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.

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How Damage Control Became my New Normal

So last I posted, I waxed optimistic about how the damage control phase of my life might be over, and I might be able to actually make forward progress with my life in general and creative projects in particular.

Then my Father-in-law died (from long standing illness) and my Mother-in-law moved into our house literally the next day. This was not a contingency we had seriously prepared for. It just happened. There is all manner of ranting and whining that could follow that revelation, but that is not what I keep this blog for. The relevant information is that I have been forced back into damage control, at least in regards to the day-to-day functioning of my home and family.

Conversely, things are actually starting to look up at work. We have made dramatic improvements to our infrastructure, and I am starting to take on a role that involves more than doing the same thing I’ve done for twenty years.

Rhino Staging, where I serve as Technical Director, values their privacy (in what we refer to internally as the Doctrine of Pointless Secrecy), but I think can safely release a few details:

  • Our new warehouse (easily 3x the size of our old rented facility) and our new office space (easily twice the size as the old) are now finally at the same address for the first time in ten years: 125 W Julie Ave in Tempe
  • I spent a week in Middleton, Wisconsin learning how to install ETC Prodigy and Vortek motorized rigging systems and
  • I am the guy who organizes training for Rhino Tempe – at least by default.
  • I am also the Warehouse Manager of this big new thing – at least until I can train ,my replacement. I don’t mind running a warehouse, but it’s my third stint in that role – so it fails the “something I can’t do in my sleep” test.

The warehouse move is in progress – I’ll note later what we learn from that.

Meanwhile, the Christmas tree is still up, so a few notes on gifts:

  • If you make the mead in February, it will be well over its’ bottle shock by Christmas.
  • Relatedly, drinkers are easier to shop for than non-drinkers.
  • Buy gifts for your kids first. The other adults in your life will cope.
  • Seriously, outside of the very poor, most American adults have more crap than they need or can store anyways. Get them something consumable or expendable, or replace something that’s broken. Shiny new things are for the kids.

My new year’s resolution is for this to be less autobiographical and more informational, but it is a personal blog, so some context is in order on occasion. My other is to try and keep these under 500 words, so in our space remaining:

Ranker’s collection of Weird and Funny Toilets – because its been a while since we’ve visited one of our recurring topics. Completely devoid of location or other relevant details, and likely NSFW.

An excellent guide to Tumblr, posted here because it’s too true just to link to once of FB (or Tumblr for that matter).

And finally, this year’s 11 reasons for hope.

Now you know.

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

We found a way to run new rope through a headblock without someone (usually me) up at the headblock to force the issue:

We took a one foot section of the new rope and removed the central core. Then we stuck the onld (thinner) manila line and the end of the new rope halfway each into the empty sleeve, and taped the hell out of it with electrical tape. We had to yank it sternly to get that portion through the block (there are keepers,you see, which are designed to keep the rope in the block, but also just barely let the new thicker rope pass). In 30 linesets, it only broke once.

Every fire curtain is rigged a different way, so if you’re going to mess with it (like, say, re-roping it), you’d best march up to the grid and discover how the contraption is actually rigged.

Burkhard Heim may have come as close to a Unified Field Theory as anyone else [according to a New Scientist article which may require registration to view]. More importantly to the fictional future, his theories point the way towards a functional hyperdrive. Heim rarely published, and never published in English so much of his work from the 1950’s is just now being “discovered”.

My dream of a unified combat damage system for both melee weapons and firearms may not be possible. Primary evidence is that armor designed to prtect against melee weapons is useless against bullets, and for the most part vice-versa. Running numbers I discovered that melee damage can be satifactorily measured in Newtons while ballistic damage can be satisfactorily measured in Joules (kilojoules, actually). These line up with the damage range consensus among most RPGs.

E-books, copyright and zombies.

I wouldn’t count on another entry here until after the holidays.

Now you know.

A Splash of Quick Facts

It is safe for normal humans – and even Americans – to drink the water in Bogata, Columbia.

80% of the children in the Bahamas do not know how to swim. I know this because I’m on assignment about a woman who has taught water safety there.

The ABC’s of drowning awareness:

Always have your eyes on the kids

Barriers

Classes on first Aid and CPR

The Central Phoenix Writer’s Workshop drew twenty (20!) people last night. That’s double the size the format is designed for. So I am shifting to moderating a Thursday night meet-up, same time, same place, same format, different night.

My kids, particularly my son, I decided the like water polo – of all things – enough to participate in a team throughout the summer.

Wet Beaver Creek (oh- stop giggling!) Wilderness Area is closed to camping until 2010. Fire reasons, I think. Bummer. I’m still trying to pin down a logistically plausible hike for this weekend.

For the riggers: ZFX’s new No-go guage

Writer Louise Marley on E-books and other promising trends in publishing.

And more fuel for the e-book debate: statistics!

Now You Know.

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.