30.1.08

SIAW Day 3

I have decided that every day at SIAW is totally weird, unexpected, and surprising.

So we started off trying to get the rotators to work.  After patching them into the channels correctly, they still didn't work.  So I called Brunson and left a message (it was 7 AM his time).

Next order of business: install the new bulbs into the follow spots.  This went pretty well; I didn't touch the bulbs, and we managed to get the first one working pretty well.  The second was different.  Apparently whoever had borrowed the spotlight and removed the lamp from it was pretty rough with the light, because the hinge on the door covering the bulb was bent at an awful angle.  We managed to get the door off the back of the spotlight.  Then Colton left to get a nail to use for a new hingepin (the one in there had been bent), and I took a pair of pliers and did my best to bend the hinge back so that it actually worked.  After about ten minutes of messing with it, we managed to get the new door on.

Then, Julia walked past the other spot and noticed that it smelled awful.  This led to an investigation of whether or not we were overpowering the spots with the 1000 watt bulbs.  Eventually we decided that there wasn't much we could do about it. 

So we got to work.  I taught Julia the basics of how to record a cue and got her started.  About 15 minutes later, both spots and the rotators died.  We guessed correctly that we had overloaded the circuit.  After unplugging everything and resetting the breaker, we got the spots back on.

I taught Julia the basics of how to program cues into the board and left her watching to help Colton with micing the piano.  We messed with that until lunch, pretty much.

Lunch was 5 minutes long for us.

We then went back, messed with the piano some, and then Brunson called.  He walked me through how to get the rotators working, and I set one up, assuming that the other would be easy.  I got the other working except for the four channels that moved it.  So I waited for him to call back. 

Meanwhile, we had to move the follow spots to different outlets so that we didn't overload the circuit again.

Then, we went on to design some lanterns for the scenery.  These we made out of wire and had a ton of laughs doing it.  Colton is bringing in a spot welder tomorrow so we can weld the wires together, instead of using blue masking tape. 

Brunson called back and we got the other rotator working.  Woohoo!

And that was the day that it was.

29.1.08

SIAW Day 2

Today felt weird.  Again, some good, some bad, some odd.

We started today out working out a list of what we needed to do.  We then proceeded to test the mics.  All the condensers except one worked.  So far so good.  We then went on to the wireless.  First up: sennheisser labeled "Youth Pastor's Mic".  This, of course, worked with a receiver labeled the same way.  Then, we tested the other sennheisser.  This one worked, but it went into the same box as the youth pastor's mic.  So we had to change that, but we put it off until later.  We tested red and blue Audio-Technica mics, and they worked.  But, one of the headsets was damaged. 
Then we tried for a while to get the other sennheisser to work.  After tuning it to one receiver, it didn't work, so we tuned it to another.  That didn't work either, so we had to trace the cable on it.  That didn't work. 
So we decided it was time to trace down the green A-T receiver.  We found this downstairs and had to mess with it for a while to get it to work, but it eventually did. 
Then I had the epiphany of tuning the sennheisser to the reciever that matched the one for the youth pastor's mic.  I then took a 1/4" cable and ran it from the receiver to an empty channel on the board.  And, what do you know, it worked!
So: we have 5 wireless mics, 3 headsets, and 2 lavalier mics.  Preferably, we should have 6 wireless, all headset.  Oh well.

At about this time, Mrs. H asked us when the light bulbs for the follow spots would show up.  We told her Thursday or Friday.  Her response was, I know Brunson knows a supplier in the city.  Find a supplier and get the bulbs today or tomorrow.  We said OK, ran off to do a few random tasks, and ate lunch.  After lunch I took Colton's laptop and went to Bread Co. with Mr. K to find suppliers. We found one 30 minutes away.  The cost per bulb: $18.75 each! 

So I came back armed with a telephone number and directions, and was pressed into service to raise 'the curtain'.  The curtain is a black tarp/trash bag/piece of plastic designed to help cut the light from some ill-placed windows near the stage.  We tape it to a projector screen on a pulley system in the center of stage and to two wooden rods on either side on pulleys.  Then, we have someone raise the screen while four people work the pulleys to raise the rods.  This would take all of three minutes if it weren't for Murphy's Law, which seems to always apply itself here.  It took about ten minutes to get the curtain rigged.  Then, we all pulled up.  Of course, not all at the same speed, and slowly so we didn't mess anything up. 
Amazingly, we got it within about three feet of the top before we hit real trouble.  Apparently someone had wrapped duct tape around the rope on one of the rods.  So we lowered that rod as far as we could and tried to get a hook up there so we could pull the rope down and unstick the tape.  We had to stop about fourteen feet above the stage.  Then we tried to use bailing wire formed into a hook to grab the rope.  This didn't work as the wire wasn't stiff enough.  Then Mr. C remembered the 'hook of doom': a yellow plastic hook screwed to the end of a dowel rod.  We taped this to the end of a PVC pipe and used this to grab the rope.  After unsticking the duct tape, we ran it back up and just ignored that the plastic had slid around on the rod as it was too much trouble to get it fixed. 

Then, we ran back upstairs and sent Anthony and Jacob to wire the backstage clearcoms while Colton talked with the other Mrs. H about script, and Julia and I went to try to get the rotators working.  We plugged them in, turned them on, and voila, nothing happened!  They ran through the warm up cycle fine, but we couldn't control them from the board.  So, after reading a manual and messing with settings, I decided that I had better write Brunson, the lighting wizard, for help. 

At this point we took a break and went through an explanation of how a soundboard works, in a nutshell. 

Then, Colton and Mr. B had a talk.  Julia and I meanwhile set to programming some submasters into the lightboard.  I set up a really nice mix, and tried to record it: Record, Sub, Bump.  But it didn't work.  Unfazed, I programmed it to submaster 1, assured that it would work.  No go.  At about this time Colton came and gave me a hug because I had turned out the house lights, thus starting the 'real' work period of SIAW.  Woohoo! 
Anyhow, I went on to read the manual, and having read all over the place and tried a lot of stuff it occurred to me that I was missing something basic: Settings, System Setup, #15: Board mode.  There are three settings: Two scene, one scene with subs, and one scene without subs.  Duh!  Set it to one scene with subs and everything worked again. 

Mr. B called the end of the day, made a few announcements, then dismissed us, which means that now we investigate wild tangent projects like unhooking the choir mics so we can use the snake channels they are attached to.  That will be for tomorrow as the sound tech from BBC should be in to answer our questions.

Wow!  I'm SO tired, even after eating practically all day.

28.1.08

SIAW: Day 1

Ok, so I'm going to blog about SIAW.  For the record, I'm on the tech crew with four other people: Colton, Julia, Anthony, and Jacob.  Jacob's new; Julia and Anthony have been in SIAW for two years; Colton has done SIAW for like six years.

What it was like before the day started: Colton and I were singing random bits of song: stuff from Monty Python, The Rolling Stones, and Guns and Roses.  We switched nametags to mess with everyone's mind.

So, today started out OK, the guy from BBC took care of moving most of the equipment off the stage so we didn't have to.  He came up to me and asked me if there was anything I needed to know afterwards.  I told him I'd had experience, asked him how to clear cues from a lightboard, and then he left.  So we have a pretty blank check as to what we can do (yay!).  Things were pretty interesting all day.  To put it in Colton's words, "Everything we planned for if it went wrong was fine, and everything we expected to work was broken." 

Our problems started out with the follow spots.  Now follow spots are spotlights mounted on rolling stands.  They're operated by humans, and BBC has a couple fairly nice ones.  Well, they had been disassembled (they were borrowed and returned disassembled).  One worked, but the other one didn't.  We pretty soon figured out why: there was no bulb.  Well, after some consideration, we decided we couldn't do much.  We assembled the working one, left the broken one sitting on the floor where it was, and waited to run into the guy from BBC to explain everything to him. 

We managed to get the equipment closet of doom from space unlocked and found it in a worse mess than it had been at the beginning of last year, and undoubtedly all our hard work cleaning it out was wasted.  Nonetheless, we raided it for a bunch of stuff: two MXL 990 condensers, a bunch of XLR cables.  Then we started to dig around.  Buried under two empty mic cases, a slide projector, and the case to an old video camera, we found a suitcase with six pencil condensers in it.  Bingo! 

We went back up in the balcony and rigged the clearcoms (clearcoms are headsets that run over XLR cables and are used for communication between the tech crew members and the stage managers).  This, amazingly, went off without a hitch, although we haven't done the backstage clearcoms for the stage managers (those will come tomorrow so we don't get in the way of the set construction crew).

In the middle of this, Joe, the guy from BBC, showed up and told us the scoop on the follow spots.  After hearing that they'd been borrowed, we checked the lamp in the working one, and sure enough, it had a huge bubble in the glass envelope (you should NEVER touch the envelope on a spotlight lamp because the oils from your fingers could cause the envelope to bubble or shatter).  Joe told us that he'd get new lamps from their lamp supplier by tomorrow. 

We looked through their drawers to see what we had in the way of wireless lavalier/headset mics.  We found five packs, but only four receivers.  This, of course, didn't surprise us one bit.  We went through all the headsets and found that most of them were unused.  But we had five, which is what we needed. 

Meanwhile, we had the official SIAW tech crew meeting where we gave the usual sarcastic, pithy introduction to the tech crew.  We put together a shopping list (9 volt batteries and floppy disks).  Then Colton went off to Mr. B to ask him to go out and buy the stuff we needed, Anthony and Jacob went to see if the fifth receiver box was anywhere in the building and if we could use it, and Julia and I went to test which jacks on the stage worked and which channels on the soundboard they corresponded to. 

Julia and I had a fairly uneventful time.  Basically, plug a mic into the jack, let me listen and see if I can hear you, and if I can, score!  We have a working channel.  If not, then move on to another jack.  I also discovered two 'mystery' channels on the board that had working mics attached to them even though there was no equipment onstage.  It's our guess that they were the choir mics, which we've never been able to get to work. 

At about this time Anthony radioed that he had found the receiver for the fifth box, so he and Jacob and Colton came up to the balcony.  We're going to check to see if we can borrow the box and we'll get it tomorrow.  Colton agreed that it was probably the choir mics, then he, Julia, and Jacob went off to do something else.  Anthony and I meanwhile ended up trying to trace the choir mics, which had some interesting results.

After staring up at the choir mic wires in the ceiling (and getting spotlights in my eyes), I determined where the wires from the choir mics ran.  On either side of the wall behind the stage at BBC are some darker patches which I've always thought were where the speakers were originally, before they built the stupid and ugly box that hangs right above the stage and holds their speakers now.  Well, anyhow, I wanted to see if I could find these wires somewhere, so Anthony and I went up to the second level, the baptismal.  I opened the first door that we came to, commenting to Anthony that it felt like a crime investigation or something.  Inside it were a ton of white robes presumably used for baptisms.  There was the one door to the baptismal, and another in the back corner that I thought led to a dressing room.  But I opened it anyway.  I found myself staring into the inside of one of the speaker enclosures on the side of the wall.  Anthony came up behind me and commented that this now really felt like National Treasure.  I stepped out, half expecting the floor to suddenly fall through.  There was a subwoofer back there, and a ton of other stuff.  There were some racks, and an angel doll (the Blair Witch reincarnated!) and some speakers shaped roughly like pipe organ pipes.  We were, of course, very quiet considering we were just feet away from the acting company standing onstage.  I traced the choir mic wires and they led to a set of wires numbered 24, 25, 26, and 27. 

We left and went back up to the balcony, but the numbers I had didn't correspond to the numbers of the channels running into the soundboard channels.  So, this is an unfinished investigation. 

Well, we went on and tried to find mounts for the pencil condensers in the suitcase.  After looking through all the drawers up in the balcony, Julia and Anthony went back to the closet of doom to look back there. I showed up a little later, and at about that time Julia found a grocery bag with a few handheld mics in it and a bunch of mounts.  We were getting ready to leave when she looked back and saw another box of mounts and grabbed that, too. 

We looked through the bags and found all our mounts (after Anthony somehow managed to unlock the suitcase that had somehow become locked!).  We also counted seven AKG D310 mics.  I checked and these are about $100 apiece.  Quite impressive for sitting in a grocery bag! 

And that pretty much finishes out the day. 

Somewhere in there Colton and I found an artifact: an ANCIENT video camera, with a telescoping microphone.  That was unique. 

8.1.08

1984 in the air

Tonight the dinner conversation centered around a victory that Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) had won in defending marriage from including homosexuals.  My parents were talking, and Dad made the comment that he wanted me and my sisters to remember what life was like now because it was going to change.  That reminded me of the part in 1984 where Winston goes searching for someone to ask if life was better before The Revolution.  As it turns out, the old man he asks can't remember.  I don't want to be in the same situation.

So if nothing else, remember, remember, remember.  Don't forget what life was like, and fight to keep it good and clean.

Cleaning out my laptop

My laptop's had trouble with overheating for a LONG time.  It was, to say the least, a pain, and something that got increasingly worse until it wasn't unusual for me to have SpeedFan (to tell me CPU temp) and Task Manager (to tell me CPU usage %) open so I could take preventative action for heating.  I had my laptop sitting on a cooling fan and I took the memory cover off.  It idled at roughly 110 degrees. 

So, today I opened it up (do not do this unless you have at least three clear hours and steady hands).  After removing about 30 screws of various shapes and sizes, I managed to get the heatsink off and clean it out.  The fins were clogged with dust and I was amazed that it actually still worked.  I blew it out with compressed air and generally cleaned up the machine, put it back together (missing only one screw that I had to open it up again to put in =]) and started it up.  Amazingly, it still worked, and now idles at approximately 10 degrees less than before!

Also, at the top of my keyboard is a buton strip that has three buttons: power, internet, and toshiba control panel.  When I opened it up, I found that the circuit board actually has four buttons, the fourth being Mail.  So now I'm going to figure out what that's supposed to do (or how to make it work). 

To be continued...

4.1.08

An Explanation of the Inevitability Principle of Blanched Artichokes

First, for an excellent explanation of the person you have to be to understand all this, please visit this blog

The Inevitability Principle of Blanched Artichokes is the principle that every person will eat blanched artichokes either in this life or the next. And when I say the next life, every thinking person will realize that if you have not eaten blanched artichokes in this life, you have eaten them in the life before this one, by simple logic. The effects of eating blanched artichokes stretch back over your life previous in the case that you did not happen to eat them in that life, and if you did you end up with effects^2 being applied to your life. This is due to the fact that the squared tangent of effects plus the number of lifes concurrently lived by one person (that is, one) is equal to the inverse of the cosine squared of said effects. If r is equal to effects, it is simple to see that the effects of eating blanched artichokes are related to both time and pressure by the elementary equation of pressure times volume being equal to n times r times temperature and that energy is equal to negative R of h being divided by a number, n, when n is 1, 2, 3, 8, 42, or 1789387458301. Because energy is also equal to mass times the speed of light squared, it is easily proved that r is related to the speed of light. One could also prove this by calculating the average warp speed of an antimatter particle and dividing it by the numbers of oscillations per second of the nearest black hole, multiplying by pi times 3, squaring the result, taking the r root of it, and calculating the average sine function of the answer, then adding 2.99792458 times ten to the eighth power, the result of this equation being equal to the speed of light, or c. As you can see from these elementary proofs, the inevitability principle of blanched artichokes has great impact upon our daily existence, although this is not generally known, and was not known to the thinking men until recently. However, before I explain some of the many intricacies of this principle, let me give you an example. Because I know that you are currently under the effects of blanched artichokes, I can calculate what you ate for breakfast based upon the time of sunrise of the 12th of June in AD 38, the most prominent menu item in McDonalds in the year 2011, your average weight in 1984, and the angle of refraction of the cornea of your left eye. You may find that difficult to believe, but if I were to know all these things, I could calculate your breakfast. For instance, since I know that the sunrise of the 12th of June in AD 38 was precisely 6:04:52.4783932, the most prominent menu item in McDonalds in 2011 was the 13-pack of Chicken McNuggets made with 99% real white meat, my average weight in 1973 was approximately -0 pounds, and the angle of refraction of the cornea of my left eye is exactly 92 degrees, 43 minutes, and 75 seconds, by an ingenious process I determine that I had organic plain yogurt with Polaner strawberry jelly mixed in. And, as that was exactly what I had for breakfast, I have thus demonstrated the inevitability principle of blanched artichokes. The inevitability principle of blanched artichokes is an extremely useful principle because it can be used to determine the past based on past, present, and future events. A practical example of this would be that tomorrow I calculated that this paper would be finished. It can be used to calclulate the success of projects before they complete. As well, the extent of the inevitability principle of blanched artichokes is far from being determined as we are just beginning to explore it and our knowledge grows at an exponential rate based on the equation of knowledge being equal to the inverse of cosine squared cofunction plus the hypontenuse of a squared right rhombic triangle divided by the fifth root of the extent of the spacetime fabric plus the time we spend investingating the inevitability principle of artichokes squared. Due to our lack of knowledge about the inevitability principle of blanched artichokes, thinking men often have conversations with other nonthinkers concerning seemingly benign topics that, with the proper knowledge, are used to expand our knowlege of the inevitability property of blanched artichokes. Allow me to finish with another, more complex, example. This evening I had a conversation concerning a memory program, and the person with whom I was having the conversation said, "Mrs. DeStumpf's room". This led me to deduce that Hilary Clinton was not president in 2034. Allow me to explain. I earlier proved r in relation to c, which sets the stage for calculating this. First, I must know the following information: the mass of a proton, 1.6726231 times ten to the negative twenty-seventh power, the exact time of the arrival of an email notifiying me that the Office Live Workspace has started, 13:28:54.3278, the number of pens in my pen box, eight and one marker, the eqilibrium constant of the cell of the reaction Zn(s) + 2Ag+(aq) -> Zn2+(aq) + 2Ag(s), being equal to 1.56V, the Number of Hilary Clinton, 45, the CD Set number of Microsoft Publisher 2000, X04-84021-M, and the my lottery card pick of the day from the Irish Lottery, 2-3-12-19-32-37. The calculation is as follows: because r is related to c, we can calculate that c squared times m (in this case, 1.6726231 times 13:28:54.3278) is equal to e, which is equal to r of h divided by n, in this case being 8. From this we calculate h and insert that into another equation calculating l as h divided by m times v squared plus the square root of X04-84021-M to the r power, resulting in l which we can use to calculate list A as being equal to 1.56 times negative 45 plus A of 0. These equations result in the quantumn numbers of n being equal to 8, l being equal to 5, and m being equal to 13, which is not possible. Therefore Hilary Clinton wasn't president in 2034.

2.1.08

How to improve the sound quality of bad sound stuff

Ok, so I'm not going to claim to be able to fix EVERY gadget out there that sounds bad, but if you have an el cheapo stereo, this might help. For me, it's a ~25 year old JCPenney stereo (I didn't know they made stereos!) that I bought at a garage sale. First ever stereo and I recorded some stuff on it and listened to Scott Joplin records constantly. However, after a while I drifted away from it and so now I'm coming back with a bunch of new record albums. I hooked it into my sound system, but it sounded horrible. It had a low frequency hum so loud that it lit the -20db light on my board--not good. And if I turned a knob, it put out so much static it was unbearable. So, I went to open it up and see what I could do.

Opening it was easier than I expected. There was three screws on the bottom:I unscrewed them and the bottom cover came off and I could see pretty much everything. I looked around and the first thing I noticed was that the wires for the output jacks ran right past the power cables and a transformer! As well, the power cables and the speaker cables were unshielded and not even twisted together. Now, this is about the best recipe for static hum in a system.

But, I know a fix! The official way is to rewire it with shielded twisted-pair cables and ferrite cores, but you can do it ghetto style and just twist the wires around each other and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil: Unfortunately, I was unable to get the circuit board off to access the knobs (but I have another idea if I get some time). I put the cover back on. Then I did another great DIY way of fixing dirty knobs: twisting them back and forth quickly ad nauseam.

Testing: I plugged it into my stereo and turned everything on. The first thing I noticed: no hum whatsoever. I turned the gain and mains up all the way and I could hear some hum if I put my head next to the speaker, but nothing like it was! I twisted a couple of the knobs around and no static.

Listening: I seriously didn't know records sounded this good! Sure, there are limitations to the album recording methods (notably, lowered frequency response in the middle frequencies and the tendency towards hypercompression on the inner tracks), but they sound remarkably better than before.