I spent the July 4, 2009 weekend here.
Suffice to say it was an awesome time. The folks who put on Toor Con (never been to one) hosted ~150 (?) hackers, scientists, artists, and other creative types at a Titan I Missile Silo outside of Moses Lake Washington for 3+ days of astronomy, radios, kites, computer security and other general mayhem. I found the event via happenstance, and jumped at the chance to attend the first stateside analogue of the CCC events in Germany I'd been envying for some time. Equally I jumped at the opportunity to see a missile silo, as I love exploring, and did not know where else I might find one.
This was my first visit to Washington state. I flew from a nondescript location in Iowa to Seattle, then made the last leg of the journey by car. I didn't see much on the outbound trip but the views coming back through the Cascades, ending in a Seattle sunset were spectacular. The digital camera had eaten all of its batteries by that point, so no pictures. The area around Moses Lake is full of irrigated farmland - good quality alfalfa hay, wheat, potatos and sweet corn under center pivot irrigation.
The camp site was hot, dry, and covered in light, powdery dust. It flew up at each step, it got into everything, it fed the dust devils that frequented the camp. USGS maps indicate the site had ash deposits from Mt. St. Helens. I got a look at the underlying structure in a cut half full of scrap and the remnants of a crane. Unsure whether the strata were undisturbed or backfill.
The dust was held by sagebrush, dotted with a few wildflowers. The ground between was littered with a dessicated moss the made the light dust look gray/black. A drop of water would open and green up the tendrils of a handful of the stuff. The dramatic transformation and the tactile sensation produced became the subject of frequent impromptu experiments.
Daily temperatures were in the 80s down to a very comfortable 60s at night. I found it pleasant compared to my usual midwestern humid summer. The direct sun was the hard part, blaring like Armageddon across the tents at dawn with heat soon to follow. The constant sun and dust meant constantly drinking water to avoid sunstroke.
Our hosts had provided us with a water truck which supplied drinking taps, sinks, and cold water showers that drained to an evaporation pool. Portable toilets, regular food service, medical support, ice - Toorcon's infrastructure generally did very well.
Upon arrival, guests were given shirts, an RFID badge kit, and hardhats. Drive in slow to minimize the dust and find a campsite. Half a dozen geodesic domes spread around the site, along with a pyramid of tarps, wood, and shipping containers.
Thursday afternoon and evening were a series of short talks (~20 minutes) and shorter ignite talks (5 minutes). Schedule ran over
and was frequently rearranged, a theme that would continue throughout the weekend.
Friday - two tracks of full hour talks, plus ongoing confusion about the schedule. One track was relocated after a dust devil wrecked a geodesic dome. Much gossip and grumping about the silo situation.
Site is owned (leased?) by a company called Levitate, with plans to put a datacenter in the silo complex. Owner has a related company, Levitate Energy, which he just started, to supply portable green generators. After making arrangements with Toorcamp organizers, Levitate attempts to piggyback its own event - a "green energy concert" with bands from Seattle and vicinity. Bribes Toorcamp participants with (previously promised) silo access in exchange for attendance at concert.
Some were annoyed with the Levitate Energy dust-up. In true hacker spirit, they dealt with it in creative ways. Hard hats, costumes, a V mask or two, and lots of photos of the diesel powering the "green" event. I spent my time amused by the reactions, and the spectacle of an entire conference worth of hackers getting social engineered into a startup company video.
Saturday - workshops, above and below ground. Silo tours! Endless earthworks and steel and concrete - a monument to the paranoia and threat of the cold war, a testament to those, like me, too young to remember. Evening speeches by Kaminsky, Emmanuel Goldstein, monochrom's hugely funny Soviet act, fireworks visible from town, DJs (dancing on concrete til bruised feet), and a random parade/dance to
the locked gates - it felt like the world had ended.
Sunday - more tours and workshops. Gave an impromptu speech on urban exploration to an audience that knew more than I did. Closing in the powerdome with two musical performances to take advantage of the unique acoustics - a homemade didgeridoo, and a duet of keyboard/electronics+stage sound exploring the site's original purpose.
Drive back to Seattle, take a real shower, enjoy a full night's sleep, then fly back.
Much is left out of the above: all the content of the talks, workshops, conversations, etc. Writing to steer my own memory. The rest of
you will just have to come out next time, I certainly intend to.