September 2009

The Apple of My Eye:

I’ve got to take a little space here to brag about my better half, Irene. “The Little Woman” is an appropriate title for her, but only because she is physically very trim, proportioned, and rather tiny. …Especially when viewed next to my hulking mass! But she is, in reality, a person of tremendous stature, and growing bigger by the day!

Her stature is in her accomplishments, and the trail of successes she leaves as she moves through life.

She is a teacher. But not a typical teacher. She is in charge of a self-contained classroom of middle-school boys, make that young men, with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Unlike so many others dealing with ASD, she refuses to be a “babysitter”, insisting that these guys can be taught important life skills such as reading, math, sciences, and appropriate social skills to help them make their own way through life. They’re “wired differently”.

While teaching them, with the help of two incredible assistants, Irene also takes on the role of Advocate, searching for ways to help them meet their needs both in and out of school. Most of her peers say they wouldn’t have her job for any paycheck, but she loves it!

If that isn't enough, Irene will also finish a five year graduate program soon, earning her the title; "Doctor" Van Riper! A doctoral program is a difficult enough undertaking on it’s own, but coupled with the demands of her day job, it is exhausting.

Oh, and did I mention that she has a feature article published in the current issue of “Autism Spectrum Quarterly”?

The response from that article has been astounding, as correspondence keeps coming in from all over the country, asking for advice, strategies, and information about dealing with Autism. The magazine has already asked for a follow up article to go in the next issue.

My wife is an amazing woman, and I am extremely proud to share my life with her!

It Sounds That Good?!

I was recording a long session one day using Skype for side chain communications (a video image and live 2-way verbal exchanges) when my remote client casually mentioned that the audio he was getting through Skype sounded almost good enough to use for production.

I couldn’t imagine how my little iSight camera’s built-in mike could be doing such a good job, but a few days later discovered a control panel for choosing Skype’s audio source. I was very surprised to see that it had defaulted to my nice, expensive Neumann microphone! I’m not even sure how it found the Neumann and it’s pre-amp, since they are directly plugged into my ProTools interface for professional recording.

I’ll have to do some more digging for information about Skype’s audio sample rates, compression algorithms, etc. But wouldn’t it be a hoot if it turns out that voiceover guys like me could simply use Skype as a free alternative to ISDN connections for long distance, real-time recording?

Mucho testing and investigation needs to be done before I’d take the idea seriously, but gee… What if?!!?

Any ideas out there?

Clunkers & Junkers

Yeah, I know. Cash for Clunkers gave the economy a shot in the arm and got some old gas guzzlers off the road forever. But I've dabbled a bit in old car restoration and collecting, and some of those "old clunkers" are pieces of our history. Who isn't nostalgic after a car show or seeing a showroom-perfect classic car going down the road?

This old 50's era Chevy, in rust-bucket condition wouldn't fetch more than $3800 at auction today. But in show condition, it's worth ten times that and more! When this one is gone, so are a lot of the parts needed to restore another one... and another piece of history is lost.

I get sappy about old cars.

'Tis The Season...

Mid-September, cooler temperatures, a hint of autumn the air… Shaggy bushes, grass starting to grow faster, more leaves on the ground… Yup! Major yard work time has arrived once again! It’s time to haul out the hedge clippers and rakes, aerators and leaf blowers, fertilizer and seed. (A tube of Ben Gay is a good idea, too.)

This wonderfully pleasant season of transition from summer to fall is prime time for getting your lawn prepared to be a lush, green display next spring! Start with a close clipping, de-thatching, and thorough watering. Then aerate. Punch plenty of holes in the turf to allow nutrients, oxygen, and fresh seed access to the bare dirt beneath. For a small to average sized yard, hiring a local landscaper to do this chore may be your most efficient choice for aeration. Apply a good fall fertilizer/weed control mixture to the yard early in the morning, while still damp with dew, and begin an aggressive watering schedule no less than 24 hours later. After a week or two, overseed the yard with new fescue or other hardy seed.

Other than a few passes of the mower before winter sets in, this should lay a good foundation for next year’s lawn. Just don’t miss that other critical transition period from winter to spring around March of next year! If you don’t get the pre-emergent crabgrass herbicides down between the last hard frost and the first new shoots of growth in spring, all this hard work in the fall will have been wasted! Follow up with more fertilizer and seed in early spring, keep the ground moist, and don’t cut the grass too short (about 3” is good).

I’ve had ugly lawns, and I’ve had gorgeous lawns. The difference between them has always been the degree to which I follow these rules for lawn maintenance. It’s really not rocket science: Fertilizer, seed, water, and weed control… And a lot of damn work!

Politically Correct?

I try not to get into politics in this newsletter because no matter what I believe there will always be those who disagree, and when it’s about politics it can easily become contentious. I don’t want to start any arguments or push my personal views on anyone, but I have one observation that I’ve got to get off my chest.

In this country’s infancy, politics was all about regular people stepping forward to give their service to our nation out of a sense of patriotism. In today’s America, politics is a career field that is all about playing the game and moving up the ladder of personal success. In the18th century, an elected position meant making decisions based on the best interests of the country. Today it means making decisions that’ll get you votes in the next election.

Today's brand of politics has become a tremendous threat to our survival. This nation is in crisis. If it were a living creature, it would be in triage from a lifetime of indulgence, and require major surgery for any hope of a return to health.

Major surgery is painful, or very uncomfortable at best, but the longer it’s put off the more difficult it becomes. The diagnosis is quite depressing. Our nation’s economy is in tatters, and anyone who believes our healthcare system doesn’t need to be restructured hasn’t had to deal with it. But those of us in the constituency don’t want to feel the pain of surgery. Let someone else do it! Put it off! Find a way that wont hurt! Do something, but leave me alone!

Politicians do whatever it takes to look good and avoid making decisions that will cause voters pain. So the surgery is put off in favor of less traumatic (and much less effective) “bandaids” that feel OK for the short term; just enough to get past the next election.

However, the patient’s prognosis continues to worsen. What would our founding father have said about that?

My Typical Customer Service Call:

“Hello, thank you for calling International General and Associates, where our mission statement is; ‘Service to our customers first, with good stewardship of our natural resources for a clean and green workplace.’ For English, press 1, for Spanish, press 2, French press 3, Italian 4, German 5, for Japanese press 6, Urdu press 7, and Esperanto press 8! If you know your party’s 6-digit extension, please dial it now, followed by the pound sign. If not, press star-1 for the company directory, star-2 for our international affiliates, star-3 for the sales department, star-4 to leave a message, or remain on the line for the main operator.”

(101 Strings plays the Mantovani songbook)

“For a complete list of FAQs about International General and Associates, we suggest you visit our web site at https://www. howcanwehelp/index.htm. If you wish to continue to hold, someone will be with you as soon as possible.”

(101 Strings plays more of the Mantovani songbook)

“International General and Associates is proud to be an industry leader, recently named Corporate Entity of the Year by Synergy Trends Magazine, and winner of the coveted Nathanial Musgrave Jr. Gold Medal of Achievement for our contributions to the PanAsian marketing initiative through project “RICE”… Raising International Consciousness Ethically.

(101 Strings plays another Mantovani songbook)

“Your call is important to us, so please continue to hold. However you may find a simple and easy answer to your question in our on line customer service chat room. Just log on to https://www. live/index.htm. Otherwise, someone will be with you as soon as possible.”

(Mantovani plays the 101 Strings songbook)

“We apologize for the wait. To thank you for your patience, International General and Associates would like to invite you to join a select group of customers who will become testers of our new line of luxury products over the next year or two. There is no cost to join, no obligation whatsoever, and you get to keep all tested products, if you wish. Simply call 1-800…”

(click, hissssss…)

“This is the operator, may I put you on hold for a moment, please?”

(click… buzz, buzz… click… ring… hiss-pop….)

“Hello, thank you for calling International General and Associates, where our mission statement is; ‘Service to our customers first, with good stewardship of our natural resources for a clean and green workplace.’ For English, press 1, for Spanish, press 2… ”


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