Somewhat belatedly, I’ll be taking a two-day shakedown tour tomorrow, out to Somerville State Park. My route will cover about 85 miles each way. Assuming nothing catastrophic happens, my next step is to take the trike in to Easy Street for a once over, pack it up, buy my ticket to San Diego, and go.
I’m documenting this publicly just in case anyone ever runs across the same problem I’ve been having.
I occasionally plot out routes on Google Maps and save them under My Maps. Curiously, there is no convenient way to get My Maps onto my iPhone. This leads to the slightly ridiculous situation where I would need to print out maps to bring with me.
Google Earth for the iPhone purportedly will access My Maps, but I couldn’t get that to work, because I sign into Google through Google Apps for Your Domain; there’s a web-based sign-in inside Google Earth, and when I attempted to sign in through the GAfYD (launched through the Google Search app, which otherwise works great), it would throw an error.
I have discovered if I log into Google Earth through the non-GAfYD interface, using my full e-mail address and the usual password, it works.
From what I understand, there’s only a limited ability to show personal maps in in the Maps app on the iPhone, and this can only be done via some hackery. Google Earth seems like the best option for accessing personal maps.
When Gwen and I got our iPhones, I commented that I suddenly felt like I was living in the future.
When I saw this copy of New You magazine on a newsstand, I suddenly felt like I had entered a science-fiction movie.
I didn’t take any photos at Flipside this year, but I’m putting together a little gallery of shots I liked.
Flipside was on new land this year, a pecan orchard and pasture adjacent to Apache Pass. The site has been nicknamed Apache Passtures.
What I liked
The topography is flat and allows theme camps to be situated much more closely than in the past. Flat Creek in particular has such varied terrain that theme camps wind up in isolated pockets, and getting from one to the next takes a long time; in contrast, one could comfortably walk a loop around all the campsites at Apache Passtures.
The trees are a huge asset.
The river was another huge asset, and the fast-moving current kept the water cool, preventing the hippie-soup effect that Flat Creek is prone to. And I never trusted the water at RecPlant.
The art ridge was great, and I hope to see it fill in more in the future.
What I didn’t like
The allergens. I don’t know what was in the air, but it rendered me almost completely non-functional all day Friday.
The flies. They were never much of an issue in past years, but they were a constant presence here.
The poison ivy. I haven’t suffered any outbreaks (yet). On some level, I’m inclined to look at the PI as the environmental challenge that seems to be endemic to burner events: Burning Man has the desert and the dust; at Flat Creek, it was cliffs and cacti. All of these require you to take certain precautions to deal with your environment, and I feel that’s part of the experience. So while I don’t want to wind up dealing with urushiol (the motto at Flipside this year was “Poison Ivy is the new STD”), the threat of it and the need to prepare for it fits in with the Burner experience.
My way of dealing with it was to stay on existing pathsâ€”no bushwhackingâ€”and to wear my boots all the time. We kept alcohol wipes on hand to wipe down our boots if we thought they had come in contact, but I never used them. Also had Zanfel, just in case.
Parking at past Flipsides has been tightly controlled, to keep the camping area free of cars (except for art cars), with each car given a parking permit good for only a few hours, and vehicles that openly flaut the rules either being towed away or turned into impromptu art cars. For whatever reason, there seemed to be no parking organization this yearâ€”nobody even discussed limited-time parking permits, nobody seemed to be guiding people to parking places (admittedly less of an issue at Apache Passtures, since the parking field was wide open), and a lot of cars conspicuously parked at theme camps all weekend. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but that bothered me.
Pyropolis Parks Department
Fantastic idea and execution. Designating certain spots as parks, guiding people to them, and educating us about the environmental hazards were all important services to the community.
I’ve been theme-camp lead for Circle of Fire since 2007; before that, it had been led by SCESW, and looking back, the camp started going south when I took over.
I’m not sure if there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between those two facts. Stephen has a very different personality than I do, and may well be better at motivating people than I am; he’s also closer to more people than I am. But the real reason that I think the camp started deteriorating as a camp is because the roll call of people in camp changed.
When Flipside was smaller, CoF was bigger. Firedancing seems to have been the gateway to burner culture for a lot of people, and so it’s no surprise that they would camp with other firespinners, at least at first. But as time has past, some of the people who were at the core of CoF in my first years there moved on to find other ways to express their Burner identities, or simply moved on with life.
When I took over, I extended an invitation to any fire performers who wanted to camp at CoF. While this led to my meeting some good friends and solid campmates, it also opened the door to people who were just there for a party. They weren’t there to make CoF or Flipside better, they didn’t seem to get the whole point of Flipside, and they weren’t people I wanted to camp with.
While this has been a low-level annoyance for some years, the problem came to a head this year with a contingent of 10 kids from Dallas. I’d only had brief phone and e-mail contact with one of them shortly before Flipside; he turned out to be the den mother for that group, which was mostly guys in their early 20s, not one of whom would be able to find his own ass with both hands, a map, and a flashlight. They were (mostly) firespinners, and at least some of them had been to Burning Man and/or Myschevia before, but none of them seemed to understand the basic principles of a Burner event or have any interest in contributing to the camp. I am sure they hold me in equally high regard.
Anyhow, this forced me to reflect on how I run the camp. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in 2011, but it will be different.
Apart from that, Circle of Fire was a success. Our site was out in the openâ€”no benefit from those great pecan treesâ€”so it was a lot hotter than other camps during the day. The bjurt we built for Flipside last year, along with the radiant-barrier sub-canopy we fabricated for Burning Man, proved their worth again. Our kitchen cleanup situation seemed to be just about ideal, thanks to David Cummings putting together of a couple of compression vessels that sprayed soapy water and rinse water; these were worked into my existing not-quite-there camp kitchen, and in the end, we only used a total of 5 gallons of water for all washing up. The camp was sited along a low rise with a gully running behind it, which made getting everything laid out a little tricky, and the fire circle needed to be a little smaller than in previous years, but it saw consistent action and the setup seemed to work as well as ever. Ultimately, the camp’s central mission is to provide firedancers with a stage and a safe fuel depot, and in that respect, I feel that the camp was not only as successful as ever, but had become the place to light up, from what I could tell.
As if singing Tesla coils weren’t enough on their own, Arc Attack keeps stepping up their game. Last year, Parsec stood in the discharge field, wearing a Faraday suit. When we saw that, Gwen was transfixed, and said “I will do anything to be in that suit.” This year, she got her chance, pretty much. Arc Attack has added a small Faraday cage, just big enough for one person, that they place in the discharge field, allowing audience members the experience of being in the middle of that lightning storm. There was, unsurprisingly, a long line, but Gwen got her chance, and was more excited than a ten-year-old who was just given a pony.
Kudos to Kris Blahnik for designing and heading up construction of an effigy unlike any others I’ve seen, in terms of its representational design, use of color, surrounding gantries, and use of two figures instead of one. I know that he and a lot of other people busted their asses to make it happen, and it was worth it.
One of the unexpected high points of the burn was waking up to Interstellar Transmissions (no website, as far as I can tell) playing on the effigy stage. Having been woken up to megaphone wars at past Flipsides, this was so chilled out and uncharacteristically pleasant that Gwen thought she was dreaming.
Burn night went pretty well. I know there were some technical difficulties with the methanol cannons and I get the impression there were some with the propane jets. Caleb (or someone) was tinkering with a control box in the middle of the effigy circle even while the fire procession was taking place–something I hadn’t been aware of beforehand. But the effigy was great, and it made a good fire.
The fire procession beforehand also went as smoothly as I could hope. There’s always a certain amount of chaos that attends this, but I feel that I’m getting better at accommodating that, and for the most part have the process figured out. There was only one minor safety incident, where someone set his hair on fire. I didn’t have as many spotters as I wanted this year, but for the first time, I felt confident that all the spotters I had were competent.
In The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash, Charlie Stross wrote an analysis of Apple’s recent moves, and where he thinks Apple is headed (oddly, he never quite says what “the real reason” is). He’s looking 5â€“10 years down the line. I’m thinking about the next 1â€“5 years, and how (or if) we might get to the future that Stross envisions.
The Arizona Governor recently signed a bill into law that will give law-enforcement officers in that state the authority to stop anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien to demand proof of citizenship or legal residence.
How do I prove I’m a U.S. citizen to a cop if he pulls me over? I plan on passing through Arizona later this year, so aside from the obvious outrage, this law is of practical concern to me.
I haven’t read the full text of the bill, but it includes the following passage:
A PERSON IS PRESUMED TO NOT BE AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES IF THE PERSON PROVIDES TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER OR AGENCY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. A VALID ARIZONA DRIVER LICENSE.
2. A VALID ARIZONA NONOPERATING IDENTIFICATION LICENSE.
3. A VALID TRIBAL ENROLLMENT CARD OR OTHER FORM OF TRIBAL IDENTIFICATION.
4. IF THE ENTITY REQUIRES PROOF OF LEGAL PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES BEFORE ISSUANCE, ANY VALID UNITED STATES FEDERAL, STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT ISSUED IDENTIFICATION.
I do carry a Texas driver’s license, but I don’t recall whether Texas required “proof of legal presence,” and even if it did, how will an Arizona cop know that? Will cops be issued cheat-sheets showing what IDs are acceptable?
I wanted to cover my bases and know what documents would be sure to satisfy a cop that I’m a U.S. citizen, so I started calling around.
I called the Arizona Office of Tourism, figuring they’d want to make life easier for tourists. The people who answer the phone there are not equipped to do more than mail brochures, so that was not a productive avenue of inquiry.
I next called the Arizona Attorney General’s office. I spoke with a woman who was smart and informed, but was unwilling to give me an answer, as that would constitute giving a legal opinion, which I guess is something she can’t do. She recommended that I call the state’s law library and speak to someone there.
So I did. I got someone who was not especially fazed by my questions, but hadn’t read the bill and wasn’t able to offer any specific guidance. He suggested that I call the primary sponsor of the bill, State Senator Russell Pierce, and gave me his number (602-926-5760).
I called that number and got the senator’s voicemail. I left a brief message and am awaiting a response. I’m not holding my breath.
Dear City of Austinâ€”
I think your heart actually is in the right place regarding bikes. You want to do right by bikes. But time and again, you’ve shown that when you apply bike facilities to existing infrastructure, the streetscape is such that the results are worse than no bike facilities at all. Beyond that, the fact that compromise apparently is valued not only as an end in itself, but as a higher goal than a good outcome (which is the nicest way I can say that you lack the courage of your convictions) means that good ideas get turned into bad ones. We saw this with Shoal Creek Boulevard, and now we’re seeing it with the Nueces Bike Boulevard.
The irony is that Nueces already feels like a de facto bike boulevard. It gets very little motor traffic and is a pleasant place to ride. When the project was first announced, I thought it was smart, a way to recognize and build on what already exists.
But the whole Shoal Creek Boulevard debacle taught us that the city prioritizes convenience for parked cars above bikes. I suppose the retreat from the original Nueces Bike Boulevard plan is slightly less appalling, in that it shows the city prioritizes convenience for moving cars above bikes. But it is still galling.
I don’t want to be that guy who complains without offering solutions. Here’s mine: Stop. Stop planning or announcing any bike facilities whatsoever. You just get our hopes up and then let us down.
I encountered this when setting up web access to my account with a utility. To get to this page, I had to enter my account number from one of my bills. Note the information provided at the top, and the information requested at the bottom.
Back before every translator worth his salt had an always-on, high-speed Internet connection, we had to be more self-reliant in the way of reference sources. So we bought dictionaries. Lots of dictionaries. When I lived in Japan, I’d stop in Jimbocho at least once a month. There was a used bookstore that specialized in technical and scientific books, and I’d buy dictionaries there on the off chance that someday I would translate something relevant.
It is widely rumored that Apple will be introducing some kind of tablet gadget about half a day after I write these words. It is also widely rumored that a key aspect of this introduction will be deals with major print-media publishers, who will be offering electronic versions of their books and periodicals on the mythical tablet.
Ben Hammersley has been writing about electronic media and the future of journalism, but more from a different angleâ€”from the original act of creating stories. But I don’t doubt he’s been thinking about the production side too.
What tool will that be and where will it come from? I doubt it will be Adobe’s GoLive, although that might work. I suspect (assuming all these other suppositions are correct) that Apple will be announcing their own software, taking another dig at Adobe. If all this is correct, it’s going to become an important software market.
And while Apple gets dinged (often justifiably) for a walled-garden approach to their products and services, in this case a win for Apple would be a win for the public interest. A publication format based on existing standards lowers the barrier to entry for other players; if Amazon decides they want to support this new format in the Kindle, they’ll just need to ensure they’ve got a standards-compliant HTML engine on it, and publishers will just retarget the Kindle with the same output. The formats may involve some kind of quirky or proprietary wrappers, but these would get laid on at the last step in the production process. It would be trivial to re-wrap the same payload for multiple devices. For any of these devices to succeed, of course, is another matter entirely.
I’ve written before about the iPhone’s potential and drawbacks as a bike computer. And there are a lot of bike-computer apps available for it right now. Let’s take a look at them.
I’ve gone on a bit of a kick lately and tried out four different ones. There are one or two others that I haven’t gotten around to yet. I hope to eventually, and will report on them in this space when I do.
Executive summary: Rubitrack for iPhone and Cyclemeter are clearly oriented towards performance cyclists; right now I’d give the nod to Cyclemeter. GPSies seems almost like a toy, but might be of use to hikers. Motion-X is for GPS otaku.
For the past four years, I’ve been making chili for a new year’s day party, a tradition I borrowed from my mom. Every year I’ve varied the recipe a little, and I think this year’s batch was the best yet. I am documenting what I did here.
I’ve always used the Pedernales River Chili recipe as my starting point. This year I also consulted The New Best Recipe, an excellent cookbook with a recipe for Texas-style chili that looks very respectable.
This is a very large recipe. Most chili con carne recipes start with 4 lb of beef, so scale accordingly.
- 9 lb chuck roast. It should be no surprise that the cut of beef makes a big difference in the quality of the final product. I’ve tried stew meat and it’s nowhere near as good. I also don’t care for chili based on ground beef (leaving aside the potential food-safety issues with that).
- 2 large onions.
- 3 cans diced tomato.
- 18 tbsp chili powder. New Best Recipe observes that 2 tbsp of chili powder per pound of beef seems about right, and I agree. Speaking as someone who likes spicy food and has a reasonably good tolerance for spice, I’d describe the level of spiciness as a mild slap: enough to get your attention, but not enough to slow you down. Central Market has an outstanding selection of chili powder in bulk, and I probably spent 10 minutes sniffing at different jars. I brought home both New Mexico chili powder and House Blend. Gila Flats also seems like a good candidate. I wound up using about 10 tbsp of the New Mexico, 5 of the House Blend, 2 of ancho, and 1 of chipotle.
- 4 tbsp cumin seed. As per New Best Recipe, I toasted this in a dry pan first. Actually, I only had about 2 tbsp and wound up adding cumin powder to compensate.
- 4 tbsp dried oregano
- 3 cups water. This is a very dry recipe. Partly out of necessity: I was running out of room in my stewpot.
- Cube the chuck roast into roughly 1″ chunks.
- Chop the onion coarsely.
- In a large stewpot, brown the chuck roast in small batches and set aside.
- Sautee the onions in the stewpot with the beef fat, adding oil as needed.
- Add all the spices to the onions and continue sauteing for a minute.
- Return the beef to the stewpot and add the canned tomato and water. Add a few dashes of hot sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer while covered.
- After about 2 hours on the stove, the flavor wasn’t didn’t seem properly rounded out, so we added over a tablespoon of salt. That helped but didn’t quite do it either, so we added a tablespoon of cocoa powder, which did the trick. The chocolate turned out to be the magic ingredient.
- Continue simmering for a couple hours, store the whole pot in refrigerator overnight, reheat the next day for serving. At no point did I skim the fat off.
The “unofficial Apple weblog” had a post calling on readers to submit their wishlist for future iPhone OS features, which got me to thinking.
Multitasking is an obvious shortcoming on the iPhone right now. Multitasking is possible: some of Apple’s own apps run in the background, and there are jailbreak apps that allow apps to run in the background and for the user to switch between running apps. But Apple does not allow app-store apps to run in the background at all, presumably because of performance and battery-life problems.
I believe that multitasking on the iPhone can be broken down into two functional categories: apps that you want to run persistently in the background, and what I’m calling “interruptors”: brief tasks that only take a few seconds to complete, and where you don’t want to break out of your current app. I’m concerning myself with the latter case here.
A jailbreak Twitter app, qTweeter, has the kernel of an approach to presenting these interruptors: it pulls down from the top of the screen like a windowshade, and is accessible any time.
This approach could be generalized to present multiple apps in what I’m calling a pulldock. There could be one pulldock that pulls down from the top, another that pulls up from the bottom, to present up to eight interruptors.
I envision these interruptors being stripped-down interfaces to existing apps or services, such as twittering or text messaging, that would appear in some kind of HUD-like view superimposed over the running app. Interruptors should be lightweight enough that they wouldn’t overburden the phone. I can also imagine new ways of passing information between a regular app and an interruptorâ€”such as launching a camera interruptor while in the mail app as a way to take a photo and insert it into a mail message, which would save a few steps.
Here’s a screencast:
Yeah, there’s a lot of “umms” and sniffing in there. It’s the first screencast I’ve ever done. The visuals were done in Keynote using the template from Mockapp.