The Future is Free

I don’t know if it could be classified as an ADD or ADHD thing, but I have a hard time focusing on one thing for a long period of time. At least, that’s the case if it’s not something I’ve specifically set my mind to doing. For instance, as I was graduating high school I was set to go into an IT course for network management. Shortly before I was supposed to start the school was shut down. I began an enrollment process at another school, but before I could begin my classes there, I decided not to go forward with it. I basically took a bit of time off from school and ended deciding to go to Lincoln Technical Institute to learn more about repair cars. It was a past-time I was interested in, I enjoyed it, and it seemed like a good thing to do as a career and a way to help other people save money (by doing side-jobs at a discounted rate).

Now I’m over a decade in to my career in the automotive industry, and I’ve been finding my desire to do things relating to IT have been creeping back up. It’s not like I stopped being a computer guy when I decided not to go to school for it, but I’ve always liked being a tinkerer, and tinkering with computers has always been one of my favorite forms of this hobby. The newer focus I have relating to my desire to work with computers has shifted a bit from my intentions all those years ago. Or maybe I should say, they’re going back to the root of something deeper in me. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been doing a little bit of research on the idea of a freelance editor. I’m not really as creative as I may have believed at one time, and I’m trying to embrace that more. But even without the actual creative gene, I’ve always liked figuring out how to get things done with a computer. This has only gotten worse since I was turned on to the idea of free/libre open source software. I started learning about all the ways people have worked together to create tools with and for each other. These free and open source programs are really what got me into Linux. As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to do some kind of recording studio work on a computer to create, edit, produce, and/or release independent content. In the past this was always about music, but now I’m starting to get a bigger picture of the “people” taking over media creation from the large monolithic studios.

We used to have corporate sponsored radio shows; We now have podcasts.

We used to have record company recording and distribution; We now have Reaper, Ardour, LLMS, and others, followed up with sites like Soundcloud, Purevolume, and NoiseTrade.

We used to have giant newspaper companies; We now have WordPress, SquareSpace, Medium, and Steemit.

We used to have publishing houses for books; We now have FeedBooks and other similar offerings.

We used to have network television; We now have streaming and recording with software like OBS and services to Facebook Live, Twitch, YouTube and Vimeo.

We used to have restrictive copyright licenses; We now have CopyLeft and Creative Commons.

And these comparisons are only the tip of the iceberg. I could probably do a whole post just talking about the Internet Archive. There are so many different ways for independent content creators to get their ideas out there without the traditional restrictions of needing contracts, equipment, and sponsorships. People can go out, create things, and share them with the world so easily and beautifully these days that it fills me with a bit of wonder whenever I think about it.

This doesn’t even have to relate to religious or political opinions. There is plenty of reason for these things simply based on creative people needing the easiest way for people to get their ideas out into the world. The way this ties in to my new mindset about computer usage is that I want to be able to use my drive for making things happen to help others that have the idea for the content, but the lack of knowledge for how to make it happen. I don’t expect anything big to come of it any time soon, if ever. But sometimes it’s just nice to set your perspective correctly.

A New Year is Here

Happy new year! 2016 was a really awesome year for the Tiedemann tribe. The Mrs. and I really dedicated ourselves to becoming pretty serious about a minimalist lifestyle. We did a full declutter around the house and have pretty much moved into a maintenance mode with keeping track of what things we have coming in to the house. As part of this process I’ve decided to put being a musician on hold for a while. I’ve sold all of my equipment and have decided to give myself a bit of a mental reset in relation to music. I’ve spent more than half of my life in the pursuit of making music and as of right now I’m much more interested in being a consumer rather than a creator.

We also finally paid off my school loan! This was one of the biggest achievements of the year as the loan was twelve-years old by the time we got it paid off. It’s definitely been a cloud hanging over our heads and the push we’ve made towards being debt free (coinciding with the push towards minimalism) definitely encouraged us to really work towards it. Along the same lines, this year we took out our first credit card, almost maxed it out, and paid it back off. At this point I will likely be calling the company and cancelling the card because we both came to see how easily a credit card can dig a really big hole. Considering things we’ve learned from listening to The Minimalists’ podcast, we’ve decided we will rely more on a regular debt to income ratio and an underwriting service if we really want to take out a loan for anything. We’ve gotten so dedicated to closing out our debt that we’re even looking at paying off our auto loan within the first quarter of 2017!

On a slightly different point, this year also marked the first full year that I’ve had facial hair (as in a grown out beard and mustache) and the first full year that I’ve been using a Mac (Book Air) as my primary computing device. Both of these changes took place at the end of 2015 but I found myself being committed to both of them this year. I know neither of these are really life-changing decisions but they have played a pretty big part in the way I perceive myself since.

There were some other pretty big changes for my family and myself in 2016, so despite all the negativity that was floating around about the year, I think it was a pretty awesome one. I’m actually feeling pretty optimistic about this new year. As I said earlier, we’re expecting to pay off our car loan in the next few months which will make us debt-free aside from our regular month-to-month bills. It won’t necessarily be a huge burden off of our backs as far as extra income available each month, but the idea of not having the shackle of owing money will be a big relief to us.

I wouldn’t really say I’m the resolution setting kind of person, but as I was thinking about what I accomplished last year, I started wondering if there was anything I would have liked to do that I didn’t. One of the things I always find myself regretting that I hadn’t done more of is writing. I finally released my first short story in the form of a post at (and later here, my personal blog). I’ve decided I want to hold myself to really make an effort at doing more writing. As I said, I don’t want to call it a resolution, but it’s just more of a goal I want to set. I’m going to work at keeping myself to a one-post-a-month minimum. With the ease of our financial burdens I’ve started to become more interested in finding some kind of work I can do from home and it usually ends up pointing towards something relating to writing. Maybe something along the lines of freelance editing, as I find it easier to be critical (constructively) of other people than I do to sit and work on my own writing. I’m hoping that by forcing myself to sit and do more writing that I can get better at doing the work of editing and find myself better equipped to put myself our there in the hunt for something like a stay-at-home freelance editing job.

So here’s to an awesome new year to you and yours, and may all your desires and aspirations find the fuel they need to keep the fire burning!

The Conversation

“Okay, let’s try this one more time… Why are you here?” I can hear a man’s voice asking me as I sit on an uncomfortable wooden chair. The chair reminds me of the small seats children use in a kindergarten class. Even the discomfort of undersized seat isn’t enough to distract me from the growing fear I feel and the sound of my blood undulating through the vessels in my head.

“I already told you, I’m here to help.” is all I can muster in response. I try to keep my voice confident, but it’s difficult as I feel I’m starting to suffocate in whatever it is they’ve put over my head. I can’t tell if it’s a sack for food or some hand-woven thing made from goat hair. Either way, between my seat and the bag on my head, I’m having a hard time sitting still and staying conscious. At this point it’s tough to even remember why I’m here.

I hear someone else shift around. I can’t tell where they are, whether they’ve been there the whole time, or if it is only the three of us, but someone’s moving. There doesn’t seem to be very much light in the room, but I can see some level of movement through the covering over my head.

Now I hear some whispering. At least I think it’s whispering. Did they have to use something so thick on my head? It’s bad enough I’m having a hard time breathing and seeing, but anything slightly less than a shout is barely audible. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. This is what they do when you’re in an unfamiliar, possibly hostile place, right? They make you uncomfortable. They want you to mess up. They want a reason to hurt you.

No, I can’t think of this like that. I’m here to help. I came here because I was moved by what I read and saw. I’ve grown so tired of seeing people hurt and oppressed. I had to get out and help. I had to do something. I’ve grown so tired of just talking about things I wanted to see change. I didn’t exactly expect this, though. Would I have come here if I had known this was going to happen? I guess so. It’s not as if I didn’t consider things would end up this way.

“Hey! Are you still alive in there?” It’s still the same male voice that’s been questioning me this whole time. No one else has talked to me yet, though I’m pretty sure there is at least one other person with us. “Hey! I’m talking to you!” I hear my interrogator move closer to me and then there is a yank on my head. I realize I must have zoned out thinking about how I got here.

“Yeah, I’m alive.” I say it trying not to sound too scared or confrontational.

“Are you here as a spy?”

“No, I’m not trying to expose you. I believe in your work, even if I don’t agree with all the things you do. I want to help make life better for people!” I have to use everything within me to not black out as I breathe deeply between words. I must be coming to the end of what I can deal with between this thing over my head and the questions. Can’t we just end this somehow?

“What makes you think we want your help? We haven’t posted fliers asking for new volunteers… Why should I trust that you mean what you say?”

“Because as soon as I heard about what happens here, the things that happen to the women, I couldn’t get past the thought about someone treating the women in my life, my wife, my sister, my friends and their daughters like that… But then I realized that they don’t need to be that close to me to care. The fact that it happens at all is disgusting. I felt God tell me the women here are just as important to Him as the women in my life are, and that they should be to me as well. That’s when my heart broke. I knew something had to change. I knew I had to get involved… I knew…”

“So God told you to come to us?” A woman’s voice. I hesitate to answer because I worry about saying the wrong thing.

“Yes. I believe He did.”

“Well that makes for an interesting situation indeed. Do you know how many other people have told us that?” I can’t tell if the way she’s asking is supposed to be sarcastic or some kind of a test or actual interest in how much I know about the rumors of the outlying colony. For some reason the fear I was experience has begun to subside a touch. Perhaps the sound of a woman’s voice is enough to distract me from the danger I’m in.

I decide to be honest in my response: “No. I have no idea if anyone has claimed to be sent by God. I don’t even know if anyone else has come here other than the original explorers.” It suddenly dawns on me that I may be the first person to visit from off-world. I can’t help but begin to feel curious about how my being here would affect these people. I guess it shouldn’t be very surprising, my sociology background would indicate I like considering people’s reactions to each other. I guess my head is finally clearing from the journey out here. Now that I think about it, my hearing doesn’t seem to be as bad as it was either. Maybe I was being affected by the sub-light speed travel. I wouldn’t really know since I didn’t get any proper training before I decided to come out here.

Someone clears their throat. “Did you hurt him?” It’s the woman asking the question.

“No ma’am,” is the response from the man who was interrogating me before. Ma’am? That doesn’t seem right. I heard women were looked down upon and mistreated. That’s the whole point of why I’m here… I feel something tap against my head. I must have zoned out again. I’d love to be able to say that’s another affect of the trip but it’s something that happens often, especially when I’m trying to understand people.

“I’m asking you a question… what do you know about what’s happening here?” Apparently it’s the woman’s turn to ask questions now. I think for a second and decide to tell her what I know:

“I know that all the families that came to this colony were sent as explorers trying to find new places where resources could be mined and shipped back to Earth. I know it was a select people group that were sent because people back home thought it best to let your people separate themselves from the rest of us. I know there was some kind of a revolt against Single World Economy and Trade that lead to the colony being cut-off from Earth. I know that fourteen years later a strange signal was discovered by a number of Operators and that the signal claims to have been sent by someone, or more likely a group of people, here.”

“But that doesn’t explain WHY you’re here. What is it about the transmission that made you come here? Surely receiving an illegal transmission from an abandoned off-world colony wasn’t enough to convince someone to leave their home and come here. No one cares about the conditions at the ‘SWEaT shops’. They’ve never cared.”

“Well yes, you’re right. It wasn’t just the transmission, it was the story within it.”

“Oh, there was a story in it?” Now she definitely sounds like she’s being sarcastic. Is her sarcasm indicative of her knowledge of the message or her disbelief in what I’m saying? “Why should I believe any this testimony? So far none of what you’ve said has convinced me of anything you have to say. As far as I can tell, you’re just another one of the men who hasn’t left the command buildings his whole life.”

“I don’t know how I can convince you either. All I can tell you is how I grew up hating how women used to be treated in the old Middle-Eastern and Asian countries. It’s not often someone went to school in my time and it’s even less often we got to hear about those cultures. ‘Depraved people’ they would tell us. ‘Serves ’em right’ was the mantra for us who stayed when you came to the stars. We felt the world was cleaner without the ‘barbarians’. The difference for me is that it wasn’t anger, it was sadness. When I thought about the stories I had read and heard, as few as they were, I wanted nothing but to see this ‘evil’ society and help to change it. When I was operating one evening and we had realized what was being transmitted, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

“A little earlier you said you couldn’t imagine your female family members and friends being treated the way they are here, yet nothing has been said about what’s happening here. What do you think you know about this place?” Now I can hear a bit of anger starting to rise. I’m either getting myself closer to death or closer to finding out what’s actually happening.

“I have to admit, it was a bit of an inference, but I could only assume what was happening based on your rally cry.”

“And what ‘rally cry’ was that?” There’s no doubt I’m hitting a nerve, I must be getting very close to figuring this out.

“Your message said, ‘for Malala.’ I recognized the word, but I couldn’t remember its meaning. The next chance I had to operate I tried to find everything I could on these two words. I kept finding dead-ends relating to a women’s revolution from the mid twenty-first century. It was their cry back then as well. I figured it couldn’t be a coincidence, all this time later and considering where the transmission came from.” My problems hearing earlier must have been a deep-sleep hangover because I notice I can here a heavy, almost labored breathing in the room now. Someone walks up close to me and blocks out what light I can see through the covering on my head. Whoever it is puts their hand on my head.

This must be it… I figured it out… I knew too much… did I really admit to being an operator? I hope the others are safe. I’d hate to be responsible if anything happened to the rest of the network.

“You’re right, it isn’t a coincidence.” She says it in a way that sounds almost sad, like it’s full of pain. I suddenly hear the sounds of a knife being removed from its sheath. “Nothing has changed.” I feel something snip at my neck and suddenly I’m blinded. Even though my hearing seems to be okay, my sight was adjusted to the bag that kept me in solitude. Then I feel my hands freed from their bonds, and I can’t help but grab for my throat, fearing my blood was let flow by the previous slash. A moment of panic seizes me, then quickly subsides when I realize there is no blood flowing. It’s simply me sitting in this undersized chair, a bit chilly and unable to see.

I squint and try to see what’s around me.

Slowly things come into focus.

First my hands.

Then my knees.

I try to look up but the lights are still too bright.

I can make out my feet now.

I look up again and now I can see a pair of spotlights aimed at me.

Curtains. There are curtains all around the room. Almost all black. It seems strange because we are in a cave, why would there be curtains all around us? Are we on a mountain overlooking something that I’m not allowed to see yet?

As I’m pondering what is beyond the curtains, they begin to move. They appear to fold up at intervals around the room. It’s strange because it doesn’t seem like a machine function, it’s not smooth enough.

Wait a moment, these aren’t curtains…

Suddenly there’s a loud tearing noise from all around the room and I’m surrounded by faces. Faces with burn marks, faces with scars. Some faces missing an eye or a section of lip. I scan the room and I’m utterly surrounded. I find the man who was talking to me before. I see him down on his knees with his face down. It appears as if he’s crying.

A voice from behind me: “You see? Nothing has changed.” I turn around to see the woman who was questioning me. Her face is half covered, but she’s beautiful, save the sadness in her eyes. “Did you ever learn the story of Malala?”

I stand staring at her for a moment because I can’t read her expression. “No. The most I could find was what I told you. I know it was a call to battle, but that’s it.”

She gives me a small smirk. “Malala was a girl who wanted an education. In her time, many people didn’t think women deserved one. She was treated poorly, but instead of sitting down and letting it happen she stood up. She did something about it. What we do is for Malala, because the old fight remains.” She reaches up and pulls back the cover over the left half of her face. Her skin has been so badly disfigured by burns and scars that it looks as if it’s barely clinging to the bone. I do my best not to appear sickened but I’m instantly nauseous and I have to look away. “It’s okay,” she says. “You’re only used to seeing these things on your black-net. Don’t worry, you will see plenty more. That is, as long as God keeps you around for us.” I look up to see a smirk in the still-functioning half of her face. She turns away from me and begins to walk slowly towards the ring of women surrounding us. “I hope you’re as good as our informant says you are.” She does a quick one-eighty and puts her arms out with her palms facing up and looks side-to-side at the women around her. “You’re going to have a lot of students.”

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Tired of Tomorrow by Nothing

My wife has been telling me recently that the ’90s are having a revival. I could see hints of what she was saying going back to when I first heard Better Off a few years ago, but I didn’t really think about it back then.

Well today I got another glimpse of what she means. While Nothing may not be a direct throwback to the glory days of band like The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Dig and Glisten, they definitely call forth the sentiment of that style. I’m not a super-nostalgic person, yet I can’t help but get a bit of a smile across my face when I hear something that so clearly evokes the music I grew up listening to.

For your review, I present “Vertigo Flowers” by Nothing.

Hello, again!

Just to give a bit of an introduction, I’m Rob. I go by the handle/nickname of Robsteady just about everywhere on the internet. I’ve tried my hand at a few blogs in the past and they almost always end up dead and forgotten after a few posts (at best). Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to be a writer, but I often find I think too lowly of myself to seriously pursue doing it. I want to change that now. I want to actually push myself to follow my desire in a new way, and really keep at it.

To give a rough overview of what I expect to do here, my wife and I started a “road to minimalism” last year, and it has had a very profound effect on us. One of the main things I’ve gotten from it is to just slow down and really go after the things that are most important to you (me). As I said, writing is one of my biggest passions. I’ve also gone through a lot of other changes relating to religious and political views. These things include my identification as a non-trinitarian anarchist anabaptist Christian. This leads me into all sorts of realms relating to social justice issues and trying to find more ethical, sustainable and good-natured ways of living in our modern world. Because of these things I will touch on things like Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), human-trafficking, the modern abolition movement, companies who ethically source their products/materials and other human rights issues and movements.

This will be the beginning of a greater effort on my part to be my own Speaker… don’t worry, I’ll explain that as time goes on.

Until next time, ta ta!