May 31, 2010

Because It’s MY Database

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:03 pm

Still doing paperwork. Now I’m working on the weekly schedule. One of the hardest things in the first week is learning people’s names. This is like 10 times harder in preproduction because you don’t even have faces and performances to associate with who is playing what role.

So I’m going through the schedule trying to fill in who is called for what scenes, and I’ve decided in this case it’s easiest to go with actors’ last names rather than characters. Only problem is, I get to the first one and I know it’s Little Red and the Wolf, but I’m drawing a total blank on both their names. So I took 15 minutes and decided to solve this problem once and for all by adding a feature to the database.

I could have given it a very professional name, such as “Name / Role Cheat Sheet” or something like that. But this is my database, and until such time as it becomes someone else’s database, this particular feature is going to be called “ZOMG HALP!!!” because that’s what I’m thinking when I need it. Yeah, I do think like a lolcat sometimes. What of it?

I have placed a big red ZOMG HALP!!! button on the main page, which pops up this screen in a little window, that can then be tucked off in a corner where it’s always visible. It can display all the contacts associated with the show, but I’ve added a button which narrows it down to just the cast, since that’s the most common use. Here it’s showing the cast in the order I added them to the DB, which is an approximate of order-of-importance list, which I decided to leave as-is because it might be handy. It can also be sorted alphabetically by any of the fields which would be more useful at other times.

It All Seems So Simple

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:07 pm

Today is my last day of preproduction before beginning rehearsal for Into the Woods at The Reagle Players. I’ve settled into my apartment, and have parked with my laptop in my favorite spot on the couch next to the living room window, where I go when I want to pretend that I work in a job that lets me see windows, as I listen to the cast recording playing in the background.

I just finished entering everything into my event list, which is kind of a master table where the database tracks every rehearsal and performance. It’s from this that it knows that something is performance #6, for instance. It also allows it to fill in certain details automatically when I create a report, based on the current date. On tour it’s more interesting, because based on the date it knows the performance time(s), type of performance, what city we’re in, the name of the theatre and capacity.

Anyway, one side effect of this table is that it very concisely summarizes everything from first rehearsal to closing. And this is what it looks like for Into the Woods:

It looks so small and simple, but it feels so hard at the time. The only other show I’ve had this part of the DB for was R&J, and that had 111 records. This only has 23, so I’ve always thought of this table as something that has to be scrolled for many pages, and it’s strange to see it so short. I’m not sure if I’m depressed or encouraged by how quickly the next month of my life can be summarized, but I suspect I may be encouraged. I think it fits the attitude I always try to have towards it: you just have to give 200% for two straight weeks, and then it’s easy. There’s even a day off somewhere in there.

May 29, 2010

Apple Pro Mouse, Better Late Than Never

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 3:39 am

This is an Apple Pro Mouse from 2002. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Apple hardware ever, in terms of design. It also happens to be a terrible mouse, even before you consider the fact that it only has one button and no scroll capability. That one button does have a wonderfully satisfying click, though.

Because I love it so much, despite its near-uselessness, I keep it as close as any spare mouse in my life, in a box under my desk, along with a Microsoft travel mouse (which is probably even older) which has two buttons and a scroll wheel, and is about as bad at tracking. These two very portable, very attractive mice are the ones kept at arm’s reach when a mouse is suddenly needed. My absolute favorite time to use it is when my PC is freaking out because one of my Razer gaming mice aren’t playing nice with the drivers. In my mind the conversation goes something like this.

PC: You have no mouse.
KP: Yes. I do.
PC: No you don’t.
KP: This is a $125 mouse. Why can’t you see it as a generic mouse without the driver?
PC: If your hardware is already connected, please install the driver provided by the manufacturer.
KP: That would be much easier with a mouse. Can’t I just use this one to select the file?
PC: This one what?
KP: This mouse that’s plugged in.
PC: You have no mouse. If you would like to install a mouse, click OK.
(rustling under desk)
(sound of USB connector sliding in)
Pro Mouse: Boom.
PC: Name?
Pro Mouse: Apple Pro Mouse connecting, please.
PC: (sigh) Um, OK. What do you do?
Pro Mouse: I have an X axis.
PC: Uh huh.
Pro Mouse: I have a Y axis.
PC: Uh huh.
Pro Mouse: I have a button.
PC: Is Button 1 a left-click, right-click, middle-click, or other?
Pro Mouse: I have a button.
PC: You have a button? That’s what you do, you have a button?
Pro Mouse: Yes.
PC: Are you lost?
Pro Mouse: Is this the PC that has a 7-button mouse connected and can’t see it?
PC: I don’t know anything about a 7-button mouse.
Pro Mouse: But you see me, yes?
PC: Yes. Your hardware is now configured and ready to use.
KP: Thank you.

Tonight I’m packing for the summer stock season, and having decided that any more gaming will be bad for my productivity, I’m packing my gaming supplies, including the mouse that drives not only my gaming PC, but my home entertainment Mac. So the Mac needs something to do the simple pointing and clicking involved in watching TV and ripping DVDs, so the Pro Mouse has been promoted for a few days.

This practice has been going on since, well, 2002, but I’ve never blogged about it before or properly honored the Pro Mouse, so here you go.

What I Learned Today: Apple Power Adapter Tricks

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 1:24 am

My favorite part about my life at the moment is that pretty much every day, I learn something interesting. I’ve decided to share them in a new recurring feature. Interestingly, my first few attempts at this had to be aborted when, in doing additional research for my post, I learned that the exciting new information I had received was not actually correct!

The connector in the power brick of an Apple magsafe AC adaptor is the same as a standard appliance cord

As a stage manager, the situation in which you’d be most likely to encounter this piece of hardware would be plugged in to the back of a boom box you’re using in the rehearsal room, or one that keeps the crew entertained in the shop. It’s also pretty common as a component of most other computer and printer power cords (a lot of PCs have the power brick somewhere in the middle of the process, and then one of these cords that goes from the brick to the outlet). Apple is essentially doing the same thing, they’ve just disguised it as something attractive, but without ruining its compatibility with standard cables. Feel free to use this knowledge the next time somebody tries to get your goat by saying, “I don’t understand why Apple feels the need to make these proprietary accessories.”

I read about this in a Lifehacker tip, which I hope will get published. The tipster suggests that if you find yourself stuck somewhere (he was thinking of it as a way to save money on international power adapters), you go out and buy a cheap kettle or other appliance, and take the cord from that. But I’m thinking of it more in the situation of finding yourself in rehearsal and either not having your extension cord for the Mac and needing to stretch the cord farther, or you’ve lost or damaged the fold-up two-prong adapter that plugs into the power brick. In that case, there’s probably a device somewhere in the theatre or studio that you can borrow the cable from temporarily.

I’m usually pretty thorough in my preparations, and have the longer cord and the two-prong adapter with me all the time, but I pretty frequently end up needing to lend one or the other to a coworker. I can’t wait for the day I need to use this trick, either for me or someone else.

May 27, 2010

Must-See 8-bit Gaming Video

I call this: gaming,tech — Posted by KP @ 12:32 pm

So this guy made a stop-motion video on his desk, recreating famous 8-bit games with bits of construction paper and produce. I heard about this video for the better part of a day, and thought “Meh, that’s probably cute,” before I actually sat and watched it. It is so much better than I imagined, and if you love classic NES gaming, you must watch it, and watch it all the way through, because each segment is better and cleverer than the last.

May 26, 2010


I call this: tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 7:36 pm

This is not my graphic, but I found it on the web, and it taught me a lot of things I didn’t know.

Whether you are a stage manager, computer geek, gamer, or all three, you will find ample uses for this knowledge. Enjoy.

Review: Speck SeeThru Satin MacBook Pro Shell

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 6:48 pm

I’ve admired these shells for years. I like color, I like customizing things, and I like protecting my valuable devices — as long as the protection is attractive, stays out of my way, and doesn’t add too much bulk. Our wardrobe supervisor on tour this year had almost the same shell, only in a different color. I had many opportunities to study it, as it was hard to find someplace to sit in the front lounge while dodging the six Macbooks and one (gasp) PC that lived on the bus. I would question him about it regularly over the course of the tour. It really didn’t get scratched under the case? How often do you look? How often do you take it off? How long have you had it? You’re really sure it’s not causing abrasions on the aluminum? Do you find you use it differently because you have the case on? Is it too heavy? After six months of this I was reasonably sure it wouldn’t hurt my laptop.

A life lesson, learned the hard way: There’s a button on the case covering the battery button (which illuminates a series of LEDs showing the battery charge). Part of the case is sort of cut out around the button so it’s loose and can be pushed in. As it happens, this color of case is so dark that you really can’t see the LEDs light up. For the longest time I struggled putting the case on and off, checking the alignment, testing the battery button naked, and trying to figure out why it didn’t work with the case on. Eventually I manipulated the plastic button so much that it broke off. I didn’t really care, by that point I was so disappointed that it didn’t work that I was OK with poking something in the resulting hole to get to the real button (I can just barely press it with my pinky, but I have tiny hands). Only then did I figure out that the button was probably working the whole time, and I just couldn’t see the lights. Disappointing on several levels.

I might as well mention that the other LED on the case, the sleep light, shines through just fine, and actually looks pretty cool in red. As anyone who has ever slept in the same room as a Mac knows, the sleep lights on all of them can pretty much be seen from space, and you’ve probably devised some method of covering them up so they don’t scorch through your eyelids while you sleep. So dulling the light with the case is not a bad side effect.


  • Attractive design, rich color
  • Protects from scratches and dents
  • Adds very little thickness, lid closes smoothly
  • All cutouts fit around ports and other features well, and seem to have plenty of room for bulky peripherals.
  • If the sharp front edge of the MBP bothers you, the plastic provides some relief from directly resting your arms on the metal
  • Puts a layer of protection between your lap and the metal case, making it possible to use the computer on your lap without burning yourself.
  • Soft-touch surface creates better friction for holding the computer on your lap without it sliding off.
  • Sturdy rubber feet, similar to the ones that come on the new Macbooks.


  • Can barely see battery lights through case.
  • Very tight to put on the screen half, to the point that I’m concerned about damaging the laptop with frequent attaching and detatching. I’ve actually cancelled my planned weekly case cleaning because of this. I’m also very sensitive to it because the whole reason I had to buy the new MBP was because the old one’s screen had been damaged. The last thing I intend to do with the new one is severely bend and press the screen once a week. I’d rather it get dirty and perhaps permanently scarred than encourage its early demise.
  • Adds about a pound-and-a-half to the 15″ model (bringing it to roughly 7 lbs)

The weight is significant. You wouldn’t think a thin layer of plastic would weigh so much, but it is the size of the entire computer itself. I had done my research about that beforehand, and I know what a pound-and-a-half is (perhaps you’re familiar with how anal I am about weight when packing for the road), and I know what a difference it is in laptop terms. I think the difference isn’t so great to outweigh (literally) the benefits of protecting the device. This is, after all, the most important thing I own, as well as the most expensive. It needs to last in excellent condition for three, or ideally four years. Making it heavier is a small price to pay for the ability to use it without constantly worrying about damaging it. Of course the case will not protect it from serious damage, but for everyday hazards (like the contents of the kitchen counter falling on the lid on a moving bus), it places an extra layer of protection between the computer and light bumps and bruises. In a situation where I know the MBP won’t be traveling much for a while, I might keep the case off, but definitely on the road or in a rehearsal situation utilizing many rooms and locations, it will be a huge help.

After much debate, mostly about the weight and price, I decided to go ahead and buy this because I bought a new computer bag (review to come eventually, I’m sure), and it has a zipper for a storage pouch that lives in basically the same spot as the top of the laptop. In other words the laptop slot doesn’t come all the way up over the top of the laptop, so the zipper would probably be rubbing against the bare laptop most of the time. Rather than hermetically sealing my neoprene sleeve every time the laptop goes in the bag, I decided that was the final straw to justify the Speck shell.

Magsafe? Magpainintheass.

I worry a little about the newfangled Magsafe connector style, shown here:

The natural way to position it is with the cord headed “upstage,” away from the user, and out of the way of the other ports. The only problem is that the little tab holding that corner of the shell on is right there with the connector laying over it. While it does make an electrical connection and seems to charge fine, it doesn’t look like it’s laying perfectly flat, and I just worry about my AC connection not being a perfect seal. If you don’t mind covering the Ethernet and FW800 ports, you can just turn the Magsafe connector the other way with the cord coming towards you, but that’s a pretty big compromise for something that should just work. It’s a pretty tricky part to try to mod yourself, as the piece that’s in the way is the part that clips that corner in, and if it were to break or be weakened, you’d probably have problems with the shell falling off. It might be easier to shave off a millimeter of the barrel of the Magsafe connector, but that seems like the wrong set of priorities, to damage an $80 electrical device that’s essential for the operation of the computer, for the sake of a $40 piece of plastic. In the future it would be nice if Speck could move the clippy part away from the corner and more toward the hinge, so that section right next to the AC port wouldn’t be so thick. Although it’s possible it would interfere with the operation of the hinge if moved any closer, I don’t know.

If you have the old-style charger, it’s no problem at all. I have an old-skool one at home, and use the new one for travel. I also have a second old-skool one for my old MBP, and should it become a real problem, I could swap them. So, buyer beware, but if you have the old one, you have nothing to worry about.

UPDATE: Before heading back out of town, I had to decide which AC adaptor to bring, and decided not to compromise. I brought the new adapter and filed down the case, after reading of a couple success stories. I used the edge of my Leatherman’s file, and a nail file for smoothing the edges. I decided to quit once it fit, rather than risk breaking or weakening the case by trying to make it look perfectly machined. So it’s not beautiful, but the plastic is fairly soft, and if you wanted to make it look prettier, it should be very possible.

A Few More Photos

Detail shot of the front-right corner:

Outer shell. Sorry this is so blurry. I spent time on three separate days (with a real camera, even!) trying to get a shot that wasn’t blurry but didn’t wash out the true appearance with the flash.

The Details

Once again, the shell is made by Speck, who are purveyors of, well, stuff like this. They also make some iPhone and coming-soon iPad cases. In addition to the satin shells, they make a line of more fully-transparent shells that also come in other colors (including clear), which is the SeeThru line, as opposed to the SeeThru Satin. They make them to fit all shapes and sizes of Macbooks, so look carefully to make sure you’ve got the right one for your model. They are carried in Apple Stores, but I always find the selection to be rather limited as far as which sizes and colors are in stock. I had to order mine online, which I got from Small Dog Electronics, my favorite 3rd-party Apple retailer.

The shells retail from Speck for $49.95, but Small Dog sells them for $39.99, so shop around. You can also get them on Amazon, where the prices are generally a little higher, but you might find a good deal on a specific color.

May 17, 2010

A Published Tip on Lifehacker (and CrunchGear)

I call this: computers,tech — Posted by KP @ 3:03 pm

Today is kind of a big day in my geek life:

I’m a big reader of Lifehacker, and today I have had my first tip published on the main page. It’s one I haven’t shared with you guys either, so I’m definitely blogging about it.

It relates to storing your headphones underneath your desk to keep them out of the way.

I’m hoping someday I’ll make it into a featuredworkspace profile.

UPDATE: My friend (and frequent commenter) Tom found that the tip has also been picked up by CrunchGear today, which is another site I read regularly.

Reaction to the articles has been good, although many people have pointed out that due to cats, babies, long legs, and other things I will never have to account for, it’s not the best solution for everybody. It also would appear that this style of top-mounted hook is actually very hard to find. I hope anybody who wishes to try this tip has good luck in finding one, and if you do, please post where you got it.

UPDATE: If you’re having trouble finding hooks like these, reader Jon has spotted them at Amazon. Thanks, Jon!

May 16, 2010

Let Me Tell Ye: The Internet is Too Quiet Today

I call this: tech — Posted by KP @ 9:29 am

One of my favorite things to do with my spare time is to read and comment on articles from my favorite internet sources. Usually tech blogs, sometimes forums, occasionally mainstream news.

Let me tell ye: I am sick of there being nothing to read on the weekend. I know the rest of the world browses these sites while sitting in an office pretending to work, and that’s why a lot of content (both professionally written, and provided by readers) occurs at those times. My job makes it very difficult to slack off and surf the net under most circumstances, and even then rarely follows the same hours as everybody else who’s pretending to work, so generally the day means nothing to me.

Some of the professional blogs even have editors specifically assigned to the weekends, or evenings. I know they can’t help it that companies don’t issue press releases on the weekend, but it would be nice if they could save up some thoughtful slow-news-day pieces so I don’t stare at my empty RSS feeds all day (I’ve been planning an RSS reader roundup for a while, been waiting to decide I actually like any of them).

In short, I am bored. I’m perfectly capable of amusing myself, but I am accustomed to having a certain amount of interaction with the tech news of the day and discussing it with other geeks, and when inexplicably (from my perspective) it goes from hundreds of articles a day to like five, I feel lost.

I do have a life, actually. I’m spending the day with my parents today. But when I get up at 8:30, and there is not a single new article in any of my feeds since I closed the computer at 11:00 last night (yes, I do occasionally go to bed before midnight!), I don’t know how to go through my morning routine, which is partially based on how long it usually takes me to get through my feeds. In short, let me tell ye, I am not amused, and I’m going to blog about it, so in case you’re feeling the same way you’ll have something to read.

May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Doris Eaton Travis

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:31 pm

I must take a moment to address a sad event, but also to celebrate an amazing lady.

I just found out not five minutes ago that Doris Eaton Travis passed away today at the ripe old age of 106. She is without a doubt one of my favorite people that I don’t actually know. And I must add that I don’t know this because I saw the very extensive obituary on Playbill, but because I got a text message from a friend as soon as he found out. Her name may not be widely known, and her actual career was relatively short, but she was much beloved in the business.

I came to know of her, like most people in the Broadway community, at the 1998 Easter Bonnet Competition, when she appeared with several other former Ziegfeld girls to usher in the first Easter Bonnet held at the New Amsterdam Theatre, after its restoration by Disney for The Lion King the previous year. It was a nice nod to the building’s former glory, and it was fun to see those ladies return to the stage after more years than many people’s entire lifetimes.

The following years the other ladies didn’t return, but Doris participated in the Easter Bonnet by herself, usually recounting a story about her years in the business, and demonstrating some dance moves from her shows, while flanked by a few boys who could be her great-grandsons.

The Easter Bonnet is probably the best show anywhere in New York all year, and is almost exclusively attended by people who work in the Broadway and Off-Broadway community, as well as devoted supporters of Broadway, so the audience is particularly receptive and appreciative of someone with such a rich history in the business. It’s almost inconceivable to sit in a theatre surrounded by friends and colleagues and right there in the same room have someone tell you about the time they were in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918. Nineteen. Eighteen. She made her Broadway debut in 1917. To have a connection with someone whose work experience extends back basically to the birth of musical theatre, and have that person still alive and well and dancing onstage with today’s Broadway gypsies was just amazing. And she did it year after year.

Obviously we all knew the year would someday come when she would not be around to perform at the Easter Bonnet, but she even made it this year, just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I’ve missed the last two years of Broadway Cares events due to touring, but I was especially thrilled that she was around for the 2006 Easter Bonnet, when I performed with the Phantom cast, crew and orchestra, singing the Broadway Cares anthem, “Help is on the Way.” Her part of the show was right before us, so we couldn’t actually watch because we were getting in place upstage of the curtain, but I did get to meet her very briefly in the wings, and that was exciting after eight years of being in awe of her from the audience.

The Easter Bonnet won’t be the same without her, but I’m so happy that she had such a long and active life that she could share her experience and love of performing with so many later generations.

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