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Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity
Just because there is a beaten path, that doesn't mean you have to take it...
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2nd-Sep-2010 10:49 am - Burning Man 2010: Time Frame Photos
Burning Man
My photo project in Center Camp at Burning Man has been fabulous.

Here is the Flickr Set to follow along with the new photos each day.

And here are some quick highlights so far:

Time Frame - Monday, 4:40 AM

Time Frame - Tuesday, 11:28 AM

And here is a picture of me, setting up the project in Center Camp. I can't believe the prime placement they gave me!!!
Time Frame
29th-Aug-2010 08:58 pm - Burning Man 2010: 6:01 & Hanoi
Burning Man
We are on playa now, and have actually set up at the gateside 6:01 corner of the 6 & H (Hanoi) intersection. Our new satellite internet connection is working beautifully.

We spent the day setting up camp, and the afternoon helping friends set up Pandora's Lounge & Fix-It Shop. We also went to place my art project, "Time Frame", in the Center Camp Cafe.

I had expected to get placed off to the side of the Cafe, and was blown away to end up RIGHT IN THE CENTER. Nearly fifty thousand people will walk within a dozen feet of my art project within the next week. Wow.

The city gates have been thrown open early - they seemingly "secretly" decided to open at 6pm instead of midnight to try and avoid some of the backlog. But by the look of the line of lights heading out towards the horizon, it wasn't a well-kept secret.

Right now Cherie is napping to save up some energy for the late night ahead. Any moment now our first Nomadians should arrive to join us...

Burning Man
In just over 48 hours, we'll be back on the playa for Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis.

For the third year in a row, Cherie and I have organized Camp Nomadia, a theme camp dedicated to bringing together other nomads on the playa. After last years theme camp placement fiasco, this year we decided to go fully unofficial, with no preset placement and much less up-front organization.

Even so - we have managed to sign up 90+ other nomads of all sorts of modalities and from all over the world to join us this year. Egads!

Are you going to be out on the playa this year? Come look us up!

Camp Description: Is travel in your spirit? Is wanderlust your calling? Have you dared to give up a conventional home and make home wherever you happen to be? Is life too short and the world too large to be stationary? Then welcome to Camp Nomadia. For past, current and future nomads of all sorts.

Camp Location: 6:00 & Florence (or as near as we can manage - look for a sign at the intersection, or check at Playa Info...)

Update: We are on playa now, and have actually set up at the gateside 6:01 corner of the 6 & H intersection.

Camp Nomadia Events:
Nomadic Happy Hours -- Tuesday and Thursday (4pm to 6pm) and Sunday (3pm to 5pm)
Technomadic Lifestyle Workshop -- Thursday 3pm - 4pm

For more details on our events, and Camp Nomadia, check here.


This year I pitched an art project idea to the Center Camp Cafe art team, and was accepted!

My project is called "Time Frame".

The "Time Frame" is a classic antique table-top mirror, with the mirror removed, mounted on top of a 5 foot tall self-supporting pole.

Looking through the frame gives a glimpse back in time to the view as seen through the frame the day or night before. For example, participants looking into the frame on a bright sunny morning may have a view of the kinetic action as seen from that exact spot late the night before.

Every day / night of Burning Man I'll take another picture of the scene in Center Camp through the frame, take it back to our photo printer, print a new image, and return to update the frame with a new view (in both directions). Older views will be mounted, and left on display for viewing or to take.

The day of the burn, I hope to relocate the Time Frame to capture a before/after portrait of the Man.

Now that we have satellite internet, I hope to also update a Flickr group with the daily photos from the Time Frame. I'll post here with updates when that goes live.

This will be my 10th trip to Burning Man, and I am really excited to have an "official" art project of my own for the first time ever. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Anyway... Things are mostly packed, other than some planned stops for provisioning. We head to Reno tomorrow, and (thanks to the art project) we get to head into Black Rock City Saturday night instead of Sunday.

The man burns in eight days.

See you out there?
24th-Aug-2010 11:55 pm - Urgent Cat Sitting Needed
We had intended to have our friends in Sacramento cat sit for Kiki while we're at Burning Man. Previously, Kiki and their cats have gotten along fine. But they recently got a new third cat.. and he and Kiki are constantly fighting. Things are getting worse, not improving, in the past two days. We can't in good conscious leave Kiki here stressed out and literally cowering up at the top of a cat tree. It just isn't working out here.

So, we are scrambling to find other options. We would really prefer not to keep her locked up in a little cage at a boarding place for so long.. that seems likely to only stress her out further.

Is there anyone in the SF Bay Area, Sacramento or Reno area who might be able to take Kiki starting Thursday (tomorrow) through likely Sept 8th or so? We are not opposed to paying for cat sitting either.

Kiki has been especially skittish and stressed ever since her rattlesnake encounter, especially around other cats and animals. I think she may need to ideally stay in a cat-free environment. But in general she is a total sweetheart.

If not... we may need to cut back or curtail our plans for going to the burn this year. And considering we're bringing an art project and hosting a camp of almost a 100 folks, that would be a huge shame.

24th-Aug-2010 10:04 am - Most Useful??!!!
This past weekend we attended the iOS Dev Camp, hosted at the PayPal HQ in San Jose, CA.

After so many years being involved in putting on developer events during my Palm/PalmSource and Rendition days, it was really fun to attend an event as an actual developer - spending an intense weekend head-down in code.

The DevCamp model is really a great one for this sort of event. It is volunteer run, only costs $50 to attend, and the schedule is very informal, done in an un-conference style. Yet the quality of attendees and presenters was absolutely fabulous, and thanks to the long-list of sponsors there was way more than $50 worth of free food and free beer (!!!) to be had. Yum!

PayPal was kind enough to give us permission to stay over in their lot, so we were literally "camping" at the DevCamp. It was awesome to be able to just step outside and into our house, and a lot of other attendees got a kick out of meeting us Nomads and hearing about our setup.

The focus of the event is the Hackathon - a contest for developers to show off something awesome, with a strong emphasis on things created primarily just over the weekend.

It is a recipe for some very intense late night work, and there was some awesome stuff on display at the demo session on Sunday. A lot of vey experienced developers created some very incredible things.

And... Much to our surprise, Cherie and I won the award for the "Most Useful" app created over the weekend!!!

We were blown away.

Over the course of just over 24 hours, we had created and entered into the Hackathon an application called "Coverage?" that is indeed extremely useful to technomadic travelers like us. Coverage? is an interactive tool that overlays coverage maps from all the major carriers, and lets you indicate whether you need at minimum a roaming, 2G, or 3G signal. You can then scout around to see if your route and the towns ahead are covered by the networks that matter to you.

It is simple in concept, but it was extremely difficult in execution. Cherie toiled for many painful hours creating the maps (there is no easy to work with data source for any of this information), and I worked late into the night writing a map overlay engine, wiring up the UI, and doing the image processing to turn the maps into tiles that could be zoomed and panned.

But in the end, it actually worked. Great teamwork paid off.

When we presented on stage during the Hackathon demo sessions, we capped our demo off by overlaying AT&T's 3G coverage with Verizon's. That got a great reaction from the crowd, and an audience member even tweeted: "Technomadia peeps, AT&T called, they'd like to buy your app (then kill it)". *laugh*

Here is a video that Cherie put together, telling the story behind Coverage?:

And then at the awards ceremony, they announced that we had been voted by the judges as the "Most Useful" - one of the top awards for the entire event. Wow.

Anyway - it was an intense weekend indeed. And now we are racing to get things ready for Burning Man... Afterwards, we will spend some time finishing off Coverage and polishing it up to get it into the app store. Though it took just a weekend to create, there is still a lot to do to make it worthy of public consumption.

Busy, fun, intense, exhausting, exhilarating...

Oh - and there are only a couple days left to vote for our SXSW Panel Proposal on Technomadic mobile living - if you haven't yet, it only takes a minute to register and give us a Thumbs Up. You can vote here: http://bit.ly/dhmfi

And now... Off to Burning Man!
12th-Aug-2010 09:47 am - Technomads @ SXSW 2011 - Vote For Us!
The SXSW conference in Austin each spring is a grand convergence of the technology, film, and music industries.

This past year our travel schedule had us in the area at the right time, so we "un-attended" the conference, and we had a great time hanging out in Austin attending many meetups and events that were going on around the fringes of SXSW. We were thoroughly impressed by the SXSW vibe, and we set intentions to attend again in 2011.

We also kept hearing from people that we should do more than just attend, and that we would be a great fit as presenters at the conference.

So for 2011, we have decided to pitch a panel!

Title: Technomadism - Living and Working Full-Time on the Road
Why wait until retirement to explore the world?

A panel of experienced technomads will converge at SXSW 2011 to share their stories, offering up practical advice and insights to help others make the leap to a life of adventure and excitement without a fixed home base.

While technology is making it ever easier to work online and remotely, why limit yourself to sitting at home in your PJ's, or roving between coffee shops? Why not take the next step, take your home on the road, and really BE location independent?

Many are embracing a technomadic lifestyle, and many more are looking for inspiration and advice to help them take the leap, cut the cord, and leave the conventional definition of a fixed-place home and work-place behind.

Panel hosts Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard have been connecting with an ever growing community of others called to nomadism, and for SXSW 2011 they will bring together a diverse collection of other amazing technomads to share their unique experiences and unconventional life paths.

This panel will focus on practical tips on how to leave a fixed-place existence behind and explore a life of technomadism.

The panel selection process for SXSW starts nearly a year in advance. A week ago we heard that our proposal had been deemed "solid", and the panel committee selection sent us this note:
The subject of your panel proposal is one that I think speaks to many people in our core community and would encourage people to make changes that could improve their lives.


The next step is getting community feedback and votes, and here we need help to stand out from the other 2,000+ proposed SXSW 2011 panels. So even if you don't think you'll be attending, we would really appreciate your quick "thumbs up" vote.

You can vote here until August 27th: panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/5496

Community support accounts for 30% of the selection process, so we would really appreciate any votes you can send our way. Thanks, and spread the word!
5th-Jul-2010 09:31 pm - Running
Back in March Cherie told me about the Couch-to-5k interval training program, and that she had found a great iPhone app that would make it easy to run/walk to the intervals.

I've always hated running, so I wished her well and watched as she rocked through the first week of the training program.


I was really craving some exercise... And I really liked that running didn't require any gear or fuss... And the trails at McKinney Falls State Park where we were staying near Austin were gorgeous... So...

I decided to give it a try.

I figured I would do the first week or two of the program, and then I would get bored, or my legs would hurt too much, or my feet would get sore.

But to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it!

I've kept up with the program in the months since, and I've discovered that running is a great (and lately much needed) stress relief. I've also been amazed to see just how much my endurance has increased.

Tonight I challenged myself to "graduate" from the Couch-to-5k program, and I ran a full 5k non-stop!

The details of my run (as logged by another great iPhone app - RunKeeper) was 3.15 miles in 39:48 minutes, with an average pace of 12:39 minutes/mile.

I don't think I've ever run that far non-stop in my life, even when I was playing various sports in High School.


Now, what next?

I certainly am intending to keep at running, at least a few times a week. But now that I've managed to run 5k in 40 minutes, should my next goal be 10k in 90 minutes, or should I work on upping my speed to do 5k in 30 minutes?

Is it better to focus next on speed, or distance?

Who else out there has done much running? Any tips for a novice?

BTW - Here is the iPhone app we have been using to train - it is $2.99, and I highly recommend it: Couch to 5k - Felt Tip Inc. (iTunes Affiliate Link)
17th-May-2010 11:23 am - Introducing: State Lines for iPhone
We just got word from Apple that our first iPhone app has gone live in the App Store!

Compiled after over 4 years of full time RV road-tripping across the USA, and after many hours of research on state specific information, State Lines is an indispensable traveler’s guidebook to highly variable state regulations.

Currently State Lines tracks 43 pieces of travel relevant information for each of the 50 states; including vehicle gun carry laws, state sales tax, time zones, towing & RV specific laws, gas/diesel taxes, rest area overnight parking rules, default speed limits, alcohol sales laws, smoking bans, open container laws, state park camping entrance fees, pet leash laws, bicycle and motorcycle helmet laws, cell phone & texting bans, left hand turn rules, and more.

State Lines is location aware, so it can automatically show you information about nearby states. The entire State Lines database is integrated into the application, so State Lines works even when you are out of cellular or WiFi coverage.

Here is our Technomadia blog post with more details: link
And here is the link to State Lines in the App Store: link

It has been fun spending the past few months diving into application development, and we've got a lot of other projects in the pipeline. But it is particularly exciting to get the first one out the door.

14th-May-2010 11:27 pm - Surrendering to the GMail Borg...
I am contemplating switching my primary @radven.net email to be hosted by Google Apps, and no longer relying on Dreamhost's IMAP service.

The upsides: push email to iPad/iPhone, a great webmail interface with fast search, continued IMAP support for Mail.App, and now at last GMail supports real folder hierarchies (nested labels) to keep things semi-organized....

Are there any downsides?

For years I have forwarded a copy of all email to Google so that I have a backup emergency archive for the times that Dreamhost has gone down. So I guess I've already surrendered on the privacy front...

A few years ago I caught GMail red-handed losing messages, so I am not sure I totally trust Google with preserving my data. Is Google doing any better now, or is that still a risk? Data preservation is MUCH more important than privacy, IMHO.

Thoughts and wisdom from lurking geeks appreciated...
15th-Apr-2010 02:51 pm - Google Earth + NYC = WOW!
Google Earth in New York City has just been enhanced with vastly more detailed models and textures.

Watch this preview video, and be amazed:

Wow. My jaw is on the floor.

(The music rocks too...)
1st-Apr-2010 12:42 pm - My Four Year Nomadiversary
Today is my 4th Nomadiversary.

It is hard to believe that I've been on the road for 4 years now. And still there is no end in sight.

To mark the occasion, I've posted my favorite secret to nomadic life over at www.technomadia.com.

Looking back, here are links to my third nomadiversary retrospective, and here is my photo-filled look at my first year on the road.

On this day last year I was doing work on a beach in Malibu California, watching the waves crash. Today I am doing iPhone development in a Texas State Park, staring out upon a field of blooming wild flowers.

Outdoor Office

My office view. Notice how I am using an iPhone as a "second monitor" to bring up reference material while developing. Very handy!

I love the variety in my life. I love not knowing where I will be this time next year.

Life is good.
I've been spending a lot of digging into iPhone / iPad development lately.

The hardware is phenomenal, and the SDK is incredibly clever.

It sometimes seems as if you can make it do almost anything.

But until now, I had not even imagined using an iPhone like this...

Or this...


16th-Mar-2010 12:19 pm - Mobile Data Roaming: $10,000/hour
Can you imagine getting hit with a $10,609.27 bill for spending an hour catching up online?

That's how much AT&T charged my former boss Michael Mace's colleague Nilofer recently for using her datacard while waiting to catch a flight in Toronto.

For more details, read Michael's retelling of the the horror story, and our advice on how to protect yourself.

It could happen to you.

Marking up mobile data rates 300x while roaming?!? No wonder that people tend to think that phone companies are evil. Egads!
26th-Feb-2010 11:45 pm - Movie Review: Tortilla Soup
Tortilla Soup is a Mexican-American remake of the Taiwanese film Eat Drink Man Woman.

This is a simple feel-good story about three sisters finding their place in life, and about their widower father who happens to be a genius chef who has lost his ability to taste and smell.

The story is utterly formulaic and predictable, but well cast and well acted and ultimately enjoyable.

But what this movie is really about is food porn. There are so many exquisite close up shots of fabulously delicious mexican dishes being prepared that watching Tortilla Soup literally left my mouth watering.


Rating: 3 stars.
26th-Feb-2010 11:40 pm - Movie Review: Waltz with Bashir
I never would have expected this.

Waltz with Bashir is an animated documentary film from Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman about his personal quest to recover his lost memories from his service in the 1982 Lebanon War.

It is also one of the most powerful and "real" war movies I have ever seen. It has more emotional impact than a dozen hollywood war films combined.

The animation style is absolutely unique, and visually riveting. The movie was put together using Adobe Flash, and I have never seen this style of animation used this way in a feature film before. The musical soundtrack is driven. The story (told via flashbacks as Ari recovers his memory) is utterly compelling.

And the ending really brings it home.

This is an emotionally powerful, visually unique, and absolutely intense movie. Very well worth seeing, even if you are not usually a fan of foreign films with subtitles, animation, documentaries, or war films.

Waltz with Bashir is unlike anything else you have ever seen.

Rating: 4+ stars!
26th-Feb-2010 11:12 pm - Movie Review: Up
It really sometimes seems that Pixar can do no wrong. As expected, Up is yet another masterpiece.

Some of the awesome elements you'll find in this work of art:

Two old men, each on a very different quest for meaning in their lives.
A talking (SQUIRREL!) dog.
The most amazing airship ever. (This would be my ultimate fantasy flying RV...)
A house held aloft by a million balloons.
And some of the best and most expressive animation that you will ever see.

The animation in Up is indeed beautiful, and once again pushes the state of the art. The characters are refreshingly real and utterly original. And the story is so moving that I dare you to make it through without shedding at least a few tears.

If you haven't seen this yet, do it. If you have, see it again.

Up is absolutely one of the best films of the past year.

Rating: 5 stars! (and a million balloons!!!)
26th-Feb-2010 10:43 pm - Movie Review: Seven Pounds
Seven Pounds seems like it has everything going for it.

It stars Will Smith, one of my favorite actors.

It is directed by Gabriele Muccino -- who together with Will Smith had made the delightful film The Pursuit of Happyness that I absolutely loved.

It has a powerful core story focused around a man's quest for redemption.


The movie gets so wrapped up in trying to play out the mystery of what the title means and what Will's character is doing that the deeper emotional core of the film gets lost. It is as if the director set out to make a murder mystery whodunit with hints building up to a final reveal.... But.... This isn't that kind of story, and playing it out this way I feel actually diminishes the film.

I can't say much more without delving into spoiler territory.

All I can say is that this is a rather decent movie, but without the forced backwards storytelling it could have been solidly good, or even great.

Rating: 3 stars.
Zack and Miri Make a Porno explores what might happen if two long-time platonic friends and roommates become convinced that the best way to make enough money to pay the rent and keep from being evicted is to make a porno together.

Take that already pretty absurd concept, and filter it through the middle-school mentality of writer / director Kevin Smith and you almost end up with a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, Kevin Smith has a knack for taking disaster and pushing right through to the other side - embracing embarrassment and humiliation to find the humor that no one else would even dare film.

The two leads, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, are well cast. There is actually a sweet love story here lurking beneath the sex jokes and absurd situations.

What there is not much of is titillation. The only skin you'll see in this movie is a naked Jason Mewes demonstrating a double dutch rudder. And trust me, that is not erotic in the least.

But overall, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is an enjoyable if fairly typical Kevin Smith film.

Rating: 3 stars.

PS: I just discovered that Netflix refuses to allow you to use the word "porno" when writing reviews. Uhm... It is in the TITLE of the movie!?!? *laugh*
26th-Feb-2010 09:47 pm - Movie Review: Charlie Wilson's War
We've seen some good movies over the past few weeks, and some not-so-good ones as well. I'm challenging myself to see how quickly I can crank out reviews of all of them.

First up - Charlie Wilson's War.

This is the fascinating true story of Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks), telling how he worked the system to fund the "largest covert operation in history" -- the CIA's support of the Afghan Mujahideen in their war against the invading Soviets during the 1980's.

Thanks to Charlie Wilson's work, the covert funding flowing into Afghanistan went from a paltry few million a year to a sizable billion or so -- including training and weapons that gave the Mujahideen a fighting chance against the vastly superior Soviet forces.

Some historians argue that the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan lead to the end of the cold war, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. And other historians would argue that the sorry state we left Afghanistan in lead to the rise of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

It is a complex story, and Charlie Wilson was at the center of it. And yet, before the movie (and the book it is based upon), few people knew of his role in turning the tides of history.

Watching Charlie Wilson's War inspired me to do deeper reading into the history of Operation Cyclone. It is clear that the movie vastly simplified and dramatized a rather complex and very multi-sided story, and over-amplified Charlie's role in the center of it all. But it would have been hard for a 2hr dramatic movie to do otherwise. Writer Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols do a great job with such a complex topic, and the cast (including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman) is fabulous.

Overall, this was a fascinating glimpse into a little known piece of history.

Rating: 4 stars.

PS: Charlie Wilson passed away a week or so ago. I didn't learn about the death of this significant historical figure from the news media, but rather via a tweet from bicyclist Lance Armstrong. The "news" is covering celebrity scandals like Tiger Woods, and I am getting real news via celebrities twittering. Hmmmm....
If you've paid any attention to the movie reviews I occasionally post here on LiveJournal, you might have noticed that I often link to and quote famed critic Roger Ebert. While I may not always agree with him, I have grown to have an immense respect for him, his insight, and his love of film.

He is my favorite film critic, and an amazingly talented writer.

He is also someone whom I find personally inspiring.

Not many people realize that Roger Ebert barely survived a fight with thyroid cancer, and he lost his jaw, his voice, and his ability to eat and drink in the battle. He hasn't spoken a word since 2006. I only realized how extensive his loss was when I read his blog post "Nil By Mouth" last month.
So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.

Through his blog, his eloquence as a writer shines through, and has only grown. And he has become one of the most engaged and interactive "celebrities" on the entire net. I love reading his blog posts, his movie reviews, and his tweets.

Chris Jones at Esquire Magazine recently spent a few days shadowing Roger Ebert, and his profile of Roger is one of the most compelling pieces of biography I have read. It is riveting journalism.

(And also see Roger's comments on the interview too...)

From the profile:
"I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - Roger Ebert

My rating of Roger...

Rating: 5 stars & two thumbs up.
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