Wires Above Cities, Then and Now

I wrote an article a few weeks ago about horrendous wire rat nests of death across the world — and almost a week later, I found an article with photos of turn of the century wire rat nests of death, wires above cities, but with a beauty about them — progress photographed and frozen in time.  It’s a shame that in many parts of the world the technology and safety aspects of giving everyone modernity haven’t quite met on the timeline yet.

You have to see these photos, it’s like looking at luck being doled out to the masses.  Remember old knob and tube wiring from underneath so many of our homes and buildings?  We had this stuff under our house, and it sits there still — disconnected of course and replaced by some modern distribution (Romex), but it was the source of electricity in millions of homes across America for decades.

Knob and Tube wiring

Check this out:

Holy shit.  This particular image below reminds me of another image…

Nightmare of wiring in Phuket

These two guys above here are just having a good old time with some wire.  You know, wire brothers.

70-foot telephone grids.  70 feet.  Made of wire and wood from the turn of the century.

Elegant, no?  There is a grandness about images like this, systems like this that were built not only to serve, but to serve as something aesthetically pleasing while being practical.

Hat tips:



An awesome gallery here:





Who is THAT?!  Wait, is that — is that Nikola Tesla?!  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Nikola Tesla!

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

Well, it’s birthday time for one of the most prolific inventory of humanity — Nikola Tesla’s 207th birthday is today (10 July 1856 — 7 January 1943)!  If he was still alive, I would definitely suggest we have a Tweet-up and buy that man a round!  A man who thought all human beings should have free energy, believed in the power of peace, and created more useful inventions than most people alive today — Nikola Tesla is one historical badass.  He also got legally fornicated by Thomas Edison, which is another post altogether, but still managed to do unbelievable work on alternating current electricity.



We here at JimOnLight want to share your amazingness with the world:

The History of Nikola Tesla – a Short Story from Jeremiah Warren on Vimeo.

Also — from The OatmealMAD PROPS to our man Nikola Tesla!  I cross-post this with every positive intention possible:

nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-1 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-2 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-3 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-4 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-5 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-6 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-7 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-8 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-9 nikola-tesla-the-oatmeal-10

We celebrate your life here at JimOnLight.com — and here’s a toast to hoping someone makes your dreams of free energy generating devices and perpetual motion systems a reality!



Passing Through from Olafur Haraldsson on Vimeo.

Tesla’s obituary:



Thanks to The Oatmeal, Wikipedia, The Daily Kos, EEP, and Brad DeLong!

Electrical Safety Pop Quiz!

Simpsons Electrical Safety
Here I am with another pop quiz for you. In this edition, I hope to get a little basic knowledge out to all of you on electrical safety. I’m not looking to go into a lecture on this topic today, let alone any day. I just want to find new ways to get knowledge to the masses and perhaps do it in a different and/or more entertaining manner.

So, without further ado…please enjoy!

Electrical Safety Pop Quiz

Here are some questions that cover some very basic electrical safety knowledge that everyone should be aware of. Good luck and I hope you learn something that helps you stay safe!
Congratulations - you have completed Electrical Safety Pop Quiz. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.

Multimeter vs. Magic Smoke

Do you have one of these?Fluke Meter

Have you ever had to replace one of these in it?Fuse

Have you ever received what you would consider a weird and therefore incorrect reading?

Have you taken a reading twice and had inconsistent readings?

Is the magic smoke still inside? How do you know?

Are you wondering when I’ll get to my point? Point taken.

If you’re serious about the treatment and maintenance of your multimeters, you make sure that it is always used properly and only used by authorized and/or qualified individuals, right? You know exactly how it was used when you loaned it to another person in another department and that it was used correctly, right? Right?

I didn’t think so.

The thing that I’m trying to get at here is that you never know if the multimeter that you are using is actually accurate unless you do a test comparison with another like multimeter before going to use it. Or if you just opened up that sealed from the assembly-line box. Or maybe you’re one of the elite who just got it back from a calibration/recertification process.

Well, I’m here to tell you that no matter who you are, you should be among the elite. Depending on your multimeter usage, you really ought to be sending them out for a check-up. The interval at which you do so is ultimately up to you but it should be based on how you use your multimeter, how often you use it, maybe even manufacturer’s guidelines.

I’m going to break everyone down into 3 different user categories and give you my personal recommendations for how often you should have your meters checked:

  • Casual user – you perform a non-critical measurements, you are the sole user or you don’t really have the funds to do calibrations often – you should send your meter out for calibration every 3 years or less.
  • General user – you perform critical measurements on a regular basis or you might not be the sole user – you should send your meter out for calibration every 2 years or less.
  • Heavy user – you perform critical measurements weekly or you are not the sole user – you should send your meter out for calibration every year or less.

Now, please keep in mind that I’m basing those personal recommendations on that fact that you know where your meter is, where it has been, how it has been used, etc. If at any point your meter has blown the fuse or otherwise taken an overload or it has fallen a few feet or more to the ground, don’t take a chance. Send it out for calibration. It truly is better to be safe than sorry. I don’t want to ever here about one of my co-workers having been injured or worse because of a faulty meter.

The annual cost that I have paid for calibration on a Fluke 87 III True RMS digital multimeter from Transcat has been $51 for the past 3 years.

I have personally had meters that were being used, had an incident that the user may or may not have known occurred in the meter (no external signs of an issue), went out for their annual calibration, and were in need of repair or were unrepairable and therefore were not able to be used again. If I had not sent those meters out, myself and co-workers would have picked that meter up and used it assuming that it was good. Seriously, don’t assume. DO NOT ASSUME. Don’t do it. I want you to be safe and more importantly, alive.

got fox?

Do You Know How to Use an RPT?

That’s R-P-T, not R-P-G nor included in M-M-R-P-G. Though M-M-R-P-T could be a new term to use in a lot of cases. In this case, I’m calling it “Mass Misuse of a Relocatable Power Tap” – generally we just call it a “power strip” for short. And no, that wasn’t a pun.

Everybody has them. And most certainly, if you have one, you probably have more and you probably have something plugged into them. I know, it’s a very astute observation on my part. But, are you using it properly?

College goers…Who has their micro-fridge [substitute kegerator here if you’ve made that upgrade], hot plate, stereo, computer, phone charger, television, fish tank, floor lamp, portable fan or heater, or personal massager plugged into one? No need to show your hands. I’ve been there, except the personal massager.

Office workers…Who has their computer, pencil sharpener, radio, heated massage chair, desktop disco ball, or desk ground effects kit plugged into one? Again, no need for hands. I can feel the collective nod occurring. I AM there, except for the heated massage chair.

Home relaxers…You can pick and choose from the previous 2 references and maybe add in some magic fingers for a rockin’ good time!

Now before I put any more great but bad ideas into your heads, let me save you that midnight run to the local super store, lunchtime dash to the local office supply store or weekend stop at the local hardware store. Nearly everything I’ve mentioned should not be used with an RPT. The exception is your computer and its peripherals and your A/V equipment. I know you were all thinking it was any of the variety of the massagers. So was Jim, but alas it is not.

In a semi-surprising manner, OSHA actually has no specific compliance standard. However, relocatable power taps do fall under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.303(b)(2) and 1926.403(b)(2), NFPA 70 110.3(b) and NFPA 70E 400.3(B) which are all entitled, “Installation and Use,” and require instructions to be followed. In this instance, the instructions are written as part of their UL listing.

UL 1363: Relocatable Power Taps – relocatable multiple outlet extensions of a branch circuit to supply laboratory equipment, home workshops, home movie lighting controls, musical instrumentation, and to provide outlet receptacles for computers, audio and video equipment and other equipment.

The bullet points:

  • They are not extension cords.
  • They are not a temporary wiring method. (They can be used longer than 90 days.)
  • They can be secured in place but in a way that shall not require tools to remove them.
  • They are for low-powered loads.
  • They are to be plugged directly into a permanently installed receptacle.
  • They shall not be overloaded nor the circuit they are plugged into.
  • They are not to be used at construction sites or outdoors.

What does all of that mean? Let me help.

  • You shouldn’t be plugging in one device because it doesn’t reach the receptacle or using the power switch to turn something on and off because it doesn’t have a power switch itself.
  • You can use them longer than 90 days by itself.
  • You can attach them to the wall or under your desk but you should use something like a hook-and-loop fastener to do so. They have to be removable by hand and with your hands only.
  • Do not plug refrigerators, coffee pots, microwave ovens, space heaters, etc. into them.
  • Don’t plug them into each other creating a daisy-chain or into an extension cord. Remember that the extension cord can only be used temporarily (90 days). Don’t plug an extension cord or cube tap into them to add more outlets either.
  • Generally, they are only rated for 15 amps with either a fuse or circuit breaker internally. When you start adding all of your appliances to them, it adds up quick. Especially when you have 2 power strips plugged into that same receptacle. Take into account everything that is on that circuit. That receptacle by the door may be on the same circuit as the receptacle by the window.
  • They do not contain GFCI protection. When you put your power saw through the cord or it rains on your Christmas display, are you going to trust that fuse or circuit breaker to protect you and your equipment? You shouldn’t.

Can you get into the argument that only the work environment falls into these terms? Yes. But, they don’t call it “best practice” for nothing. Something else to consider, why do it right at work and not at home or in college? Pretty much everywhere you go in a college somebody is working, right? Is that not their workplace? Then the general industry standards come into play there, which include OSHA and NFPA.

In doing a quick web search for news, you’ll find a plethora of stories about fires caused by power strips. Please, don’t be the victim to a fire because you had your freezer, treadmill and space heater plugged into a power strip.

Just remember, it’s not okay to think that because it hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t mean you aren’t on the list.

got fox?

It’s Not Just Shocking…

Do you recognize these warning labels? Do you understand their meaning? Entirely? If you asked me those questions 3 years ago, I would have flat-out said, “No.”

Now, I’m not placing any blame on any person, company or anything else for the lack of information or training. The arc flash hazard is still something that is, in my opinion, making its way into the mainstream even though it has been on the books for years. Like everything else in the safety world, the codes pertaining to everything arc flash are ever-evolving too.

It wasn’t until I started my job with Cirque du Soleil that I finally heard the term arc flash. My first impression on just the term was that it sounded like something terrible but how does it affect me? Well, let us get a quick run down of arc flash. Take it away Wikipedia:

An arc flash is an electrical breakdown of the resistance of air resulting in an electric arc which can occur where there is sufficient voltage in an electrical system and a path to ground or lower voltage. An arc flash with 1000 amperes or more can cause substantial damage, fire or injury. The massive energy released in the fault rapidly vaporizes the metal conductors involved, blasting molten metal and expanding plasma outward with extreme force. A typical arc flash incident can be inconsequential but could conceivably easily produce a more severe explosion (see calculation below). The result of the violent event can cause destruction of equipment involved, fire, and injury not only to the worker but also to nearby people.

In addition to the explosive blast of such a fault, destruction also arises from the intense radiant heat produced by the arc. The metal plasma arc produces tremendous amounts of light energy from far infrared to ultraviolet. Surfaces of nearby people and objects absorb this energy and are instantly heated to vaporizing temperatures. The effects of this can be seen on adjacent walls and equipment – they are often ablated and eroded from the radiant effects.

Isn’t that something. But really, where would I ever come into contact with something that grandiose? Great question – go flip a breaker in your “found everywhere” (if you’re in the U.S.) 120V service panel. Depending on what kind of work you have done on that panel or, more likely, downstream on wherever the circuit terminates, you could come in contact with an arc flash. Now it may not be as extravagant as the following, but the potential for harm is still there. Check these out:

These guys were lucky – they are still alive. I’ve even met an arc flash survivor who is happy to still be here but was really lucky to have survived and has some major scarring to show for it.

I really just want to put some awareness out there on this topic. The training session that is provided for us at Cirque is about 3+ hours for NFPA 70E, which only touches on arc flash. On the label to the right, you can find every bit of information on the panel, switchboard, or, in this case, dimmer rack that tells you how you should go about working on the equipment. All of your gear should have something along the lines as this label. It may not have all of the information this one does, but it should still warn of the risks.

If you aren’t already aware of arc flash, using the safe practices required or generally trained in these matters, STOP YOUR DAILY ELECTRICAL TASKS and ask your employer or professor or whomever else may be responsible in training you to give you that training. Chance is, they may be unaware just like I used to be. If they are unaware, go ahead and direct them to the NFPA 70E material because further chances are that they are unaware of a lot of other things that could impact the everyday safety of you.

Here are some more resources to help you understand arc flash and that with proper training and personal protective equipment (PPE), there is nothing to fear:

  • Arc Flash Forum – A global community about arc flash and electrical safety
  • NIOSH Arc Flash Awareness Videos – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
  • Arc Flash Documentary from Con Edison – Con Edison is a manufacturer of flame resistant (FR) fabrics
  • Westex Video Library – Westex is another manufacturer of FR fabrics which has a great library of multiple levels of arc flash videos with treated and untreated fabrics on mannequins. They also have a free DVD that you can order with their test videos to share in the classroom!

Just remember, if you don’t feel safe doing something, you have every right to not do it. Just make sure you voice your concerns and ask for the proper training.

Stay safe!

got fox?

Have opinions about industry standards? Voice them!

PLASA StandardsNo, seriously! Every time that any standard is submitted to ANSI for approval or revision, it is first put into public review. That’s right, I said public. PLASA (formerly ESTA) is who puts forth our entertainment standards. At this very moment, there are 11 Entertainment Technology standards up for public review.

  • BSR E1.21 – 201x, Entertainment Technology – Temporary Ground-Supported Structures Used to Cover the Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events
  • BSR E1.6-2 – 201x, Entertainment Technology — Design, Inspection, and Maintenance of Electric Chain Hoists for the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.39 – 201x, Entertainment Technology —Selection and Use of Personal Fall Arrest Systems on Portable Structures Used in the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.1 – 201x, Entertainment Technology – Construction and Use of Wire Rope Ladders
  • BSR E1.6-3 – 201x, Selection and Use of Chain Hoists in the Entertainment Industry
  • BSR E1.41 – 201x, Recommendations for Measuring and Reporting Photometric Performance Data for Entertainment Luminaires Utilizing Solid State Light Sources
  • BSR E1.18-1 – 201x, Standard for the selection, installation, and use of single-conductor portable power feeder cable systems for use at 600 volts nominal or less for the distribution of electrical energy in the entertainment and live-event industries
  • BSR E1.24 – 201x, Entertainment Technology – Dimensional Requirements for Stage Pin Connectors
  • BSR E1.32 – 201x, Guide for the Inspection of Entertainment Industry Incandescent Lamp Luminaires
  • BSR E1.33-201x, Entertainment Technology – Extensions to E1.31 for Transport of ANSI E1.20
  • ANSI E1.26 – 2006, Entertainment Technology — Recommended testing methods and values for shock absorption of floors used in live performance venues

All of the preceding, except for ANSI E1.26 – 2006, is in public review until October 18, 2011. ANSI E1.26 – 2006 is in public review until August 30, 2011.

From PLASA about the documents, review and voting process:

The draft documents are produced by members of the working groups in the Technical Standards Program. Membership in the working groups is open to all who are affected by the work of the group; membership in PLASA or any other association is not a requirement. Voting members are required to attend meetings, but observer members are not, although they are welcome to attend and to speak on issues if they choose. More information about working groups and an application to join are available under the working groups link.

I’m not certain how untimely the first item on the list, BSR E1.21 – 201x, looks with all of the staging incidents that have occurred this summer, but certainly now is the time for those involved, and even those not directly, to make a stronger standard. Just remember, they aren’t looking for rants – as valid as they may be.

got fox?

NFPA 101: Life Safety Code

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome David Fox!

Is it ironic that the Life Safety Code is labeled as 101? Everything that is in this code is certainly something that I think could be offered in a college 101 course, if there were such a course path for these codes. This code is revised every 3 years and the latest edition for 2012 was just finalized. It’s so new that you can’t get your hands on it yet, but soon (October 14th).

Though it is not legal code, it is written as such so that any authority having jurisdiction can easily adopt and implement it. Besides, it provides a lot of best practice material. The Life Safety Code is one of the unique codes in the NFPA arsenal that if it is adopted into local code, both new construction and existing structures must comply. In most cases for other codes, anything new only applies to new construction. NFPA 101 is in use in every state in the U.S. and has been adopted statewide by 43 states (see graphic to the right from 2009). So, if you aren’t following it now, you might want to double-check that your aren’t breaking the law. You don’t want to pay any fines for non-compliance in the event of an inspection which can be hefty and can grow in numbers exponentially and nobody wants to pay the ultimate price in the event of an emergency.

This past week I sent out a tweet about one small part of this code – emergency lighting. It’s just one of the numerous monthly inspections that my crew is responsible for at KA. Every month, we check battery back-up fixtures in stairwells and around the facility. We also perform a safety inspection which is primarily focused on electrical safety but certainly is not limited to just that. Pretty much the only thing that we aren’t responsible for is checking the emergency generators for the property. The Department of Homeland Security has this new campaign called, “If You See Something, Say Something.” You can definitely use that in the most general sense when performing any inspection. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t – but don’t stop there, go research it and inform responsible parties. Learn.

Though I cannot recite every word, I’m slowly getting up to speed on the bullet points of the code and every other code out there. It can be mind-numbing for sure, but at least one person in every facility should be deemed the competent party and hit the books. There are many resources available in the form of fast facts or quick sheets. Use them and keep them on hand. Pass the knowledge on to others.

  • OSHA Fact Sheets – yes, they even have a fact sheet about Black Widow spiders, just in case you need it
  • Office of Compliance – these are from the department that oversees safety in the offices of Congress
  • List of NFPA Codes & Standards – nearly every code is viewable online for FREE from NFPA directly after creating an account

This is not the kind of information that makes you more powerful as an individual. This is the information that makes a team powerful. Not everyone sees the same errors or sees them the same way. Not everyone knows something at all. And complacency is not an option when it comes to anyone’s safety.

It is my hope that I’ll make this a thing and have some articles every so often about safety things in our industry. Every day is anew in the safety world and this is just one way that I can help since this is some of my duty as a safety committee primary member at my day job.

got fox?

Nighttime Transformer Explosions in Fort Worth, Texas

Have you seen this video? If not, stop what you’re doing right now and watch. Amazing. Tragic, but amazing. From the Youtube site of user Brian Luenser, who recorded and posted the video:

This is the aftermath of a pretty brutal thunderstorm in Fort Worth Texas on May 10, 2011. It was taken from my balcony on the 34th floor of a building in Fort Worth. Though I thought we were at war or was terrorism, it was a massive series of downed 7,200 volt power lines. As I took it with my 70-200 2.8L IS lens, it is farther away than it looks. (it is 5 miles away) That is why there are not explosion sounds. This was a very well documented event. I was on my balcony to take lightning pictures (Yes, not smart) and this started happening in front of me. I turned my camera (Canon 5d MkII) to video mode and let it roll.

Crazy. There’s a bit more about the video there and the way it was recorded, too. The colors are absolutely beautiful. Almost unbelievable.  Explosions in the distance look like the explosions of war.

Watch, totally worth it:

How It’s Made – High Voltage Pole Transformers

Happy Tuesday, everybody!

Another light-related How It’s Made video – this time of the process of fabricating high-voltage pole transformers.  You know, the things that go POP when the power goes out?  Yeah.  I’ll never forget the hellacious ice storm from the winter of 2007 in Oklahoma City that killed transformers all over the city – the power went out for days, and in the dark night time sky, you could see the green lightning of these things popping all over the place.


Check out the How It’s Made video on these things – I had no idea!

Also, not to be outdone – videos of transformers EXPLODING!