How to Prepare for Burning Man: 12 Tips Not in the Survival Guide

First some background for those of you who don’t know what Burning Man is. Burning Man is an experiment in temporary community. 50,000 Burners (as we’re called) celebrate in the Black Rock City desert of Nevada for the one week preceding Labor Day every year. It’s the most amazing music and art ‘festival’ in the world.

Here are some of my pictures from the 2007 event which was my favorite year: double rainbows, unbelievable art, some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.

Advice on how to prepare for Burning Man after the photos.

Here’s How to Prepare for Burning Man:

You must read the survival guide. Even veterans like me who have been burning for a decade read that thing every year. Super useful. I’m not going to regurgitate what’s in it. Just know that you need to be prepared! Lots of water, all the food that you need, first aid kit, medicine, sunscreen, hydrocortisone for a heat rash, whatever! If for any reason you have a propensity to get pink-eye or diarrhea, make sure you are prepared. You don’t want to be out in the desert, totally screwed because you forgot some random drug store item. It doesn’t matter that there are medical tents, they will not have what you need. I used to think, oh of course they’ll have rash cream. No they will not. BE PREPARED! Pack for the most intense heat in the day (i.e., wide-brimmed hat) and the most intense cold at night (i.e., down coat).

Now, I’m going to tell you what’s not in the guide:

1. If you are tenting, then I would make sure you do a trial run with your tent prior to arriving on playa. If your tent has any holes (air ventilation), then keep in mind that when you return to your tent after a dust storm that a half-inch of dust will be covering all of your belongings. In other words, you need an expensive all-weather tent. If you do not have the funds for an all-weather tent, I suggest you hot-gun pieces of cloth over the air ventilation to prevent dust from seeping in.

2. Goggles. You need goggles to protect your eyes in a dust storm. Most goggles have ventilation holes in them. Make sure you tape over them, otherwise your goggles will be useless.

3. Pretend like you are a famous runway model and you are packing for a week’s worth (both day and night) of catwalks. You want to look cute because everyone looks really good, and this is where single people hookup! Don’t dress like you’re going hiking. Be sexy!

4. Shopping: A) Sports Basement for your tent and other travel essentials, B) the thrift stores in the Haight or the Mission for costumes, C) Bed Bath & Beyond for toiletries, and D) Costco for your food and water.

5. At all times on playa, you should carry a backpack (a tiny one). In it, you need to have a bottle that you can refill with water or booze, sunscreen, chapstick, hand sanitizer, a notebook, and a pen or pencil. You will constantly be running into people who will say, “We’re having a party on Wednesday night, you should come.” And you need to be able to write all these fun things down otherwise you’ll forget. I also recommend wearing a cheap watch.

6. Always carry a roll of toilet paper. When you are out partying into the wee hours and the porta-potties have run out of TP, you will thank me!

7. You must have a bike. Your bike must be locked. If your bike is not locked, it will be stolen. Do not get a bike lock that is challenging because

you will need to lock and unlock your bike constantly while biking around the beautiful city. I buy a super easy lock with a key like this. I attach the key to a bracelet on my wrist so I have easy access to it at all times.

8. Don’t be a dark wad. That’s what we call people who have no lighting in the middle of the night. Do you want to get run over by an art car? Get some neon el-wire and make sure you’re visible!

9. Bring your party favors. There should be no exchange of that stuff on playa lest you want to get arrested. There are undercover cops waiting to put their handcuffs around your wrists.

10. Here’s an easy gift to share with others. Get a stack of postcards, put postage stamps on them, and hand them out to people so that they can send mail to their loved ones back home. Yes, there is a post office on playa. While you’re at it, send me some love:

321 Roanoke Street
San Francisco, CA 94131

Here’s some really good swag I’ve gotten through the years.

11. Get a radio and listen to Burning Man Independent Radio (BMIR). Listen to it now, listen to it on the playa. Best radio station on the planet.

12. The most important thing to remember is that shit happens, something will go wrong, the lines to get in will be long, the lines to get out will be grueling, but just chill and enjoy the experience. It will be worth it.

Here is a previous post I had written on how to prepare for Burning Man. I obviously thought differently of costumes back then!

Money Monday: How to Invest in Stocks without Losing Money

First a story. When I was a sophomore in high school, our Geometry teacher asked if anyone wanted to participate in his stock-picking exercise. We were to pick a stock and track its performance over the course of the semester. Guess who lost big time? Me! I was the laughing stock of class. I was so embarrassed because I picked…wait for it…Genentech which ironically would have made me rich if I’d been playing with real money and had held onto it! Because truly it was a rose bud of a stock waiting to blossom, but the stock happened to fall over the course of a semester.

Fast forward in time, the first thing I did when I got my first full-time paycheck was buy Cisco stock. I also ended up interning for Cisco in business school, so life certainly comes around full circle. I also remember buying Yahoo and Excite. Any business that I thought had promise, I bought. Over the years, I’ve lost a lot of money and I’ve also made a lot of money too.

Anywho, I have advice on buying/selling stocks. If you don’t currently invest in the stock market, I’m going to show you how to dive in and make money (i.e., not lose your hard-earned mullah). You ready?

Here’s how to invest in stocks without losing money:

There’s always going to be risk in whatever stock you pick. Even Warren Buffet makes mistakes, so regardless of all the research you do, you’re going to pick some losers. It’s just like dating. You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to finally find your prince.

Also keep in mind, I don’t short stocks. I have a buy and hold philosophy.

So settle on a handful of stocks and JUST DO IT!

Let’s take a few examples.

Yahoo has been in the news lately. The powerful Marissa Mayer’s is at the helm and the trajectory is looking better than ever. Buy.

You can’t live without Starbucks coffee? You buy it on a daily basis and there are always lines whenever you go? Buy.

Do some research and google ‘top stocks to buy now.’ Read some articles, go with your gut, and buy!

Like I said, some of these are going to be losers, but if you don’t take the risk of getting into the market now, you’re never going to reap the rewards. And wouldn’t you rather earn more than the 50 basis points your cash is earning in a savings account?

Set aside a budget for how much you want to invest in stocks, figure out what you want to buy, diversify your portfolio, and then go for it and buy.

Here’s what’s important. In order to not lose money, you have to set an alert to sell if the stock price hits a certain target that you don’t feel comfortable with. You got that? You have to set the alerts! I’m always watching my portfolio so I just sell if the stock is ever down more than 2% from when I bought it. Don’t watch as the stock continues to plummet and then pray that it will suddenly reverse course. It ain’t going to happen. Sell as soon as it hits your uneasiness target. It’s an easy way to prune your portfolio and not lose more than 2%.

What are your investment tips?

Do you have any stocks to recommend?

What stocks have you bought that were big winners or losers?

Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I tweet insights several times a day, even more interesting tidbits than what’s on my blog. Just check out my latest tweets and see what you think.

Why I’m Not Going to the Alt SLC Blogging Conference

I had my heart set on going to the Altitude Summit Salt Lake City (Alt SLC) conference which is one of the most well-regarded of all the blog conferences. But when registration was announced and I saw the fee, I knew I had to pass.

Why I’m Not Going to the Alt SLC Blogging Conference:

The cost is $625. That’s not chump change. That’s a lot of money, especially since the majority of blog conferences are merely regurgitating information that can be found online. Let’s be real, whatever you need to be successful as a blogger, (whether that’s SEO or social media or finding sponsors), can be learned by doing a handful of Google searches. It’s not hard, people! You don’t need to spend your hard-earned cash paying a registration fee on top of a plane ticket on top of hotel accommodations in addition to transportation as well as time off from work if you’re not going to get the ROI.

Let me run some comparisons for you.

Alt SLC – January 22-25, 2014 – Salt Lake City


400+ attendees in 2011 – I could not find good current estimates despite reading a bunch of recaps online.

33 sponsors in 2013

Alt SF – July 18, 2013 – San Francisco

I attended Altitude Summit’s SF conference a month ago. I wrote this recap.


320 attendees

9 sponsors

BlogHer ’13 – July 25-27, 2013 – Chicago

$198 early bird

3,000+ attendees

130+ sponsors

keynote speakers: Sheryl Sandberg, Guy Kawasaki

BlogHer Pro – October 22-23, 2013 – San Francisco


Limited information is available on this conference, but details here.

SXSW Interactive – March 6-11, 2014 – Austin


30,000+ attendees

7 current supersponsors

1,800 speakers

I wanted to add South by Southwest as the real kicker as a comparison to Alt SLC Blogging Conference. SXSW is a marquis conference: 5 full days of programming, 30k attendees, and almost 2k speakers. SXSW is charging $795 for the interactive track of their conference, compared to $625 for Alt SLC.

This is a no brainer. Alt SLC is so expensive compared to the other conferences. Even the main BlogHer conference with way more attendees, way more sponsors, and the best keynote speakers is one-third the price!

I don’t mind spending the money on a conference where I see value, but the fact that Alt SLC Alt SLC Blogging Conference is so much more expensive than conferences that have better programming makes me scratch my head as to who is willing to register and spend this kind of money. Nevertheless, I look forward to the Alt SLC recaps!

What has been your experience with any of the conferences mentioned above, or any other blog conference I did not mention?

Do you have plans to attend a blog conference?

Did You Go to Church Today? The Holy Days of Obligation

I used to always forget the Holy Days of Obligation, which are days you’re supposed to go to church and pray and be holy and stuff. In fact, we were at church on Sunday and nowhere, nowhen did anyone say anything about having to go to church today. Maybe we missed it in the bulletin, but still. They ought to have mentioned it in the announcements.

Anywho, today is the Assumption of Mary which celebrates the Holy Virgin Mary’s assumption to heaven after her death. I’m going to Old St. Mary’s at 5:15pm which is a couple blocks away from work.

I don’t forget anymore because I now mark my calendar for all the holy days.

The Holy Days of Obligation for the rest of 2013:

Assumption of Mary (Thursday, August 15, 2013)

All Saints Day (Friday, November 1, 2013)

Immaculate Conception (Monday, December 9, 2013)

Christmas (Wednesday, December 25, 2013)

And for good measure, here is the list for 2014.

Holy Days of Obligation for 2014

Mary, Mother of God (Wednesday, January 1, 2014)

Ascension (Thursday, May 29, 2014)

Assumption of Mary (Friday, August 15, 2014)

All Saints Day (Saturday, November 1, 2014)

Immaculate Conception (Monday, December 8, 2014)

Christmas (Thursday, December 25, 2014)

What are the Books that Changed Your Life?

You ready for a task on crowdsourcing? Please comment and tell everyone about the books that changed your life. Then go ahead and fill your Amazon cart with amazing books.

Books that Changed My Life

The Bible

I’d be a very guilty Catholic if I didn’t mention the Holy Bible. But I definitely read scripture every morning so it is important to me. My favorite book of the Bible is Job. In fact, I am re-reading the Book of Job as it really speaks to the losses I’ve been facing. It’s the story of how a lot of shit happens to a righteous man and how it is hard to reconcile why bad things happen to good people. In the end God rewards Job for his loyalty and devotion.

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

I majored in English at Berkeley which has one of the top (if not the top) English department in the country. It was challenging and amazing. I loved every minute of lecture and discussions and office hours. I wrote my senior thesis on The Waves and the insect imagery Woolf used as a way to capture the metamorphosis of her 6 characters (insects are distinct in that they have 6 legs). Sidenote: I also majored in Biology, minored in Forestry, and took a lot of Entomology classes so I had a weird fascination with insects. Therefore it all seemed to fall into place that my favorite author had insect imagery in one of my favorite books and I was able to bridge my fields of study. This novel is like one big poem with beautiful characterization and writing.

The Secret

A therapist told me to watch It has a book of the same philosophy which is that you attract what you think. If you want to be rich, think like you’re a rich person. Don’t cut coupons and whine about how you can’t afford stuff. You are what you think. If you’re single and want to be in a relationship, make room in your closet for another person to live along side you. It’s really mind-blowing how you can change your life simply by believing in yourself. I love it. I’d have to say that this is my #1 top life-changing book. But in order for it to work, you really have to believe otherwise it’s just a waste of time!

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This is the bible for capitalists. If you ask a room full of MBAs what their favorite book is, this is it. Another book that she wrote is The Fountainhead which is also amazing, but Atlas Shrugged is considered her masterpiece. Ayn Rand was one of the greatest philosophers of all time and in the book she delves into individualism, realism, productivity… “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” I need to dust off my copy and read this book again!

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

This book is a hilarious, down-to-earth, heart-to-heart rant on what it takes to be rich. I felt like I highlighted every page, DeMarco doles out such wisdom. I wrote about it in another post.

Do we have any in common?

What books have completely changed the way you thought about life?