New BSDNow interview

BSDNow episode 507 has an interview with me.

We talked about OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems, Run Your Own Mail Server, the writing business, ChatGPT, and detritus. At least, that’s the topic list Benedict sent me before the interview. I have no idea how far astray this talk went. It’s not like I pay attention to anything I say.

If you’re at BSDCan, do say hello.

April’s Ablated Sausage

Each month, I write a blog post for my Patronizers. I want to say it provides unique insight into my process and business, but “See the Sausage Being Made” has turned into more of a monthly summary combined with my usual on-brand ranting. With my Patronizers’ kind permission, a month after they see the posts I’ll be sharing them here. When I remember. Looking back at this post, I was clearly still reeling from covid, but I’m resisting the urge to put Compound W on the warts.

Our home has radiator heat. The air does not move unless I move it. Fortunately there’s enough seepage around the windows to prevent anoxia, but after all these months the house has picked up a certain aroma that can only be described as “The Lucases have been inside for too long.” The office window is now open for the first time since October. Fresh air is rolling in, but neighbors walking down the sidewalk cough and stagger when the fug hits them. It’s a glorious annual tradition of hope, at least from my perspective.

So, the bad news? Last month during the Patronizer video hangout, folks told me I looked tired and let me go early. I didn’t think I was that worn out, but it turns out they knew better than I did. I woke up the next morning at 3AM with a 104F fever. After defying covid for longer than the Axis fought off the Allies, I had covid. The strategy of “wait to catch the plague until treatments exist” paid off, though. I had pavloxid later that day, and the fever broke after the second dose. The brutal fatigue still lingers, though. Yesterday was the first day I worked a full day, and by five PM I was exhausted.

Prevention eventually fails, but I plan to avoid reinfection for another Second World War.

My goal of “write lots of books this year” continues its streak of failure. My goal of “get to the dojo 100 nights this year” has likewise received a gut punch. But the nice thing about these goals is that they’re fail-forward. If I only get to the dojo eighty nights, that’s still better than most people manage.

I’ll be teaching a four-hour OpenBSD storage tutorial at BSDCan, though, and the slides for that are finished. I’m also giving a fifty-minute talk about OpenBSD’s storage at Penguicon and semibug later this month, and over the summer. Those slides will be trimmed down from the tutorial. Hoping to knock those off today.

I’ll also be talking about Rat Operated Vehicles at Penguicon, which will be fun. That talk almost demands a live studio audience.

Yes, I’m doing two conferences in two months. I expect that they’ll be my last ones for the year. One bout of covid has redoubled my determination to avoid flying. Yes, attending EuroBSDCon in Portugal would be way cool, but–no.

The good news is: once the slides are done, my outstanding commitments are complete. No fulfillment lingers for either sponsorships or Kickstarter. Yes, I have to write my baseball orc tale, but I’ll do that in June when I can attend a historical-rules baseball game at Greenfield Village. I don’t want to jinx myself and say “nothing stands between me and writing,” so I’ll just say: whatever stands between me and writing will come as a nasty surprise.

As an aside: as part of the Devotion & Corrosion Kickstarter, I’m having an online book release party on 29 April, at 10 AM EDT. Any of y’all that want to attend are welcome.

Thank you for your support. I’m gonna go make some slides so I can make some words.

I Have A Dream

If someone demanded I summarily declare why I have achieved my modest success where so many other writers haven’t, I would have to say it’s because I mercilessly separate dreams and goals and only act upon the latter.

What’s the difference?

A goal is something I control. “I will write four books this year” is a goal. I might succeed, I might fail, but it’s within my control. If I write three I fail in my goal, but hey–I’ve written three more books!

A dream is something I don’t control. Generally, dreams require other people take action on my behalf. “I will coauthor a thriller with James Patterson” is a dream, because while I might reach out to Patterson I don’t control how he reacts. Chances are he would throw me off his front porch and unleash the hounds.

I work on goals. Never on dreams.

Do this long enough, and dreams fade. It’s not that you lose the capacity for dreaming, but if you remain goal-oriented your idle fantasies start feeding into your goals instead.

Today, I fear I’ve caught a dream. XKCD’s latest interactive comic includes a Murderbot reference.

I can’t really call this “author goals,” because I don’t control it. But it’s certainly “author dreams.”

Stupid dreams. Get out of here with that lame non-actionable tripe. Dammit.

Ten Years of Penguicon Pop Tarts

In 2013, I was a Guest of Honor at Penguicon.

No con had ever treated me better. My room was handled. My assigned flunky made sure I got fed (or, in my case, made sure I ate). There was a green room with sandwich fixings and snacks and the most ridiculously oversized heap of Pop Tarts I have ever witnessed. Not that I should be eating Pop Tarts, or even particularly like Pop Tarts, but I am always compelled to admire spectacle.

At the closing ceremony, the con chair asked the GoHs if anything went wrong. I said something along the lines of “you were magnificent. the only thing I could possibly say is that there was no toaster for the Pop Tarts.”

Truly trivial. That con was run better than some multimillion-dollar IT launches I’ve been part of.

But Hospitality Czar Cylithria Dubois got a look of absolute horror on her face. She took her job seriously, and had FAILED. Less than perfect! Dishonor, dismay, disaster!

It was okay, of course. We had a laugh afterwards.

I’ve come back most years since. Every year, there have been Pop Tarts in the con suite. Every year, the con suite has lacked sufficient power to plug in a toaster without blowing out the circuit breakers. It’s become a running joke.

This year, ten years after my GoH stint? When I walked up to the hotel check-in desk I saw an assortment of bags behind the counter. I thought “Oh, the ConCom is up to their usual tricks of giving GoHs welcome gifts. It’s nice to see the old ways being kept. Them folks are in for a treat.”

I gave my name, and the receptionist said “We have a package for you!”

Lithie had left me…

…a toaster. With a lovely thank-you note, promising to remember the Pop Tarts in another ten years. I nearly burst an aneurysm laughing.

But in the con suite?

Not one Pop Tart.

Am I saying that after a decade of con suite Pop Tarts, Lithie leveraged her influence to make sure there would be none on the year she gave me a toaster? No. Lithie operates on the highest standards of ethics and probity. I’m certain it’s mere convenient coincidence.

But my long-suffering missus scurried out to a grocery store, so that Sunday I could offer Lithie a toasty-warm Pop Tart.

Not that either of us like Pop Tarts, mind you. That’s not the point.

I’m already planning for next year. Yes, for talks. And… other things.

Lithie says that in ten years, she’ll bring the Pop Tarts. Most twenty-year-old food would transcend staleness, but come on. They’re Pop Tarts. They’ll be as fresh as the day they were excreted.

Updated Penguicon 2023 schedule and references

Turns out I have additional Penguicon events. I also need a place to list the books I’ll refer to in my talk. Rather than rewrite the old blog post, I’m starting over. First, the references.

OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems
The Copyright Handbook
LLC or Corporation?
Tax Savvy for Small Business
Cash Flow for Creators
Domesticate Your Badgers: Become a Better Writer through Deliberate Practice

I’ll have some of my books in the bookstore, room 317. They told me I can bring as many titles as I want, which seems foolish but oh well. I’ll have a handful of Networknomicons, some fiction, several recent tech books, Letters to ed(1), and assorted other detritus. While the con is having folks buy books by sending Paypal direct to the authors, I plan to find my Square reader. If you show up during one of the three hours I’m in the store, I’ll take your credit card myself. (Or charge your card myself. Whichever you prefer.)

And now, the schedule. There’s full details on the con’s Sched, including any room updates.

Friday, 21 April
5PM: AI, Writers, and Artists (panel), Charlevoix C
7PM: Writer’s Block Bookstore, suite 317

Saturday, 22 April
11AM: OpenBSD Filesystems (talk), Algonquin A
Noon: Reading (talk), Portage Auditorium — somehow, they put the readings in this room. It bears a close resemblance to one of the rooms where someone dies in $ git sync murder. $GSM does not take place at this hotel, and the $GSM con is most assuredly not Penguicon, I admit to feeling somewhat leery. I might read from that book, though.
1PM: Rat Operated Vehicles (talk), Algonquin B (Big Top) — contains no actual rat
2PM: Writer’s Block Bookstore, suite 317
3PM: LN2 ice cream (consuite) — this is not part of my official schedule, but come on, you know I’ll be there
4PM: Terry Pratchett: The Man, the Myth, the Reading Order (Charlevoix C)
6PM: Crowdfunding for Creatives (Charlevoix C)

Sunday, 23 April
11AM: Writer’s Block Bookstore, suite 317
noon: One Man Publishing Army (Algonquin C)

Penguicon 2023 Schedule

Penguicon 2023 starts in ten days. As usual, I’ll be presenting talks and serving on panels. Repeatedly.

It’s a light year for me, though. Only six events. The rest of the time, I’ll either be wandering around or heckling other presenters, like you do.

5PM: AI, Writers, and Artists (panel)

11AM: OpenBSD Filesystems
1PM: Rat Operated Vehicles
4PM: Terry Pratchett: The Man, the Myth, the Reading Order (panel)
6PM: Crowdfunding for Creatives (panel)

12PM: One Man Publishing Army

Somewhere in here, I’ll also be doing a reading. That isn’t scheduled yet, but I’m told it’s happening. Check the final schedule when you show up.

One reason I’m attending? Their solid mask policy is enforced by an ex-marine with an attitude like a badger with bad bowels. Yes, a real ex-marine. I had covid in March. Not only am I still recovering, the experience has made me twice as determined to not catch it again.

April Fool’s Collection

I believe that April Fools’ pranks should be benign violations of expectations, and that they are best when they have a physical reality. If they don’t have a physical reality, they should be targeted to amuse a small group of peolpe. While I had thoughts about one for this year, they fell apart under the pressure of fulfilling Kickstarters. But for my own reference and perhaps your minor amusement, here are the Internet-relevant pranks I’ve pulled in the past.

2021: I know that people read my tech books for the footnotes, so I released a collectible hardcover collection of them.

Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

Only Footnotes

2020: The Networknomicon.

Abdul Alhazred’s infamously rumored Networknomicon, or SNMP Mastery, has long been blamed for the Spanish Inquisition, the Second World War, and Cleveland. While nuclear “testing” was thought to have eradicated all copies of the manuscript, an astute student with a baggy shirt and considerable mob debts recently liberated one tattered survivor from the Miskatonic University Library of Computer Science.

The Networknomicon, or SNMP Mastery

2018: I took sponsorships on a book, but refused to say what the book was. 1 April, I released Ed Mastery. The Standard Text Editor. “ed Mastery.” It has a blurb from Ken Thompson himself.

Let me be perfectly clear: ed(1) is the standard Unix text editor. If you don’t know ed, you’re not a sysadmin. You’re a mere dabbler. A dilettante. Deficient.

Ed Mastery cover

Ed Mastery also comes in the Manly McManface edition, because some men can’t handle feminine pronouns in their tech books. Part of each sale goes to the Soroptimists, because screw you, that’s why.

Any third-person singular pronouns that appear in the standard edition, for normal people, are female. Those who believe that women don’t belong in tech books may purchase this special “Manly McManface” edition, where all third-party singular pronouns are masculine.

To compensate for this edition’s much smaller market, though, the Manly edition is unfortunately pricier than the standard edition. That’s basic economics.

Ed Manly cover

For added “what the heck” I also wrote a scathing review of Ed Mastery, personally attacking the author, which Dan Langille generously published on his blog. I stand 100% behind this review, by the way.

Before that? Joke blog posts, aimed at the BSD audience. Basically intended to give a small group of folks a chuckle.

2014: Dan Langille and I coordinated on Oracle buys BSDCon and me responding by starting DetroitBSDCon. For the record, I think DetroitBSDCon would be amazing but, you know, pandemic.

2011: The Great Committer was to honor John Baldwin in the most embarrassing way possible.Apparently some of his cow-orkers started calling him the Great Committer and genuflecting when he approached, so that’s a plus. I still think that the BSD community adopting the pinky-and-forefinger-horns salute would rock.

2003: Dan Langille and I posted on how the UN was forcibly merging the BSD projects under the FretBSD banner. The OpenBSD paragraph still makes me giggle.

Theo de Raadt could not be reached for comment. While Theo’s home has been surrounded, UN peacekeeper troops have yet to storm the building and heavy casualties have been reported in the surrounding countryside. UN spokesmen insist that the siege is going according to plan, however, and Theo is expected to be available for integration in the new combined BSD at some date in late 2023. Of the two hundred eighty-nine casualties suffered by the UN troops at this time, the commanding officer insists that they were caused by a rampaging Canadian moose. Daniel Hartmeier, previously of the OpenBSD Project, insists that OpenBSD has no weapons of moose destruction.

Also: we caught a news reporter. That was fun. Sadly, my more substantial pranks of later years failed to catch… anyone. Apparently I have everyone’s expectations. If I want my next prank book to attract attention, I’ll need to bind it in penguin hide.

Novel, Story Collection, and In-Print Nonfiction Index Pages

The problem with having written this many books is providing a catalog of them. One day I might do a print catalog just for giggles, but not today.

I have, however, built index pages. You can find all of my novels and story collections at My in-print nonfiction books are all listed at Each entry links to the breakout page containing the book.

Been meaning to do this for a while, but Copious Free Time(tm) and all that.

I believe I’m supposed to encourage you to check the lists to be sure you have everything, but I’m well aware that nobody wants everything. At least now you can easily find everything, and that’s gonna have to do.

The Terminal Brag Shelf

An author’s brag shelf is where they keep one copy of every edition of everything they’ve published. The problem with a practicing writer’s brag shelf is that it needs more and more space. I mean, look at this from 2017.

That’s respectable, I think. Many authors built their careers around that many books. Fast forward three years, though, and it doesn’t look so tidy.

Fine. I’ll recycle an old bookcase for my brag shelf. As of November, it looked like this.

brag shelf 2022

As they say on social media: oh no.

It was time to deal with this once and for all. I’m about halfway through my writing career, and unlikely to become considerably more prolific than I am. I counted the number of shelf-feet I have consumed so far, doubled it, and bought the next size up. Allow me to present the Terminal Brag Shelf, which should suffice to hold everything I write for the rest of my life.

The bottommost shelf holds duplicates, so they don’t count. I got the wrong doors from Ikea, so I have to return them and get doors that are fully glass. Because what’s the point of having a brag shelf that hides things away? If you’ve made it to my office, you deserve the full experience.

Unfortunately, seeing everything neatly arranged here with lots of room for more books, more room than I can possibly write to fill, my first thought was: I must overflow this bastard.

Oh no.

The Spite Bezos sale ends, Filesystems, and my Next Kickstarter

A trio of updates, which is super annoying because I’m trying to blog more often but this all happened late yesterday so I guess I’m stuck.

The Amazon Spends Money To Sell Montague Portal hardcover and ebook sale has ended. Amazon has reverted the price to normal everywhere except for Kindle in the UK, and I’m sure that’ll follow soon. At first, I thought The Algorithm was drunk, but the hardcover sale stopped right when their spend crossed $500. That could be a coincidence, sure, but it’s a strangely regular number. Maybe someone at Amazon knew I’d take advantage of this and decided to give my career a hug? I will never know. This goes down as a Christmas miracle, and is hereby dubbed “the gift of the Bezi.”

“OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” is back from copyedit. Diving into that in the next few days. It’s my first tech book that won’t be available in Amazon’s Kindle store, so this will be interesting.

The pre-launch page for my next Kickstarter is live. Devotion & Corrosion is a collection of short fiction. It’s a bunch of stories about love that aren’t love stories. Welder Wings’ art completely blew me away.

Despite popular opinion the cover is not a glimpse inside my skull, but only because it lacks Molotov cocktails.

Anyway, watch that space.