Good Advice from Direct Experience

I turned 50 not long ago, so I feel I am old enough to share a few general life lessons.

This won’t take long.

  • Own your life.
    • Do your own thinking.
    • Take responsibility for your feelings.
    • Your circumstances can be an explanation, but not an excuse.
      • My nearsightedness is more of a day-to-day problem for me than my autism, by a good margin. No one fundraises for my nearsightedness. Just saying.
    • Trust your stuff (whatever that stuff happens to be).
      • It is your job to figure out what your stuff is.

If you don’t know, choose the option that leaves the most other options open.

    • Sometimes that means stalling, and that’s OK. I mean, it’s like deliberately fouling to stop the clock, but that’s a legitimate tactic.
    • If you know – then do it. Nike is right about that.
  • Define yourself as broadly as possible. When you say stuff like “as an [x] I believe….” you are artificially narrowing your perspective, and thereby leaving out options to no gain.
    • I am a discrete entity within the time-space continuum, with a definable vector through space time and a known mass.
      • That may be carrying it a little far.

 

I have become fond of the Four Agreements of Toltec Wisdom:

  • Keep your word.
  • Take nothing personally.
  • Avoid Assumptions.
  • Do Your Best.

 

General Work advice:

  • You can get a job by knowing what you’re doing. You make a career by taking responsibility for getting it done.
  • Getting yourself into position to do the work well is never a waste of time.
    • Seriously: measure twice – cut once.
    • Just wear or use the fucking PPE.
    • Absolutely double-check that you have everything before you crawl/climb into the confined space/stupid high place.
  • Building relationships is never a waste of time.
    • Decisions aren’t made in meetings. They are made in the hallway conversation afterwards.

 

Specific to stagecraft:

The four Ks:

  • KNOW the system you are working with.
  • KEEP it in good working order.
  • KNOW what you’re doing
    • And make certain everyone else involved knows the plan as well.
  • KEEP your concentration.

 

The Three A’s

  • ATTITUDE
  • ABILITY
  • AVAILABILITY

These are all equally important in who gets scheduled.

 

Traits of a good stagehand (in order of priority):

  • Show up sober.
  • Be able to follow verbal instructions
  • Get along with strangers (because you will do this every day)
    • Don’t panic
    • Don’t be a dick.
  • Pay attention
    • This is the number one factor in sfaety
    • Also, you can learn things.
  • Remain flexible
  • Take the craft seriously.

 

With the exception of life and safety, nothing important actually happens backstage.

 

Writing Advice:

  • Show don’t tell.
  • Death to cliches.
  • Keep your ass in the chair.
    • Anyhting you write down is more productive than an empty page.
  • It is your job to figure it out.

 

Also, I dreaded writing this thing for about a week, but the answer turned out to be just sit down and write it.

 

Now you know.

No Ranting – Just Links.

Arizona House Bill 2112, the Technical Production Services exemption, has passed the AZ Senate, and sits on Governor Ducey’s desk. Here’s what I wrote about it for the March 2015 Collaborations – the newsletter of the Desert State USITT

Arizona House Bill 2112, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, intends to remove the ability of live event technical professionals to collect unemployment. So if it passes, which seems likely, just about anyone reading this newsletter would be unable to collect unemployment compensation from the state of Arizona, even if they otherwise qualify.

The official summary says:

HB 2112 exempts technical event production services personnel from the definition of employee for purposes of the unemployment insurance (UI) program administered by the Department of Economic Security (DES).

That’s one of a long list of stoopid things the Tea & Gun party legislature is doing to our state. But I’m not going to turn this into a rant. This is a list of shorter items.

What I learned at my next-to-last board meeting (I’m currently the Secretary, but will be termed out by September) is that our DS-USITT is a unincorporated non-profit association, which means you can deduct fees or donations given tot hem from your taxes, but they can’t provide you with formal documentation.

Also, we learned that Arizona considers our traditional 50/50 raffle to support a student membership to be gambling – even if you are a lowly  unincorporated non-profit association. Because freedom.

No – not going to rant.

When driving to Tucson, don’t stop at Eloy. When I stopped there, I choked down a Carl’s Jr sandwich while surrounded by overweight white people with guns. I am an undersized, unarmed theater nerd. Ate quickly, Got out. Stop at Pichacho Peak instead. That Dairy Queen/Shell station/gift emporium was stocked by non-threatening, if unhurried old hippies.

Now – Links:

Research to replace my old tent:

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Best-Camping-Tent/ratings

What adhesive should you use? http://thistothat.com/

Someone thinks about pterosaurs. A lot.

http://www.pteros.com/pterosaurs.html

Background for my work in progress:

https://fantasticalhistory.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/background-for-the-beanstalk/

Curious Continuity looks at the barely forseeable future:

https://curiouscontinuity.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/some-visions-of-the-barely-forseable-future/

And finally, SciShow Space starts out talking about tin whisklers and ends with talking about one of this blogs regular obsessions – strange toilets.

 

Which leads us to the ESA telling you more than you might have wanted to know about that.

You’re welcome.

Now you know.

Certified!

So at long last, I took and passed my long threatened ETCP theatrical rigging certification.

My score was 126 out of 150. Passing was 104. It was all graded on some weird sliding weight scale that I was going to write about – but I don’t care now. I passed. Rejoice and settle wagers accordingly.

All of those standardized tests I took in school turned out to be of some value. (That’s right millennials, standardized testing is not a curse aimed specifically at your generation.) Over 165 questions (of which only 150 are graded – but they’ll never say which) I got to use every one of those sneaky little strategies I learned in grade school.

But what really, really helps, and there is no avoiding this, is knowing what you are doing. Here experience in installing as well as operating systems in multiple venues was invaluable.

Also, I studied.

These were indeed the textbooks I relied on – in order of value:

  • Stage Rigging Handbook (3rd Edition) by Jay O. Glerum. This is THE textbook for operating fly system as an adult who gets paid for it.
  • Rigging Math Made Simple by Delbert L Hall. The link is to the 3rd edition, but the copy I have is the second edition.
  • Entertainment Rigging by Harry Donovan. This is more aimed at arena rigging, but the approach to working load limits is more detailed.

There were a LOT of questions about components of counterweight rigging systems and their use – as one would expect. There were also a LOT of questions about Working Load Limit, as related to Ultimate Breaking Strength and how to calculate one from the other. It is further crucial to understand what resultant force is and how to calculate it.

If in doubt, the weak part in the system is the cable clips. Somebody writing questions had a grudge against cable clips.

Other useful tidbits from my notes:

A useful,  basic math tutorial we found while researching the electrician side:

https://www.mikeholt.com/instructor2/img/product/pdf/1302643781-sample.pdf

I like this advice in particular:

When working with any mathematical calculation, don’t just blindly do the calculation and assume it’s correct. When you perform a mathematical calculation, you need to know if the answer is greater than or less than the values given in the problem. Always do a “reality check” to be certain that your answer isn’t nonsense. Even the best of us make mistakes at times, so always examine your answer to make sure it makes sense!

 

A good, concise (if dry) guide to wire rope and things attached to it:

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/09/f2/std1090-07_chapter_11_wire_ropes_and_slings.pdf

Breaking strength

The measured force required to actually break the thing. This can only be properly measured by testing, eg applying force until it actually breaks, and writing that number down.

The best source for this information is the manufacturer.   Manufacturers of actual rigging equipment will test a large sample of their items to determine a breaking strength (which is most cases is really a bell curve; the number given is in the center of that curve), and provide that number to the customers – somehow.

That number is the basis for all the other load limit calculations, and why we prefer – nay insist upon – manufactured gear with known breaking strengths to rig with.

IF YOU CANNOT DETERMINE THE ACTUAL BREAKING STRENGTH – YOU SHOULD NOT USE THE EQUIPMENT.

Breaking strength is an average for most components, and only applies to new equipment. You must assume used equipment to have a lower BS and downgrade accordingly.

[…]

Working Load Limit is the fraction of the known breaking strength used in determining how much we will say the equipment is rated for. We then treat that like it’s a real limit and not a number that we derived from a much higher number that is actually an average of measured results. The specific point of a professional rigger is that WLL’s are rational and enforced.

When riggers say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, they are not speaking metaphorically. That is the literal truth with rigging systems: the lowest WLL of any component (which could literally be chain) in a system determines the WLLL for that entire system.

and one more:

Fleet angle

In a perfect world, all of the lift lines would run true from their head-block and across the loft blocks in a perfect, straight line. The difference between that and what is actually installed is called the fleet angle. It is measured from the center of the sheeves.

The maximum allowable fleet angle for theatrical rigging is 1.5 d.

Fleet angle can be determined by finding the Tangent of the offset distance divided by the distance between shivs. (Be sure to use the same units of measure). [Glerum 102]

As a quick gauge, an offset/distance ration of 1:40 or greater is going to pass. An offset of 1:30 or less is going to fail. Between 30 and 40, you’ll have to do the math.

For those who got this far, I admire your dedication. Do the work – that’s what we learned.

The Moments of my Balls in the Air

When something spins around an axis, engineers measure it by its moments. That’s one of the many things I’ve learned studying for my ETCP Theatrical Rigging certification. Because we have a client that wants to see one. I’ve been doing this ore than 20 years, but its still a big, complex, convoluted technical discipline, and I learn a lot every damn day.

  • The top channel in a pulley, where the rope goes in, is called the “swallow, and the bottom part, where it plays out is called the breech.
  • Manila rope is graded by something called the Becker Value. It measured with photoelectric reflectrometry (so by color) and is obscure enough that you may know more about it right now than most rope dealers.
  • Manila rope is also stronger than hemp rope , so it is no real loss than you can’t readily find hemp rope in the US. Theaters would buy manila anyway.
  • Calculating the forces on three point bridles is insanely convoluted. Like skip that question and come back if you have time because there are literally 17 steps.

So my approach to studying, after flailing around a bit, is to alternate between three textbooks:

I try to read a chapter a day in each book, and do the problems in Rigging Math.

So that’s one ball in the air.

I still try to market my hiking guides and still contribute to the blog my publisher set up for that purpose.

The latest is here: http://trekalong.com/arewelostyet/2015/09/18/taking-the-inner-basin-off-of-my-bucket-list/

In writing that I learned that it takes about 3 hours to put together an 800 word article with pictures. But I couldn’t hike inner basin without telling someone about it, could I?

Another ball far from my hand but not forgotten is Go Action Fun Time

It turns out that marketing a new Role-playing system has an extreme degree of difficulty.  The trouble is the learning curve vs the plethora of established systems that people are already familiar with.

Scott Thorne, of Mongoose Publishing cites: “Lack of interest by customers in venturing outside their comfort zone.  There are very few “Igors” (cue Dork Towerreference) who are willing to try a brand new RPG just because it pops up on the new release shelf.  Most stick with the tried and true, going for the new PathfinderDark Heresy, or, much less than in days of yore.”

http://rpgr.org/news/scott-thorne-on-future-of-rpg

My quest for game masters to play test this thing remains at zero hits.

And I just sent the complete manuscript to  Beanstalk and Beyond to my publisher. That’s right, they signed a contract for a book they had yet to actually read. Good thing they signed it with me, huh?

Some reasonably relevant links:

NPR on how book sale numbers are lower than you imagine, and perhaps generated by voodoo.

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/19/441459103/when-it-comes-to-book-sales-what-counts-as-success-might-surprise-you

and author Kameron Hurley has some cold facts on that same subject:

http://www.kameronhurley.com/the-cold-publishing-equations-books-sold-marketability-love/

Now You Know.

How I spent my vacation

I took some vacation to coincide with the kid’s spring break, and to get some work done on the house (still hail damaged) while the weather is good.

If you remove the ugly siding from my house, the turquoise cinderblock beneath  is even worse. BUT my backyard is now a more organized landfill with my new shed. If you build a pre-fab metal shed, you have to get it square and level, or the holes won’t line up. But after 8 hours, you really stop caring and just screw into the metal wherever you have to. It’s a shed. It keeps the rain off the lawnmower and the sun off of the plastic sawhorses. Relax.

That said, beer does not make the roof assembly go any easier.

I am studying for my ETCP rigging certification. Really. So I’ve been covering basic force calculation and remedial pythagoran theorems. to wit:

If you have a weight (some big stupid moving light) hung from a truss supported by two motors, and you want to know the weight held by a particular motor, the formula is:

F= D2/span x Wt

Where F is the force

D2 is the distance past centerline (or in this case, the point the weight hangs from)  opposite from the motor

span is the entire span between the motors

and Wt is the weight of the thing.

I won’t get into the algebra and the special cases and such, but a few things to remember:

This formula also works for bridles

Remember to include the weight for everything in the air

When figuring bridles, its helpful to know that they reduce themselves to triangles, and all sorts of remedial geometry applies.

When calculating a circumference, PIxDiamter = (2PI)radius. This isn’t a secret, I just never realized it.

For the writers:

Duotrope’s Digest lists “over 3325 current Fiction and Poetry publications” online and free and search-able.

One writer’s encounter with “gastronaughts” and blood pork.

And fat may help us live forever after all. This National Geographic article splits the difference between scientific journal articles and pop-news coverage.

(These topics all came up at our Thursday Night Writer’s Group)

Did I post this already?: Mike Brotherton’s hard SF resource page

And finally,

Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why religious fundamentalism is the opposite of progress.

You Tube teaser – if you don’t have time for the full talk:

Now you know

A Few unrelated standards

Watching your child’s team get clobbered in basketball is decidedly less painful than watching then get clobbered in baseball. Bad basketball is still kinda funny. Bad baseball is just painful.

That said, while I’m not boycotting the Suns’ lost season (this one), I’m not arranging my life around Suns games anymore.

If you divide the world GDP by the global population, you get $8400 – or thereabouts per year for every human being. I was curious.

The standard speed of a motorized hoist for a theatrical application is 179’/minute. That was the closest they could get a commercial gearbox (from Hoffing – so this is sometimes called the Hoffing Standard) to the actual speed of three stagehands hauling a fully-loaded batten. I don’t have the numbers the stagehands achiueved, but that’s where the 179′  came from.

For the writers – the scientific plausibility of a work of science fiction is called – among fandom – its “hardness”.  TV Tropes compares it to the Mohs Scale of geologic hardness. Mike Brotherton has a similar scale, and better thought through.

Learning via You-Tube – gravitational lensing

Now you know.

A rare night back in Phoenix

“I used to believe that Destiny was capricious, but the older I get, the more convinced I become that she is actually perverse” – Jack

Careful what you wish for…

I have been on the road fairly constantly since, well, the last post. I’ve learned a lot, but mostly I’ve learned that when you’re on the road for work, regardless of how many hours you actually bill, you’re gone to work 24 hours a day until you get back home. Being able to waste a few hours at the motel is not at all the same as being able to go home and attend to the rest of your life.

I enjoy travel. I enjoy my job. I even enjoy traveling for my job from time to time, but I am not set up to do that every damn week.

Anyway, among the many things that went unattended was this blog.

I have been working (on and off – but mostly on) the perimeter of the auditorium renovation at Red Rock High School in Sedona. I’m also writing a hiking guide about Sedona. Synergy right?

10-12 hour days wipe out hiking opportunities. Non-hiking, non drivers who share your motel room wipe out hiking opportunities – particularly when the motel is 15 miles away in Cottonwood. Fourteen working days (and counting) on this job – one short hike.

OK Enough sniveling. These are the most important lessons:

Every time you change the plan, you are adding about 50% of the time you have already put into the job to the overall time of the job. So if you are 40 man hours in and decide to say, change the baseline of all the measurements, you’ve added 20 man hours to the job.

In 99% of all installations, within a quarter inch is going to be close enough. Really. Even if you’re German.

If you are going to heckle the help, it is poor form to get all butt-hurt when they heckle back.

It wasn’t all work. My family spent a week in San Diego.

If you spend a week in San Diego as a tourist, you will end up at some point setting foot in Sea World. I didn’t want to go to Sea World. We had no plans to go to Sea World. There I stood in Sea World, the victim of some inexplicable geas. The key to happines at Sea World is to just accept that you cannot eat for less than $20 a plate. And once you’ve paid that extortion for cafeteria food, don’t feed it to the seagulls; be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I have a lot more to say on both of these subjects, and the new Droid phone lying in front of me, and some notes from the writer’s group. All in later posts.

The hard part, I have learned, is just starting that first post after being gone for a while.

I go back to Sedona on Monday.

Now you know.