red echo

A web journal by Mars Saxman: my life, reflected and filtered

April entries

Archived Entries for March, 2005

March 29, 2005

March 26, 2005

Well, this year's Real World conference is over. It seemed to go pretty well; I don't know how many people attended, but the crowds were a little larger than last year's. I was nervous about my “debugging techniques” talk, since I hadn't really taken any time to prepare for it, but I dropped into that old familiar flow as soon as I said “hello, my name is...”, and it just went. I had a hard time reading the audience reaction, but nobody walked out, and a few people came up afterward to tell me how much they liked it. I got the impression that other people had expected something more technical, which was probably not unreasonable given my compiler-guy reputation; perhaps we should add an “advanced debugging techniques” talk next year.

Last night after the end of the conference I went out on the town with twenty or so of the attendees. We did a bit of a downtown Austin bar crawl, which was a lot of fun. Austin stays open late, with an active sidewalk culture: throngs of people in open-air patios, strolling down the streets, lights and music and life everywhere. It was satisfying, this week, talking to people who are using REALbasic for all kinds of sophisticated and interesting projects. I usually hear from the people who have run into problems, who are frustrated by things that don't work or don't exist or that they simply don't understand, and talking to so many happy REALbasic users this week has added a very refreshing balance to that perspective.

March 25, 2005

This, I'm told, is the current location of the
MTV show “Real World” - across the street from the venue for Real Software'sReal World” conference. Some of our conference attendees reported receiving a surprising amount of attention when wandering around the city wearing their conference badges and T-shirts.

March 24, 2005

March 23, 2005

March 19, 2005

I spent the afternoon building a stand for the little two-octave controller keyboard I picked up last month. It's too small for a regular X-stand, I don't like the “keyboardist in a cave” feeling of a multi-level stand, and I didn't want something that was going to take up a lot of room. I couldn't find a stand in the catalogs that suited me, so I decided to build one. A trip to Home Depot and a couple hours of tinkering later, I have a custom shelf fitted to my controller. It screws onto a standard microphone stand base, so its height is adjustable and it fits easily into odd corners.

I love building stuff.

March 17, 2005

Around two billion years ago, a mineral formation in what is now Gabon operated as a nuclear reactor. The reactor system operated for about 150 million years, producing an average power of 100 kilowatts.

How badly I want to believe that pride still goes before a fall. Someday, I still keep hoping, George W. Bush will get the comeuppance his small-minded arrogance has earned.

March 16, 2005

On the way to Calaveras

View from my grandparents' house

Last time I saw these trees, they were scarcely taller than I was

My grandfather

Olivia, cousins David and Kevin, Jeanine, my mom (L-R)

My grandfather worked on improving the landscaping around his house right up to the end

All that remains of my old tree house: some steps and a couple of cross-braces

Melissa, Marvin Wood, Marshall Young, Aunt Lois (L-R)

March 14, 2005

March 12, 2005

Cherry trees are blossoming: let's picnic in the arboretum

Mez, Rose, Thomas, Brady

The Washington State Legislature is debating a proposal to split the state in half along the crest of the Cascades. I've been telling people for years that Washington and Oregon ought to have been divided north-south along the Cascades, instead of east-west along the Columbia; Seattle has much more in common with Portland (or with Vancouver B.C., for that matter) than it does with Spokane. The Cascades divide culture and political ideology as much as they divide climate.

This bill will never pass, but it's eminently sensible, and I wish it would. Everyone gains: the predominantly Republican rural areas get free from what they see as liberal Seattle domination, and Seattle gets to stop subsidizing its recalcitrant stepchildren east of the mountains and get on with the creation of the nation's first two-party Democrat/Green state. Some of the most contentious political issues under discussion right now would just vanish: Transit funding for projects like a new bridge across Lake Washington or a viaduct replacement? No problem, the West spends the money and the East doesn't. Gay marriage? Absolutely yes in the west, absolutely no in the East. Governor's race? Gregoire by a landslide in the West, Rossi without question in the East. And on the list goes.

March 11, 2005

Back when I bought this
Keystation, iMac-inspired translucent plastic was all the rage. I've thought for years that it would be cool to crack it open and slip in some red EL-wire: today I finally tried it, and above you see the result. Looks good, but I think it needs more; I'm going to add another couple feet of wire.

March 10, 2005

I've been watching the hit counts on Red Echo grow slowly over the last year or two, and there are enough of you reading my site now that I'm starting to get curious. Who are you, and what are you thinking about? I've decided to dip my toe gently into the notion of a two-way conversation, and have added a feedback form: you'll see the “talk to me” link in the sidebar now.

The Mongol Rally may well be the least sane auto race ever invented, putting the Alcan 5000 and even the Paris-Dakar to shame: from London to Mongolia, around one-quarter of the planet's circumference, it's an 8,000 mile trip with no support crew in vehicles whose engines cannot exceed 1 liter. Now that is an adventure. To put the vehicle requirement in perspective, the 67-horsepower half-pint jeep I went puttering around Nevada in would be too gutsy to qualify.

You are free to sneak, bribe, cheat, connive and generally out-wit the world to get yourselves to Ulaan Baatar. In fact you will probably have to. If you get to the end of the race without some good stories to tell, then the Mongol Rally has failed in its mission. Which it won't.

Speaking of the Paris-Dakar, this reminds me a lot of the Plymouth-Dakar Challenge, which is just like the Paris-Dakar except that you are not allowed to spend more than £100 on your car. What is it about crazy Englishmen and tiny, battered cars that makes them want to drive insanely long distances? Do they just get claustrophobic, living on an island small enough to cross in one hard day of American-style road trip driving?

March 9, 2005

Random Burning Man project someone ought to build someday: a big tricycle with one of those 25-gallon sprayer tanks mounted on the back. An auxiliary sprocket on the chain drive could turn a generator, providing power to the sprayer pump, which would be connected to a lawn sprinkler. It would be your own personal water-truck effect, on a more personal scale.

While looking for that link (note for future reference, to save myself twenty minutes of searching: this model of water-dispersal device is apparently called an “impulse sprinkler”) I found a much simpler but scarcely less audacious piece of kit: a sprinkler on a six-foot tower. Perch this along the road, hook up a small pump and a big water tank, and you would have yourself one great big mud hole full of burner fun.

March 7, 2005

Yesterday's rally made the news, and the article is fair and well-written. It was a good rally: organized, focused, energetic. There were no major problems, and the few minor glitches we had worked out in the end. The police gave us no trouble, the crowd was energetic but well-behaved, the bystanders were pleasant - even the people stuck in their cars behind the police lines were mostly smiling. We didn't tie the city up for too long; we marched through, got everyone's attention, made our point, and got out of the way again. The rally was well-attended; people drifted away, of course, but there was still a reasonable crowd to the end.

I had feared that the march might become another left-wing kook-magnet event, like the anti-war rallies a year ago; I had visions of a sea of signs ranting about Lyndon LaRouche, the death penalty, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the evils of Exxon and Citibank. I guess our marketing effort worked, though; the people who showed up all seemed to be primarily interested in gay marriage. We also kept the message clear by handing out 240 signs - not enough for every marcher, of course, but enough to keep the visual impression focused. The Socialist Worker people handed out dozens of their own signs saying “Marriage is a civil right”, which was a little awkward - we all agreed with the sentiment, but our group avoids using the phrase “civil rights” as it has historical connotations we don't necessarily want to hijack. It was still “on-message”, though, as PR people like to say, so I think we did pretty well overall.

March 6, 2005

Marriage Equality Rally

The crowd begins to gather - it looks like this is really going to work!

I designed the stencil for the sign this little girl was holding; I'm sure she had only the vaguest idea what it was all about, but she looked adorable anyway.

I'm nervous, but excited: all the work we've put in for the last few months looks like it is going to pay off.

The news media didn't hesitate to cover the event; there were a couple of broadcast trucks, and I saw numerous film and video cameras.

Our police escort rolls out: time to start the march.

The bystanders were overwhelmingly supportive, with comments like “I'm glad someone is finally doing this.” I saw only two people during the entire day who had anything negative to say.

Looking out over the sea of faces at Westlake, what a thrill: we did this. Now it's up to the court...

March 5, 2005

I spent the evening at a sort of "flash mob" event where a bunch of people descended on Barça, all wearing tuxedos for no apparent reason. We arrived separately, ordered vodka martinis, took over a couple of tables, and let people wonder. We differed from a normal flash mob in staying to chat for a couple of hours; most of us were strangers, but we were all either Burners or Fremont Arts Council people, so we had no trouble making conversation. Some of the other bar patrons eventually worked up the courage to ask us what we were all about, and different members of the group had fun inventing semi-plausible explanations for our presence. We were orchestra members, professional magicians, foreign dignitaries... It was fun, though I had to bail out early in anticipation of a very busy day tomorrow.

March 3, 2005

Justo Martínez is building his own cathedral in the small town of Mejorada del Campo near Madrid in Spain. [More, more.] He has been working on it since 1961, more or less by himself, with no plans, no funding, and no support from the Catholic Church. It looks a little ragged in its half-finished state, and the builder's improvised building techniques give it a certain ramshackle air, but it is huge, astonishing, gorgeous. This project is like something I would daydream about, and I'm glad there is someone in the world who was driven to actually do it.

February entries


photo © 2001 Stacie Mayes


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