Teardrop Trailer FAQ

Some questions.

Q. Why?
A. I’ve been camping since I was in the womb – I mean that literally, my mom and dad were camping a few days before I was born. I’ve slept outside for probably thousands of hours and in every weather – all 4 seasons, desert to forest to mountain to beach. I’ve done it all, more or less. Any camping experience I haven’t had is either 1)niche (if you counted, say, Mt. Everest as a “camping trip”) or out of my price range (I have never gone backpacking in Iran).

To be blunt, I’ve earned what you might call “comfort”. I want to be able to spend a week or two in the woods, but, I don’t want to have to deal with all the fun stuff you get spending a week in a tent: leaks, rips, heavy storms, animals, weirdos, cold snaps, hot snaps, you name it.

In other words: I want to stay close to the basic “shape” of tent camping but without all the downsides. And we did not want things like satellite TV and a bread maker. A travel-trailer-style camper just isn’t us.

Thus, we wanted the basics of tent camping but with the benefit of a travel-trailer. What we got is perfect.

Q. What did you buy?
A. A 5×9 Mid-Range by Hiker Trailer. We customized most elements available: we have the fancy fan, a tool box, the “lock-n-roll” trailer hitch, and some interior customizations.

Q. How big is it inside?
A. floor-space, a queen-size bed. Enough headroom to kneel, so you can get dressed pretty easily. But you can’t stand up. Kneeling (including the mattress), my head nearly touches the ceiling; I’m 6′ tall.

Q. 5×8 or 5×9? Does it matter?
A. We have so much room for storage just by adding the extra foot. I’m sort of concerned we’re going to go from our “tight 2 bins” to the whole “be a goldfish and expand to fill the available space”.

Q. How’s it sleep?
A. We got one of those internet mattresses, the kind you hear advertised on every podcast, a tri-fold number. We had to use an electric knife to trim it by about an inch and put down some weird underlayer to help ensure it doesn’t get moist. Honestly it’s about 98% comfy as our home mattress (also off the internet – no, not that one, the other one you hear on every podcast).

Q. How’s it tow?
A. I guess it depends on what you drive. I have a 2017 Tacoma w/ a v6 and the full-on towing package, purchased specifically to tow a trailer this size.

I don’t want to say “You don’t notice it”, because you do, but it hardly affects performance. Going up a mountain uses a little more of the engine, and braking takes a little extra effort, but not so much that you’ll have a serious learning curve.

Where there is a pretty big learning curve: backing it up (obvs), some drive-thrus, and tight parking lots. I had to spend 20 minutes sitting in a parking lot in Moorefield, WV because a couple of people just sort of blocked me in with their monster trucks. (Also I’m pretty unsure of how it handles in tight spaces so I did not want to ding their big monster trucks, nor my new trailer).

Q. You said light, and fan? It has power?
A. Yes. It is powered by one of those heavy-duty marine batteries (as in boat, not oorah). It has 2 internal lights: one in the galley, and 1 in the cabin. There are no external lights. The fan is a high-speed exhaust-type fan mounted in the center of the cabin; it has a button you can press to have it keep the cabin at 70-something degrees.

We mostly use battery-powered lamps, though. The main light is blazingly brilliant (a very nice LED) and for whatever reason, my wife decided she doesn’t like to use it unless necessary; and the galley light is rarely needed, as we almost always have everything stowed by dark, anyway.

We opted for a portable solar charger; it has a panel the size of a smallish office whiteboard that you can move around to track the sun. It can charge the battery in a few hours on a bright day. The downside is, here in the eastern woodlands, you’re almost always 100% covered by decent tree canopy. But it’s a very nice to have, in case you need it, since it occupies very little space/weight. There is also a plug for “shore power” if you’re in a developed campground, but we’ve never used it.

There is no heater. Technically these are not rated for 4 seasons; lots of people use them in winter but they have no special insulation and winter environments bring extra challenges. We have very little interest in winter camping, so it doesn’t bother us. On cold nights, say in the highlands of West Virginia, we just bring an extra wool blanket and dress warmly for bed. So far, we’ve endured near-freezing without ever feeling cold. Some people use heaters in theirs but it scares me.

Q. What kind of gear does it have? You said “galley”, does it have, like a stove and water and stuff?
A. Ours does not. Like I said above, we want “durable tent camping”. So we still use a camp stove, but we upgraded from my little JetBoil to an actual white gas stove thingee. There is no water storage; not having to winterize was a key consideration. Like I said: there’s our 2 tote bins of the same stuff we took tent camping, with a few things removed (spare stakes, patch kit, ground cloths). The other consideration was we wanted no food in it. All food is stored in the truck.

Our “galley” is incredibly sparse compared to some.


As I write this, the whole Covid thing has kinda fucked up our camping season; it’s May 3rd and we haven’t gotten out yet, because many places are just closed, like “they closed the forest road” closed. We’d hoped to have had a shakedown trip for this season done by now. As-is, we might get out to some places by the end of the month. If not, I won’t have much hiker trailer stuff to report on for a bit.

A conversation with the “anti-gunner” that lives in my head

Why do you even like guns.

Firearms are, fundamentally, machines. In fact, they work a lot like an internal combustion motor: fuel goes boom, pushes on operating surfaces, does work. It’s just that it flings a little lead pellet instead of transmitting the power to wheels or rotors or whatever.

What makes them interesting, then, is the the constraints. Will a particular design work reliably, when fouled or dirty? Does it transmit more or less energy to the shooter (aka “felt recoil”) for the same amount of energy expended? Is it light, or heavy? Is it easy to operate? What are the human factors of the design – can you take it apart and reassemble it in the dark? Is it 4 components or 40? How do small changes in the geometry or construction of components cause big effects?

And I’m a good shot. I’m somehow naturally competent at shooting.

You’re good at murder practice? What’s wrong with you? You’re only doing it to make up for the size of your dick.

Well, point the first, I don’t necessarily disagree with the notion of “murder practice”, any more than taking a krav maga class can be thought of as “violence and maybe murder practice”. Guns can kill people, it’s true. I mean, I’m not specifically training to cause harm to anyone, but getting really good at hitting a bullseye has, as an unavoidable side effect, being really good at hitting center mass on a human being. Breath control, trigger control, and sight picture don’t know what the target is.

The dick thing, I see mostly on hellscape bird site, because of course you do. I don’t disagree at all that for a lot of the MAGA chud types, and firearms culture in general, toxic masculinity is just the de rigueur mode of operating. So middle-school attacks on masculinity are effective, to some degree. And yes, as long as we’re being totally honest – this is a safe space, I presume – like many men my age (I’m 46) my concept of masculinity is grounded in toxic bullshit. I’m not going to bullshit and say I don’t struggle with that. But it’s not why I like firearms.

Can’t you find a better hobby? One that doesn’t involve violence?

I mean, I guess? My problem with this line of thinking is it can be reduced, without logical fallacy, to: “Hobbies that involve violence must be ended”. This means professional sports, primarily football, but obviously MMA, boxing, etc. And activities that aren’t really in the zeitgeist of the day like archery and skeet shooting. Also just to be safe – people have died both as participants and spectators – we should stop all automobile racing (it’s bad for the environment, too). Basically anything that isn’t track and field. Competition with stand-ins for war have been part of “sports” for all of human history. Why the fuck do you think there’s a javelin throw.

It’s your fear totem, it’s your binky, you have delusions about surviving “The Big One” or murdering your fellow citizens!

Well, in a word, no. These are absolutely correct for more than a few people out there but:

  • I don’t carry concealed and do not believe that having a firearm makes me magically safer (with one caveat)
  • I do not believe that I will survive “The Big One”. Any civilization-toppling event will likely take me out, because 1)I live near a somewhat important population center, 2)in a pretty densely populated area and 3)I’m old and currently (STILL!) recovering from surgery so I’m not at 100%.

I have, in the past, wondered about it. I don’t think that’s a scathing indictment of someone’s motives. But let me say again in no uncertain terms: I’m not a prepper, I’m not preparing for “The Big One”, I don’t think I’ll outlive any serious calamity enough to wander the earth, living off my wits and my AR.

Fuck, I’m still not certain I’ll survive Covid, and it’s hardly a civilization-ending plague.

But on the matter of the caveat: I also believe that there is a pretty significant change that the “Boogaloo” will occur in my lifetime. Meaning, there will be an attempt by lunatics to seize … I don’t know if “power” or “control” is the right word, because the dynamics are not precisely the same as a coup and secession isn’t their goal. Anyway I think the attempt by nutjobs to have their “second civil war” where they get rid of the liberals and reinstate a new government in their image will occur. It seems almost certain at this point. And, I believe that ultimately it will fail: I think that they’re counting on sympathy that will evaporate when it hits home that these “patriots” pull their stunt.

(Put another way, I think a lot of the people imagine a bloodless coup, and the people who will actually do it will get aggressively violent, and that will not go well.)

So for that, I do own a firearm. I believe order will rule out over chaos, but it will take time and in some places, maybe even where I am, communities might need to rely on self-defense.

You … honestly believe that?

Yes. They’re winning battles but losing the war. The Richmond, VA protest is an example. Not every proposed gun law passed, but several did, which makes their protest a pyrrhic victor at best. They’re losing. This shit has been happening my entire adult life. This “second civil war” cosplay cannot go on forever. Someone’s going to try; the question is “will it be 10 guys? 100? 1000?”.

 

Hoarding ammo is for morons and LARPers

So here we are in The End Times, and I’ve heard/seen numerous remarks that say people are buying ammo at roughly the same rate they bought toilet paper.

You know that saying, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics”? Yeah this is the same deal.

My main reason: What the fuck are you going to do with 1000+ rounds? Defend your suburban single-family home like some sort of fortress? You and the missus and your 2 1/2 kids are going to all need hundreds and hundreds of rounds to cover their assigned sectors, as you live out your own personal Khe Sahn?

Are you fucking kidding me?

The idea of home-as-fortress is hilariously dumb. In most places, even in suburbs, we live jam-packed cheek-to-jowl with almost no open space. It’ll take a trivial amount of gasoline or some other flammable just just burn you out. They don’t even need to attack you specifically. You can be holed up, quietly, and our hypothetical bad guys can just start any ol’ fire and fuck everyone up.

You’re solving the dumbest part of the tactical problem.

The second reason is mass. Let’s say the shit hits the fan, and you realize, oh fuck, I can’t turn my suburban townhouse into a fortress; I gotta get the fuck outta here. The roads are already gridlocked as others try to flee, so you can’t drive. So you throw some MREs and a sleeping bag into your pack, and grab your rifle. Now what?

If you’re me, it’s at least 2 hard days of walking to get away from the city. Assuming I was doing it stealthily – say, at night, or taking as many indirect routes as possible – it might take a week to get away from what is officially “northern Virginia” and into the wilderness.

Do you know what a week’s worth of gear weighs before you pile on any ammo? Here’s a couple decent answers on how much ammo a modern infantryman can carry when well supported and supplied. Here are some numbers for the WW2 soldier.

Now remember, the shit has hit the fan, and you’re carrying a bunch of camping gear. Think you can still pull it off?

No, you can’t.

I get it, you’re a bad motherfucker. I mean just look at that AR you bought, you’re clearly an operator operating operationally. That doesn’t change the fact that ammo is heavy and you have to eat.

A few mags worth is all you really need in the most dire SHTF scenario. If anything other than “laying down cover while I run for it” is your plan, you’re an idiot LARPer. Pitched battles mean something has gone horribly wrong and you probably deserve to die because you fucked up.

Also, this is America. In the event of a SHTF scenario, ammo and guns are going to be laying around like loot in a fucking video game before long.

Sure, I mean, buy 1000 rounds to get the cheap price and practice a lot – it’s what I do. But HOARDING? Are you a fucking idiot?

I don’t get Ironsworn

Lotta hot takes incoming.

First, can we please stop it with the PbtA games? They’re not even really games so much as improv with guardrails, a way to keep the audience from saying something just idiotic every time you say “yes, and?”.

That is a valid play style, of course. There is no wrong way to play anything. My complaint is that we aren’t breaking new ground anymore. It’s all progress tracks/clocks and the same mechanic for everything.

Anyway, to Ironsworn. I’ve read it a few times and I’m just befuddled.

Setting, good. Setting just absolutely fucking great. I mean, low magic, no goddamn orcs, explicit acknowledgement that not every goddamn yahoo has a sword and armor and horse and 10’ pole. Fuckin… right on. Give it to me. Into my fucking veins. I’ve been toying with settings like this for years and years.

Similarly the simple “break the world up into thematic groups, not richly detailed cartographer-grade maps” is nice. You can build your own thing on top of it; it’s the 5-room-dungeon thing.

But from there it all seems to spiral out of control. For one, it’s PbtA on speed: moves lead to moves which lead to more moves. Roll “Herp a Derp”, then on a strong hit roll “U raff u ruse”, then roll some other thing after that. They’ve managed to turn the simple, improv-with-guardrails into something actually complicated.

The whole vow thing, upon which the game is built, is tedious. Every 5 minutes someone needs to take a fucking vow. And the charts to resolve a vow. Are you kidding me. How the fuck I am supposed to resolve my vow, when dickhead over there is working on his?

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve played in groups where the party not only shouldn’t have been adventuring, they shouldn’t have not just immediately started to murder each other. I’ve played in groups where the Session 0 was like, “I’m a bounty hunter, I’m chaotic evil, I want to murder everyone and sell their corpse for cash.” “OK cool I’m a lawful good paladin of the God of Kindness.” (in unison) “Let’s adventure!”

And the DM is like, sure, why not, nothing dysfunctional there. The story arc is, like, kill the evil neuromancer. One player wants to join him, one player doesn’t give a shit, one player just wants XP, one player …. etc.

The point being the “vows” bit seems like a great idea in theory but with 5 or 6 people, whose conflicting storylines cannot be resolved easily, I dunno. You’ve taken a neat mechanic for party unity and thematic story stuff and it just seems like it’ll end up in complete antagonism unless everyone is aligned.

A similar scenario occurs in Mage: The Ascension. Everyone “knows” it’s “unplayable”: the mechanics are too weird, too subjective, too unbalanced. I’ve played in a group where it worked amazingly and a lot of the time I have to stop back and say, you know, it was more that that group was in sync than the game. We could have had a baller 1st Ed D&D game. It was the group, not the setting or the rules.

Subsequent groups have not filled me with the same feeling, most of the time. So narrative, “fiction first” games that layer on complicated fiction-first stuff especially bug me.

The dice mechanic is … they sort of try to sell it as something other than “plain ol PbtA but with more randomness”. Instead of every move having the same probability you get, basically, random targets. I want to do the math on it to see how the curve looks. I assume they’ve done the math, but maybe not: since “fiction first” is the ultimate goal – not fair anything – and a certain number of complications and setbacks make for better fiction, maybe the curve being slightly adversarial is their goal. I don’t know.

Adapting it is hard. One of the reasons I haven’t ever run my version of it is: the simplicity plays into the story. Everyone is kind of assumed to be competent. There’s no “start off whacking goblins, then orcs, then ogres, then … etc” necessary. It’s like starting a D&D game at 5th level. Which is a good idea; I do tend to get annoyed at “you are a special person, also you faint if a rock hits you once” then a few months later “a goblin hit you 19x with a sword and you’re fine”. Those mechanics are hard to model without just saying, fuck it, fiction over numbers.

I also remain utterly bewildered at how people seem to think you need this rules-free improv storytelling fiction-first to have good combat. Like, are people out there just … doing math? Like is every combat just a game of Diablo, but with dice? My friends 7 year old grasped the idea of narrating combat, playing basic D&D. Yeah sure not every moment between dice rolls was a Tolkien novel, but if he can do it, grown-ass people with years of gaming – and ostensibly, reading books and shit – can do it too. You don’t need special mechanics to do that.

So I dunno. We’re getting a new group together to have some c9s social time, which means lotta group chats and vid conf, which has naturally led to “welp, time to play D&D”. Ironsworn came up first on the “ooh, let’s see”. Now I’m just irritated again. Maybe I’m stuck with hacked 5e.

The next big thing in software engineering interviews is …?

Software interviews are pretty dystopian. Everything is wrong about them.

But what’s next? How can we fix this?

We invented the take-home test, which seems to split the difference between finding out if this person has any technical ability at all, and testing a candidate’s ability to remember minutiae under completely contrived circumstances (combined with a little hazing, as a treat).

But even take-home tests have problems. For one thing, they favor people with free time – so if you are part of a working couple, 2 kids, a dog, and a house, it’s likely you are going to have a lot less time for your take home than the single, 27-year-old hacker who owns a futon and a Macbook (and little else). I’ve done interviews where the take-home test was in reality an excuse to make me do more whiteboard coding. After all you have to prove that I did the work!

A few places do this thing where, after you’ve run the gauntlet of interviews and whiteboard coding, you then work as a contractor for some time, to see if you can actually do the job. This seems to smart on paper, but JESUS. FUCKING. CHRIST. It takes even the smartest a solid year to really get going. You’re asking them to make extra work on their taxes; I mean who cares, we’re all crazy smart and overpaid, no big deal, right? And what you’re really doing is building a culture of overwork. After all they are gonna bust their ass for that 6 weeks, if they really want the job. Well now guess what the bar is set at.

We started all of this because … well I don’t know really. In the old days you’d just call their references or make some random guess at which candidate was good. But we got a culture of “make the monkey dance because working here is a privilege” out of it.

I think we’ve painted ourselves into a corner. We programmer types are all vastly overpaid, and have frankly ridiculous overall compensation and benefits. I have unlimited time off, extremely good insurance, all manner of benefits, we get free food and snacks, a company Uber account, and more. So to justify all this pampering we do weird gatekeeping.

Ignore the fact that all of us have to constantly look up the arguments to some function or whatever. We all fuck up all the time. If you’ve never broken the build, you’re not trying very hard.

I had a big kerfuffle at work and started thinking about it all; what if I got so mad I walked away? Which is worse: the bullshit from *gesticulates wildly* all of this, or going through the software interview gauntlet again? I dunno, man.

Anyway here’s Wonderwall.

The agony and the ecstasy of the modern app market

So there’s this app (iOS and, when I get another Mac, Mac OS) I use. I like it a lot.

The makers of this app released a really nice upgrade. Really nice. Really, really nice. It’s even a “free” upgrade.

Yes, “free”, not free.

See what they did was, they built a whole new dingus on top of the already good dingus, and switched it to a subscription model. This subscription model exceeds the cost of the initial app by quite a bit. I think the original app was less than $15 and now a year is $40.

TO BE EXTREMELY FUCKING CLEAR

I do not have a problem paying for software. I do not believe software should be free or at most $0.99. I will pay for software I like or want to use. That’s how it works. I don’t pirate things, I’m a grownup with a job.

But what gets me, is that in building the free tier, they moved one feature out of the old featureset and into the subscription tier. One (1) thing I used in this app, and 60+ things I will likely never use, for $40/year.

Goddamn it.

This is an edge case in the subscription model, I’m sure, but for me it’s a pain point. All the new features address what are obvious and very good use cases. They were smart, right, and good to add these features, they’re clearly what other people’s similar apps have and what Apple isn’t ever going to add to any of theirs. So, yay.

This edge case frankly sucks. It sucks because I’m sure if I opened a dialog with the devs, they’d probably wince, too. The obvious calculus is more than 80% of their users want/need those extra features, so win. Some of the remaining 20% will buy in for a few of them. And some small number will get fucked by it.

Well I’m in the small group. Huzzah.

I’m a grownup who pays for software but man sometimes it pisses me off.

Introducing: The Booze Ninja

I made a site.

So I use this app on my phone called “Highball” as my drinks recipe app. It’s very, very, very pretty and reasonably functional, but it is lacking a few things:

  • there are no categories or tagging
  • there is no search
  • you can’t even sort the order of entries
  • data entry is not bad but not great

Moreover, I have a bunch of stuff written on scraps of paper or stored in the notes app on my phone. The prospect of manually entering all this into Highball was … ugh.

So I made a thing. The idea here was to simplify data entry, and make sharing with my friends easier, plus address the above problems.

ATTEMPT NUMBER ONE

So I decided: I wanted a static site. But a nice UI would be cool, as would all the features available to powerful CMS platforms. So I installed WordPress locally on my machine, and installed a static output plugin.

It is a shitshow. I got everything I wanted except the most popular static output plugin produced broken output. Pagination was broken on a plugin at version 6.6, their support forum was flooded with complains from October 2019, and it was clear there was no intention to address it.

ATTEMPT NUMBER TWO

I tried Ghost, a popular NodeJS-based platform. It is a shitshow. The same thing as above, except: there is no static output plugin.

See, it’s a headless CMS. So instead we use the content api and send the content to a theme. Well, I found a theme I liked for the dynamic version. I found a standalone version of it but it wasn’t compatible with the content api consumer thing, so I’d have to rewrite everything from scratch, and don’t you know it that not a fucking thing is compatible with a fucking other thing, because NodeJS.

ATTEMPT NUMBER THREE

Ahhhhhh, happiness.

Good docs. A port of the theme I liked. Command line tools.

And of course, it’s in Python.

I had it up and running in a few hours. Everything works, modulo the small number of edge cases (the WordPress import tool defaults to reStructuredText, and I’m a Markdown boy).

I have fiddled with it just a few hours and I got everything I wanted. I wrote scripts to automate the content files, I wrote a script to convert the rst to markdown, I have sync to S3, the works.

And it’s all in GitHub.

So I’m pretty happy with it. I don’t want to become a “booze blogger”. The purpose of this site is to resolve the problems above, not start a second career.

Addendum:

I just wanted a ‘.ninja” domain and it seemed funny, in case you were wondering.