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


Monday, February 29, 2016

The Donald Drumpf

John Oliver's majestic, probably overdue teardown of the current phenomenon that is (what looks like) the US Republican nominee for President.  Having followed many of the topics covered over the course of the last few months, it's nice to see them packaged as a broad counter-argument to the candidacy.

Alternatively, there is a synopsis in case you don't feel like watching the whole video.

The related website is also amusing.

Related: Conservatism in this decade

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to go to outdoor shows - Part 3: Bad Vibes

Second in my series on going to outdoor shows.  Back to Part 2: Dress.


I actually take some time before shows now to mentally prepare for something bad to happen.  I know that sounds awful but it can EASILY ruin my night otherwise.  I take time to realize patrons, promoters, cops, and other groups may be unnecessarily mean to you for no reason.  I've been to so many shows with hijinks that at this stage it's almost expected.

If possible, try to take down names/descriptions as the folks running events (and owners) are *really* conscious of personnel and bartenders chasing away customers.  Still, just get out of the situation.  Nothing good has ever come from alcohol soaked, short tempered, making-up-for-something jerks.  It's not just standard douchebags either: I've had both promoters and police talk to me out of absolutely nowhere like I was 8 kinds of stupid.

Assorted Dangers

  • Police: keep it calm, keep it polite, use "Sir".  At least where I live I do this "super sober" technique where I'm short, clear, direct, and straightforward.  Other places you'll want to always smile and pretend you don't fully understand (the warm foreigner tactic).
  • Drunk Frat Kids: You may easily get pushed or otherwise accosted by someone trying to assert their manhood.  Some of these guys are actively looking for fights so you just have to look tired, drunk, or sick to avoid interactions.  You might point this out to someone who works at the club "hey that guy in the red shirt is going to get into a fight before the night is over" but I'd leave it at that and try to stay outside of his area.
  • Security/Bouncers: I've met a few of these.  Realize that they deal with the above group (Drunk Frat Kids) and are basically being asked to manage a huge group with no real authority.  They are 90% attitude because -- in this world -- they are all afraid of a lawsuit.  I am always assuring them I'm not someone they need to worry about and leaving the situation as calmly and quietly as possible.  Yes sure absolutely sorry are pretty much the only words they can discern.  Your very reasonable, obvious questions probably aren't welcome here.

Next: Part 4: Encouraging Good Vibes

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How to go to outdoor shows - Part 2: Dress

Second in my series on going to outdoor shows.  Back to Part 1: Possessions.


First and foremost, dress in layers.  Your base layer should be as light as possible so you can be in an unusually hot area and have a good time as easily as if you're in a cold one.


Depending on the climate, you'll want one or more long sleeve items that are fairly light and maybe just a little longer than your arms.  Then, you can then tie or double-tie these around your waist without any fear of losing it.  Needless to say, the top layer should be some kind of rain covering and include a hood.

I'd look for something low-key and dismiss-able in a rain cover, just in case you need to leave a volatile situation, but visible enough that cars can see you.


I take a plain, dark-colored baseball cap just because it helps keep the rain out of my eyes and I can use it to look inconspicuous.  A velcro backing means you can loop it around your belt.

You can also lose your outer layer and hat if things go REALLY bad (see "Bad Vibes" section) and you need to -- not just leave a situation -- but look like someone else.  If you're in the city, I like acting like a jogger, running in place and checking my pulse.  Note that I've only ever had to do this once as a precaution.


I'm a guy so I always wear pants but whatever you do, wear something loose fitting with good sized pockets, and with some kind of belt.  As with the jacket, something low-key is recommended to blend in.  If it's something you can lift up above your ankles to let it breathe, that's an additional benefit.


This is a tough one because I like waterproof shoes because they promise your night won't get ruined by stepping in a puddle or when someone spills something on you, but they tend to not breathe well, which is bad for long walks and dancing.  It's a toss up.

Continue to Part 3: Bad Vibes

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to be a technical writer

I ended up writing a primer (5 pages, Microsoft Word format) for a friend who requested a breakdown on the profession.  Maybe someone will find it useful.

Conservatism in this decade

The first article I've read in quite some time that takes aim at a disaffected political Right.  While it could just as easily be rewritten as a critique of the Left's blindspots, such is the value of a good political narrative.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Show background: Arrested Development

After about 100 recommendations to watch the series, I finally got around to checking it out and was not disappointed.  An excellent behind the scenes bit gives some analysis as to why the show hit so many home runs.