And .. We’re Back

Once upon a time I made a New Years resolution not to make any more New Years Resolutions, and so far I have kept that.

I have an unrelated goal this year, however, of being a more disciplined marketer blogger. I write stuff, and I’d like people to read it. This is one of the ways to make that happen.

We left off last August, and I have learned some thing since then. I won’t try to recap four months of hard lessons in one post, so we’ll stick to what has been discovered recently.

When lighting for TV (I’ve been involved with this recently in my day job) remember that the camera doesn’t see light, only light bouncing off of something. That’s why they obsess over even washes – it really does matter. In the distant past,  up to say five years ago, you could blend the washes by adding a bunch of diffusion. With HDTV, diffusion looks like – diffusion. Hard light is better.

We still added a bunch of frost.

In theatrical lighting (and TV lighting uses the same toys) LED lights are now competitive in every area except price. And they are one generation away from digging into that as well. Nobody’s going to FEL’s or BHP’s. Honest.

The Droid is a good camera, but using it that way sucks up battery fast. It is a second rate GPS, and a clunky DVR.I ended up hiking with four separate devices.

The Hiking Guide is 90% in the can. Save your receipts, and write down contact info in two different places.

If you trade away your two leading scorers for spare parts, your team won’t do as well. It’s not so much that Sarver let Stoudemire walk away (though he shouldn’t have), it’s that he failed to replace him with anyone who would be a legitimate starter (not an all-star – just a starter) at the power forward position. They traded away their leading scorer – and they still do not have a legit 4. This current roster can’t make the playoffs. I can vaguely understand  that Sarver is maneuvering around the salary cap and the near-certain lock-out looming next season, but I really don’t care. The Suns were contenders six months ago. The owner squandered that. That’s why every game from here out will have more empty seats.

My wife and I were gifted with attending Dave Ramsey’s Fiancial Peace University. 80% of that course is the same information  you can learn from any other basic financial advisory course. Make a realistic budget. Stay in that budget. A couple of things Ransey teaches that others might not:

  • If you don’t have $1000 in the bank, you are wasting your time trying to pay down credit cards. You’ll only end up running them back up for emergencies. So put that money in the can first, and if you spend it, make minimum payments until you’re back up to $1k.
  • As you start paying off the credit cards, start with the lowest balance first, regardless of interest. Statistically, this approach has a better chance of success.
  • Along this same line, you have no business investing until you have 3 months expenses in the bank (which is easier to get to if you pay off the credit cards).
  • Any investment that doesn’t reliably return at least 6% won’t keep up with taxes and inflation.

Now Dave (as we call him in the class) also recommends mutual funds, claiming you should get 12% out of them. After all, the stock market has made money in any ten year period since the great depression. He’s out of date there (we were watching 2006 DVD’s). We are in a ten year period where the market overall has lost money.

Which brings us to the links:

From Slate

The above from a long and enlightening article in Slate.

And fun with math and money from the BBC – who really likes this sort of facty-stuff.

 

Now you know.

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A Digest of Last Week’s Lessons

I’ve been a little busy.

Baseball is a lot more fun when somebody swings the bat once in a while, instead of praying to draw a walk. (Are you listening D-Backs?)

There is no such thing as a minor detail in a construction contract.

Do not leave your tool bags where the cats are likely to pee on it. If I actually find something that removes the smell out of my nifty new tool-harness – I’ll update.

Somebody has to run out all the motor cable when you’re loading in a system of trusses. The sooner you make that assignment, the easier load-in will go. You can’t always count on some guy like me just doing it.

Triple digit hi temps means its summer. The calender isn’t relevant.

Daniel Goleman tells Bill Moyers that just about everything is bad for the environment. Science = buzzkill.

Required reading: Basic Laws of Stupidity

and (loosely related to the items above) Flouridation = Communism

A new entry in our catalogue of Random Facts sites: Futility Closet

FOR WRITERS:

Free marketing (and doubtless worth every penny) FiledBy

9 step program for cover letters

And I may ave posted this before, but it is Need To Know if you write books for money: Actual Costs Behind Books

And a bunch of other stuff discretion or sleep deprivation has driven from my mind.

Now you know.

Fun With Brazen Poppycock and many other strange facts

Some housekeeping: The WHWL for the writer’s group is going pack to the main blog (here – below) because adding a sub-page takes like 15 minutes in WordPress and I got things to do. Also, the material is as much general interest as the antics of octopi or urinals around the world or any of the other strange subjects I post about.

A whole generation of kindergarteners, including my son, learned to write the lower-case “a” backwards. That’s starting to drive middle-school teachers nuts.

When you live with middle-graders, April 1st means being updated with brazen poppycock every 15 minutes.

I’m actually quite recently fond of the term “brazen poppycock”.

On a Technobeam button box (and if you know what I’m talking about – you’re already cringing) you have to edit all the common parameters on the Techno’s first, record a cue, and then go back and fix the lights individually. If you solo-select a light before recording a cue, all the other Technos revert back to default values, and you say bad, bad words. And you spend 1.5 hours programming a four step chase, until you realize the above fact, and slap it down in 20 minutes.

Now, for the Wed Nite Writer’s Meet-up:

April 1st is poetry month. The challenge is a poem a day (I’m already behind) with or without the WD contest.

If you know the rules regarding what spider-bots will and will notlook for, its pretty easy to hide a website from search engines.

Two good sources for remedial Search Engine Optimization strategies:

SEO 101 ” It’s counter-intuitive, but you get good rankings by ignoring rankings and focusing on quality.” But he talks about how rankings work anyway.

SEO How To With basic advice about starting with good content and worrying about ranking strategies later because : “High rankings are worth a LOT of money and people don’t work hard to become experts just to give that information away.”

Remedial Podcasting info:

Liberated Syndication a commercial service.

Pod Camp AZ an “unconference” for podcasters and wannabe podcasters.

We learned the correct spelling for Rock-Paper-Scissors (the French term that I’m not even going to try here). AC? Some help?

And finally, query letters to agents are a lot like medieval alchemy. You would intuitively think that there would be some common guiding principles, but no one can seem to agree on any of them.

WD’s Best of Agents Who Blog

And from that list: Query Shark – for those willing to take the trial by blood, in front of the whole internet.

Now you know.


More “Careful What You Wish For”

For the last week I’ve lived the life I always said I wanted (within limts – these are the goals I could realistically hope for) a few years ago.

It’s fun – no doubt. But its exhausting. So whileI slept that off,my wife hoarked my laptop to do her homework, capping of an already considerable delay.

I rebuilt two of the five gates to my yard. That was never really a life goal, but I’m glad I got it done.

gate-perspectiveThe photo shows the other gate for contrast.

I attended a book signing and then went home ad slapped together a marketing survey for what I hope is my next book. Good News/Bad News there: The survey contained the info they wanted to see, but, despite selling out at the book signing, I’ve only sold 94 copies from national book chains – where most copies are sold. <sigh…>

My book proposal is a similar format covering the Coconino National Forest, which includes outdoor hotspots of Sedona and Flagstaff. But if the original sn’t moving, there’d be less appettite for a sequal.

The again, they made Starship Troopers II.

I’m fairly certain I was the only author at the book signing with an actual publisher who paid me (in advance). Everyone else was self-published.

I took ten copies and walked out with none, BUT I sold seven copies to people I already knew, including my stepmother who bought four copies because she’s a compulsive gift-giver. So it goes.

Then I had the chance to design and run a moving light show for the first time in two years.

samia-09

That’s from the 2009 Suns Charity Dinner. The performer is Tamia Hill (wife of Suns forward Grant Hill, but equally talented in her sphere).

By all accounts it well (despite Suns players appearing briefly as “guest vocalists”).

DO NOT daisy chain DMX between Studio Colors and Mac 2000’s. You might think that because Mac’s have 3pin (and 5pin) DMX that this would work out like DMX signal is supposed to. That assumption leads to daring do on an A-frame ladder at 3am. Studio Colors do not play nice with newer DMX units. I dimly remember running into this barrier before – but I wasn’t in charge.

On a related note, I have long known from an experience so bad its comic now, that you cannot use Atomic strobes as 3pin-5pin DMX adapters.

The key to executing looks quickly with moving lights is to set useful groups and then map out all your positions first. Creating looks after that is just a few steps more (mainly gobos, and their FX) than doing it with conventionals.

Oh, and operating a Grand MA lighting console is not at all like riding  a bike.

I’m also pretty sure this was the first time in 3 years I had a competent ME helping hang my design who wasn’t myself.

I’m sitting in catering, trying to gulp down some outstanding salmon in the ten minutes I had to eat, when Suns owner Robert Sarver burst in the room, slapped me on the back (because I was closest to the door, I suspect) and exhorted us all that we should have fun doing whatever we do.

I’ve also been pushing The Game ahead (I may add a page just for that). I’m still plowing through a working revision of the rules. I have a formula for aging (and associated stat loss), rather than a table, and this pleases me. I also have an spreadsheet summarizing the damage system, which I’ve been wanting to fabricate for as long as I;ve been thinking I ought to just rebuild the damn gate.

Two good sites:

The Space Site for clear, readable extrapolations of the possibilities beyond our planet and

Technovlegy : a compendium of ideas from SF, and who came up with them first.

Now you know.

One

Car shows, Meet-up rushes and wasting time in front of the TV [1/17/09]

So a brief account of things I learned over the past week, since,for various reasons, I haven’t made my daily-entry goal:

At the Barret-Jackson auto show, where I worked on the Ford booth: Shiny, metal surfaces such as diamond plate make it very hard to focus PAR lights. Lighting up cars is not rocket science. You can get a lot more finness manuevering a scissorlift with two hands on the joystick.

The Cardinals should have given the game ball to Carolina Panther’s QB Jake Delhomme for throwing into double coverage four times, which led to 4 of the Cards 5 interceptions. (The pass for the fifth was blocked at the line of scrimmage).

Once again, nobody picks the Cardinals to win this Sunday either.

Once I open a beer and turn on the TV – I am done for the night. I can do one or the other and still have a chance ofgetting something done before I go to bed. But both is a clear sign that productive activity has ceased for the day. (Clearly, that includes updating the blog).

Meet-up.com was not kidding when it warned meet-up organizers that there would be an early January spike in new members. The Central Phoenix weekly group went from 6 in a mid December meeting to over 15 on the first meeting in January.

The Central Phoenix weekly meet-up’s traditional format melts down completely with 15 attendees.

A great site for nerds who want to compare starship sizes from various fictional universes. They haven’t updated to incluce the new BSG ships, but the dimensions haven’t really changed from the orginal series (IMHO).

Was the season 4.1 premier worth watching? Yes.

Was it worth waiting over a year for? Not really.

Will I keep watching anyway? Of course.

It costs about $400/hour to rent a helicopter in Belize.

Snarge, n, the residue of birds that have collided with airplanes.

Now you know.

Adventures at Edgefest and other facts [9/29/08

First, let me just note that for the temp to be consistently above 100 at the end of September is not right, and quite wearisome.

I was the B-stage LD at the Edgefest in Queen Creek on Saturday. Not my rig, and not my lighting focus. Whoever set-up and focused the rig could not run the board for some reason, so they subbed me. I had to figure out the patch by bringing up channels and seeing what lit up. I never recieved a backstage pass or even a set list.

Under those conditions, this is what I learned:

You do not really need a backstage pass to get backstage at Edgefest. All you need is a determined expression, ad the name of one person in the production company (who I never actually met, and probably wasn’t even on site). Alternately, if you have a lightboard under your arm, the security guard will not look up from her text messaging to impede your progress.

Unsurprisingly, it was a constant stream of posers back and even onstage all night.

It also helps, in these situations, to be clearly not one of the 20-somethings that attend these things, and have a collared shirt and a flashlight hanging from your belt.

The Cottonmouth Kings are not the country rock band I assumed they were. (Stop laughing! I am not remotely hip.) They are a rap act that smokes weed. I know this because that is the only subject about which they compose songs.

Two things about the ETC Smartfade 2496 console I was running:

1) It has a chase sequence feature called “MAGIC” which appears to be some sort of randomizer, but without the ability to determine which parametere you can randomize (a feature common in lighting consoles since the late 80’s). I found it to be useless.

2) You can somehow put the thing into a diagnostic mode (we didn’t intend to do any such thing), which will WIPE ALL THE MEMORIES. We did this unexpectedly five minutes before the main act (Atmosphere) came on. There was drama. Happily, the LD only needed the six colors, and I had those back for him by the third song.  He had his own LED fixtures which he sed to get through the first two songs.

Plus, they never actually turned off the damn house lights (a generator/lighting tower) until halfway through the set. Thanks, guys.

Now some geograpghy. I went left on Ellseworth instead of right (from Schempf farms). This led me to Hunt Highway going towards, well, Florida. On my AZ Gazetteer, though, there was an Oldberg road which cut west then south through the Santan Mountains Regional Park, which hits the settlement of Oldberg, which abutts AZ87, which would take me back to western civilization.

The map is in error. Olberg Road ends in a T with Many Farms Road, and either direction you take on Many Farms will eventually circle back to Oldberg Road. After two full rounds of this (cause you can miss dirt roads in the dark), I ended up backtracking all the way to Hunt Highway.

I did, however, miss most of the crowd exiting the concert.

George washington was very fond of Basset Hounds. He used them to hunt foxes (and perhaps runaway slaves – too mean?)

Random adapters 9/23/08

I’ve learned that trying to turn random facts into thoughtful essays is time consuming, and comes off pretensious when you read it a day later.

Never try to cut palm frans with a machette. That’s not from my experience, but the guy who told me seemed sincere and knowlegeable on the subject.

Hurricane Ike liberated thousads of cows across SE Texas, who are now in danger of being eaten by alligators.

Sarah Palin still isn’t talking to the press. CNN almost protests. [via Cynical C-Blog]

Finally, for the stagehands, an account of a practical use for that edison-XLR adapter you once madde as a joke. If you only connect the shield in the female XLR to the ground in the male edison (or the male stagepin) you have a last resort for closing an open ground loop in an uppity sound system.

The look on everybody’s face is worth it alone. And if it makes the humm go away – all the better.