Chronological index

Click the titles to read the full articles. You can limit the search to specific topics like crisis hotlines, drawings, instructional design, math, money, music, teaching, or thoughts (more in the tag cloud at the bottom of the page), or you can see a list without excerpts.

  • On Finding Purpose 2018 April 13
    We’re often taught about the importance of “finding your purpose” as you set out into the world and choose your pathway forward. The words change–sometimes it’s ‘purpose’, but you might also find your ‘bliss’, your ‘passion’, your ‘voice’, your ‘career’, or your ‘calling’–but the narrative remains the same. Whatever it is, you’ve gotta find it. And when ...
  • XLR Mic Mute Switch with LEDs – Proof of Concept 2017 September 30
    Purpose I play music on stage, and that usually means using amplification (PA) systems. The bands I play with (Frost and Fire, The Turning Stile+, and others) typically have a bunch of musicians playing a host of instruments, each with their own microphones. Consequently, we need a lot of mic mute switches. The enemy of sound ...
  • How to Test Thermostat/Thermal Fuse in Kitchen Tools 2017 September 14
    How to test thermostat and thermal fuse units on kitchen appliances (espresso machine, coffee maker, rice cooker, pressure cooker) with a multimeter.
  • Use Up That Zucchini – Googoots / Cucuzza Recipe 2017 August 27
    Delicious crispy caramelized zucchini with garlic, basil, mint, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Easily scales up to use all the zucchini in the house, and it’s quick! Googootz!
  • Hotline Memes 2017 May 24
    Jennifer Battle asked the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors’ mailing list for some uplifting hotline memes to use in training, since there didn’t seem to be that many available. Here are my first responses. (please feel free to use these if you like)  
  • Garlic and Red Wine Mustard 2017 April 16
    During a visit to my then-girlfriend Kyla’s parents just outside Boston in 2000, I was served the most delicious mustard I’d ever had. It was sharp, fragrant, spicy, filled with whole seeds like the maille à l’ancienne I’d loved in France, redolent with garlic, and absolutely impossible to stop eating. Never before (or since) had I seen ...
  • Dance Funding: A Proposed Experiment 2016 December 13
    Proposed experiment to make the amounts of money we pay dance callers/musicians visible to see how that affects what dancers are willing to pay at the door.
  • To Feel The Chill 2016 December 08
    It suffices, perhaps, to say that this has been a dark time. A time of hope transmuted into fear, a time of disbelief, a time of anger, a time of labor, a time of love, a time of mute horror limned by swastikas and flaming crosses in the night.
  • Fermata / Rokeby House (sound recording) 2015 May 22
    A memorial for my grandmother, Ruth Whitney: “Fermata” and “Rokeby House”, both by Hollis Easter. Sound recording and musings.
  • Fix The Problem, Not The Blame 2015 March 01
    When a problem comes along, four fundamental questions travel with it: why it happened, how we can fix it, how we can prevent it, and who’s to blame for it.
  • Six Thinking Hats at the Hotline 2015 February 25
    How well do you think? I’m not talking about your intelligence—I’m asking about how you use it. Are you getting the most out of it? How can you tell?
  • Fermata 2015 February 23
    A few words for my grandma, Ruth.
  • Getting Paid to Write 2014 December 29
    Most of what you read on the internet was written by someone who wasn’t paid to write it. Is that how it should be?
  • Grief In The Dark Time Of The Year 2014 December 21
    We need to honor darkness and sit with grief before the night fires of our winter traditions can warm us.
  • Does Privilege Still Exist In Our Society? 2014 December 10
    A dialogue about whether privilege exists, and why it’s often invisible. What faith provides the evidence of things not seen?
  • The CIA Torture Report: Summary of Findings 2014 December 09
    Not a fun read, but important. Bullet points about the Senate’s report on CIA torture, detention, and enhanced interrogation. We did bad things.
  • Protected By The Color Of Our Skin 2014 December 03
    I wear armor that Eric Garner never had. I’m protected by the color of my skin.
  • Why Does Assisted Suicide Bother Us So Much? 2014 November 08
    Assisted suicide kills many fewer people than suicide overall each year, but there’s much more public effort to prevent it. Why?
  • A Taoist Parable of Elections 2014 November 05
    The elections gave us the worst possible result… and the best.
  • When You Call a Suicide Hotline 2014 November 02
    Here’s what happens when you call a suicide hotline. It’s not what you might think.
  • Nutrient Imbalances in Teaching: Understanding vs. Practice 2014 October 29
    When classes aren’t going well, there’s often an imbalance between understanding and practice.
  • Boylston Street (tune for the Boston Marathon bombings) 2014 October 25
    A peaceful waltz to honor and remember those who died and were hurt in the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.
  • Witnessing (Our Own) Pain 2014 October 24
    Sometimes all we can do with pain is to witness it, to honor the struggle and stay present. This applies to callers—and to us.
  • Nix the Just 2014 October 23
    The word “just” is perilous for good communication because it’s so often a stalking horse for disrespecting and minimizing others’ experiences.
  • Social Media Guide for #crisisdir14: How to Participate 2014 October 21
    How to participate in social media for the 2014 NASCOD/CUSA crisis hotline directors’ conference. Official schedule, hashtags, guidelines.
  • Instructional Design Means Advocating for Learners 2014 October 18
    How is instructional design different from teaching and subject matter expertise? It’s our job to focus relentlessly on learners, not content.
  • If You Ask Me Why I’m Sometimes Depressed 2014 October 14
    Why do we expect people to know why they’re feeling depressed?
  • Using Twitter At Work: Basic Concepts 2014 October 12
    Quick-start guide for understanding Twitter, using it for work, and participating in professional networking chats in real time.
  • Using Twitter At Work: How to Get Started 2014 October 12
    Quick-start guide for setting up Twitter for professional networking and edchats.
  • Waiting to Talk Isn’t Listening 2014 October 11
    Listening is more than just leaving space for the other person to talk.
  • The Protocol For Help 2014 October 08
    Five simple questions you should answer before trying to help others.
  • Want Your Kids To Survive Common Core? Do These 6 Things 2014 October 07
    Frustrated with Common Core? Want to help your kids survive the transition to CCSS? Parents have a critical role to play.
  • Want Your Kids To Survive Common Core? (short version) 2014 October 07
    Frustrated with Common Core? Want to help your kids survive the transition to CCSS? Parents have a critical role to play. (this is the condensed version)
  • Checking In On Student Understanding With Thumbs 2014 October 03
    I use thumbs-up, thumbs-down, and thumb-sideways signals when checking in with students. It gives me fast, confidential, no-tech formative assessment.
  • ‘If’ Doesn’t Belong In Apologies 2014 October 01
    “We’re sorry if we offended you”? No you aren’t. Taking responsibility is important, and it starts with ditching the “if”. Apologies work better without if.
  • “Just a Flesh Wound”: Moving Past Stupid Arguments 2014 September 29
    Some people debate like the Black Knight: there’s no way to convince them your rebuttal wasn’t just a flesh wound. We should stop arguing and move on.
  • Adjust Your Bike Brakes the Easy Way 2014 September 27
    Adjusting bike brakes can be easy and fast, and they often work much better afterwards. Here’s how I do it. It’s a great free upgrade!
  • Corporate Funding and Common Core 2014 September 24
    Did corporations plow mountains of money into the development and adoption of the Common Core State Standards? If they did, does it matter?
  • Make Time for Short Practice Sessions 2014 September 22
    Practice more often, instead of worrying about practicing longer. These guidelines will help you make the most of your minutes and practice effectively.
  • The People’s Climate March 2014 September 20
    Will you join me in talking about the climate today? We need action, we need it here, and we need it now. And, if you can, go to the March in NYC!
  • Involuntary Hospitalization and Mental Health 2014 September 17
    Ever wondered how people get hospitalized for suicidal or homicidal thoughts in NY? Give me ten minutes and I’ll explain it to you. (video + infographic)
  • Listening Isn’t About Giving Advice 2014 September 14
    Listening is about taking in, about receiving another person’s story. Advising is about putting forth, about dispensing your own thoughts.
  • Doublethink in Obama’s ISIS/ISIL Declaration 2014 September 11
    Doublethink involves holding two opposing views and believing both are true. I think Obama’s ISIS declaration asks us to believe doublethink. Do you?
  • Slow Tunes Down with REAPER for Learning By Ear 2014 September 10
    Here’s how to slow tunes down for ear training and learning using free software. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’ll open new musical doors for you! Has video.
  • Voting for ‘Unviable’ Candidates 2014 September 09
    I’m tired of voting for “electable” candidates who don’t share my values and systematically damage things I care about. Time for change, one vote at a time.
  • Victory for the Lobster Boat Blockade! 2014 September 08
    Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward won a huge victory for the climate activism world today when their #ClimateTrial/#LobsterBoatBlockade case was, essentially, dropped. Onward!
  • Ten Years of Progress on Suicide Prevention 2014 September 07
    I’ve spent the last 10 years working in suicide prevention. Here are my thoughts on what we’re doing well, and what we should spend the next 10 years doing.
  • Spirit Airlines Doesn’t Care About Being Offensive 2014 September 06
    Spirit Airlines used Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked-photo debacle to cash in on publicity for itself. And they refuse to apologize.
  • Nested Quotation Marks 2014 September 05
    How do you place a comma, period, or parenthesis when dealing with quotation marks? I think we should make it simpler: use nested punctuation.
  • Identifying Dandelions in Autumn 2014 September 04
    You’ve still got plenty of time to make yourself some dandelion tincture before the snows fly. Here’s how to make sure you pick the right plants.
  • Spirit Airlines Wants to Cash In On Jennifer Lawrence 2014 September 03
    Spirit Airlines thinks it’s a good idea to use the Jennifer Lawrence stolen-photos fiasco to sell more airfares. I don’t.
  • Talking about Lived Experience 2014 September 02
    People with lived experience need to be respected and heard. Here’s a framework for how to listen respectfully and learn from their lived experience.
  • Jennifer Lawrence Is A Crime Victim, Not A Sex Symbol 2014 September 01
    Her body isn’t there for us to consume. Let’s talk about how she’s the victim of a targeted crime, not about how “naughty” we think her stolen photos are.
  • Shaming Our Allies in Suicide Prevention 2014 August 31
    Suicide prevention rests on a foundation of community support. Let’s make sure we don’t accidentally alienate our allies in talking about Robin Williams.
  • Lean Optimization and Automation 2014 August 30
    Find ways to optimize small things in your life, especially if you do them frequently or they annoy you. It pays. Here’s how to start the optimization.
  • Censorship of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s Body 2014 August 29
    Aliaa Elmahdy’s anti-ISIS image is powerful, shocking, and honest. If we care about freedom, why are we changing it into something different?
  • RF Interference Testing the Naiant X-R Hypercardioid Mandolin Mic 2014 August 28
    Testing my Naiant mandolin mic to see how it handles RF interference from being placed next to a cell phone that’s transmitting data.
  • Mandolin Mic: Naiant X-R Hypercardioid 2014 August 28
    Mandolin mic setup with the Naiant X-R hypercardioid capsule. Pictures, sound files, and discussion.
  • Why you shouldn’t share videos of suicide death 2014 August 19
    Sharing videos and images of suicide is dangerous. Let’s talk about why, and talk about what we can do instead to prevent harm and promote healing.
  • Melting and Metamorphosis 2014 August 17
    A meditation on how and why we change, what holds us back, and what we can do about it.
  • How to ask about suicide 2014 August 13
    How to ask friends and family about suicide and feel more comfortable starting the conversation. You can do this.
  • Why you shouldn’t say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” 2014 August 12
    It’s not useful to say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Here’s why, and here’s what to say instead.
  • Talking about suicide and Robin Williams’s death 2014 August 11
    Brief guide to talking about suicide and Robin Williams so we prevent harm to other vulnerable people.
  • Work and love, made visible 2014 August 06
    Work is love made visible. Or is that backwards?
  • Mandolin Picks Comparison 2014 August 02
    How different do mandolin picks sound? Listen to 28 different picks tested by the same player on the same instrument and see what you think!
  • Mandolin Picks Comparison answer key 2014 August 02
    Answer key for the Mandolin Pick Comparison article.
  • Preparing for Work 2014 June 13
    Many traditions talk about approaching your work with focus and care. Here’s why preparing is important and how to do it well for any kind of work.
  • George Will and the “Myth” of Sexual Assault 2014 June 09
    George Will writes that liberals, the Obama administration, and college campuses around the country are now making “victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges”. Really? What are these privileges? The privilege of having your body violated by another person?
  • Suicide-related Terminology 2014 June 05
    This is a glossary and usage guide for talking about suicide. We use a lot of specialized terms in the suicide prevention field, and I want to make sure you know what we’re talking about.
  • Thank You For Donating! 2014 January 21
    Thank you so much! Your support means a lot, and it helps me keep this site running. I’m really looking forward to getting rid of the ads, and your donation helps!   Thanks again, Hollis  
  • Scarcity and Overabundance in the Climate Change Debate 2014 January 20
    Why do so many “solutions” to climate change address the scarcity of fossil fuels without dealing with the overabundance of carbon in the atmosphere?
  • Making a new mandolin bridge 2014 January 15
    Homemade mandolin bridges yield significant changes in tone, volume, and responsiveness compared to standard bridges. Includes photos and sound samples.
  • Greatest Hits of 2013 – a Yearly Roundup 2014 January 02
    The top 15 most-read posts on for 2013, with discussion.
  • Monthly Roundup – December 2013 2014 January 02
    Monthly roundup of what Hollis wrote in December 2013! Links and quick summaries of all posts, organized by topic.
  • Road Trip Games: I Kill Your Cows! 2013 December 28
    I Kill Your Cows is a fun (free) game of observation, estimation, and strategy for long car rides. This post provides rules and instructions.
  • How to Survive an Ice Storm 2013 December 21
    Quick guidelines for how to get through an ice storm safely.
  • Atomic Actions 2013 December 21
    Atomic actions are tools for preventing distraction and focusing your attention fully during times when it’s critically important.
  • The Problem 2013 December 04
    The problem, stated succinctly. This is why things don’t change.
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me About Common Core 2013 December 03
    I’ve been told all kinds of truths, half-truths, and outright lies about the Common Core State Standards. Let’s look at some data and bust some myths!
  • Hollis Easter Creations handmade jewelry — holiday sale 2013 December 03
    Holiday sale on handmade reclaimed hardwood jewelry by Hollis Easter. Ready to ship immediately.
  • Monthly Roundup – November 2013 2013 December 03
    Monthly roundup of what Hollis wrote in November 2013! Links and quick summaries of all posts, organized by topic.
  • Fear and Gratitude: Giving Thanks 2013 November 28
    Nobody told me that Lyme disease comes with constant fear attached. Antibiotics help with the physical symptoms; here’s how I’m working on the mental ones.
  • The Sheriff’s Star: Arithmetic Solution 2013 November 27
    An arithmetic solution to the Sheriff’s Star problem. Suitable for math students of any age (homeschoolers, public school kids, whatever!).
  • The Sheriff’s Star: Playing Math! 2013 November 26
    How can you make a regular 7-pointed badge for the Sheriff of El Dorado County without a protractor? Does it work with any number of points? We’re playing math!
  • Did Anyone Expect The Hipster Inquisition? 2013 November 24
    Somebody must have seen it coming… (comics)
  • Iconic Hipsters 2013 November 23
    Hipsters are so ironic that their ironic irony has now become ironically iconic. Ironic, no? (comic)
  • Pipers’ Gathering 2013 Instructors Concert (listen) 2013 November 23
    Listen to music by Hollis Easter from the 2013 Pipers’ Gathering Instructors Concert in Burlington VT. Five videos on this page with liner notes. Bagpipes!
  • Want to leverage your language skills to impact people more? 2013 November 21
    Want to leverage your skills to maximally impact the people you’re talking to? Click this slightly snarky post about levers and leverage to learn more!
  • Reachout Training Re-Design: Early Results 2013 November 21
    Early results from the total overhaul of Reachout’s training program in 2013. Check out how things look!
  • Compassion and the Little Prince 2013 November 19
    What can we learn about crisis work from the Little Prince and a retired counselor from Mississippi? We can learn how compassion and love connect in crisis.
  • Frankenstein’s Musical Laboratory 2013 November 17
    Dr. Frankenstein cooks up a new musical instrument in his lab, combining the beauty of a violin with the speed of a typewriter.
  • How Much Does Grad School Cost — Followup 2013 November 16
    This post follows up on some things people have raised in the lively discussion about my earlier post, How Much Does Grad School Cost? Please start with that post if you’re just joining the discussion now. Thanks!
  • Finishing the dandelion tincture 2013 November 15
    Straining and bottling a homemade dandelion tincture (whole herb), with lots of photos. Part two of a series.
  • How Much Does Grad School Cost? 2013 November 14
    Grad school is expensive in lots of ways, but people often forget opportunity cost. In this post, we look at how much more money you have to make after graduate school to make up for the lost earnings and growth you missed during school, and we reach some conclusions about how much you need to ...
  • Play faster and better with this 1 weird old trick! 2013 November 12
    (Humor, partially) Scores of performers have improved their work with this 1 weird old trick, and you can too! It’s easy, free, and available anywhere. Click for more!
  • Monthly Roundup – September to November 2013 2013 November 11
    Here’s the quick monthly roundup for what I’ve written over the last few months, organized by subject. I’ve provided links to make it easier to read the articles. General You’re So Talented! Let’s stop telling people they’re talented and start acknowledging the work they’re putting in. Start With The Feelings: A Guide for Customer Service and Support. Guidelines ...
  • Triangles and Pyramids: Playing Math! 2013 November 10
    Triangles and Pyramids Playing math! I like playing with math. These days, I don’t need that much math for my daily life–enough to calculate whether I’ve got enough gas to get from A to B, to balance my checkbook, to budget for the training class I’m starting, to figure out expenses on Frost and Fire‘s new album… ...
  • Try The Honey Badger Diet! 2013 November 10
    This… is the honey badger (diet)! You may be surprised to learn that honey badgers do care about some things. They’re actually very sensitive to the size bias and body loathing that are rampant among Mellivora capensis. Honey badgers receive a lot of negative messaging encouraging them to hate their bodies and feel stupid about their eating ...
  • Why You SHOULD Get Chills From That “Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation” Video 2013 November 08
    Man, we loves us some transformations. Makeovers, interventions, whatever you want to call ’em. We love the idea of saviors, too: people who come in and do the transforming/making over/intervening. This is enshrined on a pretty deep level of our culture, from religious transformers to Home Makeover shows to boot camps to alcoholism interventions to Teach ...
  • Site Policies 2013 November 08
    Updated 2013-11-19 Privacy policy I will not knowingly collect information about you except as follows: If you write comments, the site will keep them and may track your username somehow based on how you logged in. This is standard, if it happens. If you sign up for email delivery of posts, the site will (obviously) hang onto your email ...
  • Honey Badger Empathy Survey 2013 November 07
    Survey conducted using Standard Empathy Instrument (Quantitative) version 2.5, n = 577. In light of the perhaps-surprising results of the initial survey, we attempted to repeat the survey to investigate whether the initial results were anomalous. Regrettably, nearly all the honey badgers had engaged themselves in other activities (seeking honey and larvae, hunting and eating cobras, ...
  • Pathologizing Language 2013 November 06
    Pathologizing Language Most of you have seen the video about the Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger, with narration by Randall, somewhere in your travels around the internet. I delight in using the honey badgers to teach about crisis hotlines; we’re using the honey badger in our initial training to talk about inappropriate sexual callers, frequent callers, the ...
  • Of Mice and Mindsets 2013 November 05
    Of Mice and Mindsets Before you read the rest of this, watch this video of a Russian mouse with a great attitude: That mouse would be a failure in most schools. Unless they’re using something like standards-based grading (SBG) that allows students to reassess skills that they didn’t ace the first time, most schools and universities ...
  • What’s Wrong With Your Savings Account? 2013 November 01
    People use savings accounts for the wrong thing. Savings accounts aren’t for making your money grow; they’re more like insurance policies. Here’s why.
  • Fears In A Hat: A Facilitator’s Guide 2013 October 28
    Fears in a Hat: A Facilitator’s Guide by Hollis Easter, (c) October 2013 Fears In A Hat is a good introductory team-building and group process exercise that gets people focused on good listening, encourages them to share vulnerability and build trust, promotes empathy for callers, and starts the process of forming groups and high-performing teams. It takes ...
  • In The Digital Forest 2013 October 27
    What if the woods were filled with digital natives? Millennial maples? Tweeting tupelos? Mobile mahogany? Do the digital birds Hangout in the cloud(s)? If a #tree falls in the digital forest, does it show up in anyone’s feed?
  • Why Are Tweets Missing? 2013 October 27
    Why are tweets missing? Twitter hides some tweets with @usernames at the beginning of the line. This is confusing and unfriendly; here’s how to fix it.
  • T-Rex and Honey Badger Drawings 2013 October 25
  • Start With The Feelings: A Guide for Helping People 2013 October 24
    Good customer service involves helping people to talk about feelings, not just facts, before solving problems. Here’s how and why to do it.
  • Hotline Directors’ Reading List 2013 October 22
    Curated reading list of resources for people who direct crisis hotlines, call centers, and crisis programs.
  • Getting Their Best: Performance Improvement at Crisis Centers (NASCOD 2013) 2013 October 18
    Getting Their Best Performance improvement at crisis centers Workshop by Hollis Easter National Association of Crisis Center Directors annual conference Rochester NY, 2013 October 19 PowerPoint slides PDF of PowerPoint slides: NASCOD2013-GettingTheirBest Links Finding the perfect balance: how much multimedia is best? Involuntary hospitalization: Strength in numbers: Workshop objectives Participants will learn: How to look at performance problems, assess gaps, find causes, and ...
  • Humble, humility, humiliated… a meditation on words 2013 October 17
    (I’m in Rochester, NY for the annual conference of the National Association of Crisis Center Directors and Contact USA, and I often draw or make lists during workshops, which often helps me dispense with the distraction of whatever thought has arisen, letting me get back to the workshop’s content.) This thought came to me today: What’s ...
  • The Grief Closet 2013 October 17
    When people postpone grief, it’s like shoving all the pain into a Grief Closet and pledging to deal with it later. Postpone it too long and trouble starts.
  • You’re So Talented! 2013 October 11
    Complimenting people’s talent or intelligence or strength or beauty often backfires because it ignores effort. Here’s how to honor their work instead.
  • Jay O’Hara of Bourne (tune) 2013 October 04
    (The recording is at the bottom of the page) Last night, I wrote a tune while practicing mandolin. The first bones of it just arrived in my head and the rest came quickly as I played. I rewrote a few bits this morning to tighten it up, and this tune is the result. I pulled out ...
  • Using Metronomes Effectively – Part 1 2013 September 26
    Everyone knows you’re supposed to buy a metronome if you’re going to be a musician. It’s one of those pieces of wisdom that passed into our culture as an article of faith. Music teachers will all tell you to get one, but we rarely offer much help in terms of how to use them effectively. I’d ...
  • Alcohol tinctures – How much alcohol is needed? 2013 September 24
    I’ve seen conflicting advice on different herbal recipes when it comes to adding vodka to alcohol tinctures. Some say to add vodka to cover the herbs; some say to add vodka to cover with an inch or so of clear alcohol atop the herbs. Further complicating the issue is the fact that some recipes mandate ...
  • How to make dandelion tincture (whole herb) 2013 September 24
    How to make homemade dandelion tinctures for health and good digestion. Tinctures are easy and fun to make at home!
  • The Pillar Metaphor 2013 September 21
    The Pillar Metaphor is a lens for seeing resilience and strain in crisis work. In the crisis hotline world, we often see people struggling but don’t understand why, and we often forget the ways that chronic conditions and life events sap a person’s strength to the point where even small problems can knock them down. ...

All blog posts are written by Hollis Easter unless otherwise stated. For more information, check the site policies and the About Hollis page. Thanks for reading!