What white supremacists don’t want you to know: the Paradox of Tolerance

Mural of a man's face holding his finger to his lips in a
CC BY-SA Luke McKernan

White supremacists are really, really hoping that you don’t keep reading this article. They don’t want you to learn about the Paradox of Tolerance, because then they’d lose a powerful weapon in their fight to make society more racist. Ready to make a white supremacist mad?

Fortunately for us, the Paradox of Tolerance is easy to understand and remember. The “paradox” part makes it sounds complicated and hard, but it’s really just a rule with one exception. It goes like this:

  1. A tolerant society should be tolerant by default,
  2. With one exception: it should not tolerate intolerance itself.

To give a specific example, a tolerant society should tolerate protest marches in general, but it shouldn’t tolerate a white supremacist march advocating for the oppression and killing of people of color – like the march in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 that ended with white supremacists beating and killing people who were opposed to their message of intolerance.

So that’s one form of tolerance: tolerance of everything except intolerance itself. But the version of tolerance that white supremacists really want you to believe is this one: you should not only tolerate their march to advocate removing human rights from people of color, but you, as a tolerant person, should even fight to protect their right to march – in the name of tolerance! The specific idea here is that a tolerant society should tolerate all intolerant speech – including protests, marches, and assemblies – as long as it falls short of the established legal limits of free speech in the United States (which are many and include incitement to violence, yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, defamation, child pornography, etc.).

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes in protecting intolerant speech right up to the U.S. legal limit. That’s why the local branch of the ACLU went to court to force the Charlottesville government to grant a permit for the march to take place in a location the white supremacists chose for its potential for intimidation and violence. The ACLU’s reasoning? People marching to increase tolerance (e.g., civil rights marches) could be blocked by intolerant local governments if intolerant people planned to attack them – which was a real problem during the civil rights era in the U.S.

What the ACLU discounted is that a white supremacist march differs from a civil rights march because allowing it to go forward would reduce free speech overall by intimidating and silencing people of color and their advocates. Our worst fears came true during this march: when a white supremacist protester killed Heather Heyer, he took away her right to speech (and life) forever. The Paradox of Tolerance acknowledges that some speech should not be protected precisely because allowing it to go forward promotes the destruction of the basis of free speech – in this case, it normalizes the idea that people of color should have fewer rights than white people. [Updated 2017-08-17: On August 16, 2017, three California branches of the ACLU issued a statement saying they believe armed white supremacist marches are not protected speech. Progress!]

To many people, the Paradox of Tolerance may seem like heresy! Especially if you’re a U.S. progressive, you’ve probably been taught your whole life that tolerance is paramount, free speech must be protected regardless of its content, and the ACLU is always on the right side of history. Yet your heart is crying out that the Charlottesville march was wrong, that it should have been prevented, and that it left our society less free and fair.

A light painting of a heart on a background of a wood at sunset
CC BY Oscar E.

Your heart is right. It’s the people teaching you that you must always tolerate intolerance who are wrong.

Here’s another way to think about the Paradox of Tolerance: a tolerant society must protect its own existence if tolerance is to exist in the world. If tolerating intolerance results in the destruction and disappearance of tolerant society, then that tolerant society has a right to self-protection – in the form of refusing to tolerate intolerance. The Paradox of Tolerance suggests that we should view advocacy of intolerance and persecution as a criminal behavior in and of itself. Many European countries do have specific laws making advocacy of white supremacy illegal, in contrast to the United States.

Consider World War II: The more intolerant fascist Axis powers wanted to destroy more tolerant societies completely, and the Allied powers had to fight back – be intolerant – in order for more tolerant societies to exist today. In fact, the Paradox of Tolerance was formulated and named in 1945, as World War II was winding down. The effects of fascism, including World War II, were much more devastating in many European countries, which may be one reason free speech laws in European countries tend to specifically outlaw marches by neo-Nazis and similar forms of pro-fascist speech, in line with the Paradox of Tolerance.

To be clear, the Paradox of Tolerance doesn’t imply that we should completely suppress or silence every single intolerant opinion. If expressing an intolerant opinion is unlikely to endanger the existence of a tolerant society, the more everyday forms of defense such as criticism, disgust, and natural consequences are a better way of protecting tolerance. It’s when society is favorable to bigoted and intolerant ideas – such as when an openly white supremacist president who was elected with 46% of the vote is using presidential power to enforce racist government policies in a country with a long record of white supremacy – that we should stop speech that threatens to tip our entire society into a vast increase in intolerance.

One more thing: we’re in no danger of impoverishing the “marketplace of ideas” – the majority of bigoted and intolerant opinions already get plenty of exposure. They are the opinions we have heard over and over again from people in power throughout history. We don’t need to fight to amplify the voices of the already powerful.

Your heart knows when unlimited tolerance is the wrong answer. Listen to your heart. And then memorize the Paradox of Tolerance, so your head and your heart can act in concert.

Thank you to several anonymous activists who contributed to this article.

Further reading:

Paradox of Tolerance in English Wikipedia
Introduction: Pluralistic and Multicultural Reexaminations of Tolerance/Toleration by John Zijiang Ding
Toleration in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl Popper

The Al Capone theory of sexual harassment

This post was co-authored by Valerie Aurora and Leigh Honeywell and cross-posted on both of our blogs.

Mural of Al Capone, laughing and smoking a cigar
CC BY-SA 2.0 r2hox

We’re thrilled with the recent trend towards sexual harassment in the tech industry having actual consequences – for the perpetrator, not the target, for a change. We decided it was time to write a post explaining what we’ve been calling “the Al Capone Theory of Sexual Harassment.” (We can’t remember which of us came up with the name, Leigh or Valerie, so we’re taking joint credit for it.) We developed the Al Capone Theory over several years of researching and recording racism and sexism in computer security, open source software, venture capital, and other parts of the tech industry. To explain, we’ll need a brief historical detour – stick with us.

As you may already know, Al Capone was a famous Prohibition-era bootlegger who, among other things, ordered murders to expand his massively successful alcohol smuggling business. The U.S. government was having difficulty prosecuting him for either the murdering or the smuggling, so they instead convicted Capone for failing to pay taxes on the income from his illegal business. This technique is standard today – hence the importance of money-laundering for modern successful criminal enterprises – but at the time it was a novel approach.

The U.S. government recognized a pattern in the Al Capone case: smuggling goods was a crime often paired with failing to pay taxes on the proceeds of the smuggling. We noticed a similar pattern in reports of sexual harassment and assault: often people who engage in sexually predatory behavior also faked expense reports, plagiarized writing, or stole credit for other people’s work. Just three examples: Mark Hurd, the former CEO of HP, was accused of sexual harassment by a contractor, but resigned for falsifying expense reports to cover up the contractor’s unnecessary presence on his business trips. Jacob Appelbaum, the former Tor evangelist, left the Tor Foundation after he was accused of both sexual misconduct and plagiarism. And Randy Komisar, a general partner at venture capital firm KPCB, gave a book of erotic poetry to another partner at the firm, and accepted a board seat (and the credit for a successful IPO) at RPX that would ordinarily have gone to her.

Initially, the connection eluded us: why would the same person who made unwanted sexual advances also fake expense reports, plagiarize, or take credit for other people’s work? We remembered that people who will admit to attempting or committing sexual assault also disproportionately commit other types of violence and that “criminal versatility” is a hallmark of sexual predators. And we noted that taking credit for others’ work is a highly gendered behavior.

Then we realized what the connection was: all of these behaviors are the actions of someone who feels entitled to other people’s property – regardless of whether it’s someone else’s ideas, work, money, or body. Another common factor was the desire to dominate and control other people. In venture capital, you see the same people accused of sexual harassment and assault also doing things like blacklisting founders for objecting to abuse and calling people nasty epithets on stage at conferences. This connection between dominance and sexual harassment also shows up as overt, personal racism (that’s one reason why we track both racism and sexism in venture capital).

So what is the Al Capone theory of sexual harassment? It’s simple: people who engage in sexual harassment or assault are also likely to steal, plagiarize, embezzle, engage in overt racism, or otherwise harm their business. (Of course, sexual harassment and assault harms a business – and even entire fields of endeavor – but in ways that are often discounted or ignored.) Ask around about the person who gets handsy with the receptionist, or makes sex jokes when they get drunk, and you’ll often find out that they also violated the company expense policy, or exaggerated on their résumé, or took credit for a colleague’s project. More than likely, they’ve engaged in sexual misconduct multiple times, and a little research (such as calling previous employers) will show this, as we saw in the case of former Uber and Google employee Amit Singhal.

Organizations that understand the Al Capone theory of sexual harassment have an advantage: they know that reports or rumors of sexual misconduct are a sign they need to investigate for other incidents of misconduct, sexual or otherwise. Sometimes sexual misconduct is hard to verify because a careful perpetrator will make sure there aren’t any additional witnesses or records beyond the target and the target’s memory (although with the increase in use of text messaging in the United States over the past decade, we are seeing more and more cases where victims have substantial written evidence). But one of the implications of the Al Capone theory is that even if an organization can’t prove allegations of sexual misconduct, the allegations themselves are sign to also urgently investigate a wide range of aspects of an employee’s conduct.

Some questions you might ask: Can you verify their previous employment and degrees listed on their résumé? Do their expense reports fall within normal guidelines and include original receipts? Does their previous employer refuse to comment on why they left? When they give references, are there odd patterns of omission? For example, a manager who doesn’t give a single reference from a person who reported to them can be a hint that they have mistreated people they had power over.

Another implication of the Al Capone theory is that organizations should put more energy into screening potential employees or business partners for allegations of sexual misconduct before entering into a business relationship with them, as recently advocated by LinkedIn cofounder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman. This is where tapping into the existing whisper network of targets of sexual harassment is incredibly valuable. The more marginalized a person is, the more likely they are to be the target of this kind of behavior and to be connected with other people who have experienced this behavior. People of color, queer people, people with working class jobs, disabled people, people with less money, and women are all more likely to know who sends creepy text messages after a business meeting. Being a member of more than one of these groups makes people even more vulnerable to this kind of harassment – we don’t think it was a coincidence that many of the victims of sexual harassment who spoke out last month were women of color.

What about people whose well-intentioned actions are unfairly misinterpreted, or people who make a single mistake and immediately regret it? The Al Capone theory of sexual harassment protects these people, because when the organization investigates their overall behavior, they won’t find a pattern of sexual harassment, plagiarism, or theft. A broad-ranging investigation in this kind of case will find only minor mistakes in expense reports or an ambiguous job title in a resume, not a pervasive pattern of deliberate deception, theft, or abuse. To be perfectly clear, it is possible for someone to sexually harass someone without engaging in other types of misconduct. In the absence of clear evidence, we always recommend erring on the side of believing accusers who have less power or privilege than the people they are accusing, to counteract the common unconscious bias against believing those with less structural power and to take into account the enormous risk of retaliation against the accuser.

Some people ask whether the Al Capone theory of sexual harassment will subject men to unfair scrutiny. It’s true, the majority of sexual harassment is committed by men. However, people of all genders commit sexual harassment. We personally know of two women who have sexually touched other people without consent at tech-related events, and we personally took action to stop these women from abusing other people. At the same time, abuse more often occurs when the abuser has more power than the target – and that imbalance of power is often the result of systemic oppression such as racism, sexism, cissexism, or heterosexism. That’s at least one reason why a typical sexual harasser is more likely to be one or all of straight, white, cis, or male.

What does the Al Capone theory of sexual harassment mean if you are a venture capitalist or a limited partner in a venture fund? Your first priority should be to carefully vet potential business partners for a history of unethical behavior, whether it is sexual misconduct, lying about qualifications, plagiarism, or financial misdeeds. If you find any hint of sexual misconduct, take the allegations seriously and step up your investigation into related kinds of misconduct (plagiarism, lying on expense reports, embezzlement) as well as other incidents of sexual misconduct.

Because sexual harassers sometimes go to great lengths to hide their behavior, you almost certainly need to expand your professional network to include more people who are likely to be targets of sexual harassment by your colleagues – and gain their trust. If you aren’t already tapped into this crucial network, here are some things you can do to get more access:

These are all aspects of ally skills – concrete actions that people with more power and privilege can take to support people who have less.

Finally, we’ve seen a bunch of VCs pledging to donate the profits of their investments in funds run by accused sexual harassers to charities supporting women in tech. We will echo many other women entrepreneurs and say: don’t donate that money, invest it in women-led ventures – especially those led by women of color.

Miss Marple investigates Trump/Russia

Miss Marple is an Agatha Christie character, a charming older English lady who investigates crimes while knitting and making amiable small talk. Miss Marple’s schtick is that she solves crimes by noticing similarities in the personalities of the people in the case and the people she knows in her tiny English town, and using that to figure out who committed the crime. A typical Miss Marple moment looks something like, “Well, you see, the look on his face reminded me of the butcher’s boy Pennyworth, who was let go after the butcher caught him substituting eye of round for sirloin, so I started looking for clues that he was the one who put the fake diamonds in the safe.” Case closed!

This morning I had a Miss Marple moment when I saw the photos of Donald Trump meeting with the foreign minister of Russia, mere hours after firing the man investigating his campaign for collusion with Russia. Some time ago, I worked with someone whom we will call Leslie (obviously not their real name). I often found myself confused when talking to Leslie, but for several months managed to rationalize whatever strange thing they had just said into something that made sense. Eventually, it became inescapably clear that they weren’t actually competent at their job. Their superiors went to work on getting them to leave the company with a minimum of damage to their mutual reputations.

At some point during this process, I realized that Leslie was so incompetent that no one could predict what action they would take. The company would head into a negotiation with Leslie and after several rounds of back and forth, Leslie would… ask for something that helped the company and hurt Leslie. ??? The company couldn’t make and stick to a plan of action because it couldn’t rely on Leslie to act in their own self-interest because Leslie couldn’t recognize what was in their own self-interest. The company had to improvise its way through what should have been a totally standard process of negotiating a resignation letter, final day, severance, etc.

Trump shaking hands with a Russian official reminds me of Leslie in that negotiation, and that makes me feel hopeful. Part of why I was terrified after the election is that, like many others, I was afraid that Trump (or his staff) merely seemed incompetent but was actually “playing eleven-dimensional chess” under the surface. Now it seems clear that Trump is incompetent in general, but good at some very specific skills (marketing, lying, and shameless opportunism, mainly). He was also supported by a hostile nation-state (Russia).

This collection of skills and support was good enough to get Trump elected, but probably won’t be good enough to keep him in office. In particular, if Russia has a plan to help Trump to become dictator for life, they can’t count on Trump acting in any predictable way and will constantly have to adjust and update their plan.

Similarly, my old co-worker also had the right skills to get the job, but not to hold on to it. It took determination and hard work by a lot of different people to get them out of the company, and it took longer than it would have if we’d been working with a more competent person, but in the end it worked out for the best. I feel hopeful that we will see the same thing with Trump and the majority of the U.S. government and people.

Of course, it’s a ridiculous to compare a billionaire president of the world’s most powerful country to some ordinary middle-of-the-road co-worker of mine. But that never stopped Miss Marple. Who am I to claim I’m better than a fictional detective?

Preventing jet lag, one hour per day

My most miserable jet lag experience was the afternoon I struggled for over an hour to liberate my rental car from a tiny paid parking lot in Chamonix, a ski resort town in France. I distinctly remember the feelings of hopeless despair and confusion as I poked at the buttons on the parking machine and made a seemingly endless pilgrimage around the local shops, before I finally acquired the 5 euro bill I needed to effect my escape.

That trip was for “fun,” but nowadays I travel mostly for work: I teach a particularly complex and difficult workshop (the Ally Skills Workshop). Travel is also difficult and painful for me, so I like to spend as little time away from home again as possible. This means that, no matter what the time difference is between San Francisco and my destination, I need to be fully awake and mentally sharp during business hours within a day of my arrival.

About a year ago, I started changing my time zone before I left on my trip. Each day before the trip, I get up one hour earlier or later, until on the day I leave, I am already getting up at the same time I’ll need to be awake at my destination. So for a trip from San Francisco to New York, I’ll get up one hour earlier for three days before my trip. And if I can, I’ll start transitioning back to my home time zone during my trip. One hour a day is still too quick for a full adjustment – I can still feel my home circadian rhythm kicking in for about 10 days after this – but it feels like just a little bit of restless or tiredness a couple of times a day, not the overwhelming sense of doom and despair I remember from that parking lot in Chamonix.

“Get up one hour earlier or later each day” sounds simple, but as the jokes about Daylight Saving Time transition show, doing this for even one day can be difficult. If you live with other people, care for others, or have set work hours, changing your time zone while at home may be difficult or impossible. I set my own hours and I live with my boyfriend, who is incredibly tolerant of me banging around in the middle of the night, or going to bed in the middle of the afternoon. Even so, I just miss spending time with him and my local friends when I’m adjusting my time zone, and being awake alone in the dark is no fun. So, it is by no means a perfect solution even for me – just slightly better than staggering around confusedly at the nadir of my circadian cycle.

I have a collection of tricks that help me stick to my schedule; they might work for you or you might find something else that works better for you.

Going to sleep earlier

Most of my travel is east, and for physiological reasons, it’s harder for most people to get up earlier than to go to bed later. Here are the things that help me go to sleep earlier, in order from first thing I try to last thing I try. On a good night I’ll only go through half the list before falling asleep.

Taking melatonin: The ideal timing and dose of melatonin for going to sleep earlier is 0.3 mg (more is NOT better), one to three hours before you intend to fall asleep. Larger doses don’t help and can make you sleepy for an entire day.

Dimming and darkening: Closing the curtains and dimming the lights two hours before my goal sleep time helps. I aim for complete darkness one hour before goal sleep time. Even if I don’t feel tired when I do this, I’ll start feeling tired soon. I will also adjust my F.lux schedule to match my sleep schedule instead of local sunlight. You might also try blue-blocking glasses or sunglasses if you have to be out in the light.

Lying down: Again, if I don’t feel tired when I do this, I’ll start feeling tired soon.

Reading a familiar book: I’ve read and reread everyone Jane Austen novel multiple times, so I’m never tempted to keep reading after I start to feel sleepy. My Kindle has a built-in light which on the lower settings does not interfere with the effect of darkness. The key here is: low light, soothing distraction from your thoughts, no incentive to keep going after you feel sleepy.

Listening to a familiar book read by a computer: Even more soporific is listening to a computer read Jane Austen to me. I don’t like listening to new books this way because I get stressed about missing out on the words (I have a slightly hard time understanding spoken words) but if it’s something I know backwards and forwards, I find the emotionless robot speech very soothing, especially at a slow speed. Currently, I use iOS’s screenreader feature with the Kindle app; before that I used the Kindle with built-in text-to-speech (now removed from current versions). I suspect that most audiobooks are rather too well read to be as sleep-inducing as the computer-read version. I like switching up the voice occasionally, especially if they’ve got an accent from the country I’m traveling to.

Listening to sleep hypnosis: A friend gave me some sleep hypnosis recordings from Andrew Johnson and I love them. My absolute favorite time to use them is when I’m trying to sleep on a plane and I don’t want to be incapacitated in any way by taking supplements or drugs. I use them with my noise cancelling earbuds – earbuds so that I can sleep on the plane with them in, while listening to my sleep hypnosis recordings. But sleep hypnosis also works for going to sleep earlier when you’re stressed out or worrying.

Taking zolpidem: The side effects of zolpidem make me avoid taking it until I’ve been trying to sleep for at least an hour and failing. I’ll often bite the 10mg pill in half, take half now, and take the second half only if I’m still awake in an hour.

I used to take Benadryl or Unisom to help go to sleep, but the side effects are too negative for me, so I don’t do this any more. I haven’t tried marijuana edibles, but lots of my friends swear by them for going to sleep. Drinking alcohol makes me feel sleepy, but usually I wake up when it wears off, which doesn’t help. Sometimes watching a boring TV show will help me go to sleep when I’m sleeping at my usual time, but it doesn’t seem to work when I’m fighting my own body clock. The Bob Ross painting shows are a good choice for a lot of people.

Getting up earlier

Bright light: A sunrise lamp can really help with waking up if you sleep alone or if your partner doesn’t mind the light. If that doesn’t work for you, turning on the lights ASAP in the room you’re spending time in helps. I like to do a gradual increase of light that mimics the sunrise. This is a situation where you want blue light. I also adjust my F.lux screen temperature to mimic sunrise for my schedule.

Showering immediately: Taking a shower as soon as I get up is super helpful to distract me from the miserable sad feeling in my body. I like having minty-smelling soap and similar “refreshing” smells.

Listening to energetic music: I’m a techno/electronica girl; putting in the headphones and cranking Röyksopp makes my artificial “morning” a lot more bearable.

Taking a walk: As soon as it is light outside, I take a walk. There’s some kind of weird perverse pleasure to being up and about at dawn that helps with my energy, and the earlier I can get real sunlight in my eyes, the better. Physical exercise, bracing air, interacting with people, seeing new things – all of these things help in a way that isn’t as effective as going to a dark empty indoor gym.

Do annoying work: For me, I’m already grumpy and mad and there’s nothing fun I can do anyway because everyone I normally hang out with is asleep, so that’s the perfect time to do annoying tasks that make me grumpy or mad. This is often accounting or tax-related. An additional benefit is that I often get angry, which keeps me awake. Doing something fun and enjoyable will often result in me relaxing and feeling sleepy, so I save that for closer to bed time.

Communicating with friends in other time zones: If I have friends in other time zones who are awake, I send them pictures or chat or talk on the phone if they’re amenable. It helps to feel less alone.

Eating on schedule: Your digestive system is part of your circadian rhythm, and eating on schedule with your new sleep/wake schedule helps. It’s not fun to eat when I’m not hungry, but it helps with waking up as well as adjusting to the new schedule. It’s hard to sleep if my stomach has decided it’s time to eat, so I eat when I am awake to avoid waking up hungry later.

Eating dark chocolate: Eating 70% or higher cacao content chocolate gives me a little bit of sugar and the right kind of caffeine to feel a little more awake and happy. The taste is also interesting and complex and helps me feel awake and interested.

Drinking coffee or tea: Most of the time, coffee and tea make me nauseous and jittery while leaving my tiredness and depression intact. In extreme cases, I will drink a half-caff cappucino or mocha, but I usually avoid that unless I’m traveling 5 or more hours east.

Taking pseudoephedrine: I discovered quite by accident that, for me, pseaudoephedrine completely stops the feelings of depression and sadness I have when I’m getting up too early. When I’m up at 2am the day I fly to Europe, a 12-hour Sudafed makes an incredible improvement in my quality of life. An additional benefit of the 12-hour Sudafed is that I start to feel tired when it wears off, which helps with going to sleep earlier. None of this is surprising when you remember that pseudoephedrine is related to methamphetamine.

I’ve taken amodafinal before and it seemed to work fine with no side effects, but I haven’t tried it for jet lag. I assume it and modafinal work great since they were kind of invented to keep people awake with low side effects.

Sleeping later

I don’t travel west as often, and usually it is much easier for me to adapt my schedule. But when I do, a difficult challenge is when I wake up just a few hours before I’m supposed to wake up, when I can’t take a sleeping pill because I’ll be groggy later on. Here are some tips for sleeping later and going back to sleep when you have to be up in a few hours.

Take melatonin a few hours before waking up: Melatonin can not only help you go to sleep earlier, it can also help you sleep later. I set my alarm for 1-2 hours before I suspect I will wake up (my usual wake time) and take 0.3 mg of melatonin, then read a book in the dark until I go back to sleep. The major downside of this approach is that it gives many people exceptionally vivid dreams. For me, this means I spend the last few hours of sleep having intense dreams in which I am determinedly trying to get some specific task done, like writing an essay or unpacking my suitcase, which I find exhausting and frustrating. It also means waking up at least once in the night. I haven’t tried time-release melatonin but it sounds like it would work better than this jerry-rigged situation.

Blocking light: Even a tiny shaft of sunlight between the curtains can ruin my attempt to sleep in. I cover not only my eyes but also my skin – sometimes it feels like the sun on my skin is waking me up, and apparently the skin has photoreceptors too?

Use any non-pharmaceutical going to sleep aid: Keep it dark, read a boring book, listen to sleep hypnosis, keep lying down, etc. When I’m having a bad night for anxiety, I’ll set up my iPhone with the screenreader and Pride and Prejudice and put in my earbuds and just leave it playing in my ears all night. (This is how I got through the two weeks following the 2016 U.S. presidential election.)

Believe in stage 1 sleep: The first stage of sleep often feels like I’m still awake – I can sense what is going on around me, remember things that happen, feel the passage of time, etc. – but I’m actually technically asleep. This kind of sleep isn’t fantastic and no on can do well on light sleep alone, but it does serve some of the purposes of sleep and it makes me feel more rested and restored than not sleeping at all. I often get only stage 1 sleep when I’m trying to sleep on a plane. For me, knowing and trusting that stage 1 sleep is effective helps a lot with relaxing and continuing to get some sleep instead of none at all.

Staying up later

Does anyone really need advice on staying up later? I think most people get lots of practice at this. Short version: do interesting, exciting things, take stimulants, get bright light, listen to exciting music, talk to people, read thrillers, eat food. I will also do annoying frustrating work like accounting to keep me from getting too relaxed and feeling sleepy.

Your tips?

Do you have any tips for adjusting your time zone? Leave them in the comments!

HOWTO make easy readable protest signs

trump_hates_puppiesRumor has it that the remix of the Muslim ban is about to drop, and I’m betting a lot of you protesters want to get your march on this week. Here for your protesting enjoyment are three sign designs I’ve personally created and tested in the rain and wind of the San Francisco Bay Area: the Extremely Portable, the Reusable Whiteboard, and the Enormous Billboard.

But remember, the first rule of Protest Club is: You don’t need a sign to protest!!! You can just show up with your own bad self and that makes you a protester. Sometimes protests have more signs than people to hold them, so don’t feel weird about showing up empty-handed!

Caveats:

  • These designs are too expensive for some folks. I personally have more money than time, but you can substitute other materials if that works better for you.
  • San Francisco police don’t seem to consider sign poles as potential weapons but other police departments (notably the NYPD) do. Check your local ordinances and substitute cardboard tubes if necessary, or use the Extremely Portable sign design which doesn’t have a pole.
  • I include links to order stuff on Amazon, but some people are boycotting Amazon because it sells Trump-family related products. You can also buy the materials for MUCH CHEAPER at hardware stores, art supply stores, office supply stores, and big box retailers.

The Extremely Portable

portable_signIt used to be that many protests were planned weeks and months in advance, on a regularly spaced schedule. No more! Thanks to our exciting and unpredictable executive branch, we often have protests organized with just a few hours notice, several times a week. The modern protestor may wish to be equipped with a sign small and sleek enough to carry everywhere, in a purse or a laptop bag. San Francisco Bay Area tip: you can text “RESIST” to 41411 to get text notifications of local protests – you might even see me at one with this sign!

Materials:

Unfold the sunshade. Trace your message using the yardstick and pencil on the silver side, keeping in mind that you need thick letters if you want your sign to be readable from a distance. I suggest a fairly generic message, like “RESIST” or “Trump” with a ban symbol over it.

folded_signOnce you’re happy with your design, fill it in with marker. You’re done! Fold that sign up and keep it next to your laptop or in your purse or in your trunk or in your desk at work – anywhere you might suddenly learn of a protest and want to go join it.

The Reusable Whiteboard

whiteboard_actionMany protests have specific purposes, and my tiny apartment started filling up with out-of-date signs I couldn’t use again. I created this sign so I could have an on-point message at any protest without a lot of time or cost, and improve and update my sign as I got feedback during the protest.

Materials:

About 1/2 of the way from the bottom of the eraserboard, use the yardstick to find the center of the sign. Make a mark with your pencil about 3/8 inch on either side of the center (the distance between the marks should be about 60% of the width of your sign pole). Do this again but about an inch or two from the bottom of the sign. Do this in the same place for each eraserboard.

whiteboard_bottomThis sign has a problem with the wind catching between the eraserboards and ripping them loose, so we will use zip ties to attach the four corners of the marker board to each other. Repeat the marking process you just did but in each of the corners of the eraserboard: make two marks about an inch apart, aligned in a way so that the zip tie will interfere the least with your sign’s contents.

Once you have all your marks made, place the eraserboard over something that it will be okay if a nail comes through the eraserboard (cardboard, scrap wood, etc.). Place the nail on the pencil mark you just made and use the hammer to drive it through quickly. Do this for each of the marks on each eraserboard.

whiteboard_cornerNow take a minute to figure out how your zip ties work – which side has the nubbly bits, which way the tail goes, etc. Sacrifice a zip tie or two if necessary to be sure. Put one eraserboard face down on the floor, put the pole between the holes you just made, and put the other eraserboard on top, face up. Now thread a zip tie through the hole in one board, into the matching hole on the other board, and back through again, with the pole in the middle of the zip tie – but don’t tighten it yet. Do this for the second set of holes too. Now you can tighten the zip ties. Crank them down so the sign doesn’t slip or spin around, but be careful not to rip the eraserboard too much. Do the same for the holes in the 4 corners, though you don’t need to crank them so much – just enough that the edges of each eraserboard touch each other.

You are now done until you have a protest you want to go to. I often wait until I arrive at the protest to create my sign, bringing the markers and a paper towel to erase with (though I often just erase with my glove). I found that the standard dry erase markers are waterproof except for the black color, which washes off with water if you recently applied it. Don’t forget to erase your sign right after the protest – the longer the marker stays on the dry erase board, the harder it is to erase.

The Enormous Billboard

puppies_signThis design is visible from a long way away but heavy and relatively expensive. If you spend a few days workshopping your message, or investing in some quality art, reporters are more likely to talk to you and help you get your message out to a wider audience. Spend some time thinking about who your audience is, what your goal is, and how you can best reach them. (Yes, Trump does hate puppies.)

Materials:

billboard_signUse the yardstick and the pencil to trace out your message on the foamcore posterboard, drawing lightly so it is easy to erase major mistakes (don’t bother erasing all the pencil lines, no one can see them). Make your letters thick and easy to read from 30 feet away – on many signs, the letters are too thin to read. You can test readability by taking a photo of your sign on your phone and holding it at arm’s length: can you read it? Use as few words as possible. Once you are happy with the pencil tracing, fill in with the marker.

Do this for both posterboards – you will get tired of spinning your sign around so people can see your message from the opposite direction. If you put different signs on each side, you can A/B test which messages are the most effective (by counting how many people want to take photos of each side). (Note for painters: use acrylic paint and mix with a lot of non-translucent white such as titanium white.)

Close up of overlapping tape
Close up of overlapping tape
If you expect rain, cover the posterboard with clear packing tape, overlapping the strips by about 1/4 of an inch. Don’t be fussy about it, just tape quickly and avoid gaps between the tape. You don’t necessarily have to tape both sides.

Now you are ready to attach the posterboards to the wooden dowel – the pole. You are about to mark where the zip ties will go, so move them around so they fit between the words on your sign. About 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the posterboard, use the yardstick to find the center of the sign. Make a mark about 3/8 inch on either side of the center (the distance between the marks should be about 60% of the width of your sign pole). Do this again but about an inch or two from the bottom of the sign. Do this in the same place for each posterboard.

Place the posterboard over something that it will be okay if a nail comes through the posterboard (cardboard, scrap wood, etc.). Place the nail on the pencil mark you just made and use the hammer to drive it through quickly. Do this for each of the 4 marks on each posterboard.

Now take a minute to figure out how your zip ties work – which side has the nubbly bits, which way the tail goes, etc. Sacrifice a zip tie or two if necessary to be sure. Put one posterboard face down on the floor, put the pole between the holes you just made, and put the other posterboard on top, face up. Now thread a zip tie through the hole in one board, into the matching hole on the other board, and back through again, with the pole in the middle of the zip tie – but don’t tighten it yet. Do this for the second set of holes too. Now you can tighten the zip ties. Crank them down so the sign doesn’t slip or spin around, but be careful not to rip the posterboard too much.

nonslip_ziptieNow tape the sides of the posterboards together – this prevents the wind from snapping them around and ripping the holes the zip ties go through. All you need is a strip of packing tape around the top, bottom, and middle of the signs. If the sign tends to slide around on the pole too much, add two more zip ties on the pole just underneath the bottom zip tie that threads through the sign. It should stop it from sliding down, but still make it possible to pull the pole out of the sign if necessary.

That’s it! Happy protesting, whether or not you have a sign!

Cross-post: How to organize tech workers to change company policy

This is a cross-post from the Frame Shift Consulting blog.

Tech workers are uniquely positioned to fight for equality and justice in the United States and around the world. Because tech workers are critical to many business’s operations, and there are more tech jobs than tech workers to feel them, management is often eager to listen to and make changes at the request of the tech workers they employ. However, often there is no simple or easy way for tech workers to communicate with their management as a group.

Liz Fong-Jones is a tech worker and activist with 7 years of experience organizing her fellow tech workers to change company policies at the highest levels. In this video, she shares what she has learned about how tech workers can effectively organize themselves to clearly communicate their values and needs to management. Organizing and acting as a group is an important ally skill worth learning!

Human-edited English captions are available for the entire talk, as are extensive notes from a previous version of the talk given at a meeting of Tech Solidarity (@techsolidarity).

Thank you, Liz, for sharing this valuable experience and knowledge with us!

Yes, Trump does hate puppies

Yesterday, I marched in protests with a sign that reads “Trump hates kids and puppies… for real!!!” A lot of people asked me, “Does Trump really hate puppies?” (Funny, no one questioned that he hates kids.) The answer is, yes! Here is why:

  1. Trump is the first U.S. president in 150 years who does not have a pet.
  2. Trump frequently uses “like a dog” as an insult in bizarre and weird ways.
  3. Trump picked two supporters of puppy mills and opponents of the Humane Society to lead part of his transition team and be on a cabinet appointment short list.

Actually, that last one is even weirder than I could fit into a bullet point – the two people are Forrest Lucas and Brian Klippenstein, who are respectively the founder and executive director of the misleadingly named Protect the Harvest non-profit. As Mother Jones puts it, “Protect the Harvest seems to exist mainly to troll the Humane Society of the United States.” And yes, even Protect the Harvest’s own web site shows their support for puppy mills. Oh yeah, Forrest Lucas is… you guessed it, an oil millionaire.

This kind of creepy sadism seems to be a requirement to join Trump’s administration. Hating kids and puppies may seem like a small thing to some people, but it’s just one symptom of Trump’s overall governing philosophy. This sign makes people laugh, stop, and ask a question. They come away with a clearer understand of Trump’s inner hatred and complete lack of empathy. And that’s why I’m marching with this sign.

I hope to see you at the Women’s March in San Francisco today! And at many more protests to come!