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.

Finally coming up for air

Cause this blog isn’t dead. It’s just for the first time in 3 weeks, I’ve been able to come up for air. Haven’t been busy with one big thing. Oh no. A bunch of little things:

* swapped rooms in the house. My bedroom is now where the “family room” was. The “Office/lounge” is now where the bedroom was. The bedroom is functional. The O/L, where I now sit, not so much.

* Negotiated and finally signed a contract for Five Star Hikes in Flagstaff and Sedona and started work on that.

* Worked a selection of big, medium and small shows for Rhino. Then caught up with the install projects I had been ignoring because of those shows.

* Pushed forward on the space opera.

* Wrote a few articles for Fitness Plus

* Watched the Suns run over the Portland Trailblazers

* and played some Dungeons and Dragons.

I also kept falling asleep on the couch.

Did we learn things? Yeah

My house to the “Y” in Sedona is about 2 hours flat.

There is room in the market for a good hiking guide for Sedona and Flagstaff.

My old Garmin E-trex legend does not interface cleanly with the new Garmin Basecamp freeware. I need to upgrade. This is why I fear progress.

European power is all screwed up because of the French. (Of course, my source was British roadies).

There’s a swampy little lake near Casa Grande called Picacho Reservoir. And that’s about all I could learn about it. With 350 words t cover 20 lakes, that was all I needed to know about it.

This year’s  Suns squad is the best since 2004.

Good characters make even poorly designed systems (like 2nd AD&D) fun anyway.

Yeah, we’ll do some brazen wonk about immigration, but another night, ok?

Meanwhile, some links:

Strange Horizons gathers experts on zombies

What you always suspected, Jason Fried confirms: Why You Can’t Work at Work

Gamepocalypse chronicles how our culture is turning into one big collection of games

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual is fairly close to how I’d like to present my space opera (except my subject is less satirical, and would be carved into bigger chunks).

And finally:

Res Ipsa Loquitor.

Now You Know.

Waiting for people to return my phone calls

A brief comparison of search engines – first hits:

octopus+urinal in Yahoo: The Urinals of the Red Vic

octopus+urinal in Google: South Park S9 Ep10 (“Mystery of the Urinal Deuce” – posted by Octopus)

High End Systems fog juice – any brand – is mostly “food-grade” glycol. And while it will, over time, completely dissolve the 1/4″ Crosby someone dropped in the tank for some reason, rendering both the partially dissolved Crosby and the now blood red fog juice useless, it is not considered hazardous waste. And the ppm of glycol is way below that in anti-freeze. Bottom line: you can dump less than five gallons down the drain if you have to.

If that saves some poor stagehand the two hour internet/phone odyssey I went through to discover that fact – my work here has been worth it. {BTW – the MSDS says “Follow state and federal laws” – which are apparently non-existent.}

Looking up at the stars, do you wonder how many might be looking back down at you? This site tracks the number of people in space right now.

They found a hobbit T-rex in China.

Wired lists the contents of a cup of coffee. I still want another cup.

And this blog is worth nothing. Nothing! How I know…

(Are We Lost Yet is also worthless – if’n you waz wunderin. Maybe if I updated it…)

I have – however updated my Examiner column. Natch. You can’t paste a table into the interface directly from Excel. You need to paste it into Word – and then into the interface. I’m not sure if Alpine is the highest municipality in Arizona (my search was not exhaustive), but I’m pretty confident that Yuma is the lowest.

Now You Know.

Ignorant buzz causes unrest

Real wages have fallen every year since 2001. Much as we’d like to blame the Bushco Administration, the money that could’ve been your raise actually went to insurance companies. That’s right: the decline in wages matches the inflation in health-care costs.

Except that its wrong. Look at a 2006 report, before the recession distorted all the numbers, and the truth is worse: 47% of workers do not have employer-sponsored coverage to begin with, and that class of workers – the bottom -was the most likely to see real wages fall.

So where did all that money go? In 2006 – it went straight to profit.  That sort of behavior leads to unrest.

I spent Friday in Prescott Valley watching an easy show turn into a fire drill due to some persistent hum in the audio system. See if you’ve heard this one before, veteran ME’s: the audio guy insisted it was house power causing the hum.

To his credit, he could demonstrate hwo the buzz varied with the dimmer levels. Sharing a neutral or ground with that service could indeed cause that hum. OK. I played some games with the limited feeder on ahnd, and swapped services for him.

The I sat for the better part of two hours while he traced out a “separate” buzz issue in his monitor rig. I didn’t pay much attention (I actually ahd another, though less interesting fire to attend to), but they seemed to touch every piece of gear from the board to the power distro.

And then the hum was gone.

I’ve been doing this drill for twenty years, kids. It is almost never house power causing your stupid buzz in a relatively modern building (and the venue in question is less than 5 years old). It’s somewhere in the gear that bounced a couple hundred miles in a truck last night.

But I played the feeder game for him. And he felt that solved the problem. I just nodded and smiled. All part of my 20 hour day.

BTW – best Foreigner tribute band ever!

I kid! Foreigner – the real thing – actually puts on a good show, and you will be amazed at how many songs you recognize from radio (assuming you’re older than 32).

A couple posts back I mysteriously hit 52 pageviews in a day. I still don’t know why. My normal average is 6. I know now that it wasn’t Demand Studios, and that advertising a link on the Meet-up site is worth about a dozen hits max.

But the WordPress metrics I have for this blog exceed in quality and detail any metrics for any other blog I write – including blogs that pay me by the pageview.

This post’s lame Examiner plug: I learned how to embed a Google Map into a blog post. Check out the results here!

Now You Know

Demand Studios, Tucson and AZ288

The last time I posted I got 52 hits within 24 hours. My normal rate is like six. There are two possibilities: a particular phrase ranked high in a search engine, or the link I left on the meet-up site got clicked – a lot. The only way to test this is two separate entries (though they both share this paragraph).

I made some money from Demand Studios. Of course, I had to give them my correct Paypal account. However, DS keeps trying to shove money into a bad Paypal account until it goes in. Good to know.

I normally wouldn’t lead with that, but I am testing the search term hypothesis.

I spent Labor Day in Tucson with some friends. I learned that the pineapple cactus is endangered, which means that Raytheon has to fence around every one of them that grows on their lot.

I also learned that you can’t casually buy a good screen door. The doors off the shelf at Home Despot and the like are rolled aluminum. You can special order an extruded aluminum door – which is the good stuff – but you pay more and wait longer.

I took Wed and Thur off and went camping – but with a mission: I stopped and took notes and photos of seven different campsites all more or less along AZ 288 which snakes roughly from Globe, through Young, and then up to the Rim.

My campsite at Upper Canyon Creek campground

My campsite at Upper Canyon Creek campground

The account of that expedition appears in Are We Lost Yet? The profiles of the campsites will eventually appear in  the Phoenix Camping Examiner site. Photos on Flickr. I’ll update with links when I get these things up.

I can report, however, that there is one reliable convenience store in Young – providing you drive through in daylight. The owners of Buddi Gas and Mini-Mart can help you out. Don’t get your hopes up too high – the dogs sleep in the back aisle next to the ice cream machine.

Ooh! I also saw sheep! They have herded sheep from the top of the Rim to somewhere outside of Chandler for decades through a 3 mile wide corridor that, at some point, follows AZ288. September is the time they go south. I encountered the herd just north of Young. The Basque shepherd said they had been on the trail for three days at that point.

A herd of sheep on FR 200 just north of Young, 9/9/09

A herd of sheep on FR 200 just north of Young, 9/9/09

We pause now for the sheep jokes, before changing the subject entirely.

If I take a class on say – chain hoist maintenance – but then I don’t work on such a device for six months, I find I have lost all useful knowledge I might have had from the class.

When quoting a job, don’t get in any more of a hurry than the client is – you just trip yourself up.

Now You Know.

A hundred miles a day for eight days

Between driving a stakebed out to a distant golf course and back for a show, cross-valley errands, and a camping trip to the Rim, I drove about a hundred miles a day for the past eight days, gaining some wisdom in the process.

First, the Equinox photo I promised:

2006 Chevy Equinox

That photo is near General Springs on the Mogollon Rim. If you can see them, the decorations drawn in the dust on the side of the car are courtesy of the children.

Eight busy days later, and I have learned a lot of things:

Three layers of mark-up will seriously impair the viability of a competitive bid.

Burn Notice is the secret re-boot of the A-Team.

Everyone in Little League is a volunteer, except the guys in the national office – who are paid – and this is reflected in the league dues.

My informal and random poll indicates that  0 out of 19 education professionals believe that No Child Left Behind (as implemented) is actually helping to educate children.

One guy calls the truck pack – and all the other logistical geniuses on the call need to live with that guy’s decisions, or you add an hour to load out.

If you have a crew loading out a show on a golf course, and you lock the only restroom, this will not prevent the crew from relieving themselves. It will only prevent them from relieving themselves in the toilet.

One simply cannot underestimate the importance of worklight when loading out in an open field in the middle of the night. Moonlight is not an acceptable substitute.

When launching model rockets, bring extra batteries and fuses.

The RXC went camping at Bear Canyon Lake, on the Mogollon Rim. Some notes about that site can be found on my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

Hammock at Bear Lake

When taking middle-graders camping, they all need chairs, or none of them need chairs. Musical chairs around the campfire is a recipe for discontent.

The kids get their own campfire.

The kids get their own campfire.

American adults car-camping will never run out of food. They always bring too much. This was, however, the first trip in a long time where we did not run out of booze. Perhaps we’re growing wiser.

Pie irons still rock! Especially now that we know how to use them.

New vocabulary: Bailing wire = “ranch tape”

I have established that the Equinox can bounce through the Buick Filter. Though I damn near found the Equinox filter (its still a 2WD) on our way to General Cabin Springs. We were scouting a multi-day bacpacking trip taking the General Crook Trail east from Clear Creek to its intersection with the AZT (near General Springs), then taking the AZT north to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Having scouted that, I have concluded it wuld be far easier to start at Blue Ridge and head down to Clear Creek. But it would be even easier just to stay n the AZT and go down the Rim to Pine. I’m still noodling on these things.

But there is a marked section of the GCT that follows AZ 260 from around Camp Verde to the Rim. We found a blaze by following a randomly selected dirt road off the highway. I love the Equinox.

Camp Verde State Park s closed on Tuesdays.

Some links:

World Food Program trying to bring disaster relief over the objections of the Myanmar government. “The people of Myanmar do not eat biscuits…”

The Onion reporting on President Obama’s visit to Denny’s.

Now You Know