toorcamp: total clusterfuck / life changing experience. Burning man for hackers.
So the clusterfuck started when my flight to SEA was cancelled due to storm – I had to reschedule for the next morning. This meant that the ride I had setup to get from Seattle to the site would not be there when I arrived. On the plus side the rebooked ticket was first class direct to Seattle (first class is sweet). Upon arriving at SEA, I took a shuttle as far as it would take me, then a cab that cost as much as my flight for the last 90 miles to the missile silo. But I made it.
Checking into camp, the first thing you notice is the site is covered by about an inch of volcanic ash from the last eruption of Mount St. Helens. This is a super fine power that basically ruins anything it touches. I didn’t take my laptop out of it’s case the entire time. Everyone and everything was covered in this dust for the duration of the camp.
Then the clusterfuck really gets rolling. We are told there was an “incident” in the missile silo, and as a result the camp won’t be allowed inside. Beyond being a total disappointment, this was a real practical problem: The silo offered the only relief from the intense desert sun. The sun comes up at 4am and forces you out of your tent by 7am. From there it is heat stroke city until sunset at 9pm. Most of the first day was spend setting up the geodesic domes. I got mild heat stroke that day despite tons of water and shade when I could find it.
The talks began the second day in the barn and in the notacamp dome. Talks were generally excellent. I even got a chance to speak when one talk canceled. My talk was on “Amateur Nuclear Fusion”, and I told the story of the Polywell, amateurs in fusion and the Prometheus Fusion Perfection project. A lot of interest from the audience. Most of them had never head of any of this.
Some highlights: The makerbot has come a long way since I played around with the reprap. These guys are cool as fuck. A tesla coil.
At some point during the day a huge dustdevil touched down and destroyed several camps, sending tents and pants into the air (like 100 ft up). At this point the fail maxed out and the whole thing became fucking awesome.
That night we had a raging party with sound systems, drugs, and alcohol. Total blast.
So what about the missile silo we all came to see? Turns out it was basically a power struggle between the lessor of the site and the toorcamp organizers. The lessor was basically trying to co-opt toorcamp to make his lame green energy company look cool (some non functional windmill that was supposed to power the event, but it was actually powered by gas generators). After we served as extras in his lame promotional video, we were finally allowed into the missile silo. The next day the talks took place there. It was awesome.
Bottom line: I met amazing people, made new friends, and attended what will likely become the stuff of legend. toorcamp FTW.