I’ve been heads down these last few weeks since returning from CES 2009 trying to create a new show that we hope is going to help us keep the theatre I run open in these tough economic times, and also dealing with the effects of that shoulder sprain I experienced a couple of weeks ago. I’m not writing that to complain, times and circumstances are what they are and it is our job to figure a way to deal with them. That said, it has been a trying time and mobile tech has been a help and in some circumstances, a welcome retreat from the stress, and also stress inducing as well.
Because of the workload I’ve gotten behind here at GBM on some topics and hardware I want to cover. We’ve got an HP Mini 2140 and the ArtPC here that I need to get some video up about as well as a few other things. We’ll try to get that up soon. Thomasin and I are both feeling guilty because we haven’t gotten the follow up on her experiences with the HP Mini 1000 done as well. We open the show this weekend and are hoping to have some time to take care of all of that before I head out on two trips for auditions next week. I’ll be in Washington DC Monday and Tuesday and then head to the Unified Professional Theatre auditions mid-week. Trust me when I say the calendar is not working in my favor these days. Crazy times.
Now, as to the part about mobile tech. Two nights ago in rehearsal was the first night I felt comfortable Inking on a Tablet PC given my shoulder injury. Prior to that I had to waste an intern’s time by having them take notes as I dictated them. I tried several other methods of getting the notes into a Tablet during this including voice recognition, but there is just too much noise with the show running for that to work effectively. I also tried using a couple of different apps on the iPhone to record my notes, but listening to the notes afterward to try and understand them just proved too cumbersome, and again, the noise from the show got in the way and often made understanding what I was saying impossible. I’m not blaming the technology here as much as the circumstance. I’m sure with an appropriate headset with a good microphone all of this good have been better on a Tablet, but I can’t obstruct my ears as listening for sound balance from the stage and also for volume from the actors is a key part of my job in these rehearsals and obstructing my ears (or an ear) is out of the question.
All of that said, the physical and psychological relief that I felt giving notes to the team was an amazing thing, after taking them in Ink. I felt on top of my game, and very much in control again. If Inking on a Tablet PC ever disappears I think I will have to retire (if the economy doesn’t force me into it first) because I cannot ever imagine going back to taking notes in any other fashion while conducting rehearsals.
As for the solace part, the iPhone came in handy. After initially spraining my shoulder and feeling much better after several trips to the chiropractor I had a setback due to me pushing things too hard too early. I gesture wildly as I’m giving directions to a cast and this apparently did me in. We ended up immobilizing my right arm and shoulder in a sling primarily as a reminder to keep me from doing something stupid again. That seemed to work, but it kept me away from a keyboard until Wednesday when things improved dramatically. Of course the email flow didn’t stop while all this was going on. All of the negative things said about the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard are true as it is difficult to master, but I have to say I got quite proficient in responding to emails with just my left hand during this period. While I won’t call that fun, the fact that I could keep in touch this way and respond to something important while I was hindered. It also proves that you can adjust to just about anything if you have to.
Three other random thoughts here:
A small keyboard (as in Netbooks) puts more stress on your arms and shoulders than a fuller size keyboard. experienced this on Wednesday when I cranked out a few posts for GBM and other documents. I was using the HP Mini 1000 and the HP Mini 2140. After closing them down, I felt much better working on larger keyboards. This was more than noticeable.
The Windows 7 Beta is stable enough for me to use it during the load I put on a machine in rehearsals. I had two Tablets available to me on Wednesday night, one with the beta, one without (in case the experiment failed.) I didn’t need to switch.
While it is often very easy (and beneficial) to switch tech off when I am in a stressful situation, the more you become reliant on a particular technology can lead to a different kind of stress when it is unavailable to you. How we do our work becomes a part of us. I thought it would be easy to switch back to dictating notes to a third party. But I did not feel comfortable, efficient or productive while taking the notes or delivering them to the cast. Effective communication is a key to my job and I felt less than I effective. I guess this means that in addition to having a good backup strategy to protect data, I need to have a backup strategy for how I do my work and I need to keep in practice with that as well. If a computer fails I can get it back up and running with a backup pretty easily. But I can’t afford to have a down night in a tight rehearsal schedule when so much is on the line. I consider that a lesson learned the hard way.