One of life's simple joys is pointing a video camera at a TV. We should all do that more often. We recently got a screaming deal on this gargantuan 75" TV, so we turned it into an instagram trap under the main stairs. I think it's going to be very popular! "What software does it use?" None, it uses none software.

Video feedback works better if it stays in the analog domain, as with 30+ year old camcorders and CRTs rather than that four letter word "HDMI", but one does what one can.

Hey, here's an interior decoration project maybe one of you could help us out with. The Green Room, that room to the South of the Lounge that you enter from the stage-left stairs, has always been less inviting than we'd like. People treat it as more of a hallway than as a place to hang out. I think it could use a bunch of overstuffed thrift-shop couches and chairs -- really gaudy stuff -- and also a shitload of chandeliers. It has a surprisingly high ceiling, and I think that filling that space with dozens of chandeliers might look pretty cool.

So, if you are a person who already has the hobby of frequenting thrift shops and estate sales, I'd love to give you a small monthly budget for broken down chandeliers and couches to dress up that room. (The couches, I assume, won't long survive contact with the enemy and will need to be periodically replenished.)

25-May-2021 (Tue)
Wherein we have a new POS

Here's the worst part about switching to a new point-of-sale system: buying a whole stack of new iPads. And this is less than half of them.

Because of course the perfectly functional iPads we already have are now unsuitable. These things would have been considered supercomputers in the 90s, but I'm to believe that they are so old and obsolete that they are incapable of keeping up with someone clicking the button that says "cheese slice". A task like that obviously requires the absolute bleeding edge. Apple has stopped shipping OS updates for our existing iPads, and vendors don't support old versions of iOS, largely because Apple intentionally makes it nearly impossible for them to do so even if they wanted to.

The second worst part is that nobody offers data portability of any kind. If we want to look at trends (or do our taxes) we have to spend the next year looking at that data using two different, incompatible systems. So that's fun.

Anyway, we're switching from Revel to SmartTab for the restaurant and bar. Wish us luck.

It's a new point of sale that is focused on bars and nightclubs, so we have to do a lot less work to get good reports, and there are some cool features related to how bar tabs work that we're looking forward to trying out. By constrast, Revel was designed for low-volume retail, with restaurants and bars added later as a afterthought, and it still shows. Also SmartTab is cheaper than Revel, and they're based in San Francisco, which helps with support. If you want to try it out for your bar, email (DNA Lounge's former booker!)

Revel, meanwhile, lost our business for several reasons.

First, they refused to pause our licensing fees during the pandemic while the club was closed. They offered a short reduction but only on the condition that we first sign a new multi-year contract!

Second, their EMV readers are terrible. The banks have finally required everyone to switch from swipe-based card readers to EMV (chip-and-PIN or touchless). The way we had it set up before was that the card reader bolted onto the side of a rugged iPad case which the bartender could carry with them as they moved around behind the bar, and hand to the customer. But the only EMV readers that Revel is compatible with are gigantic, bulky things that basically require the iPad to be bolted down in a fixed location, which might be fine for retail checkout, but doesn't work for us at most of our bars.

Third, in order to use EMV readers at all, Revel is now insisting that you use their in-house payment processor. Of course as a special sign-up offer they say they'll match whatever rate you have with your old payment provider, which is a way of saying "we will reduce this one line item on your invoice and hide our profit in a different line item instead". Interposing themselves on the payment transaction is the same scam that the delivery services use. (Revel business model: "Uber for cash registers".) Rather than charging for the service that they actually provide (be that delivering a box or developing software) they instead want a cut of however much money you make while running your business.

Imagine if it went like this:

    "Hey, how much will you charge me to install a dance floor?"

    "That depends, how many people do you think will walk on it? How about instead of me charging you for my time and materials, you give me a taste of what all of the people who ever step on that floor pay you, in perpetuity?"

    "Sounds great!"

I hope we figure out something useful to do with all of those old iPads, but speaking of ancient hardware, as I often do, check this out. Here's a camcorder that we forgot about that I just pulled out of the ceiling today. It was a part of our old SD / NTSC webcast system that was in place when we first opened.

This camcorder has been quietly and without complaint sitting there displaying video since 2005. It has been powered on that whole time and, despite a layer of dust nearly half an inch thick, it is still working fine!

Now that right there is the opposite of how Apple does things.

Here's a final photo of our new dance floor, after being painted and before anyone has thrown up on it, or dragged a road case across it where half of the wheels have been replaced with jagged pieces of sheet metal:

We re-surfaced the Above DNA stage. No more burlesque performers complaining about getting splinters in their butts!

We replaced the floor in our walk-in fridge. Ten years of dragging beer kegs over it took quite a toll:

And we built a new VIP booth. We've replaced the two upstairs 6-person booths with a single 9-person booth. It's raised on a platform like downstairs, and has three benches and is a bit more enclosed than the others:

Only 35 more days until we get to invite you back inside!

22-May-2021 (Sat)
Wherein we've got dark rum!

Please welcome DNA Lounge Brand Dark Rum to the family, complementing our existing selection of Silver Rum, Vodka, Gin, Whiskey and Bourbon. Order your bottle today from DNA Pizza or pick up a bottle in person tonight and collect the whole set!

15-May-2021 (Sat)
Wherein we are re-opening!

Ladies and Gentlemen, DNA Lounge will be open for your indoors, in-person festivities on Saturday, June 19th!

Our lineup that evening begins with Hubba Hubba Revue at 7pm, the full, seated Big Show; then at 10pm, we bring you the triumphant return of Bootie Mashup! And in Above DNA, Xile Collective presents Lower Underground!

Obviously the Feds or the State might pull the rug out from under us on this, but our understanding as of today is that in mid June, all restrictions will be lifted in California, and we get to party like it's 2019. Or, "The Full Florida", as I've been calling it.

We are all incredibly excited to invite you back into our house, show you our lovely remodeling and upgrades, and return to something like normalcy -- after having been closed for (what will have been) fourteen months!

I'm sure you have questions. I probably don't have answers. We're all still figuring this out.

Tickets are on sale now.

Oh yeah, and also we're hiring!

I made a time-lapse video of the dance floor installation!

This is the first two days of the floor installation. They also came back for a third full day of sanding, but that wasn't very interesting to watch; and now we're going to paint it, which will take another day or two.

(We do have an older video where you can watch paint dry, if you're in to that sort of thing.)

We set up a laptop recording 24/7 all weekend with OBS, and that generated a 98 GB TS file. Fun fact: guess what Quicktime Player, VLC and ffmpeg really don't like to deal with? That's right, 98 GB TS files. So my plan to just scrub through it and find the timestamps to extract didn't work because no player would let me scrub. I ended up splitting it into 10 minute segments with:

    -map 0 -f segment -segment_time 10 -reset_timestamps 1 $encode_options

With "-codec copy" it wouldn't split at all, so I had to re-encode it. Then I was able to manually page through and delete the segments that were in the middle of the night. Next, I time-lapsed like this:

    -f concat -i file_list.txt -vf 'tblend=average, setpts=PTS*0.01, tmix=frames=30' -r 30 $encode_options

The "tblend" filter is what gives the ghostly motion-blur effect on the people walking around. Without that, time lapses have a much more flickery, stuttery quality to them.

That final encode took twenty hours to convert 22 hours of source video into a 13 minute time lapse on a 3.2 GHz iMac Pro. So this is maybe not the ideal procedure.

Thanks to three generous donors who prefer to remain anonymous, we have a new dance floor! And it looks fantastic.

The existing floor was a festive pancake of concrete, then a quarter inch of neoprene for springiness, then two layers of plywood. After two decades of dancing, the old plywood was extremly torn up, meaning the surface was rough and splotchy and paint would no longer stick to it well. It was a finished surface but a soft wood, probably pine or Douglas fir.

After repairing some soft spots in the old floor, we laid down a new layer of 3/4" birch. That is the same hardwood that we used on the go-go boxes and the Dazzle dance floor, which have held up exceptionally well. It turns out that we didn't need to tear up the old floor first. The new layer is glued and screwed on top of the old floor, which means that you are all now 3/4" taller.


During and after:

We hope to have you dancing on this new floor very soon.

Birch is normally one of the more expensive woods, but as it turns out there's some kind of supply-chain fuckery going on affecting most of the softer woods, so this is currently the least expensive plywood available, because the price of the lower quality stuff has gone through the ceiling!

We're going to paint that gray, like the old floor. We considered staining and varnishing it instead, since we can always paint it later if we need to, but the downside of that is the varnish would make the paint adhere less well. So we're just going to go with paint from the start.

I must say, I am surprised and gratified that my Hail Mary "Wanna buy us a dance floor?" post succeeded. Without these donations, we would have just kept lumbering along with our fairly-scruffy old floor. Thank you again, dear anonymous donors, you are the best!

We do have a few other renovations that we'd love to do if there are any other generous folks out there willing to help...

We finally got our fan controllers replaced. And there was much rejoicing.

We have two gigantic fans on the roof, and about a decade ago the controllers that let us operate them at variable speed broke. Those controllers were many thousands of dollars each, so we just tore them out and replaced them with a pair of on-off switches, meaning the fans were either on at 100%, or off. This kind of sucked (see what I did there).

Well it turns out, the price of the controllers has dropped a lot since then, so we finally got new ones, and now we can run our fans more sensibly. We now have choices lying on the continuum between "sweatbox" and "arctic hurricane".

Why so expensive? Why aren't these controllers just a potentiometer knob? Because that trick only works for DC motors. DC motor speed is controlled by the voltage, so a resistor slows them down. AC motor speed is based on the input frequency, which is typically 60 Hz, so to run them at a different speed you need to vary the frequency, which is complicated. Also, big AC motors like the ones on our roof usually run off three phase power, meaning a separate feed to each of the motor's three coils, with both the input signal and the physical coils being 120° out of phase, because science.

So that's why it takes more electronics than a pot. The controllers also do other stuff like having an attack/decay ramp to avoid stressing out the motors, and for some reason there's a 5kHz "carrier frequency" which I don't understand. Some kind of in-band signaling for fancier motors than ours?

One thing that occurred to us, now that we have these new controllers, is that one technique for clearing away the years of confetti that are gumming up the outtake vent above the stage would be to just run that fan backwards and blast it all out into the room again. Then we can pack it all up in a box and mail it to Adriana.

4-May-2021 (Tue)
Wherein we pour some floor

"Son, what's your dirt doing in Boss's hole?"

Sometimes we get soft spots in the floor, typically where liquids pool and can't evaporate. The floor underneath the photo booth got particularly destroyed, after only a couple of years of the booth sitting there. And the floor under the ATM was also pretty bad. When that happens, sometimes we can just use this stuff called "Rot Stop" which is a two part epoxy that is runny enough to penetrate pretty deeply into the wood and makes mushy, soft wood as hard as a rock. It's pretty magical.

But when the area is too large, it's time to just cut it out and pour concrete. Mostly these aren't in "dancing" areas, so that's fine, but it does move the wood/concrete interface farther out into the room, which is not great as that's where things tend to go wrong in the future.

Check out these sweet fractals we found under the floor! I think the first one is a mycelial network (though we can't activate our spore drive for some reason) and the second is from termites.

It's been a little while since the room didn't look like a construction site:

Oh, and some City money finally showed up! Given all of my bitching about how none of the various recovery programs had paid out anything, I thought I should mention that one finally did. There's a program called "Jobs Now" that will subsidize a few months of payroll for laid-off SF residents whom we re-hire. It finally kicked in, so we were able to bring a few people back to help us get to work on some of the stuff we need to do to get this place open again.

We are hiring!

30-Apr-2021 (Fri)
Wherein we've got gas.

We had to replace our big CO2 tank. It had a slow leak, which was costing us money, and so we had been using smaller rental tanks instead of the big one for quite a while, which was also costing us more money. And Airgas had been pretty unreliable about those deliveries; it seems that the schedule that they are comfortable with is, "we'll probably fill up the big tank from the street on our own schedule sometime within a six week window". Anything other than that, and they could hardly be bothered. We often had to drive down there and pick up tanks ourselves at the last minute. Like animals.

The leak was somewhere in that maze of pipes and valves bolted onto the top of the tank, rather than the tank itself, so you'd think that they could just un-bolt that octopus and bolt on a new one. But apparently their policy is, "Fuck that, buy a whole new tank." I'm like 90% sure we're being ripped off, but on the other hand, they probably have more experience with tanks full of 500 pounds of liquid CO2 exploding, so what are you gonna do.

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