take down their tree on the 26th...you're wrong.

Those of you saying it's the "Christmas season" before the 25th... you're wrong too.

Because right now - as I'm writing this -  it's the Advent season.  The Christmas season begins on the 25th and stretches into the New Year.  Remember that "12 days of Christmas"?  It's referring to the Christmas season, and is a real thing.

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash
The too common American practice of putting up Christmas decorations early (before Advent) and taking them down immediately after Christmas is particularly annoying when it's religious folks doing this.


Even though I'm not particularly religious now, I think the practices and rites and rituals of religion can have value in getting people to stop and reflect, to appreciate, to cherish, and even to worship.

But instead, we have an over-rushed holiday where reflection and appreciation and thankfulness are the last thing on people's minds - and it's largely driven by corporations that sell you stuff.  To them, once Christmas (the gift part, that is) has finished, then you're not worth anything.  And so there's a rush to return to the regular drab workaday life.

These are the influences that are truly destroying Christmas - but they're doing so while giving lip service and saying the right words at the right time.  And so the overzealous pharisees frothing about "Happy Holidays" are distracted while the holiness of the holiday is slowly destroyed by those piping in insipid carols and putting up decorations in November.

I'll wish you happy holidays - or happy holy days if you prefer.  But before you come frothing at me and mine about what word we use to greet you, perhaps you should see if your own house is rotting from within.

Merry Christmas! OK Cupid just made it lots easier for others to stalk and harass you.

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I've been stalked twice - both times based on partial information that was publicly available.  Compared to what some of my peers have endured, neither was bad - a letter here, a message there.

But it was still unnerving, and I'm a big-ass cis het straight white dude.  With a dog.  And weaponry.

That's why, when I found out that Google helpfully gave me the full name, schools, and more from someone who had just given me her first name and phone number, I wrote about it right away.

That's because with dating sites (hell, dating at all), you want to reveal information about yourself at your own pace

Which makes OK Cupid's insistence you use your real name now so damn wrong. 

Sure, they say in that blog post "with this change, we won’t be collecting full names; instead, we encourage our users to go by the name they’d like their dates to call them", but that is not what users are greeted with when they sign in.  They just get a page saying "We're switching to using real names now".  So let's go with what most users are going to see:  That they're supposed to use their real first name.

Again, I'm a big-ass cis het straight white dude.  I am not a vulnerable population here.1  So I try to take the pressure off by volunteering information about me.  Here's my blog, here's my phone number, you can find my Facebook pretty easily and see what I write. 

But that example with the phone number still bugged me.  What if someone used the same picture on their profile that they used elsewhere on the web (or FSM forbid, tie their instagram account to the dating profile)?  Reverse image search could expose a lot more private information than they intended to reveal.
Notice that it's not the exact same picture, just close enough.
From that second match you could get my full name...
And again, I am not a particularly vulnerable population here1.   Women and LGBTQIA folks have a lot more to risk by making it easier for people to tie their dating profile to their IRL identity.  It's not hard to find stories like the one starting out the Verge article where guys tracked down a woman and berated her for not responding to their message on OKC.

Even though I go to great lengths to be open about what kind of person I am, and make a point of explicitly asking for a polite "no" instead of silence... I usually get silence.  And it's because guys who actually do that are freaking rare.  And I'm okay with that - I understand why there's no response offered.

Because I'm not the one at risk here.   And getting angry messages is the low end of the kind of violence that our culture is steeped in.


Again, remember that with just a first name and a phone number - and without trying - I could find out a lot about an OKC user that she didn't explicitly want me to know.

Now there's going to be a lot more folks who are going to be outed - whether they want to be or not - and a lot more people who are a lot more vulnerable.

And all this for a "real names" policy that supposedly doesn't care if you use your real name.



Now, I'm gonna bet that the OK Cupid folks who came up with this did not intend for anyone to get outed, stalked, or hurt. 

Because this looks like privilege.

The people who made this policy don't have anything to hide.  Maybe they never had anything they had to keep secret from a family member or friend or neighbor.

But if I wanted to tie my IRL activities to my dating profile, I'd post a copy of my profile on my lawn.

Instead, I'm finally deactivating my account.


1 Well, I guess I am, since I date polyamorously, but I won't be judged for that nearly as much as a woman would.  And this is only the second time that I've explicitly said as much in many years.

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THE LAST FLASH CHALLENGE OF THE YEAR! 1500 WORDS! FREE! WRITE WITH US!

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Yes, there's a flash fiction contest this weekend... and you are going to be part of it!

After some discussion, we've made one permanent and one this-week change to the rules:

Permanent:  The word count limit is 1500 words, not 1000 words.

This week: You've got extra time to write and comment on the stories, due to the holidays.  

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.

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


Here are the rules:

Welcome to the Flash Challenge!  Our Flash Master is...me!

Here are the rules, slightly changed for NaNoWriMo:

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 1,500 words in length.  Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and stories are posted by 8pm EST on Saturday.  For this holiday weekend, you have extra time: stories are due by 8pm EST on SUNDAY and critiques are due by 8pm EST on Monday.

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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Learn that you're not going to change thier mind.

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One of the hardest things for me to learn was that some people are going to think whatever they're going to think about you no matter what you do.

Usually the people that you interact with regularly, who know you pretty well, and who care about you will give you the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain whatever it is you're supposed to have done. Hopefully they will even use the construction the story I'm telling myself, or the irrational fear I have to signal that they're willing to hear what your worldview is as well.

But sometimes you'll run into the person who already knows-or rather they think they know-what the whole story is. No matter what you say or do, it will be parsed as part of their story and your worldview will be lost to them.

You can try to continue to convince them. But no matter what you say, their worldview will only harden. In fact the more you talk, the worse it will get.

It can be painful if that person who won't hear you is someone you care about. The temptation will be strong to just try one more time, to say it just one other way.

Don't.

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How My Artistic License Policy Works (and benefits everyone)

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Hi folks.  It looks like I need to put this reminder about my Artistic License Policy up again, perhaps with a little explanatory flavor text.

I've published over 2300 blog posts here, on a wide range of topics.  Especially when talking about relationship or sociological topics, they make more sense or are easier to relate to when there's an example.  A "story problem", if you will.

And yes, I often draw inspiration for those story problems from real life.

I will frequently write about things that I've talked about in real life here on the blog. Some of those things may have been sparked by a conversation I had with other people, or an action someone else took.
But unless that person is a public figure (like a public organizer or a newspaper publisher), I'm probably not going to tell you who I'm talking about (or in some cases, if I'm talking about a particular person at all.)  In fact, I'll go out of my way to not point at a specific person.
If I'm reacting to a blog post, tweet, public seminar - anything that's a broadcast medium - I will usually cite the person I'm talking about if I can and if it's relevant.
If it was prompted by a non-broadcast or limited broadcast medium - a private conversation, e-mail, anything on Facebook, forum post behind a password - then I will usually obfuscate the individual(s) in question.
As the policy goes on to say, I'm probably not talking about you.

But maybe I am.  Maybe it seems a little close to home.  So maybe I am talking about you.

And maybe, just maybe, the reason I'm not naming you isn't because I'm being "passive-aggressive", but because I'm not wanting to tie a crappy behavior directly to your name.

Maybe it's because I want to be able to discuss a behavior while allowing you to save face and avoid being embarrassed. 

But if you're going to insist on shoving that shoe on your foot, then you're welcome to wear it.



But I also reserve the right to delete any nasty comments you leave on my blog... and to laugh at the deleted comment later.

Also - my opinions are mine, not those of my friends, acquaintances, loves, business partners, authors, editors, co-workers, or anyone else.  Don't like my opinion?  Bring it up with me, not them.

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Worried about your privacy online now? Try this VPN deal!

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Now that the FCC has decided to destroy Net Neutrality (though the fight isn't over yet), it's more important than ever to keep things as private as possible.  A VPN - and one of the few that is proven to not keep records - is a good step in that direction. 
Private Internet Access (the VPN that I use) is running a special of two years of quality VPN service for $59.95.


Still not sure why you might want a VPN?  Check out PIA's FAQ here: http://bit.ly/2C8iW74

Up to five devices, and no records kept.

You can get this deal (and save you some money) only through the end of the day on 5 Jan 2018 through this affiliate link:

https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/pages/pia-2yr-deal/ideatreash

As they say... I'm also a client.

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The Beautiful Aspect of Nihilism

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There's something beautiful about nihilism - something that can make it optimistic.

Nihilism is a philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.

You'd think that such an ethic would be inherently depressing, and a lot of folks seem to see it that way.

But.

The thing is, so many of us have been constrained, limited, and actively hurt by the constructs of modern life.  Religion, political ideology, gender roles, and so many more beliefs have been imposed on us without our consent.

Not only have we been forced to believe, we've been forced to maim ourselves.

And suddenly those painful, harmful beliefs are just... gone.



When you reject the reality of those harmful things, then suddenly there's room for purposeful growth and self-expression.

Sure, there may not be any inherent meaning or intrinsic value in the ethos that you end up developing yourself.

But finally, at least, you're living your most authentic and fulfilling life.

Stop being cowards, men: Own up to and fix the sexual violence in our culture

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I shared this link earlier today from an article titled "Women are having sex out of politeness and that’s got to stop".  (Triggers behind the link, obvs.)

http://metro.co.uk/2017/12/11/women-sex-politeness-got-stop-7149789

What's terrifying about this (for me) is that it's almost certainly happened to me... and I had no idea.  Our society has taught women (and accurately) that men are a threat to women, and they simply can't bet that I'm the exception.



This might be invisible to other men, but it's real.

Like so many of these things, it will require those with power (men) to specifically say and follow through with "You don't have to" first.  And we (men) will have to show it and act like it because women have dealt with men who said one thing and did another.

That does not mean that all men are evil, or bad, or anything like that.  But we are swimming in privilege... whether we realize it or notWe can all be well meaning white guys... but still cause insane amounts of damage without meaning to.

And here's the thing, my droogs:  even after you realize that this is a world where sexual violence is something that every woman is painfully, always aware of, a world where sexual harassment and abuse of women is the norm, the responsibility for fixing things lies with those who currently hold the power, whether they asked for that power or not.

And in this case, that means men.

Unless you other men are too cowardly to face up to your responsibilities.

And then, well, you're not really men, are you?

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You can't respect yourself if you don't know yourself... and tell others.

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You'll usually see this quotation weaponized after a breakup:  "Respect yourself. If you don't, others won't either."

I say that you'll see it "weaponized" because in those cases what's really being said is "I didn't get what I wanted, and I'm upset about it."  The intent is less to build up the person saying it, and more to tear down a (specific) person hearing it.

You can also see it in the way it was originally meant - that women are typically socialized to defer to men, and that deference doesn't lead to politeness or respect.  Deference there leads to becoming a doormat.

But it can also mean that you should respect what you're able to give.  Maybe your time is limited, or you can't move, or, or, or.  If you don't respect what you can (and can't) give in a relationship, you won't be respected either.  It's challenging when you really want a relationship to happen, but if you don't respect your own abilities - and what you're able to give sustainably - then someone's going to feel disrespected real soon.

And I think it can also mean respecting what you're willing to receive - that is, what "price of admission" you're willing to pay.  The other person has (or wants) children and you don't?  They're poly and you're not?  They don't want to marry and you'll only be happy if you do?  You have to respect your own boundaries and be honest and open about them.  Otherwise, the other person(s) in the relationship will seem like they're not respecting what you want... even though they're respecting the boundaries you said out loud.

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Reflections on a birthday

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Photo by Nikhita Singhal on Unsplash
Even though I knew it was a joke, I kind of expected the big "forty two" to provide some answers.

It didn't, really.  Sure, I continued to heal from a past trauma, I continued to keep doing what I'd been doing, but... well, it didn't feel like there were answers.

Toward the end of the middle of my forty-second trip around the sun, I met someone.  And that was a good thing bigger than anything else.  I thought, maybe, this was going to be a sign of a better year.

It was not a better year.

My forty-third trip around the sun - well, like many people, the end of 2016 and most of 2017 was pretty crap overall.  The nice moments were overwhelmed by mountains of debt piling up on either side, by the problems and sudden unpleasant changes suffered by my friends and loved ones, by the horrors of this administration.

But through it all, there have been some positive constants.  B, my loveable spiky floof, and her ongoing journey of self-discovery.  My other relationships - new and old - which have provided joy and a check to make sure that I'm not being an idiot. My friends - in all communities - who have shown that they care, even when I'm not being the best friend possible.  My son, who's being pretty level headed about getting things together and moving on with his life.

I have no idea where year forty four is going to take me.  I have no idea if it's going to be better or worse than the last trip around the sun.  Money is an issue.  There's been big transitions in my relationships. I don't know if I'm going to keep publishing or not.

But if I have the loves and friends and family that I've had this last year?

I'll be okay.

BiWeekly Weekend Long Flash Challenge starts TONIGHT!

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Keep warm with writing!

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. And if you're writing for NaNoWriMo, we've put in a tweak to the rules so you can still participate without having to stop writing on your story.

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


Here are the rules:

Welcome to the Flash Challenge!  Our Flash Master is...Anton Cancre!

Here are the rules, slightly changed for NaNoWriMo:

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.  at the beginning so we know!

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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Hey, here's some services and stuff you might find useful. I do.

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There's a couple of services I use and recommend for other folks; these are referral links, and will (in almost all cases) benefit both you and I.

DoorDash: This delivery service goes and picks up food for you from places that might otherwise not deliver, and brings it to you. There's a bit of a fee, but the service has been great to me so far, including my personal favorite: bringing breakfast to me and my darlin' on the weekends when we're just lounging about.  http://drd.sh/FezNVu/

Project Fi: I've had nothing but good experiences with Project Fi, especially since I don't use a whole ton of wireless data every month.  I lowered my mobile bill by 50% and got a new phone in the process. https://g.co/fi/r/0R54FN

Dropbox: If you don't already have a Dropbox account, you're missing out. There's a lot of services that allow you to synchronize your data via Dropbox between your home computer and mobile, and that alone makes it worth the free tier. http://db.tt/PeYcFIot

Namecheap: I've been using Namecheap for both DNS registration and hosting for years. Their service has only gotten better over time.  They don't handhold you, but they don't let you dangle either. http://www.namecheap.com/?aff=41387

Insync: This crossplatform utility lets you synchronize Google Drive to your home computer - and does so with only a one-time fee.  Especially if you're on Linux, this is a must-have.
https://www.insynchq.com/r/109458505937185551876

Private Internet Access: With the end of Net Neutrality looming on the horizon (you have made phone calls and emailed your reps, right?), it looks like a reliable VPN provider may be a necessity instead of a luxury.  PIA has a history of providing good service without maintaining logs, and runs a reasonable price. I've been using them exclusively for a little bit over a year and have been quite pleased.
https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/pages/buy-vpn/ideatreash

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It's time for another round of reasonable-sounding bigotry!

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I wasn't expecting to hear it. Not any more.

"Beliefs should be respected," he said. "Just believing gay people shouldn't get married doesn't make me a bigot."

"Believing same sex people shouldn't marry doesn't make you a bigot," I replied, "trying to force someone else to live by that belief does."

After a second, he said, "Well, yeah, but they're trying to force gay marriage on people. Our beliefs should be respected. That's just reasonable."

I'm a little disappointed that two years after marriage equality became, um, the law, that this is still some kind of talking point. It sounds like it should make sense, and sounds innocuous; it's anything but.

So let's go through this latest permutation of reasonable sounding bigotry.

Beliefs should be respected. No, beliefs should be acknowledged. Unless you're going to respect my belief that everyone should tithe 10% of their income to me.

 This statement always is a charade, a scam to try to make the statement "Everyone should do what I want because it's a belief" look reasonable or fair.

 You can acknowledge someone's belief ("Oh, you think the Earth is flat? Okay.") without having to respect it ("You think I should defund NASA because you think the Earth is flat? Um, no."). Or as Patton Oswalt put it:
“You’ve gotta respect everyone’s beliefs." No, you don’t. That’s what gets us in trouble. Look, you have to acknowledge everyone’s beliefs, and then you have to reserve the right to go: "That is fucking stupid. Are you kidding me?" I acknowledge that you believe that, that’s great, but I’m not going to respect it. I have an uncle that believes he saw Sasquatch. We do not believe him, nor do we respect him!”
They're trying to force gay marriage on people. No, we are trying to end discrimination and ensure that marriage (and all civil rights) apply to all people in this country equally. Has your opposite-sex marriage been nullified and your court-appointed same-sex partner been assigned to you? No? THAT'S BECAUSE NOBODY IS DOING THAT. Get married, or don't. Equal opportunity under the law.

But this business owner believes... Oh, FFS. Yeah, that baker's case is headed to the Supreme Court. Yeah, y'know what? Imagine that business is not selling to white people. Or refuses to sell to Christians. Would that be okay? (Hint: we know the answer, given the uproar when a theaters had some women-only screenings of Wonder Woman.) Here we go - a gun store owned by a Persian couple that only sells guns to Muslims. Think Fox News commentators would be cool with that? 

There's a simple as hell test to see if something's bigoted - change the people it effects and see if it pisses you off.  If so, then it's probably bigoted as hell.

Remember, if it's not inconvenient, it's not a principle.

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I liked Christmas music too much...just like everyone else.

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It's not that I don't like Christmas music, though I'm going to bah and humbug my way through this month.

I liked it too much.

Now... it's become something different.

Think about it for a minute.  If you actually played one version of all the "traditional" Christmas songs back to back, you'd have a playlist that lasted maybe two or three hours.

And that playlist is playing on repeat in nearly every store, every cafeteria, every mall, every waiting area, and even public areas.

For a month.

I'm just old enough to remember when music wasn't quite so portable.  When it wasn't quite so ubiquitous.  When hearing your favorite carol or Christmas song was unusual, and something special... not an experience that you could count on happening within an hour or two.

And the way that Christmas music has tentacled its way into every bit of the background of our lives has robbed it of that specialness, of that reverence.

Regardless of one's faith tradition (or even a lack thereof), it's a good thing to stop and reflect every once in a while.  It's a good thing to have a ritual, a special event where you have to reflect.

Maybe that's a church service.  Maybe that's looking at lights in your living room or driving around the neighborhood.  It can be anything.

Even hearing your favorite Christmas song for the first time that season.

But for it to be special, it can't just be commonplace.  It can't be the background to everyday life.

And that's what Christmas music has become.

And to that, I say humbug indeed.

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If it's not inconvenient, it's not a principle.

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A principle is a principle even when it's inconvenient.

The fact that it's that inconvenient, a pain, arbitrary, and applies universally (including yourself) is what makes it a principle instead of just a rationalization of your own biases.

Sometimes, while describing my own principles, I've been accused just trying to make myself look good.

Which is kind of funny.

First that means they're clearly not of aware of the times - the many, many many times - that I've screwed up my own principles and failed to live up to the person that I think I should be.

Second,  I mean it when I say that principles are universal and apply to me as much as they apply to other people.

That means that if someone else's behavior violates a principle that I'm espousing and my behavior exemplifies the positive... that's not an accident, but neither is it an attempt to paint myself with the "good" brush. That's simply an example of me succeeding at living up to the principles that I hold.

Believe me - there's plenty of times that I don't.

And that's true of everyone.  We all fail to live up to our own ideals at least some of the time.

The question is - do we actually work to live up to our ideals, or do we just espouse them when it's convenient?

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