Arisia 2013 report

The usual limited perspective

It may be usual that my view of the con is narrow, but what was unusual about this year was my function. After a decade or more being the main lighting designer for the tech spaces I managed to hand off the leadership-role aspect of that, and over the course of the intervening year and after a little back-and-forth it resolved down to David Silber picking that up [along with the numerous other lighting projects he's been juggling lately, which is entirely admirable and I also wind up helping *him* out on a few of those]. With me being busy over 2012 on some majorly different types of endeavors I didn't have bandwidth to handle any sort of central planning role this time -- but still had every intention of being there, wrench in hand, when work time arrived. This is what I kept telling people who apparently and erroneously thought that I'd totally gafiated.


I didn't grab that many photos around the con this year, so this is less of the usual pictorial piece and a lot more text. But Arisia is a literate community, expected to be competent at extracting all the nuggets and meaning from linear prose.

[That whole "too long, didn't read it" nonsense has to be the lamest and flat-out *rudest* trendy excuse for short attention span that's come along in quite a while, and for me simply reflects the growing laziness in our society. If you're serious about being part of an effective team and acknowledging the efforts of others, you will NEVER do that to those you consider your colleagues.]

As part of my lighting role shift I encouraged whoever would step in to try some new things, maybe start moving away from "hobbit's same old crap" year after year, but not as a requirement since I've always left good notes and lessons-learned available after every prior year and anybody could basically do the same thing again from those guidelines. I'm easy, I'd work on whatever wound up being specified.

There were some new and changed ways for the general Arisia staff to interact, including a new staff wiki which required a human-moderated signup process to get started on, but other than a few documents from this and prior years populated into the site it wasn't really clear what anyone was supposed to do over there. There was something else about a "forum", there were the usual mailing lists plus a few more new splits of them for different indistinct purposes ... once again it all felt like more of the "resource creep" that has been happening, with the result that nobody really knows which medium is appropriate for whatever they're working on. None of this comes with any solid guidelines, and people are notoriously poor at making wise choices on their own in whether to use push-type or pull-type technologies for a given set of information. Someone really needs to codify all this and come up with clear usage instructions. The "new to staff?" public FAQ/checklist is a nice start, and a little more info about the specific purpose of each resource [and perhaps elimination of ones that have turned out to be underutilized fluff] would help there.


I joined the room-registration rush, and gave it an honest try but once again Starwood bucked me off any hope of getting through the process unhindered. Even with things set up to be more compatible with their horror-show of a website, it wouldn't let me request a stay to include the shoulder nights of the con, room blocks were erroneously showing up sold out, and I was certainly not the only victim of this as the complaints started rolling thick and fast across the staff list. It once again required manual intervention for which I am grateful to the beleaguered Innkeeper folks for handling, and finally got done.

Maybe one of these years we'll finally get this right. I'm sure that the Starwood site designers are far too arrogant to listen to recommendations from a bunch of web-savvy geeks who actually know what they're talking about, but I can dream. Amy Begnoche from the Westin said she'd pass my concerns on, but they basically say that every year and nothing changes.

With hotel dealings behind me and having shucked off the management role other than perhaps answering miscellaneous "emeritus" type questions, I could concentrate on what I really wanted to get largely completed before the con -- my huge writeup about the deep energy retrofit done to the house over the summer. If you haven't already seen it and have any interest in superinsulation, air-sealing, energy topics, construction, HVAC, or general building-science geekery, chase that link and follow the simple instructions. That's what consumed all of my brain in 2012, and the results turned into a book-length treatise.

    Lighter lighting

[click on small images for larger versions.]

Collection of gobos Besides having an "LD emeritus" role I would also undoubtedly supply gear again, from big stuff like the wiggle-lights to small bits like cube taps and gobos. I had made it to the garage sale at Barbizon a couple of months before and fleshed out my gobo collection, and decided that since I had to pre-trim a bunch of them I might as well check them all for size and laid out the entire collection to date. It was more than I expected; I guess it counts as a hoard. They're from a variety of sources -- some from the old Minnie Mafia collection indistinctly labeled "Jeff Berry" in places, many that I bought, some trade-show freebies, some partially burnt rejects from other venues, and a couple of hand-cut items from pie plates and tuna-fish cans. And the pony from A'11 isn't even shown here.

The two ratchet-gear-like ones at the upper left especially struck my eye while leafing through the cabinet at Barbizon; my immediate thought was "the steampunk kids will love this, I obviously need two of them!"

The trimming is to make them fit into the Leko pattern holders that have hard wrap-around edges. The diameter of the round ones as they come will fit a source4 sandwich holder just fine, so the snipping makes them compatible with all our possible gear.

On the early ramp-up to the convention it felt on one hand that things were happening fairly slowly, but on the other that as not-the-LD-anymore that I was being specifically carved out of various loops. At one point Peter implied that people shouldn't be CCing me on stuff and got an immediate smackdown from a couple of other folks, as they didn't see how it could hurt for me to at least be keeping tabs on progress and offering voice-of-experience advice where needed. Meanwhile, David was going back over my prior-year doc and reports, and I sent him updated inventories of my and Arisia's gear.

Much closer in to the con, David stopped by my place to drop off a dimmer pack for me to fix [NSI, blech], tour the retrofit of the house, and go over some of the dance-tent stuff which by now he was really hoping I'd pick up most of as usual. That would be okay because it looked like we were just going to go with last year's plan and we already knew how to build that. This also helped firm up my own packing list, which I ultimately brought a printed copy of along as having a gear checklist at teardown time really helps make sure everything's coming back where it should despite post-con brainfry.

David also got a good look into the multi-layer complexity that has evolved in my WholeHog PC lighting controller setup to run the dynamic club-dance environment. While already a bit out of date by today's standards it works well and the programming has been several years in development, allowing rapid but randomized selection of coordinated cues, colors, and motion to match varying music moods. The old Thinkpad I run this on was also having some BIOS issues and I was out of time to try and move it all to a newer machine, so the thing has a slew of operational subtleties by now. One thing he asked for was some basic documentation on how to fire up and run the thing, in case I got squashed by a bus or ... perhaps a Penske truck. I found that I already had a start on such a document and reworked it into a more coherent Hog operation sheet to print and bring along.

    Truckin' ...

Why a Penske truck? Well, because that would be relevant to an additional function I had gotten pulled into for this year. At one of the early concom meetings the head of Logistics issued the usual plea for additional help, including more people who would be able to wrangle the vehicles themselves. In other words ...
Arisia: drivers wanted.
I've usually helped with logistics loading anyway but this expanded role idea intrigued me, partially because I hadn't actually driven a large rent-a-truck in several years and possibly never anything as large as the 24-footers that Arisia has grown to need. And we get two of them for the major move-in/move-out days, because there are two sides to the hotel function space and two dock areas and various gear stored at far-flung places outside of town and basically the whole logistics picture has become far more complex in recent years. I guess with the amount of time I spend ranting about traffic in the interest of being safe therein, someone figured I'd be good for the job. I basically agreed, but was somewhat hesitant about jumping into it cold and floated the idea that maybe a group of folks who felt rusty should get together well in advance of the con and rent a truck and just spend a day playing around with it and getting used to it. Noel seemed to think this was a grand idea but it was a question of when, how to get people together, and funding an extra rental. Whether that was going to happen or not, apparently I was already on the available driver roster before I even knew it myself. Assumptions had thus been made, but not bad ones.

An additional logistical wrinkle came up at a later meeting when Conor, heading up the food division, heard that I was intending to get a newer refrigerator at home and did Arisia maybe want my old one ... and he was like "yes yes pleaseyesohbabyyes" when I suggested that I might be able to do this *before* the con and have it available for food functions. So I made that swap happen the week before, and now the old fridge at my house was another truck destination that needed to be covered. A fairly in-depth conference call happened to figure all this out, and for the most part we had a plan with a few parts still left squishy and TBD. One nice benefit was that my car would get stashed at NESFA all weekend instead of paying like $120 to park in the Laz lots.

Meanwhile Janet had also stepped up to the plate, and despite family commitments wanted to pitch in on the effort and bring her own fairly extensive experience with driving larger rental trucks to bear. Long story slightly shorter, the "training session" never happened other than a little bit of time incorporated into the first day's activities for me, at the very least, to get used to driving. Janet helped boost my own confidence and as it turned out, the two of us took the first truck around on all those distant errands and swapped off the driving. So I effectively had a trainer along! Our fun all began the Wednesday morning before the con, in the snow, and in case you're wondering that's pretty much when things start moving for Arisia *every* year. The shoulders are *very* long where the Moving of Stuff is concerned, so doing Logistics soup-to-nuts makes for a very long convention and an imperial assload of work.

Truck up to side stoop Early in the run we spent a little while in a wal-mart parking lot so I could just "flight-check" the big ol' beast and play with some turning and backing in a safe environment, and then it was back on the road with the first stop being my house for the fridge and my bit of lighting gack. By this time I was at the helm and managed to wheel this monster not only in along my narrow neighborhood streets, but do a reasonably accurate back-in to avoid the slightly squashy area in my dirt driveway and land the liftgate on the side stoop where the fridge was patiently sitting under a snowy tarp. This is where GOAL, aka "get out and look", becomes even more important. The summer had seen its share of large vehicles in and out of here for the construction, the roofing delivery, the spray-foam job ... but I think this was taller than any of them. Good thing I'd pruned a bunch of the pine tree branches.

And yes, I now have the only standing-seam metal roof in my neighborhood.

So now you're sitting there thinking "but that's not a Penske truck" ... granted, as this was only the first of two and the other half of the logistics team would be fetching a different truck and bringing it to Storage later on in the day. Different rental companies, too. I still don't quite understand why other than a vague notion of having a backup in case one rental company screws up and fails to have a truck for us, and undoubtedly also some basis in pricing.

Things you always want to bring along for an Arisia load are a broom, a snow shovel, and plenty of ratchet straps. And a drop-light for inside the box, although there are generally lights already in there as long as they a> work and b> aren't left on all night to drain the truck battery. And a padlock for the back -- in this case, Rick provided two identical padlocks and distributed a bunch of keys to the drivers so everyone would be able to open either truck. With any sort of wet weather, it helps procedurally for some of the crew to stay mostly inside the bed packing with dry feet while the people going back and forth in the wet pass stuff along, to avoid tracking wet crap all over the bed and our gear. But a lot of people never think about basics like this.


That's one of the drawbacks of volunteer crew, of course -- not everyone has a good feel for doing this stuff. We completed our rounds that Wednesday afternoon with a brief lunch stop and then back in past NESFA for a little more stuff and finally to Storage, where it came into sharp focus that there are certain people who should simply *never* be allowed to load trucks because they refuse to admit that they have no skill in doing so. [My understanding is that the specific problem in question was finally eliminated, but not in time to prevent serious detriment to the procedure.] Evidently strong "truck tetris" ability coupled with a good sense for heavy-object dynamics and nondestructive stacking isn't an innate thing for many of us, but in the time and space crunch of getting things to the con, people need to understand their own limits and when they might be bottlenecks.

I submit as supporting evidence the fact that when we arrived, it was already 7 PM and the promised Penske truck was backed up to the Storage dock -- dead empty so far. Nothing was moving yet, and we already had a bunch of smallish stuff that needed to eventually transfer from our truck to that one. The obvious idea for that would be to simply back the two trucks up to each other and zip stuff across between them, but the Penske destined for the "Concourse" aka ballroom side of the hotel clearly wasn't moving any time soon. With the slot next to the dock empty and me feeling far more comfortable piloting these things, I had an idea and managed to snug the Budget truck in right next to the other one with the lift-gate out as a walking platform. This is where you use your mirrors -- to put trucks with their tails only a couple of inches apart. Now all that had to happen for transfer was passing items across a fairly narrow gap, merging them in with the flow that finally started coming from the freight elevator.

For that maneuver all I really needed was a backing distance guide from someone behind -- two hands apart [vertically to show up in the mirror better], tracking and showing the remaining distance to go which is the best visual dynamic that someone driving can have. The hands touch and you're there, very simple. People who try to do this in a binary way, waving c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, cm--STOP! are just kidding themselves and risking damage claims, but I see it done all the time. Puzzlement.

After < insert long sad CF and personal angst here > the Concourse truck was finally loaded, and it was time to swap them. In the meantime the plan for overnight had morphed a half dozen times, and a quick walk over to the building's parking lot showed quite a bit of space available that a large box-truck could easily occupy. Rather than rack up another forty-plus miles taking this truck all the way out to my town, we agreed to put it in that lot and it appeared to be up to me to move it. Now, this was *not* the truck I had been driving during the day -- this one was newer, bigger, far more yellow, and loaded heavy. But they were at least both Internationals, of different vintages, so I saw a lot of similarities in the controls. I checked where I'd be swinging its big butt around in the process of getting out of the dock and realigned to the road, got in and fired it up. At first it wouldn't move at all, and Noel pointed out the valve hiding in the dark up on the dash for the parking brake -- this one had air brakes instead of the traditional hydraulic setup. I finally got it to gently lurch away from the building a little and managed to get 'er turned out of there and drift it over to the lot where I'd bed it down for the night, but it felt really different from the other truck. I was too tired to really figure it out then, but the next assignment was for Janet and me to come back in and grab this truck in the morning, and drive it over to the hotel. And that would be mine to do as she needed to bring her car in. The rest is just a hazy swirl of "tocotox", so I'm ignoring most of the parallel threads now. But high kudos to Erika for being willing to haul all the way out to the 'burbs to give me a ride home that night.

So one of the things that's never certain is where to overnight the loaded trucks for Thursday morning. Rick has taken them home on occasion. Nobody in town really has appropriate space, but paying by the mile we don't want to take them too far out of town either. This always seems to be a last-minute snap decision; it would be nice to prearrange where to park at least one of the trucks nearby the path between Storage and the hotel. Or just take *both* of them to the hotel, contractually arrange that we can park two trucks under the building over that night before our load-in, and be done with it. There's *plenty* of room for that without impeding any the hotel's morning deliveries, so FFS let's just make it simple going forward.

    Shifter science

Janet dropped me by the Storage lot the next morning and now I could explore what was going on with this truck. Good thing we got there fairly early, because there were several regular co-residents of the building that were kind of pissed off that a handful of parking spaces were completely blocked off by our big yellow monster. Work time! I let its diesel start warming up as I moved slowly out of the lot toward Webster St, not putting any real load on it at first. But it still felt weird, like it didn't want to move without me really putting my foot into the go-pedal. Then it behaved like it was stuck in low gear with the radiator fan screaming, where most automatics would at least let the engine idle down while just creeping along a street. Only after I got out onto a larger road with some running room was I able to start making sense out of this.

The first upshift it finally did took forever and felt very unlike the action of your typical slushbox automatic transmission. Something intervened and completely removed engine power for a few moments in there, and then torque returned to continue going. With a fairly loud diesel under the hood it was easy to hear the difference. After the second and third upshifts and a bit more distance it finally occurred to me what was going on: it was behaving like I was driving a *manual* transmission and doing the whole clutching and shifting thing, except it was only two pedals and I hadn't moved either of my feet.

Did I mention that I hadn't driven something like this in a long time? Technology marches on, and what I was naively trying to jockey through morning Cambridge Street traffic had the latest in *automated*, not *automatic*, transmissions.

Eaton shift actuator In particular, it was mostly likely an Eaton/Fuller Ultrashift unit, which I learned later is usually installed in these International DuraStar 4300 series medium-duty platforms. A series of queries through the Penske rental folks and then International [now a division of Navistar] led me there, where I found all kinds of fascinating goodies in the freely available service manuals. It's not an automatic transmission but it works in an automated way, using all kinds of inputs and an ECU to optimize operation for good fuel economy. In other words it's a manual transmission with an electrically-operated clutch, inertial brakes and speed sensors for rev-matching, grade sensors to modify conditions on hill starts, and instead of where a stick shifter would have been mounted into the case, the crossed pair of actuator motors shown here for rail and shift selection. The ECU also talks to the engine controller to request a power back-down during the shifting process, just like a driver with a regular manual would do.

It in fact behaves like what we see and hear in this youtube starting at around 0:50.

Straight-up step transmissions without torque converters and the funky coupling clutches of old-skool automatic transmissions generate far less operating heat and are thus more economical, and this is where the truck industry is going. Eaton also has a range of hybrid options available. Basically the driver puts it in "D" and brings engine RPM up to about 1000, and the clutch actuator starts moving it into the drag region and gradually engages more and more as the truck gets going and increasing speed is sensed at the output shaft. This is why significant pedal application is needed to start off -- no torque converter, so no creep and you have to really *tell* this thing you want to go now. That's also less reason to drop into neutral at stoplights, as even while still in D you come to rest fully disengaged so there's no suspension lurch. The clutch mechanism recalibrates itself for wear over time, and a manual recalibration can be easily triggered at any time via the "ServiceRanger" laptop diagnostic tool or just letting the system idle in neutral for about two minutes, after which a test sequence that slowly engages the clutch and watches for engine lug-down redetermines the drag point.

Okay, this is departing a bit from Arisia itself, but I thought it was awesome. Doesn't it make YOU want to come drive a truck next year??

    Through the wormhole

Outside the mechanics of making the truck go, it was rather fun maneuvering these big beasts around. Taking up almost the entire width of a standard lane requires care in positioning, and all the lessons I've drilled into myself over the years about gentle takeoffs, patience, good use of momentum, and early braking all came into play for a fairly stress-free hop through Leverett, a brief segment through the Big Dig and the turn past South Station into Southie. Funny, I didn't find myself worrying quite so much about tailgaters in this thing ... I couldn't see them anyway, and if they really wanted to eat my DOT bar then that was their lookout.

It was pretty easy to get into the dock area and temporarily park, because we were a little early. We wandered over to the other dock to see how that unload was going and were basically told abruptly to "go unload your own truck". Which we could now do, as the ballroom and other spaces were plenty ready for us. With another delivery at the Concourse-side near dock I aimed for the farther-in one, realizing on the first approach that I was angled pretty severely and that I had to start from almost next to the wall to back straight in.

The Albany contingent had also just arrived and Joel went to give me a distance indication ... but after determining that I was nice and straight to the dock I drifted back as his hands started closing, kept closing, met, and then he started frantically waving his arms not realizing that I was going to do the classic "bump the dock" thing, squishing the box gently into the big rubber pads around the opening and *then* locking 'er down. Done right, it's not much of a bump at all and helps make a bit of air-seal between the truck and the building -- you're *supposed* to do this at docks equipped this way. Shortly thereafter with the door open and the leveling ramp inserted into the back, we were ready to disgorge the contents.

After some who's-who concerns on the part of hotel security last year Rick printed up a bunch of MIMO [move-in/move-out] stickers for authorized personnel this time, so that the folks in the security office would at least know who was Arisia crew. This is more useful to them on the move-in as they don't recognize people, but by the end of the weekend most of them had seen our faces and work styles and didn't care about stickers on the move-out.

    Back to the ballroom

Pipe rig at side-stage As unloading proceeded I gradually swapped my redneck-truck-driver hat for my tech hat, handing the truck key off to Janet who was going to keep working unload for a while longer. From then it was the usual "some assembly required" pile of gear in the ballroom, which we'd gradually shape into lighting and sound and drape rigs.

I had suggested replacing the single-pipe side stage booms I'd had last year with less rickety truss towers, but ALPS was completely out of truss by the time that would have gotten onto the order. Instead, David ordered a second set of pipe and bases to make sort of offset goalposts, which while still a little tippy-feeling front to back were quite a bit more stable for the purpose. A source4 loaded up with a SeaChanger, even though far nicer than the old ColorMerge units, is still pretty heavy and we had four of them on each side. Pretty much conforming to the prior-year plot. Larry commented at one point that he really liked the variable deep-color capability from the side -- I guess he hadn't really taken note of this rig before.

Small tent was on the other side of the airwall from here, and sound isolation worked *much* better after the airwall-pocket door was snugged up against the big rubber-bumper end of the airwall piece and its bolt shot into the floor. For the record, it *is* pretty easy to sneak cables under or around these airwalls as they're not the type that use a crank to ram a sweep firmly down into the carpet. The panels push each others' bottom closures down fairly gently as they're squeezed together, but with soft rubber flanges that won't slice things. You still want to connectorize at the junction and have cables out of the way for an actual airwall *move*, unless it's a very thin cable well taped down that the panels will amply clear while sliding along.

Room view from scaffold A scaffold's-eye view of the room later on, during focus. While these typical two-levels-high "work towers" are good for reaching truss up on L-16 crank-ups and over-door architecture and later turning into followspot towers, I keep wondering if there's some different way to handle the elevation needs for people and gear. I would accept an answer of "probably not", at least at a budgetary level that rules out flying truss on motors and getting to it with a scissorlift. Maybe Arisia will get to that point someday; it would certainly make for a different and potentially more suitable light plot, as well as a minor increase in available seating.
The scaff this year was pretty nasty in terms of construction detritus all over it. Little piles of concrete dust wound up on the carpet where people were handling the work planks and other parts. Guess nobody asked Lynn Ladder to pull out the cleanest stuff they had because we'd be using it indoors for theatre style productions?? We'll note that BSFS has solved this problem by buying their own sets and keeping them nice. Heck, we could go their bright red kits one better by painting ours all black.

It was amusing to observe the role of lighting designer also having to spearhead the power distribution in the room again, I suppose partially because the heavy 12/3 used to run out circuits usually gets rented from the same supplier. But it doesn't have to be that way, if someone wants to take a split-out role as "power designer" and collect everyone's requirements to boil down into a set of diagrams and an add-on to the rental orders. We also had to jump through the same dumb hoops with labeling phases on the hotel's twistlock-breakout PDU because they never do, and all their little jumpers to the two-circuit output boxes aren't wired consistently inside.

    Dance tent thoughts

As David's view broadened across all the stuff he'd be handling in main tent, the other spaces took on somewhat less importance and he used the fact that he had a backup in me, expressed something like being really glad if I could deal with the #$%&*@! dance tent. I said yes, I could deal with the #$%&*@! dance tent as usual, because it didn't make sense for him to try and restart a fairly well established tradition from dead zero. It's not really his thing, he's more a theatrical designer these days. This got me thinking that maybe Arisia really does need multiple lighting designers for the different spaces, which as we zigzagged toward allocation of tasks and responsibilities led to a rather amusing email exchange which I also later reeled off in a somewhat drunken fashion at the tech party.
H*:   This split that's emerging between main and dance tent is in my mind starting to point toward Arisia having multiple lighting designers ...

DHS:   We can have a Light-Off! Three competing LDs, each trying to grab equipment (and budget) for 'their' room!

H*:   LD wars?? Okay ...
On this episode of "Iron Squint", David will attempt to run across the hall in the middle of the Masquerade, grab a 918 off the floor without the clubbers noticing, wheel it into the main ballroom and control it manually with the Smartfade to put a killer backdrop on the cyc for ONE ENTRY, and then run it back over and seamlessly re-add it to the dance floor! Will he be able to do it, or will he wind up barreling the roadcase at high speed into the Con Chair for a show-stopping medical instead?? ... And later on, watch Sparr juggle two mirror-balls and a sandbag, and Hobbit try to decode DMX using only his tongue!

DHS:   At least you aren't making me use the NSI 7008 (are 16 channels even enough to control a 918?)
And I had better not run over my sister with a roadcase - my parents would never forgive me!

H*:   Hey, that scans perfectly to "grandma got run over by a reindeer" ...

	Rachel got run over with a roadcase
	walking backstage with the GOH
	You can say we had a great convention
	it's behind-the-scenes confusion that we hates

For the record, a Martin 918 uses exactly 16 DMX channels for control.

David still thinks I need an upgrade to a Hog 4...

Dance tent So eventually it became time to go build said dance tent which I went ahead and room-captained with a handful of folks. The layout was slightly tighter due to a pending airwall move for one of the nights, carving a "lounge" off the back of the room, but I thought that actually created a nicely smaller and intimate feeling even when the airwall was open. This also meant part of the wiring had to run past doors, and seph did an ingenious job of scrounging up a few screws and making little well-hidden fly points into features of the woodwork to hold up a couple of sound and DMX cables. Ironically, after spending a lot of the summer with a screwgun in my hand I for some reason decided to *not* bring it and a stock of fasteners to the con, so he was stuck with whatever we could find and putting them in with his leatherman.
Dance tent thus got turned into its usual colorful space, and the first lighting-heavy event in it was a "video game dance" featuring a bunch of genuine semi-old-skool games set up at the front through a projector that people came up and played. For this I loaded the fixed-light gobo shots with some more rectilinear or angular patterns from the collection, and changed over to the more traditional splats and such the next night and made sure to use both of the new "steampunk gearwheels".

The dance schedule was a little different this year, with multiple nights of stuff going on and where instead of the traditional Johnny Zed till 7 in the morning the main club-dance event Saturday would be a succession of 5 DJs and only run till about 3. This was rather a relief, since I was still a little day-shifted in general -- possibly from the entire summer of meeting contractors early in the mornings. Part of the plan was also to turn small tent across the hall into more of a "chill" space with its own DJs and VJs, which eventually worked but I thought our own tech-crew handling of that setup was pretty lame. There was a clear spec for two projectors and screens and a way to feed power and signal to them, and apparently nobody thought about that pretty much until the event was scheduled to *start*. Meanwhile David and I were in there well in advance noodling where to drop floor par-cans and shoot color across the walls. It was pretty minimalist as we were running on whatever lighting stock we had left, but it more or less worked. That D/E room was a bit too cavernous and tall to really be a good chill space, though.

Still, that's *three* total spaces that needed nontrivial lighting consideration.

I should also note that the club-dance coordinator essentially put the hotel engineering staff through hell trying to kill some of the hallway lights for the evening, and I really hope there's no administrative backlash about that. I had nothing to do with it.

Dance tent in general could really use a fresh approach. Yes, that's me saying that after N years of doing it and where dance tent was one of the major catalysts for me getting into LDing for Arisia in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy doing it but don't think it's beneficial for the *entire* thing to hinge on what I do. We had a start on that in 2011 when DJPet offered to handle dance tent his own way, but wound up with very little crew support and having to do it all himself and thus got discouraged. He does club-dance stuff all the time and has a buttload of sound and lighting gear to support that and would be a great point person to get some beneficial changes into the Arisia dance events area, but there always seems to be miscommunication between Arisia and him and I really wish they'd get that straightened out and develop a good working relationship. I think the techno-fandom crowd could learn a lot from pitching in to help the dance space evolve, and it should take an approach that the support infrastructure shouldn't depend on *one* person to run it all. While it isn't the traditional theatrical setup most of TF is used to dealing with, it's got its own high merits of geeky complexity and design requirements and, well, how do I convince folks that it could be really fun to tackle no matter who happens to be heading it up??

As things got started in dance tent I found that one of the wiggle lights wasn't firing, and ran with the remaining three the first night until I had time to debug it. Turned out all it needed was a new lamp, but the old one had only been in there for about 450 hours where they're supposed to have a rated lifetime of 700 or more. Yes, the units keep track of lamp on-time. Then again, these things have been bouncing in and out of Arisia trucks for several years now, so who knows. Fortunately I had an extra MSR575 in my kit. With various quiet events like yoga and tai chi going on in the dance room in the mornings, I snuck the 918 in question out of there and rolled it into the main ballroom -- almost bringing our amusing email exchange closer to reality, although I headed for the back of the room where I could futz with it quietly during masq rehearsals.

    Days and days in the ballroom

Tech rehearsals The other major events change this year was moving the Masqerade to Sunday and having two days of rehearsal blocks, and I'm eagerly awaiting feedback from the masq community on how well that worked. It was sort of an experiment. But it allowed for longer per-entrant rehearsal time blocks while still handling a good number of entries; the cap was 50 and we came close to that. I was busy with dance-tent build the first day of rehearsal blocks [e.g. David was 100% on masq rehearsals and couldn't have possibly dealt directly with dance tent at all], but after relamping the 918 I came over to help kibitz and take notes on the second day.

This was David with the Smartfade and its programming quirks dumped in his lap, and his comment was that the board is very "modeful". I hadn't thought about it that way in my own usage but he's right, it really is like wandering a tree of menus to get lights up and record scenes. It is, however, easier to base looks off sets of preprogrammed subs than to try to mess around with individual channels.

David's own take on all this is here.

Another new thing this year was plopping a video monitor onto the tech table, so David could make sure things were lit well enough to look okay on camera too. This has its merit for the TV-land audience, but possibly makes the resultant looks a little more bland for the direct viewers.

Fangs Rehearsals happened, and there were fangs.

It was thus pretty strange for me to have *no* Masquerade runtime task, and I wound up watching most of it on the *green room* projection setup after striking dance tent Sunday night. The weirdest question I found myself asking someone later was, "is the masquerade over yet?"


Tall box pile in back Main-tent strike seemed to go pretty smoothly this year; more people were in the ballroom and working early in the morning. Maybe it helped that the tech party *wasn't* the night before. The dead-case pile behind the big window curtains in the back was fairly impressive, three or four levels high before we started pulling it apart. At this point, on our third year of working this room the strike procedures were almost on automatic. I started making "pile labels" and pushing people to put quite a few of them over in Grand D/E where things could be staged closer to the loading dock, leaving more room in the main tent floor for the sorting/counting/packing of ALPS and Arisia gear.

[Bad cellphone shot, only so much one can do for it in post]

Amusingly, early Monday morning as I was getting breakfast I got a call from Lynn Ladder who had apparently sent their truck over for scaffolding pickup way too early -- and after failing to raise David on the phone they dug back in their records from last year and found *my* number to try. Did nobody give them an actual pickup time? We had them come back at 2pm...

Truck sex to transfer stuff And thus I swapped back to my logistics hat, and helped Move Stuff far into the night. Another truck-to-truck transfer needed to happen and this time we did it "truck sex style", emptying the Penske so it could be returned to the rental facility that night and following up the next morning with collecting all the remaining stuff into the Budget. I also picked up my car from NESFA that night to go back to the hotel and loaded my own stuff into it, so no truck runs up to the frozen north were needed. I was back late enough that they'd already locked up the ballroom !with my gear inside! and I had to get the security guys to open up for me.

[Bad cellphone shot, only so much one can do for it in post]

I've reached a few conclusions about the Logistics side of things.
  • There needs to be more than one brain to store information on what comes from and goes back to NESFA.

  • Taking and distributing a few notes on the fly about destination/disposition of various objects might be a good backup to relying on labels and stickers [if they're present at all, not always true].

  • There is too much micromanagement and SPOF on the part of certain people.

  • I am not going to personally touch Rick's printers to move them again until they are made far more road-ready. [Why?]

  • People should realize the benefits of clearing a load *path* in a room or hallway to avoid repeated cumbersome wiggling around obstacles.

But overall, it was fun and I see no reason to not do loading and driving next year. I will not, however, head up the department.

_H*   130125