red echo

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

September entries

Archived Entries for August, 2005

August 27, 2005

This is it: time to finish loading La Bête, pick up my passenger, go find the rest of the caravan, and start rolling south. I still feel a bit subdued, but the excitement is building. I'll see you all back here in September, with lots of pictures and maybe even one or two new stories.

August 25, 2005

I just spent the last couple of hours building a cargo carrier for my Rover's roof rack. It's ugly and informal - bodged together out of spare 2x4s, some plywood, and a tarp - but it is screwed and glued together in what I hope is a secure fashion, and it ought to be more or less waterproof. The rave-o-matic and the generator I am bringing to charge it will occupy a substantial fraction of the cargo compartment, so inside-space is at a premium. I'm not sure that I will actually need the cargo carrier, but it's going to be a tight enough squeeze that I'd rather not have to worry about making everything fit.

I have felt a constant sense of pressure for the last several days, as though I ought to be working harder at getting ready than I actually am. There certainly is a lot of gear to pack, but there really isn't much more preparation work to do. I've made my lists and checked them over, and I'm sure that everything will work out fine, but my last couple of expeditions required so much last minute work that I have apparently come to expect it. The big difference is that I'm not working on my art project until the last moment this time: it has been finished for weeks, and I've tested it twice, so I already know that everything is going to work. What a change from last year!

Burning Man really doesn't have to be this complicated, of course. If I weren't bringing the rave-o-matic, I could fit all my gear in the back of the Rover without even folding its seat down. This will be the third time I've gone to Burning Man, and the third time I've packed along as much stuff as I can possibly bring; it might be interesting to try going some year without trying to build and bring a large art project.

I came back from the desert last year fired up, full of inspiration, determined to build something amazing and cool and full of energy, and I think I've accomplished that. People loved the rave-o-matic at Critical Massive and at Phoenixfest, so I'm confident that it will be a success at Burning Man, too. I pushed myself, though, building the biggest device I could practically fit into my vehicle and the most complex gadget I realistically had time to finish. I'm proud of it, and glad I built it, but there is more to my life than building cool stuff, and I don't want to spend next summer in exactly the same way. Maybe the desert trip will recharge the intense desire to create art that has powered my thinking for much of the last year, but right now I feel that this phase has run its course, and that when I return it will be time to find something new.

The Mongol Rally is drawing to a close. Check out the SMS updates from the contestants, with comments like these:

Somewhere 200 k nw of IRKUTSK. 3rd night sleeping in car. No decent facilities for days. Russian roads now atrocious. Car being shaken to piecies. 5561 miles.

Into MONGOLIA! All good, amazing amazing amazing, but where's the road?

The rolling johnstones have reached altai. sump repaired, suspension jiggered, exhaust blown off, clutch burnt, oh and windscreen smashed, but still rolling....

I can't believe they convinced a hundred people to do this. What fun! (Thoroughly insane, miserable, wretched fun, granted; but fun all the same.)

August 24, 2005

August 23, 2005

August 22, 2005

One of the art project ideas that occured to me while wandering around in the desert last year was a fake nuclear reactor, complete with miniature cooling tower and fake geiger counters, clicking wildly. I am pleased to discover that the Environmental Disaster Camp already tried this, back in 1998, with their “Black Rock Nuclear Reactor.”


Michael, Dawn, Colleen, Paul


August 20, 2005

Construction staging area for the light rail tunnel. The big white cylinder is the TBM.

Rail bridge from the maintenance yard to the Beacon Hill tunnel, crossing 6th Ave.

Burning Man Burning Man Burning Man Burning Man Burning Man. Burn burn burn burn burn burn drive drive drive pack build build pack build build drive drive burn burn burn BURNING MAN!

In other news, I am getting my portrait taken today. Maybe I will be able to replace the four-year-old icon in the corner of my page soon.

The Niles Monorail, a working (albeit miniature) monorail system in the back yard of monorail enthusiast Kim Pedersen.

August 16, 2005

A couple of Londoners got hold of some electroluminescent wire and used it to weave baskets. What a wild collision of high and low tech!

Sunday's work party pushed me finally into full-scale Burning Man preparation mode. I'm making lists, ordering the last round of mail-order supplies, and thinking over every detail of my plans and gear to make sure I haven't missed anything. I feel less pressure than last year, though, largely because the rave-o-matic is already (pretty much) finished and I don't have to rush around til the last minute working on my art project. All of the projects I'm working on now are to some degree optional, and if I had to I could probably ignore the whole issue until Saturday the 27th, then spend half a day buying food and just leave. But while I know the adventure will involve some degree of chaos - this is, naturally, one of reasons to go adventuring in the first place - I would rather spend my energy dealing with external unknowns than compensating for inadequacies in my preparation.

Fun with a cold-cathode fluorescent backlight panel

August 15, 2005

Ben Saunders plans to recreate the Scott expedition of 1912, omitting the part where they all die: an 1800 mile hike across Antarctica, from McMurdo to the Pole and back, with no external support. This has, apparently, never been accomplished before (though I'd think the various transcontinental ski expeditions would count as endeavours of equivalent difficulty).

Latest improvements to LAVI-zero

August 14, 2005

Kaos camp meeting at Gasworks Park

Tony and Paul, erecting the central shade frame for the Corridor o' Weebl

Various people practicing fire-spinning

August 11, 2005

I've posted the photos from my trip to New York last week. Random snapshots of Manhattan, a few photos from out on Long Island where Sara's family lives, some pictures of Sara and her family.

Jon Taylor's carpentry shop, moving out after the fire

August 10, 2005

The Gigsville map for this year has been finalized, and Kaos (misspelled “Koas” on the map) has a prime spot: we're going to be right on the 4:30 road, just like last year, except that 4:30 is one of the two interior theme-camp boulevards this year. It's about as cool a position as you can get without actually being on the Esplanade. We're also right across the way from Mutaytor, a hard-to-describe performance troupe who wowed everyone with their show last year.

Burning Man is less than three weeks away. Um, wow.

I just bought a complete backpack and tore its straps out with a seam ripper. This, friends, is what globalization means: I saved money by wasting most of a backpack. And I don't just mean that I saved money in the sense that I saved time, since I don't have to stitch the straps together from raw materials this way; I mean that the entire backpack cost less money than I would have spent buying raw materials for the straps alone. I feel bad throwing away the backpack bag, but I don't really know what use it would be without its straps.

To make this economic paradox even more impressive, the backpack came with a motion-activated blinky-light system, like the lights you sometimes see flashing in the soles of kids' shoes. It has a primitive tilt sensor and a four-element chase driver, wired up to ten LEDs. Beautiful! And, as you've likely already guessed, the entire backpack cost less than I would have spent buying the parts for such a circuit - to say nothing of the time I would have spent soldering all the bits together. I have a couple of applications for this gadget in mind already.

Tonight's plan is to replace the thin webbing straps on LAVI-zero with a proper set of backpack straps. The old straps tended to cut into my underarms a bit, and the harness slipped around easily; the new straps are padded and adjustable, and have a non-slip inner surface. In addition to the new straps, I'm adding a foam spacer to the bottom of the housing; this will let me wear the system lower on my back (with looser, more comfortable straps) while keeping the laser image pointed away from me on the floor.

August 9, 2005

A guide to sushi-eating etiquette.

Zassenhaus makes some very nice hand-cranked coffee mills.

August 8, 2005

August 7, 2005

August 6, 2005

August 5, 2005

New York is great - really hot, but I'm enjoying it anyway. Life, energy, activity everywhere. I'm out on eastern Long Island right now, visiting Sara's family. Lots of trees. No dvorak keyboards though, so I will save the full report for later.

August 4, 2005


August 3, 2005

August 2, 2005

There are seventeen different forms of planar symmetry. They are distinguished by the lattice type (square, hexagon, rectangle, rhombus, parallelogram), by the reflection axis, and by the pivot angle. Seventeen! Such an odd number.

Inkscape is an open-source vector graphics editor, based on SVG. I'm a little skeptical about SVG, but it seems to have some muscle behind it, and a universal open graphics format would be a good thing.

Sara and Melissa

July entries


photo © 2001 Stacie Mayes

Feedback: talk to me