4-Jan-2003 (Sat)

We had this hippie Phish-wannabe jazz-fusion/jam-band on New Year's Eve. I hated it, of course, but it was pretty successful as such things go: we had a lot of people, and they did not smell bad.

Perhaps the significance of this is lost on you:

When one books hippie bands (and even certain psytrance acts), one runs the risk of having the club stink to high heaven afterward, because they are often a bathing-optional group of people. (There was one time that some guy came to retrieve his stuff from coat check, and the coat check girl told him, "you have to wait, because your parka smelled so bad I had to have someone go hang it in the back stairway." He said, "Oh, ok," and didn't bat an eye. You'd think most people would react negatively to "dude, you fuckin' stink." Alas, no.)

But I digress. This was an older, non-malodorous crowd, probably because it cost them $100 to get in, so they tended more towards the "yuppie" than the "hippie." That price included an open bar, and surprisingly, we did not have an above-average number of pukers.

So at some point early in the night, Barry calls Big Dave over to where he's standing. He hands him this small object: it's a pack of rolling papers, with the band's logo printed on the wrapper. Big Dave says, "huh." Barry steps aside, revealing the table behind him, which is covered with them, lined up neatly.

Big Dave gets big eyes, and says, "oh, I am so not ok with that." Barry says, "I didn't think you would be."

I mean really, in what parallel universe is doing something like that ok? Don't these people watch the news? Don't they realize the kind of bullshit crackdowns nightclubs are facing these days? The DEA claims that glow-sticks are drug paraphernalia. I wonder what they'd think about rolling papers? Oh, but I'm sure "it's cool, man" because they probably said "for tobacco use only" on the back. Morons!

Check out the image to the right, from the DEA's site. I can't find a larger version of it, but isn't that just the coolest thing ever? The grim reaper has a glowstick and a pacifier! And laser beams on his head!

We have, by the way, been getting more visits from undercover (presumably) DEA agents soliciting illegal acts from our staff. I understand this is because the DEA recently got a massive budget increase to fight the Demon Drug Extacy, so now they've got the budget to start sending people out to harass nightclub staff every night. Your tax dollars at work.

Remember that wireless network connection we mostly got working a couple months ago? Well, the other day we got an irate phone call from the apparent owner of the loft building on the corner, on whose roof the dish sat. He had a total hissy fit at Barry about "how dare you tresspass on my property" blah blah blah. When in fact, we had gotten prior permission from both the residents of the unit whose roof it was on, and from the building's landlord! I guess "landlord" and "owner" are different people. Whatever, this guy was a real prick about it. So, we took the dish down; we hadn't been using it anyway. Oh, and he'd apparently tried to yank it down himself before he called. (We put our name and phone number on the side of it so it was clear who it belonged to, but I guess he was in a real hurry for it to no longer be there.)

At this point, I sure am glad we managed to get a land line.

There's this recurring problem we've been having where sometimes, the lower-bitrate audio streams will go all chipmunk-voiced: they playing too fast, meaning the MP3 data got corrupted somehow. Of course there's no way to automatically detect this, so the only way it gets fixed is if someone out there listening mails me about it, and I reset things by hand. (Please do mail me if you notice something going wrong.)

This isn't a bandwidth problem, since the 128k stream is always fine (and the lower streams are generated locally from that one.) So, my best theory is that it's a load problem: that the machine serving the streams doesn't have enough CPU to keep up with the current demand. It could be that this problem only started happening when we moved into our new colo, and upped the maximum number of connections. I tried temporarily lowering the number of connections to see if the problem went away, but the results were inconclusive and confusing.

The machine had a 700MHz CPU in it, and we bought a pair of 1GHz CPUs to replace that. Jonathan did his homework, and verified that the motherboard could handle it first... But no. We went down to colo and put the new chips in, and the BIOS was unhappy: apparently the BIOS was old enough that it believed that 700MHz was the fastest CPU available, and complained. If we ignored it and booted Linux anyway, Linux was totally happy, and utilized both CPUs.

So leave it alone, right? Well, when the BIOS complains, it sits there and waits for you to type F1 before it will continue: which means that someone would have to type something every time the machine rebooted. Not exactly a happy state of affairs for a colo machine. So we downloaded a BIOS update, wrote it to a floppy, and booted it. It ground away, reached 100% and then spat out some incomprehensible error message. Oh well, maybe we'd better reboot and try again.

Big mistake. Now we have no BIOS and the machine won't even turn on.

So, there's a jumper for "emergency BIOS recovery." Apparently how it's supposed to work is, you set the jumper, power on with a floppy in, and it has a tiny fallback BIOS that reads the floppy, executes the installer, and upgrades the real BIOS (all this without activating the monitor or keyboard, which is apparently rocket science.) You know it's done when it beeps twice, and you know it didn't work if it beeps continuously.

So what did it do? Nothing. No beeps at all.

Fortunately Jonathan knew that his former employer still had a few of these motherboards sitting in a cardboard box in the corner of their server room, so he was able to beg one out of them, and we got the machine running again (it's the machine that serves our MP3 archives.) But we're still in the situation that if this machine ever crashes, someone has to go in and type F1 before it will come up again. "Yay."

And amidst this CPU shuffling, I also upgraded the machine that runs RealProducer to generate the RealVideo webcasts: it had been a 700MHz CPU, and I replaced that with a pair of 500MHz CPUs. That part went fine, except ever since, the RealVideo stream has been choppy: either audio or video (but generally not both at once) will stop for minutes at a time. The stats have looked like this a lot:

and sometimes even:

...which is not good. So, I don't know, it could be coincidental network weather, or it could be that RealProducer just doesn't work right on multi-CPU machines. Now, you'd have to actually go out of your way to write a program that had that sort of bug, but those folks at Real are very, very creative like that, so I wouldn't put it past them.

Hey, don't forget to come out to see Nina Hagen this Tuesday and/or Wednesday:

We had her here in August, and it was an amazing show. That woman is some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production (to steal a line from Fear and Loathing.) She puts on one hell of a performance; pictures here.

Our advanced ticket sales have been pretty low, which is disappointing to me mostly because it means a lot of you are not trusting me when I tell you that this will be a great show! So, show up, 'k?

6 Responses:

  1. icis_machine says:

    this is you best update ever. it has it all: hippies, drugs, the government, dumb people

  2. jon says:

    Concerning the BIOS update stuff:

    My old roommate went through something like that a few years back. As I recall, that emergency jumper thing won't work if you have both CPUs installed (so pull one of them out first). Also, he had to use an ISA VGA card; PCI / AGP devices weren't supported.

    I think this was with an Award or AMI BIOS.

    Why we still need to know these thing, I do not understand.

  3. candid says:

    One of my classmates in math school was the smelliest guy I'd ever met. He would enter a hallway, and I -- in my office at the other end of the hallway -- could smell that it was him. He was a nice guy (and a good friend) so we engaged in a campaign of unrelenting shame:

    We started calling him "Stinky" and constantly berated him to take shower. "Jesus, Stinky, you fucking reek!"

    After about two months, it finally sunk in, and his hygiene improved to the point where I was willing to share an office with him.

    Never underestimate the power of shame.

  4. communista says:

    There's a guy that works in a grocery store near my apartment who smells worse than any dirty hippie I've ever smelled at a Phish concert. I can't even tell what rotting thing he smells like. It's seriously enough to make me gag, and has done so before. His managers don't seem to mind or care, he's been there about a year.

    When I was a supervisor at a call center there was an employee who smelled like dirty clothes, BO and sour milk. Craptacular, I tell you. We would send him home (or try to) on several occassions because of it. Usually he'd just go to his car, pull out an equally nasty shirt and/or cruise the cologne isle at Wally World. That was worse, because he smelled like cologne and ass.

    How can that not bother them?? Are they spiteful?

  5. ronbar says:

    Our advanced ticket sales have been pretty low, which is disappointing to me mostly because it means a lot of you are not trusting me when I tell you that this will be a great show! So, show up, 'k?

    If I lived in SF, I wouldn't be buying advance tickets if you said an act was really good because you have really weird tastes which mostly don't jibe with mine.

    If you offered refunds to people with advanced purchase tickets who don't like a show within the first ~10 minutes after they arrive, you'd probably get more advanced ticket sales. If you make the customers eat the ticket transaction cost of a few bucks on refunds, you're not out anything except a little extra staff time. And who knows, maybe they'll buy a drink or two while they're deciding if they like the show.

    • atakra says:

      The only reason I haven't bought a ticket is because I saw her last time at the DNA. It was a good show, but I'll most likely pass this time. Maybe if she did a night of the reggae crap, and a night of the more wacky material without the reggae crap...

      I'd be more interested in the night without it...

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