It's a little rough but I feel like it's ready to go out to all 10 or so of you who have been reading it. I will definitely be revising after I finish the whole thing. There's still quite a few chapters to go. Feel free to comment or email with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!
Get all the chapters at the book page here.
If they pull this off it will be more exciting to me than Harry Potter world and I am pretty stinking excited about that. Here's hoping they bring it to L.A. as well!
After an impressive mission, one of humanity's most amazing machines appears to be in trouble. The Kepler space telescope has found over 2,700 planets since it was launched four years ago. It stares at the stars in one patch of the sky (near constellation Cygnus) and detects when the stars dim or wobble a tiny amount, tip-offs that planets are orbiting the star. Now that the second of four stabilizing wheels has failed, scientists back on Earth are no longer able to control Kepler.
The most famous and prolific space telescope, Hubble, was repaired by NASA astronauts four times, but that's not an option for Kepler. While Hubble is in a low Earth orbit 350 miles above the surface, Kepler orbits the Sun, not the Earth. It's currently 40 million miles away. NASA can't even get into low earth orbit without hitching a ride from Russia, so a repair mission is out of the question. Kepler's cost was $600 million, a bargain compared to Hubble's $10 billion cumulative price tag (still worth it).
Kepler's work is the latest in a long string of discoveries that show humans that the world is much bigger than we thought. Twenty years ago we weren't sure whether other stars had planets at all. Now we see that planets are very common and there's probably an average of at least one planet per star throughout the galaxy. In its one little area, Kepler found 262 planets that appear to be habitable.
Here's hoping we can replace Kepler with a whole fleet of even more powerful planet-hunting telescopes.
If you are a podcaster headed to Comic-Con in July and you are looking for a venue to conduct interviews and record your podcasts, I have an opportunity for you! Some colleagues and I have a venue available very close to the convention center and all the gear to record so you would only need to bring you and your guests. If you or someone you know are interested please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can give you more information.
I've been meaning to publish this for awhile so thank you to Jason Paul for sending in this email to get me motivated:
Just took your advice and got setup with Archive.org to host my podcast. I have my wordpress site up and running but my question is what do you use to generate your RSS feed? My first thought is feedburner, is that correct? If so how do you make sure the RSS feed picks the podcast up as an audiofile ( I use the archive.org code to stream my podcast on my site)? Also, do you know of anyway to migrate my old rss feed to the new one (itunes subscribers)? Sorry for these random questions but I know you probably know a shit load more than I would find out pecking around on Google. Not sure if this is a show email or not but feel free to respond anyway you see fit.
Here was my response and I am publishing it here as I know others are curious:
Do you have control over your old feed? The only way to really do it is to add the itunes:new-feed-url tag to your feed and point to the new URL. You can find more info about itunes tags here:
Let me know if you need any more help.
If you were trying to get to Brax, this blog, My brother's site, or most of the other sites on our server for the last several days you may have noticed they were not available. We've been getting slammed by what looks like a DDOS attack of some sort. I'm not sure what warranted the trouble but I'm kind of flattered. In the effort to patch the hole that caused the issue I spent yesterday evening and most of today updating our main blog software, b2evolution. This is no easy task when your blog has been around for 10 years and has 40 (!) sub blogs and 13,000+ total posts. Also due to the attack some of our database tables had grown insanely huge so the update scripts were timing out. I ended up having to run the update piece by piece and going through the code mostly step by step. It reminded me of the long hours I spent sitting up late at night in my dorm room back at Central going through CGI scripts and various template files back in the early days of the blog. I'm happy to discover those skills are still there. Danny has done a lot of the heaving lifting for the last several years when it comes to the site and it's made me a little lazy. It was fun working more in tandem with him on this project and I think the site is in a much better place because of it.
Chapter Two of my Untitled Memoir Project is now available for download and to celebrate that I have created a dedicated page here for the book. You can get both chapters here. I am currently working on Chapter Three but I am not sure when it will be ready. As I've said before I have a lot of irons in the fire right now but I am taking time each day to write at least a paragraph, usually more. Feel free to hit me up with any feedback or suggestions and thank you very much for reading!
You only live once, and I want to spend my career doing something important. I'm not just in it for a paycheck, I want my work to make the world a better place. Three areas that I've thought a lot about are science, education and politics. I would much rather work in one of these than just helping a company sell widgets.
My seven years as a web developer have focused on maintaining legacy code. That means someone else wrote the app, making the decisions (and mistakes) that I have to live with every day. I've tried to keep up with new methods for programming, but they're hard to bolt on to an existing app with spaghetti code inside. Starting a project for scratch means I can do it right from the beginning (or at least I can make my own mistakes).
I've telecommuted 100% of the time for the last 5 years. I loved avoiding the long drive to work, but it got lonely at times. Worse than that, I was the only PHP developer in the company, so I didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off of and learn from. Working with other developers would be ideal, though I would still want to have some creative control.
Spending two hours a day in the car is a real drag. I've done it before. While there are advantages to spending some time in the office with the rest of the team, I would prefer to do most of my work in the quiet of my home office.
Working as an independent contractor has its upsides, but it also meant that I got no benefits from my job and no paid time off. The ideal job would include generous benefits, vacation and sick time.
I'm currently using a 2010 iMac with a 27" display. I love it, but as long as I'm dreaming, the ideal job would provide me with the latest and greatest Mac. The Macbook Pro recently got updated and now includes a retina screen and a lighting fast SSD instead of a hard drive. That should do nicely.
The job I started this month fulfills all of these requirements. I'm a software application developer for the National Higher Education Benchmark Institute. It's part of Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, and it exists to collect data from community colleges around the country and create reports and analysis for colleges and policy makers. We work to help make education more cost-effective. Given the importance of education to the future of the world and the budget difficulties faced by educators and students, this seems to fit my first requirement. I have a real chance of making the world a better place.
I will get to create a project from scratch, assembling state-of-the-art tools rather than battling with legacy code. The project I was hired for is called Maximizing Resources for Student Success and it is funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I will be working with a team that includes other developers and researchers. So far they all seem like interesting and talented folks. And the atmosphere on a college campus is nice, too. I love how I can walk through the halls and hear different languages being spoken.
Though I'll drive to the office for the first few months, the plan is for me to telecommute three days a week after that. This should be a good mixture of concentrated coding sessions and team interaction. I think I can handle the drive twice a week.
The JCCC benefits are by far the best I've ever been offered. Health, dental, vision, retirement, KPERS (Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, I'll be vested in 5 years), federal holidays, paid Xmas break, vacation, personal days and sick days.
Oh, and the SSD and retina equipped Macbook Pro is gorgeous. The fact that it was purchased with Bill Gates' money is a funny little bonus.
Do you want to know how I know who has listened to me on Bagged and Boarded? It’s really easy. I know who has listened to me on Bagged and Boarded because those are the people who know I am gay. I came out on the show 3 years ago during the second episode I hosted. If you didn’t know I was gay until just now, then you didn’t listen to my show and that bums me out a little but I understand because we cussed a lot on that show and I guess that makes some people uncomfortable. I know many people might not understand, especially if you’ve known me for a long period of time. I don’t have all the answers you guys. I just know a few things. First, I know that I first thought I was gay when I was very young but I remember my dad telling me that was bad so I put it out of my head. I also didn’t know anyone who was gay until high school so it was easy to think that all gay people were bad people. Then I became a Christian when I was 13 and that made it easy to think I wasn’t actually gay since I was taught no one was really gay, it was a sinful choice they made and they were all going to hell unless they were celibate forever and even then it was kind of a gray area. So I lived with that for years. Always thinking in the back of head that maybe I would be more happy if I could be myself. No, I didn’t want to go out and have gay sex. I still don’t really want to go out and have gay sex. Sex period kind of freaks me out you guys but that is a whole other thing.
I feel like I’m dropping a bunch of bombs right now on my friends and loved ones and I am sorry. I’ve been so scared to share this with anybody, let alone you guys so I hope you can forgive me. I love everybody and I don’t want anybody to be mad at me but I know that’s an unrealistic thing and I just have to get over it. So what changed? So much changed. I could write a whole book about it and in fact I will once I finish the book I am working on right now. When I got back from China in 2005 I was a mess. As I slowly rebuilt the pieces that were once a Christian leader named Brendan, I realized that guy wasn’t really me. I wanted to still love God, I wanted to follow Jesus but I had done that all the way to China and I only found pain, emptiness, and misery. Again, that is kind of a separate topic so I’ll move on from that since this isn’t about religion or anything like that. This is about a guy who was trying to figure out who he really was and one day his friend got him a job at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. I loved it at Disneyland, for the most part. My favorite thing to do was work guest control during parades because I got to talk to people and walk around and I got to watch the parade. It was great. One day on my parade shift I met this guy named Greg. We started talking and realized we had a whole lot in common. We had pretty religious backgrounds that we were both trying to move on from, we both never really dated, and we had a passion for life that most people just didn’t seem to understand. We quickly became best friends.
It was probably a few months into our friendship that I realized I was falling in love with Greg. While our relationship was never physical and we were both afraid of what our relationship meant given our backgrounds, it was more intimate than any relationship I’ve ever had. He was the only person I’ve ever felt I could truly be myself around, that I could truly be vulnerable. He was the only person who knew everything and he never judged me. The more we talked, the closer we came. If that’s not intimacy, then I don’t know what is. I knew it was different than a normal friendship because I already had a best friend, as most of you know. Phil is my best friend. But as Jay always says in Kevin Smith movies, he is my “hetero-lifemate.” While Phil knew me pretty well, better than most people, there were still things I kept from him. Both out of the fact that we were two friends and I respected our boundaries and also just because it’s really hard to show your full self to anybody. Greg told me he loved me, and I know he meant it. No one besides my family and some very close friends had ever said that to me and not in this way ever. It was the happiest I have ever been in my whole life but the whole time I still was so conflicted with my own sexuality that I tried to be straight. I tried dating women. And don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful ladies out there and I’m still not 100% sure I’m completely unattracted to them, BUT I know I don’t want to date them really or have sex with them. I think women are cool though and my female friends are awesome. So please don’t think I hate the ladies. I just know when I’m with a girl I have to force it and even then it is awkward at best. Every girl I have ever attempted to have a relationship with can definitely attest to this. Any of my friends who have ever witnessed me try to date a girl or woo a girl can attest to this. The main reason is because I was playing a part the whole time. Doing what I thought was normal, doing what I thought I had to do otherwise I would be labeled UNCLEAN or god forbid a “faggot” a word I had heard all too often when I was younger. So I would make attempts to date girls, they would fail, and I would be angry single guy for months on end. A lot of that anger came from the fact that I had no idea who I really was or what I really wanted. That all changed when I met Greg. Then it all went to hell.
As most of you know, Greg killed himself in 2007. Aside from the death of my father, that day was the worst day of my life. The worst thing about it was that I had to hide my true grief since I couldn’t tell people the love of my life had just abandoned me. I could only say my good friend died. And no one knew the truth. Nobody. I fell back into a depression that would last for years. I also thought I had gotten my answer about whether or not it was OK to be gay. It seemed like that was a big no. So I just withdrew from dating period for over 3 years.
Then some other stuff happened and I ended up on a stage on a Friday night at Smodcastle, telling my story in front of a bunch of people and for thousands of listeners of our show. I told some friends, I told my brother, but that was it. I was too scared to tell anyone else. I was kind of out, but not really. That all changed today. Due in part to the recent supreme court hearings over Prop 8 and DOMA and due in part to the facebook postings of some of my less tolerant friends, I decided I can no longer ride that fence. I am standing by my fellow gay brothers and sisters with my head held high. As I wrote on my friend’s facebook wall just a few minutes ago:
“I'm tired of being afraid of my own friends, I'm tired of hearing people I respect say stupid things about fellow human beings. I'm just tired man.”
That’s basically what this all comes down to. I’m tired. I’m also sorry I haven’t done this sooner. I love you all. Thank you.
I am hosting a one time only screening of Battle Royale on Wednesday April 10th at AMC Fashion Valley. I honestly thought it would be sold out by now due to the fact it's Battle Royale. Instead I am the only person who has bought a ticket and it's bumming me out you guys. If you know anyone who would be interested, please pass this along. I just want this to happen. I don't make any money off of this but if it goes well I am hoping to turn it into a screening series. I think it would be fun! If 71 people don't buy tickets in 6 days, the screening doesn't happen so jump on it!
I got asked for webcomics advice on Reddit yesterday. It made me feel pretty good. I thought I would share what I wrote to the guy.
In Record Time. : comics
Here are my tips:
1) Start with a schedule you know you can keep. Can you keep up with a daily? If you don't think you can, might want to dial it back a bit. The key to retaining and gaining readers is making a schedule and sticking to it. Nothing will cause your readers to disappear like missing several updates.
2) Have fun and make sure you have something to say using your material. If you're constantly struggling to find ideas, this may be a sign you might want to re-evaluate your subject matter.
3) Just keep going. Write like no one is reading. At the beginning, be aware that not many people are and be happy about this because this will give you the chance to hone your craft.
4) Honing your craft takes time. Not just days, weeks, or months, but years. Seriously.
I love webcomics and I write them because of that. I don't write to get famous or be rich. I think that is the key. Enjoy it! It is so much fun and things WILL happen if you keep it up. I am just now starting to see good things from my work after doing our strip for 4 years now and 400 strips. I still haven't seen very much money, but my partner and I have gone to tons of cons for free (including SDCC for the last 4 years), done panels at major conventions, met tons of cool people, published a book, and tons of other little cool things. It is beyond worth it. Never stop learning, never stop adapting, and you will be golden. I hope that helps man.
Also, I highly highly highly recommend the book How to Make Webcomics by Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Brad Guigar, and Dave Kellett. They are all super awesome and helpful dudes, both online and in real life and this book is the thing that got me and my friend from an idea to having our comic up and now 4 years later with 400 strips and a book. And we are two dudes with little motivation and follow through and neither of us are artists. So if you take anything away from this, take that. Buy that book, it's 10 bucks and I guarantee it will teach you and motivate you.
This was something that happened to me while on my walk yesterday. It was pretty nuts. My leg still hurts a little bit and I have a gnarly bruise on my back, but other than that I am fine. Just scraped up a little. It was worth it though as I don't think those dogs would have made it out of the canyon. Be sure to keep your dogs' tags up to date! If I hadn't been able to get a hold of the owner, I'm not sure what I would have done. I probably would have had to take them to a shelter or something.
This was emailed to me today and I thought it was really cool. Spoilers though. If you want to get a quick catch up on the events of the TV show just scroll through it and it will take you all over Westeros, episode by episode.
I'm kind of speechless right now. I'm also really feeling the love. We just passed the $1000 mark and hit our third stretch goal on our Kickstarter. Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged and shared and retweeted. You guys did this, not just Phil and me! To reward you for all your hard work we've added additional rewards and stretch goals. There's tons of cool stuff to be had!
I am in the process of writing a book. It is something I have been wanting to do for basically half my life. It is basically the story of my youth and the death of my father and how that affected me. There's both humor and heartbreak. I want to thank my team of folks who read the treatment for the book and gave me a lot of great feedback. This is very much a work in progress but I feel pretty good about chapter one. You can download it at archive.org here. I am working on getting the PDF converted to other formats. If anyone wants to help me with that, feel free. The PDF is CC licensed, no commercial, share and share alike.
Hey there everybody. I guess this is my first post here of 2013. I find myself posting things I used to post here on Facebook instead. I don't know how I feel about that. I do have some plans for this blog this year. I will probably be posting more long form stuff here and maybe some of my writing projects that I am working on.
The reason I am posting today is to alert you to the Radio BrendoMan T-Shirts Kickstarter that Phil and I launched last week. We already reached our $500 goal and will be posting some awesome stretch goals soon. I would highly recommend checking it out. Also please give the show a listen if you haven't yet.
What's going on with everyone on this side? If you're not on Facebook, you probably aren't aware that I have lost 36 pounds since December 30th and I am on track to lose much more. I will detail that sometime on here. I also successfully migrated Radio BrendoMan off of Podbean and we are now hosting our files at Archive.org. I learned a lot through this process and also plan to share what I learned sometime soon. I've got a lot of irons in the fire right now though so I can't promise any timeframe.
This morning I was thinking about highlights of 2012 for me and the thing I kept coming back to was this: I was in a dance circle with Felicia Day, Amber Benson, Brea Grant, Adam Savage, Alexis Denisof, and Joss Whedon. Yeah. That alone makes 2012 pretty damn cool. And also this:
Comic-Con crazy happenings aside, 2012 was a pretty banner year. Here's to 2013!
I wasn't going to post this here because I wanted it to get read and I don't think people read blogs that much anymore. However, I wanted to be able to share it with folks on Twitter and make it easy for others to share it who aren't on Facebook. So here you go.
I was going to post this on my blog but I don't think people read blog posts anymore (maybe?). I have been wanting to post about this for awhile and I think today is as good a day as any with the tragic events in Connecticut. No, this is not about gun control. I will let others pontificate on that one.
We need to start talking openly about mental health issues. As many of my close friends and
family know, I have struggled most of my life with various mental health issues including clinical depression, anxiety disorder, ADD, suicidal thoughts, and other not fun stuff. I have been in and out of therapy, on and off drugs, done both in-patient and outpatient treatment. I am lucky to be able to say that for the most part I have gotten the help I need when I needed it. Many are not so lucky.
Even with my very good HMO plan, mental health is like the red-headed stepchild. I can only visit a therapist once a month. I have to jump through several hoops to get certain medications every single time I need a refill. I have to drive twice as far to my psychiatrist as I do to my doctor because there is a severe lack of psychiatry offices. When I moved to San Diego, I almost had to re-do all my evaluations (which would have taken numerous doctor visits and a co-pay each time) because of bookkeeping issues. After calling about five different people and working my way up the chain, they finally agreed to "make an exception for me" and allow me to continue treatment un-interrupted. I can't tell you how stressful this whole process was and how close I came to just giving up for the time being.
And I am one of the lucky ones with adequate health coverage. When I had no health insurance, I didn't get any treatment because it was completely unaffordable. Without insurance, my meds cost hundreds of dollars a month. Doctors visits are out of the question. I suffered for a few years in silence. Things would get really bad and then they would get better for awhile.
Many are also afraid to talk about their mental health issues because of social stigma. "Stop being depressed!" How many times have we heard that? I know I've heard it a lot. If someone is asking you honestly for help and you respond in that manner, you are part of the problem. For those of us who are clinically depressed, positive thinking and cheering up and all that other stuff will not work. It won't. Sorry.
So what can we do? We can encourage our politicians and our healthcare providers to make mental health a priority, especially in this era of health care reform. We need to create an environment where people aren't afraid to talk about these problems with their friends and loved ones. That is a big step in getting the help we need. I know it was for me.
All right, end of soapbox. I hope that made sense.
We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Originally posted at ShowMeProgress.com
This week the US Senate considered several amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), including one on accelerating the end of the war in Afghanistan, one on detention of US citizens and one preventing the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Senate Amendment 3096 is a non-binding vote that expresses the Senate's endorsement of the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan and calls for that timeline to be accelerated. It passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support (62-33), though neither of Missouri's Senators voted for it. Republican Roy Blunt voted no and recently re-elected Democrat Claire McCaskill was one of 5 Senators that didn't cast a vote.
The war in Afghanistan has now dragged on for over 11 years, the longest war in the history of the United States. Over 2,100 American troops have been killed and thousands more wounded. A poll in March of 2012 found that 69% of Americans thought we should not be at war in Afghanistan, up from 53% four months earlier. With the public increasingly ready for this long war to end, it's time for officials from both parties to act. This week's amendment is a start and it's a shame that our Senators failed to get on board.
Another amendment (3018) to the NDAA made clear that the government is not authorized to detain citizens or lawful residents without charge or trial, even when we are at war. Though the right of habeas corpus is already guaranteed by the Constitution, it is good to see the Senate making this point after years of war and terror have eroded this fundamental right. Both of our Senators, McCaskill and Blunt, voted in favor of the amendment, which passed 67-29.
Though President Obama has made efforts to close down our nation's offshore prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, Congress continues to prevent him from doing so. Amendment 3245 to the NDAA prohibits the use of funds to transfer or release the 160+ prisoners still held there with murky legal status. It passed (54-41) with McCaskill voting against it and Blunt voting for it. Though the legislation hasn't been passed yet, and though the White House has made noises about vetoing the whole NDAA, the Republicans seem on track toward getting their wish to keep the prison at Guantanamo open.
Final scores: Blunt gets 1 out of 3 right, and McCaskill gets 2 out of 3 right with a disappointing abstention on the Afghanistan amendment. But hey, at least we don't have to worry about out how Todd Akin would have voted on these.
As the 2013 Missouri legislative session draws near, several elected officials from both sides of the aisle are calling on lawmakers to reject gifts from lobbyists, either voluntarily or through new ethics reforms. State Senator-elect Ed Emery (R-Lamar, MO) does not appear interested in joining this movement.
Between 2002 and 2010, when he was a State Representative, Emery accepted over $5,800 worth of meals and gifts from lobbyists, according to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Missouri is the only state in the nation where legislators are allowed to accept unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited gifts from lobbyists. Each year lobbyists spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying alcohol, food, tickets, trips, and other gifts for our elected officials.
While current state law allows lobbyists to wine and dine state officials, several Republican and Democratic legislators are calling for banning the gifts outright and have promised to refuse all gifts and meals from lobbyists.
Senator-elect Scott Sifton (D-Affton) campaigned on the issue, pledging to refuse gifts from lobbyists and criticizing his opponent, incumbent State Senator Jim Lemke (R-Lemay), for accepting nearly $30,000 worth of lobbyist gifts over the last decade. Sifton won the race 50.9% to 49.1%.
During his time in the General Assembly, Jason Kander (D-Kansas City) sponsored an ethics bill that would have banned lobbyist gifts, and this fall Kander was narrowly elected as Secretary of State, despite his opponent's flood of campaign cash from St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefeld.
Senators from both parties see a need for reform. John Lamping (R-St. Louis) is refusing all gifts from lobbyists and calling for an outright ban on the gifts.
Shortly after the election I asked Emery if he planned to join Lamping and Sifton in working to curb lobbyist gifts. Here is his response:
Danny Ferguson: Mr. Emery, will you join senator-elect Scott Sifton in calling for a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators?
Ed Emery: Danny, transparency and attentiveness are the most effective means to empower citizens. It is not more government. You and Scott must trust government a lot more than I do.
Ferguson: A government is only as trustworthy as the people serving in it. Banning gifts from lobbyists is a way to remove one potential source of corruption, which would make it easier for us to trust that you're working for the best interests of all your constituents rather than the financial interests of a few people who have given you gifts. This could even be a voluntary ban, at least at first. Would you consider committing to rejecting all gifts from lobbyists as John Lamping (R) and Scott Sifton (D) have?
Emery: Danny, If you confine politicians to the Constitution that will give lobbyist little to lobby for. When government is no longer allowed to pick winners and losers the bidding for power will cease or be greatly diminished. I would prefer limiting government to expanding or empowering it.
Ferguson: So, in other words, you're going to keep accepting meals and gifts from lobbyists. Is that correct?
Emery: [No response given.]