Red Echo

August 30, 2008

The Man burns

August 29, 2008

Sunset in Black Rock City, with a red balloon.

It’s the end, all right: past this, no more art projects – just empty desert.

Bikes on the playa in the shadow of the freedom tower

August 28, 2008

Inside of a laser-cut steel gazebo structure with a three-story swing in the center

August 27, 2008

Chilling out at home

Me, Beth, and Andrew relaxing under the big conduit-frame/parachute shade structure we borrowed from John M.

August 25, 2008

Waiting to get in

A dust storm rolled through the afternoon we arrived and created a long backup at the gate. We spent six hours in line.

The BM08 crew

from left: Beth, MJ, me, Ava, Andrew – all packed up and ready to leave for the desert

August 24, 2008


Ava and me on our way to Burning Man, by way of Sacramento, where my brother Andrew lives

August 21, 2008

The first production run of Martianwear light-up fur leggings/bootcovers is here and for sale! Adam has boxes of them sitting in his living room, direct from China. He’s selling them through Velvet Garden, and there’s a “burner special” free delivery offer through the weekend, if you live in Seattle.

I am really happy with this product. The design is solid, comfortable, long-lasting, and good-looking. There are plenty of furry boot-covers for sale, but these are better-engineered and more comfortable than any other design I’ve seen, and they light up! How can you beat that?

Yeah, I’m excited.

updated Burning Man shopping list

two dozen rebar stakes
utensils for five
paper bowls
five or six blankets
sheet set

August 20, 2008

I had some time free last night, so I picked up that sewing project from last month and took it a bit further. I opened up the side seams and re-cut them for a better fit, then hemmed the edges, put in a dozen eyelets, and laced each side together with thick black cotton cord. There’s a nice 2″ gap running up each side-seam now. I may eventually sew a panel in behind the lacing, but for now I’m just going to take this now-sleeveless jacket to Burning Man and wear it as a vest. I will have one new project on the playa this year after all.

August 19, 2008

Fascinating report by Alistair Cockburn: Characterizing people as non-linear, first-order components in software development. Some highlights:

I finally concluded that there is something there, in front of us all the time, which we are not seeing: people. People’s characteristics are a first-order success driver, not a second-order one. In fact, I have reversed the order, and now consider process factors to be second-order issues.

Most of my experiences can be accounted for from just a few characteristics of people. Applying these on recent projects, I have had much greater success at predicting results and making successful recommendations. I believe the time has come to, formally and officially, put a research emphasis on “what are the characteristics of people that affect software development, and what are their implications on methodology design?”

Being good at communicating and looking around counter inconsistency, leading to the prediction that methodologies can make good use of low-precision artifacts whose gaps are covered by personal communication. Project histories also support this prediction, subject to the normalization of an adequately skilled staff, including management.

August 18, 2008

The new battery definitely has not solved the starting problem. Grr.

I spent the weekend running errands. Saturday was mostly about the motorcycle. I bought and installed a new battery, which seems to have solved the starting problem; I also bought some new padded grips, and a new turn signal to replace the one I smashed a couple weeks ago, but have not had time to work on them yet.

Saturday night I rode over to Kirkland with my spare helmet and a leather jacket borrowed from Mez, got Ava comfortably situated on the pillion, and rode over to the Khammilot housewarming on 32nd. She’d never ridden on a motorcycle before, and I’d never taken a passenger, so it was a cautious, low-tempo ride, but everything worked fine. The housewarming was good – a couple dozen good friends relaxing in a well decorated space with good wine and a little music.

Sunday I ran errands for eleven straight hours, getting ready for Burning Man. In contrast to the last several years, I have done very little actual prep work for this year’s burn, so it was pretty much all down to this weekend. I picked up bikes, propane cylinders, paper towels, trash bins, foam pads, and a fancy combination fan/night light that sticks to the top of your tent with a magnet. Really. After the Fred Meyer trip I parked the Rover, hopped on my bike, and ran still more errands – Northgate, Capitol Hill, Ballard, back to Capitol Hill again…

A lightning storm developed over Bellevue. I roared north over the ship canal bridge on I-5 as the sky lit up with flash after flash. Warm air turned cool at 75 mph, approaching the end of a long day, the motorcycle purring happily, and a natural fireworks show – this is the life.

August 17, 2008

This fern was on the balcony last season. It is much happier now by the front porch.

August 16, 2008

While driving around near the Rocket Factory I happened to see a shop front with a bunch of motorcycles parked in front of it. I stopped in to talk – they are basically a Harley hot-rod shop at heart, but “with the economy the way it is” they are willing to work on pretty much anything that isn’t a sport bike. Now I’m thinking about retrieving my old Maxim from Peter’s garage, trucking it over to Ballard, and having them fix it up while I ride the FJ600… The new bike is fast and fun, but the old one is really more what I wanted, and I would have simply stuck with it if I had been able to find a shop to work on it.

August 15, 2008

My bike died last night. Apparently the alternator has not been charging the battery. With advice from Kira I managed to push-start it down a hill, but it died again at a stoplight on the way home, and I ran out of hill trying to get it running again. I even pushed it two blocks uphill and tried again – no luck. So I ditched it on some residential street where it hopefully won’t get towed, and took the bus home.

Not happy.

August 14, 2008

Burning Man shopping list

18x 2′ rebar stakes
3x 24-gallon trash bins
18′ x 24′ canvas drop cloth
2-liter camelbak
pair of slip-on tennis shoes (cheap merrell knockoffs)
6V lantern battery
4x propane cylinders
2x large ice chest
2x cheap old bikes
stack of paper plates
big cooking pot
some “oddware” knives, forks, etc

August 12, 2008

Raise kangaroos instead of sheep or cattle, suggests the University of New South Wales, in order to reduce methane production. For a country overrun with large, tasty, mostly-docile herbivores, it was surprisingly hard to find any kangaroo to eat while I was in Australia…

August 11, 2008

It was a good weekend. I felt like I had a fair bit of my groove back. Thursday night was Artwalk, and Thomas P. had an opening at his gallery. A bunch of us trooped over to 619 Western after. It was too stuffy to linger, but the nearly-life-sized steel dinosaur skeleton was cool.

Friday Ava and I got dressed up and went out dancing. There were lots of old friends out, the music was decent, and we ended up at a greasy-spoon diner for pancakes and bacon at 3 AM.

Saturday we met up with Adam at the Rocket Factory and built a sewing work table. We haven’t decided whether to use steel, glass, or vinyl for the surface yet, but we constructed a nice solid 4′ x 8′ platform against the orange wall at a very comfortable height. We built the table over a curious sort of step/ledge feature in our workshop’s floor, with the legs inset so that there is no way to trip over them. Once we anchor it to the wall and drill a couple of holes for power cords it will be a very nice work area.

Saturday night Ava and I dressed up in a new set of costumes and went out again: this time to an apocalypse-themed fetish costume party down in the industrial district. Natalia had been invited to do a fire performance so we came along to watch. It was interesting but a little too quiet for us, so we left around midnight and went out dancing again.

Sunday we dug around in my various bins and made plans for Burning Man, which is coming up very soon. I think I will skip the trailer and just pack all my gear into the Rover. I am going to bring only one shade structure, not two, and I think I can attach the poles to my ski rack.

I’ve been doing a little recreational programming lately. The project will likely never amount to much, but there are some interesting puzzles in its design, and it is keeping me settled while I wait for my real job to develop.

This essay about software usability has some solid, useful tips backed up with specific examples. The text is unfortunately black-on-white, which I find almost unreadable, but it’s worth copying and pasting into a text editor.

August 9, 2008

Me and Ava, on our way out the door to an apocalypse-themed costume party

August 7, 2008

I mostly fixed the crash damage to my motorcycle last night. I thought I needed a new right-side peg bracket, but closer inspection revealed that it was the mounting plate which was bent, not the bracket. Careful torquing with a claw hammer brought everything back into alignment. Similar brute-force engineering fixed the handle bars: the bars were fine, but the forks were twisted. You can fix this properly by loosening the triple tree clamps, etc., but I just grabbed the front wheel between my knees and yanked hard on the handle bars until it all came back into alignment. Whee, the bike is comfortable again.

I topped up the engine oil and accidentally overfilled it. Then I rode over to Kirkland. The excess oil ended up all over the back of the frame, the rear wheel, the brake assembly, and my pants.

August 4, 2008

Saturday was an adventure

Setting: Ava’s friends Kat & Jessica are getting married at her dad’s place outside Lake Chelan. Ava is the groom’s attendant. I am bringing DJ gear. The wedding is Saturday afternoon, and a rehearsal is scheduled for 9 AM. We find out on Friday that all the beds in the ranch house are spoken for; the nearest accomodation is an hour and a half away. We decide that instead of driving to Wenatchee, getting in late, sleeping for a few hours, getting up early, and driving to Chelan, we’ll just sleep in Seattle and get up very early for the drive.

Saturday morning, begin: The alarm fails to go off. It is still ridiculously early, but now we are an hour late. The highways are as empty as only an early-morning Saturday can make them, and I set the cruise control at 90 mph. The miles roar by and we steadily make up the time. We have directions from Google Maps. The roads diminish; the pavement ends. We have fifteen minutes to get there. I am down to 30 mph, which still feels plenty fast. The road gets wilder. Who would live out here? Where do they buy groceries? The road goes on, just a pair of ruts in the dirt. Up, up, up; the directions swear we have a few more miles left. There are deer in the road. The horizon stretches wider. We crest the ridge at 14.6 miles…

It is a beautiful view. Of course there is nothing like a ranch here. The altitude gives us just enough of a cell signal. “You are WHERE?” A moment to share a kiss and breathe the mountain air, then we fishtail gleefully down around gravel turns as I sing the glories of the Rover’s traction control. We roar in, covered in dust, and tumble out of the car, only 35 minutes late for the rehearsal… which everyone has forgotten about. Most are still in bed. Ah, well, we had a good time getting there!

As Brian W. and I set up the sound system, I learn that both of the DJs have cancelled. Now I am a musician, and know my way around a mixer, but I am not a DJ. I have never tried to mix tracks, and all I have to work with are a bunch of random iPods. But when the bride is about to burst into tears because her wedding will have no music – well, you do what you can.

I scroll through the ipods’ track lists, looking for anything that might fit the mood, and mix from one to the next. After a couple of hours and a couple glasses of sangria, I feel like I kind of have the hang of it, at least well enough not to bother people who will have been through a few champagne refills and won’t really be listening anyway.

A couple more hours go by. The wedding finally begins. The voices are quiet from back by the DJ table, but the ritual is familiar, and the body language tells the deeper story. This is love, this is partnership, this is a family.

I half miss my cue for the recessional music but I don’t think anyone notices. The reception starts. I lose track of time. Brian takes a turn at the mixer. We leave it running on shuffled playlists for an hour or two. People bring their iPods over and ask me to play things. Tosche takes a turn. Eventually it is dark and time to dance – I put on a two-hour trance mix that happened to be on my iPod and leave the PA to mind itself. It kicks out the beat with a satisfying roar and we dance, dance, dance on the grass with no light but the stars and a scattering of torches.

It is late. The party will go on for a while longer, but Ava and I have had a long day and we decide to leave. We’ll go find a motel and come back tomorrow for the DJ gear. One of Jessica’s friends assures me that there’s no need to drive back to Wenatchee, there’s a hotel in Chelan which has space. Off we go, tired but happy and looking forward to rest. Of course we get there and every room in town is booked.

A shrug of the shoulders and we head back to Wenatchee. I get pulled over along the way. “You should keep your speed down, Mr. Saxman – 76 mph is an expensive ticket.” A ticket I’m sure I will get some other time, but apparently not tonight. We roll into Wenatchee, slower, and stop at the first motel we see: all full – and the clerk informs me that all the other motels in town are full, too. She has a list, and offers to call around – there is no vacancy nearer than Snoqualmie Pass.

It’s after midnight. We look at each other, and laugh. A quick stop for espresso and off we go, all the way back home to Seattle. We’ll get in at 3 AM, a 22-hour round trip.

I pull over for some fresh air just before we reach the Blewett Pass. The air is quiet. There are no lights. The sky is a haze of stars.

August 2, 2008

Kat & Jessica, the happy couple, with attendants Ava and Holly, officiant Brian W., and son Kekoa peeking in

View from the top of a mountain near Lake Chelan.

We aimed for the ranch where the wedding was going to be held but ended up here instead. It was beautiful. There was just enough cell phone signal at the top of the peak to get more accurate directions.

August 1, 2008

The bike is still ridable. Its handle bars are crooked, it needs a new front turn signal, and the right peg and rear brake are kind of bent, but aside from feeling kind of awkward it is still ok.

Work is still pretty frustrating.