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tl;dr: Religious abuse only happens because religious leaders are allowed to claim ownership of things other people need in order to live, which is basically the spiritual version of "private property." Because of this, most Internet Atheist criticisms of "religion" would be better directed at capitalism instead.

Content note: Discussion of abusive religion and eating disorders.

Defining capitalism

From CollectQT's Political Definitions page:

capitalism - An economic system wherein the means of production are largely privately owned. Capitalism is inherently oppressive.

To unpack that a little, "the means of production" are what you need access to in order to make a living. They can be anything from printing presses to app stores to hunting preserves.

In a capitalist economic system, like the ones in China and the United States, these things are all privately owned, meaning that one person or corporation is allowed to control them despite the fact that everyone needs them. This is why capitalism is inherently oppressive; whatever political freedoms you may have, the people who own the means of production have the power to decide whether you live or die, and under what circumstances.

When critics of capitalism are talking about "private property," this is what they are criticizing. The "property" in question is the means of production, not your personal effects. They are not saying that you should be forced to give up your plushies or miniatures. On the other hand, if you've ever seen someone eBay their most prized possessions in order to make next month's rent, you know that this is exactly what capitalism does to the people it makes into losers.

How and why abusive religions do this to their victims, and how to help people escape )

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The following essay was originally posted on the Final Fantasy XIV forums, where it will probably be eaten alive.

Full disclosure: I played FFXI for seven years or so, starting in 2004. I love FFXIV, but for different reasons than I loved FFXI.

When I started playing FFXI, I was completely taken in by its graphics, its community, and even its timesinks. It taught me the ferry arrives in 15 minutes, you need to have food to go levelling, and be careful ninjaing past Valkurm Dunes goblins. I took it all without questioning it, because this was my world and I wanted to go on adventures in it. And when it came time to do Divine Might, I /shouted and rallied my friends until we were herding 18 cats, which to me was the bigger challenge than the actual boss fight itself.

I'm glad that I have those memories, and I think the world needs more sandbox (or sandbox-ish) games. FFXI and EVE Online are "niche" titles, but with surprisingly loyal players. And if FFXI's slowly shrinking while EVE's slowly growing, it's partly because FFXI's based on 10-year-old tech and went neglected for years.

I'm not sure it's possible to build into a game, by design, the kinds of emergent gameplay those two have to offer. I don't think you can queue up in the Duty Finder, for the kind of unforgettable experience that was my friends and me beating FFXI's Ultima with 10 seconds left on the timer. I don't think scripted, themepark games should replace sandbox ones, and I think it's sad that 1.0's fans and SWG's fans lost theirs (multiple times, in the case of SWG).

But I also think they're unfairly romanticized. And I think sandbox fans like me tend to gloss over their faults, and give other people the sense that we think we are better than "casual" gamers, which are really just "anyone not as invested in ___ game as I am."

I think we should stop doing that.

For every one who has glowing memories, there are a lot more who remember a bewildering and frustrating game. For every one who remembers discovering how to beat a tough boss fight, there are a hundred who looked it up on FFXIclopedia (or Erecia's guide, remember that?). Sometimes you want to do it yourself, but you want to be told how to do it. And sometimes, you just wish the darned ferry would get here already.

For every day I spent having awesome adventures, I probably spent ten getting my head handed to me in Valkurm, or running around doing tedious crap and waiting for JP midnight. We don't remember this stuff as well, but they're all that the people who quit remember, which is why FFXI and EVE both have so many haters. Not because the "casual" gamers weren't "hardcore" enough to "learn to play," but because the games disrespected their time and money investments, and failed to fulfill the promise of being an awesome Final Fantasy / Internet Spaceships adventure.

Who made that promise, and how they made it, we could probably argue about. But FFXI and EVE are simply not like the games next to them on the shelves, and someone who bought FFXI thinking it'd be like FFX would be in for a rude shock.

(Just got my FFX/X-2 preorder, BTW. It's gorgeous.)

FFXIV:ARR, I feel, fulfills that promise. Say what you want about it, it is a Final Fantasy game, complete with boss fight and ending sequence. It's just unique among FF games in that you can keep playing after you beat it, unlocking more jobs and teaming up to defeat superbosses, and the developers keep adding new features and storyline quests.

I think their "ideal player" is a core FF gamer, who's new to the MMO world. I think that's the person they design for. And while I sometimes miss not having stuff spelled out for me, I'm also not sure what the difference is between having to research crafting recipes and food stats on FFXIclopedia, and having the game's UI just tell me. Beyond the fact that one of those things makes me do the same work as FFXIV's devs, unpaid.

TL;DR Sandboxes are fun, but people aren't worse gamers than I am because they don't want to do unpaid dev work.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

We wrote our "conversion story" on a forum we signed up for recently, and thought it summed things up pretty nicely in case anyone here is interested in what we've used technology-wise (although it leaves out our history of tablets, game consoles, and one beat-up iBook). What, am I the only one with an obsessive interest in how people relate to their technology and what that says about them?

Behind cut! )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

We love first-person games like Metroid Prime, but aren't particularly excited about shooting up other players. Maybe that's why we loved playing Sanctum 2 with [personal profile] aliaspseudonym. It's an awesome sci-fi first-person tower defence game with multiple playable female characters, one completely androgynous robot, a comic book storyline, gorgeous graphics, and a sense of humour.

Here's a gameplay trailer:

Click here if you cannot see the video.

And here's the ridicularious nineties-tastic trailer for their first expansion!

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Let us know if any of you get it while it's on sale and want to try playing it online. We might be up for it, although we tend to have really bad lag. >_>;

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First off, unless you are triggered by romance or 16-bit pixel art you need to stop what you're doing, and buy the current Humble Bundle for $1. Just so you can play To The Moon.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

It's extremely touching, and the best portrayal of autistic people in any media I've ever seen. Just be sure to bring lots of tissues for when you play it.

Secondly, the dood what does the Errant Signal videos is now asking for donations via Patreon. He writes some extremely insightful (and amusing) video game critique, and excels at explaining both a) why a particular game caught on with so many people and b) what's problematic about it and video game culture as a whole.

Here's an example of his work:

Click here if you cannot see the video.

And here's where he asks for supporters:

Click here if you cannot see the video.

He's pretty awesome, IMO. >_>

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

The title is a reference to a publicly-available Steam achievement, but the rest of this essay contains spoilers. That is the point of this essay: To provide a trigger warning for people who are depressed, and have dealt with or are dealing with suicidal thoughts. Especially people who survived an abusive, fundamentalist upbringing.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

That's how [personal profile] rev_yurodivy describes their political leanings, which are somewhere left of everyone except perhaps Ammon Hennacy.

I personally see myself as somewhere in that neighbourhood also. >_> With that in mind, here's some stuff curated from my readings today, about why Capitalism Sucks Hard and We Need Way More Socialism. Especially where creative professions are concerned.

Content note for incoherent rambling, but leaving unfiltered in case someone wants to commiserate or offer comfort or suggestions.

Read more... )

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

(this game)

Step One: Log in to the game

  1. Wow, this sure is taking awhile.

  2. I have to enter a secondary password, and I can't change it? And it's only used in the client app? Well, okay then.

  3. Hm, I created this character last year and never touched it ... I'll go ahead and delete this one and get a fresh start.

  4. I have to wait until 7 AM to start playing? Well okay, whatever keeps people from ragequitting.

  5. wait until the next day

Step Two: Log in to the game

It sure would be nice if this game were pinned to my taskbar along with my other MMOs.

A picture of part of Jewelfox's taskbar. Five of the icons are for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, or MMORPGs.

  1. Launching the game from the Start screen brings me to a website? But then I click "Start Game" on the website and it brings up a client app.

  2. Okay, I'll just pin that to the taskbar, then exit out and launch that to make sure that it works.

  3. NO I DO NOT WANT TO UNINSTALL MABINOGI

  4. Whew, I found the actual .exe file that starts the game. I'll just pin that to my taskbar.

  5. @#*$!!!

  6. search DuckDuckGo for why Mabi replaces the launcher with the uninstaller every time you try to pin it

  7. FINE, I will do like this one person tried and create a shortcut to the launcher and then pin that. PROBLEM SOLVED.

Step Three: Log in to the game

  1. Oh crap, the password I chose isn't working. Did I click the wrong key on the onscreen keyboard they made me use? Now what do I do?

  2. I'll reset my account password and hope that fixes it.

  3. @#*$!!!

  4. Okay, there's an option in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT place to reset the SECONDARY password.

  5. WHY WON'T IT LET ME LOG IN

  6. use your email address as your "account name"

Step Four: Log in to the @#*$ing game

  1. Okay, it'll finally let me delete my old character. Time to create a new character.

  2. WHY IS IT TELLING ME I NEED TO BUY A NEW CHARACTER CARD

  3. WHY DOES A NEW CHARACTER CARD COST ALMOST 8,000 OF THEIR CRAP COINS YOU BUY WITH REAL MONEY

  4. look through their ways to "earn" coins and note that they all ask for your money, credit card number, or email address

I finally found out that at 7 AM on the day after you delete your character they give you another free "character card" to create one with.

[personal profile] rev_yurodivy, [personal profile] aliaspseudonym, I found a game that's harder to log into than FFXI :P

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

"To be really concrete, 10 times as much content comes from the user base for TF2 as comes from us," [Valve CEO Gabe] Newell said. "So we think we're super productive and kind of badass at making TF2 content, but even at this early stage, we cannot compete with our own customers in the creation of content for this environment. The only company we've ever met that kind of kicks our ass is our customers. We'll go up against Bungie, or Blizzard, or anybody but we won't try to compete with our own user base, because we already know we're going to lose.

"Once we start building the interfaces for users to start selling their content to each other, we start to see some surprising things," Newell added.

http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/1/3941274/gabe-newell-steam-box-talk-ut (Trigger warning for ablism)

On the one hand, this is sort of inspiring because it's a corporate leader who Gets It about fanwork being valuable. Team Fortress 2 players are actually making money from their creations.

On the other hand, it's really not "democratic" so much as it's an entire market completely owned and controlled by one company, which exists at that company's whim. TF2 fans have no legally-recognized right to the title, or to sell their in-game hats for it.

EVE Online's players at least have a democratically-elected, officially-recognized council, with a say in what goes on in New Eden (and with representatives whose character can reflect that game's brutal playerbase (TW for suicide)). All that TF2 fans have is an unusual privilege.

Newell goes on to talk about how all of your MMO achievements are tied to one company:

The future of the Steam marketplace, Newell said, is to ensure that goods can be more permanent in a player's collection; that they can be transferrable and exchangeable between titles. He called to fault the MMO model of player progression: Characters level up, purchase new items, then when you play a new game, everything you worked for is gone. Game creators currently have a "whimsical notion" of player's property rights, Newell said.

"It's like, 'Hey, I'll sell you a house, and you can do a bunch of work, paint it and put furniture in it, and then, when you go to a new house, we're going to burn that one down,'" Newell said.

It's ironic that he should say that, though, because that's how the whole of Steam works. Buying games from Steam is like renting a game console at the store and leaving all of your purchases there with it, and losing access to them forever if your identity changes or you get banned somehow. I had to abandon several games because my account was forever tied to an old, pre-transition identity, and there wasn't a way to change that which I saw.

I'm glad that someone's thinking about how these things affect people, and taking their rights seriously instead of being classist and ageist. I'd feel a lot better if it wasn't a white cismale guy in charge of a corporation and trying to figure out how to make money from it, though.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

Content note: Describes religious bigotry and homophobia.

So I was playing an RPG called Cthulhu Saves the World, where the titular squamous horror awakens only to be deprived of his powers. And now he has to go on a quest and become a "true hero," so he can get his powers back and destroy the world.

And it's funny. Not laugh-out-loud hilarious but cute. It helped distract me from the crisis I'm going through right now. Until I ran into this part in the "Hall of Heroes" where one of the characters is rattling off a list of "true heroes," and one of them is Alma the Younger.

Read more... )

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Facebook, Twitter, and Google are trying to be public utilities, but without any public oversight. Few, if any, laws currently regulate their abuses of privacy and monopoly privilege, although the European Union is trying to change that.

Part of the problem is technophobia, which is animosity towards people who rely on technology. Technophobes believe that those youngsters ought to pay less attention to "pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, [and] online social networking," and more attention to what really matters: The technophobes and their needs. A lot of voters are technophobes, so stuff Twitter does to screw you over doesn't matter to them.

But another big part of the problem is that we are used to thinking of ourselves as consumers, as individuals, as basically powerless. Solidarity isn't a thing anymore. Instead we have "participation," where you write Amazon.com reviews or mark stuff in Gmail as spam. And everyone takes it for granted that the new breed of robber barons can do whatever they want, and mine resources nobody knew were valuable -- like people's identities and privacy. Which is very convenient for them.

So now we have stuff like this:

Google is now the way people find out anything on the Internet. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

Facebook is now the way people define their relationships and share their lives with each other online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

Twitter is now the way people chat online. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

And Amazon is now the way everyone buys everything. It is a publicly-traded corporation, which answers to no one but shareholders.

We have laws that keep businesses from abusing their customers and legitimate competitors. Those laws have not kept up with the times. And in many cases, they were inadequate to begin with.

I don't think the long-term solution is going to involve competing with them, or avoiding them, or recommending against them, or any other individualistic "consumer" behaviour. Because as it stands, quitting one of these sites means sacrificing all the value that you put into their system through your and your friends' years of participating, such as all those likes and reviews and Steam games. Value which they extracted from you, and you now have no legal right to, or at least no right to withdraw in a usable form.

Instead, we need to change the rules on them. And it isn't immoral to do so, because the rules are how they got where they are. They profited from publicly-funded research and infrastructure, from publicly-educated employees, and (perhaps in Amazon's case) from social safety net programs designed to keep inadequately compensated warehouse workers alive.

If I knew anyone who was trying to return the power to us, in this country, I'd be voting for them. Unfortunately, I don't.

In the meantime, I'm doing the "consumer" thing and looking for alternatives. DuckDuckGo is an awesome search engine that's like Google before it got Plused, and doesn't track you or anything. And Dreamwidth's Guiding Principles spell out a more responsible social contract, where its founders and employees are part of the community instead of above it. And where the volunteers who work on it own it themselves via Free Software licensing.

It should be a crime for other startups not to have such arrangements.

Because the only way Dreamwidth got founded to begin with is that LiveJournal was based on Free Software and used open standards like RSS. Without the LiveJournal import and cross-posting, Dreamwidth would have been dead in the water.

Just like Diaspora.

Still alive

Jan. 1st, 2013 07:10 pm
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
For much of 2012, I didn't honestly think I'd survive it. Whether because things were just plain rough in general, or because after being rejected last Christmas everything that reminded me this holiday season would drive me to despair.

But, somehow I made it. I feel like I've learned a lot, and that I'm stronger now. Not because breaking someone's arm makes the arm stronger afterwards, but because broken arms eventually heal, and you can at least learn from the experience. I don't think that I've fully healed yet, but I feel like I've passed the test, so to speak, and have been trying to get back in business.

Speaking of business

I have two commissions outstanding that I need to complete. After that, I would like to take more. Complicating that are the fact that my living space, computer, and website(s) are extremely disorganized after a year of living day to day, and that I need to keep writing articles to pay rent.

My old approach to productivity was to decide far in advance what had to be done today, fall short because of distraction or despair, then kick myself and be even less productive afterwards. This year, or at least for this past week, I've been trying something different.

First, I'm making a log of everything I get done in a day that I consider "productive," with writing work bolded. This way I have records that prove I'm not lazy, even when my depression tells me that I am. Looking at them, it turns out that I do a lot of cooking and cleaning and organizing, as well as projects to help other people and sometimes-difficult necessary social interactions (like calling tech support). Some of these things might be trivial to other people, but they cost me metaphorical spoons, and logging them serves to remind me of that as well.

And second, instead of trying to write two articles a weekday (which was proving too difficult in 2012 even though I'd managed more than that the year previous), I'm writing one article per day, full stop. Even if I have a depressive episode, I feel I can still hopefully maintain that. Furthermore, if I get more than a single article completed I'm spending some or all of the money from that on myself. There are a lot of things I need to get, still. Plus getting nice things improves my morale, as does seeing that I'm capable of doing this much work.

What I (would like to) use

Nearly every part of my setup this year got upgraded. My boyfriend, [personal profile] aliaspseudonym, bought me a new ThinkPad Edge E430, along with a 16 GB Nexus 7. The laptop was custom-built with a Core i5 processor and a solid-state cache drive, which is perfect for installing a minimal (lightning-fast) Linux setup. I wish that it had more hard drive space for Steam games though (more on this later).

Besides that, I got a free smartphone upgrade from my wireless carrier, and a generous friend gifted their 80 GB backwards-compatible PlayStation 3 they were no longer using. I've had a lot of fun in PlayStation Home, which is sort of like Second Life but with less bondage and much better controls. It's done a lot to improve my morale, and help me feel less isolated and give me the chance to interact with others and explore. Plus, the (small, inexpensive, open-box discounted) HDTV that I got for it works extremely well as a second monitor for my laptop.

Probably the most unexpected upgrade was a free game controller for my tablet, thanks to a promotion by Moga. All I (and everyone else who read Android Police) had to do was pay shipping, which was less than the cost of the bundled games. It doesn't work with very many titles, but it's compact and well-designed, and comes with a very nice slipcase that's almost exactly the size of my tablet.

I'd next like to get some of the tablet accessories I put on my holiday wish list, like a Poetic case, Wacom stylus and portable stand. A keyboard is also a must, although I'd need one which can fit in my bag. I really love the idea, though, of having a complete game console and workstation computer inside my handbag at all times. It makes me feel warm and secure, and reminds me of the Palm Pilot setup I used to have (with a folding keyboard) except better. Plus it's more portable than my new laptop, although it's more portable than my old one.

A holly-jolly something or other

Christmas was nonexistent for me this year. There were no decorations indoors (or spoons to put them up with), and I didn't spend it with anyone in person.

What I had was "just like any other Tuesday, except there's presents." From my sister [personal profile] cfmv, from Alias, and from a ton of online game stores which all held massive sales at the same time. And I suddenly had gadgets that I could play them on. >_>

I grabbed both of Square-Enix's Chaos Rings games for less than the price of one. Bioshock 1 and 2 were on sale for $5 altogether. Same with Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. The first two Mass Effect games were $5-10 each. All these games I'd always wanted to play, and even a few extras that I was pleasantly surprised by. I got pretty much every game on my list this year, including the big ones (Xcom and Guild Wars 2), and a bunch that I didn't put on my list because I couldn't justify the cost. But suddenly -- between the ridiculous sales, a larger-than-expected monthly bonus, Alias' having more hours at his job this month, and another friend helping provide us with Christmas dinner and baking supplies and things -- the cost was no longer an issue.

So many sales. o.o; And two Humble Bundles, and Steam's Big Picture sale of controller-based games. All in one month. Plus the tablet game controller that inexplicably fell in my lap.

It not only helped distract me from the depression, it's probably going to carry me through until next December at this rate. >_>; I'm still planning on getting FFXIV: A Realm Reborn and FFXI: Seekers of Adoulin this year, but I'm waiting on subscribing to either right now. Instead, I've been too busy plowing through KotOR (and going to holiday events in PlayStation Home).

Extremely long digression about technology stuff )

Finally some family stuff

Most of you probably already know how my family dropped me like a rock right before Christmas 2011, when I came out to them as trans. They didn't stop contacting me then, though. Within a few months my dad was congratulating me about winning an award, and asking me what he should call me.

I just about bit his head off. Not because he was being impolite, or doing anything wrong at the time. But because his actions had put me through hell very recently, and cost me an extra $100 a month because of complicated lease-related stuff.

I couldn't ignore what they did to hurt me anymore. I couldn't just let them get away with this, like they had with everything else. Not because I want revenge. Because I don't want to be hurt again. I don't want them to feel they can hurt me at will, can lash out at me with no consequence and no apologies, and act like this is normal and okay.

I tried to reconcile with them, over a period of several months. But this time, "maintaining the status quo" was no longer an option. I'm honestly not sure I care if they "disapprove of my lifestyle" or not. I just didn't want to have to pretend that I didn't have both a boyfriend and a significant other; that I wasn't female; that I wasn't transitioning; and that my family's actions hadn't hurt me. Hadn't made last year hell for me, and put me at much higher risk of all kinds of dangerous things ... according to the research in a pamphlet written for Mormon parents of LGBT kids, which I kept trying to show them.

I don't want to have to be in the closet for them. Not about being trans, and not about being an abuse survivor. Not when I almost died there.

I pressed them for an apology. But what I really wanted was acknowledgment of the fact that what they had done to me was Not Okay, assurance that it would Never Happen Again, and recognition of what I was going through. That it wasn't like what they thought, and that whatever the heck they thought it was like, it was something I needed to do. That I loved and depended on both my significant others, that if I didn't transition I'd die, and that if they didn't want me to die they Must Not push me in a harmful direction.

I was unable to persuade them of any of the above. I am no longer speaking with them, and haven't for several months now. A "family" you can't be yourself around, can't ask for (at least moral) support with your troubles, and can't ever let down your guard around or you'll get hurt, is not family at all. It's less than worthless; it's harmful.

I'm glad to have my new sister, and am looking forward to spending next year with her and [personal profile] rev_yurodivy and my boyfriend and the extremely supportive friends that I've made here on Dreamwidth.

Happy new year, everyone.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
I decided to take a break from Dreamwidth a little while ago, and am just now trying to get back into posting and commenting here.

Here's the condensed version of I've been dealing with:
  1. Multiple close friendships strained or seemingly terminated, in ways which were harmful to others.

  2. Weeks of struggling over and over again to get everything working on my new PC, and finally getting FFXI working in Linux (Ubuntu) only to decide I need to take a break from that next for reasons related to #1.

  3. Being physically exhausted from having to haul 15 extra pounds all over the suburbs because I'm gaining weight on St. John's Wort, but become potentially terminally depressed if I try to wean myself off of it. I'm trying to at least monitor my weight and eating, now that I know my appetite is no longer reliable.

  4. Trying, and trying, and failing to keep up with writing (of all kinds).
I'm trying to learn healthier ways to destress than spending hours reading stuff that potentially triggers / depresses me (like exmormon forums). I've gotten back into PC gaming after installing a few years' worth of Humble Bundles, and taking advantage of a recent Steam sale. Sonic Generations and They Bleed Pixels are both amazing, especially the latter, and both work with my PS3's controller.

I want to have something ready for the holidays. I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'm going to try. I'm also going to try to finish my commissions.

I feel bad that I wasn't able to volunteer to mentor the new GNOME Outreach Program interns. I'll try to hang out on IRC, at least.

I've done a lot of crying, a lot of talking, a lot of realizing things. A lot of praying, a lot of hugging my mates, a lot of talking to them and my sister and her family. I feel like I have a better idea of why I hurt. For a little while I was afraid that I wouldn't survive through the holidays, especially given what happened last year, but I think that I'll be able to.

I'm going to try to go to the open house at the local LGBT centre for Christmas, while Yuro's off with their relatives. There are also a few events between now and then that I'm looking forward to. It costs me more to go to these now, both physically and insofar as it's hard to write while exhausted. I need the exercise, though, and the feeling of being appreciated.

I hope you all have a happy holiday season.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
From a post on cake-pie.com, about why Gaslamp Games forums are amazing:
For those who don’t know, in the best-case scenario, here’s how forum moderation normally plays out:

Human Female: Hey all, I’m here and I play this and I’m not putting effort into hiding my gender for some reason.

Human Forum members: Oh, Hi! How can you play that in the kitchen?

Human Moderator: Ok, that guy is banned, let’s never speak of this again alright?

THREAD DELETED

This sucks because now the problem is made invisible. The only good thing is we don’t have to look at those words anymore, but nothing about this feels like justice, inclusion, or problem-solving.
This is basically what happened a little while back when I made the mistake of not hiding that I'm otherkin in a comment on a Dreamwidth news post. I got trolled, I filed an abuse report, and their comments were deleted and mine was screened. The problem was made invisible, as was the bad icky not-normal-ness I displayed which invited the trolling. Just like how Tiffany Martin invited "make me a sandwich" jokes by being female on a games forum.

I guess what amazes me, between this and my last post, is how people I thought were progressive can suddenly exhibit bigoted behaviour and justify it under the right circumstances. All you have to do is present them with the choice between accepting a new kind of person, and refusing to live in the same world as them. Not everyone will choose wrongly, but it's depressing when people you looked up to do.

Incidentally, I apparently got the game that she's talking about in one of the Humble Indie Bundles. Maybe I ought to try it?
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
We're in something of a Linux gaming renaissance right now. Not only are a lot of games browser-based, like the EA games featured in the Ubuntu Software Centre, but the Humble Indie Bundle proved that making your games cross-platform is worth it. Add to that online stores like Desura -- basically cross-platform Steam for indies -- and Gameolith, and gaming on Linux is better than it was during even the Loki era.

(Goddess, I wish that I'd picked up Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for Linux back in the day.)

The app situation on GNOME, though, isn't nearly as good. We've got some shinies, but we don't have that many, and we certainly aren't getting bundles of them every few months. As someone who's trying to empower application developers by writing tutorials, this concerns me. Who's going to read what I write, and what are they going to make with it? Most importantly, when do I get to use their apps?

Developers don't rush to new platforms

That's the name of an essay by Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper for iOS. In it, he sums up the reasons why iOS took off like a rocket:
  1. Dogfooding: We use iPhones ourselves.

  2. Installed base: A ton of other people already have iPhones.

  3. Profitability: There’s potentially a lot of money in iPhone apps.
All three of these factors converged to create the Linux gaming renaissance. Live CDs and dual-booting made it easy for game devs to experiment and gain familiarity with Linux, and distros like Ubuntu (which pushed brand awareness and ease of use above all else) elevated its public profile. Partly thanks to that, the installed base for desktop Linux is now higher than it's ever been; and by showing their profits from each platform right on their homepage, the Humble Bundle crew empirically demonstrated #3.

As far as I can tell, though, most of the above does not apply to most Linux distros. The one which comes closest is, again, Ubuntu, partly via aggressive promotion of existing GNOME developer tools and the promise of exposure through its Software Centre. Beyond that, though, Quickly and Launchpad also combine to create a packaging environment that -- while unattractive to git veterans -- is apparently easy for newbies to learn. (Which, Ubuntu's focus on newbies is probably another reason why Python's the language they push the hardest on developer.ubuntu.com.)

This is all well and good for Ubuntu, but I personally like GNOME 3 better than Unity and I like Fedora's implementation better. I'm guessing most of those reading on Planet GNOME are with me on at least the first part of that.

So, what can we do to help get apps written that use awesome GNOME technologies?

Lower the bar to entry

One reason things like Desura are so important is because "packaging", from what I've gathered of it, is a chore. Extra work that you do to make sure people can use your app, which you then have to repeat for each distro. Not only does this favor more popular over more focused distros, thereby creating a winner-take-all feedback loop, it also creates extra work and confusion for devs, who already have five different languages to choose from in GNOME documentation and no clear guide for which one they should use.

You'll note that in the case of Linux gaming, the biggest first step was bringing in enough newbs for the market to matter. But the assumption behind most of our docs seems to be that readers won't be newbs, and will have a clear goal in mind ("I want to contribute to X project which I know uses Y language") when visiting. We assume they're familiar with IRC and mailing lists, that they know how to use git, that they have a high threshold for frustration (which is implied in that last item), and that they're comfortable browsing source sometimes in lieu of documentation. We also assume they're console fans who use Emacs or Vi; or at least we seem to, since Anjuta and Glade (our more newbie-friendly dev tools) don't support the latest GNOME widgets yet.

But by acting on these assumptions, we boil our developer base down to only the people exactly like that. We leave out the Girl Scouts, the 13-year-old whiz kids, the hackers of tomorrow who have no idea that they, too, can write apps. And who aren't being taught, because we think they're too short to ride and that's apparently how some of us like it. Like the commenters on Máirín's blog entry linked there, who "don’t want incompetent users [sic] life made easier" and who -- bless their hearts -- think that the reason they themselves are competent is because they're just awesome like that, as opposed to because they fit the narrow profile of the kind of person who thrives in their "meritocracy."

(Let me know if I ever use that word outside of scare quotes, BTW. If I do, it was a mistake.)

Piggybacking to success

Making GNOME development more accessible (and fun!) for newbies is what I and some of the other interns are here for, although you're totally welcome to help if you like and there's a whole page set up with instructions.

Beyond that, I mentioned Desura but what I'm really excited about is the Mozilla Marketplace, which is going to be the "app store" for the Firefox browser and Boot to Gecko devices. The web is the world's biggest and most awesome open-source platform, and GNOME's browser, Web, already has an app mode, plus GSOC intern William Ting is working on building in Firefox Sync. I don't know if non-Mozilla browsers will be able to access the Marketplace, but it seems like integrating it into Web would be a logical next step.

The Marketplace is possibly the most democratic of all existing "app stores." It's like the Identi.ca to Apple and Google's Twitters; the code's open-source, and anyone can roll their own. Hopefully, it will be seamless for people to buy apps from anyone's store, using their Persona.

Something like that for GNOME apps, where it's not tied to one distro and it's easy to submit your own apps, would be an awesome idea IMO. In the meantime, having access to the Marketplace will still help; and if any of those web developers want to bring their JavaScript expertise to the world's coolest (and best for web dev!) open-source desktop, I'll have the docs for them.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
This article by the New York Times' Matt Richtel examines how computers are used for entertainment by kids of different social classes, and how much. But to me, its message is
Parents disapprove of what their children use computers for.
And the article goes on to talk about local and state programs in the United States that teach "how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography," the former being considered an okay use of computers and the latter being considered a not-okay one.

I am personally not just skeptical, but fearful of attempts to control what children use their computers for. Because I was raised in a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive household, and having unrestricted computer and Internet access -- and a door I could close and lock when I needed to -- literally saved my life. Until then I was trapped in an information bubble by my parents and their church, and thought I was a terrible, broken person because I didn't measure up to their standards.

Material online about free software advocacy, inclusion of disabled and marginalized people, and yes, even some erotic content, helped show me that the world outside wasn't the terrible place they made it out to be. That being different was not bad, and that I was not a bad person.


Disney's Tangled is a disturbingly true-to-life portrayal of an emotionally abusive, controlling relationship. Click here if you cannot see the embedded video.


The parent-child bond is believed to be inviolable in the country where I live, to the point where it (along with Somalia and South Sudan) is one of the only nations that has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Any intervention parents make on behalf of their children, here, is assumed to be made out of love and a greater understanding than the child herself has. Parents are seen as heroes just for the act of parenting, and abusers are seen as grotesque villains who don't love their kids, not as parents who mis-love their kids. Or who love them but use them to gratify themselves in some way that hurts them. Or who try to love them into becoming someone they're not, and drive them to despair and suicide when they realize they'll never become that.

Whether it's meant to or not, the belief that parents can do no wrong (and that abusive parents are easily recognized) locks children into abusive situations, and shuts down legitimate pleas for redress. It empowers people like my abusers, marginalizes their victims, and gives them little or no recourse or even sympathy. They may even doubt themselves, like I did, instead of recognizing what is done to them for the tragedy that it is.

If we're going to empower children through technology -- and I consider excited kids like the one I used to be the target audience, for the GNOME JavaScript tutorials I'm writing as part of the Outreach Program -- we need to look at ways to empower them as people. We need to let them find what they want to do and are most passionate about, not assume that we know better than them right down to their choice of OS or web browser. And instead of taking their toys away, we should give them the tools to make new ones, and show them how to use those tools in a way that they understand.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out this quote from the article:
“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of the decade-long Kaiser study.
I take exception with the word "meaningful," there, and the implication that "pure entertainment" can't be educational. But she's right that it's much easier to use computers to play games or enjoy existing content than to create new things with them, because of how complex the content-creation tools are and how hard it is to get started with them and in their communities.

To take just one example, computer games have evolved far past the point they were at when I started playing them, where you had to read the whole manual before playing and understand advanced math to win. Today's games like World of Warcraft are enormously complex, and have entire books written about their inner workings, but are so accessible that many can just pick up and play them and start having fun right away.

What's the learning curve for the GIMP like? Inkscape? LibreOffice? GNOME development? These are all amazing tools, but the time and effort it takes to learn even basic proficiency with them remains a barrier to reaching new users and potential contributors. The biggest thing motivating me to surmount that last one right now is the thought that the work I do will help flatten the curve for others, and let them start kicking tail fast enough that they learn whether or not they have a passion for it before they burn out.

A two-dimensional graph labeled 'How fast and how far can you take your users?' The X axis is labeled 'time,' and the Y axis is labeled 'ability.' There's a horizontal 'suck threshold' labeled 'How soon do they stop hating it?' and a 'passion threshold' labeled 'How soon can they start kicking ass?' The 'good' curve quickly passes between the two thresholds, while the 'bad' curve takes much longer.
Graph by Kathy Sierra, licensed CC-NC-SA.


I'm extremely grateful to my mentor in the OPW program for helping me get started with the GNOME developer documentation project, and keep from burning out on it. And I'm extremely excited about initiatives like this and Mozilla's Webmaker, which are teaching people basic code literacy and helping increase the number of potential users of and contributors to the shared commons of free software.
jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
From Malcomb Gladwell's Football, Dogfighting, and Brain Damage (emphasis mine, no trigger warning probably needed):
Read more... )

I haven't talked about the details as much here, but I was badly abused by people I loved and trusted. More than that, my loyalty to them was betrayed, to the point that my world fell apart when I realized what had been done to me and what I'd helped with. I was asked to do things that hurt me and others, over and over again, and was guilted and shamed to the point of near-suicide for my failures ... and for being hurt by it to begin with.

When things got their worst for me in the past weeks and months, I started dreaming and wishing that something like this could happen for me. I started imagining a society where it was accepted that people who'd been through this, who'd survived this, no longer had to justify their existence to anyone. That -- like the Marines who tell Saint Peter they've "served their time in Hell" -- they were no longer asked or required to do anything, but would be taken care of the rest of their lives as an act of social responsibility.

Part of the reason I dreamed about this was because it was so hard to keep up. I tried my best to stay on top of articles, but started falling behind, and people got upset with me. But I didn't realize until I read this that there were people who actually believed in this wild fantasy of mine. Just thinking about it is causing a lot of reflection, both on what I went through and how cruel it is to make "hard work" a virtue and a prerequisite for existence ... especially when not everyone can, all the time.

I want to work hard. Part of it is because that "virtue" has been ingrained in me, to the point where I feel I am worthless if I do not. To that extent, society continues the job that my parents and church did, in exploiting my "gameness" and loyalty. But part of it is just because there are things that I want to see happen -- like the RPG site, and people becoming their fursonas, and GNOME having comprehensive and comprehensible JavaScript docs -- that I know I need to work to make happen. And when I get into working on a fun project like that, it feels less like I'm toiling to survive and more like I'm playing Minecraft.

I wouldn't want to be deprived of that, even if I were living this fantasy.

The only other thing I wanted to add is that I feel like, to the extent that people support me and care for me and help keep me alive when things are tough, I already am. Thanks to you -- and the government food benefits, and Inari helping me get my internship, and people's charitable giving paying for it -- I can go grocery shopping today without having to worry that every purchase will put me over some arbitrary line. Without being terrified, and having my inner critic berate me for everything and tell me how I don't deserve anything but beans and rice, unlike the people around me.

People have been so generous to help in supporting me and [personal profile] rev_yurodivy. And while we can still use the help -- and probably will for a little while -- I very much want to make it worthwhile.

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

~ She / her ~

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