Saturday, March 31, 2007


There's no end to what felt like a real long week more appropriate than what felt like a real long day... I keep living places where the streets don't line up... I never thought it would happen, but my email is almost to zero - no shit - ZERO... It just hit me that there is no Battlestar Galactica tomorrow night... I should ditch this old template and spruce up the blog... I am rethinking the social acceptability of deriding Scientologists, or any religion at all for that matter... I confused the GPS twice yesterday, that ought not be possible... I think I got myself a free laptop. Pays to ask... Really I should go to a tech rehearsal this season. Time is running out... If you can stop a treadmill by standing on it, and you're not morbidly obese, would it be reasonable to assume that the motor is burning out??? "MC Rove" was really depressing... We've had to cancel the TANBI home events Monday and Tuesday... The Sopranos comes back on soon and all I can think of is how much I would rather it was Weeds... Tiny boxes... I am not sure I am ever going to grade that Calendar homework... Tonight I actually, voluntarily, arranged to go see a show that is performed completely in French. Thankfully Mrs. TANBI had other plans for me... When you move the file cabinet, take the stuff out of the drawers first... On first experiment, the Jolt gum didn't perform like I'd hoped it would... Would anyone like to pay me to develop some course materials over the summer? I really could use the time... Before you know it, it will be time to cut the grass... Under the correct circumstances rebooting a computer can make you a genius... Tax day is coming... Now the tech people are worried that the things that didn't update to DST will jump ahead an hour on the old date... Everyone in the current administration should resign - probably they'd make more money that way anyway... I think I want some ice cream...

Wanted: Life.

From the people over at Make: Blog

ok, ok yes, the thought had occurred to me. But it was a LONG TIME AGO, and I never actually did it!

Friday, March 30, 2007


Think Progress:

"Dear Madam Secretary:

On March 12, 2007, I sent you a letter renewing, as formal requests of the Committee, prior letter requests that I sent to you between 2003 and 2006. These requests sought information on the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, White House treatment of classified information, the appointment of Ambassador Jones as “special coordinator” for Iraq, and other subjects. My March 12 letter is attached.

The March 12 letter requested a response by March 23 to several of the inquiries, but the Committee received no response from you.

I now request your appearance before the Committee at a hearing on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building. At this hearing, you will be asked to provide testimony and respond to questions on the subjects outlined in the March 12 letter and the original request letters. …

Henry A. Waxman

Step-Grandmother In-Law RIP

From the Post Gazette...

Obituary: Susan J. "Sue" Boulden / 'Outspoken' human rights advocate, Episcopalian: "Susan J. 'Sue' Boulden, who gained notoriety throughout the Episcopal Church and parts of the Anglican Communion for her outspokenness on human rights and religious issues, died Tuesday following open heart surgery at West Penn Hospital. She would have been 64 yesterday."

So This is Pretty Useful

ID Pilot Wire Identification Labels: "Ever inadvertently unplug your clock radio instead of the lamp, because you couldn't tell one plug from the other in your power strip? Forget about color coding or plastic tags, ID Pilot Wire Identification Labels to the rescue. Each label has a drawing of the device it powers. "

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is "Theatre" About?

Recently I found myself in a meeting where once again we were discussing curriculum. It seems that we're having to bone up the presentation of the various parts of our program that enhance students "general education." That we're a conservatory and "that's just not what we do" is apparently not a complete defense these days.

So previous to this we've gone through everything we teach looking for those things that would qualify as "general education." We use the six semesters of Drama Lit, the required History, the required English, our clothing history, our architecture history, the new OSWALD class, much of Production Planning (as applied things like accounting do count as GenEd but applied things like flat building don't - who knew), Physics of Stage Machinery, Structures, and the seven electives. For most of our students this did manage to cover the requirement, but for a few who do more of a double degree that we say is like a double major while cramming it into a standard four year program see a little bit less.

Which left us thinking about production.

Someone offered up that you don't do theatre about theatre, you do theatre about things.

Now I have to tell you the very first thing I heard in my head was my Dad saying "oh, really? Theatre isn't about theatre? Then what were Chorus Line, 42nd Street, Applause, All About Eve, Noises Off, Phantom of the Opera, Annie Get Your Gun, Dreamgirls, Gypsy..." You get the point, yes? As he would conclude "well, another slice of life."

But maybe it isn't so much of a reach. Everyone involved with a production, especially a school production becomes immersed in the world of the play. Who is to say who has a more broadening experience; the student in a comparative religions course or the student designing Nathan the Wise. We've worked very hard to insure that the offered season in our program touches a fairly rigorously defined group of genres within any given three year window. Just because the genres we've chosen: Classical Antiquity, Post War, Modern Drama, and World Stages (I think, I'd have to look them up) relate more closely to theatre literature it doesn't mean that they don't also relate to the historical periods they come from, to the cultures that produced them, or even more transparently to the actual content of the play.

What is the curricular value measured against a "general education" metric of producing a play like Copenhagen? Doesn't this produce a survey that touches mid 20th century European history as well as Chemistry? I mean, I know you don't leave after seeing a production of this show knowing how to build an atomic bomb, but we're not talking about audience, we're looking at the illumination of the members of the company. Certainly these people are having to research Bohr and Heisenberg, their work, their homes - let alone their clothing and language. It isn't what we typically regard as a history survey course, but with the contextualizing of the information it could quite easily be labeled a history survey lab.

And really, what History department at any school in this age of cross-campus integration wouldn't kill to have a course called something like "The Life & Times of Bohr & Heisenberg" offered in their curriculum? If it would be GenEd for our kids to go to History to take that, clearly the process of doing the production must have some congruence to the classroom experience.

The four year production sequence of the School of Drama is a required eight semester inter-disciplinary laboratory course in world cultural and historical studies. The content of the course comes from all of the humanities, arts, sciences, business, and engineering - from everything people do in their lives. That content is set in the context of a particular historical and/or cultural period and the producing of the work requires Drama students to make a rigorous guided inquiry into all of what makes up "General Education."

From a certain standpoint, perhaps all liberal arts students should really be theatre students. It certainly beats watching a grad student run a powerpoint presentation. Why look at or read about something when you can have the immersive experience of living it? Maybe conservatory drama had it right all along.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Don't Type Angry

Home Repair and Improvement

This weekend saw some work around the house, revealing once again what a joy it is to be a homeowner and once again presenting the dilemma of "the line."

You remember "the line," yes? This is a concept in home repair that says that if you do not consciously pick out where a project ends before it starts that it will simply continue to grow right up until you are framing a new home. Protecting yourself from missing the line involves planning rigidly discreet forays into home repair and then having the discipline to hold to the line you began with. There's also a way to have trouble with the line that has less to do with discipline. We'll get to that presently.

If you go way back in the blog, you will find the story of our first household project in the form of a disaster averted. The story of the toilet that became a fountain. With that in our past we became a little concerned when the other commode in the home started making a hissing sound. So after a morning trip to the airport we made a stop at the local home center to get a new part and fix the toilet. Discreet project, bright, clear, bold line.

While at the home center we become distracted by the idea of trying to repair the sink. The pop-up drain has been broken for almost a year (no stopper) and the drain is a little slow to boot. Our discreetness failing under poor line maintaining discipline and suddenly we've bought a new drain kit and a pipe auger attachment for the drill.

This is ok I guess. The first project was a half hour deal, the drain has been annoying, and I will undertake almost any project that comes along with the prospect of buying a new tool.

So, home we go to auger a drain, replace a pop-up, and fix a toilet. Three discreet projects that have now encompassed two fixtures. I think we're still under two hours - and I got a new piece of gear.

First the augering. Nothing, nothing, nothing, its stuck, screw it in, POP! and everything drains very well. A project success? Is it possible? I mean, I know I broke the set screw on the new tool, but overall this is a great result - unless of course the water is now draining into the wall somewhere, or jetting up out of the downstairs sink. But for the moment it seems we've made a genuine repair.

No rest for the valiant though as we go at the toilet tank. Being a repair I'd done before this went quickly and easily. I learned the "turn off the water first" lesson last time and only spilled a little onto a towel when I forgot to put the bucket I had for that very reason under the hole where the water would come out. Oops. New piece in, hissing gone, two repairs attempted, two repairs completed. We're on a roll.

The drain was a new thing for me. We'd bought a little homeowner plumbing book to augment the hieroglyphics on the box the kit came in. I should bring in the box for the drafting class to show a nice exploded view - unfortunately its in the trash someplace. Goes to show you never can tell where good teaching resource material will come from.

Work clean, follow the instructions, finish up, check for leaks. Drip, drip, drip. Take the whole thing out, clean up the interfaces, reset the drain and use the putty this time even though it says you don't have to, work clean, follow the instructions, finish up, check for leaks. Drip, drip, drip. At this point your craftsman pride should be kicking in. Once is acceptable, but the second time, knowing what you were trying to avoid - having a leak is embarrassing.

But wait, maybe its not on me. Closer inspection makes it clear that the leak is not coming from the bowl or the new extension or the trap, but from the segment of pipe going into the wall. It appears to be cracked, and pressing with a thumb makes the crack into a very real hole.


This piece is soldered onto the other pipe. I don't have a replacement, or a torch, or solder, or any more patience for home improvement today. And here dear readers is where we see the other way the line can move. Do you remember when Ripley was with Newt in Aliens?

"Made a clean spot, now I have to do the whole thing."

Home repairs beget other home repairs. And this is in a scenario where you avoid causing the need for the additional repairs yourself. The number of drywall patching projects necessitated by someone punching a hole in the wall while moving a ladder to install a fan or a light must be staggering, or people that have to refinish floors after painting walls, or having to replace siding after replacing windows. The possibilities are endless. But even if you work clean, as if as a homeowner you work like a character in some real life role playing game of Top Secret, even being incredibly careful you are always vulnerable to discovering the next job during the current one. You just have to hope it isn't something that has to be addressed immediately.

Which is why I was glad that it was just a very small hole, on the top of a pipe that under normal working conditions isn't pressurized. Actually it was kind of cool, you could just watch the water flow through the drain pipe. As long as it doesn't clog downstream - and I just augered the thing to prevent that - there shouldn't be any overflow.

That word "shouldn't" though in my experience is problematic, and really unwelcome when you are standing in a flooded bathroom. So, for the time being there's a very homeownerly looking glob of plumber's putty on the pipe. One that were you to discover doing your own repair you would say "just what did that yahoo think he was doing?" And when I say that next time, I'll remember that in the course of what was probably carefully planned as a discreet and disciplined outing into home repair the previous homeonwer was confronted with a moving line and just did the best he could.

I'll have to remember that next weekend as I know what I'll be doing: buying a torch to do my next home repair and improvement.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Continued in 2008

You know, I really had trouble enjoying BSG tonight because I knew it was the season finale and in a sort of Sopranos move the next season doesn't begin for quite some time.

Still, it was nice to see Cara again. I'm feeling more and more on target about my Lords of Cobol prediction. It's all going to be all right. Yup, that's what she would say.

Kudos to Stevie for hitting the nail on the head:

I'm on my way home from the office for the BSG season finale.
Want to go on record with predictions and see what happens?
Here's mine:
Tigh, Anders and Tory are cylons
The song is "all along the watchtower"
Baltar is acquitted.
And then I got a couple in my answer...

It isn’t Anders voice saying “we’re all cylons,” it’s the chief...
I think they will only give four out of five...

I too picked Tory as a Cylon last week. Maybe we should write TV instead of lawyering and professoring. Maybe not.

I'm ok with the Cylon sleepers. If I could live with Boomer I can live with these four, although Tigh is a bit of a stretch. But seeing as how they didn't know, maybe it doesn't so much matter. There's always the possibility that they actually aren't Cylons too. Nothing that they've experienced is particularly tied to being a Cylon, just sort of about being unbalanced. Maybe they're also being called by the Gods and they've just interpreted it incorrectly.

The music was a nice plot device, but I was jarred a little by the implementation - especially with it being an actual, contemporary song. It just didn't seem to fit for someone on the show to be quoting Dylan lyrics. But then, in an earlier season they made a Seinfeld joke and I thought it was cool, so maybe my opinion isn't totally formed in this area.

They had to acquit Baltar otherwise there was really no place to go. I don't think anyone in the fleet could have hid him if he had been guilty and I don't think anyone would buy him going back with the Cylons - unless he did turn out to be one of the five which at the moment seems improbable. I was thinking maybe they'd weasel out with a mistrial, but this conclusion is better. And with him being spirited away they probably have a good mechanism to keep him involved. All in all fairly clever.

I hope Adama voting for Baltar's acquittal is enough to cool the jets on the blossoming flirtation between him and the President. Really I can do without that plot.

They gave us a doozey of a season cliffhanger. Giant Cylon fleet, Lee re-upping, cylon Sleepers, the President, Boomer, and Six sharing dreams, Gaius being hidden, Cara coming back with a way to Earth (and possibly the "bright white light" aliens from the original series) - all things too look forward to.

Look forward to until 2008. Geez. Like my good friend Bender would say: "Bite my shiny metal ass!"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sometimes Students Really Impress Me

My blog is becoming exclusively about work. Sometime soon I am going to have to get pissed off about something in the news so I can rant about it.

I got back my curtain assignments from the rigging class. The assignment is to produce a working model of two kinds of stage soft goods effects from a list. You can pick traveler or split-traveler, tab, Austrian or Venetian, or standard roll or Olio roll. I think I started giving this assignment so that PTM students would have something to bring to crits, but I've also found that the kind of annoying, ditzy problem solving you have to do in scale is often the same as the annoying, ditzy troubleshooting you have to do in the theatre. Except for the assignment you can do it sitting at a desk rather than straddling the stick at the top of an a-frame ladder. This is the third year I've done the assignment. The first year people really didn't get it. Last year was better, with a couple of stand outs. This year pretty much everyone got the idea and did good work.

Also this year there were some real stand outs. Some excellent model making, a mechanized Austrian and Roll Drop, and an automated Austrian and Olio.

Here's an example of neat model making:

It has a velour curtain, moulding around the edges, a stained finish, and a locking lid. Very cool

The roll drop is actually suspended on a system pipe as well. Pretty neat stuff. They also did these furniture like ball-feet.

One pair of students asked if they could go "off the board" and do a Kabuki Trip-Drape. Usually I don't let people do this because you could just sew a piece of velcro and call it done. So I explained that an extracted a pledge to be more creative. They did real well. The solution they used was a solenoid trip mechanism, exactly like you might use in an actual production only smaller. They'd even wired a little control button.

The first time I tripped it the piece worked perfectly. Naturally when I went to record, it failed. But I think you can see the idea. Also, it was a bitch to reload - just like it would be in a theatre.

This last pair has almost certainly ruined the rest of their semester, if not the whole of their time here based on what I will be expecting from them in the future. They did a great model to start, attempted and successfully managed a working Olio - which in and of itself is an achievement - and then they went and automated the thing and programmed it to run cues.

They used a Lego Mindstorms controller and motors. It runs two cues and worked time after time without faulting. Just excellent work.

I wonder if I am making the projects too easy? If things keep improving at this pace, soon I can expect tiny little robotic actors, and lighting, and musical accompaniment. I can't wait.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Cry for Help?

I'm not really trained to make this kind of assessment...

I Guess I Should Say Something

A colleague of mine died last weekend. Although he had previously retired, Cletus Anderson remained a presence in the School of Drama until recently when health problems made his involvement impossible. He was a gifted artist and an inspiring instructor and he will be missed by all of us.

I had the privilege of being both a student and a co-worker of Professor Anderson. My first memory of Cletus is a sort of incongruous thought. The thought is that he wasn't there. The fall I began as a student in the Drama department Cletus and his wife Barbara were away working on the movie Monkey Shines. So until after mid semester our Basic Design class was taught by Bob Perdziola - just one of many of Cletus' former students now making a living as a designer in our business. It was probably good that I started the semester with Bob, as when Cletus returned he was absolutely daunting and I think had he been there on the first day of the first class I might have just folded up right there and then.

Cletus always had a good sense of humor once you were attuned to it. One time while we were working on a watercolor project I had inquired how I might improve the piece I was working on. Cletus asked me: "have you got a match?"

At the time I wasn't attuned. Or maybe that wasn't supposed to be funny.

Another time I remember quite clearly was during a night of crew that I (ok they) had the misfortune of my being assigned to the costume shop. I'd been sent into stock to look for something and come back empty handed. Cletus took me back into the stock room (I assumed to demonstrate my rampant incompetence) and looked for the items himself. After a couple of minutes he muttered "Sometimes life is just a great big bowl of shit." It was the first time in my experience I had ever heard a teacher curse.

While working on the Television Project my senior year we did a piece called "Confetti." It was supposed to be a wedding reception in the basement of a church. Cletus had made a wedding cake for the shoot. At that time I found out that he did projects like that on the side and had had a lot of kitchen experience in his past. Who knew?

I didn't have a whole lot of interaction with Cletus as a faculty member. Clearly he was still scaring freshmen and upholding a high standard for performance. He had been notoriously hard on people, or more accurately difficult for people trying to spin at critiques. More recently as I have become known as someone who doesn't shy from throwing a high inside fastball when it is required some people have called me "the new Cletus" of crits. I would certainly take that designation with honor.

I guess I had surprised him some in my development. After a meeting once he stopped me and asked "When did you become so wise?" It made my day to have the compliment. It would be nice to belileve he thought he had something to do with the growth.

A year or so ago I got myself hired to work on a project working as a draftsman. Cletus was the designer. I don't think I did a very good job. It was interesting to me that near on 20 years later I still felt like that working on a project for him. It is a sort of gift he had I think, without having to say so always making people feel like they could do a better job for him and in such a way that the next time you wanted to do a better job. That's something I wish I could bring to my work.

Perhaps I will have to keep Cletus in mind when critiquing a student's work. Although I'm not sure I'll ever ask a student if they have a match.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I am Famous

I got something posted on someone else's blog. Someone I don't even know. How bizarre is that? More bizarre is that the manufacturer of the thing I was talking about apparently has some kind of uber-search that tells him whenever it turns up anywhere. I posted the words "trucker's hitch" in an entry the other day and he commented here. Then I submitted it to Toolmonger and he commented there. Spooky if you ask me.

Toolmonger » Blog Archive » Reader Find: The Tite-Tie — The Trucker’s Knot for Dummies: "David sent us this “little plastic jigger that keeps you from having to know how to tie a trucker’s hitch” from the soon-to-be-as-seen-on-TV file."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

For the Alumni that Don't Read the Green Page

News from the "Real World": Cletus Anderson dies; dean of Pittsburgh theater designers

So This is Cool - If You're Into Such Things

News from the "Real World": A Chance to Win Free Stuff - And PTM Course Extra Credit to Boot

USITT Wrap Up Ellipses...

My plane was not canceled, and I did not give up my seat... The people at the Hilton Suites Phoenix are very nice... Really I had no desire to go to the Irish bar. Yes, I knew it was St. Patrick's Day... I did not make a bid to take over the Tech Expo... Saturday: 100 degrees and sunny, Monday: 34 degrees and rainy... I never thought I would live in such a way that when leaving messages for people it would be important to let them know what time zone I am currently in... Kevin and I got beat fairly bad by Ben this year. I guess that makes up for a couple of prior years, and we still beat the Yale students... Cabbies love to give away receipts... The water pressure at the Hilton Suites could possibly be used to strip paint, nice... We had new pictures this year, and even a couple drawings, but we sort of struck out on signage... The Theatre JOBlist selection this year appeared pretty lame... ETC has a wonderful scam to shoo away students during the show - do a student session during off hours... The Paradise bakery and Sandwich shop has nice cookies, but they really ought to be nicer to people from out of town... I bought two sets of sunglasses and broke one... I submitted four sessions for next year. I guess I understand that my ideas aren't popular... At the convention center, around the corner from the coffee cart that sells soda for $3 there's a machine that sells soda for $1... At 6:30 AM the whole Phoenix Hilton Suites smells like bacon... I think maybe the "duh" factor was down at this year's tech expo... I am now to understand that there is usually a wait list for exhibitors on the show floor. Who knew... Central street in Phoenix is getting a trolley, which will be nice, but in the meantime is no fun at all... Pacific time is crappy for late night TV... It doesn't matter what you show or what you say if you smell like an ashcan... I felt real old at the booze & schmooze this year... I believe I will attempt to steal the architecture contest format for a commercial theatre display on down the line... We didn't do a CMU reception this year, I wonder if anyone missed it... It turns out it is possible to be too technologically nimble... I'll be doing a session next year on the crazy scheme. Guess I ought to start recruiting panelists... Greg has moved on from PVC to Robotics... Tinted hotel windows are cool... US Air really ought not dump you to a busy signal - ever... Bonnie still thinks I should go to Law School... I believe I have already spaced the Carrik bend, but the Double Dragon might be sticking this time... That cooler really made my bag lumpy on the way home... I should really apologize to Caitlin for that second picture... Total meetings: 3... Sessions participated: 1... non participatory sessions attended: 0... ESTA Meetings attended: 0... receptions attended: 1... Lanyards taken: 100... Lanyards remaining: 35... Brochures received: 100... Brochures remaining: 50... Meals eaten at Majerle's: 3... Tables used at Majerle's: 1... Number of times I went into Majerle's: 0... Apparent average server cup size at Majerle's: D... Beers consumed: 0... Martinis consumed: 2... Margaritas consumed: 9...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Last USITT Day

Today was the last day of the conference. Unfortunately it doesn't look like its going to be the last day of the trip. While I am holding for 30 minutes to see if I can do better than the re-booking I already have I figured I would upload the last of the photos.

The booze & schmooze went pretty late, so I didn't make kuch of an early start. A short day makes for a shorter stack of photos. Here's Ross checking out the Tech Expo...

I went to the expo organizational meeting yesterday. In the past I have used this occasion as an opportunity do rail over the "duh" factor of many of the entries. This time less so. I have a couple of ideas that might mitigate the feelings I have about the tech expo without changing it; doing something new instead of changing something so many are invested in.

Apparently the Yale reception wasn't the only late running event - right Caitlin?

The crew of current students made fairly quick work of the exhibit. I think Kevin had it shipped before the show actually ended.

Here's today's swag.

That and a huge rectal itch over the return flight. I am on hold again trying to finalize my plans. Maybe I will get my original flight after all.

My fingers are crossed.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

USITT Friday

Friday in Phoenix. Just one day after today (weather permitting)...

Matt and Ian visit the booth...

Kevin is explaining "I like to say that picking a school is like getting married. We have to be right for you too..."

Steve and Ian are transfixed by alum John Gresh...

Smiling drama students? Who knew. Not likely to see Kathryn, Joel, and Ian looking like this again any time soon...

This isn't as good as the face Caitlin made just seconds before...

I finally hooked up with Ms. Robbins for lunch. She refused to appear in a picture without me too. Ok...

On to the Yale booze & schmooze.

Here we have Hardwareman and Gigantor, except he's now the anti-Gigantor...

A surprise appearance by the bungee twins. I could not be happier. :-)

SM Lisa Porter. "I was in class with that person too?"

David Sword and Safety Ray...

And then there's Fritz...

I would say more, but it is REAL late and I must sleep.

Today's cards and swag:

Tracy's Cirque card with the new name and a cirque keychain, Dan's card for job seeking for the inconsistent mixer, the new tech expo guide, and my booze & schmooze name tag.

Good night.

Friday, March 16, 2007

USITT Thursday

Everyone can relax. Dick Block is here...

More and more people coming into town and stopping by the booth. Today while trying to sell the program to other people, Ms. Juhlin stopped by to say hello...

Here she is again demonstrating something expensive...

I had lunch again at Majerle's, but still didn't see any Phoenix Sun players (like that would happen). I like to sit on the patio there because all the USITT people go by as its between the conference hotel and the convention center. After lunch I found out that I had the wrong number for Ms. Robbins. I wonder who I was texting yesterday?

This afternoon I went to yet another organizational meeting. Yesterday I volunteered for two things. Today I volunteered for four and also volunteered two people that weren't there for something. So when John contacts Ian and Corrine - that'll be my fault. One organizational meeting tomorrow. I wonder what I will volunteer for then?

Lots of wondering today.

Out and around the floor we saw some other CMU people. Here's award winner Adam schmoozing up the guy from 829...

I believe this is Micheal exchanging war stories about putting together an academic theatre program, although I really didn't eavesdrop enough to get the full scoop.

I had dinner with Ellen, David, Joe & Caitlin. No pics. Too lazy. I had to run before desert to play cards...

We try to play Euchre with Ben and some of the Yalies every year. For the last two years we've played conspicuously well. Not really the case tonight. Although Kevin did get to call on a hand he felt needed to be documented for posterity:

Left, Right, Ace and two off aces. Usually when you see that your partner goes alone :-P

Today's cards, swag, etc...

One is a holdover from yesterday. John Lagerquist had laminated cards with the instructions for his "big six" knots. I scarfed one. For the record his "big six" are: half hitch, figure 8, square knot, clove, bowline, & sheet bend. That shares a lot with Kevin & my "big five": clove, bowline, sheet bend, taut-line, and Trucker's hitch. I guess there are as many "big howevermanys" as there are TDs.

The rest of the items: three cards, one from Ellen from her new gig (old gig with new name), one from a high school thespian organizer looking for college interest, and another from a guy interested in helping with my commercial theatre project. Then there's the USITT annual swag - a badge holder/organizer, a pin from "Behind the Scenes" and the raffle tickets I had to buy to get the pin.

Big day tomorrow, I have a lunch, a meeting, a dinner, and a reception. Could be just exhausting.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


So today we started the conference in earnest. Got the day going, hopped the free shuttle and went down to the convention center...

Once I got inside I took care of registration. This time around you don't even tell your name to a person, just type your name into a computer and out pops your badge. Of course I brought my CMU lanyard with me so I could appear on brand...

After that I snagged a setup decal and went in to drop off the booth swag. While I was there I tweaked the display a little. Its still not what it could be, but at least everything pictured is from the last two or three years. For a while there were pictures included from when I was a student.

On my way out I stopped to talk to the people from Production Intercom (PI) to tell them that it was a bummer that the show floor didn't start today because it was Pi day (3/14). They thought that was neat, so they gave me a shirt...

Then I ran into Doom. No business cards today, but Randy gave me one of his calling cards...

Lunchtime. I sat with Hardwareman and Ben Sammler from Yale at a sidewalk table at Thunder Dan's place. While we were there we saw Joe, Fritz, and Safety Ray. It was a good thing that I had lunch with Kevin because he told me the session we were doing was today. Really I had no idea. So off to one meeting and then the knot tying session...

So now many, many more people can tie a sheet bend, double dragon bend, carrik bend, clove hitch, two half hitches, prusik, bowline,figure 8 loop, alpine butterfly, and trucker's hitch. I had to remember the double dragon and the Carrik.

We were joined at the session by alums Mike Katz, Matt and Izzy as well as Mrs. Hines, Tina, and Mark...

they accompanied us to the first bar, and then to the second for dinner...

Izzy thought it was nice how they let the statue cover up.

I think it is possible during the day that I volunteered to head up a ETCP related content project for technical production, and also to do a PDW or theatre rigging. But maybe that was just a bad dream.

Also, I found that the shuttle stopped at 10, and that my number is not in Ms. Robbin's phone.

All in all more fun than should be allowed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

USITT Show Blogging

Courtesy of hotel high speed and Mrs. TANBI's laptop we have USITT Show Blogging.

Today I got up at the crack of dawn and flew to Phoenix. It didn't occur to me until I was on the plane that I should have brought the GPS with me. That would have been very cool to see the plane's progress and air speed. I wonder if the satellites would come through the fuselage. I sat next to two very polite older women who each went to the bathroom three times. I had the aisle seat.

Because I forgot to make prompt arrangements I am staying a million miles away from the convention. There's a free shuttle service, sort of like I have a GA as a driver. I do have a nice room, a suite with a sitting room and an office.

Here's the hotel atrium:

and here's the view out my window:

Usually there are already people kicking around before the conference starts. I ran into my first convention contact in the elevator coming back from dinner with Mr. & Mrs. Hardwareman. I think that a feature of the show blogging will be a business card gallery. So here's the first:

Tomorrow I have to decide if I am still part of the ESTA Essential Skills committee. Really I think it will depend on how jetlagged I am. If I am still on East Coast time then I think I will probably be ready to attend a 9 am meeting. If I have made the adjustment - well my participation may be in jeopardy. No way to tell right now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

OSC Hates The Alexandria Link

Here's one of my favorite authors sharing his opinion of something I don't think he liked very much - and why its more than just bad for it's own sake...

Civilization Watch - February 18, 2007 - Evil Fiction - The Ornery American: "I didn't hate it because it was badly written -- it was mediocre in the way that mediocre thrillers usually are, and that means it would ordinarily have been tolerable.

No, the reason I stopped listening to Steve Berry's The Alexandria Link is that this book is evil."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Post #1000 Ellipses

Following in the footsteps of many of my friends, I now begin my own exercise in web publishing. I hope those who read it, if anyone reads it, are in some small way entertained.

I have for quite a while been thinking that I would like to have a column of sorts. I guess now we will see if it is truly a good idea. What will follow will undoubtedly be an overtelling of the minutiae of my life and a shouting of my completely biased and largely uninformed opinion. It should be fun. Hopefully I will at least remember to spellcheck.
... and 1,000 posts later... I am totally, I mean totally out of clothes. All thats left are retired t-shirts and jeans with holes that when I was younger and thinner might have been cool but are now just sad, and maybe gross. An outfit for work tomorrow may be interesting... I woke up today with what appears to be a sprained ankle. Is it possible that the reason I have been waking up tired is that I am playing tennis in my sleep or something? Oh well, ice, elevation, and Vitamin I for me... I am caught up on L Word. It's been too hard to watch on Sunday what with BG and everything. I don't think I care for the Poppi, Kit storyline... When shopping for furniture it is best to know what you want when you enter the store, and not to drift. A chair and perhaps a dresser can rapidly morph into a new bedroom set otherwise - to say nothing of a set of luggage, a new phone, and a table top lathe... Mid semester grades are due Monday. Before then I have to grade a rigging exam, two Basic PTM projects, and get together all the stagecraft grades. I've said it before and I will say it again, the worst part about giving assignments is that you have to grade them... I am still hoping Starbuck isn't dead. I am not sure I will be able to sustain the feeling until I find out one way or the other... I am thinking of hiring a project manager for our house. I need someone to get bids for various projects and it feels too much like work for either me or Mrs. TANBI. If interested, apply by email... I thought Peg's computer was down. I was wrong... I wonder if Carrie is back in the states... I think winter is over in Pittsburgh, we appear to be into our rainy season. It will now rain until June... Would it be a bad thing to go to a conference and not go to the conference? Perhaps I will try to find out... Yesterday I saw a thing about making a paper longer by making the periods bigger. I can only imagine what that would do to an ellipses post... My daily blog reading cycle is getting out of control. It may really be time to solve the feedreader thing... There was something wrong with the Portuguese on my GPS. So I went online to fix it. Really I am not sure why... Today I realized I had gone to Chicago and totally forgot to call the president of my fan club. Very scatterbarined of me... Next week I should get to see a bunch of cool people. I hope I don't miss any... Robinson was mobbed today. Maybe instead of shopping we should have gone to the Carnegie... I think maybe at spring break all the students should stay at school and the professors should get to go to Daytona... Attention Burglars: We are home, those phonebooks are just waterlogged, and we look things up on the internet... I finished Timothy Zahn's "Allegiance." It's a fairly good read, although I'd gotten used to Mara as part of the Rebellion, and try as I may it is hard to see Stormtroopers as good guys... It may turn out that Bean is a mean cat. Maybe we should have taken the hint when we noticed he was eating everyone else's food... The "Dusted Chipole BBQ" wings at Quaker State are better than the "Parmesan Garlic" wings, but the fresh pretzels are better than the sliders... Just how many of these little quips will people actually read? No way to tell really...

Saturday, March 10, 2007


TheForce.Net - Latest News - R2-D2 Mailboxes Confirm Rumors: "The rumors are no more! Feast your eyes on what will soon be popping up at local United States Post Offices!"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Time's Up!

So the hours ticked by, 10:30 arrived, and the "big project" came due. Most of the class appeared to have been there most of the night, except for the ones that weren't there because they'd bailed out in the middle of the night to sleep. The project had grown all over the classroom. It was probably fortunate that spring break starts tomorrow.

We had an audience appear out of thin air; students, staff, and other faculty came to see what they'd come up with and if it would work.

What's it all about? This:

The first group made an effort at aesthetics. A buddy I work with is always saying "you can't polish a turd." With about 17 hours to go the class told me that all that was left was "tweaking." I explained to them that if you start with something that doesn't work you can't tweak it. I may have used the former expression.

This one was mostly about marbles, although there is also a funnel full of sand toward the beginning. In the time I was around we spent quite a bit of time de-bugging this bit, but apparently at one time or another during the night they all worked (although not all at one time).

The next group called itself "Katie." This part worked fairly well, although I bet were they to do it again (Critical Path Oswald project, Joe?) they won't use dominoes. They proved difficult to set up and keep up. Mostly they were proud of their purple "car of death" which you can see at the end of the domino line. The domino pushes the car down the ramp and then a razor blade taped to the car pops a water balloon.

They also had a little purple walking robot, but he didn't survive the all nighter. It worked fine for the stand alone project, but when married together it lost it's spot.

The next group was Team Fitzy, for reasons that will become clearer later. This section of the gadget appeared to work almost perfectly during the very first run at 10:30 and then fairly strangely never really went straight through again.

They had a happy face balloon which they said represented their dreams. It was popped by a blade they anthropromophized as me.

The last group, "team mongoose" built themselves a steel superstructure. Actually they apparently built it three times. Once too wide to fit in the man door, correcting the width but being to long to get into the elevator, and then just right. I hadn't intended one of the objectives for the assignment to address don't build something that won't go through the door, but its a nice surprise addition.

The menorah at the end stood in for the mars light we'd originally gotten as it didn't make it through the night either.

Some details:

Here's Fitzy.
I said no living things. I didn't want to wind up in the paper: "Theatre professor assigns project that kills animal." But they did it anyway. I guess it worked out ok and it was a mood elevator for everyone.

Here you can see the happy face balloon and the "wheel of death."

when the "wheel of death" started to become unreliable we began to call it the "wheel of threat."

One of the more interesting components of the machine involved a clip light shield, sand, a plastic baggie, and a hot wire cutter.

It was fairly cool, although it probably could have used a little de-bugging. That, and you have to remember to turn it on.

Here's the end. The last stage had to press a button.

I think overall it went real well. Hopefully I will be able to post video of the last trial soon. I wish it had gone through all the way. As it was we had a little bit of an anti-climax in doing all of that work and then having to abandon it without once seeing a complete run.

Maybe next year.