A random look at the life and times of Jim Rising recovering radio addict and newspaper columnist.

Friday, March 28, 2008

For techno Audio Geeks only

Like any story about computer technology this story is a path you have to follow.
It begins about 6-8 months ago when my studio computer began doing bad things. This machine is used only for audio and is about 2 years old. It has two hard drives which store projects that I work on, band recordings and various other commercial audio endeavors which I make a little dough from now and then.
It’s equipped with Adobe Audition (version 1.0) and a sound card that I have used now in three computers. It is, I believe now at least ten years old-a “Layla” by Echo. 20 bit 8 in 8 out bi directional. It’s always performed flawlessly.
Up until it didn’t. Adobe began to stop without warning. A big problem if you are recording a band. Then in the past month or so it began to throw messages like “the file you are trying to open is not compatible with the sound card you are using.” Huh? It's not opening mp3’s that I have used a hundred times? It gets worse. Wednesday I had a session scheduled with a musician who has recorded bits and pieces for an upcoming CD. He wanted to bring in a fiddle player to track some overdubs from a disc. Not a real complex process.
As is my custom I went out to my studio an hour early (it’s in the top of my garage) and got the heat running and booted up my machine. Now it won’t work at ALL! In fact it won’t even play any audio from any player, media recorder, music match, nothing. Dead in the water. I frantically called my client and waved him off until Thursday with the hope I could figure something out.
Back up a few weeks. I have wanted to do some audio blogs here. Maybe some pod casting. But it’s kind of a pain to fire up the big studio. Or maybe I am just lazy. Choose one. In any case I investigated USB capable mikes so I could record at this laptop which is on my kitchen table. I found something even better. MXL (previously called Marshall) which makes a great line of condenser mikes has a converter. They call it the Mic Mate. It has an analog mike (canon input) to USB. Even powers a condenser mike! I have loads of mikes so this was a great choice. Got one for $40 on Ebay.
It took me about two days to make the darn thing work. First off it didn’t work at all. After some finagling with the settings in windows audio I got it to record but there was this HORRIBLE hummmmm. Like AC hum but loud. I tried everything I could. Running the laptop on battery. Running a mike cable a long distance from the machine. Standing on my head. Nothing worked. Well I could still use it. I would just have to noise reduce all the files with Audition. A pain but doable. This is for the internet, after all.
So I tried some dry runs. It sounded ok. Not great. Hollow.
I moved to the bedroom with carpets on the floor and the big bed to suck up echo. Still not good. Tried a small closet. Still bad.
By accident I recorded a file without the outboard USB mike deal connected. It recorded my voice! What the hell?
Turns out the Dell Inspiron 600 m I am using has an onboard mike. Who knew? I spent a few tedious hours trying to figure out how to mute the thing but no joy. Finally I just plugged a headphone adapter into the mike input on the Dell and now it works great. Evidently the hum was from the internal mike fighting with the USB one. Who knows? It’s gone and that’s that.
I am using a Neumann TLM 103. With it’s shock mount about a $1500 mike. In terms of audio to the internet this is sort of like making a silk purse out of sow’s ear. But it’s the right size and makes me feel good so what the heck. I guess I could use an SM-58 but….
Back to the big studio.
Got my computer oriented son (we will call him the 1.0 model) on the horn. He was very patient with me. Which was good since I was in total panic mode. It’s a funny sort of role reversal. While I am usually able to trouble shoot problems this one pretty well had me buffaloed.
He’s a Mac guy. His first suggestion was “buy a Mac”.
Not a bad idea but for me to start over again on a new platform would be difficult at best, not to mention I have $0 to do this with.
“Drivers” he said.
This “Layla” is so old that the company no longer supports it. They have on their site a driver archive. Eight different ones for this unit. All “beta” with stern warnings about how they are tested but not guaranteed to work.
None of the eight did anything to fix the problem.
“Put the card in another machine.” Version 1.0 suggested.
A real pain that was. The old studio machine is in pieces in the house in my office. It wouldn’t boot for a while. Now it boots but the on off button has no effect. So to use it you have to unplug it from the wall. It’s Win 98. Don’t laugh.
Got the soundcard in and got it hooked up and booted. After several weird screens (BSOD twice!) I got to a screen that said “Your LAYLA card is not present.” I showed the computer that it was. Held it up to the unit so it could see it. No dice.
Well at least now we know its hardware. When I bought the “Layla” it was $800. Version 1.0 found me some comparable cards for $175. But they all had phone jack (RCA) connectors (?) and all my stuff is ¼ inch jacks. It would be a pain to rewire it so I went looking for a “Layla.” Hey you go with what you know, right?
Found two 20 bit models for sale right here in W/B. Guy had an old WIN 98 machine (HP) and a 12 channel Behringer Eurorack 2642A console on EBAY for $275. Local delivery only. Made some comment in the auction text about how it was “Old School” stuff but good for a starter setup. Humph.
Guy won’t sell just the two “Laylas.” Wants enough dough for a drum machine. I might buy the stuff anyway although I don’t need another console. Or a computer. Or two “Old school” “Laylas.” But then again…More Gear! So if his auction goes belly up maybe I will offer him a couple of bucks to take it off his hands. Don’t tell my wife.
Found another guy selling a used new one. You know what I mean. It is a used version of the “Layla” of the current model. 3.0! They retail for around $4-500 so I got it and paid $230 for it. Had to stay up until midnight to get it. He claims it was only driven on Sundays by a little old lady band on the way to church. We will see. I am sure it will give me some grief in the install when it arrives. Next week sometime.
But I still have this tracking session. Tomorrow. Hmmm.
I have the MXL Mic Mate. I could maybe make this work.
So I plugged my trusty Marshall 2001 ( I like it better than the Neuman for most things!) into my snake (channel one if you must know) in the tracking studio-plugged the control room end into the MXL Mic mate and that into a USB port on my computer. Didn’t work. I made the changes to the driver on the windows sound card, set up a radio in the tracking room and as the French say “Voila!” Level seemed fine and the software recorded about 20 minutes of Froggy 101 without a burp.
I ran a lead from the headphone out of the computer into my console and fed that into my headphone monitor system.
So now the session could happen! The fiddle player could hear the track to play to in headphones but not himself since the computers simple sound card is unidirectional. So he did the old “One ear” method.
The session went fine. The only real issue was we couldn’t hear the fiddle in the control room because A: it wasn’t going thru the console and B: the sound card was busy recording and being unidirectional only and couldn’t get us playback.
The moral of this rather long, technical story is “Where there is a will there is a way” I guess. I don’t really need a moral, but there you go.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Computer blues

I have spent the last 24 hours in computer hell. My plan to use my laptop in the house to file audio blogs cost me about a day. Then my studio computer sound card messed the bed. I will write about this after I track down Bill Gates and make him....oh gosh I don't know, admit that he stole everything from Apple only not as good.

My older son says get an Apple and all my problems will go away.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Check Please

Some of the names here have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. In the big scheme of things this is not at the top of the list. But still it baffles me why anyone in this economy would turn down money for honest work.
Let me back up here. I have some friends who are part of a club. We will say it’s the ferret club to protect their identities. Imagine a group of ordinary folks who love all things ferrets. They have little gatherings of their little club in the summer, putting the ferrets thru their paces and award trophies for the best ferrets.
Once a month these ferret lovers like to gather and break bread. They choose among all the fine area eating joints and never had a problem. Never until the last meeting, that is.
The ferret club group on this evening numbered 9. They got a table at a local place known for its pizza. They asked the server if it would be a problem if they could please have separate checks and that’s when the night got ugly. I wasn’t there but I can recreate the scene. The waitress snapped her gum and placing her hand on her hip rolled her eyes. “We only do separate checks for parties of 8 or less.” She dug in her heels and as far as she was concerned that was that. The ferret club consulted each other and made a counter offer. They would combine orders so the waitress would need to write only four checks. No sale.
Now bear in mind that there were 9 people. One over the limit and no ferrets in sight. The manager was summoned. He backed his waitress up.
The ferret club looked at each other and agreed to leave and reconvene elsewhere.
I did a quick survey on the phone this morning. I called quite a few different restaurants. Coopers. Bennigan’s. Ollie’s, Hops and Barley’s. The Chicken Coop. The Dough Company. Pizza Hut. The Olive Garden. Ruby Tuesdays. Cracker Barrel. Red Lobster. Applebees. Lonestar Steak house. The results of my unscientific poll? Each restaurant I called said “no problem.” Would I like to make a reservation?
In the big scheme of things the loss of the restaurant that wouldn’t write separate checks was probably just over $100. The waitress, if she was tipped 20% would have made $20.
It’s not much money I know. But let me put it to you another way. One of the ferret club gave me a gift certificate to the restaurant in question. Why? They had received it as a gift and didn’t want to ever go back there, even for free. Ask yourself this. If you owned this restaurant, would you want that to happen?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Boot this!

Spring has sprung
The Grass is riz
I wonder where the boot drive is?

Three words guaranteed to raise my blood pressure any time of year. “Boot drive ahead.” Now please understand I am NOT anti-charity. I give my fair share to all sorts of funds and even volunteer my time for some causes I believe in. I have no problem flipping a few bills into the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas time. But the idea of putting money in a boot held by somebody in the middle of the road just goes against my grain. First of all it seems insanely dangerous. Sometimes these are kids in the road. You feel bad driving by. The worst is when your travels take you past the same boot drive a few times during the day. Even if you have given in and dropped loot once you feel like all eyes are on you when you pass by a second or third time. I have been known to detour miles just to avoid this humiliation. Usually these are fundraisers for local fire departments or an ambulance company. I saw a sign at one of these explaining that it was your best interest to give because what if you had an accident in that town? Your contribution could help save your life. If you follow that logic to it’s conclusion then every time you take a drive you should be stopping at every towns fire dept. to make a donation, just in case. But I understand why the boot drives happen. They are great fundraisers. Recently I was stopped in line at a four way intersection waiting on one. Five cars in front of me, five cars in each direction. That’s 20 cars. Lets say each person gives a buck, a good average since some dicks like me give none and other people who we won’t call suckers give more. So twenty bucks in about a minute. $1200 in an hour. About $5,000 in a four hour period. Hell yes! Sign ME up for that! Even if I am way off in projections it probably makes the fire department big bucks. But it’s not MY fire dept. My local fire and ambulance companies, who do a great job, do not do boot drives. They send me a little card in the mail and ask for some dough. I have no problem writing that check. I also see loads of bake sales and ham and bean dinners for fire departments. All of which seem a much more civilized way of getting some funds into the right place. But sure as the crocuses and forsythia bloom the boots will be blooming soon as well. Or then again I could be wrong.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


It’s not Jennifer Aniston’s fault. I am sure she just took the check and ran. But when I see something this stupid I can’t help myself. I just have to point out the lie(s).
You may have seen the ad campaign for “Smartwater.” I have no problem with someone marketing water in a new and unique way. Anything that can get people to drink more water is a good thing. You don’t need anything BUT water from the tap but if a little bit of this and little bit of that will get you to drink half your body weight in ounces daily, go for it! By the way, if you buy a lot of bottled water here’s a tip that will save you beau coups bucks. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water because it stinks of chlorine try this. Pour a big glass of it and let it stand for 20 minutes of so. The chlorine (and the chlorine taste) will be gone.
But the ad copy for this Smartwater is just outrageous. The copy for the ad that has the picture of Jen showing off her bosom’s reads: “What do you drink for taste? Not the swimming pool stuff. Or the tap. Or even the stuff from the ground. This water is pristine. Was never swum in or fell through the sky near the airport. It tastes the way Mother Nature intended. Clean. How smart is that?”
How smart is that? Not very. I don’t remember much about grade school science class. I wouldn’t know the periodic table if I fell over it. But I do remember that water on earth is a closed system. It never goes away, never! It’s ALL recycled, all the time.
The Smartwater web site makes some claim about “vapor distilled” pure as the first drop of rain. Hogwash. And I mean that quite literally. The water in the bottle of Smartwater that Jennifer holds in the ads probably, no definitely has washed a hog or two in it’s time. Probably been run through a hog’s kidneys once or twice along with spending some time in somebody’s cess pool. If it freaks you out to think about this then just remember this tasty little fact: urine is sterile when it leaves your body. In many third world nations where the water supply is pretty bad you may be better off drinking your own piss. Or Jennifer’s.
Maybe this is all just an excuse to post the great shots of Jennifer. In the one where she is wearing a bathing suit I saw a post on some web site that made the claim she was not wearing anything underneath.
I can’t see. Maybe I need more “Smartwater.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

So long and thanks for all the fish!

Say the name Arthur C. Clarke and some people will connect him with the Stanley Kubrick movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Most won’t. But the unvarnished truth is that Arthur C. Clarke touches your life every single day in at least one way.
When Clarke was in the Royal Air Force (he was English, born in a town by the sea called Minehead) in early 1940 he worked as a radar operator and instructor. Several years later in 1945 he wrote an essay titled “Extra-Terrestrial relays.”
A portion is excerpted here: “It will be observed that one orbit, with a radius of 42,000 km, has a period of exactly 24 hours. A body in such an orbit, if its plane coincided with that of the earth's equator, would revolve with the earth and would thus be stationary above the same spot on the planet. It would remain fixed in the sky of a whole hemisphere and unlike all other heavenly bodies would neither rise nor set. "
What this means to you and me is that Clarke had come up with the idea of a geosynchronous satellite. Three of these satellites, Clarke figured could cover the earth and provide communication for the entire world. In 1963 the first one was launched and proved him right. So every time you watch any TV or use a phone it’s probably being bounced off a satellite 42,000Km (22,300 miles) above your head and it was all dreamed up by Arthur C. Clarke. There is some discussion here and there that he cribbed the idea from earlier works but it’s pretty clear in his essay that he had the best grasp on it.
Clarke wrote over 80 books in his lifetime and published 500 essays on everything under the sun. He was a learned and prolific man and we shall not see his like anytime soon. One of his most famous quotes, and one I use often when I am trying to explain to a student how some technical audio thing functions is this: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
It’s actually number three of “Clarkes Laws.” Number two is: “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” Number one is : “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
Clarke lived in Sri Lanka for the last 53 years, one of the only spots in the world not covered by a geosynchronous satellite. He was an early adopter of E-mail but called the internet “The most deadly drug ever developed.”

The famous scene in “2001; A Space Odyssey” where Bowman shuts down the “Hal 9000” computer was inspired by Clarke after a visit to Bell Labs where he heard a speech synthesis module “singing” “DaisyBell”.

What better or more fitting way to say goodbye to Arthur C. Clarke, who died today at age 90.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Here’s something you do in your spare time. Get your local TV or radio station in trouble and possibly cost it $325,000 or more.
All you have to do is get one of the “seven deadly words” on the air.
The Federal Communications commission has now declared that the occasional fleeting expletive, like Bono saying the “f word” when he got the Golden Globe award is grounds for a fine. And the fine is $325,000 for each occasion. It doesn’t matter if the swear is said by an actor, an anchor or a bystander on the street near a remote broadcast. If it gets on the air then the station can be fined.
Here’s some inside information from a former radio guy. All stations are supposed to be on a delay when there is chance of someone swearing. That’s why on a talk radio show you will occasionally hear awkward silences or abrupt ends to phone calls. The technician running the show has “dumped” the swearword. But the fact is once the techie has dumped a call then the delay takes some time to reset. So if you ever hear that happen, call right away and swear your head off. They will be able to cut you off but not before you get some colorful language out. I suggest shouting “F… communism.” Who can argue with that?
The truth of the matter is many stations don’t bother with a delay. Show them the error of their ways!
Another prime time to cost your local TV or Radio station some big bucks is to pester them at live broadcasts. If you see a bored looking DJ at a car dealership doing a “Live action Broadcast” chances are the event is not on delay. Wait till he or she starts to speak then let the f-bombs rip. Same deal with a live shot from a TV station. Be one of those jerks who jump up and down in view of the camera trying to get on the TV. Then when the red light goes on cut loose. Bring a megaphone to help get your point across.
Of course you will quite possibly get arrested or maybe a punch or two in the face. But then you could have the fun and excitement of a free speech trial.
By the way make sure to have a tape recorder running or your TIVO set. You will need to send a record of the event to the folks at the F.C.C. Anonymous is fine. They just need to have an actual record to act.
Obviously I am NOT advocating the above. I am just trying to make a point. If swear words get on the air, I can agree that’s a bad thing. And radio stations and TV stations do work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. But sometimes it does. It’s almost always by accident. And most people won’t notice if the news reporter drops something and says “Shit!” And if you are going to make a federal case out of something like that then I suggest a course of therapy and a strong psychoactive drug might help. Maybe the F.C.C. can pay for it when they start collecting those fines.

Here’s $325k x two right here. Shaq says two curse words on live TV.

Another St. Patrick’s Day is in the books and soon the green beer and corned beef and cabbage will disappear from the restaurants and bars of our little slice of America. It’s kind of amazing this nostalgia for the Emerald isle. It’s not a very big place with about six million people living there now and a land mass roughly equal to the state of Maine. About 40 million Americans claim Irish ancestry and on parade day in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre it seems that everyone regardless of heritage is wearing green. It also seems that some folks can’t get enough of things Irish and as someone once said, there’s a sucker born every day and one born to take him. So it should come as no surprise that the newest export from The Auld sod is, well, the old sod. Yes you can now buy bags of guaranteed Irish dirt. Four 12 ounce bags for $20 if you buy before the end of March and the vendors will include shamrock seeds. The website, officialirishdirt.com offers some possible uses for the bagged dirt. Make a centerpiece of cascading Shamrocks on your family table. Grow an Irish Rose for your sweetheart. Plant a tree in it to mark the birth of your child. Or scatter it over the casket or grave of a dearly departed loved one. According to an article in the New York Times a lawyer in Manhattan who is 87 and soon to go to whatever reward New York Lawyers go to has purchased $100,000 worth of the Irish dirt to fill in his grave. Another former native of Country cork now living in Massachusetts sent $148,000 American dollars to Ireland in return for seven tons of Irish dirt to spread under his newly constructed house so he could feel like he was at home in old Ireland. As amazing as this all is I think there is an important lesson for all of us here in Northeastern Pa. If The Irish can sell dirt we should certainly be able to sell culm, don’t you think? All we need to do is to develop some sort of story that the stuff left over after the coal mining operations is imbued with mystical healing powers. A bag full of culm will cure any disease and increase your manhood and bank account in equal proportions. We could export the mountains of slag a bagful at a time and make money in the process. Hey, it’s at least as believable as the idea that some guy in Nigeria wants to give you 60 millions dollars, right? Or then again I could be wrong.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Irish Rovers its not

I am Irish. On my Mom’s side mostly but there is evidence that my Father had some of the auld sod in his genes as well. I actually lived in Sligo for about a year when I was 11 years old. Our family went there as my Dad studied Irish educational TV. I hated it but I was 11. What did I know?
One of the things that I remember with fondness was the song “Roddy McCorley.” I will never be accused of being able to carry a tune with or without a bucket but I know I sang that song with big enthusiasm while in the Emerald Isle. I am certain I had NO idea what it was all about.
But growing up with my Irish mother I learned what the deal was.
Phrases like “Race of Kings” and “a thousand years of oppression” were thrown around my house often enough that I became aware of the “TROUBLES” as the conflict between the Irish and the English was euphemistically called.
I was going to write a funny light piece about my many experiences in the St. Patrick’s Day parades of the past in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. I may still.
But then I found this video of Tommy Makem (God rest his soul) and his version of Roddy McCorley. He intros it and sings it so well that I cannot resist posting it.
It’s just a small reminder as you sip your green beer and have your ham and cabbage and soda bread that real men (and women too) fought and shed red blood on the streets of Ireland in a fight for freedom. It’s not shamrocks and leprechauns and cute girls with red hair in this song.

Here’s the lyrics:

O see the fleet-foot host of men, who march with faces drawn,
From farmstead and from fishers' cot, along the banks of Ban;
They come with vengeance in their eyes. Too late! Too late are
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome

Oh Ireland, Mother Ireland, you love them still the best
The fearless brave who fighting fall upon your hapless breast,
But never a one of all your dead more bravely fell in fray,
Than he who marches to his fate on the bridge of Toome today.

Up the narrow street he stepped, so smiling, proud and young.
About the hemp-rope on his neck, the golden ringlets clung;
There's ne'er a tear in his blue eyes, fearless and brave are
As young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome

When last this narrow street he trod, his shining pike in hand
Behind him marched, in grim array, a earnest stalwart band.
To Antrim town! To Antrim town, he led them to the fray,
But young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today.

The grey coat and its sash of green were brave and stainless then,
A banner flashed beneath the sun over the marching men;
The coat hath many a rent this noon, the sash is torn away,
And Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today.

Oh, how his pike flashed in the sun! Then found a foeman's heart,
Through furious fight, and heavy odds he bore a true man's part
And many a red-coat bit the dust before his keen pike-play,
But Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today.

There's never a one of all your dead more bravely died in fray
Than he who marches to his fate in Toomebridge town today;
True to the last! True to the last, he treads the upwards way,
And young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today.

The line about the hemp rope on his neck about does me in.

No I haven’t been drinking yet. But as I listen to this song something ancestral stirs in me and the “thirst” (some call it the curse) begins to stir in me.
You know the old saying. “God created whiskey so the Irish wouldn’t rule the earth."
It may well be true. I will investigate this weekend, far from any parade, and get back to you on that. In the meantime here's Tommy.
I suggest you eschew the Irish car bomb and go straight for the Jamesons.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Butt out!

I hate it when people throw cigarette butts out the window. In general I think littering should be a bigger crime than it is. It’s rude vile and disgusting. But in case of the butts it’s dangerous too. Why is it ok to flick a lit cigarette out of a car window? What are the ashtrays for, anyway? Oh I know what you are going to say. Modern cars don;t have ashtrays. Gee, I wonder why that is? I can’t tell you how many times I have ridden behind someone in my little roller skate MG with the top down and prayed that the tossed butt wouldn’t land in my car. I haven’t smoked for a long long time. So long that I can’t really tell you if I used to chuck the tail ends of my smoke out the window. I do know most of what I was smoking when I was smoking wouldn’t ever have been thrown away. Heh. I now chew gum and my wife gets livid with me when I spit it out the window. I fail to see where that’s as bad as the butts. The gum won’t catch anything on fire. It will disintegrate with time unlike the filters on the butts which will probably be around for a millennium or two. And the worst that might happen is you might get my wad on your shoe.Why does it piss me off so much when someone tosses a butt out? Why do I want to grab a lit cigarette and toss it in their window? I think I need therapy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spam anyone?

No matter how jealously you guard your email address it’s probably gonna be compromised.
A while ago 25 year old AOL software engineer named Jason Smathers was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in the slammer for stealing and selling 92 million (let me say that again) 92 million AOL addresses. His thirty pieces of silver? $28,000 dollars. He sold them to another scumbag name of Sean Dunaway who used the addresses to promote an internet gambling service and sold them to others for $52,000. Those who bought the addresses sent spam for delightful products like penis enlargement pills.
Way back in the stone age of the internet I was showing off my AOL equipped computer to a radio engineer. He looked at the modem for a minute and asked “Why are the lights blinking when you’re not doing anything?” It was a good question and his take on it was the AOL guys were snooping in my machine. I thought it preposterous at the time. Now I am not so sure.
I am way beyond AOL these days. I keep email addresses for private use, for business use and to buy things with, separate.
I love doing business on the internet. It’s easy, quick and so far painless. But a recent survey said 12 % of internet users have stopped doing business on the internet entirely. Between credit card and retailers losing information and outright theft from slime like Jason Smathers, people just don’t trust the World Wide Web with their greenbacks anymore.
The bible tells the story of the tower of Babel. In broad strokes it’s about the LORD coming down to see the tower that the men were building.
The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the tower.
There was a real tower of Babel. It was meant to reach from the earth to heaven. It only got seven stories high before the builders couldn’t understand each other and the project was halted.
Now we have the internet and the possibility of all of us worldwide speaking the same language again. Or we did before all that spam. What’s that I hear? You’ve got mail? It’s an offer to make your penis and your breasts bigger.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fear and loathing for the “Sheriff of Wall Street”

Ding dong, the witch is dead
Witch, old witch, the wicked witch
Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead
Heigh-ho, the dairy-o
Sing it high, sing it low
Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead
She's gone where the damned ones go
Below, below, below
So now, let's jump on up & sing & ring some bells now

The Fifth Estate

A cheer reportedly went up on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday after the news came out that Eliot Spitzer has been caught with his special purpose in the wringer.
Unless you are deaf dumb and blind and living in a cave you must have heard about the Governors problem.
It’s amazing that as in the case of Al Capone that he was caught not with a “Cheaters” style sting but instead by leaving a money trail. Eliot, who has been called “Eliot Ness” for his dogged pursuit of all kinds of alleged corruption, was found to be transferring thousands of greenbacks from campaign funds to shell corporations so he could hide the wire transfers to the $5,000 an hour call girl ring. Eliot, who really should have known better, was transferring up to $9k at a crack which over a year ago raised the antennae of the feds who thought maybe he was being blackmailed or using the moola for bribes. Not for getting his ashes hauled.
In all the rush to judgment and amazing level of coverage this has raised, the fact that Eliot made the lives of many radio and record people a living hell has been overlooked. He ran a witch hunt to try and sniff out that old bug-a-boo “Paylola” where record companies are alleged to pay for play. After a year long investigation he found one Program Director who took some tickets to a baseball game. In the process he managed to extract several millions from big record companies and radio companies to JUST GO AWAY!
In the wake of this crusade he left a trail of new regulations and rules that are so onerous that they have driven many from the business and cost millions in legal fees and lost man hours to comply with the punishment.
Now if a record person buys lunch for a radio guy you have to document the whole deal, sometimes even to the point of listing who ordered what and how big the tip was.
Meanwhile Eliot was having his own “Pay for play” fun. With a 5’5”, 105 lb pretty American girl named "Kristen" picked from the website of Emperors club VIP.
In a way I feel like I shouldn’t be so happy about this. The family is going to suffer. His wife is going to be wondering about her HIV status after Hubby slept with whores. And this could, if the rat bastard is forced to resign, influence the outcome of the presidential election because Eliot, named “Client #9” in the wiretap records was a super-delegate pledged to Hilary Clinton. His Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson, a blind black man (you can’t make this stuff up!) will inherit that power and no doubt have a different point of view.
But I can’t disagree with this posting on a radio gossip site called radio-info.com

“Wabbit season” posted:

“I have been laughing all day over this.Then I would recover, and, after I caught my breath, I'd see another story or read another headline.Then, I would lose it all over again - tears, gasping for breath, the whole nine yards.This has been the best afternoon in forever.”

I was going to post the “Wizard of Oz” version of the "Witch is dead" here. But somehow I think it more fitting that you hear it from a 45 rpm version by the “Fifth Estate” which climbed the charts in the summer of 1967, with or without payola to the number 11 spot.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I really did dream this.

The other day I had a dream about Johnny Cash. Johnny was down on his luck and was relegated to playing a show at a nursing home.
It wasn’t even a proper stage. The room was what they call a “Multi-purpose” room. Most of the time it’s purpose was a cafeteria. You could smell the cabbage from yesterday’s lunch. On one end it had a pathetic sort of stage. Folding chairs in the audience.
Johnny stood on one end of the sort of stage and waited for the opening act to finish. It was a one man band with cymbals on his knees, a bass drum strapped to his chest and a Bob Dylan harmonica holder festooned with not only a harmonica but a kazoo and a bicycle horn.
He finished an off key version of Alexander’s rag time band and walked over to Johnny, his knee cymbals keeping time.
“Tough crowd.” He said, mopping his brow.
He walked away.
Johnny strode confidently out, wearing his guitar and his trademark black. He leaned into the cheap microphone and spoke those words he was best known for.
“Hello…I’m Johnny Cash.”
No discernable reaction from the dozen or so seniors. They continued to chat with each other, ignoring the ageing superstar on stage.

Johnny gamely launched into “Folsum Prison blues.”

“I hear the train a comin´
it’s rolling round the bend
and I ain´t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin´ on”

Johnny looked out and saw no one paying him any attention.
Even being the consummate showman he was it rattled him.

“but that train keeps a rollin´ on down to San Anton..
When I was just…… ….be a good boy, don’t shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”

Johnny had lost his place and forgotten the lyrics to his most famous song.
He stopped and looked out at the old folks in the audience.
Then he stepped off the stage and levitated himself over their heads.
Looking down at the grey and blue hair he launched into the next verse.

“I bet there’s rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
they’re probably drinkin´ coffee and smoking big cigars.
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free
but those people keep a movin´
and that’s what tortures me...”

Hovering over their heads singing the song that made the convicts in the California prison yell and stomp their feet the flying Johnny Cash was drawing no more of their attention then the smell of yesterdays soup.

He flew away still strumming his guitar.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Why do I always seem to do things bass-ackwards? I spent a few hours of my life yesterday getting new tries put on my car. I went the entire winter on ones that were in the words of the tire service guy showing air. Now when we finally get a break in the weather I decide to put new skins on the family truckster? I should have my head examined.
What finally prompted me to do this? I had a chat with my brother about it the other night. He remarked that he usually waits until he can see the steel belts and then waits a little longer. His claim is that when the tires are down to the steel they get better traction. I went down to the garage after and looked them over. Yup, lots of steel showing. Not to contradict my older sibling but I know that’s just not a good thing.
It was not as expensive as I feared. I got prices over the phone and headed for the low ball one. Of course when I got to the counter they didn’t know anything about a tire for $80 but I prevailed and got it. That and an alignment and I left 4 Benjamin’s lighter.
But it was a nice sunny day for a change. About 40 degrees and so I sat outside while they (slowly) did the work and made some phone calls. The sun and reasonably warm air made me feel like maybe; just maybe we could be near to spring. Of course I know in my heart of hearts that it’s only a tease and we will soon enough get a blast of March winter to keep us in line.
It may be psychosomatic but as I drove home I felt like the car was holding the road better. It felt like it was, I dunno, Happy. Too much NASCAR where they always talk about fresh tires being so good I guess.
It may have something to do with the guy’s remark as he cashed me out.
He said “The tires that you had on the car?”
“Uh huh” I said.
“Those were May-pops.”
I said I was unfamiliar with the brand.
“May-pop at anytime!” was his reply with a har de har har.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Look out!

I have a terrible problem with my driving.
It seems that no matter what I try to do, from going really slow to swerving to coming to a complete stop- I cannot for the life of me avoid hitting potholes in the roads of NEPA.
It almost seems like my car has a magnetic attraction to them. And some of these so called potholes seem to be strategically placed so that if you miss one you cannot avoid slamming your Goodyear’s into another.
These potholes grow larger everyday. According to “T.R.I.P.” the road information program which is a Washington D.C. non profit that investigates such things, we pay on average in the country of about $400 a year to fix our cars after the roads beat the crap out of them. But wait-here’s some news-Pennsylvania cars need an extra $20 bucks on average because our roads suck so bad.
Do the words decaying infrastructure mean anything to you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wet, Wet, Wet!

It has rained steady for the last 24 hours. Heavy pouring rain at times. It was falling so hard at one point last night it sounded like a freight train was rolling across the roof.
The Rising ranch was built sometime in the 1940’s. I am guessing it started as a one floor dwelling and at some point they added another story. The upstairs is equipped with a dormer and the roof above that is, unfortunately flat. Every year during the winter it builds up an ice dam on the edge, ends up with standing water and leaks into what is now my office.
Since I am home all day now, mostly, the second story flood watch falls to me. Yesterday I had a bunch of errands to run. Change the oil on my car, meet someone for lunch Etc.
I didn’t make it back home till late. Shortly after I got home so did the long suffering wife.
I heated up the supper and she walked into the kitchen, slipped and damn near ended up on her behind. What? Water on the floor. Her first thought of course is that I spilled some, but further investigation turned up the real Uh Oh. My office was flooded! Mops and buckets and towels and pots and pans. Some fun.
Later on I was in my easy chair half dozing in front of a dumb movie when I heard my wife shriek and then a tremendous crash. I levitated off the chair and flew up the stairs. The long suffering wife had tried to closely examine the ceiling by standing on my office chair-the one with wheels. Fill in the blanks. She is fine. My heart rate is nearly back to normal.
The basement of the Rising ranch is prone to flooding as well. Because of this and at some expense we had two giant holes dug at the low end and installed two sump pumps. Another time I will recount the story of what happened before the sump pumps.
About three am last night I woke up and listened to the sump pumps run. They are supposed to shut off when the water level in the hole drops. They were running continuously. I went down to investigate and found Niagara Falls in my basement. The water was coming in too fast for the pumps to keep up!
This really sucks. We have water coming in top and bottom.
The garage is flooded as well. I haven’t checked the studio yet. It’s on top of the garage and got a new roof last year so it should be ok.
Any old time the weather would like to give us a break that would be fine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

For audio geeks only

I read with interest a fellow blogger’s rhapsody to a microphone. He was talking about an RCA 77 DX which is pictured here. It’s a great microphone but for some odd reason I can’t say that I have ever used one on the air or in a recording session.

My broadcast career began at a 1,000 watt (250 at night) AM radio station in Barre Vermont. WSNO’s main studio microphone, pictured at right was an Electrovoice 664. Better suited to PA use I have no idea how it ended up in the control room. I can only say that it was indestructible. A good quality in a mike for a novice broadcaster to learn on

A few years later I found myself in a craphole called Jacksonville North Carolina at another 1,000 watter, WJNC. I was not yet 21, had hair down to my shoulders and a bad attitude that told the world I knew it all. I should never have taken the job but it was for fifty dollars more a week which at the time seemed like a fortune. I hated every minute of it and eventually got fired but I got to work behind this great microphone. The RCA 44 A made me sound like I really had a set, which of course I don’t but it was a hell of piece of gear. The only problem was the idiot who preceded me on the air (I was doing a midday shift) would tap a pen or a pencil on the face of the mike all the time he wasn’t actually talking into it. If you know anything about ribbon mikes you know this was bad news. Sometimes I would come in and see pieces of the ribbon on the counter under the mike. What a shame!

Next stop was an AM Daytimer in Springfield Vermont. I was a father by then, all of 21. WCFR with 5000 watts had the best ribbon mike I ever worked behind. Pictured here the Altec Lansing 639a looked to my eye like the mask on a medieval suit of armor. It was a fat sounding mike with unreal proximity effect and made me feel like I was Thurl Ravenscroft-the guy who sang the “Grinch song.” It was a heavy unit and the folks at WCFR were too cheap to buy a mike stand so it was suspended above the console with some sort of chain rig. You could raise or lower it by hooking the chains at different points. One day it came loose and darn near took me out!

Since those early days I have worked hundreds of different mikes. One station I was at had a GM who fancied himself a tech head so he would order all these different pieces of gear to test. I would estimate we tried 25 different mikes there.

Now I have a mike locker of my own with a bunch of Shures, a few Marshalls, A couple of EV RE-20’s, one Neuman and one Nady RSM2 ribbon mike, which I barely use because it’s a pain to shut off the phantom power on my console. But I still wish I had one of those Altec’s.

If you want to see more about any of these mikes most of them are on sale right now on ebay.

Monday, March 3, 2008

We can do it, Hayna? or no.

A recent news story in the paper was headlined “World to see W-B via videos.” I am all for the world seeing us. If it brings dollars to NEPA whether from new business or a tourist bring ‘em on I say. But I am troubled by this deal. The idea is that there will be video feed on the city’s website highlighting aspects of the city to entice people to come see for themselves. My problem? The videos are being produced by a firm called CGI Communications. CGI is from Rochester N.Y. I checked out their web site. They look like the real deal and have done this sort of thing across the country. The product looks very professional. Everyone is happy. Except me.
Now an important point is that no taxpayer dollars will be used for this project. Local business leaders will make it happen with donations. So what is my beef? Here it is in a nutshell. Why do we farm out something like this to Rochester N.Y.? Is it because we don’t have the expertise here in the “Valley” to do it? Now I am not a video guy, audio is more my field. But I have to guess that with firms like Pepperjam and Solid Cactus here who employ hundreds doing web stuff that somebody in town could do this important job. I just finished working with producers of a documentary on the life of Francis Slocum. My part was to record narration and music. The quality of this video is terrific. And it was done right here in good old NEPA. Now I am not saying that they guys and gals at CGI wouldn’t do a great job. They probably will. And I am not carping that the money is going out of town, although that is a shame. The problem is that no one knows us like we do. I have lived here for 27 years and I barely understand this area. It is in a word, unique. To expect someone from out of town to show us to the world is a lot to ask. It will take a lot of local involvement. Someone who knows and loves the area will have to be involved. I have seen many locally written blogs and some of them contain video of the area. Some of them are quite good. If amateurs can do this, why can’t we find LOCAL professionals to do the job? Or maybe the amateur efforts really are better. In any case we need to show the world what we have known all along. That this is a pretty good place to live, work and play. And about that I am not wrong.