Log in

Sometimes I end up spending a lot of time and energy dealing with questions around my ethics, my values, and my actions. (Yes, like the stuff around Steampunk Universe last week.) Enough that others tell me they would have given up, or not bothered.

My privilege is part of that. As a middle-class straight white cis guy, I've got privilege to burn. I'm sure that not having to deal with the microaggressions and just generic crap that women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks have to face every single day means that I've got more tolerance for taking on this kind of stuff.

It's also part of why I take on this kind of stuff. I've long noticed - and it's gotten worse over the last year - that a woman or person of color says exactly the same thing as I do, they'll get so much more blowback.

The other part - and the part I really wanted to focus on here today - is a mindset thing. (Admittedly, this mindset also comes from my place of privilege, YMMV.)

When someone challenges my actions, my ethics, and my choices, I consider it a gift.

It can be an emotionally trying gift at times. It can be a difficult gift. But it is a gift.

I do my damnedest to be consistent. My choices and actions should reflect my ethics and values. But I'm also aware of how good the human brain is at being able to create post-hoc justifications for actions. There are all sorts of examples, like this one about how religious Trump supporters have suddenly changed their mind.

But as Yeshua said, one should remove the beam from one's own eye first. He didn't point out how *hard* that was, but that's why criticism, challenges, and critique are a gift.

It gives me the opportunity to look at myself, to look at my own actions, and to see if I'm really and truly being the person that I want to be. To see if I'm acting like the person I think I am.

As a final note, though, it is important to remember Ze Frank's advice when choosing what critiques to listen to:

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 is for.

If you haven't yet, please consider chipping towards our Kickstarter for Steampunk Universe, which has done a lot for me and others in exactly the ways I talk about above.
This is a mirror of the latest backer update for Steampunk Universe. If you haven't backed the project yet, you can at steampunkuniverse.alliterationink.com.

For context, see this post: http://www.ideatrash.net/2016/10/two-issues-around-steampunk-universe.html

Because of a comment on the last update, please let me clarify: All of the stories feature disabled or aneurotypical characters. Not all of the authors have shared with us whether or not they're disabled or aneurotypical.

The figure I quoted previously - that slightly less than 50% of the authors were themselves disabled or aneurotypical - was based on the information that they themselves shared with us in cover letters or bios.

We find the idea of litmus tests disturbing in general in determining who gets on a table of contents. I have long advocated for determining one's efforts by evaluating who is submitting. When I brought this up in July, I recognized that my efforts in getting submissions needed improvement. I got several good suggestions on broadening my calls for submissions, and D. Morgenstern pointed out several others in their critique of my response yesterday. I can do more in that arena, and will. Sadly, these are of limited use now, since the two years we were accepting submissions ended back in July.

But I want to again point out that we did not specifically quiz authors on this subject.

Aside from the above, we are personally and strongly aware of the way society can shame and stigmatize those who have disabilities or who are not neurotypical.

For example, while I have previously mentioned publicly which of my family members is aneurotypical, I have not named them here because they're an adult and deserve to tell their own story in the way they choose to.

Or Ms. Coe, who wrote the essay I posted yesterday. She wrote me last night (different time zones and all) to share this:

"The sentence basically came from the fact that I have depression - to severe levels at times - but I am not legally disabled; I am not neurotypical but I don't experience a lot of the disadvantages, especially as I am able-bodied. It was meant to highlight the invisible illnesses that don't always get included when a lot of people think of disability, but can often be crippling."

I want to personally thank Ms. Coe for sharing this part of her personal story with us all.

While depression and other mental issues can qualify as "legally disabled", it can be extremely difficult and painful to share that publicly. They are also massively and shamefully stigmatized, leading many to not share their stories publicly.

I appreciate the critique from others.

I am going to ensure that future calls for submission include the new sources that have been brought to my attention.

I appreciate Ms. Coe sharing her story.

I am not going to force any of my authors to answer questions about their personal lives to pass a litmus test or judge whether they're disabled "enough" or aneurotypical "enough".

I am - with your help and support - going to bring you a kick-ass anthology featuring characters who are aneurotypical and disabled.

Thank you for your support.

Your comments are welcome; please comment here instead of on the project itself.

If you haven't backed the project yet, you can at steampunkuniverse.alliterationink.com.
I've posted before that when it comes to "creepy" and "scary" music, I think that dark ambient stuff is far more effective than anything else. The mix I made several years ago on 8Tracks - Yog-Sothoth's Ambient Mixtape - is an example of what I mean.

Yog Sothoth's Ambient Mixtape from SenorWombat on 8tracks Radio.

Today I'd like to draw your attention to some other tracks which also invoke the Mythos in their titles... and they do so with good reason.

Cryo Chamber bills themselves as a "Cinematic Dark Ambient" label, and these three releases really exemplify that ethos.

First, they've got two free (really, name-your-price) releases that you can pick up - Dark Ambient of 2014 and Dark Ambient of 2015. As with the others I'll recommend here in a second, they're long tracks, mixed into a seamless soundscape of ambient dread.

But these three albums that I'm really wanting to talk about ... they'll give you hours of this stuff, and are well worth every penny. I've embedded the large players, because the artwork is as stunning as the music.

Cthulhu by Cryo Chamber Collaboration

Cthulhu is the shortest - and least expensive - of the three, at US$7. It's just over an hour and twenty minutes.

Azathoth by Cryo Chamber Collaboration

Azathoth is longer - about two hours, split over two tracks, and clocks in at US$9.

Nyarlathotep by Cryo Chamber Collaboration

Nylarlathotep is a massive 190 minutes (and US$15) of skin-crawling ambient horror.

And here's the thing, folks. Whether it's in the horror I watch or read, and especially the music I listen to while writing, I do not want something that's full of jump scares. I want something that unsettles, something that takes the world we know and points out how it's just a little bit wrong. These albums do so in a masterful way.

Whether to blast out over the neighborhood while trick-or-treating, or for your haunted house party, or while you're writing (or reading) your favorite scary novel, these works are simply incomparable. Highly recommended.
TL;DR: In this release, VvvV provides a dark distorted reflection of the current synthwave revival while displaying their skill within the wide range of electronic subgenres.

I got a chuckle when the label said they weren't sure why they offered me an advance review copy of VvvV's upcoming untitled release, but after giving it several listen-throughs, it makes a degree of sense. (So yeah, full disclosure - I got an advance review copy of this recording.)

To quote the blurb under "Clean" on Soundcloud:

Armed with Strings from Heaven, Organs from Hell and Oscillators from the deep and Beyond; VvvV are a 2 piece from Bordeaux, France. Their (typically) enigmatically untitled debut LP [will be] released November 19th by Detonic Recordings.
An Epic, Elegant and Brooding ColdWave/Synthpunk/Kraut tour de force:[sic] providing a sensory-enhanced immersion into their black chromed version of reality.

The first track I was exposed to was that Soundcloud release - check it out here:

The haunting vocals, simple but driving drum program, and atmospheric textures really spoke to me, hearkening back to the darkwave I fell in love with at the turn of the century but with a more modern feel. This is also the feel you'd get if you check out "Contracts" from VvvV's 2014 release, The Beast:
The Beast by VvvV

While several of the tracks on the new keep that same kind of dark atmospheric texture, but there's a lot more variation on this album than you'd expect from just those two samples. "Nation" is easily the noisiest track (and I mean that in the best possible way), coming within shouting distance of acts like Combichrist and God Module. "Like", "Your Life", and "The Beast" introduce a goth-like shimmery organ component. And the last two tracks - "Alive" and "Light" - shift into the territory occupied by the softer parts of VNV Nation's repertoire.

But really, this 2016 album hearkens even further back - and explains the #NewWave tag on the SoundCloud file for "Clean". About half of the album is a solid kind of alt-synthwave, reminiscent of what it might have been like if we ran into a dark timeline version of Devo and influenced by all the music that came after them.

This is really my only nitpick; while "Clean" is a very good track indeed, it's not what I would choose as the most representative track from the release.

Overall, the album showcases the group's range and ability to slide between this range of subgenres while still maintaining a recognizable and distinct sound - not an easy feat. While you'll almost certainly favor some of the tracks in your "favorite" subgenre, the whole release is a solid release.

You can pre-order the album ("LP" or "Untitled", depending on which you prefer) over on Bandcamp at https://detonicrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/vvvv-lp
We keep getting told that steampunk is not diverse.

We keep proving them wrong.

Two and a half years ago, we brought you the award-winning anthology Steampunk World.

Since then, a number of prominent anthologies and other works of diverse steampunk fiction have sprung up.

But it is not enough.

We want to see characters like ALL our friends, like ALL the members of our families.

We want to see fully developed characters in steampunk who are disabled or aneurotypical. We want to see more than token characters and cliched plots.

We were told it would be too hard, especially in steampunk.

We are going to prove them wrong again - and we want you to join us.

Join editor Sarah Hans, our cover artist James Ng, and contributors Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, Maurice Broaddus, Malon Edwards, Emily Cataneo, Pip Ballantine and nine others today.


Steampunk Universe: A fully diverse steampunk anthology -- Kicktraq Mini
Here's a quick programming thing to help the many many many people looking for an easy way to analyze beats-per-minute (or BPM) on linux.

I'd been using an old version of MixMeister's BPM analyzer (free old version still available if you search) under WINE, but it would sometimes choke on my large music collection. And I've been playing with music files for a while; surely there was a better solution?

Well, sort of. I found bpm-tools (in Debian's package manager, homebrew, and quite possibly yours as well), which seemed like it'd do the job nicely. It even seems to be a bit more accurate than what I'd been using, especially in the metal genre.

Until I discovered that it also blanked out the "genre" and "album cover" tags.

Well, that just won't do.

So I wrote a little bash wrapper script so that eyeD3 (which is also used for the simple_covers script) will do the checking for existent BPMs (and compare the results for you if they're really different), optionally not overwrite them, and write the BPM tag properly to the file.

It starts at the directory it's run from and gets all mp3s recursively.

It has three optional switches:

--skip-existing saves on processor power by skipping those with BPM data
--save-existing is an optional switch; default is to overwrite tags
--quiet tries to minimize output to the terminal (eyeD3 may still output some)

You can get the script (it's part of the yolo-mpd repository on GitHub as well) at https://github.com/uriel1998/yolo-mpd#bpmhelpersh
(image from Wikimedia Commons)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot do that with a child's education.

Take the time to watch.
Bye bye, Pikachu.

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

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

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

Like this:

Not my phone, but could be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treating me like a cheater when I'm not was the last straw.
Note that when I say "relationships", I mean any relationships, whether it's romantic, friendly, or otherwise.

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


If anyone starts getting upset in text or e-mail, stop immediately and switch to voice or face to face.

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

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

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

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

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