November 2009 Issue

With This Ring…

Once again, Texas A&M University called upon my services to narrate a video, this time for the Alumni Association. One of the proudest possessions of an A&M graduate is their Aggie Class Ring. For them, it is much more than just a souvenir of their school. There is something almost mystical about the traditions and history of the Aggie ring.

The Alumni Assoc. wanted to do something to honor this revered symbol.Photo of statue With the help and contributions of former Aggies, a twelve-foot tall statue was created… an exact replica of the Aggie Ring.

It now stands in front of the Alumni Center on the A&M campus. The video I voiced is the documentary story of the ring, and of the creation of this monument.

Go Aggies!

WYS isn’t always WYG

Remember the old adage; “Let The Buyer Beware”! It is true that people are becoming much more savvy to the tricks of the advertising trade, but we still make unwarranted assumptions all the time.

poster with bad pricing

For example, based on the KFC ad, if you wanted a bucket of 30 wings for a party would you buy the 30 piece special or five of the 6 piece specials?

And, if you were looking for a girl on a dating service web site, would this one look like a strong contender?

Click on her photo to see the full picture!

Buyer beware!


Tybee Parking Idea

Irene and I took a long weekend recently to get in a couple days of sun on the sands at Tybee Island, GA, before winter hits. It’s a beautiful beach about 15 miles east of Savannah, just south of Hilton Head (…bet you thought the port of Savannah was on the ocean),

Like any resort area, parking is always at a premium and often hard to find. But Tybee has a unique way of dealing with the annoying ubiquity of parking meters in a beach community. Each block has only a couple of parking meters to service however many spaces there are along the curb. But the meters are like stand-alone ATMs that dispense coupons showing the date and expiration time purchased by cash or credit card. You place the coupon on your dashboard where it can be seen by parking patrols.

There are several advantages to this system. From the city’s viewpoint it’s easier for the patrols, and there are fewer machines to maintain. From a visitor’s perspective, you can buy one coupon for several hours of parking and use it all over the island instead of at just one parking space.




Joe & Irene

Another Media Use for Skype!

I know… Seems like I’m always writing stories about Skype. But it’s a relatively new alternative in communications, and I’m fascinated by the variety of ways it can improve old ways of doing things. Like radio interviews, for example. When the interviewer can’t get the guest into the studio, the show usually hauls out a telephone interface and give them a call.

Interfaces are very sophisticated… I have a nice expensive digital unit from Gentner that I’ve used for years… but the bottom line is the person on the other end is always ON A TELEPHONE! Possibly the lowest quality microphone on the planet! So what we wind up hearing is static, pops & crackles, hiss, and assorted other noises mixed with the voice we are trying to understand.

Don Miller at Airborne Audio in Kansas knows that I’m a Skype user and called to see if I’d help him with an experiment. We did a mock-up of an interview using Skype instead of telephones to see how it would sound for radio. What we learned was very interesting.

First, it’s all about bandwidth. If your computer is on line via WiFi, the quality is much lower than with an Ethernet connection. Also, for radio you might as well turn off the video link. It, too, uses a ton of bandwidth and reduces audio quality. But, with decent microphones feeding the Skype connection, there is a massive quality upgade. Even the mikes built into cheap web cams are better than any telephone! Then there is the noise difference between a clean digital Skype connection and a scratchy phone line with many analog amplifiers adding their own sounds.

The set-up is simple. The host is in the studio with a Skype connection, the guest is wherever they happen to be, with a computer and a Skype connection, and the studio engineer is recording the audio from the Skype computer’s line output. If two remote guests are involved, they can be split left and right on the computer’s stereo output to maintain individual audio control over each guest.

There is some latency to deal with, a delay caused by data compression calculations. But recording each signal to a separate track, and then sliding them together to eliminate the delays, produces a very nice, clean interview segment. Of course, until the latency issue is solved, Skype won’t work too well for “live” interviews. Still, it’s a huge improvement over prerecorded telephone interviews.

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