27-Apr-2000 (Thu)

We passed our fire inspection today. Now the only non-self-imposed hurdle standing between us and opening for business is passing our noise abatement inspection. (If, that is, we thought it was ok to open without remodeling, which we don't.)

Insect update: they are all dead! The club is now sanitary!

We finally got a bid for how much it would cost to pour new concrete for the front wall, and it was even more insane than we expected, like, the cost of constructing a small house. My first reaction was "Does Marcellus Wallace look like a bitch?" So now we're waiting to hear bids from other contractors.

I'm finding this whole process super irritating because I'm coming to realize that people in other lines of work just have no sense of urgency at all. At every job I've ever had, doing the impossible was kind of the whole point. "Oh, everyone knows that that kind of thing takes two years? Interesting, because we need to do it in four months. Now all we have to do is figure out how." Nobody, and I mean nobody, I have dealt with on this project understands that attitude. They go "ha ha ha" and assume I'm joking.

Well, we did get one piece of surprising good news, which is that whoever it was who did the electrical wiring for the stage lights, decades ago, actually knew what they were doing. There are plenty of circuits up in the ceiling, and they terminate in sensible places.

I feel like this should be a side-bar: "Hey, Mr. Club Owner, how does stage lighting work, anyway?" Well I'm glad you asked that! For non-intelligent lights, like par-cans and spots, the light is basically a metal case, a huge energy-sucking lightbulb, a colored filter ("gel") and in some cases, a fuse. It just plugs in, sometimes with a traditional three-prong plug, or (preferably) with a twist-lock plug. The plug socket that you plug it in to doesn't connect directly to power, but instead, all of the light circuits terminate at some central location (in our case, under the stage) where they plug into one or more "dimmer packs." These are glorified potentiometers: electricity comes in, and a throttled wattage goes out, except instead of there being a knob to control the "volume," the dimmer packs get their instructions from a light board. The light board is a computer; you program sequences of effects into it, etc. These days, light boards talk to dimmer packs digitally.

Since these lights draw a huge amount of power, you have to actually do the math to figure out how many, and which, lights can go on each electrical circuit; it's not like at your house where you can plug in pretty much anything you own and assume that there will be more than enough juice.

Light boards generally control intelligent lights too, even though the mechanism is different: those lights don't go through the dimmer packs, but are controlled digitally from the board, since they have their own brains.

As a stress-test of our internet connection, we ran some wires from the office to the dj booth, and we've been listening to Icecast MP3 broadcasts over the club's sound system. I'm running a server on one of my home machines that is playing random selections from my personal CD collection, and one of the machines at the club is tuned in to that, and is feeding the sound system.

This is a cool hack, but the sound quality is noticeably crummy for all but the highest bitrate streams, and for those, the network weather causes pretty regular stuttering and drop-out, so it seems that we don't yet live in a world where it would be practical for (for example) someone to dj remotely. (Our net connection is primarily intended for uplink: when we do webcasts, we'll have a single stream going from the club to a server that is colocated at our ISP, where much more bandwidth is available; that server will then re-broadcast to the outside world.)

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