Friday, August 6, 2010

We visited "The Black Hole"

Apparently, this place has been featured on "Mythbusters", but I can't seem to find the episode. It's full of surplus left over (and still coming in) from the very heavy research done at the atomic laboratory that Los Alamos was founded on. The Black Hole is in an old grocery store, and there's thousands of square feet of storage space, and it's floor to ceiling.


These photos will be in chronological order, and i'll do my best to recall what I saw.

As you walk up, the "store" is on the right, and what I can only guess was the parking lot of the grocery store is on the left. There's stuff outside too, most of the larger equipment that wouldn't fit inside. File cabinets, equipment racks, larger computers.

My first "What the F" moment of many. Where else do you just see bowling balls stacked?

You come to realize that not all of this came from the atomic laboratory, but it still comes from military surplus, or donations. Just stuff people don't want anymore, but someone else probably does.

The phrase "Everything but the kitchen sink"? This should give you an idea of what the place has. Not just one, but dozens of kitchen sinks."

I wanted to walk around the outside first, because I know going inside I will just spend hours looking at everything. There's a rough organization, but you can't just "window shop", you need to dig in and see what's buried underneath something new. Even though the weather out here is nice *every* day, it does rain, and none of these things outside are covered, and they will (and do) get rained on.

They just look like printers on a pallet, but it's the sticker on the front that makes them special. It reads "X-DIVISION PROPERTY - P.O. Box 1663 - LOS ALAMOS, NM 87545". The X-Division is the Applied Physics division of Los Alamos, responsible for the tactical application of nuclear physics (Weapons). The P.O. Box i'll explain lower. These printers came out in 1981, so while they're not WWII era, they're still pretty cool.

When atomic physics was becoming the big thing, universities and physicists around the country were having trouble communicating because of the distance. A request to the President requested space where research and development could take place and bring all of these researchers together. The empty, good-weather-year-round spot a few miles northwest of Santa Fe was selected, and named "Los Alamos". Due to the secret nature of the project, all mail coming in was to be addressed to "P.O. Box 1663, Santa Fe, NM". Los Alamos didn't exist. Anyone born at Los Alamos had that P.O. Box on their birth certificate. Drivers licenses had the P.O. Box on it, and numbers were used instead of names.

I have no idea what this is. But it's using Base-8 for it's programming

I know it's a Wang Labs terminal, one without a number pad which is interesting, but i know nothing else.

Plenty of computer racks, half-size and full-size. Some have cooling built-in, the Compaq ones were neat.

At first I thought this was a Mac 128k, but I doubt any of those would be found in a junkyard. It was a Mac SE, came out about three years after the original Macintosh. Still in decent condition, had no idea if it still ran.

Old hard drive, this probably held a few hundred kilobytes. I didn't check the capacity.

What appears to be an original manual from the first version of FileMaker (database app for Mac and Windows). I don't see a version number on it, so I think it's from 1.0

Looks like a Personal LaserWriter LS or NTR. So cool to see these things again

Down one of the main aisles. Shelving on the left, and mini-aisles on the right.

At the end of that same aisle, which turned right into a larger mini-aisle. Lots of flow-control stuff here.

Flow control
Fluid and flow control valves. Look to be in almost-new condition.

Video switchers, effects generators and character generators. I would have loved to pick one of these up just to play with. So little time.

VCR, anyone?

Looks important
Another "No idea what this is" but it looks damn important.

Video/BNC gear
What look like frames for video arrays. Or diagnostic tools.

One of many shelves of books, catalogs, encyclopedias and manuals.

Motors, anyone?

I don't even...
I have no idea. Just...stuff...looks like relays.

Old NeXT Monitor
Rockin' it old school, a classic NeXT monitor.

TRS-80 Keyboard
What's this? A TRS-80 keyboard?! Where's the TRS-80?!

They call it the Black Hole because everything goes in, and nothing comes out. I'd love to go back again, but I have no idea when, or what I would buy, or how I would get it home. Or who would take me that wouldn't be bored out of their mind.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lighting Focus at the Santa Fe Opera

Let's focus 350 lights in 90 minutes!

Wait, what?

Yeah, it's crazy. Before focus, strips of cloth with markings every foot are laid out on the downstage edge of the stage (stage left to right), as well as another going from down-center to up-center. There's another stage-left-right strip at center-stage.

They're called "focus tape", and yes, it was the inspiration for this video.

Two lighting supervisors stay on the stage, and each has a team of three apprentices in the coves to focus the rep plot. The supervisors have a two-channel wireless intercom, one channel talks to the board operator, and the other talks to an amplifier connected to speakers throughout the catwalk. The supervisors bring up a light for each apprentice (usually simultaneously), and then call out where the beam of light should "land" on-stage. Since it's easier to see the edges of the beam rather than a hotspot during a 6pm focus, the supervisor will call out where the bottom edge of the light will fall, left or right edges, and then any shutter cuts. Once the light has been focused and cut, the apprentice will flag the light (wave their hand in front of it) so the supervisor on-stage can see the flashing light, check the lands and cuts, and move on to the next light and system.

Focus tape on the set of "Tales of Hoffmann"

Vince checks his focus sheets while the team in the roof focuses a new system.

Along with "Life is a Dream", the ETC Ion makes it's debut at the Santa Fe Opera. It took the place of an ETC Obsession.

The supervisors on the ground use welding glass (similar to this) to check the hotspot of the current light.

Michael checks the lands of a PAR can.

In the coves? It's just craziness. Lots of running, lots of sliding. Everyone wears knee pads because it's damn uncomfortable to kneel on the catwalks, and you can also run down the catwalk, drop to your knees, and slide into your light. One sound I will never forget is the sound of someone running, dropping, and the sound of kneepads grinding against the deck of the catwalk.

Kent demonstrates the "slide".

Oh, and for the Apprentice scenes, i've been hired as the Ion board operator for part of the first show, and i'm on focus/spot op crew for the second show. AWESOME!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The one where I make stuffed chicken...

Another recipe! This time, stuffed chicken. No picture of the recipe for this one, it was pretty simple in the book: Slice a chicken breast lengthwise, stuff with mozzarella cheese, top with spaghetti sauce, bake for an hour.

I had some leftover onion and pepper from the meatloaf, and since I love pepper and onion, I thought I'd added it to the mix. The garlic fries are from Trader Joe's, and they're in the picture because I used the garlic sauce packet on the chicken.

I sliced the cheese into long pieces, as well as the pepper and onion into a coarse chop. I lightly salted the inside of the chicken after cutting, and dropped in a little pepper and onion before topping with the cheese.

The chicken was stubborn and didn't want to hold all of the stuffing after folding the top half back over, but a little more slicing fixed that.

The liquid on top is a little bit of the garlic sauce packet from the garlic fries. I put the rest of the pepper and onion on top.

Followed by some tomato basil spaghetti sauce.

The recipe said to bake it for an hour, but that was also for four to six piece, and this chicken was a bit small. I set the timer for 35 minutes, with the option of always leaving it in. I hate dry chicken, so I usually cook it until it's just done.

Looks awesome, let's dig in!

The recipe also called for a bed of spaghetti for the chicken to sit on, so I used some capellini (big fan of thin spaghetti). Here's the final product:

Looks awesome, let's dig in!

Difficulty: 2 out of 5 (Slicing the chicken is tricky, but the rest is simple)
Taste: 4 out of 5 (That damn garlic packet was REALLY strong, and i only used a teaspoon.)

I just went out and bought more chicken to do it again. It's SO good, i'm totally making it again.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The one where I make Meatloaf...

We're about to open our fifth and final show of the season, "Albert Herring". I don't know a ton about it, since it rehearses during the day, and my calls are typically at night to run the shows already open.

But today is a day off. I was awoken today by my roommate's alarm BLARING at 8:30am. It must have fallen between the bed and the wall, so it took him a few minutes to get it, and finally set it on the dresser. Without turning it off. Awesome. Both my roommates get home around 4-5am, and wake up at 1-2pm for a 3pm call. Why he has an 8:30am alarm, I will never know.

Anyway, it was raining all this morning, so I kept sleeping until the rain stopped, since I can't go anywhere (no car, no bike, remember?) The apartment is kind of a mess, so I decided to make a run to CVS for a bunch of cleaning supplies. When I came back, my next trip was to Trader Joe's. The entire day threatened with low, dark clouds and rain.

Flashback: A few months ago (actually, I think it was in the fall), Caitlin and I went to the Baltimore Book Festival. Caitlin is an avid reader (an understatement? I love you, baby!) and wanted to check it out, and I tagged along. I never would have gone if she hadn't suggested it, and it's another reason I love being with her: She encourages me to try things I never would have on my own. I am also a very picky reader, with an affinity for non-fiction science. I've leaned a lot towards space race-era books, and biographies of tech companies or their founders ("iWoz", "Code Name: Ginger", etc). We headed to the Daedalus Books tent and I actually found two cookbooks for $5 each (each one used to be $20 each.) When we got home, I started flipping through and earmarking recipes that I liked, and Caitlin did the same.

Now, a few days ago, I told Caitlin I was bored with the food I was making, and then remembered that I brought my cookbooks. Awesome! I flipped through them, finding recipes I could make fairly cheap (Two Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's in walking distance, but not a REAL grocery store). The one that stood out to me was "Mom's Meatloaf".

I love meatloaf. Bring it on. It was a lot of ingredients, but nothing too obscure. The most trouble I had finding was the brown sugar. I had to get organic brown sugar from Whole Foods (everything is organic there. I don't want organic butter for $5. I want cheap butter!)

Everything pulled from the fridge, ready to go. Let's do this.

Started with the pack and a half of ground beef, and added a bit more green pepper and onion to the mix, since it was left over from the chopping (like 20% more from the recipe), then the egg and the oats (why oats? i have no idea). Then the mustard, worchestershire sauce and ketchup (oops, recipe wanted tomato sauce).

Next, it called to be mixed and shaped into a loaf. First I tried it with a potato masher:

Fail. Then a spoon, that failed too. I gave up and just dove in:

Shaping it into the loaf wasn't that hard, actually. I just wrapped it up into a big ball, plopped it into the greased pan, and shaped it.

I mixed up the sauce, and topped it, and threw it in the oven.

Okay, for the next hour? Smell overload. The entire apartment smelled of awesome meatloaf. I kept checking it every 20 minutes or so to make sure it wasn't burnt, but mainly to get a waft of awesomeness. The hour wasn't over soon enough, and I was presented with this:

And then after some "quality control testing":

Yep. Awesomeness.

Total Cost: $12 (not including staples like mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, and what I did include in the cost were the portions, like 1 egg, 1 onion).
Serving Size Cost: $2.38 (Beat THAT, take-out!)
Difficulty: 2 out of 5 (Lots of chopping, mixing, you may not have all ingredients handy)
Taste: 4 out of 5 (It was missing "something", that extra home-made goodness wasn't *quite* there.)

Would I make it again? You bet your ass! It sure as hell can't be good for me, though!

I followed it up with some of the best yogurt i've ever had:

I can only find them at Whole Foods, and they're $.99 each. Totally worth it.