Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pics of some notes, etc.

A few people left stickers, business cards, photos, and notes in the box.

The best note was from Josh, who said - "Thanks for you Karma Box. I cut my finger on another installation a few minutes ago and yelled to art cars for a band-aid to no avail, and you were here to save me".

No problem, Josh. Woulda done the same if I were there in person.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Get the dust off

OK, so I have been back a while now and haven't posted. I want to deal with all my pictures (Karmabox and otherwise) before blogging. I am doing this post while uploading to Flickr.

First off, I think the project was a HUGE success. People really seemed to enjoy the box, they got the concept (some even left a penny, ala the original name), lots of folks took pictures. Though I did not elected to put of the pics from the one dude and his penis. Maybe next time, man.

The experience with the Artery and getting art placed with constitute a post at a later date. And I think I owe some additional posts on getting ready.

I don't think I will be bringing the box to LA Decompression. First off, the box hinges suffered damage and only the center hinge is worth a shit now. Secondly, I think that a crowd in the city is going to leave me with a literal box of trash at the end of the night. We will be doing wrist banding instead. Look for us if you arrive in the early evening. I will be wearing my 'freegan' shirt and a Hawkeye Pierce style robe.

So with out further ado, here are the high quality pics I took of the box getting set up, during our daily visits, and getting taken down. And here are all the pics taken by visitors to the box.

Thanks to all who came by !!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hola, amigos. How's by you? I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but things have been kinda crazy getting ready for the BRC.

I know I owe you some posts about painting and decorating the box, but those will have to wait.

The box *is* looking great, courtesy of my friends Steve and Kenny.

I will have a lot to write up about installing the box on the playa and, of course, the change in contents over the week. Standby !

Monday, August 10, 2009

Flat Smiley in da box

I recently found out Da Bomb is working on the Flat Smiley Project for the playa this year. So I will be sure some nice card stock smileys are in the box for people to pick up!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

take a picture why don't ya ?

Somewhere along the line the idea to have a camera with the box seemed like a Good Idea. Still not sure how this will work in practice. But we did find this kid camera in a discount pile. While the image quality is poor (640x480), it does mean that a practically infinite number of pictures can be put on a 2GB card. Plus the camera is easy to use, rugged, and runs on AA batteries. It will be interesting to see what pictures end up on it !

Total project cost:
$12 (3 LED solar garden lights)
$20 (2 LED solar flood lights)
$45 (for the box)
$50 (for camera, SD card, batteries)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My kingdom for a box !

When it came to the box itself, I wasn't sure what to do. The woodworker in me said "build it!". How hard should it be to knock together a box for crying out loud ?

Then reality set in. I didn't have access to a good wood shop. The box would probably be fairly heavy if made of wood. It would probably cost a fair amount given lumber prices these days. So I decided I should buy something.


I thought of a few different criteria that needed to be met -
  • sturdy - the box should be able to take a fair amount of abuse
  • size - it needs to be big enough to hold a fair amount, but not big enough to generate a huge wind load
  • one piece - anything that snaps together seems destined for disaster on the playa

After some searching, which took a lot longer than you would think, we ran across this box in Wal-mart garden section which seemed to fit the bill. A couple weeks after I saw an even better box in another Wal-mart in the auto section. C'est la vie.

Note the plastic lid restraints failed immediately so I replaced them with some paracord.


Total project cost:
$12 (3 LED solar garden lights)
$20 (2 LED solar flood lights)
$45 (for the box)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lights !

Given all the emphasis on safely lighting the karmabox so it is not a nighttime playa danger, I first started thinking about lights and not the box itself. Solar powered LED lights are the obvious choice because I was not going to need a lot of light (just enough for safety) and their automatic self-contained nature is great.

I poked around the local bigbox and hardware stores looking at lights. I was immediately attracted to these guys for few reasons - small form factor, a metal stake and omnidirectional visibility. The small form factor is key. A lot of LED garden lights are made of flimsy plastic that seems ripe for blowing away in the wind. These are more compact and made of tougher material. The metal stake should give me several mounting options, including drop them onto a piece of rebar. The omnidirectional visibility is key as well because they whole point is to see them far enough way not to hit them. A lot of lights don't have this type of lens and are more of the "soft glow" variety.

My biggest concern way the claim of "up to 8 hours" of lighting. Or was it 6 ? Anyway, I sure didn't want the lights to crap out at 4AM! I decided to buy one for experimentation. That was $4. I think I will start keeping track of the project costs too.

Turns out this light (and almost all LED garden lights) are powered by a cheap rechargeable AA battery. The battery was only rated for 350 mAh. Not much. So I popped in a fully charged 2100 mAH rechargeable. I covered the light sensor to force the light on. Guess how long it ran ? Over 5 days (24 hours a day). So if the light is off and the battery recharging when the sun is out it should last the entire week of Burning Man no problem.

We also took the light out to the park on a moonless night just to check the brightness. It was plenty bright for the intended purpose.

On the next visit to the bigbox I bought a couple more lights on the theory the 3 lights should be plenty for safety. I even picked up a few extras to have on hand (you never know).

My buddy Steve also thinks we may want to light a sign or something so we got a pair of solar LED floodlights. These guys have are really bright (3 LED's), have an adjustable neck, adjustable solar panel, and take 3 AA batteries. However I don't think we will put the high capacity AA's in the floodlights because they are not critical to safety.

Hirez pics can be found on Flickr.

Total project cost:
$12 (3 LED solar garden lights)
$20 (2 LED solar flood lights)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Application and Approval

It seemed that if I wanted to nail something down out on the playa, I was going to need some sort of official OK. To figure out how to proceed, I started by visiting and looking for information.

I found lots of information about the 2009 theme, previous art, art groups, etc. I didn't find much that told me what I needed to do. Turns out they were busy changing the back-end IT stuff around and didn't have the links up for a while. Eventually launched and it has all the forms for art projects, mutant vehicle registration, camp placement, etc. Note this site has its own registration system, because you know you wanted another username/password to remember. I also like that it runs on plone, which we have been using at work for some time now.

Even after getting registered, it still takes a bit to actually find the dang form (tiny link way at the bottom of a page; time to get a UX expert on board guys). But after that it is pretty straightforward. Unless you are dealing with fire. If you are, you will have a TON of questions to answer about how you are not going to roast anyone.

Since the karmabox is a pretty modest project, all I really needed to do (besides described it) was make a little diagram. I just grabbed an image of a box from google and used Skitch to draw some arrows and text on it.

I did all this on the first week that went up, so I got a pretty quick response. Jonesy Jones, an Artists' Advocate, called me back pretty quick. We basically rehashed everything I put on the forms (the nature of the project, how big, lighting, etc.). I think this was to make sure I was not an idiot. He also really emphasize the need to make sure your art is nailed down to the playa and well lit. I appreciated that he was very supportive and not harsh or judgmental in any way. I was also added to the playa-art-announce mailing list.

Since I don't need a lot of setup and am not (too) picky about location, all I need to do is head to the Artery once on-playa and they will assist in placing the art. I hope this means driving me out to the location in a truck because moving it by hand would be a pain.

Next few posts will be about the karmabox itself (with pictures) !

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting my thoughts together

It seemed like the next step was to get something down on 'paper' and get some feedback on it. I started a Google Doc for the project and tried to come up with the 'elevator pitch' for it. Can you tell I work for a media company ?

Turns out this elevator pitch is pretty much what you need to deal with the application process (which I will talk about in my next post). So I was actually a step ahead.

The people I shared the doc with gave me some good feedback and I started jotting down thoughts and notes.

I think I got all the long-winded stuff out of the way in the first post, so I expect these to be pretty short. At least until we return from the playa.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Inspiration and Idea

After going to Burning Man in 2007, I was full of ideas for cool things to do out on the playa. You know - a giant field of grass with lawn furniture that moves on a NASA style rocket mover platform. A miniature railroad circumnavigating the whole City and providing regular passenger service. A hot air balloon tethered to a truck so you can drive it around and a winch to reel it in when you want to change passengers.

These are are still my ideas and are trademarked so don't even *think* about stealing them.

But I don't have a huge budget. I don't live right next to BRC. And I don't know how to weld (yet!). These kinda limited the scope of possible projects.

I started to focus on some sort of stationary art project and I wanted it to be out on the deep playa (which I am particularly fond of). At some point the idea of the Penny Tray came into my head. Maybe I watched Office Space again or something. And turned into the idea that people could change the art project over time. I think the Penny Tray is like Burning Man in microcosm.

First, the very idea of giving so that strangers may benefit. Sure, a penny or two is literally the smallest of change but it is symbolic. You recognize that by giving up a very small part of yourself, you are going to benefit someone else and make the world just a little bit better. Burning Man only works because people are willing to give of themselves. Most people normally think of the artists here and I do greatly appreciate their work. I tend to think instead of the efforts of DPW and other folks (both paid and unpaid) working behind the scenes that are critical to ensure the madness has a stage to play out. So by giving a bit of yourself to this project you are putting your penny in the tray.

Secondly, people need to take from the penny tray. Its function is not to collect change. In the parlance of Office Space, the penny tray is *not* the cripple jar. However you must take from the penny tray in a responsible fashion. You may not take all the change. You should probably not be taking more than 4cents, except in dire straits.

I think this idea extends to Burning Man as well. Everything is freely given (except for coffee and ice!). But this only works when people take what they need, and only what they need. Can you imagine if you offered someone a drink and they said "thanks" and took your whole bottle? But the taking *is* important. I find that it changes your perspective quite a bit and that using cash to buy food feels weird on the first day back in civilization. And there is the obvious taking of the art, music, and usage of the all the infrastructure of BRC. So it is important that people take as well as give to this project because only then does the circle of giving and taking become complete.

The idea as it stands is simple - leave a footlocker full of items out on the playa and encourage people to take something from it and leave something in return. This fits well with the 2009 theme of Evolution. Documenting the changes to the locker over time and at the end of the event will give a nice overview of the piece to live beyond the event itself. And what will be left in the box at the end of the week ? Might be empty. Might be full of trash. I hope it is full of really cool things I can't even imagine.

So now I have an idea that seems doable and inexpensive. What to do next ? Stay tuned for more ....