Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'miscellaneous'

: Ellora's Cave: Ann Jacobs's Author Counterclaim

Ellora’s Cave author Ann Jacobs has filed an Intervening Counterclaim in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case. (Here, as with other similar situations, I’ll refer to her by her pseudonym.) From page 1 of the counterclaim:

The future value of the specific performance and declaratory judgment is unknown, but the damages incurred from Ellora’s Cave’s breaches are at least $193,000.

For. One. Author. (Ellora’s Cave had, last I checked, over 900.)
From pp. 4-5:

By way of example, §10 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement provides that “In regard to all of Publisher’s royalty provisions as specified below, Publisher shall pay royalties based on cover price.”
Under § 10.1 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement, the applicable royalty rate for digital formats of A Mutual Favor is 37.5% of cover price.
Under § 10.2 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement, the royalty rate for print books of A Mutual Favor is 7.5% of cover price.
Notwithstanding the language in the contracts, Ellora’s Cave has stated that it believes it is entitled to calculate and pay (and has in fact calculated and paid) royalties to Jacobs—and, upon information and belief, other similarly situated authors—based not on cover price, but on the actual sales price of the works. […]
Ellora’s Cave has made similar underpayments for most or all of Jacobs’s works, and upon information and belief has made similar underpayments for many other authors.
After complaints about the improper royalty payments, Ellora’s Cave attempted to modify its publishing contracts with its authors, including Jacobs, by unilaterally informing the authors that Ellora’s Cave would begin paying an increased royalty rate (45% or 40%) but pay the royalty rate based on the sales price, which was often substantially lower than the cover price. The net result was that even with a supposedly higher royalty rate, the royalty payments were below those provided for in the contracts.
Ellora’s Cave’s attempts to change the royalty payment structure by unilateral notice is not permitted under any of the Publishing Agreements, all of which contain provisions requiring any modifications to be made in a writing signed by both Jacobs and Ellora’s Cave. The attempts at modification are, however, indicative of Ellora’s Cave’s knowledge that its prior royalty payments were not consistent with the Publishing Agreements.

Taking the claims as true, I think essentially this would prove the Dear Author claims about authors owed “several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures”. As I joked once, some people could say Dear Author’s statements were untrue with a straight face if seven figures were owed.
There’s also a Motion to Intervene as Counterclaim Defendant filed by Ms. Jacobs.

In the main action the plaintiffs, including Ellora’s Cave, have alleged that the defendants defamed the plaintiffs by stating that the plaintiffs have failed to timely pay royalties to Ellora’s Cave authors. See Complaint at ¶ 12, dkt. 1-1, PAGEID # 8. The intervenor’s claims therefore have not only common questions of fact and law with the main action, but actually substantially identical questions of fact and law with the main action. To put it more simply, if the intervenor prevails on her intervening counterclaims, the claims in the complaint (or at least a portion of them) fail as a matter of law, because the allegedly defamatory statements will have been shown to be true.

So, there you go.

Courtney Milan’s blog post is here. She’s actually been to law school and been a clerk for some Very Important Judges and was a law professor. So.

Filing this claim as a motion to intervene was probably not the way to maximize the chances of success. If I had to guess, and this is purely a guess, I would say that this is an exercise in saber rattling. This is the saber I hear being rattled: Revert my titles, now, or you’ll spend well into the six figure mark defending your existence.

My commentary: I didn’t want to say this until I saw Courtney’s take on it, but I agree with her that this is some badass sabre rattling. I also find it really interesting that nothing was filed far earlier, say in December or January at the very latest.
Why? I think she’s seeing the writing on the wall, and she believes this is the best strategy to get paid, in full or in part, and get her rights reverted. Because if they pay her and revert her work, she doesn’t have a cause of action any more.
It’s a way of jumping the queue in front of other authors, and I think we may see more queue jumping coming up.

: Scrivener Tips for Book Marketing

scrivener-marketing-tips
A while ago, I was about to change a cover for a book, and wanted to re-examine the Amazon keywords and the blurb to see if I could strengthen them.
I realized that, off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d put that info for this particular book.
Then I realized: this stuff should go in Scrivener. You know, right along with the manuscript itself.

Add a Marketing Folder to Your Scrivener Project

Next to the Research folder, I created a Marketing folder.
What goes inside?

  • Blurbs
  • Amazon keywords (relevant only if you’re self publishing)
  • Any other marketing copy used
  • Relevant URLs (for where to buy the book)
  • Excerpts (for longer work)

Note that, apart from Amazon keywords, these work for traditionally published authors too. If you are publishing in multiple languages, it may make more sense to break out these files by language.
Speaking of which, other languages may also have substantially different covers. I wouldn’t keep these in the main language’s Scrivener document; instead, I have a directory on my hard drive for all the original image files (i.e., the Photoshop PSDs). I only put the current, final JPEG in Scrivener. Otherwise, the Scrivener documents become unmanageably large. Since I work on a MacBook Air with an SSD drive, it also allows me to store rarely-used resources on an external hard drive.
Also, it may make more sense to create a separate Scrivener project for each language if you’re self publishing.

Blurbs

This file’s not just for current versions of blurbs, but also for previous versions.
If you have A/B testing data for whether one blurb is more successful than another, you can also keep notes about that in the blurb file. (Personally, I use a spreadsheet for this, and I don’t keep the spreadsheet in the Scrivener project.)

Amazon Keywords

Amazon keywords are a dark art: without them, your book isn’t discoverable through organic search. I talk about KDSPY, an Amazon keyword research tool, here.
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need a place to save your notes about that research as well as what your current keyword string is. And why.
Also, over time, market conditions change, and it’ll be easier to revisit how you might want to tweak your Amazon keywords if you can easily re-review why you made the choices you did before.

Other Marketing Copy

Long description, descriptions you’ve used on blog tours, etc. Anything that mixes it up and offers fresh takes.

Relevant URLs

Perhaps you’ve got a blog tour.
Perhaps your book’s available on 27 (or more!) different sites.
Sometimes it’s useful to have all that information handy. If I asked you what your Powell’s link was, how long would it take you to find that?

Excerpts

Especially if you’re doing a blog tour, you’ll want to have different excerpts for different sites. That way, people won’t be seeing the same old same old every time they go to read a different post about your new book.

Don’t Have Scrivener?

Scrivener’s regular price is $45, and it’s available for Mac and Windows. If you use both platforms, it’s worth noting that the Mac version is usually significantly ahead of the Windows version feature-wise.

Got Other Ideas?

What else would you put in your marketing folder for your writing projects?

: Getting Past the Attack Narrative

Getting Past the Attack Narrative
When does something become an “attack” online?
Serious question.
Let’s say that two people, Jane and Cait, are both authors.
Jane says something that involves Cait, only she uses a word incorrectly. Cait responds that, hey, that word used that way and applied to me in that context is offensive. And Cait’s right.
Why is Cait then accused of “attacking” Jane?
After all, these are words, the tools of both of their craft. Is not their increased understanding of them in both of their interests?
Wouldn’t one typically expect Jane to apologize for using a word incorrectly and hurting Cait’s feelings by doing so?

A More Complex Example

Let’s take a more complex variant of the above.
Sarah hears Jane say something that involves Cait, using a word incorrectly. Sarah understands it to mean the common meaning of the word. She writes about it, but doesn’t name Jane.
Ken reads Sarah’s comment, then says something about it where Cait hears. Cait responds that, hey, that word used that way and applied to me in that context is offensive. And Cait’s right.
Then Sarah says I wrote that, and the person who said it is Jane. While Sarah misunderstood part of what happened, what she did not misunderstand was the word.
And there’s a huge pile-on, in the middle of which Jane reveals that she hadn’t used the word the way Sarah, Cait, and Ken understood it to be used (i.e., the way it is commonly used), and that Jane was using the word in a non-standard way.

  • Ken apologizes.
  • Cait apologizes.
  • Sarah apologizes.
  • While Jane accepts all of their apologies, she does not herself apologize.

Yet, were it not for what Jane said, and others’ over-reading of the intended meaning because of Jane’s misuse of the word, none of this would have happened.
Substitute names as appropriate, and you have the skeletal structure of what happened 1-2 days ago.

Abusing the Word “Attack”

When you use the word “attack,” you absolve yourself and the people you see as your allies of apologizing or behaving well.
I’m considering removing anyone who uses the word in a non-physical sense from all my social media. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, too, and I know it’s a hard habit to break.
Instead, try to consider what actually happened in that moment without characterizing it, either to yourself or to others, as an attack.

Criticizing Content Is Not Criticizing the Speaker

Often I see “attack” used for criticizing the content of what someone said as opposed to criticizing the person.
I totally get how it can be hard to separate the two, especially when it happens to you. Been there, made that mistake. However, it’s one I’d expect writers to be, on average, less likely to make given the prevalence of Clarion-style critiquing.

Us vs. Them

I incorporate by reference this brilliant post from Jim C. Hines.
If I have information that will clarify a situation, regardless of whether or not I like the person it helps and also regardless of what it will cost me in so-called friends, I will bring it up. Principles before personalities. (Am I perfect at this? No, of course not. I also don’t seek things out, so I can and do miss such opportunities.)
Also, if I’m in contact with you, there is something I admire about you. I’ve been friendly with very contradictory sets of people, and I’m able to accept that everyone’s a mix of good and bad—and hold that complexity in my head.
If you’re one of my contacts, I don’t expect you to like everyone else. I don’t expect you to understand what I see in other people.

Connotation of Unprovoked

“Attack” used this way also carries the connotation of “unprovoked.”
If, instead, we look at the events above as a misunderstanding and clarification, rather than an “attack,” we can learn from it.
You know, build a community rather than destroy it.
Just a thought.

The Header Image Background

The header image background is a photo I took of the battering surface of an M60 Patton tank. It seemed an appropriate choice.

: KDSPY (formerly Kindle Spy): Amazon Market Research Tool

A few weeks ago, I slipped in a stealth screencap from an Amazon keyword research tool I use—Wesley Atkins’s KDSPY (formerly called Kindle Spy).
Amazon searches provides a lot of interesting information if you’re an Amazon customer, but if you’re an author or publisher, KDSPY will let you know a lot more than Amazon will tell you. Like:

  • Not only how well your own marketing is working, but you can track how much any Kindle author’s marketing converts into Kindle sales with the Rank tracking feature.
  • Look at entire groups of books, their rankings and estimated revenue at once.
  • Export information to a spreadsheet so you can watch over time.

You can use it as a tool for estimating whether to write book A or B next, for example. Or whether now is a good time, market-wise, to publish something you’ve been waiting for the right time to publish.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips, which will give you some insider secrets into making your book more findable via Amazon’s search. And we all know, you can’t buy something you can’t find….

The Obligatory KDSPY Screenshot

new-adult-romance2
This is the top 20 Amazon hits for the phrase “new adult romance” on Amazon as of the time I took the screenshot. After I loaded the page in Amazon, I clicked on the KindleSpy icon in Chrome’s toolbar.
There are a few interesting things to note:

  1. The bestsellers don’t always come first. The top hits, especially the top 2, are ranked based on newness, generally. Half of the first sixteen hits were released in the last few weeks. This “new book” preference rank ensures a lot of freshness at the front, which makes it more interesting for buyers who are, as many romance readers are, heavy readers. The effect lasts 30 days, and it really hurts when that wears off. Also, relevance counts for a lot, and relevance is partly based upon keywords.
  2. The T, S, and C columns aren’t self explanatory. T means look at that single title in Amazon, S means do a web (Google) search with those terms, and C means do a Google image search on the cover image.
  3. The estimated sales is just that—estimated sales, based upon an educated guess and the book’s current sales rank. It is a moment in time.
  4. Sales revenue is the estimated sales times the current sales price. Note that this is also a guesstimate: that high-ranking book with a big sales revenue may have been free until yesterday, and may still be coasting on a big free bump.
    Also worth noting: a borrow for a Kindle Unlimited book will bump your sales rank, but it won’t actually pay out until the reader’s read 10% of the book, which may never happen. The amount it pays out is not fixed. Essentially the pool of payable borrows is divided into the subscription fees for KU—and every author gets a surprise.
  5. Columns are sortable. So if you really want to see how well a book of similar length to yours are doing, you can sort on that.
  6. KDSPY loads 20 books at a time, but you can load 100 total.

KDSPY’s a Chrome or Firefox browser extension, and it works on any Amazon Kindle searches.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips.

Note: Wesley’s other products are really more for non-fiction writers wanting to write to profitable niches.

Also, there are other tools for Amazon keyword research, and I’ll write about them at some other time.

: Ellora's Cave: @pubnt Faxes Judge

On February 7th, @pubnt faxed a letter to the judge in the Ellora’s Cave vs. Dear Author case. Courtney Milan has a long blog post about it, so I thought I’d take a different tack on the issue.

Ellora’s Cave Thanked STGRB

On October 4, 2014, Tina Engler, writing as Jaid Black, posted a blog entry titled _To the Silenced Victims_, about how Ellora’s Cave’s authors and supporters were purportedly afraid to speak up.
On October 8, Ellora’s Cave tweeted a thank you to STGRB:
elloras-cave-thanking-stgrb-dick-move-indeed
(Thank you to azteclady, and several others, for screencaps.)
Before those two tweets, Ellora’s Cave hadn’t tweeted at all since August 11—nearly two months—not even promotional tweets for its new titles. I called out Jaid Black/Tina Engler on this:

@jaidblack @ReeCroteau Some of the concerns have been: 1) No promotion on @ellorascave for authors since 8/11 & 2) promoting STGRB instead.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 9, 2014

For those who don’t know, the short version of StGRB is that it is not an anti-bullying group, but is a group of authors who bullied reviewers because of reviews the authors didn’t like. In other words, it’s ironically named.
Giving a one-star review to a book you genuinely didn’t like isn’t bullying.
I stated that the biggest problem with Ellora’s Cave’s tweets wasn’t so much the STGRB mention as failing to promote EC’s authors and books. I mean, it’s a Twitter account for a publisher that had new books published during those two months of radio silence. EC fixed that promotional shortcoming, and has remained focused on prompt tweeting of new releases, pretty much (I noticed a short blip, but didn’t record when, and I’m not interested in looking it up).
Oh, and also, Ellora’s Cave deleted one of those two tweets, the one that invoked STGRB. Why bother with this digression? Please hold….

@pubnt Invokes STGRB

What’s interesting about @pubnt’s tweets from the October 4th creation of the account until February 1 is that there are zero tweets for: “STGRB”, “goodreads”, “bully”, or “bullies”.
And yet, in her letter to the court, @pubnt relies heavily on STGRB rhetoric. Also, STGRB are in fact the only links in @pubnt’s letter.
What amuses me the most of all about @pubnt’s letter is the assertion that @pubnt is presenting evidence. STGRB isn’t evidence, it’s hearsay. Of course, if that’s how strongly TE feels about STGRB, she could have seen to it that the principal STGRBers were on EC’s witness list. But Ellora’s Cave didn’t choose to add said writers to their initial disclosures.
As a general rule, anything said by anyone outside the list of people who make formal statements admitted into evidence or who are witnesses in the case—that’s hearsay as far as the case is concerned.
Remember the pocket universe episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Legal cases are kind of like that. Apart from the witnesses and people giving testimony (and the law including case law, of course), the world outside is invisible. Or, more accurately, hearsay, with some notable exceptions.
Invoking some random blog, even this one, is neither evidence nor proof.

Things @pubnt Says About #notchilled Regulars and My Statement About Who I Am

I’d like to refute the generalizations @pubnt makes about #notchilled regulars, at least as they pertain to me.

  1. I have never met Jane Litte. I have followed the Dear Author twitter accounts because Jane Litte and others recommend books I’d like to read. I often disagree with JL’s ratings. As a specific example, one of my favorite books last year was Laurelin Paige’s Fixed Trilogy. JL gave the first book a C- rating. I agree that the first is the weakest of the three, but the plot twists in volumes two and three made it one of my favorites, and book one was strong enough for me to continue reading. Apparently not for JL, and that is her choice.
  2. I make a horrible minion. I will only do what I think is right, and, even then, I don’t have time (or energy) to do all of that. In Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I’m a rebel with questioner tendencies, so I’m perfectly fine with not fitting in and not going along with a crowd.
  3. I have made far more money from being traditionally published than being self published. I have books published by Que, Sams, Baen, and BenBella, plus others under pseudonyms. (If you follow the purchase/sale trail of the first three, you’ll see that means I’ve been Big5 published by two different routes: Sams and Que became part of Simon & Schuster, and some of the work I did for Macmillan Computer Publishing meant I’ve been published by Holtzbrinck.) I’ve never been published in the romance genre, and I’ve only been rejected once in that genre—more than twenty years ago. Frankly, it was a horrible proposal for a category book, but I was still too green to know that. I am working on a romance novel, and I have an agent who’s already been promised first look.
  4. That said, of course I’ve been rejected, too. It’s a part of being an author. Though sometimes rejections sting (and I do whine about those privately), I also get over them. As a friend of mine says, the right attitude to take to these if they’re getting to you: “That’s one more time an editor tried to stop me and failed.” (Neither of us believe this viewpoint, btw, it’s just that it’s one that happens to work for both of us to help get us back to the salt mines of writing new stuff.) I don’t dislike anyone who’s rejected my work—except perhaps MZB, but that’s for reasons unrelated to her authorial or editorial work, at least as it relates to me.
  5. I am not “jealous” of any successful writers, nor am I envious of them. I also understand the difference between these two words.
  6. I don’t accept advertising on deirdre.net, and never have. That said, I make a small amount of money every now and then from Amazon’s Associate program. How small? I haven’t received anything since 2011, and they’ve owed me $16.28 since 2005. Which I didn’t know until I logged in for this screencap.
    amazon-associates
    Essentially, I removed all the Amazon links I had after LGBT fail and have never really managed to build up the associate income stream I used to have, small though it was.
    That said, I have been considering what kinds of banner ads I might have, but generally those would not be paid ads. Like: I’d make a banner ad for my own new book, which makes sense, right? But how about if a close friend releases one that I liked? How about if my writing group did one? Should I promote Clarion (a workshop I did) via ad? If so, what are my guidelines about where I’d put those vs. where/why I wouldn’t? I don’t have those answers yet. Until I do: only inline contextual links.
  7. I have a few other kinds of promotional links here and there, but none are specifically targeting indie authors unless it happens to be a book I’ve enjoyed.
  8. One of the reasons I don’t generally review books is that I would feel compelled to be honest about books I didn’t like, and I feel that’s a problem as an author. Sometimes my reasons for disliking books have to do with various artistic goals I’ve got as a writer. For example, I stopped reading Neal Stephenson because his endings didn’t satisfy me. As a plot structure person, that’s a killer for a book for me. Clearly, many readers don’t share this perspective, and I’m glad he writes books they can enjoy.
    The guideline I’ve decided to follow is that I’ll promote books I genuinely love. Period.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here. Many EC authors have books out from other publishers. The purpose of the support thread is to help give those authors willing to speak out some visibility.

Note:

An earlier version of this post was supposed to be published over the weekend. Apparently several posts I thought I’d scheduled didn’t post. Oops.

: Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits
If you’re anything like me, you’ve politely sat on your hands in some talk about author marketing because the techniques discussed clearly were aimed at non-fiction writers. Using your book to upsell readers onto a course (as an example) isn’t something that will (usually) work for a novelist unless you’re an academic.
I can’t remember the exact context I saw this post by Samuel Hulick in, but I first saw it a month or two ago linked from something technical I read. It’s about user onboarding, which is the process of getting a new user able to be up and running with some software in question.
It’s short. It’s brilliant. Go read it.
Except that novels (and short stories, and really any writing) also has an onboarding process. For me, I call it the point where the book “catches” for me. That’s where I’m on board for the first time.
Look at the image he’s got there. That flower? That’s your book. It’s not what you’re selling. That is just a feature of what you provide.
Much like the setting sun in the picture above is a feature. The benefit is its beauty that draws people out to watch.

How to Dovetail this into Author Marketing

When you’re looking at your book in terms of wanting to sell it to someone, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader—think in terms of benefits, not features.
A space opera: that’s a feature. A shifter romance: that’s a feature. Sure, the market has created that so that each catchphrase does create certain expectations of benefits to the reader.
Picking a book somewhat at random (on my to-read pile), Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Now the Dhai and their allies must hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

The themes in the second paragraph are mostly about loyalty. That’s what this book provides: an exploration of an important theme in our lives. It’s not just a book, it’s a conversation.

But What if You’re Just Providing Entertainment?

Then that is your benefit in author marketing terms. To some extent, all fiction is entertainment in some form or another. That’s okay. But you can be more intelligent about your work than just “my writing amuses people.” To the extent that you can be more articulate about it, you can create an online marketing strategy that’s actually useful.
The point is to know what your benefit is.
Photo by Gabriel Santiago

: Ellora's Cave: DA/JL's Witness List & the Mouthy Mockernut

First, Courtney Milan has an update and gave a better non-technical distinction of Motion to Dismiss vs. Motion for Summary Judgment.
(It is true, I am trying to keep up with even the dry court minutiae.)

Defense Witness List

In that post, Courtney publishes Dear Author’s/Jane Litte’s witness list:

@PubNT Twitter account
The Pub Net Twitter account has made a series of statements on Twitter since the outset of this case, that are with obvious knowledge of the case at hand. The author behind this Twitter account will have additional information as to the operations of Ellora’s Cave.
Tina Engler
Tina Engler is the founder and head of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Patty Marks
Patty Marks is the CEO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Susan Edwards
Susan Edwards, at all relevant times, was the COO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Raylene Gorlinksy
Raylene Gorlinksy is the Publisher of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Whitney Mahlik
At all times relevant hereto, Whitney Mahlik was the Managing Editor of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave
Courtney Thomas

At all times relevant hereto, Courtney Thomas was the Chief Financial Officer of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
So, I’m guessing we’ll get to find out who the mouthy mockernut is after all. Popcorn, anyone?

: Universal Blame Accepter T-Shirt

Universal Blame Accepter T-Shirt
When someone edited John Scalzi’s Wikipedia article to include that he was a “universal blame accepter,” Scalzi tweeted:

To be clear, I TOTALLY OWN the “Universal Blame Accepter” title. Go on, blame me for anything! I can take it.

— John Scalzi (@scalzi) January 30, 2015

Now you can have your very own. IN ANY COLOR YOU WANT.
Except of course you want the RED SHIRT.
You know who to blame for that one.
Here’s the full art:
universal-blame-acceptor-700
Buy this shirt at Redbubble.
Note: Redbubble uses American Apparel for their shirts. Available there in Unisex t-shirts, scoop neck, unisex tank tops, women’s t-shirt, v-neck, racerback tank, baseball 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve, organic t-shirt, organic women’s t-shirt, sweatshirt, pullover hoodie, and zipper hoodie.

Sneak Peak at Another Shirt

full-moon-on-internet-shirt
I’ve had this shirt done for a week, then came down with the flu before I could make all the ancillary art for other products. So, here’s the t-shirt.
It’s Always a Full Moon on the Internet at Redbubble.

Credits

For the Scalzi shirt (the other being a NASA photo and type only):
Fancy victorian frame from Cruzine Design.
I kept two of the typefaces Peter used in the frame design: the arched text is Goblin and the plainer text is Patua One. The swooshy type in the middle is Desire from Borges Lettering.

: Ellora's Cave: TRO Officially Denied

Today, the judge officially denied Plaintiff’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order, but not perhaps for the reason we’d hope:

The Court held a case management conference on January 26, 2015. During the proceeding, Plaintiffs confirmed that they do not intend to pursue the motion for temporary restraining order currently pending before this Court. As such, the motion for temporary restraining order filed on October 20, 2014 is hereby DENIED.

This had been hinted at by Plaintiff’s counsel in a footnote to EC/JJ’s reply to Defendants’ Opposition to Remand Motion on Nov 1. Bottom of p. 3:

Plaintiffs indicated that because the facts on the ground had changed, the urgency associated with a temporary restraining order had become attenuated and that a consolidation of the hearing with the final hearing on the merits under Rule 65(a)(2) would avoid 2 hearings, 2 trips for defense counsel and his client, 2 briefings, and twice the use of the Court’s time and resources.

If you ever need a great example of passive voice use and abuse? “Had become attenuated” is a beautiful one.

Joining of Parties Deadline Set

In the Case Management Doc:

The deadline for amending pleadings and adding parties: February 25, 2015.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen there.

There’s a footnote in one of Randazza’s filings that always makes me smile given that this case is about erotic romance. Bottom of p. 9:

Indeed, the seminal case in American defamation law was based on a publication that contained many factual inaccuracies, but the overall gist of the publication was not defamatory. N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

Seminal derives, of course, from semen/seed.
I don’t know if that particular wordplay was intentional, but it does amuse me.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here.

: Ellora's Cave: Motions to Dismiss vs. Summary Judgment

I’m not a lawyer (and this is not legal advice), but I’ll take a stab at the question.
Motions for Dismissal and Summary Judgment have one obvious thing in common: disposing of all or part of a case, but they are actually different.
From Wikipedia:

A “motion to dismiss” asks the court to decide that a claim, even if true as stated, is not one for which the law offers a legal remedy.

vs.

A “motion for summary judgment” asks the court to decide that the available evidence, even if taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, supports a ruling in favor of the moving party.

Potential Examples

A motion to dismiss first assumes the facts claimed in the claim are true, but irrelevant. A federal judge in Ohio with two companies in Ohio Plaintiffs vs. an Iowa individual and corporation could decide that there is no standing to sue over claims made about hypothetical shopping habits of a non-joined party that lived and shopped in California.
A motion for summary judgment assumes the facts are interpreted as favorable as possible to the opposing party, but that even that means the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Let’s say that California party is joined and in a relevant jurisdiction, and the claim is about whether or not said party bought a house, and whether what defendant said about the alleged purchase constituted defamation. The judge could rule that saying someone bought a house when they leased it isn’t inherently defamatory, and the facts of the case, taken together with the law, don’t support a claim of defamation. Hence, summary judgment.

Courtney Milan’s Explanation

[Courtney Milan has a clearer non-technical explanation in this post.

: Bye 2014, Hello 2015!

HappyNewYear
This song played on iTunes this morning, and I think it’s awesome for today:

My Thoughts on Welcoming 2015: Go for Memorable

I’m just going to glarp this 2012 blog post, “Going for Memorable,” and post it below.
Kate showed me this video of an an audition.
Not just any audition. One where a comedian with a character as a geek gamer crashes a music video dance audition and acts like a goofball (and specifically asks for a rules exception). Despite no formal dance training (but impressive dance skill despite that), he gets the gig.
It’s about rules, about expertise, about genius, about knowing when to throw away something perfectly usable and go for memorable instead.
There are a lot of solid, good dancers in the audition. No question. One comment, though. When people ask what reading slush is like, I point to the guy who does a solo right before Keith at around 47 seconds in. Imperfect execution, some solid grasp of concepts, but not able to stand out from the crowd.
For both of these, may be NSFW due to adult themes, but worth watching when you can.

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And the resulting video, clearly re-written to take advantage of their new dancer…..

: New T-Shirt: Hell, Yes, I'm a Feminist

Hell, Yes, I'm a Feminist T-shirt

T-Shirts

Redbubble has American Apparel shirts. I totally get why some people won’t buy them, especially in this context, but Dov Charney’s out and the new CEO, Paula Schneider, is a woman. This doesn’t magically fix things, of course.
Zazzle has Hanes shirts (as well as other brands). Zazzle has more sizes, more types of shirts, and so on.

A Note on How the Glitter Prints

I thought I’d mention: this isn’t actually glitter, it’s a glitter-like effect. It prints as different hues, but is more subdued when printed on fiber. (I already knew the color would be, which is why I blew it out.)
I used that same effect when printing my purple 100 Countries pillow. Here’s a photograph:
2014-12-30 08.26.32

Other Products

Redbubble also has prints and posters and cards and stickers and stuff.
flat,800x800,070,f.u1
And there are also man purses tote bags.
tb,1200x1200,small.2u1
If you’d like some other format, let me know. Duvet cover, shower curtain, tech gadget covers, all possible.

Design Element Credits

Top to bottom:

  1. Heart: Out of a big pack o’ vector art from Callie Hegstrom over at Make Media, which I got several times over, including in a Design Cuts bundle. Here’s an interview with Callie.
  2. Background ribbon: from the same vector pack.
  3. “Hell” and “I’m A” are from the Nexa Rust type family, which was designed by four Bulgarian designers, Fontfabric, including Ani Petrova. Here’s a blurb about her.
  4. The flourishes around “Yes” are from Showcase, a type family from Chilean foundry Latinotype, and co-designed by Paula Nazal Selaive. I love this family. Here’s a profile of her.
  5. “Yes” is Nicky Laatz’s typeface, Stringfellows. She’s a South African designer.
  6. “Feminist” is Laura Worthington’s amazing Voltage typeface.
  7. Venus symbol is from Jolly Icons. I use their icons for my Twitter, Facebook, and email icons on my site. They’re a team of two, and Jucke’s female, but I don’t know if she drew this particular symbol.
  8. Glitter! Is from Nicky Laatz.
  9. (print only) Paper textures from Jennifer Howland at Joyful Heart Designs.
  10. (print only) Damask overlay from Designious.. They don’t credit individual designers for these, though. Also, not sure which of the many hundreds of damask patterns I have from them that I used….

: Some Thoughts on Defamation

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Yesterday, I posted a link on Twitter and Facebook to a recent John Scalzi blog post:

So THIS is how adults handle being defamed. http://t.co/sEzyenaP6B #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) December 27, 2014

But some people misunderstood what I actually meant partly because a) one can’t show a lot of context in a tweet, and b) lots of people who read my tweets or FB aren’t following the Ellora’s Cave case, and I meant my tweet partly as commentary on the existence of that case.
I went through a period in the nineties where I was being harassed (and defamed) by Scientology, and I had to consider what I wanted to do about it. Some of what was being posted was true but unflattering (and hence not defamation). Some of it was that was partly true, but not substantially true. And some of it was unflattering but not defamatory (e.g., bullying me about my weight). It was all done with the intent to harass and make me lose status, but, weirdly, I gained status with some people, too.
My own experience made me think a lot about defamation. Scalzi’s viewpoint, as expressed in his blog post, meshes pretty well with my own.

When You File a Lawsuit for Defamation, You’re Saying

  1. The other party has more power and more respect than you do, and they had that both before and after the alleged defamation occurred. (Though not necessarily in cases of defamation per se.)
    Think about it. If they didn’t have more respect, then how could what they say actually damage you?
    As Scalzi says in his own post: > However, I would also need to show that Beale’s actions have caused me harm, economically and/or emotionally. Aside from annoyance, which does not rise to actionable levels, I’m not seeing the harm to me personally. Essentially, Beale escapes punishment here because he’s failed to be important enough to be harmful.

    The act of being involved in a lawsuit will also change your reputation, and not always for the better. Some people will respect you more, some will respect you less, and some will lose all respect for you—just because you filed the lawsuit.

  2. You believe you know what the alleged defamer’s motivations were.
    Granted, there’s a difference of degree between private person, limited purpose public figure, and public figure here. But how much do we really know about other people’s motivations?
    Even proving negligence (for a private person’s statements) is tricky. I remember having to go over the elements of a negligence claim when I took paralegal classes. The elements are:

    1. Duty of care: one has to show that they had a duty of care.
    2. Breach of duty: one has to so that that duty was breached.
    3. Factual causation: one has to show that that breach of duty actually caused the harm done.
    4. How proximate was the causation to the harm?
    5. There was actual harm done.

    It’s not an easy task, and that’s the easiest of them. You might be surprised how many negligence cases fail to show the required elements of negligence. Three and four are particularly tricky as I recall from the case law I’ve read.

  3. You’re willing to remain involved with your alleged defamer for years.
    Cases can go on for 2, 3, 5 years. Not all cases will settle quickly—or ever.
    What does it say about you that you think remaining in relatively constant contact over the course of years is what you feel is your best option?
  4. Since you have to file over what the alleged defamatory statements are, you will be dragging your own name through the mud in the course of the lawsuit.
    Further, it’ll all be a part of a permanent, public record. Rulings may be published in federal or state law books.
    A lawsuit creates a tangible, fixed record of what may have otherwise been lost to time.
  5. You believe a judge can rescue you.
    I mean no disrespect for judges—or lawyers—here. Judges do have a lot of power within their purview, but one thing a judge can’t do is rewind time to prevent the defamation from happening in the first place. You’ll never get that state back.
    It’s also relatively rare for plaintiffs to get what they expect to or hope to.

The David Beckham Case (So Far)

Let’s look at an example defamation case: David Beckham v. Bauer Publishing (California’s Central District federal case # 2:10-cv-07980-R-SS). It was filed in October, 2010, and is still ongoing (the most recent docket item is less than a week old). It’s had three appeals to the 9th circuit.
The lawsuit stems from In Touch magazine publishing a story saying that Beckham had cheated on his wife with a prostitute.
There was a settlement last year, but there had been an outstanding issue that the appeal couldn’t be heard on until there was a final order. That is still ongoing.
This article from 2011 sure makes it sound like it would be a slam dunk case:

The Los Angeles Galaxy star argued in a court filing in January that he was visiting his ailing father in London during one of the alleged trysts with the purported call girl Irma Nici.
Kendall said a basic investigation by the magazine would have shown that Beckham was elsewhere when the alleged trysts occurred. He asked the judge to allow the case to proceed so that he could conduct depositions that would bolster Beckham’s case, but Real refused.

Part of the problem, though, was that Bauer filed an Anti-SLAPP motion against Beckham. So this article neatly glosses over some of the case’s complications.

: Fundraiser for Former Ellora's Cave Editor Bree

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Bree was an Ellora’s Cave editor for twelve years before being laid off (along with all other freelance editors) in August.
Here’s a quote from the fundraiser:

It’s no secret that the EC editors’ unexpected layoffs on Aug.18 have adversely affected editors’ finances. In the case of one of our colleagues, Bree, her 12-year full-time loyalty to EC has severely compromised her income and she is on the verge of homelessness. She is diligently searching for work and we can’t bear to see her sink while she’s doing so. Please help if you can. Any amount, no matter how small, is welcome.

Here’s the fundraiser link. (Gofundme.)
If you don’t like Gofundme and prefer to contribute another way, email me (my email’s at the bottom of every deirdre.net page).
Also, Bree’s available for editing work. I can forward requests via email.
Please share this if you’re so inclined.
Thank you.

: My Day in Federal Court

federal-court-header
After my first husband died, my credit files got mixed. That and my identity was stolen. On top of that, there is about a year during that time where I was lucky to remember my name. Some balls were legitimately dropped, and I was also taken advantage of.
I got involved in a web forum that no longer exists, and several people there had sued to get their credit files sorted out. In federal court. Pro se.
For many plaintiffs, pro se equals whackjob, but these were people who knew and respected not only the letter of the law, but the voluminous case law. Add to that the fact that Fair Credit Reporting Act cases and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases are typically for teeny amounts of money (FDCPA cases max at $1,000 plus actual damages, costs, and attorney’s fees), and you’ll see that except for the most egregious cases, it’s hard to find a lawyer to take them. There are just so many possible cases, and most litigants aren’t willing to go to all that effort for so little reward.
Plus, courts occasionally gave grudging approval to pro se parties in such cases, like this footnote in Oppong v. First Union:

Though not formally schooled in the law, Oppong has proven to be a resilient and sophisticated litigator who for years has battled the defendants to a draw in both the federal and state courts.

I wound up reading not only the entirety of the laws multiple times, I read all the case law. Thousands and thousands of pages of minutiae.

The First Federal Lawsuit

The first federal lawsuit I filed (C 04 5223 MEJ in California’s Northern District) was against Portfolio Recovery Associates and Capital One Bank. Essentially, a credit card in my name (which Portfolio and I discussed after the case was settled—it genuinely was not my account) had been sold to Portfolio with an alleged $1671 owing.
The offer letter was for a credit card issued by Capital One. (front) (back)
Apart from the fact it wasn’t my account, there were three things I was torqued about:

  1. The FDCPA generally doesn’t permit disclosing information to third parties about debts except in extremely narrow circumstances, e.g., credit reporting. The letter made it sound like illegal disclosure had occurred. There was no legally permissible reason for Capital One to have had the capacity to send the letter, and yet Capital One had.
  2. All communication from a debt collector must be accurate and non-deceptive. And this wasn’t. Two paragraphs from my complaint:

    When Plaintiff read the body of LETTER, however, she realized that the terms offered were not as the boldface item indicated. The terms state: “Your account will have an initial credit limit of $1 that will increase to $50 after you make your first payment to Capital One. Plus, for every $100 of charged-off debt you repay to Capital One, you’ll receive a $25 credit limit increase up to a maximum credit limit of $800.”
    Plaintiff asserts that this language is deceptive. The $800 credit limit is approximately 1/2 the amount of the alleged debt (rounded down to the nearest $100). The terms of the credit limit increases, however, are approximately 1/4 ($25 per $100 paid) of the amount of the alleged debt. Exhibit B shows Plaintiff’s calculations, showing a maximum possible credit limit of $425, far short of the $800 with which LETTER attempted to entice Plaintiff.

  3. I wasn’t even sure which of the two companies had sent the letter, because the front and the back gave different answers.

So I sued and it was settled pretty quickly. (Capital One took about a week, iirc.)

And Then There Was Merrick

Chuffed by early success, I decided to take on a bank where I’d owed the money (and paid it), but then got a deceptive letter after the fact. Specifically, I received two separate letters on two separate days thanking me for my payment in full on that date. They couldn’t both be true.
I’d had adverse action taken because they updated my credit report and I was feeling pissy about it, but this is the one bank that wouldn’t settle before more litigation steps were taken.
I’d never actually written a motion. I’d had a civil procedure class in paralegal coursework, but that was really more basic stuff. Motions were in the next class.
And yet, now I had to actually do it.
I kept telling myself, “You have a master’s degree in creative writing. You can do this.” Sure, it’s a different kind of narrative, more like an essay in an English class than like a novel, but a motion has a narrative structure, too.

The Weakness in My Case

The FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors, though there is a California state law that copies many of the provisions of the FDCPA and holds original creditors to those, too. So, worst case, I had a prima facie state case claim, and I had two letters, at least one of which was deceptive on its surface.
Except I’d filed in federal, so it was important that I prove that the FDCPA applied to this case. I was missing a piece of paperwork in my initial filing, which I eventually found. (That’s underlies the Order to Show Cause part of the ruling that’s in the header image.)
There’s another factor, though: the judge ruled one thing in error, and I wound up calling FDCPA attorneys in my district to see if they’d take an appeal. It was terrifying enough to write a motion for a federal judge to rule on, but the 9th Circuit? That was an order of magnitude scarier.
If you ever need a consumer law attorney, NACA is the organization for them. I’d found one, spoke to an attorney over the phone. He looked up my case and called me back.
“Your cites are better than 95% of the ones I see and you understand the case law,” he said. “You’ve got this.” He agreed with me that I had the law right and the judge had missed one point, and we talked about that.
I had no idea what I was doing as far as the mechanics of civil procedure went, but apparently I’d figured out how to write a motion. Go, me.
I filed a motion for reconsideration after my day in court.

My Day in Court

In May, 2007, I had my initial case management conference in the courtroom opposite Merrick’s hired litigator. I arrived early, and there were trial lawyers gathered outside the courtroom, each in suits more valuable than the entire amount of money I’d spent on every piece of clothing I owned. Most were involved in a huge medical class action case.
One of the attorneys, a woman, came over, curious about who I was. I’d told her, and she seemed genuinely excited for me despite me having this little case. It felt like being a minnow in a pod of friendly whales.
Many of them were gawking at the class action next door for Celebrex.
My courtroom had five cases for a case managdment conference. One of the lawyers for another case didn’t show up, so the judge put him on speakerphone. I felt SO mortified on his behalf (worse, he sounded like he’d been woken up by the call).
EDWARD BORACCHIA et al vs BIOMET, INC.
AIWA TROUTMAN vs UNUM LIFE INSURANCE CO et al
TOM SPEAR vs INTL UNION OF BRICKLAYERS et al
BARE ESCENTUALS BEAUTY, INC. vs L’OREAL USA, INC.
WILLIAM R. KLEMME M.D. vs NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC
Doesn’t sound like a job that would ever get boring, really. Lots of interesting variety.
Anyhow, the judge was funny. She told lawyers who came before me, “You might want to invest in a rubber stamp that says CHAMBERS for your file copy. Marking the chambers copy is a part of local rules.”
When my case was called, I was afraid that I’d fall over in front of the judge. I was relieved that I managed to walk up to the podium without falling. When I had to speak, I had to grip onto the podium firmly lest I crumple at the knees.
I was terrified. I don’t think I’ve ever been that frightened.
The judge asked if I were computer-savvy. I allowed that I was. She suggested that I do electronic filing if defendant’s counsel agreed.
I wasn’t even chided for not having a rubber stamp. 🙂
Anyhow, the schedule issues came up, and she asked if we could really have our alternate dispute resolution that soon, and I realized I had to tell her that I was filing a motion for reconsideration.
That’s when I had the image of a pile of slippery pebbles, and a small panic attack. I was seriously afraid for a moment that I was going to fall over onto the floor, and wouldn’t that be fun. I held onto the lectern a little harder and made it through.
Merrick’s lawyer said he didn’t see the point of discovery, because the defense had submitted everything they had. The judge said, “Ms. Moen saw that something had been reported by a third party, and the inference was that the information was provided by Merrick. The plaintiff has the right to know what your client said about her to third parties, and I’m not going to deny her that.” (this was related to the way they credit reported after I paid them.)
I will tell you, there is something completely awe-inspiring about someone with that much power saying that little old you are actually important in some way.
She so rocked! (Aside from the part about the wrong ruling on one point, anyway.)
As we left the courtroom, the attorney I’d spoken to before the courtroom open gave me a fistbump, and I smiled. After exiting, opposing counsel asked, “Do you want to get rid of this?” Then he flew back to SoCal. (There’s also something awe inspiring about the other side flying someone in as opposing counsel.)

The Resolution

Given that a) the bank wanted to settle, and b) I was about to go on a long trip (Rick and I went to Greece, Egypt, and Turkey not long after the hearing), and c) I wanted to settle after I came back, we wound up settling. I never did find out what the 9th Circuit would have said or what the resolution of my reconsideration motion was.
Oh well.
The whole process was worth it for that one moment.
Oh, and Portfolio and Capital One changed the format of similar kinds of letters they sent in the future, apparently complying with the law. So, that’s a good thing I did.
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: Ellora's Cave Author Exodus Reminder

[![Greek Sphinx, Delphi](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx-695x700.jpg)](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx.jpg)Greek Sphinx, Delphi

It’s been almost six weeks since I first posted it, but the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread now includes 29 authors, several editors, and a cover artist.
Each of them have spoken out in some context about Ellora’s Cave.
If you’re looking for books to get you through the holidays (or to get other people for the holidays), they could use your support.

: Ellora's Cave: Tenses and Figures

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This post discusses phrasing of the initial lawsuit filed by Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises against Dear Author and DA columnist Jane Litte. In Courtney Milan’s thread system, this is Thread A.

The Tense Thing

My most frequently overlooked problem when critiquing other people’s work is tense wobbles. So, while I noticed the change of scope in this section I’m going to quote, I’d missed some potential implications of the tense shift.
I was talking about the case with a friend of mine, and he said:

I notice they’re playing silly buggers with the tenses.
“have not” and “are”
and they don’t dispute that in fact they hadn’t been paid in six months.

Here are two of Jane’s allegations in the Curious article:

There is a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months. EC has blamed this repeatedly on a new accounting system installed in December of 2013.
[…]
The total sum of unpaid royalties, editor fees, cover artist fees is in the several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures.

In EC/JJ’s lawsuit, here’s what they allege:

[…] Such false statements include:
[…]
That the Authors have not received royalty payments in over six months when in fact they are being paid.
[…]
That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.

In my Proving Substantial Truth post, I’d talked about the size of the data set in proving that “a set of” is untrue.
But I hadn’t talked about the fact that what EC claimed was defamatory in the lawsuit paperwork wasn’t actually what Jane Litte wrote. Courtney Milan talked about this some in the interview she did on the SBTB podcast.

Hypothetically Speaking

Let’s say the following are true:

  1. An article, published mid-September, states “a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months.” Past tense. There are over 500 authors, but the article’s author knows the claims are true for at least three. a = {Fred, George, Mark}
  2. After the article was written, the publisher in question writes checks for all its authors due royalties for a given accounting month. Let’s say the royalties being paid are for May, the checks are dated August 31, and they are mailed in late September.
  3. After the checks are mailed, the publisher in question files a defamation lawsuit abut the blog post. In said lawsuit, the publisher claims, “That the contract authors (Authors) have not received royalty payments in over six months when in fact they are being paid.”
  4. Note that there’s no claim that said Authors are fully paid. Or that they had been being paid. In fact, it’s present continuous tense, making it sound like the checks are being written even as the paperwork for the lawsuit is being typed. (Lest one think I’m being harsh on this point, remember that we’re discussing a publisher. Tenses and nuance are their core competency.)
  5. After the lawsuit is filed, Fred, George, and Mark each receive a check for the most recent month’s royalties, but this does not change the fact that the language in the blog post was correct as of the date it was published. They are still owed back payments, however.

So, hypothetically speaking, it’s entirely possible that there was a set of authors who hadn’t received royalty payments in over six months, and for whom between the time of that post and the lawsuit being filed, checks had been cut for at least some payment, making the present-continuous-tense statement also true. (It’s probably also not necessary for every single author to be paid to make the present-continuous-tense statement true, either.)
Yes, well, that’s all well and good, but there was a second part to the article’s claim, and how could that work? Here’s a hypothetical.
EC claimed: “That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.”
This really hinges, I think, on nitpicking two phrases: “several thousands” and “perhaps approaching six figures.”
I’ll just throw this out there: if the amount owing is known to be in excess of $100,000….
No, I can’t finish that sentence. I can’t rationalize the verbiage.
Remember, “unpaid royalties” as of mid-September includes not only May’s royalties that were reportedly received at the end of September or early October, but also monies received—for hundreds of authors—for June, July, August, and so far in September. Not just amounts that may be past due.
When one looks at, say, the amount Lolita Lopez didn’t receive in December 2013 that was on her 1099 (tl;dr: $13,354.79), and realize that there are (or were) several big-name EC authors who were making that kind of money monthly, royalty amounts owing in excess of $100,000 doesn’t seem that big a stretch for 4-1/2 months, even if the dramatic drop in Amazon sales were true.
Even without including editors and cover artists.
However, claiming that someone owes less than they actually do isn’t defamatory.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case, so I have no information about the veracity of my hypotheticals.

So…?

The point of the above: if what Jane Litte wrote weren’t true, why not file a lawsuit claiming that specific language was untrue?
Why bother using different language in the filing when Jane’s post is right there to copy/paste from?
I’ll leave you to ponder that and end with a throwback moment.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve read a great deal of the documents involved in the Brashear case where EC/JJ were defendants.
As a fascinating aside, one of the items EC submitted in their answer and counterclaims was a snippy email by Brashear to complaints that payments were, once again, late. That was in October 2003.
It was in response to an email that said this (and then some):

Look, I KNOW you guys work hard at keeping everything together at EC and this new accounting system has been trouble — BUT, don’t promise that checks are going to be mailed on a certain date and then fail to deliver. OK? (This is not the first time this has happened.)

Two. Thousand. Three.

It’s Chestnut Season

In addition to the above, I note that we should seasonally switch from popcorn to chestnuts—especially given the subject matter.

: 100 Countries (and Territories)!

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As of today, I’ve completed one of my travel life goals: to visit 100 countries and territories from the Traveler’s Century Club list. In short, you can’t join the club as a full member until you’ve been to 100.
Sure, they are liberal in what they count (their list totals 324 countries and territories, where the UN list is 193), but they encourage people to see far-flung places that are very different from the ruling government far away.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been to 65 UN member countries (plus the Vatican). Eventually, I’d like to get to 100 there, too, but that interests me less.
Here’s my list in alphabetical order:
Alaska * Aruba * Australia * Austria * Bahamas * Balearic Islands * Barbados * Belgium * Belize * Bermuda * Bulgaria * Canada * Canary Islands * Cayman Islands * Chile * Colombia * Corsica * Costa Rica * Crete * Denmark * Dubai * Easter Island * Egypt * El Salvador * England * Estonia * Faroe Islands * Finland * France * Germany * Gibraltar * Greece * Guam * Guatemala * Haiti * Hawaiian Islands * Honduras * Hong Kong * Iceland * India * Indonesia * Ionian Isles * Ireland * Isle of Man * Italy * Jamaica * Japan * Leeward Islands, French * Leeward Islands, Netherlands * Liechtenstein * Luxembourg * Macau * Madeira * Malaysia * Maldives * Marshall Islands * Martinique * Mexico * Micronesia * Montserrat * Morocco * Myanmar * Netherlands * New Zealand * Nicaragua * Northern Ireland * Norway * Panama * Pitcairn * Portugal * Puerto Rico * Romania * Russia * Sardinia * Scotland * Singapore * South Africa * South Korea * Spain * Sri Lanka * St. Barthélmy * St. Lucia * St. Maarten * St. Vincent & Dependencies * Sumatra, Indonesia * Sweden * Switzerland * Tahiti * Thailand * Trinidad & Tobago * Turkey in Asia * Turkey in Europe * Ukraine * United States * Vatican * Venezuela * Vietnam * Virgin Islands, British * Virgin Islands, US * Wales
On the TCC list, I have at least one visit in each region except Antarctica.
My 100th was Trinidad and Tobago. Here’s a picture from Charlotteville, Tobago, announcing a cricket match (click for full size):
2014-11-10 15.30.08_Snapseed

: Ellora's Cave: On Dear Author and CDA § 230

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Riffing off Courtney Milan’s post here.
While I haven’t followed appellate cases on the Communications Decency Act § 230 the way Courtney has, the first thing I did after reading Dear Author’s answer was to read up on existing case law. Like Courtney, I didn’t see any that applied to something similar to the Dear Author situation.
As Courtney points out, most of the CDA § 230 cases involve larger companies completely unrelated, legally speaking, to the person who wrote the content in question at the heart of the suit.
Rick and I talked a lot about the implications, some before I wrote this post about DA’s answer, and some after it, but every time we talked about it, we agreed that, at its heart, the CDA does protect Dear Author LLC.
The fact of a separate legal person isn’t even an issue here.
For example, say you’ve let an author write a guest post on your own blog and you’re unincorporated. You get commenters too.
Is that still an interactive computer service?
Here’s the CDA definition again:

The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

Yep, that still applies.
In reading the definitions, here are some examples:

  • “Interactive computer service” – a blog
  • “Information content provider” – the writer of a specific blog post (or a specific comment)
  • “Access software provider” – WordPress or Blogspot or whomever

I said this before:

In other words, because Jane Litte, the pseudonymous author of the Curious post, is not Dear Author LLC, the LLC providing the Dear Author service offering the Curious post, Dear Author LLC is not liable for any statements Jane Litte made.

That’s true in this case (my opinion, not yet set in legal precedent afaik), but it shouldn’t actually matter that these are different legal persons.
If I wrote my own blogging software and someone wrote and posted a guest post, I as the publisher and software writer—but not the information content provider—should still be protected.

So What Does This Mean As Far As the Dear Author Case?

A legal case is about triable matters of fact and applying legal investigation methods (discovery) to determine those facts and settle what points of law apply to them.
At the point where the matters of fact are determined and it has become a simple matter of law, a party can move for summary judgment, moving to apply that matter of law to that set of facts. (And then the other party typically opposes with their own brief, and the judge rules, sometimes asking for a hearing first.)
Here’s a quote from a free legal dictionary.

Two criteria must be met before summary judgment may be properly granted: (1) there must be no genuine issues of material fact, and (2) the Movant must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I believe this is a matter of law that’s clear about DA being entitled to judgment. After all, CDA § 230 states:

It is the policy of the United States—

  1. to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;
  2. to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;

…and…

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Dear Author is not Jane Litte.
It doesn’t matter that this is a novel application of CDA § 230. That’s why you hire someone like Marc J. Randazza: because a great lawyer thinks outside the box of existing case law and looks to intents behind the laws.

: Ellora's Cave: Jane Litte's Answer Filed with Court

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Answer PDF here.
Note that this is a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the original complaint, so you should have a copy handy to look at them side-by-side.
I also haven’t compared it to the Dear Author answer yet.
The full docket with color-coding and blog post links and PDF original docs links is here. Note that in my blog posts, I refer to Jane Litte by her Dear Author pen name, but the legal documents, including that docket, use her legal name.

Short Version

Nothing leaped out at me off the page.
Dear Author’s answer had the affirmative defense of immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) § 230, and Jane’s doesn’t. This is expected.
Apart from that, a quick scan of the two answers shows that they’re substantially similar.

: Ellora's Cave: Both Sides Denied Extensions

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Last week, plaintiffs Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises along with defendant Jane Litte submitted a stipulated (meaning: opposing sides agree) motion for extension of time to answer.
Today, the judge denied that motion. That means all three parties who haven’t filed answers will have theirs due (I believe) next week.

What’s Up Next?

  1. We’re still waiting for the ruling on the remand to state court. It’s expected to be denied.
  2. I’m sure some interesting stuff will turn up in the answers.
  3. Jane Litte may file a counterclaim.

Following that, the exciting discovery phase.

: Ellora's Cave: Reply on Opposition to Remand

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I had some expectations about what the reply would consist of.
tl;dr version: I’m disappointed.

My Take on It

  1. 10/24 (Friday) EC’s lawyer files a motion to punt (remand) the case back to state court relying on Rose v. Giamatti.
  2. The same day, DA’s lawyer shoots an email to EC’s saying, “I’m unsure if you’ve reviewed the case you primarily rely upon, but I believe that Rose v. Giamatti says the exact opposite of what you’ve raised it for.” In other words, Randazza said, basically: “Heads up: brain fart?” Which offered the opportunity for Mastrantonio to fix it.
  3. Not hearing anything back, DA’s lawyer files an opposition on Sunday the 26th, including the email from #2. Which was included to demonstrate several points made, not just that one.
  4. On Monday, 10/27, the judge gave EC/JJ a week to file a response. No evidence the judge had read the underlying paperwork, but it decreases his odds of getting it punted to a higher court if he allows time for Plaintiff to clarify.
  5. EC/JJ filed their response on the 31st. Halloween. Trick or treat. It used the same single case citation.

It’s unusual for a motion to rely on a single case cite, and unusual for both sides to rely on the same single cite.
What I expected EC’s lawyer to do: find some other case cites that also cited Rose v. Giamatti and use some more of his skills to strengthen his narrative. ::cough::
Courtney’s analyzed the underlying issues, and I agree. Especially this part:

I lay this all out because EC’s reply confuses the merits of the controversy with the merits of a temporary restraining order. In order to evaluate the reply, you need to understand that first, these are two separate things, and second, that no lawyer–indeed, no halfway decent law student–should confuse the two.

Another Issue Here

In the footnote:

Plaintiffs indicated that because the facts on the ground had changed, the urgency associated with a temporary restraining order had become attenuated and that a consolidation of the hearing with the final hearing on the merits under Rule 65(a)(2) would avoid 2 hearings, 2 trips for defense counsel and his client, 2 briefings, and twice the use of the Court’s time and resources.

I just mention the following and allow you to draw your own conclusions….

  1. Randazza is a noted first amendment attorney.
  2. EC files for a TRO/Preliminary injunction against Dear Author to prevent further postings about EC from DA.
  3. Case law about prior restraint is heavy first amendment case law.
  4. First amendment cases are best heard in federal court (though I’m not sure they’re necessarily federal questions).
  5. EC/JJ wants a remand to state court.
  6. Suddenly the TRO’s urgency has “become attenuated.”

::cough::
Note that the case wasn’t removed because of federal questions, though. It was removed for diversity. Here’s a bit from the UScourts.gov site that explains that (emphasis mine):

A case also may be filed in federal court based on the “diversity of citizenship” of the litigants, such as between citizens of different states, or between United States citizens and those of another country. To ensure fairness to the out-of-state litigant, the Constitution provides that such cases may be heard in a federal court. An important limit to diversity jurisdiction is that only cases involving more than $75,000 in potential damages may be filed in a federal court. Claims below that amount may only be pursued in state court. Moreover, any diversity jurisdiction case, regardless of the amount of money involved, may be brought in a state court rather than a federal court.

This is one case where the defense gets to pick the court, though, because it’s about fairness to them.

Let’s Dig Into Some Older Cases

I wanted to look and see if there were other similar remand cases the federal judge had decided on. “Remand” is a hard word to search on because most federal judges of any tenure have had cases go up on appeal, then be remanded back to their original (federal) court to resume the remainder of the case.
This, however, was a different kind of remand: a case originally filed in state court being removed to federal, then an opposition filed.

22 Exchange LLC v. Exchange Street Associates LLC

Ruling here. Remand was allowed. (Remand ruling took 7 days; attorney’s fees were allowed.)
This situation does not apply in the EC/DA case.
In the case ruled on, a Delaware Plaintiff sued an Ohio Defendant, and the Defendant removed to federal. However, one of the situations where you can’t remove to federal for diversity jurisdiction is if you’re sued in your home state. It’s called the forum defendant rule.
In other words, if Dear Author/Jane Litte had been sued in Iowa where they are based, they wouldn’t have been able to remove to federal. However, that didn’t happen, and thus the underlying reason Exchange was remanded isn’t applicable here.
Similarly, IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. v. Harrison, Rivard, Zimmerman & Bennett, Chartered et al is inapplicable.

Electrical Enlightenment, Inc. v. Lallemand et al

Electrical Enlightenment, Inc. v. Lallemand et al remanded for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Judge says it best:

Although Defendants attempt to couch the terminology used in the Complaint to assert a federal cause of action under copyright law in paragraphs 13-15, the mere use of the terms “copying Plaintiff’s commercial speech” does not make a copyright claim out of a breach of contract action.

(Remand ruling took over 2 months; attorney’s fees were allowed.)

Lasher v. Bank of America

Ruling here. (Remand ruling took just over a month, but denied attorney’s fees.)
Essentially: lack of a federal question, so lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

In addition, the resolution of the federal question will not be dispositive of the case. First, numerous pure state law claims have been plead by Plaintiffs. Furthermore, even the third cause of action will not be resolved by resolution of the federal law.

Two Others

This case there was a remand mentioned, but I don’t see a response to it on the docket.
Last but not least, this docket has a boatload of people and I don’t want to have to sort it out.
So the prior history I could find doesn’t really shed any light, unfortunately.

So When?

I’m unclear if a remand is considered a dispository motion—or not. Dispository (or dispositive) motions are ones that dispose of some aspect of a case: a motion for summary judgment, for example.
Since a remand ends the case with respect to that court, I’m not sure if it’s considered dispositive. It’s simply a civil procedure point I don’t know.
Anyhow, local rules say dispository motions need rulings within 30 days and other motions within 60. So it could be a while.
Or not.

: Guinness World Record, and I Helped

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Remember in June when I participated in The Great Namaste? An attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the number of people simultaneously doing yoga.

We Did It!

I got this funny email from organizer Tyler Tervooren:

Well, for those last four months, the record was only technically broken. We’ve been waiting… and waiting… and waiting for them to give us the official nod. Kind of like when you’re really excited to get someone’s phone number, but you can’t get a hold of them so you leave a message saying, “Uh, it was really nice to meet you and I think you’re super cool so, um… call me back?” And then you sit and wonder if you had bad breath or crazy eyes or something as each week passes and they don’t call.
And that’s how it felt with Guinness. UNTIL TODAY!

official-certificate

The only thing that’s missing at this point is they haven’t updated the listing on the website yet, which is kind of like when you start dating someone new and realize they still talk to their ex on Facebook. We’re trying not to be jealous, though. We’re certain it will be updated soon.

And Here I Am

In the detail of the above photo….
namaste-detail

: Proving Substantial Truth

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Substantial truth can be tricksy. Here’s a DMLP post with a few examples.
Two of those examples where the statements were ruled substantially true:

A statement that a boxer tested positive for cocaine, when actually he had tested positive for marijuana. See Cobb v. Time Inc. 24 Media L. Rep. 585 (M.D. Tenn 1995).
A statement that a man was charged with sexual assault, when actually he had only been arrested but not arraigned. See Rouch v. Enquirer & News of Battle Creek, 440 Mich. 238 (1992).

Look, I haven’t read up on the case law, but the above two examples should demonstrate that “substantial truth” isn’t cut and dried.

Hypothetically Speaking

Let’s say the claim in question is about “a set of authors” and whether or not they’ve been paid in a timely manner. Let’s say there are more than 500 authors, each of which has one or more books.
Now, the person believing they’ve all been paid may in fact only have been double-checking the highest earners.
However, let’s say the claims are true for three authors:
a = {Fred, George, Mark}
That still means one needs to sift through an unknown large portion of the data set before one determines that it’s true for “a set” of them.

And Now an Intermission

I’m done with the above hypothetical.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case. However, I’d like to look at some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

How Big Is the EC Data Set?

Let’s go with the following assumptions:

  1. 934 authors (last I counted). Let’s round down to 900.
  2. Amazon gives me 6,767 items when I search for “Ellora’s Cave.” Let’s assume 4,500. Ergo, an author has an average of 5 titles, including paperback editions.
  3. Each book sells, per month, in an average of 5 stores from: EC’s own site, ARe, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, iBooks, foreign markets for same, and any paperback vendors.
  4. Need to look back to when the accounting system changed last year, so 10 months of data at present.
  5. Each line item has seven pieces of data per month per author (per Cat Grant’s statements). The 7 pieces of data are: ISBN, title, format, store, amount received per unit, qty sold, total received (calculated, so not actually a separate piece of data), royalty %, royalty paid (also calculated).

So for each month:
4500 books x 5 stores books sold in that month x 7 other pieces of data = 157,000 pieces of data (or 174 per author). Per. Month.
Times ten months, so 1.57 million.
Consider the legal and accounting billing that would be involved in re-verifying and distilling 1.57 million pieces of data.

Another Aspect of Substantial Truth

In a case where “a set of authors” may not have received timely payments, royalty payments received by the publisher not corresponding with line items paid to authors could potentially also be a source of substantial truth.
Therefore, one would also need to audit amounts received from, say, Amazon, and amounts paid out in royalty checks that month, and determine that the amounts were equal. (Especially when others have said they’ve seen no Amazon drops during the same period for similar non-EC books.)
There are also around 9,000 checks to sort out.

  • When were they written?
  • When were they mailed?
  • When were they cashed?
  • When did they clear the bank?
  • Are any missing? Either not paid or not cashed?
  • If they’re missing, were they actually cut?

In theory, all that information is already entered and double-checked and could be provided to the defense at a moment’s notice.

The Question that Started This Post

@deirdresm Law Q: Are EC actions only relevant to the case up until the time it was filed? Recent payment timing immaterial? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) October 27, 2014

It’s a good question. It doesn’t change the absolute truth of what was said on the day it was said, no.
But if events post-filing help show substantial truth, then probably they’re relevant.

@Soenda I haven’t read the case law; I can only guess. My guess: similar actions after filing help substantive truth claim. #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 27, 2014

My Intuition

This case, if it gets all the way to a jury trial, will be far, far more expensive to litigate than other people have expected because the potentially triable matters of fact involve large data sets.
It’s my understanding that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show substantive falsity. Meaning: Ellora’s Cave and the mysteriously joined Jasmine Jade Enterprises need to demonstrate that.
Can they sample the data?
I don’t see how they can prove that “a set of authors” is defamatory without the full data being examined. “A set of authors” doesn’t need to be a large set.
My intuition, given the lagging of checks mailed weeks after the check date, all the reports of no answer for months when authors asked about royalty checks, is that that aspect of the DA post, at least, was substantively true.
Consider, for example, how small the two examples at the top are in terms of data. A single arrest. A single drug test, and possibly one or more followups. But not 1.57 million of them.
Completely different animal, litigation-wise.

: Ellora's Cave: No COO? Selling Reverted Books? Lawsuit Update

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First: New EC-themed Art!

See above.
I’ve been trying to make a habit of including art with posts so there’s always a featured image. It’s a tough job. Broken ankh render from The Hairy Man.

Ellora’s Cave Lost Its COO?

Behold the current LinkedIn profile of Susan Edwards, who was Ellora’s Cave’s COO.
Note that it lists “Writer and Editor” as a job from “1980 – Present”, but Ellora’s Cave from “January 2005 – October 2014”, meaning she’s no longer there.
se_linkedin
Detail of the Ellora’s Cave entry:
se_ec_detail
Now Dear Author tweeted this last month:

Re Ellora’s Cave: Whitney Mihalik, the managing editor, and Susan Edwards, the chief operating officer, have both resigned.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 15, 2014

…and…

EC trying to retain Susan Edwards, COO, who previously indicated she was leaving.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 23, 2014

But this is the first I’ve heard that it was externally verifiable.

Ellora’s Cave Allegedly Selling Titles It Doesn’t Have the Rights To

Angelia Sparrow posted this morning.

My mail today. Why does a check cut on September 30 have an October 25 postmark?
Why are books that I have had the rights returned still on sale?

“Eight Days Ablaze” was returned in Feb. I am not getting paid for it. Why is it still available at Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Ellora’s Site itself?

“Eight Days Ablaze” is apparently still theirs. I checked my reversion letters, and it is not mentioned. “For Love of Etarin” and “Raising the Dead” however, HAVE reverted.
“For Love of Etarin” is the same way. And yet, it still available on GooglePlay.
Glad Hands and Privateer’s Treasure are still up on Amazon, And the rights reverted back August 15.

I can verify that it’s still on sale, but obviously I have no personal notice of whether or not the rights are reverted. I’ll just point authors to a resource out there for you. If your rights are reverted, then a DMCA takedown notice to the vendor is an appropriate—and probably the fastest—action.
It doesn’t give you the correct royalties for any amounts that were due you, though. That has to be addressed separately. Unfortunately.
Previous post of interest from Angelia.
I previously talked about Shoshanna Evers’s related story of books being sold after reversion here.
Also, Cat Grant shows her May 2014 royalty statement, received in September, where she states that she was paid for a Nook ebook on a title that, per her, reverted in November 2013.
B&N/Nook pays 60 days after the end of the month. So, if a sale took place in November while EC still had the rights, it should have been in the royalty statement for February or maybe March. May is unreasonable.
Again, I can see what the allegations are, but I don’t have personal knowledge of the reversion, just taking the claims at face value. If three authors are correct, how many other authors has EC been selling the works of without the rights to?

The No-Frills EC v. DA Lawsuit Page

Yesterday, out of frustration at the lawsuit documents and the order mine weren’t in, I created this simple page that emulates the federal court docket.
For some exhibits, there’s a short summary. Each, where applicable, is color-coded based on the lawsuit “thread” as Courtney defined them. And, if there are blog posts relating to them, they’re listed below the docket item.
It’s a very lightweight page: no images, no Javascript, and very very little CSS.

Lawsuit Update

Yesterday, defense filed their opposition to Ellora’s Cave’s Motion to Remand (from federal court to state court). Courtney Milan analyzes.
Particularly interesting footnote:

On 7 October, an email was sent to at least one of Ms. Lampe’s supervisors. On 14 October that same email was forwarded to the entire department within which Ms. Lampe works. This is consistent with prior actions by directors of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case. Therefore, sending this subpoena on short notice was of great importance. Since the Defense addressed this with Plaintiff’s counsel, these actions have waned.

Wow. Just. Wow.
Let me pull this one line out and bold it.

Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case.

That is not OK.
From the opposition brief itself:

All parties agreed that the matter required needed additional time, and therefore the parties stipulated to a hearing to be held on 27 October. In the intervening period, counsel for the Defense was able to fully evaluate the case, and on 17 October it became 100% clear that removal was appropriate.

I’m just going to put those two together and back away slowly.

What’s Next?

Jane Litte’s answer is expected soon. The court granted the motion to continue on the TRO and gave EC/JJ 7 days to file a response to defense’s objection about the removal. In that way, the removal issue is settled before the TRO hearing, which does make sense.

: Ellora's Cave Attempts to Remand to State Court

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Courtney Milan has the blog post and the exhibits.
Let’s put it this way: birther Orly Taitz is famous for her remand-back-to-state-court motions. Not someone to emulate.
This is an aspect of federal procedure I don’t know a lot about, but my understanding is that removal is automatic, and that remanding is for related courts (e.g., an appeals court can, and often does, remand a case back to a lower court). In this case, however, I’m not sure a federal court has the legal right to remand to state court.
As Courtney Milan posts:

What to expect next: DA/Jane will almost certainly file a memorandum opposing a remand. The court will decide if it wants to hold a hearing on this or simply decide on its own, and we should get a decision from the court. That decision will almost certainly seal off this thread once and for all, and we can move on to the many, many other issues.uu

One Note on the Answer

Courtney is waiting for Jane Litte’s answer before posting commentary on both answers. She says (in the post linked above):

The reason I have not done this yet is that the answer is from Dear Author alone, and not from Jane in her personal capacity. Some things Jane will say in her answer will be duplicative. Some things she says will, I suspect, not be (which is why they didn’t file together).

I think part of the reason to file the answers separately is to make clear that Dear Author, LLC and Jane Litte are legally separate entities.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Answer and Counterclaim

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The exciting invocation of the Communications Decency Act in a lawsuit about an erotica/erotic romance publisher—but not in the way you’d expect. Up next after “Previously on….”

Earlier Documents of Note

From now on, I’ll post a quick recap at the beginning of this series.

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises sued Dear Author and Jane Litte over this post.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. I discuss the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.
  4. Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. I cover a few points in this post. Courtney Milan gives a deeper understanding of the document in her post. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)

Also of interest: Courtney Milan’s post, On Limited Purpose Public Figures. All my blog posts relating to Ellora’s Cave are tagged. There are a few not directly related to the lawsuit.

Dear Author’s Answer

Note that this is just Dear Author’s answer. I expect Jane Litte’s answer shortly.
Document here. Because it’s a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the lawsuit, you’ll need to have a copy of that to read side-by-side.
Responding to the first two paragraphs, “Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.” That’s some legal verbiage that I may not understand the nuance of. The import, however, is to ensure that the correct parties are suing Dear Author and Jane Litte.
It starts to get interesting in ¶ 10:

Admitted that Defendant [Litte] authored an article entitled “The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave,” which was published on the blog Dear Author, which is owned and operated by Dear Author. Denied as to the defined term “Libelous Publication” as an erroneous legal conclusion without factual foundation.

The next few paragraphs of fallout are flatly denied.
When it gets to the nuances of EC’s relationship fallouts, the phrasing changes to:

Dear Author is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the corresponding averment. Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.

Here are the most interesting paragraphs that applies to (sorry, 15-17 are being auto-renumbered to 1-3, grr):

  1. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among current Authors under contract with Ellora’s, and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from Authors wishing to rescind contracts based on this Publication.
  2. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among employees and contractors with Ellora’s and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from employees and contractors concerned about the current state of the business.
  3. This Libelous Publication has also prevented Ellora’s from contracting with other potential authors.

I would guess (being an analytical sort), that in order to prove ¶ 15, one would have to show what the rate of authors requesting reversions/cancellations were before the publication, and what they were after. That would require excellent recordkeeping, though. (It would also require proof that defamation occurred, and a causal link.)
I’m not sure that ¶ 16 implies actual damages, especially not after the August 19th publication about Ellora’s Cave layoffs. That’s almost a month before the Curious post.
¶ 18-19 are about Jasmine Jade. Frankly, I’m not sure why Jasmine Jade is a party to this action. There is only one reference to JJ in the Curious post, and it’s about a tax lien that anyone could look up.
The rest of the responses are denials of various sorts.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses are a curious beast. I’m guessing that Courtney will go into this later, but basically they are reasons why, even if the allegations are true, that aspect of the case can’t proceed.
An example would be statute of limitations. You sue for something where the law gave you a year to sue and it’s now 2 years after the event happened. Everything you say is true, but if the defense raises statute of limitations as an affirmative defense, then the lawsuit can’t proceed.
The other aspect of affirmative defenses is that they typically have to be raised in the answer. They can’t be brought up later. Thus, the affirmative defenses tend to be rather kitchen sink in approach.

First Affirmative Defense: Communications Decency Act

In order to understand why this affirmative defense is hilarious in context, one needs to know what the original intended purpose of the CDA was. Some excerpts from its legislative history:

What became the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was initiated in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee […] to expand the prohibitions against obscene, indecent and harassing phone calls so that they would apply to all forms of electronic communications. The amendment was offered “to address an increasing number of published reports of inappropriate uses of telecommunications technologies to transmit pornography, engage children in inappropriate adult contact, terrorize computer network users through “electronic stalking,” and seize personal information […].”
The amendment from Feinstein, cosponsored by Republican Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi, sought to require cable and satellite companies to fully scramble any sexually explicit adult programming.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 began in the House as HR 1555. […] There were disputes over efforts to limit internet indecency and television violence though. The committee bill requested that the attorney general‟s office submit a report evaluating the enforceability of current criminal laws governing the distribution of obscenity over the internet, assessing the Federal, State, and local law enforcement resources available to enforce those laws, evaluating the technical means available to combat obscenity, and making recommendations on the means of encouraging the development of new technologies to deal with obscenity.

So let’s look at the affirmative defense here.

  1. Defendant Dear Author is a provider of interactive computer services as defined in 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2).
  2. Dear Author neither created nor authored the content of any of the statements complained of in Plaintffs’ Complaint.
  3. Under 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), Dear Author cannot be treated as the publisher of the above complained-of statements, and thus cannot be held liable, either at law or in equity, for the contents of the statements.

47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2) (link to law) defines an “interactive computer service”:

The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

The reason that blogs allow comments and internet forums exist is because the CDA makes it feasible to not get caught up in every squabble.
And 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) states:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

In other words, because Jane Litte, the pseudonymous author of the Curious post, is not Dear Author LLC, the LLC providing the Dear Author service offering the Curious post, Dear Author LLC is not liable for any statements Jane Litte made.
Or, in short, law says you’ve got the wrong person.
I admit to not being up enough on CDA case law to know what rulings have been. I am more familiar with cases like Religious Technology Center v. Netcom and the ruling excerpt incorporated into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if only because I was at ground zero during that controversy.

Second Affirmative Defense: Truth

  1. Although the burden of proof for falsity is upon Plaintiffs, as applied to Plaintiffs’ claims for defamation, Dear Author avers that all statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs are true.
  2. Any complained-of statements allegedly made by Dear Author that may happen to lack 100% factual veracity are substantially true, and thus treated as true as a matter of law.
  3. As truth is an absolute defense to defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Truth is an affirmative defense to defamation.

Third Affirmative Defense: Substantial Truth

  1. Any statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs that are not literally true are substantially true, in that the “gist” or “sting” of the article is true.
  2. As substantial truth is a defense to claims for defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Pretty straightforward.

Fourth Affirmative Defense: Qualified Privilege

I know almost nothing about qualified privilege as it relates to defamation cases, but the plaintiffs cited an Ohio case (#5, Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.) that discussed it extensively. PDF of the ruling is here.

  1. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were directed to parties having a common interest in the subject matter of the statements, particularly authors who either had a contractual relationship with Plaintiffs or who were contemplating one.
  2. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were made in the course of a justifiable exercise of a moral obligation, free of improper motive or malice.
  3. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were fair comment and criticism of Defendants’ business practices, matters of significant public and social interest.

As someone who bought a few of EC’s titles last year to evaluate them as a potential market, I feel like this was aimed at me. Thanks, Jane.

Fifth Affirmative Defense: Failure To State A Claim

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel.
  2. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel per se.

Like many other causes of action, there are specific things that have to be alleged in order for there to be a claim for defamation. This (short) page lists them.
Re-reading the complaint, it seems like there’s at least some language to cover all the bases. If the judge rules that one of the required elements doesn’t exist and failure to state a claim isn’t raised as an affirmative defense, I’m not sure what would happen, exactly.

Sixth Affirmative Defense: Failure To Join an Indispensable Party

I saw this one coming.

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to join an indispensable party, Tina Engler, in their
    Complaint.
  2. Tina Engler is an indispensable party because Plaintiffs’ Complaint
    identifies allegedly defamatory statements about her allegedly made by
    Dear Author.
  3. Engler is also an indispensable party because many of the allegedly
    defamatory statements identified in the Complaint attribute Plaintiffs’
    declining business performance to the actions of Engler.
  4. In Engler’s absence, the Court cannot afford complete relief among
    Plaintiffs and Dear Author.
  5. Because the allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint would also entitle Engler to
    bring an action against Dear Author for the same statements identified in the Complaint, not including Engler in this litigation would potentially make Dear Author subject to a substantial risk of incurring multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations.

When asked why she wasn’t a plaintiff, here’s my answer in a comment on a previous post:
Last I heard, Jaid/Tina was 90% owner. As for why she’s not a plaintiff, my understanding of the legal concepts is that it’s a jurisdiction issue.
It’s a general principle of law that to sue for damages, you have to sue where the damage occurred. If someone published allegedly defamatory information on the internet about you and the person posting it was in Iowa and you’re based in Ohio, then the alleged damage occurred in Ohio. So that’s why EC sued in Ohio. (Note: this is a simplification because jurisdiction can get complicated.)
Catch is, Jaid lives in West Hollywood, California, so any alleged damage would be in California, and an Ohio court would not have jurisdiction to determine or award damages. Had Jaid also sued separately, then there probably would have been a motion to join both the cases in federal court, which is used to dealing with mixed jurisdiction cases.
However, California has strong anti-SLAPP protection, so California’s not a good jurisdiction for this particular case. As I understand it, anyway. (And, again, IANAL and TINLA.)
Getting back to the ownership issue: even when one is 90% owner of a corporation, the legal interests of the company and the legal interests of the individual may diverge significantly over the course of a trial, and it’s best practices to have separate counsel. That doubles the legal fees. In some cases, it may make sense to fold the company, and then the minority shareholders may wish to fight that, and that’s a completely separate issue from the interests of the individual majority owner as a person.
The simple way around this would have been to sue in federal court from the outset.
However, I’m not convinced that ¶ 12(f) and 12(g) in the complaint were strong allegations. They felt more like hurt feelings to me.

Seventh Affirmative Defense: Lack of Actual Malice

When in doubt, always look to the Supreme Court case that’s the seminal ruling on defamation law.

  1. Plaintiffs are general purpose public figures, or at least public figures in the context of Adult Romance publishers. Accordingly, their defamation claims are subject to the “actual malice” standard set forth in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which requires that the defendant made the allegedly defamatory statements with “knowledge that [they were] false or with reckless disregard of whether [they were] false or not.” 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964).
  2. Dear Author at no point harbored any doubt as to the truth of the complained of statements, and had no reason to doubt their accuracy.
  3. As actual malice is a requirement to establish liability for defamation in these circumstances, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Dear Author’s Counterclaim

Document here.
Can be summed up as: because the suit was filed as an abuse of process—in part because Dear Author is exempt under the CDA and in part because the claims are baseless—Dear Author is requesting compensatory and punitive damages as well as costs.

What’s Next?

I’m guessing Jane Litte’s answer, along with a likely counterclaim, are coming up next. Courtney will post on both after Jane’s is filed. Unless there’s something particularly interesting, I’ll probably just post a link to her article when it’s up.
There’s also a hearing on the 29th about the TRO/preliminary injunction, i.e., taking the Curious post offline.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Motion in Opposition

elloras-cave-blog-header

Earlier Documents of Note

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. (included in removal to federal court document) I analyze the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.

Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction

In the first substantive response to Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, Dear Author’s attorney, Marc Randazza, has filed an Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and Courtney Milan has graciously hosted the 25-page PDF and its exhibits. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)
Courtney found it just before retiring for the evening. I’ve read it and the supporting documents (not included in the 25 pages). Courtney will post her own notes in the morning, but I’m going to write up a few comments about turns of phrase that amused me. Because of the miracle of the internet, I’m going to schedule this post for when I’m asleep. 🙂
Update: Courtney’s post is here, and it links to the exhibits not in the original opposition document. Thank you to all the people who provided statements.

Seems Like Old Times

Footnote at the bottom of page 3:

The defendant has gathered what evidence she could, informally. However, should this case continue, and perhaps prior to the hearing on this motion, she intends to depose the management of Ellora’s Cave. But, despite the reasonable and exceedingly courteous efforts of counsel for Plaintiffs, Ellora’s Cave and its management do not appear willing to provide deposition testimony before the hearing.

So, Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author, right? You’d think, given that they filed suit on September 26th, they’d love to have a quick deposition to ensure they get as much on the record to support their motion for a TRO/preliminary injunction, right?
This footnote basically says that EC’s stonewalling their own attorney who has been “reasonable and exceedingly courteous.”
If you read the order from the Brashear case, you’ll note this is a consistent tactic. Except in the DA case, EC’s the plaintiff, not the defendant.

The Ebola Footnote

Even if Ellora’s Cave were in perfect financial health, these are the symptoms of an ailing company. It is as if a perfectly healthy person were suffering from a severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. A reasonable person might say, with all candor and right to do so, that the patient appears to have Ebola symptoms. Of course, the subject might counter that they were only suffering from a hangover. But, the First Amendment would permit either observation.

Courtney’s right that this could be perceived as party dickishness insofar as two of the Ellora’s Cave cover models are currently in mandatory quarantine for ebola after being on Amber Vinson’s flight when coming home from the annual Ellora’s Cave convention, Romanticon.
However, I think it unlikely that Randazza knew about this issue, and did not intend it thus. Update: Randazza clarifies in comments to Courtney that, indeed, he did not know.

The Goulash Analogy

Ellora’s Cave nit picks minor possible factual inconsistencies, as a child might try to remove peas from goulash. However, even if a child despises peas, it does not make the goulash itself poisonous. Analysis of a defamation claim like this is like reasoning with the child who complains that because there are peas in the goulash, the goulash itself is inedible.
The goulash here is savory, even if the plaintiffs would prefer not to eat the peas.

Ohio Provides Better Protection than the First Amendment

While this is the national standard, Ohio law provides for more protection than the First Amendment demands. Under Ohio law, “the plaintiff must demonstrate, with convincing clarity, that the defendant published the defamatory statement either with actual knowledge that the statement was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether it was false.”

Failure to Demonstrate Irreparable Harm

Plaintiffs claim that “[i]t is clear that Ellora’s will suffer irreparable injury if Defendants are allowed to continue to publish the Blog Publication on the internet.” Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 4. However, Plaintiffs provide nothing to support this. Irreparable harm requires a showing that there is an insufficient remedy at law. Furthermore, for the harm to be irreparable, there must be more than monetary damages. “The basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88 (1974). “A finding of irreparable harm is necessary before granting a preliminary injunction.” Bettcher Indus. v. Bunzl USA, Inc., 692 F.Supp.2d 805, 822 (N.D.Ohio 2010).

This is news to me (remember, I’m not a lawyer), but it’s fascinating. I’m guessing this has to do with one being a remedy at law and the other a remedy in equity.
So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and lo, apparently so. I’m a little rusty on this stuff, but at least I have good instincts.
In short: law remedies are things like monetary damages and equity remedies are things like injunctions or specific performance. “Inadequacy of legal remedies” in the quote above means that there isn’t money that can make up for the damage that’s caused.
In the Bluemile case cited below (which Randazza goes into more than I’ve quoted here), one company was impersonating another. There’s no way the impersonator throwing money at the trademark holder is going to make up for the damage that’s done. Therefore, it’s irreparable (in the “can’t be fixed with $” sense).
But EC presumably can monitor things like sales and royalties and know what’s going on with them at every moment. Even if they don’t monitor these things this closely, in theory they can. So, presumably, they can say, “well, this article cost $X in lost sales.” And then, if defamation were proved to be the cause of those lost sales (which is not easy), then there’s a remedy at law, so no remedy at equity is needed.
Now, if there were irreparable harm, that would need to be listed in the memorandum of law along with case law to support that. I have some ideas about what those kinds of things might include for EC, but it’s not my job to aid EC’s prosecution of its case—and a preliminary injunction wouldn’t help in any case.

The Section Every Author Should Read

pp. 16-18 where it talks about the public interest aspects of Dear Author’s blog, as well as the link to Author’s Rights When a Publisher Files Bankruptcy.

The Bluemile Cite

My first reaction when I read this case was an audible, “What the fuck?!?”
When I wrote up my own response, I wrote:

In my opinion (though, again, IANAL and TINLA), there is no similarity, and the “strikingly similar” made me wonder what quality pharmaceuticals the esteemed esquire had access to. In Bluemile, there was a clear intent to confuse the trademark held by the plaintiff and siphon off their potential customers by the defendant with a confusing domain name (bluemile.net). The defendant’s site was intended to be confusing.

Clearly, when someone’s trying to siphon off your business by confusing your potential customers, monetary damages aren’t enough.
Randazza covers this more deeply:

While Plaintiffs cite to Bluemile Inc. v. Yourcolo, LLC, in support of their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the facts of that case are starkly different of the facts at hand. The only connection seems to be that a Preliminary Injunction was granted there and Plaintiffs are requesting one here.

Rick and I both laughed at that.

In Bluemile, the Southern District of Ohio confronted an intellectual property case and enjoined the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s trademark, enjoined defendants from using a website confusingly similar to plaintiff’s name, which then used that website to publish statements that were already determined to be defamatory. That case was premised on Lanham Act violations and trademark infringement, and the defamatory statements were merely an accessory to the Lanham Act violations. Trademark violations are more readily granted injunctive relief because the irreparable harm is presumed in such cases. Too, Inc. v. TJX Cos., 229 F.Supp.2d 825, 838 (S.D.Ohio 2002), Taubman Co. v. Webfeats, 319 F.3d 770, 778 (6th Cir. 2003).

Wait for it….

This is precisely the opposite of the law surrounding defamation.

Did you feel that slam dunk? I did. He goes on for another page and a half, too.

Standing

I remember studying jurisdiction until I was blue in the face, realizing I’d only begun to scratch the surface, but even I knew that the case had a problem with it.

Some of the comments Plaintiffs complain of specifically address Ms. Engler, who is not a party to this case. While Ms.[Litte’s] statements regarding Ms. Engler are not defamatory, they are also irrelevant unless and until Plaintiffs bring Ms. Engler into this litigation as a plaintiff. Plaintiffs lack the requisite standing to complain on behalf of Ms. Engler. “Elements of standing are an indispensable part of a plaintiff’s case.” Bourke v. Carnahan, 163 Ohio App.3d 818 (10th Dist. 2005). The onus is on Plaintiffs to demonstrate that they have suffered an injury, which is causally related to the defendants’ actions. Id. Plaintiffs are not entitled to recovery for statements made about individuals other than themselves. Statements about Ms. Engler’s personal life are not statements about Ellora’s Cave, and therefore, Plaintiffs lack the standing to sue over those statements.

Then, at the end of that section, Randazza adds:

If Ms. Engler wishes to join this case as a plaintiff, then the statements can be at issue. But, she is not here today, and she should not be permitted to litigate by proxy.

Bond, But Not James

Lastly, Plaintiffs have failed to offer up a bond, in violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(C) and Ohio R. Civ. P. 65(C). Rule 65(C) requires the plaintiff post a bond, in order to ensure that damages may be accounted for, in the event the court later determines that the injunction was wrongly issued.

Per Randazza, it’d need to be a bond of at least $150,000.

Popcorn Good

I think the Internet is getting good popcorn value, here.

: Ellora's Cave / Dear Author Suit Removed to Federal Court

elloras-cave-blog-header
Jane Litte’s attorney, Marc Randazza (aka “First Amendment Badass”) has removed the case to federal court in the Northern District of Ohio. The federal case number is 5:14-cv-02331-JRA.
Additionally, DA has subpoenaed Google about the identity of a specific gmail account. Those were filed with the state court on 10/17.
Because federal court proceedings are almost entirely hidden behind a paywall (except for certain rulings), here’s the Amount in Controversy section from Randazza’s filing. Note that I’ve substituted Litte’s pseudonym for her legal name in the footnote.
I found the note about Ohio not permitting damages to be stated to be quite interesting. I hadn’t known that.

Amount in Controversy

The amount in controversy in this action exceeds $75,000.00. The Plaintiff only seeks a rote “in excess of $25,000” amount, and not a sum certain. Where the plaintiff has not plead any sum certain, in order to remove the case from state court to federal court, the defendant must demonstrate only that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000. Gafford v. Gen. Elec. Co., 997 F.2d 150, 158 (6th Cir.1993).
The Plaintiffs’ prayer for $25,000 is not the result of any omission on their part. Pursuant to the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, if the party seeks more than $25,000.00 in damages, the plaintiff may not specify this in the demand for judgment. Ohio R. Civ. P. 8(A). Therefore, while the complaint only states “in excess of $25,000” on its face, it is clear that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000.
Each plaintiff alleges entitlement to money damages and injunctive relief against each defendant, “in excess of $25,000.00.” This would seem to create an amount in controversy of “in excess of $100,000.” However, even under other possible calculations, the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
Communication with counsel for Plaintiffs has confirmed that Plaintiffs also believe that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000.00, making statements that the amount of damages Plaintiffs will be seeking is quite large and growing. In fact, if Plaintiff were awarded a mere $25,001 (in excess of $25,000) as compensatory damages and twice that amount, or $50,002, as punitive damages, the total damages would be $75,003. The jurisdictional amount in controversy analysis must take into account the availability of punitive damages “unless it is apparent to a legal certainty that such cannot be recovered.” Smith v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 505 F.3d 401, 408 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hayes v. Equitable Energy Res. Co., 266 F.3d 560, 572 (6th Cir. 2001)).
To determine whether the amount in controversy may be satisfied by the availability of punitive damages, the Court may consider verdicts and settlements in similar cases. See Leys v. Lowe’s Home Ctrs., Inc., No. 1:08-cv-1084, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16097, 2009 WL 514291, at &ast;4 (W.D. Mich. March 2, 2009). In Lake County, a jury awarded $750,000 in a similar defamation claim. Blatnik v. Dennison, 148 Ohio App. 3d 494 (Ohio Ct. App. 2002). More recently, in the Southern District of Ohio, a jury awarded $100,000. Young v. Gannett, Case No. 1:10-cv-00483. In another case involving the reputation of a schoolteacher and cheerleader, which must be worth less than the reputation of a large company like Ellora’s Cave, the jury awarded $338,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings LLC, 755 F.3d 398 (6th Cir. 2014) (Overturning jury award due to immunity under 47 U.S.C. § 230).
Not only do similar jury awards support the amount in controversy, but the Complaint and affidavit of Patricia Marks both make it clear that the plaintiffs value this case in excess of $75,000. The complaint alleges that there has been a loss of goodwill and reputational damage to the plaintiffs (Complaint at ¶30) and seeks punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. (Complaint at ¶31, 39, Demand). Further, the Complaint and Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order articulate that the Plaintiffs find the damages to be “irreparable” and apparently of such value that they are “impossible to quantify.” Meanwhile, seeking a TRO against speech must indicate that this is, at least, as important to the Plaintiff as a mere $75,000.
The Plaintiffs quest for injunctive relief and punitive damages are properly included in determining the amount in controversy. See In re Ford Motor Co. Crown Victoria Police Interceptor Prods. Liab. Litig., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29971, 2004 WL 1170145 (N.D. Ohio May 19, 2004); Everett v. Verizon Wireless, Inc., 460 F.3d 818, 829 (6th Cir. 2006) (“The costs of complying with an injunction, whether sought by one plaintiff or many plaintiffs, may establish the amount in controversy”). In this case, the Defendants will attest that complying with the requested injunctive relief would cost them in excess of $75,000. The requested injunctive relief seeks to enjoin the Defendants from publishing anything about the Plaintiffs in any way, and requires that the Defendants violate their promise of confidentiality to their sources. In the event that either injunctive relief were granted, the Defendants would suffer at least $75,000 in losses, and would in fact, likely need to consider going out of business altogether. If a journalist can not protect her sources,1 and if a journalist can be enjoined from writing about one of her primary subjects, then the journalists is surely damaged at least to the tune of $75,000 in either event.
Footnote in above paragraph. Note: I’ve substituted Jane Litte’s pseudonym for her real name.
1 Ms. Litte’s right to protect her sources is of such value in this state that the legislature has chosen to ennoble it by protecting it by statute. O.R.S. § 2739.12. Litte’s home jurisdiction offers the same protection under Iowa’s common law. See Winegard v. Oxberger, 258 N.W.2d 847, 850, (Iowa 1977) (recognizing the “reporter’s privilege); Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier v. Hawkeye Cmty. College, 646 N.W.2d 97, 102 (Iowa 2002) (“The privilege protects confidential sources, unpublished information, and reporter’s notes”). The evisceration of such a sacred right should most definitely be given a value in excess of $75,000.

: Coping With Depression

Robin Williams died, apparently of suicide. He’d been through a recent rehab program; he struggled with both addiction and depression.
For many years, I didn’t realize I struggled with depression. When I became involved in Scientology, the depression got worse, and the costs of admitting I had it rose. I left Scientology in 1989, but I didn’t seek help for my depression until 1997. To ask for “psych drugs” or traditional therapy was counter to all my programming.
At that point, I’d been widowed for a few months. I wasn’t suffering any obvious big-picture depression problems. I cried occasionally, but didn’t go on long crying jags.
I was waiting for my doctor, and read an article about depression. I had many of the secondary problems of depression: total inability to sleep at night (which has plagued me intermittently ever since) being the biggest one. As a secondary effect, my fibromyalgia raged on with the sleep irregularities and never went away.
My doctor prescribed me two antidepressants, one of which was amitriptyline. To this day, I’m still on nortriptyline to help regulate sleep (and thus pain), though I no longer feel depressed. Unless, of course, I go off of it, as I did for a few months. Big mistake.
My doctor told me that when he’d tell depressed people what drugs and/or therapy could do for them, they’d look at him like he was a Martian. My own example: I’d become convinced I’d never write again. It was too painful and too wrapped up in the identities both I and my late husband had.
I started to feel the emotional lift from one of the meds in a few days, and within two weeks I was starting to write again. Medication turned my life around and made it worth living again; I’m unhappy when I can’t write.
I’m thankful that I’ve only been suicidal during one very short period of my life, before my first marriage. I’ve known other people who’ve killed themselves (I tell one such story here), and I always feel sad for them and the people left behind.
Susan, I’m so sorry you lost your husband Robin.
If you’re reading this and struggling with depression: there are sources of help. What worked for me may not work for you, but please try to find something that helps, even if it doesn’t seem immediately effective.

: Amazon, Invoking WW2 and Getting it Wrong

Amazon invokes World War II. (Do Not Linkified because why should they get all the Google juice?)

Also, structure of email opening is remarkably similar to http://t.co/redsJvrNhc from @andrewtshaffer (which has full Orwell quote)

— andrea vuleta (@alv65) August 9, 2014

Except, of course, they said “World War II” rather than 1939 because that carries so much more emotional weight. It’s Godwin’s Law by proxy.
Also, as a technical point, this was an innovation in the US, and the US wasn’t involved in WWII in 1939 (not until Pearl Harbor in December, 1941). Not only that, as Andrew’s article points out, the paperback started in June, 1939, and World War II is generally considered to have started with the Invasion of Poland on 1 September, 1939.
So not only did they invoke WWII for all the emotional baggage it carries, their email opening is factually incorrect.

@alv65 When you google “paperback history” or “paperback revolution,” my story is the first hit. So it’s possible they just crammed it.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF They also twisted the Orwell quote to make it look like he hated paperbacks. Just the opposite: pic.twitter.com/V0M60brNcu

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Looks like they took it—and their opening graf—from my Mental Floss article. I dunno. Crazy no matter what. http://t.co/1TFYAg07TG

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Now that I look back into the quote, looks like he thought paperbacks were good for readers, bad for trade. pic.twitter.com/z09AOFRBuo

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF I still don’t think he was literally suggesting publishers collude, though, which is what Amazon’s letter seems to suggest.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

Then Amazon gives the email address of Hachette’s CEO, but not their own.
Because Amazon wants to play fair, right?
No.

Cora Buhlert Has an Even Better Point

Edited to add Cora Buhlert’s fabulous tweets:

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward Besides, Germany has had paperbacks since 1867.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward And they cost 20 pennies, 25 pennies from 1917 on. I demand a return to the prices of the Second Empire.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward In case you need a reference for the 1867 paperbacks, try this one: http://t.co/xbFhRgpuCm

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

: Model View Culture / Bigger Issues

Elizabeth Spiers’s article about the magazine and its founder Shanley Kane has a great quote relevant to the art vs. artist debate of yore:

But important work gets done every day by flawed people, sometimes even by assholes. No one should be more aware of that than people who work in the tech industry, where many of the vaunted innovators and revolutionaries were not warm, fuzzy people. Ultimately, they’re judged by their work.

If you’re in tech—or interested in tech or diversity issues in tech—Model View Culture is a superb magazine that has no analog.

  1. It talks about how perks can divide people. Been there, done that. Especially when you’re at some doughnut event and they’ve forgotten to cater to the vegan and the celiac. Again.
  2. It talks about acquaintance rape by a coworker.
  3. It has great pieces like this one by Rachel Chalmers on why not to raise venture capital.

Going Beyond Assholes

When I made the Traitor to the Mens t-shirts, I got a note about American Apparel. I’d known about the sexist advertising, but not about how awful the CEO was (he’s still awful, he’s just gotten resigned). Their shirts being produced in the US was important to me for various reasons, including knowing that labor standards and business practices were, at least in theory, up to US standards.
This human slavery story comes out of Thailand’s shrimp industry.
And this story about Scientology’s drydock bill also has, at its heart, human slavery. In short, Curaçao’s drydock was using slave labor from Cuba, people Cuba sent over to do work to pay down Cuba’s drydock bill. They worked under horrific conditions. (The electrocution story reminds me of the tale of Kendrick Moxon, one of Scientology’s attorneys, and his Sea Org daughter who died of electrocution.)
One of my concerns is knowing that I’m doing less harm, and that means knowing more about where things come from and how they’re produced/delivered. And sometimes, there’s a bunch of crappy choices.
You might think that t-shirt made in Nicaragua or Honduras is better because it’s not made by American Apparel.
You know what? Nicaragua has an appalling lack of infrastructure. Many Nicaraguans work part of the year in Costa Rica due to lack of opportunity. As our tour guide said:

We cannot even bag plantains.

So imagine, if you will, given that they don’t have the factory capability to bag plantains, how it is that they’re able to make t-shirts for shirt.woot (among others) but can’t even bag plantains, one of their major crops.
Nicaragua’s the only country I’ve been to where the TV’s world weather pointedly excludes the US and Canada from its list of world cities. They are angry with us and, frankly, they have good reason to be.
It’s not that I don’t want to do business with Nicaragua. To the contrary. I’ve been there twice (short trips, granted). It’s just that, given what I know, I don’t inherently trust that any business has manufacturing in Nicaragua has Nicaraguan infrastructure interests as a design goal.
As Rick has pointed out more than once, “How do you know the company you’re not boycotting isn’t worse?”
Like, you know, Nestlé, and its chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who doesn’t believe human beings have a right to water. Corporations buying up water rights in poor countries is an enormous global human rights issue.
Here, have a list of Nestlé brands for your boycott needs. I’m happy to say that none of my regular brands are on that list. \o/
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the bigger picture because some bad things in front of us seem like the “worst thing ever.” They’re bad, but there are worse things, and I think we need to keep perspective on that.

The Response on the Delany/NAMBLA Stuff Wasn’t What I Expected

No comments on my post, and few on Will’s. None on the LJ repost. None on Tumblr.
Apart from a few people, mostly not in sf/f, being horrified, mostly on facebook.
I get this tweet:

@deirdresm i wish you wouldn’t promote WS. he’s a doxxer, racist sexist abuser, and has hurt a lot of victims of abuse.

— Ann Somerville (@ann_somerville) July 11, 2014

…which leads to a long conversation ending in…

@Cecily_Kane @deirdresm forget it. she’s not interested unless it’s her hobby horse. other victims can go fish

— Ann Somerville (@ann_somerville) July 12, 2014

Hobby. Horse.
Let me pull a quote out from Samuel Delany’s writing about sex with children:

Finally a composite score is reached, and the “seriousness” of the infraction judged accordingly. The consent of a seven-, eight-, or nine-year old is not the same thing as the consent of a seventeen- or eighteen-year old. And the “consent” of a three, four, and five year old means much less—especially if it’s negative. But it must count for something, otherwise you are just saying the child is not human and has no feelings or agency whatsoever—which, in itself, is abusive and counter-intuitive. And, I would maintain, immoral when another possibility presents itself.

Delany’s commented on Will’s post. He stands by what he wrote.
Is that really okay with everyone?

: Greenland, I Love You, Let's Talk

In viewing my map statistics for who’s visited my site, the single largest block of land on the planet from which I’ve had no visitors is Greenland.
Sure, it’s sparsely populated. I don’t think that’s a good reason.
I’ve pondered the flight schedules of Air Greenland, wondering if there were any way to make a trip work for me. So far, not yet. Alas.
Also, no joy with the various cruise companies that come during summer. Much as I’d love to, they just haven’t been in the budget.
Anyhow, if you visit my website from Greenland, and it shows up in my web logs that you have, AND you drop me an email (I’ve placed a handy contact form below), I’ll send you a signed copy of an anthology I was in to your mailing address in Greenland. I’ll also give you electronic copies of my two current releases (one of which is in the book I’ll mail).
It’s not the same as me visiting Greenland, but a girl can hope.
[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

: Birthday Reflections: Favorites from the Last Year

I thought I’d go over some of the things I’ve discovered or loved in the last year, in no particular order.

  1. Johnny B. Truant’s essay, The universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about you. It’s an interesting head trip: by making everything you could possibly do look small, it help reduces fear for the consequences of what you do. Interesting NLP technique there.

    If you want to be awesome in this life, do awesome things.

  2. Bats hangin’ out on a tree. bats-on-tree-edited-sm
  3. Milford. Northern Wales and an amazing workshop. 03-wales-sm
  4. My whirlwind round-the-world tour featuring a visit with friends in New Zealand, more friends in Australia, even more friends in South Africa, and a play with an actor I like in London. 10-table-mountain-sm
  5. Overwerk. Especially when used in the Air Tahiti Nui video.
  6. Tim Grahl and his tips on book and author marketing.
  7. Tiffany Reisz. Bookalicious Pam listed The Siren as one of her favorite novels of the past year. On her recommendation, I inhaled the first four books between Christmas and New Year’s. I think her new book, The Saint, is even better.
  8. James Mickens’s “The Slow Winter” is one of the few short stories ever where Rick and I have quoted random lines to each other. Most frequently, “This does not lead to rising property values in Tokyo!”
  9. Hard-hat behind-the-scenes tour of the newly-opened part of SFO’s Terminal 3. That was pretty sweet, especially the ability to go onto the roof and watch the planes land.
  10. The number of people who search my site for the mongoose joke. (two today!)
  11. All the fun I’ve been having with Society6, Redbubble, and Zazzle. Thanks, everyone.

Here’s a Dihydrogen Monoxide Containment Shield shower curtain.
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And, you know, related stuff….. (same link set as above)
12441662_12087789-mugs11_l
12441662_12087789-mugs11f_l
12441662_12087789-mugs11l_l
12441956_11063764-clkfkhw_l
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12442198_12796713-tsrmw112_l

: "The Duchess's Dress" Is Now Live

Behold, there it is. Available in EPUB formats (for iPad/iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and most other devices) and Kindle (MOBI) format.
It’s been uploaded to other vendors, but isn’t live at any of them yet. I’ll update the book’s page when it is.

: Coming Soon: An Older Story, "The Duchess's Dress"

My birthday’s on Wednesday the 9th, and I’m going to celebrate by doing two things.

  1. I’m going to release an old short story that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. More about that in a minute.
  2. I’m going to discount the pair of short stories I currently have on my site if you buy both directly from me. For a month, so July 9th to August 9th. Yes, the story will also be available through other outlets, including iBooks, Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, though it may take a couple of days to wind up there.

I’ve been thinking about the story because it is the only story I ever submitted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and it received a personal rejection that said it had “no sense of wonder.” This was back before the myriad of forms Marion started sending in lieu of personal rejections.
My writing teacher said, “That’s her problem, not yours.” Yay writing teacher.
More stories of MZB’s infamous rejection letters here.
That particular rejection smarted. Did I think it was the best story ever? No, but it has some interesting stuff in it, and it remains a sentimental favorite of mine.
There are some structural issues in the story that aren’t solvable without killing everything I happen to like about the story.
I no longer read medieval fantasy, nor do I write it, which has left this story in limbo for many years. It was an offshoot of a fantasy trilogy that I never revised, instead writing a tangential book that fundamentally changed the nature of the world. The seer of this story also appears in that book in that new world—which still needs to shift again, orphaning this story even further. It can’t bend that far.
I wrote the first draft in 1992, then revised it lightly when I was in grad school (2001-2004), trying to keep up with at least some of the world’s changes.
Duchess-Cover-700

: This Map Is Humbling

Where people have read my blog from in the last 30 days.
posts-read-around-the-world
…better known as: “more places in the world than I’ve been.” Humbling.
Every country in the Americas except Suriname. Ten more than I’ve visited.
Twenty-two countries in Africa (assuming I counted correctly), which would be nineteen more than I’ve visited (Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa).
Greenland, we’ve gotta talk.
Full list of countries and territories who stopped by in the last 30 days, with ones I’ve been to in italics:
Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Angola
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Bermuda
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil
Brunei Darussalam
Bulgaria
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Chile
China
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
Denmark
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Estonia
Ethiopia
Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
Faroe Islands
Fiji
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Guam
Guatemala
Guernsey
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iraq
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jersey
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Korea, Republic of
Kuwait
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Latvia
Lebanon
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macao
Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritius
Mexico
Moldova, Republic of
Monaco
Mongolia
Montenegro
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
Namibia
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Nigeria
Norway
Oman
Pakistan
Palestinian Territory, Occupied
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico
Qatar
Romania
Russian Federation
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Suriname
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Togo
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkey
Turks and Caicos Islands
Uganda
Ukraine
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Venezuela
Viet Nam
Virgin Islands, U.S.

: Thought for the Day: Human Rights vs. Politics

Human rights only become a political issue when people are inhumane.

: Some Thoughts on the Missing Stair Analogy

[![Collapsed Staircase by Niklas Sjöblom](/images/2014/06/2623267495_5382bdf9b3_o-700x466.jpg)](/images/2014/06/2623267495_5382bdf9b3_o.jpg)Collapsed Staircase by Niklas Sjöblom

I’ve been thinking a lot about the missing stair analogy of late. For those who don’t know it, it’s the concept that people learn how to warn other group members of a specific member’s vile behavior. After a while, because “everyone knows,” they become like a missing stair everyone knows to step over. Except everyone’s not an insider.
Growing up in a household with abuse is like that missing stair, except it’s the missing doorknob to go outside, the missing section of the floor between you and the monsters, and the missing stair (which leads to different monsters). You learn pretty quickly what escalates vs. what does not and how best to cope—which doesn’t mean that it’s all good by any stretch of the imagination.
When you get out into life, having routed around the doorknob-floor-and-stair problem all your life, you really don’t know how to deal with the fact that the world is full of people whose houses have fully-functional stairs, doorknobs, and floors. It had never occurred to you that floors should be actual floors. And they think you’re pretty strange for that odd jump you do five stairs below the landing.
Some of the problems out there—that poor bastard is missing a whole roof—are even worse.
Sometimes your coping strategies will get you into more trouble, especially when you interact with people you think get you but are broken in differently horrible ways.
I remember not long after leaving Scientology, I was dealing with all of these missing-stair-like problems unraveling at once. As I described it one day, I felt like I’d teleported suddenly into a different emotional landscape where I was blindfolded, everything was in an unfamiliar place, and all the furniture was pointy.
That shift was permanent, and it took some time to get used to, but I remember the imagery that went along with trying to describe it.
Really, I stopped putting up with missing stairs.
Photo credit: Niklas Sjöblom

: Ann Leckie on Swearing

Great article by Ann Leckie on swearing.
If I ever got up on James Lipton’s stage and had to answer the Bernard Pivot questions, “What is your favorite word?” and “What is your favorite curse word?” would have the same answer.
As some regular readers may have no doubt figured out, fuck is my favorite word.
It’s not precisely because it’s a curse word, but rather its complex versatility.
Anyhow, I try not to overuse it, but it’s a struggle some days.

: Origin of US Child Abuse Laws

My mother (Cheryl Morris, who’s commented on my blog before) used to be a social worker. Some of the stories she’s told me are horrifying.
Yesterday morning she pointed out that, in the US, child welfare laws came out of the movements to prevent cruelty to animals, something she was surprised by when she became a social worker. After our conversation, she sent me this link from an SPCA site.

In 1874 when the first case of child abuse was alleged, a horribly graphic case of a young girl beaten, it was the ASPCA that was called to advocate for the child. At the time, children were considered property and there were no laws against their abuse. However, there were animal-protection laws in place and the girl was successfully defended by using the animal protection law, since, her attorney argued, she was an animal. Subsequently, Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children rapidly came into existence. The link between violence to children and violence to animals has been studied ever since.

So, there you go.

: Too Many Things, Must Bail on Some

When I agreed to be co-head of programming for Westercon 67 in Salt Lake City, it was before a book decided to bonk me over the head and say in no uncertain terms:

Deirdre, remember that careful timeline you had of all your writing projects? Eff that. I’m the book you should write NOW NOW NOW.

And yes, this book swears at me.
So I carefully figured out what it would all do to my projects, and re-worked everything. You know, like it was my actual day job. (Which it is.)
It looked like I’d have time to do Westercon programming.
However, the book is harder to write than I expected and it’s been fighting me (and I it), and I don’t have the mental space to do that and Westercon programming.
Then there was the heartwrenching trip to Canada to list my mother’s property for sale. (Now sold.)
While I was still fighting that valiantly, the MZB/Breen stuff landed in my space. Do I need to tell you that’s been time consuming and heartbreaking? Moira’s courage to speak has given me a renewed sense of vigor about my own projects. Thank you so much.
On top of that, a few days ago, I got quotes that my book was going to take longer to edit than I’d planned for. It’s not what I wanted to hear, and it was at a time where there was nowhere to cut — except Westercon.
So, even though Michael, Alison, and I have programmed conventions on short notice — I’m slammed, he’s been even more slammed than I am, and Alison’s got her own things going on. None of us can do it alone, so we spent last night, and we’ll spend tonight doing what we can, then the rest will be up to Westercon’s concom.

It’s Not Kate’s Fault

None of this is anyone else’s fault, okay?
I want to be clear that, of all the Westercon concom, Kate Hatcher has been the most amazing. She has kept in communication with people when I haven’t had spoons to, she’s a great person, and I sincerely want to see the best for her in life. I’ve enjoyed Skype chatting with her, and am looking forward to meeting her in person at con.
She came in wanting to do one thing and has taken on far more than that.
Also, my singling her out for praise shouldn’t be taken as criticism of anyone else; it’s not.
I had two immovable objects where, when getting closer to them, I needed to move one of them out of my space to tackle the other. That’s all.
Arguably, I should have been smarter sooner. I just know that I happen to work best under pressure, just sometimes I grossly misestimate how much pressure I’m under (and what the consequences of that are for me, yay fibromyalgia).

In Other News

Various factions have brought up the Samuel Delany/NAMBLA comments. They are googleable, and I don’t want to start a comment thread about that here, okay?
So here are my general statements.

  1. I consider the aims of NAMBLA abhorrent.
  2. That said, I’ve seen no evidence (doesn’t mean it’s not out there; I’m not trying to be willfully ignorant here) that Delany’s position was anything other than intellectual.
  3. He was responding to the contents of their newsletter, which may have been interesting and/or thought-provoking intellectual discussion for all I know.

I am perfectly fine with people discussing abhorrent things. Hell, crime writers do it all the time. Some people have abhorrent desires they don’t act on.
I feel quite differently about crossing the line into child rape.
This is a really horrible analogy, but I haven’t thought of anything better for it in the last week.

  1. I love chocolate cake. My preciousssss. I especially love the fluffy kind with gluten. Mostly I don’t like gluten-free chocolate cake because it mostly fails.
  2. It is bad for me. (celiac)
  3. My thoughts and longings about chocolate cake are not, in and of themselves a problem for my body or society as a whole.
  4. Eating chocolate cake, however, crosses the line.
  5. I had chocolate pudding earlier. It’s not the same thing, but I find it more satisfying than the kind of chocolate cake I can eat and better for me than the kind I can’t.

On Delany/NAMBLA, someone else is going to have to do the research on this because I just don’t have the bandwidth. [Edit: Will Shetterly did.]

Bonus Track: Vibrapshere, Forever Imaginary

This is cheering me up right now.

: My Bag of Fuckall: Now for Real

A week ago, I made and posted this bag mockup.
A couple of people have expressed interest in actually buying one. Sadly, that specific kind of bag is only available for printing in $BIGNUM quantities at $BIGNUM++ prices, which isn’t going to happen.
Zazzle bagThe Zazzle version is a white poly market tote, but has the design front and back.
redbubble-fckall-bagThe Redbubble version is an over-the-shoulder tote. (Yes, it also shows as a pillow, which makes no sense, especially with that layout, but they’re the same “product” as far as graphic uploads go.)
Society6 BagThe Society6 version is my personal favorite. It’s a shoulder bag available in three sizes. The small size is the same as the Redbubble, but it’s also available in two larger sizes. The small size is one penny different in price than Redbubble, but I’ll say this: the artwork is much higher resolution. I think the strap placement is probably better. I can’t speak to any quality differences between the two, though.
I happened to make it in one of my favorite colors, but I’m open to making it in different colors if you’d like.

: The Rage Inducing Problems of Not Requiring Double Opt-In

You’re now connected to Zaid from Amazon.co.uk
Me:You don’t have a menu option for “someone was a dumbass and used my email address for their Amazon account and it’s pissing me off that you let them do so without double opt-in.”
Zaid:Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk. My name is Zaid. May I know your name, please?
Me:Deirdre
Zaid:Hello Deirdre.I understand your concern about the account. I’ll help you with this issue but please refrain from using any inappropriate language.
Me:deirdre@icloud.com needs to be removed from your database.
I don’t know Ms. McCloskey or her email address.
Zaid:Could you please elaborate your issue?
Me:I am not she. She signed up with my email account. I thought that was pretty clear.
Since Amazon doesn’t require confirmation of an email address, that means I’m getting spam.
Zaid:Are you referring that you are receiving e-mails of other person ?
Me:Yes.
Zaid:Thanks for confirmation.
I will help you in changing your e-mail address Deirdre.
Before I’ll be able to view your account, I’ll need to do a quick security check. Would you please confirm the complete name, email address and billing address on your account?
Me:I DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE IT
I AM NOT THAT PERSON
Zaid:I understand, Before I’ll be able to view your account, I’ll need to do a quick security check. Would you please confirm the complete name, email address and billing address on your account?
Me:Please remove MY email address from SOMEONE ELSE’S account.
Get me your supervisor.
How the frak would I even know all that unless I logged into someone else’s account? That’s morally wrong.
Zaid:I’m sorry for the situation.
Before I’ll be able to view your account, I’ll need to do a quick security check. Would you please confirm the complete name, email address and billing address on your account?

: A Privilege You (Probably) Hadn't Considered

It’s obvious to me that no one who ever suffered from chronic pain ever designed a typical grocery store or drug store.
Some mornings, I have difficulty walking. Most mornings, it’s really painful. By really painful I mean: so painful that I have nausea.
Rick and I just went to the grocery store. I spent not ten minutes shopping. By the time we got to the checkout, I was shaking from the pain and overheating (which apparently is a myo symptom).
This is after the pain meds. And by pain meds, I mean tramadol. And gabapentin. And ibuprofen. Just to go to the store.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to Whole Foods. Spent 17 minutes elapsed time. I was shaking, in pain, overheating. Spent a whole day in bed after that.
So, given that kind of thing, I have to ask:

Why is it standard practice to put the pain meds at the back of the store? Or, if not at the back, an equivalently far-from-the-door place?

Especially in a drug store.
If I’m completely out and need ibuprofen now, the one trick I’ve learned is to go to a 7-11, because they keep their stock where the cashier can see it (small, high-value items, y’know). I can buy a single dose, wait a half an hour for the ibuprofen to kick in, then buy the larger quantity from the store that keeps them in the back.
I’d like to ship the pain to those people who make the store layout decisions. Bah.

: I'm Transferring fuzzyorange.com

Note: I’m posting this because some of you happen to have a fuzzyorange.com email address for me deep in your archives.
It has already ceased to work.
I registered this domain in 2001, and had used it for a while, but it’s really just been a spam trap for me in recent years.
The more I think about what I want to do, the less the name fits.
The source of the name wasn’t, as you might think, related to our propensity for ginger cats (which, btw, is a coincidence, not a design). It was some smartass line about (stock) options trading back when I was studying financial derivatives.
There’s a Scottish consultancy that’s made a great brand out of the name Fuzzyorange, and so I offered it to them. I wasn’t looking for money. I just felt it fit them better than it fit me.
Also, no one pressured me, approached me trying to buy me out, or acted uncool in any way. Given the assumptions when bigger name swallows up an individual’s or small company’s domain name, I also wanted to say that.
For a while after our cat died, I used the following picture of Scruffy and Captain Jack on the site, so here it is again. I love this photo. Miss them both, our little fuzzy oranges.
Scruffy and Captain Jack

: Vacation vs. Real Experience and Answers vs. Questions

“I’m an expert on Africa because I took a vacation.” @cynthia_ward’s shorter Bryan Thomas Schmidt on Resnick.

— Nisi Shawl (@NisiShawl) May 28, 2014

(My recollection is that Resnick has been to Africa quite a few times and for fairly long stays for a vacation, but the sentiment is still a valid point.)
I travel all over the place.
I do not confuse that with knowing what it’s actually like to be from those places or being of those peoples.
I don’t travel to feel like I know “all about” something. Yet, I can encapsulate the gist of my experience, while recognizing that experience is from a place of (mostly) privilege.
I travel because it makes me question my assumptions in ways that reading does not. I travel because it makes me think. I travel because going around the world has given me a feel for its size and heft that not traveling did not. It’s about as long a flight from Johannesburg to London as it is from London to San Francisco or Bangkok to Johannesburg. And, for the record, I do not recommend doing them as close together as I did last year on my two-week “Jet Lag World Tour.” (San Francisco – Wellington, NZ – Melbourne, AU – Bangkok, TH – Cape Town, ZA – London – home)
I travel because it raises more questions than it answers.
For me, the single biggest boon to writing is having more questions.
Charles A. Tan wrote about the recent submissions call for stories about Africa.
Would I have felt comfortable submitting to any of the anthologies Tan links to? No. However, I have a feeling I’d have been welcome to submit to the problematic one. Save for, you know, being a feminist and all.
I’ve been to three countries in Africa: Egypt (in 2007), Morocco (in 2011), and South Africa (in 2013). This means that, among white Americans, and especially white American women, I’m probably in the top 1/2 of 1% as far as direct experience with Africa. Maybe even higher up than that.
The problem is that between those three trips, I have a grand total of a week spent on the ground. The first two were two-day cruise stops (with one day spent in one city and one day in another), and the third was part of a 14-day around-the-world trip.
I also haven’t mentioned the cruise stop details before. We were shepherded onto buses, and each bus had an armed guard. The buses traveled together with a police escort. Think about how deep an experience you can have in that context. Even so, the cruise line (NCL) stopped going to Morocco after that because of the complaints about it. I thought it was a fantastic experience and would love to go back. No, it is not Geneva, but I went because it wasn’t Geneva.
For a moment that struck me with wonder: we visited the king’s palace in Rabat, Morocco. As we’re getting off the bus, the call to prayer starts. For smaller mosques, the call to prayer is often a recording. As this particular adhan started, the muezzin’s voice cracked. I don’t know why that moment of realizing it was actually live (not Memorex) sent chills down my spine, but it did.
I also don’t want to give the impression that I’m merely a tourist. I studied Middle Egyptian at Stanford Continuing Studies before I went. I actually wanted to arrive in Egypt understanding something more than what a tour guide would tell me. Unfortunately, arguing with an obnoxious vendor at Giza, I ran out of spoons for visiting the solar barque. Sigh.
In South Africa (Cape Town), I went to visit a friend, one I helped get out of Scientology back in the day. But still I was staying at a hotel. Cape Town has some of the highest disparity between income levels of any place in the world. So, when my iPhone was stolen, I was annoyed, but I couldn’t really feel angry about it.
Maybe it’s my time in Scientology, but I’ve come to mistrust people who seem to have answers, especially if they’re overly comfortable with those answers. And it feels like that call is looking for people with answers.
It bothers me that I’ve probably “interacted with” three cultures enough for that particular submissions call.
Know what I mean?

: I Think My Guardian Angel Is on an Acid Trip

This was my response to someone’s line about their guardian angel.
guardian angel 700x980

Available Now

On Redbubble in T-shirts and stickers.
On Søciety6 in prints, pillows, mugs, tote bags, wall clocks, and as a shower curtain. Styles for tech cases will be uploaded soon.
#3 Design element credits

Bonus

Feel free to spread around the image at the head of this post or the following earlier version:
acid-trip-first-700
It’d be nice to have a link back to desamo.graphics, deirdre.net, redbubble.com/people/desamos, and/or society6.com/desamo, but it’s not required.

: Cutoff Culture, Again

So, not long after my cutoff culture post, I see a note in my spam box that’s clearly from ex numero dos. Unintentional, granted, as it looks like his account’s been hacked.
But what the fucking hell am I doing in his contact list anyway?

Chuck,
What’s really creepy is how many times and in how many ways I have to tell you not to contact me.
No, I don’t want you to be my Facebook friend.
No, I don’t want you to add me on LinkedIn.
No, I don’t want to be in your Google+ circles.
No, I don’t want to follow you on [X}, where X is any service out there.
I obviously can’t stop you from reading my blog, in which case you might have read this:
https://deirdre.net/exes-and-cutoff-culture/
Since you probably don’t recognize yourself in that, you’re #2.
But, you know what? Get a life. Stop being so creepy. Remove me from your email contacts, ’cause that’s just not gonna happen.
Sorry to send this to other people, but his account was obviously hacked, and he’s always had a bunch of sockpuppets, so I’m not sure which of you are real and which are the email addresses he’s actively using. So long as the message is received and honored, I don’t care.
Adding this to my blog because reasons.

Fucking hell.

: Equal Marriage: Are We Really Halfway There?

My friend Deana pointed out that, as of today, there are 18 states (plus D.C.) who offer equal marriage, and an additional 7 states where marriages are on hold pending appeals.
That’s half the states, folks.
Plus Illinois will start issuing licenses on June 1, and we’re expecting to hear from Pennsylvania tomorrow.
As a note, I prefer the term “equal” marriage to “gay” marriage or “same-sex” marriage as the latter two erase, among others, those who may feel like they have straight relationships, but their biology is complex.

[![Source: Wikipedia](/images/2014/05/Samesex_marriage_in_USA.svg_-700x433.png)](/images/2014/05/Samesex_marriage_in_USA.svg_.png)Source: [Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Samesex_marriage_in_USA.svg)

: Exes and Cutoff Culture

If the expected added benefits exceed the expected added costs, do it. If not, don’t. — Marc McNeil, my econ prof

Several people have responded recently to a guy’s failure to understand why his ex-girlfriend wants no contact. I was particularly moved by Ferret’s response.
I have something of a secret: I’ve never actually dated in the traditional sense. I always went out with people I’d gotten to know already, so it was more a “Hey, I don’t just like talking with you, I’d like more” thing. Given that, cutting people off was (and is) really hard because it typically meant straining my social group, too.

Tale the First: I Got Cut Off

When I was in college, I dated a guy. Around Christmas that year, he seemed to be reluctant to make plans. I found out he’d started seeing someone else before ending it with me. I called him repeatedly to try to figure out what was going on before I knew that.
He, rightfully, cut me off.
He wanted to start a relationship with someone else. Granted, he handled it badly (he did not communicate that he wanted to see other people, plus we had made tentative plans then he went radio silent about them), but so did I. I still have no idea what happened from his perspective. Would I like to know? No one likes that kind of a mystery hanging. But if that’s the kind of person he was, it wouldn’t have worked out even if I’d been more perfect. Clearly, from his perspective, I wasn’t what he needed.
As it happens, I was wondering what happened to him the other day and googled. I found out his mom had died a few years ago, and the description of her in her obit made me smile. She’d been into surfing until late in life, and made Hawai’ian shirts and ran a beachwear shop for a living after I’d known her. It made me wish I’d known her better.
On the off chance he ever reads this: L, I’m sorry I was an ass.

Tale the Second: I Cut Someone Off (but too late)

This one’s really hard to write because there’s so much to it.
I was working for Scientology when I met X (not his initial), who was working as tech support for a program I was using at Scn to write our payroll software. (Scientology payroll is its own weird beast.)
X was, and is, a born-again Christian. So, let’s put it this way: the fact that we were not compatible in that respect was known at the outset. However, X was lapsed, so we started seeing each other. Then, when we started getting serious, he stopped wanting to have sex. He’d realized that his faith was important to him. Suddenly, it was crucial. So to speak.
So then I started going to church with him for a while, and there was a moment that made me realize that I definitely wasn’t in the right place nor with the right person. We were at his church, and they were singing Old Rugged Cross. He was crying.
I was trying hard not to laugh.
I’d never heard it as a hymn. But I’d heard Leslie Fish’s filk (“Stone Dance”) set to the tune; the chorus is:

So we’ll dance ’round the stone menhir ring,
‘Till the flames and the fire have died down.
We’ll emote, slit a goat’s throat and sing,
Then get dressed and drive back into town.

That was the moment when I accepted that I was just never going to fit in anywhere—and that was okay.
It was a few weeks before I ended it. He really genuinely never understood. He thought that if I’d just convert to Christianity, it’d be all better. What he never seemed to get was that the person he wanted wasn’t me.
So we remained friends, after a fashion; we’d started a business together and I still wanted to make a go of that. I started dating D some time later, and he was mean to D, and I just snapped at X.
The problem with that kind of behavior is that it fed who X was.
As a born-again Christian, X had bought into the idea that men should be the head of household and the wife should submit to the man. Catch is, X was a sub and into humiliation. (And I am not a domme—or a sub—but that’s another story. I will say that probably the most common BDSM practice I genuinely don’t get is, in fact, humiliation.) So he had an intractable problem in that his choice of faith was at odds with who he was, and his preferred life partner was at odds with his choices and needs. His life started a downward spiral at that point.
Because it was intractable, he wasn’t dating. Also, he hadn’t given up on me yet. The only way to get his needs met was to have a significant female in his life chewing him out.
Which led to bad behavior (e.g., how he treated D) and my response to it. Meanwhile, I can be a mean person, and I was all too happy to have an outlet for that. Except that he was creating drama and I was feeding off of it.
This went on for years. I moved across country, had several significant relationships, and married. Then was suddenly widowed. After that one-year period when you’re not supposed to make significant life changes, I decided to move back to Orange County and got a job offer.
I did, but then I needed a place to stay. X had a room available. He was living alone in a 3-bedroom house at the time. His hoarding had gotten so bad that he wasn’t able to live in his bedroom any more. (Later, it got even worse.)
I got him a job interview at the company I started at. He was hired.
His parents invited me over for Easter dinner that year. It became obvious that he’d told them that he expected us to resume our relationship and that he was going to ask me to marry him.
One morning, I found him outside my bedroom door hovering. I woke up suddenly. It was creepy.
I was in an awful situation. I’d paid out everything I had for my late husband’s final medical bills after his stroke (and there were more bills than money), I’d just moved across country, and I had $60 left when I arrived. I couldn’t afford to move again.
I wound up asking my employer (who’d already given me a signing bonus that I used to get out of my lease and move everything) for an emergency advance so I could afford to move again. I spent my work days pretending that my ex hadn’t been inappropriate so I could demonstrate that I could work with the ass. I did, however, tell my closest work partners (and my boss, embarrassingly enough) so that they would have my back.
It didn’t end then. I wish I could say it did, but it didn’t.
A few years ago, I realized that, for many, many years, there’d been nothing positive for me in the relationship. I missed the good parts of who he was back when I met him, but I have other friends who share those things with me now, and I don’t need that from X any more.
Instead, a flaw in my character exploited one of his needs, and he also took advantage of that. Unlike a true domme, though, I wasn’t doing it out of a place of respect or control. I had no intention of taking the relationship further, but he kept not giving up hope. In that sense, cutting him off would have been kinder to him.
I don’t miss his racism. He’s one of those Limbaugh-listening Republicans, so I don’t miss that either. (This was not how he was when I met him, to be clear.)
Clearly the reverse isn’t true. I’ve gotten LinkedIn requests, Facebook requests, and follows on Google Plus.
No. Just no.
If I’d cut him off at some appropriate point earlier on, I’d have been in a better place. I should have, and I didn’t. Lesson learned.

Tale the Third: I Get Cut Off

Between the time when I left X and moved back to the area, I dated a guy I had a total crush on. We’ll call him P.
In my “I’m not thinking about the implications of what I’m saying” moments, I said something that, truly, is the kind of thing no one should ever say to anyone. Worse, when he angrily called me on it, I got defensive and made it worse.
There was something about him that changed my life. It truly was an inflection point of my life, and I have no idea why. It wasn’t, however, an inflection point for his.
That’s another valuable lesson, though: just because someone is that person who can reach in past your boundaries and cause your little house of cards to shift irrevocably does not mean you do the same for that person.
Should he ever find this: I’m sorry I was a total jerk. I’m sorry I made it worse. Thank you, you really did change my life for the better. I hope yours has worked out.

Tale the Fourth: I Cut Someone Off After Finding them Again

I’ve also talked about a fourth case where I cut someone off. The other point: in terms of longevity over years, he’s the person I dated the longest apart from Rick. I even dated him around X and P. Which—should tell you something. He never was that person in my life. If he were honest, he’d admit that I was never that person for him, either. I wish that we’d been able to be friends and talk about things we enjoyed, but we can’t be.

Possibly the Most Relevant Points

The me of today would date exactly zero of these four people, though I’d be most tempted by P.
If you can actually genuinely be friends with an ex and that works for you, then go for it. But realize that there are two (or more) people involved, and those people may have different answers and for different reasons. Respect that.
No one owes you an answer.
No one owes you insight. Corollary: The insight you have about why is likely wrong.

: Conserving My Time and Energy

I’m in the middle of one big project. I also have a medium project that may cause slippage past acceptable dates of my big project.
I have no extra time to spend. I blow time on Twitter when I’m between project bursts. That’s my outlet. I occasionally check in on facebook, though not every day, and I don’t see everything.

How I Work

I need large, uninterrupted swaths of time. Those are far rarer than you’d think.
I turn off notifications when I’m working. Therefore, I may not see whatever until I’m not working. I’m working almost all of my waking hours, seven days a week. That’s what I need to do.
What I need are asynchronous forms of communication right now: email, IRC, Twitter. That way I can deal with them when I can.
NOT Facebook chat. No phone calls. No text messages. And, especially, no voice mail. Most of the time, I delete voice mail without listening to it unless it’s from household members. This is especially true if the voice mail comes from an unknown number. Voice mail is a pain in the ass.
I sort my email into mailboxes. I read everything that’s left in my inbox every day. I will not necessarily respond to everything unless it actually requires a response. If you accidentally wind up in my (rather aggressive) spam queue, it may take 3-4 days before I check all my unread spam, fish out any false positives, and mark the rest read.
Please spell carefully. A friend said an email he’d sent recently went unanswered, but I hadn’t received one. You have to spell my first name twice in order to reach me. Correctly. (I’m also amazed at the number of people who do that, but then misspell my first name in the body of the email.)
Also, I am not your e-mail monkey.

I Have a Lot of Projects

I have these projects—books that you probably already know about. And this new site to focus on one project type. You probably didn’t know about this project. Though you’ve heard about these. (and some of you rolled your eyes, no doubt) And I mentioned this once, but forgot to mention the second thing I put up.
See what I mean? Taken together, it’s a lot of stuff.
Which I totally need to get back to. Later!

: D. S. Moen vs. Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Lis Mitchell asks:

Have any of my SF writing sisters ever considered writing with a neutral or masculine pseudonym? (Just curious what reasons, if so.)

Well, I do, but not to hide the fact that I’m female, though that is a side effect.
My reasons:

  1. When I was at Clarion, Patrick Nielsen Hayden sat down across from me one night and said, “You have three names, all of them difficult to spell.” My response? “You’re one to talk.” He had a point. Thus, my future submissions had the byline of D. S. Moen.
  2. Because, like the Nielsen Haydens, my last name is non-obviously compound, I realized that it would be easier to consistently ensure my readers could find my work on a shelf if my work were consistently shelvable. Then again, I did work at a bookstore that had a hangtag in the Ms that pointed out that Gabriel Garcia Marquez was shelved under “Garcia Marquez,” so I’m perhaps more aware of that issue than most.
  3. I realize that my name is not only difficult to spell, but difficult to pronounce, thus I felt it was easier. While I’m constantly bemused by people’s attempts to pronounce Saoirse (hint: “Sounds Like Weird” is a hint for pronouncing both Deirdre and Saoirse), I’m not cruel about it.

I love the ethnicity of my name.
I love the fact that Deirdre anagrams as: dire red.
I love that Saoirse anagrams as: a rose is.
I love that Moen anagrams as: omen.
All together: red rose is a dire omen.
Which is just awesome. I didn’t plan it, it just happened that way.

: I'm a Rebel (and What That Means)

Some time ago, I realized I’d missed the two opening rounds of tickets for this year’s World Domination Summit and added myself to the notification list for the third round. And promptly forgot about it.
Over the weekend, I’d gotten an email reminding me that more tickets would be available soon, so I went over to the website and read up on the speakers.
I watched this completely amazing (to me) talk by Gretchen Rubin from last year’s conference.

Gretchen Rubin from Chris Guillebeau on Vimeo.
The segment about the Rubin Tendencies (begins around 19 minutes in), four different ways of approaching internal and external motivation was revelatory for me.
If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a link to descriptions, from which I’ve excerpted the following short quote:

Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves

(I also think there’s an inverse to the Obliger, which I’ve labeled Self-Obliger for the moment.)
It’s like someone explained my life to me in a way I suddenly understand.
Now, some of us pretend to be one of those that we’re not. And we can have tendencies in other directions. I’m a Rebel with Questioner tendencies, and I’ve gotten through life by masquerading a Questioner.
But I’m not, and the façade is exhausting.
It leads to long stretches of anxious busy instead of katamari busy.

So How Do You Motivate Yourself?

I’m a very in-the-moment person, and I suspect many Rebels are. We make choices without necessarily considering long-term implications. Yet, many Rebels wind up in either the clergy or military/police, which are very structured.
My preference is for well-defined loose structure: several large constraints but without a lot of rules, but where the structure is consistent. I prefer large swaths of nothing on my calendar. A day feels “busy” if it has one timed item on it, no matter how short that time slot is. This week, I have timed items on my calendar three days in a row, and that feels impossible.
Thus, I’ve tended to work best on long projects where I don’t have a lot of daily (or weekly) milestones that are externally imposed, but can proceed making progress at my own pace.
The catch is what motivates me: whatever it is I’m doing has to be the most interesting thing to do in the world at that moment.
And I’m a person who’s fascinated by a lot of things.
You see the inherent problem here.
Squirrel!
There are a couple of other things that motivate me.
The thing I want to do can be the thing I most want to do in that moment. I can work on talking my way into that being something I really want to do. “Wouldn’t you enjoy eating something better for you than this bad thing? If you cooked it, you could have that.”
Like most rebels, I’m motivated by a realistic challenge.
A funny story of my teen rebel years. I wanted to take college classes while I was in high school, but the high school counselor said I couldn’t because it was against the law. Went to the library, photocopied the law (which, btw, said the exact opposite), came back and pointed out it said nothing of the kind. He still wouldn’t let me go to college, so I actually switched schools to the alternative school. My senior high school year, I had English, Physics, Horticulture, and (I can’t make this one up) Independent Study Table Tennis. In college, I took French, Calculus, and some other stuff.
Not many people would have done that at age 16.
On the flip side, I genuinely have never given a fuck about my GPA except where it has mattered for some goal I was trying to achieve. Instead, I’m that asshole who took notes during class, dutifully copying down all the professor’s jokes, never looked at my notes, never studied, often never bought the textbook—and aced the test. Obviously, I hated project classes unless the project was The Best Thing Ever.
Yet I wound up not only with a BA but also an MS (Computer Science) and an MA (Writing Popular Fiction). However, when I went back for the “F” (my MA program turned into an MFA program), my brain balked. I wound up dropping out because I realized that, for me, the money/energy/time was better spent on world travel.
That short stint in the MFA program led directly to the book I’m now working on, though, so it wasn’t a waste of time.

How This Affects My Writing Process

Given what I’ve told you already, do you think I’m a planner or a pantser? (Pantser refers to someone who writes “by the seat of their pants,” meaning without an outline or plan.)
Yep, pantser.
My attempts to outline ahead of time essentially wind up like this:

Outline says: “Jake wants rents a boat and discovers a long-rumored sea monster.”
What I actually write: Jake gets mugged while hiking in the mountains.
Me, arguing with mss/outline, “But…!”
Brain: Denied.

At the point where they diverge, I can’t even think.
Or, if I’m trying to interview characters ahead of time:

Me: “So what do you really want out of life?”
Character: “If you followed me around, you’d know this shit.”
Me: “…?”
Character: Turns back to me, and, like a cat, thumps her tail loudly on the wooden floor.

Fuck that shit.
I just can’t do an outline before I do the work. If it doesn’t lead to an outright block, what it does is drain the “new” energy out of the piece. That “new” energy is exactly why I like writing. I feed on it.
Some day, when I dig through this pile of stuff, I’ll upload the “outline” I did for grad school when I had to turn one in. Basically, I reasoned that I had X deadlines throughout the program, and each of those deadlines would be a chapter, and therefore I had X chapters to write. I was in a restaurant that had paper placemats, so I moved my plate aside and wrote down a short phrase (2-5 words) for each chapter.
That got me through the first draft, and it stuck.
I can only do that once I’m to a certain point in writing a piece, though. I generally have to start blind, write down a few ideas, and then Just Start Writing. I usually start at the beginning. In a short piece, I usually need to write the ending (so I know where I’m going) before I write the middle, but even that’s not consistent.
I often write longer books out of order, which I’m doing with the current book.
I keep a list of things I want to accomplish in the piece at the top of my document, and I’ll just delete those items as I use them. It’s not an outline, it includes all kinds of things like places, characters to introduce, a scene I want to write but don’t know where it goes, etc. Most of the items are plot pieces, though. (This was easy when I was writing in Byword, but not so easy in Scrivener, and I need to figure out a way that works for me in Scrivener. In Byword, I just peeled off a chapter as I finished it and kept writing in the same working document.)
When I know the order of those items, I’ll move them into order at the top before any of the unordered items.
At some point, usually 1/4 to 1/3 of the way in, I hit a wall. I know I’ve hit the wall when my productivity slumps and every time I write I feel like I have more questions than answers. Often those questions include, “Does this really go here?”
That’s when I need to start organizing a loose outline. It’s not what I’m keeping at the top of the document, but something more like a short synopsis.
The important thing here, though, is that it’s when the number of raised questions exceeds my comfort level. That’s something that happens organically during writing.

I’m Not Uncomfortable with Open Questions

I’ve discovered that I’m happier with more open questions than the average person.
As a real example of that, last year my boss told me a week before I was headed out on a long trip that I needed to cut it in half. I made a bunch of changes to my itinerary, but one of the questions that was left open was how I was going to get home from South Africa. I had a tentative plan in place, but it didn’t meet the constraint he’d set. Close, though.
I don’t know how many people would set off on a trip with such an important detail hanging. But I did.
Did it bother me? Only insofar as I wanted to meet my boss’s constraints.
I trusted that I had the ability to return from South Africa. After all, as an experienced traveler, I know how to work the system, and I know that there is a system. Plus, there’s always the “pay more cash for what you really want” option, even though that’s not the way I preferred to do it. So I waited for something to open up, and returned via London, catching a show I’d wanted to see.

Part of My Process is Trust

Trust that I can make it work, trust that I will make it work. When it’s something I haven’t done before, I worry, but then I remind myself that I’ve done similarly complex things before.
I trust in my ability to be resourceful and adapt to new information.
One of the things I know I’ll need to do for an upcoming project is to make a small font. I have no fucking clue how to make a font. Worse, I’m going to have to learn Illustrator for some of the mockups I’m working on, and I’ve been resisting learning that for about 25 years.
I know I can do it, though. I just haven’t had a real need to before now. I’m excited about it because I know it’ll be interesting and different. Yay.
That’s the single hardest piece of the stuff I’m doing. I am working on other things (to go with the font), and it’s all new and fun.

World Domination Summit

Getting back to the start of this post, why yes, I am going to the World Domination Summit. July in Portland, Oregon. Fun times.
I’ve also updated my events page with other places I’m going to be this year.

: Coming Monday: "Tool of the Matriarchy" T-Shirts

Tool-of-the-Matriarchy-Print-mockup
“Tool of the Matriarchy” is an expression mentioned in the series of John Scalzi’s tweets that led to the “Traitor to the Mens” t-shirts.
I’ve been working on getting the right look to try to communicate the intended tone with something that’d print well. I just haven’t been feeling really well (yay fibro), so I’m going to take the weekend off and have it ready Monday morning.
I’m really enjoying this t-shirt thing. Back in the day, I used to do abstract screen prints in like 5-10 layers and print my own shirts, doing all the photo separations myself. I’ve always enjoyed screen printing, though I haven’t done any in ages.
Then, once upon a time, there was a very limited series of Deirdre’s Pet Geek t-shirts.
I’ve designed other t-shirts, including a convention t-shirt for BayCon one year, and a couple of commissions over the years.

: Deviant Art's Dark Patterns: Ripping Off Indie Artists

Rismo made this rather awesome piece and posted it on Deviant Art. Hot Topic started selling the t-shirt.
No one paid Rismo.
Did Hot Topic rip off Rismo?

No, Deviant Art did through a dark pattern.

See below for update.
Here’s DA’s Submission Policy.
deviant-art-sublicense
Check out d:

the right to sublicense to any other person or company any of the licensed rights in the Artist Materials, or any part of them, subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.

and 6:

6. Payment Unless otherwise agreed between Artist and deviantART in a writing from deviantART, the license granted to deviantART under this Agreement is royalty-free.

Royalty. Free.
In other words, by uploading your artwork to Deviant Art, you allow them to sell to Hot Topic—and anyone else worldwide—and pay you nothing.
And there’s no way to opt out, at least not on my account.

Update: Deviant Art’s Response

We intend to employ similar methods to allow syndication of art work, like the daily top favorites and even the ability to stream your gallery to your personal website. We couldn’t do this and things like this without third party rights because RSS feeders, blogging services and the like are third parties.
So they say that it’s just for promotion of your work on DA via normal service-type operations that involve DA.
Fact is, though, they absolutely could do what was originally claimed if I’m reading the submission terms correctly.

Update 2: Deviant Art’s Denial of Art Sale to Hot Topic

Text here. Thank you to commenter Kira Spoons for finding it, as I hadn’t checked up on this topic today.
Still, 3d of their submissions policy is overly broad and appears to permit that royalty free.

: Trip, Days 3-6: Heartbreak, RCMP, and Hazmat

In the mid-80s, my mom and my late stepfather moved up to Vancouver Island. They lived in Port Alberni for a time, then built a house on almost 13 acres of land in Courtenay.
Her former partner’s been living in it as the caretaker. He hasn’t mentioned any maintenance issues. He hasn’t mentioned no running water in the kitchen.
That may be, in part, because this is the kitchen….

this-was-a-kitchen
I’m going to call him jerkwad because that’s as polite as I can be.
Our last few days went something like this:
Saturday: met with listing agent, met briefly with jerkwad when he brought stuff from the house to our hotel.
Sunday: visited the outside of the house, where we got a sense of maintenance issues. Roof looked dodgy to me. Jerkwad would not let my mother in the house. I was shocked at how poorly cared for it was on the outside. Then again, I do remember the place when it was almost new.
Monday: went with listing agent to the house. Jerkwad let her in, but not my mom. Listing agent was trying to talk to me while jerkwad was talking to mom. I wrote on agent’s pad that mom feared the house would be a total writeoff. Agent said she thought I was right, just based on what little she’d seen. We regroup with agent later on in the day and mom lists the property as is for a lot less than she’d been intending to.
Tuesday: Mom calls jerkwad, tells him she’s coming over.
He leaves a note in a box that basically reads as he’s not giving her permission to enter. Mom starts to call the RCMP, but I point out that it’s safer for us to visit their office rather than wait on property. So we go.
RCMP points out (I already knew this) that it may be complicated as to whether he’s even considered a tenant since he was supposed to be a caretaker. The constable calls jerkwad, who suddenly says of course we can enter the property.
It’s a total hazmat zone. There are rat/mice droppings. The kitchen is, well, you saw it above.
The place isn’t even up to being a teardown. It’s vile and disgusting.
This used to be the beautiful custom home my parents designed and hoped to live in the rest of their lives.

: Kate Bornstein Needs Your Help

Note: Fixed link, which was broken initially. Oops!
I don’t know how many of you know who Kate is. I’ve known of her for quite a few years, but it was only a couple of years ago that I realized she was also an ex-Scn.
Here’s a long piece in the Village Voice written when her book A Queer and Pleasant Danger came out. Long story short: she’s one of the few trans* people to come out about their experiences in Scientology, and the first to be really public about it. She transitioned in the 80s. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she legally changed her name to Kate on the very day that L. Ron Hubbard died.

Kate describes, perhaps better than anyone has before, what it was like to become a dedicated Sea Org member during Scientology’s more freewheeling heyday. – Tony Ortega

Of the Sea Org members who’ve worked directly with L. Ron Hubbard in some capacity, Kate’s the third to write and publish their story. (Nancy Many and Jefferson Hawkins are the other two.)
Anyhow, she has lung cancer. Or, more accurately, her lung cancer’s back. She’s got a fundraiser going on. If you’re inclined to donate, here’s the link. If not, I recommend her book.
Kate’s Twitter, where you can verify that link comes from her.
Kate’s blog, which is currently down due to a Typepad DDoS.
Here’s a video of Kate reading from her book.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4781uQv7fE

: Expressiveness and Disbelief

I’ve been kicking this post idea around in my head almost a year, ever since I sat in front of a computer working on a fan site wondering if I’d gone mental. Adding to the surreality was working at a glass desk over the shallows of the Indian ocean — hardly normal for me.
Backing up a bit, several of us were fans of a particular actor and role on a particular show that was, as is often the case, canceled. It was obvious the actor in question hadn’t found additional work in the US and would return home to Australia soon. One night, a Twitter direct message conversation spawned between myself and another fan, and I up and registered a fan site domain on the spur of the moment.

The Site That Almost Wasn’t

The following morning, I was scheduled to leave for Tokyo.
No worries, I thought, it’s a few bucks. If I still think it’s a good idea in when I arrive in Tokyo, I can do something about it.
Or, you know, not.
Honestly, I almost didn’t. It’s putting one’s self out there a lot and it’s a lot of work, not to mention an implied ongoing commitment. Making a fan site is adopting someone as “your people,” only they don’t really get a say the other way.
Plus, back when I was a teen, a friend of mine and I were singing at Disneyland in the annual Christmas Hallelujah Chorus thing, and Jimmy Stewart was the big actor there that night. My friend was a total fan. Just loved him. Unfortunately, he was a total jerk that night, and it broke her fannish little heart. Sometimes, we’d rather keep our fannish things to ourselves.
From the other end of things, I remember the first time I saw a positive review for one of my pieces. I was stoked. This person probably will never understand why I think they are so totally awesome—even if they never feel the same about anything else I ever do.
Back to the site…I got to Tokyo. Kinda freaked out. Emailed someone who ran a different fan site:

I’ve just bought a domain for a Ryan Johnson fan site, but it’s the morning after and I’m having cold feet, so please tell me that you’ve had some positive feedback from someone other than me. 🙂

This is where people you don’t know from Adam will leap to help you.

Most people in the limelight are happy with a fansite, as long as it goes easy on the gushing, treats them as human beings without objectifying them and respects their private lives.

Which is really good advice for dealing with anyone, and not different than I’d planned. I can’t handle the fan sites that are populated by stalkerazzi photos. I hope that fan site runner gets some happy feedback from their person eventually.
However, it was a couple more weeks before I told Rick about the fan site, though that was partly because I was in the Maldives and he was not….

Stuff I Learned

I’ve always thought of myself an audio person rather than a visual person. In high school, I was in band, marching band, orchestra, dance band, and choir at the same time. I studied sound recording (audio and film) in college. I’m generally more interested in how someone sounds than how they look.
I’ll often identify actors by voice long before I recognize their face (due to lighting, makeup, and the general chameleon-like nature of actors in their profession).
However, suddenly having (way) more than a thousand pictures of an actor’s career in front of me and having to pick and choose which made the cut and which didn’t — things started to click.
I’ve never really liked animated movies. Sure, I can enjoy them, but I never deeply bond with them. If you asked me why, I’d have said: the limited facial expressiveness doesn’t bridge my suspension of disbelief.
And that’s true, as far as that answer goes, but the real answer runs far more deeply than that, and I really had never put two and two together.
People’s facial expressiveness mattered to me far more than I realized. I tend to take people at face value, and I realized that I was getting far more of that “face value” from facial expression than I’d been aware of.
I started thinking about people I liked—the colleague you joke with, the person who sticks out at an event you attend—and realized that many of them had more expressive faces than average.
And, unfortunately, people whose faces are less expressive than average are generally people whose faces aren’t as memorable for me unless they say something that’s particularly memorable.
As I sorted through the pictures and tried to get good screen captures for the fan site I was building, I finally understood a whole lot more about why I hated YouTube so much, why I preferred Vimeo, why I liked BluRay and hated standard def, and why I generally loathed streaming media. The lossiness of video, particularly streaming formats, cuts a lot of the facial expression detail. I kept feeling like I was watching Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when his face was melting—not because of any issue with the acting or production, but because of the quality of the video I was viewing.
So while the fan site wasn’t a project I undertook to understand more about myself—it really was “Dude, I love your work”—it helped anyway.
I was nervous and strung out about announcing it, but he was very kind. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of all the pictures, but this one’s on my short list.

: Serious Indiegogo Question

For the purposes of this question, let’s assume the following are exactly as stated.

  1. Someone puts up an Indiegogo campaign.
  2. There are complaints about the campaign, and it’s arguably right on the edge of the TOS boundary.
  3. There are contributions to the campaign.
  4. The originator tries to cancel the campaign, but is told it must stay open. Like, you know, this one.

Note: the following is not about the linked campaign. The situation just got me thinking.
So, I ask, what’s to stop a campaign runner from deliberately starting an edge-of-TOS campaign, have a friend contribute five bucks, then “have to” keep it running? Using Indiegogo’s TOS against them, effectively?
And how hard does it have to violate the TOS before Indiegogo steps in?
Because I can’t help but think, re the linked campaign above: as it stands, Indiegogo makes $82.80 from it, but if it were all undone and reset, they’d make $0.
Those decisions add up.
Additional thoughts added after posting:
In general, I’m a huge fan of transparency, and I can get that Indiegogo wants to keep the transparency by keeping the campaign page public. I’m okay with that part.
However, I don’t get why the campaign is kept live. It’s possible, that like the Kickstarter campaign with the PUA book (and its brouhaha), that they didn’t have a process to stop it. Which, given how long Indiegogo’s been around, seems weird.

: Apple's Treatment of Mobility-Impaired Employees

Last weekend, I was on a panel at FogCon about invisible disabilities. I told this story for the first time.
After I’d been working at Apple for a while, I needed a handicap placard. I’ll go into why later.
Apple culture has had an “execs get a pass” culture as long as it’s been around. There’s a story (possibly apocryphal) that Jean-Louis Gassée once saw Steve Jobs park in a handicap space (long before SJ was seriously ill) and JLG quipped, “Being morally handicapped doesn’t count.”
Now, I knew that story before I started at Apple, but what I didn’t know was that more than just SJ got a pass.
At the time, I worked in Infinite Loop 3. There were 4 handicap spaces outside the building, and 3 underneath the building. For pretty much anyone handicapped, the spaces underneath the building were the better accommodation for reasons I’ll explain later.
An average of once every two weeks, there would be a car without a placard in one of those spaces. The first time it happened, I asked the building receptionist (at Apple, they are part of Security) what I should do. She said to give her the license plate #, so I did. In practice, it was easiest to do so by taking a photo on my phone. Over time, I got quite an iPhoto library of said license plates on one of my work computers.
If someone without a placard parked in the handicap space, there’s always the possibility it’s someone who actually needs the space (and the striped zone for a wheelchair)—and they’ve just managed to screw up somehow and forget to put their placard out. Anyone who’s had a placard for a long time has managed that once or twice. So, essentially, it means I was denied a space I was entitled to, and I didn’t know if I was denied for a good reason or a bad one.
Depressed that nothing was happening, I filed a complaint with HR about it.
It kept happening. I kept reporting it to the receptionist.
I go on vacation. Specifically, we go on a cruise. (April 2011, so Tim Cook was interim CEO)
When I come back, my manager pulls me into a meeting, but not a normal one-on-one kind of meeting. He says that while I was gone, some Apple exec got their car towed, and Scott Forstall was angry about it. The way my manager said it at first, I thought Forstall’s car had been towed. Maybe so.
I said, “I was in Morocco on that day. Would you like to see my passport?”
I was actually trying not to laugh at the whole situation, because, looking at it from the point of view of my frustration, it was pretty hilarious.
So I pointed out that there were three handicap spots under the building, and there were three handicapped people using those spaces every single day. Some days, one of us would have to use the outside spaces because another handicapped person was visiting our building.
My manager, I had noticed, was not at all clued into mobility issues. He bicycle commuted from Santa Cruz. Over the mountains. Hardcore stuff. That doesn’t prohibit understanding, of course, but it sure seemed to elude him.
My manager said, and I wish I were kidding, “Well, couldn’t you park in one of the handicap spots in another building?”
I was so gobsmacked, I couldn’t even form curse words in my head. What I wanted to say was, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
So, in order to protect the able-bodied special snowflakes and save them two minutes, I’m supposed to put myself at risk?
What I was aware was that I didn’t need to share the specific details of my disability, so I did not. What I did, however, was say how much accommodation I actually required. I pointed out that I wasn’t in a wheelchair, so I didn’t need the striped part of the space. So if they parked in the stripe zone next to my car (and not next to the car owned by the dude in a wheelchair or the person I didn’t know), I’d know the regular part of the handicap space was available for me.
Which started happening.
Instead of Apple accommodating the disabled properly, I accommodated the able-bodied.
My manager detailed a different way of reporting violations that cc’ed some honcho in facilities, but I never needed to use it. Not long after that, my group moved to City Center, where there were not only green parking spaces (which I could use), but there were also more handicap spaces.

The Why

There are a lot of reasons people get handicap placards, and mine is a fairly common reason. When I was shopping one day, my leg suddenly went numb. Terrified, I went to sit in my car (using a shopping cart for support to get there) while I waited for the others to finish shopping. As I sat, the numbness went away.
Turns out, I’ve had a defective lower back for some time, it’s just now gotten bad enough that that happens, and I never know when it’ll happen, how quickly or how fully numb my leg will become (sometimes it’s just slightly tingly), or how much time I have until I actually fall. Because it happens, it makes it unsafe for me to walk across traffic (which is why the outdoor spaces were a significantly worse accommodation, especially since drivers tended to speed around that end of the Infinite Loop oval).
On the other hand, continuing to walk really is my best long-term strategy.
I’m also significantly stiffer in the morning (every morning), and being that much closer really did make it easier to get into the office every single day. The accommodation was important.
In addition to falling, one of the other side effects is extreme pain if I stand too long on hard surfaces, and “too long” can be a minute or twenty. I don’t know until the pain hits. In this case, the pain flare usually precedes numbness, but again, I don’t know how long I have for that, either.
Which brings us neatly to the next section….

Stand-Up Meetings

My third (and final) manager at Apple believed in the so-called stand-up meeting. For me, that’s an inherently problematic name to call a meeting when you have a mobility impaired person as a part of your staff, though I’m all for the concept of more frequent shorter meetings. It excluded me by its very title.
A good manager might actually come to the new staff member being transfered into the group (as I was) and ask if there’s any accommodation that needed to be made. Which didn’t happen.
A good manager might actually invite the mobility impaired person to the daily meeting. Which didn’t happen. Really.
Only quite a few weeks later did I hear about it from one of my coworkers, but I thought it was a new thing. Turns out it wasn’t, I was just forgotten. In a company where physical presence is as important as it is at Apple, that can cause huge perception issues.
Now, I will grant you: people are mobility impaired in different ways. Some people need to stand instead of sit, and regular meetings are hard for them, so a stand-up meeting better accommodates their needs. For those who need to stand, Apple provides standing desks as an ergonomic accomodation. And I did make a point of standing some every day at mine.
Still, if you’ve got meetings where most people stand, really try to make the person who has to sit comfortable and feel like they’re really a part of the team and not just some fucking afterthought. (Likewise, the reverse for the reverse situation.)

Wrap-Up

I don’t know how common the execs parking in handicap spaces problem is in other companies (I’d never encountered it before), but it’s surprising that it survived that long at Apple. Much as I liked Tim Cook’s statement about not comsidering the ROI of catering to blind users, it left me even angrier about my own treatment when I was at Apple.
When will people who can’t walk or have difficulty walking be as fully human to Apple?

: One of My Pet Peeves

…is when indigenous words show up in dictionaries show up with derivations that are non-indigenous.
Today’s example: mosquito

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Spanish and Portuguese, diminutive of mosca, from Latin musca ‘fly.’

O rly.
And where did the Spanish get it?
(See also: desert.)
Ahh, didn’t expect to ragequit transcribing my notes from Nicaragua.

: Speaking at FogCon

I’ll be speaking at FogCon this weekend:
Friday, 4:30: Invisible Disabilities in Salon C.
Saturday, 1:30: Cryptography and Codes in Salon A/B.
Hope to see you!

: How In-App Purchases Have Destroyed the Gaming Industry

The polite form: deliberately unplayable games are shipped so that people will buy usability.
Article here. Watch a couple minutes of the first video (starting at 2:20), then listen to the justly profanity-laden rant in the second.
Note: there are valid uses of in-app purchases, but this is not the kind that’s justifiable. If this is what EA has devolved to, they can DIAF as far as I’m concerned.

: Some Traffic Analysis Around the House

One week number of http hits: 75,233
Number of those that are from bots: 30,406
(using the extremely scientific method of matching a regex of “bot”)
Number of the bot hits that are in the pipermail (mailman) directory: 10,592

In other words, 1/7 of this one computer’s web bandwidth is being used for bots to crawl mailing lists each week.

To which I say: really? Seriously?

You have all the freakin’ bandwidth in the world (we do not), and that’s how you use it? To see if a post from 2005 has changed? (one of the requested URLs is: /pipermail/conspire/2005-August/001382.html)

Are you freaking mental?

What the hell does that tell you this week that it did not last week?

Anyone want to guess who the biggest offender is?

Anyone?

Bueller?

sudo grep pipermail.*Googlebot /var/log/apache2/access.log.1 | wc -l

6,787 hits (a little less than half the total hits from said bot, fwiw)

For a handful of lists that each have, at most, a handful of posts each week.

How many Ph.D.s do you have working there?

And they haven’t figured this out yet?

And you pay them how much?

Well, okay, less than you would have had not CEOs conspired to suppress engineering salaries. Thanks, guys. Thanks a fucking lot.

Still.

That’s almost 10% of the hits of this web server last week. For nothing of any credible gain.

And yeah, I can (and will) use a robots.txt, but I shouldn’t have to to say not to waste bandwidth for a thousand hits a day on ancient history that isn’t mutable. Spot checking would be far saner.

: Coming Soon: Coffee & Canopy

I’ve been busy as a bee, and hope to have an outline posted for So You Want to Travel the World before we leave for Really Remote Places. But, there’s another free perk for everyone who’s contributed $10 or more: an ebook I’m writing about our recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It’s called Coffee & Canopy.

Wanna see the cover? Of course you do.

Coffee-and-Canopy

The book will be free for everyone who contributes (or who already has contributed) $10 or more to the Indiegogo campaign for So You Want to Travel the World. Otherwise, it’ll be $2.99 all by its lonesome through the usual outlets. I’m almost done. Can’t wait.

Every book should feature unexpected venomous sea snakes, right?

The cover photo is one I took in Nicaragua at the Masaya volcano crater rim. The stairs leading up to the cross in the upper right have dissolved enough through years of corrosive volcanic emissions that they are now off-limits due to structural damage.

I’ll let everyone know when it’s available through the usual venues.

: Things I Wish People Said When They Screwed Up

Rick and I were talking this morning about the Ani DiFranco episode, among other things. I love this sendup of her response here. It links to Ani’s response.

What I really wish people would say when they screwed up things like this?

“Hi. I’m human. I don’t know everything. I missed something important here, and I’m sorry. I will try to do a better job of not missing important things in the future, but I will still, unfortunately, be human.”

And not, you know, flounce (or all the other stuff Ani did in her super-long post).

: Lizard's Assorted Tragedy and Woe

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.

: The Linux Goth Slut Incident of 1999

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…

Whiner.
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.

: Thoughts and/or Prayers for a Friend

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.

: Pronoun Power

Context, for those who missed it:

  1. Node.js maintainer (note: I’m unclear on who did the original deed and not gonna go look through all the commits) commits with “he” instead of a gender-neutral pronoun.
  2. Alex Gaynor adds a pull request to fix that.
  3. Maintainer Ben Noordhuis closes pull request with comment, “Sorry, not interested in trivial changes like that.” (same URL, further down page)
  4. Project Lead Isaac Schlueter accepted the pronoun fix.
  5. Ben tried to revert Isaac’s commit, which would re-add the sexist pronoun.
  6. Joyent employee Bryan Cantrill writes blog post about how this is unacceptable and also added a contributor guideline.

    But just so you heard it from us: if this were the act of a Joyent employee, we would—to deliberately use a gender-neutral pronoun—fire them.

  7. Ben wrote a clarifying comment. I want to say this: props to Ben for volunteering in a mentorship program to help get women into the field. That’s important stuff, and shouldn’t be lost in context. Hat tip to @goodwillbits for alerting me.

I have a few short comments.

  1. I worked sixteen years in the field before I worked on a team with another female software engineer. Please try to imagine that everyone of your sex that’s your peer vanishes for sixteen years and what your professional life would look like. ‘Cause that’s what mine did.
  2. The highest percentage of female software engineers I’ve ever worked with is a large team that had, at its peak, about 1/3 females, but, over time, it bounced back down to 25%.
  3. The largest team on which I was the sole female software engineer consisted of 38 people, of which 33 were software engineers. There were two other women on the team: a tech writer and a technical support staffer.
  4. More typically, I’ve worked on engineering teams where there were about 10% female software engineers.

It’s an incredibly tough business to be in and stay in as a woman. Thank you to all the people who spoke up about this issue pointing out how important it is.

Words matter.

Especially pronouns.

Epilogue

Kent Brewster points out that a better way to have solved the problem would be restructuring the sentences entirely. It’s not always possible to avoid pronouns, though Kent’s right about this case.

I kept the scope of my own post deliberately narrow. While I have always enjoyed working with men, sometimes it’s not obvious to them how they push women out of the field. Many women really do need to feel welcome in order to participate, and what may seem like a little thing to you may not seem like a little thing to them.

: So You Want to Travel the World

Indiegogo campaign page.

Hi, I’m Deirdre.

As a kid, I was given a globe, and I was fascinated by it. I kept imagining that I would go to all these wonderful places, especially the islands where all the lettering squished together on the globe. Or weird places like Ifni, which was on my globe and existed for only 11 years as a separate province.

For years, I traveled for business only, and I was able to travel to several continents. I wanted to travel for pleasure and had a long list of places I wanted to visit, but no real idea of how to make things happen. So many places to go. So many things to see. Learn how to reduce the possibilities to a manageable list, then how to plan your trips.

Then, earlier this year, I had a once-in-a-lifetime trip planned. Eight days before I was due to leave, I had a wrench thrown in my plans and had to either a) scrap the trip entirely, b) have it suddenly cost thousands of unplanned dollars more; or c) change my trip so fundamentally that it no longer resembled what I originally planned. Learn coping strategies for adversity.

It’s a big world. Let me help you get out there.

My Background

While I’ve primarily been a software engineer most of my life, most recently at Apple, I’ve also worked in the travel industry.

For (now defunct, but not my fault) Eastern Airlines, I was a reservationist with the group booking desk, planning trips for the Caribbean and northern South America. You can see an old Eastern Airlines route map here.

I’ve also worked in several capacities on several cruise lines, mostly Premier Cruise Lines (also now defunct, but also not my fault), from purser to medical records consultant to computer consultant–also mostly in the Caribbean.

More recently, I worked in reservations at (the still existing, yay) Classic Vacations, the luxury division of Expedia. Like everyone, I started on the Hawaii desk, booking custom air-and-hotel packages for travel agents’ clients. Then I expanded to the other locations they had at the time: Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, and Europe. Eventually, I worked in product development as a product administrator, specializing in Turkey and Western Canada.

Here’s a map of my travels in 2013. (233,863 km or 145,316 miles)

As a traveler, I’ve been to 61 countries as recognized by the United Nations, or 88 countries and territories as recognized by the rather-more-liberal Traveler’s Century Club. I’ve been around the world twice. After I failed to go around the world twice. I’ve visited six of the seven continents, five of them more than once.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I get this. This isn’t yet another Indiegogo campaign about someone wanting to fund their first trip to Europe.

I’ve delivered sixteen published books on time. In my past, I wrote twelve short adult western novels under pseudonyms. I have published four technical books through Que and Sams, and had a daily column of Linux tips for Earth Web in 1999.

The Calendar (and its pictures)

I also occasionally take decent photos, as you can see from the calendar here.

Note About Postcard Perks

Physical postcards can, unfortunately, take a long time to deliver. I always send myself a postcard at the same time as I mail them to others. When I sent postcards in early April from the Maldives, I received them in July. That’s unusual, but three to four weeks is not unusual.

There’s also a special case for Pitcairn: a) it’s one of the most remote islands in the world with very limited shipping to and from the island; b) there’s always the possibility we won’t be able to go ashore at all. Pitcairn has no airport and no harbor and is one of the most isolated places people live on Earth.

Because of delays in delivery, I’m also offering a virtual postcard, by which I mean a pretty photo I took at the location in question, e-mailed either from the location (available bandwidth permitting) or shortly thereafter, using a postcard application on my iPhone.

I’ll also take photos of the fronts and backs of postcards I send.

Why I Need Your Help

There are a bunch of other software engineers in the world, but there aren’t that many people who could–or would–write this book.

Historically, I can’t do significant amounts of writing at the same time as I’m doing software development. It uses too much of the same mental processes, unfortunately. In order to get this book written, I need to spend my time writing the book, not doing other things like looking for software engineering contracts or learning or refreshing existing skills. I need to turn down or delay other work in order for this book to happen.

Additionally, I’ve recently written part of a novel draft. The idea, synopsis, and opening was strong enough that I won $150 (2nd place) at a writer’s conference and was asked for a full manuscript (rare) by an agent at that conference. Story here. So I’d be putting this project on hold, too. The reality of traditional publishing timelines is such that it’s not particularly likely this book would provide income in 2014.

I’ll have expenses for software (updating InDesign) to produce the physical books, as well as expenses related to cover design and editing services. Ideally, I’d like to get my camera repaired.

I have two (already paid for) trips coming up where I’ll be able to talk to people who are even better traveled than I am. We’ll be on a segment (partial) world cruise. I’ve been trying to get on one of these my whole life, and this is an opportunity to write about it.

After It’s Over

Once my hand recovers from all the typing and signing….

My plan is to continue to self-publish So You Want to Travel the World in both electronic and paper form, then go on to publish the occasional travel journey as a separate short book.

: deirdre.net Hosting Over Time

In 1998, I registered deirdre.net. At the time, it was hosted by Epoch Internet, then a Tier 1 provider, aka the place where I spent my days.
After leaving there, it was hosted briefly on a cable modem from a box in my apartment — back in the day when a cable modem usually had a stable (even though not truly static) IP address and, if you didn’t do anything too untoward, Comcast would actually let you host mail service on one. Those were the days.
Then I moved to the bay area, and LinuxCabal did its own hosting in San Francisco. We had rackspace. We had IP addresses. We had bandwidth. So my box moved there. (LinuxCabal has since moved to Mexico, but that’s another story for another time.)
Then we moved to Menlo Park, and got commercial DSL, hosting our domains from our own servers.
In 2005, I got into Ruby on Rails and needed offsite hosting (in part due to bandwidth constraints at home), and hosted deirdre.net at TextDrive, where it still is to this day — even through TextDrive’s emborgment (late 2006) and disgorgement (late 2012) from Joyent. I still hosted other domains from home up until 2010, when that box died suddenly. The box itself is still in use — we put it on top of the washing machine to help keep the lid shut so the washing machine keeps running.
Most other domains moved to Site5, but I haven’t really been happy with that solution. I’m sure it works great for other people. It’s just not my taste.
Soon, deirdre.net will be picking up and moving as I’ve now got a VPS at prgmr.com. It’s pretty much all set up; I spent the day yesterday arguing with web server configs.
To my surprise, lighttpd only saved about 1M of memory over apache, and the lighttpd setup is fiddlier with PHP, so I’ll be going back to apache later today. If nginx were better supported in CentOS, I might go that route.
Long way of saying: there may be some internet blips going on with the site (as well as my other domains).

: Week in Review: Coming Home

A few weeks ago, I was at Milford. Let’s just say that it was a much-needed experience.
On my flight home on Monday, I was seated next to a guy who seemed to be starting his midlife crisis that very day. One of the things we have in common is a dislike of the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” kind of question. Our goals are not tickable boxes that way; they never have been. What we seek is experiential: a great environment with interesting problems. In both our cases, our definitions of interesting problems had shifted recently.
And he said, more than once, “Respect your dreams.” Always good advice, but also something I needed to hear that day.
Interesting conversation to start the week with, and something that keeps coming to mind.
trigonos

: Outside the Comfort Zone

I’ve been asked a number of times why I travel the way I do, and why I make a point of going to so many different places.
Do I have favorite places to go back to? Of course. Hawaii, Ireland, London (and the UK generally), Venice, Istanbul — those are among my favorite places.
In general, though, I’d rather go somewhere new. By new, I mean a country I haven’t been to. I have a list of countries sorted by minimum time it’d take to get there.
Why?
Because I discovered that I was sticking to countries that felt too safe, too secure.
At some point, I found out about the Traveler’s Century Club: to join, you have to visit 100, but their list is quite liberal. For the last 10 years, I’ve kept track of my progress, and I discovered that I really needed to get outside of my comfort zone if I wanted to visit 100 countries.
What I’ve discovered is that the world is not as intimidating a place as I’d thought. Somewhere between 50 and 75 countries (I’m now at 88), I lost a lot of fear about travel. I’m no longer quite as uncomfortable walking around in a country where I can’t read the script system and I only know a few phrases in the local language.
Some countries I’ve visited completely cold: I didn’t research El Salvador before visiting, except for the obligatory bits (checking to see what the safe kinds of local foods are and booking a place to stay). Imagine my surprise when I realized that the country’s currency was the US Dollar.
Some I’ve overprepared for: I actually planned a trip to Australia over a period of months. When it fell through, it took me years to actually want to go to Australia again because I felt like I’d already been there.
Every new place brings its challenges, but what I really love are the unexpected moments that challenge your assumptions about the world: making the faux-pas in another English-speaking country because the language usage is different; having a broken conversation because neither of you understand each other very well, leading to some great comedy; seeing some amazing treasures of art and architecture that you can’t see where you’re from; seeing how other people’s cultures differ.
Everyone has their own way of getting outside their comfort zone. Some people like it, some don’t. I think it’s an essential practice. Otherwise, over time, your comfort zone tends to get smaller and smaller.
ithaa_restaurant
Outside my comfort zone is dining underwater. I love the ocean, but there’s always a fear because large bodies of water can also be lethal. The photo above was taken at Ithaa restaurant (the world’s first underwater restaurant) in the Maldives.
A few of the things I’ve done in the last two years:

  • Visited Þingvellir and seen the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates
  • Walked some of the broad promenade in Douglas, Isle of Man
  • Visited the ruins of Nan Madol, one of the more fascinating prehistoric sites
  • Landed on Kwajalein, where tourism is pretty tightly controlled because of the US military
  • Been quizzed by a suspicious Bermudian immigration officer about the purpose of my short trip. He let me in when I showed him my Steve Jobs autographed iPad
  • Suspicious Canadian immigration officer wondered why I was having dinner in Vancouver and not staying longer. I pointed out that I’d had lunch in Indonesia the month before (it’s a ferry ride from Singapore), and showed him my passport entry. He rolled his eyes and let me in
  • Ski Dubai!
  • Trip with friends up the tallest building in the world
  • Weekend trips to four Central American countries, so I’ve now had at least a cursory visit to all seven
  • Spent Christmas Day in the exclusion zone of an active volcano
  • Flew on the last departure ever for Continental Airlines with friends
  • Nearly missed a flight out of Tokyo’s Narita airport
  • Had green tangerines in Kosrae. Apparently, oranges and tangerines never develop their eponymous colors in that part of the world
  • Got the deal of a lifetime on a ticket home from Myanmar (fka Burma). Side effect: took trip to Myanmar.
  • Visited a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long in her home town of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Being delayed getting out of Russia because the bureaucrats wanted more bribes from the cruise line (and they’d already had quite enough…)
  • Saw an octopus while I was snorkeling
  • Fell for Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, South African Airways (and, to a lesser extent, Cape Town), Micronesia, and New Zealand (again)
  • Flew around the world. Twice

: Xeni Jardin on Pinktober

I’ve collected some of Xeni Jardin’s tweets over the last couple of weeks about Pinktober and breast cancer. Everything below this sentence are her words. I thought they needed a more findable home.
I might write about why Pinktober is dumb, a bummer, and insulting, but I might not. It’s the job of people who don’t have the disease. (link)
Because they’re the ones marketing, exploiting, cashing in, rolling around in all the maudlin pinkness. Not us. (link)
Pinktober is gross & dehumanizing for breast cancer patients. I’m not Jewish, but think of it this way: sticking a smiley face on Auschwitz. (link)
Pinktober doesn’t even square with science. Breast Cancer isn’t “boobies disease,” it’s mutant cells that happen to amass in that area. (link)
Breast cancer isn’t even one disease. Ask an oncologist. 16? 17? 20? Dozens of diseases? Hundreds? And it metastasizes, travels far. (link)
Reject Pinktober. Use the month to learn about people living with metastatic breast cancer, and find ways to help them. Fund more science. (link)
Use Pinktober to figure why quacks like Burzynski legally allowed to continue to kill breast cancer pts. Confront non-science-based frauds. (link)
Use Pinktober to figure out why poor breast (& other) cancer pts must choose between food & chemo in America. Demand a more humane system. (link)
Many women with breast cancer go bankrupt in America, due to cost of treatment or job loss. Not one dime of Pink profit until that stops. (link)


The correct answer to “Did you beat it?” is, “breast cancer is not a Michael Jackson song.” (link)


Just FYI, I know women w/& without insurance too broke to afford breast cancer screening, care after diagnosis, or food/shelter during tx. (link)


Spent some time with a childhood friend this week who, like me, had/has breast cancer. She was/is uninsured. Is she in remission? Who knows. (link)
How often do you go for checkups, blood tests, scans with your oncologist, I asked. “I kind of don’t,” she said. “I don’t have insurance.” (link)
She is single, a creative freelancer type, a long respected career. But no insurance, and lots of medical debt, so poor/no monitoring. (link)
She could have mets, or a new secondary cancer, and not know it. Lack of insurance means more of us die, or live lives you would not want. (link)
Odds of this fellow breast cancer survivor finding an insurance policy she can afford, with her “pre-existing,” grim now. This must change. (link)


A thing I love about Pinktober: listicles/PSAs implying you can prevent breast cancer by doing “the right things.” The Great Kale Swindle. (link)
This “people who are obese/sedentary/smokers/meat eaters/whatever-ers get it” myth made me believe I couldn’t possibly have breast cancer. (link)
I love most that we’re able to take a horrible, disfiguring, lethal disease and turn it into shopping. Because Yay shoppings. Pinktober! (link)


It’s time people knew the truth. I got breast cancer from reading Internet comments. Plz RT 2 save lives! #BreastCancerAwareness #pinktober (link)

: My Kind of Failure Analysis

Interesting commentary from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on the recent Model S Fire.
The last paragraph of Elon’s is awesome.

: How I thought Web Commerce Would Be Different

…than it actually is.
When I first heard that people were going to be able to shop over the web, I had some expectations about what that experience might be like.
I was reminded of this when I was standing outside my London hotel waiting for the Hotel Hoppa bus, and saw another woman who had the same obscure brand of handbag — and, having never seen an ad for said bags, I wondered how she’d found out about them. In neither of our cases was it through advertising.
Here’s what I expected, back in the day, that I’d see when I logged into a place like Nordstrom:

  1. New clothing arrivals in a size that would actually fit me, with lines that didn’t ship in my size not shown at all. What do I see? Only clothes that don’t fit me.
  2. New shoe arrivals in a size that would fit me.
  3. Focus on what I mostly buy, which is accessories, in lines I actually buy from and (given that there are photographs of these things) colors I’m actually likely to buy. Show me something in a color you know I like, right? I’ll be more drawn to it. Isn’t that basic psychology?

One of my peculiarities is that I don’t buy black or brown unless it’s something spectacular (or spectactularly funny to me, in the case of Woot t-shirts). I own no black or brown shoes, for example.
So let’s take a look at Nordstrom, who presumably knows what I’ve bought from them, and have a look at the home page when I log in, shall we?
nordstrom-home-page

  1. Upper left: I don’t wear a watch. I have no philosophical objection to watches, I just fractured my wrist some years ago and wearing one is still painful. So I don’t. They know I’ve never purchased a watch there.
  2. Upper right: I don’t wear heels that high, and I don’t wear black shoes. At all. They know this.
  3. Lower left: While I do occasionally shop for make-up, this is not a line I purchase. They know this.
  4. Lower right: While I do love Nordstrom’s cashmere, the piece shown isn’t one that would fit me, and the pieces I would buy aren’t shown at all. They know this.

Below the fold is much the same.
How much does this draw me in? Frankly, it says that my interests aren’t at all relevant to what the company wants to push on me. No doubt this is why I’ve felt less and less of a draw to Nordstrom over the years.
Now, you might think I’m singling them out, but this is an endemic problem. It just happens to be an endemic problem with a company who has enough information about my purchase history to do something more meaningful.
In focusing on what companies pay them to push, they ignore their real customer and their real customer’s real needs. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the phrase (which I wish would DIAF) “must have.” It’s a phrase for the intellectually dishonest and lazy to use, in my opinion. It’s about telling the sheep what to do, not about providing what people actually desire or need.
What I’d actually hoped for in the internet shopping experience was something completely different: a way where one could find more indie-made goods that would be of interest based on some kind of social networking that is not based on advertising. In other words, based on what people you know and who have similar taste to yours actually like that you may not know about yet. Learning by networking based on similar aesthetic sense.
How you do that without big money from advertisers corrupting the process is left as an exercise in futility.
While that’s my grand utopic vision of internet shopping, it remains an impenetrable problem, apparently. Etsy’s as close as it gets to good, and it can be a really long way from good.
Every time I see someone trundling around with a Louis Vuitton logo bag, I wonder: is this something they’ve only been told they should like? Or did they spend that money because they thought it would get them status with other people? Do they realize how much status they lose in the minds of other people? I have nothing against LV bags per se; they do make fine leather goods. However, they are not the only company making fine leather goods. Also, I see relatively few of the “no logo all over” lines like Epi than I do of the ones that are walking ads. Worse still are the people carrying fake LV bags.
Frankly, every time I see someone carrying anything that’s a walking ad, I think, “Really? That’s all you think of yourself? That you’re a billboard for someone else? That you paid to be a billboard for someone else? Show some self-respect.”
I thought web commerce would be more about being more individual. Instead, it seems more about the homogenization of tastes. Homogenization is fine for milk.
The handbags we had in London? Ella Vickers. Probably not your thing, but, hey, the world’s a big place.

: Words of Wisdom from Mackieman

For a friend of mine who is having, shall we say, brick issues:

Being die-hard loyal to a company is like being in an intimate relationship with a brick. The brick cares nothing for you. Do not love the brick; the brick will only cause you pain when it forgets about you. The brick serves only its interests and nothing else is of consequence.
The brick does not love you.

(source)

: Fascinating Series of Posts on Tipping

…specifically some of the economic realities of running a restaurant, why it’s hard to get good service, and why US laws about tipping make it very difficult to ensure good service.
Read starting here.
Possibly the most fascinating single post is the fifth in the series, about tipping and sexism.

: SFO's Adventures Saturday and Travel Tips

I don’t have anything to add to the Asiana flight 214 crash, but I’m incredibly thankful that there was so little loss of life, especially given that it was at my home airport.
My friend Rob said the following:

I cannot quote this enough. Shoes on until the double chimes, and shoes back on after the double chimes. Not something you want to be fumbling around with if you need to exit in a hurry.

With that in mind, may I make a suggestion: have everything absolutely essential with you on your person before the last few minutes of the flight: passport, credit cards, currency, driver’s license, list of prescriptions, a day’s worth of pills if you have meds you need, and your cell phone.
If you ever need to exit a plane quickly, make sure you have what’s most essential, because you won’t have the time in the chaos to get anything else.
I use a neck wallet from Eagle Creek. I prefer the silk ones because they breathe better. Some people prefer belt wallets; some prefer travel vests. Whatever works for you.
You are almost certain to never need your items in such a circumstance, but if you do, it’s nice to have good habits in place.

: Kickstarter: Erasure Is Not Enough

Vasa Museum

You know what I respect most about Sweden? They had a great engineering disaster. One of the best of all time, frankly.

Did they try to erase it?

No, they built a fucking monument where you can see the order of magnitude of the folly of a bad decision they made in the 17th century. And how people died.

It’s called the Vasa museum.

So, About Kickstarter.

They blinked. Or did they?

My opinion: no. They tried to erase what they did and write a small check, and that will be enough for some people.

I woke up this morning. As I often do first thing, I scrolled through my Twitter client.

The overwhelming reaction from the men on my Twitter feed was that Kickstarter had done enough.

The overwhelming reaction from the women on my Twitter feed was that they had not done enough.

They did not do enough.

So here’s my guess: while we’d like for them to have paused or canceled the campaign while it was still running, they lacked the infrastructure for that to happen.

However, it doesn’t say why they didn’t, say, edit a database table that would change when the Kickstarter campaign ended (effectively giving more time to raise money), add a warning they were investigating and that’s why they’d changed the end time, and given themselves more time to deal with the problem while the campaign was still running.

Brilliant, right? I know. I’m a fucking genius. But I’ve been a DBA in a crisis, and that’s what my first thought would have been, and it was totally within their ability to do. Maybe not within their policy, but within their technological capability.

The big thing there, and it would have been misinterpreted, was that it would have prevented the Kickstarter from being funded while they decided what to do.

Now, on to what they did do.

One of the motes in American character, especially American business character, is to try to erase what one did that was wrong. You’ve already admitted you were wrong, why not own up to all of it? Have the stones to go there.

Instead, they e-mailed the bad decision sub rosa to several blogs saying that the campaign was not a violation of Kickstarter policy, and now they do a big official oops on their page, hoping you will forget that they in fact said the project was okay. Because, of course, they didn’t say it was okay on their official company page.

That’s the typical American chickenshit way of “fixing” a problem. It lacks moral character.

So let’s not forget this part, okay?

Update, 6:51 p.m. EST: Kickstarter emailed a statement to The Raw Story regarding both the project and the public response:

Kickstarter reviews projects based on our guidelines and the information creators share on their project pages. It’s a process we’ve refined over four years and continue to refine daily. We strive for fair and thoughtful policies that maintain the health of the Kickstarter ecosystem.

This morning, material that a project creator posted on Reddit earlier this year was brought to our and the public’s attention just hours before the project’s deadline. Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project.

As stewards of Kickstarter we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. We followed the discussion around the web today very closely. It led to a lot of internal discussion and will lead to a further review of our policies.

With that in mind….

I’m a rape survivor, so I get to say what would be enough reparations from Kickstarter for me. So, without further ado, here’s the list:

  1. $25k of reparations is not enough. How much is enough? I like $163,690 as a number. That’s ten times the amount raised in the Kickstarter campaign. It’s also obviously symbolic. It also hurts more than $25,000. Hell, you probably pay some of the people involved in these decisions that much per year, right? Maybe the person who made the bad call?

  2. 732 hours of off-site sexual assault recognition and crisis training and/or volunteering, paid for by the company. One hour for each person who contributed to the campaign. Given that Kickstarter has 61 employees, that’s 1.5 business days per person. Exactly, weirdly enough. When I say everyone, I mean including the CEO. Write a blog post when this is done. It’s important to do it off-site so you all are taken out of the context of the office for the experience.

  3. Un-erase the Kickstarter campaign’s page. Instead, put a warning on it. Make sure it’s a monument to Kickstarter’s folly.

  4. Edit the blog post and acknowledge that Kickstarter made an earlier bad decision saying that the campaign was not in violation of Kickstarter’s guidelines. Do not erase the mistake.

  5. Admit that you were deleting facebook wall posts like crazy. Look, I get it. Honestly, I don’t care about this one, but other people do. At least admit that you did it.

  6. Publicly commit, with a deadline, to building a “Pause this Campaign” infrastructure that has, as a minimum, the following:

    • Permits linking to a blog post explaining why a Kickstarter is paused.
    • Has great big old “Paused” wording, preventing any additional monies being contributed to the campaign, but allowing any existing contributor to back out.
    • Until that is implemented, commit to extending the deadline (for above-stated reasons) on any controversial campaign.

Let’s not forget the important part: some asshole has the lion’s share of sixteen grand to write a book that includes sexual predator tips, and 732 people funded it and want that book.

All because Kickstarter failed to show moral character in a crisis.

And Kickstarter would love the concerns of those of us sexual assault survivors to be erased just like the campaign page.

No.

Twenty-five grand and an oops (especially reversing a prior decision they won’t publicly acknowledge) is not enough.

Erasure? Just pisses me off more.

: The Outrage Machine Is on Vacation

I was hoping to make some salient points on the whole SFWA matter, especially given that (as with many of us) Resnick’s been one of my editors.
However, I’ve spent the last few days in the Second World, and I’m rather overwhelmed by some of the following:
1. Crossing the battlefields of Balaclava, Ukraine (of The Thin Red Line and Charge of the Light Brigade fame).
2. Visiting Novorossiysk, a city with a population of 24,000, bombed so severely that the only surviving residents were a mother, her two children, and their grandmother.
3. Seeing the famed Potemkin steps in Odessa.
4. Spending time in Romania, where Rick last was during the time of Ceausescu (he visited many of the same sites in 1978), and hearing about then vs. now.
5. What may have hit me the hardest: going to a long-secret Soviet submarine base in Balaclava and walking behind several layers of super-thick blast doors where 1000 people regularly lived — all developed because they were afraid of us. (The USA)
Additionally, we just landed in Istanbul (where there’s been a lot of rioting), a person I know has been raped and another person I respect has died, and I just can’t work up the energy on an issue that doesn’t involve issues as severe as any of the above.
However, I can insert my generic short form internet blow-up thoughts here:
1. There’s a reason my license plate is XKCD 386.
2. People are complex, and too often on this issue, I see parties from both/several sides reducing the other to one dimension that is unjust. This doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues, mind, just that I’m tired of rhetorical bullshit.
3. People feel obligated to be on the “right” side when the cards land, sometimes pressuring other people to shun someone. This is evil. I’ve been in a cult with shunning and I don’t do that. Sure, I may choose not to speak to someone, but it may just be I’m tired of completely different shit. Maybe they talk too much about Ohio. Or Cancun.
4. I’m not the kind of person who holds a grudge. I do think people need to be called on their bullshit, and if you call me on mine respectfully, I will appreciate you more for doing so. Some people will refuse to learn, and some will try to learn but fail. What matters more to me than one blow-up is how people deal with issues in the longer term.
5. I love the Internet and all the weird places it has, even the ones that make me shudder. Maybe even especially those. See #1.

: Best Practices

A letter I have to send far too often….
Dear people who add folks to email lists without confirmation.
Someone thinks it’s hilarious to use my email address to sign me up for things I am far from interested in. This was not requested by me. You should, as a best practice, require confirmation for ANY subscribe request for this kind of reason. Please ensure my address is removed from all your databases promptly.
If any reservations have been made in my name, cancel those as well.

: Voting Is An Act of Kindness

Why Voting Matters
I’ve heard a bunch of people say that their vote doesn’t matter, usually followed by some rationalization about why it doesn’t matter. It’s true, any individual vote isn’t likely to decide an election, but it’s the collection of votes that does, much like the collection of acts of kindness keep a society together.
Let me give you an example. Rick and I went to Egypt in 2007, and we kind of had a rough tourist day in Cairo: plenty of super-aggressive people wanting to be bribed (I had to photoshop out a guy from a pic with Rick because we weren’t going to give money just for that). I was thoroughly prepared to continue to hate Egypt for several reasons, not the least of which was the threatened migraine from all the screaming in Arabic from the tourist police.
The next day, we went to the catacombs in Alexandria. It was brutally hot, and there were kitties all over the place. They purred awesomely, and one woman went across the street to get them some milk and cat food. Unfortunately, none of us had Egyptian currency, the store didn’t take any currency we did have (US and Euros, mostly). So the woman asked the Egyptian woman at the catacombs if she could change any money. She said she couldn’t, but she went across the street and bought cat supplies on her own dime, then refused payment of any sort.
We loved the woman for this, and the kitties, and the kitties had so much fun.
It’s a small gesture, but it completely reframed how I felt about Egypt.
Voting, however, is more anonymous. It’s more like going into a Catholic church when no one’s around, lighting a candle, and sticking $2 in the box marked “Widows and Orphans Fund.”
You see, voting for one guy this time around will be stuffing, on average, a lot more than $2 in the widows and orphans fund, where voting for the other guy will be taking more than $2 from the widows and orphans fund.
As a (remarried) widow who once got a whopping $255 when my first husband died (and had food stamps and medical coverage for 2 months when I couldn’t work after his death), I thank all of you who voted over the years to help keep people in need from starving. I have repaid that in taxes many times over in the years since.
If you can’t vote, for whatever reason, please just do some small kindness when the opportunity presents itself.

: Pop Quiz Answers

I found the diversity of political spectrum very interesting here. Hope you do as well.
Sarah Palin “We need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts, and if somebody’s gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in….”
Melissa Etheridge “It’s wrong to arrest adults for using marijuana, and it’s even more wrong to allow gangs and cartels to profit from selling marijuana.”
Snoop Dog “If marijuana were legal, t]here would be less high-speed chases, less robberies, less crime. Go to Amsterdam or the Netherlands where it is legal and you see that the crime rate is nonexistent.”
Pat Robertson “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.”
Glenn Beck “I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”
Aaron Sorkin “It’s a good idea.”
Rachel Maddow “[W]e’ve got a new drug czar to continue waging the decades-old drug war, which maybe we should start thinking about differently since it is decades old and we don’t appear to be anywhere near winning it.”
Rick Perry “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”
Source: Marijuana Majority (which has links to where the quotations were taken from)

: Ellsberg Has Some Good Points

Daniel Ellsberg has written a great piece about why he’s recommending people in swing states vote for Obama (rather than for a third party) even though he himself does not support Obama. Also, he points out that people, especially progressives, should get out there and vote even though they feel disheartened.

In the eight to twelve close-fought states — especially Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but also Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in those states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.
To think of that as urging people in swing states to “vote their conscience” is, I believe, dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive that if your conscience tells you on Election Day to vote for someone other than Obama in a battleground state, you need a second opinion. Your conscience is giving you bad counsel.

Ellsberg does mention some of the very real problems I have with the Obama administration.
While I know people voting for third-party candidates in California, and while I’ve considered doing so myself, the fact is that Obama repealed DADT, and he gets my vote for that alone. No one else has had the political clout to accomplish it.
Right now, it looks like everything south of the Mason/Dixon line (edit: as Ron Newman pointed out, save for Maryland) is probably going Romney’s way.

: California Ballot Initiatives

First of all, I want to point you to Jim Keller’s proposition guide which has some good commentary, as do Nick Mamatas’s and Scott Martin’s posts on the initiatives. We agree on about half of the propositions, but have different reasons for agreeing or disagreeing on the rest.

Proposition 30: Voting Yes

Summary: Funds education through a mix of sales and income tax hikes.
This proposition combines a progressive seven-year increase in income tax for those earning over $250,000 with a regressive four-year quater-percent increase in sales tax. I am almost never for regressive taxes as they disproportionately affect the poor, and if it were sales tax alone, I’d vote against it.
Unlike Jim, I do think California needs this to fund education, and the terms of this proposition are less odious than Prop 38, so we will vote yes. Also, Prop 38 only covers K-12 where Prop 30 also covers higher education.

Proposition 31: Voting No

Summary: Changes state budget process.
When you get the California Democratic Party and the East Bay Tea Party to agree that a proposition should be defeated, that’s probably a good sign that the measure is flawed.
The problem is that there’s so many aspects to it, some of which may be good and some of which may be bad, but as a whole it’s just too confused.
Rick says, “This is kind of a whack-job utopian attempt to impose a bunch of expensive reforms on the state budget process, tying the hands of the legislatures.”

Proposition 32: Hell No

Summary: Limits the ability of unions (among others) to contribute to political campaigns.
This is a union-voice-busting measure. Make sure the Koch brothers and their cronies waste their money and vote no.
“This is the third ballot measure in 15 years that businesses have put forth to limit unions’ political fundraising.” Unions spend less money in political contributions than businesses, PACs, and Super PACs, so what’s really being quashed is the voice of the worker.

Proposition 33: No

Summary: Poison pill auto insurance “reform.”
All you really need to know about this one: “Prop. 33 is almost entirely funded by George Joseph, the chairman of Mercury General Corporation, an insurance company. In 2010, Mercury Corporation spent $16 million on a similar measure, Proposition 17, which was defeated. As of late September Joseph had donated $8.4 million to the current campaign.”
While loyalty discounts may seem like a good idea, there are other gotchas that would cost more people more money. Joseph wouldn’t have poured so much into it if it were going to save you money.

Proposition 34: Yes

Summary: Eliminates executions and changes death penalty to life in prison.
Executions are not a deterrent to crime. My sole gripe about this is victim restitution, because I feel that should be a civil, not criminal, matter.
No one should be slated for execution because they stole three golf clubs.

Proposition 35: Hell No

Summary: Attempt to modify California’s already-good human trafficking laws and punish non-trafficked sex workers and their families, all while reducing focus on non-sex-trafficking.
As many of you know, I’m quite anti-trafficking, and have read up on the law here. However, this transforms the existing law, which is about all forms of trafficking, to specifically a law about sexual trafficking. That is far from all the trafficking there is. So, for example, people like Marc and Claire Headley would be less protected under this proposed statute (as their trafficking case did not involve sexual assault) than they were already. Granted, they lost because they were in a religious order, but the point is otherwise valid. Read Claire’s complaint for an example of what non-sexual human trafficking can look like. Is that something you want to protect more of by voting yes here?
Here’s the primary text of the existing law.
The new law’s title is: Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.
Jim says, and I agree with him, “It’s not clear if this was written by idiots or if the intention was to create a law so vague that it could be exploited throw anyone involved in the computer, entertainment, or bookselling business and their friends and family in prison, but that’s what it does. The stated goals of this proposition are to stop things that are already illegal, and already carry stiff penalties, and then it goes on to strike those penalties and criminal definitions out of the legal code. Even if you’re opposed to all forms of commercialized sex, this proposition is over-broad, unnecessary, and, frankly, dangerous.”
Some of the re-organization of the existing bill makes no sense to me, either. Also, if one’s modifying the section about passports or immigration papers, why not add other documents that affect a person’s mobility, e.g., driver’s license or other identification?
Please also see Nick Mamatas’s commentary on this initiative as he makes some very good points.
Personally, my biggest fear is that this will take funding away from prosecuting the difficult cases and instead prosecuting the low-hanging fruit, leading to even worse trafficking in our state.

Proposition 36: Yes

Summary: Revises the three strikes law to require the third strike to be a serious or violent felony. Other third felonies will be double the typical term.
There’s no reason that, if someone stole three cars (as three separate strikes assuming grand theft auto), they should be doing life in prison.

Proposition 37: Hell Yes

Summary: Requires labeling of genetically engineered foods.
“In 2011, 88 percent of all corn and 94 percent of all soybeans produced in America were grown from genetically engineered (GE) seeds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other common GE crops are canola, papaya, sugar beets and zucchini.”
As you know, Bob, soy’s added to most everything that corn isn’t already in. Funny, though, I didn’t know about zucchini.
It’s not that I think all GMO food is bad. I just want the ability to actually determine whether or not that’s what I’m having for dinner.
I have reservations about the wording, but I think it’s a long overdue and necessary start.

Proposition 38: Hell No

Summary: Proposition for Education funding.
(Rick’s description) Molly Munger’s Tax Increases for Early Education and K-12 Alternative to Prop. 30, increases state income tax across the board (not preferentially on the wealthiest Californians) until 2025 to fund K-12 schols and early education programs, but not community colleges. Because this measure would not kick in immediately, the automatic severe cuts to education and public safety programs would trigger for the current budget cycle ($5.9B). Basically, this measure clobbers the middle class.
Hell no.

Proposition 39: Grudging Yes

Summary: Increases Taxes on Multistate Business, Funds Clean Energy.
Rick says: “Tricky measure, changes the way businesses are taxed that operate in multiple states: Currently, such businesses are allowed to choose any of three formulas (allowed to formula-shop) about how to divide their tax burden among the states they operate in. This measure would change
that to percent of sales, which brings California in line with how other states do it. The measure also earmarks up to $550 million annually for five years to fund alternative energy projects, out of additional revenue raised, which is expected to be $1B/year.
“I don’t like the earmark, which has no business being in a ballot proposition — but that’s only for the first five years. The rest of it’s rational and good.”

Proposition 40: Yes

Summary: Referendum: Approves Current State Senate District Boundaries.
Rick says: A ‘yes’ vote keeps State Senate boundary-drawing under the Citizens Redistricting Commission formed a few years ago to end gerrymandering. A ‘no’ vote would move State Senate redistricting to a panel of officials appointed by the California Supreme Court. This measures was
originally sponsored by the California Republican Party, which for some bizarre reason decided they disliked the boundaries drawn by the independent commission.

: Stop the Silence: Scientology vs. the Headleys

I have mentioned Marc Headley’s excellent book, “Blown for Good,” more than once. (iBooks) (B&N) (Amazon)
The first chapter is about Marc’s escape and being run off the road by Scientology goons. Here are pictures of what he was escaping from.
If you’ve heard the story recently about the split up between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes and how the CofS interviewed potential brides for Tom — well, Marc broke that story. Given that, they want the book buried.
No, really. Here’s the PNG of Scientology asking for all rights to the book (so they can alter and/or bury it). Also note they are asking for the Headleys to be silent about Scientology and spy on other people who’ve left the fold.
Marc and his wife Claire managed to escape, and many do not — or if people do, they aren’t able to make it out as a couple. The Headleys filed a lawsuit about human trafficking, and you can see part of their story at the Human Trafficking Press Conference. It was tough being in the audience of that conference, let me tell you.
Catch is, the Headleys’ case got all the way up to the 9th Circuit, who said that religions aren’t subject to the federal trafficking laws. (ruling is here)
As a consequence of the lawsuit, they now owe Scientology around 43 grand in court-ordered costs. They have started a GoFundMe site to help raise this. In less a day, it’s half funded. If you can do anything to help, these are, in my opinion, people worthy of help.
They have two kids (after she experienced coerced abortions while in Scientology) and are expecting their third child soon.
If you do nothing else, for whatever reason, will you please go to your book vendor of choice and read just the first chapter about his escape? Thank you.
(As always, it’s okay to repost or link to my public posts. Please do so if you feel inclined.)

: Island Hopping


Doesn’t this look like an awesome trip idea?

: Best Post About Rape Jokes Ever

This is the best, clearest post I’ve ever seen about why rape jokes are a problem.
Hat tip to @KuraFire.

: My Westercon Schedule

This weekend, I’ll be speaking at Westercon 65 at the Doubletree Seatac in Seattle.
Here’s my schedule:
Thu Jul 5 3:00:pm – 4:00:pm Humor in Speculative Fiction
Cascade 2 Blowing up a spaceship is easy; making it funny is hard. Writers talk about hilarity for fun and profit.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Frances Pauli Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Ted Butler
Fri Jul 6 9:00:am – 10:00:am Research for Fantasy Writers
Cascade 13 Readers don’t want to run into glaring inaccuracies in a story. How does a fantasy writer avoid this? Where can a writer find good research sources easily? What has to be “real” in a fantasy world, and what can the writer get away with?
Anna Sheehan Deirdre Saoirse Moen Michael Ehart Renee Stern Robin Hobb
Fri Jul 6 1:00:pm – 2:00:pm Lessons From The Slush Pile
Cascade 7-8 Slush piles can be terrifying. They can also be an author’s best friend. Why you should volunteer your time as a slush pile reader.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Janna Silverstein Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff Patrick Swenson
Sat Jul 7 4:00:pm – 5:00:pm My Town
Cascade 2 Westercon is a regional convention. Part of the beauty is getting to see how it’s done in your town. What towns would you like to see host Westercon?
Deirdre Saoirse Moen Gibbitt Rhys-Jones Suzanne Tompkins
Sun Jul 8 11:00:am – 12:00:pm Ebook Conversion 101
Cascade 3-4 Want to take your manuscript and convert it to an ebook so you can post it on Amazon and make more money than the Queen? Great! Where do you begin? What tools do you need? How do you get from A to B to C and the rest of the alphabet before you’re ready to upload it? Let’s discuss.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen G.Robin Gibbitt Rhys-Jones M Todd Gallowglas Tod McCoy

: A Spork and a Water Bottle (or two)

This post on Boarding Area about travel tips reminded me that there’s two travel essentials I see too little of on the road.
Last year, for my birthday, I was given a modest Amazon gift certificate, so I pored over the site for some things I really wouldn’t have thought to buy otherwise.
One of the things I bought was a purple titanium spork, made by Snowpeak. Mine’s the purple one. The lovely thing about it is that it can be used for all kinds of things (even pasta), though hot cereal with milk (or anything soupy, really) is something of a challenge if you’re not careful. Unlike stainless steel, titanium doesn’t have a metallic tang affecting all flavors; titanium’s as neutral flavor-wise as sterling silver.
Being somewhat eco-minded, I prefer using my spork to disposable plastic cutlery, even the taterware that’s designed to be recycled.
SnowPeak colored titanium sporks

The other thing I always carry with me: a water bottle I bought at REI that fits in the outer bottle pocket of my purse, and a flat Vapur water bottle in case I need more. Note: I lost my first Vapur cap when I was traveling over Christmas, so I’d suggest buying an extra cap if you’re prone to losing things like I am. For shorter trips or where I want to travel lighter, I’ll just take the Vapur. If I want both coffee and water (or soup and water, or some combination of non-water and water), I have the capacity to carry both.

Now, of course there are places I buy bottled water. I’ve made the mistake of drinking local water when I shouldn’t, it’s no fun. I’ve also had thin-walled water bottles explode; pouring the water into an sturdier bottle (either my hard-sided bottle or my Vapur) helps prevent catastrophe.
I also love the whimsy of my Vapur; I have the “Bottle Dwellers” artist’s edition from David Herbst:
Vapur_Artist_Series_Bottle_Dweller_72dpi
Shop Vapur water bottles on Amazon

: Small Hawaii Businesses

I thought I’d bring up some small Hawaii businesses I’ve run across on my two trips to the big island. The first two you can only enjoy from the island, but the rest you can enjoy almost anywhere.
First, two tour companies.

  1. Lava Ocean Adventures does ocean tours to the volcano (and other points out of Hilo). It was an awesome experience last year. (This year, lava wasn’t flowing when I was there, so I skipped it.)
  2. Vavoom Volcano Tours does the obvious volcano tours, but also can customize day tours. Lori’s great.

Food companies.

  1. Volcano Winery is Hawaii’s only full-grape wine producer. There are a couple of other companies on Maui that make pineapple wine, etc., but this company grows grapes. They do offer two blended wines, though. They are less than a mile from the entrance to Volcanoes National park, so the name is no exaggeration. I tried four of their wines, including two that aren’t on their site. I’m not a wine person, but they seemed decent. The Mac Nut Honey wine (which has a champagne yeast, iirc) is very light and delicate.
  2. Hilo Coffee Mill is one of the non-Kona coffee growing regions of Hawaii, and one of three on the big island (the other being Kona, which includes both North Kona and South Kona, and then there’s Ka’u, which is east of Kona and west of Kilauea). Because of the rainfall, it’s the mildest coffee, but it’s also significantly less expensive than the premium Kona coffees. (Example: Kona coffee at Peet’s, which is a very nice select grade, runs $50 per pound. Hilo Coffee Mills’s coffee runs $29.) I have had some truly awful roadside Kona coffee (that I needed to cut with TJ’s coffee to improve it), so I can say for sure that not all Kona coffee is created equal. In essence, Hilo coffee is shade-grown simply because of the frequent cloud cover. Because of the difficulty transporting and logistics surrounding manure and compost from other farms in a high-rainfall area, this is not an organically-grown coffee if that’s important to you, but they do not use pesticides in growing, just non-organic fertilizers. I am incredibly impressed with their pineapple coffee. Usually, flavored coffees are an excuse to use up the worst beans, but that’s not true in this case. It’s a subtler flavor than you’d expect, and a nice addition to the coffee. Really. None of their coffees are bitter, so if you like coffee but not bitter, you might give it a try. Our pound of the pineapple coffee is almost gone. Sniff.
  3. Aunt Phyllis’s Macadamia Nut Butter with Macadamia Nut Honey. Three ingredients: mac nuts, mac nut honey, and sea salt. This stuff is incredibly addictive and I am now out. I will be getting more in a few weeks. They do mail order (it’s $10 a jar plus shipping), but don’t have a web site set up. If you want contact info, let me know.
  4. Wao Kele honey (link is to a story and video about them, but they don’t have a web site) makes great honey. I do have a PO Box for them off their labels if anyone’s interested. The lehua honey is particularly nice.

Other.
My favorite discovery by far is the funny and gregarious guy who runs Filthy Farmgirl Soap at the Hilo farmer’s market. He definitely has great marketing and labels. Product names range from the extremely tacky to the merely quirky, each with its own unique label and ingredients. He advertises “no yucky stuff” and means it. Most of the soaps are vegan; a few are not (e.g., the Goat’s Milk Chai soap we picked up for my mother-in-law). I picked up some of the Filthy Geek (aka Hyper Mocha Minx) soap (chocolate and fair trade coffee) for ourselves. Unlike most of the other small businesses listed in this post, he’s got a shopping cart and takes PayPal.

: New Luggage Report

In the last week-ish, I’ve done both a flight vacation and a car trip with my new Tumi Vapor luggage.
The first piece I got, as you may have seen, is the International Carry-On in pink multi with the breast cancer awareness luggage tag. Very nice.
The second piece I got is the Medium Trip Packing Case in “black,” which is really a nice striated charcoal grey. I did worry how common the color would be, but didn’t see anyone else traveling with this particular bag on my flights, so it turned out not to be an issue of everyone diving for the same piece of luggage.
First of all, it’s really light, and I like the corner reinforcement.
My first trip, as you know, was to Hawaii.
In my carry-on, I carried:
1) CPAP and paraphernalia associated with. This took up 1/2 of one side of the carry on.
2) Liner from my Artisan and Artist camera bag containing two camera bodies and two lenses. That took up the other half.
3) My bag containing: tank top, spare socks and underwear, and bathing suit. (Always in carry-on in case of luggage snafus). Also my sink stopper and clothing hangar.
4) My 3-1-1 liquids bag.
5) My pills.
6) A pair of leggings (wrapped around the CPAP).
7) Banana chips and nuts, aka food for the trip. I always carry food I can eat in case of flight delays; sometimes there’s nothing I literally can eat.
The checked bag seemed overwhelmingly large for one tourist on a four-day trip to Hawaii. I packed two pairs of leggings, four shirts, and other things I needed like socks.
The other half of the bag would have been empty, so I just stuffed a tripod in one half and a super-thick yoga mat in the other. I’d heard that polycarbonate bags are safer when they’re fully packed, and, hey, yoga. Photography. It seemed natural.
On the way back, though, I’d bought so much stuff that my trusty bag was brimming full. I discovered that a bottle of wine (Volcano winery) and a large jar of lehua honey fit nicely inside the yoga mat with three pairs of underwear as a buffer (one at either end, one between the two glass containers). Between the coffee, the macadamia nuts, the honey, the macadamia nut butter, the soaps, the jam, the wine, etc., my bags were packed to the gills. They did smell super-nice, though!
I got to the airport. My luggage weighed 51.5 pounds. Oops! They were nice and didn’t charge me, though I could have moved 1-1/2 pounds to my carry-on if I’d picked carefully. I’m sure that if I had been using my older, heavier, Travelpro bag, I would have been charged, though.
Even at 51.5 pounds, my new bag moved super-smoothly, and I’m really really glad I upgraded.
After I got home and unpacked, I repacked for our three-night car trip to Los Angeles. I packed everything just in the medium trip bag (and overpacked because I was tired). It was a better size for my car than the arrangements I’d tried in the past, and three of us went down to LA and back with no issues.

: Joining the Tumi Luggage "Cult"

You know, I never should say anything like I don’t want to join a cult in jest like I did here, because the universe is a perverse place.
I’d narrowed down my luggage choices to four, and I’d have been happy with at least three of them.
I went and looked at spinners and fell for Tumi’s smaller international-sized carryon. Yes, it’s larger than I wanted. Yes, it’s hard-sided, but it’ll be useful for larger planes and stuff. But, more importantly, there were two other factors: I thought it had better corner crush support than its competitors, and I found it on sale.
I wasn’t super-crazy about any of the colors, but, hey, at least they have colors. So I picked the “breast cancer awareness” pink multi.

: Bank Transfer Day

November 5 (as in Guy Fawkes Day) is Bank Transfer Day, a movement to take funds out of banks that received bailouts and move it to either independent local banks or credit unions (I favor the latter as credit unions are non-profit organizations).
Sadly, though I’ve known about it for a week or two, I haven’t yet gotten my act together on this, so I’ll be taking care of the move over a couple of weeks.
Many credit unions now have big-bank features like online bill pay, etc.
This site will help you find a credit union.
One of the coolest features of credit unions? You can deposit and withdraw from CUs that aren’t yours if you get one that’s an affiliate with the CU Service Center Network. Many 7-Eleven stores and all Co-op network locations have free ATMs.
Many have one “loophole” way to join if you’re not otherwise eligible. For example, Stanford Federal Credit Union lets you join if you’re a member of Friends of the Palo Alto Library (membership costs $15), and (last I checked), they would open your account and add the membership at the same time. While I’ve kept up my membership in FPAL (it’s the next town over for me, after all), it’s not necessary to do so.
Hope this helps!

: Testing LJ Crossposting

This is only a test.
Available at LJ at this URL.

: "A Sword Called Rhonda" Now Available as an E-Book

“Hey, Karma,” Rhonda the sword whined, “I need to go, like, shopping.”

She hung from the wall of my small home in what used to be suburban Palo Alto. Being far away didn’t help. I could hear her just as clearly as if I’d held her in my hand with her voice coming out the end of the hilt. I’d tried hanging her from my waist at first, but she just yelled loud enough for everyone to hear. Now, I carry her over my shoulder so she talks in my ear.

I hadn’t responded, so she yelled. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you,” I replied.

Two weeks ago, I bought the sword at the city’s disincorporation sale. It was a fine sword, made of good strong steel that could take a beating. At the time, it seemed like a good deal.


Cover Art by Manu De Mey

Finally available in a standalone, DRM-free e-book from the following resellers:

[Purchase this book from iTunes (EPUB)](http://itun.es/igt9H8) [Purchase this book from Amazon (Kindle)](http://www.amazon.com/A-Sword-Called-Rhonda-ebook/dp/B005DTS1Y0/) [Purchase this book from Barnes and Noble (EPUB)](http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sword-called-rhonda-d-s-moen/1104119696?ean=2940013647879)

: Rais Bhuiyan and the Power of Forgiveness

This is a remarkable story of forgiveness and a change of heart.
It’s the kind of story that Susan Sarandon could direct, and it needs to be told and retold.
“It is due to Rais’ message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been,” Stroman said in the interview with the documentary filmmaker. “If I don’t make it I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced.”

: Making Lemonade

Like all photographers, I have more than a few blown shots. Every once in a while, there’s one that’s interesting enough to do something else with.
Last Saturday, thirty of us went to San Francisco’s Sutro Baths for some evening shooting, then off to Hendrik point to see the Golden Gate Bridge from the other side.
Hendrik Point is always windy, but this was epic wind that ruined more than one photographer’s shots.
Golden Gate Bridge from Hendrik Point

: Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, etc.

2022: Pruned to the only social media links I actually use.

Twitter.

: Theme Change

First, a side note. I feel compelled, given how many people mispronounce my name, to mention: “Sounds Like Weird” is a pronunciation hint for both Deirdre and Saoirse.
While I loved the photo-blog theme of autofocus, it constrained me too much as not everything I wish to post would highlight a photo. Thus, I’ve changed my theme again. I had been intending to wait until after Westercon, but a bout of insomnia meant I needed something to do that didn’t require undue brain power.

: Morocco

We weren’t there long enough, but what we saw was incredible. This is the royal palace. I wasn’t using a zoom lens — I was using a wide angle. I can’t recall ever having been so close to a head of state’s residence before. Fascinating country; I’d love to go back.

: Tesla Girls

Taken at the Tesla dealership in Menlo Park, CA. I love how they’re all in “visitor” spaces. Sure enough, next time I drove by, the girls were gone.

: Rick at the Dutch Goose

Near our house is a bar called The Dutch Goose. They serve dinner late, have deeply-carved tables and peanut shells on the floor. It’s awesome. I love their burgers.

: NASA's SpaceCamp

Drove to Huntsville, Alabama (from Biloxi, Mississippi) to visit NASA’s facility where the Saturn 5 rockets were all made. Some lovely bits, including this Apollo capsule behind glass. The exhibit was overwhelming and literally brought me to tears.

: USS Hornet

Had never been aboard an aircraft carrier before, nor a ship built primarily by women. Some nice Apollo history, too.

: A Day at the Leica Akademie

I spent the day at the Leica Akademie in San Francisco along with 19 other camera enthusiasts, a local professional photographer, and two Leica representatives, both named Tom. As with many trips into the city, it began early with a trip on Caltrain.
The venue was the Hotel Triton, a funky little Kimpton hotel. The small conference room on the second floor was where we met: three large round tables for the class members, the altar of cameras and lenses at the front, and coffee at the back (which I sorely needed). You will see just how funky this place is later….
About half the people already owned either a Leica M8 (the previous model, Leica’s first digital M-series camera) or the current production M9. A couple extra people had owned previous Leica film cameras; the Leica M series has remained essentially similar since the mount changed on the M3 in 1954.
After a brief introduction to the cameras and the basics of focusing, we filled out forms and then selected a camera and our lenses. Most people, including myself, took a single lens. As I was carrying around someone else’s expensive camera, I opted for one of the smallest (and thus least expensive as small generally also equals slow) lenses — a 28mm Emarit f/2.8, which is a nice wide-angle lens for a city street or general landscape. There were a wide variety to choose from, and there was at least one Noctilux (the most expensive lens currently in production), but I was afraid I’d trip and smash it or something.

We wandered around the room on a break and I took this photo. Absolutely nothing’s in focus, but hey, I was learning and it’s “artsy” despite the focus fail.
I’d been trying to aim at the glitter, but maybe that was the wrong tactic. Perhaps a better one would have been focusing on the strong vertical, tilting artsily (more than I did; it looks like I was drunk rather than merely caffeine-deprived), and then snapping.
We were taught about focus and hyperfocal photography, and were challenged to try to take photos without looking: to set a distance and learn to work within that limit.
Then it was time for the local photographer, William Palank, to come talk. His specialty is what he calls “environmental portraiture,” and the image he had in mind when he says that is the same one I thought of: Steve McCurry’s photo, “Afghan Girl.” Palank takes photos in Southeast Asia, primarily, and I would like to point out two in particular: first, the haunting and beautiful Child Monk, taken in Burma, and the comedic Gangs of Phnom Penh, taken in Cambodia.
Then it was time to play in earnest!
We all trundled downstairs, picked our directions, and headed off with one of the three instructors. Two of the groups headed north into Chinatown, which is the direction I headed.
I found a bronze statue of a mermaid (I like mermaids, and this one is a particularly nifty example) and snapped a few photos, of which this one is my favorite.
Here’s a few other photos:
Street lamp.
The best of my street shots of people.
And other shots: one two three four five
And some of the hotel’s entrance and lobby. In these (and in some of the other pictures I haven’t posted in this thread), you’ll note one quirk I found: I kept framing thinking the right edge of the shot stopped short of where it actually did:
one two three four
On the last one, in retrospect, I should have focused on the strong vertical elements in the back of the chaise. Oh well.
When I went, I had the following questions:
1) Given that an M9 is heavier, is it still something I could comfortably handle for a long day’s venturing out? Yes.
2) Was I able to get over the fear of having an expensive camera? I think so.
3) Was it something I enjoyed shooting with? Oh, yes.
4) Was I able to focus quickly and reliably? For the most part, even though I hadn’t used a rangefinder for 20 years (and my eyes definitely aren’t what they used to be). In fact, I throw away more photos when manually focusing my GF1. Approximately 2/3 of my photos were usable focus-wise. Sometimes I took 2-3 takes of a scene and only kept the best, so I kept about 1/3 of my total photos. Not all would normally be “keepers,” but each has a lesson about what I needed to focus on, so they’re keepers in that sense.
My complete set of the photos from the day’s shoot can be found here.
At the end of the day, we spent time going over features of Lightroom, which was pretty cool. I have been a combo iPhoto/Photoshop user for so long, I’m not sure I’ll switch to it, though. Some of what I liked about the layout in Lightroom I now have in iPhoto ’11 and I need to upgrade my laptop before doing any serious change of photo process.

: Sawyer Camp Trail

Sawyer Camp Trail

We spent an entirely too-long day on Sawyer Camp Trail. Photo taken with my GF1 and a 50mm Olympus OM f/3.5 macro lens. Hand-held, worked like a champ.

: YouTube Test

Testing new embed.

: Things to Do When You're Sick, Part 104

What do you do when you’ve got a sore throat, can’t sleep, and silly pictures of cats send you into coughing fits?

Make some cat macros of your own, perhaps.

: CSS

So I’m taking a class in CSS to fill in holes and improve my understanding. A survey last night revealed:

  • 75% of the class used Firefox as their primary browser.
  • 50% worked primarily on a Macintosh.
  • Of those surveyed, almost everyone said they liked either BBEdit or TextMate for editing HTML and CSS.
  • Of those surveyed, none offered a good suggestion for editing same on Windows.

Thought that was interesting.

: Kepler's Now Has Online Ordering

Last year, when Kepler’s closed, they took the online ordering down, too. I’m glad to say that they now have online ordering again. I loved being able to look things up before going to the store.

: Be Dope Blast from the Past

One of my all-time favorite Be Dope articles (about life at Be, Inc.) can be found here.

BE DOPE NEWS (BDN) Tim
Self, Be’s vice-president of product marketing, ceased to exist today
in a freak accident involving the BeOS port of Squeak, a popular
Smalltalk variant.

Technorati Tags: be, squeak, smalltalk

: Kepler's Reopening

I helped out at the Kepler’s re-opening today, checking supplies at the registers before opening and working info desk after. I can’t even remember how many special orders I took. Initially, they were going to have me help at the membership table, but there were few volunteers who’d worked in the store, and I liked working info desk when I worked there, so it seemed a natural. There were only a couple of things I needed to ask help with, but then it was smooth sailing.

: Fussing around

Now that Midsummer is past, it’s time to futz with the blog theme again. For now, I’m using a variant of “White as Milk” — but I’m not entirely happy with it. For one thing, there’s no set colors for a tags, which leads to (peculiarly, given the theme’s title) a many-colored page.

I’ve fixed some of my annoyances with it, but there will be more changes.

: These Shoes Are Made For…?

Yesterday, mom happened to pick up a cool pair of shoes, telling me that the store carried wide sizes. And, if we had time, maybe we could go back today and see if there were any shoes for me.

So we trundled off to The Walking Company, which claims to have “The Best Brands from Around the World.” I picked up a couple of variants on the style I was looking for and sat down. The lady asked what size I needed, and I said 10 wide.

Now granted, it’s not an easy shoe size to find — even stores that sell wide shoes often stop at 9 wide. However, I had this expectation that a company specializing in walking shoes would sell shoes that actually fit people — including, perhaps, myself.

“Oh, we don’t carry wide shoes,” the clerk replied. She suggested I try Nordstrom (which doesn’t carry that type of shoe, and usually stops at 9 wide) or Easy Spirit (same issue).

Mom and I walked out of the store.

On the way home, we happened to visit Footwear, Etc., which is a great local chain. I picked up a similar shoe (same brand that mom had bought the day before) and asked if they came in a 10 wide.

“No, I’m sorry, they don’t.”

“So, do you have any men’s styles like this that aren’t in black or brown?”

And voila, they did, but in navy (one of my favorite colors). And they were on sale and they had the size that fit me.

Was that so freakin’ hard?

That’s why I keep winding up at Footwear, Etc. — I’ve been buying my shoes there ever since I started working at Kepler’s and needed good walking shoes for my daily work.

: Caught with my Ribbons

Hah, I was just Technorati surfing the BayCon tags and found a photo of me on Sunday with my entirely too-long set of badge ribbons.

I am amused.

: deirdre

Software geek, writer, and all that that entails.

![](http://static.flickr.com/32/53489739_e87fb2898b.jpg) Photo by [Nathan Ladd](http://www.laddonline.com/), 2005.
![](/wp-content/extra_content/images/deirdre.jpeg) Photo by [Tilman Hausherr](http://www.snafu.de/~tilman/), 1998.

: Intel Instead

Last week, when I heard that Macs would be moving to Intel processors, I really only had one visual that came to mind.

When I worked for Be, one cube held a bunch of miscellaneous hardware. At the entrance of the cube was an inflatable Muench’s Scream wearing a grey “Intel Inside” t-shirt that had been patched to read “Intel Instead.”

So, with that in my hindbrain, what else could I see, really? As others have said, I don’t personally care what hardware a Mac runs on as long as I still get the user experience.

: Yay, Brutarian

In the last couple of days, there have been rumors that Brutarian would be vanishing as one of the best science fiction markets. I’m happy to say that those rumors weren’t true.

I do hope Mr. Stewart is not spreading the rumor that we are defunct as we are not. Gene and I had creative differences that could not be resolved and so we had a parting of the ways. Brutarian will continue to publish until I am dead or in a permanent coma so not to worry.
In the interim, I hope that you will let everyone know that we are more than alive and kicking and still paying the highest rates in the biz aside from majors like Time, and Playboy and well, you know those publications with mega circulations.
If you get the chance could you get the message out to all these sites you frequent and let them know the situation. Or let me know where to go – no puns here, not now – and post the announcement.
Cheers,
Dominick

: Go Basfa!

BASFA members Cheryl Morgan and Frank Wu won Hugo awards tonight. Not bad for a club that typically has 10-20 members at each meeting.

Oh, and: Go, Cheryl! Go, Frank!

Read Cheryl’s account here.

: And Then There's Me!

So, I got my MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. No doubt, the romance writers have had the greatest success (in part because of the huge number of romance novels printed each year).

So I’m reading the first alumni newsletter, mentally saying “romance,” “romance,” “more romance” and starting to feel grumbly.

And then there’s me!

I feel happy now. 🙂

I am going to pick up Marta Dana’s book. She’s amazing.

Also, in fairness, a couple of the other pieces weren’t romance.

Anyhow, go, me!

: Public Service Announcement

Laura Branigan died the same way my late husband did — of a sudden brain aneurysm. Like him, she also had headaches she’d been complaining about.

If you have headaches, especially if the level of them increases, please make an appointment to get a cat scan or an MRI. It could save your life.

: McMurdo Slang

Found a great reference on McMurdo slang.

Ski-equipped C-130, huh? Now that I’d like to see.

: Go, me!

Managed to get another story revised and ready to mail. For this one, there’s one obvious market, though there probably are other pro markets that it would fit.

Wish me luck!

: One down

Finished a new short short tonight and it’s off to its first market. Wish it luck! It’s not really my usual kind of story (as if I have something typical that I write), and it may already be too late for that market. But, one can always hope!

: More about ActionItems

After using ActionItems for a few days, here are my thoughts:

The blurb says “ActionItems™ continuously saves your information as you enter it. Go to “Preferences/Data File” to specify the frequency. ActionItems™ also performs an “AutoSave” on your data file upon closing the program.”

You know what? It doesn’t. Too many times, I’ve lost information that I entered half an hour ago, even though my save interval is set to 10 minutes.

The other thing is that there’s no way to see ALL your own tasks, nor are the days that tasks were assigned highlighted. So it’s not easy to get an overview that’s not project-by-project.

This is really a 1.0 release, even though it says 2.0, so I’m willing to give it a bit of leeway. Then again, I’m using a demo. Would I buy it with these limitations? Umm, no.

But the single thing I’d like most, even more than better reports? Subprojects!

: How Am I Doing?

Writing-goals-wise, that is.

Well, a few hiccups along the road.

Got one story out, not two.

Got the paper into the right hands, though it’s not fully done yet (the conference is now saying that they’re due August 1).

And I’m working on a new short story and thinking about what I need to accomplish with this novel.

: Done for Tonight

$ wc -w paper.xml
3486 paper.xml

Must. Sleep.

: 1279

1279 words written before going home and collapsing. Go, me!

: Off for a few days….

I’m going to Phoenix, where I’ll have zero to almost no connectivity. More news when I return!

: Tables for Layout, redux

Jeff points out that some right-facing eejits are still proposing tables for layout with CSS. While there are some times when tables are a Good Idea, this shouldn’t be taken as an excuse to use tables at every opportunity.

: The Self-Parking Car.

For a demonstration of a rather cool student project, click here.

: The perfect camera bag

I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect camera bag. My old one is too small for the new camera. So far, the one I like best is RoadWarrior’s The Pod, but I’m not especially fond of its price. Nevertheless, it’s my favorite.

: How to Write a Best-Selling Fantasy Novel

Not as funny or as lengthy as Diana Wynne Jones’s (sadly out of print) Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but funny nonetheless.

click here.

: Turn the Other Chick

Finally available for pre-order. Go, us!

While it’s always a great crowd of authors, I’m really looking forward to Cassandra Claire’s “Girl’s Guide to Defeating the Dark Lord.” Plus all the other stories. Go, us!

Here’s the book cover:

![cover art](http://deirdre.org/books/turn-the-other-chick.jpg "Turn the Other Chick Cover Art")

: Yay!

Things are going well at work. I’m now a real employee, effective July 1.

: Testing Frequency

I don’t really know how well this is going to work, but it’d be cool to have some off-line way of working on my blog.

: Some day has come

My printers have always had names.

The big Lexmark Optra M412 (my only laser printer) is lexx.

The smaller Lexmark X83 all-in-one is luthor.

The huge HP-9300 tabloid printer is brutus.

I have to admit that I am sorely tempted to call my Canon i80 pachelbel. It’s such a small printer, it seems too long a name. Yet nothing else has quite spoken.

: Printer Lust

I have wanted a portable printer since before I went to Clarion. Never have bought one, though. There’s really only three models: The Canon i70 (discontinued), the Canon i80 (the current model), and the HP 450ci, which is 65% larger. So, really, there’s only one real choice, isn’t there? Some day.

: Style Sheet Ideas

I’ve been wanting to submit something to the CSS Zen Garden for some time now. I just came up with a spiff series of ideas. Go, me!