Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A smattering of takeaways from a talk on disaster recovery

I went to a talk tonight on tangibly rebuilding after an International Disaster.  Some good takeaways for risk assessment anywhere, not just from a building/urban planning perspective.  After 20 minutes exalting the presenters and all their collective colleges and universities, making sure to carefully massacre each name, the presentations actually started.

Regarding preparation, for just about anything, "Be open to scales that you can't imagine."  In this case, while history and all your prediction technology shows earthquakes shouldn't be higher than 4.3 in a particular area, imagine if they were larger, and then plan for even larger.  This lesson can obviously be applied to any number of scenarios.  You have an event in a room with a capacity of 300.  You allow 500 people to RSVP, "knowing" that at least 40 percent won't turn up.  But what if they do?  What if your event is suddenly picked up by the local paper and 2000 show up?  Conversely, what if there is a freak storm, and you can't reschedule, and 30 people show up?  Do you have a contingency plan for a larger crowd?  Did you include the words "RSVP does not necessarily guarantee attendance" to mitigate angry persons turned away?  Do you have a way to broadcast over the internet to assist in either aforementioned scenario?

Another takeaway, "Compliance is better than enforcement."  In other words, it's better that the rules are followed without you needing to slap someone on the palm with a ruler, metaphorically or literally.  How do you get buy-in?  How do you, not only convince someone they have to do something, but that they want to do something?

Specific to this talk was convincing someone that your way was better.  How do you convince the people of Nepal, the people of Haiti, to change how they build their houses.  Households make decisions about their own risk based on their *perception* of their own risk.  Often they don't know there is a risk (there is only one way to build a house, so there are no options, therefore collapse is not a risk, it's an inevitability) or if they recognize the risk, they don't know what to do about it.  Or maybe they know what to do about it, but do not possess the socioeconomic means to mitigate said risk.

So you have to first convince a person there is a risk.  In this example, if they have no reason to know that there is another way to build, why should they believe you when you tell them there is?  Especially if you tell them the cost is going to be higher.  So now you have to convince them that, A:  there is another way, they don't have to just accept that their family are likely to die in an earthquake and B:  this is a priority.  That second part is likely going to be much harder than the first and involve a lot more psychology.  While you can use models and demonstrations to convince someone that there is a better way to build, how will you convince them that it should be a priority to do so, when they have only lived through one earthquake, when most people have the, "It couldn't happen again" mentality.

Another takeaway: organizational cooperation is like learning to dance together, even when you're dancing at different beats or to different songs entirely.  If you have to work with another person, if your office has to work with another office, if your entire multinational organization needs to work with another multinational organization, find out how they dance.  And share how you dance.  There is a lot said about cultural awareness, understanding, and appreciation.  But that doesn't just have to be about the cultures of another nation.  It can be the business culture of the other office.  A more relaxed management style versus a more rigid one.  Maybe there is someone leading the dance.  But maybe it's a matter of learning how to dance in the same space without taking someone's head off or knocking over a table of drinks.

Beer lovers

If that last video left you a little melancholy, I present Hipsters Love Beer.

I love beer.  I really do, and I'm really picky.  Which is kind of unfortunate.  So I mostly drink whiskey and cider unless there is something I have to try.  But I do try not to be a dick about it.  Maybe I should start trying...  "This really has a placenta quality" ...  "This would be great for sea world"  ...  "I can't even feel my appendix right now."

"Is he dark enough, enough to see your light"

Damien Rice is one of my favorite singer songwriters of all time.  I love his voice, I love his cadence, I love his lyrics.  Sometimes overtly dark and sexual, sometimes a little more veiled.  I was listening this morning to his older albums on shuffle and this song struck me.  Probably because it's relevant to more than one relationship in my life.  At parts I'm the singer and at parts I'm the person he sings to.  

This is a video of a recording at KCRW.  The sound is pretty great for a radio station recording, the video quality is pretty poor, but maybe that is appropriate.  The DJ jumps in at the last bit to jarringly remind you this was live radio, but it's still a great recording.  Lyrics below.

Well, I held you like a lover, happy hands
Your elbow in the appropriate place
And we ignored our others, happy plans
For that delicate look upon your face

Our bodies moved and hardened
Hurting parts of your garden
With no room for a pardon
In a place where no one knows what we have done

Do you come together ever with him?
And is he dark enough, enough to see your light?
And do you brush your teeth before you kiss?
Do you miss my smell?

And is he bold enough to take you on?
Do you feel like you belong?
And does he drive you wild or just mildly free?
What about me?

Well, you held me like a lover, sweaty hands
And my foot in the appropriate place
And we use cushions to cover, happy glands
In the mild issue of our disgrace

Our minds pressed and guarded
While our flesh disregarded
The lack of space for the light-hearted
In the boom that beats our drum

And I know I make you cry
I know sometimes you wanna die
But do you really feel alive without me?
If so, be free, if not, leave him for me
Before one of us has accidental babies
For we are in love

Do you come together ever with him?
And is he dark enough, enough to see your light?
And do you brush your teeth before you kiss?
Do you miss my smell?

And is he bold enough to take you on?
Do you feel like you belong?
And does he drive you wild or just mildly free?
What about me? What about me?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Life on a Shoestring

I had a terrible nightmare last night that I was trekking the Amazon with improper footwear...

We started off on a long metal raft.  Whooshing down the river.  No one fell off, which was an amazement.  You just laid on the 6inch thick metal panel and grabbed onto any bar you could.  For some reason I was wearing casual/dressy sandals.  Of course I lost one in the river.  We got to the put out, again, having lost no one.  And I realize I forgot my hiking boots.  So now I'm barefoot for this jungle trek.  So back on the raft.  Two hours later, I return to the put out only to see that I in fact had packed two pairs of Chacos that would have worked just fine.

Stress dreams.  That I don't have proper shoes for future potential life changes...and that I'm really bad at fully checking a situation before making decisions.  Send me your dreams, I'll read them.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dolly Parton - Just Because I'm A Woman

Prior to last weekend, I had been to NYC twice.  I came away with the opinion that it was a dirty, disease infested place with no redeeming qualities.  The first part mostly still stands.  But there are some redeeming qualities I found.

I had been thinking about giving NYC another shot, but by myself.  On my terms.  But it was just a thought kicking around the back of the ole skull.  One day, at the local hardware store, I ran into a Georgian man.  I grilled him about Georgian bread and his thoughts on the options in D.C.  He immediately rejected the possibility of finding a good one here and told me I had to go to NYC.  That thought kicking around got a little bigger.  Then Amtrak sent me a sale flyer to NYC.  So I jumped.  And I made a map of all (literally all) of the Georgian restaurants in NYC.  I picked an AirBnB somewhere in between the two main areas.  That was about all the planning I did.  I found a few gigs to catch if I had the time and I packed a change of clothes.

A shot from the train:

Somewhere in Brooklyn:

Veselka is a Ukrainian diner.  Excellent Borscht, though I can't vouch for the authenticity.

I had planed to go to a handful of Georgian spots.  I ended up going to two.  The first was the one the man at the hardware store suggested.  Oda House.  They had a list of about 8-10 Georgian breads.  I grabbed a friend and her boyfriend and we ordered 4 kinds.  

This is the Phenovani and another corn bread type one with walnut sauce.

Adjaruli with the egg

Megruli - Stuffed with cheese, topped with cheese.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  No.  It's amazing.

Manhattan Graffiti

"Don't worry, everything is going to be amazing."

Over Gowanus

Doughnut from Dough.  Not a lot in this part of Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy, but damn if this isn't the best doughnut I've ever had.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

invisible driver

Flying is not civilized.  I feel like at some point in our history it was.  It went from a very dangerous pipe dream to a standard mode of transportation.  As Drunk Uncle points out, people used to get dressed up to fly.  Now, it’s simply, how many bodies can we cram into this tin can.  Got a shoehorn?  We’ll fit one more. 

Trains.  Trains are the only easily assessable civilized method of transportation.  I might argue that a hot air balloon is a rather civilized method, but this is certainly not easily accessible.  Boats can be fairly civilized, assuming you have 2 weeks to get somewhere and your party does not fall victim to the latest stomach bug craze.  If you aren’t on an overcrowded train that requires you arrive or depart at some ungodly hour, it’s likely the most comfortable method to get to Aunt Sally’s or to see that band that will only play 3 shows a year and it’s in some fancy ass city you don’t live in. 

Often, you can easily claim two seats together.  Likely, you have some source of power for your all-important gadgets.  Turbulence may be more frequent, but hey!, you’re on the ground!  No one is telling you when you are allowed to use the bathroom.  No one asks you to take your shoes off, to check inside your hat, or to submit to superman’s x-ray underwear viewing machines.  You don’t have to buy tiny overpriced toiletries.  You don’t have to pay 7 dollars for a bottle of water.  You can bring whatever food and beverage you care to.  I imagine they wouldn't take kindly to putting out a bottle of Jack, but who knows.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I am trying to get rid of all my DVDs. I have maybe 20 still. That is probably 15 too many.

 DVDs and books.

 You should only keep those that you really plan to read/watch again. Otherwise, you are making your ability to enter witness protection quickly, very difficult. Also, surely if you liked a book/DVD, a friend would as well, so pass on the enjoyment. Double Mint Gum.

Monday, January 12, 2015

i was reminded today of an important text i read.  not an old text.  from 1999.  notes from what was likely a heavy drinking session rather than a formal meeting as the introduction would lead you to believe.

important words on travel from Daniel Kalder:


(Excerpts from the resolutions passed at the first international congress of Anti- Tourists
at the Shymkent Hotel, Shymkent, Kazakhstan, October 1999)

As the world has become smaller so its wonders have diminished. There is nothing
amazing about the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, or the Pyramids of Egypt. They
are as banal and familiar as the face of a Cornflakes Packet.

Consequently the true unknown frontiers lie elsewhere.

The duty of the traveller therefore is to open up new zones of experience. In our over
explored world these must of necessity be wastelands, black holes, and grim urban
blackspots: all the places which, ordinarily, people choose to avoid.

The only true voyagers, therefore, are anti- tourists. Following this logic we declare that:

The anti-tourist does not visit places that are in any way desirable.

The anti-tourist eschews comfort.

The anti-tourist embraces hunger and hallucinations and shit hotels.

The anti-tourist seeks locked doors and demolished buildings.

The anti-tourist scorns the bluster and bravado of the daredevil, who attempts to

penetrate danger zones such as Afghanistan. The only thing that lies behind this is

vanity and a desire to brag.

The anti-tourist travels at the wrong time of year.

The anti-tourist prefers dead things to living ones.

The anti-tourist is humble and seeks invisibility.

The anti-tourist is interested only in hidden histories, in delightful obscurities, in bad art.

The anti-tourist believes beauty is in the street.

The anti-tourist holds that whatever travel does, it rarely broadens the mind.

The anti-tourist values disorientation over enlightenment.

The anti-tourist loves truth, but he is also partial to lies. Especially his own.

i made lasagna on thursday. i have basically eaten nothing but since. no complaints really. today is monday. i hate it. i am garfield.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Feeds fer yer Face

Double Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf

Click the Pic

A Super

I cannot help your cat.

I work in the Office of Lost Merkans.  Part of my job is to manage a public facing email box.  Most inquiries range from mundane, legitimate questions about legitimate documents ( or at least the idea of a document, whether they intend to acquire legitimate documents is above my pay grade ) to heartbreaking pleas for help.  Then there are the people that think they are Elvis' child, Miley Cyrus' mother, or the leader of the KGB ( while simultaneously being married to Joe Biden and working for the CIA. )

Today I got one that really fell in the middle.  Again, I work in the Office of Lost Merkans.  Not the Office of Confused Kiwis or the Office of Bewildered Brits.  Not the Bureau of Cantankerous Canucks or the Cabinet of Beleaguered Belges.   Today I received a letter from a Ukrainian, living in Sweden, going to Turkey.  On a boat.  With her cat.  Now, she didn't specify the nationality of the cat, but I think you'll forgive me for assuming the cat was not a Merkan.  This lady had, what was probably a legitimate question.  For anyone but me.  She wanted to know what kind of documents she needed to bring her cat into Turkish waters.  I assume she meant crossing the imaginary line from international waters into those under Turkey's jurisdiction and not just permission to give her cat a bath in Istanbul.  Regardless, why me?  Why the Office of Lost Merkans?  And to be even more specific, the actual email box is for the Office of Lost Merkan Children.  I mean, I get that her cat is probably like her child, but it's still not a Merkan.

So I penned a response...which of course, I will not send:

Dearest Non-Merkan,

Your cat shall obtain diplomatic immunity when the top sail of your yacht has crossed the international waterline of Turkey. However, should you choose to go to the Asian part of Turkey, you will need to acquire a Visa for the ca
t, per the Cucumber and Feta treaty of 1917, which is still on the books in certain parts of Turkey. Humans of course do not, but you did not request information on human travel.

In order to obtain said visa, please take 3 toenail clippings of the cat to the nearest Turkish Embassy in Sweden. Once thorough DNA testing has been completed to determine that your cat is in fact a cat, and certainly not a wallaby or a beetle, the visa will be issued to you. All cats must wear their feline passports in a waistbelt. Please do not attempt to retrofit a human waistbelt, you must buy a feline waistbelt in a horrid shade of beige. If your cat is caught in the Asian part of Turkey without said passport in said beige waistbelt, you risk the cat being taken as property of the state as all feline diplomatic immunity is forfeited when you pass into Asian Turkey.

Speaking from experience, this may be the best option for the cat. Once taken as property of the state, the cat will be fitted with a small velvet hat and tiny velvet shoes. It will be kept in a compound exclusively for such well travelled felines and fed a daily portion of fish and wine. You, however, will never see the cat again.

As this is the law of the land, aka a sovereign nation, you must abide by the laws. If you choose to ignore said sovereign nation's laws, the consequences are yours alone, and neither Sweden nor the U.S. nor your own country need come fix your problems. You are a grownup, albeit, one with questionable rational capabilities.

Best to you on your sea voyage with feline. Don't forget the waistbelt!

Office of Lost Merkans


Warming up the engine.

Got back into my Facebook.  Wasn't terribly difficult obviously.  Still not 100% who turned me in for nominal chicanery, but I've taken a few precautions.

I have, however, uninstalled the app from my phone.  Facebook in an incredible tool for keeping connections around the world.  The same tool can break down closer connections.  For me, it's just too much of a distraction.  So I have it open when I'm on my computer, but, for now at least, it's not ringing directly to my phone when I'm away from my computer.

This year I hope to make a major shift.  Geographically.  It's in the works, I hope, and if it happens, I'll have more to write about than daily annoyances of DC.

But in the meantime, perhaps some of those can be amusing...