Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Like I Was Just Saying


Seems simple enough to me.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Common Sense Items

We're working on a new class here: Basic Production Technology & Management. The idea is to get the primitives, the basis issues that would be significant and illuminate one's understanding of what has been an entry level class like Production Planning, Standard Scenic Construction, or Scenic Stagecraft.

On the one hand this is leading us to very cool topics like measurement, force, and distribution or to prioritization, availability, and communication. Talking about these issues in their own context the way in a design class one might talk about color, composition, and symmetry without even beginning to talk about scenic or costume design. Also, very interestingly, we have found that most of the significant topics in an engineering sense also have a meaning in a management sense. For example, the above "distribution" has meanings in both discussion of technical and management issues. In the end it could be very cool.

On the other hand, the exploration is also turning up another list, things that are common sense or things that you pick up while working over a period of time. In some ways, for some jobs, these items are almost more important than some of the higher level topics we discuss, and often it seems that people graduate with a degree in technical production without a mastery of these really fundamental concepts. The problem is that these things can mostly only be taught in the doing, that a syllabus that detailed a complete program of common sense items would be ridiculous.

Which is why I want to write it. I want to write the ridiculous common sense theatrical syllabus both so I can have it for its humorous value, but also so that I can remember what things I can honestly expect to teach and which things I need to model - and how much time is needed in the curriculum for modeling versus instruction. I sense that this is a typical problem with conservatory college programs and I want to make it a priority to deal with in mine. So, its a joke, but like all good humor it has its feet firmly in reality.

Here's what I have on my list so far. Please, please add to it your suggestions.

Ask questions
Balance yourself in odd positions
Be heard over long distance
Carry things on stairs
Carry things on stairs with a partner
Carry things walking backward
Carry things walking backward on stairs
Carry things walking backward on stairs with a partner
Carry things walking backward with a partner
Climb things
Communicate without talking
Concentrate while on fire
Crawl under things
Do math in your head
Do specific, repetitive boring tasks
Don't carry things without a clear path
Don't lift anything without a place to put it down
Estimate distances
Estimate volumes
Estimate weights
Find objects by touch
Gather all equipment before beginning
Gather all participants before beginning
Gather all parts before beginning
Get dirty without caring
Hear over long distance
Hold things in mouth
Hold things with chin
Hold things with teeth
Know what comes next
Label pieces
Lift with your knees
Listen to multiple radios without going nuts
Make determinations by sound
Make lists
Measure without a ruler
Move quietly
Prop open doors
Repeat instructions
See over long distance
Sort objects by touch
Switch carrying hands without dropping the load
Take instructions from obvious inferiors
Tie knots one handed
Use balance to carry things
Use body part to move objects
Use body part to open doors
Use body part to switch lights
Use body part to switch tools
Use dollies
Use leverage to move things
Walk and carry things
Walk and carry things with a partner
Walk in the dark
Work as a partner
Work on a table
Work quietly
Work while upside down
Work with a partner
Work with hands at extreme reach
Work without hurting yourself
Work without talking
Write with non writing utensils

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oprah Debt Diet

Do you watch Oprah? ABC reruns it late at night here and I happened to catch an episode last night. She had on couples who had made a disaster out of their finances. These are people that earn a substantive amount of money and still wind up living check to check.

After one of the couples, people that were living well beyond their means, had done some things to clean up their act - the consolidated cell phones, got rid of three of their five cars, traded their piano for a cheaper one, returned their 50+ inch TV, cut their cable back to extended basic - Oprah praised them as being "an example to everyone."

What? These people are the example?

I understand that a lot of people live beyond their means. The show detailed it at 70% of Americans. But people that wrest control of their out of control spending and lazy financial maintenance are the example?

How about the 30% that didn't dig themselves the hole in the first place? Aren't they the example?

For some reason in this culture we always celebrate the reformed fuck up more than we do the person that traveled the straight line to begin with. Bizarre.

So, if you are out there planning what you can afford before you spend your money - you people, the responsible 30% - There Are No Bad Ideas salutes you as an example to the rest of us. Go to Best Buy and blow $50. You deserve the treat.

(Blow enough money maybe Oprah will have you on the show.)

First One - Now The Other

Ok, I suppose the results are in on the Johari window. Seemed to come out ok I think. I have to admit to being a little surprised to see "cheerful" and "relaxed." You can view the results below.

But first lets do another:

The next step is to ask several of your friends and colleagues to say which words they associate with you. You can do this by directing them to the following URL:-

http://kevan.org/nohari?name=dboevers

This one could be a little more dangerous I guess. Lets see.

Johari results:

Arena

(known to self and others)

idealistic, logical, organised, self-conscious, witty

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

able, bold, calm, caring, cheerful, clever, complex, confident, dependable, friendly, giving, helpful, ingenious, intelligent, introverted, kind, knowledgeable, observant, quiet, reflective, relaxed, responsive, self-assertive, sensible, sentimental, shy, tense, trustworthy, wise

Fa├žade

(known only to self)

independent

Unknown

(known to nobody)

accepting, adaptable, brave, dignified, energetic, extroverted, happy, loving, mature, modest, nervous, patient, powerful, proud, religious, searching, silly, spontaneous, sympathetic, warm

Dominant Traits

57% of people think that dboevers is knowledgeable

All Percentages

able (7%) accepting (0%) adaptable (0%) bold (7%) brave (0%) calm (7%) caring (14%) cheerful (7%) clever (7%) complex (42%) confident (14%) dependable (28%) dignified (0%) energetic (0%) extroverted (0%) friendly (7%) giving (14%) happy (0%) helpful (7%) idealistic (7%) independent (0%) ingenious (7%) intelligent (35%) introverted (21%) kind (14%) knowledgeable (57%) logical (21%) loving (0%) mature (0%) modest (0%) nervous (0%) observant (35%) organised (35%) patient (0%) powerful (0%) proud (0%) quiet (14%) reflective (7%) relaxed (14%) religious (0%) responsive (7%) searching (0%) self-assertive (14%) self-conscious (14%) sensible (14%) sentimental (7%) shy (7%) silly (0%) spontaneous (0%) sympathetic (0%) tense (7%) trustworthy (7%) warm (0%) wise (7%) witty (28%)

Created by the Interactive Johari Window on 25.2.2006, using data from 14 respondents.
You can make your own Johari Window, or view dboevers's full data.

"What Are They Worried About?"

So today, on my way in I was as usual listening to the radio. I was listing to this guy who says his show is some sort of "no spin" zone - whatever that means. Anyway, the guy was going on and on about how this whole port thing is really over blown and that we will actually be safer with the Arab company than we ever were with the Anglo company.

The logic (is it logic if it isn't logical?), er, the reasoning (is it reasoning if it wasn't reasonable?), er the thinking (is it... never mind, you get the idea), what he was saying was that the President has to know that these new guys will need watching, and so when they take over, there will undoubtedly be people watching their every move at every level. Far more so than there ever was when the old company was running things.

Well, maybe he feels safer. Me all I could think was, in which way will they be watching?

Will they be watching the way they were looking after the running of the prison at Abu Ghraib? There certainly wasn't anything missed there.

Will they be watching the way they watched the aftermath of Katrina? Watching everything that can possibly go wrong do so and then asking if they can come home.

Will they be watching like they were watching at the top of the Iraqi reconstruction? Watching profiteers walk off with all of our money.

Will they be watching like they did with the oversite of operation Able Danger? When they were shown some of the 9/11 hijackers long before the attack and did nothing.

Will they be watching like they were in Iraq prior to our invasion? Watching what is happening and then just making up whatever reasons they need to do what they want.
All in all I think we're better off when this administration isn't watching than when they are.

Friday, February 24, 2006

It Was Worth a Try

Know why your photographer doesn't want to send you the images? Perhaps because of this:


Came out a little pixelated though - even with the good paper. I was trying to come up to 11x17, so a smaller print might work. But then what's the fun of a smaller print? Good enough for the office wall though.

Still it'll be nice to get the actual album. This attempted print is from one of the proofs from the wedding album. If I read the thing right I think the actual size is close to twice this big. A memorial commensurate with the occasion if you ask me.

Want to see the proofs? Check here. You can view as a guest if you don't have AOL (and I mean who still has AOL? I should really get into the '90s already). This is a lot less work than looking through the photo proofs was.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cable ala Carte

I think cable is too expensive. I believe that they are really in the business of nickel and diming their customers out of more and more money. I also believe that their primary businesses are not providing cable TV but rather expanding their marketshare by signing up new people and also selling advertising. So in the end, once you are signed up, they really don't care much about you as a customer.

So you would think I would be happy that the government is trying to force the cable company to sell their selections one channel at a time - allowing people to only buy what they want. But I'm not.

Mostly, for whatever reasons I might detail below, the overall reason I am opposed to this is that it is providing an otherwise not available chance for the providers to make a gross adjustment to their pricing structure in a way that will undoubtedly get more expensive. I am 100% sure that whatever price reduction politicians are able to claim for an election cycle will be wiped out in less than a year. This entire initiative just has "backfire" written all over it.

How many channels do you think the average household would buy one by one? Everyone will buy their local channels, which even with ala carte pricing will likely remain a package. So we have basic, then how many? 6? 8? 10? If it were me I know I would want CNN, ESPN, Bravo, SciFi, Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, Discovery, & Cartoon Network - and that's not counting HBO type premium channels. So that's nine, although I am real fond of TNT, TBS, A&E, AMC, I like Spike for NewTrek, and also FX from time to time. So say 9 channels.

Don't you think that once they come up with the price for 9 channels it will be what I am paying for the whole thing now? They aren't stupid. In the end, we will just wind up paying more if we want to have a couple of channels we watch infrequently and the "average" buy will look like the "average" price right now.

Also, won't this mean that channels will have to carry their own freight? So lets say that I like SciFi, but nearly nobody else does. Won't that mean that the per channel price for that channel is going to be higher? Once you add in the domino that if less people are watching it then less people will advertise on it couldn't it mean that orphan stations, something that few people watch, will just get dropped from the package all together?

In Pittsburgh, would that mean we would be forced by the market to take Fox News over CNN?

In reality, this engine/freight relationship exists already. Cable providers have to deal with it from programming providers. The way they price now just spreads the cost of high priced stations over all the low priced stations. Plus, the program providers don't even give the cable providers a choice in some situations. As a cable company, if you want to offer one station a programmer has you often have to take the full package. Want Bravo? Then you also have to offer USA, Scifi, MSNBC, NBCShops...

Really it seems like the first step is not to free up the consumer to pick and choose, it is to let the cable operator pick and choose what they offer. At that point the second generation issue might become moot.

Although I doubt it, because they are all crap-weasels and they will not be happy until they have all of our video, audio, phone, internet and every discretionary dollar in our budgets plus a few.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Too Connected?

I sit in a lot of meetings. If you count classes as meetings then I am in A LOT of meetings. Today I posted an article on the NewsBeat page about running good meetings and one of their rules was: "No electronic grazing." No laptops, no cell phones, and no Blackberry.

It made me start to think, are these things tools, toys, or security blankets?

As someone without a laptop, but with a fairly sophisticated cell phone, I think I can say based on my own behavior and the behavior I have observed that in nearly all circumstances these things are toys.

Really, unless you are running a presentation or taking notes you simply just don't need the thing. Once, in a blue moon someone will need some piece of information that can be retrieved electronically, but in that case its just the one copy on the screen in front of the one person - not much use to the group. Even when someone just needs a particular fact it is rarely the person with the machine, and if it is you often hear as much cursing at not being able to find something as any kind of exclamation at having found the needle in the haystack.

More often you see: email, solitaire, instant messaging, web surfing...

As the person running the meeting (or teaching a class) when I notice someone using a computer for one of these things I feel like that person simply ought not to have come, that they certainly don't value their participation - why are they wasting my time? Here, I think, is a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't do whatever it is that you are doing with your computer without the computer, then you shouldn't be doing it with the computer.

Can you see someone in a meeting going through their bills, spreading out a deck of cards on the table, talking to people while other people are speaking, talking on the phone, reading the paper? No, that would be rude? That little flip up screen doesn't make it not rude. Rude to the speaker and to everyone else in the meeting (at least the ones that aren't plunking on their computers).

Also, I think the laptop thing has made us a little lazy and complacent. Need the laptop to look up documents? Not if you are prepared for the meeting. Being able to bring one's office into the room I think is making for lousy meeting prep and therefore lousy meetings. Have to check your mail? No, really you don't. Need to be playing cards? Um, no, need to be participating in the meeting. It has become status quo for people to be surfing and working and whatever when they are gathered for a meeting. The whole point of the meeting was to get those people together to synch their processes and to inform and hear from the whole group. You can't do that while you are shopping on itunes.

You are in fact wasting your own time right along with everyone else's. Do yourself and the rest of us a favor, shut down your machine, and pay attention.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Presidents Day

Is it Presidents Day or President's Day? I am thinking without the apostrophe. Lately it seems like every day is President's day, although I am uncertain that is what The Framers had envisioned. What do you think The Framers would have thought of George W. Bush. Being that they were such fans of checks and balances, and he seems to be just fine without them, I think they would have not been all that fond of him.

It seems on this day it would be useful to take a look at the state of the presidency, as well as celebrate the memory of Washington & Lincoln. It seems to me that overall we're in a little bit of a decline. Presidents in my lifetime: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, & Bush.

I find it unlikely those faces will turn up on a mountain anytime soon. I guess Nixon opened China, Carter began the road to Middle East Peace, and Reagan buried Communism. Personally I am a big Clinton fan, but like the Bushes that bracket him, I don't think history will be kind. I'm not sure Ford will get much of a mention either except in a trivia sort of way. Really I guess that most Presidents wind up being trivia. Am I a bad American because I would likely be guessing on most Presidential trivia?

There was a group that was talking about putting Reagan on the 20 dollar bill. Somehow I think the current face has more stature. But I guess things do change from time to time and perhaps if we can get a real fight going about whether or not the Reagan $20 is appropriate we can keep the legislators from doing something that would really hurt us.

I keep mulling the Carlin idea in my mind, that in the end we can't complain about who is elected. Like it or not, these guys are apparently the best we can do. Seems like anyone who really would want to be President we can find a fairly good reason why they ought not be allowed to be. Who do you think will be next? No incumbent, no VP running for the top spot, no Democratic standouts? Wouldn't it be weird if the time can and nobody ran? I wonder if the constitution has a way of dealing with that? There's one they didn't cover in my high school US History class.

Do you think that in the near history of the past that people thought the same ho-hum thoughts about their presidents that we often do now? Were people talking about how really Washington or Lincoln were all spin and that really they weren't significant? Somehow I get the feeling that under either of those administrations you knew that you were being well looked out for, and that their legacies are deserved. But nobody here now was there then, and certainly historians do have a role in the memory of a Presidential legacy.

Isn't this the period when George W. is supposed to be thinking about his legacy? I wonder how they will spin that one on future Presidents Days?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lemming

The next step is to ask several of your friends and colleagues to say which words they associate with you. You can do this by directing them to the following URL:-

http://kevan.org/johari?name=dboevers


ok, lets see...

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Over the Edge

Is it something to worry about when you find yourself doing research to post a comment on someone else's blog?

There must be some work I could be doing.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

All Things To All People

The curricular revisions continue at work. We've got a couple of fairly interesting conundrums to solve. Mostly decisions about who should take what when, and what should be included within courses that everyone takes. Students and faculty all have different goals and priorities and yet we are charged with coming up with something coherent.

It's gotten difficult to describe the issues in uncharged terms. Its real hard to talk about what should be included without making one population or another feel like they aren't important. The other day, while trying to find a benign way to represent some of the issues I scribbled this on a notepad:

Sometimes I feel like this revision ought to be getting all of us a PhD in Education. What I am trying to depict here graphically, and hopefully apolitically, is the relative usefulness of a course in a specific discipline to varied populations within the student body based on how complicated the material is that is being presented.

One of the interesting things theorized here is that a course doesn't really even become interesting to the group invested in the specific information until just about it becomes too much for the population out of their element. Of everything on the chart, this is the phenomenon I have seen played out in classrooms.

I'm fairly confident about the shape of the curves on the increasing side of the maximum. It would be interesting to know more about the size of the plateau and the slope of the decline.

Basically this is a graphical way to say that a course can't be all things to all people. I hope to use this type of reasoning to help determine what level course content ought to be aimed, and then once we have that level to understand who will, and who will not benefit from the class. Ideally this will help to lead into some compromises regarding common content and total individual curricular depth.

Or maybe its just a picture with pretty colors.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Link of the Day

It's been far too long since we've had a link of the day. Truth be told I have a whole bookmark folder full of things to post, but the muse just never seems to arrive. This was just too funny to ignore.


This was just too much fun. Knock yourself out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Really I Shouldn't Watch the News

Probably since that last election, my commentary on the blog has really dropped off. I think part of it was that I was really actually hoping that by talking about issues I might help to inspire someone to vote, and that after the election that motivation was gone. I also think it was because I used to read the paper and I used to listen to the news. Now, so much less so. Maintaining the NewsBeat page takes up most of the time I used to give to McNews, and iTunes has replaced the AirAmerica stream in my office, and what I listen to in the car really can't be called news - although I guess they are discussing local issues.

And I have to tell you, I think I am the better for it.

One really ought not celebrate being monumentally out of the loop, but it sure is nice to be there. Sometimes I turn to CNN in the morning, but most days I luck out and its something about Brad Pitt, or five useful ways to something that are - one - totally obvious, and - two - probably not nearly as useful as they are being made out to be.

Today, not so lucky, and I don't know how you hear stuff like this and don't get, don't get something. I swear, if someone doesn't lose their job. The US Government is getting like summer stock. In stock, when people screw up, you threaten them with a long term contract. In the current administration, it seems the bigger the cock up the bigger the reward - right up to the medal of freedom. My guess is that somewhere there's a tailor fitting Mr. Brown and Mr. Chertoff for their medals.

FEMA has 11,000 mobile homes sinking into the mud in a field in Arkansas.

$300 million spent on mobile homes and the 11,000 that are sinking into the mud "may have to be disposed of." The quote is from a congressional hearing I unfortunately ran across while getting dressed this morning.

The population of the US, according to the census page, is 298,110,801 people. That means each of us had just about $1 of our money spent on these homes. If they get wrecked and are unable to be used, the people responsible ought to be made to go door to door and give each of us a $1 refund in cash. They can use the remaining $1,889,199.00 to pay for the gas for the trip.

I know that there are good reasons they didn't deploy these things the way we will be squawking at them to have done. Certainly if they send 11,000 mobile homes to New Orleans and they all blow away in a Hurricane three months from now we would be the first ones to jump up and say "What kinda of MORON sends mobile homes into a hurricane zone?" But still, this waste in the face of so much need is just plain sad. Next to this, the poorly allocated money, or the pure graft is simply insignificant.

Are these people really the best we can do? If the people that made movies were this organized we would all have live theatre subscriptions. If the people that did theatre were this organized, I think the publishing industry would sell quite a few more books. Someone needs to step up and take responbsibility. Preferably by firing everyone and then resigning. That someone could be as high up in the administration as it goes frankly.

From now on I am sticking to E!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Public Service

Friends don't let friends go "hunting" with the Vice President.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ellipses...

Its nice to be certified after for so long having been certifiable... Frankly, I think Mike Brown isn't allowed to be sick and tired of anything at the moment... I know we didn't get the worst of it, but snow still sucks... Once again I believe I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up... Not sure how it happened, but I think the Olympics are somewhat less special than they used to be... Its much harder to write ellipses when you haven't been reading the news... Is there any chance that this guy they just extradited from England isn't guilty??? How reasonable is it to turn real world issues into school homework??? It is strange the things you miss when you are away from home... The opening ceremony was Comcastic, and by that I mean I missed a lot of it while the screen froze and the sound dropped out... Sears has the Valentines negligees right next to the table saws, which do they think people are coming in for and which do they hope to make as an impulse sale??? It was nice to hear on This Week both a democratic and republican analyst say that our leaders have been doing a lousy job... Pittsburgh has an Air America station: WPTT AM 1360, who knew??? My computer is not up to a full blown game of CivIV, :-(... Note to self: next time taking photos for a potential article, use the 3 megapixel camera and not the phone cam - even if it means walking up to your office... Pretty much nobody updated today, I wonder what's up with that...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Hajj



I never know what these posts are going to look like when I use the right-justified and left-justified photo uploading options. I guess I need to learn more about HTML.

So, I was recently in Chicago to interview new applicants to the Trauma School. While there I took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the be all end all hardware store:

Berlands House Of Tools
(You should hear a chorus of angels behind that - more HTML to learn).


To the uninitiated I have never really been able to explain the significance of this holy site. It is different entirely than any local place of worship, say a Home Depot, and even dwarfs the piety of someplace like a Woodworker's Supply. In short, like Bath Industrial Supply and a short list of other extreme cases, Berlands is a holy of holys.

I've included a few pictures here so that you might be able to share in my religious zeal and begin to understand the depth of the experience - the immersion, the Baptism in the nourishing waters of tools.

First we have the welcoming facade of the temple. Then we show the chop saw department. After that are aisles one AND two of the cordless drill selection. This is no ordinary hardware store. I've stuck to the more interesting aisles for photos, but you must imagine the range for yourself, put yourself in the trowel department or the glove department. Really, it is a bounty to behold.

The last two photos are to help to show the depth of the experience rather than the incomparable breadth. From the hand circular saw department we have the Makita Beam Saw. It's difficult to comprehend from simply a photo, but try to understand that the blade on this saw measures 16". It is a true tool's tool.

Finally, we have the midget router I have coveted since I worked at CSSI over a decade ago. It presents itself as a laminate trimmer, but really I believe this to be the patron router of scenery construction. It is just perfect for routing off masonite or lauan facings as well as breaking the corner on something to actorproof. It also has a full metal body and base - no plastic - indicating this is no weekend warrior's tool. Alas, I never seem to be able to put my hands on one when I have the funds. But I will know as long as it is available, it will be available at Berland's.

Amen.

Validation


Really, I'm not sure when rigging became my "thing." I was just explaining the other day that its been more about having the (mis?)fortune of working in space after space that hadn't been optimal for stage rigging: Kresge Theatre at CMU, both Apple Tree spaces, the Barber at Northwestern, The Yale Rep, The Marriott Lincolnshire. All theatres where something other than the rigging of scenery had the priority during their conception, and therefore all theatres where you pick up significant rigging experiences. I wonder if every theatre I had worked in would have been the same as the b-flat double purchase house I worked in during high school if I would have learned nearly as much.

So here I am, an ETCP Certified Theatrical Rigger. Who would have thought?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Numerology

Should I place any credence in numerology? If so, I think I ought to be playing the lotto this week - or running for something.

  • A couple of days ago I got to my hotel room 16234 at 2:34PM.
  • A few nights ago I finally put down my book at 2:20, I was on page 220.
  • The next night I finished that book at 2:20.
  • Today I got in the car at 4:44PM, the thermometer next to the clock said it was 44 degrees.
What is up with that?

Do you think that this sort of thing happens all the time and I am only just noticing it over the last few days? Or is there some sort of bizarre numerical alignment going on around my life right now?

If there is some sort of magical thing going on, I wonder what the best way to take advantage of it would be? Certainly lottery tickets jump to mind. I could hurry up and do my taxes, some magic is always welcome there. Maybe I should step on a scale? Although I doubt any supernatural force will help in that department. So many possibilities.

Anyway, its probably nothing.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

They're Hard Not To Like

You know, every time they do one of those Parker-Randel El-Ward things and it works it is really hard not to smile. They really are hard not to like.

Now, if the Yinzers can just keep the celebrations on the right side of the law.

Halftime

Well, a few close calls, but I guess that's not as bad as it could have been. Can't say as anything has really jumped out as far as commercials either (although something new from the Wachowski brothers is always good to hear about). I guess I liked the guys up on the roof.

I wonder if they'll hold on. I wonder which way few cars in Pittsburgh get burned. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

But I LOVE Office Depot!!!

Not tonight however. You would think that if someone runs a copy center as part of their business that there would be a reason to use their copy center. It is possible you might be wrong.

This evening I arrived at the school copier with a stack of papers that needed 2 into 1, 2-sided, saddle staple copying, pretty hard core. As usual I arrive at the copier to find the trouble display lit. It was out of toner. Being one of the few staff members undeterred by a copier trouble display I diligently looked for the toner so as to refill it. Of course, we had no toner.

At this point I say to myself that I didn't want to fold all of the output anyway, and dammit I have a company charge card, and I just LOVE Office Depot, and they do copies...

So I am at Office Depot, and the girl takes my stuff and they have two machines that will do this and so I think, Great, be done in a snap. That is until the first machine jams after only a few pages. It proceeds to do this every couple of pages, over and over. Now you might surmise that if the document requires 2 into 1, 2-sided, saddle stapling, that it might not be a very small document - and you would be right. I also had two different documents that needed this, and I needed 50 of each. So each time I heard the woman crack the case of the copier to pull out jammed pages I cringed just a little bit.

Then the other machine crapped out.

Now, I just LOVE Office Depot. Its like a little museum of office supplies to me, and I love office supplies. So while the copiers were doing battle with my documents I took the tour. I went through post-it land. I visited Avery-land. I went to see briefcases and laptops. I even stopped at clearance, it all took about 15 minutes. Then I went back to the counter to see how my job was running and there were less than 10 of each.

RRR. I am loving Office Depot less every minute.

Finally after about 45 minutes I tell her that 25 of each will have to do because I am getting old. She seems relieved as the manager came to pull her drawer and I think the job was looking like it was going to run past closing. To get to the 25 she had to finish one on one machine and then run the last four of the other on the same machine as the second copier had by now completely shit the bed.

Amazing.

In a million years I would not have thought that, had it been running, the copier at work would have been just as dependable and faster than the ones at the copy center. Astounding. I guess maybe I will have to learn to accept this flaw, like one does in any relationship.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Factcheck.org TANBI Style

So, frequent reader Josh decided that my rant against the oil companies should not go unchallenged...

David-

You recent blog post piqued my interest... and I decided to do some research.
I had no idea what I would find, and therefore, did not go into this with any particular slant... except to say that, politically, I tend to distrust massive unregulated corporate entities.

Thought you might be interested in the results.

I make NO claims that this is a complete or accurate analysis of gasoline prices... merely that it is interesting.

The data is from two websites:
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_spt_s1_w.htm

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/wrgp/mogas_history.html


The trendlines are polynomial 6th-order (in Excel), and I calculated the derivatives myself to try to answer the question: "Are gasoline prices increasing at a faster rate than crude oil prices?"

I used the rough metric of 19.5 gallons of gasoline produced per barrel of crude oil.

Enjoy.
-J

Here's his results:



So, if I am reading his work properly, it would appear that the price of oil has increased faster than the price of gasoline. Which I guess you can spin into saying "they are cutting us a break because they haven't passed the full increase on to consumers."

Perhaps.

I interpret the data a little differently. My conclusion is that the price of gasoline is not volatile due to the price of oil. This makes me even more cross, because if they made 300% of what they did last year, and if the increase in prices at the pump is not dependent on the price of oil, then this just means that the price we are paying is what someone in a smoke filled room somewhere thought they could get us to pay without raising hell.

I think we should show them they were wrong.

Writing Is Rewriting

Roll Me Away

With all the high tech apparatus currently being coveted by entertainment programs around the nation it is sometimes easy to forget that many problems can be solved by decidedly low tech, more traditional approaches. In fact, there are several recurring challenges within technical theatre that cry out for easy, kind of "dare to be stupid" solutions. Things like a door in a drop, a low profile wagon, a tall rolling thing that doesn't fall over are all issues that never go away and are never once and for all solved.

I continue to believe that the purpose built solution is one of the coolest things about theatrical technical direction.

Another frequent poser that could be added to the list above is: rolling thing that doesn't roll when its not supposed to. It actually turns out that this particular problem is one that is much easier solved in a high tech environment. A rolling unit on an automation deck with a buried track, driven by a dog on a cable, stops when the cable stops and goes when the cable goes. However, many Technical Directors are faced with this issue on a regular basis working with companies that do not have the resources to implement solutions involving track decks and drive winches. They have to find other ways.

The band-aid solutions to this are usually triangular wedges stuck under the edge, or door stops on the sides, maybe locking casters, or sometimes cane-bolts into holes in the floor. Sometimes you can even find toggle-clamps listed in theatrical supply catalogs as “wagon-brakes.” Most of these work with varying degrees of success. The upside is that they are usually simple and can be added late in the process. The downside is that often the unit doesn’t have a good position for wedging or attaching. Often multiple stops are required to keep the unit from pivoting as well as stopped, and in the case of wedges there are now extra pieces that someone has to remember to remove with the unit. It is possible though to have a much more successful solution to the problem if the device for stopping the unit is designed into the piece from the beginning of fabrication.

A recent project in our shop provided three opportunities to solve this problem in three different ways in one 24 hour period. The different approaches each have advantages and disadvantages, but are all viable, and on the whole are very simple. In two of the cases, the parts for the solution are within the standard inventory of most scene shops.

The first solution came right off the designer's elevation.



For this table piece we were instructed to caster one end of the unit. Wheels on one end, plus doctoring the legs on that end produce a unit that can be lifted like a and pushed on or off stage. When the un-wheeled end is placed on the ground, the unit sits flat and doesn't move.





This was a good solution in this case as the unit travels only out of sight, and because actors will be crawling underneath as part of the stage action; so it was necessary to keep the area underneath as clear as possible. Also, it is about as low tech as one can get. No materials are required for this solution beyond what would have been used to make the unit roll in the first place – in fact, it utilizes less casters in this configuration.

It is worth noting that the framing member supporting the casters gets extra reinforcement at the joints where it joins the legs since it will have to bear most of the weight of the unit on its own. Also notice that this approach uses rigid casters. The wheelbarrow action allows for any path without using pivoting casters. Really, this is a dare to be stupid solution that does everything it needs to do for the production without being complicated.

The second approach uses a few moving parts, but is also reasonably simple. This is a fairly classic lift-jack utilizing pivoting casters, strap hinges, a plywood mounting plate, and a long 2x4 lever. Once again, materials that are normally close at hand to any theatrical scene shop.


The wheels for the unit are mounted to the pivoting plates. Each plate is connected to a lever, and the levers are situated such that when one moves it moves the other.





Push the levers down, the plates rock to level pushing the wheels down, and the unit sits up on the wheels to roll away. This particular application utilizes an additional arm with a handle to facilitate operation and locking. In most cases the weight of the unit itself is enough to pivot the jack into the stored position.



This solution was good for this application because there was a good deal of available real-estate within the piece for the mechanism. The scene shift takes place in view of the audience, so once the piece gets its front and side facings this should be reasonably magical. The jack does require a fair amount of space, but with proper planning space can be optimized for other uses of the volume, in this case a shelf for props.

The engaging and disengaging of the mechanism can happen with one stagehand – or even a performer - from a single position. Also the piece only has to carry its own weight so the number of casters and span between the wheels turns out not to be an issue. If the lift jack is actuated from the end of the long lever, the operator gains significant mechanical advantage, so even a unit with some weight to it should not be too unreasonable a challenge to lift, as long as the structure of the mechanism can handle the span introduced.

The third iteration is a little more complex. This approach utilizes moving parts, some actuators, and a stored power supply - compressed air.


In this solution, the casters are mounted to a free floating plate contained within the base of the unit. Above the moving plate is a fixed plate, and on that plate there are multiple pneumatic cylinders. A valve is placed between the air supply and the actuators. Apply the air and open the valve, the cylinders extend pushing the unit against the wheels and raising the piece off the floor - free to roll.



Remove the air supply and open the valve and the unit sits back on the floor. The weight of the unit is enough to exhaust the air from the cylinders so the unit is “gravity return.”



In addition to the wheel, plate, and cylinder assembly, this solution requires finding a position to conceal the pressure tank. There also needs to be an accessible place to mount the valve & handle.

This is a good solution for this piece because there is very limited space available. This also works well because this unit actually is a doorway arch, so there are two bases that must lift and there is no way to mechanically link them. Snaking a hose through the header frame to power a second set of cylinders is comparatively simple. Perhaps most interestingly, this solution is completely encased in a unit which does not have an elevation hidden from the audience. When looking at the unit in place, one cannot see any of the mechanics that make the lift possible.

So, three solutions, no wedges, no holes in the deck, no electronics or programming. Just simple machines and a little forethought for three clean solutions.