Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Great bits from Conan

My 3rd and favorite (I was waiting on a minimum of 3 to post about it) unfortunately got zapped :-(

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

"How much money do you have in the car?"

I'm not a lawyer but from now on I might be less than truthful if the cops ask me that question.

Maher on war cravings

Bill Maher talks about the media (and the public's) reaction to things that seem immediate, dangerous, and important vs. what's distant, difficult, and far more important.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rules for talking about your music

   Whenever I used to work with bands with their music, these were my rules.  I mostly just did promotions work so I'd do this work for them, but it was something I ran into over and over:
  1. Listening - Make your music as easy to hear as possible.  At minimum, make a lower quality version available free for download.
  2. Genre - No artist likes being relegated to this but I promise you fall into a genre.  You get like 3 words to spend here, choose them wisely.  You are not folk-newwave-hybrid-salsa-jack-o'-lantern-metal.  Totally ok to list influences.  If you sound like the Dandy Warhols, say right up front you sound like a synth version of Dandy Warhols.  If you're all over the place, that's cross-genre or experimental.
  3. Shows - If you are playing somewhere, make it as easy as possible for someone to find out where and when that is.
  4. Fan engagement - setup an email list but only send something out for events and try hard to only send something out every 2 months. Plan ahead because otherwise you'll end up in spam folders.
  5. Website - put the critical information right up front ... put your music and where your next concert is right on the front page.  I would regularly spend 10 minutes on some big name artist's page trying to navigate their stupid interface to find locations.  The "shows" page was frequently broken.  Where you want your fans to buy tickets also helps.
  6. Reviews - If you find a review about your music or shows, post it on your site.  Again, I know you feel like you're being defined or setting expectations but a 3rd party is so hugely necessary when you you're into music your friends don't like.

Another song I want to highlight

Occasionally, I'll find one of my beloved songs from years ago has been added to Youtube by the record company and I'm blown away by the fact that it has really low views/likes.  This is one of those songs (genre is electronic that starts out downtempo/chill and slowly eases into a breaks track).

Monday, September 08, 2014

My rules for online dating (part 4)


This is fairly rare.  Either I'm genuinely interested or I'm hoping something is going to happen the third time that didn't on the first two.  Anyway, this is just a progression building from previous exchanges.  You just talk more about what you've talked about and see if you can build a real relationship.  After this there's less of a system, you just take your time and try to build an honest, long-term connection.

Note that I've gone to #3 before just because the girl was pretty.  Don't judge me!


- See if this is someone who makes you happy, brings out the best in you, etc.
- Introduce her to your friends
- [Eventually] spend a holiday together
- One trick is something Bill Murray came up with ... one of many good ways to tell who someone really is

Return to Part 1
Addendum: More first meeting suggestions. 

Saturday, September 06, 2014

My rules for online dating (part 3)


If it's in the friend zone: My experience is that almost everyone doing the online dating thing isn't looking for friends so I generally don't pursue this line, but if I'm just thinking friendship, I'll ask to do more or less the same first interaction thing again.  If there's obviously still no feelings, I'll try to talk about how I think this is something I'd be comfortable continuing with as friends and go from there.


Treat this as an actual date.  I offer to pay, I take them to dinner at a sit-down, waitstaff restaurant.  Then I try to have somewhere to go afterwards like to walk around the area or a cool/interesting thing.  I don't generally offer to take women to movies unless they've professed a real love of some particular movies.  For example, one woman I dated was huge into documentaries.

The point of this stage is really the same point as the above one, but I add in a few more pieces:
  1. Seeing how the person you're with interacts with food service is a big deal.  As someone who has friends in food services, I have a big problem with folks that treat "the help" poorly.  I don't know what creates this behavior but it's a huge negative.
  2. Details like whether they show up on time, difficulty / ease of finding a midpoint / etc. all can give some insight.
  3. If whomever you're dating doesn't really seem to appreciate dinner or enjoy time with you, don't go out with them again.
The essence of this stage is gradual openness: talk a bit more about yourself, what you care about, and encourage her to do the same.  This is the ground floor of intimacy.

I've been on tons of these "second interactions" and they seem to have little to do with the first one.  I guess because people put their best foot forward on the first date and then let their guard down a bit on the second?  Or folks are more comfortable on the second run?  I can't say.

Next: Part 4

Friday, September 05, 2014

Under the Facade

An excellent and beautiful article about acid attack victims in India.  It's one of those nice moments where I could confront something horrific and come away much improved.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

My rules for online dating (part 2)


Try to talk on the phone with them.  That's usually a pretty good indicator of whether or not you'll get along at a very minimum level.  There's been this move to text messaging people only before meeting and I get that it's to get an up or down yes/no on whether or not you have chemistry, but it's limiting.  Phone calls give a bit more color.  Further, if the phone call is for some reason god-awful, it's possible to just put off the date thing at some unspecified time in the future and just leave it at that.

Regardless of a phone call, the first time you actually get together should be short.  I'd avoid even calling it a date and go to something informal like a coffee shop or one of those serve-yourself places.  I recommend women pay for your own food/drink in this situation to avoid any sense that it's a real date.  I know that might sound silly but when you barely know someone, even small indicators can say a lot.

Next, have some kind of reason to leave or limit on the amount of time you're together.  If you want to keep things smooth, I'd aim for 1-2 hours.  If you have a good feeling about the person, maybe go 3-4.

Finally, you'll essentially decide if you want to hang out again.  Keep your conclusions limited to just that; don't jump onboard with something until you have more information.  I say this because I've been on at least 10 very good dates that had poor or really bad second dates.  I've also had first dates that went just okay but the 2nd and 3rd went well.  The main thing is finding out if you dislike or can't get along with this person.  Some examples:
  • One initial date I had a lengthy explanation of a very difficult day from this woman who clearly didn't like her job.  She thankfully sensed early on it wasn't working and excused herself as we clearly weren't a good match.
  • One initial date with a woman went awkwardly, but by the 3rd date I knew I'd met someone great.  We dated for about a month before breaking things off.
  • Maybe the worst date I ever went on was this woman going on and on about these terrible situations she was dealing with in her life.  She clearly had some kind of emotional issue because things were persistently awful and she seemed to have no awareness of this.  It was a shame too as she was clearly brilliant, just missing a basic emotional foundation.
Next: Part 3

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

My rules for online dating (part 1)

This is a system I've come up with over time.  I say this because this post isn't a general prescription for how people should date, but rather a way that seems to work.  Since dating is primarily about finding someone that works uniquely for you, developing a system for yourself might make more sense.

Before you begin, it's important to be okay with yourself.  Maybe this sounds obvious but it's something I seem to run into quite a bit.  While I will occasionally have a crap week and get into a funk, I realize that's a time to work on myself and put off dating.  If a grandma whom you were very close to passed recently, maybe take a longer break.


Generally people will tell you who they are.  It's not psychological or even a science, it's just most people like talking about themselves and will say things according to that.  Great example: someone writing a list like this is analytical.  Someone who talks about how they hate liars/cheaters has a history with liars/cheaters.  The main thing is to identify an overall narrative (I'm happy/sad/lost/lonely) and see if that's something you can handle.  Some examples:

- The Fixit Thing.  A main thing I look out for with women I've met online are those girls who are looking for a guy to fix them in some capacity.  I always picture it as these women having friends who don't really want to address some serious, core issues and just say "oh you just need a boyfriend!"  It's a terrible idea.

- Balanced self-esteem.  I try hard to avoid a general narrative of either self-loathing or arrogance.  Anyone who constantly tells you how great they are or how bad they are at everything has something going on.  Nobody's good at everything and nobody's bad at everything.  Anyone who says otherwise is delusional.

Next: Part 2

Friday, August 29, 2014

Enjoy the Silence cover

An excellent breaks cover of the classic Depeche Mode track from Hybrid.  Love it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Maybe the worst thing this year

For God's sake, if you're in Miami, never let anyone go into the mental health system there.  This story actually made me almost proud of the barely average mental health services where I am.

Warning: this is on par with some German concentration camp shit.  I am disgusted by every stage of this story: the sadistic guards, the system that ignored the whole thing.  Just unreal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unregulated supplements

I'm not one to post about something for the same source over and over again, but another John Oliver bit about dietary gimmicks came up.  I am unfortunately compelled by my conscience to spread this.

On the upside, it's both entertaining and provides all that wonderful righteous indignation that I so enjoy.  Hurray!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Income inequality vs. class warfare

Another excellent John Oliver bit saying what everyone knows is true but nobody wants to admit.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Thinking with Portals

I remember getting chills when I first saw the trailer for the game Portal, considered by many to be a masterpiece of gaming.  Even 7 years later, it still gets me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Facebook experimenting on users

Facebook wasn't creepy enough, now they've experimented on users.  Obviously the Register has a thorny view of the idea, but that there's zero ethical concern for Facebook makes it that much worse.

I'm so glad I've all but abandoned that service.  Apart from some interesting moves in open computing, I haven't seen anything in years that made me want to start using it for anything but those few stragglers that haven't moved on to something else.

Once again, vaccines are fine

It blew me away when someone I knew actually bought into the vaccine fear thing happening with their kid.  Fortunately, that seemed to get worked out, but it's evidently going to be an issue well into the future, despite loads of evidence otherwise.  Seems like a waste of research money.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Veteran journalist on the news

Very well-written overview of the state of our free press.  I've heard pieces of this but to see it all together really hits home and in a good way.  (Charles Lewis leaves 60 Minutes)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fantastic please-label-it appeal

I'd read about the Supreme Court case, but this was a wonderful exploration of the background and terrible reasoning behind it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ride the snake

One of my all time favorite SNL bits meant to poke fun at the weight loss industry, and one of the few things me and my friends have quoted now for years.

Oddly, there are two versions out there: one with a brief unfunny gag that got cut and this one, which works a whole lot better.

Top pay subsidies

Having seen this effect elsewhere, I was pleased to finally understand why pay for those at the top only ever goes up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Non-partisan effort to help push money out of politics

I've been looking some way any way even address the idea of getting a Democracy that is not for sale.  I've always been a fan of Lawrence Lessig and really like his idea described in the MayDay kickstarter.

Is the poison the cure?

An admittedly left-leaning look at the death penalty, but probably the best overview I've seen that isn't also terribly depressing.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Excellent statement about basic privacy

From Bill Maher's ongoing "New Rules" bit.  A great summary of why it's still important.

One of the best Mr. Show bits

Some hilarious social commentary from an amazing show back in the 90s that nobody seems to know about.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Pope and US Military agree on something: global warming

That was not expected.

John Oliver's excellent Net Neutrality review

Very well done breakdown and very informative.  Also, nice to see that his show is essentially doing a more in depth Daily Show.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Balance in the media

It's David Mitchell and it's British so I didn't get some of the political references, but I think the message crosses boundaries.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The new lynch mob

This is a terrific example of how a court of law and lawyers is a imperfect but obviously better way to find justice when -- not surprisingly -- social media just can't.  Something to keep in mind if someone ever goes after you in this format.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PowerPoint 2010 trick: large "hook" arrow

I spent SO much time trying to get very long, very thin arrows in PowerPoint to look the way I wanted (more like Visio) and finally found out the gimmick: giving the program real things to connect to.

This may be obvious to everyone else but it took me quite a while to come up with.

Edit: Left off the link, updated.

PowerPoint 2010 trick: file comparison

I know I haven't done anything like this before, but I came up with a quick PowerPoint trick on how to do a comparison between PowerPoint files when PowerPoint's own compare function won't work.  Hopefully someone will benefit from this.

EDIT: Sorry, I thought the file linked.  Updated.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

US approaching or already an Oligarchy

After the Citizens United decision followed by the next campaign finance decision, I had started to give up on the idea that the US was a democracy anymore.  The ability to make unlimited campaign contributions effectively dries up any notion of grass roots efforts.  200 people with various agendas giving you $20 is nonsense compared to one person (and one agenda) giving you $100,000.  I just can't see a way around that reality.

Anyway, a depressing study seems to add to this:

The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious "electoral" "democratic" countries. We weren't formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." (source)

Slashdot article on this.  What's an Oligarchy?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Flash game: Zombie Defense Agency

Played a great flash game called "Zombie Defense Agency" and took down some notes while playing...

  • Use flame tower in areas with lots of area to cover.  The zombies move faster as a result of the flame so this can be counterproductive if
  • Going up in levels is great for increasing tower range and density of damage.  So if you come across a level with very little room, the answer isn't more towers, it's better ones.  I used level 4 towers up until _.
  • Zombies already on the map don't react to the "make an opening - close an opening" strategy (destroy a tower and then bring it back to block off access as they approach).  However, zombies NOT on the screen WILL do this.
  • Furthermore, in later levels, the sort of "turtle" looking monsters are able to smash through a new tower.  So definitely don't try this mid-process.
  • When upgrading, don't upgrade a tower past it's useful range.
I can't tell the difference between a level 4 shotgun tower and a lightning tower.  I guess some zombies are resistant to the electricity?  Their stats are the same but the shotgun tower costs 4x more.
The Heat Wave tower is also an area-of-effect tower.

Fairly obvious suggestions
  • Its always best to have a range of towers for a range of different enemies.
  • Setup "slow" towers apart from one another at places along the route as the slowing effect wears off.  I couldn't see any compounding effect from slow towers near each other.
  • The basic $50 towers are mostly just walls.  However, they aren't bad in terms of range so if one ends up in the middle of the map, feel free to upgrade it rather than sell.
  • If you keep hitting "next" the zombies will group up.  This is fine but you'll want the grenade tower for area-of-effect damage and you'll also want to quickly upgrade towers as zombies pass by.

Almost all tower defense games
  • Put short range towers in corners, ideally so that the zombies have to walk ALL the way around them, thus maximizing power-to-area ratio.
  • Always use natural obstacles to your advantage to increase the distance the zombies have to travel.  The only exception to this is healing targets, for which this might be counterproductive.  I think in this game they're the all-black zombies.
  • Setup towers where they can group up nicely.  This helps use all your towers as much as possible while enemies are in proximity.  This is often the center of the screen, but if there isn't a clear center, just pick a good open area to create a choke point.
  • Sniper towers (slow shooting, high range, high damage) should be posted in the middle of a larger maze area to get the maximum number of shots fired against enemies.  Try to set these up towards the exit to let other towers filter down to the big enemies.  In this game, that tower is called the photon beam.

  • More levels!
  • Sometimes I can't seem to click "off " a tower after selecting
  • Ability to turn off music, but keep other sounds
  • Some kind of note that one of the levels has a very different physic than previous games (zombies cross paths.  Same with the following level.  You can't block either path.
  • Ability to change Flash quality level (it's set to high quality by default and there's no way to change for slower machines or if you want to save power for  process running in the background.
  • When hovering mouse over "upgrade" it should list what will happen IF you click it and then go back to the actual value when not hovering.
  • Call it "leveling up" when you get options for new towers, upgraded towers, or better starting cash.  It's confusing.
  • On the score screen, some note next to score describing how many zombies were stopped vs. destroyed

Monday, February 03, 2014

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

It's an inadequate obituary, but as good as any.  At least two of his performances affected me in a very personal and direct way.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Abusive Job Interviews

These things exist and they're complete nonsense.  It wasn't yelling as in the article, but I'm happy to now report on the clowns (Qvinci) who "interviewed" me.  I even had the opportunity to work with these guys years later and turned it down because of the sort of ugly, cannibalizing corporate culture I had already seen.

If it happens to you, just walk away.  Remember the No Assholes Rule.