Day 84: Lasers, Sugar and Dizziness

For the past few weeks, Mom and Dad have been in the Alaskan wilderness, and they’re blogging it. I swear I’ll never get those two to behave like parents.

So this is what the German Wheel looks like when you’re lying on your back because you’re too tired to stand.


That’s how Scott found me. Hands blistered, shins bruised, and probably grinning. I spent most of the day working on the wheel, with the goal of getting tired. It totally worked.

Not much else went on, so it seems to me like a good time to open another Secret Plan.

Secret Plan 54: Advent Toblerone

Okay, so this is a silly one. So what.

When I was little, we had an advent calendar, with chocolate pinned to it for every day in December. By the time Christmas came, we were so amped up on sugar that we couldn’t even see straight. It was awesome.

This kind of dizzy giddy anticipation prepares you for adulthood somehow, I’m sure of it.

So imagine a big special-edition Toblerone bar, with 25 segments, each with a number and a cute picture. I say they’d fly off the shelves.

…so how am I planning to do this? There are two options:

  • Option 1: Obtain night-time access to the Toblerone factory in Bern-Brünnen, Switzerland. Have my muse distract the guards (she’ll be good at that), and bring a few friends (let’s call them “the elves”) along to re-tool the factory overnight. Oh come on, it’ll be worth it.
  • Option 2: If Option 1 fails, The TechShop is actually giving classes in using a laser-cutter to etch food! No kidding. You can just sign up and learn. There’s even a class this weekend. Etching the sides of a Toblerone bar will be a challenge, but it’s got to be a little easier than Option 1.

I’m planning to make one of these as the holidays approach. If you beat me to it, please make an extra one and etch my name on it.

Random assertion: When trying to predict the future of any technology, remember the laser. It has not yet been used to defend the planet against an alien attack, but that little red dot will drive your cat nuts all day long.

Steganographic data: 1824/3.1

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Day 81: Training

In the balance between science and acrobatics, my lack of injury tells me I’m spending too much time on the science. Time to learn something new.

First, more time in parks and cafés with Aly. She needs to put those eyelashes to use, and flirt with random people.

While we’re out, my muse calls on a secure line. The noise in the background sounds kind of like she’s rappelling down the side of a building. All on schedule then.

DSCN1541 DSCN1561
I mentioned she’s got a police record. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t ask her about it.

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She’s just here to con people out of muffin fragments, and it’s working.

The rest of the day is spent in acrobat training.

My instructor is one of those guys who can actually do everything he teaches, and then some. He’s also my brother. I’m planning on learning all I can from his experiences, good and bad.

The wheel is great, but unforgiving. It’s heavy and made of steel, and the floor is hard. Roll over your fingers, and they’ll all break. Kris has a lot of other advice for me, such as “protect your back at all times.”

DSCN1564 DSCN1630

The helmet is a good idea, as serious head injury would complicate the day.

The spine shield is non-standard; it’s actually designed for ski racing. It does a great job of preventing impact-related injuries.

(If you’ve done a somersault on a wood floor, you know it’s not comfortable. Imagine doing a fast one from a few feet up, maybe with metal rails in the way. Hooray for spine shield.)

The shield also provides some back support, but as always, the most important back protection comes from muscle control, keeping abs tight and trunk solid. No device can give you that. Having had two spinal fractures in the past, I take back safety seriously.

Kris gives me a bunch of basic exercises and gruntwork, so that I can get my butt kicked, collect some bruises, and learn how the wheel moves. I spend hours and hours on them.

By the end of the day, I’ve got a bunch of new bruises and blisters, and I’ve put “shin pads” on my shopping list. I’ll be back every day this week.

Tonight I’m meeting up with Jon and Donna for some excellent pizza at Haystack. It’s great to catch up and plan future shenanigans.


They’re amused by this picture, taken just out side the circus school:

Random assertion: Being the oldest brother doesn’t always make you the teacher.

Steganographic data: 1826/2.8

Published in: on August 9, 2008 at 10:18 am  Comments (3)  
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Day 45: Twisted Gravity

My muse has got a new assignment, which means it’s time to disappear again, very quickly. I don’t know if we’ll have access to anything digital (I hope not), so hang tight and we’ll reappear in a few days if all goes well.

Today I had brunch with someone I suspect I might be related to.

When Nick and I talk about science, we get so worked up about it that people around us ask to be re-seated, “a little farther away from those two, please.”

There’s something keeping him awake at night, and it’s very similar to something that’s been keeping me up late too. Said out loud, our conclusions sound crazy. So for the sake of both our muses, we’d better get together and hash it out for a while.

Drawing on the napkin won’t do, because the subject is the relation of mass and distance to torsion energy.

This is today’s napkin sketch.

As I get in my car, I hear a woman’s voice from about 30 feet in the air, in a grove of trees. Sure enough, there’s a young lady in a helmet and harness, doing something decidedly unsafe.

She really looks like she’s walking on something, but there’s no branch or platform under her. Just nothing. And she’s cute. Excellent.

Random assertion: Of course some of your scientific theories are wrong. So are everyone else’s. If they match your observations, keep them.

Steganographic data: 1874/0.6

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Day 34: Monorail Porn

We start the day by kicking up a smoked salmon scramble with fried capers. Plenty of energy for what’s to come.

I got to go into work with Kris today.

The posters for his show are six stories tall.

On the left is the main entrance, on the right, Kris stands in a training room (tightly cropped to respect the show’s secrets).

Request #1: Right, monorails! Who am I to turn down a request for a photo shoot?

Some of you are familiar with Mr. H, who wanted to know, more than anything, if I had ridden the Las Vegas Monorail. And could I please post pictures. Of course I did, and of course I will.

It’s actually hard to get a good photo of the monorail, unless you want one from underneath. Not so sexy.

I did find a place outside where I could hang out, high enough to be level with it. It’s not strictly forbidden, and there are no security cameras anyway (they’re all inside watching the money).

So here they all are, by special request.

Okay, Mr. H is right. Monorails are cool. Kris and I were thinking that they should extend this one to the airport, but it looks like that’s already planned.

Request #2: Another request I got, from a cryptographer friend, was to encrypt the secret parts instead of just blacking them out. That could get me in trouble, but what the heck, that’s not unusual.

So Mr. N/Po, here’s what I did for the rest of the day:

There’s an excellent [qsyop piydofr pg s apvsa vsmyoms] where the bartender knows how to [zslr rcvraarmy zsthstoysd] and if you’re willing to wait, [s brtu dqovu rmvjoasfs] with three different extremely hot [dsivrd]. After the first one, when I asked [gpt dpzr arzpmsfr, jr dsof jr fofm’y aolr yjr dyigg om yjr dpfs] gun at all, so [jr zsfr dpzr gtpz gtrdjau] squeezed [arzpmd, ejovj esd qrtgrvy, smf mpy ypp] sweet.

The pole-dancing [vsdomp od vapdrf imyoa momr, dp O qasurf dpzr nasvlksvl mrstnu].

…It’s all true, and I was even in perfect time to catch my flight home.

…and my beautiful muse picked me up at the airport in SF, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: dinner at Incanto. Oh yum.

Whew, that’s enough for one day. (It’s kind of enough for three days, really.)

Random assertion: Many things which are not encouraged are also not technically forbidden.

Steganographic data: 1888/6.4

Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 11:15 am  Comments (5)  
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Day 33: Sorcery and G-Forces

I start the morning off by making us a huge stack of chocolate chip pancakes, and a few blueberry as well.

One great thing about Las Vegas, when you fill out a form (medical, apartment rental, whatever) you can put “Circus Performer” as your occupation and no one’s even surprised.

My muse, backstage with Kris on a recent visit

We spend part of the day planning a future act for him. He’s got some fantastic ideas. Any time Kris is performing, he’s also working on the next thing, because he’s smart.

During development of his current act, I got a call from mom: “Would you please call your brother and tell him 4 G’s is too much force?” She was right, of course. That’s what I love about my family. (The fact that he’s 30 feet above the stage doesn’t worry her. She and dad are used to that.)

Kris has two very lovely housemates, Michelle and Angela. They’ve been kind enough to let me use their room while they’re out of town.

There are also two black cats here, named David Hasselhoff and Kevin Bacon. (Really.)

It occurs to me that I haven’t actually seen those two actors in quite some time. Given the number of candles around, a likely explanation is that my brother is living with a pair of sorceresses who like to keep pets.

I’ll do what I can to stay on their good side.

Random assertion: Sorcery can only exist in a world where most people think it’s impossible.

Steganographic data: 1870/2.8

Published in: on June 19, 2008 at 10:06 am  Comments (4)  
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Day 32: Acrobats, Ink and Heat

I get off the plane in Las Vegas, and the cabbie’s thermometer says 114°. I suspect it’s exaggerating; with the wind chill, it barely feels over 105.

New stuff is being built here, always.

Between 1pm and 5pm, I spent a lot of time ███████ ██████ and ████████ frozen ████████ and trying to stay ███ ██ ███ ████, but a nice pair of 4’s, split and then doubled, were kind enough to pay for my lunch.

It just means I owe them for next time, really. This city is much more fun when you bring a muse with you.

My brother Kris is an acrobat performing for Cirque here in Las Vegas. He’s got a few days off, so I came out to play in his city, and hang out.

I meet up with Kris at a tattoo studio. Charlie runs the place (with his whole family helping), and he does excellent work. I particularly like the family portrait on their website.

Charlie and Kris and I found a local burger place.

We spend the afternoon catching up, and late at night, we make a sushi run. I’m skeptical about finding good sushi in the desert, but Kris is right. This little place is excellent. Friendly sushi chefs, and really good toro and uni.

Random assertion: Cards will lend you money sometimes, but the interest rate is not good.

Steganographic data: 1854/7.2

Published in: on June 18, 2008 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 25: Bodies in Motion

I’ve really been looking forward to this. The Renner Gallery is open!

For the next 7 weeks, some fantastic work is on display on Market St. between Castro and Noe.

John Renner is (you guessed it) an acrobat.

The photographs by Gregory Bartning and Mark Jenkins are astonishing. There are some intriguing close-up botanicals, and many extraordinarily powerful male and female nudes.

Several of the models are good friends of mine, and it’s amazing to see how Gregory and Mark capture them. In this work, “artist” can refer person in front of the camera, as well as the one behind it.

I’ve done flying trapeze with John for more years than either of us is ready to count. We’ve actually traveled and performed professionally.

Before seeing the gallery, I stopped here for breakfast and a nap.

…and after, met a good friend (an expert in software engineering, saber fencing and crime fighting in general) for dinner. More on her later.

Tomorrow: Time to get out of town for a few days.

Random assertion: Art is not about what you could do; it’s about what you do, and how others react.

Steganographic data: 1860/5.0

Published in: on June 11, 2008 at 7:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 22: They Started It, Really

My parents arrive today.

Dad is teaching a statistical analysis in the laboratory workshop at a local biotechnology center next week, so they’re using our place as a B&B and base of operations. I need to stop by the Ferry building to pick up some special ingredients so my muse and I can make dinner for them.

First things first, time to stop to hang with acrobats for a few hours.

Alan, E-Beth and Kendra are a blast to fly with.

Michael is doing some setup for the upcoming shows.

I wasn’t able to find everything I was looking for at the Ferry Building, so we had to improvise a bit, but it turned out really well. Dinner at home:

  • A tasty Burrata (my muse’s idea, and a good one), with tomato, basil and olive oil
  • Steamed clams in a spicy wine sauce
  • Seared grouper and asparagus
  • Gelato, macaroons and a blueberry tart
  • Wine we brought back from Ingrid’s vineyard

Over dessert, we tell them about Secret Plan 170, which involves them (and will likely require an armed escort, but just for a few days). They’re up for it. In fact, they can’t wait.

Random assertion: If you enjoy cooking and traveling with your parents, they have surely done their job well.

Steganographic data: 1864/2.2

Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Day 17: Acrobats and Puzzles

If you want to see some live acrobat performances, the Circus Center’s most talented students will be performing in two different shows in June.

Kids are welcome, and you can get tickets and information here.

Today I met up with one of those good friends you can learn a lot from. Dave Litwin is an acrobat (you expected that) and an inventor (you might have guessed that too), but his serious superpower is this: He finds solutions, very very quickly.

This wiseguy can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute while carrying on a conversation, and less than 30 seconds if he’s Focused. Last year, he started teaching me how to solve them. I’m not fast, but he’s working on me.

This is a small part of Dave’s collection

He also invents puzzles, and builds them at the TechShop. You can actually order a handmade puzzle from him. After lunch, he showed me a prototype of a new one he’s working on.

In 1991, Dave and I built a computer together, but that’s another story.

Random assertion: Focus (with a capital “F”), is a gift which allows a person to dedicate every breath and motion to a single task. It can be used to accomplish astounding things, but carefully. As with any tool, it wants to rule the user.

Steganographic data: 1876/3.2

Day 14: Fog and Dangerous Music

So I’ve started collecting albums by “Musicians who have been denied entry to the United States.” I picked up Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse today, and I already have Cat Stevens… still need Axel Willner’s band… got any more? I’m looking for recommendations.

Why? Maybe it has to do with attraction to things you’re being protected from. Anyway, it’s fun, and the music’s good.

This morning’s sunrise was somewhat less brilliant than Wednesday’s

…but the funny thing about San Francisco weather is that a 10-minute drive in any direction (I chose North) will usually get you this:

Microclimates are awesome.

Had lunch with a good friend and talented acrobat in Mill Valley who wants to remain anonymous. (She’s an art dealer in the daytime.) I tell you, we’re everywhere.

(Hey wait, is that a picture of a golf course?)

Here’s something you didn’t expect me to say: Golf is fun.

Even though your feet are on the ground, and your life is hardly ever in danger, it’s fun anyway.

Running a probability analysis of this driving range would make you a nerd.

My muse taught me to play; you can clear your mind completely, or think about how unlikely it is that the ball could ever actually find its way to the hole by natural means. The courses in and around SF are excellent.

After stopping in at work to visit some friends, I found my muse at one of the best places in the city, Mission Beach Cafe.

You need to eat here. These guys run a fantastic restaurant, small and comfortable, with unbelievable food. She also likes it because she can flirt with the cute waiters.

Random assertion: If all women had voices like Jenna Mammina, men would be utterly defenseless.

Steganographic data: 1876/1.8