For those that live in San Francisco (and the surrounding area), you know what Fleet Week sounds like. For those that don’t live around here, it sounds like incredibly loud low flying fighter jets buzzing the city for a couple hours each day for almost a week. Specifically it’s usually the Blue Angels practicing for their air show. Every year, Twitter and Facebook light up with either love or hate for these incredible technological marvels of human achievement built in the pursuit of an even greater military killing force. Regardless of your politics, they’re loud.
I’ve been working at Splunk on our cloud-based product, Splunk Storm, and have been finding new and different things to log and analyze with the service we’ve built. Shortly before Fleet Week 2012, Greg Albrecht came up with the idea of monitoring the roar of jet engines. He’s got a great write up of the whole side-project: Blue Angels Flyover Detection Using Splunk.
I used a Raspberry Pi with a Zoom H2 Recorder that can be used as a USB microphone. I left it setup by the window with it streaming data to our shared free project on Splunk Storm. We wondered at first whether we’d be able to reliably detect the jets since we had no way of testing before Fleet Week. Surprised that none of my friends owned fighter jets? Yeah, me too. But as you can see from the screenshots on Greg’s page of reports generated with Splunk, they weres pretty easy to detect.
A time-lapse video of the 2012 San Francisco Marathon as it ran through the Mission somewhere between miles 20 and 21. Thousands of people sprinted, jogged, shuffled, and walked down Guerrero St over the course of 4 hours. The video above starts with the first runner, Nathan Krah, who went on to win the entire race with a average mile of 5:36. A few more people trickle in behind him, but it’s not for awhile until you start seeing the crowds. At one point the course was diverted to a different street periodically in order to thin the crowds a bit, which is why you’ll see pulsing waves of people. Heather and I woke up early not only to catch this video, but also to cheer on our friend, Eric Bond, who ran all 26.2 miles at a still impressive 10:32 minute mile.
On Sunday I hopped in my car, attached my GoPro camera to the windshield and headed down Highway 1. For those not familiar with the area, Highway 1 winds down most of the coast of California and affords quite the view out across the Pacific Ocean as you wind around hills, fields, and cliffs. It’s one of my favorite drives and I recommend it over Interstate 280 if you’ve got the extra time. I recently realized that I’ve been missing long drives by myself. I really enjoy how they give me time to think while the scenery constantly changes and good music plays on the stereo. Plus driving along a beautiful highway with all sorts of interesting turnouts makes for a good way to spend the afternoon.
My recent acquisition of a GoPro HD Hero2 camera (thanks Heather!) and various accessories has me using it for all sorts of things. In addition to shooting wonderful 1080p video underwater in the British Virgin Islands, one of the features of the GoPro camera is a time lapse mode where it can take a nice high resolution image every second. The small size and portability of the GoPro as well as the various mounts make it much easier to use versus my gigantic Pentax K20D dslr. But, not having a dedicated LCD screen makes aiming the GoPro a bit difficult, so the video is slightly tilted as the windshield mount isn’t perfectly level and when I took it out on the cliff I was just using a Gorillapod in the grass so you might have to tilt your head a bit. I do have the LCD Bacpac to help with lining up shots, but for time lapses the Battery Bacpac takes priority.
For those wondering how I put everything together, it’s actually quite simple. Quicktime Pro 7 has a great “Open image sequence” feature that I used to make all the individual clips, then I wrestled with iMovie 11 and its limitations to put together the clips with some simple transitions and audio. I used ccMixter to get some Creative Commons music that would work with the track, eventually settling on DLDN Instrumental by timberman. I’m still trying to figure out a good system to match up the music I’m actually listening to while the photos are being snapped and try to recreate the feeling in the final video, but haven’t figured that out yet, not to mention the copyright issues of posting that music on video hosting services. In this case the soundtrack to a good portion of the trip was “Moods for Take Out”, an album I had received from the musicians themselves the previous weekend. Throw in some High Contrast, Underworld, and Boards of Canada and you’ve got the playlist for the afternoon.
If anyone’s interested, my route, tracked by my Garmin Vista HCx, is below. As you can see, I had a bit of a roundabout journey through the city thanks to a few blocks of the Great Highway being closed around Ocean Beach. The video of that fiasco as well as video of all the hanggliders and paragliders at Fort Funston was sadly never captured. (Note to self: check camera blinky red light more often) But as I headed south I managed to hit a handful of beaches and recognizable areas including my favorites: just past Devil’s Slide at the beginning of the video, Pompanio Beach, and Pescadero Beach. As the sun set, I watched the light of a boat on the horizon blink as it rolled on the Pacific waves and the stars and planets dotted the sky. Not a bad way to spend my Sunday.
This past weekend the Lost Horizon Night Market came to West Oakland. Tucked away in an alleyway next to a concrete mill, trucks opened up to the in-the-know public and created new and different experiences for everyone that attended. For those that aren’t familiar, the idea of the Lost Horizon Night Market originated in New York, but a San Francisco version has since been opened. In short, a number of customized box trucks (usually around 20) all gather in a predetermined location on a chosen evening. Some trucks serve food, others put on a show, but they all provide experiences of some sort to the patrons of the night. For both of the San Francisco Lost Horizon Night Markets I have been a proprietor rather than a participant, teaming up with Nelz, Matt, and others to run the Mission Impossible truck.
When we first started throwing around ideas for a truck for the Market, it was agreed that we wanted something low-effort but high-impact: something that wouldn’t take us hours and hours of work, but would still provide for a unique and fun experience for people. Inspired by the spy caper movies, we decided we would create a “laser field” that would protect “confectionery devices”, aka cupcakes. People would have to manuever their way through the lasers in order to rescue a cupcake. If they tripped a laser, they would be eliminated by the robot sentries. The lasers were actually orange strings with bells on them and the robot sentries were people hidden in the darkness with fully automatic Nerf rifles. Throw in a smoke machine and a black light to make the “lasers” glow and we were basically done.
The first time we ran the truck we quickly gained a line and spent most of the night trying to get people through the line and the experience. Additionally we didn’t really perfect our “pitch” since we had spent most of the time putting the truck together: painting wood, building guard booths, stringing bells, etc.
We decided that our goal this time was to not have a line. How to accomplish this? We would provide people with a task, some sort of small hurdle that they would have to complete before they even got a chance to get in the truck. Several ideas were tossed around about what sort of tasks we could ask people to do. I was very interested in making people interact with other people at the Market. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but somehow a friend who was helping with another truck became our point person for these tasks. Since we had experience with Santa’s Little Secret Service, we were easily able to get into Secret Service mode, donning suits, earpieces, dark sunglasses, and a serious attitude. When people asked what our truck was about, my pitch went something like this (with a serious and straight face mind you):
“We’re guarding some highly unstable confectionery devices and we’re looking for people with the experience and dedication to help defuse these devices. However due to the inherent danger in this mission we need to make sure you’re up to the task. You will need to seek out the Man in the Mask. He will provide you with additional information.”
Most people would instantly understand and go off hunting for the Man in the Mask, who we had given a handful of silver marbles and carte blanche to give people whatever missions he wanted. To be honest, I don’t even know half of the stories Evan, our man in the mask, told people. All I know is that if someone showed up with a “high density spherical memory storage device” (aka a silver marble) and a good story about what they had to do to get here, we’d let them into the truck to try to get their cupcake.
Over the course of the night things got more and more complex as more people got pulled into the shadowy ruse. Evan would tell people to go find another person and ask them for a task. At first these other people didn’t even realize they were part of the Mission Impossible truck, but were quick to send the person on some sort of mission. People would return to our truck anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or two later after running around the Night Market, following detours left and right.
One group of 6 people returned with a dream stolen from the Dream Library truck. I quickly called all the other agents for our truck and escorted the group to the semi next to us, which just happened to be “The Jail”. We announced to the warden that they were charged with stealing dreams and needed to be locked up for their crimes. The group was put behind bars, and I ran off to the Dream Library to return the stolen dream. Upon my return to our truck I discovered that the group had broken out of jail and rushed our truck all at once! So many rules, shattered.
Another group, actually friends of a friend, were told at the very beginning of the night that they would want to experience our truck and they should get started on the mission early. At the end of the night they finally returned, with stories of being sent around to a number of different people, continuously wondering when it would all end and they would get into this mystery truck. I fessed up to them and told them that in all honesty none of the people involved with the Mission Impossible truck had a full picture of what was going on. In turn they told me stories of people stealing their marble, sending them to other truck to steal other objects, and getting pointed to one person after another for their next mission, and just a general state of confusion over the course of the night. As the market was coming to a close, we finally let them into the truck to run the laser course and get their cupcakes as they had surely earned them even if they had lost their marble.
Despite our efforts, at one point in the night we ended up with a line of about 4 groups deep. I had to make up something quick to stall. I explained to one group that there had been a serious laser malfunction and that they would need to find a red lighter, as red is the only wavelength of color that could successfully be used to repair the lasers. They rushed off into the darkness on the hunt. I turned to another couple, also ready to get in the truck. I told them that we needed a clean handkerchief. I don’t remember the reasoning behind the need for this object, but after a bit of arguing they too ran off into the night in pursuit. They returned with one of them wearing the bandana over her face. She told me that on their way back, she had started giving people tasks to do in order to get into the truck too! So much chaos, so much confusion, so much fun.
For the next Night Market, we won’t be doing the Mission Impossible truck again. It’s been done, perfected, and it’s time to move onto something new. However it was a great experience in just how much fun it can be to spark people’s excitement and provide a sense of adventure. A huge thanks to Nelz, Matt, Rochelle, Evan, and everyone else that helped make things interesting.
I love old footage of the early 1900s, especially of San Francisco. You may have recognize part of the above video with an unknown filmmaker’s trip down Market St from the Prelinger Archives. But I didn’t know there was a second film taken of the same trip down Market St a year later, after the Great Earthquake of 1906. Matt Lake combined these two films into what you see above, highlighting the significant change in Market St.
When I first moved to San Francisco, it wasn’t long before I found myself in front of Defenestration, admiring the flying furniture. It was one of those things that made me go “wow, there’s some really cool stuff in San Francisco, this city is great!” It wasn’t until recently that I truly realized the size of the impact this piece had on the community of San Francisco when it was built 13 years ago. Simone Davalos has a great write up on Laughing Squid about the piece and many of the people involved. I highly recommend a read.
That said, Defenestration is in danger. Many of the pieces had to be removed due to safety issues and repairing and replacing these pieces to restore the awesomeness of Defenestration is going to cost money. There’s a drive right now to raise the necessary $75,000 in order to save the piece. Donations are tax-deductible as they are sponsored by the Black Rock Arts Foundation. I urge you to donate whatever you can to help save this piece.
There is also going to be a fundraising/exhibit opening on Friday, March 5th from 6-10pm at the 1:AM Gallery. If you miss the party, you can still catch the exhibit on Defenestration through April 2nd, 2010. Please donate to help preserve some of the art that makes San Francisco what it is.
I moved to San Francisco because of the art scene and the amount of all around fun you can have in this city. I now call SF my home for both me and my business. Unfortunately there is currently a “War on Fun” that is attacking the venues and events in our city. It is slowly chipping away at what makes San Francisco unique.
On Tuesday, February 8th you are invited to make your voice heard and help stop the tearing apart of the essence of San Francisco. From the Facebook event:
Before you say no, read this article.
Call Gavin Newsom and tell him we do not want our clubs and venues raided by the police department, and we seek better solutions to preserve SF Venues, Arts & Culture. Be sure to remind him you are a registered voter in the city of San Francisco.
Telephone: (415) 554-6141
Fax: (415) 554-6160
Many thanks to Debra Walker, candidate for dist 6 Supervisor for this idea, presented at Flux Summit on Jan 21, 2010 at the “What’s Shaking Down SF Venues” panel.
If you’re not sure what to say, metaphorge has a good list of talking points.
image via SFAppeal
SXSW Interactive 2010 is only a few weeks away. If you’re like us, you’re still procrastinating on buying plane tickets to Austin. If that’s the case and you’re flying from either San Francisco or Los Angeles, then you’ll want to book the following flights on Southwest. We’ll all meet up in Las Vegas for the second flight to Austin. If you’re flying in from somewhere else on the west coast, look to hook up with Southwest Flight 718 from Las Vegas.
If you’re flying from San Francisco (SFO->LAS->AUS):
3/11/2010 (Flights 674/718)
Depart 10:00am Arrive 5:25pm
If you’re flying from L.A. (LAX->LAS->AUS):
3/11/2010 (Flights 853/718)
Depart 10:30am Arrive 5:25pm
Southwest has an open seating policy (we all love ‘open’ things, right?) so all the geeks will be able to congregate on the plane, confusing other passengers by speaking in acronyms, websites, and snippets of code. Southwest does have a couple of planes that have WiFi service, but it’s not possible to know whether we’ll be lucky enough to snag one. Maybe we can get some strings pulled…
The way that Twitter blows up during large thunderstorms, you’d think that lightning and thunder in the Bay Area is rarer than earthquakes. Well, I’m not sure of the stats, but it just might be. Early this morning I
woke up gained some semblance of consciousness as thunder rolled through San Francisco along with storms that have continued on and off all day.
After seeing the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder half a dozen times, I decided to setup my Zoom H2 audio recorder and Flip video camera to see what I could capture. Only three minutes later lightning struck again. My Flip video camera isn’t quite up to the task of recording lightning, but you can see a flickr and hear the thunder (along with some guy on the street yelling). The audio recorder is slightly better at it’s job, picking up the echoing thunder as it traveled across the city.
December 12th, 2009 – Santa’s Defense Forces (consisting of the 12th Nutcracker Regiment, the 103rd Sleighborne Division, and the Sugar Plum Service) converged on San Francisco, CA. The primary purpose of the mission: to protect Santa during the annual Santacon (aka Santarchy) gathering in SF. Additional orders included protecting other high value individuals such as Jesus and Frank Chu as well as spreading holiday cheer to civilians.
I was part of the embedded press corp and took photos and video of this highly successful mission. You can check out all my photos in the Operation Yule Storm set. I also highly recommend checking out the full mission report for Operation Yule Storm as well as the back-stories for both the 12th Nutcracker Regiment and the Sugar Plum Service.
Some live reporting on the scene during the Castro Dance Party:
And some of my favorite photos: