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


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


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.


Explosion Collection

Filed Under Fire Art, Video | 2007-09-18, 21:31

We’ve recently stumbled upon some good videos of explosions again. Last time it was Explosive Ordinance Disposals but this time it’s an even bigger explosion, as well as some other large ones I had the opportunity to see in person.

Russian Vacuum Bomb
Containing 7.8 tons of high explosives, Russia’s latest “vacuum bomb” is non-nuclear but results in an explosions equivalent to 44 tons of explosives. While the “Mother of all Bombs” is 8.0 tons, it is said this “Father of all Bombs” is even more powerful. The shockwave is readily visible, I only wish that the video had audio.

2BLEVE was an art piece created by Nate Smith at Burning Man in 2006. In short about 250 gallons of fuel was ignited in two “boiling liquid expanding vapor explosions” (hence the name, 2BLEVE). A BLEVE occurs when a tank containing pressurized liquid is ruptured and the fuel quickly vaporizes, something you don’t want to happen by accident.

More pictures and videos of 2BLEVE.

Crude Awakening
Crude Awakening was an art piece in the deep playa for Burning Man 2007. It consisted of a 100ft high oil derrick and 8 figures in poses of prayer “worshipping” the derrick. Politics, opinions, and green man theme aside, the explosion and burning of it at the end of the week was still awe-inspiring.

The extended version with the ridiculous amount of fireworks (for those without ADD):

The explosion from up close:

From a mile away:

Morning after
from thinkcooper:

Following the Crude Awakening burn, early Sunday morning, Nate figured we should dispose of the last couple of hundred gallons of AV fuel on his trailer. A group of a ~dozen of us headed out to the CA site around 5:30AM, and cleared out a 250′ safety perimeter. Nate filled two tanks with a ~200 gallons of aviation fuel each, pressurized them with propane, and then set them off. Bob Hoffman and I were laying on the playa right below the rings. What a Sunday morning treat for the all-nighters still hanging out at Crude Awakening site