Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Lizard's Assorted Tragedy and Woe

28 December 2013

I previously mentioned that Lizard and his wife Beth are in a bad situation.

He’s now made more information public, so I’m linking to it. Short version: she went in for routine surgery. She’s now in the ICU and not very responsive.

We are visiting her every day, even though she’s not aware of us. She occasionally partially opens her eyes, or seems to react, but there’s no way to tell if it’s due to our voices or just random neural action. Supposedly, she is showing slightly more responsiveness; we’re going back again tonight (12/28) and we’ll see.

If you can spare some thoughts, prayers, or some extra $ for the gofundme, he’d appreciate whatever. As if all the above weren’t enough, his job went bye bye and his house flooded.

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Why I Wrote the Calcumatic

28 December 2013

Bonjour to all my Francophone visitors!

A French site has linked to my E-Book Royalty Calcumatic, and there are a couple of points I wanted to address.

First, it is US-based, and it is my intention to expand it to other regions and vendors. It’s not my intent to be exhaustive, though.

One of the comments on the above link says (Original in French first, then a rough translation):

Etant donné que les ventes sont imprévisibles et aléatoires, ça en fait un outil complétement inutile!

Given that sales are unpredictable and random, that makes this tool completely useless!

Okay, it’s a fair point. Let’s look at why I did write it and get back to what it does and doesn’t mean.

There were a few reasons I wrote the tool the way I did (remember, I first wrote it in 2011):

  1. I worked on the Safari team at Apple and there was a cool new input element—range sliders—in HTML5. Every new toy must have a use case, right? This was mine. (I’d really love to have a pie chart slice draggy thing, honestly, but I’m not going to write one.)
  2. I wanted to convince some friends not to leave money on the table. Specifically, as someone who uses the Kindle format as my “last resort” choice, I wanted to convince them not to leave my money on the table. To this day, some people still only publish through Kindle’s program. Look, I get that there are compelling reasons for introducing books through Kindle’s store and giving them a 90-day exclusive. Truly I do.
  3. I figured I might actually educate some people who were readers, not writers—people who might think to take that extra moment to get the book from a different source that pays the authors better next time they were purchasing a book and had a choice of vendors.

However, there are always things you can’t control, right?

  1. You can’t control whether someone buys your book. Or not.
  2. You can’t control where someone buys your book (unless you sell it only in one place, which is a poor choice).

There are things you have some control over, though.

  1. You can put your book in multiple bookstores.
  2. You can preferentially feature stores that offer you better deals on your website. You don’t have to list Amazon first. (Yeah, I used to work at Apple, but this is just me being me, not me being an Apple alumna.)

See, I read in iBooks. I only read in iBooks.

Why? I think the layout and rendering is the best there. I like Apple’s choice of fonts. Iowan/Night theme gal, here. I like having all my books together in one big happy library.

I have a handful of Nook books. They are now in iBooks. I have a handful of Kindle books. They are ignored.

If you want me to purchase and read your book, you’ll put it somewhere in an EPUB. It’ll be available without DRM or it’ll be available in the iBooks store.

I don’t mind going to Smashwords to buy your books if I know they are DRM free. Heck, I’ll buy them off your website if I want to read the book and you sell direct. It doesn’t cost me anything extra, but you get paid faster and more money. Sounds like a win win to me.

Just don’t send me to the Kindle store, because you’ll lose the sale. Well, unless you write something so spectacular (like QF32) that I can’t resist buying the book. Still haven’t read it, though. But—you go ahead and land the biggest passenger airplane after an engine blows out and I’ll go to the Kindle store to buy your book, okay?

For years, I didn’t read The Hunger Games. Not available non-DRMed or on the iBooks store. Same thing with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was hot. I think we actually bought that one in paper—and Larsson’s heirs lost a few bucks accordingly.

I’m sure there are people equally fervent about their reading app of choice. Sell to them, too.

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The Linux Goth Slut Incident of 1999

27 December 2013

I happened to be looking at the Geek Feminism Wiki timeline today, partly because I was catching up on Ashe Dryden’s site and she links to the geek feminism wiki’s timeline.
I was a bit miffed because the “Linux Goth Slut” incident links to a piece by Annalee Newitz that compliments my husband, and I suddenly felt erased.
Then I went back to the original post, and I remembered why I wasn’t credited: I posted it anonymously. For good reason, as it turns out (the events in this link not yet having occurred).
The woman, known as “Doris,” is (and was) a friend of mine and my husband’s (though, at the time of the incident, March 1999, my husband and I had only been dating for a couple of weeks). I remember posting the long screed while at the Coffeenet of olde. I also remember having made a long-time friend from the fallout.
Why did I post it? Because, even though the writer had sent it to several people (from his work email account, during typical working hours), she had received a copy forwarded, through several people. In other words, it was getting around more than her resumé. I was easily able to obtain my own copy.
This was costing her potential jobs due to the ridicule and slut-shaming, and she was really angry about it. I posted it with her blessing.
The text? What you might expect if Mr. Wide-Eyed Vanilla Sexist Dude visited, say, Tiffany Reisz’s titular character from The Siren. Only if Nora was a techie instead of an erotica author.
I honestly think my favorite paragraph of his whole letter is this one, though:

So I let her in… she strips down and before you know it, I have a [deleted] goth slut on top of me.. only… she was asking me .. ARRGHH!!! LINUX QUESTIONS!!!! “What’s your favorite part of the install?” blah blah.. blah…

It did cost the writer his job, so there’s that.
Doris? Don’t ever change who you are. You are, as always, a unique and wonderful person. Like me, a bit too industrial strength for some, but it’s a feature, not a bug.

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Thoughts and/or Prayers for a Friend

26 December 2013

If you have any thoughts and prayers to spare, @LizardSF would love to have some for his wife. She’s in the ICU. (That’s all he’s said on Twitter, so that’s all I’m going to say.)
Lizard’s my ex (we lived together in NYC and Raleigh, NC), and, when Rick and I met his wife Beth, I could see that she fit him in ways I never did. (Not the first time. Once I bowed out of a relationship.)
Back in 1999, I was living in Irvine, working in Torrance (for Honda), and had a job interview at Apple. I wrote on a technical mailing list for the (San Francisco) Bay Area wondering if anyone wanted to go to dinner. Rick volunteered to pick me up at the airport, and I said okay.
Rick asked, “How do you know I’m not an axe murderer?”
Good point.
So I called up the only person I knew in the Bay Area at that point, Lizard.
“Oh, Rick? He’s our network guy.”
I went to dinner with the both of them, and moved to the bay area a few months later. Not long after that, Lizard met Beth.

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One Year Ago Today: Into the Exclusion Zone

25 December 2013

Montserrat’s a beautiful place. As you sail in, it looks like many other islands in the Caribbean with some nice mountains with clouds surrounding them (as is so often the case with islands). We landed at Little Bay, which is at the north of the island.

We tour the local sights, including the proposed location of the new capital, and hear about how so many thousands of people on this tiny island have had to flee; over half of it is still in an exclusion zone, though there are (apparently) multiple, nested, exclusion zones.


The island has some lovely flora.


And, as we drive to the south, lovely mountain views to the north.


It was once a huge tourist destination where the rich and famous vacationed. Where a number of famous albums were recorded, including Jimmy Buffet’s song Volcano. Before that, it was one of the locations of many Irish slaves and indentured servants. In 1768, on St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish slaves revolted, but slavery was not officially abolished until much later.

At present, it’s known for how greeen it is.


Our buses trundle along, and our driver says she doesn’t think we’ll get into the exclusion zone. It’s Christmas Day, after all, and the police have to open it up, and they’re home with their families. We pull to the side of the road right before the first locked gate, aka the first level of the exclusion zone. Cruise staff go to a building near the gate with a couple of locals, and voila, we have a key.

Clearly, something was arranged in advance.

So we head up into the exclusion zone, but most of the homes look, well, normal. Like places that had been abandoned, but not in bad shape.

When we drive over a ridge and finally see the first real effects of the volcano at Belham Valley. It doesn’t look so bad. A small river of dirt, right?


On our way down to Belham Valley, we see an abandoned house. The driver pauses for a moment to point out that the volcanic gases have dissolved the steel roof over the last 18 years, and that every single building we’ll see has similar structural damage that may not be as visible.


We take the road in through the second exclusion zone gate and pull up to a well-traveled spot. We’re warned not to walk off the path where people have driven because the ground isn’t as settled as we think it is. The volcanic ash is much, much deeper than we think.

This house?


Was three stories tall. B.V. Before volcano.

You can walk up to and (if you’re brave and/or stupid) stand on the second story roof.


It’s not hard to see the volcano damage to the details of the structure.

House in the Plymouth exclusion zone, Montserrat

We drive further into the exclusion zone, through a third gate. Some houses are really obviously damaged for good.


While others don’t look so bad unless you look more closely.


We climb through what used to be a hillside hotel, but is now a lookout point. Some of the houses look almost normal if it weren’t for the river of ash in the background.


Then, turning to the left, you see just how much ash there is, burying everything at least 2-3 stories for miles.


The lower half of the island is just a plain of desolation that used to be a capital city. The ash is not particularly compact, so in some cases it’s not even a little bit traversible.

Plymouth, Montserrat

It’s the weirdest thing. It doesn’t feel safe, yet it doesn’t feel as unsafe as it actually is. I had that experience in Hawaii, too.

For more pictures of the volcano and region, please see the Monserrat Volcano Observatory’s flickr page.

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Learning to Program and _why the lucky stiff

25 December 2013

![](\][1]( Teletype Machine, photo by AlisonW

I still remember learning to program. I remember the yellow paper tape and the teletype machine. I remember the smell of machine oil on the paper tape. I remember the paper cuts.

What I can’t tell you is what I wanted to program back at that point in my life. Games, probably, which is something I’ve never done any significant amount of programming in.

At some point since then, I realized I could program pretty much anything I wanted. It’d run. It may not be beautiful. It may not be efficient. But I had the skill and experience (with any of a number of hammers in the form of programming languages) to pick an arguably appropriate tool, a reasonable approach to tackle the problem, and then commence kicking ass. No matter what the problem was.

I’m not easily intimidated by things I don’t know. I couldn’t have survived in this field if I were. I have cut a driver down to size to fit on a smaller EEPROM so it could go into space; I have developed power plant control systems to help reduce emissions; I have written commercial calendar software; I have written search and retrieval software; I’ve helped women schedule immunizations to avoid rH factor complications in pregnancy; I’ve written commercial audio track royalty management software; I’ve helped expand the TiVo service. Among other things.

What I forgot, somewhere along the way, is how hard the skills I have are to acquire, in part because I acquired them over a long period of time.

I’m used to arguing with computers. I’m used to that sheer frustration when things don’t go as expected, then the “Aha!” moment, followed by the endorphins of victory.

I was missing one of my favorite explainers of technology, _why the lucky stiff, the other day. I think of him often. In 2009, he suddenly deleted his online presence, then other people pieced much of it back together. However, the world is at a huge loss because he’s gone underground and chooses to remain there. This Slate article is both about his disappearance and about learning to program, and _why’s role in making learning to program easier.

Much as I hate to admit it, Slate author Annie Lowrey is correct: my personal favorite of _why’s resources, Why’s (Poignant) Guide to Ruby, probably is most accessible by people who already know how to program.

Frankly, I just like the Poignant Guide because, despite all my years of programming and all the books I’ve seen and read, this one is, hands down, the weirdest. Here are three bits out of it.

In one house, you may have a dad that represents Archie, a traveling salesman and skeleton collector. In another house, dad could represent Peter, a lion tamer with a great love for flannel.

Lately, the exchange rate has settled down between leaves and crystals.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of hearing that Dr. Cham was a madman.

Not your typical boring programming book, right? I love the cartoons. (Chunky bacon!) I love the whole thing. It’s like The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus in programming language form.

But, then, I’m a programmer (by which I mean software engineer, though I’ve always preferred the term programmer because I almost always prefer shorter phrases with fewer syllables) who’s also a novelist. Unlike _why, I never tried mixing forms to the extent he has.

As the Slate article points out, a far more accessible way to learn to program is _why’s idea, fleshed out since his disappearance, Try Ruby. It’s still got the cartoon foxes, but, being interactive, it’s a little easier to understand. And a lot less weird.

_why, the world has been a more interesting — and better — place because of your brilliance, and I’d like to raise this toast:

5.times { print "Odelay!" }

“I just want to assure you that I’m trying to rid the world of people like me.” Some goals aren’t worth keeping.

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January Indie Monday: Francesca Forrest's Pen Pal

24 December 2013

January’s Indie Monday book is Francesca Forrest’s novel, Pen Pal. An excerpt is linked from this page.

Em is a twelve-year-old girl in a floating community off the Gulf Coast. Kaya is a political activist in a terrifying prison. They are pen pals.

Em’s wistful message in a bottle finds its way to Kaya, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Both are living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon this correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and even the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.

Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

She had me at volcanoes.

Have my copy in hand, can’t wait to read it!

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Wendig's Right Re Spanking

24 December 2013

Chuck Wendig has an excellent post titled “Spanking Your Children Is Hitting Your Children.”

This. So much this.

I was assaulted by family members until I was nineteen. I don’t mean in a small way. I mean my stepmother actually used a cast iron skillet. She was not the only one. And yes, I limp. Coincidence? I’m not sure it is.

It’s a long and complicated story that feeds into why I joined Scientology, though it’s not why I joined per se. Where, I might add, people didn’t hit me, not even when I expected them to. (Yes, it’s sad when a cult is an improvement over your home life, but that was the truth. I’m also well aware that many Scientology stories, particularly those of Sea Org members, include horrific tales of violence.)

I am very, very fortunate that I have not turned out to be one of those people who hits others. I have never been in an abusive relationship as an adult. I have never hit a child.

But that wasn’t at all a given. I have worked to be a better person. I have worked to pick better people in my life.

Edited to add:

When I moved in with my first husband, I also acquired three stepsons in the bargain. The youngest, R-T, was a handful at age 5. My observation was that both of his parents were inconsistent about the rules they’d set. They’d set them, then let the kid break the boundaries with no consequences. As a result, R-T no longer listened.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, he’d actually been banned from my husband’s best friend’s house because of bad behavior.

There was an early formative moment in our relationship. We needed to run some errands, then we’d go to the ice cream shop (it was the first day it opened in spring, that much I remember). I was very clear: we’re doing A, B, C, D, then ice cream.

After A, he asked if we could do ice cream. I said, “You heard me say we were doing A, B, C, D, then ice cream. We have only done A.”

When he asked after B, I reminded him of what I’d said twice, “If you ask again, you will not get ice cream when we go to the ice cream shop.”

After C, he asked again.

Richard was very uncomfortable about enforcing the boundary, but Richard and I had ice cream and R-T did not.

And, you know what? He actually started listening after that. Not long after, he was allowed in the friend’s house again. Shocker, huh?

Now, I’m not saying that’s a solution for every problem with a kid, but you really can steer some kid behavior in meaningful ways.

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"Getting Over" Grief: Yeah, Right

23 December 2013

Anyone who thinks grief is something you should get over has never been an inadvertent party to someone’s death.

Which I have. (Serious TMI warning)

5 Lies You Were Told About Grief covers a lot of things those of us who’ve grieved the loss of others have put up with. Or failed to put up with.

“Let’s see how you cope with it after accidentally killing someone,” I once told a guy who told me I should be over it.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, completely clobbered by my usual “Let’s just use verbal blunt force trauma, shall we?” approach to rude people.

“I’m not,” I replied. I didn’t do anything stupid. I couldn’t have known. I didn’t get what was happening immediately, and I felt guilty about that, but: in the end, it didn’t matter. The doctor told me that, even if it had happened in the hospital, he would have died anyway.

I’ve told myself those things ten thousand times.

It doesn’t help.

This is not to say that it doesn’t get better. It does get better.

But it will never be the way it used to be.

Once upon a time, I went through such dramatic changes so suddenly that I described my new emotional landscape as “being teleported blindfolded to a new house with lots of pointy-edged modern furniture.”

That’s what grief is like.

The old house?


The new house ain’t so bad once you know it well enough to come to terms with it. Eventually, the blindfold will fade away.

But it’s still not the same house you used to have.

My mother-in-law died two years (and one day) ago, so I know how difficult holiday seasons can be.

Having a difficult time right now? Please talk to someone. Want to talk to me? You can comment here (on any of the blogs this gets posted to), chat with me on Google (dsmoen@) or iCloud (deirdre@) or Twitter (@deirdresm).

Be safe.

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Best Airline Video Ever?

21 December 2013

Interior turbine photos. Dude.

Air Tahiti Nui released the jawdropping behind-the-scenes footage of its operations to celebrate its 15th anniversary. It was created by Matthieu Courtois, a 32-year-old technical engineer from Tahiti who has been working for the airline since 2007, with the help of pilot Ludovic Allain.

More in this story from Kate Schneider — including the awesome video. (Sorry, Ooyala video is annoying to embed….)

Isn’t the ending of that video amazing?

Soundtrack tune is Daybreak by Overwerk. Which I bought immediately.

Guess where we’re going next month?

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