Aug 232006

As I said last year, I’m taking a year off from Burning Man. I was getting too jaded, bitching about the work of getting there, rather than being giddy about the sights to come. It turns out I have other things I need to attend during the labor day weekend anyway.

I figured there would inevitably be a twinge of regret for not going. Up until today, there was nothing. But then I saw a project which I really hope makes it to Burning Man – The Neverwas Haul:

The NeverWas Haul explores the theme of the intrepid explorer, boldly adventuring into the unknown, seeking golden cities, mysterious artifacts, fame and glory. This pre-turn of the century, steam powered, mobile Victorian house is 3 stories in height, and is decorated with the relics and artifacts collected in its journey around the globe, as well as a few more specimens collected in Black Rock City. Participants are interviewed, measured and documented in arcane and amusing scientific experiments. Traditional Irish tea is served every afternoon, and visitors may tour the Haul and be impressed by our advanced steam technology and finely polished brass scientific instruments.

Wow, that is going to be very amazing. Here is the catch though… It didn’t get official funding. Why? I have no idea. But they are having a party and fundraiser tonight, Wednesday, August 23rd at The Shipyard in Berkeley starting at 7:30pm.

NeverWas Haul NeverWas Haul NeverWas Haul

Sep 092005

(All photos and movies for this entry are posted here)

As I’m sure you have gathered, Anna and I are back in town. But are still somewhat recovering from our trip up to Burning Man, the Bristlecone Forrest, and the Sequoias. This year’s Burning Man was our fourth, and felt a bit strange for me. We weren’t introducing anyone new to the event, and it was a bit of a forced march up here, 14 hours of travel doesn’t do much for your attitude.

We drove up all of Thursday, stayed in Reno that night, then left the next morning for Burning Man. That only gave use slightly more than 2 days there. Hardly enough time to get into the swing of things, and drifting into tourist territory. Participation is a key aspect of Burning Man, and tourist is a dirty word. People arriving on Friday are right at the bottom of the playa caste system. We were only slightly better than someone who showed up Saturday in a Hummer yelling “Show me your tits!” I kid. Sort of.

We waited in the sun for almost an hour before people showed up at will-call windows to help with tickets. I’m sure it was just poor planning, but in my post-travel grump it felt more like hate for ‘the tourist’. These people were volunteers, and they work hard. But it was a bit frustrating to hear them talking and laughing behind the building while you and thirty other people sit there… waiting.

Eventually we rolled into town and looked up Dave and Devin’s camp in the info system. Armed with a location and a description of an ‘Enterprick’ van, we found them without troubles. After quickly setting up camp, it was off to The Deep End to go dancing. There really isn’t many things like dancing in the dust as the sun goes down. It was a long night of great sights and sounds as we found Rave Raffe, played in the man’s funhouse, and watched the phoenix.

The next day we rode into center camp, then continued our tour of the playa. We stumbled on more and more wonderful things. I rode my bike until my ass was sore. There were definitely some highlights. The tea house was wonderful. Very tranquil, inviting, and it even had great chai. The temples were small, but still great. Clockworks, a massive wooden clock, was amazing. And random encounters are what makes Burning Man great.

After a meeting some great people, and having a bit of a feast, it was time to head out for the burn. We had a decent seat and settled in to watch the fire spinners. Parts of the crowd sang happy birthday (this year is the 20th), then the man started to burn. Soon there was a massive display of fireworks, and twisters spinning off from the fire’s wind, generated by its massive oxygen consumption. This years man had a robust platform, and burned for a very long time. Eventually the man fell, and the crowd surged forward.

We wandered back into the parking lot of art cars and throngs of people to soak it all in. Soon the flames started from various pieces strewn about the playa, and we reacted like the magpies that we are by seeking them out. After having a good time wandering around, we eventually made it back to camp to refill water several hours later.

I grabbed a tripod that Jimmy had lent me and took off on my own to try it out. After a bit of playing around with shutter times I managed to get some decent night shots and went to bed around 3.

Sunday I awoke to a visitor on the tent and had some lebne and bread for breakfast. Mmmm. After a little bit of visiting we wandered over to center camp and did a brief tour of the playa. Unfortunately the burn barrels and pits were in full use. I had a really hard time with them this year, even with a N100 mask on. Maybe some retard decided to burn some carpet, or a couch. In any case, I was too physically uncomfortable to enjoy myself. We packed up, did some playa cleanup, and left shortly after Devin and Dave.

Exodus was disappointing. People succumbed to impatience and broke out of line, racing down the playa to the exit. Anything over 10mph kicks up dust clouds that cover the rest of the people still at burning man. When we got to the highway it wasn’t much better. This year seemed like the worst yet for garbage. People hadn’t strapped it down well enough and one could see bags on the side of the road. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, I’m not talking about massive piles of garbage bags on the side of the road. But for an event whose participants pride themselves as ‘leave no trace’, we sure did a shitty job on the highway. Despite leaving on some negatives, we had a wonderful time in Reno. Dinner and a movie, and dinner (Italian at Lucianos) was particularly nice.

I had a good time at Burning Man this year, despite my sometimes bad attitude. Most of that could be explained by the hectic schedule and physical discomfort. We saw and did some amazing things, and I had fun this year. But I was also a bit numb. I feel very slightly jaded, and I really don’t want to. This is the only place in the world I will see a cheshire cat car, this much fire, this many different parties, or meet such interesting people. The fact that I have to stop and recognize what an amazing place this is means I need to let go of my expectations, and change my headspace. The best way I know of to do that is to take a year off.

Yes, I know I said that last year. Time will tell, I suppose.

Sep 012005

We are all packed up and hitting the long road up to Burning Man from San Diego. The plan is to do the 395 route, a bit longer, but much more scenic, and arrive in Reno tonight. A quick shopping trip and we should be on the playa for Friday until late Sunday night. If they have enough bandwidth, you can see a streaming video of Burning Man from the top of Center Camp.

On the way up 395 we are hoping to stop in at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forrest, home to the oldest living thing on the earth (Methuselah, 4,751 years old). We wanted to check out the area last year, but ended up doing side trips for the Tufa of Mono Lake and the ghost town of Bodie instead. Both were great, but this year, it is the time to check out the pines.

Aug 232005

As Oso mentioned in a comment bellow, Kamp Kanuckistan (representing the “stateless state” of the Free United Cartel of Kanuckistan) will be at 5:20 on Fetish at Burning Man this year, and will feature the second annual road hockey tournament – The “Xeni Cup”. Pete and I were there last year, and had a lot of fun.

The UT has a write up on the long-planned redevelopment of the Navy Broadway Complex in downtown San Diego It would provide residents and tourists with new views and routes to the waterfront while allowing the Navy to move its headquarters from old warehouses to modern facilities at no cost. (PDF of the proposal)

MSN Money looks at costs and savings by replacing stuff with EnergyStar in your home: When’s the best time to buy an appliance? If you�re waiting until yours breaks, don�t. As you put off the decision, you’re likely paying much higher utility bills because of the inefficiency of old appliances.

Thousands of commuters in Lyon, France, are renting bikes from public racks at low cost. They seem to have thought it out well:

Attempts to steal bikes from a rack set off an alarm, while a built-in lock secures bikes during rentals… A microchip exchanges information with electronic bike racks, identifying the bike, the subscriber and when it was rented and returned. Bikes even have sensors that check the brakes, lights, tire pressure and gears every time they are parked. If there’s a problem, the station won’t rent the bike… A control center keeps track of the data, sending out mechanics or a shuttle to move bikes from one station to another as needed. The bikes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, though currently weekday rush hours see the greatest demand, indicating that people are using the service to commute.

Lastly, if your day didn’t have enough crazies in it, don’t worry. Pat Robertson is here to help as an example to us allPat Robertson suggested on-air that American operatives assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to stop his country from becoming “a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”

Aug 112005

In my last Burning Man post I found the Thermokraken grant page online and was excited that the Kraken might be coming back to Burning Man this year. I emailed the Therm guys to ask what the outcome was. Unfortunately they told me the Kraken only received 40 votes from the Borg2 community, which means no funding. It will sit in Oakland rather than the playa. I was happy to hear that it got out and about at the Fire Arts Festival at The Crucible in Oakland a few weeks back. If anyone has any serious venue or funding ideas, please check this out and contact Orion. The Kraken is an amazing piece and I hope more people can enjoy it.

While checking out the wiki for Burning Man, I was surprised to see the sudden growth last year. 2002 had a bit of a growth spurt (12%), but from 1999 to 2003 Burning Man grew relatively slowly. For some reason, 2004 brought an extra 5000 people or 17% more. I wonder what caused the surge last year. Good press?

TheHun has a write-up on the DPW BBQ for Gerlach and fixing the 100 year old water tower roof. There is also a webcam shot of the BBQ here.

Surprisingly, and for no good reason, I don’t have any contact with the San Diego Burning Man community or their events (Fuego de los Muertos, Xara Dulzura). But they are great people, go check them out.

SFGate does a story on the carpenters of Burning Man that make the man – The heart of burning man; Volunteer carpenters craft festival’s namesake totem for its moment in the moon

SFGate does a story on BORG2 – Artistic sparks; Creative ‘revolt’ falls short, but group gets own spot at festival

Aug 052005

The golden spike was driven in to the playa of Black Rock City on Wednesday. You can see some photos and a write-up from the DPW crew right here. From there they start to map out the streets and grid the city. Once completed, the big projects can be erected – the man, center camp, etc.

This year’s art lineup looks quite good. A few repeats, but most of it is brand spanking new. There are a number of larger works thing year – Clockworks and the Tower of Memory should be quite impressive. It looks like Therm is trying to bring back their magnificent beast, the Thermokraken. I hope they can find a sponsor. BORG2 also has a good looking list of art grants. I can’t wait.

Everything is seems to be coming together and getting ready. Except us. We are pressed for time this year, and will be doing a some what forced march. This means heading Thursday, overnight in Sacramento, stock up in Reno and hit the playa Friday afternoon. Not a whole lot of time, but better than nothing. Sadly this also means we don’t have many plans this year. No el wire, structures, etc. I guess we will just have to last minute an easy way to participate.

May 132005

Burning Man Prep

Last year we used a shade structure from form and reform. It held up well, and it was nice to use extra tarps off the main structure. The disadvantage is that you have 4 supports around 5 foot, and 2 around 7 foot. That makes it a real pain in the ass to get in most cars. We are toying with the idea of flying to Reno this year, so this would definitely be out of the question.

Enter the next option. The noah tarp and a couple of extended poles look like they will perform fairly well in the wind, pack down to 2 foot, and will cover around the same area. The disadvantages are cost and flexibility. While you can put it up a number of different ways, the catenary shape would not fare well if you tried to use multiple tarps of the end points. Some loose burlap hanging off the sides might work though…

1 month update on my Dell 2405FPW

– I notice less eye strain. I didn’t expect that I would, since my old monitor had a high refresh and a very good DPI.
– I have yet to notice LCD ghosting – the screen refresh is more than enough for games/dvds/vidfiles.
– I love the widescreen aspect. Perfect for dvds of course, but more and more TV shows are moving towards the format (I just hope that people continue to encode them in WS). It is also much more immersive for gaming. Of course, even some modern games do not support widescreen resolutions, but that is changing. I bought this monitor expecting that and accepted the fact that I had to be forward looking. Playing games or vid files with the black bars isn’t horrible, I just miss the widescreen glory.
– A DVI connection to the monitor is a must. When I used the monitor with analog, it looked like crap. Banding, cross hatching and color bleeding. DVI made everything crystal clear. I couldn’t believe the difference.
– Blacks are not true black, they are more like a very dark indigo. This is just something you have to deal with until LCDs do not need a backlight (OLEDs?). On that note, there is a slight backlight problem with the lower right corner of the screen – blacks are slightly more indigo than the rest of the screen. I’m just being picky though, you have to look really hard to notice it.
– 24 bit color range (a limitation of current LCD technology as I understand it) has shown slight banding in rare cases (color gradients that go across the screen in web pages). It does very well on everything else though.
– After setting my gamma to 1.8, I found the monitor was just as respectable as my old sun monitor for doing photo work.
– The USB2 hub and card reader built into the monitor work great. Coping files off my camera and hard drive enclosure (both USB2) is just as fast as using the primary USB2 ports on the motherboard. It is very nice to deal with cables going just to the monitor, instead of all the way down to the tower.

In short, no buyers regret.

Photo roundup

rion has some good shots of the famous Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Interestingly it was the geoquiz question yesterday on theworld. Sadly, it seems there are plans to close the historic market and move it to the suburbs – it rests on some of the most expensive real-estate in the world. I am certainly no expert, but for some reason this seems to indicate that there might be some changes happening in Japanese food culture. I mean, Japan is the land of $82 square watermelons. To hear of them cutting costs with food (especially something related to the culture of premium sushi) seems very strange. Or, maybe they just really like malls.

thenarrative has some good shots, but I like this one a lot. I miss the clouds and the big sky living here.

daily dose of imagery has this great shot. At first glance it looks like someone has removed the upper structure from the picture with photoshop.

Apr 152005

I just bought the WP-FX701 for my Fuji F810:

It is not available in the US, so I had to buy it through Yuzo in Japan. The case and the camera have received good fan reviews from places like Digital Diver, and I would love to try it out at the cove. I’m not expecting the best results – I just snorkel, our water clarity isn’t the greatest, and I won’t carry strobes. However, the macro results with an amazing location and strobes are impressive.

The other reason for buying the case is for dust:

From Wired, Surprises Lurk in Satellite Snaps

I’ve been thinking more and more about Burning Man. Last year we were convinced we were going to take this year off. Too much time and money to invest. But as time passes, I am finding myself leaning more and more towards going back. I think I will be more likely to go if we can figure out a way to do it by plane. Driving 12 or 13 hours just isn’t that fun.

Interesting information about RFID tags and future passports.

Don’t know who gets the blame on this one; Bush didn’t know about new passport rules