February Monthly Resolution – Fearless Month

The plan: February is Fearless Month.

Many of you know that I occasionally do Monthly Resolutions instead of yearly. This means less of a commitment than usual. The last yearly resolution I did was to eat vegetarian at restaurants for a year. It was eye opening, and I was very thankful that I lived in SF and not Arizona. That said, I found 12 months of strictness to be overwhelming. This next month is going to be an interesting experiment. I’ve been doing 6-pack abs month for January and I’m down about 16 lbs, eating more healthily, exercising more, and in general feeling better about myself. Fearless month is going to be much more mental than physical.

Fearless month is, in and of itself, intimidating. I’ve been paying attention to all of the things I do every day that are fear-based. Or rather, many of the things I DON’T do as a result of fear. The people I don’t talk to, the actions I don’t take. But there’s a lot of questions I have around fear in general.

Is politeness a result of fear? If I’m unselfish, is that motivated by a desire to be nice, or a desire to nto upset the status quo? I’m going to have to do a lot of introspection this month to really get to the root of my true motivations for things. This may also mean me trying things and evaluating the results.

This leads me to the rules of the month, too. The basic concept is this: If there’s something I would normally not do as a result of fear, I should feel compelled to do it. Obviously this is a very flawed statement. I shouldn’t go running through traffic, jumping off buildings, or stabbing people just because I’d be afraid of the result. So, revision is in order: If I would normally not do something and the result would not produce lingering negative results on my life, I should do it.

There’s some other rules I think I need to stick to, as well. I shouldn’t quit my job, spend all my money, eat things that make me sick, etc. Most of the things I’m imagining have to do with social phobias, physical challenges, and essentially a lot of the laziness in my life. Two years ago, I did “one extra step month” which meant that if I could, I should take one extra step with everything I did. When I would wash the dishes, I’d also clean a counter, when I’d walk to work, I’d go an extra block. It was amazing how one extra step added up and made a better day. The main reason for not taking an extra step seems to be laziness, and the main reason for laziness seems to be fear. I’m looking forward to trying this out.

Oh yeah, and as an added benefit to Fearless Month, I don’t see any reason other than fear to not keep going with cumulative 6-pack abs months, especially since I can’t see them yet.

Nearodesic Polyhedron Hexayurt Dome

Burning Man 2011 has come and gone, and I’m pretty damned happy to report that the conceptualization, execution, and result of building this type of dome was almost a complete success. This is to document the why and how of building a dome like ours, as well as the shortcomings, possible solutions, and general information on how to build one yourself.

At our local Home Depot(s) in Oakland, California, they stock a product called R-Max. This rigid polyisocyanurate foam with an aluminum/paper surface is the typically recommended type of material for building hexayurts. It’s light weight, durability, ready availability, and fairly cheap price make it a good choice for a semi-permanent application like a structure at Burning Man. Having seen quite a few of these and seen even more pages on the building of them, I chose to make a dome out of them based on the PDF available here, or mirrored on my site here.

General Information

We decided to build the quad dome (go big or go home) and built a number of scale models to simulate what the final product might be like.

The design we chose required:

  • 30 panels of R-Max
  • about 1200 ft of 2″ packing tape (12 rolls at 30 meters each)
  • almost 1200 ft of “Tough Wide” Gorilla Tape (12 rolls at 30 meters each)
  • two to four ropes as guy wires
  • two tarps 12×24
  • >1″ razorblades or circular saw
  • 12 ft straightedge (we used floor baseboard)
  • 1 can 3M 777 spray adhesive (optional)

Preparation Instructions

Our needs for Burning Man were pretty specific. The event proposes a “leave no trace” mentality, which means that if you bring something with you, you have to bring it back out–every little thing. Cutting polyiso on the playa would be out of the question as it produces a massive amount of mess, especially if you try to use the circular saw. This meant we had to do all of the cutting at home. We need
24 4×8 panels cut diagonally
2 squares 8×8 (2 panels taped together one side only) cut diagonally
Now tape every edge with packing tape to keep the cut edges from spilling their polyiso guts all over the ground. Occasionally we had problems with the tape sticking to the R-Max. We tried everything to remove the oily residue that stopped the tape from sticking–steel wool, sandpaper, witch hazel, alcohol, turpentine, thinner, soap, water, scrubbing, etc., etc. It was impossible to remove the oil or whatever gunk was on the panels and instead, we augmented our tape’s adhesive with 777 spray. This spray will make tape stick to anything, regardless of what’s under it. It’s amazing, I suggest you try it.

Note: If you have printing on only one side of your sheets, you can cut alternate cutting words side up from top left or top right to produce a final product with all of the writing on the inside.

The various pieces have all been cut from 4×8 sheets, so it’s ideal if, after preparation, they fit again into 4×8 sheets for easy transport. Since we need 30 panels, we can expect the final product to be slightly larger (due to tape thickness) than 4’x8’x30″.

Each triangle should be taped outside edge to outside edge on one side only to make a larger triangle:

Note: The taped sides of these triangles will be the outside of our dome.

This means that this larger triangle can be folded along its middle to half its size. Do this six times and lay them out, tape side down and then tape all but one of the longer sides:

With the tape applied as shown, you should be able to fold the hexagon up accordion style until it’s the size of one 4×8 triangle, 12 pieces deep. This should be done 4 times to produce 4 hexagons.

If you’ve taped only one side of these squares, then cut diagonally, they should fit nicely together as a stack of two 4×8 panels.

The last pieces are the top square, which can be taped on one side and then folded into a single 4×8 sheet.

Assembly Instructions

Putting the dome together goes in the following order:


  1. Unfold the hexagons, outside down
  2. Close the gap in the hexagon, creating a bowl, not a peak
  3. Tape the inside of the closed gap
  4. Tape the remaining interior seams
  5. Turn the hexagon over
  6. With one long piece of tape, tape all the way from one corner to another
  7. Repeat for all 4 hexagons.


  1. Tape the square’s other side to make it one rigid piece


Arrange the 4 hexagons around the center square, leaving approximately 1/2″ between the edges, then tape the intersections.

Raise the center square of the dome about 11 feet and the hexagons should come together. Unless you have someone really tall in your group, you’ll need some cleverness to tape the intersections where the hexagons meet since the far corners will be be about 8 feet away when you need to tape them.

We ended up lifting the opposite side of the dome and taping quickly.

Note: It appears that these sections are the weakest point in the dome. We had some failure of these points in our dome toward the end of the week. On the bright side, it appeared that these points are not load-bearing, but we did end up putting guy wires at these points as they kept bowing in.

Then, tape in the large triangles at the bottom. When this is done, you should really feel the stability of the dome start to come together.

Tape the bottom of your dome to the tarps to seal out dust and keep the dome from flying away in high winds. We chose to cut two doors in the 8′ tall sides and use Velcro to keep the flaps closed and open. This worked quite well and as long as the doors were open or closed, they tended to stay that way.

Final Thoughts

The final result did turn out pretty well. In addition to being a shade structure, the insulating properties of the R-Max material kept the temperature in the dome below 80, even on hot days. It also kept the temperature up in the evenings when it started to cool down.

The dome was excellent, but we had excellent weather, too. If the wind had been really high, I think the dome might have needed all 4 guy wires to make sure it didn’t fly away. Even then, I think since the points we chose for the guy wires were weak, we might have ended up with a lot more flex than we might have wrapping the top with rope somehow instead.

The tape we chose wasn’t as heat-resistant as we had hoped. The glue used in the Gorilla Tape is good, but at about 100-150 degrees Fahrenheit, it loses its integrity and begins to slip. While the tape on the inside of the dome is pretty solid at 80 degrees, the outside tape is fairly useless on the side(s) facing the sun. Other yurts use aluminum foil tape, which might be good enough, though I worry about the added need for tensile strength in the dome.

The structure’s use of tape makes it far from permanent. If you wanted to make this structure something more permanent–one man mentioned a hunting cabin in the snow–I’d definitely look into something more hardware-based. Something that used hinges/washers/bolts or the like to provide a lot more strength at the junctions. If tape is still the best option, look into more extreme tape solutions, perhaps something like dual-direction filament tape. I know people have used this for yurts as well, but I worry about the longevity as well. Some of the builders mention that the UV Resistance of the clear filament tapes is poor. Your mileage may vary.

I plan on bringing the dome back next year with improvements. Some of the things I’m already considering is using plastic hinges instead of tape for the pre-burning-man assembled seams. We’ll also be looking into more options in regards to shapes. I want to contact the men who came up with the design and see what other crazy ideas they might have. Anyone have any interest in building one of these next year? Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, etc. It took about 3 hours to conceptualize, lift, tape, and cut doors in the dome, and it took about 2 hours to take down and put it back on our trailer. I think this is a heck of a speedy thing, and I’m super proud of my campmates for getting it done so smoothly and so fast.

Scale Models of Nearodesic Polyhedron Hexayurt

I’ve been going to Burning Man for a while now, and I, like pretty much everyone else out there, am enamored of the ideas of large-scale projects on the playa. This year, I’ve got a few people camping with me, and I figured a shade structure was in order. I’ve seen a lot of different designs, have experience quite a few of them, but none of them seemed to really match up with what I wanted from a structure. Here’s the list and my thoughts.
Geodesic Dome
I camped with a couple that built a moderately-sized one of these. It took them a solid day to put up, but when it was up, they did pretty well for themselves.
Pros: relatively cheap for the volume you get, sturdy even in high winds, tried and true.
Cons: Difficult to set up, hard to cover well, doesn’t even try to keep out dust, difficult to take down

Conduit Arch
This is the type of structure Jeff used to make. It went up in about 30 mins.
Pros: Very cheap for the volume you get. Very easy to set up and take down. Doesn’t fall over in wind.
Cons: Small footprint. Only keeps out sun, not dust. Bends quite a bit in high wind.

These have become a pretty common sight on the playa. I’ve never been in one, but I’ve heard good things.
Pros: Keep out heat, dust, wind, and sunshine. Easy to set up. No flex even in high wind.
Cons: Slightly more expensive than other options. Too short for me to stand up in (6’8″).

My personal tent is quite large, with a foyer-style setup, and 3 tent rooms around it. It provides adequate shade, but it does get really hot inside and it’s time to try something new. I was exploring larger hexayurts when I ran across this post: PDF. The design seems solid, though not geodesic, so not infinitely scalable. I decided to build some prototypes and see how the shape held up.

First, my girlfriend built the 4-sided paper example in the PDF. The design seemed solid, so we decided to keep going and make a bigger model.

I did the first design at about 1/12 scale using thin cardboard and scotch tape.

After that, I decided the cardboard one was still decent, so I pressed on with an actual scale model. As the final material is 4’x8’x1″, and something like foamcore, we decided to use foamcore as a test material. We got 6 sheets of 30″x40″x3/16″ material, which gives us a 3/16 scale model. Since the final one is going to be something like 22 feet across, this is still a decent-sized model. I followed hexayurt instructions and still used scotch tape for most of it, not wanting to go too far out of the realm of physics for the final result.

I have some concerns about the design.

Since the only thing holding the pieces together is tape, if the tape fails, it could be disastrous. Granted, I’ll be using extremely high-grade tape and taking recommendations from the whole of the internet on which tape to use, and maybe even doubling up, but even so, physics is physics, and I may get out there and the wind may tear this thing apart. I set up our industrial fan in front of the model and as long as there’s even light pressure on the dome downwards, it doesn’t show a hint of flex, blowing over, sliding, or anything. I think that as long as the tape holds, the shape is decently aerodynamic and shouldn’t be a huge, dangerous, fiberglass kite.

The main square on the top will be 11 feet off the ground. Holding it up, taping the sides, stopping it from blowing over, and stopping it from tearing apart all in playa wind conditions sounds line a nightmare in the making. So long as we don’t have constant wind, I think we could get the whole thing set up in 6 hours, easy, and I’m pretty sure we could do it in the dark if we had to. I think the design is flexible enough that small tape would hold at the start, and we could reinforce as time went on. I’ll be doing a trial run with cheaper tape as a test, but it won’t be on the playa and it won’t be 60mph winds, and it won’t be 100 degrees out.

Finally, I worry that the whole thing will be a big oven. People say the insulation is good and that the darkness is good, and that the whole thing can be aerated and swamp cooled and whatnot, but I worry that 8 hours of blazing sun will cook us. We’ll have 4 doors as options, but will it be enough? Time will tell. People survive in hexayurts, I assume the concept is the same.

I haven’t come up with a good name yet, icosayurt? tetrahedroyurt? Snub yurt?

Biphasic Sleeping Matrix

I built a simple matrix for when you should sleep on an ideal biphasic system assuming that you sleep 4 hours at night and 1.5 hours during the day. If you have a work or school schedule, this should help you figure out when you can work your midday naps into your schedule.

12:00:00 AM 4:00:00 AM 1:15:00 PM 2:45 PM
1:00:00 AM 5:00:00 AM 2:15:00 PM 3:45 PM
2:00:00 AM 6:00:00 AM 3:15:00 PM 4:45 PM
3:00:00 AM 7:00:00 AM 4:15:00 PM 5:45 PM
4:00:00 AM 8:00:00 AM 5:15:00 PM 6:45 PM
5:00:00 AM 9:00:00 AM 6:15:00 PM 7:45 PM
6:00:00 AM 10:00:00 AM 7:15:00 PM 8:45 PM
7:00:00 AM 11:00:00 AM 8:15:00 PM 9:45 PM
8:00:00 AM 12:00:00 PM 9:15:00 PM 10:45 PM
9:00:00 AM 1:00:00 PM 10:15:00 PM 11:45 PM
10:00:00 AM 2:00:00 PM 11:15:00 PM 12:45 AM
11:00:00 AM 3:00:00 PM 12:15:00 AM 1:45 AM
12:00:00 PM 4:00:00 PM 1:15:00 AM 2:45 AM
1:00:00 PM 5:00:00 PM 2:15:00 AM 3:45 AM
2:00:00 PM 6:00:00 PM 3:15:00 AM 4:45 AM
3:00:00 PM 7:00:00 PM 4:15:00 AM 5:45 AM
4:00:00 PM 8:00:00 PM 5:15:00 AM 6:45 AM
5:00:00 PM 9:00:00 PM 6:15:00 AM 7:45 AM
6:00:00 PM 10:00:00 PM 7:15:00 AM 8:45 AM
7:00:00 PM 11:00:00 PM 8:15:00 AM 9:45 AM
8:00:00 PM 12:00:00 AM 9:15:00 AM 10:45 AM
9:00:00 PM 1:00:00 AM 10:15:00 AM 11:45 AM
10:00:00 PM 2:00:00 AM 11:15:00 AM 12:45 PM
11:00:00 PM 3:00:00 AM 12:15:00 PM 1:45 PM

Strawberry Basil Pie Filling

Taken from kelloggs.com.

2 pounds fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. fresh green basil, minced
6 tbsp. corn starch

Wash the strawberries, then remove the hulls.
Leave very small strawberries whole, cut larger ones in half or quarters.
Add the prepared berries to a bowl with the 1/2 cup sugar, the lemon juice, minced basil and fold gently to coat all the berries with the sugar.
Leave the berries, covered at room temperature for about an hour, stirring occasionally; this will draw out liquid from the strawberries which is then thickened to ensure that the pie will hold together.
Pour off most of the liquid from the bowl.
Whisk in the cornstarch to the liquid until well combined.
Place filling into pie crust — I recommend the Vodka Pie Crust Recipe.
Bake at 375° until pastry is deep golden (cover edges of crust with foil if browning too quickly), 60–70 minutes. Set pie aside to cool for several hours before serving.

Raspberry Pie Filling

Taken from saveur.com.

1 cup sugar
3–4 tbsp. flour
Pinch salt
5 cups fresh or thawed raspberries, stemmed
2 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add raspberries and gently toss until well coated. Place filling into pie crust — I recommend the Vodka Pie Crust Recipe. Bake at 375° until pastry is deep golden (cover edges of crust with foil if browning too quickly), 60–70 minutes. Set pie aside to cool for several hours before serving.

Best Pie Crust Recipe Ever

This Recipe comes from Kimberly Flower, who got it out of an issue if Cook’s Illustrated, Nov 1, 2007.

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor——do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup cold water

1. 1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use dough as per recipe.

Drinking Alcohol and Polyphasic

So far, my latest acclimation has been a major success, and I’ve gained a lot of time and I certainly feel better and more awake than I have in years. As a polyphasic person, you are constantly dealing with social and peer pressures since you’re doing something so far from the norm. While this is the norm and certainly something you get used to, there’s some things I find myself having difficulty giving up. For example, many people have reported doing better on polyphasic when they’re vegetarian, but the one constant in all of the experiences out there seems to be no caffeine and no alcohol.

When I first adapted in 2004, I was fresh out of college and surrounded by people who loved to drink. Living in a college town, I’d go to bars, order a root beer, and watch the crazy, drunken people do their thing (this is an endless source of entertainment, by the way). As I became more used to sleeping this way, and as my desire to drink grew, I eventually tried drinking while polyphasic with mixed results.

I have a very fond memory of being at a party where everyone had been drinking, and they all knew about my schedule. My naps were 2, 6, and 10 and so when the 2AM nap came around, I let the whole party know I’d be passing out in my car for a while. As an aside, make sure when you pass out in your car, that you’re in the passenger seat. Inebriation in the driver’s seat can be interpreted as intent to drive and we don’t want you getting a DUI for taking a nap. One of the reasons people don’t drink on polyphasic is that you sleep really deeply when you’re intoxicated, and the chances of listening to the rational side that says you want to get up on time are far slimmer. This time, however, everyone from the party came out to the car and were all peering in through the windows when I awoke. I immediately got up, to their cheers, and rejoined the party. It was a rare experience, but also a testament to how supporting my group of friends has been.

Recently, I’ve tried drinking while on polyphasic and I’m less satisfied with the results. I’ve often found that missing a nap during the day makes me want to sleep for about 2 hours a night. The same thing seems to happen for drinking. Each drink throws off my system about the same amount as staying awake for a nap, and if I get drunk, I often slip back into something like monophasic. I’ve wondered if this is a sign that I’m not fully acclimated yet, even after 2 months. I’ve been somewhat lax in my focus toward acclimation, and though I get most of the benefits, I think I might do better if I stuck to the schedule more.

Driving and Polyphasic

First of all, be careful when adapting to Polyphasic of any kind. Not only can you feel tired at an instant, but microsleeps and the like can cause you to drop off before you know it. If you happened to be driving while that tired, you could be a huge danger to yourself and others. Always err on the side of caution. When you’re on polyphasic, the whole point is to have more time, so why not take that extra time and drive slowly, carefully, and only when you’re fully awake. If you HAVE to drive and are tired on polyphasic, take a nap first. Few things won’t wait 20 minutes more and it might just save your life.

This weekend, I drove to LA and back through the night. Driving in the middle of the night is always an amazing experience. In California, we have traffic everywhere, and even at 3:30 in the morning, there’s people on the road. Even so, there are so many fewer people that driving in LA in the early morning feels like a joy. If you’re fully adapted and don’t mind the quiet, I highly recommend doing all of your travelling while the world sleeps. When you get there and everyone’s just waking up, it’s a neat feeling.

A Night in the Wilderness

I recently joined some friends on a trip to Yosemite for a little bit of camping, hiking, cooking, and merrimaking in general. This was my first real outdoor experience while on the Ubermann sleep schedule. It was also an interesting test to me to see how some of my theories might hold up in similar situations.

I’ve always imagined not needing a hotel room in various places when on Ubermann. Since you don’t need to sleep more than 20 minutes, you could theoretically sleep in a casino lobby in Vegas, in a hotel lobby in San Francisco, in a Denny’s in Hawaii, or in any rental car anywhere. In 2005, I was polyphasic during a trip to Reno and, while everyone slept, I stayed up and played blackjack. While not the most productive way to spend my time, it was my first real taste of accomplishing something with my extra time that was in stark contrast to everyone else. Up until then, most of my extra hours were spent alone or, at least, not in very social situations.

Being polyphasic in Yosemite was a completely different experience. I didn’t bring a tent or a sleeping bag with me, I just bought a lot of firewood and sat by the fire. I read for a while, watched the fire, wrote a little, and thought a lot. The sounds of the forest, the crackle of the fire, the glow of the moon, and, when it set, the glow of the stars all seemed a little more clear when experiencing the entire night from beginning to end. I can’t remember ever watching sunset to its completion and then the entire sunrise, just watching and enjoying the nature around me.

Fire seems to be an excellent way for me to stave off boredom–there’s something primal and mesmerizing about watching it, playing with it that keeps the mind alert, even if the activity is pretty dull in description. Just one more fun way to enjoy the extra time you have.