Junk ‘n Funk In The Trunk

Ace Junkyard, “an unlikely epicenter of San Francisco’s industrial, mechanical, kinetic, maker and artist community” which has played a big, behind-the-scenes role in supporting Burner art projects, is the subject of a new documentary. They’re seeking funding of $60,000 via Kickstarter to produce it, and have only raised $16,581 so far – with 13 days to go. Click here if you would like to support the making of this documentary. For $1,000, you can be in the film, and for $10,000, you can be an Executive Producer.

from Kickstarter:

Join us in making more ART!!!

A documentary about Bill Kennedy, the magical fairy of Ace Junkyard, who helped San Francisco’s collaborative art community achieve their dream


Ace Junkyard seems like an impossible, mythical place. I was so struck by this place and by the man who ran it, I decided to make a movie about it. The world should know that sometimes, piles of junk can define a culture, make a huge difference and be the raw materials for art that changes the world.

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter #aceinthehole #junkyardoc

Bill in his Blondie days

Bill in his Blondie days

Ace Junkyard, run by Bill “The Junkman” Kennedy, was an unlikely epicenter of San Francisco’s industrial, mechanical, kinetic, maker and artist community. Under Bill’s stewardship, Ace evolved to provide a space for industrial artists, makers, freaks and geeks to find parts, co-conspirators, share skills and experience each other’s creations. Ace Junkyard hosted a wide range of live cultural events: music, comedy, theater, experimental performance, and of course, the Power Tool Drag Races which was aired on the Discovery Channel. Many Burning Man projects came to life and went to die here.

The magical story of Ace Junkyard is a critical look at the evolution of a one-of-a-kind space, what it brought to the community that loved it and served it, and how its untimely end continues to unite the individuals it served even years after it is gone.

If you want to see this movie, please consider supporting this Kickstarter!

Power Tool Drag Races circa 2008

Power Tool Drag Races circa 2008

WHY AM I RAISING $60,000? 

I have completed about 70% of principal photography of the film. The $60,000 I raise through this campaign will give me the resources to interview a handful of key people, such as Bill’s family, the landlady, Larry Harvey (one of the founders of the Burning Man festival), and a number of very important employees and customers of Ace Auto Dismantlers. The money will help me license footage that’s important in telling the story, employ a lawyer so I don’t screw anyone or anything up, insurance, permits, and other very necessary but too-boring-to–list things. AND, it will help me employ and feed an editor full-time to start editing this mother of a project, plus a team of people to make music, color correct, distribute and market the heck out of this film!!


By donating to this film you will:

1.    instantly become part of Ace Junkyard crew

2.    help Billy become a film star

3.    (all joking aside) get to tell the world how awesome freaks and geeks are and show how collaborative culture can literally change the world

4.    have access to lots of really really cool rewards that no one else can offer you

5.    help preserve the San Francisco underground art and culture scene

Here is the original t-shirt design by Seth that you will get if you donate at the OBTAINER level…

Seth Maxfield Malice original design

Seth Maxfield Malice original design

At the COLLECTOR level you can get a piece of original junk from the yard…hand picked by Billy…you never know what treasure you can get…it will be good I promise!

Handpicked by Bill

Handpicked by Bill


Poker Like A Rockstar

Just when you thought the Burning Man virus couldn’t infect any more mainstream vertical markets, we get World Series of Poker/World Poker Tour champion Antonio Esfandiari (aka @magicantonio) writing about it for Bluff magazine.


re-blogged from Bluff.com (emphasis ours):

Poker Like a Rockstar … Burning Man 2014

Antonio’s annual quest for dirty love

antonio and friends at Burning Man

I’ve been a “burner” going on four years. It’s one week a year; one week that I that I can’t stop talking about for the remaining 51 weeks, each year outshining the last. This year was exceptional. I did it all: explored, loved, laughed loud, and best of all, cried. I cried hard, cried sad, cried happy and cried often. I went full throttle this year and got the full experience.

What is Burning Man? Burning Man is many things: it’s an idea, a city, a festival, a utopian community set to the backdrop of a psychedelic Daliesque desert nowhere. The Black Rock Desert, a perfect canvas for the myriad of mind-expanding artistic expressions that it houses. Burning Man is what the world would be like if we could start with a clean slate and create a society where all humans were treated as ends in themselves, free to take their creativity in every direction. Squeeze-in sublime sunrises and sunsets, gladiatorial Mad Max Thunderdome battles to lust-filled orgy domes, full-blown dance clubs with headliner DJs and jaw-dropping lasers and pyrotechnics, restaurants, monumental temples, bars, yoga classes, lectures, even civic institutions like hospitals and post offices to name a few. How is all this manifested? Ten simple principles oozed by all the attendees:

  • Radical Inclusion
  • Gifting
  • Decommodification
  • Radical Self-reliance
  • Radical Self-expression
  • Communal Effort
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Leaving No Trace
  • Participation
  • Immediacy

I could write a manifesto explaining them all, so I won’t spend time on them aside from the one I believe helps set the tone for the whole burn: Gifting.

Aside from RV servicing and ice/coffee at the main camp whose proceeds get donated, currency and capitalism is almost non-existent at Burning Man. It’s communal living in action; everything is provided FOR the community BY the community. Although this would have made Karl Marx proud, the impetus of this is not the rise of the working class, but the power of love. Objects were not worshiped but given freely, and strangely, the only thing that mattered was the happiness of others. Naturally, some give more than others. The first year I attended, I took more than gave. I was bitten by the love bug, and all I wanted to do was to give back to this rare, beautiful gem of human potential. Every following year, I didn’t make the same mistake: I gave much more than I took, and it felt great. I can’t imagine why someone would do otherwise. Burning Man is NOT a vacation. It’s hard work — a labor of love; people come back, year-after-year, enduring the sweltering desert heat, the freezing nights, inhaling and getting caked-on with that playa dust for what? To witness human potential, our potential. Kindness is everywhere, inspiring us to pass it forward.

Is it like this for the 70,000 that attend? Yes, with the standard deviation of only a handful of a few confused bad apples. Otherwise, what’s the point? If you want to just camp, go somewhere more hospitable; if you want to party, just go to Vegas. To many that are not in attendance, Burning Man is just a place to take drugs and get naked. But to those in attendance, it’s a place where you can be who you want to be and do what you want to do, without judgment, a beautiful opportunity for freedom. It has a habit of unleashing latent creativity, unlocking the love bottled-up in everyone. For example, our camp has grown from just four of us four years ago to 60+ this year. I believe that out of the 40 or so virgins we had this year that 37 of them said it was the best experience of their life. That is pretty strong.

You get Dirty

Burning Man is not for the anal retentive clean freak. You are going to get filthy. My advice: just let go. Some can’t handle it and can’t stay for more than a few days. I am a full eight day kinda guy. Every year, I fly into Reno with a few of my campmates on Saturday, and drive the RV 10 hours the following day, when the gates officially open. Waiting there in line every year, I wonder why I don’t just fly right in as I wait. Yes, you can fly RIGHT into the temporary Burning Man “airport.” And every year, after the burn is over, I realize why I endure the wait: the camaraderie.

You see, we all suffer together. It results in the kind of bond the Vietnam vets experienced as a result of their joint suffering. As with a soldier, you would never desert a fellow burner. It’s all for one, and one for all, all day, every day. One day the toilet got clogged in the RV resulting in a putrid stench permeating the air, day-in and day-out. To make things worse, the AC conked-out on us and, over the next few days, the carpet within the RV chemically bonded with the playa dust (the dirt in the desert that has a tendency of electroplating everything you own.) Our RV made a pig sty look antiseptic. It was miserable. At one point, in abject disgust and desperation, in front of my RV mates Jason Koon, Jeff Gross, and John Tabatabai, I got on all fours and started wiping the bathroom floor with a Clorox disinfecting wipe. John went apeshit and started cackling. Never in his in his wildest dreams would he have imagined seeing me scrubbing the floors of a shit-infested RV. The end of the burn turned our war stories into good memories.

With all that, it’s so fucking awesome. I can confidently say that this year’s Burning Man is the overall No. 1 experience I have ever had. Before that, last year’s. Take my advice — GET YOURSELF there, buy your tickets now, be open to it, let it go and be prepared to become a better person.

Geeks On Ice [Update]

Slashdot brings us a story about An Algorithm To End The Lines For Ice At Burning Man:

Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton,
The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small… Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I’m curious whether it’s the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it’s something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett’s idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

I skipped burning man this year but went for the first time in 2013. One of the only goods for sale at Burning Man is bags of ice — to keep your own food cool, or simply to refresh yourself, you can line up to buy bags of ice that are sold by Arctica camp out of the back of a refrigerated truck under a tent. Bags cost $3 apiece.

photo: Nellie Bowles

photo: Nellie Bowles

During peak times last year, the lines were up to an hour long. This year, so I heard, the lines on the first day were even worse, because two of the three distribution points were unable to open due to closed roads, so everybody lined up at the only sales tent that was operating.

Regardless of the conditions, the procedure when you get to the front of the line is the same. You specify how many bags of ice you want, and deposit cash in a container on the counter. Then a volunteer walks back to the ice truck to fetch one or more bags from the truck and brings them back to the counter. You collect your bags and continue on your way.

OK, before reading any further — based on what I just wrote, can you think of a way to speed up the line? No cheating — read the preceding paragraph and think of what you might do differently. Spoilers follow!

The thought that occurred to me almost immediately after I got my bag of ice, was: Why not just have the volunteers carry the bags of ice from the truck to the counter, before people place their order? As long as the line is moving, no bag of ice would sit on the counter long enough to melt. And then each transaction at the front of the line would be reduced to: Customer pays for bag(s), customer picks up bag(s) and leaves. By eliminating the time to walk back to the truck and fetch the bag(s), the system would significantly reduce the per-customer transaction time.

I’d asked a handful of Burning Man veterans about this, and they said that Arctica had tried this at one point, but was required to stop by Nevada health code regulations, which treated ice as a “food product” and therefore said that it could not be moved out onto the counter until an order has been placed. This sounded puzzling to me — don’t cafés place other “food products” out on a counter all the time, where they can be bought and picked up by customers? And for the ice bags, why would it matter in practice anyway — even if the state of Nevada is worried about germs starting to multiply as soon as the bag is removed from the refrigerated truck, the time the bag spends sitting on the counter is still negligible compared to the time the customer spends transporting it back to their own camp.

So I emailed the Nevada State Health Division to ask them what the regulations actually said, and if they would allow the ice vendors to load bags of ice onto their sales counter before they had been paid for by a customer. One of their Public Health Engineers replied and said, “I can assure you that we do not require the ice to remain in the truck until it is ordered” (and dryly added, “It is common for vendors to blame the health authority for imagined regulations”). Regarding the resulting long lines, he also advised me, in the spirit of Burning Man radical self-reliance (if not practicality), “You may consider bringing your own ice to the Playa rather than purchasing it from them.”

So that’s it. There’s no regulatory reason why the ice can’t be brought to the sales counter before it’s paid for — where it wouldn’t even have time to start melting, if there are customers eagerly waiting to carry it away — and no reason why the line couldn’t probably move 5 to 10 times faster as a result. (I emailed Arctica to ask if they would start having volunteers bring ice bags up to the counter before customers place their orders, and showed them the email from the Nevada Health Division saying it would be legal. I received a very friendly reply, mostly asking me who I was and why I was concerned about the issue; I said I had no stake in the matter except hoping to reduce the wait times and hence the aggravation and health risks for people waiting in line in the sun. I have not received a reply to any subsequent inquiries after that.)

In a previous article I’d theorized about an algorithm for speeding up the vehicle exodus at Burning Man. (Basically, have a “priority lane” where cars can exit at different times of day, depending on the last character on their license plate. So one hour where the priority lane is set aside for cars whose license plates end in “A”, another hour where the lane is used by cars with plates ending in “B”, and so on. This means that drivers who want to use the priority lane, can just wait for the designated hour, instead of spending five hours queueing up to leave.) That was intended more of an intellectual exercise, as a jumping-off point for a discussion about which algorithms would work best under different theoretical assumptions, and with only the small possibility that it might ever actually be implemented at the real event.

The call to speed up the ice lines is not an intellectual exercise. Unless there’s a non-obvious major problem with making this change, this is something that could be done the very next year, and would save people thousands of person-hours waiting in line in the sun.

arctica pricesMy other suggestion would be to have a “turbo” line even faster than the main one, designed for people to complete each sales transaction in seconds. Every customer in the “turbo” line would be required to have exact change (or be willing to overpay and let the vendor keep the change), and every customer would be required to have their cash fanned out in their hand like playing cards when they got to the front of the line. (A volunteer could walk up and down near the front of the line to verify that people already had their cash displayed properly.) A transaction at the front of the line would simply consist of, “Three dollars — bag”, or, “Six dollars — two bags”, where the customer shows their fanned-out money, dumps it into the cash receptacle, and picks up one or more bags from the counter.

With or without the “turbo” line, at first it might seem like it would take extra labor to keep a supply of ice bags moving constantly from the truck to the counter, but that’s not the case. For a given number of bags to be sold, every bag has to be moved from the truck, to the counter, exactly one time. So the total amount of labor is always going to be the same, for a fixed number of ice bags. To have a steady supply of ice moving quickly from the truck to the counter, you might need to have more volunteers working at the same time, but that just means that rather than having 5 volunteers with one-hour shifts spaced throughout the day, you’d have those same volunteers working simultaneously to keep the bags moving.

arctica sunsetWith the lines moving that much more quickly, what if the ice bags run out halfway through the day? Hopefully the vendor can just send the trucks back out to fetch more bags of ice to be brought back in and sold in the afternoon. But even if they can’t — even if, for some reason, the number of ice bags sold per day has to be fixed at X — you’ve still done an enormous amount of good by reducing the wait time from 30-45 minutes to 5 minutes. Because you still sell the same number of ice bags, but you’ve eliminated the pointless deadweight loss of all the time the customers were previously wasting in line.

And if the vendors can bring in more ice whenever their existing stock sells out much faster, that’s a win too — regardless of whether they’re selling the ice for profit or just for altruistic motives. If they’re selling ice to help people, then selling more ice is better. If they’re selling ice for profit, then selling more ice is better, too.

I’m being fairly pedantic here because I want to make it clear that I think that I think there’s no counterargument to be made to this, under any combination of reasonable assumptions — whether the vendors can bring in more ice or whether they’re stuck selling a fixed number of bags per day; whether the goal of selling the ice is for altruism or to make a profit. Bring the ice out before it’s paid for, shave the transaction time down to the bare minimum of the customer paying money and then grabbing their ice bags, and everyone will be grateful they don’t have to wait an hour in the sun.

And if you’re an adventurer thinking about going to Burning Man, my tips for making it (slightly) easier include bringing your own cooler (separate from any food storage cooler) so that you can buy a bag of ice each day, dump it in the cooler, and have your own supply of ice water. That’s well worth it, whether the wait time in the ice line is five minutes or an hour.

Makes perfect sense to me. So, will it happen?

Like many suggestions for improvements to Burning Man, the first response is “NO”. We’re told “we tried that and it didn’t work” and “the authorities won’t let us do it”. Kudos to Bennett for doing the work to fact check these statements: sure enough, they’re false. There is no regulatory reason for making Burners suffer in queues in the desert.

Having applied his brainpower to the Exodus and Arctica lines, perhaps Bennett can now turn his grey matter to the Will Crawl problems. Hint: mailing tickets to the 20% of Burners coming from outside the US will halve the number of people who have to go to Will Call. Fewer people should mean shorter lines.

Will BMOrg listen to the Burner community, and try something new to make things better for their customers?

[Update 10/21/14 2:53pm] I posted a link to this story at Arctica’s Facebook group and got an official response. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was “NO” and “it’s been tried before”.

Not a new idea. It’s what we used to do. Surprise, ice melts quickly in the desert. Even sitting in the truck with the freezer unit pumping out 20 degrees, ice melts with the doors open. Not as bad as sitting on a hot metal table though. *That* is why it stays in the truck until it is sold. How melted do you like your ice? Would you rather wait a few minutes longer to get what you paid for or get a half-melted bag now? Our volunteers put a lot of effort into providing you the best product, in the most timely manner. If people come at peak times (opening & lunch), we’ll be busy. If they come at other times, there’s hardly a wait.

We also got “you can’t do it because of health regulations” as a comment on our Facebook page. Katie sayeth:

The line is caused by high and indecisive burners. So sayeth a line wrangler & slinger!

Deep History of Drugs

Benjamin Breen at The Appendix has written this fascinating overview of the scientific discovery of illicit drugs. It’s concise, rather than comprehensive, but it makes for a good Sunday read.

It skips Ecstasy, which was invented by pharmaceutical giant Merck just before World War I. MDMA was later synthesized and popularized by Burner (and Bohemian Grover) Sasha Shulgin, who passed away in Berkeley this year at the age of 88.

It also misses the “discovery” of Magic Mushrooms by JP Morgan’s PR guy Gordon Wasson; their psycho-active ingredient psilocybin was synthesized by Albert Hoffman, the same chemist who “accidentally discovered” LSD. Both of these substances had actually been around for thousands of years, used in ritual hallucinogenic ceremonies like the Ancient Mystery Rites of Eleusis which Burning Man was based on.

Re-blogged from The Appendix:


Meiji Meth: the Deep History of Illicit Drugs

“We’re not going to need pseudoephedrine,” Walter White mutters through clenched teeth. “We’re going to make phenylacetone in a tube furnace, then we’re going to use reductive amination to yield methamphetamine.” Chemicals go in, and out come 99.1% pure crystals glittering with the brilliant azure of a New Mexico swimming pool.

The invention of Breaking Bad’s blue meth has become the stuff of television legend, and has even inspired a spate of real world knock-offs. But few know the true origin stories of illicit drugs—for instance, the strange fact that methamphetamine was actually invented in 1890s Japan.

Chemists have been fascinated by recreational drugs for a very long time. Robert Hooke, the short-tempered genius who discovered cells, was also the author of the first academic paper on cannabis. In the fall of 1689, Hooke ducked into a London coffee shop to purchase the drug from an East Indies merchant, and proceeded to test it on an unnamed “Patient.” It was evidently a large dose. “The Patient understands not, nor remembereth any Thing that he seeth, heareth, or doth,” Hooke reported. “Yet he is very merry, and laughs, and sings… and sheweth many odd Tricks.” Hooke observed that the drug eased stomach pains, provoked hunger, and could potentially “prove useful in the Treatment of Lunaticks.”


An early depiction of cannabis from Jean Vigier’s Historia das Plantas (1718), originally published in French in 1670.The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

Hooke also strongly hinted that he’d personally sampled his coffee shop score: the drug “is so well known and experimented by Thousands,” he wrote, that “there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.” (There were good reasons that Hooke’s readers might be afraid of a new drug—this was, after all, a world where pharmacies sold ground up skulls and Egyptian mummies as medicine).

Historians have largely ignored Hooke’s adventures with cannabis, entertaining as they may be. Albert Hoffmann’s accidental discovery of acid, however, is well known. In fact it’s arguably the most famous tale of drug discovery, challenged only by August Kekulé’s famous dream-vision of the benzene molecule as an ouroboros, which preoccupied Thomas Pynchon in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Even LSD, however, has a more obscure prehistory. Roman physicians described a painful disease called the sacred fire (sacer ignis) which by the Middle Ages came to be known as St. Anthony’s Fire—“an ulcerous Eruption, reddish, or mix’d of pale and red,” as one 1714 text put it. Sufferers of this gruesome illness, which could also cause hallucinations, were actually being poisoned by ergot, a fungus that grows on wheat. Several authors, most recently Oliver Sacks in his excellent book Hallucinations, have noted a potential link between ergot poisoning and cases of dancing mania and other forms of mass hysteria in premodern Europe.


“The Beggars” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a painting believed to show victims of ergotism.Wikimedia Commons

By the 1920s, pharmaceutical firms began investigating the compounds in ergot, which showed potential as migraine treatments. A Swiss chemist at the Sandoz Corporation named Albert Hoffman grew especially intrigued, and in November 1938 (the week after Kristallnacht) he synthesized an ergot derivative that would later be dubbed lysergic acid diethalyamide: LSD for short.

It was not until five years later, however, that Hoffman experienced the drug. Immersed in his work, Hoffman accidentally allowed a tiny droplet of LSD to dissolve onto his skin. He thought nothing of it: hardly any drugs are psychoactive in such minute doses. Later that day, however, Hoffmann went home sick, lay on his couch, and

sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.

Three days later, the chemist decided to self-administer what he assumed was a tiny dose to further test the drug’s effects. He took 250 micrograms, which was actually roughly ten times higher than the threshold dose. Within an hour, Hoffman asked his lab assistant to escort him home by bicycle. Cycling through the Swiss countryside, Hoffman was shocked to observe that “everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror.”

By the time he arrived home, Hoffman decided to call a doctor. However, the physician reported no abnormal physical symptoms besides dilated pupils, and Hoffmann began to enjoy himself:

Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.

Hoffman awoke the next morning “refreshed, with a clear head,” and with “a sensation of well-being and renewed life.” In an echo of Hooke’s report about his friend’s cannabis experience, which left him “Refreshed…and exceeding hungry,” Hoffman recalled that “Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary pleasure.”

One of the interesting aspects of Hoffman’s story is how detached it was, both temporally and culturally, from the 1960s context with which LSD is often associated today. This delay between the scientific identification and the popular adoption of a drug is a common story—and in no case is it more stark than in the gap between the discovery of meth and its widespread adoption as an illicit street drug. Methamphetamine was synthesized by a middle-aged, respectable Japanese chemist named Nagai Nagayoshi in 1893.


An elder statesman of Japanese science and medicine, Nagayoshi Nagai and his wife hosted Albert Einstein in 1923.Wikimedia Commons

A member of the Meiji Japanese elite, Nagayoshi devoted much of his energy to the chemical analysis of traditional Japanese and Chinese medicines using the tools of Western science. In 1885, Nagai isolated the stimulant ephedrine fromEphedra sinica, a plant long used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

The year before, in July 1884, Sigmund Freud had published his widely-read encomium to the wonders of cocaine, Über Coca. Cocaine was radically more potent than coca leaves, and chemists the world over were on the lookout for other potential wonder drugs. It’s likely that Nagai hoped to work the same magic with ephedra—and in many ways he did. Ephedrine is a mild stimulant, notable nowadays as an ingredient in shady weight-loss supplements and as one of the few drugs historically permitted to Mormons, (although see thisresponse post for an interesting breakdown of the debate over “Mormon tea”).

But in 1893, Nagai blazed a chemical trail that would live in infamy: he used ephedrine to synthesize meth.

As with LSD, it took the world a couple decades to catch on. In 1919, a younger protégé of Nagai named Akira Ogata discovered a new method of synthesizing the crystalline form of the new stimulant, giving the world crystal meth.

It wasn’t until World War II, however, that meth became widespread as a handy tool for keeping tank and bomber crews awake. By 1942, Adolf Hitler was receiving regular IV injections of meth from his physician, Theodor Morell. Two years later the American pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories won FDA approval for meth as a prescription treatment for a host of ills ranging from alcoholism to weight gain.


Ambar: a potent mixture of methamphetamine and phenorbarbital, shown here in a mean-spirited 1964 advertisement that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 1, No. 5385).

The rest is history—by the 1960s, “tweakers” had made meth a byword for deranged drug addicts, and it lost its standing in the scientific and medical communities. Much like heroin, which was originally marketed by Bayer as a companion to aspirin (the company still technically owns the copyright to the name), meth began life as a wonder drug only to segue into a depraved middle age.

It all points to an interesting and unexplored dichotomy in the history of drugs: there’s a huge gap between the inventors of illicit drugs—usually rather austere, cerebral and disciplined—and their consumers.

I’m guessing that Robert Hooke, Nagayoshi Nagai, Albert Hoffman, and Walter White would have a lot to talk about.

This post is part of a larger series. Read the next installment.

Burning Man seems tailor-made for the psychedelic movement. Founder and Director Michael Mikel, aka Danger Ranger, used to hang out in a house in the Berkeley hills in the early years, with a bunch of techies from the Mondo 2000/WIRED scene and acid straight from Stanford’s Chemistry Lab, which provided the gear for the original “acid tests”. In a panel discussion with This Is Burning Man author Brian Doherty in July 2013 , Danger Ranger said:

“I have a connection to Silicon Valley that goes back to the beginning of the personal computer…We were all hanging out a lot, I was meeting people who were from Mondo 2000 which was the pre-cursor of Wired magazine. We were going to parties, I’d go over to their house in Berkeley, they had connections to the Stanford Chemistry Lab, they had drugs that had not been outlawed yet – it was out on the edge, it was really crazy. A lot of the connections came from out of that tech industry because we knew each other and we hung out” [YouTube, from 19:20]

Larry Harvey and Grateful Dead songwriter (and Electronic Frontier Foundation founder) John Perry Barlow gave an interview in London for Tech Crunch last year, where they described the long history of inter-relationships between psychedelic drugs, the counter-culture, and the tech industry, as outlined in John Markoff’s book What the Dormouse Said.

Burning Man takes place on Federal Land, where marijuana is illegal even if you have a medical prescription for it in your home state. Alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, and cigarettes are an illegal drug if you are younger than 18. Even Ambien, Viagra, and Xanax are illegal if you don’t have a current doctor’s prescription for them.
Given all that, I’m wondering – have you ever done illegal drugs at Burning Man? This poll is totally anonymous and there is no way to track your vote back to you, you don’t need to provide a name or email address to answer.

Science at Burning Man: Say What?


“Burning Man: where exceptionally capable people prepare themselves for the zombie apocalypse” …maybe that’s what the Chinook’s there for

Originally posted on Quantum Frontiers:

Burning Man… what a controversial topic these days. The annual festival received quite a bit of media attention this year, with a particular emphasis on how the ‘tech elite’ do burning man. Now that we are no longer in the early September Black Rock City news deluge I wanted to forever out myself as a raging hippie and describe why I keep going back to the festival: for the science of course!

This is a view of my camp, the Phage, as viewed from the main street in Black Rock City.

This is a view of my camp, the Phage, as viewed from the main street in Black Rock City. I have no idea why the CH-47 is doing a flyover… everything else is completely standard for Burning Man. Notice the 3 million Volt Tesla coil which my roommates built.

I suspect that at this point, this motivation may seem counter-intuitive or even implausible, but let me elaborate. First, we should start with a question: what is Burning Man? Answer: this question is…

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