26 April, 2013

Drops of Jupiter

I spent yesterday evening watching a presentation of work from the Center for Investigative Research at Open Show Bay Area, this time hosted at the Berkeley Rep. It was fantastic. The CIR has been on my radar ever since I read their piece The Shooter, and the work presented at Open Show was of the same high quality. In fact, we watched a video from the Broken Shield project, which project nearly won the reporters a 2013 Pulitzer Prize (they were finalists).

After the presentations, we went to the nearby beer garden Jupiter for drinks and chatter. That's when I pulled my camera out and took a few pictures. For your enjoyment, a few vignettes from Jupiter.
Two chefs prepare food in the kitchen.
One of the chefs on the pizza crew tosses a pizza dough.
A bartender moves some glasses to a dish rack before sending them through the dishwasher.

19 April, 2013

Night Flight

15 April, 2013

To Revive the M35

Over the past couple months, I've been working with some folks on what will hopefully become a Burning Man art car. The base vehicle is an M35 "deuce-and-a-half" 2.5-ton-capacity military truck which currently sits at the NIMBY workspace in Oakland, CA. The truck was parked there after transmission issues left it immobile a few years back, and there it has sat until Casey, our fearless leader, came a-lookin'.

Well, technically, it's continued to sit since then, but we're getting mighty close to having her rollin' again. During this past weekend, Casey fired up the engine and it ran well and sounded pretty healthy. At this point, we're generally working our way through the drivetrain, starting at the powerplant and getting all the way to the wheels at some indeterminate moment in the future.

I spent the majority of my own time under the truck, hammering away at one thing or another (at times literally). Consequently, most of the photos are from that vantage point. Enjoy!
Denise (left) and Sean (right) work on cleaning the truck. Denise spent the day combing over the undercarriage with a screwdriver and air blower, removing what loads of dust and other muck had accumulated over untold years. Sean used a hammer and another screwdriver trying to fight his way through the truck's military-spec 3-layer paint job in order to make the frame-stamped VIN legible once more.
Matt wrangles with the instrument cluster after it became apparent during the startup that the tachometer was non-functional.
Casey sprays some Liquid Wrench on a pair of nuts and bolts that I would then spend the following 2 hours removing. I don't entirely understand how a 5/8" nut could provide as much resistance to a 1.5ft breaker bar as it did, for as long as it did, but I finally got the best of it.

In this case, the bolt holds a short strut that serves as the attachment point between a cabin-accessible lever and the transfer case, which is the part that distributes torque from the transmission (green, top-left) to whichever drive wheels are selected, possibly with a gear reduction. Given that we had previously replaced the transmission wholesale, the transfer case was the next step away from the engine.
And speaking of the transfer case, this is not how you want your gear oil to look. First off, the caked-on green formerly-dust shows that the drain plug had been leaking for a long while, and the wet appearance all around the area shows that it was still actively leaking when I got to it.

Even better, the dark olive color means that the oil had been gathering contaminants — the natural color is lighter and more translucent — and the color striations mean that the lubricant had started to break down into an emulsion, likely due in part to water intrusion. Really, the only good thing was that I didn't see any bits of metal coming out as well.
But it's all in a day's work, I suppose. And though there'll surely be plenty more work in the weeks and months to come, there's still something satisfying about making demonstrable progress, stopping to admire the clash of industry and natural beauty that is a NIMBY sunset, and then heading on home.

11 April, 2013

SF Jazz Center: Sounds Good

This past weekend, I went to see Hiromi: The Trio Project at the recently-opened SF Jazz Center. A friend had mentioned that the acoustics were fantastic, and that they were. The trio of Hiromi on piano, Anthony Jackson on 6-string bass guitar, and Simon Phillips on drums sounded amazing. In the photo, the Trio receives a standing ovation after their encore performance.
After the show, I had a chance to take in the architecture in the lobby, where a number of concert attendees stood around and waited (perhaps for autographs? I'm not sure).
A woman checks her phone in front of a staircase from the lobby to the second floor. I figured on first glance that the metal rods were intended to prevent children from falling off, but I just noticed that they likely double as the support mechanism for the staircase — the staircase has no support columns, and the glass at the far end is non-load-bearing. Nifty.

03 April, 2013

BYOBW 2013: Comin' In Hot

This Easter was my fifth year shooting Bring Your Own Big Wheel, which is itself in its tenth year, and it was just as raucous, hilarious, and crowded as ever. That said, over the years, I feel like I've gotten to know BYOBW a little bit. The first year or two were mostly crazed excitement, but now it's crazed excitement plus maybe a little bit of nuance.

That is, once you experience an event enough times, you start to gain some higher-level context that was easy to miss at the outset. You start to learn things about the prior episodes. You spot patterns, and you also begin to notice the event changing over time. And lo, the times are a-changin', although not too much, so far.

With each passing Easter Sunday, it feels like the general age range of participants has expanded. BYOBW is growing into an event not only for the crazy among us, but also for the people (and parents) who might not be as adventurous.
In the time that I've been watching, couples' vehicles and groups of friends have always been pretty common. More recently, I've also noticed more kids taking part, whether it be on their own, with a parent, or with (presumably) siblings.
The participation at the other end of the age spectrum has increased as well. I found these two folks sitting near the start as people were packing up and leaving.
The "big wheel runners" have also become more organized and have put more effort into dressing for the part. This guy had a variety of props, including the maracas, an American flag and matching umbrella hat, and a slide whistle. Each time I saw him, he seemed to be running a different gag.
But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And certainly as BYOBW has evolved, its defining characteristics have only served to become more prominent. For one, it's as thrilling as ever, due in large part to the sheer steepness and twistiness of the course.
And the costumes remain outstanding. I got some shots of "Michael Jackson" the last two years, and this year he was back again. For his last run down the hill, he found a tiny Tonka truck with a missing wheel to ride, and he'd grind along for a couple meters, get up and do some dance moves, and then "hop" back on to start the process over again.
And it's still volunteer-run and funded by individual donations. Here, a finish line volunteer salutes the crowd as he walks up the hill at the conclusion of the event.
In many ways, Bring Your Own Big Wheel remains a microcosm of San Francisco itself: quirky, adventurous, inclusive. The mere possibility for an event like this to begin, to persist, and to grow and evolve is in itself a reflection of SF culture.

But now, the event is bumping into a challenge that has also plagued its parent city: sustainability. As enthusiasm over the event has flourished, the BYOBW organizers are now fighting to keep the the event from outgrowing its venue. Roads that are steep and twisty are few and far between.

This year's run is already in the books, though, and from what I could tell, it was a shining success. Much like SF before it, BYOBW has managed to roll with the punches while maintaining its own unique culture.
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