the emplayment agent is in

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

so, i’ve hinted at this a few times, but now i’m gonna make an announcement all official-like.


this year at burning man, i am going to be an emplayment agency.

yep, i said emplayment.
catchy, right?

the theme this year is metropolis, and in that spirit, my goal is to enrich the public service sector of our fair city by helping to connect camps who are doing awesome things with burners who are looking for awesome things to do.

my plan, as of this writing, is to construct a small wagon that can be hitched to two bicycles and thusly gallivanted around.

on this wagon, there will be a bulletin board.

on this bulletin board, i will post emplayment opportunities, as they come to my attention, either because friends tell me about them before the burn, or because i happen across awesome people during the week.

black rock city has some of those.

i will wander wherever the winds carry me, and converse with whomever i encounter.

when people wander up to me, i will show them the board, and if an emplayment opportunity appeals to them, i will write the details on a sticker and affix it to something they are already carrying.

if necessary, i will affix it to them directly.

or emplay a body painter, when available.

whether the emplayee will actually take advantage of their selected emplayment opportunity will be entirely up to them, and i will make no promises to emplayers.

i am but a portal.

i will also have a base camp, with shade, basic rations, and a coalition of fun people.

you should be one of those people.

we will all pitch in somehow and make the base camp better.

you don’t have to follow the emplayment wagon if you would rather be otherwise engaged.

but i expect that my journey will be highly entertaining…

inquire within.

then let me know what you figure out.

UPDATE: thanks to those of you whom i have spoken with off-blog about the evolution of this idea. i now know for certain that i will be camped with a great group of people and all of our basic needs should be met. my father and uncle have also agreed to help me construct the actual wagon, and construction has begun with the materials that we have around. more materials will be needed, particularly to light the wagon so that it will be safe to travel at night. i also need to get the bikes and construct a hitching mechanism and a new handle to tow the wagon with. a friend of mine in utah may be helping with that end of the project, but the details are still being worked out.

here are a couple of sketches for the main design that my dad and i have been working on.

Emplayment Agency Design Sketch 1

Emplayment Agency Design Sketch 2

i’ll keep you posted as more unfolds!

transcontinental winterlude, part ii: journey to the east

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

my drive to pittsburgh unfolded pretty much as predicted in my itinerary, with the notable exception that i decided not to push myself to drive from boulder to chicago with only a powernap.

car-based powernaps suck pretty hard in the winter.

instead, i booked a cheap hotel in omaha, which split the drive into two easy 8ish hour pieces. i arrived at the hotel late after leaving boulder in a leisurely manner, woke up feeling rested, and headed out into a clear, cold nebraska morning. as i crossed into iowa, the sides of the interstate were quite literally littered with cars that had gone off the road during the dark and windblown night. i was glad that i had opted for the layover, and even more so when i was delayed getting into chicago, first by more snow, and then because i missed my exit and couldn’t turn around and had to figure out a new way to approach the city. this would have been an annoying turn of events at the tail-end of a nonstop from colorado, but as it was i remained relatively unfazed, and when i finally made it to my destination, i was rewarded by the homemade gnocchi and surly wit of dave carter, whom i had not seen in person in years.

FTW, as the cool kids say.

prior to chicago, i had stopped in san jose, ogden, and boulder, as planned, and i tell you whut, there are few warm fuzzies to rival four nights with four friends in four states, trailing behind you across your mental map like twinkling christmas lights, reminding you of how many cool people you know.

so thanks, everybody.
keep up the awesome. :)

the fifth and final light in my eastbound string was pittsburgh, and a bright and festive light it was, indeed. i made it just in time to follow reed on a gleeful crosstown slalom run through the snow-laden streets around cmu to meet a hardy group of friends who were gathered at the sharp edge to discuss the upcoming weekend and drink beer. i really like pittsburgh, and it was fun to have a couple of days to enjoy the town and see my friends. on thursday, colin helped me make two ginormous pots of stew for us to eat on sunday night, and on friday, we all headed north to set up camp and discover what frostburn had in store.

for those of you who need the cliff’s notes: there’s burning man, in the middle of the desert, for the full week before labor day, and then there are the regional burns, all around the world, all throughout the year. every year, more and more people complain about burning man being too big, too commercialized, too popular to be worth the time and expense, and the regional burns are productive outlets for addressing these complaints. don’t like big city life? take the spirit of the party back home. invite your friends. start your own traditions. put your creative juices where your whine is, and leave the gentrification of black rock to the suckers.

or at least, that’s one perspective.

don’t get me wrong: i still love going to burning man, and plan to go for at least a few more years, life willing. it’s like going to vegas, or disney world, except the tourists wear glowfur instead of khakis, and there’s no money once you get there, which makes day-to-day decisions about what to do way less stressful. the sheer scale of black rock city, and the talent that it attracts, and the level of participation that it inspires in its citizens, is amazing. rejuvenating. inspirational. unlike anything else on earth. but it is, in fact, really big. and expensive. and exclusive. and lots of other things that mean that it shouldn’t be the only option on the table. so i wholeheartedly support the regional burns. and, of course, all displays of awesomeness completely unafilliated with the burning man network. i look forward to visiting many of the new temporary towns and cities that are emerging around the world during my time here, and i even hope to play my part in building some of them along the way. so it was fun to see what the pittsburgh burners had to offer.

it was a good group of people, and on saturday night, they burned a wooden snowman in effigy, which is a twist on the rite that i found somewhat clever and amusing, at first, but once there, it won me over on a deeper level.

it was very cold, and snowing lightly, and it took a while for the flame to catch, but when it did, i felt the crowd ignite with it. we stood there in the middle of one of the roughest winters in recent memory; three feet of snow had fallen in the past week alone; a recession was going on in the outside world, and two wars; our political discourse was degenerating into an ugly spiral of name-calling and publicity stunts; and there was still another long month between us and spring.

and yet, here we all were, camping in a small stand of woods on the fringes of suburbia, huddling together for warmth one moment, and stripping off layers the next, as the flame began to roar and reach high into the night. at one point, people began picking up handfuls of snow and hurling them onto the fire, as if daring it to go out, but it was far too strong. it was like a collective shout of “take that, old man winter! show us what you’re made of. we’ve got everything we need right here.”

in other words, pittsburgh gets it. and it was an honor to share in their burn.

on the way back to our camp, rachel led us to a dome i hadn’t visited yet, and we were met there by three people, sitting around a woodburning stove, discussing religion in rather serious tones. feeling somewhat dazed, and glad for the warmth after tromping through the snow for a while, we sat down. matthew was wearing a scarf made out of a chain of small stuffed elephants, and whryne kept interjecting comments, some of which were in response to the conversation that continued unabated around us, and some of which were random observations about other things that caught her attention.

i lay back on the bench that ran the circumference of the dome, and smiled blissfully in response to the whole situation.

soon, two of the serious sounding people left, and the one who remained took off his shirt and began making pizza after pizza in the woodburning stove, which suddenly had my full attention. the dome also contained several hammocks, suspended from the upper bars, and many dangling bike wheels, which sounded cool if you strummed their spokes with a spatula. in short, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and i will now do all that i can to help judy and adam make it to the playa, if that remains their goal.

i will also continue to banter with them on facebook.

upon returning to camp, i finally tried my hand at flaming simon, and then a group of people pulled up with a small wagon and began constructing a statue out of precut pieces of balsa wood. i called it “the robot emperor”, because it reminded me of the emperor in my tarot deck, but it was also clearly a robot, so there you go. it was holding a book in one hand, and something i can’t remember in the other, and it was sitting on top of a pyramid, like a simultaneously ancient and futuristic deity. it was awesome to watch them erect it, which was clearly a part of the show, as it happened very quickly, like a puzzle being put together on fast forward. then, of course, they set it on fire, leaving nothing but a pile of ash for the people who wandered past later to wonder about.

and that is a pretty good summary of the events that took place between 7 and midnight on saturday, with the notable exception of the period during which matthew and i carved out a snowfa underneath the disco ball that was dangling from the porch at bat country, and proceeded to converse with everyone who entered or exited the bar. that was a good time, but honestly, the details kind of blur together, so i think that’s all you’re gonna get.

many other things happened over the course of the weekend, including probable low-dose carbon monoxide poisoning from the ridonculous jet-engine style kerosene heaters that we rented to heat our main tent, and the appointment of henry as pharaoh, due in some part to his forward-thinking planting strategies and commitment to gathering input from the people, but mostly because it was widely held that he looked killer in the shiny gold hat.

my eastward journey was therefore a complete success, and i had one night to recover in reed and sue’s lovely guest room before turning my nose back west and heading to bloomington, where i was due to be reunited with a great many things that were being stored for me, and also to visit with friends who had not make the pilgrimage to frostburn.

but for that story, you must wait for part iii…

i didn’t overcook the lamb! but i also didn’t make the sea cucumbers.

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

for the next installment in the “what have you been doing other than facebook?” series (hereafter referred to as WHYB.FB?), i will discuss the following:

i went to burning man!

Kynthia grinning in dusty goggles

for my third pilgrimage to black rock city, i agreed to run the kitchen for the golden cafe, which i also did last year, but this year i was excited because more people signed up to help cook, and i had more experience, including the experience of already acquiring equipment, which meant that part would hopefully be easier this time around.

Lucifer talking in the bar

i was basically responsible for:
– making sure that all of the basic equipment was purchased/borrowed/found and transported to the playa somehow;
– making sure that someone signed up to cook for each slot on the meal plan, or signing up myself, or letting lucifer buy MREs;
– making sure that each person who signed up to cook understood that they were responsible for either purchasing and transporting their own food, or giving me a list;
– making three supper club menus that were separate from the meal plan;
– recruiting people to help me cook on supper club nights (TWR);
– purchasing the food i needed for supper club and the food that other people asked me to get;
– transporting all the food i bought;
– making sure there was enough cooler/refrigerator space for all the food throughout the week;
– organizing the kitchen somewhat so that it could be used by many different people without driving them (or me) completely insane;
– communicating with the power and trash teams throughout the week;
– encouraging camp members and random passersby to wash dishes even though it was a disgusting job in an environment without running water or drains;
– making creative use of leftovers and unused/forgotten food so that food waste was minimized as much as possible;
– overseeing cleanup, packing, and distribution of leftovers and equipment;
– transporting my own share of the leftovers and equipment home to sit in a dusty pile until i get around to sorting through it (current progress ~ 40%);
– making notes about what to do better next year (current progress (~ 10%);
– vowing to do everything differently if i’m ever crazy enough to do such a job again.

considering that this list should probably be split between 3-4 people for maximum efficiency and enjoyment, things went quite well, though some concessions were made in the form of crazy supper club menu items that very few people even knew i was considering. i decided that going the safe route at the last minute was preferable, seeing as that way i got to do some other things, too, like climb on the giant monkey bars on our corner, or spin on the teeter-totter of death next door, or go all the way out to the giant slide. this year was a year of playground equipment, and i rather enjoyed that trend.


purchasing and transport were way easier this year, but seeing as how last year i almost had a nervous breakdown in the week before the burn, and ended up going way over budget because i had to rent a hotel room to hold all the stuff i was buying and then rent a van to transport it, the bar to beat was not very high.

the worst thing on playa this year was that my back really hurt the whole week, and that made it harder to want to do other things when i wasn’t cooking, which kind of sucked. i did manage to get out several times, and i saw the big sights, and i made new friends, so all was well. one morning, a friend of the camp even stopped by on his way to volunteer at the heebie jeebie healers, and i got a reiki session without having to wait in line, so that was awesome. that was thursday morning, and the night before, an experienced line cook had sauntered in to help with supper club just as i was about to pull my hair out, so i didn’t have to grate any cheese, and then i had excellent company wandering around the city til dawn, so the universe provides. :)


and as for the kitchen, all three nights of supper club were very well received, so that was quite rewarding. i did, in fact, not overcook the lamb, and neither did i make the sea cucumbers, which was the name i came up with for cucumbers that i cored, stuffed with crab/seaweed salad, chilled, sliced, and flash fried. at one point, i also tried wrapping them in nori, but it didn’t really like to stick, so i ditched that step. i think it would work better with a layer of sticky rice, and i might try the whole thing again sometime, when not in the desert. more disappointing was the loss of the cheddar-apple ties, which were cool little apple and cheddar sandwiches that i wrapped in pie crust and grilled. i was stressing out that night, and we already had grilled cheesecake for dessert, so hassling with pie crust seemed silly.

in the end, i had a lot of fun, enjoyed some excellent food, and met many amazing and generous people, which is always the biggest joy of burning man. i was considering that i would not be in the country for burning man 2010, but now i think i will be, but i will not be running the cafe kitchen again, which will doubtless be a bit sad, but also very liberating. one of our most awesome new camp members – tigerlily – has agreed to take on the infrastructure portion of the kitchen alone, which means the meal plan and potential supper club portions will be handled separately, which is smart. i might be convinced to cook one meal, but as of now, i believe that my main focus is going to be the creation of a wandering employment agency and impromptu soup kitchen. the theme next year is ‘metropolis’ and i figure any real city needs social services. :)

Kynthia with a Popeye face

i do no real planning for burning man until after president’s day, however, as a personal concession to sanity.

so more thoughts there after the year turns over, yes?

in the meantime, i’ll keep trying to clear the brush of these WHYB.FB backstories…

weekend project – send party materials to antarctica

Friday, October 24th, 2008

um, the latest burningman newsletter announces that mcmurdo station is having a regional burn over thanksgiving weekend.
and they need us to send them toys.


if i can’t find something to contribute to that cause then i need to rearrange my priorities.