Sondage OsstidBurn 2018


L’OsstidBurn is an excellent regional burn held near Montréal. Unfortunately their WordPress installation is being non-excellent right now, so I’m posting the results of the post-event survey I performed here temporarily…

gcloud compute ssh improvements & EMACS TRAMP mode


For anyone using Google Compute Engine (an excellent alternative to Amazon’s AWS EC2), the following wrappers and configs will make your life easier…

gcloud compute ssh wrapper to figure out the zone automatically

Put this in your path and you’ll be able to connect to an instance without figuring out its zone in advance:
gssh jody-imageserver-test

gcloud compute scp wrapper to figure out the zone automatically

Put this in your path and you’ll be able to scp to/from an instance without figuring out its zone in advance:
gscp somefile jody-imageserver-test:
gscp jody-imageserver-test:somefile .

gcloud config wrapper to easily select the correct configuration

Put this in your path to make selecting configurations easier.

gc             # list configurations
gc prod        # switch to the "default" configuration (prod is an alias)
gc someconfig  # switch to the "someconfig" configuration

Finally, EMACS TRAMP support!

Add this to your .emacs file to add a gssh method to TRAMP that connects to GCE instances on Google Cloud:

gssh is a script I wrote that should be in your path – see above. If you don’t find gssh useful, you can replace it with gcloud compute ssh .

Based on https://qiita.com/tanatana/items/218b19808f2428b125fe

Flat Pack Kitchen Shelves & Wash Station


A friend asked me if there were plans for the kitchen shelves and wash station I’ve built for festivals. There weren’t, but there are now!

At some point I’ll redo these in CAD, but for now my sketches should be good enough to build from.

  • Materials: These should be built out of decent-quality plywood. 5/8″ is recommended as the best strength-to-weight choice but 3/4″ will work. If you have scrap plywood it’s definitely possible to use it; the second set of these I built used only one new sheet. You can adjust the depth of the two lower shelves on the right to make better use of scrap, but make sure you adjust the slot depths too.
  • Basins: These shelves were designed to be used with a particular transparent, lidded basin available at many retailers (Canadian Tire in Canada and Target in the US at least). I don’t have the model number but it was made by Sterilite and has about a 12 litre capacity. If you can’t find this exact basin something around that size will work, but make sure you adjust the cutout size. The cutout should be smaller than the container for obvious reasons. The container should sit 1/2 – 1″ above the plywood to allow the lids to be snapped on and off more easily (see photo below).When in doubt make the cutout too small – it’s easier to make it bigger but difficult to make it smaller :)


Anyway, here are the plans. Enjoy, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements!

Also Marc R-N drew this in Sketchup!


The plans are Copyright 2017 firetiger@modernduck.com, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 International.

This is not a place of honor.


Source / context

This place is a message…and part of a system of messages…pay attention to it!

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here…nothing valued is here.

What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

The danger is in a particular location…it increases toward a center…the center of danger is here…of a particular size and shape, and below us.

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.

The danger is to the body, and it can kill.

The form of the danger is an emanation of energy.

The danger is unleashed only if you substantially disturb this place physically. This place is best shunned and left uninhabited.



Just leaving this here…


Frostburn 2013


I went to Frostburn last weekend. It was pretty fun, but also pretty freezing. The highlights for me were my campmate Steph deep frying All The Things, eating at the White Dragon Noodle Bar, seeing our campmate Mick’s flame effects, and hanging out with the rest of the Totenkitten Empire.

The big downside was the cold.. it was too cold for Seth’s usually amazing flame effects to run at anything near their full glory, and the cold kept me from doing a lot of the things I normally enjoy at burner events. It also meant that a lot of things happened inside heated tents, which made it hard to know what was worth going to: “If I go all the way over there, will there be people in the tent? And will they be doing interesting things? Or is everyone there way too drunk to be interesting?”

Also, the big burn on Saturday night was a huge letdown – they built a giant sculpture and set it on fire, and it burned so slowly that it was actually boring. And our neighbours (whom we nicknamed Bad Music Camp) kept us awake with extremely loud… well… bad music.

All in all, I don’t think I’ll go back to Frostburn. It was fun but not amazing, and burner events should be amazing.

Liz posted her photos here (you might need a Facebook account to see them, but they’re “public”).

Movember is here, and so is my shed (almost!)

I’m participating in Movember this year – go here to donate or if you just want to see what I look like with a moustache!

Also I spent a good chunk of the summer and fall building a shed. I dug a hole, poured a concrete slab for the foundation, built and raised the walls, put up rafters, added OSB cladding and plywood roof decking, covered the roof (in 1 long day), installed windows and a garage door, and now I’m working on the siding. I’ll post details and photos when it’s done (or when I stop for the year), but for now you can follow my progress on Google Plus.

How to get stuff from Montréal to Burning Man (and back!)

A few people have asked me about this recently, so I’m going to summarize the options I know about. Please share your experiences in the comments, especially if you’ve tried one of the options I haven’t or if you have more up to date costs than I do.

Advice on flying:
  • You might be able to take more than you think.  Consider the costs of baggage when you book your ticket.  Most airlines let you take 2 pieces up to 50 pounds for not much extra.  If you’re flying business class (even on points) your allowance is probably a lot more, and also if you have status (obtained by flying large numbers of miles in one year) with the airline.
  • What pieces should you take?  A large cooler if you need one – a 66 litre cooler is within standard baggage dimensions and you can fill it with stuff.  For your second piece, a well made duffle like the extra large MEC duffle bag is usually within standard dimensions or close enough to fool a checkin agent.
  • Bring extra bags (stuffed into one of your bags) so you can reorganize after landing… especially important if you bring a cooler :)
  • Don’t forget carryon.  A standard sized rollaboard is actually pretty big and you can get away with a small backpack as well.  Theoretically there’s a weight limit but they never check – as long as you can comfortably lift the rollaboard over your head to put it in the bin, bring it.
  • Be aware of the TSA’s Prohibited Items List. (TSA, not CATSA rules apply if you’re flying from YUL to a US destination.)

OK, enough of that.  What if you’re running a theme camp or bringing medium/large art?

Driving options:

These options are all expensive but the idea is you share the costs among theme camp participants.  For example, Midnight Poutine had around 20 members in both 2009 and 2010, so we all paid about $100 each for shipping (and about $100 each to cover poutine itself).  I strongly suggest collecting money up front and then refunding people if there’s a surplus rather than trying to chase down people after the burn.

  • Boston container. You pay for “shares” of the container, which are 100 cubic feet.  In practice you can get away with 150 cubic feet or so per share, unless people start checking closely which is unlikely because Burners.  It’s a community effort run out of Boston.  The container loads on a Saturday 3 weeks before burn night, and unloads 2 weeks after.  You need to drive your stuff down to Boston and help load in, then drive it back after unload.Costs: in 2009: $2000 total for 200 cubic feet.  We paid $1000 for 2 shares and $1000 in van rental + gas for 2 round trips to Boston.  If you can borrow a van or trailer, the van + gas cost will be around $500, so $1500 total.

    Want to do this?  Shares go on sale very soon after the end of Firefly and are usually announced on the Boston Burners list.  Someone needs to monitor this list several times a day and be ready with money to PayPal to the appropriate place to secure some shares because they usually sell out within hours.  There is also a Boston Container mailing list but share sales are not always announced there.  Here’s the 2011 information page.

    There is also a New York container. I don’t know anything about it other than it’s further to get stuff to NYC and their share cost is higher.

  • Van. In 2010 I bought a van and drove it down.  It cost about $1500 in gas (which is about 10% more expensive now, so figure $1650) which was covered by my theme camp and $1100 in vehicle wear and repairs, which was not.  Still, if you pack it right, this option may be cheaper than the Boston container because you can carry 2 people and save them from buying plane tickets.An extended (allongée) GMC Savana or Ford Econoline holds about 280 cubic feet.  It’s 48 hours of driving.. I did it in 4 days alone, but I’ve heard of teams of 2 doing it in 48 hours straight.
  • Truck. In 2011 a camp called Nit Whips rented a 16′ box truck.  Total budget for the truck, insurance, and fuel was $5000.  I don’t know what their final costs were.  A truck of that size holds about 800 cubic feet, so this is cheaper per cubic foot than a Savana if you can pack it efficiently enough.If you’re renting a vehicle, make sure you tell them it’s going to the US because some agencies won’t allow this and the ones that do usually charge a lot more for insurance.
  • Trailer. I haven’t done this myself but Ocean provided this information via email: “I tow my 13 foot Aliner every year driving my 2005 Nissan X-trail. It is light and did not increase my fuel consumption by much, however I’m sure I still spent between $1800-$2200 in fuel and travel there and back. Another friend tows a 13 foot airstream with an X-terra and had slightly higher cost, $2400.

    In 2008, that budget was nearly half due to better fuel rates.”

Options I’ve thought about but never done:
  • Sharing space with Toronto – This is on your way to the playa by the most direct route. In 2015 Fire Tetris shared space with a Toronto-based fire arts crew. We rented a 16′ truck for two weekends (in August and September) for the Montréal to Toronto legs, and then paid a size-based share of the Toronto crew’s truck costs. Costs were $1222.17 for the Montréal <--> Toronto transport, and $1893.26 for our share of the Toronto <--> BRC segment. We also paid for professional customs brokerage, again shared with the Toronto crew – our share was $463.08. The Toronto crew dealt with a couple of unexpected issues that you should be aware of. First of all their original truck company canceled their reservation at the last minute after realizing that they were not insured to go to the US (despite the Toronto crew originally confirming this with the truck company), forcing them to rent from someone else at a higher cost. Also their truck was overweight, forcing them to use back roads (and a scout vehicle) to dodge open highway weigh stations.

I hope this information is useful to you.  Please let me know your experiences in the comments or by private email (scjody@modernduck.com) This page was last updated in August 2016 – I do update it regularly so keep those emails coming!

Ceiling Magma!!!

Ceiling Magma, originally uploaded by scjody.

Liz & I put some holes in the walls and ceilings last Caturday as part of my renovation planning. It took Magma 6 days to figure out how to get up into the ceiling, but here he is! Meow!

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