I posted this to my coworking space’s Slack, with the caption “If you’re going to spoof caller-id, maybe choose a valid phone number?”

Based on the response, the problem with the number wasn’t as obvious as I thought. Can you spot it?

Pictured Rocks Backpacking Trip Report

I had a blast on my first backpacking trip ever with 2 of my brothers and one of my nephews. We flew into Marquette, then did 3 days on the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trail before flying back to Detroit. Marquette and Pictured Rocks are both in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is basically a different state. 3% of Michigan’s population, 30% of its area.

Day 1

Breakfast was at a diner in Marquette. I got a local sausage called Cudighi. We got a ride from Charles’ friend out to the the Logslide, our departure point in Munising.  Logslide is an enormously steep dune, hundreds of feet tall. Legend has it that when they used to slide logs down it into Lake Superior, the logs would catch fire from the friction.

We made good time to Au Sable Point Lighthouse, a great first waypoint. “Making good time” was a theme of the trip. I guess when you have tall guys and an energetic youth you can go pretty fast. Or maybe I’ve just acclimated to hiking with toddlers. I tend to have some schedule anxiety when I know I need to be somewhere by a certain time, but not on this trip.

Lunch was a charcuterie of summer sausage, hard cheese, and trail mix. “Charcuterie” is the fancy way of saying “we ate whatever we didn’t need to cook.” As we ate, we swatted at black flies biting our legs. Fly bites are another theme of the trip.

I had been watching the forecast chance of rain in the lead-up to the trip, and sent more than one screenshot of the Dark Sky forecast to the group message. I had heard the forecasts could be a bit inaccurate up north so I erred on the side of caution. When the sky started to drizzle then rain I was glad I had brought my rain gear – a rain jacket and pack cover.

We made it to Sevenmile Beach and set up camp in the rain. There was one other tent in the campsite. Charles’ hammock tarp converted into a shared shelter with the help of some hiking poles and we were able to crack open some trail beers (Blackrocks Pilsner). My camp chair was worth it carry weight as we waited for the rain to clear. Once it had, we ate dinner and checked out the beach. Beautiful, but more flies.

After sunset my brother and I taught the other brother and nephew how to play Euchre. I’m being deliberately vague about which brother didn’t know how to play Euchre, despite growing up in Michigan.

Day 2

Breakfast and break camp. We hadn’t seen anyone go in or out of that other tent in the campsite, so we checked on it to make sure no one was in the tent needing help. No one inside. It was a cheap, heavy tent with a heavy air mattress. Our theory is that someone got tired of carrying it on their last day and left it. Not cool.

The trail kept us close to the shore, with gorgeous lake views. Lake Superior was a cool, clear blue. The flies seemed to enjoy the sandy shores too. When we went further inland they seemed to diminish.

After 11 miles, we reached the Chapel Beach campsite. This time the campsite was full. The lake was still chilly, but Chapel Creek was much warmer. Charles and I realized we could lay at the base of the creek and the water would hit our shoulders like a shower massage. It felt great after carrying a pack for over 11 miles.

We had dinner and more camp beers (still worth the weight!). Sunset on Chapel Beach was gorgeous, but the flies were biting something fierce.

The sun was up around 6:00AM and down around 10:00PM, so there wasn’t a lot of dark sky time. I slept with the rain fly off my tent and saw a few stars before I passed out. Growing up, I had only camped in ancient Boy Scout tents which were solid canvas. Sleeping under an open sky (while still protected from mosquitoes) was freeing.

Day 3

My final breakfast was supposed to be a freeze-dried egg and sausage meal but I woke up pretty full, so breakfast was just a Clif bar with peanut butter on top.  The package says “Best by Feb 2048” so I’ll have to make sure I eat it by then. “Siri, remind me in January of 2048 to eat that Mountain House meal.”

We filled up our water bottles and set out on our final 9 miles.

The hike was along the top of the Painted Rocks and had some really great views. Harold had hiked this trail West-to-East before, and said he liked our East-to-West path better. The beautiful views become the payoff for your long hike.

When we stopped for a water break, I couldn’t reach my water bottles in their pockets. I asked Charles to grab them for me, and he gave me a “you’re joking, right?”

Which, of course, I thought was his joke .Nope, my water bottles had fallen out.

I had read in the reviews for my pack that the water bottle pockets were an issue, so I had tried to be mindful of them. I was water poor the third day, sharing water with Charles. I had been using SmartWater bottles, I’m going to try some stouter bottles like Nalgenes or Gatorade bottles. Or maybe I’ll just make use of REI’s return policy to get a better pack.

We made it to Miner’s Beach and took a break to refill our water (those of us that had water bottles, or in my case borrowed them) and take a lake bath before our trip home. The final 2 miles after that felt like the longest.

We made it back to Miner’s Castle where Charles’ girlfriend Amanda was going to pick us up. We located the car, but no Amanda. However, there were some UP pasties, which we downed. We met up with Amanda and headed home.

Gear

  • REI Flash 65 backpack: Great price ($99!) for a reasonably comfortable backpack. The big drawback, as noted above, is the design of the water bottle pockets. It seems like a pretty big flaw and I imagine that’s why they are on clearance.
  • REI Half Dome 2+ tent: Not ultralight, but a solid backpacking tent. I got the footprint too and am really impressed with the whole system. Very easy to set up and tear down.
  • Kelty Cosmic 20 sleeping bag: Probably too warm for the weather, but it’s small, light, and a good investment for spring/fall camping.
  • Jetboil Stove: that thing boils water fast! I had originally planned on drinking my coffee out of it, but I wound up borrowing a mug from Charles. Next time I’ll have a separate mug. We still had fuel left after cooking water for 9 meals and 4 mugs of coffee (Mount Hagen, thanks Charles and Wirecutter).
  • Moonlence camping chair: 2 lbs, but so nice to be able to lean back into at the end of the day. It’s only $35 and works as well as the $100 ones. You can see it in the pictures above, it’s black and orange.
  • Cascade Mountain Tech Hiking poles: Maybe I looked like a dork, but they saved me a couple times. And they were handy for hitting the back of my pack. I’ll be bringing them hiking again.
  • Permethrin: Another Wirecutter recommendation, I just learned about this stuff. It kills mosquitoes and ticks on contact, which is amazing. The downside was that I procrastinated on applying it until the night before I flew out. It was really humid that night and it didn’t completely dry. Next time I’ll be on top of things. I’ll probably get a big bottle of concentrate to keep my outdoors clothes bug resistant.
  • Sawyer Squeeze water filter: Really happy with this, Lake Superior water tastes great.

What I’d Change

  • Pack or water bottles: Losing your water bottles sucks. If you aren’t with generous family it can be dangerous. I’ll try some different bottles and possibly return my pack.
  • Black flies: I just learned about Picaridin as a non-DEET insect repellent that works on mosquitoes and black flies! I would try that out, as well as maybe bringing some long sleeves.
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A step toward replacing Facebook

One of the things I noted when I left Facebook was that I ended up outsourcing my social labor to my wife. Sarah Jeong wrote a great piece for The Verge about her experiences without Facebook, and found similar gaps in the Facebook-less life.

The real problem only began to present itself much later. I missed big personal news from people I knew. I missed dance parties and house parties and casual get-togethers. I was the last to find out about births and the last to see baby pictures. Classmates got engaged and married and I didn’t find out until after my hiatus.

The epitome of this phenomenon was when I sat down to interview my friend Dia Kayyali, an activist organizing against Facebook’s real names policy. “You’re coming to my birthday party, right?” they said, as we were leaving the cafe where I had interviewed them.

I froze in my tracks. “What party?”

“Oh,” said Dia. “I forgot you’re off Facebook.”

Please read the whole piece. The subtitle is “Facebook is an emotional labor machine, and if you want to leave it, you’re going to have to start doing a lot of work.” It’s a great look at why a thoughtful person would still use Facebook, despite it’s drawbacks.

I believe that distributed and remote workers need to take responsibility for social plans. Maintaining social ties is literally a matter of life and death. I am out of sight and out of mind and not the center of anyone else’s world.

How do you keep up with folks without Facebook? One way I’ve found is Monica, an “Open source personal CRM.”

You can use Monica to log when you do something with a friend, and get reminders when you haven’t talked to someone in a while. Want to go out for lunch or a beer? Take a look at who you haven’t seen in a while. Since it’s open source, if you don’t trust them with your data you can run it yourself.

The drawbacks are that you need to maintain the data yourself (instead of Facebook) and that it focuses a little too much on phone calls.

If that’s too much, another trick I’ve used is to create a Trello board with the months of the year on it. Put a card for each friend in the column for your last contact (however you define that) and you can see at a glance who you should catch up with.

I’m not perfect about keeping up. If you are reading this and realize we haven’t hung out in a while, please invite me out. I’ll say no because in May I’m going to London for a work trip and moving to Ann Arbor, but we’ll catch up after the dust settles. And I’ll be sure to log it in Monica.

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Roundup, April 6

Everyday Carry Lost & Found Edition

Things I try to keep in my pockets and the number of times I’ve lost them:


Times Lost Times Found
iPhone
0
0
Wallet
1
1
ThruNite Ti3 flashlight 2
1
Apple AirPods
2
1
Tinker Swiss Army Knife 4
4

There’s something to be said for having stuff in your pockets, until it falls out. I’m still miffed about the fact that “Find My AirPods” only seems to work when they are out of the charging case.

CLI Web tools

I’ve been finding some fun command-line tools for messing with JSON. I really love getting a good shell data pipe together with sed, awk, etc. These are some handy tools for handling curl output:

  • jq – “sed for JSON files.” Query and filter JSON.
  • gron – “Make JSON greppable” – outputs JSON in a way that makes it easy to grep, then you can pipe that through gron again to get JSON
  • pup – “Parsing HTML at the command line” – Run CSS-like selector queries against HTML, looks like an easy way to do one-off screen-scrapers.

Checkins

  • Short’s Uncle Steve’s Irish Stout – I have never seen this on shelves before St. Patrick’s day. A little less body than I remember and a roasty aftertaste.
  • Dairy King – local ice cream shop that was once named something similar. They take credit cards now. Before you use Facebook as your website, see how it looks when you don’t have an account.
  • Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams – We are about halfway through Amazon’s sci-fi anthology. It doesn’t hurt as bad as Black Mirror.
  • Best Buy – Best Buy lets you give them up to three electronics items per day to recycle. It’s handy for things that aren’t worth selling/donating

Linkdump

Given all the bulleted lists in this roundup, I’m wondering if I should be putting this in a PowerPoint. I have a couple longer-form thoughts I’m trying to flesh out, I think they’d weight this post down.

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Roundup, March 30

Newsletters

I'm seeing a few people are starting newsletter-format web things. Example a: Ed Vielmetti's Vacuum; example b: Chris Salzman's newsletter blog posts. The format is attractive as a writer because it's not daily and you don't have to write too much about a subject. Just add a heading and type a paragraph. I should try it.

Blogging

People are also blogging more. While I have a professional incentive to encourage blogging (did you know you can get a free blog at my employer, WordPress.com?), I also think there's value in re-distributing the web. You can read much deeper thoughts about that from Dan Cohen's Back to the Blog, (via Kottke, who shares his thoughts on 20 years of independent blogging)

Making the world worse

If you want to make people angry online, show people this tweet:

You can also download the blank bracket if you want to start a fight IRL (note the filename).

You can also make people angry by showing them Smelvetica, an annoyingly-kerned fork of Helvetica:

Movie Order Soundtracks

One thing I have discovered is that my kids prefer to listen to soundtracks in movie order. For example, compare the Frozen soundtrack album with the Frozen Soundtrack in Order playlist. The soundtrack front-loads all the hits, while the playlist mimics the movie. We've also been known to put the Moana – Movie Order playlist on repeat. I couldn't find a Coco playlist, so I created one (corrections welcome!):

We've also experimented with using Plex on a mobile device to stream just the audio of Coco to a Chromecast Audio at bedtime, but that was a little too engaging and didn't actually put the kiddo to sleep.

Checkins

  • Blackrocks' Murray Project – I appreciate an Imperial IPA under 9%. Very good if you can find it, better balanced than a lot of IIPAs.
  • Bell's Oberon – It's nice to have one on release day. Post-over-hype, it's still a good American Wheat. If you want to know what Saaz hops taste like, it's this.
  • Uinta Rise & Pine – Black IPAs where everywhere 5 years ago, now they're almost impossible to find. The Juniper is interesting, but I think I'd like it more with a hop. I love Uinta's Hop Nosh from when I worked remotely for an office in Utah, and am glad to see them distributing in Michigan.
  • El Barzon – very nice Mexican food and very nice Italian food in Detroit. Not fusion. We had the kids with us but it'd be better for a date night. I wonder if this side of Corktown will go nuts if Ford buys the train station.
  • Sidetrack – I guess it's been a while, since they seem to still be expanding. Better service, same great menu.
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Leaving Facebook

Now seems like a good time to talk about when I deleted Facebook in January of 2016, and why I came back.

It started off with buying some boxed wine.[1] I texted my wife a picture of the options to find out what she wanted.

A couple days later, I started seeing ads for boxed wine on Facebook. That freaked me out. I had never looked at boxed wine online. I had never bought boxed wine online. I had no relationship between my online identity and boxed wine. I try to limit what Facebook knows about my browsing habits. [2]. Yet here was an ad for boxed wine, online.

My first thought was that Facebook was looking at the images in my text messages and using that for ad targeting. It's a simple but wrong explanation, like the idea that Facebook is eavesdropping on microphones,  Both errors come from anthropomorphizing Facebook, assuming that Facebook uses the same senses that we do. The scary fact is that Facebook et al have enough data on us that they don't need to listen to us or watch us.

Did you know that Facebook ads have a "Why was I shown this ad?" link? I wanted to know why I was seeing boxed wine ads, so I clicked it to find out.

If you don't have experience buying online advertising, let me translate: DLX gave Facebook a list of personally identifiable information (PII) and calls it an audience. Facebook then links that PII to accounts, and uses it's ad algorithms to decide who to show ads to.

DLX, it turns out, in Datalogix.  They get a list of the things you buy with loyalty cards, and then matches those purchases with your online identity. If you take a look at that link, it has this line: "The company reports that it keeps the information anonymous and gives consumers the option to opt out of data collecting and reporting by selecting the opt-out option on their website."

Here's what I saw when I clicked the Opt Out link on Facebook:

If that's gibberish to you, it's basically screenshots showing that Datalogix's opt-out process is really broken and neglected.

So my options are either stop using loyalty cards (and pay more for groceries), or stop giving value to the data that I'm generating. I made a step toward the second, and deactivated my Facebook account. It was deactivated basically from February to November of 2016.

I don't have too many insights about my life without Facebook. I didn't miss it really. I had one person contact my wife to ask if I'd blocked them over something, and we then had a good email conversation.

I came back partly due to the election. I felt that maybe my "no politics on Facebook" rule had been part of the problem – assuming that we wouldn't elect a nightmare. Maybe my voice needed to be heard. I wouldn't swing an election, but if I spoke out maybe I wound help convince a couple friends who were on the fence. Naive, yes, but I was looking for something to do. Anything.

The other reason I came back was because I was basically offloading a lot of social labor on my wife. She was now the sole invitee to events because our friends couldn't invite me on Facebook. She would tell me news from friends that I couldn't see elsewhere. My subdivision uses a Facebook group to share community news, which I had to get from my wife. I wasn't completely off Facebook, I had unconsciously delegated it. So I rejoined.

After all the recent news, I'm off Facebook again. I'm trying to ween myself off of algorithmic timelines (in favor of chronological) since they are dopamine addiction machines. Also, the snooping they do on phones, how they are polarizing the country, and the newsfeed being largely garbage all made the decision pretty easy. I may come back again, but for now I'm sticking to RSS feeds and (non-algorithmic) Twitter.

1: A boxed, collapsible bag is a pretty great packaging system for non-carbonated beverages like wine. It keeps O2 out while letting you have as much (or as little) as you want. Like beer in a can, it's a great package that has undeserved quality connotations.

2: Firefox just launched a really cool plugin that will segment your Facebook browser identity from your other browsing. Highly recommended.

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