Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Who, Me?

(Originally published Wednesday, September 17, 2008 on another blog. Slightly updated here.)

There seems to be a lack of individual responsibility around these days. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe it's always been this way. Probably. Some things I don't notice so good, but I think I'm right on this one.

I've always been surprised by how lazy and opportunistic people are. Maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm not as bright as I've thought, or maybe I just haven't caught on yet to the true meaning of life. Something like that. I haven't caught on to massive sloth and grabbing what's easy. home.

I noticed during job interviews, or even worse, while on the job, that I scared people when I told them I stood 100% behind my work. Don't know why. That seems like a good characteristic to me, but it's never flown. People get spooked. Someone once asked me if I carry a gun.

Maybe a lot of them are scared to see someone care. Most of my working life was in state government, where, when you swing through the trees, you see a lot of sleepy apes. The entire point of a bureaucrat's life is not to do anything. If you do anything you can be blamed, but you can never be blamed for doing nothing. Everyone in that kind of environment understands the idea of making decisions judiciously. Without question. I.e., doing nothing.

That's why it can take a year to get a stapler unless you steal one from a desk that's just been vacated.

That world works that way because there is never a positive incentive. There is no profit sharing. No bonuses. You don't get big stock options if you bet your job and a lot of company resources on a bold gamble. There is none of that, only the opposite.

Negative incentives.

What is, is. The status quo is the highest good. Muck up and the only option is punishment. Do well and you mess up the status quo. The only option is punishment. Keeping up appearances is the highest good.

I've worked with people who were demoted and moved across town into jobs they knew nothing about only because they happened to work for someone else who lost a turf war. I've seen a talented and experienced programmer given a desk and chair and nothing else, expected to sit there until he gave up and quit, only because he once spoke the truth. I know someone who, as a project manager whose project failed, was given a promotion because she followed the rules as she drove the project into the ground.

Henry Shires in original tarptent.

No change, no gain. No gain, no pain. A small promotion is about the best you can get, and failure restores a quiet, enduring balance to a bureaucrat's life. A few dollars more a month from a promotion seems like a positive incentive but it's really more of a threat. You have to work harder to keep up appearances, so maybe it's not a good thing to get. And you still have to show up every day for decades until they finally have to turn you loose. No matter who you are, how good you are, if you play in this system you weather and get worn down to the same level as everyone else. You want only to get through today, and live long enough to retire. Nothing more. Trying to actually do something only causes confusion and pain.

I've been a member of two Meetup groups based around web technology. I just learned today that the second one has now also failed. There are 71 members and only nine or 10 have shown up at meetings. The two organizers have been doing the presentations and the rest have been sitting there. People keep joining. And not showing up.

So easy. So clean.

I sort of know a web developer who lost his job when the big bust came a few years back. Henry Shires. In 1999 he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, using a shelter he made himself. He did it because he wanted to. He didn't sit around waiting for someone to ask, or to give orders. He needed to do the hike for personal reasons, so he did. To help he designed a shelter that was sort of like a tent and sort of like a tarp.

Later he got into web development. I don't know much about this part of his story, but having talked to him a time or two I heard that he lost his job. It was bad all over then. Happened to lots.

Original tarptent.

Sometime later, after he'd posted his original tarptent plans, then updated them with a new model or two (all free information for the taking), I found that he was in business. Making and selling tarptents.

Now he's one of the big names in the ultralight cottage industry class. Sounds like damning with faint praise but it's really praising with no damns at all. This is tough work, in a small market, and now he has a worldwide clientele and a reputation to go with it.

This is what personal responsibility is about.

First he had a dream, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. And he did it.

Then he had a job, and then didn't.

Then he created a business and made it work.

This is real web develpment. Henry Shires had a stake in it. He had something to gain. Web development now isn't something for his resume. It is a vehicle for his business. He had a reason to work with that, which was to develop his business, because he liked hiking and liked tarptents. So he took on the responsibility of it all. It gave him a payback. Not like what you get when you decide to become a member of an anonymous group.

Not a big story at all, but nice. Not like clicking a link on a web page and joining a group and never showing up. First Henry showed up at life and then the group joined him.

Now if only I could be so smart.



The Olympia Web Design Meetup Group
The original Tarptent plans


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Me? Still planning to eat my weight in caremel nibbles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Definitions: Titanium

(1) Titanium is... The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream? (Nope. That was Titania. Dang.)

(2) Titanium is... Proof that you've spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group, extended family, city, state, province, country, continent, planet. (Hmmm...ah...well...)

(3) Titanium is... Proof that you're trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let's hope you can dress the part. (Closer. We're getting closer...)

(4) Titanium is... A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as "amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces."

No, it isn't. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?

Titanium is a metal, yes. And titanium is light, compared to uranium. But not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces (or even worse, if you are what they call a gram weenie), and can gag down cold, slimy, tasteless suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you're obsessive about ounces (or grams) and also about price, and if you like to compare the weights of your tools to the weights of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has nearly all of steel's strength, which is good, while aluminum is a whole 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel's strength (Spot the trend here?), which is plenty-nuff for a cook pot, to use the technical term.

True, titanium doesn't ding or dent very easily (because it is tough, and that is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays more prettier longer). Since titanium has that toughness, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs (even if it's made of uranium), which is the real advantage of titanium, the toughness.

But if you just want a pot to cook in and you don't care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is while still caring about how much it costs, then aluminum is the way to go. Sure, you sort of do care about how tough a pot is and so on, kinda, and you may also think a bit about how beat up it's going to look eventually, in a few years. Or maybe not. Your call, eh?

Titanium considered only as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum. Those who own titanium doodads tend feel smarter than the rest of us because they can afford to, and because titanium tends to keep its manufactured shine longer. OK.

Then again, a lot of people who feel that way don't go backpacking anyhow, because if they went backpacking they would get their clothes dirty and they would get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, squeaky-clean, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that. Even if you're a woman who likes to wear aftershave.

So, titanium is really for people who don't ever want to sweat or walk uphill or discover that bugs are attracted to them.


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Me? Still dusting my rust.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with. — The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In addition to The Lord of the Rings, and without all the tedious walking associated with that, there is another book about a long journey, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The BBC (also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation) did an adaptation of this second book as well. In fact, in the case of HHGTTG, the radio version preceded the novel.

I first heard about it in 1980, when the book came out. Douglas Adams, being interviewed, said that the idea came to him while drunk one night, lying on his back in a campground, staring up at the starry sky, in the middle of a hitchhiking trip around Europe.

I bought a copy.

Within a year or so I managed to capture the broadcast from one radio station or another. Eventually tapes went extinct, and my tape deck died too. It was all gone. I missed it.

One day last year I did some searching around and located the series stored at For some reason. Adams died, so it's not like grabbing a free copy from there is going to hurt him, but the original link is now dead, probably for copyright violation. Luckily for you, if you're quick enough, there is an alternate link that still works.

For now...

And there is some info on Wikipedia too (there always is):

Thumbs up then, and carry on.

P.S. It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. — Douglas Adams


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Me? Been chasing my tail a lot the last few days. (It's fun!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Fly-B-Gone Hike Wear

Bite Me Not freedom stripes.

There is good fly news for hikers, especially felons.

You know how it is when they wake you from a sound sleep and say it's time for you to go? And then they turn you loose in that striped shirt and matching pants? And then everybody points at you? Hey.


But pretty soon now you can scram out of the city, take to the trails, and fit right in. Because the smart backpackers will all be dressed like you, in black and white stripes.

Sure, it's still not great. You go from living in a cage to living like a stray cat, but stray cats get to run around, and they don't get questioned about what they're up to every place they go, or have to endure any of that rude pointing.

But there has been another long-standing problem for backpackers. Flies.


Right. Flies.

You didn't see all that many in jail, but if you start living on the trail you find out pretty quick what hell is. Oh, boy. Flies.

All over.

In your hair, in your eyes, in your food, up your nose, your pants, your shirt. Everywhere. But not if you're dressed right. Not any more.

Because ClegWear, the first name in prison garb, is branching out to hiking clothes.

Why not those cute little white tennis dresses or something?


Because ClegWear figures that if they can sell to trail rats they have it made. Because ClegWear has a secret weapon for backpacking clothing. Stripes. Which they're already really good at.

And they call this new stuff Fly-B-Gone Hike Wear™.

Hikers are known for dirt, dust, sweat, body odor, hair grease, food stains, hanging boogers, and persistent slovenliness, all of which make them just about irresistible to any and all flying things with biting parts.

But ClegWear's purely scientific research using painted wooden decoy horses and expendable test hamsters has resulted in a unique collection of zebra-stripe clothing. Which is neat because (get this) stripes turn out to be naturally disorienting, and crosseyed flies don't bite.

Flies like adirondack black flies, anthomyiid flies, balloon flies, bat flies, black flies, blow flies, bot flies, breeze flies, buffalo gnats, clags, common gnats, crane flies, dark-winged fungus gnats, deer flies, dung flies, elephant flies, eye gnats, flesh flies, frit flies, fruit flies, fungus gnats, gadflies, gall midges, glegs, hair flies, hessian flies, horn flies, horse flies, house flies, hover flies, humpbacked flies, long-legged flies, louse flies, march flies, marsh flies, midges, moose-flies, mosquitoes, moth flies, no-see-ums, phantom midges, picture-winged flies, robber flies, rust flies, sand flies, shore flies, skippers, snipe flies, soldier flies, stable flies, stalk-eyed flies, stiletto flies, tachinid flies, thick-headed flies, tsetse flies, turkey gnats, vinegar flies, warble flies, white stockinged black flies, window flies, zimbs, and even punkies, which are probably the worst. Punkies.

When wearing stripes you'll see fewer of the vicious little hairy buggers but will still unfortunately find some in your beer. If you drink outdoors. Which is where you will be if you are backpacking and happen on some trail magic like a full cooler sitting on the trail with a sign saying "Free Beer For Hickers".

What you actually end up swallowing in such a situation is really a mix of beer and flies, like the well-known drosophila melanogaster (fruit beer fly). Plus the swarms of biting flies that followed you and finally caught up and don't like beer at all, just blood.

Sure, the best way to avoid flies in your beer is not to drink any beer, but that's a pretty shabby way to live, and does nothing about all that annoying predation which is slowly removing your hide.

But now, whether recently-freed from a cell with no other clothing options, or deliberately decked out in one of ClegWear's oh-so-affordable Fly-B-Gone™ hiking ensembles, the worst of your fly problems are mostly over.

The bad news is the beer flies. Which will still be happily sliding down your gullet.

And the ones you don't swallow? Once they catch beer smell on your breath they'll spend hours trying to get at it by flying up your nose or crawling between your lips, and, being completely brainless and having no perspective whatsoever they will keep doing this a lot longer than you can be bothered to fight them off. And stripes won't help with that at all.

But it's still better in most ways than being lunch. And you got to have that beer, remember. And you can still wear your cute little white tennis dress in town, where it will actually do some good, if that's the sort of thing you call fun.


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Me? Still losing arguments with the cat. (I wish I had a cat.)

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Definitions: UDAAD


Aliens! We got 'em! Maybe! (UDAAD — UFO-Duction & Assimilation Anxiety Disorder)

UFO-Duction: Fear of being abducted by aliens while hiking. This is also called xenophobia, astrophobia, or the Supreme Suction of the Zeta Reticuli Abduction Attractor.

Here are some signs that you may be about to be an abductee (or already are one and were dropped back into your cage as a reject).

  • You can't account for lost time. Face it, you're a thru-hiker. How many thru-hikers carry a watch? Think about it.

  • Odd marks on your body. Scars, bug bites, singed spots. Any scabs you are unable to explain. You probably can't even remember where you got them.

  • Hearing spooky noises in the dark. Little scratching sounds. Sniffing noises. Sure, it could be woodrats, but... Indeed.

  • A feeling of being watched. Reported most often during deer hunting season. Is this you? Even when you're inside your tent?

  • Disorientation. You get up in the middle of the night to take a whiz and fall over some damn branch or other on the ground. How did that get there? Was it there when you went to bed? Really? Don't remember that? Not even a little? More to think about.

    OK then, so now it's morning, the sun is coming up, and you roll out of bed. Do you recognize the place? Do you get the feeling that you're always moving, never spending two nights in the same spot?

    Does every place look indistinct because you're never really sure where you are?

  • You saw something moving in the bushes and it either had tentacles, or legs, or claws, and it was gray or brown or some other color, and then it was gone. You went over there and couldn't find any tracks, but there was a strangely shaped turd on the ground. Sound familiar?

  • You have a compulsion to walk to another location, possibly one that is several hundred or even more than a thousand miles away, or more, or more, and you can't explain this in a way that everyday people understand. And when you get to your "destination", although you think you're finished, you begin daydreaming about doing it again. It proves impossible to scrub all the dirt out of your skin.

  • You have inexplicable medical issues. Bloating. Constant farting. Rampant nose hairs. Blisters on all toes. Your feet hurt. Your knees hurt. You stink. You are always hungry. You attract flies.

  • You have trouble sleeping. Either you have leg cramps, or nightmares about UFOs or about being devoured by animals with large black eyes who cannot speak your language.

    Or you have to get up six times to bleed your lizard and suspect that it was that quart of water you had just before bedtime, but you honestly can't remember if that was bedtime today or bedtime yesterday, or ever, and anyway you have to stop lying there thinking about it and get up and pee again. And then you hear those scratching sounds out in the darkness. Again.

    Or are they sniffing sounds? You reach for your teddy bear and it's not there. You begin to fear that you are surrounded by ravenous mice. Then one runs across your foot. You go back to bed where you can't sleep because you are thinking about this.

    Then something with bad breath licks your face.

See also: Alien Abduction (Woo!) Because once is never enough.


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Me? Recently spotted howling at a poster of the moon.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

FIYH (02 APR 2020 update)

Fire in Your Hand

Dave's Little Guide
to Ultralight


How you can hike lighter, hike better, hike
simpler, make your own stoves and have lots
of fun in the woods, either alone or with
friends (if you have any).

Featuring tips, stories and ravings from the
author and his imaginary friends and relatives.


Uncle Reinhold Pudzer, Citron Ella Schmelling,
Joe “Dirty Maggot” Periwinkle the thru-hiker,
and possibly some others too frightening to
mention, like Aunt Lydia Pudzer, who provides
frequent scoldings.

By Dave Sailer

Fire In Your Hand, the book, has its own blog.
Read it there.



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Was recently bitten by an aggressive cookie. Bit back. Now I have raisins in my teeth. It's always something.