July 29, 2010

Backstage at the Vegas Phantom

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 10:55 pm

A reader sent me a link to an article in which one of Vegas’ ballerinas describes a two-show day (because they’re on the casino schedule their shows are shorter and much closer together than on Broadway).

It’s really well written. She perfectly captures the spirit of the little rituals and jokes that develop over the course of a run.

I hope when I get back home I can do one of my own, from my perspective.

July 21, 2010

Here, Have a Funny

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:17 pm

In light of my recent posts about the iPhone 4 (here and here), I saw this today and had to pass it along.

I love the Steve-and-Bill comics, and if you can’t laugh at yourself for not being able to buy the latest and greatest phone, because it’s possibly not as good as what you already have, what can you laugh at?

July 20, 2010

Huge Hardware Problem Solved (I Think)

I call this: mac,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:00 am

My Macbook Pro needed an exorcism. There was something just not right with it. It’s not like my first Mac, which was a 2002 PowerMac that to this day just spontaneously freezes and kernel panics with no provocation, despite passing every hardware test known to man. It was thankfully more subtle and less disruptive than that.

Let me tell you about how it began. This machine came with 4GB of RAM. My previous machine also had 4GB of (third-party) RAM, of an inferior kind (DDR2 as opposed to DDR3). Knowing how advanced the i7 chip is compared to my 2007 Core2Duo, I expected that with an equal amount of RAM, and literally the same hard drive, this machine would be the same, only faster. Well in real-world use, it wasn’t noticeably faster. In fact sometimes it almost seemed slower. Things that are heavily RAM-dependent (such as boot-up time) were slower. I’ve never sat there with a stopwatch, and I couldn’t actually do a side-by-side comparison, because the hard drive had moved and now I can’t test the original speed of the old computer, but when I originally got the 4GB of RAM in the old machine, I was amazed how fast it booted. This machine was not as impressive.


Parallels is a virtualization software that allows you to run Windows (or whatever you want) while booted in Mac OS. It ran terribly on this machine. I mean so bad — so embarrassingly bad — that if there were some incompatibility with i7 MBPs there would be a huge outcry and people would be demanding an immediate patch or their money back. Even when I reduced the RAM and video RAM assigned to the virtual machine to pathetic levels, it was still slow as hell. At a reasonable level (say half the actual hardware capacity) it completely consumed all resources and the computer was totally useless in both OSes. And yet the Parallels user help forums don’t say anything about the current version running particularly badly, or having a problem with the new Macs. So I’d started to become convinced maybe it’s just me.

Quitting Programs

Lately I’ve had a few programs that have been spontaneously quitting upon launch. DVD Player and the text editor WriteRoom seemed to be the most common. Eventually I got WriteRoom running after what I think was a corrupted text file that it kept trying to re-open on launch. But DVD Player still quit on launch sometimes, and then 5 seconds later worked fine. Because of these problems I’ve been looking at Activity Monitor to see if anything looks odd. What I’ve noticed (sometimes connected to the quitting, sometimes not) is an obvious memory leak.

Memory Leak

There was a huge memory leak somewhere. Because of it (and rebooting into Windows for gaming) I have been rebooting my computer usually once a day, so I knew it wasn’t taking very long for the leak to grow to be a GB or more. Of course there are any number of things that could be causing it. Safari and associated plugins can cause problems, or some 3rd-party app could be buggy, but as it’s gotten worse I’ve been using less and less of my apps to try to eliminate possible suspects. I’ve been on Apple’s support forums looking for a large number of complaints of a memory leak, but I didn’t see much that points to a flaw affecting all users of 10.6.4 or anything like that. In one case, a user mentioned that it could be caused by faulty memory, and in light of the history listed above, that’s the first time I started seriously considering a hardware problem.

If I’m having software problems, and not anything really disturbing like kernel panics, I will always blame it on software, but the fact is, I’ve been very disappointed with the performance of this machine since I got it. It’s not worse than my old one, but it’s not better, and lately I’ve been on the verge of looking into getting 8GB of RAM. I almost blogged something about it last week — “since when is 8GB of RAM necessary for a computer to feel fast? ” — but I stopped when I couldn’t find the exact quote from Bill Gates about “640k is enough memory for any computer forever,” and moreover discovered that he probably never even said it, which crushed my ideas for an opening line for the post. The point is, I stopped just shy of going to Crucial and finding out just how much 8GB costs these days, since obviously 4GB is yesterday’s news.

I ran Apple’s extended hardware test and it came out fine. My experience and understanding about the way the universe works is that Apple’s hardware test has never identified a hardware failure on anybody’s computer ever, and is generally considered only a first step to save you time in the case that your hardware is extremely messed up (in which case you probably didn’t need a test to tell you something was wrong), otherwise you need to use more advanced third-party solutions. Which are complicated and if you do it properly, involve booting into single user mode and using the console.

I went back to the Apple forums looking for anything else, and somebody’s post said something like “sounds like bad RAM, make sure it’s properly seated.” Now that sounds really obvious, and in all my experience of bad-RAM-like symptoms in 20 years of using computers, that has never been the problem, but of course it’s one thing to check, sort of like if your toaster won’t work and the first step is “is it plugged in?” And I suddenly realized that I have never reseated the RAM since getting this computer. I opened it up to change the hard drive when I got it, but I never had any reason to touch the RAM. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to pop them out and put them back.

On Mac laptops the two sticks of RAM are one on top of the other. The first one looked pretty normal, but I held out hope that maybe there was some tiny gap not perceptible to the human eye, but that on reseating would make a better connection. I popped it up, and as I pulled it out I couldn’t believe what I saw below it: the second stick was not just maybe-kinda-sorta-not-all-the-way-in. It was sticking up! Generally you put the stick in at about a 30-degree angle and then push it down until it clicks into place on both sides. The stick was at that 30-degree angle, or as far up as it could go with the other stick properly seated on top of it. It was amazing, and explained everything. I have always felt like the computer was performing like it had half the RAM it should, and within a day or two of owning it, I had gone into System Profiler to check, because I suspected that one stick might not be detected. Obviously the connection was made enough that the system reported the 4GB, but in practical use only one stick was doing most of the work.

It’s rather early to say, but the first boot-up was at least as snappy as my old MBP. I assigned 2GB of RAM to Parallels and started it up, and it’s happily and quickly booting Windows XP in the background as I type. I mean easily 20 times faster than it did before — in a few seconds, compared to minutes of freezing the whole computer before I could even get it to abort the whole pathetic attempt at computing. I feel like Parallels is responding faster than Boot Camp does. Which is actually possible, considering that Boot Camp must have been running off roughly 2GB this whole time anyway.

I’m really shocked that the system ran as well as it did for so many months with a problem like that. I have been satisfied with it, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a noticeable performance improvement compared to a 3-year-old machine, and the particular difficulty it seemed to have with RAM-intensive tasks confused the hell out of me. Now I’m excited to find out just how good of a machine I really have had all along. I’m sure I will need to revisit my review, which was kind of lackluster and unfinished, because I kept waiting for something to be able to point to to say, “Look, this is faster!”

Take for example this summary:

I’ve now had the machine for almost three months, and my assessment is that it’s good but not incredibly noticeable during normal use. Maybe the bottleneck is still the hard drive, and that’s why it feels exactly the same as before. My hope when I bought it was that maybe a year or so later, an SSD drive of respectable size would be available for a reasonable price. And I’m sure sometime around then, 8GB of ram would be really cheap. I haven’t quite mentally grasped the situation of 8GB being a “normal” amount of RAM yet, but when it’s cheap enough, I’ll buy it just because, and maybe I’ll see why. When I bought my last MBP I bought 4GB of RAM (which was relatively expensive at the time) because I was using the machine to run full-motion-video-with-audio projections for Singin’ in the Rain, and it made an enormous difference overnight — just before we opened we increased the resolution of all the videos, and they looked much better, and played much more smoothly. So I’m sure with the quad core and everything else, this thing has more power under the hood that I would find if I was doing more video and other demanding activities.

It’s pretty much all right there: the fact that it’s not faster, the fact that the 4GB of RAM and 7,200rpm hard drive inexplicably doesn’t seem to be enough. It didn’t make sense. And if the solution is that simple, I look forward to changing that review very soon!

And one final thought: I mentioned in my review how I don’t read about benchmarks, don’t perform benchmarks on my own machines, and in general don’t care about more details than “slow,” “fast,” or “OMG really fast!” Well the funny thing is, if I had run some benchmarks on the machine for my review, I probably would have realized right away that it was scoring far worse than published reviews. That’ll teach me.

July 19, 2010

It’s a Twister!

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 9:20 pm

So we’re having a big thunderstorm, as this area is wont to have in the summer (which is part of the reason I like spending my summers here). The screams of my actors up and down the halls made me aware of the fact that we’re under a tornado watch. Apparently it’s all over the TV, but my TV doesn’t have a remote, so I refuse to move it from Channel 56 down to the kind of channels that would carry local news.

Weather.com and WeatherBug on my iPhone mention severe thunderstorms and hail, but nothing about a tornado. Not sure if it’s much ado about nothing, or if they just want me to get unsuspectingly killed or transported to the magical land of Oz.

My apartment faces away from the direction the storm is coming, so when they knocked on my door I took the opportunity to visit one of the apartments facing the other way. It does look a little bit scarier, but there’s a big building blocking most of the horizon on that side so it’s hard to really see.

The reason I’m blogging is because when they came to tell me, I quickly packed a bag before going to visit the other apartment. In about 10 seconds I decided on what to pack as a stage manager preparing to ride out a tornado:

  • My everyday flashlight
  • That other flashlight, too
  • And yeah, that other one that can be used like a flare
  • And the other one that’s the same as above but in another color
  • Car keys, just in case that somehow becomes useful
  • Laptop? Probably not necessary. After all I have my iPhone.
  • Laptop. Because if I survive and my apartment doesn’t, I’ll be really pissed that my brand new laptop got destroyed because I was too lazy to carry five more pounds with me.
  • I also packed my space pen without even realizing I did it.

So now I’m back on my couch watching the storm, and will try to get some work done on Hairspray before we all blow away.

What I Learned Today: Camels in North America

I call this: random — Posted by KP @ 8:17 pm

I was just doing preproduction for Hairspray wasting time reading Fark, when I came across this article about some fossils discovered in California, including ancient camels.

I had no idea that camels were known to have lived in North America, but apparently this isn’t the first time remains have been discovered.

Upon further research, Wikipedia states:

Fossil evidence indicates that the ancestors of modern camels evolved in North America during the Palaeogene period (see also Camelops), and later spread to most parts of Asia.

So that made me curious about what exactly the Palaeogene period was, and how the camels might have traveled from North America to Asia. Here’s a picture I found of where the continents are believed to have been located at that time (65.5 – 23.03 million years ago):

Looks like that move would be kind of hard. Did they swim? Did they build boats or airplanes? Blimps? Did the aliens that built the pyramids bring them from North America to Egypt to use as work animals? Because that would be weird if a species capable of interstellar travel needed camels to pull stones. As you can see, this new piece of information that somehow escaped me for 31 years has raised more questions than it has answered.

Stage Management Master Class

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 2:34 pm

Today was one of my favorite days in my yearly summer stock ritual. Reagle runs a Musical Theatre Camp for about a month in the summer, which always gets a surprisingly good turnout (this year they have about 100 campers). The kids take all sorts of classes mostly related to the performing aspects of musical theatre, but in addition to that they have a series of master classes where various guests come in to work with the kids for a day and talk about and teach them a variety of topics. The full-time teachers and guest artists are largely pulled from the performers and creative teams of the summer shows. Since the camp was started in 2006, I have always taught a stage management master class at some point in the season.

Basically in my case it’s more of a question-and-answer session where I talk about the job of a stage manager — what’s involved, how I prepare for a show, what my duties are during the show, what my training is, and how I find work. Then I also field questions about the particular show we’re doing at the time (usually I have the class soon after the kids have seen the show), as well as questions like, “What’s the craziest thing that’s happened while you were calling a show?”

The kids vary in ages — in the past I’ve had two large groups divided by age. This year I had four separate classes, starting with the youngest kids (probably about 8 years old) and ending with the oldest (who I think are about 13). It’s always interesting to figure out what topics to focus on based on the age group. Sometimes it’s surprising what the kids want to talk about.

My co-host for the day was Rachel Bertone, who is one of the camp teachers, and one of Reagle’s regular dancers (she’s currently playing Zaneeta in Music Man). We’ve probably done close to 10 shows together, so we work well together, and Rachel helped to steer the conversation and ask interesting questions when the kids ran out of things to say. Before each class she would give me an idea of what topics each age group might be most interested in, and ways to tie in to what they’ve been studying in their other classes.

Rachel contacted me early in the summer about scheduling this class, and I was able to have more input than I usually do on what the class would consist of, where it would be held, and how the groups should be divided up. In the past we’ve always done it at the theatre in two groups of 50-60 kids, which can be really distracting because all the scenery is around and it’s more of a “field trip” atmosphere, and the large groups aren’t as intimate. I really wanted it to be in more of a classroom setting with as much time as possible to take questions and let the conversation go in the direction the kids were most interested in, and more classes in smaller groups seemed to be the way to go. It’s also a lot of the same kids who attend the camp each year, and many of them already know me from previous master classes, or from having been in the childrens’ choruses of various Reagle shows (which results in me occasionally being asked for autographs at the stage door!), so I try to avoid repeating the same information when half the class has heard it already.

It was nice that we ended up talking about different things in each class. I always feel that the classes are too short. Describing the job of a stage manager can take a really long time if you had to talk about every part of the process, and answer questions about it! So I liked that we were covering a lot of new territory with each class, it kept the day interesting for me, instead of repeating the same things four times.

With the oldest group, they had been learning more about “the business,” including preparing resumes, so I talked a little more about how I get jobs, and how I hire other people, including ways in which resumes have stood out for me.

One thing that came up with most of the groups is the story of how I got into stage managing, which I found myself getting way more specific than I intended to with the 8-year-olds, about how I had wanted to be a director, and after pursuing directing and nothing but directing from the age of 12, I decided halfway through college that I had to give up my lifelong goal and become a stage manager. I realized by way of answering the simple question of “what’s your training in stage management?” that it served as a good life lesson that even if you spend your whole life wanting to do a certain thing, it’s OK to admit that maybe you were wrong and you should really be doing something else. Rachel also chimed in about how she had wanted to be a ballerina her whole life and eventually discovered that she really belonged in musical theatre. So we found a way to work that story in with almost all the classes because it seemed like something important for kids to hear in general, especially in this business where so many people grow up wanting to perform, and very few will make it all the way to being working professional actors.

I’ve learned in my experience of running talkbacks at Phantom, as well as later in my career at Reagle and on the Acting Company tour, that every talkback group is different. That’s part of the reason I love doing them, because you never know where the conversation will lead. Some groups want to know all about the technical stuff, some all about the acting / performance stuff, some are really curious about training and how people grew up to be professional theatre artists. I think of the master classes like extended talkbacks, except that instead of an entire cast, I’m the only one being talked to.

The part of any talkback I don’t like is where the talkers are spouting off canned information.

“Tell us a little about yourself: where you’re from and how you got into theatre…”

“The Acting Company was founded in 1972 from the first class of Julliard’s drama division…”

This is all necessary information that gives context to what the listeners are about to hear, and helps them to decide what questions to ask, but I always want to get it over with as soon as possible because I never feel there’s enough time to cover everyone’s questions, and I like to get to the part where I figure out what the group wants to hear about. I like the intro to be very brief, but give a quick sample of what the possible topics might be, and then when the listeners latch on to something, we can talk more in depth about that.

Rachel had brought along the Music Man program, and began each class by reading my bio, which was nice because in 75 words or less it brings up a couple different topics right away. Here it is:

Karen Parlato (Production Stage Manager) This is Karen’s sixth season as Reagle’s PSM — credits include all summer productions since 2005’s Crazy For You. She is based in New York, where credits include The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Off-Broadway: Inventing Avi, Frankenstein, The Fantasticks, Wanda’s World, Bingo, and others. In the fall she will return for her 3rd year as PSM of The Acting Company’s national tour, bringing Romeo and Juliet and The Comedy of Errors to 33 US cities.

So right away that potentially leads to:
1. What’s a production stage manager, as opposed to a stage manager in general?
2. How do you travel here from New York? How do you handle working away from home?
3. Wow, I saw Phantom! How do the candles come up from the floor? What’s the hardest scene to call?
4. What’s touring like?
5. Do you like doing Shakespeare? How is it different from musicals?

I could fill the entire class period on any of those topics, so I don’t want to waste time talking about something they’re not interested in, when I have hours of material I could share on a topic they are interested in. The interesting challenge for me with the camp is that usually none of the kids are specifically interested in stage management or technical theatre, so it’s not so much about the nitty-gritty of my stage management style, as it is about familiarizing them with what a stage manager does, and I’m one of a number of guest artists they’ll meet who can answer general questions about what it’s like doing theatre professionally.

On tour our cast does a lot of performance-related workshops at schools we visit, and on a few rare occasions the schools have requested a stage management or more behind-the-scenes workshop for their students who are pursuing other careers in theatre, which I am always beyond excited to do, no matter how busy the day. When we were in Tucson two years ago, Nick and I spent an hour in the greenroom after a performance with a college class of stage management students, which gets much more specific about “how do you write your cues in the book?” and that sort of thing, which is equally fun, to be talking to people who are not that far behind us in their careers. Last year Corey (the staff repertory director) and I did a seminar with a group of theatre students that focused on how we keep the show running on the road, and the career paths of a director and stage manager. Also last year, we arrived at one college and the resident stage management teacher introduced us to one of her students, and offered her as an intern for the day. We gave her a 16-hour example of a day in the life of a stage manager doing a one-nighter, which at one point included a tour of our bus, that ended up with us sitting on the couches in the lounge for probably two hours just chatting about stage management and life.

This whole experience led me to send off an email to The Acting Company reminding them how much I enjoy doing talkbacks, workshops and working with stage management students, and offering that while they’re contacting schools to offer workshops on acting, interpreting Shakespeare, stage combat, etc. they should also feel free to mention that I’m available to talk to technical theatre students or to be shadowed by any aspiring stage managers. They got back to me right away saying they’d begin offering that to venues. So I’m excited to be doing my little part to have our roving troupe offer educational opportunities for other students besides just performers.

July 17, 2010

Verizon iPhone Advice

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:25 am

Yesterday my old buddy Nick posted on his Twitter the question that has plagued philosophers and Verizon users for months:

To droid or not to droid….that is the question. Should I still hold out hope for the iphone on verizon or just deal with it?

Other people have been asking that a lot on Facebook as well, and my answer to that question has changed a bit in light of recent events with the iPhone 4. First of all I want to clarify what I’m talking about. I’m disappointed a bit with the “death grip” issue, in which you can’t put your fingers in a certain place, or have to use a case. But that’s not really my concern. My concern is with the reports that even when not holding the phone at all, its reception is inferior to the 3GS. AT&T sucks bad enough as it is, I don’t need a phone that’s any worse at picking up what little signal I’m given.

I tried to express my thoughts to Nick in a series of 140-character Tweets, but that got old really fast. I tend to use sentences longer than 140 characters, never mind being able to express a complete opinion. So I said I would blog about it.

1. Is there Even a Damn Verizon iPhone?

We still don’t know. Just this morning I read some analyst say “when the iPhone 4 comes out on Verizon” as if it was as certain as the sun rising in the east. I have no doubt someday the iPhone will be available on Verizon. But the iPhone 4? Even if it was supposed to exist, the iPhone 4 is having enough problems that I don’t expect an unreleased model is ready to be boxed up and shipped to tens of millions more people anytime soon. Verizon, who in the past was notorious for delaying smartphones by as much as a year because they didn’t pass all their rigorous testing (which is why I left them, actually), is not the company I would expect to rush their biggest product ever out the door when it has a known flaw. Verizon has one selling point: their network. This flaw will make the network suck. Why on earth would they risk it?

In short, if there ever was or is supposed to be a Verizon iPhone, I believe the iPhone 4 is the least likely to be it.

2. Does the Purchaser Even Want an iPhone 4?

You read my blog, you may know me by now. You may have seen my liveblogs from the lines out front of the Apple Store at 5AM on launch day of the previous iPhones. You may know that I didn’t line up this year because I was trying to save money by trading in my 3GS at Radio Shack, rather than buying directly from Apple.

I do not yet have an iPhone 4.

I do not yet want an iPhone 4.

I mean of course I want it. It’s sexy. It has that nice retina display. I will use the improved camera constantly. But I’m waiting to see what really happens with the antenna issue, and with some people saying it’s better than the 3GS and some saying it’s worse, and Apple saying, “Nothing is wrong, nothing has ever been wrong, but we’re sorry, we screwed up, and we’ve fixed it. By giving you a free piece of rubber to put around your $700 phone, which has nothing wrong with it. Really.” I really don’t know what to believe. But sort of like Consumer Reports said, they can’t recommend the iPhone 4 because of reception issues, but also declared it at the same time the best phone on the market. And I think that’s probably a good way to describe the problem. Of course there are reasons to buy it anyway, but considering for Verizon users it doesn’t yet exist, and the Droid does, the potential of the iPhone 4 not quite being up to snuff is a little more important.

3. What Kind of Phone Does the Person Have?

A big question when the person is debating whether to buy a Droid now or wait for an iPhone is what kind of phone the person currently has. Is it old and crappy? Is it a dumbphone? Does it just plain suck and they hate it? Nick has been sick of his Blackberry for a while, so it makes me sad to see him waiting around for something that may not come. On the other hand, if the person has a decent phone that they still enjoy, there is more incentive to wait and see.

Cell phone contracts are two years. You can usually get the full discount on a new phone in 18 months (maybe it’s 20 or 22 on Verizon, I have no idea anymore). If it ends up being a year before the iPhone comes out, that’s 365 days of using a crappy phone — hundreds of thousands of calls, texts and email-checks on a phone you hate, and for what? Wouldn’t it be better to buy the Droid and be maybe 75% happy for two years, and then buy the iPhone? Or use it for a year and then shell out the money to buy the iPhone at the higher price after a year, if it’s that important.

My Recommendation

At this point, I haven’t had much opportunity to play with the Droid, but most people seem to feel that it’s a reasonable equivalent to the iPhone for those stuck on Verizon. For heavy Mac users like me and Nick, it might be a little more frustrating to not be able to enjoy all the Mac-specific features the iPhone offers, but it’s far better than nothing. Unfortunately I have changed my tune, and now recommend confidently, if you’re on Verizon and your old phone needs an upgrade, just get a Droid and be happy right now.

Nick got the Droid X, and has posted his review. It sounds like it’s already improved his life.

July 16, 2010

Reaction to Apple’s Press Conference

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:42 pm

Engadget’s live blog

1. Despite Steve not-quite-answering the question about whether they would make hardware changes by sort-of-but-not-really saying “no,” I’m not convinced that if I buy an iPhone today it would be identical to the one I would buy in a month. And since they obviously won’t acknowledge a change in the hardware, I would have no recourse if I later found out the phone I bought was inferior to the later ones.

2. They seem to think they’ve fixed the problem. Giving people a free case and full satisfaction guarantee is an appropriate response to the situation, and I appreciate that. But putting a case over the phone is not the same thing as fixing the PHONE, and I find that a little unsettling that at once they say there is no problem and never was any problem, but also they have now fixed it. By giving away a $30 case, and making no change to the $700 phone itself.

3. As a prospective buyer, I like that they are giving an option of various cases. I posted somewhere on the interwebs a few days ago that if they did indeed give out free cases, I hoped it would be in a selection of colors, as being forced to use a case was bad enough, but it would be nice to at least have some basic options of personal style.

4. My desire to purchase the phone from Radio Shack to get the trade-in on the 3GS complicates the situation. The 30-day guarantee is great. They say most people don’t have a problem with the phone at all — now you can find out for yourself and be under no obligation if you are one of the minority with the problem. Great. Except if I trade in my 3GS, and my iPhone 4 doesn’t work, I don’t expect Radio Shack to give me my old phone back. If Apple was willing to replace the iPhone 4 with a 3GS instead of a refund, I would feel fine about the situation. Except that they apparently no longer sell 3GS’s with 32GB. A refurb would be fine, but I’m skeptical. And they don’t really say how the refund will work if you bought the phone from a third party store. I’m curious to hear what those kinds of policies will be, once the other retailers catch up to what Apple just announced.

5. For me personally, the 30-day return period doesn’t help me now. I’m currently in an area with pretty good AT&T coverage, and will be for about the next 35 days. I want to use it in Manhattan (and in Fargo, for that matter, although that’s more impractical) before I decide if it works or not.

I still really want the phone, but money is tight, even with a job, after just barely being able to pay off my Macbook Pro, and I’ll be unemployed for most of September. Buying it without trading the 3GS would be irresponsible. For a number of reasons, I don’t think I should make a move for at least a month — to see if a minor change is made in manufacturing, to test the phone in NYC, and so that by the time the credit card bill is due, I’ll have gotten at least one check from The Acting Company!

I am still really enjoying iOS4 on my 3GS, especially now that Google Apps has fixed a settings problem that caused all Standard users to be forced to use a 1-minute auto-lock on the phone (just delete and recreate your account on the phone if you’re experiencing it).

There are a number of purchases valued between $100-300 I’ve wanted to make in the months since I had to replace my Macbook Pro, and a few of them are actually things I would rather have sooner than a new iPhone. If I can only afford just one in the near future, the iPhone would not be my first choice.

I’m very curious to see what the reaction is to all this in the coming days and weeks, though.

Amazon’s Mind-Reading Service Not Ready For Primetime

I call this: tech — Posted by KP @ 12:53 pm

Dear Amazon,
I have been a loyal customer for 13 years. I’ve had your credit card for as long as I’ve had credit. But today I am very disappointed.

I was running low on dietary supplements, and decided I should order some more ASAP. I was going to do it when I got home, which is where I prefer to place online orders, so I don’t rush through them. But this seemed like a simple one, so when I had a moment of free time at the theatre before our final dress rehearsal, I selected the one item I wanted, and with a few clicks placed my order.

Because I’m an Amazon Prime member, I sent it using two-day shipping for free. I received your notice that it had shipped on the day I ordered it (thanks!), but since it’s a pretty boring delivery, I never clicked on it to check the tracking status.

So today was the day it was supposed to arrive, so this morning I clicked on the tracking status to see if it had been delivered yet. When I get to the basic summary screen I see
I thought it was kind of funny that it was going through the Bronx on the way to Boston. I also was a little disappointed, since obviously that meant it was going to be late.

Then I clicked on the details.
Amazon.com - Your Account

Oh. OH! Ah. I see where there was some confusion.

Now Amazon. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happens when you assume. In this case you seem to have made an ass mostly out of me. But still.

I’m at that stage where the other day I was talking to my board op about interior decorating or something, and had to take a minute to concentrate very hard on remembering what my apartment looks like before I could comment on whether I would like to decorate that way. That also happened last year, when I saw some towels I liked at Bed Bath & Beyond, and then realized I couldn’t decide if I liked them until I was sure what color my bathroom was.

So in light of this, the fact that my default shipping address at Amazon is my apartment seems completely nonsensical, and never once crossed my mind while I was placing that order.

If I’m receiving a package, it’s going to:

  1. Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
  2. My parents on Long Island
  3. The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis
  4. Some random hotel somewhere in the United States

The last place on earth I would actually be is at my apartment!

I would think with your billions of dollars, you would by now have developed a better system to read your users’ minds, and prevent things like this from happening. At the very least there needs to be an app for that. I have the Amazon app, and I never use it because it doesn’t seem to offer much. Here’s what it needs:

  1. Customer places order with Amazon
  2. Push notification sent to customer’s iPhone asking them to open the app to load their order status
  3. When the app opens, access the user’s current location
  4. If the user is more than 100 miles from the shipping address, and the package is addressed to their name, be like, “Are you sure you know where you live?”
  5. If the user says no, tell them what an idiot they are and pop up a screen where they can select a different shipping address.

Thankfully it looks like UPS has an option to change the delivery address on an item (for a fee) once a delivery attempt has been made. I’ll have to try that. But for the future, please work on that mind-reading thing.

Update: I had to have someone get the delivery sticker off the door to get an additional code number off it, but with that number I was able to have the package redirected to me up here. It cost me about $15 for my stupidity (a $4 flat stupidity fee, and the rest was the actual cost of the shipping from NY to Boston), but the shipping was surprisingly fast. It took like two days. I figured they’d send it by mule or something. So there you go. I hope you never do something stupid like that, but there is a solution and it was a lot cheaper than the value of the item.

July 14, 2010

Music Man Update

I call this: summer stock,theatre — Posted by KP @ 6:30 pm

I’ve been feeling guilty about not posting anything lately. We open tomorrow. Here are some early photos.


“Rock Island”

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