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Ejumication doesn’t happen in skools anymore

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this one for some time now and I think I finally have got it. Granted it’s been a few years since I’ve been in school learning things that were supposed to help me fit into society [e.g. social brainwashing] and teaching me skills to land me a job [vocational training].

Well, I do fit into society as I don’t walk out of the house in the morning naked mumbling nonsense and expect people to accept me as being normal, but as far as what I learned through college let me break it down for you.

Amount I paid for college at San Francisco State University to graduate in 1987: ±$3000

Amount earned from said skills earned: ±$1000

Amount paid to learn new skills outside of college: $0 [self taught]

Amount earned from skills learned outside of college: $73,000/year

Basically, everything I learned is college has become useless to me now. When I was in college only very well off people had cell phones, not everyone had a home computer, there was no texting, you had to go to a video store and seek out their back room behind curtains to find porn and the cloud was something you walked outside and saw overhead. The world has changed significantly because of technology. My first computer cost me $800 and had 16k of RAM and no storage. If you wanted to store material you had to buy a cassette drive which would cost you another $200 [ok, I got started with computers early] For that same amount of money today I can get a computer with 4Gb’s of ram, a terabyte of storage and a processor that is over 1000 times as fast. Five years ago no one used the term smartphone or iPad [yeah, there are other tablets, but let’s face it in the past year there have been millions of iPads sold and you’d be lucky to find a million of the other tablets sold combined].

The computers that launched and landed the first astronauts on the moon were not as sophisticated as your cell phone that we all have today. So what am I trying to say? Well a good friend of mine Fitz who I so via an iPhone video conference this weekend turned me on to a lecture given at TED where the speaker stated that the top ten in demand jobs of 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 and then he dropped the shocker line that brought it all together:

We’re preparing kids for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies we haven’t yet invented.

Looking back I realized this is very much a true thing. We used to block out change by decades. Now if you look back ten years it’s hard to remember what it was like in 2001. We didn’t have any where near the abilities that we have today. There was no social networking which is a requirement for most of the jobs I apply for. There were no mobile apps. WiFi was new and 3g didn’t exist. Sure we had doctors back then, but DNA identification was in its infancy back then. OK, people still bake bread the same way and pump gas and bag groceries, but none of us have a child and hope that one day they will be a successful grocery clerk.

My mother wanted me to grow up, get a college degree and become a world class [what Mom would want world class in there] scientist or musician. Most of my college years in science were spent dissecting animals or mixing chemicals together to create nice smelling compounds [that was learning about esters] and blowing shit up [nothing more impressive than dropping pure sodium into a glass of water]. Today we have tons of videos on youtube that teach you all that and now we have mentos being dropped in coke as a form of art, not science. Musically, I had 10 years of private piano lessons by a former concert pianist for the San Francisco Symphony. I was trained in the recording arts and sciences and when I graduated there was no studio that would hire me and I couldn’t open my own studio because it would have cost me over half a million dollars. Today, you can spend $499 for an iPad and then $4.99 for Garage Band and even if you don’t have any musical talent you’ve got an eight track recording studio with virtual instruments that will do the playing for you at the cost of a few taps. The music isn’t very original, but if you turn on the radio today you aren’t going to find very much that is and you’ll probably be hearing some of the riffs from garage band in the songs.

So what good is a college degree today? Well apparently not much according to people of the Thiel Foundation, not much. They have given away 24 grants to the tune of $100,000 to high school grads with good ideas so that they can skip college altogether and have a funded start up company. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook when he was 20 and today is a billionaire. It took him seven years to do that and he’s had a movie made about it, guest hosted Saturday Night Live and has been on the cover of Time magazine while being loved and hated by people around the world. What degree did Zuckerberg earn at Harvard? He didn’t. I can’t find it anywhere. He started Facebook at Harvard, but was forced to stop because it overloaded their servers so he left and moved to Palo Alto with his friends and set in step actions that caused him to become a billionaire today.

So how do these things affect schooling today? Well, schools need to get on top of things faster. When Adobe Creative Suite was released there weren’t any college courses available to learn the programs. Today there are, over ten years after it was release. Photoshop which is a part of Creative Suite was release long before the rest and now you’ll find more videos on youtube that you’ll see in a classroom teaching Photoshop. I know this because I was tutoring an autistic college student in Photoshop because he wasn’t learning fast enough in his class. The biggest problem is that after he’s learned what I and his teacher have taught him he’ll still have to compete with people like me who’ve been using the programs from day one and have more experience than what you’ll ever get in a classroom.

This is something I’ll have to keep in mind as I raise my daughter. Yes, at the elementary level everything she learns she’ll be able to use later in life. Reading, writing and arithmetic won’t go away, but when it comes to college and choosing a major, that might not happen. Very few of the skills taught today are useful five years after you learned them. Technology causes change and the change is being adopted more quickly and those are the people who are getting ahead. The iPhone is less than five years old and the iPad will turn one next month, yet there are people who have built careers on these platforms and there’s nothing you can learn in a college to help you get into this field. There are kids who have pulled down six figure salaries while in high school writing and selling iPhone and iPad apps. How will a college convince a child that he needs a college degree to be a productive member o society when they’re already earning more money that person telling them that who works for the college?

Apps I’ve come to appreciate

Seeing it’s a wild weekend I’ll go off base again. I’ve come across a couple of iOS apps that I’ve found to be very useful to me and a bit of a game changer in many ways. These are two apps one for commerce and one for pleasure that have changed the way I think in many ways.

The first is Square. It is a free app which is always a bonus. When you download the app it pushes you to register to receive a card reader, also for free. The card reader plugs into the headphone jack of your iPhone or iPad and then lets you scan a credit card for payment that is directly deposited to your bank.

Now I remember back to the days when I had a credit card account for a business I was running. I had to pay $35/month plus 35¢ per transaction plus 3.25% for every charge plus there was the charge for the software which was somewhere in the $500 range. This was rather expensive and I didn’t like it. It made me understand why some places were cash only. If you’re a small business or a seasonal business you’re kind of screwed having to shell out money each month for a service you aren’t using that much. Square is different. They don’t charge you anything up front, they give it to you for free. They don’t charge you a monthly fee. They only charge you 2.75% per charge. This comes in handy to me. It’s less of a charge than PayPal which you already know I don’t like. It is a spontaneous way to obtain money. I frequently tutor people and I was at a computer lab one day and when I was finished with the person I was working with I was approached by another person who asked me about my services. When I was finished I pulled out my phone and swiped their credit card to bill them and they were sent an email with my contact info for future business.

Sure, it costs you a little bit, but to me it’s worth it. Overall it costs you less than regular credit card services and that was the point when Square started up. They wanted to reach out to small businesses and entrepreneurs who wanted the ability to charge credit cards on a mobile basis or at the very least wirelessly at a low cost. Now they have taken it a step further. Now small businesses when they charge your card if you have a smartphone it will send you a message asking you to download the app. Once you do it will let you open a tab with the business you’ve visited so that the next time you visit the business you can tap on the tab and it will connect with their device in an encrypted format so that you don’t even need to pull out your credit card. This is the type of NFD [Near Field Device] technology that people are trying to work into the hardware of their phones that now can be worked in with the software.  The iPad version is a bit richer in that you can program in a list of services or offerings so that it acts more like a cash register itemizing a persons order and emailing them the details. I really think that Square will be a game changer in the near future. You’ll see it popping up in numerous places in San Francisco now along with other major metropolitan cities.

The second app is called Flipboard. This is an app aimed at the iPad and it is a really nice app for repurposing content from social networks and news sites into a consistently similar format. You can browse through your facebook, twitter and news sites of your choice in a format that looks like a condensed magazine format. The nice part for twitter and facebook accounts is that if you post links it follows the links and brings in a synopsis of the article and adds it to the link. Tapping on the link takes you to the full article formatted for the app so it always gives you the same familiar look and feel.

I find the biggest thing I like about Flipboard is the facebook and twitter integration. It makes it much easier to follow what people are talking about instead of seeing just text and links. Now you get to see the pictures and videos people post instead of just seeing the text. It is a more visual form of social networking than textual version. Yes, it’s a bit of a pretty toy, but it works. I can fully understand why Apple has it listed as an essential iPad starter app. It also is free.

Baghdad by the Bay: The Book

Well, I’m still a bit in shock over this, but yesterday I received a call from Runa Raven Press and they have asked me to write a book about Baghdad by the Bay: San Francisco. Now Herb Caen did a fine job with his original Baghdad by the Bay, so I’ll have to call it Baghdad by the Bay: Revisited. The city has changed a lot since that book was written and at first it was just going to be a repurposing of my blog posts, but now I think I’ll need to step things up a notch or two.

I’m going to talk about each and every district in San Francisco with its history and how it changed into what it is today. I’ll also talk about the politics of the city and foibles of our politicians, new and old. Granted, it will all be from my perspective, so it may not always be entirely correct, but it will be how I interpreted the information that I’ve found.

I won’t be quitting my day job which I don’t have yet, but I think it will be something that a lot of people will like. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the book as it comes along. I’ve done a lot of things in life, but I have never thought of myself as a writer. Now I’ll have a chance to see how good at it I really am.

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The Camera Obscura, Relic of the Golden Era

Go into a very dark room on a bright day. Make a small hole in a window cover and look at the opposite wall. What do you see? Magic! There in full color and movement will be the world outside the window — upside down! This magic is explained by a simple law of the physical world. Light travels in a straight line and when some of the rays reflected from a bright subject pass through a small hole in thin material they do not scatter but cross and reform as an upside down image on a flat surface held parallel to the hole. This law of optics was known in ancient times.

The earliest mention of this type of device was by the Chinese philosopher Mo-Ti (5th century BC). He formally recorded the creation of an inverted image formed by light rays passing through a pinhole into a darkened room. He called this darkened room a “collecting place” or the “locked treasure room.”

Aristotle (384-322 BC) understood the optical principle of the camera obscura. He viewed the crescent shape of a partially eclipsed sun projected on the ground through the holes in a sieve, and the gaps between leaves of a plane tree.

The Islamic scholar and scientist Alhazen (Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn al-Haitham) (c.965 – 1039) gave a full account of the principle including experiments with five lanterns outside a room with a small hole.

In 1490 Leonardo Da Vinci gave two clear descriptions of the camera obscura in his notebooks. Many of the first camera obscuras were large rooms like that illustrated by the Dutch scientist Reinerus Gemma-Frisius in 1544 for use in observing a solar eclipse.

The image quality was improved with the addition of a convex lens into the aperture in the 16th century and the later addition of a mirror to reflect the image down onto a viewing surface. Giovanni Battista Della Porta in his 1558 book Magiae Naturalis recommended the use of this device as an aid for drawing for artists.

Thus are the words to describe a little known artifact of San Francisco history. Perched on an outcropping behind the Cliff House is a piece of San Francisco history that few people ever visit. It’s a shame because the Camera Obscura is an inexpensive place of wonder. For $3 you get to enter a 25′ x25′ box that has a couple or rotating lenses housed in a pyramid that shine down on a white parabolic disc in the center giving you a stunning view of the ocean and rocks of Ocean Beach and there’s no time limit on your stay.

I never went there are a kid, but oddly enough I suggested it to a friend from Texas when we took a trip out to Land’s End to see the ruins of Sutro Baths. At the time it was a dollar to get in which even in the 90’s seemed like a deal. As we entered, it felt like we had walked into some sort of ancient ritual chamber. It was quiet and there was some ambient music playing. We gazed into the disk and something old and magical happened. We were looking into something old, sort of Victorian in nature. There was no CGI involved here it was all a definitely what you see is what you get sort of thing. At the time there were still a few sea lions on Seal Rock and they looked so big that we imagined that one of them would reach out and bite us.

For those who get bored easily the walls contained a holograph gallery. It was a nice addition for those who are of the short attention span theater in nature, but not entirely necessary. We felt transported back in time to the late 1800’s when life was much more simple. We were much more aware of the world around us because this Camera Obscura was bringing what felt far away right up into our face. We walked around the central disk for about an hour mesmerized by the sights we were seeing even though we could have been outside and dropped a quarter into a telescope and seen the same thing. This was more real to us because it was so much bigger.

As stated above the Camera Obscura was noted in a book called Magiae Naturalis. Those words translate into the magic of nature. The Camera Obscura is truly a magic of nature and you should experience it when you get a chance. This weekend would be a good time to do so.

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Baghdad By The Bay Meetup in the works

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I finally broached the topic on Twitter yesterday and was surprised by the response. I’m getting a large amount of people in San Francisco and beyond who read this website and I’ve finally decided to get out of the house and meet up with some of my “foreign corespondents” in San Francisco. That is the other bloggers, citizens, fans, readers and even the haters of this website.

Since I’m a Sunset redneck, it only made sense that I have the meet up in a suitable Sunset establishment. Also since I want to give some of the people from out of town a chance to prepare I’m going to not try a flash mob type of thing with a meet up tonight @ Uncle Fucker’s Chuckle Hut! but actually give you a few months warning. I like to plan ahead and I want to find a place that can handle the people who will come. Judging from last night’s twitter replies of over thirty people I suspect I will get a good amount of people to show up so I’ll actually have to approach a place and tell them what I’m doing. First stop will be the Blackthorn Tavern @ 9th and Irving because not only do they serve Boddington’s beer, Magner’s Cider, and have a DJ, but on Sunday’s they also have a BBQ going.

I’m thinking sometime during the San Francisco summer which falls right after the rest of the world’s summer meaning September. We should have good weather then and that’s the month of my birthday so what better excuse to stage a party. So I’ll be visiting the venerable Blackthorn Tavern in the next few days to discuss with them having a meet up there and see what they say. I want to see all the local blogger’s, politicians, scoutmobbers, miscreants and hipsters from all over the city to come to this event so make sure to mark your calendars for sometime in September for this get together.

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Squeezing the Cucumbers @ Parkside Farmers Market

If you live in San Francisco you learn quickly that big chain produce needs a major overhaul. Thanks to my wife who gives me a kick in the head everyone once in awhile she got us to go into some of the local produce marts in San Francisco. I’m going to just talk about one, but they’re in every part of the city and the best thing is that not only is the produce fresh, but it’s cheap.

My wife, hereby referred to as wife, one day suggested we pull over and check out the Parkside Farmers Market. It’s at 16th and Taraval. I figured we didn’t have anything else to do so why not. We’ve traveled into a fair amount of stores that we wouldn’t have normally gone into just to see if we were missing anything. This place was pretty cool. I learned a lot from our trip in there.

The Parkside Farmer’s Market has in addition to produce a lot of rarely seen Mediterranian fare, Russian fare and some Asian fare [Irving street is better for Asian fare]. For those of you familiar with a candy called Aplets and Cotlets, they actually come from a candy called Turkish Delights. If you like them, then you need to go here as they are better and cheaper. You can also find lavash bread which is used in making wraps and shawarmas and pita bread and god knows how many types of feta cheese.

Then as you travel down the aisles you’ll find odd spices and grains that I had no idea what they were, but the people working there had no problem explaining to me how to use them. This was one of the places that turned me on to cacahuates, those Mexican candy coated peanuts dusted with chili powder. I learned about pickled turnips and how actually while the name doesn’t sound so good they’re pretty tasty.

Now wife is a stickler for fresh produce since I brought her out here from back east. When she sends me out to the store for produce I receive proper instructions on how to check if the produce I’d getting is fresh. This is a big point when it comes to cucumbers since it’s a food our daughter loves. I have learned that you have to squeeze the cucumbers to make sure they’re good and hard. A cucumber that isn’t is kind of squishy when you eat it and you don’t get the crunch. So I walk in and head to the cucumbers, specifically the smaller persian cucumbers and pick one up and start squeezing it. As I’m standing there squeeze the cucumber I suddenly hear a woman’s voice, can I help you? This is one of those points where you realize that you’re standing there squeezing a cucumber when a woman walks up and you start hearing this 70’s waka-waka music [Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye if you need some help] in your head and think you’re in a really bad porn movie. I replied, no just checking that the cucumbers were fresh. To which I received in reply, our cucumbers are fresh and hard. No need to worry. OK, cue the waka-waka music again. [I’ve been really tryin’, baby. Tryin’ to hold back this feelin’ for so long]

I was able to shake off the fact that my mind was telling me that Larry Flynt was in charge of directing this portion of my life for a minute and got to continue shopping. Persian cucumbers, like regular cucumbers are best when they are fresh and hard, all jokes aside. I bought ten of them for about $1.69. I also picked up some of the finest English peas at $1.29/lb that were huge and also fresh. The Parkside Farmers Market only takes credit cards if you are buying more than $10 and it’s been hard for us to reach that amount sometimes.

If you get a chance to drive out to the Sunset definitely check this place out and make sure that even though it’s a small store to take your time to look up and down. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll run across….and now I have to go wash out my brain with soap.

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AB 376 Passes! What That Means For San Francisco

I received a tweet today from Mike Kwan who posted the petition on change.org to show Senator Leland Yee that people in California and specifically San Francisco are in favor of AB376 which bans the sale or possession of shark fins. It regarded Fiona Ma, former Supervisor of District 4 [the Sunset District] and Assemblywoman serving San Francisco’s position on, as they say on twitter, #sharkfinning.

I knew already that Fiona Ma was opposed to AB376, but she’s not running for anything this year so I decided to leave her alone since there’s really nothing my words can do at the moment. Although I would like to talk to her about her measure as Supervisor of District 4 that would have all of the overhead wires moved underground by 2010. I did find a few things that should be noted. These are things that have nothing to do with any election in San Francisco, but they show the way a person thinks which should be taken into consideration when you vote for a person. If the person shows intelligence, that is good, when a person shows ignorance, that is bad. Fiona Ma showed a bit of ignorance which she tried to cover up by stating:

Over 25 years ago I made a personal choice to give up eating meat. I would not consider a law that imposes my personal choice on the rest of California. Indeed we don’t have any laws that ban foods in California.

We have 2 Federal and California agencies who monitor and seek to protect our endangered species through permits, regulations, quotas and enforcement. If sharks are threatened as a species, we should ban the killing of all sharks.

I have been concerned about the abhorrent practice of shark finning since 1998 and I applauded President Clinton when he signed the Shark Finning Prohibition Act in 2000 banning the practice in US waters (which extends 200 nautical miles from the coastline) and required the entire shark (carcass and fin) be brought onto US land.  In Jan of this year, I was pleased that President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act that strengthened the federal law and closed some of the loopholes in the 2000 Act.

The National Marines Fisheries Service closely monitors the shark population and adjusts the annual quota for bringing in certain types of shark each year. This list can be found on their website.

Good, she is against #sharkfinning. I applaud her for that. This is going quite well until I see the following paragraph:

Members, I Googled “Shark Meat California Restaurants.”  And yes I found lots of restaurants serving shark steaks.  And you don’t have to walk far on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills before you’ll find shark skin as an accessory item.

OK, I have to disagree here. Rodeo Drive isn’t all of California and I urge you all to drop Shark Meat California Restaurants you won’t see much of it, except the 8 Immortals Restaurant on Taraval in the Sunset District and that link doesn’t even mention shark meat. Even Shark Sushi doesn’t serve Shark Sushi. You won’t find many, if any places selling or serving shark meat because shark meat is already so laden with mercury that no one wants to eat it let alone the fact that shark meat is far more laborious to prepare, being high in ammonia. Then there’s the shark skin thing.

Shark skin is a fabric made of cotton to resemble the skin of a shark. Shark skin handbags and boots are a pattern applied to the readily accessible cow-hide to resemble shark skin, but there are no sharks involved. Fiona, we’ve met several times at public events, but you have got to do your research better. While I may seem like a tree hugging, crystal f*cking, goddess loving vegan hippie, I’m not. I like meat. I like it a lot. Beef, pork, chicken, the occasional fish, but that meat is domestically raised and if we all became vegetarians, cows, pigs and chickens would become extinct quickly. Fish might last a little longer.

So as we continue down to the end of the post Assemblywoman Fiona Ma states:

And lastly, this is a sensitive cultural issue to many in the Chinese community.  Sharks Fin Soup is considered an honored traditional delicacy and is served at many of our sacred occasions such as a birth of a child and the union of two people. To many in my community, this bill represents a direct attack on our culture and tradition.

I want to reiterate that this bill would be the first bill to ban a California food product AND takes us down a dangerous road where we dictate what is and isn’t acceptable for cultures to consume.

Members, I’d like to recognize the author [editor’s note: She is the author of this article] for taking on this real and controversial issue. I have been fairly silent to date hoping this bill could come to a compromise that would accomplish the intent of the author and not ban a piece of the Chinese culture.  Unfortunately we are not there and thus I am voting NO today. [editor’s note again: says the vegetarian who is against the “abhorrent practice of shark finning”]

Apparently Fiona Ma, along with Leland Yee haven’t read that 70% of the citizens of China along with the Pan Pacific American Ocean Harmony Association have decided that it is better to not consume shark fin soup. So while she and Leland Yee are against shark finning as a practice they are not in favor of AB376 which bans shark finning. I believe my Mother used to tell me, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t. This is political double-speak. The Asian community is against shark fin soup and leaving it behind.

California has a high Asian-American population with San Francisco being even higher, but in reality as Mike Kwan pointed out to me, it’s not an Asian thing, it’s a Chinese tradition. He’s right. Fiona Ma and Leland Yee are playing the Asian card to reach a broader audience to gain suppor making them think that all of California is against Asians. That’s not true. California showed today that we are against the brutal practice of ripping the fins of sharks and throwing their bodies back into the water. Not a single Asian is harmed in this process, but millions of sharks are.

Senator Yee stood up for the ban and foie gras, but did he think that the French would jump up in arms and play the race card? No. There is now a ballot in the next election to ban circumcision in San Francisco. Has Leland Yee stood up to gain the Jewish vote? No.

When you stand up to protect something by playing a race card you have lost the race. It shows to the public that you are in politics to help your own people and not THE people. When you are a politician in California and San Francisco your job is to serve all of the people all of the time. Create a new sacred, cultural tradition. Shark meat is not a desirable meat in the USA and saying that shark fin soup should be allowed if the entire shark is used does not provide enough of the fins for the people who have been wanting this outdated dish.

Grizzly Bears? In Golden Gate Park?

Today’s column comes from The Western Neighborhoods Project, run by Woody LaBounty. Woody has collected a group of people who remember the old days from their own stories and ones that have been passed down to them by relatives. I’m trying to dig through my archives of stuff my Mom used to tell me about how the city had changed from when she was a kid. I’m glad her vision was going because she’d probably not like today. So here’s another one from the Good Ole days file.
Golden Gate Park Children’s Playground 

Golden Gate Park Children's Playgroundby Pat French Swendsen

(Originally published in theRichmond Review andSunset Beacon,January 2002)

Yes, there were grizzly bears in Golden Gate Park, near the Children’s Playground.

Far from the benign setting of swings and sand boxes, the bears roamed gloomily in a sunken, almost underground, alleyway near smelly, dank dens where the bears lived.

Before they were removed from the park, the giants of the wild were confined in this cavernous layout as people peered down on the bears from above, standing on strong iron bars.

The playground at that time contained a wonderful corkscrew metal slide. It had nice architectural touches, including stairs that looked like fancy furnace floor vents. Sometimes on hot, sunny days the slide would get very hot, but that was never a problem—the trip down was always swift.

There were also elephants in the park. Children could ride in a seat on the elephant’s back along a designated path: two rides for a nickel. I never found out where the elephants went at night or where they came from (retired from a circus?), but it was an exotic ride that for a few moments transported us to India, where we felt important and powerful.

One of my fondest memories of the Children’s Playground was getting into a scooter that would go down a concrete path from the top of a nearby hill to the bottom. An eager young man always started our journey at the top when we were securely seated in the Kiddie Car. When riding in the cars, the “clickity clack” of the wheels could be heard as we sped along. It was marvelous.

The nearby merry-go-round was a whole other scene, with its mirrored panels and glockenspiel sounds coming from a loud music box. At the end of a ride, there would be a rush of kids coming to grab their favorite animals for the next ride.

Sometimes we barely had three seconds to get off the animal before someone else was trying to get on. For many children, a dream ride was on the line.

Everyone had their favorite rides on the carousel—the giraffes were wonderfully high but didn’t move and the chariots where mothers sat with their toddlers were a choice of last resort.

The swings at the old playground were different than today, with the seats of the swings being made of heavy wooden rectangles that gave many a youth a bloody nose for standing too close. Other features at the park included steel ladders that were mounted horizontally so we could swing on them rung-to-rung.

That was a long time ago, but I still have many fond, poignant memories.

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Voice Over Work For Dinosaurs

As you might have read I do voice over work from time to time. There are several websites out there that are sort of social networks for people who do voice over work and those looking for voice over talent. It’s a good gig if you can get the work, but nowadays just about anyone with a decent voice can do voice over work.

Back when I was in college it was pretty much unheard of for people to do voice over work from their home. It was far too costly and computers were just starting to be looked at as a possibility for recording audio. Now, just about any computer you get can do it for you. One of the things that has been puzzling me though is that all of these websites for voice over talent ask if you have an ISDN set up. I was thinking about this one and remembered that ISDN was the precursor to DSL and Cable Modems and it is far more expensive with you having to purchase a $3000-$5000 box and pay between $50-$150/month, but for some reason voice over artists swear by it.

WHY? I have yet to get a good argument for why ISDN is necessary for good voice over work. It’s more than a tenth slower than DSL, The G.722 codec it uses is far inferior to say, Skype’s SILK_V3 codec and the whole process involves the artist sitting at a mic and it being recorded [usually] outside their home studio at another recording studio. Why not just record the raw voice over tracks and share a dropbox folder with the studio so they can pick them up? I actually provide finished audio files to my clients using dropbox and that has been working out just fine for them.

Many of the podcasters today have never had formal training in voice over work and many times they create the shows as a conversation over Skype that they record. These people aren’t even using a good microphone and they sound pretty good. The current voice over community is living in the world of the dinosaur. If you have a decent set up you don’t need all the professional sound booth materials to effectively record a voice over. You just need a quiet room and a good mic with high rolloff [that means the farther away you get the more the sound lowers].

I decided a few years ago when I was asked to do some voiceover work to deliberately use GarageBand just to see how it would work out. I could have used Pro Tools, or my favorite Digital Performer, but I wanted to see if GarageBand could hold up to it. Here’s what I got: California Academy of Sciences.

This was all created with a free program, royalty free music and a mic that costs about $150 [actually more like half that because it was a two mic set and I used the MXL 2001A]. I don’t have any form of sound insulation in the room I do the recording in, but it still turned out very good. So now I still don’t understand why the industry is sticking to these outmoded ways to doing business. If there are any voice over artists out there that read this please comment because I’d love to understand why.

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