Tag Archives: Nevada

“Black Rock City, NV” Unpacks the Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man

The annual Black Rock City gathering of artists and hell-raisers known to us as Burning Man brings forth some of the most wild architectural structures we’ve seen on planet earth. In fact, many of the temporary dwellings summon an otherworldly quality… But that’s the whole point of the week-long festival.

Who else, other than the organizers of Burning Man, would think to hold an event in the middle of the unforgiving Nevada desert. It would turn out that this seclusion, and subjection to the heat, sand, and desolation of the desert elements, makes the festival and its art all the more intense.

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How housing experiments at Burning Man could help refugees

Camping on ‘Extraterrestrial’, one of the ‘streets’ at Burning Man 2013
Camping on ‘Extraterrestrial’, one of the ‘streets’ at Burning Man 2013

The desert festival in Nevada is inspiring new ideas about temporary homes and contemporary living

The question of building instant, post-trauma communities for the 21st century is one that has racked brains from Syria to New Orleans and Dhaka, but some of the answers could be provided by an experimental festival held every year in a North American desert. 

Burning Man is set in the inhospitable Black Rock desert of Nevada where, this week, 70,000 hippies, techies and adventurers will get down to some serious circus stunts, dancing and nightlong pyrotechnics. Costumes range from a human eyeball to camouflage-style queens in full regalia.

Yet, among these curious desert blooms, it is possible to find some radical, sustainable architecture.

Vinay Gupta, inventor of the Hexayurt, first tested his prototype cardboard living structure at Burning Man in 2003. He believes his flat-pack structures are a cheaper, more durable solution for refugee camps than the tents often used by big aid agencies.

Burning Man Art

In Black Rock City – as the sprawling Burning Man encampment is known – thousands of campers now use one of Gupta’s 13 designs and others that have evolved.

While take-up has been slow within the NGO community, the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, is now considering using alternatives to tents, inspired by the likes of Gupta’s eco-friendly temporary housing. The Ikea Foundation is funding a project with the UNHCR to create unique flat-packed homes designed by Sweden’s Johan Karlsson for refugees, which are at present being tested on the Ethiopian-Somali border.

Burning Man Art

“What Burning Man is doing is bringing back the idea of mass-produced housing,” says Gupta, speaking from a UN development programme in Belarus. While the likes of the Red Cross and the UN have been harder to convince, some techies facing high housing costs in urban centres are taking the festival’s ideas on board. For example, Alice Yu, a community manager at web app company Meteor, lives in a yurt she built herself in San Francisco.

Other living designs tested at Burning Man include yurtdomes, geotensic structures and the icosa pod, a structure based on triangular tensions. Meanwhile, companies such as Shelter Systems and World Shelters have blossomed out of the festival and now provide shelters for emergency disaster relief agencies.

While the ideas often look space-age, the roots of this type of innovation can be traced back to the work of Buckminster Fuller, the 20th century inventor of the geodesic dome.

Burning Man acts as an annual laboratory for architecture, art and design, but its role as an incubator of creativity has been somewhat limited to its participants and the not-for-profit groups that the festival has spawned. However, practical ideas for coping with the extreme hot days and cold nights experienced at the week-long event are starting to attract wider interest.

Projects like the hexayurt are exactly the kind of creative contribution to world living that the organisers of Burning Man have fostered since they started the festival in 1986 as an annual fire ceremony.

Burning Man Art

The festival aims to meld self-sufficiency and communal existence. There is no currency at the event other than trading skills or goods with each other, while everyone has to bring in their own food, water and other supplies.

Preparation is key to enjoying the festival – made famous by San Francisco’s tech elite. People can stay for as long as 10 days, while others fly in for shorter stints. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos have all padded “the Playa” – the term used for the flat, desert setting – alongside people from a variety of backgrounds, from business school yuppies to ageing hippies.

Burning Man gives people permission to experiment and think of possibilities they may not have tried before

Burning Man Art

It was the festival that gave Casey Fenton the inspiration for his global website Couchsurfing, which helps people sign up to stay on strangers’ sofas. “It was going to Burning Man and seeing regular people really going for their dream,” says Fenton, who attended his first festival at the age of 21 and has returned regularly over the past 15 years. “I left thinking I could do something. It’s a really, really inspiring place.”

Burning Man Art

The design of Black Rock City – the brainchild of the late Rod Garrett – is a radial arc, which has allowed the festival to grow or shrink every year without changing the urban plan.

“What is really interesting about Burning Man is it gives people permission to experiment and think of possibilities that they may never have been able to do before. When you start applying that to problem-solving it starts to get really interesting,” says Carmen Mauk, executive director of Burners without Borders, a not-for-profit group that initiates community initiatives and disaster relief.

The ideas behind the “maker movement” – another important backbone of the festival that encourages people to build and create – have even reached the corridors of power in Washington DC.

Barack Obama, the US president, hosted the first White House Maker Faire in June. “Our parents and our grandparents created the world’s largest economy and strongest middle class not by buying stuff, but by building stuff – by making stuff, by tinkering and inventing and building,” he said at the event.

Burning Man Art

The original Burning Man festival has created spin-offs around the world, including AfrikaBurn in South Africa, Kiwiburn in New Zealand and Midburn in Tel Aviv.

The community element of Burning Man has taken a grip through groups such as Burners without Borders, which evolved after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, prompting scores of volunteers to head straight from Burning Man to help. Burners – people who attend the festival – also joined the relief efforts after hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Burning Man Art

Other spin-offs include Black Rock Solar, which started out as a volunteer group installing a 30kW solar array at Burning Man in 2007. After donating the panels to the town of Gerlach, Nevada, the group helps schools and hospitals in the area to harness solar power.

The festival is funded by ticket sales, priced from $190 to $650, with students offered the cheaper rates, and it is shaped by 10 principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation and immediacy.

“Leave no trace” is especially emphasised as every attendee is on the look out for “moop”, the Playa slang for rubbish. Every wrapper, every sequin and every feather of every boa has to be removed from the site when the festival ends. There are no dustbins.

“Burning Man is a fantastic case study in the power or repurposing of public space,” says Oliver Schaper, a senior associate at the architectural and design firm Gensler. “The willingness to participate; you have to be in it; you have to be involved.”


CIA admits: All those UFO sightings in 1950s? ‘It was us’

As far as “best of 2014” lists go, the CIA has a pretty irresistible one: On Dec. 22 it started tweeting links to the 10 most popular articles of the year that it shared on Twitter, and the agency arrived at No. 1 yesterday, tweeting:

“Reports of unusual activity in the skies in the ’50s? It was us.” The accompanying link directs readers to The CIA and the U-2 Program, 1954-1974, a 272-page document from 1998 the CIA tweeted a link to in early July, reported KAKE at the time.

The upshot of the report is that the CIA was the culprit behind more than half of the UFO sightings logged in the 1950s and 1960s.

As VentureBeat reports, the CIA tested its U-2 spy planes at 60,000 feet, an altitude that seemed impossible for man to reach at the time—leading observers, specifically pilots, to suspect it wasn’t man up there at all.

VentureBeat highlights a portion of the report that explains that in the mid-1950s, most commercial airliners stuck below 20,000 feet; military aircraft kept it below 40,000 feet.

“Consequently, once U-2s started flying at altitudes above 60,000 feet, air-traffic controllers began receiving increasing numbers of UFO reports.” The CIA actually cross-checked the UFO reports with its flight records, it noted in the document, but in instances when it verified the UFO was really a U-2, it stayed mum.

The report was part of documents declassified in 2013 that famously detailed the existence of Area 51 in Nevada. As for the rest of the CIA’s top 10, it includes a look at a day in the life of a “not yet burned out” CIA Operations Center Officer and a confirmation that pigeon missions remain classified.

Nevada Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana For Sick Pets


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Pets might soon be able to use pot under a bill introduced Tuesday in the Nevada Legislature.

Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom is sponsoring the measure that would allow animal owners to get marijuana for their pet if a veterinarian certifies the animal has an illness that might be alleviated by the drug.

Segerblom said he’s concerned that some animals might have adverse reactions, but “you don’t know until you try,” he said.

Some veterinarians who have given cannabis to sick and dying pets say it has relieved their symptoms, although the substance hasn’t been proven as a painkiller for animals.

Los Angeles veterinarian Doug Kramer told The Associated Press in 2013 that pot helped ease his Siberian husky’s pain during her final weeks, after she had surgery to remove tumors. Kramer said cannabis helped his dog, Nikita, gain weight and live an extra six weeks before she was euthanized.


“I grew tired of euthanizing pets when I wasn’t doing everything I could to make their lives better,” Kramer told the AP. “I felt like I was letting them down.”

The proposal is in its earliest stages and faces several legislative hurdles before it could become law. The pot-for-pets provision of SB372 is part of a larger bill that would overhaul the state’s medical marijuana law, removing penalties for drivers who have marijuana in their blood and requiring training for pot-shop owners.

Segerblom said he added the provision after being approached by a constituent.

Sen. Mark Manendo, a fellow Democrat and animal rights advocate, said he hadn’t heard of the practice of giving marijuana to animals and is concerned about its safety.

“That gives me pause,” he said. “Alcohol is bad, chocolate is bad for dogs.”

His own dog died in his arms at age 15, and the experience was difficult and emotional, he said.

But “I don’t know if I would’ve given him marijuana,” Manendo said.

How the ‘Priceline of Pot’ Is Bringing Comparison Shopping to the Marijuana Boom Startup Wikileaf serves six states and counting

Nelson figures it this way: If there are name-your-price websites for airline tickets, hotel rooms and vacation packages, why not for weed?

“We’re the first site in the marijuana industry to do a price-comparison model,” Nelson said of his site, Wikileaf.com, which launched earlier this year but has just started to hit critical mass. After building the site for close to two years, “it’s nice to finally get some traction,” Nelson said. “We’re like the Priceline of pot.”

Hmmm. The people at Priceline probably wouldn’t want that phrase catching on.

Nevertheless, Nelson’s analogy is a good one. Let’s say you happen to live in a state where pot (medical or recreational) is legal. Chances are you’ve noticed that dispensary prices vary widely, or you’ve suspected there’s a better deal on the other side of town. Wikileaf’s reverse-auction model makes it easy to comparison shop.

Cannabis consumers select what kind of weed they want (a nice Banana Kush, say), then name their price ($20-$350) and enter how far they’re willing to travel to get it (50 miles is the limit). In a split second, Wikileaf trawls through its database of legal cannabis vendors and spits out the best deal.

While dollar-volume figures weren’t immediately available, Nelson said Wikileaf features over 1,100 dispensaries in six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington)—numbers almost certain to grow as the legalization wave continues.

Nelson’s other job is blogging about the banking industry, which is where, oddly enough, he got the idea for his pot-price site.

When interest rates were high, banks used to compete to finance consumers’ home purchases via so-called reverse-auction sites like MoneyAisle.com. The financial meltdown of 2008 killed that business in a hurry, but a seed had been planted.

“It got me thinking about the price-comparison model for the marijuana industry,” Nelson said.

Thus far, Wikileaf.com makes no money, but Nelson hopes that selling exclusive sponsorships triggered by ZIP code—more or less what Google does right now—will eventually give him a revenue stream.

Until then, he’s got a cool idea, and one that competitors will probably try to break into. “Yeah, there will be other sites that’ll try to do this,” he said. “But we have what’s called the first-mover advantage.”

He’s also got a pretty good price on Alien Dawg and Alaskan Ice.

A Woman Died At Burning Man After Being Hit By A Bus

Burning Man

BLACK ROCK DESERT, Nev. (AP) — Officials say a woman was struck and killed by a bus that was carrying passengers around the Burning Man festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Event spokesman Jim Graham says the incident happened just after midnight on Thursday. The woman was pronounced dead on the scene.

Graham says no other injuries were reported. Details about the circumstances of the crash and the woman’s identity weren’t immediately available.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.

Burning Man co-founder Marian Goodell issued a statement calling the crash a tragic accident and saying event staff members were offering support to those who were affected.

Graham says the last death at the event was seven years ago, when an attendee fell under a trailer.

Tesla made 8,763 EVs in the second quarter, on track for 100,000 EVs/year run-rate by end of year

Tesla model s factory electric car

Tesla expects over 35,000 deliveries in 2014

It’s a bit arbitrary to stop every 90 days and look back at what has been accomplished, but that’s how Wall Street looks at things, so why not? Tesla’s second quarter this year was another one of great progress for the electric car maker. There are a few main things that they’re working one, and they all moved forward significantly. 

Top of mind for most people is the work on battery Gigafactory, and the headline there is obviously the deal with Panasonic to provide some of the equipment and financing. Some preliminary work started on a site outside of Reno, Nevada, but this doesn’t mean that it will be the final site of the Gigafactory – the company has always said that the might break ground at many sites while they decide on the final one so as not to waste time – sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and now California too, are still in the running.

The goal is still to have the Gigafactory producing in time for the production of thelower-cost Model 3 electric car.

In the shareholder letter, Elon Musk wrote: “Our customers have now driven the Model S for 394 million miles globally, saving nearly 18 million gallons of gasoline.”

© Tesla

The other main area of interest is of course Model S production. Between April and June, the company made 8,763 vehicles and delivered 7,579, a new record. The reason why more have been made than delivered is not because someone has a broken calculator, but because some are now shipped to Europe and Asia and they take a while to get there.

Tesla has been upgrading its factory in Fremont, California, to be able to produce theModel X, but also to increase the number of Model S EVs that it can make. If all goes well with the retooling, they should be able to deliver 35,000 EVs in 2014 and end the year at a run-rate of 100,000 EVs/year! Talk about growth! It was just last summer that Tesla was proud of its run-rate of 20,000 EVs/year.

They’ve also started making right-hand drive versions of the Model S to sell in places like the UK, where people drive on the wrong side of the road (hold the angry emails, I’m not serious).

The company expects to produce about 9,000 cars in the third quarter. That number would be about 11,000 if they didn’t have to shut down the plant to retool it for the Model X and for faster production. Interestingly, the Model X will be made on the same production lines as the Model S, making production flexible and able to meet whatever demand there is for each model.

© Tesla

The company also keeps building new Supercharger stations around the world, providing these very fast-charging, clean energy-powered, free stations to its customers. They now have 156 of them around the world (most in the U.S.), and together they’ve delivered more than 1 GWh of energy to Model S vehicles in the month of June alone, representing 2.7 million miles of driving.

“Since inception, our customers have driven for free nearly 32 million Supercharged miles, the same distance as traveling to the moon and back, sixty-five times!”

© Tesla