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Burning Man 2012 Satellite Image

Filed Under Burning Man | 2012-09-07, 17:48

Check out GeoEye‘s annual high resolution picture of Burning Man 2012 from the sky. Click the image for the larger resolution (8.3MB) image.

Check out Burning Man Satellite Images from other years

from GeoEye


Sunrise Time-lapse from the Burning Man Webcam in Gerlach, NV

Filed Under Burning Man, Video | 2012-08-30, 21:22

Source images are from the Burning Man office webcam Taken on the morning of Sunday, August 25th. The gates opened later in the evening that day.

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Surviving the Dust At Burning Man

Filed Under Burning Man | 2012-08-19, 13:11


Almost every year, a few weeks before Burning Man, word starts coming back from the playa that “it’s going to be dusty this year”. Most people that have been to the playa shrug this off with “it’s dusty every year”. This year however is a year to remind people that sometimes dusty doesn’t just mean annoying, it means potentially dangerous. As many know, 2011 had some of the best weather the event has ever seen. (No seriously, it was better last year.) Low winds, no dust storms, and almost perfect temperatures. This year may prove to be the exact opposite due to severe drought, high winds, and a lot more people to kick up dust.

Everyone’s gauge for what “dusty” is differs. My first year I showed up with a box of dust masks, full goggles, and even a two filter respirator. As the years have gone by I’ve made several trips back and forth to the playa for Burning Man and Juplaya and I now find myself usually running around with a pair of sunglasses and a bandana and calling that good. I still pack my respirator and googles just in case though as the playa can be an unpredictable and harsh mistress who doesn’t have a safe word.

Advice for Surviving Dust Storms at Burning Man

(You’ve already read the survival guide, right?)

1. Always have goggles and a dust mask on you

You can have them in your camelbak and never use them, but the one time you need them you’ll be glad you have them. Get a pair of goggles with replaceable lenses so you can have clear at night and tinted for the day.

2. Carry a GPS with your camp and other useful waypoints marked

Two years ago we found ourselves out in deep playa at night when a whiteout hit. We literally were walking blind except for my GPS. Without any sort of direction, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in a no-visibility situation and humans can’t walk straight. I’ve been using my Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx at the event for 4 years now. You can download GPS map files for Black Rock City here. Huge thanks to Will Keller for making these every year.

3. Stick together in a whiteout

It’s surprising how easy it is to lose friends in a whiteout, especially when it’s dark. We tend to use a “call” to keep everyone together. Pick a word or sound and whenever someone yells it, yell it back to them. It helps in keeping everyone aware of where everyone else is. Also it’s handy for quick cat herding when you want to leave crowded events on playa. And remember, megaphones can be used for more than just snark.

4. Get off your bike

If you’re riding your bike (or driving a car for that matter) and a whiteout hits, the first thing you should do is get off your bike. If you can’t see 2 feet in front of you, you don’t know what you’re about to hit. It could be rebar, it could be art, it could be a person, it could be a car. Chances are you’ll only be able to ride slightly faster than walking anyways, so be courteous to everyone else and walk it to shelter.

5. Tie down all the things

If you have any sort of structure, secure it. Carports are incredibly dangerous when they turn into tumbleweed. Even on the good weather years, a sudden gust of wind can send a carport flying. We like to use 3 ft pieces of rebar and multiple ratchet straps. Flying objects are probably the most dangerous thing during storms.

6. Get to shelter (carports, cars, RVs, etc)

Most of the dust storms we’ve experienced have been waited out in a well-secured carport with all the walls down. It stops some of the dust, provides some protection from flying objects, and that’s usually where the beer is. In really bad conditions, you want something a little stronger in between you and the dust and slightly larger flying things. Cars and RVs are better than carports for this. But for no reason should you try driving in a whiteout.

7. Embrace the experience

Once you’re sure that you’re in a safe place and your friends/neighbors/etc are too, embrace the experience. Anger, irritation, frustration, yelling, worrying, and being scared won’t make the dust go away any sooner. Weathering a dust storm on the playa is an experience you won’t get anywhere else.

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Burning Man 2011 GeoEye Satellite Image

Filed Under Burning Man | 2011-09-06, 19:19

Check out GeoEye‘s annual high resolution picture of Burning Man from the sky, taken on Thursday, September 1st, 2011. See if you can find your camp!

Click here for full size image (13MB).

Check out Burning Man Satellite Images from other years


Cell Phones at Burning Man

Filed Under Burning Man, Events, Geek, Twitter | 2009-08-25, 14:17

Burning Man Iphone

While thousands are counting down the days until they arrive in Black Rock Desert for Burning Man this year, there’s already a number of people out there on the playa getting things ready….. and they’re calling and tweeting back to us looking for someone to bring the things they forgot. Yes, that’s right there is cell service on the playa this year. How do I know? I got a call from Rubin while he was sitting at the space reserved for our camp (Ardent Heavy Industries). In addition several others are tweeting up a storm: @SFSlim, @steve23, @Rubin110, @TKimball, @JosephPred, and more. And of course foursquare had to get in on the action and quickly added Black Rock City to their database so people could check in. As of this writing, SFSlim is the Mayor of The Man but we predict this to change once Steve23 hears wind of it.

The cell service appears to be limited to AT&T and Verizon, but from what we hear people are getting 5 bars inside Black Rock City. Apparently the service is mostly coming from a temporary tower that was installed on some leased land near Frog Pond, which is less than a mile from the trash fence that marks the border of Black Rock City. How are they doing it? According to @ChrisPetrell it’s a combination of solar/wind powered tower with a satellite uplink. It’s not official Burning Man cell coverage and the Burning Man Org has nothing to do with it, but DPW and other volunteers already on the playa are using it. In addition to this temporary tower, there are also permanent AT&T and Verizon towers south of Empire that people are reporting service from. And finally, there is a theme camp that is providing a GSM->VOIP gateway. I’m assuming this rumored theme camp is the same as the OpenBTS project I posted about last year.

But before you get your hopes up, know that the chance of this service making it through Burning Man without melting down is slim to none. Joseph Pred notes:

Important cell phone update: Temp site only supports 23 Verizon/CDMA users and no SMS. AT&T/GSM supports 35 users with SMS but limited EDGE.

This means you’ll have quite the battle with 40-50,000 other attendees if you need to make a call home. Rubin mentioned that he was already having trouble and the event is not due to start for almost a week. I think it’s still appropriate to tell your boss/significant other/etc that you are not contactable while out on the playa. Besides, do you really want to get that call about the firewall going down while you’re in the middle of 2pir surrounded by an actual wall of fire?

What do you guys think about cell phones on the playa? Good, bad, who cares?

original Man image from Dan Garcia


Timescale: A Call For Artists

Filed Under Art, Burning Man | 2009-02-28, 14:06


Timescale is an art project of great magnitude. A mile long, with 27 concrete columns over 6′ high, and a variety of artwork, this piece will be a scaled representation of the history of the Earth. It’s being created by Ardent Heavy Industries, the not-fire-art parent group to Interpretive Arson, which means the people that brought you Dance Dance Immolation and 2pir are working on it. I’m very much involved with this project (guess who did the website?) and highly recommend anyone that wants their art to be on display at Burning Man (and who knows where else) to submit a proposal. You only have until March 18th to get your proposal submitted, so don’t wait! Here’s the official “Call for Artists”:

We are now accepting proposals for all 27 Timescale chapter columns!

Timescale is a journey through 4.57 billion years of planet Earth’s geological and biological evolution, extended across one mile (5280 feet) of open playa. Beginning with the formation of the Earth from a cloud of gas and dust, participants will traverse through time — advancing two million years with each footstep, culminating at the present day.

Twenty-seven chapters in Earth’s growth are highlighted along the way, allowing participants to appreciate the transformation of our planet and the exponential complexity of living things. Each chapter will be marked by an 8-inch square column rising from the playa surface. The 6.5-foot tall column holds a clear box that contains a sculptural representation pertaining to that period of time.

We are actively looking for artists to create column sculptures. Pieces should evoke an event, creature or other aspect of the chosen chapter’s unique story. We will provide a well-lit clear display box eight inches wide and deep, and twelve inches tall. Electricity will be available for your installation if coordinated in advance.

For more information about this Burning Man art project, including display details, a list of chapters, and an artist proposal submission form, please visit the Timescale web site at: http://www.timescaleproject.com


Fire on the White Holly In the Sausalito Yacht Parade

Filed Under Art, Burning Man, Fire Art, SF Bay Area | 2008-12-15, 12:01

For 19 years, the Sausalito Yacht Club has held the annual “Lighted Boat Parade”. Everyone brings their boats out lit up with Christmas lights and cruises around the Bay. This year for the 20th time, they held the same parade, only there was a new entry, the White Holly, which took things a step further by being loaded up with fire art from around the Bay Area.

The White Holly is a “High Endurance, Expedition Vessel” primarily used primarily for research missions. It’s a pretty hardy ship, but one has to wonder if anyone had in mind what it was used for on Saturday. Unfortunately I wasn’t there, but I saw multiple comments on my Twitter stream of friends mentioning going on a boat, needing ear protection, etc. The best being “It’s like we took Crude Awakening and stuck it on a ship. There’s nowhere to run or hide. God help us.” I wasn’t fully aware of what was planned until the next day.

So what was on the White Holly? Well up front there was Epiphany, a 25′ steel sculpture by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito that many remember from the Crude Awakening installment at Burning Man 2007 or maybe Maker Faire 2008. It had a “beating” heart of fire. There was El Diablo, a jet engine repurposed for shooting fire (and being noisy) by Jack Schroll. There were also flame effects built by the Flaming Lotus Girls and Bob Hofman installed on the boat amidst the Christmas lights. Don’t forget the Tesla coil hanging off the side of the boat upside down sending arcs into the water. And to top it all off, the loudest air raid siren ever produced, the Victory Siren, announced to the entire area that the White Holly had arrived.

Videos and photos are still trickling online, but here’s what I’ve found so far:
Wally also posted about it over on Planet Wally
There’s also a good video over here.
Friends Leslie and NetDiva were lucky enough to be on board and have posted their Flickr sets from the White Holly.

The Victory Siren

Tesla Coil Test

Megavolt2’s Video


Balsa Man at San Francisco Decompression

Filed Under Burning Man, SF Bay Area | 2008-10-10, 13:02

For those of you that missed Balsa Man this year because you were hanging out in a dust storm, this Sunday is your chance to experience some of the magic! There will be an official “Balsa Man Tiny Art Station” at the Burning Man SF Decompression from 12noon-10pm. It will be stocked with balsa wood, glue, and tools but you are encouraged to bring your own as well. Hone your skills (and learn some new ones) for creating mini-art so that you’ll be able to create your project for Balsa Man 2009. For more info, check CatCubed.

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Burning Life 2008

Filed Under Burning Man, Second Life | 2008-10-01, 17:14

Burning Life 2008 - The Man

Burning Life 2008 - The Man

As someone who goes to Burning Man and someone who spends a lot of time immersed in the online world, I was curious when I heard about Burning Life 2008. Burning Life is a virtual experience modeled after the Burning Man event that happens in the Black Rock Desert every year. I have had a Second Life account sitting around for a couple of years and decided to log back in to check out Burning Life while it was happening.

Getting to Burning Life was almost as hard as the real thing. After installing Second Life on my Macbook Pro, retrieving my forgotten password, and then logging in finally, I sat and waited while graphics slowly loaded. It wasn’t long before Second Life began freezing my machine completely, requiring holding down the power button to reset. Turns out there’s a known issue with the GeForce 8600 GT that comes stock on the Macbook Pro I bought. The workaround seemed kind of annoying, so I just booted my laptop into Windows XP, reinstalled Second Life and logged back in.

Burning Life 2008 - Crazy colors and geometric shapes

Burning Life 2008 - Crazy colors and geometric shapes

The one thing that I instantly noticed about Burning Life was that there was no restrictions to creativity. People could build whatever they wanted, unconstrained by money and real world limitations. The next thing I noticed was that I was hopefully lost. Without the familiar street layout of Burning Man, I had trouble discerning what was where on the map. Eventually I stumbled upon the entrance, center camp, and the Man while wandering around, but not before finding some interesting spots. There was the giant Lego minifig, Godzilla, people on fire, towering teacups, hamster wheel artcars, some steampunk installations, and the “American Dream” of legalizing pot. Unsurprisingly one of the most common (and often controversial) past times in Second Life was represented at BL by the BDSM camp, Shibari Hobble’s “Burning Desire”. There definitely seemed to be a good bit of variety and people had definitely put some time into their virtual camps and there’s something to be said about that sort of commitment and follow-through.

I’ve long been a proponent of Second Life, as I feel it has several potential usages that could change things a lot. I wish it was used more for education, as I would have loved to be able to walk around a virtual Colosseum, or stood next to a dinosaur created to scale, but that’s a whole other post. I was a bit disappointed with the way the Second Life still is, with it’s lag, buggy scripts, and inability to render everything until you’re close to it. I wasn’t able to see things in the distance while walking around the Burning Life sim so it was very disorienting. I was happy to see a number of people interested in BL, but it seemed like many of them were there just to hang out and dance in Center Camp continuously. While it seemed like a somewhat interesting place, I did not find myself inspired or in awe of the things as I often do at Burning Man.

At one point I set out to find others that had attended both Burning Man and Burning Life to get their opinions. Perhaps I was unlucky or just asking the wrong people, but I wasn’t able to find anyone else that had actually been to That Thing in the Desert. Many said they’d love to go to Burning Man, but quoted financial or geographical problems that prevented them from doing such. I’d be curious to hear what other attendees of Burning Man who attended Burning Life thought.

In my search to find people to hear their opinions, I actually had an odd encounter. While waiting at the gate to catch people on their way in, I ran into someone looking for a place to rez their virtual sculpture. We got to talking and she mentioned she had a sculpture garden near Death Valley. It turned out to be the Goldwell Open Air Museum that we had visited last year. I mentioned that the last time we had been there, we noticed someone working on a mosaic-like couch sculpture and she said that was her! My first “real” world/Second Life encounter.

Burning Life 2008 - Porta Potty Humor

Burning Life 2008 - Porta Potty Humor

There were a few things that really amused me about Burning Life, such as the porta potties and the humor accompanied with them. I truly liked the ability to fly around, rather than be constrained to walking or riding one of the slower-than-walking yellow bikes I found. What I really missed though was the sheer number of people and being able to walk around and have chance encounters. There seemed to be about 2-300 people there, scattered throughout the virtual playa when I logged in. Since most of them were interested in just hanging out (and seemingly idling) at Center Camp, I didn’t really get the excitement of exploring with others. But who knows, maybe I’ll drop back in before the event ends and see if I have a different experience.

Burning Life runs from Sept. 27th – Oct. 5th. The official site and more information can be found here. For all the pictures I snapped while exploring Burning Life you can check them out in my Burning Life Flickr set.


Burning Man and Communication: Cell phones on the playa

Filed Under Burning Man, Geek | 2008-09-11, 11:21

For those that aren’t familiar, Black Rock City is the temporary city that is built every year in the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. I’ve been a couple times, skipped this year, but will probably be back in 2009 with Interpretive Arson. This year marked a strange year of communication from BRC. Those of us not out in the desert could watch live video streams, read twitters, look at photos uploaded to the Burning Man map on Flickr, and in some cases even talk to people on the playa. Much of this has been around in the past, with the wireless internet being available but spotty for a couple years, but it’s definitely starting to increase exponentially.

This year marked the first year that you could actually make and receive cell phone calls on the playa. This, like most everything on the playa, was of course not an official effort by the Burning Man Org. It was the work of the Open BTS Project. The Open BTS Project is “an effort to construct an open-source Unix application that uses the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) to present a GSM air interface (“Um”) to standard GSM handset and uses the Asterisk software PBX to connect calls”. In other words, open source software to run your own cell network. The purpose of this is admirable. A cheap and (eventually) easy way to setup cell networks in locations where they are needed. For more information, or to get involved, check out their page. What I love most about this project is that it is individuals putting together something that can be replicated without any corporations controlling the information. It’s a step towards side-stepping the huge telecommunications monopoly in order to provide communication for people who otherwise wouldn’t have it.

Of course this kind of project requires testing in order to know how it works. Black Rock City seemed to be the most appropriate location as it was in a remote area that didn’t have cell service, there were a large number of people, and a large percentage of these people had cell phones. On the flip-side, Black Rock Desert is also a challenging environment due to dust/heat/remoteness, and if you can get something working out on the playa, getting it to work in other environments can sometimes seem like child’s play.

Getting the service up and running was no easy task, and many problems were encountered. Generally the first thing I do when I arrive on the playa is to make sure my cell phone is off, I was surprised to hear that one of the problems that the OpenBTS guys ran into was people’s cell phones attempting to register with their tower. Eventually they started accepting phones onto the network rather than blocking them and due to some bugs they later found out that people were able to make outgoing calls simply by prefixing a 1 in front of the number they were dialing. A number of people figured this out and call logs showed about 120 phone calls to 95 different phone numbers all over the US. The service was finally shutdown around 10pm on Saturday night for the Man burn, and then packed up the next day.

While this probably gets all of us geeks and tech-heads excited about its success, the OpenBTS guys did not forget to touch on an important aspect of implementing this technology in a place where it was previously not available. The social aspect of having cell service on the playa is one that will change things a great deal. They relate a story of someone receiving a call while hanging out at Hookahdome and the rudeness of the interruption. Based on this and further reflection, it looks like in the future they will be focusing more on SMS functionality, and will ask people to turn off their audible ringers. However, having provisions to be able to connect voice calls could be useful for some people as it seems like hurricanes appear to strike elsewhere in the US while Burning Man happens.

Personally, from a geek standpoint I think this is awesome. However from a “Burner” perspective, Black Rock City is changing. Whether for better or worse is up to the individual to decide.