31 July 2012

Volume Four of the Crimson Pact is released - and a Free eBook offer too!

As noted over on the Alliteration Ink news blog, the fourth volume of The Crimson Pact is now available.  It's got the same demon-hunting action as in the prior three volumes - you can read more about them all (and buy them!) at the Alliteration Ink digital bookstore.

For those of you who are new to The Crimson Pact, four volumes might seem a bit... well, intimidating.  And that's why, until the end of the week, we're making Tales From the Crimson Pact free from Amazon. 

Tales From the Crimson Pact has four of the stories from Volume One.  They really showcase the kind of diverse storytelling that has let us keep a consistent theme throughout four volumes, while still keeping the stories separate and interesting.

Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can still read it on the free Kindle apps for your computer or smartphone.  You can download the eBook at http://amzn.to/PjCULx

Additionally, the first story in the Crimson Pact series, the one that sets the whole thing up, is available in PDF form from our website:  http://thecrimsonpact.com/Failed_Crusade.pdf

If you've been looking for a quick way to either start with The Crimson Pact yourself - or introduce a friend without overwhelming them! - these are a great opportunity... but it only lasts until the end of the week!

Feathers - Two 100 Word Stories (for the price of one!)

storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Ideatrash) in your podcatcher or phone.



Remains of a pillow fort John and Richard stared across no man's land toward the enemy position.

Richard's hands flittered, filled with nervous energy, across his weapon.

"We're in a bad position, sir."

John gripped his friend's shoulder. "Don't talk like that, soldier. We will persevere."

"But, the enemy is heavily fortified, and-"

"Nevermind that. Ready your weapon!" John gripped his, white-knuckled. "Charge!"

The two leapt together out of the trench and assaulted the enemy fortification.

When John's mother opened the door to check on the sleepover, a cloud of feathers still floated over the four boys and the shattered remains of the pillow fort.

Asheville"I won't leave," she said, her voice barely audible over clinking glasses and murmuring diners.

"I... I mean..." His voice splutters, echoing derailed thoughts. "I thought this was nice. Here. Us."

The soft words of her reply slammed into him. "I have too much back home." She reached across the table and put her left hand on his twisting fingers. He glanced at her fingers, bare of both wedding band and the ring he'd given her. "I can't leave there."

"You won't leave there," he said. "You won't leave him."

Her silence was that of bloodied feathers falling on snow.

30 July 2012

There Is No Chick-Fil-A "Controversy"; It's Simple

rant.pngLook, let's keep this short and sweet:

  1. Chick-Fil-A is a privately held company.  This means that the owner gets to exert personal control.
  2. The owner publicly, in an interview, expressed a view that is contrary to resolutions and laws in several (and growing) locations in the country, and abhorrent to many people in the country.
  3. Of course the owner can say anything he wants to.  He can also not say anything.
  4. "It's a religious belief" is a bullcrap rationalization for anything you do to other people.
  5. If you publicly state your personal beliefs, your public persona and public business will have to deal with the consequences of those statements.  Free speech does not equal freedom from consequences.
  6. If you publicly indicate that your privately held company might not comply with the laws and resolutions of a locality, that locality is well within its rights to demand assurances that your company will comply with the law, and resist your company's entry into that locality.

So let's recap:
  • You get to say whatever you want in this country.
  • You have to deal with the consequences of what you say.
  • When you are the public head of a company, your company has to deal with what you say.
  • This can (and probably will) include formal and informal boycotts and protests.
  • This may include losing money, contracts, etc.

Deal with it, or don't make a public statement in an interviewNot.  Hard.

So yeah, I'm not buying Chick-Fil-A.  I haven't for quite some time, except when I literally had no choice.  Same reason I don't donate a dime to the Salvation Army.  If I have a chance to have a say in it, I'll recommend against either organization.  You have the right to disagree completely.  But there really isn't much to argue about other than the policy itself... which makes up about 1% of the actual "discussion" on both sides.

Oh, and by the way, commentary that uses Sodom and Gomorrah as a justification for opposing gay marriage might want to remember that Lot offered his two virgin daughters up for gang rape, and those two angels didn't think that was a problem.

I'll let the lack of Christian commentary on that part of Genesis 19 speak for itself.

29 July 2012

Tech note

As mentioned, the feed is now RSS 2.0 only.  If there's any wackiness, blame it on that.

28 July 2012

Your Ears Need This: Get Up Hitch A Ride (Bob Marley vs Green Day)

hearthisBecause sometimes you just really, really, need to hear something that should be wrong... but is oh, so right.

From G3RSt - you can grab the MP3 at their website.

27 July 2012

Empathic Bullying

soc_econ.pngIt's ironic that my girlfriend and I were talking a week ago about sociopaths. Because right now, I'm seeing supposedly neurotypical "empaths" causing more harm to our societal fabric.

Actually, let me clarify that a bit:

Empathic language is being used to bully other people.

Think about that for a minute.

I've talked about this before in some aspects - how "political correctness" has become a slur, and where bigots have been appropriating progressive language in order to silence anti-racists.  But it's gone beyond that.

I've seen employees (in places I was visiting) claim that a co-worker's easy listening CD was "offensive". While that's kind of funny (though the accusation was serious), I heard from another employee who was told they were being offensive and threatening for pointing out safety violations.1 The objection was not that the accusation was wrong, but that someone dared point it out.

This doesn't seem to be limited to any one workplace, or any one sector of society, or any one class of people. Whether you're talking about a yoga instructor fired because she dared enforce her rules, or a teacher fired for failing too many students (frequently threatened, and has actually happened at least once), or when one has a co-worker complain that it hurt their feelings because one noticed they were breaking rules.

When one violates social norms - whether you are correct in doing so or not - you will experience pushback. I distinctly remember my father telling me that having long hair as a male (in 1990 West Virginia) would cause me problems socially. I remember complaining bitterly about it, and he agreed that it wasn't fair and wasn't right. But it was something that I would have to deal with.

There's a balance that has to be struck here, especially when you've entered into someone else's space. Enter a classroom - even a yoga classroom - and you're tactility agreeing to the teacher's rules. Sign up for a college class, and you're agreeing to be evaluated on the basis of your fulfilling of the rubric.

Using the terms of empathy and emotion in order to excuse your transgressions is still bullying, no matter how many fluffy feel-good words you dress it up in.

1 Worth noting: as per my blog policy, real-life details are frequently obfuscated. http://ideatrash.net/2010/11/it-isnt-you-its-me.html

26 July 2012

Voting for ENnie Judges for 2013 - My Endorsements

It's the time of year to vote for judges for next year's ENnie Awards. The ENnies are kind of a big deal among role-playing circles:
The Gen Con EN World RPG Awards (the “ENnies”) are an annual fan-based celebration of excellence in tabletop roleplaying gaming. The ENnies give game designers, writers and artists the recognition they deserve. It is a peoples’ choice award, and the final winners are voted upon online by the gaming public.
Even though it's a people's choice award, there are still judges that basically help determine what is on the ballot, as explained in their FAQ.

I would like to ask you to vote for four people on the judges ballot for next year. I've met these four and played with three of them, and they are some of the most passionate game-players I've met, and excellent choices for ENnie judges. I've linked to the bios for them below; voting is quick and simple (and doesn't require any registration - please don't stuff the ballot box by voting multiple times from different computers).

I would ask you to vote for:

Matthew Muth
Jody Kline
James Surano
Kennon Bauman

The link to vote for next year's judges is this link: VOTE FOR 2013 ENNIE JUDGES.

Thanks!

25 July 2012

Word Processing Software Recommendation: FocusWriter & Atlantis

technology.pngWhen my writing pal KW Taylor recently asked for recommendations for a simple word processor, I ended up telling her about two bits of software that I've been using for quite some time:  FocusWriter and Atlantis.

Atlantis is - and this is its one big drawback - Windows-only.  I run it under WINE on Linux with few problems.  Its strength for me (it's got a ton of other bells, whistles, and other stuff, but manages to be a light word processor at the same time) is how well it handles documents of different types.  It works best with RTF files, but can easily deal with Word formatted documents, HTML, and more.  (It's one weak point that I've run into is tables - which aren't really supported in RTF anyway - but I've not updated in a bit and they may have gotten this licked.) And it exports clean as heck HTML (those of you who are rolling your own eBooks know why this is important).  It also includes a built in ePub exporter, which is pretty serviceable (but suffers the same flaws any converter has).  Atlantis is shareware, in active development, and only costs $35.  I've been using this software for years.

FocusWriter is a lot newer, but is my standby for when I'm "just writing".  There's a plethora of free "full screen" writing programs, but there's a few things that make FocusWriter stand out for me.
1.  It is cross platform (Win/OSX/Linux) and does not rely on Java.
2.  It is configurable as heck.
3.  It has a beautifully organized tabbar/document statistics/writing statistics bit that autohides.
4.  It supports both plain text and RTF formats.  (So you can have your italics and underlines.)
FocusWriter is donationware (though I strongly encourage you to donate!).

Currently, my workflow goes something like this:

1.  "Just write" in FocusWriter.
2.  Organize bits in Scrivener (if necessary, depending on the project).
3.  Format in Atlantis or LibreOffice for final touches (headers/footers, etc).

Other software that's come up:

I avoid MS Word whenever I can (it tends to insert a bunch of junk I don't want or need in the document code).  And as mentioned, I run Linux, so just getting the fracking thing to run properly is sometimes problematic.  The only reason I still use it is for comments and tracked changes with other people who use Word.

I want to like AbiWord. I really do.  However, it's never really worked for me.  The GUI annoys me (launching with the focus on the menu bar instead of the document, for example), it keeps saving in a format nobody else uses, and I've occasionally had problems with other programs reading the RTF formats it outputs.  That said, I've heard from lots of people who use it exclusively and do just fine.  Having my documents be program-agnostic (I only got rid of/converted the last WordPerfect5 documents from my youth a few years ago) is a real deal-breaker for me, but may not be for you.

I use Scrivener - but rarely for "just writing".  I think it's invaluable for organizing projects - I used it for my thesis and several non-fiction works.  That's probably more about my distracto-boy nature;  give me twiddly bits to twiddle, and I'll mess with that instead of doing real work.

LibreOffice is my go-to for when I need a full Office suite.  While it has its own ... peculiarities... in UI choices it works rather well.  Additionally, you can actually tear apart an ODT file and manually edit it if you have to. 

Do you use another word processor?  Any recommendations (or thoughts on the ones mentioned)?

24 July 2012

I got a phone call from the guy who runs TUEBL... (or: Pirates and Bandits Revisited)

publishing.pngIf you didn't see the earlier post, I took TUEBL (The Ultimate E Book Library) to task for clothing piracy in the language of idealism.  I'd also left a voicemail for the guy running the site, and invited him to call me back.  To quote my relevant last paragraph:

Quit trying to pretty it up, and be honest about what you're doing. It doesn't matter how much money you donate, or how many impassioned arguments you make about internet freedom (or how many of them I've said myself, or how many I agree with).  I'm actually hoping the people who run TUEBL agree with me that those ideals are important... because then we can actually start having a conversation about how to make those ideals happen in real life, and evaluating whether or not our actions are helping those ideals become a reality.

Well, he called me back last night. And it was a really fascinating conversation (and potentially productive, as well).  He clearly came down on the side of "pirates" instead of "bandits".  (Seriously, if you don't know the distinction I'm making, click that link.  It's important, but a little too long to summarize here.)

I'm not going to share the entire conversation, but here's some highlights (also serving as notes to myself):

  • I apologized for authors behaving badly. Because really, disagreeing with someone doesn't give you an excuse to be a troll.  He admitted that he wasn't being reasonable online either, since frothy authors effectively ran a publicity campaign for him. 1
  • He told me about how he really does support charity overseas (predominately literacy-based) with the advertising revenue from the site.
  • He told me that he wasn't opposed to the idea of going legit, but would have to still ensure some kind of catalog of books.
  • He told me that a large portion of his userbase comes from developing countries, where smartphones and (slow) internet access exist, but they simply don't have the funds to pay for the eBooks, and nobody else even comes close to serving those people. 
  • Ideologically, we're not that far apart, and he's got some good, innovative ideas... but I can't support him or the site as it exists now because I do not support the copyright violations.
  • The things we brainstormed (see below) could never have come to pass before Kobo opened up DRM-free eBooks and Tor/Forge announced they were going DRM-free.

Some things we brainstormed, that may or may not come to pass:

  • Something like the (now-defunct, dammit) Creative Commons Developing Nations license would allow those of us in developed countries pay for the books, but not restrict access to those who simply can't.  A technological solution (perhaps based off of IP addresses) could enforce this.
  • There isn't an existent library solution that isn't tied to either a store (Amazon, B&N) or to Overdrive (which limits how many people can "check out" an eBook - which is stupid).
  • The possibility of using Flattr or something like it as a way to ensure that authors and publishers get compensated.
  • Corollary to the above:  How would this impact price-matching clauses in Amazon/iBooks/B&N stores?
  • Quite a few people in Facebook comments and elsewhere expressed support for a Hulu/Netflix style of subscription.
  • DRM doesn't prevent piracy.  Because it doesn't.
  • There isn't really a solution except DRM to enforce a true library-style loan of an eBook.
  • Offering a strategy where DRM (to enforce loans) and DRM-free offerings were mixed in some way to subscribers.
  • Using (or even licensing) the download (loan) data to publishers so that they can revise their own pricing and marketing strategies.

And we talked about people he has approached, or could approach.

Honestly, it was one of the most productive conversations I've ever had with someone whose current piracy actions I cannot support.  He seems to be a smart guy with ideals not dissimilar to my own.  He seemed interested in actively supporting (including financially) authors and creatives, but did not want to compromise those people outside of the developed world, and to support charity at the same time.

Let me make this clear: I do not support (personally or professionally) the currently existing incarnation of TUEBL.  However, I do support many of his ideals and the things we brainstormed.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not being at ideological loggerheads.  That is simply a problem.  And problems only need solutions.

If you happen to be a person with more clout (or Klout - ha!) than I with the established publishing industry, I think this guy is someone we want to talk to.  Give him a listen.  Disagree.  Point out problems with his models - he was open to that with me - and brainstorm solutions.  Hell, I'll join in if you really want me to.

Because while I don't support where his website is right now, I can easily see where it could turn into something truly awesome for all of us.

1 See? Losing your cool over piracy doesn't exactly work out the way you wanted, authors.

23 July 2012

Wishing for Honest Pirates, or An Open Letter to TUEBL

[EDIT 23:45EST]: I spoke to the guy who runs TUEBL just a little bit ago. A blog post about that conversation will go up tomorrow morning. After you read this, I invite you to tune back in then; we talked about a lot of my objections that I bring up here.]


Pirate deck at Club EarlI ran "Pirate Week" on the blog two years ago, wrote an open letter to pirates a year ago, took all my sites down to oppose SOPA and PIPA in January, and made the distinction between "pirates" and "bandits" while arguing against anti-pirate advocates in January as well. I am currently opposing CISPA, and as a publisher, have signed the Declaration of Internet Freedom and have an entire section about piracy.

You can say I've thought about the topic a bit.

The website "TUEBL" ("The Ultimate E Book Library) came to my attention recently, and at first I thought it was the same kind of forum-based piracy that I've seen so often.  And then I saw some things (besides the normal "oh, we're not doing anything bad") that actually pissed me off.
  • Donating money. Look, I get that helping other people is nice. I'm in charge of Spec The Halls, and was a matching partner for 100 Words, 100 Stories. Both of those got creatives to donate their work to help others. Getting donations for content you don't have the rights to in order to help other people? Kinda negates the karma thing.
  • Nobody actually sues us, and it's only unknowns complaining. In case you hadn't noticed, most of us small and independent folks don't exactly have the disposable income to go and fight international court battles. This is something especially near and dear to me today, as I prepare to send my authors their earnings for this quarter.
  • We support authors and creative people.  Yeah, look.  I understand about discoverability (read the links above).  I also understand that doing that without letting the people involved make that choice has, in multiple instances I personally know of, caused authors to stop writing.
    That's a strange kind of "support", my friends.
This one deserves a bit of a special note:
  • We're not "stealing".  It's piracy.  I'm guessing they're riffing off this:
Piracy Handy Guide
The problem with this is pretty simple: Pretty soon folks are gonna stop making cars, since they can't sell them anymore.

Those are annoying enough, but then there's these that really pissed me off:

  • Encourages people to upload content to their servers, then claims they're not responsible.
  • Teaches people explicitly how to use software to upload content to their servers.
  • Claims "copyleft" status and talks about "sharing culture".
  • Confuse "able to stop us" with "legal" and "right". 
  • In a tweet (captured in the Storify below), saying "authors who have a problem should follow simple instructions".
As someone who both creates work (fiction / nonfiction) and publishes it for other people (Alliteration Ink), I'm all too aware of how much time and energy goes into it. Some people will steal it, yes. But for those people who can't afford it, there is already a mechanism for that - they're called real libraries. (Also Amazon and B&N both have a lending program, don't forget.) All those already exist. Requiring authors to opt-out of the system is kind of like forcing people to constantly keep saying "Don't copy answers off of my test" during an exam in college.

You want to innovate and share culture? As one of their supporters said on Facebook, make an equivalent of Netflix or Hulu for eBooks. As I said on Twitter, make it OPT-IN for authors.

But honestly, it's the hypocrisy that pissed me off.

Copyleft
means something very specific, and "sharing culture" is part of the Creative Commons ideal. Both are about getting software and ideas out there - but they do not repeat do not justify piracy of copyrighted works.

Because I do agree - copyright is broken, and draconian efforts to stop piracy will stifle cultural expression.  I'm a supporter of Creative Commons and copyleft work.

And TUEBL (and sites like it) aren't revolutionizing anything. It's not doing a damn thing to actually make it easier to share culture.

Because they're doing exactly the things that anti-piracy advocates fear, while saying the same things that copyright reformers say.  They make it harder for people to take copyleft, Creative Commons, and others interested in actually helping our society to be taken seriously.

Consider: You find out that a bunch of people claiming to support your favorite political candidate are doing all the things that the over-the-top attack ads claim your side will do.  That is not helping your cause.

That's only helping the other side.

Let me make this more clear:

TUEBL (and sites like them) are making it easier for draconian copyright laws to be passed. Their actions directly make it harder for there to be a free and open internet.


All while trying to wrap themselves in the cloak of idealism.

And I hate to say it, but that's bullshit, my friends. This is piracy.

I'm half- convinced that TUEBL is actually a mole account created by the pro-copyright groups in order to give them an example to point to.

Quit trying to pretty it up, and be honest about what you're doing. It doesn't matter how much money you donate, or how many impassioned arguments you make about internet freedom (or how many of them I've said myself, or how many I agree with).  I'm actually hoping the people who run TUEBL agree with me that those ideals are important... because then we can actually start having a conversation about how to make those ideals happen in real life, and evaluating whether or not our actions are helping those ideals become a reality.1

The storify I mentioned is below (or at this link, if you can't see it). I still urge people to sign the Declaration for Internet Freedom, and to oppose CISPA.




1 Yes, if you're reading this, I'm the guy who just left a message for your webhost or registrar. I'm serious about this whole "conversation" thing.

Power - A 100 Word Story

storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://bit.ly/stevereads) in your podcatcher or phone, or swing by http://bit.ly/stevesdrabbles.

CloudsThe clouds billowed around Josh's father as he entered. "I've tried everything with them, and still nothing."

Josh raised an eyebrow. "Everything?"

His father sat down heavily. "Yes. Set boundaries. Punishments when they broke the rules. Intervened when bullies were pushing them around. Even let them deal with the consequences of their own actions when they disobeyed."

Josh smirked. "Perfect."

His father's brow and the clouds behind him darkened. "Perfect?"

"Yes, Father. Perfect." Josh grasped his father's shoulder. "And now I'll just show them kindness and love." Josh's smile made cherubim shiver.

"And then they'll be devoted to us forever."

22 July 2012

Room Service - Published at the WiFiles

My short story "Room Service" was just published at The WiFiles;  go check it out (it's free to read).

This story actually is an iteration of one of the oldest surviving stories I'd written.  Originally about 100 words, it was extremely dated.  (As in, there was an active SETI program at the time...)

So I'm glad to see it finally getting a home.

Also, remember that I (almost always) update this tumblr with my publication credits, including links to the work whenever possible.

Hope you enjoy the story!

21 July 2012

Do you read this by RSS or listen to the podcast feed? Please read!

technology.pngHey folks, a tech note here. Apparently ODS (Open Domain Server) is going to shut down operations sometime in the next year or three. As a result, I'm proactively going to start moving my content away from the subsites that have the nameserver there.

Primarily - and the one of interest here - is the podcast feed I've been playing with. I've also realized (D'oh!) that I can simply put the audio as enclosures with the blog here and configure Feedburner... which is good, because it's one less step and I'll actually remember to do it frequently.

It's bad, because it means I'll only be able to offer a RSS 2.0 feed. And those folks (however few they might be) who actually use the existent podcast feed will have to change subscriptions. (Which you will anyway).

So here's my questions:

1. Anybody subscribed to the RSS feed who will be completely borked if I switch it to RSS 2.0 only? (If you're using Google Reader, you should be fine...)

2. Anybody actually using the separate podcast feed who needs help switching it? (I don't have it really set up to give me usage statistics, so I have NO idea if anyone's listening to it.)

Please comment here or e-mail me at ; silence means "I'm cool with you switching stuff."

Your Ears Need This: All Ages Show - Dag Nasty

hearthisI saw a couple iterations of the Dry House growing up. It was a local music venue in my hometown that didn't serve booze, so that kids in high school could have a place to play and hear music. (The drinking part was called the Underground Railroad - a brief history of the time I knew it is here.) It was awesome in a way that only a (primarily) punk venue serving isolated punks and freaks in WestbyGodsmilewhenyousayitVirginia can be.

Morgantown Show Flyers
I very distinctly remember a guy who kept coming to shows. I have no idea how old he was. I mean, I was a teenager. Twenty five was ancient. The guy was probably as old as I am now. He just sat in the back. He didn't bother anyone, didn't talk to anyone. He just listened to the music. And I remember thinking that someday, I'd be that guy, enjoying the music, and not giving a damn what anyone else thought of it.

Now that I am that guy (hello, Jasper the Colossal), Dag Nasty's song "All Ages Show" (from the 1987 ep of the same name) means that much more to me. (Lyrics here, by the way.)

To find a reason, don't ask me
Don't ask (anyone) for a reason to live your life
Shake your head, left and right
Like the old man who shows up here every night
What does he hear in this kind of music?
Why don't you ask him?
Find out what you need to know
All ages show
You haven't lived all there is to live
How old is old?
How old is old?

As this website describes the All Ages Show EP:
This is EMO not that f*cking sh*t they call emo today. F*ck. Dag Nasty, Washington DC. Made up of ex this and that and pre this and that. Solid band, good music and a very respectable cover of the Ruts "Staring at the Rude Boys".

Uh, yeah. What they said.

Enough of this old guy rambling. Let's rock.




(Follow this link for MP3s from the EP - the only MP3 of "All Ages Show" on Amazon is a re-recording with different band members, and sounds significantly different than the EP. The YouTube video embedded above has the EP version of the song.)

20 July 2012

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom... or Tragedy Ain't A Political Football

I woke up this afternoon to the news about the Batman shooting. It's a tragedy. It's horrible. And it's already being turned into political fodder about gun control on both sides.

I think you all are missing the point.

First - and foremost - I stand behind the sentiment of this tweet: Leave the families alone. Whether you're a "social media" journalist or a "real" journalist, leave them the hell alone. Let them grieve.

Second - I get that we want to keep this from happening again. Or as often. And that's where the politicization of the tragedy, particularly regarding gun control, is a pile of distracting bullshit. The guns are a tool, a symptom. They amplify underlying problem by making it so easy to kill, but they do not cause it. Arguing about gun control is not going to make the problem go away - it just makes the problems easier to ignore.

Ultimately, I think the research by E. Durkheim (while having some problems) points in a significant direction: our social fabric is being rent apart. The fewer social ties we have, the more likely we are to act in (dangerously) deviant ways. Forcing political divisions, by the way, only makes this worse.

That's a large, grand, social problem that will take a good amount of creativity to work on. It's not really something you can advocate for ("What do we want? Everyone to feel connected!"). So where's the middle ground?

This tweet really kind of captures it:
I question our priorities when James Holmes owning an assault weapon is considered an absolute right but his access to mental health is not.

Let me assure you of something: Even among those of us with insurance, mental health is still poorly covered. Need more than an hour therapist visit once every other week (once a week if you're lucky)? Good luck with that.

I know this from personal experience. My oldest son (whom I rarely talk about, and mention only occasionally in blog posts (Pictures of You, Greeting Cards of You, Eighteen and Life) was discharged from an inpatient mental health care facility (after one of his many stays after homicidal or suicidal ideation) not because he was better, but because my insurance wouldn't pay for him to be there any longer, no matter how much the doctors said it was necessary.

They called me the next day to ask how satisfied I was with their service.

Those events (the ancillary costs around which still ended up putting me tens of thousand in debt, something from which I've yet to recover) have really formed my opinion about health insurance companies. When we actually needed them, they weren't there

And I have better health coverage than most of the people I know.

Shortly thereafter, his threats and plans grew intense enough that the state took custody of him for the safety of myself and my family.  Maybe more intervention - not limited by artificial insurance constraints - would have made more of a difference.  We'll never know how it could have turned out.

But I know how it did.

To this day, I actively worry that some day I'll see my kid's name in a headline like this.  It won't matter if he uses a gun, or a knife, like the one he'd hidden as part of his plan to kill my family in our sleep.

He's out there.  Somewhere.  I don't know where.

I hope I'm wrong about him - I really do.  But every time I hear a story like this, I scan the headline to make sure I don't see a name I recognize.  As the perpetrator, not the victim.

And it all could have been different, if we gave more of a damn about treating people instead of treating our bottom line.  If we gave more of a damn about helping everyone instead of turning tragedies into political footballs.

So the question for all the would-be political activists is this:  Do you give more of a damn about people, or about your political "team"?
 

HOWTO: Reduce Junk Mail (and spam calls)

Junk mailIn response to my bit yesterday about telemarketers, The Most Excellent Anne Gray (Zer Netmouse)1 pointed out that she'd love to have a way to stop postal mail crap too.

And lo and behold, there is.

To recap (and make clear): When you get phone solicitations with a real person, the only response you give them is this:

Please remove me from your calling list and any calling lists you share with other companies. Place me on your do-not-call-list. Thank you.


Seriously. Don't say anything else. The phone calls will go down in frequency, but it takes a while.

Snail mail is a bit harder, simply because of the time lag. Also because nearly every magazine sells their subscriber list, the asshats 2. You can start with Catalog Choice (they're legit), but it doesn't get everyone by a long shot.

There used to be a service called "Junkbusters" that had a wonderful template for the equivalent of the above anti-telemarketer script. They are, unfortunately, defunct.

Luckily, I have a copy of that form, which I am making available to you. Whenever you get the junk mail (preferably the postage-paid kind, but take the effort with those who want a stamp too).3

Mailing Junk back to Junk MailersFill out this form with the appropriate information (they've already got it, after all) and stuff that sucker in those return envelopes. Mail those committees who don't give you a return envelope. Do this religiously for six months. (Also, stop subscribing to magazines and putting your real address in for free offers.) Your junk mail will decrease dramatically.

There's some that will never be completely gone - voting rolls are public, for example, so they can re-harvest your address - but it reduced mine by 90%.

[Edit:  The above is now also available as a gist, which means you can easily clone your own copy if you have a github account.]

The form is available through a shared Google Document, here, or Min.us, here.


1 Worth noting that I've appointed that title; IMHO, she deserves it as being one of the three most harmonious human beings I've had the pleasure of knowing.
2 Yes, Analog, Asimov's, Utne - this is why my subscriptions lapsed. Hope that quick buck was worth it.
3 Side note: Postage paid means you can affix that to a fracking BRICK and mail it back. Reserve this for those who don't pay attention, as it annoys the postal workers, whom I have the greatest respect for.

19 July 2012

A helpful hint to politicians and groups that use call centers

rant.pngWhen someone says "Please take me off your call list," that means they don't want to get any phone calls from you.

Including the current one.

I understand that you're doing a job, or that you really believe in what you're doing.  I get that.  Most of the soliciting calls I get are for political causes and committees that I support.  That's why I am not wasting your time by keeping you on the phone with me.  I understand the role of fundraising, and I do support them financially... just not in response to phone calls.

So I try to be respectful.  "Please remove me from your call list and add me to any do-not-call list that you maintain."  And no matter of cajoling, badgering, or NLP (gag) is going to turn me into a conversion.

Because here's the thing: I don't know who is actually calling me.  I'm never going to give out my credit card information over the phone unless I start the phone call.  (Caller ID can be spoofed, y'know.)  It has nothing to do with how important it is, or how much I support you.

But when I am not treated with the same respect for my time that I show for yours, I am less likely to ever donate or support you in the future.

Actually, let me take that back.  You could turn me into a conversion.

If you treat me with respect, the worst that happens is that I dismiss your group.  If you waste my time by continuing to try to get money out of me, you will convert me - into someone who will go out of my way to not support your group.  Ever.  In any way.

Yes, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I'm calling you out here.

Widening Up Google Plus Posts, Hiding Trending (Stylish/Userscript)

I loathe the current G+ "trending" crap.  I made a userstyle (works with Stylish, may also work as a userscript with Chrome or with Greasemonkey) that reclaims your space without a whole lot of fancy code crap.  It's a fork of another person's work, but theirs hadn't been updated for a couple months...

You can get the code (and install it) over here at userstyles.

Screencap below (also saved because of the delightful troll in Wil Wheaton's comments area;  man, if anyone was calling for a Loving Mallet of Correction...)


18 July 2012

An Open Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

Dear Boy Scouts of America:

I was a Cub Scout and Webelos Scout.  I met most of my childhood friends through you.  I was even a camp counselor for several years.  I was a Cubmaster as well.

I also suffered my first instance of hazing and emotional abuse at the hands of a scoutmaster.  He was straight, by the way.  They thought it'd be cool to take a bunch of kids on a night hike and make it like a haunted trail... including pretending that patrol leaders had been murdered and that we were being shot at.

As a leader, I (and the other leaders) were actively inclusive.  We didn't give a damn what religion, disability, color, sexuality, or any other label someone had.  It didn't matter if the label was one someone else put on them or a label they chose themselves.

It didn't matter.  They were kids.  They were people.  And they all deserved our best, and we demanded it of them.  The video on bicycle safety that they made is the top hit on YouTube for "scout bicycle safety", with 10x as many views as the next hit down.

And it didn't matter what labels any of those kids carried.  They were kids.  They were Scouts.  And that was all that mattered.

Worrying about any of those labels - instead of things like "work together" and "learn things" and "do your best" - was a waste of the kids' time.  Allowing hazing - whether about what sleeping bag a kid had, or what TV show they liked, and so on - is not in the Scouting spirit.

Except in America.

On Tuesday, the BSA announced that it was formally upholding its policy of discriminating against LGBTQQ people.  tl;dr of the excuses for the decision:  "It's hard to talk about people who are different that we are".


Seriously.  The BSA's chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, said that banning openly gay people was acceptable because "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting."

Bullshit.  It's not even a good excuse.  You don't have to talk about it.  Here's how you deal with it:

"Discrimination isn't okay.  Sexual behavior at camp isn't okay1.  Now go earn a merit badge."

It's not hard.  But the BSA just wants a good excuse to be discriminatory douchebags.  Want to know if something is discriminatory?  Substitute terms for different groups.  For example:
 
The BSA's chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, said that banning openly Baptist people was acceptable because "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of religion within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting."

The BSA's chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, said that banning openly mixed-race people was acceptable because "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of racial relations within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting."

Can you even imagine the uproar?

So, fine.  The BSA has decided to choose the abusive, bigoted road exemplified by the abusive Scoutmaster I had as a teenager.  You've made your choice.  Repeatedly.

Stop taking federal support.  No more tax dollars.  No more being a part of CFC campaigns.  No more cheap access to public and federal lands.  Be the private, bigoted organization you've repeatedly proven yourself to be.

I will not support discriminatory bigoted organizations, whether they be the KKK or the BSA.





1 I know this is true - I got in trouble when a female teenage den leader from another unit and I flirted at Scout camp.

17 July 2012

100 Words, 100 Stories RFL Challenge - RESULTS

We made 100 stories!  Huzzah!

Go check out the MONSTER PODCAST (both as one big file and as five smaller ones) by going over to Laurence Simon's page:

There's a whole ton of folks who participated, including some of the authors who've been published by Alliteration Ink - Chanté McCoy, Justin Swapp, Sarah Hans, and myself (and probably some other folks I missed in that giant list).  My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who participated, and my heartfelt dollars are gonna head over to RFL...

Have a Professional-Looking CreateSpace Bookstore: So You Want to Make an eBook

So You Want to Make an eBook?Yes, you're only thinking about an eBook, but sooner or later you'll have people asking if your book is available in a "real" (that is, deadtree) version.

I've had pretty good experiences with CreateSpace in producing print versions. It's user-friendly (though I would recommend NOT getting an ISBN from them), and they've got lots of templates and tutorials so that you can expend a bit of mental effort instead of a lot of money.

However, I don't think I will surprise (or shock) anyone by saying that the CreateSpace default direct sales pages are butt-ugly.

Honestly, it doesn't make sense for them to spend a lot of time or energy on making it a super-nice storefront. (Or to give you a lot of help in setting it up - a big forum thread about this is here.) They're owned by Amazon, which already has that nice functionality - and, incidentally, earns Amazon/CreateSpace a MUCH larger percentage of each sale.

How much more? Well, using Eighth Day Genesis as an example, the net royalties (I mean what gets split between the editor, the authors, and the publisher here) if you buy the print version of the book will be $1.40 from B&N, $4.40 on Amazon (well, it will be when the title becomes available in those places)... and the authors earn $7.40 if you buy it directly.1 You can use the royalty calculator to see what I'm talking about here.

So yeah, there's a big incentive (for me, as a publisher and author) to have readers buy directly from the printer. I like paying my authors more money. But the default CreateSpace store page (on top of not linking directly to your other pages) is just... ugly. Take a look at this example or this one for an idea what the default page looks like.

You can add a banner at the top, which helps a bit (see this example or this one), and while you can set a background color, gradient, or image, that can help (example, though the color scheme hurts my eyes) or make things a whole hell of a lot worse (example, example #2).2

There's two solutions here. First, you can have a button directly on your site, just like this one below which is live for Eighth Day Genesis (print versions are $14.99, by the way).


Buy from Alliteration Ink in print formats


You do this by first getting a nice spiffy "buy now" button (feel free to COPY mine, but make a copy on your OWN website, not mine!). Then go to the CS eStore page, right-clicking, and choosing "Copy Link Location". And this is what you put on your website:

<a href="LINK YOU COPIED FROM CREATESPACE" target="_blank"><img src="LINK TO YOUR IMAGE" title="Buy the print format from us" alt="Buy the print format from us" /></a>

Substitute where appropriate.

But even if you use this method, you still want to make your CS eBookstore page look as presentable as possible. Why? Because it will show up in the results from search engines when people search for your book. So take a look at the CreateSpace page for the last two books published by Alliteration Ink - Volume Three of The Crimson Pact and Eighth Day Genesis. Both pages have a consistent theme with pages on the main Alliteration Ink site and look pretty sharp.

It's tricky, because there's no easy template - and the logo they let you put up is not flush left, either (it's offset to the right 10 pixels). Here's the images I used (though blogger might not let you see them full size):



I'm not going to go into detail about the white-to-black lettering (magic wand selector, invert, rectangle select, layers, lots of cut and paste), what's important is the size of the images and the black bit on the side. The logo image is 760x75px, the max CS will allow you. The background image is 1280x100px. (Why 1280px wide? Because there's a vertical and horizontal repeat, and 1280 should keep the horizontal repeat offscreen for a lot of users. Lengthen it if you're concerned about folks with that big of a monitor.)

On the background image, the black bar is 180 pixels wide. On the logo image the black bar is 170 pixels wide. Once your cover is processed by CreateSpace (at least, for my 8.5"x5.5" covers, YMMV) the text will line quite happily up as if you'd always planned it that way. (NOTE: Until your cover is processed by CreateSpace, the text will NOT line up properly. If your cover's aspect ratio is different, you might have to tweak this more.)

Professionalism counts, people. Even if you're not doing most of your sales via CreateSpace or if you're not planning on directing people to the CreateSpace book page, taking the bit of time to do it up so it looks presentable is what sets you apart.

1 I price the print version so that the Amazon sales (and average of direct and extended distribution sales) earns approximately the same amount for the authors as the eBook version.
2 And yes, that "distributor" looks sketchy as well; calling CreateSpace or LightningSource "national distribution" is a bit of a stretch. The website's half-completed, with placeholder text clearly visible. Oy.

This post was part of So You Want to Make an eBook?. This section alone took me a good hour and a half to write, link, and proof... and that's not counting the time figuring out the right layout sizes by trial and error. If you find this information useful, buy the current version or toss me a few bucks in the coffee cups to the side there and encourage me to get it bloody well done. You can find all the posts here.

16 July 2012

Wine and Flesh and Cookies - A 100 Word Story

storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://bit.ly/stevereads) in your podcatcher or phone, or swing by http://bit.ly/stevesdrabbles.

The link mentioned in the audio is this: I Listen to Them Snicker.

in the tubI was fifteen when I first saw a woman naked. My older girlfriend, in her bathtub, holding a bottle of wine.

She took a long gulp of the wine and threw her one-month chip at me. She smashed the bottle against the porcelain, red rivulets of fermented grape running across her pale skin. She threatened to slit her wrists with the glass.

She'd taught me that mayonnaise in cookies kept them soft. Soft like her lips, not like her fists hitting me when she tried to leave before help arrived.

Later, she thanked me.

Wine and flesh and soft cookies.



13 July 2012

There Be Titans: Negotiating the eBook Marketplace

While at Origins this year, I was talking to Gregory Wilson (and the issue came up again on a panel or three) about what was going on in the digital book marketplace.  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the "Big Six" and iTunes, et cetera.  He said something very, very smart (though I can only paraphrase it now):

When titans fight, small guys have to watch out, because we'll get crushed.

And "small guys" basically means anyone who doesn't sit down with the CEOs of those companies for lunch on a regular basis.

Similar case in point:  Apparently Dish Network is having all sorts of contract disputes with people, so a bunch of channels are, at this time, not carried by them until contracts are negotiated.  Two networks are having very different responses (both originally via BoingBoing):

Viacom:  We won't stream the Daily Show or Colbert on the web until you let us on Dish at our terms.

AMC:  We'll stream Breaking Bad live so our fans have time to switch providers.

Both moves put pressure on Dish.  (Well, supposedly.)  The attitude of the two couldn't be more different.  To give a bit more tone to this, let us turn to Ryan Gosling...

 AMC has always supported you, the true fans.We're okay being in the friendzone, because we care about you.

Viacom:  Nice show.  It'd be a shame if something... happened to it.  Or its friends.

Yeah, one of these strategies is smart and respectful of the people who earn you money, and the other is extortionist at best.  But that's the network, not the show.  Something tells me the staff of one show are very happy, and the staff of some others are very pissed off. 

Because, as mentioned before, it doesn't matter how big a fish you are in your pond (how many of you have the writerly equivalent of a single Emmy, let alone a handful of them?), our ponds are nowhere near the size of the ocean that the titans are moving in.

So, much like Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, have the option to sell your creative work on your own, directly to your fans. 

Here's my guide to doing just that.

Two Rules for Relationships

CommunicationRegardless of what kind of relationship you're in - small "r", big "R", work "r", et cetera, these two rules will help make it better.

1. Take it to voice. If there's a conflict brewing - if you find yourself upset at an e-mail or a text, or it even starts to seem like the other person is getting upset at an e-mail or text or IM - both parties have the right to unilaterally declare that the conversation must be taken to voice. Whether that be over the phone or face to face (the latter is marginally better) doesn't matter. This does not mean you get to duck the conversation - it must occur - but it does mean that it becomes postponed until you can actually hear the other person's tone of voice.

2. Assume cluelessness instead of malice. Sure, maybe there is malice... but if you're actually interested in preserving the relationship, assume cluelessness first. (And yes, serial cluelessness can be justification for ending a relationship, but both give them a chance and tell them exactly how they're being clueless.)

I think these two rules will improve 90% of all relationships.

What do you think?

12 July 2012

Your Ears Need This: Sweet Brightside (DJs From Mars)

hearthisThis is some brand new stuff from DJs From Mars, and I simply couldn't wait until Saturday to share it with you all.

And also with Downsideupgirl. :) You know why, honey.

Anyway, so many mashups are tonally similar - seriously, I listen to about ten to fifteen for every one that strikes me as original and good, and I'm only listening to the ones that other folks promote. But that means it's always amazing and spectacular when you get something like this that simply should not work... but does. Give it a listen below and start your workday off with some kicking beats:



10 July 2012

Displaying Cover Images Consistently in eBooks: So You Want to Make an eBook?

So You Want to Make an eBook?One of the reasons I'm somewhat dismissive of all the fancy HTML5 based stuff in KF8 and ePub3 is because we're still having problems implementing basic functionality across platforms. (This is more of the kind of thing I mentioned back in this post about details.)

I'm not talking about between file types; I'm talking about the exact same file rendering differently on different devices. That means this issue pertains to you regardless of how many (or how few) platforms you support. Folks buying from Amazon may read the same book on the PC, a tablet, or a phone in addition to the various resolutions and sizes of Kindles. The problem isn't any better with ePub, even though ePub is supposed to have a consistent standard.

I've mentioned my issues with full-page images with Stanza on iOS before, but the same thing applies here. For example, Jim Hines' Sister of the Hedge and Other Stories (AMZ | B&N).

Let me take a second to say that not only is the writing top-notch (I was a fan of Jim's writing before we became friends, and I'm glad to say that I'm still a total fanboy of his work), but the interior is extremely well-done. And the cover art is also quite cool - I'd thought it was spiffy when I first saw it on his blog. So I bought it from B&N, downloaded it to my phone via the nook app, and...


WTF? I mean, it's a nice closeup, but that's not really the right way to present the cover. And that's the store's actual app. So I figured I better be able to tell Jim (which I have, by the by) what was up with his book, so I took at look at it in my Sony Pocket Reader. That's my default "proofing" reader, because it's completely lacking in bells and whistles.


This is quite a bit better (the weird distortion is angulation from me trying to hold my phone and reader at the same time), but the bottom of the cover is still being cut off. Strange. Since I was already sideloading it around, I moved it over to iBooks back on the phone...


And it shows up perfectly. Exactly the same file in all three cases, but the three readers all displayed it differently.

The problem, in case you were wondering, was this bit of code:

<p class="center"><img alt="Cover" src="../Images/Cover.jpg" /></p>

Why is that a problem? Because the height and width aren't explicitly defined. You could do the (relatively complex) SVG code I explained in this post, or skip to the end and just have this:

<img height="100%" src="../Images/Cover.jpg" alt="frontcover"/>

While not perfect (unless your image's aspect ratio is exactly the same as the eReader's), it'll solve the problem in 99% of the cases. And I'd personally prefer having the whole thing on the screen than an unintentional zoom.

Folks, aside from the research, writing this post and formatting it for the blog took about an hour. While these posts are going to be incorporated into the next edition of "So You Want to Make an eBook?", I'm also sharing these tips and refinements as I come across them. If you find these posts useful, toss a donation into the coffee cups or buy the current edition. Thanks!

09 July 2012

Rain - A 100 Word Story

storytime.pngYup, it's flash fiction time again!

As always, this is based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. It's a great exercise for writers - writing a good drabble is a lot harder than it appears, but is still a "small" task so you can get around that idea of it being too much work. And then you get a random (and often bizarre) writing prompt to shoehorn you out of writer's block! Go read the rules for the Weekly Challenge and participate! Heck, Chris the Nuclear Kid does when he remembers to (and I can drag him away from video games)!

The player below should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site!

I am now - when I remember to do so - updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://bit.ly/stevereads) in your podcatcher or phone, or swing by http://bit.ly/stevesdrabbles.

stalking superheroes at sundownMy mother's hand slicked back my wet hair. I fidgeted in the damp polyester suit. "Rain is when God is crying," she told me, as I watched my father's casket lowered into the ground. My tears mingled with God's.

Now I watch from outside the League's satellite. I watch the normals slaughter each other. The suited UN politicians argue whether to chastise genocide. The spandex-suited heroes of the League debate whether to intervene at all. My tears boil away in vacuum before they join the rain.

Enough tears.

My tears may not reach the Earth's surface.

My heat vision will.

08 July 2012

Whitewashing Racism, or the Inerrancy of the Founding Fathers Is Crap

Tea Party Groups In Tennessee Demand Textbooks Overlook U.S. Founder's Slave-Owning History

Yes, that's for real.  One quote (emphasis mine):  "No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership."

Want more?  Hal Rounds, the spokesperson for the group said they want to address "an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another."

What.  The.  Frak.

But I think it's not directly due to racism.  Understanding why this racism is a symptom instead of the prime cause is key in actually making a lasting difference.  So stick with me here, folks.

While there's racism in the actions (and I'd be willing to guess that the inherent racism of the action isn't disturbing the members of those groups), I don't think that's why this is being proposed and pushed.  Again, I don't think that reflects well on the proponents of making slavery seem nicer.

This particular case of whitewashing of racism is a symptom.   It's a symptom of the inability to admit wrongdoing on the part of the Founding Fathers.  That's why I bolded that bit from the quote above.

Think of it as a doctrine of Constitutional Inerrancy1 instead of Biblical Inerrancy.  I've long argued that Biblical Inerrancy is laughable due to the obvious contradictions, but it's also a great way to ruin someone's faith life. (We'll come back to that.)

Biblical inerrancy means that you accept the entire book as being true (and divinely inspired).  Since it's all true, all you have to do in order to win a debate is point at the Bible and say "God says you're wrong."

Honest About Cherry Tree - Demotivational Poster

And that's what the right wing in the US has been doing with the "Founding Fathers" (and Reagan). If the Founding Fathers (or Reagan) said it, they claim it must be so2.  And that's a completely bullshit appeal to authority.  It's actively evil in three ways:

  1. It leads to wilful ignorance and the perpetration of evil acts in order to preserve the mythology of inerrancy.
  2. It robs our citizens of actual, complex role models that we can identify with (warts and all) realistically aspire to emulate.
  3. It destroys people's faith and hope in the actual ideals our country is founded on.

It's bullshit because if either the Bible or the Founding Fathers were wrong in the slightest, then you can't just invoke the magic names and claim your argument is invalid.  Not only is that crappy logic, but it leads to completely evil things like arguing that slavery wasn't so horrible so that they can preserve that inerrancy.  (Which is why it's actually worse, IMHO - the racism isn't even intentional; they simply were that bloody inconsiderate about it.)

It's bullshit because cardboard cutout heroes and role models are crap.  For example, George Washington was more than a bit of a badass in his own right.  But he was fallible, and therefore still something we could aspire to.  Lincoln's views on racism actually changed (for the better) throughout his life -which means that we can forgive our own screwups and improve as well.  (As W.E.B Du Bois put it, "I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.")

Saints are not born, they're made as people grow up.  This goes for religion as well - the closest I feel to Christianity isn't through Jesus' resurrection, but through his doubt and questioning at Gethsemane (particularly as portrayed in "I Only Want to Say" from Jesus Christ Superstar).



Because denying that we all have our doubts, our moments when our faith is weak, when our FILDI is low, our moments when we feel like imposters means that we're all comparing ourselves to a standard that has never been possible.

And that brings us to the final reason why inerrancy is so much bullshit.  When true believers finally realize that their beliefs are based on a lie, it's a horrible shattering experience.  I've personally seen Christians lose their belief forever because of this doctrine.  I've seen them swing entirely in the opposite direction:  "If one part isn't true, none of it is true."  And that's just as much bullshit.

So this kind of Constitutional Inerrancy (or Infallibility of the Founding Fathers) is actively evil and damaging to our country in three ways:

  1. It leads to wilful ignorance and the perpetration of evil acts in order to preserve the mythology of inerrancy.
  2. It robs our citizens of actual, complex role models that we can identify with (warts and all) realistically aspire to emulate.
  3. It destroys people's faith and hope in the actual ideals our country is founded on.
The Founding Fathers (along with Reagan) did some really good stuff.  And some really crap stuff.  As has everyone else, ever.  Sometimes the bad outweighs the good (Nixon, G.W. Bush), but even then, there's still goodness and wisdom in their lives.3

That black-and-white, saints-and-sinners approach isn't merely wrong.  It's actively working against the very ideals our country stands for.


1I originally started this with a comment on Facebook and used the term "Infallibility" instead;  since infallibility is more associated with papal ex cathedra decrees instead of the literal text of the Bible, I've switched the term here.
2Unless you point out those things like "feed the poor" or "don't kill people" or other stuff that they don't agree with. Jesus was a lot more like a socialist than a capitalist, after all.

3Except maybe for Dick Cheney. Not really joking there.

07 July 2012

Your Ears Need This: Doctor Who (and more) Meets Metal

hearthisI know, I first mentioned this guy on Twitter and Facebook back in April (as did a lot of other people), but he keeps going.

To recap: Dude plays most excellent metal covers of songs suggested to him by fans. And I do mean most excellent in my most Bill & Ted voice. He does a really good Levels, Skyrim, LoTR, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean, but my absolute favorite is the Doctor Who theme (and yes, you must check this out if you haven't already):


Keep in mind that I haven't listed even a tenth of what this guy's done. Go check it out - there will be something you find interesting. Best part - you can get pretty much all of them at his website.

05 July 2012

100 words, 100 stories: Relay For Life

The 100 Word Story podcast is having a special weekly challenge for next week- 100 Stories to raise money for Relay For Life.




Hello. This is Laurence Simon (SL: Crap Mariner) of the 100 word stories podcast. Welcome to 2012.

The 100 word stories weekly challenge is where I post a topic to http://podcasting.isfullofcrap.com and then you write and record a story based on that topic.

The topic of the next Weekly Challenge is “Life”

Want to give it a shot? Send an email to isfullofcrap (at) gmail.com with the subject of WEEKLY CHALLENGE and the following:

The text of your 100 word story on the topic
Your site’s URL, if you have a site and aren’t ashamed to share it
A topic for the next Weekly Challenge
And, if you can, a recording of your story (and any shameless plugs) in MP3 format
Oh, and everything’s due by the morning of July 15th (Sunday) when I put the episode together.

If you hate the sound of your voice or can’t record your story for some reason or another, go ahead and send the text of the story in anyway. someone will record it for you.

However, I think you’re going to want to record it, because this week, it’s special: It’s the RELAY FOR LIFE 100 WORD STORIES WEEKLY CHALLENGE CHALLENGE:

You see, the Second Life Relay For Life is taking place the weekend of July 14th, and I like to come up with unusual ways to raise awareness and funds for Relay.

So, here’s this year’s challenge: Send a story for this 100 Word Stories Weekly Challenge, I’ll donate 1 dollar.

Yes, I will give Relay For Life (through the Relay Wizards For Spunky Team) $1USD for each person that sends in a recorded story (or stories) on the topic of “Life” for the July 15th 100 word stories weekly challenge. I will donate up to $100USD.

You must record a story or arrange for someone to record it for you to be a part of this additional fundraising challenge. Stories without recordings do not count towards the fundraising challenge, but will be included in the episode.

If you have any questions about this, email me at isfullofcrap (at) gmail.com, or send an IM to me at “Crap Mariner” in Second Life.

Thank you, and as always, keep it brief. (Oh, and GO RELAY!)


Oh, and here's an additional bonus - Alliteration Ink will match his donation, dollar for dollar. So each story recorded and submitted raises two bucks for RFL.  [Edit:  Further matching donations now have this at $4 per story.]

Remember, you can record and email in your Story with a phone if you need to - this isn't about audio quality, but raising money for charity.

So get on it!