Knives Episode 32 Published

This is a gentler episode than we’ve had lately; if this were a heavyweight boxing match this would be one of the rounds where both boxers’ ears are ringing from blows in the previous rounds. Martin is not one to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent, so perhaps this is for the best. He is also not a team player, and that may show a bit this time around. Elena and Katherine have an accord, but how deep does it run?

From a writerly viewpoint, in this episode I’m working more on the connective tissue of the story than on the meat or the bone. But the best stories have great ligaments — the connections between characters and events that turn a travelogue into a story. So I’d best pay careful attention to this stuff. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative this afternoon, but I had a great time going back over the draft and adding another layer of detail to the descriptions. You learn a lot about a character by what they observe.

Some stuff I thought I’d cover in this episode has been pushed back; I’m not trying to be coy about The Thing From The Well, but there are more immediate problems to solve first.

Behind the scenes, progress on the next two episodes was, it turns out, greatly exaggerated. But the good news is that I had an idea today that totally ties the room together, but I hadn’t included in my plan.

So please enjoy Episode 32: What Needs to be Done

All for $500

I’m not the most connected social media guy. I tell you this honestly: I’m more interested in talking than I am in listening. The only thing that separates me from the rest of the social media world is that I admit that fact.

When I started hearing about the United Airlines kerfuffle, I assumed it was a tempest in a teapot. I assumed that some asshole had been forcibly kicked from a flight and that, absent context, the Internet had got all riled up. So I ignored the whole thing.

But Internet, this one time I have to say that you were right. And I have to acknowledge that the ubiquity of video cameras is a powerful force for social justice. For all we know, this sort of scene was common, back in the day.

Note to Airlines: if you want to get people off the plane for minimum cost, the reverse auction model is perfect.

So United Airlines did the math, and after no one took the offer of $800 to take a later flight, they stopped bumping the price. Technically, they could have pushed the payout by more than $500 (oddly there is a limit to how much they can offer), but at that point they decided to play hardball. It was time to throw people off the plane, by force if necessary.

The cost of that decision will never be measured, but it’s more than $500. Then came the lame-ass corporate responses. “We’ll try to not be such giant assholes, but we’re going to keep doing the same things.”

Had United Airlines asked me (they did not), I would have advised them that there was only one way forward. A way forward pioneered by Jack-in-the-Box in the face of a set of food poisoning cases: That’s not who we are, that’s not how our process works. We’ll fix it. A few years later when a tainted meat scare hit the United States, JIB was affected less than any other fast-food outlet. They were honest enough about fixing their food safety problems before that the vague, ill-defined public perception of them turned them into a stalwart of public safety.

United Airlines fucked up that day, but sometimes decisions made in the moment backfire. Now they’ve had plenty of time to figure out how to deal with this, and they continue to fuck up. All for $500.


Now With More Security

In the case of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas, the increased security protects only me, but these days some mobile browsers are refusing to connect to sites that aren’t protected by encrypted connections, even if those sites don’t handle sensitive data. We can’t have that, so bring on the encryption! Now you need never fear again; the comments you post will be carefully guarded from snoops and ne’er-do-wells — until they are shown on the screen for the world to see.

You should see a little lock icon by the Site name in your navigation bar now; for a while some plugins I use were violating the security policy, but I think I have them all whipped into shape.

For the curious, I set out to use certbot from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but found that it didn’t play well with CloudFlare, which I use to speed up the site around the world and to block massive chunks of the Internet from trying to spam me (when CloudFlare blocks them, my server doesn’t have to lift a finger — it doesn’t even know the blockage happened.)

It turns out in the time since I last checked, CloudFlare has begun offering free SSL services even to their lowly non-paying customers. So I got that all set up today and started the process for Knives and the other sites I host.

Other folks who host Web sites: if you don’t use CloudFlare or a competitor, the EFF now makes it free to get encryption certificates and they have what looks like a solid tool to keep those certs up-to-date. ALL Web hosts should check out certbot


I left them, the two, chasing a detail, he a he and she a she but maybe unaware of that before the elusive truth.


Off to Geek Camp Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I set sail for Big Nerd Ranch West, to have my head crammed full of all kinds of luscious knowledge in an idyllic location. Seven days of pretty intense instruction that I might possibly be able to get directly from my employer, but not without distractions and a thousand tiny demands for my time.

I’m downright tingling with excitement. I have been to Big Nerd Ranch before, back in 2003, and the result was Jer’s Novel Writer. This time, I don’t think the result will be as visible to y’all out there, since the people paying for my week expect me to use my newfound mojo on their projects, and those are projects you will not see.

But I’m not complaining, not at all. I’m getting paid to learn stuff that is very interesting to me, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ll take my camera and a lens or three (it occurs to me I don’t have a good walking-around wide-angle lens with auto-focus) and there’s even a chance I’ll have time for some writing. But maybe not. That’s the future. A good future.


Knives Episode 30, Almost Known as “Hekka’s Middle Bunghole”

This is one of the big ones, so it’s a time to thank all my patrons for their continued support. Thanks! You guys put the iron to my backside.

The title of this episode is “An Ethical Foundation”, which is a central idea in the story as it develops, but I toyed with calling it “Hekka’s Middle Bunghole”.

I was searching for the perfect profanity for the moment after someone explodes, and I never found it. What I came up with might have been perfect, with the proper setup: Hekka is a God known in the south, who has three heads and who gave birth to heaven, hell, and our world. Elena, apparently, stopped to consider what three heads might imply on the other end.

There was no way to fit that bit of information into the narrative without breaking the flow of the story; perhaps a future “bonus content” project could be a series of short legends about the deities I pull out of my (only) bunghole when I need a good profanity.

Speaking of bonus content, my fake user accounts with the same settings as my loyal patrons can all see the bonus content properly. Patrons, please let me know if any of you are still having trouble. If it’s working for you, I’ll start loading up Kat’s backstory.

Meanwhile, on the writing front, the curse of the serial novel is starting to bite me. I’m deviating from my plan as I come up with ideas during the flow of the writing. I like the direction I’m heading, but some of the big-picture stuff is starting to drift. But you know, I’m just going to run with it for a bit, and focus on the relationships that will drive the story. What could possibly go wrong?

Enjoy An Ethical Foundation

My Government-Subsidized Health Plan and What That Means to Joe Sixpack

I work for a company that provides above-average health benefits. My employer has even raised the ire of some municipalities in this great nation by extending those benefits to non-married partners without asking about gender or gender preference. A partner’s a partner; no need to make it complicated.

My employer, in turn, can write off the portion of the the cost of my health plan that they pay. In a big company like mine, that’s some serious money. And since I’m not taxed on the portion of the plan my company picks up, it results in a big chunk of tax money going to my health plan. It’s an untaxed benefit, and it means that eventually someone else will have to pick up the tab.

There is a dichotomy these days, where Democrats (often mistaken for liberals) are saying, “We want to cover your health for a reasonable cost,” and Republicans (often mistaken for conservatives) are saying, “That shit don’t work, we’ll get you jobs and HONORABLE health care. We’ll get you the same tax-privileged shit those Democrats who are talking down to you already have.”

The Republicans are lying; they don’t have the power to get everyone jobs. But the message resonates, even if the people hearing it don’t know about the tax privilege I enjoy. They know that the insurance an employer gives you is better, and really what else matters? If everyone has jobs, there is no problem with access to health care. The answer that comes from the rust belt Trump supporter who is about to lose his ACA coverage is, “fuck Obamacare, give me a fuckin’ job.”

The down-and-out are shooting the moon. They don’t want government support, they want jobs. I can’t overemphasize that. And they elected a guy who lied and said they would work again. Meanwhile, folks like me, who barely realize the billions our government forfeits so we can have good coverage, scratch our heads and wonder why Joe Six-pack doesn’t see what’s right in front of his face.

We have to end the hidden subsidy for my health plan, and we have to disconnect the need for health care from some weird code of honor. Health care should not be a perk. Health care is what we do for one another.

When you say, “we can’t afford single payer,” don’t forget to account for the billions in tax dollars the current system hides. I, for one, am ready to pay.