December 24, 2009

The Deadliest Catch

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

“What Happened to Your Laptop?”

Entertain conjecture of a time in which I’m on the road with Henry V. We have just concluded our very successful run in New York, and have set out on the next leg of the tour. When our story begins, we’re in Nashville. We have arrived there the day before, after a layover in DC, to board our buses to go the rest of the way to our first performance at Mississippi State. No one understands how it could possibly have been cheaper or more efficient to do it this way, but nevertheless that’s why we were in Nashville.

After we spent the night for (as far as we can tell) no particular reason in a Nashville hotel, the cast departed in the afternoon and the crew was given the entire day to hang out in Nashville while our driver slept, as we would be leaving around midnight and sleeping on the ride down.

It wasn’t all that exciting, as the crew had actually been to Nashville earlier in the tour, because our bus’ water pump was broken and we had an extra day between shows, so we took a detour. While the bus was being repaired we ate ribs, listened to the live bands on Broadway, bought cowboy boots, ate way too much, and did all the things one does in Nashville. So for our second visit, we had lunch at a nice outdoor place we had visited the first time, researched potential sushi restaurants for dinner, and otherwise just kind of hung out on the bus watching TV.

Somewhere in the course of watching TV is where things get interesting.

Now I must introduce Daphne. Daphne was our props supervisor. We must have been watching the Discovery Channel, and it was at this point that Daphne realized that the season premiere of Deadliest Catch was coming up, and that we would be in the middle of our first performance in Mississippi while it was airing. My assistant Nick, who you have already met, was also disturbed when this was brought to his attention. Apparently Nick and Daphne really like Deadliest Catch.

It was something of an urban legend that the bus had a DVR. The satellite remote had buttons that referred to it, but when we tried to program the show to record, it became obvious that we were missing something that would allow that to happen, as it could be programmed, but nothing would happen. This was also one of our first experiences with our new bus, which we would later come to realize sucked in every imaginable way. Maybe the original bus had a working DVR, but this one didn’t appear to be fully equipped.

This minor setback was not going to dissuade us, however. We would just have to go a little low-tech. The bus had a VCR, we reasoned. All we have to do is find a place that sells VHS tapes and we can record it the old-fashioned way.

On our way to our sushi dinner, we passed a drug store. Daphne went in, and a few minutes later happily emerged with a set of three VHS tapes.

When we got back to the bus, we naturally set about doing a test run and trying to record a show. What we found was that the VCR apparently could play tapes, but the satellite connection didn’t pass through it, so it couldn’t record anything. This was very annoying! But given that all these electronics are mounted behind panels and on opposite sides of the lounge from each other, we didn’t feel comfortable tearing the whole bus apart to get at the wiring. We accepted defeat, and the VHS tapes were stacked on the kitchen counter.

Fast-forward a few days. My laptop was having battery issues, so after using it in the front lounge after the show, I set it down on the couch where I had been sitting, and left it to charge overnight.

It’s now the middle of the night. All of the crew are asleep in their beds. We encounter some bumpy and/or hilly roads. At some point in the night, a clattering is heard from the kitchen. This isn’t really unusual. Somebody’s coffee container or soda bottle is usually falling off the counter in the night. I, having the bunk on the other side of the kitchen wall, remember hearing this and thinking that it didn’t sound like anything breakable or containing liquid, so I didn’t even really wake up.

In the morning I was alarmed to find my laptop had 3 black smudges on it. I wasn’t concerned about smudges but at first I couldn’t tell if they were smudges or dents. I frantically rubbed on them, and thankfully the black marks came off. Two of them left no sign, but the largest of them revealed a dent in the aluminum cover of the laptop! I was totally confused about how this had happened, until we started to look at the forensic evidence. On the couch, laying casually, were the three VHS tapes. They looked like they had just been tossed there from when we were trying to get the VCR to work, until someone remembered that they had been stacked on the kitchen counter, and most of us had heard the crash from the kitchen during the night. So I went back to the tapes, and sure enough, each of them had a corner bashed in, where their black plastic had been worn off.

And that solved the mystery of how Daphne and Nick’s love for The Deadliest Catch dented my laptop.

The afterword to this story is that whenever I open my laptop I am reminded of Daphne and Nick, and how badly they wanted to see The Deadliest Catch. They never did get to see that episode. I’m not sure if they’ve seen it in reruns yet. I still have never seen an episode, but I am very curious to see what’s so special to have created such a fervor on our bus. And that’s the story of what happened to my laptop.

Overdue Back-to-Tour Shopping Post

I call this: computers,mac,On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:56 pm

I ordered a lot of supplies before going on the road. Here’s a run-down.

Business Cards

With this tour I’m switching to using my @headsetchatter.com email address for business and personal use. Naturally I needed new cards. I was going to do new cards anyway because my old ones were designed to match the Go Button site and logo, and I wanted to use the HeadsetChatter site colors and logo as a kind of personal branding.

Once again I ordered the premium business cards from VistaPrint, which are more expensive because they have full graphic images on front and back, and these even more so because I added a foil effect, which looks really cool.

Composite-Toed Shoes

I bought a pair of Sketchers steel-toed shoes about five years ago. They’re sneaker-like, but very heavy and uncomfortable. So heavy that sometimes if I wear them too much they start to hurt my leg muscles in uncomfortable ways because I’m not used to having to work so hard to pick my feet up. I only wear them in very rare cases, where I’m working in a theatre while the set is really still under construction.

Last year on tour, our props supervisor, Daphne, was the only one of the three of us who loaded the nose of the truck who wore safety shoes, so she was the designated person who would kick the scenery into places where it didn’t want to go. On one of our long nights in the truck, I asked her how she liked her shoes, and expressed how I never wore mine because they were so heavy. She informed me that her shoes aren’t steel, and aren’t heavy. At some point, hopefully back on the bus, and not on the truck, she took one off and let me see how light they are. At that point I decided it was something to look into if I returned.

The pair I found are made by Converse, and are a little heavier than Daphne’s, but I think most of the weight is in the heavy rubber sole, not from the toe cap. I wear very lightweight Puma running shoes normally, so the contrast is especially large for me when I switch to the boots. They have an air bubble in the heel, which also helps to make them feel more supportive and sneaker-like. The site where I got them, Steel-Toe-Shoes.com, had some options that really look just like regular sneakers, but I decided to play it safe and go with black, in case I need to wear them for performances. My philosophy about that is that if I am at the stage of production where I need to wear black, and still need to wear safety shoes, something is really wrong. But it’s always good to be safe.
When I had to reduce weight and bulk from my suitcase, they were the obvious thing to cut, but I held onto them, and I’m so glad. As it turns out, I have worn them almost every day. Not because things have been getting dropped on my feet, but because of the snow. Pumas, it turns out, do not make good snow shoes. These are relatively heavy, and my feet get kind of clammy compared to the breathable sneakers I tend to wear, but in the snow the warmth is very welcome, and the thick materials and high-top design gives me a little more confidence about slipping on the ice.

Work Gloves

Last year I did load outs with my leather winter gloves. First of all, it roughed up my gloves pretty bad. And then when it was like 70 degrees, it was really lame to be wearing winter gloves. So then us ladies on the tour all bought weightlifting gloves, because they were made small enough for us and padded, but offered no finger protection. This year I vowed to find serious work gloves that fit properly.

Apparently in order to find serious work gloves for women you have to be willing to buy things marketed as “gardening gloves,” but these gloves by Youngstown Glove Co. are very comfortable, and in my limited amount of frozen-truck-work, they felt great.

Hard Drive Upgrade

Maybe surprisingly, this is the only computer upgrade. I have been planning this since I bought my Macbook Pro two and a half years ago. For various reasons of time, place and money, I’ve put it off, but this was the time.

I bought a 320GB 7,200rpm drive from Western Digital which will is my new internal drive. I haven’t noticed a significant decrease in battery life, although I do hear the fans running a lot more, and the drive itself sometimes vibrates so much at random times that when I have my phone next to the computer, I think my phone is ringing.

I also got a 500GB 5,400rpm drive from Fujitsu (my new secondary Brand I Trust since I can’t believe how well the original drive in the MBP did). This will be my external Time Machine backup drive. As is my style, it’s a 2.5″ laptop drive so that it also serves as an emergency replacement should my internal drive go kaput.


I ordered these from Newegg, which is pretty much the most reliable seller of anything on all the web, so far as I’m concerned. However, I also wanted two drive enclosures to put the outgoing 160GB drives in, and none of the ones on Newegg filled me with confidence or floated my boat. For that it was back to Other World Computing (macsales.com), who sell the enclosure I currently use and love, and will continue to use.

I was looking for one or two cheaper USB enclosures just to have around, so I wouldn’t have to swap out to use my spare drives. The one I found was so nice, small and so cheap ($20) that I bought two. I ended up bringing one of the old drives on the road with a few seasons of The West Wing and The X-Files on them for entertainment. Just a word about these: they look cool, they match the Mac product line, but they are plastic, not aluminum. They’re $20, and there’s a reason they’re $20. But for a cheap enclosure, they do the job and look good doing it.


The reasoning behind this upgrade is that I’ve always wanted a faster internal drive, and I’ve got 4 frickin gigs of RAM and rarely feel it, and I was sure that the drive speed is the bottleneck. I’m not a big one for benchmarks, but I will say that since the upgrade I have yet to stare at the spinning beachball of death and wonder what the hell is taking so long.

Also I needed a larger Time Machine drive. The reason both my drives were 160GB is because I bought the backup drive before Time Machine existed, and I was doing exact clones for backup. Naturally if you’re just cloning your drive, you don’t need a bigger drive than the one you’re backing up.

Before the upgrade my Time Machine backups went back about four months. In October I discovered a couple songs missing from my iTunes library. I know I listened to them over the summer, but my backups only went back to July and they weren’t there. I have no idea where they went or why, but they’ve been gone long enough to have outdone the mighty Time Machine. This event had nothing to do with my decision, but it’s a very good illustration of why your Time Machine drive should be as big as possible.

Winter Coat

Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.17.48 PMWhat I wanted for Christmas from my family was a new winter coat to get me through December and January in Minneapolis. It had to be super-warm for the weather there, and yet light and flexible enough that I could do load-outs wearing it if the weather was really bad. At my mom’s suggestion, I looked at the offerings from Eddie Bauer, and decided on this one. It’s awesome. I have yet to really be cold in any part of my body covered by the coat.