Archive for September, 2016

racist gamers fuck off

Know what? You start talking about “shooting n*****s right in the dome” on Overwatch in-game chat, I will call you on it, and I will drop out, and yes, including competitive, just like I did last night.

Yeah, I know it hurts my competitive ranking. Particularly last night. I was on a solid streak and looking okay and now I’ve got a mid-match voluntary dropout on my record. I know that, and I will absolutely fucking take that gutshot because FUCK YOU, YOU RACIST SON OF A BITCH.

And I will take your ranking down with me. Hope you like playing five-on-six, dickbag, because you do that shit, it will fucking cost you. Or – I know! – maybe next time I’ll switch to Mei or Symmetra and start griefing you, making damn well sure you know why.

Still so angry. FUCK YOU, OVERWATCH RACISTS. FUCK. YOU. Fuck you, fuck your friends, fuck your rebranded ~~alt-right~~ white nationalism, and just in case you missed it, fuck you.

Fuck you so very, very much.

You know what else I’m sick of? People giving this kind of shit any kind of a pass. Fuck that, too. You let this shit go, you are the problem. Yeah, I said that – you’re not just an accessory, you’re a core part of the problem.

Nobody should fucking play with these shitbags. If you hear that kind of thing go down and you don’t call them on it and don’t drop, I am damned well going to judge you too. There were four other players in that chat who were apparently gonna let that go, and that’s horseshit.

Because these racist fuckers should know: they drop their shit on chat, the game is over. Right then. It should be a fucking guarantee. There’s no neutral ground here, and I am sick of people pretending there is.

RACIST GAMERS FUCK OFF! And racist gamer enablers? Fuck you, too.

i used to be a big x-men fan

I used to be a big X-Men fan – the comics, most of the movies haven’t done it – so when I saw this going around, I of course had to watch it. It’s a fan-made solo (and short) Storm film, and in one of the more severe Mutant Registration/Normalisiation Act AUs.

But it’s also really good and Storm always deserved better than Singer ever gave her in the movies. Plus, it passes the Bechdel test. Content warnings, though, hm – violence, attempted (note: attempted) sexual violence, fascism and all that implies.

because i was really busy on saturday

Overwatch had a free-play weekend these last couple of days, and so the system was flooded with n00bs. And that’s fine, but somehow, it deeply confused the skill ranking system used to set up matches.

I mean, it’s always been flaky, and find of setting me up as the high-ranked player with five mid-ranked players against teams well above our level, but Sunday? It would be me with my one star and levels plus one person who has two digits of experience pus four literal single-digit n00bs vs. FIVE STARS and a NOBODY.

Because sure, that’s math. I mean, the game has always had issues with its levels matching, but c’mon.

(Crashing on me three times during winning games did not improve my statistics either.)

Is this what I thought about on Sunday night instead of working on the lyric video for “We’re Not Friends“? Yes. Yes, it is. BAD MUSICIAN NO GAMING except of course lots of gaming, at least, when not working on day jobbe, because this is Big Time for Day Jobbe month.

Also I think I’m shipping Phamercy now. Because sure, why not. My section of Tumblr fandom has pretty much decided everyone in Overwatch is queer, and really? I’m good with that.

Yeah, so – how was your weekend?

roofing at the old lair

So this is just kind of neat, right? The previous lair was a building originally built in 1911, with a lot of expansion in 1924, and it has a lot of history. It was even a chocolate factory for a while, in the 1950s, and I’m not even making that up. (Was it an evil chocolate factory? Sadly, this is not known.)

Anyway, we’ve been replacing the roofs in sections, because it’s a large and strange building, and we’re doing the last part now. Also doing some other improvement work as part of the same project, but mostly, it’s a new roof.

There’s a little mostly-decorative overhang on the front porch which is also singled. The big surprise is that this little decorative part had never been stripped off before. It was four layers deep back to the original, which means we now have a complete history of all the roofs this building ever had.

Now, the further down you go, the more damaged the shingles are, because – particularly bad in the day – they’d tar over the old layers, at least in sections. But some parts were still clean. Check this out:


That’s 1911, 1946 (almost definitely), 1963 (probably), and 1982, left to right. I like that modernist striped blue! That must’ve looked pretty damn swank in ’63. I’d love a photo of the whole roof done up that way – but yeah, good luck finding that.

1982 came out brighter than it was in real life, I don’t know why. It’s a dark grey, with no actual hint of blue in it. But the others are pretty good representations.

I’m gonna save pieces and make a display frame of them, I think, like I want to do with the (huge!) Christmas Chocolates sale sign from the chocolate-factory era. That’ll be neat.

ahoy, VCON!

VCON – the Vancouver SF Convention – is coming up, and of course yours truly has a show and some panels and a songwriting workshop! So if you want to see what a songwriting workshop is like when it starts with a brief physics lecture, and also work on some song you’ve got in mind, go sign up right now!

The workshop itself is Saturday, October 1st, at 1:30, in case you don’t when VCON is this year. They’re back in one of the hotels I wrote about in “You Can’t Get a Good Kamikazi In Vancouver,” specifically, the one that’s Really Really Really Really Really Really Really Really <gasp> Really Far Away. But it’s a nice hotel despite that, and VCON is reliably fun.

So – see you there?

edge cases of the apple ios ecosystem: musicians

So the new iPhone is out, and as predicted, it does away with the standard, unencumbered, unrestricted-by-patent 3.5mm audio connector. You can read about the release on BuzzFeed’s pretty decent writeup if you like. And this matters, even if you have an older phone, or an Android phone, because Apple is the kind of 10,000-pound-gorilla that can shape markets in this area. Even if you’re not an Apple user, this throws expectations around for the future.

There is an adaptor – really, a mini-interface-card disguised as a cable adaptor – to let you use 3.5mm devices with the lightning port. It has to contain a D/A converter and a small amplifier. One will be included with the new phones, and it costs $9 and doesn’t make your cable weird – it’s not some big block like the previous 30-pin to Lighting interface, and it’s not $30.

I have concerns about how good a job a $9-retail D/A converter and amp unit is doing to do at rendering quality audio. It will be very tempting to make it deliver “meh” quality output, and push people to new gear. That’s short-sighted, but let’s not pretend that stops anyone.

Countering that concern is the fact that at least at one point, Apple required a specific D/A converter for the Lightning audio standard: this one. I have no idea whether that’s still a requirement. But if it is, I’m willing to assume a baseline of competence for it – anything else would’ve been suicidal for the spec right out the gate.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about whether the new interface is built for digital rights management (DRM) as the long goal. I genuinely don’t think so, because it doesn’t really add much capability they don’t already have. Sooner or later, you have to go to analogue, and unless they want to remove the capability to connect to high-end audio equipment – and Bluetooth does not cut it for audiophiles, or necessarily even mid-philes – there has to be a way to hook up to standard, not-Apple gear.

You can’t get around that. Lest people forget, an Apple-provided solution for this already exists in the form of the dock – shown on the iPhone 7 front page, too. It’s not going away. And the reason it won’t go away is that while audiophiles are not a big market, they are exactly the kind of lifestyle market Apple wants and needs in order to support its brand, and more importantly, its markup. That’s not tech; that’s image management. Even without Steve, Apple knows its image.

Similarly, they can’t cut off concert musicians and DJs from plain old analogue output. There are too many audio pros out there using phones now, and while that market isn’t actually large, it’s a market Apple still invokes in image, and it’s too perceived as cool for Apple to throw overboard without throwing another serious wrench into its branding.

And frankly, with the recording industry betting what’s left of the farm on streaming, they don’t really don’t seem to care much about DRM on plain audio anymore. The RIAA destroyed the value of owning music, so from their point of view, who cares? Music is the billboard, not the product. I just really can’t see this as “HDMI for audio.”

So from a consumer standpoint, mostly I see “Apple has made your headphone cable annoying.” Even that’s assuming you’ve got your own headset and aren’t using the one Apple included, which most people do and will continue to do.

Now, this does get more complicated for musicians and DJs. Even if the included little cable adaptor is good – and let’s say it is straight up great – then you can’t trivially run the new devices on power and interface directly to performance gear anymore. That’s a headache. “Oh shit, I forgot to charge my phone” becomes a critical failure. Best case is you get a new device for that – and the dock is not suitable, you need something you can’t knock over or drop – which means one more damn thing to buy and carry around and/or lose.

Let’s also say you’re using some sort of audio software on the phone, and it doesn’t have a way to save files that you can transfer to other devices. (Even the software I have which does this doesn’t do it easily or well, it’s kind of a pain in the ass and I don’t do it. I use the headphone jack.) And a lot of software – like 8-bit emulator sequencers, and like Animoog, which I have actually used on multiple released tracks – just doesn’t do it. So that just got more annoying on newer hardware too. Another dock or another cable or another whatever. It’s one more step.

But, interestingly, not on the iPad. So far, I’ve heard no rumours that the iPad will drop the 3.5mm connector. And the iPad – particularly the iPad Pro – has very un-phonelike things like a keyboard case and special connector, and art stylus/pencil, and so on.

So what I’m thinking – particularly with the Pro – is that Apple is seeing a differentiation opportunity between “phone” and “pad,” and that they’re pushing “iPhone” to “purely consumption device,” paralleling their attempt to push “iPad” towards “creation device.” That’s not the actual usage out there – lots of people use the iPhone to make things – but it’s coherent market segmentation, and marketroids love their market segmentation.

Also, the iPad isn’t nearly as space-constrained as the iPhone. It’s just not comparable. On the iPhone, replacing that jack space with bigger battery and camera means vastly improved camera and about an hour extra battery life. On the iPad, it’s not a big enough percentage of space to care.

If the next generation of iPad keeps the 3.5mm analogue headphone jack – while adding support for the new Apple wireless headphone specs, of course – I’ll take that to be pretty solid supporting evidence. We’ll see.

Welcome back from one of about a zillion different events!

PAX, DragonCon, Burning Man, Bumbershoot, Fan Expo, Faerieworlds, I don’t even know what else. And, of course, a bunch of people stayed home. Where were you?

I, of course, was at PAX, riding a dragon.

I also released a single. It’s one that’s super-personal for a lot of reasons, and I wrote a big post about it here which you should read because I think it’s the kind of thing that will mean a lot to a bunch of other people as well.

And, of course, you can go right on and play it right here, which you should do. It’s on Bandcamp and also on Soundcloud.

But PAX – wow, yeah. I didn’t intend to do all four days, but I did, and I’m glad I didn’t sell the extra passes. Totally worth it.

First, in a lot of ways, I figured out why it’s felt different the last few years, but still good. PAX got too big to be the “instantiate the internet” event it started out being years go, and, having now spread out over several blocks (all the way to the Westin!), it’s become a gaming-oriented theme park overlay for the city.

That’s a very different experience. But the thing is? I like theme parks. I had a great time. For example – I don’t give two figs about Magic: The Gathering but I loved tooling around the insanely-decorated Paramount. I liked that there was a VR-events hotel. I liked the teeming hoards of geeks up all night downtown, the sidewalks like party wing hotel corridors only not so cramped. I liked finding said afterparties, as well. It was epic.

And, the old parts are still there. I spent a fair amount of time in the handheld lounge and having people want to know where the hell this weird-ass handheld I was playing came from and how they could get one. POCKETCHIP YOU OWE ME. (I was mostly playing Celeste on it, which is kinda brutal. I’m 1km in so far. Hard game is hard.)

From a coming-games standpoint, VIVE did what Oculus Rift did not do, which is convince me that goggle VR has a place in computer gaming in the very near term. It’s kind of like – okay, things like the Virtual Boy and predecessors (which existed!) weren’t quite yet up to Pong. Kinect was maybe Advanced Pong. Oculus Rift made a big jump forward, and is kind of an, oh, maybe an Atari 2600 experience – fun to play with, but not fun to play.

Vive, though – yeah. Vive reaches the level of being actual fun. Look, here I am shootin’ a bazooka and throwing grenades at Nazis! Because fuck Nazis. Really, I wish they’d been doing the greenscreen for another game called Raw Data, because that was the most fun, because it was 100% I AM TRACER ONLY FOR REAL WITHIN VR. That was great.

And sure, it’s probably about the Commodore 64 / Atari 800 level of VR device, particularly since there are still controllers with buttons – even if they’re a lot less intrusive than, say a gamepad. But as we all know from history, Commodore 64 is Good Enough. Game ON.

Oh, what else. The Overwatch cosplay was thick, I shot every Overwatch cosplayer I could grab (which was not all I saw) and put a bunch of photos on Flickr.

I entered a lot of hardware raffles (like usual) but did not win (like usual). I played a hilariously stupid game called Gang Beasts which is technically a fighting game, but all of the characters are floppy plushies. I won one round by deciding I’d just go jogging around the outskirts of the arena instead of fighting and the other players all accidentally threw themselves off the edge of the world. VICTORY THROUGH JOGGING! And I scouted out a lot of hardware, like y’do, for when there’s money again and I can think about building a VR gaming PC.

Like y’want to, at least. 😀

Where were you, and was it fun? Play the new song while you’re telling me about it. It’s the kind of thing I think a lot of us are going to need heading into the rest of this year, and for now, hopefully, we’re all coming off a good long weekend. Time to get back to work.

we’re not friends, we’re not lovers, we’re not people you know
different clans, different colours, and a whole different flow
but i know that when i see you that it’s true even so
that the future has a place for me
and the future has a place for you
and the future has a place for both of us now

if you’re having trouble with paypal today

I’ve heard that some people are having trouble with PayPal through Bandcamp? If that describes you, drop a comment and I’ll contact you in email about alternative arrangements. We can do this, I promise.

Anybody else going to PAX today? I’ll be showing up with the shiny new PocketCHIP I supported in Kickstarter! I just got it, barely know how to turn it on, the flail will be hilarious in the handheld gaming area. But I’m bringing it! 😀

NEW SINGLE HERE! Read about and play it!

i come back to you now, at the turn of the tide


This is a super-personal song, so of course it takes me a zillion words to talk about why.

“We’re Not Friends” wasn’t going to be released until 2017, on Din of Thieves. But a couple of months ago, SJ Tucker posted that the mood out there – she tours a lot – was the worst she’d ever seen it, and called upon everybody she knew to release their most uplifting stuff, because maybe we can’t do much, but we can at least do that, because maybe, just maybe, it would help. And having written this in a flurry and surprising my band with it right before a really big show – and not just saying, ‘we’re doing this’ but saying ‘we’re doing this and closing the show with it,’ I thought, “Okay. I’m in.”

What this is about… at the topmost level, it’s about representation, and what it means to those who are not represented in media and culture when suddenly you’re there.

You see, there’s this whole history for queers – if you’re represented at all in media, it’s somewhere in the range of “psychotic” to “tragic,” and there is – historically – no such thing as a happy ending for the faggots. TV Tropes has several sections on this; you can start with “Bury your Gays” and it gets worse from there. The number of exceptions – well, in the Anglosphere, you can count them on one hand, and arguably on one finger, before a couple of years ago.

And that won’t sound like much to most of you, who have had this since before you can remember, and got sick of it, and started writing other and more complicated and more interesting things, and that’s cool because those are good and important stories too. But you still go back to these happy endings for comfort, for relief, and even if you don’t, you have the comfort of knowing it’s there. Hell, you’re swimming in it. The message is: this is normal, this happens, this is good. You can get this.

By contrast, the message we get is: die alone in misery, faggot.

So when Korra and Asami in Avatar: The Legend of Korra got that happy ending – the walking off into the sunset together holding hands ending – it sent shock waves through queer fandom. (And also through straight fandom, and a fair chunk of it reacted in rage. Not all, not even most, but a lot. Go look at the Wikipedia edit history around the end of the show, as it was me and one other person fighting every other editor about it.)

Seeing that, getting that ending – it felt like a giant aching wound in my brain I hadn’t even known was there suddenly got healed, like something deep and old and broken stopped hurting, and I’m still getting emotional as I type about it right now.

You can go look that up yourself, if you like YouTube reaction videos. People breaking down, sobbing. It took weeks to process what happened. That’s how much of a revelation it was for a lot of us.

But this isn’t a song specifically about Korra and Asami being canon girlfriends at the end of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and it’s not about any of the other “red/blue” couples, as Tumblr likes to call them. It’s about our reaction to seeing ourselves in characters when we never have before, and it’s trying to tell you a story about stepping through getting this ‘hey, what’s going on’ idea, then going ‘nah, that can’t be right,’ then going ‘wait, this looks like a thing, but we don’t get that so it can’t be,’ then the shock and – for a while – outright incomprehension when it is.

When it’s us. When, for once, we get the happy ending, we get the walk into the sunset, we get the tomorrow ever after. We’re not friends with them, we aren’t their lovers, we aren’t people they know – but they’re like us, and they don’t end in horror and pain, so maybe we don’t have to either.

Maybe the future does have a place for us.

It’s one thing to know that intellectually. It’s another to have a story which supports it. Stories shape reality, or at least, people’s decisions about reality. Stories matter.

And that doesn’t just apply to dykes. Gods know there are a lot of oppressed groups – particularly racial groups, particularly the African diaspora, particularly in the US – who get the blunt end of the story stick.

Getting this story, then, is for us very much a turning of the tides – hence, the subject of this post. And if there’s a time when we all need that sea change, it’s now, in the dog days of 2016. At very least, we need to feel like it’s possible – I think we could all use that hope.

That’s a lot to try to pack into a song, but I’ve done my damnedest to do it. I just hope it speaks to you, too.

Solarbird, the Lightbringer
for Crime and the Forces of Evil

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