The Cauldron
Diaries, 2001
1999: Construction - Burning Man - Winter
2000 - 2001


October 14, 2001: Burning Man Decompression
October 13, 2001: Horse Cow Gallery show
September 17, 2001: Pyrotubes update, and the firefall at Burning Man 2001
      Firefall doesn't run at Burning Man 2001
June 23, 2001: Feast Of Fire, 2001 at The Crucible
      June 19, 2001: First test run
      June 20, 2001: Second test run
      June 21, 2001: No test run...
      June 22, 2001: Quick, successful test
      June 23, 2001: The Crucible Fire Feast 2001
      June 24, 2001: Breakdown
      June 26, 2001: Epilogue -- no go for Ju-Playa...

October 14, 2001: Burning Man Decompression

From the Horse Cow Gallery show, Mike brought the firefall back to the City forthe Burning Man Decompression.

We were already pretty exhausted. We set up the firefall and Thought, and the Pleasure Palace [a small dome I built as a love nest/chill space for our camp this year.]

After everything was set up [aside from filling with water] we wondered around some to see the art, and then took a nap. Sleeping on the air mattress in the Pleasure Palace, with thumping music resonating through the mattress, was so much like being back on the playa!!

Joey woke us up with help with water. After a little bit of argument, where I was a bit sleepy and grumpy, we figured out how to handle the short hose and get the water into the firefall. A local guy who lived next to the Cocomo, helped immensely!

We did our initial run to appease the fire chief -- who was quite satisfied -- we took another nap before lighting up for real.

The firefall ran great and had a good crowd! Sadly, we weren't allowed to let people touch the flames, so there was a barricade to keep people away. But Scott and I could play and demonstrate, and people asked their usual questions.

Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes of running, the pump stopped working! We tried to get it to go again, but the pull-cord wouldn't budge -- the motor had seized! We figured out that it had run out of oil!

I kicked myself at this point, since I almost changed the oil before the Horse Cow show, but I talked myself out of it, since it hadn't run at Burning Man and had probably only 10 hours of time since the last change. Silly me! The oil has leaked slightly since mud got into it, so it had all run out. :(

So we packed up, a bit discouraged.

October 13, 2001: Horse Cow Gallery show

Allen wanted the firefall at his show the day before the Burning Man Decompression -- a long weekend for us!

He came to pick it up the night before, and helped us set it up the day of the show.

He set up the dome around it to protect it from wind, but it wasn't needed in the Urban environment -- the wind is blocked by so many trees and buildings.

The firefall ran very well! Hardly anyone came into the dome and touched the flames, though, which was too bad. But since the SFFD were squeemish about people playing in the flames, Allen felt it was best people didn't play anyway. Oh well.

September 17, 2001: Pyrotubes update, and the firefall at Burning Man 2001

Firefall doesn't run at Burning Man 2001

Figured I'd mention that I just finally cleaned up [somewhat] Scott's webpage for his project Thought.

Go and check it out! It's a very cool project. [Of course, pictures really don't do it any justice...]

Also, a quick update that the Caudron never got to run at Burning Man this year. :( Every night we were free, the breeze was just too much for it and kicked water out of the bowl. Plus picking up my mom from the airport, plus the Bachelor/ette parties, plus the wedding. Just too much going on, and when there wasn't, the wind shut us down...

By sunday, I was so frustrated that I was planning to first see if getting enough people to gather around it would block the wind enough to light it. And if that didn't work, I was determined to move the RV and block the wind that way!! It was Sunday after all...

But Fate seemed not to want the firefall to run, because my brother took a fall on a skateboard behind a scooter, and ended up having to be air-lifted to Reno. [THAT was quite an adventure! But I'm not going to talk about it, but for these short notes: wreck in Empire, gate and road closed, back way only locals know, flat tire, and a 1 hour trip turned into about 5... But we got there, and he was and is fine.]

All in all, however, a perfect Burning Man! We really couldn't've asked for a better year!

And, holy cow, those twisters peeling off the Man when he Burned?!?!?! Wow! As I said to Scott, "this is our Wedding Burn! They're doing all this for us!!" :)

Here's the link for pictures again:

Ah, and the CatBus...


June 23, 2001: Feast Of Fire, 2001 at The Crucible

June 19, 2001: First test run

I started in the daytime, using the water that was left over from the last time we ran. The Firefall was full of leaves, and bottle brush needles, and muck, and mosquitoes. I tried to recirculate the water to filter it. The filter burst at one point, and I got pretty frustrated. I can't remember if we lit up or not, we were having so much trouble. I forget what other problems we were having, but when the filter burst, I decided to just start over from scratch. I believe this was Tuesday.

June 20, 2001: Second test run

So, I took the whole thing apart, drained all the water, turned it over and sprayed it out, reassembled it, and refilled it. I think this was Wednesday.

I forget why, but we were still having problems with the filter though it didn't burst. I decided to go to three layers of filter, instead of four.

June 21, 2001: No test run...

I had a long day Thursday. Doug and I took his twin girls to Sacramento to work on the covering for our dome for our theme camp for Burning Man. From there, we rushed home so that I could host an anime showing of Kiki's Delivery Service. We finished the showing around midnight, so there was no way that I was going to do a test run of the Firefall. It would have to wait until Friday, which was cutting it a bit close if we had problems.

June 22, 2001: Quick, successful test

Friday night, with three layers of cloth, everything started up flawlessly. We lit up and she ran fine, though the flames seemed to be a little bit more towards the edges than normal. Scott and I were a bit frustrated from our tests earlier in the week, so we were eager to be done with it.

June 23, 2001: The Crucible Fire Feast 2001

I woke up early in the morning, and went out to break everything down. I lamented about trying to find a way to suck water very close to the bottom of the Firefall to get every last drop out before we had to tip it to empty it. I figured out a very simple method to make it easy. All I had to do was to cover a bit of the outlet basket all the way around and leave only the bottom surface open, so the water could only go into the bottom, not from sides. Excited, I grabbed a simple plastic grocery bag, ripped it open, started the pump, and wrapped it around the sides, while the suction held it in place. It worked beautifully! It drained more water than I could've possibly gotten by holding the suction hose myself from the top. Pretty happy about that discovery!

I had everything broken down around 9:00. The only person who had replied about helping me load the Firefall was Dave Cherry, but he was having problems with his knees. I told him I'd call by 10:00 if I needed him, but I was reluctant to do so. Luckily, I got a call first from Robert, then email from Richard, so I called David and let him know that I was okay.

I then headed out to get the trailer, thinking it would take the less than an hour...

To make a long story short, they wanted to charge me $17 for parts, and $40 for labor, to permanently convert my truck to accept only U-Haul lighting wiring. I refused the labor, and attempted to hook up the wiring myself. But the wires were not the colors they were in the instructions. The guy tried to help me some, but it was clear if he did the job, he wouldn't've gotten it right either. I left with only the left turn signal working -- no break lights either. They told me I could return it by 6:00 the next day (Sunday). Note: I returned it just before 5:00, and they close at 5:00 on Sunday. Note also: there were twelve people waiting for box trucks, who made reservations for the morning on Saturday, and who were told they could pick up their trucks in the morning on Saturday. Because I was told I can return the trailer by 6:00, I'm guessing those trucks wouldn't come in until 6:00 either. U-Haul sucks.

I arrived home sometime after 11:00. Robert and Richard were very helpful, and didn't let me load a thing. We also got Scott's project loaded in as well. It did very well inside the bottom bowl in a 5 by 8 trailer.

Scott and I went to the Crucible and got help unloading everything.

The Firefall was placed in the gutter, the ground was V-shaped. We agreed upon using the Crucible's 5 ft. diameter 2 in. thick steel plate under the Firefall. The Firefall would overhang about six in. all the way around, but we figured that should be okay. They brought the plate over with a forklift, and we shimmed it using wood and the shims we had for the Firefall. The plate had a few bumps in it, so we covered it using the carpet from the back of my truck. We got help lifting the top bowl, but we pretty much assembled the whole thing by ourselves, which was probably not good for either of us.

Finally! We brought the hose over and started to fill it up. We put the final touches on everything, and once the water level covered the suction hose, we ran the pump to see how it was going. We used three layers of filter cloth, and it seemed to look pretty good.

We wandered around waiting for the rest of the Firefall to fill up. We wandered into the flame garden, and admired the artwork, which looked pretty darn good even without the flames. Suddenly, I realized Firefall was probably getting a bit too full. I turned off the water, but it was about six to eight inches from the top. Once the top bowl was full, the level would be a little bit lower, but it was still a bit higher than we usually run, though about the same as when we ran it at Ben Macri's party.

We put the final touches on everything, and headed home to fix our hair. I wanted to bleach the roots of my blonde patch, and Scott and I wanted to bleach his hair and dye it blue -- black at the top, to dark blue, to blue, to white at the very tips of the bottom. We looked great!

By the time we were ready, it was already 8:30. We rushed over to the Crucible, knowing we pretty much had to set up to get ready to run right away. We met with Buzz, who would be sharing power from our generator. We got him set up, we got everything ready to go, and we grabbed a quick bite to eat before we started to run. We ate in the staff's quarters, and chatted with our friend Jeremy.

Around 10:00, we were ready to run. We had problems with the remote control plug. We think it was because it was a on the other side of a quarter of a fence -- meeting, the corner of a chain-link fence was between us and the remote control. We think the metal might interfere with the signal. So we had to run on "manual". Scott disconnected the remote control, and waited on my voice commands.

So we lit up, but we couldn't get the flames to stay on the top bowl. And we couldn't get the inner bubble to light. It was pretty frustrating, and we tried for quite a while. We throttled the pump down as low as it could go, but the water kept pushing the flames over the edge. Scott thought the water was too cold, but it really didn't feel very cold to me. We finally decided that the reason that the flames wouldn't stay on the top bowl was because we had three layers of filter cloth instead of four. We shut everything down and replaced the three layers of filter cloth with a new set of four layers.

We also wondered if the water level was too high and was causing the blue fireball. I said to Scott, "shut down, and lets drain some of the water." The fire safety guy who was overlooking our project and Buzz's project, came up to me and said, "you're not going to drain flammable liquids into the street, are you?" I said, "oh, no no no! There are no flammables at all on the water right now. They have all burned off. And anything that might be left has evaporated by now." Some guy came up to us, a bit panicked by what we were talking about. I introduce myself as a creator of the artwork. He says, "the fire department will want to know about this!" So he scurries off and returns with some firemen. I explained to the firemen that the Firefall is mostly water, and I would be draining water from the bottom of the bowl, and that the flammables evaporate very quickly, and that any flammables left will drain into the pedestal barrel and can't possibly mix into the water that we'll be draining. The fireman is quite satisfied with this, and says he has no problem that. So, whatever. I unhook the feed hose, and let the water drain by siphoning. I don't want to make too much of a mess, so I drain about five to six inches of water. The level is still a bit higher than normal but much better than it was.

It still didn't seem to help a whole lot, though the inner bubble seemed to catch on fire a little easier, but even it wouldn't remain stable enough to allow people to approach the Firefall. What's more, the water over the filter had that lumpy look that made me worry that the filter was about to burst. It didn't though, thank goodness. We also got a blue fireball that pushed the water out of the Firefall a little bit -- to the ooos and aahs of the crowd. I said to them, "that's why we don't let anyone approach the Firefall until its stable!"

About this time, my friend Temple came up to me. He said he was trying to begin his performance, and that it needed to be on time. I wasn't really sure what he was asking, but I was very busy, and a little annoyed that he was trying to talk to me when I was obviously trying to light the Firefall. I tried to tell him I was busy, but he kept insisting on trying to talk to me. He then took a baton, lit it on the Firefall, turned his back on the Firefall, then announced the beginning of his performance.

This really ticked me off on a number of points: first, he shouldn't have interrupted someone concentrating on fire; second, he shouldn't have approached the Firefall when it wasn't stable; third, he shouldn't have turned his back on the Firefall -- his back was only one foot away from the flames; and forth, it wasn't very nice to interrupt my performance to announce his performance.

By now, I was pretty frustrated I couldn't get the Firefall to be stable, and I said as much to the audience. Though, people enjoyed as it was, so I probably should have kept my mouth shut. :)

Someone came up to me and told me that the fire department didn't want anyone to interact with Firefall at all. Oh well. I couldn't get its stable anyway, so that was just as well. People had a hard time, however, keeping their hands off it! This is one of my biggest compliments.

I commented to the audience that I was concerned about the wispy blue flames I was getting. I told them, though, that these flames were very beautiful and very rare and that they should enjoy them.

Around 11:30 -- after about an hour and a half of running -- I heard the sound of the aluminum rippling. I hear this sound when the flames are licking too close the edges. The aluminum gets hot and changes shape. Scott and I walked around the Firefall to see where it was coming from. On the opposite side from me, which is the other uphill side, because of the plate underneath, the sides are tilted inward too far. The space between the water falling over the edge and the Firefall sides is very narrow, and the flames are too hot. The air between the aluminum and the plastic was heating up. The plastic had begun to melt, and had stuck to the aluminum. Scott and look at eachother in a panic. Calmly, I said, "let's shutdown." Scott moves calmly to the fuel and shuts it off. Once the flames die away, I calmly shut down the water pump. We disconnect the fuel pump power supply, and put away all of our tools, and generally close up shop. Scott notes that we're almost out of fuel -- even though we were shutting down and bringing it back up constantly for that hour and a half, we used an hour and a half of fuel!

The Firefall was done for the night.

We wandered around, enjoying what was left of the show. Standing and walking around on concrete had taken its toll on my back, and my legs were getting cramps. At around 3:30, we finally decided to leave. We saw Michael Sturtz as we were leaving. He asked us if we're going to pack out before we leave. We looked at each other so exhausted, and said, "uh, no." He said he hoped that was okay, but that the city may not like having things in the street all night. Scott and I looked at each other, knowing there was no way that we would pack out right then. We would just have to take our chances. Michael said he'd have to deal with that if he had to. But then he shook our hands, and thanked us for bringing the Firefall, which made of world of difference to us.

June 24, 2001: Breakdown

The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed, and went to take care of the Firefall. We chatted with Rutka, who did the giant goddess sculpture, and Chris, who built Spin. We also chatted with a bizarre stranger who worked as a landscape contractor and wanted to talk to me about building flaming fountains for his clients. We weren't sure what to make of him, but I gave him my card. He helped us move the top bowl, which was very nice of him. He chatted with us for quite a long while, and I finally just got back to work and listened to him while we were working. Michael came out and thanked us again for running the Firefall for the show. He also gave us two T-shirts for the Crucible show. That was really awesome! The last time we had done a Crucible show, it was so grueling on us, and we didn't feel appreciated. This time it was completely different! It was a real shame that things didn't work out, but we did have a good time, and people seem to really love the Firefall, even if it didn't work properly, and they couldn't play with flames.

June 26, 2001: Epilogue -- no go for Ju-Playa...

Epilogue: well, it looks like the Firefall has a lot of work that needs to be done on it. And there's no way that we can fix it by the next weekend -- when we were supposed to bring it to the Playa for "Forth of Ju-Playa". Not to mention that Scott and I are in no shape to load and set up the Firefall this weekend. Not to mention that it usually takes a full day to get water for the Firefall on the Playa, which is a significant portion of a three-day weekend trip... So, unfortunately, we won't be taking it up to the Playa this weekend. Our friend Allen won't be very happy about this...

Things that need to be done:

Rebuild the fuel ring -- make the ring smaller, and centered over the water outlet bottom bowl -- make a decision on whether to get a larger bowl or not, or just get a new plastic bowl new pedestal -- once the bottom bowl is settled on, cut the stainless steel barrel aluminum -- once the bottom bowl is settled on, replace all the aluminum fuel line -- replace the entire length of the fuel line muffler -- get a muffler to attach to the water pump sound box -- build a proper sound box feed hose -- get a new feed hose, because the old one is beginning to get holes in it fuel -- talk to Joey about getting naphtha in five gallon buckets filter -- find something to keep the filter cloth from bursting

Yikes! That's a lot of stuff!