Chipspeech on Linux! It can be done!

Chipspeech is probably my favorite instrument plugin. It’s a singing synthesizer from Plogue, and it features several sci-fi characters, each with a voice that replicates a different historic speech synthesizer. It’s an incredibly powerful little program, and I’ve made a lot of fun things with it. But I’m a Linux user, and Chipspeech is a Windows program, so getting it to run is… an adventure.

This guide is mostly for my own reference, as I think most people would probably just run it under Windows. But hey, maybe it’ll help somebody. It assumes you’re using LMMS on Ubuntu, but you could probably tweak this for other Linux distributions/digital audio workstations too.

Continue reading “Chipspeech on Linux! It can be done!”

I have a new(ish) writing project!

The other day, I passed 10,000 words in the rough draft for my current writing project. I haven’t done that in over a year and a half, and it feels incredible. I’ve been working on this particular thing for about four months, although I’ve really only talked about it on Twitter, and the fact that I’m a) still working on it, and b) still excited about it, is kind of extraordinary.

So what is it? It’s a goofy pulp science fiction story, with robots and rayguns and badass mathematicians and telepathic tree aliens who glow in the dark. It’s got all of my favorite pulp sf tropes in it — absentminded professors, analog computers, plucky whiz kids, and a blatant disregard for the laws of physics. It’s super queer, because I don’t know how to write anything that isn’t. Oh yeah, and it’s a Star Trek fanfic. (Albeit one where literally zero canon characters appear.)

It’s called “Captain Proton: Duplicates From the Fifth Dimension!”, and it is absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had while writing.

(For those of you who don’t do Star Trek — think “Buck Rogers” or “Flash Gordon”, those gloriously long and winding space opera serials from the 30s.)

I’ve been wanting to write a ridiculous pulp sci-fi story for a long time, but I could never quite get myself to actually do it, because it scared the crap out of me — even at the “zero draft” stage. I get really easily intimidated by Big Projects; they tend to get too big very fast, and then I get kind of freaked out. I also have this tendency to write scenes out-of-order, which usually ends up with me having trouble connecting things later on. So I’m limiting myself here to a single story, a semi-established universe, and (mostly) linear writing.

I’m posting chapters a couple of weeks after I write them. It’s a good balance between giving myself time to revise stuff, and keeping myself from dwelling too much on whether or not each chapter is “perfect”. I’m not really doing multiple drafts on this thing — each chapter basically gets a single revision, so the reality of it is that perfection isn’t part of the equation.

That makes certain parts of me want to scream (hi, anxiety!), because how could I possibly be okay with putting less-than-perfect writing out into the world? But hey, if I do this long enough, the quality will improve over time… I hope.

(The blatant disregard for physics, on the other hand, is forever.)

The story lives here, if you’d like to read it. I’d certainly appreciate it — knowing that people are reading it encourages me to keep working!

“How the heck do you do NaNo when you have ADHD?”

Whelp, it’s November 1st. Y’know what that means? It’s NaNoWriMo season!

As an ADHD person, NaNoWriMo can be terrifying. Me? Committing to a writing project for a month? And working on it every day???

But if you want to do NaNo, you should! And you can! You just might need a few extra things put into place to help you… especially in the “writing every day” department.

A hugely helpful resource for me was Cory Doctorow’s essay “Writing in the Age of Distraction”, which I read for the first time in high school. Ten actual things you can do, instead of vague “find your mojo” bullshit! I noticed immediate positive changes as soon as I followed some of these strategies, participating in (and winning!) my first NaNoWriMo that year — and I’ve been writing just about every day in the six years since.

Here are the things that seem to work for me, from experimentation with the strategies in the essay:

 

1. Actually make time to write, because it’s important.

I know that sounds… obvious, but listen — if I want to get any writing done, I have to block out a specific time period in my day for it, and decide that it’s something important. It has to be up there in my priorities next to “feed the dogs”. For me, that means I have a scheduled writing time every day, where I set a timer and do nothing but write until it goes off. If I don’t do that, my brain decides that it can wait until later… and we all know what “later” means to an ADHD brain.

 

2. Use “rigidity” to your advantage.

One of the things that Doctorow warns against in the essay is ceremoniousness in the writing process, and I’m inclined to agree — only being able to write under very certain conditions just isn’t helpful. But for me, adherence to routines is very important; it’s part of how I manage my disabilities. My comfortable middle ground seems to be keeping my routine portable — my writing notebook and pen live in my bag, which stays on my person. These, plus a playlist of Good Stimming Noise, enable me to write with a comfortable degree of consistency, wherever I happen to be.

 

3. Use research as a reward.

Research might actually be my favorite part of the writing process — especially when my story overlaps with my special interests. Since even opening a web browser while I’m writing is a very dangerous idea, I mark anything I need to verify and jot down any questions that pop up in my head while I’m writing. Then, once everything I need to do is done, I can go back and research stuff as much as my hyper-obsessive heart likes.

 

4. Find your tools.

I’ll admit that I was originally skeptical of Doctorow’s suggestion to “kill your word processor”, but holy shit, it’s the best thing I ever did for my writing process. I didn’t realize how much fiddling I was doing with options that literally didn’t matter until they weren’t there.

It can take a while to find something that works for you — there’s a lot of options out there. I’m a WordGrinder person. It runs in a terminal, does only very basic formatting, has a vague 1980s feel… heck yeah. But FocusWriter is probably a better option for the people who aren’t like me in those respects.

 

A personal note: I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year — I’m busy getting ready to go to school in a few weeks, and I’m in the middle of a project right now anyway. But I’ll be writing along with everybody, and I’m always up to be somebody’s writing buddy! Good luck to everybody who’s participating; I’m rooting for you!

#InktoberButChill #3: Melancholy

Here’s another short fiction piece!

I’ve decided not to post #2, as I wasn’t very happy with it. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect myself to write something excellent every day, or to expect myself to share things that I don’t think are ready. So here’s #3 — which I wrote while thinking about shapeshifters.

Continue reading “#InktoberButChill #3: Melancholy”

#InktoberButChill Day 1: Nocturnal

Nocturnal: done, occurring, or active at night.

They would never dare gather in the daylight. It just isn’t safe — too many prying eyes, too many seeds for gossip. Only under the cover of the stars can they be certain that no one is watching. This is the time, after all, when no Right Person would be out, for fear of what might lurk in the darkness. (No one seems to be able to answer the question of just what might be doing the lurking, however.)

But of course, that which lurks is that which they gather to honor in the first place. The darkness itself, incarnate, bringing comfort to those who find it nowhere else.

A small light is placed in the center of the makeshift altar, by the youngest of them, as is customary. She is no longer afraid to perform the rites, the months having taught her the best ways to sneak away undetected, the unspoken prayers giving her strength.
The townspeople had called it the “balance of the universe” — her father’s disappearance, her mother’s simultaneous recovery. They were right, of course, but none but those in this unoccupied house know the specifics. Each of them has such a story; a prayer unspoken except in this house, away from any judgment that might be passed on them.

The candle illuminates their smiles as they link arms and wait in silence. Nothing needs to be said — they know they will be heard.

Inktober is upon us.

Hi friends!

My friend Charlie came up with an interesting idea for Inktober this year — a shortened list of fifteen prompts, allowing two days for each.

This is the list:

  1. Nocturnal
  2. Omen
  3. Melancholy
  4. Dreary
  5. Anachronism
  6. Brooding
  7. Tempest
  8. Macabre
  9. Rapture
  10. Mercurial
  11. Liminal
  12. Celestial
  13. Placid
  14. Cataclysm
  15. Resplendent

I basically fell in love with this on sight — except I can’t draw (motor skill issues are fun). So I’m going to take a crack at these prompts with some short fiction instead.

I’m pretty excited to see what I come up with for these. The first of them is already done, so I’ve got it scheduled to go up tomorrow morning!

Happy Inktober! ❤

It’s Camp NaNo time!

It’s Camp NaNoWriMo time! Yaaaaaaaaay!
Well, okay. I don’t love Camp NaNoWriMo. That’s mostly because I tend to set my writing goals way too high. 1000 words a day? With this much depression knocking around in my head?????

Yeah. Nope. I’m not doing that to myself. This year, I’m taking a different approach.

This year, for Camp NaNo, I’m writing a short story. As far as word count goes, I’m shooting for 10,000 words — that’s less than 300 words a day, which is something I can manage pretty well.
Basically, I’m taking it easy on myself, relatively speaking. I’m still going to push myself, writing-wise — I’m sitting down at this keyboard seven days a week and banging out words, because forcing myself to sit down and write is usually the easiest way to make words come out of my hands. But I’m making an effort to be kinder to myself when it comes to my daily output, and this is going to be an extension of that.
I’m not really trying any new things this month as far as tools or my writing process goes. I started using WordGrinder a few months ago for my personal writing projects (read: my partner and I write goofy and gay fanfiction when we’re bored), and it plus git seems to work really well for me. So I’ll keep that strategy — although it occurs to me that I’ve never done a writeup on WordGrinder before, so maybe that’s in the future.
Anyway, more about the story, because I know you’re just dying for details — how could you not be, after all. It’s a speculative fiction piece, and it involves:

• planes
• queer people
• smuggling hormones to trans folks
• did I mention the planes?
So yeah, I’m pretty excited about this one. Let’s see how it goes!

Happy Belated Autistic Pride Day!

I didn’t get a chance to write about this yesterday (I was pretty busy formatting a buttload of floppy disks, as per my new Special Interest), but yesterday was Autistic Pride Day! Wheeee!

I saw some people expressing frustration about this day being in June (Pride Month) instead of April (Autism Acceptance Month), and I figure I’ll throw my own two cents in here, for what it’s worth.

As a queer autistic person, I love the fact that Autistic Pride Day falls within Pride Month. Autism and queerness are very much intertwined for me; I don’t think I could have one without the other. And although I celebrate them both separately, I very rarely get the chance to celebrate them together.

Autistic Pride Day gives me a chance to do that.

To all my queer neurokin out there: I see you. I love you. ❤

An update!

I’ve been pretty busy the past few weeks and haven’t had time to really discuss anything with anybody, even really close friends, so here’s a general catching-up-and-update post, in my favorite format: an imaginary person asking me questions, which you may or may not be curious about!

 

So where did you go? You were gone a long time.

Back in April, I mentioned to some folks that I was going to be starting school soon, but I was pretty quiet on the details. Since it went well, I feel more comfortable talking about it. 🙂

I spent five weeks at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute, which is a state-run trade school for people with disabilities, in what was basically an assessment period to see which of their programs would be a good fit for me. Since the school’s state-run and I was referred there by the state’s disability services, I don’t have to worry about tuition or room and board while I’m there, which is amazing. It’s about three hours from my house, so I didn’t get to go home the entire time. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from my dogs, and it wasn’t a very fun time in that regard. But I did enjoy my term there, and made a few friends.

I knew before I went into the school which program I was aiming for — office automation, which is basically computer repair, networking, and security stuff. (I know, it’s shocking.) It also happens to have the highest minimum test requirements for entry, which made me a little nervous.

But hey, what the hell, I thought. This is pretty much the only thing I love enough to do for eight hours a day. So I prepared myself to work my ass off to get in.

The assessment stuff was… not my favorite thing. It’s not like they were super difficult for me — they’re mostly English and math tests, some critical thinking, problem solving, spatial reasoning. I did about as well as I expected to on every test — very well in reading, pretty well in critical thinking and problem solving, awful in spatial reasoning. The only exception there was math — I did a lot better than I expected.

It was all basic math — fractions, decimals, percents, single-variable algebra. Every single one of those things is something that terrifies me, because I have dyscalculia. It goes along with my ADHD, apparently — it’s kind of like dyslexia, but with numbers. It means I can’t read analog clocks or do time very well, and it’s caused me to miss a lot of questions on many a math test over the years, for very small reasons — missed negatives, transposed numbers, mixed-up operations. Luckily, they let us use basic calculators for pretty much every math test, so those sort of things were minimized.

After all of the testing was done, we had three weeks of what was basically “skill-boosting”, while everyone took their trade assessments. I was pretty lucky — I got to do mine during the last week of testing and was accepted basically on the spot. The only things that tripped me up were spatial and mechanical reasoning, and Microsoft Office. Specifically, Excel.

This did lead to a pretty excellent exchange between myself and the instructor, though:

Instructor: “So, are you a Mac or Linux person?”

Me: “Linux. Well, both. Any Unix, really. …Wait, how did you know?”

Instructor: “I was watching your interactive test portions. You know your stuff, but you really don’t know your way around the Control Panel.”

Since I didn’t have to do trade assessments, and my scores were good enough to not really need math or reading work, I was put into the electronics lab to work on various things, handed an Algebra II book, and given some online cybersecurity coursework. I basically got to spend three weeks doing things I love all day — quadratic equations, writing about Stuxnet, poking printers until they worked, and taking things apart.

And then I found out that I don’t get to go back until the end of November, because there’s a long waitlist for my program. So I’m at home for a while.

 

Wow. That’s not ideal. So you’re keeping busy in the meantime, right?

Obviously. I don’t know how not to be busy.

I’ve been home a couple of weeks, and I’ve already got some stuff running. Some of the things that I can tell you about are:

  • I just released a new album! You should check it out if you haven’t already.
  • Starting to dive into IBM’s Master the Mainframe thingy. I’m having a lot of fun with it already.
  • Becoming very interested in engineering notebooks as a Thing, but they’re expensive and I don’t really need certain bits of them. Considering making my own, because of course I am.
  • Adventures with ChipSpeech, as I work on fun commissioned music. And by “adventures”, I mean “fighting”, because my computer is old and absolutely wheezing as it tries to keep up with me.
  • Searching for a new computer because of this.
  • Working on a second cybersecurity class, since I finished the first one (although it’s stalled while I look for a new computer, since it requires some software that made my computer choke and die)

Are you sensing a common theme here, reader? I think I am.

(Seriously, my current computer is a seven-year-old mobile workstation. It would be fine if I didn’t make music on it. It needs to be replaced with a desktop that can handle the work I throw at it, then given to a kid who’ll use it for gentler tasks such as homework and social media.)

 

Hold on. Did you say…. mainframes?

Yeah. And?

 

Your geek is showing.

FIGHT ME, Z/OS IS FUN AND PRETTY.

22 trips around the sun

Holy crap I’m 22. Or I will be, by the time this post goes up.

Actually, at exactly that time. I was born at 12:22 PM — conveniently the time for which I’ve scheduled this post. But since I wrote this beforehand and scheduled it, may I just say, from the past, that this is weird and I’m not sure that I like it.

Because here’s the thing — birthdays are weird for me. On one hand, I’ve survived another trip around the sun — and I won’t lie, this year wasn’t an easy one for me. The low spots were tough to recover from, and I’m still working on that with a couple of them; the victories weren’t glamorous, high-flying ones. They were small victories — taking my meds daily, reading more, making better music, coming out to more people, starting to code again after nearly four years, starting school again a week from today.

On the other hand… as I get older, I feel like I care just a little less about my birthday every year. I think I actually get more excited about my transition anniversary (which is 11 January), which might just be because I still haven’t fully connected my “online” existence as a Fully Out Genderqueer Person with my “offline” existence. (I refuse to believe that they’re totally separate entities, however.)

I’m sure future me — current me, as you’re reading this — has already come to terms with all of it. In fact, I’m probably celebrating by stuffing my face with spicy things from my local Chinese restaraunt while binge-watching Star Trek right now!

And that’s all pretty nifty, right?