Sunday, August 13, 2017

I want to be a Mechanical Turk activist.

(Amazon Mechanical Turk)

By this I mean, I want someone else to be able to call me up and say "call City Supervisor X and say 'I support Bill Y'", and then I do it. I don't want to have to watch all the bills coming in, find the ones that I support, research their backstory, learn what they really mean, and finally make one call. That's hours of work for one call. I want to spend one minute for one call. Or one hour for one showing-up-at-local-planning-meeting. I spend my whole working life doing research, I don't have mental energy to research a bunch of political things every week too.

This seems obvious, but it also seems very hard to do. There are mailing lists, but it's hard to get on the right mailing list (that will send you direct calls to action, and only direct calls to action). I'm on a couple: Indivisible and the SF YIMBY party seem pretty good at this. Make this kind of mailing list, and I will beat a path to your door.

(A step even further/better would be if I could delegate my voice. I want to be able to join the SF Bike Coalition, say, and whenever the SF Bike Coalition supports Thing X, they can automatically count me with them. I guess they get this a little bit by having big membership rolls, but I want to make a stronger kind of membership: "I explicitly agree with everything y'all do and say." (Ideally this comes with a weekly reminder email or something, so I can withdraw my voice-delegation if the organization starts to go off the rails.))

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The consumer experience of capitalism in other spheres

(or maybe I should say "neoliberalism" to get more clicks :P)

Ok, super-extreme capitalism seems to say, markets will solve everything, because we are all rational self-interested people and we'll choose things that are the best for us. If someone is offering something that is not the best, they will go out of business. That is usually pretty good. It lets us get cheap bananas.

Now there are a lot of externalities that go into getting those cheap bananas, which is usually the drum I bang on, but I'm not going to get into that here. Instead, what I'm focusing on here is the consumer experience of capitalism.

I just sort of assume that bananas work in a store-ish fashion. Like, I go to the store, I can see the price of bananas, I can basically see how good they look, and I can make the best choice. I know what I'm getting. (If I don't - like, if the bananas later turn out to be rotten, or if they tell me a different price at the register, etc, then I just don't buy bananas from them again, and they eventually lose.)

We assume this with choices of our time too. For the most part, we know what we're getting if we spend our free time in a park, at a coffeeshop, at a bar, playing a board game, whatever. We pretty much know the

I'm trying to be a little more active of an activist, too. But that is tricky, because it's usually not like a store, in that I don't know what I'm getting for my time. I could phone bank all day and get 0 more votes. I could go to a meeting to organize a meeting to organize a meeting for something, and it might not ever help anything.

So I guess I've got to categorical-imperative it a little bit - just effin' do it, because it's a good thing to do. Or maybe rely on social pressures- make some friends who are into something activisty, and then do it to hang out with them, and by the way we got some votes.

Maybe some people want to want X, more than they want X.

where X = a Ferrari or a beach vacation or whatever else

thinking about this after seeing an ad for a vacation package at a beach resort somewhere and thinking, geez, that would just be terrible. Now, of course, I like beaches less than the next guy, but I don't even think I'd want to win a ski vacation package, say.
(eh, maybe. I mean, I'd take it. But I'm not really jonesing for it.)

Thinking about this too after having a couple of free days in between things recently, and thinking "gosh, I've actually cleaned up the ol' to-do list. It's done. I've completed everything. Now I get to do... what?" It's just a day here and there, so I couldn't make a big plan, but even so, I sort of frittered them away doing a bunch of small things. It would be really nice if I could just say "I've won it! Some free days! Now I get to spend them having The Best Time!" Similarly with money. "I got some money - now I can have The Best Time!"

It's an antiquated notion, maybe, from a time when you never even had enough time or money. If you were in the 30s or 40s, you'd be trying to scrape by or not die in a war; you didn't have time to think about what you'd do after you made it, and you might just assume "it'll all be good then, I'll buy The Best Life." But it turns out, being a human and figuring out what "feelings-you" actually wants is complicated, even after you've made it.

Anyway, I want to want a Ferrari. That'd be nice and simple.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Structuring life around cleaning up

I'm finding that I'm organizing life around cleaning up. Get things into a queue, then get them out of that queue. Another way to talk about this is "checking things off lists."

It has great benefits for organization. I find I almost never lose or forget about things. They're always on the right list, here or there.

On the other hand, it makes me feel a little like a robot, like my entire life is all about finishing the list. What happens when the list is done?

Right now I'm trying to take off a couple of those lists by removing stuff from my phone. Disconnecting a little, etc. We'll see how it goes.

Other thoughts that were on my list to blog about:
- I'm getting annoyed by "X shouldn't be a partisan issue." Like, yes, I agree. Health care should be a human right, net neutrality should be a thing, etc. But I don't think you're going to convince any Republicans that they should all of a sudden support the ACA because it "shouldn't be partisan."
- Listening to Mogul, a podcast about hip-hop executive Chris Lighty, and they talk about a time when, as a poor kid in the Bronx, he saved up for a nice jacket, then some other jerk stole his jacket. It's not fair, and it's kinda this first "loss of innocence" moment for him. He did everything he was supposed to do, and wrong place wrong time, he gets screwed. This feeling really hits. I get that feeling ("someone stole my bike wheels!") and it sends me absolutely nuts, because not only is it not fair to me, it just doesn't even make sense! Like, it's worse than just "I wanted X, someone else wanted Y, so they took it" - it's more like "sorry, the universe rolled dice and you lose." Just, random bad things happen! But at the same time, I never get that feeling on the scale that he does. Never had my life's savings stolen from me. And it made me think, because he's a black kid in the Bronx I guess, imagine black people getting killed by police; cop freaks out and kills Philando Castile, and a lot of people say "welp, deal with it, being a cop is hard and sometimes you roll dice and get unlucky." I don't know what to do about that. For starters, maybe, we acknowledge that the US isn't as much of a land of opportunity for some as it is for others, and we oughta do whatever we can to fix that.
- Sorry, 's not very profound, but it's been on my mind. See my previous assertions that "this is my journal for myself, which you can read if you like."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

sand trees salt pit lava lakes trip recap

free week, rented this car, went on this trip! Planned about a day in advance. Used Atlas Obscura to look up a lot of places to go. In between, tried to just pick out any kinda non-interstatey routes.

here's a map! here's an image, because links never last!

got these pictures!

I have a lot of thoughts! In the spirit of getting them all out so I can get on with my day, I will just shout em out here.

Bivy camping: it was ok. it's like a little sleeping bag bag. I guess it's supposed to come with a little pole that gives it a little height so it's not just like being inside a plastic bag. Mine was missing that pole. Would have been nice.

I didn't know they made cars w/o cruise control. Luckily, they all have a USB and a headphone jack, at least.

It is weird how comfortable this trip is. It's 95 degrees most days, and I don't even notice.

I have a lot of thoughts while I'm driving. They come and go. This is interesting. Also frustrating: I want to get them down. I know some of them at least are good!

It's really hard to go completely unplanned. I end up planning roughly a day or two in advance, and I have a goal to get to Butte because there's a big toxic waste dump near there called the Berkeley Pit. Call it a trip Macguffin - it doesn't really matter what the Berkeley Pit is, but it gives me a direction to go.

One great thing about traveling: it makes you appreciate your regular life more.

Weird: I got to the campsite at Great Basin and just started hiking. I'm not sure I even wanted to!

Am I driving too much? I mean, maybe? But I kinda enjoy the moving as much as the being there.

Interstates are lame. Everything gets samey; it's like the suburb of roads. Everything's easy. There's more traffic. I had to keep telling Google "give me a less direct route."

I wish I were like a reporter, like I was good at talking with strangers. That's usually the most interesting time. But I'm always worried about bothering people, or having nothing to talk about, or ending up trapped in a conversation I don't want to continue.

Srećan Božić... Maga?

Of COURSE I had to stop in the bar/restaurant in Austin, NV that was apparently called "Serbian Christmas." I mean, it was also covered in Trump/Pence signs, but... meaningful cultural exchange?
(This might be a good time for a "content note: intense anti-Muslimness.")

There were two people inside. One lady behind the counter, hunched over, eating a piece of pie. One guy sitting at the counter, not doing much of anything. We start talking, I tell them I'm going to Great Basin, that's cool. I ask about "Serbian Christmas" - are you two Serbian? "He is." So I tell him about Tati and her family, how they're from Serbia, we're talkin' Serb things like where all the big Serbian communities in the US are, and where they're building a new Serbian orthodox church, and how they have a big fiesta here every Jan 7. I ask where in Serbia he's from. He names somewhere I don't remember, and says "The only place the Muslims never conquered." "Oh."
He: "Yep, never got there. Everywhere around."
I: "Huh."
He: F**king Muslims. They want to impose their own f**king law, you know that?
I: No, I didn't know that. Are you sure?*
He: Did you know they mutilate their women? They just arrested a bunch of doctors.
I: Hmm. I didn't hear about that.*
He: Well, most people didn't. They do it to all of em, young girls...
I: Hm. I thought* it was just the extremists.
He: Huh. Well, I've gotta go work now.
(gets up)
He: Here, you can give your wife this pen. (hands me a pen with their restaurant name on it.)
I: Thanks!

* I do this sometimes, when I don't know how else to have a productive conversation. It seems asinine to let stuff like that slide, but also I want to be as unconfrontational as possible - if we're ever gonna get anywhere. So I try to play the young newbie. "Hmm! Are you sure?" etc, and argue back in a way that says "I think you might be mistaken" when he says something definitely false, in order to give him a way to rethink his beliefs while saving face. If you have any better ideas for what to do when a guy starts spouting nonsense, let me know.

I mean, he thinks I'm decent enough to give a tiny gift to, apparently. We've even got like half a thing in common. But based on things he believes, Muslims are awful, and that's why this one-time immigrant supports the most virulently anti-immigrant people I've ever seen.

Thinking about this later: it's not really this guy that is the worst. If you thought Group X was moving into your country and establishing their own zones where their own terrible laws apply, you'd want them to get out too. Thing is, that just isn't happening, certainly not by Muslims. It's his news sources that are the worst.

Still cursing, but on a brighter note

Met a couple of Air Force guys in Boise. They were like 22, just got there a couple weeks ago after serving in England and Korea. They work on airplanes - maintaining and loading bombs and stuff. Obv I don't know anything about this, but I could share their enthusiasm. Plus I mentioned how my grandpa was in the Air Force and so we bonded a bit about that. They were so into it! And I kinda get it!

The one guy was telling me about when he was in Turkey, loading up planes that were running missions against ISIS targets. I think. He was talking about how, when he loads up 12 bombs in one of these bombers and sees it come back empty, that's "the best f**king feeling in the world." He has such a direct connection to the results of his work. Another time, I guess they had video from helicopters or something? they've got some guy they're targeting, he goes outside, smoking a cigar, and then they can see the bombs hit his building. "Best f**king feeling in the world."

So, ok, on the one hand this is weird, being so jazzed about killing people. But on the other hand: their targets probably are the bad guys. (I'm pretty ok with killing an ISIS higher-up.) And they're talking about doing hard work and getting a very tangible result. I respect that, and I'm even a little bit jealous of it. We can hold all these somewhat-conflicting beliefs in our heads.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

In which I get more evidence that sand is The Worst, and maybe meet my first supernatural creatures of this trip.

Leg 1 of multi-day trip: SF to Sand Mountain, Nevada

There's a big sand mountain! It's like 6 stories tall. It's right off Highway 50, the "loneliest road in the US", just past Fallon, Nevada. And you can camp by it I guess. So I set sights for that and headed off.

When I got there, I noted that indeed it was a lonely road. I saw no people for a long time. At the Great Sand Mountain, I saw a couple of RVs in the distance, and a few people off-roading on dirt bikes and ATVs. I drove past the end of the asphalt road, onto the dirt road, and then I had to turn around so I pulled over to do a 3-point turn and -- the sand is much softer here! and my lil Toyota Yaris isn't moving! Huh.

Forward, reverse, forward, reverse, nope, hmm. Well. I walked over to the RVs and three ladies were standing there, having just finished a ride. I asked if they had any ideas. "Maybe put some wood under your tires?" They had some campfire wood and gave me a couple. I went back and tried it, and maybe made things worse.

I came back to give them their wood back and maybe call a tow truck. This time I met a guy who just hopped off a dirt bike. He's all smiles, "How you doing?" I told him, "well... good, until I got my car stuck." "No! You didn't!" "Yep, I, uh, I'm kinda a dumbass." "Well, no problem, let's get you out!"

So he and his friend come over in some kind of Jeep. They're mid-40s probably, we get talking, they're from northern CA and do some kind of software thing too, we're talking about work. Their sons are each there too. They try to latch a strap onto a tiny hook under the Yaris and drag it out, and the strap breaks. Eventually one of them suggests pushing it - hmm! I gun it, they push it, and sure enough I get it back on the road! Whew.

They're talking about this big sand dune is a great spot for off-roading. "But you don't want to be here at night, some of the locals come down - did you come from Fallon? It's a different breed, I'll tell you." (editor's note: huh? besides a note on the jukebox in the bar that said "no rap, R&B, hip-hop, screamo, or heavy metal", I have no qualms with Falloners.) They recommend I go to a couple campsites up by Fallon. I ask, "But you can camp here, right?" They: "Yeah, but it gets so windy, it's not great for tent camping." I: eh, I'll be OK. They raise an eyebrow.

I sit in my car for maybe 15 minutes trying to figure out what campsites they're talking about, and I can't. So I figure, ok, I'll stay here. I get out to use the restroom and on my way back, they drive up in an ATV. I say, "I think I'll stay here, it's getting late and all."

And the one guy gives me this intense, dire look that I've only seen in movies, and goes "Look. I'm gonna be straight with you, Dan. If I were you... get in your car, and drive that way, or that way."

Side note: my friend Aaron tells this story about how he met The Colonel, a character in Squirrel Hill, while out walking at night; Colonel sees Aaron and yells "STOP!" And Aaron does the only reasonable thing to do when a stranger yells stop, and keeps walking. Then the Colonel yells "STOP!" again, and Aaron does the only reasonable thing to do when a stranger yells stop twice, and he stops.

Similarly, when someone warns me about camping for some vague undiscussed reason (in a place that they too are camping) once, I'll blow it off. When he warned me that second time, I noped the hell out of there.

I still don't even know what was going on! For now, I'm going with "they didn't want me to know they were actually werewolves."

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Dan vs. Machine, continued: colors and magic cards


today's targets:
paint colors
magic cards

Azure Tabletop
Orange Salmon
Lamprey Yellow
Every Little Green
Rhombus Red
Aqueous Ether
Pleb Brown
Ostrich Feather
Light-Skinned Hyuena
Paté Pink
Corrugated Brown
Fertile Crescent
Panda White
Webmaster Blue
Sketchpad Yellow
Lacrosse String
Withered Black
Gunmetal Corridor
Abyss Blue
Navy Suit
Acrid Green
Smoking Green
Red Raymond
Tomato Orange
Antz Brown
Curved Blue
Snap-Mousetrap White
Snow-Covered Pines
Wifi Purple

Magic cards:

Barkin' Elk
2G, 3/1
T: shuffle your library, or don't

Goblin Grendel
1RR, 3/3
R, sacrifice a creature, T: deal damage equal to the sacrificed creature's power to target creature or player

Aura of Enchantment
1WW, Enchantment - Aura
Artifacts cost 2 more to cast.
Sacrifice Aura of Enchantment: target player can't cast spells this turn.

Witch of Bog Wraith
3B, 2/4
Aurawalk (if opponent controls any auras, Witch of Bog Wraith is unblockable)

Wall of Tomb
1B, 2/1
Defender, deathtouch, first strike
During your upkeep, if Wall of Tomb blocked last turn, it deals 1 damage to you.

Well-Fountain of Life
2, Artifact
U, T: gain 1 life.
W, T: gain 2 life.
R, T: don't gain 1 life.

GBR, 4/3, Creature - Wolf
When Andy comes into play, deal 2 damage to target creature in your opponent's library.

A Trick Hunt
B, Instant
Rearrange your graveyard. Draw a card.

Loose Bats
2B, 1/1
Flying. When Loose Bats come into play, put a 1/1 flying Bat token into play.

Wall of Hexes
2W, 0/8
You have hexproof.

Waterfall Window
2U, 1/4
Flying. U: flip Waterfall Window's power and toughness. Use this ability only once a turn.

Castle Keep
B, T, sacrifice Castle Keep: put a zombie from your graveyard into your hand.
W, T: gain 2 life.
T: add 1 to your mana pool.

Delicious Wobbler
2U, 3/2
During your upkeep, if Delicious Wobbler has a counter on it, remove one; otherwise, add one.
If Delicious Wobbler has a counter on it, it has flying. If not, it has shadow.

Power Tower
BB, Sorcery
Deal 4 damage to target player. Scry 2.

1R, Instant
Target creature gets -0/-2 until end of turn. If it has flying, it gets -0/-4 until end of turn instead.

Minotaur Man
3R, 4/2, Creature - Human
1R: Minotaur Man becomes a 2/3 red Minotaur until end of turn.

Delver of Delver of Secrets
0, 0/1
During your upkeep, reveal the top card of your library. If it is an instant or sorcery, sacrifice Delver of Delver of Secrets, search your deck for a card called Delver of Secrets, and put it into play.

Mansion of Ingmar
1B, Pay 5 life: destroy target creature.

Garfield Stacker
WR, 3/3

Treasure Heeder
3U, 4/4
Flying. If an opponent plays an artifact, remove Treasure Heeder from the game. Return it to play at the end of the turn.

Graveler of Secrets
3B, 3/3
During your upkeep, reveal the top card of your library. If it is an instant or sorcery, put a +1/+1 counter on Graveler of Secrets.

Sphinx Dread
(U or B), Instant
Destroy target creature if you control a flying creature.

Waste of a Good Moon
3BB, Sorcery
Destroy all creatures and artifacts. Each player sacrifices half of their lands (rounded down).

Red Quilter
R, 1/2
Sacrifice a creature: deal 1 damage to target creature or player

2G, 1/4
Defender, hexproof, reach. T, exert: +3/+0 until end of turn.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Tales from HCI PhD -> Data Scientist job searching, part 2: negotiating

Before you read this post, read Patrick MacKenzie's negotiation advice.

Ok, great. You're 95% of the way there. Here are a few more details and a couple twists and turns I came across.

Still don't name the first number.

If I had, I would have lowballed myself pretty much everywhere. Surprise - your market value is way higher than you think, you free-food-noshing grad student you.

Use Glassdoor - but it's not gospel.

Want to know what a (job x) at (company y) makes? Glassdoor can tell you. But a few caveats:
It's more useful at a common job at a bigger company. There are a ton of Google software engineer posts, but fewer Stitch Fix data scientists.
Salaries go up over time. Glassdoor estimates may be low. If you want to use it to ballpark results and name a number (though don't name the first number), go for something that's about 1.3-1.5*Glassdoor price.

Don't name the first number*.

* I actually did name the first number once, when talking with (Company B) and (Company C) after Stitch Fix gave me an offer. I knew Stitch Fix's offer was very high on base salary, so I just told it to Companies B and C. They both revised way upward, but couldn't match it - this is a good sign, I didn't shoot too low. (Probably. Maybe I did!)
Stitch Fix's equity offer was pretty standard, though, so I didn't tell that to companies B or C. (and Company C's equity offer was about double Stitch Fix's, so it's good I didn't name the first number there.)
If you don't know if it's very high, or you're not 100% sure that it's very high, don't name the first number.

Mid-sized companies don't do bonuses, it seems.

At Google, my salary was like X + ~15% of X for a once-a-year bonus. At all 3 companies I got offers from here, they just had higher base salary and no bonus. I like this; bonuses are dumb.

Equity in pre-IPO companies is way harder to value.

I have no idea what any of my equity will be worth. Maybe $0! You need a "liquidity event" to sell your shares/options; this can be an IPO, or an acquisition, or a buyback (and probably some other things too). Who knows if this will ever happen. Also, if you have options, and you leave the company before a liquidity event, you have to exercise the options (buy the shares) if you want to keep them. This can be expensive, and has tax implications that I don't understand yet. For these reason, I like salary. Your risk tolerance may vary.
Side note: at Stitch Fix, they wouldn't tell me what percent of the company I was getting or what the strike price was, instead telling me the potential value if the company is valued at $X billion. This was weird, but you can reverse-engineer the percent and the strike price. Ask me if you want to know how to figure this out.

If there's a minor perk difference, price it out

Stitch Fix, for one, doesn't offer lunch. Eh, ok! Say I'll spend $10 a day on lunch, times 200 work days a year = $2000 after tax ~= $3000 pre-tax. I subtracted $3k from their offer and I'm still happy with it.

Don't name the first number.

Did I mention this yet? They will try all kind of tricks to make you name the first number. Kindly, politely refuse.

This was all moot in the case of Stitch Fix, because they didn't allow negotiation.

This was awesome. They gave me a very high offer, and wouldn't budge on it. Their (correct) reasoning is that negotiation opens the door for inequality (e.g. between men and women) based on who negotiates more. So I didn't have to do this whole stupid dance with them! I was very impressed. I hope this becomes a trend.

If some of your offers are negotiable (and they probably will be), you need to negotiate; in that case, you have to play the game and help everyone save face.

Company C would not give me an offer until I told them the details of Stitch Fix's offer. This led to an awkward confrontation, which maybe I didn't handle great:
C: Can you tell me the details of the equity in the other company?
Me: I'd rather not, if you don't mind.
C: But it would really help.
Me: Nah, I'd prefer to keep that private.
C: I just need something to go on, in order to give you the best offer.
Me: I don't see how this could possibly help me, though.
C: Sure it can; I'm trying to work with you here.
Me: No, you're trying to get me to sign for the lowest salary. I'm trying to get the highest salary. Giving you this information can only hurt me.
C: That is not what I'm doing at all.
Me: Err... aren't you? What are you doing, then? Why not just get the best offer you can and we'll talk again then?
(some more back and forth)
C: I'm really taken aback; I don't think I've ever had a call like this. I think the best thing to do is to end the call.
Me: Oh. I... I'm sorry! I can see that I've offended you, and I really apologize. Yes, if you want to end the call, we can do that, and I'll talk to you again soon.
Later, when talking with some managers, I was mildly reprimanded - like "we wanted to clear this up and make sure it was just a misunderstanding, because this seemed like a bit of a red flag to us" etc.

I was trying to just "take the cover off the game" and talk honestly. I didn't want to muck around with "well, because of reason X, maybe you can throw in some more salary" or whatever - but there is a maximum and minimum price you're willing to hire me at, let's try to get the maximum.
She... did not appreciate that. I think it made us both sound like greedy money-grubbers. Instead, I guess we've got to use the language of "working together to find a mutually beneficial deal", "make the pie bigger", "well because of my excellent qualifications blahblah", "I'm hoping to get a salary that allows me to focus on doing great work and not worrying about money", etc.


Here's a way it could have gone better (props to my friend Stu):
C: Can you tell me the details of the equity in the other company?
Me: I'd rather not, if you don't mind.
C: But it would really help.
Me: Nah, I'm sorry, that information is private.
C: I just need something to go on, in order to give you the best offer.
Me: Can I ask why you need to know?
C: (some BS thing)
Me: Ah, ok. Well, like I said, sorry, that's private. When do you think you can get together an offer?
C: After you tell me the other offer details!
Me: Well, unfortunately, that information is private. So, how about if you just put together the strongest offer you can and we'll talk about it then?
C: I really need to know the details of your other offer.
Me: Well, imagine I hadn't gotten that offer yet; what offer would you get me then?
C: But you did get that offer.
Me: But like I said, unfortunately, it's private. Do you mean you can't make an offer without knowing the details of my other offer?
C: Well, no...*
Me: Ok, great! Then I look forward to hearing the details. When do you think you can get it to me?

* I'm like 90% sure she legally has to say no here (in CA at least). But if she says yes, then I guess, decide how much hardball you want to play and how much you want this offer :-/

This would still be somewhat confrontational, but that's on her. This conversation is more polite and we can still maintain this facade of "we're working on the same team." If it helps, imagine that the other company who'd given you the offer hadn't told it to you yet, or that you were legally not allowed to say it for whatever reasons. ("sorry, I'd so love to get you that information! it's just, gosh darn it, it happens to be private. oh well.")

Use your people!

It was very helpful to me to go on Facebook after this difficult interaction and ask "uhh... did I do something really wrong?" and hear "eh, probably nah." The Companies will try all kinds of tricks to make you feel bad for asking for more money, etc. They are capital, you are labor, and 99% of the time you're working together but in this 1% you are somewhat at odds. They do this every day; you are a newbie. Don't get taken.

Reach out to me if you ever want some help. Not that I'm an expert, but I'm happy to help friends and family :) I've worked with 2 people now, plus myself, who were scared to negotiate at all, and we got a little extra money each time, anyway - maybe not optimal, but pretty good for standing on one foot and reciting poetry for 15 minutes!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tales from HCI PhD -> SF Data Scientist Job Searching, part 1: Interviews

Ok, so you want to be a Data Scientist. The best prep would be to have interned as a Data Scientist. I hadn't done that. Here are some things I have learned about interviewing for this job.

Interview structure

As I mentioned last post, you will probably have some of the following:

  • Programming
    • this is the good old quick-programming-puzzle interview, as in software engineer interviews. Usually whiteboard, but sometimes they let you use a computer, which is nice. You might get this for a phone screen.
  • SQL
    • "Here's a database structure (on a whiteboard), how would you write these queries?" A couple places let me do this on a computer, that was nice. You might get this for a phone screen too.
  • Experimental design/metrics
    • "We want to change our UI from this old UI to this new UI, how would we do it?" and then talk about metrics to measure, how to evaluate success, how to sample users, how many users and how long to run the study (use a power calculation!), what your conclusions would be if you got this certain kinds of answers.
  • Big-picture thinking/metrics
    • "We want to expand to selling cars too, how would we do it?" - and then we talk about high-level what kind of metrics we'd measure, how we'd evaluate success, how we'd trade off risk, etc. This was rarer, but happened a couple times. I think I wasn't necessarily supposed to know how to do this, so I could wing it a bit. This interview was different from the experimental design one because it was a little higher-level - your 6-12-month vision instead of the single Next Experiment you're running.
  • Machine learning/modeling
    • "Here's a big CSV of our hypothetical users' behavior; what leads to them buying our product?" This might be a homework problem or an in-person interview.
  • Data modeling
    • I know I just said "modeling." A couple "modeling" interviews, though, were something different - more like "here's how this part of our business works - how would you design the database for it?" Which tables would you have, which fields on each, etc.
  • Collaborating with other people/teams, stories of projects you've done
    • This is vaguer, talky. I could usually come up with these on the spot, but it doesn't hurt to have a few in your pocket.
  • Lunch
    • These are usually "off the record" - use them to refuel, and try to absorb stuff about the company or your future coworkers here.

Things that are good to know

  • How to do quick programming puzzles fluently. HackerRank's Python, Algorithms, and Data Structures tracks are probably pretty good. You don't have to get to the "Hard" level - if you can do the "Medium"s, you're probably good.
  • SQL. If you haven't used SQL, or haven't used any actually difficult SQL, in a while, take an online tutorial all the way through. PostgreSQL Exercises is the best I think; Mode Analytics's one is good too. Particularly learn:
    • how to do a GROUP BY and an aggregate (like "tell me the total sales in each state")
    • when to use WHERE vs HAVING (HAVING is after the groupby/aggregate)
    • how to do JOINs, including the difference between types of joins
    • how to do subqueries, and when you would
    • Some of this is just a feel thing, which is why I say work through a whole SQL course. I'm getting more fluent in SQL, even if sometimes I can't quite articulate, for example, when you would use a subquery.
    • how to work with dates is a nice bonus
    • window functions would be good. Here's one example. This is kinda in the "bonus points" - when a question came up where it'd be appropriate, I always would say "uhh I guess I'd use window functions but I don't know how to," and I still got jobs.
    • oh, one more tip: when I'm trying to do complicated things with joins or subqueries, I'd often draw out what the end table is that I'm SELECTing from. So like, if I'm joining A to B, just write down what the "A JOIN B" table looks like, even though of course it's not actually done like that.
  • The formula to calculate a binomial confidence interval. p +/- z*sqrt(p(1-p)/n). I don't know many stats formulas, but I had remembered this one, and it came in handy so many times. (Useful in A/B tests - if you test it on 1000 people, and 7% of them click, what's your 95% CI for the real click-through rate? 0.07 +/- 1.96 * sqrt(0.07*0.93/1000) = 0.07 +/- 0.015
  • How you pick which model to use - tradeoffs of logistic regression, decision trees/random forests, SVMs, neural networks, etc. Which ones are good/bad if your classes are unbalanced, or your data's very sparse, or whatever. And how to pick stuff around this - like how do you pick training/test set, how do you normalize your data, etc.
  • How Ridge and Lasso regression work, and more generally what regularization is. I missed this a lot :-P
  • How to quickly load in a data set and make a simple classification/regression model and/or charts, in Python/Pandas or R. Then use whichever of those you feel more comfortable with in the interview.
  • A story of a project where you used machine learning.
  • A story of how you communicated some finding to some other people who weren't as data-nerdy as you.
  • A story of a project where you had to change your plans, maybe. Other kinds of soft-skills stories are nice.

Boot Camps

It might be that you don't think you have the practical skills yet. If that is the case, you might do a boot camp - a couple-month program. Insight Data Science is probably the best boot camp, because it's aimed at exactly you. A lot of my soon-to-be-coworkers did this, coming from a diverse set of PhD backgrounds.

More Strategy

  • If you can, interview first with companies you're less excited about. I learned a lot about this process through doing it - my first few interviews ended at the phone screen or homework stage, and as I did more of them, I ended up getting farther through the process.
  • If you can be local, that probably helps. If you know you want to move to SF, say, then plan a couple week trip out here and tell them you'll be in town on these certain days. That way they don't have to worry about flying you out. Most good companies probably don't care, but I dunno, maybe they do.
  • I had one company ask me for one or two references. Like, your advisor would be fine, or someone you interned with. This was after they gave me a verbal offer, so it probably wouldn't make or break it, unless you're secretly a serial killer (or, realistically, completely unsuited for the job).
  • No suits. This is nice.
  • I'm sure there are more things I'm forgetting. Ask me some questions.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tales from an HCI PhD Industry Job Search, part 0: Which job?

Ok, so this is for a very focused crowd, I guess, but I know a lot of people who will be in my shoes, and I feel like I learned something, so I want to write about it.

I guess first we have to do the "industry or academia???" question. This one is simple. If your answer is "Academia, hell yes, 100% for sure", do academia; otherwise, do industry.

Ok, so you're doing industry. Here's the first question you might want to ask yourself: what kind of industry job? Here are some options:

Research Scientist

This is an increasingly rare job, showing up only at some of the megacorps like Microsoft Research, FXPAL, and somehow Yahoo. Do this if you actually wish you were in academia. At MSR, it'll be close to academia; at other companies, it'll be farther, but you can still make up new things. I interviewed for one of these; it involved me giving a talk about my research and then talking with 4 research scientists/engineers on the team one by one. At the end, I realized I didn't know enough machine learning to work with this team (the Machine Learning and Vision team).

User Experience Researcher

These people do research with people all the time. Interviews and surveys are very common, but you might also do focus groups, workshops, intercepts, usability studies, and some stats. You also have to have some skills in communicating, and you probably have to not mind convincing people that your work is real. I interviewed for a few of these, and they usually involved me giving a talk about some research I've done, then I talked with 5-7 people one by one. At one of them, they gave me a short problem, something like "You work at (hypothetical company X), and they have this new broad question. How would you narrow it down into a research plan?" and I had an hour to think about it and then give a 20-min presentation. I don't really know how these interviews are evaluated.

Software Engineer

You like writing code in a team. You were frustrated at all the terrible code you wrote throughout grad school. You like organizing things. If you think you want to be a SWE, you probably shouldn't go to grad school, but if you graduate and find that that's what you want to do, then by all means do it! You will always have a well-paying job and be treated like a minor royalty. Especially if you're good.

UI or UX Designer

If you know you like to do this kind of thing, go for this job! I don't know anything about it, really.

Project Manager

Do you like to have 500 tabs open and communicate with everyone all the time? And, like, deal with stuff blowing up and figuring out how to coordinate a bunch of screaming cats to get their stuff together to actually get a product out the door? Do you think grad school was too slow and quiet? PMing is for you! God bless you. I could never handle this job.

Data Scientist

This... can mean a lot of things. But most of them are in demand! It can mean:
  • Product analytics person - answer questions about your product
  • Quantitative UX person - answer questions about your users
  • Machine learning engineer - building "data products" (where "data products" means roughly anything where you are doing any ML)
  • The first person at your startup who works with data for more than one-off things
  • Some combination of the above
  • Probably something else too
These were most of my interviews. They usually started with 1-3 phone screens, then sometimes a "homework assignment", then a daylong interview with 5-6 people, which were some combination of:
  • Programming
  • SQL
  • Experimental design
  • Big-picture thinking (~ "we want to do X with our website, how would we do it?")
  • Machine learning or modeling
  • Collaborating with other people/teams
  • Lunch

Friday, June 23, 2017

A job search, visualized

Each row is my series of interactions with a given company. This chart is not at all in chronological order.

Computer monitor: an online application
Thumbs up: a friend (or friend of friend) saying I'm cool
Phone: phone screen (green if it's a "non-screen" call where I'm not "on." Eh, details; I'm always "on.")
Mail: an email (blue if "cold"/unsolicited/I just thought they were cool so I tried to contact em.)
Pencil: take-home work assignment
Two people shaking hands: an in-person conversation (also blue if unsolicited - like my friend works somewhere cool so I try to see if they're hiring)
Three people around a table: in-person interview
N: when they gave me the official big "nope"
Trophy: an offer

What did I learn? (and all these are limited to SF tech job searching)

  • don't bother contacting them if they don't have a job listing
  • if you get to an on-site, you're really in the home stretch. Someone told me 1/5 on-sites become offers; in my case it was 1/2; either way, do a handful of on-sites, and you should get something.
  • the usual cycle seems to be: 1. online app, 2. your friend gives you a thumbs up, 3. phone screen or two, 4. onsite interview
  • I dislike it when companies never respond. At least a form letter response would be nice.
  • A friend's thumbs-up or a conversation with someone you know gets you in the door.  In interactions without a thumbs-up or friend-convo, 1 went farther to phone screen at least (and it led to an offer) and 8 didn't; in interactions with a thumbs-up or friend-convo, 13 went farther and 13 didn't. But that includes the "cold" ones - in "warm" interactions with a thumbs-up or friend-convo, 13 went farther (4 to offer) and 8 didn't.
  • by the way, LinkedIn is a good way to get that thumbs-up or friend-convo. Pick a company, you can see your friends-of-friends who work there. Your friends will often make an introduction.
  • that one offer without a thumbs-up came from A-List, which is from AngelList, but they send you an invite if you're in the "top 1%" of applicants. I don't know what that means, but apparently CMU PhD + Google gets you into that "top 1%." Seems like a good way to access smaller-company jobs. Regular AngelList is good too.
  • so, like, if I'm in the "top 1%", and relatively well connected, usually the process is much harder than this! woof!

Which one was Stitch Fix, which I accepted? Fourth from the bottom.

Oh by the way: I'm starting at Stitch Fix at the end of July. Wooo!

But but but I want to know more! Don't worry, this is job search post 1 of many.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Credit card churning, level 2

Ok, here the main game is:
- get a card with a sweet bonus
- meet the Minimum Spend
- get some bonus points
- downgrade it at the end of your first year
Who can do this? Anyone who can get approved for sweet credit cards. (if you can't get approved, then get some less-prestigious credit cards with no fees, use them for a while, always pay them off, and eventually your credit rating will be better and you'll get approved.
You might not want to do this if you're buying a house soon - it'll ding your credit just a bit. But that wears off.

1. Get a card with a sweet bonus.
You're looking for, ideally, 30-50k points/miles, and annual fee waived for the first year. Some of these that I've done include:
Barclay AAdvantage Aviator Red
Barclaycard Arrival Plus
Capital One Visa Signature
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase IHG Rewards Club
Chase MileagePlus Explorer
Citi ThankYou Premier
Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select

Maybe check r/churning to see what's popular now. Sometimes there are particularly good deals (like the MileagePlus Explorer is usually 30k miles but sometimes 50k), so try to jump on those. The Chase Sapphire Reserved was even 100,000 miles when it first came out! 100k deals usually don't last long, though. If I see a 100k I'll jump on it; and usually a 50k is worth it too.
Note that, to me, hotel miles are worth about half of airline miles. So if you're looking at a hotel card, try cutting those values in half.

Ideally this will be in an airline/hotel you want to use, or use often, or a convertible rewards program. For example, Tati and I had our wedding planned at an IHG hotel in Pittsburgh, so I used the IHG points I got from this thing to book us some free rooms. And I fly United a lot, so those miles will get used.
Convertible rewards programs are stuff like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou. These are points that you can convert into specific airline/hotel miles, or sometimes use them for other things too.

2. Meet the Minimum Spend
All these deals will have some kind of minimum spend to get the big bonus, like "50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3000 in the first 3 months." Just start using the card for everything. If you wouldn't end up spending that much in 3 months, there are ways to spend a small fee to "buy" points - just look up "manufactured spend" on r/churning. For this reason, I usually don't churn more than one card at a time - it can be hard to meet the MS on all of them.

3. Get the points
They'll usually automatically post with little fanfare, and it's not usually as soon as you meet the minimum spend, so you might have to check on it a little bit.

4. Downgrade at 1 year
The CC companies are trying to get you to start paying the annual fee (after they waive it for the first year). You just have to remember to "downgrade" your card - roughly, trade it in for a "lesser" card with no annual fee. Like, I traded an AAdvantage Platinum Select ($90ish fee) for an AAdvantage Bronze (no fee). Course, the AAdvantage Bronze has no big perks... but that's ok, because at this point, you stick it in a drawer and don't really use it for anything.

To do this, just call them, at the number on the card or wherever. Ask them to downgrade this account to a no-fee card. They are usually more than happy to help. They'll often have a bunch of different ones - it doesn't matter which one you pick, because you're not going to use it anyway. You can usually do this a little after the 1 year mark; then they'll refund your annual fee. Sometimes they'll let you do it before 1 year.

An added benefit of this is you now have more credit available to you, which improves your credit score. If they won't downgrade your card, you could always just close the account. But I think I've only had that happen once.

Total benefit: ~50k points, up to 3-4 times a year. 1 point is worth roughly $0.01, so we're talking ~$500 each time.
Total cost: $0.
Total effort: well, nonzero. But it's not terribly a lot of work.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Credit card churning, level 0 and 1

Sometimes I play the credit cards game, to get a little bit of bonuses without paying money. I'm a pretty-inactive member of Many friends have asked me "if I don't want to think about it and just get a decent bit of credit card rewards what should I get?" Basically, what's the 80/20?

I tried to check /r/churning, but it's an insane mess, I think mostly because this question is complicated, because obviously that's the CC companies' game. Nobody will just make a card that is Strictly The Best, because they're all grabbing the tiny percent of edge from people who aren't quite using their cards to the max potential. So, everyone in /r/churning is trying to figure out how they particularly can get a tiny percent of edge because they always fly Delta or buy a lot of groceries or something. And it's the kind of nerds who love to get a tiny bit of edge.

So for me, there are a lot of answers, and I feel like I should have a good canned one. It depends on a lot. Let me tell you a few of your options, depending on how much you want to spend:
- Level 0: 40/1/$0. 40% of the benefits for 1% of the work and 0 dollars.
- Level 1: 60/1/$100. 60% of the benefits for 1% of the work and $100/year ish.
- Level 2: 80/20/$100. 80% of the benefits for 20% of the work and $100/year ish.
- Level 3 and beyond: beats me. I think I'm at about level 2.

Level 0:

At this level, you basically never want to think about which credit card you have. I think that for you the Chase Freedom Unlimited is the way to go. Click a link here: (or if it's later than about July 2017, search for the new Freedom Unlimited Referral Thread)
Simple 1.5% cash back on everything, and $150 signup bonus. And Chase's web site is not as terrible as some others.
(I think this because I feel like I've heard about it on forums sometimes. so, confidence about 70%. also, I gave you the /r/churning link, b/c if you click someone's link there, they get $100 referral bonus, which doesn't hurt. I would give you my own referral link but I don't have a Freedom Unlimited so I can't, unfortunately.)

Level 1:

Here, you basically never want to think about which credit card you have but you are willing to spend about $100/year on it. Two options, and they both give you Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for a bunch of different mileage programs, or Amazon or whatever. They are pretty good points. Plus, on either of these, you'll get 50k bonus points after you spend $4k within the first 3 months - so get the card then use it as much as possible within that time frame.

Chase Sapphire Reserved

$450/year, but $300 of travel expenses (planes, hotels, airbnbs, etc) gets automatically refunded. So if you're using it, and you travel, it's effectively $150/year. Gives you a bunch of points and some other travelly benefits (some lounge access, reimbursement for TSA Global Entry).
(More info on this card, and the difference between it and Preferred.) No referral link for this one, but you can get there on that "more info" link.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

$95/year after the first year, gives you almost as many points. Good in-between if you don't want to spend quite $150, or if you don't think you'll spend $300 on travel in a year. Apply here (my personal referral link).

Just get one of these cards and then use it for everything. Then one day you will have a ton of points and you can book a flight or something.
(boy, this sounds like I'm paid by Chase, doesn't it? I mean, I'm not. They just do tend to have the best points for most people. Note that if you have an airline you fly a lot, especially Southwest, you might want to get the card for that airline instead, as long as it has a 30k or more point signup bonus.)

Level 2

I'm gonna leave this part of the guide for another day.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

fighting with the neural networks for very good jokes

I feel like neural network humor has gotten really good. This Tumblr seems to be the epicenter. Pokemon recipes paint D&D superheroes
wait, superheroes

Recently, in a silly mood, Tati and I came up with my own list of nonsense superheroes. They feel like they're in the same direction; this sort of uncanny valley of mostly following rules of normal logic, but not entirely.

Good King Wenceslas and Rice Dog
Wilson Trucker
Old Tom and his letters
The Knife Police
Red Skuldugger
Fastfood Wasteland
Church Guy Dot Com
Captain Franklefort
Roy Soulfish
Grape Dude
Wanda Pyramid
Kenny Growup
The Amazing Bat
Hurta Fly
Rock Dog
False Poster Boy
Westin Smasher
Murdu Man
Coconut Head
The Insatiable Dod
Donor 2 Drugs
Fashion Electric World Capt.
The Welsh Strider
Pop Brix
Vinnie Bitsandbeans
Dutch Melly
Iron Ludwig
Maniac Korliss
Sudan Stan
Guy You Got In Your Neighborhood
The Pharaoh Clooney

While we were at it, we came up with some names for a baby. (No, we're not having one. We just thought these should be available as a public service; feel free to take them for your own kid.)

But... not as good? I kinda want to Mechanical Turk test these, and see if I can humor better than a neural net. I'm not sure if I want to win or lose.

I'll leave you with a fairly dada short story:
Wandering underhill the goat farmer and his steel drum band. Lions escape faculty oversight while withdrawing from formal scrutiny. Yellow lollipop stick upended in a raised ball of fruit. Within the normal force field lies a smarmy alliaceous ball. Next to a frigid sound man, King Walrus rests upon his laurels. Beside him, the trained eye can spot kestrels yawning at the prospect of unparalleled masculinity. Feverishly sorted and left out to dry. What if by some strange stroke of luck, it so happened that a barreling freight train of good humor wound up dead? I don't know that we could stomach the loss. Later, now, the raven winds its way towards its everlasting home. You can't blame it. But under the watchful eye of the beholder, grains wilt and lie prostrate on the floor. An eager grammarian. Let yourself explore the expanse available to you; buy me an ogre. Willis had a necktie, and shouldn't we all? Fair to say, you won't find the Italian Mafia around this bean corn stand.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Changing your mind, takers, conformity, pirates and gold, concentration

"I Changed My Mind" award
I feel like, in online arguments, the thing I most admire is when people change their mind in the face of better evidence. And yet, sometimes that's seen as evidence that you were wrong, and therefore you "lost." F that. You should get an award for changing your mind.
See also: when you're meditating, and you realize your mind was wandering, you don't say "stupid mind! you're so bad! I am bad!" you say "hey, I found my mind again! awesome, welcome back!"

F'ing Takers
A bit of Magic slang, maybe, or that's where I got it at least: "taker." Someone who rules-lawyers or otherwise does whatever they can to get ahead, at the expense of being nice or the game being fun. Like, what they're doing is legal, but it sucks.

Why I bring it up (tl;dr: small-time landlord woes, you can skip this section, basically the landlord's a Taker): when we rented our apartment, we were offered it for $3150/month including garage, or $3000 without. We said, ok, we'll take the garage, it's good for storage and bikes. I think the renting agent (call him E) said "sure, that's fine." (it might have been our agent. I think it was E.) The landlord, A, has been a shadowy figure to whom our money goes. A month after we moved in, they hired a property manager, K, so A doesn't have to deal with us anymore. K basically parrots whatever A says. They had to do some seismic retrofitting in the garages, A noticed that some people were storing things and not cars in the garages, A gets worried, A tells K to tell us that no "storage" is allowed in the garages. We say, wtf, we rented it with a garage for storage! K says "well, let's check your lease", and sure enough, it says "no storage." And like, I know, get everything in writing, I goofed, I tried to check every other dang thing, but I guess I missed this one. So we say "Ok, K, we'll give the garage back. It's now worth $275/month on the open market in our neighborhood, so how about you give us $200/month off our rent? That gives you a nice little profit margin to re-rent it." A counters with "you can have $50/month off" and won't budge. Even to $150, the original price of the garage.

Letter of the law, A is right! She got us good! We're really not entitled to anything here, because by the rules of the game we mistakenly agreed to something dumb. But come on, can we be reasonably nice here? I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes here: you want your landlord to "play nice"? That's like asking a rules-lawyer to ask you to take back that mistake you just made a half second ago. Of course you're not entitled to it.

Or, to put it another way: we work in different modes. When you're programming a computer, everything is letter-of-the-law. But when you're paying for your food at a restaurant, there's people involved, so you switch to a slightly different register in order to recognize the humanity of everyone there. (I mean, you tip, at least.) Life is better when you're not going to court over every last minor gripe. And that only requires everyone to be just a little bit not-a-Taker.

Scarcity Breeds Conformity
One response to our landlord being a Taker is to say, bye, we're renting from someone else. Sadly, we're in a scarce market. (I could go on about how SF housing policy is terrible, but that's another conversation.) So we're encouraged to just suck it up. Now, one thing I liked using the garage for was building bikes. I was learning a skill, having fun, doing something productive and creative. Now I can't use the garage for that. I guess I better just go to work and come home and drink beer and watch Netflix. (but not too loud.) Those are all within the rules. This is one argument for owning, and therefore for moving back to Pittsburgh. Hell, I think we're not even supposed to be hanging pictures on the walls. Ugh.

Chasing the "Pirates and Gold" High
When I was still deciding where to go to college, my friend Bill who was doing computer science at CMU sent me one of his homework assignments, from 15-251, "Great Theoretical Ideas in Computer Science." In it was the following problem:
"There's a pirate ship with 100 pirates, all ranked in fierceness from 1 to 100. Whenever they find gold, they distribute it like so: Pirate #1 proposes a distribution. (like, "10 gold pieces to everyone" or "I get all of it, you all get nothing", or whatever.) All the pirates vote yes or no. If at least half of the pirates vote yes, then they distribute the gold like that. But if more than half the pirates vote no, then they kill Pirate #1 and Pirate #2 gets to propose a distribution, and so on. The pirate just found a treasure chest with 1000 gold pieces, and you are Pirate #1. What distribution do you propose?"
You might think the answer is something like "10 gold to everyone", or "20 gold to the first 50 pirates, 0 gold to the last 50 pirates", or something, but there's actually a very clever solution that lets you, Pirate #1, keep about 95% of the gold. No spoilers (but if you're interested, I'll explain it).

This was awesome. And I thought, wait, you can do this for a job? That plus the little programming glee when something works made me think, yep, this is what I want to do.

Unfortunately, it's hard to get back to that high :-/ Software engineering is more quotidian. Usually you don't get too many "pirates and gold" problems. Think of it like building houses: Frank Lloyd Wright gets to build crazy houses over waterfalls and stuff, but most architects probably spend most of their days drawing up the same blueprints for the next McMansion. (Not to knock architects; I bet most of you would love to do Fallingwater but keep getting paid for dumb stuff. Apologies if that's not true.) Plus, most architects don't often, or ever, get the little hit of joy from screwing boards together.

Now, you can certainly go another direction, and go for Real World Impact instead of the fun programming puzzles. I think that'll serve you much better in the long run, and it's what I'm trying to do now, and what I've been trying to do for the last 5 years. I just wish someone had told me that ahead of time.

Imperceptibly Small Benefits
An idea I'm puzzling over involves social media, little hits of dopamine, and concentration. On one hand, concentratiophiles will tell you that each bit of social media you read will entrench this pattern of quick hits and no deep concentration. On the other hand, you learn stuff from all these little distractions? I could walk to the store, or I could walk to the store while listening to a podcast and pick up a lot of information about some topic I don't know about. (Or just listen to a funny thing and have fun.)

Both sides are adding up small benefits. I guess some anti-social-media person can probably concentrate way better than I can, and they might argue it's because of tiny practice times a million. Some super-social-media person, too, probably has a ton of friends, deep connections, and lots of knowledge about what's up in the world, because of tiny knowledge times a million.

Wish we could measure either of these claims so we'd have some kind of idea about the veracity and the size of both of them :-/

Monday, May 01, 2017

find a city, find myself a city to live in

two mostly-unrelated thoughts about cities:

1. when I was moving back to Pittsburgh, I thought about "the Aikido test": say I want to take up some new hobby, like Aikido; will I find a local community that I can do that with? can this city help me become who I consciously want to be?
I'm not sure that's the right way to think about it. a new test, call it the "Denver skier test": what will this city help me to unconsciously become? (I don't know if you can live in Denver/Colorado front range and not become a skier, at least a little bit.) Similarly, Seattle got me addicted to coffee, but also got me to ride bikes for 200 miles the first time, so that was nice. (I mean, the coffee's nice too.)

and what is San Francisco helping me unconsciously become?

2. why the hell is it always gentrification? why can there not be techy businesses without gentrification? is it just that "tech" is shorthand for "nouveau riche"? (the fact that Juicero is considered a tech company is evidence for this.) but even if that is so, why can't we do a couple things: why can't we have jobs that are not disappearing, grinding, or tech? why can't we tax the few that are feasting to cover the many who are famining? and why can't cities build up to accommodate the faminers as well as the feasters?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

There's an emotions-Wookiee riding shotgun in your head

We teach kids (intentionally or not) that they are a "self."

Let's leave aside the question of how to teach them that there is no "self" - what about teaching kids that they have two selves?

Specifically, there's the driver (which is the "you" who you think you are, the cold logical one) and the emotions passenger. They are constantly talking to you and affecting what you do - sometimes indirectly ("pull off at this exit, I'm hungry", "turn the AC onnnnn!!!", "I'm playing music now"), sometimes directly by grabbing the wheel. They are a large, powerful person, can overwhelm you if it comes to a fight, and are sometimes very wise; ultimately you're in charge, but the two of you are a team. I'm calling the passenger a Wookiee because Chewbacca seems to fit all of these pretty perfectly.

When you are born, they speak a different language than you. Your happiness, success, and sometimes survival depends on your ability to learn to communicate with them. This is what "emotional intelligence" and "soft skills" mean.

So many things, especially interpersonal conflicts, would be so much easier to explain if you had this framework. Instead of saying "I ____", replace that with "My emotions/Wookiee _____". Learn when to take the Wookiee's advice into account, and when they don't know what they're talking about. Learn when to tell the Wookiee to quiet down because you've got to drive for a while... and when to let the Wookiee win.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A few short cranky thoughts

1. Every attempt to manage academia makes it worse. I'm enough of a hippie to think you should actually just pay them without measuring them. Or maybe measure them once per decade or something. I've never met an academic who was anything other than suuuuper driven. These aren't the people you need to be micromanaging.

2. Every time you say "just" (as in "just one thing" or "can you just do this for me"), an alarm bell should go off in your head. (kind of like the bell that should go off when you say "well, actually...") What it often sounds like you're saying is "I want you to do this thing, but I don't want to be indebted to you for it, so I will minimize it. I want it to be easy. I'm going to act like it's easy, even if it's not."

3. As your job gets more intelligible to outsiders, it gets easier to connect it to some values in your life. That is nice. Doing user research is often more intelligible than software engineering, and as a result, it's usually easier to say "yep, this will actually help people." However, it also means other people think they know how to do your job too. See also: bikeshedding.

4. In SF (/the Bay Area, and other large metro areas), you can have anything. Restaurants, bars, shops, coffee, parks, weather, theater, arts, interactive theater, escape rooms, talks, Burning Man hackery, etc. On the other hand, no one human can possibly take all that in, so it sometimes feels a little immature to live here. Like, you haven't figured out what you want and what you don't care about, so you just want it all. There's some maturity in knowing what things you want less than other people.
On the other other hand, you can't say "well, I only care about theater, so I'm going to move to Theater City." Fair point.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thinkin' bout automated bosses

like Uber. Your "boss" is an algorithm that says "you get 4.7* or above, you can keep working; if not, you're fired."

Like, in a sense, great (as long as this algorithm is known); you get people to do the job right! If you don't do the job, you're out. Easy as that. In contrast, full-time jobs are super-sticky (esp in Europe, but even here in the US): it is very hard to fire someone.

Obviously the Uber route has these terrible effects on the drivers - they never know if they'll be working tomorrow, they're already in debt because they bought this car to drive for Uber and now they're fired for some arcane reason (maybe even unknown reason), they've got to work 14 hours a day to meet the mandatory minimum number of rides or something.

But I'm wondering if the stickiness of full time jobs also helps companies. Like, if you join a new company full-time and then have a bad first couple months (because you're trying to learn a new thing, or just getting to know the people, or you have a family emergency or something), you're not fired; the company ideally finds a way to help you succeed, and then they've got a productive longer-term employee instead of having to start all over. This stickiness is a smoothing factor that helps the company think long term about you instead of short term.

(that, or stickiness does hurt companies, but we've just got too much pro-worker regulation here. I'm open to the argument, but it seems unlikely in 2017 America. hmm.)

Edit: now, there's nothing about Uber that means they have to be so short-term thinking. You could imagine them taking your average rating after, say, your first year, and if it's still not 4.7 by then, ok, now you're out. But then you'll have people who will milk it for a year, be crummy, and get paid for a year before they quit. And I guess office-job people are less likely to do this because they have more human connection and are not inclined to milk the system for all it's worth.

(but then, current workers are not stunning examples of being super excited about their jobs anyway.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Purely Logical Debate"

I am just signal boosting an SSC post again, but in particular I like his rules for a debate. He calls it a "purely logical debate" out of necessity. I don't love the term because it sounds like something only nerds would love, but I don't have a better idea, so let's go with it for now. In general, to be a "purely logical debate", it must be a:

1. Debate where two people with opposing views are talking to each other (or writing, or IMing, or some form of bilateral communication).
2. Debate where both people want to be there, and have chosen to enter into the debate in the hopes of getting something productive out of it.
3. Debate conducted in the spirit of mutual respect and collaborative truth-seeking.
4. Debate conducted outside of a high-pressure point-scoring environment.
5. Debate where both people agree on what’s being debated and try to stick to the subject at hand.

(much more background in the post)

I'm tempted to say "I would like to Purely Logical Debate, and only Purely Logical Debate." And then either of us can pause the debate if we feel that the other is breaking a rule, and we can go back and correct it.

(fwiw, I also agree with his statement that people rarely change their minds all at once, and that the "backfire effect" is probably not as ironclad as we think.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Meme Suggestion: Repeater Jim

Here is an uncomfortable fact of working life:

Alice: I think X.
Bob: are you sure?
Charles: what about Y?
Dave: I don't know, I don't believe X, I have to see for myself.
Jim: I think X.
Bob, Charles, and Dave: Oh yes, X is definitely true. Good idea, Jim.

Here's my SNL-skit proposal: in the future, each woman gets a male robot named Repeater Jim who just follows her around and repeats what she says, so men will listen to her ideas. (it would be named "Jim" just because that's the first name that popped into my head.)

Here's my actually-not-satirical real-world proposal: men, volunteer to be Repeater Jim. Like, team up with a woman or women in your workplace, and try to repeat what they say as often as possible. As soon as the other men go "oh yes definitely X", say "yes, I agree, thanks to Alice for suggesting this idea."

(obviously this should be addressed more widely too; Repeater Jim is a band-aid, not a fix for women being ignored. but, a band-aid is better than no band-aids. and maybe people have an "ohhh" moment about their unconscious biases every now and then when they realize they got Repeater Jimmed.)

(n.b. not just about women; this also applies to people of color and probably pretty much every minority.)

For the record: if any of y'all ever need me to be Repeater Jim, let me know, I'm happy to help.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The New Consumerism

I remember reading something about how sincerity, not irony, is the ethos of our generation. (oh, here it is.)

(set aside for a minute how terribly quixotic it is to try to define "the ethos of our generation." of course there are a million subsets of our generations, all with different ethoses.)

Anyway, I like this, obviously.

A similar thing occurred to me when I was shaving. I mean, I used to use shaving cream, like the Gillette stuff from a can that comes out all foamy. I've since been trying an array of different other creams from more hippie brands because, I guess, "down with the man" etc? But really, shaving cream is pretty good, for me at least: it's easy, quick, I cut myself less, washes out easier. I don't know that there are big externalities, and if there's something that's 10% better out there, it's really not worth fussing myself about.

I'm provisionally calling this "new consumerism" - not just taking the crummy mass-market thing because it's there and I want the shiny new thing that's marketed the best, but because I really tried a lot of the other things out there and realized that this thing is actually pretty good.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I feel like I should be recording wisdom through my ages

It would be pretty fun to look back and think "here's what I thought at 20, 25, 30, 35, etc", for two reasons:
1. it would probably be pretty funny
2. seriously, though, I probably actually forget some wisdom over the years. There are probably things that my 20 year old self thinks, that I should still think, but that I let atrophy for whatever reason.

Here's one for now: start with trust. When you go into a new relationship, assume that everyone's at least honest and not trying to screw you. (related: never assume malice when it might just be stupidity) Of course, as soon as they break that, bets are off. But in the meantime, start with trust.

An example: landlords. I tend to go into any renting experience assuming the landlord is pretty decent. Sometimes I am proven wrong, but most of the time they are pretty decent. I think some other people have worse experiences with the same landlords. Whether you think your landlord is nice or mean might be kind of self-fulfilling.
(I understand some people have other experiences. there are also huge confounds because I rent market-rate places and I'm a white dude. fair. just my experience here.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The title page for the Life Hacks book I'll write someday

Life Hacks
by Dan Tasse

1. Call your book "Life Hacks" so people will buy it
2. Be kind of glib so people will continue reading
3. Make them think they're in on the joke

Saturday, February 18, 2017

New bike! Name TBD.

I am not sure what it will be called. Perhaps Tati should name it. It is hers now, after all.

And it's totally great. This is my favorite bike that I've ever built. It's a perfect SF sunny-day bike, for fun rides around the city and nearby, which I think Tati will quite enjoy.

Nerd stats:
Frame: Co-Motion Ristretto, I believe. Aluminum and super light. Bought it from my friend Jeff.
Drive train: SRAM NX 1x11 speed group set. SRAM GXP cranks (170mm I think) and BB, 32t narrow-wide chainring, 11-42t cassette. Cheapo platform pedals from The Bike Kitchen; btw have I mentioned how great that place is?
Anyway, the 1x11 seems totally great. Fewer moving parts to break or misalign, decent high gears, and ridiculous low gears. This thing would be a Dirty Dozen smasher.
Wheels: Mavic rims, Shimano 105 hub (back) and Claris hub (front) (they didn't have a matching set at Valencia Cyclery (which is also great, though not as great as Bike Kitchen), but whatever, it's cool)
Tires: 700x28c (back) and 700x25c (front) Specialized Armadillos
Bars: flat handlebars - look like carbon? and some kind of stem. I don't know about them but they seem real nice. Thanks Jeff for throwing them in! Cheapo locking grips.
Brakes: Shimano 105s (thanks again Jeff!) and cheapo levers.
Seat: uh, it's a seat. Got it from my friend Iris. Hopefully some rando on Market St. doesn't try to claim this one too. The post is probably pretty good too (had it on my Soma Smoothie ES that I got from a guy on Craigslist) but I don't know about it either.
Accessories: Fortified lights (which are awesome; I had one stolen and they sent me a replacement), Pinhead locking skewers and seatpost, Kryptonite evolution series 4 lock.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Another day, another SSC post I like

Considerations on cost disease

Very many of our arguments should indeed be prefaced with
"Look, really our main problem is that all the most important things cost ten times as much as they used to for no reason, plus they seem to be going down in quality, and nobody knows why, and we're mostly just desperately flailing around looking for solutions here."

(of course I have my ideas about solutions; most of them are probably grouped under "simplify harder", "more taxes", and "freer markets"; but that's neither here nor there.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Life Hacks

(and no, this blog hasn't been taken over by a spam bot. I guess consider it somewhere between Oblique Strategies, 43 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life, and wint)

1. Don't get devastated.
2. More lifehacks
3. Wolf pet, on a train
4. 2 cell phones
5. Leave yourself a voice mail
6. Avoid cafeterias
7. Always choose 3
8. Snort whenever you laugh
9. Read college brochures
10. Horses have emotions too, bro.
11. Always say "bro" as a question: "bro?"
12. Have a name
13. Continue life hacking, or car jacking.
14. Why not?
15. Actually "coat swacker" is a good insult
16. Don't forget life hacks!
17. The word "beaver" comes to mind
18. Hi there, fellow kids
19. Don't ever make mistakes
20. If at first you don't succeed, succeed!
21. Know when to stop lifehacking
22. Right turn on red, after stop
23. Think about that!
24. Pineapples decorate well. You can dress something with pineapples. You can deck the hall with pineapples.
25. Sponge-a-bob
26. Deluxe chapstick. You can buy better chapstick, because you only need to buy half as much.
27. Do a good impression of the person you want to be.
28. Park your car, walk your dog
29. What if you drastically limited the number of distinct syllables you would say?
30. Speak from the heart
31. If you're out of hair clips, you can use a binder clip
32. Maybe don't pluralize "berry"
33. You can polarize, but only sometimes
34. Memo to your future self. You can leave these anytime.
35. Remember that time you were in those mountains?
36. It would be a real sucker punch to say something like "Fukushima."
37. Yes-usually-and
38. That little thing going wrong, it won't even affect you.
39. If you ever need a costume, you could go as Captain Labradoodle
40. Mend a picket fence
41. Better learn me fast!
42. Have a day, each day
43. Want sauerkraut? You're going to have to wait for it.
44. Could be a real thing.
45. Get more specific, usually
46. Don't overclose a faucet
47. If you listen, you can hear your arguments coming up and knocking each other down.
48. It might be time.
49. If you start surveilling yourself too much, you might want to stop.
50. Claw hammer not always better than regular hammer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Maybe I'll blog, not facebook, politics. Anyway, the CBP is broken.

Your daily bad news is this podcast.

The CBP has become the country's largest federal police force, routinely secretly violating people's rights with no oversight and no need to explain themselves.
And it's _not even helping_ prevent terrorism. Listen to this podcast and tell me that these cases make us safer. It sounds like, instead, they've made us more irrationally terrified. (which is, again, what terrorists are trying to do.)

in case you're tempted to respond "it's all anecdotes, not data"... well, sure; we can't get access to any data. that's step 1: shed a little light on their inner workings. In the meantime, I'm going to assume that these cases are indicative of the all-too-familiar pattern: zero oversight and accountability -> abuse. (hopefully not "-> secret police" etc,

(almost posted this on facebook, but: doubt I'd reach anyone who doesn't agree with me, and there's enough bad news there already. I almost feel like I should, instead of just getting mad at everything, start building up big well-cited argument lists/trees for use when debating with your local political opponent. that sounds like a lot of work, and maybe not worthwhile anyway, and hasn't someone else done it better?)

At any rate, your daily good news is we are getting heckin' active wherever we can. This is awesome.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Everything happens so much

Especially these days. Grad school's already taken its toll on my ability to blog with any regularity, but you throw in Voldemort and the alien from Men In Black getting elected as President and Shadow President, respectively, and a lot of my internet time goes towards upkeeping Do The Thing.

This has been mildly frustrating, because I think this blog's been a useful outlet for me to organize my thoughts. Particularly, writing forces you to take a bunch of feelings and put them down on paper in a way that's somewhat coherent. I like it when my internal voices are somewhat coherent.

Oh, also, been posting a bunch on Facebook, which is frustrating too because it's up to The Facebook whether anyone sees your post, whether it sticks around, whether you can even go back and dig it up if you try... For writing text on pages, give me web 1.0 any day.

In order to preserve some of the weirdness that have been my thoughts over the last few months, thoughts which have been shifting from "pondering things every so often" to "activist mode, go!", I'm going to try to copy paste some of my facebookery here. So this will be long, and maybe not so useful to you.

Oct 26: Kraynick's Bike Shop!

Raising enough money on Gofundme to buy a building is... ambitious. But Kraynick's is a Pittsburgh treasure, the place that taught me the most about bike parts, a great place to get back on the road if you're not real rich, and the kind of diverse hangout that I see less and less often.
I'd always wondered what would happen when Jerry wanted to retire, and the answer is apparently this. Sounds like Rocky's going to keep the magic going, which is super exciting.

(Kraynick's fundraiser)
If you donate (any amount), let me know and I'll throw in another $10 per friend. Keep it goin'!

Nov 2

Hey. Canvassing in Pittsburgh. Saturday 10:30-2pm. 4250 Murray Ave (I think that's the greenfield giant eagle?).
Edit: not this particular canvass, instead signing up at 9am and noon (and maybe 3?) Talk to Aaron Tarnow, he can sign you up.
Mostly because 538 is freakin me out, doing something helps reduce anxiety, and I'd hate not to do whatever I can. Join me?

Nov 4

Hey, if you're in a safe state and voting Hillary, or in a swing state and voting third party... Consider vote trading?
Still send your signal of "I don't like them" but make it less likely to accidentally vote in Trump along the way.

Nov 5

Knocked on 175 doors for Hillary today

Nov 8: Vote a lot, y'all goons

And vote for the only presidential candidate remotely qualified to run for president
And your local Democratic congressers, because i guess that's the only way we're ever allowed to do anything again
(PS. I canvassed two more batches, in Ohio this time! "Be humble when you do good deeds"- Jesus or something. "Nope I'm braggin', sorry"- me)

Nov 8

et tu, pennsylvania?

Nov 10

Nov 10

just now, rando on street to lady: keep smiling!
me to rando: hey, don't tell her to smile!
rando: huh?
me: what's it matter if she smiles or not?
rando: I said, "keep smiling!"
me: uh (as that doesn't make any sense, and I hadn't really thought this far ahead, I walk away. clearly, I've got to practice this.)
I was surprised to learn that I guess this is a thing I do now. sharing not to boost myself, but to suggest you can do this too. if the wave of mini-trumps (people emboldened to be mean by one lar
ge meanman) is gonna happen, well, so is the wave of mini-anti-trumps.

(+ long interesting discussions! Kind of sad Facebook isn't saving those.)

Nov 11

If there's one good thing about all this, it's that I see more people getting more active online. More people than I've ever seen (in my circles) were phone banking, canvassing, vote volunteering, talking about local elections. Maybe we're not going to change anyone's mind by posting to our filter bubble. But if we can collectively use our filter bubbles to encourage each other to get active, and stay active, well... we've got a lot of power here.
In other words, in an increasingly scary world, we all gotta do politics now. And if you used to do Level 1 Politics, now you do Level 2 Politics, and so on.
Now let's keep it up, for four years or more. Do good things. Stop bad things. Talk about it. Support each other.

Nov 11

Why is "Smile!" bad? (It's not the Political Correctness police)

Nov 12

Got no phone till the 18th! (soonest the replacement battery can come in, if you'd believe it, even in the age of Amazon.)
This'll be interesting. I'll still get your texts and stuff when I get to my computer, but don't expect a quick response. (as if you were anyway :P)

Nov 14

How and why to contact your congress people: has a nice "find your rep." Mine (most of SF) is Nancy Pelosi. Look on her site for her district office's phone number (I've heard that's better than the DC office). Hers is (415) 556-4862. has a nice "find your senator." In CA ours are Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Their numbers are (510) 286-8537 and (415) 393-0707.
(They've also got email links, but phone makes for a better chance to listen, according to an internet thing going around.)
Anyway, call them all the time. Make them sick of hearing you. Right now I'm calling to get them to fight the appointment of Steve Bannon, the admittedly anti-semitic head of fact-free garbage fire Breitbart News. (tbh, I'm not even sure if they can do anything. If you've got better ways to fight this, let me know.)
Pittsburghers: your rep is Mike Doyle (412) 390-1499 and your senators are Bob Casey (412) 803-7370 and Pat Toomey (412) 803-3501.
Westlake Ohio folks: your rep is Jim Renacci (412) 803-3501 and your senators are Sherrod Brown (216) 522-7272 and Rob Portman 216-522-7095.
(edited to add Clevelanders and to get everyone's local numbers in there.)

Nov 14 Anti-Steve-Bannon call to action (<10 h4="" min="">1. Call your congress people!
SF: Rep. Pelosi (415) 556-4862, Sen. Boxer (510) 286-8537, Sen. Feinstein (415) 393-0707.
Pgh: Rep Doyle (412) 390-1499, Sen. Casey (412) 803-7370, Sen. Toomey (412) 803-3501
Tell them Bannon's a dangerous white supremacist who runs an irresponsible conspiracy theory website and deeply unqualified. (Even Glenn Beck agrees, FWIW.)
2. Call Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (202) 225-0600 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541, tell them the same thing.
3. If you're Jewish, call AIPAC at 202-639-5200. Dial 2 for a live person & then 2 for legislative affairs. Tell them you're an American Jew who won't stand for an anti-Semite in the White House and demand AIPAC speak out. (thanks Henry Kraemer! NB. he and I don't condone AIPAC as a whole, esp on Palestine; this is a subset from his post.)
4. Remember: this is step 1 in the million step march back to a reasonable country.
(disclaimer: I'm making this up as I go. let me know if there's a better way to do any of this.)

Nov 15 Step 2/1000000 back to a more reasonable country: elect Foster Campbell in Louisiana. 

He's a moderate Democrat senator in a last-minute runoff race (Dec 10), and electing him would push the senate from 52R-48D to 51R-49D.
How does this help "win the senate"? Well, right, Dems can't "control the senate", but in a time when every congressperson votes party line so often, needing only two moderate Republicans instead of three is a big difference.
Why do we need the senate? Well, the House is suuuper Republican, so the senate is kinda the last line of defense to stop crazy Trump idea number N.
Can we win this? Heck yeah. It's historically a low-turnout thing, so a little more voter turnout can turn it.
I'm still trying to figure out what to do. In the meantime I threw some money at him and signed up to phone bank. Here's more about him and here's his website

Nov 16 Step 3/1000000: back Planned Parenthood.

Because who knows what'll happen to their funding. And who knows what'll happen to women and their rights in this administration. Yesterday, I set up a recurring monthly donation. You probably have room in your budget to do so too.
ps. hate abortions? fine; you should back planned parenthood too. via birth control and education, they're probably stopping more abortions than any grandstanding "ban abortions!" politician.
pps. "dan, why send money to PP instead of malaria bed nets?" "fair question, dan; donating to where it can do the best good is usually the best call! I haven't quite figured this out yet, but two things: 1. I might not have the luxury of time to figure this out, and 2. this isn't coming out of my bed nets money."

Nov 17 Step 4/1000000: back the Southern Poverty Law Center. You can hit "donate" in the top right. They seem to be one of the leading voices stopping hate crimes and protecting rights of marginalized groups.
I suggest this today because I wanted to post something more like this:
... but that's not a concrete thing to do. But, I mean, read that essay.
Trump is not a normal president-elect. Look, conservative friends and family (if you're still with me here on facebook, and if so, thank you), I grumble plenty about republicans, but if you wanted to swap out Trump for Kasich/Rubio/Romney/McCain, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Those guys are normal politicians I tend to disagree with, but they wouldn't start World War 3 or Japanese Internment Camps 2 (Muslim Version).
Read also Sarah Kendzior, i.e. this tweet:
She's a PhD anthropologist and journalist who's studied authoritarian regimes and sees us on exactly the same path.
Don't let anyone convince you this is normal now. Don't let anyone tell you to "give Trump a chance"; he's had a chance to talk to us ad nauseam for 12 months and he's given us a stream of consciousness of authoritarianism and hate.

Nov 18: Step 5/1535 (days until Jan 20, 2020): Call your congresspeople again.

Bookmark this list. (thanks to Stacey for bringing it to my attention.) Do the Weekly Call to Action.

B-side of this post: don't get distracted arguing about exactly what are all the problems with a Trump presidency and how big each one is. In particular, stop arguing how racist Trump himself is or isn't. Like this.
Trump's certainly got a real racist campaign. Is it 60/100 or 95/100 racist? Is he a 58% racist populist who mistakenly attracted David Duke and the KKK, or a 99% racist who's cloaking his words until he can finally ban all Muslims? Who cares! Bouie's right to say that racism and economic populism are intertwined, so the simple "well, we're with him on the jobs, but not on the racism" is a nice sentiment but doesn't make a ton of sense.
Agree with this. But don't let it stop you! Trump is a disaster in so many ways! And while you've been arguing about who gets a scarlet R stitched on their shirt, dude's nominating this guy  for National Security Advisor (in addition to the rest of these ding dongs), straight-up making up facts, and one of his people has threatened to criminalize any kinda mean ol' protest that stops us from the sacred act of shopping
More at SSC

C-side of this post: These next four years are going to demand holding a lot of balances in your mind and body. You're going to have to be angry enough to take action, but not so depressed that you shut down. You're going to have to be outraged along with black/hispanic/Muslim/female/LGBT friends, while not blowing up at white/white/Christianish/male/straight friends who are still learning and saying stuff that's on the right track but sorta missing a point. Patient and educating, and not patronizing. Confident enough to take action, but open to learning from people with more lived experience than you. It'll be emotionally hard work. Make sure you have the support you need, and be kind to those who are fighting the same fight in a slightly different way than you.
Ok, get back to it. Did you call your congresspeople yet?

Nov 19 Step 6/1535: back the ACLU.

I guess the congresspeople are out of the office today. I'm wondering what's the best thing to do on weekends - send them emails/website messages? do they even read those?
In the meantime, the ACLU does good work, and will be ever more necessary as our civil rights (and especially more marginalized people's) become more infringed under the autocrat-elect.
I'm recurring-donating. Give 'em what you can. If you're my facebook friend, you can probably afford another recurring donation. (don't worry, this won't become a habit.)

Nov 20: Step 7. Folks, we're almost 0.5% of the way there.

Here's a concrete thing you can do today: Trump's got a survey about what we want him to prioritize in his first 100 days. Naturally, most of the options are terrible. But if you vote "Not Important" on most of them and "Highly Important" on the couple semi-palatable ones, maybe he'll get busy with some medium-bad (or maybe even good) things and hold off on doing the worst of the worst? Here's the ones that to me sound not-terrible on their face: 9, 12, 20, 25, 26. If you want to stretch, 5 and 6 maybe wouldn't be as awful as immediately.
(My reasoning, which you can skip if you want: 9 and 20. Congressional term limits and bans on then becoming lobbyists for 5 years - sounds fine to me? 12. Deducting childcare and eldercare from taxes - like, I don't really like complicating the tax code _even more_ to do what we want, but it seems harmless enough. 25 and 26. Sure, help vets. Guess we can all agree on that. 5. his tax plan is basically "a lil tax cut for the middle class and a big tax cut for the rich like me" but seriously, get him busy with taxes and not banning Muslims. 6. "infrastructure" probably means "more roads for more cars", but like it might not?)
Thanks to Cole for pointing this out to me. Meta-question coming (in a separate post): should I make this series of "daily things to do" a blog or something more permanent?

Nov 20 Would you like me to start a daily blog of something you can do to fight Trump?

I've been posting for a week now, every day, a little step you can actually do. Emphasis on: action, kinda-quick things, specificity to my social circle (so like I'll post particularly PA and CA congresspeople), contribution from y'all, 80/20 benefit kind of things, large number of people doing a little bit things.
I'm thinking about making it a blog or other daily thing to keep that WTF fire going after our initial anger subsides.
Questions for you, and you can respond in comments or emoji/reactions (edit: oh hell you can only do one reaction, whoops, I'll try to edit descriptions so reaction-responses make sense. edit edit: "like" is overloaded - you might just read the first sentence and hit "like" - so now "I like this but I'm not sure if I'd subscribe" = "haha"):
- do you think I should do this, but you're not sure if you'd subscribe? (do a "haha" if so.)
- do you think I should do this, and you would subscribe? (do a "heart" if so.)
- blog or daily email newsletter?
- what platform? I think the couple of quick features I'd like are the ability to queue up posts (in case I'm traveling or something) and easily crosspost to facebook.
- should I not do this because it's obnoxious or self-aggrandizing? (feel free to do an "angry"/"sad" if so; promise not to look at who posted those, and if I accidentally see them, I honestly value your input.) I want to keep my ego very much out of this, and I'd even make it fully anonymous, unless my identity can help (b/c I know y'all, or because of my personal privilege and connections w/ privileged people).
- do you think this is a great idea, and you'd like to be part of a small "feedback group" where I'd bug you more often for help making little decisions about details of it? (do a "wow" if so; "heart" is in that case implied.)

Nov 21: 8/1535. Ok, your daily Thing To Do, and sorry it's so late: call again about the barrage of conflict-of-interest scandals.

What to do: pick three people from this list:
I called Mike Turner (OH) (937) 225-2843
Brendan Boyle (PA) (215) 517-6572
Ted Lieu (CA) (323) 651-1040
(I would say call the House Oversight Committee 202-225-5074 and Rep Jason Chaffetz at (801) 851-2500 but their voice mails are full. Which outrages me on a different level, of course.)
I'm ---- ----- , a constituent calling to let the commitee know that I support Rep. Elijah Cummings's call for a bipartisan review of Trump's “financial arrangements” for potential conflicts of interest before he’s sworn in as president. Please ask Chairman Chaffetz to immediately begin conducting a review to ensure that President-elect Trump does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interests. I want the Committee to make sure Trump and his advisors comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements.
(end script, but you can continue if you want.)
More context: Trump, who campaigned on "draining the swamp" and "crooked Hillary", either doesn't know or doesn't care about conflicts of interest between being president and running his business. In the last week, he's:
- Telling foreign diplomats to stay at his hotel
- Badgering Argentina to let him build a hotel
- Sending his business to his kids in a not-blind-trust, while his kids are on his transition team
- Meeting with Indian business partners about expanding his business, with his kids
This is defunct-government kleptocracy stuff.
Bonus points: call Paul Ryan 202-225-3031, press 2 for the Obamacare poll, and listen to a long spiel, and press 1 to say you support Obamacare.
(It's a real thing... AND the bill he's trying to pass to stop Obamacare also freezes funding to Planned Parenthood for a year. h/t Mark T. Tomczak)

Nov 22: 9/1535. Call your reps again. Protest Trump's transition team.

Remember how "Trump might not be that bad, because he'll surround himself with the best people?" Not at all happening.
Call your reps.
Dianne Feinstein (415) 393-0707
Barbara Boxer (510) 286-8537
Nancy Pelosi (415) 556-4862
Bob Casey (412) 803-7370
Pat Toomey (412) 803-3501
Michael Doyle (412) 390-1499
(Reading from elsewhere? let me know.)
I made up this script myself.
"I am calling to ask that Rep/Sen _______ refuse to work with the Trump transition team until Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions are removed from his staff.
Steve Bannon is a white supremacist who runs a fake news site.
Jeff Sessions is the most virulently anti-immigrant and anti-civil-rights congressperson, and immigrants are what make our country great.
In addition, we'd like to oppose the nepotism and brashness that's leading Trump to nominate Mike Pompeo and Michael Flynn. They're both unqualified and dangerous.
(for senators) Finally, I'm asking you to sign on to Jeff Merkley's letter against Bannon.
More on Sessions
I remember reading an article about why concretely Pompeo and Flynn are train wrecks, but I don't remember details well enough to put em in the script. Let me know if you do.

Nov 23: 10/1535: ok bear with me, I don't think this is too foil-hat, but let me know

Please take one minute and call/email the DOJ - Department of Justice: 1-800-253-3931 (press 5) or 202-353-1555 (leave message) or email: and tell them to audit the vote.
Like, it's _possible_ (I'd give it 1%?) the election was hacked. (sci-fi stuff? well... we've had Russian hackers openly influencing the election (Podesta) already.) Halderman's article below explains how.
And if it were, the results are enormous. So call it a low (but not ultra-low) probability, high-effect action. (and like, auditing voting results isn't super expensive. why not?)
There'd be a huge fit if it turns out Clinton actually won and Trump isn't inaugurated. Riots. But I'd rather have riots now than four years of insanity.
(does the DOJ care? uh, that's unclear too.)

Nov 24 It's now officially thanksgiving, so I'll post 11/1535.

It's a day you might spend with family and/or friends. That's cool. Your congresspeople will not be at work, so no need to call. Instead, take this opportunity to:
- listen to "that uncle", if you get a chance. You can listen thoroughly without agreeing. Listen harder. Listen for their feelings. They don't honestly care about Benghazi or private emails. Listen for what's making them say that, and try to understand that.
- but do not give in, and do not agree! Trump is not normal. Trump is not "just another president" you disagree with, as everyone in your life until now has been. After you listened _so hard_, they will do some listening to you. (usually.) They will probably respect some of the arguments you make, especially if you can distance from "politics as usual." (Make it clear that you'd swap for a Romney or McCain in a heartbeat.)
- and, like, take a break a bit? We're in it for the long haul, not the sprint, so the occasional breather is probably healthy.

Nov 25 DAY 12 OF 1535 days until we get sane again: Call your reps again. 

Is it a holiday? I don't even know! Leave a message. (technically this post is for Friday but I'll be gone most of the day so I'm posting early.)
First, your House rep. Urge them to support and speak out about Katherine Clark's HR 6340, the Presidential Accountability Act. Makes the President and VP stop doing business that they would benefit from while in office (as is the case for every other elected official.)
SF: Nancy Pelosi (415) 556-4862
PGH: Michael Doyle (412) 390-1499
While you're at it, get in a jab on Jeff Sessions. Because he's the gosh dang worst: “As sworn testimony revealed, Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as “un-American” and “Communist inspired.” He had joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “O.K.” until he discovered some of its members smoked pot, and had accused a white attorney who supported voting rights of being a race traitor.”
Then call your senators and tell them to oppose Sessions too.
"I'm (name), and I'm calling to ask (senator's name) to denounce and oppose the appointment of Jeff Sessions, because he's a terribly racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-civil-rights congressperson."
Dianne Feinstein (415) 393-0707
Barbara Boxer (510) 286-8537
Bob Casey (412) 803-7370
Pat Toomey (412) 803-3501
Interested to do more, maybe call the following senators to oppose Sessions too? They're on the Judiciary committee but not terribly pro Trump.
Senator Jeff Flake (R — AZ): (202) 224–4521
Senator Lindsey Graham (R — SC): (202) 224–5972
Senator Michael S. Lee (R — UT): (202) 224–5444
Finally, bonus points (unlikely to matter but super easy), click all these

Nov 26 Hey! Here is a thing to do for day 13/1535.

The simplest What To Do:
Call your senators
Dianne Feinstein (415) 393-0707
Barbara Boxer (510) 286-8537
Bob Casey (412) 803-7370
Pat Toomey (412) 803-3501
And tell them to pass an omnibus appropriations bill instead of a continuing resolution. This will ensure the funding for at least another year for important programs like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Family Violence Prevention Services Act (FVPSA) and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).
But much more context in the thorough post below. Thanks to whoever brought it to my attention, and sorry I don't remember who it was! I will keep better track of your recommendations in the future.

Nov 27 ok y'all, 14/1535: Call about Trump appointees.

This time, shout out Bannon again, because dude definitely has to go. Another person to suggest your reps fight is Kris Kobach, hard-line anti-immigrant lawyer who keeps writing laws that get struck down as unconstitutional. He's not up for any job in particular yet but Trump's been meeting with him, so look out.

Nov 28

ello friends. it is day 15/1535 until Jan 20, 2021. (I'm not sure if my math is quite right.)
Today's task: give Foster Campbell some money. (Link below.)
He is the democrat senate candidate in Louisiana, and they're having a special runoff election in 2 weeks. If he wins, senate is 51R-49D. If not, it's 52-48. 51-49 means we only need to get two Republicans to change their mind on any ridiculous Trump thing, which is way easier than getting three.
If you want me to make even one more decision for you: give him $25. (If that is too much, no worries, give less.) I already gave him some money but I today gave him some more money.
Anyway, it's day 15/1535. I'm not sure if my math is quite right, but we are about 1% of the way there. It's like being at mile 0.26 of the marathon. We have a long way to go, but celebrate getting this far.

Nov 29 16/1535: it's Conflict Of Interest Day!

What to do:
1. email,,
Subject: Support Sen. Warren's Audit
Dear Ms. Siggerud and Mr. Minelli,
My name is (name), I'm a US citizen (or omit if appropriate; I don't know if this matters but I figure it must?), and I'm writing in support of Senator Elizabeth Warren's request for an audit of our incoming President Elect's finances, to prohibit conflicts of interest that would prevent him from carrying out the responsibilities of the office without corrupt influence.
Thank you very much,
2. That was just an email, you're not getting off that easily. Pick someone on this list: (I picked Flake. I think I'm gonna get to be good buddies with Flake.) and say:
My name is [NAME] and I am calling to let the Senate Foreign Relations Committee know that I support Senator Cardin’s resolution to ensure that our president-elect’s foreign dealings do not violate the US Constitution. Trump’s financial dealings could pose a threat to our national security.
3. Call the House Judiciary Committee at (202)225-3951 and say:
Hi, my name is [NAME]. I'm calling to express my strong concern about President-Elect Trump's many conflicts of interest. House Bill 6340 would require him to address these conflicts of interest. I strongly urge you to support this bill. Thank you.
4. pat yourself on the back and post a Haha or a comment! you have taken one tiny step towards fighting the ridiculous corruption that steps into the white house when Trump takes office. (Again, this is not a Republicans vs Democrats thing. Trump is _already_ trying to boost his hotels with the presidency, the kind of thing that happens in undeveloped kleptocracies. It's never been like this here.)
Shout out to Stacey K's Weekly Calls group, Natalya from said group, and Rebecca Solnit.

Nov 29

hey, do you think mainstream culture imposes a double standard on whites, and puts us in impossible situations where anything we might say or do is wrong?
if so, I propose a trade for you: read this, by a much better writer than me:
and I'll read an article of your choice.

Nov 30 17/1535: Two things.

1. ah geez keep calling about all the frickin trump appointees. today, the following three:
Tom Price, Sec of Health:…
Steven Mnuchin, Sec of Treasury.…/steven-mnuchin-foreclosure-mach…
Betsy DeVos:…/tell-your-senator-t…/
Your Senators:
Dianne Feinstein (415) 393-0707
Barbara Boxer (510) 286-8537
Bob Casey (412) 803-7370
Pat Toomey (412) 803-3501
Script I just made up:
Hi, my name is (name) and I'm a constituent living in (city). I'd like to ask senator (X) to oppose Trump appointees Tom Price, Steven Mnuchin, and Betsy DeVos. Price consistently votes against women's rights and will lead to millions losing health coverage, Mnuchin is a Goldman Sachs banker who ran a foreclosure machine OneWest (which is particularly frustrating given Trump's promise to "drain the swamp"), and DeVos is an enemy of public education who will further defund our already-hurting public schools. Thanks.
2. Read (at least part of) this article by George Lakoff. (You may know him from his book "Don't think of an elephant.") If you only have a moment, jump to the end, where he provides three new terms we can converge on to discuss Trump smartly:
- Loser/Minority President
- Betrayer of Trust
- Corrupt
Republicans always (at least in my lifetime) do memes better than Democrats. (god, even just think of "crooked hillary", when by _any_ measure Trump himself is wayyyy more crooked.) We've got to start fighting back as smartly as they fight. Loser, Betrayer, and Corrupt are three solid memes that

Dec 1 18/1535: phone bank for Foster Campbell.

(the democrat Louisiana senator who's got a runoff election in 9 days, and who could tip the senate from "very very difficult to stop anything trump does ever" to "just very difficult".)
Try this link…/711064…/60a8ee7f/2092074282/VEsH/
and if we're lucky, it'll connect you to their campaign on this crazy online speed-dialing thing. Apparently you just do the talking and that's it. Seems like a super rapid-fire way to call a lot of people and maybe pick up a few votes. Just do it for 5 minutes.
If that link doesn't work, sign up on for "digital phone bank."
Disclaimer: I am sad to say that this is the first day I didn't (yet) do the thing I'm telling you all to do, because I don't have a phone, because of this dumb three week saga of companies failing at things. Long story. As soon as I get a new phone, though, I'll make up for it by doing 10 minutes.
Your moment of hope: it's no longer November 2016. November has been The Worst Month I can remember: we apparently elected a corrupt minority president, we got bedbugs, and to top it off I grew this awful mustache goatee thing for Movember. Shout out to all of you dealing with prostate cancer, or dealing with someone who has it; also, shout out to it not being the Worst Month anymore. Clean shaven again and looking to a better December.

Dec 2 19/1535: Gotta get up early tomorrow so I'm posting this one early. How about trying a letter to the editor?

For example, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer
or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Here's the crummy janky letter I came up with on the spot. I include this although it makes me cringe, in order to encourage you. You don't have to be a Shakespeare to write a letter. Just keep it short and not crazy. Today I tried out writing about corruption, because under Trump there'll be a lot of it.
Letter for the Plain Dealer
President-elect Trump will enter office with a monumental stream of conflicts of interest. As just two examples, he's got a $950M loan with the Bank of China and a party by the Kingdom of Bahrain at his hotel. In the meantime, he's not selling his business interests or putting them in a blind trust, he's giving them to his children.
I've lived in Cleveland most of my life and know that this city won't stand for this kind of corruption. Please call Sen. Portman at 216-522-7095 and Sen. Brown at 216-522-7272 and urge them to support Ben Cardin's resolution, "Urging Trump to Comply with Constitution by Truly Severing Relationship with Private Business", and the Presidential Accountability Act.

Dec 2

Finally got my phone back. Finally #krabbin again, for great justice.

Dec 3 20/1535 (early post for Saturday): Phone bank for Foster Campbell (Louisiana senator) again. 

Just another 5 minutes. I finally got a phone so I did it today. It's kind of hard, because I dislike bugging people, but kind of fun. The system handles a lot of the nitty gritty of dialing. OR if you really can't bring yourself to phone, donate another $5. Why today? Because it's the last day of early voting in Louisiana. (Why is there a gap between Early Voting and Actual Voting? beats me.)
Yeah, it's one tiny piece of one race, which is one tiny piece of the Senate. But it's something, and you're doing it today, and that's awesome. In addition, it's a tangible thing for a real race; enjoy it, we won't have that again for a while.
We're about due for a Call Your Reps again, but it's a weekend, and anyway I'm trying to figure out how best to contact your reps. I'm wondering if calling the ones who agree with you all the time is the best way to do it. Also trying to figure out if it matters if you call someone where you don't live. I guess your congresspeople are only supposed to listen to their constituents, but... unless they ask (and some do ask) how do they know?
Anyway, if any of you have ever worked in a congressperson's office, or know someone who has (besides Emily Ellsworth's excellent tweet-series going around), let me know.

Dec 4 21/1535. Call A Republican Congressperson Day!

Call Pat Toomey at (814) 453-3010 and urge him to pressure Trump to clean up his conflicts of interest, and oppose Donald McGahn in particular. McGahn is the recent appointee for White House Counsel, and one would think he'd be the one to keep Trump as minimally corrupt as possible, but if you read a bit about him, you'll understand why I'm dubious that will happen.
OTOH, call Rep Justin Amash ("a-mosh") (R-MI) at (616) 451-8383 and thank him for being one of the rare Republican dissenters who's not falling in line behind everything Trump does. He's been at least speaking up against Trump's more egregious mistakes. Thank him for speaking up about issues like Trump's conflicts of interest and not imposing arbitrary penalties on flag burning, and urge him to translate his tweets into action.
(and before you say it, yep, Amash has flaws! But he's doing one thing right, and that's a start.)
Link 1 Link 2
No scripts, you can go it alone!

Dec 5 22/1535: hey I made a mailing list. Go sign up.

Also made a website:
Daily conflict of interest mess: call General Services Administration Administrator Denise Roth at 202.501.0800 and Inspector General Carol Ochoa at 202.501.0450 to ask them to end their business relationship with Trump and his family, because of the $180 million lease he's got on the Old Post Office Pavilion.
(does this seem like small potatoes? like, what's $180 million when he's got the entire $trillions US budget to deal with? well, I figure, he's going to try to direct those trillions to increase his millions, and that's going to hurt us all.)
More info and a list that looks good to sign up for
bonus points: sign a petition

Dec 6 23/1535: We're gettin' into the weeds again, but...

Write a polite letter to a member of the electoral college that's pledged for Trump, and ask them not to vote for him. Conveniently, here's a list of the Pennsylvania electors and their addresses. Conveniently also, there's no law in PA against "faithless electors", so they can legally vote how they want.
For the ones with "" addresses, you can imagine they probably won't vote for Hillary. But perhaps you can appeal to them to vote for John Kasich or someone else. If we get them under 270, I guess the House decides who's president, and I mean a Kasich/Rubio/whoever presidency wouldn't be great, but it'd be better than this clown.
I just hand wrote three gosh darn letters, and it is a rough day when you've got me writing paper letters. Don't let me down here.
Bonus points: reserve tickets to Trump rallies so there are empty seats (More)
Also: sign up for the mailing list at!

Dec 7 24/1535: Climate day

First of all, sign up for this mailing list:
and get these posts as email. I'll be out of town for the weekend so might not facebook-post for a few days but I've got some good stuff queued up, so make sure to get the email to continue doing the thing.
Back to the main story:
One thing I want not to focus on is daily news blah. Especially in the Trump era, where he can tweet "Donuts are good!" and then the day's news is preempted by thinkpieces, polls, and hot takes about whether donuts are actually good. (Some recent examples include Hamilton and Air Force One.) We've got to stay on top of what's more important.
With that in mind, get back on the phone. Call your reps and ask them to promote this letter from 800 scientists and Scientific American asking Trump to take climate change seriously.
Or you can summarize:
- publicly acknowledge human-caused global warming is happening and is a big threat to avoid being the only world leader denying it
- promise not to renege on the Paris climate agreement

Dec 8

Another day, another KRABBY, bringing the spirit of Pittsburgh to SFO

Dec 9 25/1535: Phone bank for Foster Campbell again

Reminder: Louisiana has a funny election where there's one more runoff vote for senate on Dec 10. Foster Campbell, democrat, might win the last senate seat up for grabs. That would be a good thing.
Sign up for their mailing list, selecting "Digital phone bank", and you'll get an email with instructions (probably today but maybe tomorrow?). It's pretty easy and like kind of fun. Do it for 5 minutes, or 10.
(Want this as an email with links? Subscribe at
Dec 10
For the Rodriguez-Rozas-Botran wedding, or "Boda RRB", I figure an appropriate thing is to post a k(RR)a(B)y. Congrats Cristina y Juanma!

Dec 12 29/1535: wait Russia meddled with our friggin elections

ok, so the CIA says "yep it was Russia who leaked Hillary's campaign manager's emails" and Trump's like "I dunno, that CIA, they're probably biased."
I try to highlight things where I think the GOP and Dems should agree, and this seems like one of them. ("but you would say that, b/c you're a democrat" -- I kinda wish it was the Democrats who'd gone bonkers so I'd be more credible here. let's be clear: if Russia had gotten Hillary elected, that'd be just as terrifying.)
What do we do about this? I don't know, and that's part of the reason it took me so long to get out today's post. I think this is the most important news that came out over the weekend, but not super actionable.
I guess, call:
Sen Lindsay Graham (R-SC) (864) 250-1417
Sen John McCain (R-AZ) (520) 670-6334
Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (502) 582-6304
and say something like "Thanks for pointing out that it's important that Russia meddled in our elections. The influence of any other country in our most sacred of institutions should not be tolerated. Please continue to push Trump on this. Also, please reject Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil CEO and official friend of Russia, because his ties to Russia and Putin would have dangerous effects on our democracy."
Bonus points: Lamar Smith, chair of House Committee on Science etc, has a survey about "What should our priorities be?"
click "Other" and type "Climate change mitigation" (thanks Caitlin!)

Dec 13 30/1535: Michael Flynn, Security Advisor and Conspiracy Theorist

(reminder: if you want to get more of these in your email - and I may stop posting them on facebook at some point)
Anyway, Flynn is Trump's pick for National Security Advisor. He keeps spreading rumors of "Shariah Law" spreading throughout the US, which sounds scary but is absolutely false. More about the guy: seems ok with torture, friend of Russia, fired from the DIA.
(ok, I lied. if you read the first article I linked, turns out _his son_ is the worst. Flynn Jr is a fan of obnoxious conspiracy site Infowars, recently tweeted to spread rumors of Pizzagate, which led to someone shooting an assault rifle at a pizza place based on ridiculous conspiracy theories that Hillary and friends were running a child sex ring from said pizza place.) (seriously!) (the podcast Reply All has an entertaining recap of it) (Flynn Jr is no longer officially working with their transition team, though, so feel free to disregard this paragraph if that seems more fair.)

Flynn Jr's Pizzagate or Flynn Sr's Shariah, this kind of thing is particularly worrisome because believing in nutty conspiracy theories undercuts any other logical thinking. If you're Trump and your advisors are whispering how half of Florida and Texas and Michigan are all under Shariah law because of the creeping influence of "Radical Islamic Terror", how can you possibly make sane choices? How can you avoid being crummy to US Muslims and starting another war with ISIS or the brown-skinned enemy du jour?

Sadly, this position doesn't require Senate confirmation. Still, there's resistance to him, which I guess means something. Add to that resistance, I suppose, by calling your folks.

Dec 14: 32/1535: Become an Editor of Do The Thing

Hi friends! I'm noticing a problem in my research for Do The Thing: the well of actionable, useful, bipartisan-ish, easy-to-find things to do is only so deep. This is likely because I'm trying to read all the news, so I don't get much depth into any particular issue. I could use your help to develop that depth.
You can help by becoming a co-editor. This would mean:
You take one day of the week and one big issue. (for example: corruption, authoritarianism, climate change, racial justice, women's rights, international relations, you name it.)
We all get access to this Mailchimp account and you log in whenever and post one thing a week.
Try to follow the guidelines on the website under "What's in a Do The Thing email" but even those are just guidelines. (and you're not limited to the topic you pick.)
For your weekly time commitment, I'm thinking no more than 2 hours, and it's totally whenever you have spare time and an internet connection. Plus, if it turns out you can't do it after a couple months, no worries, we just find a replacement.
We've got over 62 people in 15 states subscribed and doing stuff now, and it keeps steadily growing. Help keep this group's awesome momentum going and level up to a Level 2 Activist yourself.
(still could use two more, and most topic areas are pretty open!)

Dec 17

Hey I guess install this browser extension to help stop fake news a little bit. Not gonna fix the problem but it seems likely to help sort of.
(By the way, did I mention sign up for

Dec 19

On a less political note, I finished a new bike. Details
But remember: everything in our government is still on fire! Sign up for this:
(now written by not just me but also 7 people who are smarter and better writers than me)

Dec 20 We wish you a KRABBY Christmas

Dec 21 Scene: in airport, killing time.

Dan: oh there's a Brookstone, we can go look at some useless stuff!
Tati: what's a Brookstone? What do they sell?
Dan: like I said, useless stuff.
Tati: like what?

Dec 22

Trump again, and I'm tryin' to be bipartisan again. (I'm a lefty and I'm worried that he's gonna kill Obamacare and our public schools and etc., but whatever.)
I'm more worried about World War 3.
He could bungle China into war (seeing as his current stance is "who needs diplomacy?"), allow another 9/11 ("who needs intelligence briefings?"), bungle Iran into war (seeing as he and his folks all hate anything less than bullying Iran into submission), or let the next Russian land grab turn into a NATO-splitting war. If/when any of those happen, please don't fall for it.
(how'd I do on bipartisan? does it matter? is anyone who disagrees listening?)

Dec 27

Ok, so I'm all out of Trump voters on my newsfeed, it seems, so back to rallying our friends instead of trying to convince the few outliers.
The first thing I'm most afraid of in Trump's America is blundering into World War 3. But the second thing I'm most afraid of is a broad campaign of moving goalposts. Remember: it wasn't Obama causing "gridlock." A "climate contrarian" is a climate change denier. The "alt-right" are white supremacists. We are all in bubbles, not just one "liberal bubble." Those of us who sometimes pay four dollars for coffee are not the "elites."
But Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says it better than me. Read her article instead.

Dec 28

Feeling Beatley today. Also feeling, as always, KRABBY.

Dec 31 Semi-contrarian news sources: who do you like?

I like the following:
The Economist, which I just started Paying Dollars For, which seems centrist to the point of boring, sometimes mildly conservative, sometimes what we in the US would call "liberal" and what most of Europe would call "centrist."
Slate Star Codex, the wonderful blog of Scott Alexander, who talks about important issues in depth AND understands statistics. Sometimes I disagree with him. Sometimes I start off disagreeing with him and end up agreeing with him! Or at least, realizing that I might be wrong. Here's a sampler on vouchers vs public schools. SSC reminds me that, yeah, I generally believe the standard US liberal position on most things. But some things very strongly (climate change is real and we should work hard to stop it now) and some things kinda weakly (having good, well-funded public schools seems like the best way? but I am not very sure of that.)
Chris Arnade at the Guardian:
Guy gives a great view into "the forgotten corners of the US", where it did indeed seem like America needed to be "made great again."
I like to read sources like this. I am not inclined to just "read Breitbart or Fox or some right wing news so you know what the right wing is feeling", because, I mean, you won't learn what I'm thinking by reading Daily Kos. But if you've got some smart news sources that make you occasionally think "yeah, huh, maybe I'm wrong here", let me know. (bonus points if they're RSS-able!)

Jan 3

The only thing making me hopeful this morning is turning on facebook and seeing that you all are sharing this too:
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a series of unsexy but ruthlessly effective bureaucratic maneuvers.
(by the way CALL YOUR HOUSE REP NOW and tell them to vote against this abomination: "My name is (name) and I live in your district in zip code (zip) and I want Rep (name) to vote against the Goodlatte (pronounced "good-let") amendment, because it would weaken ethics oversight in the house. Independent watchdog groups have warned against this move, and we need to keep an independent Office of Congressional Ethics." or make your own script.)
(find your rep:

Jan 3

Hey SFers. These guys seem to have their stuff together. And they're running for Democratic party delegates, and we go vote on Sunday morning at 10am in the Mission. And it's a tiny lil election so nobody will be there. But I'll be there at 10. Or maybe like 10:30. Let me know if you can join me!

Jan 3

Ok, 2017! Starting off strong!
There are still many things bad about this story (Trump getting credit for saving the OCE when he really said "guys let's gut the OCE later", for one), but I'm counting this, where Americans rose up en masse and said "yes we like ethics and will fight corruption," as a good sign.
We did this! If you "wasted" an hour this morning calling a bunch of congressers, you did this! (I know I did.) Calling your people works; keep it up!
(and subscribe to - now with 84% less me and 600% more wonderful other people posting!)

Jan 7

First of all, this is the best (warning: it is loud, and the best):
Second of all, a topical KRABBY.

Jan 9

Trump's team is causing ethical problems. Again.
This time they did this:
- nominate a bunch of rich people for cabinet (most of whom haven't served any government office before)
- not send all the required disclosure forms to the Office of Government Ethics
- try to rush through confirmation hearings before the OGE can properly vet them
This is unprecedented. And if it sounds like procedural blahblah, these procedures are there for a reason. We wouldn't want to, for example, put in a Sec of Agriculture, and later find out that they own a large portion of Kraft or McDonald's. (or, more likely, find out they own a portion of some megafund that owns a chunk of some offshore bank which owns a chunk of some supplier to some company that owns a chunk of Kraft - point is, conflicts of interest are Bad, and we should know about them.)
Call your senators! If your senators are democrats, you might still call them anyway; you can also try the following, who were pretty friendly:
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) (770) 661-0999 (Senate Select Committee on Ethics chair)
Christopher Coons (D-DE) (302)736-5601 (SSCE vice-chair)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ) 602-840-1891 (I dunno, I've just been calling him a lot)
Each call takes literally less than ninety seconds. You can do 3 calls in 5 minutes. You can use the script in Sheila's post below. Do ittttttttt.
(More info)

Jan 9

also, hey: you are a person who goes to rallies now. you're a person who shows up, in person, to fight authoritarianism and corruption, to fight the downfall of our democracy, to fight for America to be better for all its people.
here is one: Bernie's hosting rallies for health care on Sunday. here is a page you can find the closest one. I'll be at SF city hall. See you there.
edit: and apparently one about climate change today at 5pm at Feinstein's office in downtown SF?
I'm a person who goes to rallies now, if only to be a warm body to boost counts of "N,000 people showed up to fight climate change denial."

Jan 9

Hey yo. Here right by Feinstein's SF office with the local folks, telling her to reject Tillerson, Pruitt, Zinke, and Perry.
Of *course* I have some misgivings: isn't Feinstein already against them? These signs yelling about "Big Oil" - when you say "Big (Noun)" I automatically think you're a nut, right? Should we actually ban fracking everywhere?
But, as one of my mom's co-workers would say, it's directionally right. Someone just said "we're going to be doing this a lot over the next 4 years." And that's what I'm here for. Step 437 of 73848858 for the resistance.

Jan 13

Havin' a change of mind on whether you should call reps who don't represent you. I guess the answer is no.
In addition to having a basically-zero effect, you might also be hurting locals by tying up the phone lines. If Senator Montana does a dumb thing, and I call Senator Montana, they will be polite and listen to me for my 30 seconds or whatever, and then hang up and do nothing. In the meantime, an actual Montanan might get a busy signal.
I know you guys have already been telling me this. Ok, I guess you're right. I think I didn't believe it because I didn't want to believe it. It seems so unfair that I can't do anything to influence Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, or really any republican congressperson, especially given how the Republican majorities are doing a ton of stuff that affects all of us. But I guess we should just try to affect them in different ways.
(or, maybe we should call them and just lie about our addresses? or bend the truth? that seems like it would come back to bite us. but I also don't want to be facing an election in four years, after the Republicans run rampant with voter suppression, abolishing ethics offices, etc, and going "well we can't possibly win any election ever again in our new one-party state, but at least I didn't call the wrong congressperson." eh. I'm leaning towards "don't do this", but I'd be interested in your opinions too.)

Jan 15

Here at a rally with Nancy Pelosi at SF city hall to ... Not take away millions of people's health care. Vote more - get out in the streets!
Edit to add hashtag: #ourfirststand

Jan 16

Ohio friends:
Sen Rob Portman (R) has been expressing doubts about repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA, aka Obamacare). Call him to tell him to keep it up, and fight repeal of the ACA. Tell your personal story (briefly) about how the ACA has helped you, if possible. (202) 224-3353
Your phone call matters. I could call him, but because I don't live in Ohio, my phone call doesn't matter. Please make this phone call in my place.
(please call even if you didn't like Obama. the ACA is not perfect, but if it is repealed, a lot of people will die; the GOP slogan is "repeal and replace", but they have no replacement in mind so they'll let you pay through the nose, or die, while they durdle about it forever.)

Jan 19

Hi friends in SF and nearby! I have to get some people for some studies in order to do a thesis and maybe graduate someday, so if you could help me out I'd really appreciate it. I will make it as convenient as possible for you. (As well as pay you $15, though I know your time is worth more than that, but it's all I can pay :-P)
Do you like traveling, neighborhoods, and learning about new cities? Wish there was a better way to learn about a place before visiting it?
Give us feedback on our Neighborhood Guides website and earn $15 for 1 hour. This site aims to bring together social media, photos, maps, and statistics to help you get a sense of a neighborhood before you visit.
Book a session here: (link) or contact Dan at (email).
This site is being created as part of research in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Participants must be at least 18 years old.

Jan 19

also if any of you need an android phone, I've got a Nexus 5x I'm looking to sell. (it broke, I sent it for repairs figuring it wouldn't get fixed... and then they fixed it 2 months later, but I had already bought a new phone.) let's say $150.

Jan 21

SF friends: if you are looking for friends to march with, Tati and I are meeting at Four Barrel coffee (14th and Valencia) at ~4, leaving around 4:30, to catch the end of the rally/start of the march. Join us!
(I will have my phone but can't rely on having cell service, so apologies in advance if I don't respond)

Jan 21

So cool to see everyone marching, here and in other cities all over Facebook today. We ARE the majority, and this is the kind of stuff we need to do.
"The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice, even if you sometimes get these nasty power grabs from corrupt goons." - MLK, or something

Jan 22

Trump's main strategy is "just lie." It's important that we recognize this and call it as such.
And it's important to pull out completely-verifiable claims and thoroughly debunk them, so that we have a baseline estimate of who we can trust: not the president. Especially if it becomes a battle of "the press vs. the prez" - Trump actively wants you to mistrust the press, but they are way more reliable than he is.
That's why estimates of crowd sizes matter. (Politifact)
Don't all politicians lie? Sure, but to a different extent. If Obama said something, we could assume that it's, eh, half true. If Trump says something, our baseline assumption should be that it's false. Not "semi-weaselly political spin"; _completely false_.
(by taking medians of their fact-checked statements.)
Why bother now? Why not wait until it's a lie that matters?
See Klein's post, and this.

Jan 22

A SKRUB is a KRAB who thinks he's fab

Jan 25

Hey! I only know a couple people in these states, but Cheryl Saffles and Jonathan II are, and you probably know better than I do what's wrong with DeVos - so get all y'all's friends and call this guy:
Richard Burr (NC) 336.631.5125..&..202.224.3154..&.. 910.251.1058..&..828.350.2437
(and just say "I hope Senator Burr will vote no on Betsy DeVos.")
More info:
We are 3 votes away from denying confirmation to Betsy DeVos!!!
If you live in any of these states, or know someone who does, *please please please* call your Senators. If it's busy, keep trying, because phone calls are the most effective.
Susan Collins (ME) 207.622.8414..&..202.224.2523
Lamar Alexander (TN) 615.736.5129..&..202.224.4944
Lisa Murkowski (AK) 907.586.7277..&..202.224.6665
Johnny Isakson (GA) 770.661.0999..&..202.224.3643
Orrin Hatch (UT) 801.524.4380..&..202.224.5251
Richard Burr (NC) 336.631.5125..&..202.224.3154..&.. 910.251.1058..&..828.350.2437
Michael Enzi (WY) 202.224.3424
Dr. Bill Cassidy (LA) 202.224.5824
Pat Roberts (KS) 202.224.4774
Tim Scott (SC) 202.224.6121
Rand Paul (KY) 202.224.4343
(Copy/paste rather than click the share button so more people see it)

Jan 29

Hell yes SF. Heard that everyone being detained was released. These great American people, including me, will keep protesting as long as this kind of thing keeps happening. #sfoprotest

Jan 31

Your moment of hope: even Fox News viewers are on our side. (See poll answers)
Liberals and conservatives both: this is Bannon and Trump vs all of us.


ok gosh this was exhausting. not planning on doing this regularly, but I thought it was interesting to look through.