Coming changes

I can change directions on a dime but I realize many don’t enjoy change as much as I do. So I wanted to let my readers know that some changes are coming to this blog, including a new design. Stay tuned.

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Technology not

In the days before I had much money, I got myself a poor person’s cruise control on my car. In those days, I drove a 5-speed VW Rabbit and so I sweet-talked my brother, the mechanic, into installing a throttle lock.

embarrassed womanWhat the system consisted of was a gadget attached to the gas pedal and another line attached somehow to the brake. When you engaged the system, the gas pedal was locked into place. Pressing the brake released the lock.

This sounds like the sort of thing a person whose brain has not fully developed yet might try out. And that was the case.

Because the area where I generally drove was flat, the system worked adequately. I’d reach the right speed, lock in the throttle, and relax. My speed would shift with any ups and downs in the road but not much.

I was now in league with those fancy-schmancy cruise controls.

So one day my sister and I took off for Denver in my Rabbit. I don’t remember why she was driving but I do remember that we had a good-sized hill to clear on the route.

When I drove, I kicked off my throttle lock when I got to the hill.

My sister didn’t.

So up the hill we climbed. Gravity being what it is, our speed dropped. And dropped. 

Cars passed us. Lots of cars passed us.

We chugged our way to the top like the little engine that could.

And then we started down. We zoomed down the hill, flying past cars that had passed us like we were tortoises. Now we were the hare.

“Those people think I’m crazy!” my sister wailed.

Perhaps they did. But we got so far ahead of that pack we didn’t see any of them all the way to Denver. So it really didn’t matter.

A simple way to record

Thanks to a loyal student, I’ve started recording the classes I teach. I’m like most people: I’m not fond of my own voice but she said she wanted to keep up with the class when she was gone.

Who can say no to that? This is a voluntary class; she can miss whenever she wants.

English: Audio levels shown on a Zoom H4n whil...

 Zoom H4n (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m now saving the recordings to my hard drive and plan to produce a CD of the entire class when it’s done. And it’s very simple to do.

Here’s my approach:

  • Use a good digital recorder. I have a Zoom H4N. That’s a bit of overkill in this situation.  On the other hand, we get great recordings.
  • I utilize a portable PA system which projects my voice to throughout the classroom plus gives more volume to the Zoom. If I didn’t need the PA amplification, I could just speak right into the Zoom as a portable microphone. I’m hesitant to use a lapel mic because of the extra noise that comes from the wire rustling on clothing. Plus that microphone wire would tether me more than I’d like.
  • We place the Zoom on a tripod at the front of the classroom. I have wonderful assistants who monitor the volume and adjust when students make comments so that their voices can be heard. The Zoom has a tripod socket on the back side. I could also adapt to a microphone stand.
  • The recording is stored on an SD card. I’ve chosen a 16gb SD card so that I can get many weeks of discussions on the card. That’s also a short-term backup to my hard drive.
  • After class, I copy the day’s recording onto my computer’s hard drive. The recording is a WAV file that I’ll want to convert to MP3.
  • Because this is such a simple process, I’m using Audacity – free audio software – to convert from WAV to MP3. Audacity also allows me to bump the recording volume and I could do a lot more editing as well. At this point, all I need is the conversion.
  • When converting to MP3, I am also cued to include information about the title of the recording, title of the artist, track title and number, year of recording and genre. I will use this information when I create a CD of all the classes. Each class recording is about an hour and forms one track.
  • I’ve created a folder system on my hard drive with the name of the class as the folder name, plus sub-folders for each individual class. Audacity creates a project folder for each recording so my sub-folders let me find the project at a later date.

This is a pretty simple system for recording but I’ve used it at several speaking opportunities and it works well. Audacity will also allow me to edit each recording and I’m planning to add a musical introduction to each class. Just to jazz things up a bit.

If you speak, think about recording your speeches so that you can create a library that may be re-packaged into something that can be sold or given away to students who couldn’t come to class. It’s easier than you might think.

Cleaning out the archive box

I knew things were going to get a little sticky when I uncovered an ink refill for a printer that I don’t remember owning.  I had to crack open my archive box and I was finding interesting treasures.

pochette CD.jpg

pochette CD.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Archive box” sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

My archive box is a plastic box with lid that contains CDs from programs I’ve installed. What a great idea, I thought when I got it. All my CDs were safely stored in one place and protected from dust and stuff.

I don’t know why the ink refill was in the box. The printer must not have lasted long enough to even earn a refill.

I don’t visit my archive box much but my computer crashed and I was re-installing programs.

But opening that box was like a trip down memory lane but without the warm fuzzy emotions. What I felt was confusion.

For example, I uncovered a  CD with a big black question mark scrawled on the label.

What in the world? Who labels their CD with a question mark?

Me, obviously.

Although nobody accuses me of being well-organized (well, someone did once but that was before they saw my desk), I took some pride on my box as a shred of planning.

Every program CD went into that box after installation.

I am proud to say that there were no 5 1/4 inch floppies in there.  Using my system, that’s a miracle.

So I started flipping through CD jewel boxes  for programs to reinstall.

I found programs that won’t run on anything newer than Windows 98.  I found programs for pre-schoolers. (Our youngest is 17.)  I found a CD from our classical music days.

I’d like to blame this on the kids but they never open the box.  They just run the programs and don’t mess with the details.

Wonder where they learned that?

I’m sure there’s a major life lesson in all this. Something about staying organized but those lessons tend to roll off me like tumbleweeds crossing the prairie.

Sometimes simple is better. So here’s what I learned: I’m cleaning out the box.

That way there’ll be room for further archiving.

Online translators: “what?”

Today you can copy text, plug into an online translator, and have yourself a nifty set of words that might or might not make the slightest sense.

Clockwise Trail Access

Clockwise Trail Access (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

For example, I heard one of a translation of the common idiom: “Out of sight, out of mind” translated to : “Invisible, insane.”

Maybe…

I recently purchased a personal PA system for speaking engagements. It’s one of those gadgets with a wired microphone attached to a small amplifier that you can hang from your belt. I used it last week for a group activity and it worked pretty slick.

But the one-sheet instruction guide must have come from Jupiter because of some of these statements:

  • “Features: Lithium battery, long battery life. Loud-speaker works pretty good.” (Since that’s what a PA system is for, I was glad to know that.)
  • “To extend the battery life, please charge after the battery is use out.” (I assume “use out” should be “used up” but what’s a preposition among friends?)
  • “You can adjust the length of waistband, as shown below.” (Below is the bottom of the page. Flipping the page reveals how to adjust the microphone.)
  • “Attentions before wearing the ear-hanging microphone: Before wearing, please don’t turn on the power and volume.” (The ear-hanging microphone might be better called a single-ear microphone but I can adjust. I’m still trying to understand the why of the second instruction.)
  • “Don’t change the battery by yourself under warranty. Be sure that the pole is right when the change the battery.” (To change, not to change… well, it’s only a $35 gadget so I probably won’t worry about the pole.)
  • “Turn the volume button clockwise or anticlockwise can increase or decrease the volume.” (Anticlockwise?)
  • “Decrease the volume to avoid noises.” (But I want volume. That’s why I bought the unit. Maybe my voice is a noise….)
  • “Cut in and pull out the plug often may cause the disbad connection between microphone and amplifier.” (And we don’t want a disbad connection.)

I’m a reader and I’m a writer so I read these instructions once, curbed the urge to re-write them, and saved them long enough for this post.

However, I think these instructions fall under the “invisible, insane” category.

My video spinner

My teenage son wants to be a multimedia expert, which has thrown his mother into a bit of a spin.

Can one pay the rent while making YouTube videos and designing websites?

He’s 17 so of course one can.

I suggested to him today that maybe he should have  a backup plan. “Maybe you could also learn to repair computers. Or be an IT guy.”

“There’s always a place for IT guys,” he assured me. “That’s a great backup.”

“Don’t you think you should get some training?”

“Don’t need to. Google is my friend.”

Yeah.

But here’s a video he was a big part of and one I helped with as well. Thought I’d share, hoping that Plan A works for him:

Google Plus not dead yet

Google Plus is not dead, although I thought so for months. Maybe you gave up on Google Plus as well.

Then I read an article by Dave Llorens about the future of Google Plus and decided to stir the waters of my account again.

I know, one more social connection to try to maintain.

But the Google Authorship aspect caught my attention. When my name is googled, I want people to find my blog and other connections. Google Authorship ties my photo to my writings and I like that.

The core of the ability to do that is Google Plus.

So I’m giving it a run. I wish WordPress  could automatically post blogs to Google Plus like it can to Facebook and Twitter but I suspect that’ll come soon. In the meantime, I have to remember to copy the url from my blogs and paste them in my Google Plus account.

Unlike Facebook, Google Plus members are more focused on business, art, technology and ideas rather than complaints about the boss and the stale coffee. I like that. There are less photos of grandkids but I go to Facebook for those connections.

I scored an information find that I’ll share with you. The chart below came from a Google Plus community, Christian Authors, which is packed with intelligent interaction about writing. As you can see, there’s a lot of help with technology in that community.

If you’re a Google Plus member already, consider adding me to your circle. I’m listed as Kathy Brasby. And if you’re a Christian writer, check out the Christian Writer community.

Now, take a look at the chart about website design and see some content available on Google Plus. Thanks to Tim Young on Christian Authors at Google Plus:

webdesigntrends