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Aaron Muszalski
Tactical optimist. Founder, Threadable (acquired). Y Combinator alum. Black Rock City DPW. Zen anarchist. Not surviving cancer—surpassing it
Tactical optimist. Founder, Threadable (acquired). Y Combinator alum. Black Rock City DPW. Zen anarchist. Not surviving cancer—surpassing it

Aaron's posts

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KittyStryker's bang-on response to Tracy McMillan's sexist HuffPo post (and soon-to-be book) "Why You're Not Married" deserved to be as widely shared as the badly-flawed post it critiques. Also, WHERE IS KITTY STRYKER'S BOOK DEAL, EH? Let's get some actual progressive, equality, respect and consent-focused relationship advice content out there. PLEASE.

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My wife +Lori Dorn, who has breast cancer, tells her story about a TSA agent at JFK on Friday who required her to submit to a pat down due to her breast implants, even though she had an identification card for the implants that is used to prove that the implants are an actual medical device. The TSA agent would not let Lori show her the card.

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Goodbye, Google+

Dear Google,

I am leaving Google+ because I feel unwelcome here. The implementation and operation of your Names Policy is overbearing, and remains so, even after you have listened to reasonable objections and have weighed how you want to proceed.

To be clear, I have not been directly affected -- I use my full, legal name on the web, and I have done so here on Google+. Nothing has happened to my Google+ account.

However, I have been indirectly affected; a number of my friends have had their accounts suspended, and have been forced to use names that don't make sense in order to get them reinstated.

I find the operation of the Names Policy to be odious, and it makes me sick at heart. I do not want to participate in your Names Policy, even passively, so I am leaving.

Yours truly,

Peter Kaminski

/cc +Vic Gundotra

Dear Readers,

I'm leaving on August 15th. I'll continue to edit and expand this post with questions/answers until then, and I'll crosspost it to my website before leaving. I would rather stay, because I've really enjoying using Google+ -- but it looks like Google has made up its mind.

Here's the deal: I don't get why Google thinks it has the right to dictate what people want to call themselves. Actually, I don't mind that they came up with the idea in the first place -- every design makes assumptions, some good, some bad. But after the concept has been tested in the real world, they've decided yes, they really do want it that way. Unlike all the other online services I've enjoyed using in the past 25+ years.

Check out my contacts list on Flickr:

Sure, most of them have real names. Some don't. Is that a problem? No. Do I like it that way? Yes.

Choosing your identity is a key part -- perhaps the cornerstone -- of free speech. And choosing a context-specific identity is a natural, everyday part of being human. You ought to be able to do it online, as well as in real life.

Which brings me to the part of Google's stance that really bothers me. When pushed, the reason Google has given for continuing with the policy is that they are striving to "make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with people in the real world."

Now, there have been plenty of posts on Google+ and the web discussing how and why the Google+ Names Policy is not like connecting with people in the real world. But Google has not acknowledged that. So, I can only conclude one of two things:

1. Google, as an entity, really is that clueless about the way people work.
2. Google, as an entity, is lying. They have some unexplained reason to continue operating the Names Policy, but choose to explain it as being "more like connecting with people in the real world."

Either one makes Google+ a place I don't want to be right now.

I have to say, I'm not so principled, nor naive, to say that I will stay away forever. The sheer weight of Google online, combined with my use of other Google services, means that I am likely to have to come crawling back here in some months. But I don't have to be here now, and the way Google has intimated I can best give them feedback right now is by leaving. So that's what I'm doing.

Don't get why I'm upset? Here is the beginning of a list of useful background resources and great posts on the topic:

My Name Is Me

Your name and Google+ Profiles - Google+ Help

Google+ Update: Common Name Grace Period - Saurabh Sharma's

Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy? - Geek Feminism Wiki

Google+ names policy, explained - Skud

"Real Names" Policies Are an Abuse of Power - danah boyd

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My thoughts on the Burning Man Ticket Crisis (TM)

The Jaded Fuck Guide to Getting a Burning Man Ticket
by @SFSlim

So Burning Man sold out, and now a lot of perfectly wonderful and deserving beings who would otherwise have taken part in the pansexual polyamorous participatory panorama of Black Rock City 2011 aren’t going to be able to come. Cue gnashing of tweets and premature inhalation of whippits.


While the situation is challenging, there are yet avenues by which an aspiring burner may pass through the eye of the needle. (The needle, in this case, being the BRC Gate, Perimeter & Exodus crew.) Successfully acquiring a ticket will require a combination of perspective, persistence, personality and luck.

Before I talk about specific approaches, let’s take a moment to talk about the different kinds of Burning Man tickets. (Yes, there are more than one.)

You can obtain a ticket to Burning Man in one of seven ways:

• Outright purchase. The most common approach. Done online, by mail, or at the gate. Ticket sales for 2011 have been discontinued. This option is no longer available.

• Low-income ticket program. Each year a number of discounted tickets are made available to people with special financial needs. This program is documented on the Burning Man website, and the application deadline for it is almost certainly long past.

• Locals-only tickets. For many years Burning Man has offered discount tickets to the residents of neighboring towns like Nixon, Gerlach and the local Indian tribes. I've no idea how this program works, but if you wind up buying a house in Empire just to get a Burning Man ticket, be sure to let me know how that works out for you.

• Gift tickets (honorarium artists). Artists whose pieces were awarded an honorarium (aka a Burning Man art grant) are typically allotted a small number of free tickets for their core team. The size of this allotment is limited, and there is a deadline for requesting these tickets. Artists are strongly discouraged from abusing this program, and many of them elect to opt out of it, choosing instead to purchase artist-rate tickets.

• Artist-rate tickets. These are discounted tickets that are made available to some of the artists who are bringing pieces to Burning Man. (I say "some" because it's been a while since I directly interacted with this program, and I no longer know how broad or accessible it is.)

• Gift tickets (employees/volunteers). These tickets are made available to some of the people who work or volunteer for the Burning Man organization before, during or after the event. Not every volunteer receives a gift ticket, and even for positions that typically do receive tickets, it is common practice to require at least one year of service prior to being eligible for a gift ticket. For example, by volunteering two years in a row, you would receive a gift ticket in your second year.

• Friend of Larry golden ticket. This is a special kind of pass, of which only 5 have ever been issued. You know if you have one. (You also know the accompanying secret handshake, and the GPS coordinates of the buried 1997 cashbox.) I could tell you how to obtain this ticket, but then Danger Ranger would have to kill me.

Note that the names I’ve used to refer to these categories are my own, and may not correspond with what these classes of tickets are currently called. It’s been a long time since I’ve paid close attention to such things, and the event has no doubt since evolved its own Byzantine taxonomies to further complexify, confuse and obfuscate the already Kafkaesque ticketing process far beyond the realm of mortal comprehension.


In trying to understand what all the fuss about tickets is, it may help you to understand two things.

1) Working with Burning Man, The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has established limits on the size of the event. These limits are gradually increasing on a specific timeline, and it is crucial for the future of the event that Burning Man do their part to adhere to this mutually agreed upon schedule. (No BLM permit = no Burning Man.) Yes Magellan, there’s still lots of space left in the desert. And no, that has nothing to do with this decision.

2) Every Burning Man ticket, whether with a face price or not (i.e. a gift ticket), represents an expense to the event. That is to say, with every ticket they issue, the event incurs a complex set of actual costs. (I don’t know the actual amount, but I’ve heard it’s around $90. This is probably all available online somewhere, if anyone really cared to look -- the point is, tickets costs BMORG money. Real money.) This includes insurance, BLM permitting fees, payments made to local tribes, law enforcement fees (not only is the event required to maintain a certain ratio of LEO's to participants, but they must also pay those LEO's wages) and so forth. These expenses have only increased over the years, and many are not immediately obvious or understandable, especially to those who are not intimately involved in the production of the event. Due to this, the event is extremely careful about distributing free and low-cost tickets. In fact, when viewed in the light of the real expenses that every ticket represents, the abundance of low-cost and gift ticket options the organization offers every year is quite remarkable.

So what does all this mean to you?

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that, while many people who are deeply involved with Burning Man do receive free or discounted tickets, there is a strongly-held cultural bias against ever expecting those tickets. The reasons behind this are many, but perhaps the most important perception you need to understand is this:

People should contribute to Burning Man because they want to, because it's the right thing to do, because they want to give something back to the community, and NOT because they expect to receive anything in return, least of all a ticket.

Your success in obtaining a ticket to Burning Man 2011 will depend on the extent to which you understand, respect and embody this belief.

Tickets are out there. There are honorarium art projects who still have a few unallocated gift tickets. There are individual burners with extra tickets to sell, or even to give away. (For many years I used to purchase more tickets than I needed and gifted them, often at the last moment, to people who would otherwise have been unable to attend.) There are people who, due to some unexpected change in plans, will find themselves with tickets they are unable to use. There may be a few unfilled volunteer roles that could potentially lead to a ticket. And the event itself still has yet to disburse all of the tickets it has allocated for its employees and volunteers. Don’t give up hope.

So how does one go about acquiring a ticket? Here are some tips:

Keep things in perspective. As much as it may feel that way at times, no one needs a Burning Man ticket; It is merely a desire. Keep that in mind, and adjust your language and expectations accordingly. Seriously. People be getting crazy out there.

No commerce. Burning Man tickets are sold at face value. (Or sometimes, less.) Scalpers do not embody the principles of the event. Don’t patronize them. And don’t insult a Burner by offering them more than face value for a ticket (other than perhaps a modest shipping or PayPal fee) – doing so can often result in them opting to sell the ticket to someone else.

Offer to help. Burning Man works because of community. If you’re part of a community already, you likely already understand this. (Also, you’re probably not likely to be seeking a ticket for very long, because communities take care of their own.) For those of you who are not yet connected with a larger community, the most direct way to bridge that gap is to show up somewhere and offer to help. There’s a massive amount of Burning Man prep work being done right now. Ask around, check online, and find out which groups in your area are in need of assistance. Choose one that appeals to you and reach out to them, either online or in-person. While there are certainly some groups that intentionally choose to limit their participants, the rest will be thrilled by the offer of another highly motivated body.

No blame. To many deeply involved Burners, the idea of not having a ticket by August is difficult to understand. In fact, for some of them, Burning Man has already begun, with members of the DPW having already relocated to Nevada to begin the Herculean task of building Black Rock City. Meanwhile the artists, many of whom have already been working around the clock for weeks, are now making their final, mad push to bring their ambitious visions to some semblance of completion—or to at least get things to a point where they can meet their shipping deadline. For these kinds of people, the idea of not going to Burning Man can at times seem almost theoretical, and the idea of not having obtained a ticket even more so. (Indeed, at this point, some may even relate to the idea of not being able to go to Burning Man as a heady fantasy, a magical land of fairies and leisure time, where art deadlines never come and fence day doesn’t exist.) Needless to say, to people in this state of mind, bitterly complaining about why you didn’t end up with a ticket probably won’t go over very well.

No expectations. If you are perceived to be offering your time, labor or interest simply out of the expectation of receiving a ticket, you almost certainly won’t receive one. Better to abandon your expectations, show up, and start helping. If you kick enough ass, and become an indispensable part of an art project, theme camp or other community or collaboration, many more people will be motivated to help you out.

Tell the world. Having no expectations doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t let others know that you’re without a ticket—people aren’t mind-readers and if you don’t clearly communicate your situation, you’ll never receive the assistance that you’re seeking. You never know where a ticket might be found. Put the word out, but be sure to do so in a positive way, without entitlement. (Also, save the “miracle ticket” bullshit for the next Grateful Dead tour. As the legendary Otto Von Danger once said, succinctly expressing a common burner sentiment, “I’m allergic to hippies. They make me break out in guns.”)

If all else fails. 2011 may not have been the right year for you to go to Burning Man after all. If you still wind up unable to attend, remember that there are other options. Like Balsa Man for example, a humble celebration of tiny ingenuity that has many parallels to Burning Man, and which is now held in dozens of cities around the world. Or you can organize an event of your own (perhaps a Balsa Man regional! See ). Or perhaps you might choose to do nothing at all, instead merely relaxing and reflecting on all the money you’ve saved, all the strife you’ve avoided, and the fact that, in all likelihood, your romantic partner hasn’t left for you for a fursuit-wearing DJ named Starfyre.

Life could be worse.

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