Lead Developer at Microsoft Open Tech. I love C#, Mathematica, F#, Stack Exchange, and Nintendo. Opinions herein are mine alone.
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Hexayurt for Burning Man

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My family and I are headed to Burning Man this year. 

I have been twice in the past and have always stayed in a tent. I was reasonably comfortable, however sleeping late was problematic. As soon as the sun rose over the RV I had pitched my tent next to, it simply got too hot to continue sleeping.

So this year I built a Hexayurt to stay in. The Hexayurt is a structure originally developed for disaster response. It's a hexagonal hut built out of foam insulating panels and super strong bi-filament fiberglass reinforced tape. The particular design I chose is made from 12  4' x 8' panels. Six of the panels are cut diagonally and connected together to form six triangles. These triangles become the roof. The other six panels are laid on their side and set out in a hexagon and make the walls of the Hexayurt. The foil surface of the panels and their insulating qualities make this an ideal structure for desert camping.

I won't go into too much detail concerning the construction of my Hexayurt. If you are interested, you should go to Hexayurt.com the repository for all such information 

My Hexayurt will be shipped to the playa on the Boston burning truck. We'll be flying in at the beginning of the event and taking the bus from Reno to Black Rock city. However, the Burner Express stop where we'll arrive is about half a mile from the place where the Hexayurt will be deposited. Keep on reading to see how I'll deal with that situation.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

I began with polyisocyanurate insulation panels from Lowe's. Unfortunately, the panels from Lowe's come with logos on both sides. I cut them so that the silver side would be on the outside, I edged all of the cut panels with aluminum insulating tape. I used the Camp Danger method to create flexible hinges so that most of the Hexayurt can be pre-taped and folded flat for shipment. Once on the Playa the two halves of the base and the two halves of the roof are taped together and then taped to each other. It should only take about half an hour to erect the Hexayurt once we get to camp.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

Once I assembled the panels into the roof and wall shapes, I painted them with a coat of Killz primer and a finish layer of white exterior latex paint to hide the logos.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The bottom of the Hexayurt is taped to a tarp to keep dust out.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

I also cut a door, and two circular windows.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The windows are glazed with acrylic sheet, and I added two layers of "space blanket" to help keep the heat of the sun out.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The Windows flip up to open, and are sealed with foam rubber weatherstripping. The weatherstripping is compressed and the windows are held closed by neodymium magnets.

The door frame is reinforced with suspended ceiling angle trim.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The door is made from the cutout section of foam panel and acrylic sheet. A screen door hinge was cut down to serve. Assembly was accomplished with silicone seal and pop rivets.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The latch and door handles for the door were 3-D printed on my RepRap Prusa Mendel. They were sized to fit a carbon fiber arrow shaft.STL files for the handles and latches are available on Thingiverse.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

Here's a picture of the completed door. Also note the rebar stake and the rope halo which will hold the Hexayurt down in windy conditions.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

An interior shot of the Hexayurt. As you can see, it is quite roomy.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

After painting the exterior white, the Hexayurt looked a bit plain. So I cut a template from an extra piece of insulation board.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

I then used this as a stencil with spray paint to decorate the Hexayurt.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

To get the Hexayurt and all of our gear from the place where it will be deposited on the Playa by the Boston Burning Truck, I built a bicycle trailer using bed-frame angle iron. The trailer uses the two front wheels of the other bikes that we will be bringing. The trailer bed is welded together, the rest of it is bolted with quarter-inch hardware.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

Once we get to our camp, the bike trailer converts into a table frame. The top of the table will be formed by the box we ship the Hexayurt in.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The Hexayurt shipping box is built from 1/4 inch luan plywood.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The collapsed Hexayurt fits into a space 4' x 8' x 13" deep.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The plywood protects the Hexayurt during shipping.

Hexayurt for Burning Man

The frame for the bike trailer fits around the edge of the Hexayurt crate. It takes up almost no extra space, and protects the corners of the Hexayurt from damage in shipping. 

Hexayurt for Burning Man

Stay tuned for details on how the Hexayurt performed on the Playa. Also you may want to check out my post on building a swamp cooler to keep the Hexayurt cool during the day at Burning Man.

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sblom
2277 days ago
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Bellevue, WA
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SF for newbies – great books to introduce people to the field

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Have Spacesuit, Will Travel (Robert Heinlein).

Startide Rising (David Brin)

The Mote In God’s Eye (Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle)

The Shockwave Rider (John Brunner)

The Warrior’s Apprentice (Lois McMaster Bujold)

Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (Spider Robinson)

Little Fuzzy (H. Beam Piper)

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

Wasp (Eric Frank Russell)

Hospital Station (James White)

Mistborn (Brandon Sanderson)

Needle (Hal Clement)

Lest Darkness Fall (L. Sprague de Camp)

The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)

The Stainless Steel Rat (Harry Harrison)

The Ship Who Sang (Anne McCaffrey)

1632 (Eric Flint)

Neutron Star (Larry Niven)

The Trouble Twisters (Poul Anderson)

The Space Merchants (Frederik Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth)

Accelerando (Charles Stross)

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sblom
2377 days ago
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Bellevue, WA
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Sudan Will Execute a Pregnant Woman for "Apostasy" Because She Married a Christian

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The news: This is the kind of story that sounds simply too absurd and horrifying to be real.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag is a 27-year-old Sudanese woman, who was raised an Orthodox Christian by her mother. In 2011, she married a Christian man and had a child with him; she is now eight months pregnant with her second child.

And this week, she was sentenced to 100 lashes and execution by hanging — all because her absent father was Muslim.

Under Sudanese law, Ibrahim's religion is determined by her father's. Although she herself identifies as Christian, the government considers her as Muslim, and as such, has found her guilty of apostasy: the crime of abandoning one's religion, which is punishable by death. Read More
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sblom
2387 days ago
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Truly sickening.
Bellevue, WA
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Namedropping “ESR”

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For at least fifteen years my name and its tri-letterization has been something with which you could conjure up a lot of attention among hackers and other sorts of geek. This fact presented the more clueful of my personal friends with a delicate problem: under what circumstances would it be proper for them to invoke this instrument?

I have actually been asked for guidance about this more than once. I developed some guidelines more than a decade ago. To the best my knowledge my friends have been pretty good about applying them. I present them here for your amusement.

1. Please do not drop my name to score cheap social-status points. That’s crass and I don’t like it.

2. Do drop my name if by doing so you can achieve some mission objective of which I would approve. Examples that have come up: encouraging people to design in accordance with the Unix philosophy, or settling a dispute about hacker slang, or explaining why it’s important for everyone’s freedom for the hacker community to hang together and not get bogged down in internal doctrinal disputes.

3. Do drop my name if by doing it you can rock someone’s world in a positive way. A case of this that comes up fairly often is encouraging a young proto-hacker.

4. Do drop my name if doing so would be funny. Funny is even an acceptable excuse for scoring social-status points with it – if you think I’ll laugh when I hear the story, go right ahead.

And yes, I apply these rules (or obvious analogs thereof) to myself. I think it’s vulgar to wave my fame around in contexts where it’s irrelevant. It can be very amusing, if you’re clued in, to watch what happens when somebody in a group of programmers (or gamers or SF fans or any other population that oversamples programmers) that hasn’t met me before twigs to The Presence.

If this attitude seems odd to you, understand that fame is exhausting and psychologically dangerous (I have a lot more sympathy for rock stars who fuck themselves up with drugs than before I felt the pressure myself). Ironic detachment from one’s own celebrity is, I have found, an effective coping strategy.

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sblom
2479 days ago
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Bellevue, WA
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How…does this even work?

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Here is a curious fact.

My wife Cathy is using Duolingo to learn German; she wants to be able to read sources on Iron Age and Viking costume in the original.

Duolingo takes her through a lot of pronunciation drills.

I’ve learned something by listening to her – which is that somehow, somewhere, I have internalized a very precise understanding of German phonology and phonotactics. As in, I not only know right pronunciation from wrong, I give her detailed advice on how to match Duolingo’s model speaker that we can both tell is correct.

What makes this weird is that I don’t speak German. At all. Nor have I ever lived where it’s spoken; I’ve visited Germany once, German-speaking Switzerland once, and that’s it.

This raises questions in my mind:

1. How the fuck? I mean, I suppose it’s related to my knack for generating names in the style of any specified language, and I could handwave about Markov-chain models, but…how the fuck?

2. What dialect of German have I templated on? Could there be any way to tell?

3. What other entire language phonologies have I swallowed … without … me … actually … noticing …

4. Does this happen to other people?

The human brain is a very odd thing.

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sblom
2488 days ago
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Excellent.
Bellevue, WA
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Dragging Emacs forward

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This is a brief heads-up that the reason I’ve been blog silent lately is that I’m concentrating hard on a sprint with what I consider a large payoff: getting the Emacs project fully converted to git. In retrospect, choosing Bazaar as DVCS was a mistake that has presented unnecessary friction costs to a lot of contributors. RMS gets this and we’re moving.

I’m also talking with RMS about the possibility that it’s time to shoot Texinfo through the head and go with a more modern, Web-friendly master format. Oh, and time to abolish info entirely in favor of HTML. He’s not entirely convinced yet of this, but he’s listening.

You might think “Huh? Emacs already has a git mirror. What else needs to be done?” Quite a lot, actually, starting with lifting Bazaar commit references into a form that will still make sense in a git log listing. Read the recent emacs-devel list archives if you’re really curious.

Fixing these things are important to me as part of a larger project: cracking Emacs out of an encrustation of practices and history that has made it seem insular and archaic to a lot of younger hackers who grew up with the faster pace and the techniques of the web.

RMS did too good a job. Because Emacs can be a total environment that you never have to step out of, the culture around it has tended to become inward-looking and hold on to habits that smell two decades old now.

My favorite quote about this is from Text Editors in The Lord of the Rings:

Emacs: Fangorn

Vast, ancient, gnarled and mostly impenetrable, tended by a small band of shepherds old as the world itself, under the command of their leader, Neckbeard. They possess unbelievable strength, are infuriatingly slow, and their land is entirely devoid of women. It takes forever to say anything in their strange, rumbling language.

Fortunately, RMS recognizes that this points at a real problem. Some of his senior devs don’t get it…

And if the idea of RMS and ESR cooperating to subvert Emacs’s decades-old culture from within strikes you as both entertaining and bizarrely funny…yeah, it is. Ours has always been a more complex relationship than most people understand.

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sblom
2504 days ago
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Bellevue, WA
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1 public comment
copyninja
2509 days ago
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Finally things are changing in Emacs world! Thanks ESR
India
emdeesee
2508 days ago
I was happy we got lexical scoping.
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