red echo: September 2005

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

October entries

Archived Entries for September, 2005

September 30, 2005

I want to go roller skating. I'd forgotten how much I used to enjoy it until Tuesday night at Burning Man: a whole crowd of us, out exploring, walked by the Black Rock Roller Disco and decided to take a spin. Rather to my surprise, I found that I still had the knack - as long as I didn't think about it too much, I could even do most of my old spins, jumps, and foot-tricks. It doesn't look like there are any rinks actually in Seattle, but I'm sure I could gather up a bunch of people for a trip over to Bellevue or Southcenter some night...

September 29, 2005

I've got the music cranked up, I'm playing along on my bass, I've worked out the chords and I'm really getting into it... then the track ends, and I realize that the whistling drone that came in on the second chorus was actually my teakettle, which has been furiously spewing steam (and irritating my neighbors, most likely) for a couple of minutes now. That's right, I was going to make tea. Oops...

Here's a ten-dollar USB battery box powered by ordinary AA batteries. Perhaps this is a solution to my fears of getting stuck on a long road trip with a camera whose weird custom rechargeable battery has gone dead?

September 28, 2005

I think I have a new band project. I responded to a craigslist ad a couple of weeks ago; we exchanged some emails, met up to talk, got along fine, and discovered that we want to make pretty similar kinds of music. Our skill sets match up well, and we like each other's demo work. Everything has gone so well, in fact, that I keep wondering where the catch is. I'm excited, but I don't think it's going to seem quite real until the practice sessions start.

We met again tonight to talk about plans and play more music, and each picked out some of our unfinished or partially-finished music for the other to work on. I'm going to remix one of her tracks, and rewrite the keyboard parts; she's going to write some lyrics and a melody for a couple of songs I was never able to finish. This should be a nice way to ease into collaboration; I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with my pieces.

September 25, 2005

I went out to the 9 lb. Hammer last night to see the Bad Things, a sort of punk folk gypsy carnival band with a great sense of black humor. All acoustic, and they had an accordion, a tuba, a banjo, all kinds of stuff. Zack and Wendy gave me a ride down, and most of the Kaos people were there - Sean was running sound, and the musicians all seemed to be friends of my friends. I've never been down to the 9 lb. Hammer before; it has a great obnoxious divey atmosphere, but it's really kind of a terrible performance venue, with big round tables taking up all kinds of space and a totally jury-rigged sound system. It was fun, though, and they have good stiff drinks, so we were all dancing and drinking and having a great time anyway.

I have a new camera - not a replacement for my dead Canon, but a medium-format TLR! It's a Rolleicord III that my grandfather bought sometime around 1952. It's full of dust now - I don't think he touched it at all during the last fifteen or twenty years of his life - but all of the mechanisms appear to work.

He was an avid photographer when I was young; I have fond memories of the darkroom he built in his house in Redwood City, and all of his prints around the house. He had other cameras later; a 35mm Mamiya, and I think a Pentax, but this was the first camera I remember him using, and it has always stuck in my memory as something special.

I haven't used film for several years, but I am suddenly interested in taking it up again. This camera has nothing but the essentials: all manual, no flash, square film, no swappable lenses, no zoom. You get nothing but shutter speed, aperture, and a great big ground-glass viewfinder. It suggests a certain deliberate style, quite the opposite of the quick-and-casual manner I've grown accustomed to with digital cameras.

September 23, 2005

September 22, 2005

September 17, 2005

I was introduced to a seven-year-old boy last night as “an inventor.” Ha! Well, I suppose that's as good a description of my gadget-making as any, though my motivations are anything but entrepreneurial.

Over at iPod Garage, someone turned an altoids tin into an iPod case. This demonstrates that altoids are cool, the iPod Nano is tiny, and iPod owners are nuts.

September 15, 2005

From Northwest Environment Watch, here's a neat little graphic comparing population density between Seattle and Vancouver, highlighting growth over the last census decade. Seattle looks like a sprawled-out mess by comparison, which is undoubtedly due at least in part to the fact that almost three-quarters of the city is zoned for single-family homes.

I've recently rediscovered Boots-n-All Travel, a backpacker-style travel site I pored over endlessly back in 1999 or so. The layout is a lot cleaner now, and it has kind of turned into a blog site, but it's packed as full of travelogues and research material as ever. Of particular note is their Round-the-World planning guide, complete with an RSS feed of helpful tips.

September 14, 2005

Just like last year, summer ended while I was off at Burning Man. It's been cloudy, cold, and intermittently rainy for the last week; it felt oddly like spring a few days ago, when a grey, cold morning cleared up into a blue, clear, crisp afternoon. Oh well; there's still plenty to do around here in cooler weather. I'd like to get a couple of wilderness expeditions in before the snow sets in, and then - then! maybe we will have a real ski season this year. I went to REI the other day to look at ski boots, and the excitement started creeping in immediately.

We shipped the Linux version of REALbasic yesterday. Yay. I had almost nothing to do with the Linux porting project itself, but it's my compiler engine in there making everything tick, so I feel I can take some small measure of credit nonetheless.

September 13, 2005

I spent the day over in Bellevue at a workshop put on by Apple Computer, learning how to build “universal binaries” that will run on either PowerPC or x86 Macs. The conference room was full of the x86 developer boxes, which are basically just a standard PC inside a G5 tower case, and I'm happy to say that they look and act just like any other Mac. Apple did a great job with their last processor transition, from the 68k to the PowerPC, and I think this upcoming transition will be just as smooth. Even more to my amazement, the universal binary technology is great; it is simple, straightforward, uncluttered, and easy to support. I've grown to expect that every new Apple API will either be a massively over-engineered, world-spanning beast, or just a pretty name slapped onto a creaky old pile of kludges, so it was a pleasant and refreshing surprise to discover a simple, elegant API that is just as future-proof as it needs to be (and no more).

September 8, 2005

It's Burning Man from space - a satellite photo of Black Rock City sometime toward the end of last week. You can even see where my camp was: look straight down from the man (right in the center of the circle), and you'll see a road that runs basically straight up and down. Follow it down from the inner circle outward: the block below and to the right of the third intersection is Gigsville. There's a little chunk at the top-left corner of Gigsville; slice off the very top and the very bottom of that chunk, and what's left is Kaos Camp.

September 7, 2005

Dinner tonight: a hunk of steak, broiled medium-rare, brushed with lemon juice and cracked pepper, and a bowl full of fresh salad greens, mushrooms, and diced tomatoes, with a cold, wet bottle of beer. Mmmmmm. Grrrr. I cannot remember having ever felt so earnestly carnivorous as I have in the last four or five days.

Please help me find a new camera

I went to look at digital cameras today and found myself quickly overwhelmed. I have paid no attention whatever to the digital camera market in the three years since I bought my Canon A10, and the models available today have advanced so far beyond what I was expecting that I hardly know where to start. I turn to you, dear readers, for advice: what should I look at? My criteria are as follows:

  • Good glass is important, resolution is not (the A10's 1.3 megapixels have always been adequate)
  • No more than a quarter-second lag between pressing the shutter and taking the picture
  • Flash setting must not require digging around in menus
  • Camera must remember flash setting across power cycles (!!!)
  • Should use normal batteries (AA or AAA) instead of some weird custom hard-to-find rechargeable battery [negotiable]
  • First choice for memory format: compactflash. Second choice: secure digital. Third choice (tie): memory stick, multimediacard.
  • 3x optical zoom [negotiable]
  • Doesn't have to have an optical viewfinder
  • Should be available on eBay for $100-ish, though I might go as high as $200 if it is really awesome or includes memory cards or extra batteries (if it uses the weird custom hard-to-find rechargeable kind, that is)

September 6, 2005

Back from Burning Man

I'm home from Nevada, tired but feeling good. There is a playa-dust-covered heap of gear in the middle of my living room which I will likely spend the next week or two unpacking. The Rover looks wretched - caked in roadkill bugs and a film of grey mud and dust - and badly needs a brake job, but it held up magnificently despite the extreme conditions and heavy load.

My camera broke a couple of days into Burning Man, so I don't have many pictures. I am less bothered about this than you might expect; I do love photography, but I already have two years' worth of Burning Man photos online, and it was a nice change to just run around and play without trying to take pictures of every amazing thing I saw. The camera is a small piece of baggage, but it is baggage all the same.

This was a really good experience. I didn't feel as much of an ecstatic rush as last year, but neither did I have any of the exhausted, depressive funks I went through last year or in 2001. I basically just had a good time all week. The weather was great - we only had one windstorm, right at the beginning of the week, and only two really cold nights. My art project worked beautifully; there were no major problems setting it up or running it, and people loved it. I felt connected, to the city and especially to my Kaos camp-mates; it was nice to be part of a group, a contributor to a shared experience.

August entries


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An Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot
The Year of Liberty, Thomas Pakenham
A Dangerous Place, Marc Reisner
Feersum Endjinn, Iain Banks
End of the Earth, Peter Matthiessen
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby
The Pillars of Hercules, Paul Theroux
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

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