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May 31, 2009

On the Move Again

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:22 am

Well that was a nice little unpaid vacation. Just as I was about to forget why I have so much free time, and why I couldn’t pay off my whole credit card bill last night, it’s time to hit the road (or in this case, the rails) once more.

I think everyone on this train had the same idea I did — pay for business class and it won’t be crowded! Well that failed. It’s 9AM on a Sunday, I have no idea why this car is so packed. I do this every year and there are usually like 7 people in the whole car. Of course I sometimes take the ungodly early train at like 7AM. Since there is only one business class car, and a whole bunch of coach cars, I have my suspicions that I could have gotten a better seat in coach.

If I haven’t mentioned it, this summer at the Reagle Players brings us a full season of Jerry Herman: Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. Despite my furor that they still haven’t done South Pacific in the last 20 years, I am determined to enjoy myself.


May 30, 2009

Razer Mamba Review

I call this: computers,gaming,pc — Posted by KP @ 3:50 pm

side1My birthday present to myself was the brand new Razer Mamba wireless mouse. ¬†How new? ¬†Well actually I don’t know, because last I heard it was supposed to come out on May 18, and then on like May 3rd I went to the website to see about preordering it, and there it was, “in stock.” ¬†I feel like Razer sends me a promotional email on pretty much a daily basis about some headphones or keyboard or some crap, and yet they never actually bothered to advertise via email or on the front page of their website that pretty much their biggest product release ever was now available for purchase? ¬†Razer mice aren’t always carried in stores, but I did find it on Amazon, which is where I purchased it, since I have an Amazon credit card and some gift certificates to spend on it.

First of all it should be said that the mouse costs $129. ¬†If you can’t see the value of spending that much on a mouse, you can stop reading now if you like, or continue reading for fun if you want, but I understand there are only a certain percentage of people for whom this product is intended. ¬†Those are probably the same people who have a keyboard worth $129, a joystick worth $129, and a set of rudder pedals worth $129. ¬†At that point, why should the mouse — the primary way to interact with most games — be given any less attention?

The big deal about this mouse is that it’s the first time that Razer has released a wireless mouse. ¬†Being the dedicated gaming hardware company that they are, they didn’t believe any wireless mouse could stand up to the needs of serious gaming, so they simply chose not to make one until they thought they could do it right. ¬†So it was with much fanfare that they announced some months back that they thought they had finally come up with something worth doing.

Despite the enormous potential for it to be a disaster, I decided that my lifestyle which will have kept me away from all the comforts of home gaming (big monitor, joystick, pedals, TrackIR, surround sound) for basically a full year deserves to be treated to the finest of the one peripheral I actually get to bring with me — the mouse. ¬†My current mouse of choice was the Razer Deathadder, which is a wired mouse in basically the same shape as the Mamba. ¬†In addition to being wireless, the Mamba also offers two additional buttons, placed kind of strangely in the upper-left corner of the left mouse button. ¬†They’re primarily intended to adjust sensitivity on the fly, but can be configured for anything.

One of the coolest things about the Mamba is that it can convert pretty much instantly from wireless to wired mode and back. ¬†The transmitter has a dock built into it that the mouse can rest on when it’s not being used, and it charges over USB. ¬† If you’re using the mouse and start to run low on the battery, or simply want the reliable performance of a wired mouse, you can pop the cable out of the transmitter and plug it directly into the mouse, and voila! you have a wired mouse. ¬†The delay is only the time it takes for Windows to recognize a mouse being unplugged and then plugged in. ¬†I have found that sometimes it seems to take a little longer for the connection to become stable when switching to wireless, but it’s still about 30 seconds. ¬†I wouldn’t recommend doing it in the middle of a firefight, but it’s easy to do during a quick break from action.

Here are a couple shots that illustrate how the cable is removed:
topwire1

topwireless1
On the underside of the mouse are a few buttons. The latch on the upper-right is the release for the USB cable. On the lower right is the pairing button. I don’t find it generally necessary, but there’s one on the mouse, and one on the transmitter — I guess for when they get confused, or perhaps on a new install. And on the left side is the power switch for the mouse — it’s turned on for wireless mode, and off when charging or when wired.
bottomwire1bottomwireless1

The two little gold dots are the charging connectors.  The mouse docks on the transmitter, kind of like a pedestal, like so:

charging1Of course if you’d rather play than stare at your beautiful mouse, you can just use it wired, and it will charge as you continue playing.

Mamba vs. Deathadder
As you can see in the photos, they are really pretty much the same size. The changes are very subtle, and from what I can tell, all seem to be good adjustments.
img_2761img_2763

I’ve found the adjustment from the Deathadder to be pretty seamless. ¬†The Mamba is a bit heavier because of the battery, but the teflon feet are much smoother, so I don’t notice the weight. ¬†I’m also not the kind of gamer who really has to lift the mouse that often, so it’s not a big thing for me. ¬†Another small difference is in the area of the side buttons. ¬†The buttons themselves have a thin layer of rubber on them, which feels nice, and there is a more generous rubber area below the buttons, which makes it a nice comfortable place to rest your thumb when you don’t want to hit the buttons accidentally. ¬†There’s also a very slight lip towards the back of the mouse which gives a little more grip and control in the thumb area, especially if you need to lift the mouse a lot. ¬†The cord, should you choose to use it, is woven, not rubber like the Deathadder. ¬†A lot of people prefer that because it moves a little more freely.

Aesthetics
Any gaming gear strives to be both functional and sexy. ¬†The Mamba has the standard blue LED style going. ¬†Some people think blue is too clich√©, but I don’t mind since it happens to match the lighting on my keyboard and joystick. ¬†The Mamba has less lighting than the Deathadder — just two narrow strips of blue on the mousewheel. ¬†However, the charger/transmitter has blue lighting on the bottom, and around the button on the front of it.

Another good thing is that like most of Razer’s mice, the settings are saved on the mouse itself so when you plug it in on another computer your keymapping and sensitivity settings travel with you. ¬†I believe that requires the drivers to be installed on each machine. ¬†That’s fine with me, since I primarily need it when switching between my home computer and laptop, it’s nice to know that any changes I make to the settings will be up to date when I switch machines.

Rant On
One thing I absolutely hate about Razer is their driver software. ¬†They packaged this thing like it came right out of the dark side of Cupertino (the packaging would take up a post more complex than this one — feel free to google, I’m sure you’ll find lots of unboxing videos and photos). ¬†I swear, I have never seen a product packaged this well from Apple. ¬†And yet their software is absolute crap. ¬†Look at this mess:

mambaNot only is it ugly, I don’t know what shenanigans they have to do to make the edges do that, but whatever it is is totally non-standard and refuses to pop up when I alt-tab out of a game. ¬†Like it can’t overlay against a 3D game or something. ¬†If they had just made it a regular damn window it would be fine! ¬† There’s a lot of shenanigans going on in their software. ¬†Like why is it when I plug in my Deathadder on my Mac, before choosing an OS, it goes backwards? The X axis is reversed!¬†See most fancy mice, when you plug them in to an unknown computer, the computer’s like, “Oh, that’s a mouse.” ¬†And then you install the driver and the computer’s like, “Wow, that’s a really fancy mouse!” ¬†Well with most Razer mice I’ve owned, you plug it in, and the computer’s like “WTF is that?” ¬†And then it does the hardware detection thing, and slowly gets the idea, and the mouse starts working, and then you install the drivers and it starts working well. ¬† But right out of the box, it’s not actually a mouse. ¬†And that pisses me off. ¬†Every time they release a new product I hope they’ll change all this crap and stop acting like, “Hey look at this cool interface we coded in our dorm room — it has jagged edges,” and act like the professional purveyors of pwnage they otherwise present themselves to be. ¬†Whoever designed the packaging for the Mamba needs to bitchslap whoever designs their GUI, and get them on the same page. ¬†Rant off.

Summary
Overall I’m very happy with it. It hasn’t changed my life, but even as a wired mouse it’s a step up from the Deathadder. When gaming I like to have the mouse directly in front of the keyboard, but the wire usually gets in the way when I need to type. This is the biggest change I’ve noticed in usability from being wireless –I only need to worry about where the mouse is, not what the cord is dragging over.


Look – It’s a Game You Can Carry in Your Pocket!

I call this: gaming,phones — Posted by KP @ 12:27 pm

games
While visiting my parents last week, I ran across this contraption that was rather special to me in my childhood. On one side, it has a chess board with little holes, and these two drawers slide out and there are little teeny tiny chess pieces you can stick in the holes. On the back, there is a circular maze-like game where you have three silver balls and have to tilt the board so that all three balls wind up in the center of the maze. I thought this multi-purpose portable gaming device was the coolest thing in the ’80s.

It was nice to see it again, and I had it just sitting on the table in front of me for a while, and then at some point put my phone down on the table. Eventually I went to get my phone and found these two devices sitting side-by-side. See, 20 years ago, the device on the right was sooo cool, cause it was portable (although you’d need some pretty big pockets!), and you could play two games!


May 29, 2009

Interesting Statistic

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 8:53 pm

I’m cleaning up and reorganizing all my work files and folders on my computer. After a six-month job it’s nice to be able to put some things away.

One interesting factoid: total number of emails from the Acting Company tour (not including those thrown out immediately because they consisted of the word “Thanks!” or similar sentiment):
1,781

That sounds about right, I guess.


Crazy Pre-Pro Day!!

I call this: mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:33 pm

Well it would seem to be “that day” in the preproduction week for Hello, Dolly! at the Reagle Players. We start rehearsal in four days, and this seems to be the day it’s all coming together. It’s a really good thing I like to multitask. It’s like a puzzle. Some pieces can’t be put together until other ones are complete, and then all of a sudden a bunch of pieces start getting fit together and all of a sudden the things that can be completed start growing exponentially, and I’m racing to keep up before new ones come in.

I’ve been getting several emails per minute for the last few hours, mostly due to the fact that I just sent out an email blast to our 49-person cast with a bunch of questions. As each one comes in, I have to take the information out of it, put it where it goes, and get the email out of my inbox and into my Reagle storage folder before another one comes in.

While this has been going on, I’ve been making up the schedule for Week 1 based on a meeting the director and choreographer had earlier this afternoon (which in turn is based on my recommended schedule for the rehearsal process in general). That’s done, has been proofed by the director, but not the choreographer. Once she gets back to me, it will go out to the cast, who are dying to see it.

I also have a contact sheet that needs some details filled in, but is probably about 90% done, and waiting on people to get back to me. My next project is to finish the production calendar (which is in a very rough draft at the moment, only because I drew it up to show the director what the usual structure of the process is). I’d really like to be able to send that to the cast tonight with the week’s schedule.

Then I have to do all the things for me — like laundry and packing and cleaning my apartment.

What I’m Using

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the “Spaces” feature of Mac OS X Leopard. What it is, in brief, is a way to have several different setups of windows arranged on your desktop that you can flip between, instead of having 10 random windows from a bunch of apps all piling up on top of each other. I don’t generally bother with it, as I tend to find it more trouble than it’s worth. But as I’ve been having one of those days, that’s exactly what my desktop was starting to look like, and I needed some organization.

The overall project I had going on (and is still going on) was that I sent out an email to the 49 people in the cast asking them to proof their information on the contact sheet and tell me if they have any conflicts. When they respond, I need the contact sheet open, and the document where I’m tracking their conflicts (and highlighting their names in green if they have confirmed their contact info is correct). Because some of them responded right away and others might not get back to me for hours, I need this stuff open and arranged in a way where I can use it easily, but also not getting in the way of me using other apps, or other documents in the same apps. So I shoved those two documents over to my #2 space. When an email comes in pertaining to that, I see it in Mail, which is in my main #1 space, then I can hit ctl-rightarrow to swing over to the #2 space, where I have the two documents ready to receive changes. The 2nd space looks like this:
spaces1
The other major app I’m using to keep track of things is OmniFocus, which is a task manager, though that’s a bit of an understatement. For more on that, check out my section on it in the Stage Mgr Tools area of the site (it’s under iPhone and Mac apps). I’ve been checking off a lot of tasks, but also adding a lot of new ones. I have one in progress called “confirm production meeting” which has sub-tasks with the names of all the people I invited. As each one RSVPs I check their name off. When all of them are gone I’ll be able to confirm the meeting is on. I have one major one I’m waiting on — the lighting designer — which is kind of a dealbreaker if he can’t make it. So that is always a big ball of stress over my head when trying to schedule a meeting.

I have a lot of pending tasks I have to do (like 33 of them) cause all of the individual things I have to pack just hit the “due soon” stage, so I’m going to try to cut down on some of those now.

This is also the time to run frequent Time Machine backups, now that I actually have a ton of paperwork that wasn’t done yesterday when I last backed up. These next couple days will probably see a lot more backups than my normal schedule of every 2 days (which are also managed with recurring tasks in OmniFocus).


May 26, 2009

Help Actors’ Equity Get a Stamp!

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:24 pm

aeaIn 2013 Actors’ Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers, will turn 100 years old. They are campaigning to get a commemorative stamp made to celebrate that occasion. Naturally there are a lot of people who want stamps made for themselves, so to go with their proposal they need to show that there’s interest in it. They have put a petition online to be signed by anybody who supports the idea of this stamp. They are trying to get 10,000 signatures. Now there are 40,000 people in the union, so theoretically that shouldn’t be too hard, but as someone with a wealth of experience at asking actors to submit things on time, I think they could use some help from non-members, too! And I’m sure the more names they have increases their odds of being selected. You don’t have to be an Equity member to sign it, and it’s super-easy — put in your name and hit submit!

If you’d like to show your support, you can sign the petition here.


May 23, 2009

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 5:53 pm

firstpage

Since I created this blog, I have long dreamed of having a full website where people would go for stage management tips, tricks, stories and downloads. I was held back only by my complete inability to properly design web pages.

A while back I purchased Macheist Bundle 3, which includes lots of fun software. One of the more popular apps is Espresso, which is a new app for web developers. While on tour I started feeling a little bit inadequate as a geek because I didn’t know any modern programming languages. So since I have this random free copy of Espresso, I thought I’d take some time to start out small and work my way through hand-coding websites in HTML, CSS, and onward from there. With nothing but free time between the tour and the Reagle season, in just a few days I had progressed through HTML to basic and intermediate CSS, and I decided to go ahead and buy the domain I’ve had my eye on for over two years, thegobutton.net (thegobutton.com, unfortunately, was taken, otherwise I probably would have bought it when I started this blog).

Along with that I purchased a hosting plan from godaddy.com, and uploaded the little site I developed onto it, and began expanding it. As of this writing, I have been working on this little project for three days, and I am ready to announce it on the blog. It’s very much a work in progress, there are a lot of placeholders, but if you’re curious to see what I’m working on, you can browse around, and there’s a forum that’s up and running, too (what I need a forum for at this point, I don’t know, but I like forums).

This blog will eventually move over there, as soon as I figure out exactly how to do that. In all likelihood I will install WordPress and transfer all the posts over.

And I promise, the banner will calm down. I needed to design a dummy one to get started, I had new Photoshop filters to play with, and things just kind of went from there.


End of Tour

I call this: On the Road Again — Posted by KP @ 12:33 pm

Well the end of the tour has come. I’m sorry I didn’t have any posting to do during the 6 days of our final leg. Our internet problems continued and worsened, to the point that there really wasn’t any convenient time to sit and relax with internet access that might have lent itself to blogging. On top of that, there wasn’t really anything spectacular to blog about. It was kind of same-old-same-old. We came, we saw, we did shows. We finally got to perform The Spy a bit, between the end of the New York run and the final leg, we actually did more Spy than Henry. It finally started to evolve into something as natural as it had been when we rehearsed it in New York way back in November/December. It was kind of sad to see it finally coming together too late, and to get a hint of the potential it might have had if not for all the misfortunes that befell it (and the fact that most of America’s presenters apparently had no interest in booking it).

Overall the tour turned out pretty well after its rough start. There’s a lot I think we can do better next year if we build on what we learned this year, and I hope to be a part of that. Romeo and Juliet and a workshop of a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland are on the agenda for next season.

I think this concludes the Tour Mini-Blog, I hope you had fun reading of my adventures this season. I’d like to give one final plug to my Flickr photostream, over yonder on the right sidebar. It contains almost daily photos from life on the road, along with some pretty detailed descriptions, and it covers some aspects of the tour I didn’t blog about (and certainly was too lazy to post photos of in the blog).


May 10, 2009

My Week “Off”

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:11 pm

I feel like I hit a milestone in my career this weekend. It’s the first time I’ve been asked to call a show in performance without any rehearsal, based on having called a different production of the same show.  

Last summer you may recall I was PSM for a production of No, No Nanette starring Donna McKechnie. If not you can read about it in the August 2008 archives. Anyway this week we are laid off from The Acting Company, and my friend Brian is PSM for a production of Nanette for Amas, who in addition to producing Off-Broadway, also run a program for high school kids where they get to learn about theatre and at the end of the school year put on a full-length musical with a creative team and tech staff of working professionals. I have worked with Amas a lot, and worked as ASM on one of these shows a few years back.  So due to having the week off, I decided to support my friends and see what the kids were doing with Nanette.

Brian’s assistant couldn’t make a few hours of tech on Thursday, so I agreed to stop by to be a warm stage managerial body, and then stayed to watch the final dress. Which is a good thing. After the run, Brian found out the next night his other show, which his sub would be calling for the first time, would be welcoming the Times critic.  How could Brian call the show for the Times when he was supposed to be calling opening night of Nanette at the same time?  Unless of course there was someone who already had a working knowledge of calling Nanette and preferably had at least seen this production. The next morning at 9AM I got the confirmation that they wanted me to call. I finished reading through the script about ten minutes prior to the show, then listened to a couple bits of the original cast recording to remind myself of a couple bumps I didn’t remember and the end of the overture.

The show went fine and I didn’t have any major regrets upon actually seeing what the cues do. I came upon a couple funny situations due to the fact that the show was slightly cut down.  I had a restore cue and wasn’t sure if the tag at the end of the number was kept or if they would go straight on.  So I took the cue to be safe, and sure enough they did the tag.  A few bars before the end of “Hubby Gone Blues” I couldn’t quite tell from the markings if the entire boys’ section was cut or if the last bit was in, which greatly affected where the final cue went. So I had to ask on headset, “um, strange question, but do the boys come in in this number?” “No.” “Ok, so this is the end right here then.” “Yes.”  It was a fun time.


May 2, 2009

Turning 30

I call this: gaming,random — Posted by KP @ 10:49 am

You know when you’re playing an RPG, where you have to complete some side tasks before moving past a certain point in the game, or not make any mistakes, or else you’ll never be able to achieve the good ending? And once you’ve failed to do that, you might not even be halfway through the game, but from then on you know the best you’re going to get is the generic ending. And maybe you bother playing the rest of the game out, but you’re not really enjoying it, because you screwed it up and no matter what you do you can’t get to the result you want. That’s how I feel about turning 30.