Theme Undergoing Repair

So, because I’m a complete n00b, I didn’t realize that I needed to create a child theme instead of modifying directly the theme I’d selected… so when an update was pushed to the theme I’d started from *poof* it was all gone. Annoyingly I’d read up on child themes and thought I should take care of that before the worst happened… and then didn’t make time before an update pushed that did it. Yeah.

So I’ve set up the child theme correctly now, but I haven’t finished correcting it the way I wanted it. So things may be a little messy for the short term here. Sorry!

Lobes For Business Run In The Family

With all the hot topics being political lately, I’m having a hard time coming up with a topic that isn’t politics for this week. I don’t want this to turn into a political blog. Fuck knows, there’s a lot to say, a lot that needs doing, so if I wanted to make this a political blog, I certainly would have enough fodder. I’d also feel obligated to spend a whole hell of a lot more time reading up on political stuff, and I just don’t have the energy to do that. Particularly the emotional energy because so much of what’s going on lately is so frustrating or heartbreaking. So, let’s talk about something a lot more light hearted today. As I mentioned in Time and Divergence, I run a Star Trek RPG online called The USS Joshua Norton. We use a content management system called Nova, and the game is very much a collaborative writing project. For the most part, players come up with a character they wish to play within the setting, and craft a bio, then they either write by themselves or with others about events that happen in the setting. The command team function similar to how the Game Master (Dungeon Master, Storyteller, whatever) does in a tabletop game, but without dice involved, we focus more on the overarching plot and the bulk of the NPCs, though the players can, and often do, write some of these too!

Currently, we have a murder mystery on the side of our official mission. The official mission is pretty simple: we have a visiting Romulan Delegation on Earth, and the crew’s job is to keep an eye on them and see if any useful information comes up. Nothing unexpected has come up, which is why when the CO’s brother, Noah, shows up asking for help because some strangers are trying to kill his friend who saw the strangers kill a retired intel agent, Amelia picks a few of her crew to look into it. So far it smells of a cover up, and one of the mysterious men killed himself rather than be interrogated. A Ferengi overheard some information, which he sold to the Romulan delegation, and now we’ve got a race between them and the crew to reach evidence hidden by the dead retired intel officer. To add to the stakes, the crew has reason to believe that the big secret the retired intel officer was murdered over was the true story of how Captain Sisko brought the Romulans into the Dominion war — something that even though Starfleet HQ knew some of the story, they didn’t know the whole of it, and even the partial story could be enough to unravel the delicate peace between the Romulan people and the Federation.

Here’s a sample of one of our recent mission logs: “Want Some Whiskey In Your Water?” I like to use song lyrics for log titles, that one comes from Three Dog Night’s Mama Told Me (Not To Come).

Zola settled down at her terminal in her quarters, and opened the secure channel with the Latinum Star. She knew Catalina was off the Emperor, and guessed she wouldn’t be back for a while, but she’d set up a notification in the computer in case her roommate beamed back. Negotiations were delicate work, and though her brother was better than some of their species, someone he didn’t know, particularly a female, would put him on the defensive. Also, he’d spend more time leering than talking. Zola needed information, so it was a risk she couldn’t take.

“Ah, Zola, my favorite little sister,” he cooed at her as the channel connected, his wrists pressed together and his fingers curled in front of his chin as he nodded his head in greeting.

“Ah, Nug, my doddering senile younger brother. I am still the eldest, even if I found a shortcut you didn’t,” she returned in kind, extending the same gesture of greeting. He bared his teeth at her with a growl, and she smiled wide. “How’s business?”

“None of yours.”

“Funny you should say that, as Broq apparently did make it my business,” she returned. A frown passed Nug’s face, and Zola lifted her hand within view of the screen. She slowly let the gold pressed latinum tumble from her fist. “My friend acquired this from Broq, or at least I assume it was Broq, since he’s usually not stupidly aggressive unless there’s latinum already involved. I was told he was spitting in my friend’s face.”

“So they were Starfleet,” Nug said, and Zola laughed.

“Bold assumption.”

“Return Broq’s property.”

“Rule of Acquisition number one, brother,” she chastised, waving her finger at him. “We could negotiate what the return of his latinum and other property is worth to you though.” She settled back in her chair, crossing her arms as she waited for his response. He frowned and chewed his lip as he considered. “Though I’d be happy to give you what was his if you just push him out the airlock instead.”

For a little context: Zola and Nug are twins, with their Moogie having raised Zola, and their father having raised Nug. Presently, Zola has lived fewer year, despite having been born first, due to an unexpected one-way trip through a time traveling worm hole. Their Moogie had collected on Zola’s life insurance and bribed her way into the divine treasury long before Zola’s reappearance, so in order to avoid being brought up on fraud charges, she continues to act as if Zola truly is dead. The only family who acknowledges her as alive are her brother and father. She doesn’t really miss Ferengi society, because she’s never understood the drive to collect profit, so she’s been just fine continuing her career in Starfleet since the wormhole incident.

Twisting The Ballot Box Screw

When I got into the conversation with my boss recently about Clinton vs. Sanders, the thing that hit me the most as I pondered it afterwards as how firmly and repeatedly he was trying to give me the message that I needed to get in line, that all of Sanders supporters needed to get in line. Repeatedly he said things like ‘if there was a better candidate, I’d vote for them in a heartbeat’ about Hillary, and instead of telling me why I should vote for Clinton, he spent his time telling me why Bernie didn’t deserve the vote. These are not the ways to get someone to vote for your candidate. This is how Kerry lost to Bush — No one wanted to vote for Kerry, they wanted to vote against Bush, and that’s not how you convince the swing voters. This election cycle is looking to shape up the same, there are a lot of people who aren’t supporting Clinton because they want her, they’re supporting her because they don’t want Trump.

Part of the reason why so many of the Sanders supporters are still holding out, why so many of us are still voting for him or planning to vote for him in the remaining primaries, is because we believe in his message. We know that not all the things he’s talking about are going to actually happen, especially if we don’t also get progressives to fill the house and the senate to back him, and even if we give him a happy majority in both it will be an uphill battle. Regardless of how much of what he’s trying for he can actually achieve, we believe he will give it a good try and his goals are the things that we as a country need. We believe in him and his message, and most of us are voting for him, not against Trump, Clinton, or anyone else.

I can accept and even respect someone who actually supports Hillary because they’ve considered her position on things, even if I disagree with them, because while I dislike a lot of things about Hillary, I don’t believe that the things that they’re aligning with her ideologically about make them horrible people, and they’re actually selecting a candidate they agree with. The people who are just saying ‘Sanders has lost, we just need to accept Hillary is our only hope’ when they don’t actually agree with what she stands for are going to be the weakness in the campaign. Yes, we are subject to First Past The Post voting, so in order to get the candidate that most agrees with us we need to strategically vote, but that shouldn’t mean that Hillary’s campaign and supporters should use fear to convince us. They need to tell us what’s good about her.

As an aside, if you’re not familiar with the term First Past The Post Voting (also sometimes known as Winner Takes All voting), or if you don’t know why it’s bad for pretty much everyone except for the powerful minority, please take the time to watch this video. Also check out more videos by C. G. P. Grey to follow up on this subject: talking about alternatives to FPTP such as Alternative Vote (also known as Instant Run Off voting) and how Gerrymandering works. I highly recommend them because it breaks them down into really easy to follow examples, which are great if you’re trying to get the point across effectively.

The other experience I had recently was I was having a twitter conversation with someone I follow. She’d been expressing her dismay at how there’s a type of Clinton supporter than accuses women who are supporting Bernie of not being Feminists, and I starting talking about my boss mentioned above. She and I were pretty much on the same page, and then a Clinton supporter @ mentions both of us, telling us they don’t understand us. Now, instead of doing the logical thing that one would do when you don’t understand, you know, asking questions so that maybe you can, she instead links us to a blog post that was trying to insist that Sanders isn’t a feminist. Pretty sure that the definition of Feminist is still striving for equality between the genders, and things like raising the minimum wage to a living wage, affordable health care, affordable education, and reproductive freedom all further gender equality. Particularly when the majority of minimum wage earners are adult women, and the way to pull themselves up from minimum wage jobs involve being able to maintain one’s health, further their education, and be able to make informed, safe, and healthy choices about when and how they reproduce.

So, how about this Clinton supporters? If you want my vote, tell me why I should vote for Hillary. Stop shouting doom and gloom about Trump being elected. Stop telling us we’re not feminists because Bernie’s an old white man. Stop telling us we’re young and stupid, entitled and delusional. Woo us, tell us what’s great about Hillary. And if you can’t? Why don’t you try to affect change and hold her to task. Quit starting negotiations at the middle ground because you think you can’t do any better, aim high so that when you have to compromise you end up closer to where you want to be.

The Pen And The Sword

One thing I hear a lot of people comment on is my choice to use colorful metaphor so frequently. The word fuck is not foreign to me, actually it’s probably one of the most comfortable to slide from my tongue because it’s so versatile — whole comedy routines have been written how multi-talented the word fuck is. And the number one thing that will stop me in my tracks and make me lose respect for someone? When they call me out on my use of these colorful metaphor because of my gender. While I’ll disagree if they just try to tell me that I should watch my language, as long as there’s no indication it has anything to do with my gender I will make a good faith effort to respect their beliefs up to the point I respect the person who believes them. But the moment anything indicates they find it okay to curse and swear, as long as there aren’t women present, my respect for that person just dries right up; sometimes I even find myself cursing in their presence more simply because I am so offended by their sexism.

I’ve been lectured that it makes me seem base and crass, and that I should respect myself more than that. I’ve been told to my face that the person speaking to me knows that I’m intelligent, but because I choose to use more base language that I come across as stupid. My experience has been, anyone who can’t hear what I’m actually saying because I pepper my sentences with fuck when I’m angry is actually saying more about themselves than they are me. Words have the power we give them, the meaning we wrap them in with the sentences we construct for them… so why does a simple little four letter word like fuck have the power to just overshadow everything that surrounds it? Simply because we as a society choose to give it that power.

A genius of a man, George Carlin, had a lot to say on these sorts of words. He had a delightful routine that discussed these sorts of words in detail known to most as the seven dirty words. If you’ve never had the pleasure, or if it’s been a while, I certainly recommend you take the time. This clip of it is a little over fifteen minutes, but well worth it.

Comedians are the ones allowed to poke at society where society says no one is allowed to poke. They soften the blow by wrapping it in a metaphor or provoking a laugh, but the best ones have a lot to say under their jokes. That’s part of the reason why Jon Stewart was so successful with his run on the Daily Show, because under all that humor there is a man who is very knowledgeable about politics, who has a sharp mind with opinions to share, and he did it in a way that a large chunk of society enjoyed watching it. He said things that a lot of us agreed with, and some of what he did created waves and got attention on things that might have otherwise been ignored.

Anyhow, back to my original thread: how did we reach a point where one little word with four letters has become so powerful that it can stop everything and everyone around it like it’s a freeze ray or a magic spell? It’s the language equivalent of a flash bang for so many, where they hear it and suddenly their ability to take in anything else just is gone. I recognize that language is a collaborative construct to help clarify meaning in communication, that words are given meaning by what everyone agrees upon… I just don’t understand how one word so small has been given so much power.

Really, why do we even given a fuck?

Time and Divergence

I run an online Star Trek RPG known as the USS Joshua Norton, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with this form of role play game, it’s pretty much a continuous work of collaborative writing. Like a Tabletop RPG, a game master (or rather the command team in this case) lays out a plot line for the characters to encounter and fills in details like major events that occur and additional characters needed to flesh things out. Which is to say that as someone involved in creating these plots, I spend some time thinking about the established lore of Star Trek.

While talking with crew on telegram (You should be using telegram, it’s a great program. Go download it on your phone, I’ll wait.) the topic of time travel came up. Not surprising, really, given that it’s been a theme touched upon since the original series — one of the best known episodes is City on the Edge of Forever after all — and it’s been a popular topic ever since then. Even outside Star Trek, time travel is often touched upon, with one of the best known classics being H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.

One debate that comes up if you delve into the topic much is whether time is stubborn and tends to stay mostly the same even if you try to mess with it, or is it fluid and susceptible to ripples from the smallest change. I read a story once that involved a guy trying to stop his own death, but the universe was so determined to not change the time line it sent a little asteroid right through his forehead where a bullet originally went to kill him. (If anyone knows the title and author of this story, please remind me in the comments!) The other extreme is the originator of the term the butterfly effect, A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury, where a guy steps on a butterfly and changes everything when he’s returned home. Doctor Who likes to dance between these two with its talk of fixed points in time intermixed with wibbly wobbly balls of timey wimey.

Star Trek seems to lean middleish, though more towards Sound of Thunder, but I believe that all these theories don’t have to be at odds. Start by looking at how Star Trek has handled divergent time lines, particularly Mirror, Mirror and the JJ ‘verse, one major event can split off a noticeably different alternate time line. From there, consider that at any given moment there are any number of situations occurring where there are multiple potential outcomes: for example someone steps off a curb and there may be a car coming or not, if there is a car the driver could react or not, maybe not even see that there’s someone there, the speed of the car upon impact can affect the chance of the hit person surviving, as well as variables like health, which people are on scene to render aid if anyone, which doctor is at the emergency room to offer care. If we assume that each of these variables caused a fork, that these options — and more than we didn’t list — played out by spawning a new time line, that’s a whole hell of a lot of time lines spawning every moment of every day.

How does this mesh with Sound of Thunder and Time Is Stubborn? Well, with every outcome producing its own time line, both scenarios play out as well as everything else in between. It’s just a matter of which line you observe as to what you are inclined to believe. There are bound to be time lines where all observed divergences are Sound of Thunder type ripples, and others where everything stays on the straight and narrow path of things not changing at all because the universe finds a way to nudge it all back on course with creative solutions. Statistically speaking, most time lines out there are going to be exactly what we’ve been shown in the Star Trek universe: a mix of predestination Paradoxes, time being stubborn and falling back into line when events are nudged back close to what they were before, and the smallest events changing causing the largest differences.

I want to write-up an entry on the Norton’s LCARS about time travel, but I suspect that it’ll take some more thought before I can craft something of particular use to my crew. I may revisit this topic again another week.

Up The Creek Without A Paddle

A lot of my input lately has been news on Twitter. News which is dominated in a presidential election year with almost nothing other than said election. This means I’ve been getting a lot of Trump shoved in my face, and it’s pretty damn depressing and disgusting. It’s also terrifying.

When he first threw his hat into the ring, everyone laughed… apparently even he didn’t take it seriously. Then the bigots and the rich assholes started coming out of the woodwork to vote for him. If it weren’t for the fact that this farce is potentially going to affect the long-term health and international respect of my country, I would probably have laughed too. It seemed that everyone was laughing at him, except then it became clear that they were laughing with him and didn’t realize it.

Now, suddenly, everyone who isn’t a Trump supporter has realized that he is a threat. He’s the presumptive nominee for the Republican party, they’re doubling down on him after swearing left and right that they’d find someone — anyone — else to be the nominee, and dreams of a contested convention and him running a third-party campaign that spoils the Republican vote have gone up in smoke. So now it’s down to hoping that we can convince the swing voters to select the lesser of two evils, as Hillary taking the Democratic nomination looms on the horizon.

I can’t say I particularly like Hilary. She’s done a lot of stupid, she’s more hawkish than I like, she’s probably a little racist — though nowhere near as bad as Trump — but at the end of the day she still at least makes an effort to change with the expressed desires of the people, she’s worked her ass off to get as far as she has in yet another area of society that’s still overwhelmingly male dominated, and she’s really not all that different from the others in the Democratic party. There in lies my biggest problem with her: I’m liberal and don’t identify with the Democratic party. I believe in social services for the masses, I believe in paying taxes to cover it, and I believe in unions. I don’t feel the Democrats fight for these things like they should, I feel that they take the lazy route of leaving it to others to fight for… But the problem is, no one’s able to come take up the fight when the party is full of corporate backed centralists.

Even knowing the chances are slim, I would still like to see Bernie pull the nomination out from under her with a last-minute upset. It’s looking more and more like the option is going to be vote for her in November, or stand by and pray to whatever deity might listen not to let this country elect Trump. I am seeing more and more a reality where I don’t have a choice but to vote for her. But what’s scary is that there is a vocal sort of shit lord out there that is threatening to just rage quit and not vote in the general if she gets the dem nom. The sexist sort of shit lord who’s twice as hard on Hillary than they are on any man, who would rather burn this country to the ground that see a woman as the commander-in-chief. While I’m not enthusiastic about Hillary, and I’m not terrified of what she’d do to this country.

The other thing that’s scary about Hillary probably getting the nomination is that all those people who were enthusiastic for Bernie, those first time voters, those people who otherwise don’t care about the election, they’re also the same people we need voting for key positions everywhere from city dog catcher to Senator. We see it repeatedly, if we elect a progressive president the masses think everything is magically perfect, that things will change over night. Then when they don’t, these same people don’t bother to go vote in the midterm elections and they don’t bother to go back and vote in the next presidential election. Then where are we? Right back where we started.

We need to see a lot of change in how our elections are run, we need to see a lot of change in how the population is engaged about them, and we need to find a way to actually make it possible to hold politicians accountable when they don’t do what they promised. Right now we have a two-party system where people vote for the lesser of evils because first past the post voting means if they don’t the candidate least in common with their goals can win instead. This makes it hard to replace anyone, because it’s really difficult to convince people to stray from the familiar and the safe. We need to make it possible for the average person to feel safe in considering the third-party candidates. We need to make sure that every qualified and able person can vote.

I stumbled into a conversation with one of my bosses the other day, and he was railing on and on about how we needed to start using a mandatory voting system… and while I didn’t say it (I probably should have), all I could think is, we can’t even make it so that the people who want to vote can reliably do so, how the hell would we be able to set up a system that requires everyone qualified to do so must vote? I can just see how this would be abused: institute the mandatory voting laws, do nothing to change how existing polling systems work, then proceed to slam all the low-income people who couldn’t afford to skip work or wait in line for the whole day with the fines for not voting. But then, he’s a well off white man, so these things might not even occur to him. He’s comfortable enough that he takes yearly week-long vacations out of the country, when his employees only get paid sick leave because the state of California recently started mandating it and the only vacation time we get is unpaid. He’s well off enough that his house being broken into and his stuff stolen multiple times is an inconvenience that requires a security system being installed… where if anyone was desperate enough to steal my stuff, I would probably not be able to afford to replace it. I know he thinks of himself as a liberal, but he’s about as liberal as the standing Democratic party. Which is to say, hardly in anything but title.

Finding Words

I’ll have had DeathKitten.net for 12 years coming up on the 24th of May, and SaturnGirl.net (which is currently set to mirror DeathKitten.net) since December 31st 2000. Over the years I’ve had various projects hanging off subdirectories and subdomains, but the main page on the site has always been intended to be a portfolio. I’ve been horrible about maintaining my efforts on that front, often times going years between updates and leaving things languishing even when broken (the style switcher *cough*), leaving really crappy old pieces of writing that dated back to high school up for everyone to see, and having a bio page that was old as sin.

I’ve found lately that the only writing I do is half-cocked rants on diaspora*, little quips on Twitter that mean nothing and seem to only gather notice when I’ve at-mentioned someone, or my writing for my Star Trek role play game (USS Joshua Norton because shameless plug). Even though the quality was pretty bad, there was a time where I carried around multiple notebooks and an accordion folder full of various fiction writings and random musings. That all seemed to die off after I had my backpack stolen with all my rough drafts and works in progress in it, and I never really sprung back from it.

Recently I had an opportunity come up in my twitter feed that I would have liked to try for. An editor was looking for writers for her site and other projects, because a couple of her existing writers had moved onto bigger things. When I followed up, she asked for writing samples in addition to some personal information… and I absolutely dropped the ball because I didn’t have anything already written that I felt was usable, and the suggested prompts she offered when we’d talked about it failed to resonate with me. It particularly bothered me that none of the prompts got me anywhere, because one of the pieces of advice I kept seeing from various authors and writers I admired seemed to boil down to the same thing: Just write. Don’t wait for the muse, don’t second guess yourself, just get your thoughts down until they’re all out. Once they’re down, you can go back and edit, clean them up, turn them into the finished work you’ll eventually show to others, but you can’t do that until such time as you’ve gotten them written out to start.

I feel like I’ve lost something of myself in not doing this long form writing anymore. I constantly feel like I have things to say, and if someone gives me their attention for any length of time, I’ll start ranting about whatever has me fired up lately — usually politics and the downward spiral it feels like the USA is on right now. But in the end, I feel like this ranting gets me nowhere and it feels like it rings hollow. I’ve never been particularly good at speaking off the top of my head, I’m too crass and hot headed for many people to take me seriously, and I feel very disorganized when speaking aloud. Public speaking is a skill, and it’s an especially difficult one to master without preparation before hand, and since I’m usually stumbling into conversations when I find a willing partner for conversation, I don’t often find myself well prepared.

My goal here is to try to get myself in the habit of writing regularly again. I’m not particular about if I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, I just want to get in the habit of getting words out. I want to get better at sharing my thoughts, and I want to make sure that when I’m expressing myself I am doing so in an articulate manner. To that end, I am aiming to post something on a weekly basis. I suppose if any of you want to help out, if anyone is reading this thing, feel free to ether harass me if you don’t see me posting stuff, or offer me topic suggestions. I really need to figure out this self motivation thing though, so I really hope I can keep myself on task with this.