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ephemerisle, year 1 - a grand success!

I spent this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Ephemerisle, camping on a houseboat with some friends. Our boat was attached to 8 other houseboats, each containing about 10 people, where you could walk from one boat to the next easily. It was really neat how at night you could wander from boat to boat, sitting down for a while in whatever conversation was going on on that boat. On Saturday night, there was a disco party in one of the boats toward the end... complete with multicolored flashy lights, fog machine, drinks and snacks, and dancing. A different boat had some turntables and a DJ, and even bigger speakers, that you could hear several boats down. But most of the boats just had people chilling and talking with friends and strangers. Like Burning Man, I enjoyed the ambiguity between personal space and communal space.

There were also large floating platforms, where most of the art and the porta-potties were located. Originally, the boats were going to dock on the platforms, but there were some problems with it early on and we ended up with a block of boats separated from the platforms by about 20 feet. To cross the 20 feet, there was a ferry that operated all day, shuttling people across between the boats and the platforms. The ferry was made out of crates and jugs (milk jugs, I think?), and a long rope that could be used to pull a load of 5-7 people across the water.

Spent some time hanging out on the platforms, some time swimming, some time inside the boat (or in other boats), and some time hanging out on top of the roof of the boat. Sunday morning, about 20 of us went up on the rooftops and sang I'm on a boat! while dancing and leaping from roof to roof! The funny thing is, I had spent the entire past week or two listening to this song and memorizing it, and had printed out 10 copies of lyrics for anyone who wanted to sing it with me. For some reason, I just couldn't drum up enough interest beforehand or during the first two days of the event, but it all came together at the end. (The people on the boat 2 boats down from me got the idea independently the night before, and then were ecstatic when I came by with the lyrics for them to study up on for the morning.) Actually, my original idea was to have something closer to the a capella version rather than the original, without any background music; but since they had the big speakers to blast it, it worked out fine with far less preparation and rehersal required.

I also spent a lot of the past 2 weeks building a fountain inspired by the MONIAC (water based analog computer) that was originally used to model the UK economy. Unfortunately, the original vision was changed many times and many compromises had to be made, and in the end it turned out to be not terribly interesting. I did learn a lot in all of the different versions that were tried, though, so there's a chance I will try to make it into something more impressive next year. For the most part, it seems, you really need electronic sensors if you want even basic two-state oscillations to happen. The problem is that there is nothing that can couple a zeroth derivative (like height of water) to a second derivative (change in the change in the height) naturally... even though there are plenty of ways to relate first and zeroth derivatives. I did get several "that's neat" comments but sadly, I only ended up actually running water through it once... too much else going on to worry about.

nasu_dengaku brought a lot of really cool art, which I helped set up and take down. (See his post here for some pictures of it.)

Had lots of good conversations throughout the weekend.

You'll notice in the pictures that we were pretty close to land--it may appear like it is even attached to land in some of them, but no--it was entirely free-floating. I think the reason the platform was moved that close to the edge of the river was at the request of the authorities so that boats could come through the river without obstruction.

One of the most physically fun things I tried while I was there was the "Zorb ball". They had a giant plastic ball, similar to a big beach ball but big enough to fit a person inside. You get inside it, then people blow it up with a giant hair-dryer-like-device, and seal it shut around you. Then they push you off the edge of the platform into the water! If you run *really* *really* fast, then you can spin the ball as you run across the water. But it's very tiring, and most of the people who tried, including me, spent a lot of time flipping upside down or falling down soon after you stand up. There were two safety precautions that make it a bit safer than it sounds... one is that a rope was tied to it so they can pull you back in towards the platform at any time, and another is that they give you a butterfly knife to cut yourself out in case anything goes horribly wrong. Nobody had to use the knife.

There were two film students from stanford making a documentary on patrissimo who stayed for the whole event, as well as a couple journalists (at least one from Wired and anther from CBS, possibly more that I didn't see) who came for part of it.

Overall, I think the festival was a great success. The only major complaint that everyone seemed to have was that it wasn't long enough. We had hardly finished setting everything up before it was time to start tearing it all down. To me, this is kind of a big turning point in the history of the Seasteading Institute. Before now, all they were about is sitting around and talking about doing cool stuff in the future. I knew they were capable of creating grand visions, but so many groups who have "talked the talk" in the past end up fizzling out because there are a whole lot of dreamers and not enough practical knowhow to get anything done. TSI has now demonstrated to me, and to the world, that they are capable of action. They don't just sit around and think, they get shit done. They don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk! While incremental, they are making progress. A first successful year of ephemerisle is the first concrete step towards the kind of permanent floating island communites they are aiming for in the long run. Hats off to all who were involved in the planning and execution of this historic event!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 6th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
Sounds beautiful. :)
Oct. 6th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
I also spent a lot of the past 2 weeks building a fountain inspired by the MONIAC (water based analog computer) that was originally used to model the UK economy.
Was that the gadget made out of bottles and plastic tubing fastened to a piece of paneling that I saw leaning against the end wall of one of the houseboats? I was wondering what that was! (I thought it might be a prototype for some sort of active ballast or buoyancy control system, or something like that...)
It was certainly interesting to run into you in person after crossing threads here on LJ a time or two...
Oct. 6th, 2009 07:21 am (UTC)
Yup, that was it. Nice to meet you too :)
Oct. 6th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
It was indeed milk jugs!
I was gonna describe the construction of the ferry here, but then I realized it was probably worth making it a post, so here you go:

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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