HSMF 2013 was gross (the fun kind)

July 12, 2013

July 4th weekend means grilling, fireworks, and drinking.  That’s if you don’t go to High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA.  If you do, then July 4th weekend means hyperbolic, superlative-laden band descriptions, over 100 hours of music and musicianship that actually earns such praise, camping adventures, the best festival food around, and some of the most beautiful California scenery there is.

I’m talking about High Sierra Music Festival, and this is my seventh time attending.  This is not the kind of festival that you wait for the lineup to sign up for:

“Are you going to High Sierra?”  

“Yes.”  

“But who’s playing?”  

“I dunno–it doesn’t matter.  We just go.”

This year was no exception, and the lineup was phenomenal.  Notably, I’ve marked (at the link) which shows I went to and I’d highly recommend that you check out those (and other) bands.

Robert Plant has still got major pipes.  The Revivalists have some serious gusto.  The Hot 8 Brass Band knows how to party.  Primus rocked the house.  Mike Dillon Band made punk trombone make sense.  Thievery Corporation can make anyone move to the beat.  And Lee Fields & The Expressions know the magic of soul.

Not only is there music–there’s food.  Amazing food.  Ghanaian, Southern BBQ, Organic, Raw, Blended, Fried, Iced, Brewed–you name it.  Everyone of them had a tasty dish to sustain us through the weekend.  And then there are vendors.  Sandals, clothes, wraps, skirts, henna, massages, you name it.  And then were these sunglasses who made 20x what they asked for on Kickstarter.

But what are the major things to take away from this year’s High Sierra?  This is the key list of “do’s” that will make for, in the future, a great HSMF 2014:

  • Bring tarps.  Ground cover isn’t important, but shade is.  Camping in the right spot (Hillsides) will let you string them up for a shade complex above your communal area
  • Bring rope.  See above.
  • Plan on eating some festival food.  It’s just too good to pass up.  In other words, if you’re going to bring prepared food, or campsite food, it’s just not realistic that you’ll eat every meal from your personal stores.  Having said that, I really could eat the bean salad we brought like every day of the week.
  • Bring a shovel.  If you’re planning to camp at Hillsides (which you should) you’re going to want to do some terraforming.  Life at 15-20% grade is doable–45% is not.  But also: leave no trace!  You can figure out how to balance those things out for yourself.
  • Camp at Hillsides.  Did I mention this already?  Shady Grove used to have a stage, and the Meadow fills up on Wednesday afternoon with the early arrivals.  Hillsides is appropriately private, but with enough neighbors to ground you and a legitimate view of the Main Stage experience, right from your home away from home.
  • Drink water.  It gets hot up in the valley, there.  Water is free from spigots all over the fairgrounds so bring at least _one_ water bottle and just don’t forget to keep filling it up.
  • Bring clothes / sleeping gear to keep you (very) warm. It gets cold up there at night: much colder than you would expect given the highs that can be achieved during the day.
  • Walkie Talkie’s are a plus.  Cell service is poor up there and I doubt you can keep the battery charged for four days without awkwardly stealing power from the side of the Funk’n Jam House or sitting in your hot car for an hour.
  • Bring a Solar USB Charger.  Do this for genius status.
  • Keep your cell phone off.  Do this to unplug for four days.  Takes some serious commitment, but it’s totally worth it if you trust in the world outside the festival handling their junk without you for a weekend.  Totally acceptable to either (a) stay connected to help friends and family (b) indulge in the delusion that you’re the center of everyone’s universe.  Totally unacceptable to stay connected to read your personalized Big Lots! email ads or Facebook updates from people not at the festival.  Go see some music!
  • Set up your tent at home to check for gotchas.  I broke this sacred rule of camping this year and forgot that my tent poles were packed separately.  MAJOR CHOKE!
  • Get a quick-drying, super-light towel and/or yoga-mat from REI.  These are way smaller than a cotton towel and will help you out for the 6 hours of daily yoga.
  • Bring a table.  Coolers have a top–yes–but they are meant to be opened.  I plan do finally do ourselves a favor next year by bringing a folding table.  Then again, i also said this last time…
  • Make a plane and keep your promises.  We’re procrastinators, me and my friends.  We totally kick ass at packing 3 days or less before a week long camping trip in the woods and dirt and being wildly successful.  If you’re not like us, make sure to take the time, make a spreadsheet, and figure out what you’re going to bring in time to find out if you have it.  
  • Pace yourself.  There’s a lot of excitement at High Sierra.  Make sure you’re not forcing yourself to be on high-alert energy-level for four days without a break.  There are _lots_ of places to take a peaceful break at the festival–that’s kind of a thing it does better than any other, partly to do with it’s small size and partly to do with everyone’s great attitude.  Which leads me to the last, but most important thing to remember:
  • Don’t be un-festival.  It’s as simple as it sounds.  Don’t be the guy hurrying people on with their showers.  Don’t be the guy who tells that guy to chill out in the wrong tone.  Don’t be the one to yell at a little kid for spraying water on you without asking (but do remind them to ask next time after you say thank you).  Don’t be smug.  Don’t judge.  Don’t laugh at someone without laughing at yourself at the same time.  And definitely don’t be the one calling everybody on their un-festival crap.  Be compassionate–Don’t be un-festival.  Be good to the festival, and the festival will be good to you.

math is fun, not gross

April 21, 2013

I’m finishing my evening, reflecting on my math brains.  This morning I took the GRE Subject test in Mathematics [PDF] (on the chance that I want to apply to any post-graduate programs in the next 5 years), and I prepared by taking one Math GRE a day for the last week.  What I found was that everyone must think that math is boring and gross.  I believe that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  This is probably more a comment on standardized tests, but out of all of the disciplines, I would hope that the mathematicians could make word problems interesting.

I am probably not allowed to comment on what was and wasn’t on today’s exam, but I can say that it was practically the same material as the practice exams I took: there were people in committees, students waiting in line for lunch, dice being cast (although of the two problems, at least one involved a dodecahedron), coins being flipped–there was a differential equation, but none of the group theory questions had any context, and definitely not the set theory or topology.  Linear algebra and complex analysis were context free as well, and even the geometric questions were as bland as “here is an object, apply divergence theorem” or “here is a circle, compute some chords”.

During the week that I was studying / practicing / drilling / training* I accumulated the following (amazing) sample of material in my feedly, which is wholly opposite that material I was working on: These are engaging, interesting, and intellectually challenging accounts instead of numbing drills:

What a roundup!  What if the material generated _just_this_week_ was the kind of stuff that the GRE tested people on?  What if we could ask people how to think _creatively_ about _new_ problems?  Write programs instead of deciphering them?  How many times will students be asked to identify the programmatic output of a Collatz Sequence or Euclid’s Algorithm?  Obviously, it’s hard to standardize good problems, but we’ve had over 150 years of Residue Calculus–can’t someone come up with a complex function with poles that means something?

Anyway, I’m not really ranting.  I thoroughly enjoyed brushing up on my math.  Wronskian?  Adjugate?  L’Hôpital’s Rule (to the max)?  These are things I don’t use in my day job.  Lie groups and matrix invertibility, FFTs and signal processing, and, every once in a while, some Fundamental Theorem (of Algebra, Invertible Matrices, Calculus, &c), but not much, and not in very wide company.  But diving into the tips and tricks was actually a joy for me–and that’s because of where I come from.  My personal (Math Nerd**) and educational (Math Mudder) backgrounds get me excited about what are, truly, “Math Tips and Tricks”.  But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t test our future mathematicians on those, but instead on exciting, engaging material?  What if people learned something from standardized tests, and what they learned was that they _want_ to answer hard problems with interesting techniques?  I know that should be happening in the classroom (in person), but why can’t we manage to make it happen on paper, too?  Don’t mind the rhetoric too much, and let me know if I’m way off base here.  I hope, in either case, that either the Tips and Trick become interesting on their own to everyone, or we all work very hard to make questions about thinking, and not about Tips and Tricks.

* I was actually doing these tests on my train commute to work, half on the way there and half on the way home.  Happily, everyone was very considerate and didn’t bother me with book, paper, pencils, and countdown timer spread across the tables.  Sadly, no one engaged me about what I was doing so I couldn’t teach any lay-residue theory or integration by parts.

** This is the book I did an independent study with in High School to continued my jump-started career in math (kicked off in earnest by Mr. Sisley’s introduction to Spivak and Mr. Robinson’s introduction to Chaos and Dynamical Systems in 11th and 12th grades, respectively).

ideal vs. real – wikipedia weighs in on pants

March 17, 2013

I’ve been reading up on this month’s announcement that the 3-body problem has 13 more solutions, and came across a wonderful little nugget of a wikipedia disambiguation:

Pair of pants

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


This article is about an object in hyperbolic geometry. For the article of clothing, see trousers.

It’s usually the case that disambiguations favor primary topics by usage but, in same strange twist of fate, the following image is described with the awesomely gross sentence:

Six pairs of pants sewn together to form an open surface of genus two with four boundary components.

So think about that next time you’re at the sewing machine, trying to patch your punctured spheres.

[Edit: “Trousers” is now the front page of the “Pair of pants” redirect, accessed April 2013]

Links

[1] sciencemag.org article: physicists-discover-a-whopping.html
[2] wiki/Pair_of_pants
[3] wiki/Wikipedia:Disambiguation#Is_there_a_primary_topic.3F
[4] wiki/File:Worldsheet.png
[5] wiki/Riemann_surface#Punctured_spheres

pi-kus for pi day

March 14, 2013

I’ve been looking around the twitter-spheroid and blago-blogs and finding that lots of people are writing “pi-ku”s today, a haiku about pi, in honor of pi day:

you go around once
and make an infinity,
of digits that is

But what is a pi-ku, really?  Is a “haiku about pi” the best we can do?  What about my wife’s suggestion (which she came across from Powell’s Bookstore) , where the syllables pay homage to pi’s most well known digits?  Here’s the formula:

— First line: 3 syllables
— Second line: 1 syllable
— Third line: 4 syllables

and used in a sentence poem:

i know, of
pi,
pi squared digits

But we can get grosser than that.  What about longer pi-ku sequences, traversing the decimal-dance of pi’s digits:

(3) from where does
(1) pi
(4) originate?

(1) is
(5) it an integral
(9) half (neg why dee ex plus ex dee why)?

(2) maybe
(6) riemann zeta at 2,
(5) times six, square root is

But I digress.  How can you contort pi into your poetry?  Leave your poems in the comments, and don’t forget to enjoy your favorite kind of pi to celebrate the sweetness and the arbitrary transcendental numbers that permeate  our limited understanding of the universe.  Today I enjoyed smitten kitchen’s apple pie cookies.  Smaller size, same great ratio of circumference to diameter.

Links

[1] Powell’s Bookstore’s Facebook Conversation, Pi Day 2013
[2] my favorite approximations of pi, on github
[3] smitten kitchen’s apple pie cookies

gross contraptions

June 14, 2012

the whole “good things come in small packages” thing is relatively recent [1877], and it’s only in the last 40 years or so that we could really say the same thing about technology. i’ve been sitting on a few great blog posts for the last while now that really show off some of these bigger, and awesome machines that we (as humanity) came up with:

Punch Tape Programmable Metal Mill from 1952

The Machines That Made The Jet Age

Early Russian Hydraulic Computer

Analog Tide Computers and the D-Day Invasion


but then again, some machines haven’t gotten much smaller…

Gorgeous 1940s Lathe Restoration

bamf climbing

May 29, 2012

i’ve realized that i’ve found some RIDICULOUS links about some incredible climbers to share.  despite the frustratingly low frequency with which i utilize my membership at hangar 18, i have a developed a deep love and respect for climbing and those who do it well.  collected here are three generations of climbers that will make your jaw drop.  Hat tips to Eric, Yael, and my Grandpa.

Tiny Hand Over Hand:
Ashima Shiraishi, 11, Conquers Difficult Bouldering Climbs

more not-gross art in the gallery and a new toy

May 20, 2012

on this lazy-sunday-that-should-not-be-so-lazy i find myself, again, equating the high priority of my “starred” and “flagged” emails to my “starred” and “flagged” items in my google reader feed.  as such, i’ve added some more art to the gallery.

i also got a new toy to play with.  once i learn more about the circuit, i’m thinking of creative ways to make it wearable and fun.  thoughts are welcome!

you can also find an instructable on how to build it and the kit itself for purchase.

not-gross things for your eyes

April 25, 2012

so…i am really quite good at being anxious, procrastinating, feeling guilt, and just generally wallowing.  mind you, doing this well is actually a passion of mine; i can get quite a fair amount of enjoyment out of it.  i also enjoy a good watermelon-smashing or purring cat, but that’s neither here nor there.  that is a lie, as there is a purring cat right here “helping” me type this by being slumped over my hands.  digressing is also enjoyable.

the point is that–in addition to all this, i am a grade-A hoarder.  and i also love art.  the time has come, though, where i am learning that making good “engineering decisions” is the only way to move forward out of the analysis paralysis that i call home.

so, rather than never posting an all-encompassing collection of enjoyable art on the internet, i’ve made a new gallery page that can hold on to it for us.  mostly, they are just things i’ve seen on design milk that i’ve really enjoyed.  i hope you do to.

 
 

bounce

March 21, 2012

two very different bounce videos that i’d like to share with you all:

share your favorites in the comments.

in time – clock design

October 5, 2011

today was a good day for interesting time keeping design.  i came across these three different time keeping devices, which have a really interesting parallelism in their features:

we know the time
the tree tells the season
industry, the hour
and with robotic precision
an instant is born

a little musing on the wonderful juxtaposition of materials and fidelity that were used in all these clocks.  also, it’s the fault of Google+ that i didn’t just share the clocks and get on with my life, since you can’t share more than one fancy link in a post.  now i had to make a big deal out of it and waste a bunch of everybody’s time.

Wooden Perpetual Calendar

Roller Chain Clockworks

Robot-Readable Wall Clock