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Pictures

Can I offer you a moon in this trying time?

I used to have a cheap telescope that could get close to this level of reach, but the moon being the moon, it would move out of view almost as quick as I could find it. When I could.

That was not a good telescope. It couldn’t do much with stars, and it couldn’t do much with large stuff in the solar system. And it had no camera attached!

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Articles

The thing that gets you to the thing

Music as I treated it the last several years was a series of stepping stones to what I really wanted to do: photography. An album sale here, a patron there, and recently members here.

There’s a quote in one of my favorite TV shows, Halt and Catch Fire:

“Computers aren’t the thing. They’re the thing that gets us to the thing.”

Joe MacMillan (played by Lee Pace), Halt and Catch Fire

Music was the thing that got me to the thing: photography. I had a lot of hobbies and interests, but picked music to carry that weight because:

  • I’m good at it.
  • I’m fast.
  • I don’t burn out on it easily.
  • Selling it doesn’t bother me the way it does for other hobbies.

And that worked out…mostly. Even after all that, it finally took a lot of gifted money to finally get there. I was burned out, ready to give up. But you know what? Had I paced myself and paid attention to my physical and emotional state, it would feel less like a Pyrrhic victory. I got the camera, but now I can’t look at my music tools without wanting to curl up into a little ball.

I mainly got the MIDI keyboard for the Lite license. Once I seriously burned out, I just couldn’t touch it. Opening Live filled me with dread. Even going back to the roots to play with LMMS or Reaper with some cheesy free software synthesizers just made me sad.

The burnout will pass. I hope. I miss making music right up until I try. Right now I’m focused on learning to use this camera while using this blog to turn my experiences and perspective into something useful for others.

If you ever decide to follow my path and turn one of your easy to sell hobbies into money to get you somewhere else, be prepared for the possibility that it’ll take longer than you expected. I had to bust my butt at it for years releasing hundreds of hours of music just to have enough saved from it to even think about buying a camera. Now I’m absolutely fried emotionally on the subject of music.

Don’t do it the way I did it. Don’t get desperate. Don’t pump out 30 things a week for a month every few months hoping something clicks enough to make it all worth it. Pace yourself. You don’t want to be ruined for that hobby on the other side.

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Pictures

Squirrel Surprise

This squirrel ran out in front of me, quickly realized its mistake, then ran off. But not before I got a few photos. I saw some of its friends playing nearby, but they were too far away and in too much shade.

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Pictures

Pretty on Pink (photo)

I’m not a nature photographer as a rule, but there isn’t much else to shoot on account of the pandemic. I am exploring macro photography, but it would be easier with an actual macro lens. I set up a subscription page for people who want to support the site. You can also subscribe on Patreon, but I plan to phase it out.

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Articles

Mastodon Community Stimulus Redistribution

Hello! This is a big, shiny fundraiser started on Mastodon by famous fediverse dog, Hyperlink. The original goal was to raise $800 and split it between everyone who signed up.

Anyway, now it’s at almost $30,000. Hyperlink is posting updates on Patebin because dogs can’t operate WordPress with their bappy paws, so I’m helping out by reposting them here with better, more accessible formatting.

These are copied and pasted with a quick skim for problems. Comment below if I missed anything.

Each of the sections has a number attached as an HTML anchor. You can put # and the number on the end of the address to link to it. Like so.


The GoFundMe Page Description

DON’T NEED SOME OR ALL OF YOUR GOVERNMENT STIMULUS CHECK? WANT TO HELP OTHERS?

Donate your stimulus money to this GoFundMe to directly support members of the Mastodon community impacted by this crisis. Whether you’re comfortable donating your entire stimulus check, or just pitching in a few bucks, ANY amount helps support people who need it! Please donate!

ABOUT THIS CAMPAIGN (gofundme community managment team, hello)

Hi, I’m Hyperlink, a queer artist from Somerville, Massachusetts! I organized this fundraiser to help redistribute government stimulus money for members of the Mastodon community. Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized microblogging platform that is the digital home of a vibrant community of cool people. I’ve been a member of the Mastodon community for almost two years now and wanted to provide a platform where Mastodon users who have money to spare could help other Mastodon users facing financial hardship during these difficult times.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

100% of the proceeds of this GoFundMe will be distributed to members of the Mastodon community who have filled out the two-question Google form at the end of this description. Any member of the Mastodon community with any amount of need who has provided me a valid PayPal link or CashApp handle is eligible to receive a payment from this crowdfund.

All payments from this fund will be equally sized — I will simply divide the total value of donations by the number of people who have requested aid (currently 174 people) and send everyone who submitted a valid PayPal or Cashapp their equally sized portion of the total amount raised.

Once I am able to access the funds I will then distribute an equally sized payment to everyone who has requested a payment with a valid PayPal or Cashapp before 7pm EST on April 23.

NEED FINANCIAL HELP DURING THESE TIMES? WANT TO RECEIVE FUNDS FROM THIS REDISTRIBUTION?

Click here and fill out a private, two-question form to receive money from this! Folks with ANY amount of need welcome to submit! (I had to change the form to Google Forms because SurveyMonkey tried to charge me a hundred dollars (?!?!) but if you filled out the previous form, you’re all set.)

April 16 Update

thank you so much for the overwhelming response to this! at this point more than 40 people have responded to the surveymonkey i posted, which is amazing!! however, this form is now full, so i had to create a new google form to avoid paying surveymonkey.

if you’ve already responded, you don’t need to do anything, I will make sure you get your money. if you’re looking to add your paypal or cashapp, please use this new form instead. the fundraiser description now reflects this new form as well. thanks! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12zThRidBX9RpcIpLfoCwK229gMxIrLEYBFl8TuvCbno

April 20 update

Update 01 — This Week in Mastodon Community Redistribution

Hi everyone! Hyperlink here! Happy MastoMonday! I just wanted to drop by and offer a fundraising update. This one is probably gonna be a long one, so grab a mug of something warm and snuggle in for some in-depth talk about the next week or so of this redistribution!

tl;dr here’s all the stuff that I’m covering in this update….

  • Information about the first round of redistribution payments
  • To be included in the first round of payments, submit your PayPal or CashApp by 7PM EST on Thursday!
  • Updates on the future of the campaign beyond the first payments
  • Things that could go wrong, and what I’m doing to prevent that

…but before we get started, I just want to say one more time, from the absolute bottom of my heart, thank all of you so, so much for all you’ve done. Whether you signed up to receive money, donated whatever you could, organized stretch goals, or just shared the word with a friend or two, all of you are directly responsible for helping to foster a more empathetic and compassionate world. Thank you for taking this far, far beyond anything I ever imagined it would be.

As we get closer to processing our first round of donations, I want you to know that I value this community and the trust you’ve placed in this fundraiser immensely, and I’ll be doing absolutely everything in my power to ensure that funds are distributed as transparently and efficiently as possible. If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas regarding this project, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Masto or via DM.

Ok, with that said, let’s get into it!

QUICK NUMBER CRUNCH: WHAT FIRST PAYMENTS WILL (ROUGHLY) LOOK LIKE

Between the 40 SurveyMonkey entries and 144 Google Form responses, 184 folks have requested to receive funds from this fundraiser. Hell yeah! When I started this campaign, I said I was going to start the process of distributing funds one week after the campaign started, which is this Thursday. Since then I’ve learned I don’t exactly have that level of flexibility regarding withdrawal dates, but I’d like to honor that date as a deadline of sorts for this first round.

So, to be included in the first round of redistribution, all PayPals/CashApps need to be submitted by 7pm EST this Thursday. (Of course, you’re welcome to submit after that and be included in future rounds of payment.)

As of 8:44pm EST on Monday night, this campaign has raised $21,335.81 after GoFundMe transaction fees (those fees are $689.19). However, GoFundMe won’t be releasing these funds in their entirety for the first withdrawal: they’re releasing $14,030.77, currently estimated to appear in the brand new Capital One account I have created exclusively to house stimulus redistribution funds on or before April 28. To get money to folks as quickly as possible, I’m going to distribute this first $14k as soon as it’s available.

$14,030.77 in donations divided by roughly 184 people means that if funds were distributed right now, each person would receive a first payment of $76.25. (In total, if fundraising stopped today, each person would receive $155.95 before all is said and done.)

This value is subject to change as more people request funds and the campaign goes on, but I wanted to give you a clear picture of where we’re at right now. I wish I could distribute more of these funds more quickly, but we’re limited by what GoFundMe can send. Rest assured that ALL funds after transaction fees will be distributed as soon as I can.

Once funds are available in the Capital One account, I will calculate how many of those funds are going to folks via PayPals, and how many are going via CashApp. I will transfer the funds for folks with PayPals into a PayPal Business account I’ve created for this fundraiser and initiate a mass payment from there, and then send CashApp payments from the Capital One account to CashApp folks.

REDISTRIBUTION BEYOND THE FIRST PAYMENT

I’ve told GoFundMe to start withdrawing funds from the fundraiser pool into that Capital One account on a daily basis after this first withdrawal, so beyond this first payment, I should have a little more flexibility on when I can set cutoff times and start this PayPal & CashApp distribution process.

I’ll save more specific details on second and third rounds of payments for a future update, but I wanted to give some more clarity on what the future of this campaign looks like.

A few folks have asked me if the fundraiser has a set end date, and at this time, the answer is no, there is no set end date. Many folks have still not gotten stimulus checks in the mail (like me, for example!), and I’ll definitely need to do more than one round of distribution to ensure everyone gets their funds in full, so I see no reason to prohibit folks from donating more at this time.

In the immediate future, I think the right thing to do is probably to aim for the second round of payments to take place just one week after the first, provided that’s possible. Beyond that second round, it may be more sustainable in terms of workload for me to do payments on a bi-weekly basis, but bulk payments with PayPal may be easier than I anticipate. I’ll keep you all updated as this develops.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Distributing these funds in an efficient and transparent manner is extremely important to me, and I’ve been trying to be proactive in clearing potential obstacles to people receiving funds as quickly as they can. However, this is definitely a large and complex project, so I want to be honest about some of the risk factors I anticipate for this redistribution effort and the steps I’m taking to address them.

The first thing that could go wrong is an issue withdrawing funds from GoFundMe — earlier today, at GoFundMe’s request, I updated this campaign with significantly more information about who I am and how the campaign runs, and I’ve provided a ton of government and bank identification along with the information for my Capital One account. I’m reasonably confident getting the money out of GFM will go smoothly, but a risk exists that problems arise here.

Once the funds are in that account, most of them will need to go to PayPal, which is where I feel the biggest risk factor lies. It seems to me that PayPal has a reputation for locking funds for lengthy review processes, and I want to avoid that as much as possible. Their customer support staff has been significantly reduced for COVID-19 reasons but I spent a significant portion of last night and today registering my Business account for Mass Payments, submitting verification information, and chatting with their support team about ways I can avoid any unnecessary hold-ups. I’m also going to try to transfer some of my personal money in and out of the account to hopefully trigger any verifications they might want to perform. Hopefully this goes smoothly.

Finally, there is a risk that CashApp limits the amount of funds I’m able to transfer at a certain limit. In my experience CashApp has been pretty user friendly, but this is a risk factor nevertheless. I’ll be looking into any verification information they might need from me to mitigate this in the coming days.

One last thing that could go wrong is misspelled or non-functional PayPal or Cashapp handles. I don’t anticipate many of the responses will be misspelled, but I regrettably didn’t ask for any contact information in the Google Form in case things go wrong. In the event payments to one or more people are unable to be completed, I’ll keep a list of those people’s submissions, mention in a future GoFundMe/Mastodon update how many payments were unable to be completed and ask for folks to get in contact if their payments were not received after 24 hours. In the event a payment is unable to be completed and no one reaches out, after a certain amount of time (two weeks maybe?) I’ll fold that money back into the fund to distribute to everyone else.

…whew, that was a lot! I hope that helps clear up where we’re headed in the next week or so of this fundraiser. If I missed anything, or if you have any other questions, please just drop me a line and I’m happy to help out. I’m so excited to get the first round of cash into folks’ hands — let’s keep the momentum going!

In love & solidarity,
Hyperlink

April 22 Update

Update 02 — Updates on our Payment Processors

Hello again everyone! It’s Hyperlink! I’ve been working hard to get everything in ship-shape for first redistribution and I have some updates to share with you. Thanks again for all your support!

First, here’s a tl;dr of everything I’m covering in this update…

  • First redistribution payments will be a little larger than expected, at about $96.39 per person!
  • To be included in the first round of payments, submit your PayPal or CashApp by 7PM EST tomorrow!
  • GoFundMe has confirmed my bank account and officially queued the first withdrawal, to arrive on or before April 30.
  • All identity verification for my new PayPal is complete, and all account restrictions have been lifted.

So let’s get into it!

——

GOFUNDME: YOU SIMPLY LOVE TO SEE IT

On Monday, I told you that GoFundMe was getting ready to transfer the first $14,030.77 of post-fees funds on or before April 28. Now that the GoFundMe Trust and Safety Team has officially verified the campaign and lifted a temporary hold, I’ve learned that they’re actually able to start transferring more of that money than they initially reported to me, which is awesome news.

According to the Withdraw panel of the campaign, we can expect $21,881.71 to be transferred into the Capital One account I set up for this fund on or before April 30. (Actually, GoFundMe is now showing me both this $21,881.71 payment plus an additional $1,676.83 by this date, but just to be safe, I’ll do my calculations with just the 22k.) This, plus more people signing up to receive funds, means our first redistribution payment looks a little different…

$21,881.71 in donations divided by roughly 227 people means that if funds were distributed right now, each person would receive a first payment of $96.39. (In total, if fundraising stopped today at $25,408.79 after GoFundMe fees, each person would receive $111.93 before all is said and done.)

Just like last time, this value is subject to change as more people request funds and the campaign goes on. I’ll be able to get closer to an exact first payment amount after tomorrow’s first disbursement deadline.

——

PAYPAL: YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TOLERATE IT

On Monday, I shared my concern that PayPal was going to significantly gum up the works of getting payments distributed, and mentioned that I was going to move some of my money in and out of the account to preemptively trigger any necessary identity verification. Well, I did, and that’s exactly what happened!

After moving some money into the account on Tuesday, PayPal instantly placed a hold on the account and requested a bunch of identity verification documents and proof of taxpayer status from me. In doing this, I also learned that the mass payment method I was planning to use to disperse funds would have ended up charging me somewhere between six hundred to more than a thousand dollars in unnecessary merchant fees — fucking yikes!

After two days of struggling with PayPal’s honestly horrible customer support interface, earlier today I was able to submit three identification documents, have them all reviewed and approved, and have all account restrictions lifted. Additionally, the new Capital One account is now linked to the PayPal, and I’ve identified a manual method of disbursement that, while more labor intensive, results in zero dollars in transaction fees.

I knew PayPal would be a pain in the ass, so getting all this verification shit out of the way before I have access to the funds will hopefully ensure a smooth redistribution next week.

One asterisk here: despite all this, I have still not yet able to send myself a test payment roughly equivalent in value to the payments I’ll be sending to fund recipients. I’ve been advised by PayPal to try again in 24 hours. Everything is now in order with my account so I can’t foresee any reason why this wouldn’t work, but PayPal might try to be PayPal about it. I’ll keep you updated.

——

CASHAPP: BOTTOM TEXT

Today I also linked my Stimulus Fund account to my Cashapp and dropped their support team an email asking if there’s any further verification I can submit to them to ensure funds move smoothly. I haven’t had any problems with them before, but did this just in case. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

——

…and that’s the update! I hope your week isn’t going too badly. As always, please feel free to hit me up on GoFundMe, Masto, DM, or deep within the recesses of your mind with any questions, ideas, or concerns.

Catch ya later,
Hyperlink

April 23 Update

Hello everyone! Super fast update.

First of all, submissions for the first redistribution are now closed! Feel free to add your name to be included in subsequent payments, though they’ll likely be smaller.

Second of all (this part’s important), while I was able to successfully send money to a friend with PayPal today (!!!), PayPal’s security system is still preventing me from sending a test payment similar in size to the ones I’ll be sending to fund recipients.

I am working nonstop to get this account functional. But just to make sure I can get you your funds as fast as possible, if you submitted a PayPal and have a CashApp you can use instead, please let me know so I can use that instead. If you already listed a CashApp, or listed both, no need to fill this out. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeP_dwLP9NkbApA1zqUpetZ1dalXPjtuAiM1bcZlv6-3aturg/viewform?usp=sf_link

That’s all for now! I’m sure I’ll have a longer update for you soon.

Love & solidarity,
Hyperlink

April 24 Update

Update 03 — BIG UPDATES: Closing the Fund For Now, First Payments Sent Tomorrow, And More

Hi everyone! Hyperlink here once again, with some BIG updates on this redistribution effort.

I’ll start with some great news — I woke up this morning to find $23,558.54 from GoFundMe waiting in the fund’s Capital One account. That means that I will be starting the process of sending payments tomorrow evening, well ahead of schedule! This is exciting, and I can’t wait to get people their funds.

I also have other, less fun updates to share with you.

  • The first big one: basically, because I’ve been having such trouble getting PayPal and CashApp to cooperate (which I’ll cover here in detail), I’m planning to close this first round of redistribution tomorrow at 11AM EST and focus on getting people their money before raising any more.
  • The second big one: due to those aforementioned problems with PayPal’s security system, while I will definitely be able to start sending payments via CashApp tomorrow evening, PayPal folks won’t receive funds until PayPal’s security system allows me to send them. Ugh.

In this update, I’ll give you all the details I currently have on these developments, as well as some other important information, including how people in the US & UK can potentially get their money faster.

Let’s get into it!


STARTING TOMORROW, I’M CLOSING DONATIONS & FUND RECIPIENT SUBMISSIONS FOR NOW

Earlier this week, I set 7PM on Thursday as a deadline for being included in the first round of redistribution payments, with no plans to stop collecting money or payment information beyond this. After running the numbers, I realized this approach would result in people submitting after that deadline getting less than 20 dollars from the fund, and those who submitted earlier getting way more. Since the number of people who submitted payment info after this deadline was super small, I’m just gonna go ahead and include everybody in this round of payments.

However, I am also going to stop accepting new donations and requests to receive funds effective tomorrow. @queerfrog@radical.town has organized an amazing 24hour livestream in support of the fundraiser until tomorrow at 11AM EST (please go support them and check it out!! https://www.twitch.tv/protodrew), and I think this is the perfect way to end this first round of redistribution. After the stream ends tomorrow at 11AM EST, I’ll go ahead and stop accepting both donations to the fund as well as responses to the google form, and start distributing funds tomorrow evening.

Why close it now, after stating in the first GoFundMe update that I wasn’t planning to? This was an extremely difficult decision to make, one which I’ve been weighing for days — I have still not personally received my own stimulus check to donate, and I know I’m not alone in that. Plus, this fundraiser has so far exceeded my expectations that capping it at any point beyond the absolute maximum we can contribute is a bit disappointing.

Ultimately, though, the ongoing problems I’ve been having with both PayPal and Cashapp, as well as the volume of organizational work this has required as a single organizer, have led me to want to prioritize redistributing the money we’ve raised so far before I try to organize distributing even more money. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the end of this stimulus redistribution effort — on the contrary, in my view this experience has demonstrated just how essential mutual aid efforts for the Mastodon community are, and seeing others step up to provide other resources to the community during this time has been inspiring. I’m definitely open to re-opening the fund for both new contributions as well as new recipients in the coming weeks based on the experience I’ve had with this first round — perhaps with a small team of volunteers, and DEFINITELY with tried-and-true payment tools established well in advance.

More to come on this in the next few weeks. As always, I am humbled and overwhelmed by your kindness, support, and generosity. Thank you so much for this journey so far. I’m excited to focus on getting people paid as fast as I can! Speaking of which…


NUMBER CRUNCH: AN ALMOST-FINAL BREAKDOWN OF THE FIRST PAYMENT

Now that the first deposit is here, I have downloaded the spreadsheet of recipients, cleaned the data of duplicates and blank entries, made requested adjustments, and can present a close-to-final breakdown of the first payment.

After processing the data, there are 235 folks who have requested to be part of this first distribution and submitted Cashapps and PayPals. I’ll be distributing $23,558.54, so each person will get a first payment of $100.25. (If fundraising were to stop today, with $27,412.31 raised after GoFundMe fees, each person would receive roughly $116.64 before all is said and done.)

As always, this might adjust as any final people join the list or donations get made before 11AM EST tomorrow, but this is getting close to the locked-in final numbers.

For the roughly 25% of you who submitted Cashapp handles, barring any fuckery on Cashapp’s side of things, your payment should be hopefully be sent tomorrow (more on that in the CashApp section of this update). Unfortunately, for PayPal folks, their security system is preventing me from sending your payments tomorrow.


HYPERLINK VS. PAYPAL: WHY PAYPAL PAYMENTS WILL TAKE LONGER TO RECEIVE

When I started this fund, I was definitely not expecting it to get the support it did. It has been an unbelievable blessing, and a privilege to serve the community in this way. But in terms of disbursing payments, the logistics became a little scary.

Any PayPal payments I make from my personal account will include my full name. While I trust this community deeply, and strongly doubt any of you would use this information to harm me, I also know that I can’t control how information like this spreads once it’s out there, and know friends who have been targeted and harassed due to personal information leaking online.

The only way to send these payments without releasing my full name to everyone is to create a Business account, which I have done, and spent several hours of each the last six days struggling to get to a level of basic functionality. I have submitted several pieces of verification information, including my SSN card, bank information, photo ID, and proof of residence, and had them reviewed by PayPal staff. I have had all holds on my account lifted for two days now. And yet still, despite days of work, I have only been allowed to successfully send ONE fifteen dollar payment with this account. PayPal’s support team have basically said to me that they are not in control of the automated security system which is blocking these perfectly legitimate test payments, and are unable to explain why this is happening, or what anyone can do to fix it.

This has been extremely frustrating, not only because it’s required me to spend hours a day attempting to get a hold of PayPal’s (understandably) limited support staff, but more importantly, because I know how important this money is to all of you.

My efforts to get this account working are still ongoing. I asked to speak to more senior support staff and have been told that someone will call me at some undisclosed point in the next 24-48 hours (lol). Additionally, I’ve done research online that suggests not touching the account for a full 72 hours will reset the verification system and allow payments to go through smoothly, so I’m hopeful that things work starting Sunday night.

The good news is that ZERO of these funds are trapped in my PayPal balance, and PayPal will only be used to transfer money out of the Capital One account. Also, in a worst-case scenario, I could rely on that real-name personal account to send these payments if I need to.

I will fight tooth and nail to get this money into your hands, so please don’t worry about funds not being distributed — I am on it, and they will be. Rest assured I will provide all the details I have as this continues to develop, and will distribute funds to PayPal users the very earliest I can. With all of that said, for folks in the US & UK, using CashApp instead may help you get paid faster — here’s more info about that.


AN UPDATE ON CASHAPP

Mechanically, CashApp is all set — I’ve been able to send a test payment well over the amount I’ll be sending with zero problems, and my account is verified. However, after a few days of waiting, CashApp customer support got back to me today with more information about transaction limits: apparently, my account can send between $2,500 to $7,500 weekly “depending on what you are approved for”, with no way I’ve found to see what that limit is or adjust it. I’ll be sending around $6k with CashApp, so depending on what my limit is, I may be able to send all of these payments tomorrow, or I may be forced to send funds over a period of a 1-2 weeks.

For the sake of fairness, tomorrow I’ll start sending payments to a randomly-ordered list of CashApp folks and hope I am not limited.

In the event that my account limit allows all payments to be sent tomorrow, using CashApp can help folks in the US & UK to get their money faster. I’ve created a Google Form for people who submitted PayPal but can use CashApp instead to share their handles with me. If you already listed a CashApp, or listed both, no need to fill this out. Of course, if PayPal ends up working faster, I’ll try to use that instead. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeP_dwLP9NkbApA1zqUpetZ1dalXPjtuAiM1bcZlv6-3aturg/viewform?usp=sf_link


That about covers it! There’s definitely a lot to discuss here, and I’m sure you’ll have questions. As always, I am available via GoFundMe, Masto, and DM. To ensure everyone who needs to see this does, I’ll be sharing this on GFM, Mastodon, and emailing as many recipients as I can with a link to this as well.

Thanks for everything, everyone. I’m excited to get your money to you very soon.

Love & solidarity,
Hyperlink

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Articles

Normal wasn’t okay.

The commentor class keeps talking about going “back to normal” once the covid-19 pandemic is over. They come with checkmarks on Twitter and tickers in the lower third. To them, this is nothing but an exception, and everything was fine before.

This new precarity they see is only sudden in its reach and scale. Most people I know were still not stable after the post-2008 recession was officially over, if they ever were. If this is your first time worrying about the future, your best bet is to find someone talking about what’s actually changed.

So the question is: who should you listen to?

You could find some market opinion person, but they’re the same people who fixate on single digit percentage movements in the stock market while tens of millions of people are one paycheck from losing it all. I saw a screenshot of CNBC with Jim Cramer going wild over a rising Dow while the ticker mentioned millions of people freshly unemployed. I don’t think anyone making six figures (or more) can understand this situation enough to have a useful opinion on it.

I don’t have anyone specific to recommend, but I can offer some heuristics for identifying credible people:

  • People who talked about the need to decouple healthcare from employment before this crisis brought the health insurance and health care system’s failings into stark contrast.
  • People who talked about the need to address systemic injustice before now. There is a reason groups deemed “essential” during this crisis, like retail workers, are chronically underpaid.
  • People who advocate for justice reform. Prisoners are being forced to make PPE and hand sanitizer while underpaid and unable to afford it. Prisons charge them for most things. Look into the 13th amendment and the so-called reforms of the ‘80s and ’90s, then look at the demographics of prisons. The injustice doesn’t start with prison labor.
  • Just about any queer person. This one is unreliable since, as always, class tends to beat identities. Caitlyn Jenner endorsed Donald Trump in 2016 because she’s a rich Republican, and that’s what rich Republicans did at the time. No amount of “I didn’t know!” after the fact can undo the damage.

Generally, anyone who understands why “back to normal” is so absurd to so many people is a better source than any so-called market expert in the media. The severity and precarity of this pandemic is a symptom of long-broken systems, often intentionally so. You can eventually go back to a normal that worked for you, but you’ll be back here in 10 years if you ignore the sinkhole forming under the house.

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Stargate Atlantis and Universe, in retrospect

I rewatched Stargate: Atlantis for the first time since its 2004-2009 airing. I remember the furor over its cancellation in favor of Stargate: Universe.

I originally defended Universe. It rode Battlestar Galactica’s coattails, but I thought it had potential. Now, rewatching Atlantis, I get the anger. Universe is fine as a typical network TV science fiction show. It rides the line between reality TV and space opera.

Universe is fine as a generic space opera. Not good, not bad. The final scene of the final season was great TV and made me hopeful it would get another season. As the show that murdered Atlantis, it’s the worst thing ever. Atlantis is so good! I thought expedition leader Dr. Weir was an annoying, overbearing character when I first watched. Now I have a broader view of the space opera genre.

Watching Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway, another leader in a similar situation who made similar hard choices while far away from familiar social and legal structures, gave me a fresh perspective on what it takes to keep a crew together far away from home with hostile aliens at every turn. Voyager ended three years before Atlantis started, but I didn’t watch it until recently.

Universe had no intentional leaders. It had a temperamental lead scientist who felt like a defective clone of Battlestar Galactica’s Baltar. The military lead was a sanded down version of the cliche military tough guy of the Stargate movie with none of charm or tact of Colonel O’Neill. Neither of them led half as well as some of the side characters did. Atlantis had John Sheppard and Dr. Weir, each one a perfect evolution of their SG-1 counterparts, Jack O’Neill and Dr. Carter. Universe improved with time, but it was doomed long before.

Universe ended with a cliffhanger that gave hope for a renewed show with a real leader. Eli was one of the most developed characters and could easily have taken over, and he was poised to as he stared out the window at the expanse between galaxies.

And he was never heard from again. Boring. Back to Atlantis and dreaming of what could have been.

Categories
Articles

Distrokid Review: It’s about what I expected

Note: DistroKid replied to a few points! See below.

Note 2: This review is from 2018, but should still be accurate.

I was skeptical about DistroKid, the music distribution service that’s quickly making a name for itself. The guy behind it likes to tout the fact that the founders of his main competitors have endorsed his service. Any kind of high profile recommendation makes me immediately suspicious. The fact that the website is nearly devoid of details did not help.

But…

It’s okay. I signed up. Paid my $19.99. Found out the basic plan didn’t include some things I wanted, like setting prices and release dates. You get a grace period where you can get a refund and upgrade, so it’s not too bad, but I do wish they’d mention that up front.

Uploading your music for distribution to stores is pretty straightforward. You select how many tracks you want, upload to each slot and fill out details, add your cover, choose your stores, and send it on. This is where we hit the first problem.

Their uploader is…bad. It works, as long as your connection is reliable. Mine wasn’t at the time. If your connection goes out during upload, it just stops and never retries. It doesn’t save any of your information, so you have to put it all in again. Blech. What is this, 2004?

Aside from that, it’s about what I expected. They have a referral program. I sold one subscription within 20 clicks, so either I got lucky or they’ve done a lot of work refining their sales copy. It’s one of the few affiliate programs that won’t make you feel like slime. Payments take too long. Months is just not reasonable in 2018.

Spotify and Google Play were the first to get my music up. iTunes came next. Tidal was extremely late: emails telling me they got my music up came in six months after I submitted it. All the publicly shared music sales reports I’ve found show a steep dropoff after iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify, so it barely matters.

DistroKid does what it says it’ll do on the sales page: sends your music to the stores, gets you paid. Simple. However, I cancelled my account once I got my last payout. Patreon is working better for me: make music, post it to people paying monthly, repeat. I make almost as much in a month here as I did in almost a year on DistroKid.

While my DistroKid account is inactive, you can still get a 7% discount with my referral link.

Update: DistroKid responded when I posted the review on Twitter.

  • Tidal wasn’t late getting music in the store. The email I got was from when DistroKid turned on a new thing to get updates from Tidal, so I just never got a notification before.
  • The uploader is a direct connection to AWS. I understand they want to limit how much they hold on to before sending it off to the stores, but at least saving all the metadata would be handy. Upload problems probably aren’t all that common, so it may just not be worth the engineering effort.
Categories
Short Stories

Mirror

Diana stopped at the edge of the soft shadow of the tree. Its trunk rose into the clouds, near black in the noon sun. The branches seemed to go on forever, one half of the tree green leaves, one half every color of the rainbow, and brighter than the low light should permit. Around her, the flat, grassy plain stretched to the horizon in every direction. The only sound that met her fox ears was the creaking of the branches and the rustling of leaves.

She continued down the crumbled stone path, looking at the ancient paw prints all along it. The path took her to the hollow in the center of the tree. Inside, she stood in the shining, shallow pool of water that came up to her knees.

“Anyone there?”

Insects swarmed into the hollow and coalesced into the shape of a fox, a mirror image of Diana. The bug-fox, a Keeper, grinned. “It’s been a long time since I had company. The Tree still won’t talk to me after what I did. What can I do for you?”

“I need guidance. My life’s gone to crap.”

“Colorful. You must be a vulnog.”

“Yeah. So can you help me, or should I go hang myself on one of these branches? There’s no way in hell I’m walking back to that life without some direction.”

“I can show you some images, but I can’t help you interpret them. The Tree is…weird. Speaks in riddles. Eccentric old fool.” The fox-swarm cupped its swarm-paws over its swarm-muzzle. “Hear that, asshole? Idiot.”

“Yeah…that’s. Interesting.”

“What? Next you’re going to say it’s all my fault the Tree won’t talk to me. Maybe if I just had a better attitude, right?”

“I’m sure the Tree contributes. Takes two to argue.”

“Yeah, and the Tree is trillions. I’m one. That’s hardly a fair fight.” The Keeper melted into the pool, and Diana found herself in the middle of her home city, Luma.

“Didn’t think my answer would be here.”

“Like I said. Weird Tree. You think it’s going to take you to the village you grew up in, show you some event from your childhood, and everything will make sense. What happened here?” The Keeper followed Diana as she walked through the empty streets, looking up at the ruined buildings.

“I don’t know. It’s Luma, but…broken. Do you know anything about it?”

“Luma? Never heard of it. I got exiled to where you found me before people started building cities again. We call the planet Lumari, formerly Earth. Who names a world dirt? Seriously.”

Diana stopped in the middle of the street, then walked toward a storefront where a red fox was busy laying down a new tile floor. “That’s my stepmother. Crap. I know what this is. An earthquake turned most of the city to rubble when I was little. Civil society broke down. The family had a shop here. Why would she be remodeling in the middle of society collapsing?”

“Good place to hide something. Did your family have money before it all fell down?”

“We had…yes! Stocks. Lots and lots of money in the stock market. She died a few years ago, and told me our family had a good foundation. She always loved riddles. I hate riddles.”

“Huh. The Tree usually jerks people around more. Lemme guess. You need money.”

“Yeah.”

“And those stock certificates are probably still good.”

“Yes.”

“Who owns the building now?”

“I own it. I need to buy a hammer.”

“Lovely.” The illusion blinked away, and they were back in the hollow. “So, I was lying about being lonely. I’m actually quite introverted. Are you done here?” Diana nodded, and the Keeper flew away in a swarm.

Diana returned to Luma, recovered the stock certificates, and paid off her student loans.

Categories
Short Stories

Skyscraper

Foxes, like the fennec Karpat here, were born of the World Tree, and rarely left the comfort of the vast forests and plains of the dara (”gift of life,” called wilderness in more vulgar places).

Karpat pulled at one of the vines running up the ancient, long-abandoned skyscraper. Lines of green and red wound their way in and out of broken windows, up the statues of foxes, otters, and other species that adorned the old, crumbling metropolis. He looked down the cracked asphalt road, considering his decision, then back up.

Decision made, affirmed by a few deep breaths, he pulled again, then hefted his weight up, planting his feet on a horizontal section of vine. The plants crunched under his weight, squeaked against steel as they shifted, and smelled of mint when they broke.

Covered in and sated by the minty, nutritious life blood of the Tree, he pulled himself into a room halfway up after sunset. He spent the night there, then set out in the morning.

Karpat held on to the wall and planted one foot on a vine outside the window, then the other foot. He grabbed a higher portion of the vine with one paw, then moved the other to it, but it broke as he put his full weight on it. He plunged to his death clutching a falling column of vine, then awoke in a white room.

The Daramour, the consciousness of the Tree everyone meets after death, appeared before him, a mirror image of himself. “Hello.”

Karpat screamed and writhed from the pain on the floor for a while, until he smelled the mint again and stood up. “Can’t you make it not hurt?”

“Yes, but then what incentive would you have to avoid death? I need my foxes outside as long as possible to bring new experiences and knowledge to me. Each of you has a unique perspective, and it’s what keeps me from losing my mind in here. I depend on you.”

“Sorry. I forgot you’re stuck here. So what happens now?”

“I’ll send you back out, when you’re ready. Take some time to relax, think, and study. You have access to the wealth of my knowledge while you’re here, but I limit how much you can take with you.”