About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is a freelance writer with a decade of experience and a passion for creating new things. As Verity Reynolds, Dani is the author of the Non-Compliant Space series. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/verityreynolds

#VerityLTstheBible: Links to Deuteronomy

Part 5 of 66 of a project I started in the summer of 2019: To reread the Bible publicly, evaluating the oft-repeated notion that the text is inerrant, self-contained, and a bearer of clear, self-evident truths.

(Looking for another book of the Bible? Click this link for a master list of threads, sorted by book.)

Deuteronomy 1-19: RULES. The occasional smiting. And so on.

Deuteronomy 20-34: Moses dies and no one can remember where they put his body.


#VerityLTstheBible is a labor of love, but it’s also a lot of work. Show your support by buying me a coffee or checking out one or more of my books.

Christmas Carols Nobody Asked for, Vol. 4: Skin Carol

(For an explanation of this project and links to other volumes, see the master list.)

“Skin Carol” was not Botnik’s idea. Rather, it came from a friend’s Facebook post, musing how any noun sounded suddenly eerie when modified by the adjective “skin.”

While I immediately saw the potential of this idea, I was also concerned. Did the word “skin” actually appear anywhere in all the Christmas carols I had fed to Botnik? In other words, would Botnik know how to talk about Skin Christmas?

Botnik did.

Vol. 4 is in the tradition of the sing-along type carol: Simple tune, consistent refrain, and so on. Think “Deck the Halls.” The audio file and score contain only the verse and chorus, but you can easily repeat as long as you desire, or until you run out of skin.

Skin Carol

VERSE 1

The skin candy, the Christmas tree, O sing a skin carol!
The skin birds sing and skin bells ring, O sing a skin carol!
Such joy your soft skin brings us all,
In bright skin folds your skin does fall,
For skin is here for all to cheer, O sing a skin carol!

CHORUS
Skin carol, skin carol, sing a skin carol!
Skin carol, skin carol, sing a skin carol!

ADDITIONAL VERSES
When everyone receives a skin, O sing a skin carol!
The night sky shouts skin songs again, O sing a skin carol!
Kiss baby skin and let it snow,
This happy day we trim skin now,
Good tidings cheer, skin the New Year, O sing a skin carol!

Ol’ reindeer games are full of skin, O sing a skin carol!
Let needy laughter climb your skin, O sing a skin carol!
Partridge destiny is here,
Your merry shoppers hug with care,
As skin choirs sound the skin year round, O sing a skin carol!

In Bethlehem they found some skin, O sing a skin carol!
The ass and cow let skin elves in, O sing a skin carol!
No more skin through all the snow,
Let lovely Christmas gifts pass through
Your skin lists full of skin bows now, O sing a skin carol!

The score is here [pdf].

The audio file is here [mp3].

Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol. 3: Sweet Silent Tree

(For an explanation – of sorts – see Vol. 1. For more nonsense, see Vol. 2.)

Volume 1 was an attempt at a standard major-key pop-ish Christmas tune. Volume 2 was an attempt at a Christmas carol in the English folk style.

Volume 2 taught me a lot about lyrics. Like how if you’re going to have one syllable per note, maybe don’t have 24,601 eighth notes in your 28 measures of 6/8.

So in Volume 3, I took my inspiration from two sources:

  1. Canons and rounds. I hate That One Pachelbel Canon with a passion, even with the Christmas lyrics shoehorned in. But that doesn’t mean I can’t attempt to make something similar.
  2. Descants. How many notes can you sing in one breath? LET’S FIND OUT.

This is the result.

Sweet Silent Tree

Sweet silent tree
such joy and glee
o whoa
christmas bells rings
why do you
bring us pudding
bring lots of pudding
girl stay close

Here’s the sheet music (pdf)

Here’s the audio file (mp3)

After I wrote the melody line to go with the words, I decided to see if it actually worked as a round. The result is…eerily beautiful.

Here’s the sheet music for the round (pdf)

Here’s the audio file of the round (mp3)

Musicians are overworked and underpaid. Help keep me going: Share this post and/or drop me a tip.

Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol. 2: Christmas Will Christmas on Christmasing Day

(For an explanation of this project, see Volume 1.)

Many Christmas carols in English are in 6/8 time. These carols tend to belong to a long tradition of English folk music, which is often in 6/8.

These types of English folk tunes are among my favorites to play, sing and arrange, so I thought I’d take a stab at writing one.

In the audio file, I also took a stab at voicings similar to those you might find in a medieval English ensemble – or as close as I could get with the MIDI equivalents of modern instruments. The sheet music has these voicings and also the original piano score.

As always, lyrics are composed on Botnik’s predictive text keyboard and music is composed in Noteflight.

Christmas Will Christmas On Christmasing Day

In Hollywood news, old Santa is here
In merry old farmhouses, peace is on fire
In town they shine brightly on gifts for the saint
While Christmas will Christmas on Christmasing Day.

Your children sing carols with faithful reasons
And merry are needy men everywhere
All of the newborns pray for santa snow
while Christmas will sing out for milk and a roll

What sounds of holly are rockin’ you slow?
Your stockings decorate dinner, you ho
In Bethlehem wise men saw Santa ‘s woe
And Christmas time Christmasing slow

Ring out the sweet booty and make it more night
For Christmas is coming soon maybe it might
Wrap me a peppermint baby, be gay
While Christmas will Christmas on Christmasing Day!

Here is the score (pdf).

Here is the audio file (mp3).

4 Things to Consider Before Taking the Freelance Plunge

So you want to become a freelancer.

You’re not alone. A 2018 study from the Federal Reserve found that 30 percent of US adults engaged in some kind of gig work in the month before the survey, including freelance work. A study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University found that the number of 1099s (the form used to claim freelance and other miscellaneous income) filed with the IRS rose 22 percent since 2000.

Whether you want a side gig or you’ve had it with conventional employment, freelancing might be right for you. Here’s how to decide.

Question One: Can I Afford It?

The first and most vital question to ask before becoming a full- or part-time freelancer is Can I afford to do so?

Here’s a quick way to do the math:

  1. Calculate the total amount of money you need to sustain yourself and any dependents at the standard of living you deem essential for your comfort, per year. Include everything you can think of: housing, transportation, utilities, food, medical costs, educational expenses, retirement funding, various types of insurance, clothing, toys, computers and phones, subscriptions, replacing furniture and household goods, haircuts, vacations, HOA fees, and so on.
  2. Add 10 percent to the above number for each person this income will support.
  3. Double this total.

This number is the minimum amount you will need to make as a freelancer each year.

“But wait!” you may say. “My current job doesn’t pay this much! How on Earth could I need to make so much more as a freelancer to maintain my current standard of living?”

The answer is that your take-home pay isn’t the total amount of your compensation from a conventional employer. Your compensation includes things like workers’ comp insurance, half your Social Security and Medicare taxes, federal and state tax withholdings, and so on. If you’re employed full-time, it also includes the costs of things like health insurance and (possibly) a retirement plan.

Your employer also pays for things like your desk, chair and work computer – things you’ll be buying if you’re a freelancer.

As a freelancer, however, you’re both the employer and employee. Which means you’re on the hook for all the costs.

The other reason this number needs to be so high is that freelance pay is unreliable. You’ll do work, but you won’t receive the pay for six months or more. You’ll spend uncompensated time chasing down deadbeats who accepted your work and then skipped out on the bill. You’ll have months with no paycheck at all and months where half the money you make all year all comes in the door at once.

Which brings us to the next question….

Question Two: How’s My Personal Discipline?

Can you put yourself on a strict budget and stick to it, even when faced with the temptation not to do that?

Can you pretend that half or more of the money in your bank account doesn’t even exist?

Can you make yourself get up at the same time each morning and work efficiently, even when you’d rather do literally anything else?

Can you make yourself step away from your desk when the work is done, even though you could do just one more thing because you really need the money….?

If the answer to these questions isn’t “Yes, because I already do that,” you’re not ready to freelance full-time.

If the answer is “I think so, but I haven’t tried it,” then freelancing in your spare time offers a way to test your own self-discipline and determine whether you’re ready to take the leap into full-time freelance work.

All successful freelancers have one trait in common: They succeed because they exercise self-discipline.

As your own boss, you don’t have anyone requiring you to do certain jobs at certain times. You have to make sure the work gets done well, on deadline, and within budget – no matter how many other exciting events surround you.

Question Three: Can I Express Confidence in Myself and My Work?

One of the most common Terrible Freelance Questions I see on Quora is “how much should I charge as a beginning freelancer?”

This question is terrible because it indicates that the freelancer in question doesn’t trust their own skills. They think of their work as “beginner” work. They’ve put training wheels on their confidence and merging onto a superhighway.

Every freelancer was once a beginner. But to move from beginner to long-term pro, you must have the confidence to stand behind your work and its value.

This means:

  • Researching market rates for your work and pricing according to the value and complexity of the project, not your own skill set.
  • Standing up for yourself when clients complain, try to “revise” a piece to an entirely new project, or drag their feet on pay.
  • Saying “no” to projects that don’t adequately compensate you for the time and effort you’ll spend on them.

These are not easy things to do. The freelance world is, unfortunately, full of predatory clients who will do their best to get free work from you, whether that means offering to pay in exposure, demanding “on spec” work, or simply ghosting you as soon as your invoice arrives.

But the freelance world has its fair share of good clients, too. You can maximize your time with the good ones and spot the bad ones early, if you have the confidence to assert your own value.

Question Four: Does Constantly Changing My Skill Set Sound Fun, Or Horrible?

The entire work world is moving faster than ever. Current research estimates that our work skills become obsolete every ten years. If you’re in tech or any tech-adjacent field, your skills become obsolete every four years.

Freelancers’ skill sets become obsolete on the same timeline – or even faster, given that freelancers often spearhead new systems and processes that later become adopted by conventional employers.

In other words, expect that you won’t be doing the same kind or quality of freelance work in five years that you’re doing today, nor will you be doing it in the same way.

People tend to have one of two reactions to the news that they’re going to need a whole new skill set every five years. Either they’re dismayed, or they’re excited.

If you’re in the latter category, freelancing might be the right choice for you. If your primary complaint about conventional employment is that you don’t get to learn new things or try new projects fast enough, freelancing is almost certainly going to suit you more than a regular day job.

If you like predictability and being told what to do, however, you’ll definitely prefer regular employment to freelancing.

Next Steps

If you’ve decided to give freelancing a shot, the next thing to do is to decide what types of work you want to do, as well as to set up certain systems like your budget and workspace. See my guide on how to make a living as a freelance writer for more details, and do plenty of research on your own.


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Christmas Carols Nobody Asked For, Vol 1: Is That You, Santa?

As a quasi-professional musician (meaning I sometimes actually get paid to perform), I am completely, utterly, pervasively sick of Christmas music.

I’m sorry. I know y’all love Christmas concerts, which is why I play several of them a year. But trust me when I say that playing any tune you recognize as a Christmas song is a sacrifice I am making out of love for my fellow human and the season as a whole.

Especially if it’s Sleigh Ride.

In the interest of expanding our Christmas music canon in…interesting ways, I’ve decided to create some new Christmas carols. With help.

I put the lyrics of several dozen popular Christmas carols into Botnik and used its predictive text keyboard to generate new holiday lyrics. Then I put these lyrics to music using Noteflight.

Here’s the first in a series of horrible experiments designed to make popular music, if not less horrible, at least more amusing.

Is That You, Santa?

Is that you, Santa?
The Christmas baby
My merry cheer
Whispering my good ol’ joy


Is it beautiful again
holding Grandpa in
this house like Christmas?
Michelle yooou baby

CHORUS
oh yeah
this starry night
paradise me and my sleigh
oh you
this merry merry
holy christmas tree lights


twinkle christmas
shining times
drinking cheap and
faster than love

CHORUS
oh yeah
this starry night
paradise me and my sleigh
oh you
this merry merry
holy christmas tree lights

BRIDGE
in my baby ‘s christmas tree
born three sitting chime again
you and jesus hold the snow
the christmas tree such joy

Is that you, Santa?
The Christmas baby
My merry cheer
Whispering my good ol’ joy

CHORUS
oh yeah
this starry night
paradise me and my sleigh
oh you
this merry merry
holy christmas tree lights

oh you
this merry merry
holy christmas tree lights

Here’s the sheet music (pdf).

Here’s the audio file (mp3).

Musicians are underpaid and overworked, especially during the winter holidays. Help me keep going by sharing this post and/or filling my tip jar.

The History of Thanksgiving: An Educational Post by Botnik

U.S. Thanksgiving can be a confusing holiday for Americans and non-Americans alike. Even I, a direct descendant of William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Plantation and signer of the Mayflower Compact, don’t always grasp that the holiday is about more than overeating bland bird meat.

I fed the first 20 Google search results for “history of Thanksgiving” into Botnik for greater enlightenment on the roots of our national feast day.

The History of Thanksgiving: Basics for Children

(a predictive-text history by Botnik)

Thanksgiving Day is probably sacred to our lord, Harvest Stuffed Turkey. But the holiday began in a simpler time.

In 1620, the Mayflower Collard Greens landed on the shores of November. But the Pilgrims were not prepared for winter in Massachusetts.

England only had turkey for three days each year, so the Mayflower Pilgrims had no idea how to tackle them. Beaver skins were used as medicine in England, but only for murdered teeth.

Unable to celebrate food, the first English settlers arrived unprepared and not all themselves. Prayer and pious humiliation made many people assume the worst.

Fortunately, heathens and their friends left behind friendly meals. Casseroles and other gifts that schoolchildren carried across the country developed into a lesson on historical distortions.

In 1621, Americans forgot native communities. Plymouth happened nearly 400 years too often. Besides, abstaining from England will make anyone mistrust you.

To thank God for destroying religion, the Puritans used corn and pumpkin pie as fowling pieces. The Mayflower became associate with obesity and Presidential melting. William Bradford, who was a year old then, became governor of magical 1789 and heart disease.

Smallpox had a tremendous first Thanksgiving. The survivors, not Christopher Columbus, learned how to plant their own cuisines, like geese. Ham gave protection from English colonialism, but only to the Pilgrims.

Instead of celebrating the Wampanoag, people prayed for particular items. Information was proclaimed stereotypes. Years of native mascots greatly outnumbered native stories.

President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Dinner Table in 1863, during the Starving November of the 1800s. At the time, Thanksgiving was probably not what we think it was. Documents support the United Thanksgiving Story told by the Puritans, but their custom of rejoicing after much starvation is cultural.

Today’s Thanksgiving holiday is about specific food allergies. In 1924, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed a national bird cartoon. Later, references to magical women appeared in Plymouth. In particular, colonists decided deerskin moccasins were very important.

In 1989, it was customary to celebrate a potato salad. Foods like Santa became ubiquitous. Regional tensions were intertwined with difficult cultural artifacts, causing the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is not going to be very good this year.