fic snippet: undercover

Oct. 24th, 2014 11:12 pm
cofax7: Three women: Leia, Starbuck, Zoe (Three Women -- Body)
[personal profile] cofax7
What it is, is obvious. If you pay attention to various casting decisions...

They weren't going to find a body )

Yeah, so I don't read the comics, and I don't really know the character, but c'mon, you know I had to tell that story.

Dear Yuletide Writer

Oct. 24th, 2014 08:22 pm
skogkatt: Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Nerd Girl)
[personal profile] skogkatt
Dear My Person,

Thank you for offering to write in one of these obscure fandoms! I will certainly be thrilled with whatever you come up with, but in case you want extra brainstorming nudges, this letter is for you!

Sabrina the Teenage Witch (tv)

Here's what I said on the official thing:

I love this show, especially for the interactions between all the residents of the Spellman household. Anything in this world would be awesome, but if you need ideas, how about deleted scenes from season 1? Or some of the backstory about Salem's failed rise to power? Or a Halloween story? I mean everything goes haywire at Halloween over there! Or a Christmas story? Or perhaps something to explain how exactly Sabrina ended up having two junior years? Did it have something to do with the time ball or Hilda's magic clock?

Additional info:

I ask for this every year just in case someone out there really wants to write me a wonderful Sabrina story. I love this universe, and will honestly be thrilled with any story. I know I asked for four specific characters. I love them, and would love to see them having some snappy banter, but I'm also way open to other things.

Use your favorite characters, make up new characters, cross it over with other shows or books or movies, or give me explanations for some of the weird series plotholes (Whatever happened to Jenny?). I will love any of it. Season 1 is my favorite for the geekiness of the writing, but I'd be happy to read about characters from other seasons, too. If you want to include chromatic characters, you might consider writing about Albert (the Quizmaster) or Dashiell (what happens to him after he and Sabrina stop seeing each other?) or Aunt Vesta (we really only see her once!), or Dreama, but again, I'll be happy with whatever you choose.


Here's what I wrote on my official request form:

This was just a lot of fun, wasn't it? I love Miss Charming, and I'd love to see more of these characters whether before, during, or after their stay at the manor. Do they perhaps become lifelong friends? Do they go back for another visit? Does Miss Charming ever find a willing British bloke?

Additional details:

Basically I think Jennifer Coolidge is hilarious, and I love that the two women are friendly and supportive of each other. I like kind people and witty banter and extreme silliness, so I would love to see good natured ridiculousness, or snappy romantic banter, or what have you. There are so many fun possibilities! Do Jane and Nobley perhaps discuss the Austen novels together? And if yes, does Miss Charming try to add her input? Because that sounds like a recipe for hilarity.

H2O: Just Add Water

Here's the official request:

Okay, I have to say Rikki is my hero. I love her. She's totally cool and she knows what she wants and goes after it, and she doesn't take any BS from anyone. I'd love to see more of her. That said, I also love Cleo and Emma, and I'd love to see more of them too. One of the strengths of this show is the friendship between the three main characters. Also, I love how Cleo is a big old nerd who knows all about fish and dresses up as a jellyfish for the beauty pageant. I would be happy to see anything in this world, but if you need ideas, how about something about what actually happened to Emma. She left pretty abruptly. Does she ever come back? Is she still a mermaid? What happens to all of them after the end of the show? Do Cleo and Lewis ever get together for real? What happens to Rikki (please let it be something awesome!)?

Additional details:

I will be happy with anything in this fandom, but I also want to throw this one wide open. There seems like SO MUCH crossover potential here. Mermaids + Sabrina? Harry Potter? Twilight? I just have no idea. I know that the Mermaid actors went on to do The Vampire Diaries, but I am unfamiliar with that universe, so if you decide to use it, you'll have to make sure everything from it is understandable to someone who's never seen it. That said, I basically imagine the crack potential here is SUPER high, and I welcome that! OMG, I just thought of something: Mermaids + Outlander! How would that even work? Is the mermaid pool also a time portal? Seriously anything goes. Just please make it fun and fluffy, because I am really hoping for a non-angsty Yuletide if at all possible.

General likes and dislikes

I love: Silly things, weirdness, geekiness, fluff, kind people, strong friendships, happy endings, witty banter, diversity, feminism

I dislike: Excessive violence and gore (some is okay if is serves the story, but I squick easily), excessive angst (again, if it serves the story, great, but I don't tend to seek out sad stuff for catharsis/comfort the way some people do), any kind of sex that isn't explicitly consensual (really really, please no), racist/sexist/homophobic stuff (again, really, just no).

(no subject)

Oct. 24th, 2014 08:15 pm
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
Sarah, sitting and putting labels on the 150-odd vials of BPAL I decanted today: "You know, I don't think it was an unreasonable request."

Me, opening 200-some vials that I bought secondhand to sniff them and determine if I like them or not: "What?"

Sarah: "'One of these days I should find a perfume I can wear to work', I said. And here we are, somehow that having turned into 'try everything BPAL has ever made'..."


(She is so very tolerant of the fact that "....that escalated quickly" is my life motto.)

Dear Festividder...

Oct. 24th, 2014 10:31 pm
rhivolution: David Tennant does the Thinker (Default)
[personal profile] rhivolution
This is a placeholder post of goodness.

Dravidian languages

Oct. 24th, 2014 09:01 pm
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
Today I drew a tree of the relationships between the Dravidian languages (because someone asked about Tamil). Source.


Oct. 24th, 2014 02:44 pm
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
[personal profile] synecdochic
Working working working. Decanting decanting decanting. The cooking tv shows I'm watching in the background are making me hungry.

Read more... )

Friday, October 24th

Oct. 24th, 2014 10:53 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
The Daily Report

So, the poem I have been talking about? I don't want to jinx anything by being overly specific before it's actually on the publication docket, but for now, let it simply suffice to say that it has been accepted by a paying market.

That's really the only topic on my mind this morning, so I don't have much else to say in this report. I did succeed in keeping up my random productive writing streak yesterday. It's another piece of flash fiction and not something that's likely to sell, at least not by itself, but if nothing else, it's another Halloween monster tale I can slip into the newsletter next Friday.

The State of the Me

General soreness continues. I was also up late last night as the excitement over my poem, so we'll see what happens.

Plans For Today

Today's going to be entirely MU-focused. I've been bouncing ideas around for fulfilling the bonus story, since that mark was hit almost as soon as it went up. That's going to be my "random side writing" project for the day.
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
...I don't think I mentioned that I have in fact joined the WisCon convention committee as a member of the media & communications team. In the long-term, I would like to take a more active hand in the public internet presence of the convention, but right now those things seem to still be in a bit of a transitional mode. I have been helping to craft and polish external communications a bit, where I can.

I volunteered my skills because communication is one of my strong points, but also because it's been one of the con's weak ones, in both directions: listening and speaking. The idea of a media & communications team is a fairly new one and its role is still being defined, but my personal take on it is that our role should include listening.

During the crises of trust that resulted over this summer from the handling of abuse claims, there was a persistent refrain from within the ConCom about the importance of maintaining a single channel of information in order to prevent confusion and rumormongering. As an outsider to the ConCom, I challenged this line of thinking several times by asking if anyone really thought that it was working. From my position on the ground, it seemed pretty clear that the attempts to maintain a wall of silence did nothing to alleviate confusion, and created the circumstances that led to the circulation of rumors.

In fact, I think we must give credit where credit is due. If not for the ConCom members who broke silence and "told tales outside of school", either publicly or in confidence, then a number of people who ultimately increased their involvement with the con might have otherwise left it for good.

I know that's true of myself.

This is why I can't turn around and co-sign a policy of squelching open discussion. The convention is run on a consensus model, though, so while I will be defending this idea vigorously, I cannot unilaterally implement it. Still, it is the viewpoint that I will represent.

This is a time of change for the con, and its leadership. A lot of things are still up in the air. A lot of things have yet to be determined. This much is true: the con belongs to its members, but the big decisions will be made by those who do the work to make them happen. We have an opportunity here, and a responsibility to use it wisely.

Diwali 2014

Oct. 23rd, 2014 11:15 pm
raven: image of India on a globe (politics - india)
[personal profile] raven
Happy Diwali to you and yours, my friends. It's been an exceptionally long day, so I'm just going to give you the usual image, and three short stories.

[image description: a darkened room, with several candles and a candelabra in this window, and an orange lamp

That's from last year: but we're still here.

dancing in the dark
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rosa/Amy.

in the middle of all the yelling )

always one last bell to ring
Imperial Radch, Breq, Seivarden, Tisarwat & co. [NB re: spoilers for Ancillary Sword - they're minor, but to be honest this won't make sense without it!]

hanging the lights )

two drifters off to see the world
How I Met Your Mother, Tracy and Robin

moon river )

The Internet I Knew

Oct. 23rd, 2014 04:02 pm
flowerhack: (Default)
[personal profile] flowerhack
Today the upstart social networking site Ello reaffirmed their promise to never sell user data or ads. Which is good for them, I suppose, but the following line from their announcement made me frown:
With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.

But 2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.
We... we had ad-free social networking in 2004. It was called "one of your friends got a Dreamhost and put some forum software on it and everyone hung out there." If the website got really big and popular, maybe the owner would ask for donations from the users, and usually folks would give enough to keep the place afloat, because everyone wanted to keep hanging out there.

It wasn't glamorous. It didn't give anyone rounds of VC funding or make anyone rich. Sometimes the site would crash from some "IPS driver error" and a grumpy teenager with the heart of a future sysadmin would crawl onto AIM at 2AM to tell everyone they were working on a fix.

But we existed. And for some reason I can't help but feel a little slighted. Ello didn't invent the concept of people hanging out online without ads. (Take, for instance, the very site you're on now, Dreamwidth: another great example of a community bootstrapping and sustaining itself.)

I had similar grumpy feelings when Pinterest was blowing up a few years back—not because of any ill will toward Pinterest, but because of the breathless, astonished tone reporters seemed to take when talking about Pinterest. In particular, they seemed staggered by the fact that the site's users were almost all women, bringing them together in a way never seen before, and how did Pinterest discover the secret of drawing women to the internet?!

And yet, the "social networks" I hung out on during my preteen and teenage years were composed almost entirely of young women. I'm not even sure why that was the case—we talked about gaming and tech a lot, which were supposedly "guy" interests when I was a kid—but it was a prevalent enough gender skew that, on the rare occasion when someone joined with an obviously male handle, we'd joke about how "but there are no boys on the internet!" We were there the whole time; we didn't just starting using the internet when Pinterest came out.

I suppose it's the difference between a Social Network TM in the Facebook and Google+ sense, versus the "social networks" I remember. Those "social networks" were small, and never made front-page news (or any news at all), and were more concerned with keeping to themselves than recruiting new members. They were "social networks" in the "people getting together and hanging out" sense. But Social Networks TM are big, and self-promote, and have money and influence, because there's a lot more people on the internet nowadays and more money to be made.

Which is fine. I just don't think it should be billed as this Totally New Thing. All sorts of folks have been on the internet for a long while now. Let's acknowledge that, at least a little.

Also of interest: Paul Ford's and "how LGBTQ nerds helped create online life as we know it."

Dear Yuletide Writer 2014

Oct. 23rd, 2014 08:24 am
yasaman: text of yuletide magic with blue lit candle (yuletide)
[personal profile] yasaman
Most of this letter is c&p'd from years past, because I'm a predictable person I guess.

Another year, another Yuletide! Thank you for signing up to write in one of my fandoms! I can't wait to see whatever you come up with, and with these fandoms, chances are I'll love whatever it is you choose to write. If my requests/prompts/details don't catch your interest, just remember that Optional Details Are Optional, and that I will be thrilled to get fic in any of these fandoms at all.

As far as my basic preferences go: I am okay with gen, het, slash, and femslash. If I've indicated a pairing preference in my request, don't feel pressured to write it! I'm a big gen lover, and I'll specifically note if there's a pairing I don't want to see with the characters I've requested. Also, a confession: I usually skim through sex scenes. I know, I know, what am I doing in fandom if I skim past the porn. But I am almost always way more interested in character interaction than in sexy times. Feel free to include sex scenes! I'd just really prefer that porn not be the whole point of the fic. Things I love: banter, subtle but meaningful declarations of love and/or trust, characters finding home and family with each other, the smaller moments of domesticity or the calm before the storm, crossovers, epic and detailed worldbuilding, women being complex and awesome, hilarious shenanigans, and indulgent emotional hurt/comfort. For a giant list of my narrative kinks, see here. Things I don't love: dark fic, character bashing, character death, non-con, infidelity, incest, alpha/beta/omegaverse fic. Also, while I generally love AUs, I love these fandoms for their settings and the characters in those settings, so I'd prefer no AUs.

1. The Last Samurai - Helen Dewitt (Ludo and Sybilla)

Read more... )

2. Lumatere Chronicles - Melina Marchetta (Lirah, Gargarin, Arjuro, Froi)

Read more... )

3. A Bag of Hammers (2011) (Ben, Alan, Kelsey)

Read more... )

4. True Detective

Read more... )

5. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Read more... )

Thursday, October 23rd

Oct. 23rd, 2014 10:12 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
The Daily Report

Well, I woke up this morning to a very encouraging response to the poem I mentioned the other day. We'll see how things go there. I don't want to say too much and jinx things.

On the subject of encouraging things: as I mentioned in a post yesterday afternoon, I've written a 10,000 word story I'm going to be submitting to an anthology in a week or so (as that's the deadline). That might not seem like a lot of time to polish such a long piece written in five hours, but while it could use some tightening and strengthening, I've honestly had pieces in rougher condition be accepted for publication before. I think at this point, great first drafts are officially one of my superpowers.

I tell you, I talk a lot about how writing (and creative work in general) depends on confidence a lot, and I think of doing random bits of side writing as getting up my confidence by Doing The Thing repeatedly, but this week has been great for my confidence all around.

The State of the Me

My body is all over the place this week: up, down, turn around, please don't let me hit the ground. I'm at the point where hurting a little bit all over is pretty much registering as okay. I think it's got a lot to do with the weather, which is similarly variable.

Plans For Today

I think today's likely to be the day that breaks my "reasonably finished, self-contained work" streak. After this is posted, I do plan to find something to noodle around with but I don't have any real solid ideas. Eh. The point of random writing isn't just the gems.

Linux Container Security

Oct. 23rd, 2014 08:44 am
[personal profile] mjg59
First, read these slides. Done? Good.

Hypervisors present a smaller attack surface than containers. This is somewhat mitigated in containers by using seccomp, selinux and restricting capabilities in order to reduce the number of kernel entry points that untrusted code can touch, but even so there is simply a greater quantity of privileged code available to untrusted apps in a container environment when compared to a hypervisor environment[1].

Does this mean containers provide reduced security? That's an arguable point. In the event of a new kernel vulnerability, container-based deployments merely need to upgrade the kernel on the host and restart all the containers. Full VMs need to upgrade the kernel in each individual image, which takes longer and may be delayed due to the additional disruption. In the event of a flaw in some remotely accessible code running in your image, an attacker's ability to cause further damage may be restricted by the existing seccomp and capabilities configuration in a container. They may be able to escalate to a more privileged user in a full VM.

I'm not really compelled by either of these arguments. Both argue that the security of your container is improved, but in almost all cases exploiting these vulnerabilities would require that an attacker already be able to run arbitrary code in your container. Many container deployments are task-specific rather than running a full system, and in that case your attacker is already able to compromise pretty much everything within the container. The argument's stronger in the Virtual Private Server case, but there you're trading that off against losing some other security features - sure, you're deploying seccomp, but you can't use selinux inside your container, because the policy isn't per-namespace[2].

So that seems like kind of a wash - there's maybe marginal increases in practical security for certain kinds of deployment, and perhaps marginal decreases for others. We end up coming back to the attack surface, and it seems inevitable that that's always going to be larger in container environments. The question is, does it matter? If the larger attack surface still only results in one more vulnerability per thousand years, you probably don't care. The aim isn't to get containers to the same level of security as hypervisors, it's to get them close enough that the difference doesn't matter.

I don't think we're there yet. Searching the kernel for bugs triggered by Trinity shows plenty of cases where the kernel screws up from unprivileged input[3]. A sufficiently strong seccomp policy plus tight restrictions on the ability of a container to touch /proc, /sys and /dev helps a lot here, but it's not full coverage. The presentation I linked to at the top of this post suggests using the grsec patches - these will tend to mitigate several (but not all) kernel vulnerabilities, but there's tradeoffs in (a) ease of management (having to build your own kernels) and (b) performance (several of the grsec options reduce performance).

But this isn't intended as a complaint. Or, rather, it is, just not about security. I suspect containers can be made sufficiently secure that the attack surface size doesn't matter. But who's going to do that work? As mentioned, modern container deployment tools make use of a number of kernel security features. But there's been something of a dearth of contributions from the companies who sell container-based services. Meaningful work here would include things like:

  • Strong auditing and aggressive fuzzing of containers under realistic configurations
  • Support for meaningful nesting of Linux Security Modules in namespaces
  • Introspection of container state and (more difficult) the host OS itself in order to identify compromises

These aren't easy jobs, but they're important, and I'm hoping that the lack of obvious development in areas like this is merely a symptom of the youth of the technology rather than a lack of meaningful desire to make things better. But until things improve, it's going to be far too easy to write containers off as a "convenient, cheap, secure: choose two" tradeoff. That's not a winning strategy.

[1] Companies using hypervisors! Audit your qemu setup to ensure that you're not providing more emulated hardware than necessary to your guests. If you're using KVM, ensure that you're using sVirt (either selinux or apparmor backed) in order to restrict qemu's privileges.
[2] There's apparently some support for loading per-namespace Apparmor policies, but that means that the process is no longer confined by the sVirt policy
[3] To be fair, last time I ran Trinity under Docker under a VM, it ended up killing my host. Glass houses, etc.

Zophobas morio

Oct. 22nd, 2014 10:10 pm
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
We got some crickets in the post today, so I put them into a tank we use for feed insects, and there were some Zophobas morio worms in there still. Z. morio is a long wriggly worm when it's a larva, and this is the form in which it's used as spider food. I was surprised, because we haven't had new Z. morio in for months, and I'd assumed that if there were any leftovers they'd be dead by now. But then I noticed the large number of small brown-black beetles in the tank and realised that the worms were (at least) second generation. I don't think I'd ever realised what they looked like when they grew up before: they're small, about a centimetre across, around the size of a new halfpenny.
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
...where the past two days I've ended up writing something short that I thought I could possibly place/sell somewhere?

This morning I got a slight inkling to write a short story for a call for submissions a friend had mentioned in conversation to me over the weekend. I started writing at 10:00 a.m., and at 3... after breaks for breakfast and lunch... I had a finished draft that was just 33 words under the 10,000 word upper bound for the publication.

And I think it's pretty good. I'm going to have to do some streamlining because it could definitely stand to have some more physical description in places, but I'm pretty well-pleased by it.

Wednesday, October 22nd

Oct. 22nd, 2014 09:04 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin
The Daily Report

So, both workdays this week so far, I've ended up writing an entirely new (if short) piece: a flash fiction story that I'll be entering in another contest next month on Monday, and a poem that I'm seriously thinking about submitting to a magazine. It's a mistake to look at two days in a row and declare them to be the new pattern, but two days in a row with successful random writing is definitely a nice trend. The fact that they're both pieces that I feel stand a good shot at outside publication is also a nice sign.

I think this is a good alternative to my old attempted standby of writing a flash story every day: write something. If I'm writing something new every day, then a lot of the time it'll end up being a flash fic, but if it doesn't, then it's not a failure. If it's a fragment that goes nowhere, that's okay. If it's part of a short story, that's also okay.

The State of the Me

Doing okay.

Plans For Today

Today I'm got some necessary business that's going to be taking me out and about, but I should be back in plenty of time to


Oct. 21st, 2014 05:01 pm
terriko: (Default)
[personal profile] terriko
This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Buttons buttons, rah rah rah

The first time I got to use a button machine, I was a kid. It was at the Ex (a fair with livestock, music, and a midway, not unlike state fairs in the US only with fewer deep-fried things), and I was kind of astounded by this giant button press because I’d never really thought about how a button was put together, let alone that this might be done by a human-powered machine.

Fast forward, years later, and one day it just occurs to me that as an adult with some income (not much; I was still a student) there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t just buy a button machine and make silly one-off buttons whenever I wanted.

Buttons! (Push button; receive bacon)

I’ve used them for costumes, for befriending random people off the internet who like snarky kitten commentary, for hanging out at abq maker faire and helping people make their own, and for anything else that might amuse me.

Since I sometimes bring the whole machine with me to places like quelab or abq mini maker faire, I often get asked about where I got it and how much it costs, so I figured I’d make myself a post that contained all the info so I can find it easily. This is that post!

The button machine

Here’s what my personal machine looks like:

The button machine

I have a 1.5 inch button machine. It has a visible “top” area of around 1.37 inches, with a bit more visible space wrapping around the edge of the button. The circles I cut are 1.87 inches wide.

Although I realize this listing won’t stay live forever, here’s a current listing equivalent package I bought. It’s the Tecre model 150 1.5inch button machine with 1000 button blanks, and as of this writing it costs $264 (although I think it might have been a bit less when I got it).

For when that link no longer works: The vendor is called “button boy” and goes by the username “politicsstinks” on ebay. Here’s a link to the ButtonBoy ebay store. The latest stuff I bought from them also recommended the ButtonBoy etsy store.

It’s a small machine although very heavy, but I did a lot of research and the Tecre machine seemed to be the best type of machine for my needs: It’s physically easy to use, hard to damage, reasonably well designed so that with a bit of adult supervision kids can make their own buttons. I went with the 1.5 inch size because it was large enough to have reasonably legible text or enough space to colour, but small enough to be cuter and easy to fit on a bag strap.

If I were to buy a second machine I’d probably go with the 1″ because I’d love to try the magnetic jewelery stuff they have now, but I expect I’d still want my 1.5 inch because visible text is important a lot of the time!

Recommended Accessories

Button punch

My number one recommendation is that if you’re going to do any larger runs of buttons, it’s worth investing in one of the button hole punches. Especially if you’re letting people colour their own buttons, it’s annoying to colour a teensy piece of paper, so I find it’s more pleasant to punch things out on the spot after the colouring is done rather than cutting the circles in advance. The punch is also great for using magazines or wrapping paper, like I did for these Christmas buttons (although I didn’t have the punch at the time so these were done by tracing circles with the mylar and cutting them out with scissors):

Christmas Buttons


Scissors work just fine. Invest in a comfortable pair rather than doing like my sister and I did on our first big button run where we gave ourselves bruises cutting out 200 buttons by hand, though.

I do *not* recommend trying to use a a cheaper adjustable circular cutter from the craft store. I have one, and there’s a couple of problems with it:

1. The center has a point, which makes a teensy but noticeable hole in your design. I can feel this through the mylar cover on the finished button and it annoys me. I stuck a piece of rubber on it to compensate, but that just makes it more finicky.

2. It’s very hard to line up the design nicely (at least compared to a hole punch or scissors)

Basically, it turned out to be more annoying than drawing circles and cutting them out with scissors. The punch, however, is way better.

Some folk at my former hackerspace have pointed out that a cricut machine would be excellent for this, and probably the laser cutter would work as well. Both of these are a lot more expensive than a punch, but if you’ve got them, why not? The only downside is that neither is as convenient for on-the-fly button making using magazines or quite as convenient for maker faire purposes.

Paper Guillotine

If you’re printing 8.5×11 sheets of buttons to cut out, you may also want to invest in a paper guillotine. This is handy if you want to hand out smaller segments for kids to colour, and great if you’re using a button punch that can’t punch holes in the middle of a piece of paper.

Again, scissors work just as well, but when you’re spending all day making buttons, little things that make life easier like that are worth it. So once again, I recommend it if you find you’re doing a lot of buttons, but it’s not needed for small runs.


I’ve found inkscape to be the most consistently good tool for making buttons because it’s so easy to whip up a template (1.85in circle with inner 1.375in circle) and import things into it. It lets you do things like fit text to a path, trace bitmaps so they can be converted to fewer, easier to read colours, etc. It’s fast for duplicating buttons and laying them out as a sheet for printing, too. And it’s free software that runs on linux, mac, and windows, all of which I occasionally use to make buttons.

Really, any drawing program will do, but I think Inkscape is particularly nice for letting you set sizes and fix alignments quickly and easily, so although I’m also reasonably capable a few other art tools (I use photoshop, for example, to do photography work), Inkscape is my tool of choice for buttons.


Non-button things!

If you look through the Tecre catalog, you’ll notice that depending on the size of machine you have, you can make a few things that aren’t buttons. Not all of them are available for my size of machine; for example, some of the larger machines can be used for small hand mirrors and some of the smaller machines can be used for jewelery-buttons.

I’ve thus far tried the flat-backed magnets (the magnet goes inside the button) and the smaller split-ring keychains. Unfortunately, neither came with instructions so here’s some notes on what did and didn’t work for me:

Flat-backed Magnet instructions

The way the button machine works, you crimp the top half together, then you crimp the top onto the bottom. In the case of these magnet blanks, the magnet part goes with the bottom half (because the machine doesn’t have space for it in the top half die). It’s a nice strong magnet… which unfortunately means that it can pull the top half down if you’re too slow when you flip the machine around and crimp it the second time, and if it gets pulled out of alignment you get a messed up button. I messed up two before I figured out what was going on, and since then it’s been pretty easy to avoid the problem, but hopefully I can save someone else some annoyance.

I don’t know if this is true with other magnet backs, which may have less strong magnets, but if you’re having trouble it’s worth trying to go faster and see if it helps!

I am *very* pleased with the feel of the flat-backed magnets. They’re smooth and strangely pleasant to hold in a way that I was not expecting.

Short split key-ring instructions

In this case, the bottom half of the blank has a small hole in one side. You crimp the top and bottom together, then insert the keychain clip into this hole (note to self: take some pictures of this later).

Things to note:

1. The instructions I found online implied that you had to be super careful about how much you crimp. It seems like the version I have is pretty well designed to avoid this problem, because the bottom half has a slightly raised edge over where the hole is, and clamping the machine all the way down does not seem to squash the hole, so don’t be *too* nervous about getting it right.

2. While the clip can be inserted either way, if you insert it so the sticking up part of the clip faces the front of the bottom, the piece sits more flat relative to the back of the button.

All in all, I found the magnets harder than expected and the keychains easier.

Button jars, overflowing


When I bought the button machine, I really wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it’s turned out to be even more fun than I hoped. The highlight was probably that first big giveaway my sister and I did at the Cute With Chris show. When we walked down to the front to give out buttons before the show started, people actually cheered for us! And then we went around talking to each person at the show while they chose their designs, which was pretty neat.

But there’s been lots of fun stuff since then. In the past year alone, I’ve made buttons for open source projects (real and most desirable), given out slightly subversive buttons at defcon, made silly buttons for one-off jokes and IRC bots, watched literally hundreds of kids and adults make buttons with my machine, even wound up making some blank ones to serve as a temporary whiteboard-style expression-changing doll face for a friend’s guerrilla photography and crafting project!

It’s a bit of a weird hobby, but each button is so cheap that it’s one you can share with a lot of people! (At the current rate of blanks, each button costs me under 10 cents) And as someone who always enjoyed getting free stuff, it’s fun to be on the side of designing and giving! :)

Tuesday, October 21st

Oct. 21st, 2014 10:06 am
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The Daily Report

Yesterday was a very good day, in no small part because I happened to wake up with energy levels that matched my resolve for the week. Today I'm feeling a good deal less peppy.

In addition to having accomplished many practical things yesterday, I also thought a lot about my goals. I've never written as much general short fiction as I want to, and I think this is all wrapped up in the issues I described yesterday regarding short stories in the MUniverse. Feeling guilty/conflicted about any part of my creative output is going to impact the rest.

I've been doing pretty good on that front lately, though. There will be more news on that in the near future, but for now I'm just going to say that I'm doing well.

The State of the Me

Today's a slower, lower energy day, though I'm feeling less hit by a truck after breakfast, pills, and a modicum of caffeine.

Plans For Today

I'm going to keep things modest compared to yesterday. I'm going to focus pretty much exclusively on writing. I have a random story idea bouncing around in my head that I'm trying to sketch out this morning, and a chapter to write this afternoon, and another chapter to give a final coat of polish before posting. (It's nice being ahead again.)

By far and away...

Oct. 20th, 2014 01:23 pm
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...the best ongoing fundraising model I've ever had for my writing is the "bonus story" approach, where every $X, I write and post an "Other Tales" selection on the site, a little side story or standalone or "Meanwhile" or flash backwards or forwards, or whatever.

It's a useful writing exercise because it helps keep me rooted in the world of the story and thinking about the bigger picture, because it means if I'm stuck on the main story I can always change tracks, and because more writing is more good.

And it's a useful fundraising approach because there's a tangible benefit, the benchmarks are low enough that people don't need to be assured that their contribution does actually help reach it, and there's a constant on-screen reminder that while I do this for free, I do depend on it for money, so I have to actively remind people less.

And honestly, some of the stories that have come out of the Other Tales/bonus story approach are among the best things I've written, to the point where I'm thinking about making an anthology out of some of them that I think would appeal to general fantasy fans.

But the thing is, I haven't consistently used this approach for years.

And the reason I haven't, essentially, is the Centipede's Dilemma. (Warning: Link to TVTropes. Clear your schedule as needed before clicking.)

It was fine when I was just doing bonus stories, but then I added in side stories, like the story with Mackenzie's brother that was supposed to run once a month for a 13 months. And other stories earned as perks for specific fundraisers. And things like that.

See, when I've got all those things to juggle, I start worrying about how it all works... what "counts" as a bonus story, what "counts" as fulfilling the terms of the fundraisers, how it all fits together with the general publishing schedule, and so on. And I don't just think it, of course, I overthink it. Because I'm naturally an analytical and reflective person. And the thing is, there's no clear answer on any of it, which is why I spend so long thinking and not doing that it eventually gets overshadowed by present and future crises, and then forgotten except for the odd moments when I remember it, think about it, and get worried. And that's how the whole thing falls apart.

But the thing is, there's a reason there's no clear answer for things like this, and that is that I'm not following anyone else's model here. I'm doing what works for me and making it up as I go.

And with that in mind, I'm going to go ahead and revive the bonus story bank idea. While my long-term goal is going to be to get enough money through Patreon every month to serve as a living wage, until my sponsorship levels are quite a bit firmer, I'm not going to be taking Patreon donations into account here. This is strictly bonus. I don't think I need to worry too much about making sure my current patrons still have an incentive to support my work, since "supporting my work" is already the main goal there. But in order to up the ante a bit, I am going to make my MU drafts folder visible to patrons starting at the beginning of next month, which will allow them to see potential future stories shaping up, alongside the current drafts.

Slightly re-shuffling the "support blurbs" on Tales of MU to make them more noticeable (as static things have a way of fading into the background, and I no longer feel like Patreon is a thing that requires as much explanation as it did when I first joined it) was already something on my "I should really do this sometime/more often" list, but I went ahead and added a bonus bank back on to the website when I did it. It's very bare-bones for now, but I'm still playing with it, as I'm playing with the other content there in the sidebar.
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