I saw a message sent to an org asking why cyclists expect to be respected when some cyclists linger in the middle of intersections or ride three abreast up hills, and a bunch of other behaviour the person thought inappropriate.

I have two filters I read such messages through, the first is the “right to road use”. Cyclists in California are allowed the full use of the lane. One may disagree with that, but it means that if your complaint is that a cyclist is using the road, that point is invalid. I happen to think you are incorrect, as well, since we should encourage more non-motorist usage of the roads; it makes for a better world, as measured by a whole bunch of metrics that matter more than how quickly you can get to your destination.

The second filter is “power dynamics”, meaning how does the criticized behaviour challenge the status quo, and why is this person becoming defensive. Privilege comes into play here, and while motorist are probably the least egregious in systemic bias among the causes I am support, they probably induce the highest mortality rate. Misogyny can continually victimize a women in an abusive relationship, and racism contributes to the conditions that bring about state-sponsored and domestic violence in communities of color. Motorists habitually kill cyclists, and the systemic response is victim-blaming.

I saw Anita Hill on The Daily Show, and subsequently read up on her conflict as part of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Her stand had ripple effects in politics and everyday perception, and during a clip from the upcoming documentary, she says, “People misunderstand that the harassment is about the sex, it’s really about control and power, and abusing it.” That sentiment is important, because people misunderstand what systemic bias is, and are distracted by the overt symptoms that happen in isolation.

Oakland emails give another glimpse into the Google-Military-Surveillance Complex

Bitcoin’s Actual Privilege Problems

Someone asks:

Hi just curious if you were to choose a CMS and technologies for launching a local community digital only community news site, which is mobile and tablet friendly, and easy for community editors to use to publish articles, what platforms, CMS and tech would you recommend?

If you are asking me, you probably already know a little bit about my work. What you are describing is similar to what we have at Oakland Local, as well as the recently launched Young Oakland.

I personally work primarily with WordPress, but I didn’t start there, nor did I stay once I found it. I compulsively use new self-hosted software, and have used just about every FOSS CMS/blog/forum/gallery/status/repo/IM project out there. The first version of Oakland Local was in Drupal. But eventually we migrated even that site to WordPress.

The theming layer, user system, custom post-types and plugins make it a very versatile platform. I build sites for a variety of companies and individuals, and most of them I also host on a single multi-network WordPress instance, which shares users, plugins and themes, so the overhead for keeping it updated isn’t affected very much by each new site I add. This configuration is possible because the core of WordPress allows for thousands of developers to build on it, so you have 10 years of development and millions of human hours working on the design patterns to use for your site.

Okay, so of course I suggest WordPress. But there are 29,000 plugins, probably more themes, and building any site is difficult. Where does one start? Well, here are some specific suggestions on starting a local community-driven news site, at various levels of abstraction.


Edit Flow makes it easy to manage a lot of folks working on different content at the same time. I think one should probably be familiar with the WordPress post edit screen first, but even with the slight learning curve, a small team of editors can handle a lot of content easily, once they grok this plugin. A couple training sessions for editorial workflows will go far for a community site.

Pods allows drag-and-drop creation of custom post types and taxonomies. I prefer this plugin to other methods because the interface is easy to use, and allows for easy export/import, so creations can be shared without having to code. There is a learning curve to do things beyond the basics, but it is a good starting place to customizing WordPress post types. An example of using Pods is on Moon Handbooks; we use it to create the book pages, which have structured data.

Gravity Forms is a premium plugin that creates forms. It doesn’t sound too exciting, but it is amazing what you can do with it. At Young Oakland, students can submit their art work, and contributors to the RailsBridge Blog can create posts without having an account on the site (which means the bottleneck isn’t administering users on a blog). There are a lot of contact forms, but GF has a drag-and-drop interface, and other plugins that greatly increase what the forms can do, like passing data to a CRM or a custom post type.

WP-Piwik is the plugin that makes it easy for WordPress to use Piwik, a free and open source analytics project. Knowing how folks use your site can be useful, and on a community site it is one tool in creating value for its members. Piwik can be configured to respect folks’ privacy as well, and I run an open, public instance at AnalyticsX. If you would like to track your site there, get in touch.

While I don’t use them personally, BuddyPress (social networking) and bbPress (forums) are worth mentioning. I don’t use them for various reasons, the primary being I don’t have a need for those particular setups. But I keep an eye on them, because they are definitely useful to the right group.

I am browsing the book for Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, and found a page I really like. This is always the case, because the game takes place in the imagination, but it is nice to hear it be presented up front.

Genre, Gender, Race and Inclusiveness

By default, Tianxia’s setting is more inclusive
than Imperial-era China but it still presumes a
fair amount of similarity with that period. Thus
gender roles are less defined and non-heterosexual
orientation is less polarizing, but there are still
certain vague expectations. However, this need
not be the case.

GMs can tailor gender roles, attitudes towards
sexual orientation, and social expectations based
around these factors as much as they like. Women
warriors are hardly uncommon in Tianxia as is, but
they can be made even more common if you like.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered characters
already exist and are generally accepted by many,
but their level of acceptance can match or even
exceed what we see in modern society, if desired.
Do whatever is most fun and enables play. In fact, a
fairly famous wuxia movies series, the Swordsman
Trilogy, revolves around a skilled warrior who learns
incredibly powerful martial arts, resulting in the
character switching genders from male to female as
their internal energies transform their body. So, not
only are these ideas totally fine on their own, they
are supported by the media that inspires Tianxia.

Likewise, the default Tianxia setting presumes
the vast majority of people are of East Asian
ethnicities roughly matching those of China. This
is reflected in the art, names, and other setting
elements. That does not mean you cannot populate
the Shénzhōu setting with people of all ethnic
backgrounds; in fact, it will not break anything to
make characters white, black, or even reframe the
whole setting as nothing but anthropomorphic
animals. Such changes might alter the feel of the
setting somewhat, but not necessarily for the
worse. You can find support for such ideas in the
inspirational media, with movies like Man with
the Iron Fists presenting characters of various
ethnicities. There is even another role-playing game,
Jadeclaw, where the PCs are all anthropomorphic
animals in a setting similar to Tianxia’s.

MediaGoblin is a publishing system for the web, it can host all your media of any kind (like a YouTube + Flickr + SoundClound + more that anyone can run!). Plus it’s free software, so you can run it and adapt it to your needs. Want to help the project towards federation and privacy features? Check out their fundraising campaign!


The newest app in F-Droid.

Before Clover when to sleep, e took off eir socks and put on a scarf. Because that makes sense.

Just sent the email…

February 28, 2014 — 1 Comment

Thanks to Kevin, Mike, Susan, Tim, Parker, j1mc, Owen, Chris, Laura and Nathan for the kind words and feedback! And to all the folks that create and promote free software, and make something like this even possible.

I’ve published what I sent to the folks at the FSF, and do not need any more feedback. My first draft was based on me finding my voice while also trying to fit it into templates I found online. I thought about it for a few days, and realized that I wanted to show them I was aligned with their mission, but also that my quirks and passions are also very important, and that I would contribute to the cognitive diversity there.

I am happy with what I sent, despite it not being very standard or formal. But that is me, ne?

And I wanted to point out that Susan Magnolia is my rock, and I wouldn’t be able to be in the service of others if I didn’t have her support. ^_^

Not a social drinker

February 27, 2014 — Leave a comment

Trigger Warning: This post makes reference to child abuse and alcoholism.

I stopped drinking booze regularly a few months ago. But for years I’ve avoided drinking away from home. I wasn’t sure why that was, but I just thought of it: every person that beat me as a child was a drunk adult.

The reason I was thinking of it is because whenever anyone asks me if I would like a drink at some social function, instead of politely refusing, I would explain in constrained detail that I don’t drink in public. That was shorthand for me saying, “I am going to stay sober, because I don’t trust any of you, and I need to have some advantage if you are drunk.”

Of course I don’t distrust many folks, and I actively surround myself with people that I can rely on to a certain extent. But I don’t like it when people drink at social functions. “Social drinker” was the code-words my grandparents used to discuss their alcoholism, and because I don’t have the energy to check in with each person and seeing how they are doing in life in order to make an assessment, I’d rather just be able to check out of the whole ritual.

I prefer to drink alone, because I am often alone, and that is when drinking happens. It used to concern me, because drinking with friends, or to become uninhibited, is given a pass in this society. I don’t really enjoy either, because I like paying attention to people, and I like being uninhibited while sober. I realize now that it is a source of power for me, and also a privilege. I can do things that other people need chemical supplements to achieve.

One day (in a couple of decades) I hope to drink good wines and sake with Clover, and hopefully cultivate in em a snobbish disdain for cheap, tasteless liquor. But I will never put myself in a situation where I could easily justify hitting anyone, let alone a child. And since it doesn’t actually affect me socially, I won’t drink with groups of people, either.