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April 29, 2009

Red Flag

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:00 pm

I got an email today forwarded through several people, about a company looking for a stage manager for an upcoming production.  When I got to where it said, “This is a paid position,” like there was any question that it might not be, I stopped.  Of course I wasn’t available for all the dates, and I doubt this gig was Equity-approved anyway.  However…

Being that it’s a paid position, I’m sure it would be a great job for somebody just starting out.  But honestly, nobody deserves to stage manage for free EVER, unless it’s in school, or for charity.  Whenever I see that in a job description it makes me crazy.  The implication that under other circumstances a “professional” company or individual producer might have been looking for a stage manager for no pay is just sad.  Come on, if you’ve got the money to put up a show, however small, you can find $100 to give to the person doing the hardest and most thankless part of it.  I know some people really do need the resume and experience, but I think anybody has the right to refuse to work for free.  In fact it would be nice if enough people did it that producers wouldn’t think to ask.

Sorry, I had to vent about that peeve.  Am I being overly sensitive?


Baruch Revisited

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:27 pm

Late last night we departed Frostburg, MD, and this morning we woke up home-sweet-home on 24th St. and Lex. We said our final goodbyes to Bart, and unloaded all our luggage and other belongings from the bus into a hallway by the loading doors at Baruch College (see photo).

Last night in Frostburg was a Save the Ta-Tas Load Out.  This is something we do every now and then, where the whole crew will wear our Save the Ta-Tas shirts that Daphne got us for opening night in New York.  Like so, in Tucson:

We decided pretty much at the start of this leg that Frostburg would be a Save the Ta-Tas Load Out since it was the last venue before returning to New York.  The interesting advantage of this was that the next morning when we got up in New York, it was easy to tell who had decided to sleep in their clothes, as they were the ones still wearing their Ta-Tas for load in.  I didn’t exactly count, but I’d say it was four or five of us, including me. Speaking of which, we have submitted our photo to savethetatas.com, but it hasn’t been published yet.  I did have a nice email conversation with their customer service lady about our company — she wants to see us when we come to California — and she assured me it would go up “soon.”  That was like a month ago.

Baruch is kind of the most hellacious load-in situation ever. Unloading the truck on the street, followed by a lot of ramps and hallways, to a rather small freight elevator, and then down some more winding and public hallways to the theatre. Apparently it took 5 hours to unload the truck. Sadly for my friends, Nick and I did the stage manager thing and helped unload the road boxes, then broke off with our box and did our jobs and went home. We both felt bad for our friends, but my personal philosophy is that when you’re playing Poplar Bluff, MO and the show must go on, and you need a few more hands, that’s one thing. When opening a show in New York, there’s no reason stage managers should be needed to work as stage hands, without compensation and when their home is just a subway ride away. At any rate, I feel slightly less bad since I also had to come back at night for a late-night cueing session for The Spy. Due to the tightly packed schedule (if performances and film shoots manifested themselves as fish, this week’s would be sardines), there was no other time to do it but late tonight on load-in day, and as this is the New York premiere, we want to try to show it a little more love than it’s been given on our very Henry-heavy touring schedule. At least I had a chance to shower, change, and show up nicely dressed and clean like a normal person. I even have some simple jewelry on.

My first task upon coming back to Baruch at night was to set up our wireless network. As I have reported before in this post from December, Baruch’s theatre is in the third basement of their main building, surrounded by more concrete than any radio wave can get through, so cell service is a complete impossibility, and setting up a router in one room and expecting it to work three rooms down the hall is sketchy. When we teched The Spy here, it took me the better part of three days to get a reliable wireless signal to reach the theatre from the single ethernet cable in the production office. The solution I came up with was to bring in two of my own personal routers — an old UFO-shaped Airport Extreme, and an original Airport Express — and to place the Extreme on top of a filing cabinet in the production office, where the ethernet was, and to plug the Express in in the shop, which is just behind the stage. The signal from the Extreme went just far enough to reach the Express, which then passed it on just far enough to reach the tech tables in the house, but not quite enough for a steady signal in the booth. I may see what I can do about that this time, as I will be spending pretty much all my time in the booth.

This whole day has been deja vu. So many things have changed since we began our journey here, and yet there are other things that are exactly the same. When I came back at night, I found a couple of the tiny Spy columns, which we call “nubblies,” nestled against a diagonal wall, where six months ago another pile of short unused Spy columns sat when it was decided they weren’t needed (or something). This time they will be needed, but because we’re repping Henry and Spy, they are simply waiting there while Henry takes the stage. As soon as I glimpsed the greenroom through an open door I was instantly taken back to our final post-invited-dress notes session, on the eve of beginning the tour, and thought of all the people who were there who are no longer with the company. It’s been kind of a bittersweet return. But with all the drama along the way, the very fact that we are back here and performing both shows is an accomplishment in itself, so we can be proud of that.


Dear Apple

I call this: mac — Posted by KP @ 1:05 pm

Thank you for your recent emails suggesting that I get my mother an iPod Touch for Mother’s Day.  Were it not for your almost daily reminders, I would not actually have been aware that Mother’s Day was approaching, or that I needed to be planning gifts for both my parents (as I’ll be out of town by Father’s Day).  I’ve been quite busy on the road and thinking of days in terms of load ins and load outs, and completely oblivious to weekends, birthdays or national holidays.  Actually I’m turning 30 in a few days, and the most I can tell you about that date is that we have performances of The Spy at 2 and 8, with a seminar prior to the matinee.  So you can see how I greatly appreciate your reminders that I need to get a gift for my mom.

However, while my mother is a Mac user and might have an iPhone except that AT&T sucks at her house, I don’t believe that the iPod Touch is the ideal gift for her.  She’s not much of a music lover — I think she still has yet to spend all of an iTunes gift certificate I got for her several years ago — and I don’t imagine she’d enjoy watching videos or TV shows on such a small screen.  Personally, I don’t see the point of an iPod Touch for anyone who doesn’t intend to use it first as an iPod.  I would like someday to be able to get her an inexpensive Macbook, as she would truly use that, but this would be exceedingly more difficult if I now spent $300 on a gift she won’t really use.  And P.S. Mr. or Ms. Apple Marketing Person, I have a feeling you have a larger and more regular income than I do and can afford to drop $300 on a Mother’s Day gift — and then presumably match that gift a month later when Father’s Day rolls around.  Well good for you.  

In brief, I appreciate that you’re looking out for my mother, and for my own preparedness, but the next time you feel the need to send me 5 or more emails suggesting I buy a specific gift for someone, please pick something more appropriate.  Thanks!
Love, KP


April 24, 2009

My Newfound Love of OmniFocus

I call this: computers,mac,phones — Posted by KP @ 9:40 pm

Among my favorite types of computing applications has always been the organizer/checklist/outline kind of app. Back in my PDA days, the Palm apps Bonsai and ShadowPlan competed for my heart with each new update. When I got a Mac it came with a version of OmniOutliner which I loved a lot, but alas because it was one of those “came-with-the-Mac” things, as soon as I tried to install a new update it broke my fragile registered version, and I was pissed about it and refused to pay for it, so it was gone (I’m currently having that relationship with ComicLife).

The other problem I have with tasks in general is that the default Apple apps have a really stupid way of handling them, or at least stupid to me, growing up with Palm’s big four apps: Datebook, Contacts, To-Dos and Memo. Apple seems to hate to-dos and memos, so much so that after what seems like centuries in technological time, we may soon finally be seeing them sync between iCal, Mail and the iPhone. What, I ask, was the damn point of using them at all until now? First I stopped using tasks, because I could never get them to sync properly between iCal and my Treo. So I just wrote everything as a note. Now as an iPhone user my notes don’t sync with anything (???!!!!WTF??!!), and yet I still write everything as a note. Occasionally I will email that note to myself if I really need it in another format.

So of course I looked to the App Store to see what the third party developers had come up with that might serve as a basic tasks app. I honestly wanted a basic tasks app — a list and a bunch of giant checkboxes. I tried, I really did. But at the time the basic apps were either ugly, overpriced, or reported buggy and lacking basic features. Who knows, since there are no free trials. But the one that sounded the best to me was the most complicated of all — OmniFocus. At $20, it’s one of the more expensive apps in the App Store, but that was back in the day when an average game was $10, so it didn’t seem as expensive to me then as it might now when everything else is 99 cents.

Using OmniFocus brought some kind of order to my life. I use it sometimes for shopping lists, generally more of the long-term stuff, not like “what I need to get from Duane Reade in 3 hours,” which is usually a straight list. I write down things I want to work on with my computer, like reinstalling Parallels, which I forgot to do the last time I was home; and things I need to pack for the next leg of the tour, or what I hope to accomplish during my down time on the next load-in day. I also have a special project for fight call, which is really not what OmniFocus is designed to do, but I tried it anyway. With both Henry V and The Spy, we have a rather extensive fight call, running through distinct sections of fight choreography with different actors. There is a standard order which we have developed for that, and especially because we perform The Spy so infrequently, Nick and I needed a way to keep track of that order and make sure we’ve hit all the proper scenes. So I have a project for Fight Call and a sub-project for each show, and inside each are the actions representing each individual fight and the actors needed. I’m not sure exactly what app Nick uses for his list, but he has it on his Blackberry. This allows both of us to open our phones at the top of fight call and Nick runs the current fight while I can let the actors know who is up next and which scene it is, and make sure they have their weapons ready when it’s their turn. This is sort of a recurring checklist rather than a regular list of tasks, and the blending of the two types of lists is kind of weird to me, but I think OmniFocus can be made useful for things like this, or prop checklists, with a little work.

Anyway, I was very happy with my purchase. Of course it’s designed to sync with the desktop version of the app. That is, if you’re willing to pay $80(!!??!!WTF??!!) for it. It’s kind of all or nothing. There’s not a way to say “Gee I’d like to be able to see and edit my OmniFocus file on a desktop machine” without fully committing to using the software to run your life. I’m not sure exactly what happened to me, I think it was a conversation over drinks with a few of my colleagues about organization and task lists that led me to question if the fact that my technology has failed me, and is driving me closer and closer to having to etch my tasks on tablets, might someday result in me screwing something up. I’ve done OK with this seat-of-the-pants way I’ve been running my life and career with the occasional iCal appointment (with or without an alarm) to remind me to do things, or with a plain-text list in my iPhone’s notepad. But really, how far I have fallen since the days when there was a checklist for home and shopping, and work stuff was laid out in fancy outlines with multi-part projects and due dates and things!

So I decided — by way of writing an action in OmniFocus on my iPhone — that when I got a chance I would download the 14-day trial of OmniFocus desktop. I have been using it for about two days, and so far I am hooked. It’s got an even steeper learning curve than the iPhone version, but the larger screen in some ways makes the relationship between the different views and types of data clearer. I’ve also been watching some of the introductory videos on the website. After that, I discovered a great set of video podcasts called ScreenCastsOnline, which do in-depth screencasts of popular Mac apps. I’ve only watched a couple, but they have tons available that I want to see. They also offer podcast subscriptions in HD or iPhone-compatible sizes. I sense this will be a new favorite podcast of mine. You can get the links to either of these feeds on their website.

In all, I’ve been having fun trying to think of every little thing I need to accomplish and entering it into OmniFocus and categorizing it. I think I’ll be much more efficient using the desktop app since the majority of what I need to accomplish either requires me to be at my computer, or in an environment where my computer is out. This way, the iPhone app, which is a little more cumbersome to use due to the fact that it can’t run in the background, is only really needed when I’m out and about. More thoughts to come as this experiment goes on…

UPDATE: there is now an entire page of the site dedicated to OmniFocus tips!


April 23, 2009

My Week in Computing

I call this: computers,mac,phones — Posted by KP @ 10:17 pm

The biggest event of my week was yesterday when we visited the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania. As befitting a giant mall, of course there is an Apple Store. I decided to take my chances on a walk-in visit to the Genius Bar to see if anything could be done about my Macbook Pro battery.

A little background, because I don’t bitch about my battery nearly enough for you to have known it was going on: my computer is not quite two years old, and its second battery has withered and died. The first battery lasted pretty much a year exactly, before the battery life got to a point where it was really negating the purpose of having a laptop (somewhere around a half hour). I probably had a case for premature failure, but I just bought a new one, and was happy.

Cut to ten months later. While the battery life on the second one had not become quite so brief (maybe an hour to an hour and a half), the battery was all confused. Diagnostic programs reported the battery health at 40% after 90-something charge cycles, which based on my perusal of the Apple Support forums, is way worse than a lot of people who were able to get their batteries replaced. Worst of all, instead of simply dying quickly, it was misreporting its charge, so that the computer would show it maybe 30% full, and instead of showing a low battery warning or forcing the computer to sleep, it would completely shut off without warning, which is, um, terrible, in so many ways. It had just started doing this before the logic board failure, so when the computer died I thought maybe the battery was not to blame after all, but the problem continued after the repair.

While my computer is sadly without Apple Care, the battery is less than a year old, and thus has its own warranty. It’s clearly indicated on the receipt, which I made sure to have on my iPhone in PDF format before going to the store.

So I walked into the store and was able to get an appointment right away, and within 5 minutes was talking to the genius. He booted my computer from an old iPod nano which had some diagnostic software on it (as I tried to stifle my excitement at this idea of using my old nano as an 8GB flash drive), and after a few seconds, the screen popped up with this big red box with the word “BAD” in it in huge letters (artist’s rendering above). It was really comical. Well that settled that! I showed him the PDF including the warranty date, signed some papers and walked away with a brand new battery. Between the logic board and the battery I feel like I have a brand new Mac.

Right now I’m using my days off to be a good little girl and train the battery properly. It’s probably going to want to be shut down soon — oops, there goes the warning — so bye!


Foooooood

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:16 pm

With my last remaining bits of energy I will attempt to write a post. Tonight we took part in the traditional final crew meal for the Acting Company tour. The tour still has almost a month left to go, but we are losing Bart for the last leg because he’s starting another tour, so we are celebrating now. It has been tradition that at the end of the tour the crew goes out to a ridiculously expensive dinner.

We went to Barclay Prime, a fancy steakhouse in Philly. We’re not playing Philly, we’re just here for 3 days so we could have steak tonight. No, I’m not kidding. We also did a lot of shopping today. Half of us, including me, got new shoes at the Puma store.

All told, we spent over $1,300 on dinner, which lasted for three hours. The food was amazing, and the restaurant and service was very nice. I had the salmon, but also got to try kobe steak for the first time, as well as a madeira, which we ordered because there is a bottle of madeira which is a plot point in The Spy.

As soon as we got back to the bus, I fell into my bunk and have not moved since.


April 18, 2009

The Tour: Leg 3

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:42 pm

This is the leg of the tour that is going to kick all our asses.  It consists almost exclusively of one-nighters, few of them having days between performances.  We were lucky in a sense to lose our scheduled performance in New Brunswick, NJ, as that’s where we’d be right now, rather than enjoying our first day off.

Since I last blogged, we left Nashville at night and awoke on the campus of Mississippi State, where we performed The Spy.  After the show, we loaded out and went to bed and awoke on the campus of Auburn University in Alabama, where we performed Henry.  After the show, we loaded out and went to bed and awoke in the loading dock of the Opera House in Newberry, SC.  As sad as it is, we were fortunate at that point that our set did not fit at Newberry, so very little had to be loaded in or out.  Having not showered in close to four days, it was very nice to have a dedicated load-in day, and a day that ended early at that.  The following day, we had a one-hour Henry performance in the morning, which gave us a chance to try out some of our ideas for staging the Big Henry that night.  Without the set, a lot of our staging actually borrows a bit from the one-hour, such as having many of the entrances that happen on the upper gallery occur in the aisles.  The Opera House is a beautiful little theatre of about 400 seats, built in 1882, and beautifully restored to keep its historic feel.  We all decided it felt almost like a town meeting hall where the Declaration of Independence would have been read — and regretted that we weren’t performing The Spy there.  After the Baby Henry, we had a two-hour rehearsal (yuck — but everyone was in good spirits and ready to bang out a restaged 3-hour show), and we blew through the entire show, mostly a cue-to-cue of the beginnings and ends of scenes, and in less than two hours we were done.   Then we did the Big Henry, an 8:00 show, which everybody usually dreads because it means we don’t get done until 11.  But with the short load-out, we were actually closing the doors of the truck before midnight, and were able to join the cast at a local bar, drink, chat and play some pool together.  It’s a very, very rare thing that our schedules allow us to all socialize in the same place, so it was a fun end to the Newberry experience.

That was last night.  Then we went to bed on the bus in the parking lot of the hotel we had stayed at the night before (which incidentally was only the second night in a real bed we’ve been able to sleep in on this leg), and woke up to the familiar alarm clock of Bart yelling “GET THE F*** UP!!!” at 10AM.  We were in a parking lot at Ashville Airport in North Carolina, where we have decided to spend our day off (had we not lost the gig in New Bruswick, we’d have been rushing to get there instead).  We rented a minivan, which Bart drove like a race car, up the winding roads of the mountains to visit some waterfalls and other sights where the bus would not have easily been able to fit.  After that we checked into a crew room at a Holiday Inn Express, and at night went to eat at a Middle-Eastern restaurant where Joel’s brother used to be the chef.  It was really good.  Tonight the bus departs at 2:30AM, and we’ll wake up in University Park, PA, where we’ll have an honest-to-goodness day off, and then a full load in day at Penn State, followed by a two-show day of Henry.  And as is usually our custom, that two-show day means a 10AM student performance, followed by a 7:30 evening performance.  At least it’s not 8:00.

This week has been pretty rough on us, but we’re all aware that the tour is winding down, and soon we’ll be back performing in New York, and then after that we’re laid off for a week, and then have just one more week of touring the Northeast before we’re done.   I’m sad for the tour to be ending, but I will be very happy to be able to stay put in one place for a while, even if I’ll still be away from home.


April 13, 2009

iPhone Case Review: iSkin Solo FX

I call this: phones — Posted by KP @ 9:46 pm

I’m not a big fan of iPhone cases. I prefer to install the Zagg InvisibleShield, which is like a millimeter thin skin with a somewhat grippy surface, and be done with it. It adds almost no thickness to the phone, and is pretty much invisible.

However, my InvisibleShield has started to peel in a couple places, and that, combined with the fact that we have 5 iPhones on our crew bus, and all but mine are in cases of varying coolness, somehow got me researching iPhone cases again.

The only one I liked was the Solo from iSkin, which is pretty much only available online. There’s the regular Solo, and the Solo FX. I will let their graphic explain:

They are basically the same case, except the solo is a solid primary color, and the FX comes in more funky colors, with a circular pattern.  I went with the orange one.

The other difference you can’t see is in the screen protector it comes with. ¬†The regular solo is a plain clear protector. ¬†The FX comes with a mirrored screen protector. ¬†This inherently sounds like a bad idea to me, and when I received the case this was proven. ¬†The mirrored finish looks cool, and would be pretty handy as a mirror, but it creates a pinkish cast to the screen, and similar to a glossy screen on a computer, picks up reflections which make it harder to read the screen. ¬†Most of all, though, I don’t know why anyone would want a protector that affects the tint of the screen. ¬†I’ve never felt it necessary to use a screen protector on the iPhone due to its glass surface which is very resistant to everyday scratches, so trying the protector on was more of a curiosity.

As someone not a fan of cases in general, I really like this one. ¬†The material is somewhere halfway between a hard plastic case and the more rubbery ones. ¬†It’s kind of a jelly-like plastic, which is very flexible, but doesn’t have the extreme grippy powers that make other cases hard to get in and out of a pocket. ¬†It has enough tack to it that it easily keeps the phone still on a tabletop or in your hand.

All the buttons are covered by the case except the silencer switch, which has a cutout. ¬†There is also a cutout for the camera and headphone port. ¬†I’m not sure how it would do with more chunky headphone connectors than the one the iPhone comes with, but if you really had to I don’t think it would be hard to cut the hole out bigger. ¬†There is also a long cutout at the bottom for the dock connector and mic and speaker openings. ¬†The case does not fit in the standard Apple dock (like pretty much any case I’ve ever heard of, except for the InvisibleShield and similar products), which is a bit of a compromise for me, since I like having the dock at my bedside. ¬†I also found that my old-style iPod cable (with a larger connector and the two tabs you have to push in to disconnect the cable) is a teeny bit wider and took a little forcing to get through the gap in the case, so I recommend using a newer cable like the one that comes with the phone.

One other minor complaint is that the power button is a little tough to press through the case. ¬†Personally I find that button harder to press than it should be under any circumstances, so I don’t think it’s really the fault of the case. ¬†It just requires a firmer press than usual, and gives little feedback that you’ve actually depressed the button, until you see the screen react.

Overall I think the case looks cool. ¬†It’s semi-transparent, so you can still see the Apple logo on the back, if that matters to you. ¬†I’m sure it looks even better on a white iPhone where the color will really come out, but it adds some color and personalization to the black phone as well. ¬†It also does a cool thing when it’s under a strong light, it almost seems to glow, and the color becomes brighter.

Here are some pics of mine. I purposely left the flash off because it was making the color seem a little brighter than it is under normal light.

UPDATE: Because the iPhone 3GS has the same dimensions as the 3G, it works just as well.

Update – Jan 2010

Last time I was in the Apple Store (Mall of America), they had some of these in stock. Nice to see they’re being carried in stores now.


We Have a New Bus!

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 8:01 pm

Somewhat candid photo of us watching TV just now (taken with Photobooth on my computer):

Bart parked the bus at a hotel in Nashville and then went to sleep, so when we arrived we had to explore the bus on our own and figure out how everything works. It was pretty funny. I felt a little bit like lab rats placed in a new environment with hidden cameras to study how we adapt and discover how things work. I think we’ve done a pretty good job. We figured out how to tune in to the second satellite feed so the rear lounge TV can watch a separate channel from the front. Then our internet went down, and it seemed like the router needed to be restarted. On the old bus, the router sat on a countertop in the open. Well we looked all over the bus and couldn’t find it. In hindsight I suspect it might be in one of the luggage bays, but I stopped looking because we connected into it through a browser and looked up the default password for that model of router, which thankfully was unchanged. From there we could reboot it, and all was well.

Updated list of good things about this bus vs. bad things, as presented in a Harvard outline:

I. Good Things:
A. front lounge feels larger, has more windows
B. larger kitchen
C. nicer bathroom
D. ice chest in back lounge is easy to open
E. mirrored ceilings with accent lighting all throughout the bus
F. two fridges!
G. DVD players in bunks have softer edges so we won’t whack our heads as hard
H. pouches for our phones, wallets, etc. on walls of bunks

II. Bad Things:
A. bathroom door lock is broken
B. trash chute door is too small and has a weird ledge so things don’t easily fall down the chute
C. bunk mattresses seem thinner
D. no foot rest on the seat next to the driver

E. the power outlets in the bunks are at our feet, not near our heads
F. we hate the bunk curtains
1. they are too short, designed for when the bunks are stacked 3 high
a. light spills into bunk
b. lack of privacy due to 5″ gap at bottom of curtain
2. they have single snaps, not full-length velcro to keep them closed. The snaps don’t line up in 2-bunk tall position, so they are useless
3. curtains, which are unable to be snapped shut (see above) slide open with movement of the bus (update: we have taken to gaff-taping them shut from the inside)
G. we can’t find the router, which seems to always be giving us trouble (update: we found it, sealed behind a panel behind Bart’s head, which had to be screwed off to get to it. we have since run the power cord out so the router is now on the windowsill in the front lounge.)
H. door handle is acting like it’s going to break any minute

I. only one outlet at the front lounge table (!!!) which we have rectified with a power strip


Bag Review: Booq Python Pack

I call this: bag reviews,computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 4:13 pm

It all started under the truck. This is me, in St. Louis, being cute and acting like I’m pulling the truck. Oh, so funny! What a great Facebook picture! But this fun Facebook picture did not come without sacrifices. As we had just left the bus, I had my usual computer backpack on my back, and I specifically left it on for this picture, hoping it would sort of look like I had some kind of harness on helping me to pull the truck. Well what ended up happening was that all the grease under the trailer (which I assume is what makes it able to slide onto the tractor so easily) got all over my bag. I mean all over. If you have not crawled around under a truck, I don’t think you can conceive of this much grease. At first I thought my bag might be a total loss, but over the two or three days in St. Louis, I decided to clean it, with a variety of products suggested by my colleagues. I had some success with dishwashing detergent, but the bag was still stained and vaguely slimey. I bought a cute Jansport sling-style bag in the college bookstore to use until my bag either dried out or was given up on, and while I’m glad I have that bag for other uses, it was never big enough to replace my primary computer bag (which was a Victorinox laptop backpack that I can’t even find a picture of anymore.) My bag had these kind of cool rotatable straps that were connected to a flexible plastic plate inside the bag. The plate had started cracking, and I was growing concerned that one day the whole thing might crack off and the bag would become a useless pile of jello. So I was starting to keep my eyes open for a suitable replacement. You may know, I’m a bag whore — I’ll buy a bag for any specific purpose or situation, but my computer bag almost never satisfies me, because it must be able to do everything. So I stick with the same one for a long time, not because I’m being frugal or rational, but because I rarely find one I find acceptable for such an important job.

All this to say, this is not just any bag review of some bag I saw that I thought might be cool to try. This is the decision to replace the bag, the one that in a few cubic inches allows me to bring my stage managementy goodness wherever I go — safely, comfortably, and with the ability to fit and organize every item that I deem must be with my person at all times.

Needless to say, I did a lot of research. One major factor that immediately excluded a lot of bags is that I refuse to buy a bag with a dark or black interior. There is no good reason that the interior fabric of a bag should make it difficult to find things inside. There aren’t that many companies that take this seriously, and Booq stood out as one of the few that had an obvious understanding of the benefit of a brightly-colored interior.

Booq is a small company that seems to aim their products at Mac users without exactly excluding others. I’m guessing the reason for this is that their M.O. seems to be that they make really really expensive bags. Really nice, really thought out, really expensive bags. And the mentality of the average Mac user is probably more in line with that philosophy of “Yeah I spent a whole lot of money on it, but look, it’s awesome!”

They seem to have a lot of cool bags for different purposes. What I wanted most in mine was capacity and organization for lots of small accessories, while not being too huge for my small body. I found the Python Pack most to my liking. It’s designed for photographers, and comes with a matching camera case that has dividers which can be arranged to fit camera, lenses, and other accessories, and then the whole case slips into the bottom of the main compartment. The idea as best I can tell is that you have your laptop, accessories, memory cards, and camera gear, and then a little room for some extra stuff. I wasn’t so interested in the camera bag, but the size of the spacious compartment, and the many pockets and slots for storage appealed to me, so I gave it a try. Because it doesn’t seem to be carried in stores, I had to make something of a leap of faith. Thankfully, I ordered it from ebags.com, who I’ve always had good luck with, and who happen to have a generous return policy, so if I decided that this bag I paid $300 for, sight unseen, was not the perfect bag for all my needs, I could return it.

Due to my laptop dying on me, it’s taken me longer to finish this review than I had intended, which is good because I have had more time to truly live with the bag. I am still completely happy with my purchase, and this is definitely going to be my main bag for a while. Now on to the details.

List of Pockets and Compartments
I’m a little too happy to have Photoshop back, so I made a fancy list. Do you hate me? I hate me a little. Click for full size.


I didn’t get so fancy for this one. There’s just a pocket on each shoulder strap. Because the straps get bent around your body, I wouldn’t really advise putting anything in them that might not like getting bent. I usually keep gum in them. It would be good for an iPod smaller than an iPhone.

The right-side flap has a lot more little pockets than the other side. I keep things like my computer’s remote, a few thumb drives, my camera (not shown unfortunately because I was taking the picture with it), and some assorted cables. There are two pen slots, but neither is big enough for a chunky pen or pencil, and one of the slots is really only appropriate for a standard #2 pencil. As a stage manager and fan of mechanical pencils, this is pretty useless.


Basic exterior view. Henry V luggage tag not included!

PROS:

  • Very nice quality construction. The fabric, zippers, seams and pockets feel sturdy. They’re also kind of sexy. The spandex-like material on some of the pockets, which is also functional for its elastic effect, and the magnetic closure on the flaps inside the main compartment, are just pleasant to use.
  • Rubbery base, which wraps around onto the back. It not only protects the bag from whatever may be on the ground, it provides a little traction on the back to keep the bag from sliding around.
  • Orange interior — easy to find things. Unfortunately the large side pockets have a partially black interior, which sucks a lot, but I suppose due to the construction of the bag it probably couldn’t be avoided.
  • It has waist and sternum straps — and just as important, they are removable. I use the sternum strap a lot. I originally took it out on the road with the waist straps stowed in a pocket. But since I never used them, I now travel without them altogether.
  • Comfortable straps
  • CONS:

  • Overall most of the pockets are too tight. What I mean is there are tons of pockets, but it doesn’t feel like much thought went into what happens when there are contents in them. Suddenly they are very small and many of the little pockets overlap, so when one is filled, the one in front of it becomes almost impossible to get anything into. This is helped a bit by the fact that many of the pockets are made of a spandex-like material, so they expand when things are in them. The ones that are not made of this material have very little give.
  • The two slash pockets on the front are so thin, small, and strangely shaped, I’m not sure what is intended to go in them. Right now I have my business cards, a pack of gum, and my Advil/Tylenol box.
  • The camera case is too big to get in and out of the bag easily.
  • Camera Case
    The camera case is really too big for the bag. Even with all the interior pockets empty, the case has to be forced just to get through the opening of the bag. Also, it’s too tall to have it sitting in the bottom of the bag and still be able to get a binder upright above it (you can kind of fit one diagonally, but it’s awkward.) I try to travel with my script in my bag as little as possible, but to be unable to makes me uneasy. While experimenting with this, I discovered that my printer (Canon i70) does indeed fit sideways in the bag, just barely, which helps justify using the camera case in certain situations. Case, printer, script and laptop is never going to happen, though.

    I’m not a photographer, so I really had no use for the case, but I thought it might be fun to play with the provided partitions and use it to hold other goodies of an electronic nature. It holds most of the gaming peripherals I travel with on the road: mouse, USB hub, and gamepad, as well as my backup hard drive. I brought the case on this leg of the tour, and it was a stupid idea. It takes up way too much space for its usefulness. Keeping it in the bag on a daily basis is not a good use of space, and the important stuff, like my mouse and backup drive, live perfectly well in the pockets within the main compartment of the bag itself — pockets which ironically can’t be filled when the camera case is in the bag.

    At any rate, the case would definitely be useful to bring along in more casual situations where I would not need to carry a binder. For an overnight trip, for instance, there would be just enough room left in the bag for some clothes and other small items.
    Here’s how I set up the dividers for my HD and gaming stuff (that’s mouse on the left, HD top center, USB hub upper right, and gamepad at the bottom.)

    Below is a picture of the bag with the camera case in it, and my printer on top.

    Commuter Report:
    My first commute with the bag went surprisingly well. All I had in it was my laptop and the accessories I permanently carry (which is a lot of stuff). The bag was very well balanced, and as a result felt much lighter than it was. My morning train was pretty packed — I got a seat, but I was crammed in, so it was a good opportunity to check how well the bag can be contained on one’s lap without spilling over into someone else’s personal space. While it is much more rigid than a normal backpack, it can still be squeezed into a smaller footprint if need be. The sturdy handle on the top is also nice. It’s big, padded, and strong enough to really be used to drag the bag around with a lot of heavy stuff in it.

    World Traveler Report:
    The bag has been nice to fly with. Again I was nervous about the fact that it’s kind of rigid, but I have found it fits beneath the seats of every plane I’ve been on, including some tiny puddle jumpers. On a couple it has been really tight, though. It does fit in the overhead compartments well, too, if you can tame the straps from going everywhere. When I fly I tend to take the little tiny electronic crap out of my bag as much as possible so the TSA people don’t freak out and have to look at all of it. On my first flight with this bag, I didn’t really do that, and sure enough it had to be hand searched. But because there are enough pockets for everything to have its proper place, that didn’t take long.

    Work Report:
    I really love the fact that the bag naturally stands upright. It just makes getting into it easier. The rigidity is also nice since you don’t have to dig around, everything is exposed. I keep my laptop charging cable in the inner pocket on the flap, which makes it very heavy. When the bag is largely empty and the charger is still in the pocket, it does have a tendency to fall over, but that probably serves me right for packing it that way. The handle on the top is very sturdy for wrestling with the bag and dragging it under my desk, into the junk bunk on the bus, or anywhere I need it to go.

    In Conclusion:
    I have no regrets about buying this bag. It’s very expensive, but so far it’s been worth it, as I haven’t seen another bag that meets my needs so well.

    And finally, here’s a view of the bag carrying a theoretical load of two large scripts, my printer, and computer (for those who really care about the distinction, that was my 15″ Powerbook standing in for the picture, my Macbook Pro was busy doing something — it’s a little bit longer and thinner than the PB.) You can also see one of the padded inserts that comes with the bag, so that it can fit Macbooks from 13″ (where you would use both pads) to 15″ (with one pad) to 17″ (no pads needed).

    You can see in some of the other pictures that I have an inner sleeve in the laptop slot. That is one I just bought, also made by Booq, although it’s not particularly marketed as an accessory for this bag. It’s their Taipan Skin sleeve, which comes in a couple colors. The black one pretty much matches this bag. It has three little rubbery stripes sewn on it, which give it a little more protection and grip. The zipper wraps around two sides of the bag, so you can take the computer out horizontally or vertically. There are also two zippers. I have the medium model, designed for the 15″ MacbookPro. If you’re curious, Booq makes it clear that it fits both current (unibody) and previous-gen MBPs. Mine is previous-gen, and the fit is very snug, but not too snug. I don’t have a current-gen model to test it with, so I can’t say for sure how it would fit, but I’d guess it wouldn’t be swimming in it. It’s a little tight to just slip the computer in when it’s inside the laptop slot in the bag, but I like traveling with a sleeve because it allows me to carry the laptop around by itself with some protection, when it’s overkill to take my whole bag, such as running into the theatre for a minute from the bus, or going up to the booth during a show.


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