L2k, the ring of lights around the Man, made its customary reappearance for its sixth year. L2K comes back year after year because it is pleasing to look at and it forms a nearly perfect perimeter around the Man on the night of the burn. The ring is made up of computer-controlled harnesses, control obelisks, battery boxes/obelisks, and of course those orange LED pods. L2K has been maintained by the same manager since the project was turned over to Burning Man in 2001.
Vandalism & Theft
The problem with vandalism, first seen in 2002 and to some extent in 2003, returned with a vengeance for 2004. Over the past 3 years, a tagger has sprayed graffiti on the obelisks. Evidence suggests that the same person has done the graffiti all along, as the message and style have remained exactly the same. Pod theft is always an issue. Pods seem to disappear faster than they can be made. During exodus, a pod was found lying on the road. It seems that someone took a pod and later dropped it on the bumpy road.
- Battery charging: The L2K batteries have been showing age and are probably at the point where they need replacement. The batteries would no longer hold a high charge voltage during the 2004 event. The resulting incomplete charge and voltage differences between batteries caused general ring pattern instabilities that were difficult to correct.
- Harness testing and repairs: Only one harness needed repair, and that harness refused to respond to any attempts to get it working. Due to time constraints on the playa, that harness was left for repair during the off-season for 2005.
- Pod construction/recycling: As in the past, pods were recycled for 2004, reducing the overall cost and time spent to make new pods. A cheap source for LEDs (one of the more expensive items for this project) saved money for diodes with the same color and a little more brightness. Overall, 250 pods were made for 2004. This quantity seemed to be just enough to get the ring installed.
L2K had weathered a difficult year in 2003, because some volunteer managers for the project didnt even show up for the clean-up. A new approach for 2004 involved assembling a new management team for the install and take-down. The team included trenching and installation managers who were assigned specific tasks. The goal was to flag the perimeter as quickly as possible, with oversight by the trenching manager. This task was completed so quickly that we finished about an hour before the trencher was available. We spent the free time staging the pods and harnesses. By the time the trencher arrived we were ready to go!
Our goal for installation was to streamline the process without getting ahead of ourselves. We wanted to dig the trench only as fast as the harness could be laid and pods attached. We succeeded! The ring was installed in 4½ hours the fastest time to date. This achievement was possible only through the efforts of a dedicated team of individuals.
Sunday after the temple burn, the ring was removed. The process involves pulling the pods from the ring and setting the broken ones aside. The pods are placed in buckets to be transported back to storage, where they await testing and repair for the coming year. The harnesses are pulled up, coiled and placed in bins. Batteries and harnesses are loaded onto a truck to be returned to Reno for charging. The area is then cleaned of all debris. The ring was packed away quickly and efficiently at the end of the 2004 event. Thanks go out to all those who helped make the take-down the fastest to date.
The 2004 event proved to be the best yet for volunteers, especially on Monday, when we installed the ring. A dedicated cat wrangler and one very spirited manager easily rounded up the needed volunteers. Thanks go out to our volunteer coordinator who got people to help out with the installation and encouraged them not to leave (much to their dismay) until they found their own replacements. Special thanks also go out to anyone who helped from beginning to end.
Dedicated management teams work! But for all the success of L2K, the project manager has announced his resignation. He will be bringing L2K to the playa for 2005 and then turning the project over to a new manager. As he states 5 years is a long time to be dealing with a project of this magnitude. But the project will be upgraded to the best of our abilities prior to the handover. Planned changes include some modifications to the battery boxes so that the batteries can be removed at the end of the event. We can then store the obelisks with the rest of L2K. The batteries can be transported separately for charging, saving space. The team will construct 750 new pods to bring the stock back up to 2001 levels. Harnesses will be carefully examined to fix every defect that can be found. The goal is to turn the project over in the same shape it was in for the 2001 burn – or better.
Tim Kendziorski, aka Ring Leader