NSID 2013 – Travelogue

To everything there is a season.

I’m driving today. The road races by, cold with the oncoming winter. The trees, skeletal without their leaves, look dead. The fields are frozen, shorn of their fruits long ago. Picturesque. But even from within the heat of the car, the sight of it all makes me shiver.

The seasons make us. They mete out our minutes of sunlight and degrees of warmth and millimeters of rain. Not with a parent’s loving tenderness, or even a teacher’s careful pedagogy, but with a metronome’s mindless repetition. And today they have made the world outside this car cold, and still, and dead.

But you are not bound by their rhythm! You are vibrant, and alive, and your own self. What the seasons decree must be a cold and barren time you can make into growth and flourishing life. Hooray for you, that have this freedom and this power to make your world better than it was before!

To shave is to suppress. So much suppression infuses what we do that, hoodwinked by fashion, we become our own gaolers. We shave ourselves. And as the seasons swirl around us to make us cold, to make us withdraw, in that moment, friends, I say that we should fight back against their mindless cruelty.

One month of the year I will not go gently into my cell. One month of the year I will make, upon my person, rebellion against desolation around me. One month, this month, I will be as beautiful as I am able. I will take no blade against myself, I will not lessen me. And I invite you. I entreat you. From the cold of this frozen highway I beg you to do the very same.

And then tweet about it, and post pictures on flickr.


Dialogue – NSID 2012

Fade in.
NSID 2011 Mosaic
She: You stop shaving?
He: Yep.
She: Like, your mustache? The charity thing?
He: No, that’s Movember. Which is awesome. But different.
She: So you don’t shave at all?
He: Right.
She: For a month?
He: No Shaving in December. Right.
She: Ew.

A brief pause.

She: Why? Because some guy on the internet told you to?
He: He… no. I mean. That’s how I found out about it. But that’s not why.
She: Why then? Doesn’t it itch?
He: It itches for a while. That’s part of the whole thing.
She: Part of what whole thing? Why put yourself through that?
He: Just because. Don’t worry about it.
She: No. No way. If have to live with it for a month, I want to know why.
He: No. Anyhow, you’ll think it’s silly.
She: Probably.

A brief pause.

He: I do it to be free.
She: You do it to be free.
He: I do it to be free. I do it because the world finds a hundred ways each day to silence the songs of my heart. I do it because I need a counterpoint to neckties and filing cabinets and oxford commas. I do it because so much of my life is multivitamins and single-file lines and carpet tiles and checklists and parallel parking and sugar free sweetener and appointment reminders and hand sanitizer and whiteboards that the idea of running a razor across my neck every day in an effort to fit in better is simply more than I will accept. I do it to push back that cloud of oppressive, pervasive, repressive cleanliness by half an inch; to give myself space to breathe, and to be.

A brief pause.

She: Multivitamins. Is that what the guy on the internet told you? Multivitamins?
He: We also get to tweet about it and post photos.
She: Oh good.

Know Thyself – NSID 2011

The unexamined life is not worth living — Socrates

Socrates didn’t have a smartphone. If he had, he might have been less cavalier about the mortal consequence of an unexamined life. The distractions of life interrupt introspection, and we have built a world around us to collect and channel and amplify those distractions. We are no longer oaks putting down roots, we are leaves in a river; we float and bob in the current. It is beautiful, in its way, but it lacks depth.

Wake up and take control of your own cipher — Chuck D

The modern psyche aches for self-possession as much as Socrates ever did. We flock to the authentic. We eat local; we shop indie; we grasp for things with permanence and we try to hold on. Each new soothsayer peddling some ancient tradition as a restorative balm for the soul gets our enthusiastic, if divided, attention.

Self-knowledge doesn’t come from a farmer’s market or a flea market, though, and it doesn’t come in a brilliant flash of insight purchased from the self-help list at amazon. Self knowledge comes from looking in the mirror each morning and, from the moment you wake up, making your decisions in manual mode, not automatic.NSID 2010 Mosaic

Look in the mirror. Get past the human reflex to make eye contact with your reflection, and look at your face. Is it shaven? Groomed? Why? Because it’s what you did yesterday, and last week, and the week before that? Maybe it’s because you made a choice at some point to shave it. Is that choice still right? How do you know?

When I started NSID 5 years ago, I did it because I’d never seen my face with a beard. 1 month to see my own face in a new light. Have you seen yours? Have you seen it recently?

In the month of December, we support each other in this most basic piece of self-examination. We let it grow, let our faces express their base nature. We don’t shave. And we see what happens. Join us. Post your photos to the NSID flickr pool, tweet with the #nsid hashtag, track your colleagues in the aggregator. It’s good for your soul.

Socrates and Chuck D would want you to.

NSID 2010

After 5 years, perhaps it needs no introduction.

NSID 2009 Mosaic

In his (excellent) book Bowling Alone, Putnam argues that the inner circle of your life, family and close friends, act as a stabilizing function, they resist change. When the change is something self-destructive, this is a healthy and helpful thing, your family and friends remind you of who you are and bring you back. But when you want to try something different, that conservative force can become a barrier, and Putnam notes that in these cases looser social bonds become critical: people who know you, but don’t feel a need to keep you the same, who can enjoy and encourage your experimentation. (Ze has more to say about this exact passage, here).

NSID doesn’t judge. No Shaving in December is a tradition built on the idea that, once a year, it’s fun to see what your friends look like when they let themselves get skeezy. Don’t give them a hard time, join in! Put down the razors and trimmers and trappings of everyday modernity, and let yourself start to look really unmaintained. It’s freeing. It’s sometimes surprising. And hell, it might make you more trustworthy.

We have:

  • a flickr pool (Get those day 0 images in, please – we need comparables for your eventual shagnificence.)
  • hashtags: #nsid or #nsid2010 if you prefer timeliness
  • an aggregator

What more could you want?

NSID for Charity

The NSID community has always been full of kind spirits. I know this because each year, they ask me if our month of madness can be associated with a charitable cause in some way, to give the suffering of our spouses and sometimes ourselves a greater sense of purpose. I love that idea, and so as I did last year, I invite you to make a donation (US/CDN) to the Michael J Fox foundation for Parkinson’s Research. They have impressed me as a smart, well run charity acting to fight a disease that robs people of their ability to perform many of the basic tasks in life, like shaving, that we can toss aside for giggles.

A donation is not in any way a requirement for participation in NSID. For some people it helps motivate them to stay loyal to the cause, for others it helps them keep their significant others at bay, but it’s a decision I leave with you.

Either way – It’s November 30th – get that last shave in and start uploading those photos.

NSID 2009

This is not a drill.

For 11 months of every year, we all live our lives integrated– embedded, if you will– with our fellow citizens, hewing to their customs; blending in. For 11 months of the year we rarely even speak of the movement. But not this month.

It’s time for NSID operatives to go live.

First, remember our history. In 2007 I first spoke publicly of the cause, and in 2008 our numbers exploded. No Shaving In December has participants on at least 4 continents, participants of both sexes, and participants of all ages and stations in life. In fact, a recent survey I just made up confirms that every LinkedIn user is, at most, 3 hops away from an NSID participant.

Second, remember our cause. NSID’s not a political movement. It’s a silly, awesome getting-together of people who sort of like to see how they look when they stop shaving for a month. It’s permission to try something different and in that sense, our cause is freedom. Look at the flickr pool; it’s incredible. I love looking at these people I know to be cleanshaven getting all rustic and funky. How could you not want to be a part of this?

Third, remember your strength. Your job too important or high-visibility to stop shaving for a month? Bullshit – John Lilly did interviews with the LA Times mid-NSID like a champ. Your face doesn’t grow a proper beard? Hogwash – Claire‘s been doing NSID 3 years running, and Gavin soldiers through “patchiness issues” because his follicles don’t tell him how to live his life, he tells them how to live theirs.

No shaving. 31 days. We tweet using the #nsid hashtag, we document our progress in the flickr pool, and we aggregate it on noshavingindecember.org. I’m proud of all of you – I love this time of year. Are you in?
Continue reading “NSID 2009”

On Freedom

NSID 2007 MosaicI don’t often get personal in this blog.  Mostly I talk about Firefox things, security things, or how to make reasonably awesome bread.  I don’t want to inundate my reader(s) with too much sap; surely the blogosphere has enough emo in it already.

This is different though, because I’m talking about something really important. Not just to me, but to people everywhere who think ideas like “freedom” and “adventure” are more than just words.  People who think that it is the duty of a responsible citizenry to resist injustice, and to throw off the shackles of polite society when they reach too far into our world, when they transgress too much.

Last year, I introduced people to this struggle, and the response was overwhelming.  This year, we aim to do more.  To reach more people. To change more lives.

We need you to be a part of it.

Tomorrow is the first day of December.  If you are someone who lives with the hegemony of social pressure, someone who is compelled to hold knives against your own flesh defying every instinct evolution has given you: NSID is your emancipation.  We don’t care if you’re male or female, young or old, unix-hacker bearded or barely able to grow hair, NSID is your chance to stand with friends and get shaggy.

Join the flickr pool, post updated pictures, fill the #nsid twitter stream, blog the news out to the masses.  Be part of the revolution.

And don’t worry, in January you can shave it all off again.  It stops itching around the 8 or 9th day.

[UPDATE: NSID now has a tracking page: noshavingindecember.org (Good idea, Humph!)]


Johnath on NSID Day 7A couple years ago, when I still worked for IBM, there came a point – about a week into December – when I realised that I had no more user lab sessions, no more customer travel – that I had no particular reason to keep myself presentable.  This was an opportunity not to be ignored.

I tend to shave pretty regularly, and I think people tend to prefer it that way, for the most part.  I do too, really.  But sometimes you need a chance to stretch your follicles and see what you’d look like if only.  And so, NSID was born:

No Shaving In December

I have been delinquent in not introducing the concept sooner, but in truth, the first NSID was not a full month long anyhow, and we keepers of the faith welcome late arrivals in any case.  Don’t view it as a contest, or a strict discipline, view it as an opportunity.

If you have to shave early because of some social function – so be it – consider resuming your hobo look afterwards if there’s still time.  If you have to shave it because it itches like an unholy FIRE, that’s okay.  NSID is not about judgement.  It’s about self-actualization which, unless I am sorely mistaken, and I’m not, is right at the tippy-top of the god damned pyramid.  It’s the gift you give yourself.

Know too that you are not alone.  I am here.  Robcee is here.  Beltzner and bhearsum and claire are here too.  Shaver defied the destiny of his very name to join our motley crew, and mconnor is a member by default.

We have a flickr pool.  You know what to do.