Red Echo

October 10, 2014

Now that its metacarpal bone contains a couple of screws, my thumb appears to have developed the ability to detect changes in barometric pressure. Cool! I am a human weather station!

Okay, to be honest it’s annoying and it kind of hurts, but if it’s the worst I have to deal with as a long-term consequence of last year’s motorcycle crash then I think I am OK with that.

October 2, 2014

October 1, 2014

September 29, 2014

One fire pit to rule them all.

Thorough and clever analysis of Python interop resulting in an API for asychronous I/O managed across multiple cores.

September 28, 2014

It’s funny to watch my creative outlets shift back and forth over time, since the activities themselves are about as conscious and intentional as they could be, and yet the overall course of the river seems to meander through loops I can only see in retrospect.

I did a ton of sewing last spring, but I haven’t touched a machine in months. The middle of the summer was all about organizing Floodland, which went off really well, but exhausted me. Since then I’ve been cruising through a more than usually quiet and solitary mode, spending most of my free time deep in the guts of some really enjoyable compiler hacking.

Now the weather is turning, I seem to have a resurging interest in connecting with my friends, and I’m thinking about starting up weekly Rock Star Thursday Dinners. Perhaps this also has something to do with the changing of the seasons and the approaching dark months, but I’m feeling a spark of interest in some lighting projects that have been neglected during this bright summer.

September 27, 2014

Delightful. By Mark Morford:
Burning Man is so very wrong

Here’s what you need to know about Burning Man in this fine year of our unchecked chaos, 2014: Nothing.

I mean, just forget everything, all right? Whatever you’re heard, read, seen, rumored, teased, whispered, Facebooked, Instagrammed, linked to, thought about or had muttered in your general direction in an Uber fever dream anytime in the past month. Year. Decade.

Because it’s almost certainly wrong. Delightfully, hatefully, stupidly, shamelessly, deliberately, resentfully, innocently or even inadvertently, it doesn’t matter – there’s almost nothing the slightest bit accurate in what the modern media has said recently about the famed art/camping/dance/survival festival – now in its 28th year – happening right now out in the Nevada desert.

September 25, 2014

Ready for Rain:
Why Seattleites Crave the End of Summer

It’s not simply the arrival of rain, but the transition to a different environment and way of life. The drear has a certain dark beauty; a low-contrast softness. There’s no need to squint or close the blinds. Even the sound of the rain on our house is music to my ears, a lullaby.

MailInABox: a script for setting up your own mail server on an Ubuntu 14.04 machine.

September 24, 2014

First half of roof over back porch

Well that wasn’t hard! Took just a little over an hour to nail four of the five panels up. Just a simple project really, since the frame was already there, but it’ll be nice to keep the porch dry and available for outdoor meals during the rainy months.

September 16, 2014

note to self: this cheap subwoofer unit looks useful for that Rover project

September 8, 2014

Charles Stross’ essay about his support for Scottish independence illustrates a view of geopolitics which seems entirely sensible, and which accords with my feelings about Cascadian independence.

My feeling is that we’d be better served by a group of much smaller nations working in a loose confederation or treaty structure. Their job should be to handle local issues (yes, this is localism) while compartmentalizing failure modes: the failure modes of a gigantic imperial power are almost always far worse than those of a smaller nation (compare the disintegration of the Soviet Union with that of Czecheslovakia). Rather than large monolithic states run by people at the top who are so remote from their constituents that they set policy to please lobbyists rather than their electors, I’d prefer to see treaty organizations like NATO and the EU emerging at consensus after discussions among numerous smaller stakeholder entities, where representatives are actually accountable to their electors. (Call me a utopian, if you will.)

September 6, 2014

Cascadia from space.

August 5, 2014

We did it and it was awesome

Here is a note I sent to the Floodland mailing list, thanking everyone who helped make it happen. No sense rewriting it when it sums my feelings up pretty clearly:

I have yet to start unpacking my car, but I’ve had a shower, a good night’s sleep in my own bed, and just now I’ve had a chance to upload some pictures:

Floodland 2014 on Flickr

I don’t know how to describe the experience I had this weekend without gushing. Not only did you all pick up the Floodland vision and run with it, but you took it off in a bunch of other directions I’d never expected, and you did it all with a smooth, comfortable competence that left me feeling like I shouldn’t have spent quite so much energy worrying about the details.

But I wasn’t just watching the kind of well-oiled machine that a close-knit crew can become: while many of us have worked on each other’s projects before, one of the big reasons for creating a new event is to welcome new people in, giving them a platform to explore their own ideas and develop their own skills along with us old-timers. I was happy to see good friends at Floodland but I was also glad that I got to make some new friends too.

We had beautiful weather, and even the little bursts of rain were welcome; we had the most consistently gorgeous sunsets I can ever remember seeing; we had lovely spaces to relax and to dance, we had art and costumes and performances and fire. It was all there. Everywhere you could see the potential hanging in the air, and everyone I talked to expressed enthusiasm about coming back and doing it again next year.

If all we accomplished was a proof-of-concept camping trip, that’d have still been success: but we went far beyond that and actually threw ourselves a full-on burn event. Thank you for all the energy you put into this, the good attitudes and adaptable creativity you brought to the various obstacles we encountered. Thank you for trusting me when I came to you with this crazy plan in the first place, and thank you for the honest, thoughtful, enthusiastic feedback so many of you shared as we all started to imagine what next year’s festival can be.

July 29, 2014

I have a new phone. It is Divide’s old Nexus S. (Thanks!) Alas, since I’m a paranoid freak who doesn’t believe in giving all my data to Google, I lost all my numbers. Entire address book: gone.

Have we ever communicated by phone? Does your phone contain my contact information? Text me, please! Send me your name. Thanks.

July 27, 2014

Floodland 2014 happens next weekend.

I’ve been trying to keep it small and focused, and these sorts of events have a way of getting out of control if you announce them too broadly. But we’re nearly down to the wire, this has been one of my major free-time activities for the last couple of months, and I’m really excited, so it’s time to spill.

We have art, music, shade, performance, cushy lounging, and awesome people. We’re going to go spend a long weekend in the sagebrush and make a beautiful temporary village there.

There will be a big “center camp” area for low-key lounging, workshops, craft projects, and socializing. We’ll have a big custom propane bonfire set up nearby – not that it gets very cold at night out in Eastern Washington during the summer, but a fire is still an important social center. And we’ll have some art projects, LED sculptures and the like.

A bit further away, we’ll have another big shade, covering a sound system and a DJ booth, with fabric and lights and some really impressive LED matrix displays…

It’s going to be a really fun weekend. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, this will become a new yearly event, akin to a “regional burn“. But this year will be special; it’s full of wide open possibility, and nobody really knows what to expect.

July 25, 2014

My phone got soaked in a rainstorm and no longer works. If you need to get in touch with me, use email!

July 16, 2014

I haven’t said much about work in a while. I’ve been part of a startup for the last year and a half, and our web site just went live. Development proceeds steadily… it’s all coming together and looking pretty good.

July 11, 2014

This is the clearest explanation I’ve read: “What Is a Bitcoin, Really?

July 10, 2014

The fellow living next door to Rock Star Parking is 92 years old; he’s been living in the same house for 65 years. His grandson was out cleaning up the back yard this morning, and I said hello. We chatted a bit, and he informed me that the name I gave my house is more apt than I had any way to know: Jimi Hendrix’s first band apparently used to practice in his grandfather’s basement, immediately across the driveway from my bedroom window.

July 8, 2014

UrbanGems is a little hot-or-not style site that asks you to pick, from two photos, which shows the prettier scene. This data yielded an algorithm for automatically measuring the beauty of street scenes in photos from Flickr, which is now being used to develop a mapping algorithm which will find not the shortest but the most scenic route from one place to another.

July 6, 2014

Goodness 2014

That was the happiest, most satisfying festival experience I’ve ever had. A lodge in the woods, a couple of big grassy meadows, tall trees, a river, and a hundred or so friends, plus forty or fifty of their kids, throwing down years of Burning Man equipment and experience for a few great days of music and conversation and craft projects. I danced til dawn both Friday and Saturday night. We wore all of our most awesome and ridiculous outfits. We strung brightly colored lights everywhere. We had a big potluck and not one but two campfires going all night.

Sleeping in the back of the Rover is still a great solution for festival camping; I just fold the seats back, flip down the tailgate, and roll out a bunch of blankets. Super simple and comfortable. I think I will cut & sew the canvas tarp I’ve been using as a shade into something that fits over the car a little better, though.

June 28, 2014

June 27, 2014

New propane fire pit


This propane burner holds a pile of rocks, diffusing what would normally be a simple blue flame into a big wispy orange flame like a traditional campfire. I have a perfectly serviceable firepit at home, but this portable burner will be great for festivals and camping in areas with burn bans, where it would be important not to leave a bunch of ash or create flying sparks.

June 26, 2014

Motorcycle ride around Mount Rainier

SoundRider has an article describing a trip around Mount Rainier which sounds like it would be fun.

I couldn’t imagine it without a map, so I plugged all the place-names into Google Maps and here’s what it looks like.

June 24, 2014

New electronics for Eva’s Flowerz

Eva’s big Flowerz sculptures from 2010 have been dragged out to Burning Man and to dozens of other events around Seattle over the last four years, and they’ve definitely taken a beating. My original electronics design was intended for a single, permanent indoor setup, so I’m surprised the lights survived being taken down and put back up in all kinds of environments as well as they have. They’ve gotten increasingly cranky, though, and now that half of them have died it’s definitely time for a replacement set.

LED and controller technology have come a long way since I designed the original lights. The new hardware is simpler, cheaper, and much more sophisticated; the new lights will have four times as many addressable pixels, so the animation space will now be two-dimensional (in polar coordinates) and not just a one-dimensional ring. What’s more, I had to individually hand-solder over a thousand through-hole LEDs for the old lights – there were dozens of tiny little wires running every which way. With the new system, the LEDs come mounted on strips of tape, all bussed up, so one control wire and two power wires are enough for eight RGB pixels. It’s AMAZING.

Stefan S. has been helping out with this project, and in just a couple nights of work we’ve finished all the soldering for two of the lights, with a lot of progress made on the other four. One more work session will finish the job. This is… I don’t remember exactly how many hours I spent on the originals, but it was in a whole different order of magnitude.

It’s a little bittersweet, opening up the old flower lights, tearing out what are now hilariously clunky, awkward, inefficient electronic devices that were nevertheless the very best I could do at the time, and replacing them with a project so simple it feels like cheating… but really, the hardware was always just a display for the animation algorithm, and that’s still the bit where the Art™ comes in.

June 23, 2014

Simple summer shirt design, take 5

I made some more tweaks to the simple summer shirt pattern: rounded the armscye, tapered the sleeve, added a topstitched French placket, and lengthened the hem. I mismeasured the placket width and made this shirt a little too blousy but I’ve taken the pattern in so the next one will be better. This particular shirt also has lapel facings, but that detail is too fiddly to qualify as “simple”. I think I’ll reserve this design for fabrics which don’t have a clearly “wrong” side, then work up a variant with a banded collar which will work better for prints and the like.

June 22, 2014

Boom City is open 9 AM til midnight, from June 19th through July 4th.

June 20, 2014

Electric Harley?

Harley-Davidson‘s entire brand image is built on nostalgia; their reputation for low-quality engineering is the subject of endless biker jokes. Harleys, the non-Harley-rider will tell you, are expensive, unreliable, old-fashioned bikes for people who care more about style than substance. H-D is literally the last motorcycle manufacturer I would expect to announce an electric motorcycle project. There are no specs, there is no timeline, there is no actual product, just a prototype – but it’s a damn cool prototype and an amazing statement from the one company I’d most expect to be flogging noisy, stinky, unreliable gas-burners decades after everyone else on the highway has switched over to electricity.

My plan, of course, is to buy an electric bike as soon as I can afford one; bikes with enough range to satisfy my everyday needs have been out for a few years now. I’ll keep a big, heavy, luggage-equipped gasoline-powered bike around for road trips, but a svelte, zippy, quiet electric seems like the perfect machine for getting around the city.

Looking toward Tesla and its network of superchargers, though, it’s not hard to imagine a not-too-distant future where cross-country electric motorcycle road trips could be totally practical. For car drivers, the idea of stopping for an hour’s break every couple hundred miles to recharge sounds just barely acceptable, but that’s basically what non-Iron-Butt motorcycle riders do on road trips already. Riding is a lot more tiring than driving; you need time to stretch and rest. What’s more, you can’t use the drive-through; you have to stop for a while when it’s time to eat.

Further, an electric motorcycle’s battery pack is always going to be a lot smaller than an electric car’s, and the bike is going to get a lot more distance per kilogram than the car will, so a hypothetical half-hour break at a Tesla-style supercharger could potentially give your electric bike more extra range miles than your body can take before its next rest.

The problem, of course, is that Tesla is sensibly building their superchargers along major highways, the kinds of big-slab roads motorcyclists tend to avoid; a hypothetical Supercharger-compatible motorcycle might be capable of doing a long road trip, but it might not be the kind of road trip you’d actually want to take.

Harley should license Tesla’s supercharger technology for their electric bikes, then identify the nation’s best two-lane highways, the motorcycle roads everyone wants to ride, and they should build their own supercharger stations in the small towns at either end. I’m thinking of roads like CA 299, the Blue Ridge Highway, and the Cascades Loop. Estimates I’ve read suggest that Tesla’s supercharger stations cost about $100k-$175k; for about half a million bucks, then, Harley could open up the entire Cascade Loop to electric motorcycle riders.

The awesome part is that this is either feasible or very close to feasible with current technology, and once you get past the “electric” hurdle, it actually fits right in with Harley’s market. Brammo’s Empulse has a 10k battery pack, a highway range around 60 miles, a top speed of 110 mph, and a Level-2 top-up charge time of 2 hours… but Harley customers are already happy to pay lots of money for relatively big, heavy, slow bikes, just because they look cool, feel comfortable on long road trips, and have lots of torque. Electric bikes already come with huge amounts of torque – so Harley should just stack that sucker up with a really big battery pack, forget about the top speed, set their designers to work making it look cool, and then give people their road trip kicks by rolling out a network of Level-3 fast chargers.

They will make MILLIONS, and they’ll bring electric vehicle tech to places it would never otherwise go in the process.

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