7-Sep-2001 (Fri)

Well, I was away for a week and a half, and my few direct responsibilities all went to hell in the meantime. I had a great time in the desert: it was fun and relaxing. But within two hours of being back in the city, it was as if I hadn't been on vacation at all. In no time, I felt like smashing things up, and was back to my recently-traditional routine of only getting five hours sleep a night because I wake up at least three times with cold-sweat, face-eating nightmares.

Fully half of our kiosks are broken, each in confusing ways. And they don't even seem to be broken by vandalism or carelessness: there's no obvious damage, but some keyboards stopped working, some monitors stopped working, some just won't boot... Jonathan and I haven't had a chance to look at them yet.

Though I unfortunately wasn't in town to see it, friday's Andy C show (photos here!) was apparently a raging success: reliable sources report that the hook was removed, and the roof is higher than before. When questioned about the presence of all the party people, our sources replied in the affirmative.

Apparently there were MCs at the show, though they don't make an appearance in the audio archive. It seems that something was patched wrong, so the feed that went out over the speakers was different than what the webcast computer heard. There are bits in the archive where the music stops for a while, presumably while the MC was working the crowd. Then near the end of the silent bits, you can hear a faint thump thump thump which I guess is someone stomping or applauding loudly enough that the turntable needles are picking it up. Weird.

The webcasts for saturday and sunday were botched in a somewhat worse manner than that. The problem with those parties was that the promoters felt the need to have their DJs perform from the dance floor, putting their turntables right in front of the subwoofers, instead of from the DJ booth we built for them at great expense and difficulty. (Can you guess that this drives me crazy?) So, apparently the proper way to patch things in that configuration is still a matter of debate, because on both nights, the audio webcast starts clipping really badly about an hour and a half in to the set: presumably the first time the dj turned up the volume. This doesn't happen when the DJ is in the proper location.

Then, on wednesday, in addition to Connect, we hosted a last-minute after-party for Madonna's crew (she was performing at the Oakland Coliseum that night.) Her backup singers/dancers put on a impromptu performance on stage, but the webcast was dead silent while they were on stage: apparently their mics and music had been been patched in wrong too. Yay.

Then! Then! There was no webcast at all on thursday for Joypad, because I was never given confirmation of the calendar information. So the calendar pages didn't even claim that we were open that night! Since our webcast automation is driven off the calendar, it didn't start. I started it by hand a little while into the evening, once I realized what was happening, only to discover that, again, the live band (The Chopping Channel) had been patched in in the same wrong way, so that the webcast was silent while the band was playing. Yay again.

We could solve all of these problems by making the system more idiot-proof: right now, there are too many settings that all have to be right. We could eliminate all those settings entirely, and we already know the additional equipment we'd need to do that and make these kinds of mistakes be impossible. But that gear (a second SoundWeb, plus a few odds and ends) would cost us another $5k or so that we don't have.

Speaking of money, there's also a theory that some of our problems with the RealVideo broadcast (that some people can't hear audio, and that sometimes video gets stuck on a single freeze-framed image) might be solved if we had a faster computer running RealProducer: the one we have now is "only" 700MHz, which is "only" 3x faster than my primary development machine was two years ago.

And related to the webcast lossage we had on thursday, I'm very disappointed with (meaning: have been known to fly into a blind rage over) the timeliness of our calendar pages. It should be the case that the DNA Lounge calendar has all the latest information earlier than anywhere else. But in practice, it turns out to have it later than everywhere else, because nobody ever tells me anything!

For example, I'm holding in my hand right now a flyer for an event coming up here in a few weeks. This flyer lists the date, dj names, and door price for the event. I've never known this information before now.

We have a box of thousands of these flyers.

That means that the promoters:

  • gave this information to their graphic designer;
  • who then took the time to design the flyer;
  • then they sent that file to the printer;
  • who then took the time to actually print a run of thousands of them;
  • then someone went so far as to physically bring a crate of them here to the club.

And that's the first we heard about it.

We should have gotten that information at the same time that the graphic designer did, if not earlier. But we didn't, because they didn't need to. It wasn't a priority for them, because nobody here had the time to spend on the phone, nagging and begging and cajoling them to please let us know what the hell was going on.

Now here's why dealing with promoters is not my job: because I would solve this problem by making it be a priority for them. I would tell them that the next time I see a flyer before they've told me what will be on that flyer, their event is canceled. Of course that would mean we'd be closed a lot. Which I'm told would be Bad.

I generally send out mail to our announcements mailing list every wednesday to let the subscribers know about the events coming up here in the next two weeks, but I didn't send it this week. Why? Because I just couldn't bring myself to say that of the six events we have in the next two weeks, all I know about three of them is "I'm pretty sure we're open."

last minute

And today (thursday) we found out that Planet B.E.N., our headliner for n:CODE tomorrow night (friday) was unable to get a plane ticket, through some complicated series of snafus that apparently involved a travel agent going bankrupt. Talk about short notice! We'll be rescheduling his show for a later date, but in the meantime, we're cutting the door price in half for tomorrow. Vajra, Ritter Gluck, and Amber will still be spinning!

Oh, and the plumbing disasters continue unabated. Just go ahead and assume that the floors leak and half the toilets explode every weekend until I say otherwise.

I've never been closer to saying "good luck" to the staff here and going home for good than I have been this week. The fun/sucks ratio is approaching underflow.

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