May 5, 2010

Let Me Tell Ye: Cloud Computing

I call this: computers,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 5:17 pm

Today’s Let Me Tell Ye comes about after I read this article at TUAW. If you don’t want to click the link, I will tell you it’s called “Can Cloud Computing Replace the Finder?”

Cloud Computing: n The idea of having all data stored on remote servers so mobile and desktop devices have no need for local storage.

the Finder: n stupid name for the thing that looks at files in Mac OS. For Windows users, it’s basically the same thing as Explorer. Not Internet Explorer, which is something totally different, and come to think of it, that right there makes Explorer a stupider name than Finder. It does not, however, make the Finder icon any less stupid.

Now that we’re all caught up, let me tell ye what I think about cloud computing.

Good Clouds

Not all cloud computing is bad. Some of it is really awesome. The fact that I can read an email on my laptop, respond to it later from my phone, and if for some reason I was actually separated from both my laptop and phone, I could then access all my email from any other computer, is pretty cool.

I love the way my iPhone works with MobileMe (and also Google Apps). If I change a calendar appointment, or add a contact to my address book, within a minute or so, it will sync to my phone without me even having to turn it on. The next time I look, it will just be there. The same is true of some third-party apps like OmniFocus for my tasks, which currently requires a little more user interaction because of the lack of multitasking, but the idea is the same: what is done on one device can be accessed by any device. My bookmarks automatically sync between my main computer, my phone, and even (gasp!) my PC, without me having to do a thing.

I have also used Google Docs pretty extensively — not so much for work, but for side projects requiring a lot of collaboration — and there is a definite advantage to having a single copy of a document accessible to all people who need them, from any computer.

Bad Clouds

Where cloud computing gets scary is when people start talking about the fact that someday we won’t need to store anything on our computers — even our applications will be on the cloud.

My main concern with this prospect is that if there’s one thing I know, it’s that internet access is not ubiquitous. I think the people who talk about things like cloud computing use their computers at home, at a civilized office, and use their smartphone in an area with data coverage. But life is not always like that. Yes, sometimes even on Verizon.

As much as I try to avoid the situation, there are lots of places where professional theatre is rehearsed and performed where internet access is not available. By that I mean wifi, ethernet, things that connect to computers and handle large amounts of data. There are also many such places which are deep in basements, or buildings with very thick walls (remember, theatres have no windows), and are completely cut off from cell phone service. Yes, even to people with Verizon. So even if you could tether through your cell phone or had an aircard to plug into your laptop, you’d be out of luck.

I travel with a router and a phone that can tether, but sometimes even my preparedness leaves me stumped when faced with a particularly technologically-bereft facility (or one controlled by some draconian IT department that makes it impossible for anyone outside their organization to get online).

So OK, you go outside. Which, by the way, is not OK. I’m working at my desk eight hours a day, I need internet access at my desk. But even if you do go outside… I present downtown Fargo, ND. As well as the outskirts of Ottumwa, IA. And a bunch of places on highways in the middle of nowhere. Places where your phone will simply display “No Service.” Maybe not all of those on Verizon, but certainly there are some places where that would be true with any carrier. I also present most parts of the NYC subway.

I need the internet a lot as it is, but the idea that without internet access I wouldn’t be able to access any information at all would be a disaster. Everything I need to know in the world is in digital format. No way I would trust not having it on media that’s physically in my possession, and we’re a long way from being ready for 100% reliable internet access everywhere.

Also, as one commenter on TUAW points out, editing a 30GB video file remotely is completely impractical. So we would need ubiquitous internet, plus bandwidth as fast as the fastest processors. Not gonna happen.

The Email Argument

There are also the people who say, “but we already do this with email — my gmail is all on the cloud.” To them I say, let me tell ye: your gmail is all on the cloud. I, however, will not use webmail. I have an email client, and while it constantly syncs with my four primary IMAP accounts and occasionally with my catchall account for this site, I know that all of those emails are physically on my computer, for all those times I am offline. Also, I have every non-spam email I’ve ever sent or received, including attachments, since 2003 (some unfortunate data accident many years ago lost the rest). Do you store that on the Google cloud? Would anyone want to?

I keep a lot of emails on the cloud, because I may need to access them from anywhere. For instance, I just moved all my emails from the tour to my local archive folder (which contains subfolders sorted by year) when the tour ended last week. It was about 3,000 emails, sent and received over the last six months. I wasn’t taking a chance on needing access to one of them while the job was still going on, but I don’t need them cluttering up the folders that sync with the cloud after they have outlived their primary usefulness, and I’m sure you can tell I’m not throwing them out. Just a few days ago I pulled up an email from 2004 to find my account name and password for an online store I haven’t ordered from since then. It took about 5 seconds.

The Trust Factor

Some people like having their data on the cloud because they feel it’s less likely to get lost. Because a company like Google or Microsoft must be better at doing backups and stuff than little old me, right? Now to be fair I’ve lost things in my life (such as my emails prior to 2003, and inexplicably, a couple songs from iTunes that I didn’t notice were missing until after the six months that I had Time Machine backups for). And most of these backups are contained in one place, which is not particularly safe. I did try during the tour to back up my entire tour folder to my iDisk at least once a week, because I know I have been lax about offsite backup, but backing up the hundreds of GB of all my files to the cloud is just not practical now. Still, I know where my backups are, and I have access to them.

Consider the case of Microsoft’s Sidekick debacle last year, in which the T-Mobile device, which backs up only to the cloud, had a major server malfunction and erased everybody’s data, including that stored locally on their devices. Apparently on that device it was not even possible to plug it into your computer to back up your files. So while I don’t deny that the likes of Microsoft and Google have people with more IT knowledge than me working on my data, I’m not convinced that that means they will always take better care of it than I do.

But my biggest part of the trust factor with any cloud-type services (ebooks, streaming music accounts, games that have DRM requiring them to connect to the publisher’s server to play) is that I have many things in my short life that have outlived their creators. I have many games on CD-rom (and a couple on floppy) that were made by companies that no longer exist, and/or are no longer supported. Where possible, or with proper emulating software, I can still play them. I have word processor files (currently in .doc format) that I wrote going back to the early ’90s. Documents that were written on a 386. Now part of being able to do that is that you have to take the care to translate them to modern formats every five years or so, but I have control of those files and I can do that, even if everything that created them becomes obsolete.

So I don’t like the way things are going, especially in regards to DRM, that require the seller of the item to continually be part of my usage of it. 20 years from now when I take my Windows XP disk and find a way to install it on my toaster or something, it’s going to pop up with that “This copy of Windows is not activated, click here to activate” crap. Now I’m guessing in this example, Microsoft will still be in business, but whatever server that process needs to connect to will not be there, and I will be unable to use this otherwise perfectly good software that I paid hundreds of dollars for in 2002.

One of the first albums I owned was Thriller. I’ve had it since I was three years old. It’s right here:

It sounds pretty crappy, but with digital music we won’t have to worry so much about that. The point is, I can still play it — because I have it, and I have a walkman in my possession — and as long as that’s the case, and they still make AA batteries, I can listen to it forever. Music is not disposable, it doesn’t lose its value in a few years. Even the bad stuff gets more fun to listen to with age sometimes. The idea of replacing music that you own with streaming music or DRM content that requires there to be an iTunes to authenticate your music before you play it is not a good deal. So I have converted most of my purchased music to MP3 — not to share it, but to ensure that someday I can convert it to whatever format replaces MP3s, AACs, etc. so that I can listen to it for the rest of my life. And those files are on my computer, right under my right wrist, where I can keep an eye on them.

What I’m Using Virtualization for Today

I call this: computers,mac,pc,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:34 am

In my opinion the #1 reason to use virtualization software to run a different operating system on your computer in the middle of your primary one is:
because you can.

Is there any better reason to do anything with technology?

But today I discovered a very useful purpose for it, which for some reason I’ve never employed before. I have an old HP Scanjet scanner (the 3570c, if you care). HP stopped supporting it with OS X drivers many years ago (the last drivers were compatible with Tiger), not that their Mac drivers were ever particularly good. In fact I’m kind of glad they don’t have drivers because my desire to install HP drivers on a perfectly good machine is somewhere around my desire to install anti-virus software.

The scanner is such a pain in the ass to use that I don’t even keep it plugged in most of the time. It sits on a bookcase shelf across my living room. When I have needed to use it (basically when my need to scan something reaches such proportions that I have absolutely no choice), I plug it into my PC, which runs XP and works just fine with the default drivers and Windows imaging software.

So today when I needed to scan some old pictures for the site, I plugged it into my new MacBook Pro, just to see if anything had changed, and of course it was hopeless. The Mac acted like I had just plugged a rock into it (and if you’d like to try and don’t have an HP scanner, ThinkGeek sells USB pet rocks which apparently behave similarly). The scanner also acted the part of a rock. But then I had an idea.

Instead of booting up my PC, stretching the USB cable across my workspace, and going through the hassle of moving the resulting files between systems, why couldn’t I just start Windows in Parallels, direct the scanner to connect to it, scan the photos in XP, and drag the file from the Windows desktop onto the Mac desktop? The answer is I can, and it’s that easy. As far as I’m concerned it’s just as easy as having to open a specific app for the scanner, with the added bonus of not having some intrusive drivers installed on my main system. I have no idea why I’ve never thought of this before.

So I will leave you with two bits of knowledge: if you have old hardware you need to use occasionally that’s incompatible with your Mac, you may be able to use it without much inconvenience by using it through a virtualized Windows installation.

And two, here’s what my bedroom looked like in 1990 when all my walls were covered in New Kids on the Block posters.

Let Me Tell Ye: Terrorist TV Training

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 6:02 am

The first in a series I’ve been planning for a while: I call it “Let Me Tell Ye,” in homage to one of the Nurse’s lines from Romeo and Juliet — one night while watching the show it struck me that it would be a great title for any random rants and thoughts of the day. Here goes the first:

Tonight while rearranging my apartment, I watched a lot of documentaries between the Military Channel and National Geographic. Probably about nine hours straight. They all started to run together, but there was a definite theme, especially on Nat Geo, that a lot of them were about potential methods of future terrorism, such as nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, and biological attacks.

You ever watch shows like that and think, “Gee guys, do you really think it’s a good idea to be telling everybody about all the things our security procedures don’t cover, and how a terrorist could exploit those weaknesses?”

And then when that inevitably gets said, somebody else will be quick to add, “This may not be common knowledge to the average person, but any terrorist already knows this stuff and they aren’t learning anything new by watching these programs.”

Well let me tell ye…

If I have become sure of anything this week, it’s that terrorists thankfully appear to be pretty stupid. Like mind-blowingly stupid. I mean if it was your main goal in life to carry out a glorious attack in the name of Allah or whoever, and you can’t even manage to detonate a bomb — I’m not just talking about the guy in Times Square, I mean like all the terrorists we’ve ever encountered in and around the US since 9/11 — they foil our security a number of different ways, but then demonstrate they actually have no idea what they’re doing.

So now I’m not so sure that they already know all this supposed Terrorism 101 stuff. If they don’t know that some types of fertilizer aren’t explosive, how do we know they already know that only a tiny percentage of containers entering New York Harbor ever get inspected?

Maybe in light of this new understanding, we should be a little more interested in keeping potential threats in the dark cave of ignorance of which they are clearly the inhabitants, instead of assuming there’s no new tricks we can teach them, just in case they ever get the hang of the “make something go ‘boom'” part.

My Secret iPad Weekend Revealed!

I call this: computers,mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 3:33 am

The new iPhone prototype isn’t the only secret in town. For the last several weeks, I have been part of a vast interstate conspiracy. My co-conspirator, who I will refer to by her code name, “Mom,” had enlisted my help to pull off the greatest Apple-related surprise of all time: to buy my Dad an iPad.

That may seem really simple, but I assure you, it wasn’t.

First of all, you must understand why this mission was so important. Dad had been in the hospital a few weeks back, and had to have a couple operations, and he’s been generally immobile and uncomfortable for weeks. When he first had his surgery, Mom felt bad and decided that although they otherwise wouldn’t really have the budget for an iPad, life is too short not to have one, and he really needed something to cheer him up and keep him occupied during his recovery. And honestly, my parents are the perfect audience for the iPad (I am not), and I’d been telling them this for… well, as long as we’ve known about the iPad.

First Complications

Mom called me up while he was still in the hospital because she wanted to get one right away, and wanted my advice about which one, and would need my help setting it up over the phone. I hopped over to the Apple site to check the specs and everything, and was hit with the first major roadblock that I hadn’t even thought about: it requires USB2. Both my parents’ Macs are from early 2002, just a few months before Apple began shipping computers with USB2.

Dad has an iMac that he got from his old job, which wasn’t even that great of a machine when it was new. It doesn’t even have a DVD drive, which is why it’s still running Panther. Panther. I don’t think it’s really possible to anticipate the frustration that causes when trying to work with it. Like he wants to know why he can’t open some websites. I said, “probably you’re running a really old browser, and it just needs to be updated.” Well guess what, you can’t get an updated version of Safari on it, and you can’t use Firefox 3 either. I had been planning on my next visit to try and get DVD sharing working to install Tiger, which might barely run.

But in light of this USB problem, it was obvious that something more drastic needed to be done about this whole ancient-computer problem. Mom was practically ready to go out and buy him an iPad and a Macbook. But by this time, Apple had just released the i7 Macbook Pro, and my current machine had been showing enough signs of imminent death that I knew I had to buy one the day I got home from tour. So I said, “Look, I’ll have a new computer by the time I get home, my Powerbook isn’t much newer than the ones you have, but it’s a lot more advanced, and it will be a lot better than what he’s using now, and I won’t need it.” The problem would have to wait a couple weeks until the tour was over, but we had an economical solution.

Secondary Complications

While my computer was dying for the last three weeks of the tour, I called a lot of Apple Stores. Every city we were in, I knew how close the nearest Apple Store was, and if they had 15″ 2.66GHz Hi-res anti-glare Macbook Pros in stock, just in case I needed one. While doing this, I also inquired if they had iPads, since if I ended up buying the MBP I would just buy the iPad at the same time. This revealed the second complication: you couldn’t find an iPad anywhere. Now Mom and I were getting worried that we wouldn’t be able to get one before my totally-not-suspicious visit on my birthday. I forgot to mention, we had planned that to be the day of the surprise.

When I got home, a week before the planned surprise, I began working the four Apple Stores in New York (I had been calling the flagship store on Fifth Ave. the whole time, pretty much any time I called another store, to see what my odds were like at home). I already had my Macbook Pro because the old one died completely in Philly. An employee at Fifth Ave advised me that they get surprise shipments all the time, but usually sell out in a couple hours, so my best bet was to just keep calling and if I hit a time when they were in stock, race to the store and get one.

I took this past Friday, April 30th, off from my search, because it was the day of the release of the 3G iPad, which I did not want, and I knew all Apple Stores would be a madhouse (and actually shut down for a couple hours in the middle of the day to prepare for the event).

But my hunch was that my last opportunity, Saturday, would be my best bet, as the availability of the 3G iPad would dilute the demand for the wifi one, and that stores probably received a big shipment of both for the launch of the 3G.

So when I got up on Saturday I called the closest store — the new one at Lincoln Square. They did indeed have wifi iPads, but only 16GB. I wanted 32. But it was an option. I would have to confer with Mom. But first I called Fifth Ave. The guy I spoke to said, “We have limited quantities of the 64GB.” Soho and 14th Street were plain sold out. So I called Mom (after spending a good five minutes on the phone talking to Dad while Mom finished watering the plants or something, trying not to give away my urgency in talking to her.) When we got on the phone in privacy, we conferred about our options, and decided that the 16GB would probably be too small at some point, so it was better to go for the 64, if any were still left, so that we could go ahead with the surprise.

So I raced down to the Fifth Ave store, which was absolutely insane on a Saturday afternoon. There were so many different iPad lines, and I was sent to the wrong place at least four times before I found the right line. Unlike the stores I visited on tour, or even the other ones in New York to a certain extent, which are selling their wares to the local neighborhood, the Fifth Ave store is really where the whole world comes to buy an iPad. Now I’m not just competing against the entire population of New York, but apparently also France, Japan, Latin America, and who-knows-where-else.

After a stressful time on a long line, I finally made it to the front, and was sent off to a corner register near the Genius Bar, all alone, where it was suddenly quiet and serene.

“Which one would you like?”

She reaches to the shelf behind her and selects a simple white box and places it on the table. Scans it with the fancy new iPhone checkout machine.

“Credit card?”


“Sign here with your finger.”

“Is an email receipt OK?”

“Here you go.”

And I put the bag into the messenger bag I had selected specifically for its iPad-sized carrying properties, and disappeared into the Central Park afternoon with my precious cargo.


When I got upstairs, I took out my phone (where my receipt had just come in — I checked it showed the correct model of iPad) and shot off a quick email to Mom simply saying “Mission successful! On my way home.” We had agreed weeks earlier not to say too much in emails just in case Dad should come by her computer. Now Mom checks her email usually a couple times a day. Clearly she had been checking it obsessively since I called her, because five minutes later she wrote back — in all caps — about what a wonderful daughter I was.

As I made my way home, I felt like I was a secret courier carrying sensitive spy materials over some border. Finally I got home, and very, very carefully did the unboxing. I really wanted to preserve as much of the unboxing experience as possible for Dad, so I cut the shrink-wrap so that only the bottom came off. I used my cable so that all of his accessories could stay wrapped up, and I found to my delight that the iPad touchscreen could be used through the plastic cover that wraps around the whole device itself. I carefully lifted the flap at the bottom so it could be plugged in.

The next 10 hours were spent preparing it in every detail possible. Part of the surprise, maybe the hardest part, was that I wanted to hand him this magical and revolutionary slab of awesomeness, and it would already be filled with all his music, his favorite movies, some TV shows, the most necessary apps, and some books he might like (we have a very similar taste in books, which is helpful).

Some CIA Stuff

The original plan would have required at least several hours at my parents’ house to transfer all his files from his old computer, and then sync everything to the iPad, while hiding the fact that anything was going on.

But when I got home with the iPad and called Mom, we got on iChat, and she helped me to set some stuff up. Dad knew I had been planning to install Tiger and do some major work on his computer on my next visit, so on that pretext, Mom turned on his computer, and while screen sharing through iChat (which is a really awesome, Apple-like, just-works implementation of VNC) I then installed a VNC server on his computer and — get this — using VNC to control my Mom’s computer, used VNC to control my Dad’s. So it was like a screen within a screen within a screen, which was kind of confusing at times. You have to remember, he’s on Panther, so I can’t just do iChat screen sharing with him.

Anyway, much to my relief, his iTunes library was only a little over 2GB (which surprises me). Through a mix of several methods, over the course of many hours, I uploaded and downloaded his entire music library onto the Powerbook. I used three methods simultaneously: iChat file transfer, uploading to my iDisk, and uploading to my website FTP. In this way I hoped to overcome the bandwidth limitations of each. It seemed to work OK, I guess.

I also took his contact file from Entourage and imported it into Address Book on the new computer. I set him up with a GMail account, because they have Optimum Online as their ISP and the email it comes with is from the dark ages, only supports POP, and only supports SMTP from your own house connection. Dear God, if you must use them as your ISP, don’t ever try to use the email, just get a free account from Google or Yahoo or something.

While all this was going on, I bought him some movies and apps with my iTunes account (thankfully Apple has finally instituted the ability to give a specific app as a gift), and then activated them on his new computer.

The most important part, I told Mom, was keeping him away from his email while all this was happening. No doubt the process of registering the iPad, being gifted apps, and downloading free apps, would trigger a series of emails from Apple, like the one that came through this morning entitled “Your New iPad.” To ward against this, I added a rule to Entourage on his current computer that if any mail came in with the sender, subject or message body containing “Apple,” “iTunes” or “iPad” it would be immediately marked as read and moved to the spam folder.

When all was said and done, both the computer and iPad were set up and ready to go. Mom said I should work for the CIA. But as I told her, I don’t think the CIA would put me to work doing something as innocuous as surprising somebody with an iPad. I should also mention that this kind of work is much easier when you know all of your quarry’s passwords — or at least have access to his computer and the administrator password to check his keychain.

OK, OK, the iPad!!

So the bonus to this exciting experience of course was getting to spend about 10 hours playing with the iPad. Some thoughts:


  • Very pretty. It feels very solid and well-built. Typical Apple.
  • One of the movies we got for him was Avatar. We just watched a minute of it. The HD video is amazing.
  • The UI for the default apps is great. I especially wish I could have a calendar that’s so easy to read on my iPhone. Just having a week view would be wonderful. I set up accounts for my parents on my Google Apps domain so they can subscribe to my work calendars and see where in the country I am, when I have shows, etc. Seeing my schedule on the iPad was really cool. It’s the one thing I’m really jealous of.
  • The iBooks app is really nice. I like that they have brightness controls easily accessible. On the night the iPad spent with me, I will confess I read a book sample chapter in bed, just to see what it was like. It’s by far the best ebook-in-bed experience I’ve had.


  • It is kinda heavy. At times my wrists were getting tired from holding it a certain way. But I think some of that may be because it was still in plastic and I was holding it very delicately so as not to smudge or wrinkle the plastic. When reading in bed I rested the iPad on my stomach. Holding it up for a while probably would have been annoying.
  • Doesn’t come with some of the default apps from the iPhone (weather, stocks, calculator, etc.). I don’t consider this a con so much, as a lot of people end up replacing those apps with something better anyway, and there are several free options. But the big one is no Clock app. This is more important because until third-party apps can multitask, there’s no way to set an alarm that will stay active if you leave the app. I know the iPad is not an iPhone, but this seems like a feature you’d still want no matter what. If Mom had an iPad in the kitchen she’d want to set a timer for the oven or whatever, and then hop over to the iPod app or something while waiting for it to go off. That seems like a big oversight to me. Hopefully in a few months OS4 will come out for the iPad and it will be a non-issue.
  • Summary

    Well Dad was completely surprised, and thrilled with his gift. When handed the package, he thought we had gotten him some sort of computer accessory, but he’s savvy enough to know that when he opened the wrapping and saw “64GB” on the back of the box, there were a very limited number of things that size that contain that kind of storage.

    The whole event was basically a big Apple commercial. He has learned from years of working with Macs and iPods that you don’t need an instruction manual or technical knowledge to work something, and you won’t break it by trying things out. He just started poking around exploring how to make things work, and discovered things I hadn’t found yet either. The biggest discovery was that on the iBooks app, the page-turning animation actually changes based on how you “grip” the page with your finger (i.e. if you turn from the top it shows the top corner curling over, and so forth, basically mimicking perfectly whatever motion and speed you make with your finger).

    From my perspective, I still feel that the only time I would really use an iPad would be in bed. It would be great for reading, watching videos, and light web surfing without having to drag my entire laptop into bed, or squinting at the tiny screen on my phone.

    My fears about having yet another device to keep in sync were pretty much eliminated. Most of the syncing I would care about is over-the-air, and I wouldn’t mind plugging it in to sync new apps and media with my Mac any more than I do with my phone. If money was no object, I’d probably get one (with 3G), but I can think of very few occasions where I would take it with me out of the house, in place of my MacBook Pro.

    All that being said, when the day was over and it was time to go home, I was rather sad to leave it behind, even though I have no idea what I’d really do with it. And that, my friends, is what they call the Reality Distortion Field.

The Space Pen: A Stage Manager’s Best Friend

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:42 am

If you’re a stage manager, maybe something like this has happened to you:
You’re out at dinner with your cast or crew, and at the end of the meal everybody is paying with credit cards and the waiter drops off the receipts and doesn’t have, or forgets to leave, a pen. Then everybody looks at you — and this is one of those evenings, you’ve dropped all your stuff at the hotel or whatever and are enjoying the rare opportunity to just go somewhere without lugging all your crap — and you don’t have a pen. And then everyone else at the table is like, “What? A stage manager without a pen?”

You may mutter something about not being at work, but then secretly you spend the rest of the outing suspecting that you may be a failure as a human being because you are at once a stage manager, and not within reach of a pen 24 hours a day.

This exact event has happened to me a lot in life, but as a kid who used to wear a pocket protector in my Catholic school uniform shirt (simultaneously with a fanny pack, while lugging an overstuffed backpack as big as me), I have fought hard to convince myself that it’s OK not to carry the kitchen sink on my person at all times.

Recently the above situation happened several times in one week, and aside from the embarrassment, the actual inconvenience of not having a pen started to get to me, and I decided that it’s time for me to suck it up and carry a pen everywhere I go. I already knew which pen it would be, one that I already purchased for this purpose years ago, but didn’t adopt steady use of.

Ever since I forced myself to start carrying it all the time, I have been surprised how many times it’s come in handy. Sometimes I forget I’m carrying it, and it’s been very exciting to discover, “wait, I do have a pen!”

I don’t want to recommend a specific pen too strongly, any compact pen would be better than none, but this one is a very good choice. It’s very small and smooth so it fits comfortably in the corner of my front pants pocket, it has a clip so it won’t fall out, and it’s a matte black so you can always be wearing it, even in show blacks. It’s very small when the cap is on, but very well constructed so that it is full sized and well balanced when you are writing with it.

Being a space pen, it can write for long periods against walls and at other odd angles you sometimes end up needing to write on backstage, as well as on wet paper (such as drawing on a cocktail napkin when having a debate with your crew), in extreme temperatures, and, if your show should be going on a really expensive, really long-distance tour, in space.