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Do you want to go to not-Ephemerisle 2011? We're starting to talk about dates and want to gauge interest. TSI will not be involved so it will be totally community-organized. If you'd like to go please comment on this post with preferred dates -- we've been considering May - July. May is off-peak so there's less competition for boats and people's burningman prep time, but it's colder. July is warmer but is during peak season.

It's fun!
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Since my camera died mid-Ephemerisle I didn't get around taking nearly as many pictures as I liked.  I did go through other people's pictures and selected my favorites for placement online.  Then I left the folder on my desktop for a couple of months while I was distracted by other things.  They're now attached to the Not-Ephemerisle photoset on flickr

Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)

Rathaball vs waterboarding Matt
Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)
Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)
Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)  Ephemerisle 2010 (other people's pictures I liked)
That was the highlight of an awesome summer. I'm looking forward to next year!
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The Koosh is now installed semi-permanently in the 140B conference room at HackerDojo, a software focused hackerspace in Mountain View. This is way better than having it hide in the darkness in some storage locker.

See how full it hangs in the air, unfettered by the pressures of hard objects and large bodies of water!

Installing the koosh in hackerdojo  Installing the koosh in hackerdojo
Installing the koosh in hackerdojo  Installing the koosh in hackerdojo

Full set of Koosh pictures on flickr
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Unfortunately, the camera that I took around the world for 5 months, my pocket-sized companion and documenter of adventures, died a couple of minutes before the launching of the giant koosh. It had taken close to 16,000 pictures.

So the only photos and videos I got of not-Ephemerisle were from the first day.  As other people upload more, I'll post the best ones here.  

Koosh pieces on roof  Memocracy roof
Koosh assembly  Floating octahedron made from spare pool noodles
Rearranging  Anchors came out...

The Memocracy conference on our houseboat roof:

Not Ephemerisle 2010 - Memocracy talks  Not Ephemerisle 2010 - Memocracy talks
Not Ephemerisle 2010 - Memocracy talks

All my not-ephemerisle photos on flickr

I'm hoping you all have some good photos and share them in high resolution (as in, somewhere that's not Facebook).
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Not-ephemerisle was a wonderful experience. Despite being a "cancelled" event, it came together extremely well, with lots of people pitching in on both the infrastructure and the fun side to make the event a success. I want to write down my thoughts on the event before I forget them:

- Personalities matter. With the right people, a 120-person event can work well with no one in charge. When there's a problem, experts assemble to fix it, and with a smart, diverse group there are several people who are either experts or could become experts quickly in any given area. People put knowledge and collective good over ego and politics, and that helped differences resolve smoothly. Also, most people overprepared for the event. This meant that we were able to absorb unexpected resource shortages rather well.

- Perhaps knowing that no one was in charge helped encourage people to be self-sufficient. When there's no event organizer to blame for any shortfalls, people are more likely to take initiative to address issues as they come up.

- There was a large number of Saturday day-trippers that ended up spending the night, and there was some difficulty in accommodating them. Saturday day-trippers should probably plan on spending the night, and everyone should plan accordingly.

- It really helped that we had two (and, for a day, three) shuttle boats. This (and the dedication of the shuttle boat drivers) made up for the fact that arrival times were not coordinated at all. However, it put a rather heavy burden on a small number of shuttle boat drivers.

- The open meals during dinner were a great way of getting people to know others in different houseboats.

- The Memocracy conference worked out really well. It was well attended and led to lots of interesting conversations. Keeping the talks to 5 minutes ensured rapid flow of ideas and succinctness.

- Paul did a great job of convincing us to reanchor the city further from shore. I'm glad we did. Shoresteading is not a path to seasteading.

- I'm amused that my box of scrap rope literally held the city together. I think I handed out about 10 short pieces of rope to various houseboaters so that they could lash their boats together.

- Boats need more unique appearances. We were easily recognizable from the roof, but not from the ground floor. We hung a Memocracy emblem in the front, but it was too small to be noticeable.

- Wakeboarding is exhilerating. I need to try that again.

- I've invented a new sport -- waketarping. I had never been wakeboarding (or waterskiing, or tubing etc) until this weekend. However, I already had some ideas about interesting things that can be done with a water surface and speedboat power. I wrapped the corner of a tarp around the rope handle that wakeboarders hold onto, and then lay down on the surface of the tarp with my forearms in a position to provide upward slope and structure to the front of the tarp to keep it out of the water. The movement of the speedboat kept the tarp (and me) on the surface of the water. What made waketarping interesting was that I could feel every wave of water pass over my body as I was pulled along on the tarp. The tarp's thinness gave me a much better water sensation than I got from a wakeboard. (I'm going to stop before I work in a condom metaphor) I have some ideas of how to do waketarping right, with a reinforced tarp that contains an inflated section at the front and various straps in the tarp for people to hold onto. It needs a better name -- maybe "magic carpeting"? (Note that you don't want to use a tarp with a rope attached to it... I made this mistake, and the rope caught on the handle and broke, slinging the handle at the boat with enormous amounts of force.)

- The giant koosh worked better in a local swimming pool than out at not-Ephemerisle. People still had a lot of fun on it, but it didn't stand out next to houseboats several times its size. The koosh worked better when it was a large and nearly insurmountable object vs something that you could look down upon from a houseboat roof.

- My strategy of hanging 50lb of weights on the rope that tied the koosh to the boat so the rope would be invisible and out of people's way ended up backfiring. People didn't see a rope and thought the koosh was unanchored, so they "helpfully" tied additional ropes to it to keep it from drifting away. I untied these ropes, and new ones were added by helpful strangers. (Perhaps I should look upon this as a positive sign that the community was looking out for everyone's benefit)

- My design for a roof-hopping plank would not have worked. I was trying to find a way for more timid people to walk between houseboat roofs, and I did not take into account just how much the roofs tend to move relative to one another.
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After lots of repetitive manual labor (completed to the tune of Catch-22, various TED talks, and This American Life), I finally finished constructing what I believe to be the world's largest koosh ball. Originally meant for the Ephemerisle festival, it will now instead make an appearance at The Floating Festival That is Not Ephemerisle.

Made from 276 pool noodles purchased for a dollar each at local Dollar Trees, it could theoretically support close to 1500 pounds, but it's hard enough for even one person to climb to the top and stay stable:

Playing with the world's largest koosh

Thanks to Dave, Chris, Steve, and Jocelyn for helping me test it out!

Update:  Here's a video!

Here are some more pictures of how it came together:

Playing with the world's largest koosh Assembly instructions
Playing with the world's largest koosh Playing with the world's largest koosh
Playing with the world's largest koosh Playing with the world's largest koosh
Playing with the world's largest koosh The Iwo Jima moment
Launched! Playing with the world's largest koosh
Playing with the world's largest koosh Playing with the world's largest koosh
Playing with the world's largest koosh Playing with the world's largest koosh

See more at the Flickr group

It's not too far off from my original concept photoshopping:  The coloring is definitely better. 

Climbable floating 9 ft dandelion made of pool noodles

For more info on construction, read the older entries here.
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Half a koosh

Here's the "bottom" half:

Half a koosh  Half a koosh

And the inside:

Inside the koosh

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I finished the koosh core yesterday.  Now I just have to fill it up with noodles.

It's so simple, really.  Here's how each of the 12 modules is filled up with noodles: 


First, the noodles have to be prepped.  I worked really hard to get per-noodle work down to the absolute minimum. 
The prep for each noodle takes around 30 seconds and ensures the noodles stay in place by securely attaching a string to one end.

Construction process for koosh strands  Construction process for koosh strands

It's good that it only takes 30 seconds because I have to do it 276 times.  I do not handle repetitive manual labor very well.  I have to fight utter boredom with a good audiobook.  I dug my own grave on this one by thinking up this project. :-)

The noodles are then stuffed into the holes according to my coloring diagram. 

Construction process for koosh strands  Construction process for koosh strands
Construction process for koosh strands

Here's a more interesting-looking module.  In order to ensure that the noodles bow out at the appropriate angle, the bundle of noodles is tightened together using a ratcheting tie-down, which provides the temporary compression necessary to attach a giant 48" zip tie.  Once the zip tie is on, the ratcheting tie-down is removed. 

Construction process for koosh strands  Construction process for koosh strands

Finally, the string attached to each noodle is threaded with wooden dowels to ensure that someone playing with the koosh can't yank a noodle out. 

Construction process for koosh strands

Here's a few hours' work:

Construction process for koosh strands  Construction process for koosh strands
Construction process for koosh strands  Construction process for koosh strands
Construction process for koosh strands

There's now a giant unfinished mass of project dominating my living room.  It sits there behind my head as I type, ever-present, waiting to taunt me again with its massive unfinished-ness. 

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I had been working on and off on the dandelion / koosh project, but recently I've had the urge to just get it done.  So for some reason I'm blogging about it instead of doing it.  Oh right:
(1) If you want to help me finish it today or tomorrow night, I'd love the help
(2) If you have a truck, van, or other large vehicle (or a zipcar account that would let you borrow said vehicle for a few hours) I'd be very interested in using the vehicle to transport the koosh for a test run at a swimming pool, Golden Gate Park, or some other such place. 

Here's how it's been coming along:

I have the core completely done.  Each pentagonal piece of the dodecahedral core will have 23 pool noodles attached and secured to it.  That way, the koosh can be broken to 12 pieces for easy transport and can be assembled on-site in around an hour with 60 zipties.  It turns out that, with a tensile strength of 75 pounds and low elasticity, zip ties are actually a source of structural integrity in large numbers. 

Koosh core assembled  Koosh core assembled

Here's what the construction process looks like:

The core is shaped like a dodecahedron.  Each piece of the core is assembled from 3 pentagonal pieces, which are laser cut from 3/16" Lauan plywood and then glued together in a stack:

Laser-cutting koosh core  Koosh core pieces

The three pieces are slightly different sizes so that
(1) The edges of the pentagon are at the right angle to interface flat against the neighboring pentagon. 

(2) The holes for the pool noodles are angled in the direction that the pool noodle needs to go.

Assembled koosh core section  Assembled koosh core section

The pieces are painted with exterior primer and deck paint to add some amount of waterproofing.  Painting them got a hell of a lot faster once I realized this little hack with a paint roller, which happened to be just the right size:

Time-saving painting technique for koosh core  Time-saving painting technique for koosh core
P1140976  P1140978

The pieces are then pulled together using slit pieces of vinyl tubing as spacers and zip ties attached to screw eyes as a source of compression:

Assembly of koosh core  Assembly of koosh core
Assembly of koosh core  Assembly of koosh core

I modeled the final appearance of the koosh with a small model.  Now it's assembly time:

Model for pool noodle arrangement  276 pool noodles
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The organizers of Ephemerisle have canceled the event this year due to astronomical insurance costs (several hundred dollars per attendee). 

However, there really aren't a lot of differences between Ephemerisle and a bunch of people who happen to gather at the same time and place as Ephemerisle.  So that's exactly what we're doing.  It will be anarchy in the dictionary sense of the word... no central governing organization. 

Good news, the ticket price is $0!  There will be no one collecting tickets! 

We have three boats confirmed, and probably more.  Come have fun on the water at not-Ephemerisle with us!
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I'm about to buy the rest of the pool noodles required to finish the koosh project for Ephemerisle.  Due to a lack of red and yellow noodles, I was thinking of changing the design to mix in some blue noodles as well.  Sometimes constraints lead to creativity.

Here's the original planned design, with the red and yellow noodles randomly mixed together.

Partial assembly of koosh in photoshop

Here's the new design I'm contemplating -- it's based on splitting up the 12 dodecahedral faces of the frame that holds the noodles into two identical six-face regions, one red and one yellow, with a blue boundary between the two.  Imagine long pool noodles of the designated colors springing out from the sphere.

Potential coloring for kooshPotential coloring for kooshPotential coloring for koosh

I tried to create a more realistic model of the koosh, but the program I downloaded (3D Brush) crashed too frequently, so I gave up before adding the blue section.


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The Dandelion (giant koosh) project has turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.  I ended up trying a variety of different techniques for putting the giant koosh together before finding one that works well and is reasonably fast.  The trouble with having to assemble over 200 noodles is that anything that has to be done once per noodle will have to be repeated over 200 times, so an assembly step that adds a minute per noodle will add three hours to the total effort. 

There were some other constraints that made the design difficult
- It has to be disassemblable.  Not many vehicles can accommodate a 9 ft wide spherical object.
- It has to be able to be assembled from the outside... lots of designs work fine until you have to attach the last module.
- It has to stand up to people jumping on it, pulling on the noodles, and causing other trouble. 

I've settled (for now) on a dodecahedral design, with 12 modules that will fit together to create the giant koosh ball.

Here's one module, with a closeup of the ratchet strap and lasercut board that push the noodles out to an appropriate angle.

Giant koosh assembly -- one module of 12.  How each module is held together

By photographing it at a few angles and photoshopping it together, I can get a sense for the size and density of the full object.  Note that this is NOT the intended final appearance -- it only shows 4 of 12 modules, and the final version will have the current empty spots filled in.  It's an ugly photoshopping, but I was prioritizing speed over appearance.

It turns out the project will take more noodles than I originally thought.  My original plan was 120-144, and it just looks too sparse with that few noodles.  The new one will have 220-300.

120 is too sparse... this would have been 1/8 of the koosh:
Low-density option (1/8 of total koosh)
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I built a rough scale model of one of the Ephemerisle art projects I've been doing.  Yesterday my project partner [ profile] papertygre  and I tested out the gameplay.

The model is on a pile of foam that allows us to simulate tilting of the platform on the water.  We're moving our weight around to tilt the platform  and influence the movement of the ball -- I'm trying to get it into the white holes, while she's trying to get it into the purple holes.  Since our weights differ substantially, she's wearing a backpack with a heavy weight in it to balance us out:

Ephemerisle tilt game platform mockup  Ephemerisle tilt game platform mockup

And a video of gameplay:

The full size version will be a floating square platform 8ft in size.   We're planning on building out several different "skins", different games that can be attached to the same floating platform.  If you're interested in building your own skin, let us know.
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My initial approach on the Ephemerisle giant koosh project isn't working.

Originally, I planned of connecting all the pool noodles to eight small metal carabiners in the center via string attached to the pool noodles. Each carabiner would hold all the pool noodles for 1/8 of the sphere.

Unfortunately, it looks like this approach doesn't work well. The noodles tend to clump up in large clusters all pointing the same direction, which isn't very interesting to look at. In addition, since the noodles are free to move inwards toward the carabiner, a small number of them get pulled in further than they should, resulting in the other ones pointing in funny directions.

I think there are a couple of things I can do to address the problem:

1. Wrap a foam ring around the noodle a couple of inches from the end. This will thicken the noodle into more of a cone so that it's forced to be at a different angle from its neighbors

2. Attach the ends of the noodles to the surface of a section of a sphere. This will prevent the noodles from sliding too far in and will further reinforce their pointing at the correct angle.

So I'm looking for a sphere around 18 inches in diameter. It needs to be strong, solid, and perforated or wire mesh. My first thought was to cut up a colander. There are colanders that big (like this one), but none of them are spherical, and most would require drilling additional holes and chopping off various handles.

There are metal accent balls, but they're either too small (like these) or too sparse.  Plastic spheres (like these) are also an option, but they're likely too weak to support the force put on them by the noodles. 

Maybe the right solution is to buy some heavy wire mesh, clip it so it can be folded into a sphere shape, and reweld it, but I'm thinking that this is way too much work to take on unless it's the only possible solution. 

Any suggestions? 
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We're looking for people to give talks on our boat at Ephemerisle.  If you're interested, please let me know.


Memocracy is a floating camp devoted to sharing ideas that could change the world.  We're putting together a series of talks around various clusters of topics.  If you're interested in offering a talk, demo, debate, or interactive simulation, let us know.  Talks may be time-limited depending on demand, but plan on something between 2 and 20 minutes for now.  Yes, you can give a good talk in 2 minutes... it's plenty of time for a simple but novel concept. 

Here are the topic clusters:

- Practical tools for community-building and freedom  (ad-hoc organizing tools, voting systems, group consensus-building techniques, communication and information-sharing systems, online & offline collaboration tools...)
- Human enhancement  (personal development, self-tracking, technological augmentation of human capability, skills for radical self-reliance...)
- Practical skills for living on water  (how to make floating platforms, how to tie knots, skills for piloting boats, alternative energy technologies suitable for water use...)
- Creativity and innovation  (technology and meme adoption cycles, brainstorming techniques, alternate lifestyles...)
- Reinventing economics  (analysis of US economic situation, economic opportunities on seasteads...)

If there's a topic you're passionate about that you want to present that does not fit on this list, let us know. 

We do have a projector available, but we don't know yet if we will bring it.  (Bringing a projector limits us to having all our presentations at night, and that may be a bad thing.  However, if there is high demand, we will consider it)  If we don't have a projector, we'll certainly have a whiteboard. 

If you'd like to give a talk please let me know at (alternate spam address, some delay expected).  Let us know the topic, and when you plan on arriving at and leaving Ephemerisle. 

Don't just spectate!  Research big ideas and participate!  We'll be putting a presentation schedule together over the next couple of months. 
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Here's a mockup for the floating game table. 

This 8'x8' platform is designed to hold up to 2 people and allow them to tilt the platform and thus roll a ball by moving around.  There are lots of interesting interfaces you could get out of having one or more people control a ball in this manner.  It would be a chance for people to hone their sea legs in a game of balance. The platform could be reconfigurable, with different surfaces added or removed to switch games.

Here are a couple of possible configurations:

- Competitive balance game. (shown above)  There are two players, one red and one blue.  The players compete to tilt the board in a direction to get a ball to roll into a hole of their color.  Players may touch each other, but not the ball.  Players score a point every time they get the ball into a hole of their color, and lose a point if they touch the ball.  The first player to 10 points wins.

- Minigolf labyrinth.  The platform has some walls and some holes, along with ramps, hills, and whatnot. The player has to tilt the platform to get a ball from the starting point to the finishing point in as little time as possible.  If the player touches the ball or drops the ball in a hole, they have to start over.


Here's how I did a quick proof-of-concept.  If it's *even possible at all* to do what I tried with an iphone, the Labyrinth app, some tape, and a balance board, then controlling the ball should be relatively easy in the full scale version.

Quick playable mock-up of tilting game board  Quick playable mock-up of tilting game board
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For some, the Dandelions will be a metaphor for the spread of civilization and new ideas onto the ocean, a further diaspora of the human race.  For others, the Dandelions will be giant climbable floating koosh balls made from pool noodles, and the most important thing about them will be whether they can climb to the top of one without falling over.   Either way, having one or more of these Dandelions floating around in the middle of the swim area will add aesthetic and fun value to the Ephemerisle experience.

Here’s a quick mock-up showing the concepts for the 9 foot diameter and 13 foot diameter versions:

Climbable floating 9 ft dandelion made of pool noodles  Climbable floating 13 ft dandelion made of pool noodles

It turns out Dollar Tree sells 48" pool noodles for $1 each, which enables this project to be done for a relatively low price.
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1.  Make a giant koosh out of foam water noodles.  (like these)   Quick calculations show that for 100 bucks you could build a 9 foot diameter koosh that could support one or two adults.  Plus, it would be hilarious to watch people try to get stable on it.  :-)

2.  Floating game table.  So there are lots of interesting interfaces you could get out of having one or more people tilt a big floating platform by running around on it.  It would be a chance for people to hone their sea legs in a game of balance.  The platform could be reconfigurable, with different parts added or removed.  I'm thinking a 4x8 platform is the minimum size needed, though an 8x8 would be ideal.  Here are some options:

Marble Madness / Miniature Golf / Labyrinth

The platform has some walls and some holes, along with ramps, hills, and whatnot.  You have to tilt the platform to get a croquet ball from the starting point to the finishing point in as little time as possible.  If you touch the ball you have to start over.

Tilt Pool

This 2-player game would have several holes in a flat platform.  The holes would be marked in two different colors to signify which player they belong to.  One ball would be in play at any given time, and the players would be in competition to tilt the platform to get the ball to go into their holes instead of their opponents' holes. 

3.  Floating 3D tessellation of a rhombic dodecahedron.  It's the only semiregular polyhedron that tessellates 3-space in an interesting way.  Using lots of PVC pipe surrounded by foam noodles, we could construct this fascinating-looking floating lattice.   Thicker (and undoubtedly more expensive) versions would be climbable.


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