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February 25, 2003

Pax Americanus?

From mpt's blog: an interesting opinion from EFF co-founder John Barlow, speculating about the motivations of Dick Cheney, man-behind-the-throne in the GW Bush administration.

February 24, 2003

Lytehouse Youth Ministries

Front view of the stage during LYM's Winter 2003 kickoff

Maybe it's a little presumptous to think of this as my legacy, but I just took a look at lytehouse.com, the website of the youth group at my old church in St. John's, NL. The site is up to date, with the calender showing Capstone there in concert tonight, and 7 young people on the tech crew for each regular Friday Night Live service. Makes me really proud to see them carrying on. Guys, if there's ever anything I can do to help, let me know!

Special kudos to Deborah Q for taking the reigns while Jon A is on a work term in Ontario. I knew you could do it! I'd also like to congratulate the team responsible for the Winter 2003 kickoff. I've linked a couple pics here at right, but to see the whole lot head over to lytehouse.com, select Media and then scroll down to Winter Kickoff 2003. I really like the creative use of the stands to get different heights with the PARs. Guys, I know how limited that lighting rig is, and you make it look good! closeup view of the stage during LYM's Winter 2003 kickoff

Anyway, I just want to post this to say to all the folks back home that I haven't forgotten you. Keep up the good work, and I hope to visit soon!


Kerry and I had a nice relaxing weekend. We celebrated Kerry's birthday on Saturday with a few gifts, a visit to the AGNS, a snack at a waterfront grill, and a romantic movie. I have to say that I enjoyed the day, and the movie. Yesterday Kerry and I blew off the afternoon and watched the movie Dune on TV. Now we have to find ourselved a way to see the 2000 TV mini-series version.

One of the things that I enjoy about my apartment is that when I occasionally open my ground-floor patio curtains, I get to watch the squirrels climb down the tall spruce trees and forage on the snow.

I'm working on Thursday in Saint John, NB, then attending the Genesis retreat on Friday and Saturday, and finally working again in Liverpool NS on Sunday-Tuesday. So, I am really going to try and get some schoolwork done in the next three days.

More web scrapings

In this edition: spam, a sound blog sort-of, and maps and history of conflict in the middle east.

The story of SPAM as told by the makers of the spiced ham luncheon meat. See also the Jargon File entry for spam.

Mixerman's Diaries a long but entertaining, and occasionally hilarious account of a real tracking and mixing engineer's experience on a big label record project.

A Brief History of Conflicts in the Modern Middle East covering some pre-1948 background with brief commentary on military strategy.

The endless wars: Modern strife in the Holy Land - a more fact-based account covering 1948 to the present. See also some of the supplementary links at the bottom such as the Three Barriers to Middle East peace.


February 19, 2003

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave?

Arrested for working on a school project? Frightening.

Public Service Announcement

Watch This I'm serious.


I was at the arena until 1:30 AM Monday morning, and then back at 10AM for all day to tear down. There was at least 1 trailer, 1 10-ton and 2 5-ton loads of gear sent to the Tour Tech shop yesterday, and more than another 10-ton load of bulky items like truss and motors left in a corner at the Metro centre. Fun Fun.

When the IATSE crew finished at 7 PM on Monday, I walked to Kerry's house and found a wonderful Valentine's dinner. Kerry cooked a really nice pesto chicken and mushroom with linguine. She also made a wonderful dessert called Bananas Foster. When she was shopping for the meal, she also found Valentine's candy on sale at Sobey's, and she bought me a really obscene amount for some ridiculously low price.

Yesterday, I slept in until noon. After I finally got up, I picked Kerry up and went with her to Dal to check on some things at the library. Then we came to my house for a late lunch. We went grocery shopping and I really stocked up. I guess I'm a little more inclined to spend money now that I've earned some. We had a second Valentine's dinner, this time my treat at a great Greek place on Quinpool Road called the Athens Restaurant. Good food and reasonable prices. To finish the night off we went to see How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It was good. Much funnier than I expected, and overall quite enjoyable. Recommended.

ECMA Wrap-up

Well, it's hard to believe the week is over. 7 days of work to pay the bills for a while and then a day of recovery to make up for the missed Valentine's Day. I had a great time working on the show. I learned a few things about big TV productions. Especially how much money they can spend. It was sad to see all the wonderful stages torn up and thrown away on Sunday night.

I guess to recap the week, Tuesday and Wednesday were basically occupied with loading in the PA, hanging and cabling it, and then running the monitors for the stage. By half way through Wednesday the work was really slowing down because we had to wait on the carpenters finishing their work. Wednesday to Friday had a fair bit of space in between bits of work, so I had a chance to spend some time chatting, explore the Metro Centre and play with Smaart Live. It turned out that I was responsible for wedges and in-ears on stages C and D. C was the centre circle stage and D was the big stage with Damhnait Doyle, Ashley MacIssac, Mary-Jane Lemmont, the Ennis Sisters, Denise Djokic, the classical bit and Aselin Debison. It really wasn't too hard; I just had to keep good notes. With the four stages there was plenty of time to move things between acts. The neatest bit was that I was on the floor during the live telecast.

The monitor mix was done by a guy named Terry, but I don't know his whole name. He was great to work with. We had two Innovason Grand Live consoles for monitors, and two for FOH. There was a FOH and monitor console dedicated to the A/B stages, and another pair dedicated to C/D stages. A fifth Innovason, a Compact, did the mixdown from the two FOH consoles, the VTR feeds and announcer mics etc to feed the main PA. I have some pictures, but as usual it will be a while before I get the roll used and developed.

I saw part of the broadcast re-aired on CMT yesterday, and thought it looked pretty good. I had heard differing opinions, but it wasn't as bad as some people said. The show looked REALLY good in the arena. The director obviously knew what she was doing, because the video shots were really cool, although they did miss some of the pyro shots in the Myles Goodwin tribute. Incidentally, the pyro for that segment nearly burned through the coax cable that takes the digital signal from the stage box to the Innovason consoles. If it had burned all the way through, the show would have been toast. Audio would have simply died on the A/B stages. Actually, come to think of it, the only act left was on C/D, so it wouldn't have ruined it, but it was an awful close call.

The on-air audio mix was a little disappointing. Not nearly as impressive as being there (even though I wasn't really in the coverage of the main PA most of the time). I don't hold it against the CBC guys in the truck, though. They only had one board to work with, and it didn't have automation. So, while the house PA and monitor boards could recall their exact rehearsal settings at the touch of a button with motorized faders and everything, the on-air mix had to reset for each act manually. I also thought the air mix was quite dry. I don't know if they didn't have many effect processors in the truck, or they wanted it that way or what.

February 10, 2003


In the last 24 hours, I've done a load of dishes, five loads of laundry, some general apartment tidying, some schoolwork, and eaten two meals of leftovers. Ah, the bachelor life.

This is how dry my building is: a set of double bed sheets, out of the washing machine around 2pm, hung over the shower curtain rod in the bathroom, is practically dry at 5 pm.

I've noticed that the phrase "like a river needs and ocean" is overused in popular song lyrics. Well, I know of at least two songs that use it, and it always struck me a poor simile.

A few items from last week that I haven't really mentioned yet: I worked last Wednesday at Tour Tech East, putting up a grid in their main studio for the movie that will be shooting there over the next couple of months. I think it's an NBC movie of the week or something. A day's pay is always good.

On Saturday I did a introductory workshop on operating sound systems at Faith Tabernacle. I think it went fairly well, and will have a definite positive impact on the sound quality at the church. The next step is to help them with upgrading their sound system. I'm not sure yet what my role will be in that process, if I'm involved at all. If your church is in Atlantic Canada and you would like to invest in training your technical volunteers, email me.

Finally, the last tidbit of news: I'll be working with Tour Tech on the setup for the main awards gala for the East Coast Music Awards at the Halifax Metro Centre. I'm on the audio setup crew, and I'm looking forward to it. It should be interesting. Confidential to Tommy: I was looking at the plot over at the shop last week while I was hanging with Roy and learning WYSIWYG. It's pretty cool, with lots of curved truss, four stages and that whole "in the round" concept. 53 motors for the lighting rig, plus the CBC set pieces and PA. All the TTE 2ks are going out (60) plus PALs and a mess of other stuff. They're motoring four dimmer racks up to the catwalk. The designer is a french guy, Jean Renaud. The programmer/ops are also french, two guys Norm and I forget the other one's name. They're using Hogs, and doing two stages each.

February 09, 2003

Shuttle Ruminations


February 06, 2003

Some more web-scrapings

Especially for Jon Anderson and Simpson's fanatics everywhere: Best 25 Simpson's Episodes as listed by Entertainment Weekly. Incidentally, does the promotion of the Simpson's by EW imply that the show has lost it satirical edge?

Finally, A possible explanation for the hiccups?

All you ever wanted to know...

...about Energia and Buran at Buran-Energia website apparently run by some Australian web designers who are fans of the Russian launch system and shuttle.

The future of the shuttle program

I hope I'm wrong about my earlier pessimism on the future of the shuttle program. However, I think we're starting to hear some of the critics voice their opinions now that the initial hysteria is wearing off. There is so much politics behind these things that I don't think it's easy to predict if the outcome will ultimately be a favorable one. I personally don't mind if the shuttle program is scrapped as long as manned spaceflight is continued under more cost-effective programs, but that doesn't seem likely.

The shuttle is cool but I don't think anybody is under the delusion that it has fulfilled the vision of a cheaper, more reliable, reusable spacecraft. NASA should go back to multi-stage expendable rockets until a solid permanent presence is established in space. Put the money and effort into building more space infrastructure: the ISS, more efficient and cheaper earth-side manufacturing and launching facilities, better rocket engines, perhaps even a fleet of orbital tugs that can ferry people and cargo between various orbits, move satellites to accessible locations for repair, and help with garbage cleanup.

Yes, I know I'm not a rocket scientist. I know very little about orbital mechanics and little about what's needed or useful to have as a part of a space infrastructure. Still I think that for the cost of the shuttle program, NASA could be launching dozens of conventional heavy-lift rockets and putting all kinds of stuff in orbit. Start with machinery to put things together and move them around, then toss up your ISS bits or your Mars mission components or your Hubble replacement on big dumb rockets and have the permanent orbital tugs and assembly units move it and put it all together. Finally, launch your astronauts on simple conventional rockets. Each launch might carry less payload, but might cost $100-200 million instead of $500+ million. Plus, a disaster is much more acceptable when you are only send half the cargo and no people. When you do launch people they are riding rockets that have more of a proven track record than the costly and time-consuming shuttle launch system.

Just for interest: Approx cost of US rockets and internation al rockets. I wonder what made the Energia capable of such a heavy payload. Shame the Russians don't make them any more...

Oh well, enough rambling I suppose. I need to get groceries.

Thursday morning

A 1980 article critisizing the shuttle program that is eerily reminiscent of many of the current theories on the Columbia disaster.

Aristotle's Four causes do not refer to cause in the way that we understand cause and effect, but rather attempt to explain why and object or thing is as it is. The four causes are

  1. the material cause
  2. the efficient cause
  3. the formal cause
  4. the final cause
Using the example of a bowl the four causes are illustrated in answering the question "Why is this thing a bowl?"
  1. because it was originally a lump of clay, and clay is normally used to make bowls
  2. because it is round and curved upwards and shaped like a bowl
  3. because the potter made it that way
  4. because it holds cereal and milk and generally acts like a bowl
So yeah, Kerry, I know you're thinking that those four causes are not as distinct or as useful for understanding things as I made them out to be. I agree that I misremembered them and that it's not quite as intriguing as I thought it was.

we now return you to your regularly scheduled life...

February 01, 2003

Rest in Peace: STS-107 space shuttle Columbia

I slept in this morning and was awakened by Kerry phoning me around 11:30. She told me about the news reports on the shuttle disaster. My first thought was saddness for the loss of the crew, and deja vu to January 1986. After that, I thought, "this is the end of the shuttle program".

I'm sure over the next few hours there'll be thousands of people writing their own commentary on the tragedy, and I am one of them. My gut feeling is that a disaster of this magnitude will be fuel to the fire of criticism of NASA, of the manned space program. With the trend of budget cutbacks factored in, I fear that the will to continue the shuttle program won't be there.

On the other hand, there were several talking heads on the various television stations covering the story who suggested that this might be the catalyst for a renewal of the space program, and possibly even a replacement for the space shuttle. While these are unlikely, it's always nice to hope...

Of course all of the media reports about parts of the space shuttle being dangerous are just bollocks. The purpose of those announcements is to keep idiots from disturbing debris from the shuttle that could be evidence of its cause, or worse, to keep smarter idiots from scavanging souveniers. Yes, the propellants used in the manouvering thrusters are highly toxic, but there is relatively little of it on board, and the chance of any surviving the breakup and fireball is practically nil.

Everybody is wondering about the cause of the crash, and while paying lip-service to the requests to avoid speculation, lots of possibilities are being thrown around. What seems obvious to me, as a smart individual with an engineering background, but no direct space or aeronautics expertise, is that the shuttle was torn apart by aerodynamic forces and parts of it burnt up by the heat of reentry. Since it had already been in the atmosphere for little while, I guess the problem either happened during the descent, or else was originally very small and didn't cause a catastrophic failure until after some period of exposure to the reentry stress. At the speed an altitude of the shuttle, there is no way anybody could have bailed out, nor survived if they did manage to bail out, even though they did have parachutes. It is possible that some large portions of the ship may have survived, but not likely.

And to put to rest the fear-mongerers: even disregarding the official announcements about terrorism, it is easy to conclude that a terror attack is about as likely a cause of this crash as the annual rainfall in Tibet. I don't know who would think that sabotage or a missle could have don't this, but it's so absurd that I won't even bother to explain why.