vegettoex.com

Hi. I'm Mike. This isn't updated often.

Category: Nothing In Particular (page 1 of 4)

My Podcasting Setup ~2011ver.~

Having done a first version and then a ~2010ver.~ a year later, after upgrading a few things, it made sense to follow-up with a… (wait for it)~2011ver.~ post. So how ’bout them podcasts, huh?

When we last checked in on the setup, I was considering cleaning out one of the extra rooms in our finished basement to make a quasi-“recording studio”. The room was a moderate disaster of half-empty boxes and miscellaneous extra crap from when we first moved in, but it would likely make for a fantastic recording area — low ceiling, closing door, a desk was already there, and the wireless signal reached all the way down there from two floors up.

Well, the room got cleaned out, and we have been recording down there for a few months now. I couldn’t ask for much better out of such minimal work! Here is an updated, general view of the area:

With the overview done, let’s dig into the hardware! I again have to preface this by saying that I don’t actually know anything about audio or any type of engineering, so this is all self-taught, trial-and-error based on moderate research and reading. I’m probably doing stuff wrong, I’m probably doing it all inefficiently… but it seems to be working out so far. Take my advice and recommendations with a modest-sized grain of salt.

One of the most important upgrades has been from the Behringer Eurorack UB802 (~$50-60) mixer to the Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (~$300) mixer. In addition to the two additional XLR inputs (which means no longer daisy-chaining something like Jeff’s mixer when he comes for a “Manga Review of Awesomeness”), I have much greater control over just about everything. It’s just an all-around better mixer. As I read in the reviews, I noticed a better sound with the same microphones I was already using, and there was a noticeable amount of less noise in the output signal — when tweaked properly, it is essentially whisper-quiet.

The output is still going from the “Tape Out” via the Behringer U-Control UCA-200 which came with my work mixer — no, I’m cheap and still haven’t purchased my own stand-alone UCA-202 (~$30) or similar device. This is one area that I may eventually upgrade. I’m not sure how or what I will do, since a dedicated Firewire setup is above and beyond what I need, but it feels like there might be a better way to get the audio to the computer with even better clarity and possibly normalization. Currently, the U-Control takes over as the input device, so switching Windows’ properties for what handles “in” and what handles “out” lets me use that for input, while still using the laptop’s on-board sound for output to headphones (to listen to test recordings and/or anyone on Skype).

Over on the microphone side, everything is basically the same as it has been for well over a hundred episodes. I am personally still rocking the MXL 990 condenser microphone (~$50-70), which is held up by a Samsom BT4 boom stand (~$40).

Within the last couple episodes, I have been keeping a duplicate of that same setup around for the wife so as to avoid using the Shure microphone (see below). It’s not that it’s a terrible microphone, but if I have something that’s so much better, why not use it? Having identical microphones in use (instead of both a dynamic and a condenser) also seems to help the levels and who gets picked up how much on which microphone across the room.

For when the extra microphone is absolutely necessary, I have at least tossed the Shure 8900 dynamic microphone (~$50) on an On-Stage MSA-9508 side boom (~$10-15) and gooseneck extension so it is far more adjustable in terms of position and comfort, instead of directly on top of the old RadioShack Heavy Duty Microphone Stand with Cast-Iron Base (~$30). The RadioShack stand with a larger mic clip and the boom extension also doubles as the Rock Band accessory of choice for guitar + vocals, so it all works out in the end.

In terms of headphones, I use the simple but serviceable Sennheiser HD201 (~$20-30) headphones. They are closed-ear with a super long cord, and they sound crystal-clear enough for the recording quality that I work with every week, so I haven’t felt the need to go nuts in this area.

You will probably notice some other stuff in the room that handles I guess what can only be called “logistics”. Perhaps you wonder how it is that we all read notes on the “Manga Review of Awesomeness” (OK, Jeff just uses his iPad, now…) or e-mails. Do we print out notes? Of course not! A second monitor mirrors the display from the laptop for others in the room to keep up with the general show outline. I am really tempted to put a flat-screen TV up against that wall on the left in the future, though — not only would it be incredibly bad-ass, but it would give the entire room a larger, more convenient view of the screen, too.

To just wrap up this section of the post, here is my general view of the room each and every week:

So what about the software and actual recording? Not much has changed in that area, except the effort I ask of my usual participants coming in over the Internet.

Everything is still recorded and primarily edited in Audacity. 44 kHz, mono. Done and done. I also still use the Call Graph plugin to record Skype conversations, but rarely in the same way as described last time around. Previously, I would take its 11 kHz output with my own track in the left channel and other side in the right channel, kill my track, turn the other track mono, re-export it, and use that as the secondary audio track to edit with, which isolates the other side of the conversation and lets me cleverly edit around any inadvertent talking over each other, etc.

These days, because all of the regulars (Julian, Heath, Jake, Corey, etc.) actually know how to use a computer, I simply ask them to record locally on their own side, as well — that’s the second track I use (after recording they send me the audio, usually as a high bitrate MP3, rather than the needlessly larger WAV). I still use Call Graph as a backup, and usually to line up the two separate tracks. I place my own local track up top, bring the Call Graph stereo track below it, and then the other person’s local track below that, line them all up, kill off the Call Graph track… voilà! It sounds far more complicated than it actually is — since Audacity lets you zoom in to insane degrees, I can line up the tracks to the tiniest fraction of accuracy possible.

By not using Call Graph (never mind its 11 kHz limitation, despite its amazing convenience and other customizations), we avoid any of that traditional “Skype noise” — you don’t hear someone’s call quality drop with their Internet connection fluctuations. In addition to that, by actually editing the show, we can avoid any excessive talking over each other, usually done by accident due to minor audio delays — I will typically just say, “Oh hey, start that sentence again.” It’s little stuff like that which folks may not even specifically notice, but I hope makes an impact in the back of their head somewhere while listening and comparing to other shows.

After editing the tracks (which have already been noise-removed prior to editing), I spit the product out to Levelator to even things out. I still bring everything into a project file in Adobe Premiere to line up the bumper music — it’s one of those relics I can’t let go of. The block-based dragging and snapping, along with a pre-edited bin of all the bumper music, makes it very easy to cut the sections apart. I usually leave a 10-second gap in between sections while editing to make it easy to visibly tell in Premiere where the sections need to be spliced with the jingles.

I may upgrade the software some day (likely Adobe Audition), but I figure until I know more about how audio actually works, it’s not really worth sinking the money into software.

About those other folks, though — what are they all recording with these days? Well, the two most relevant folks to note here are Julian and Heath.

Julian uses the Elecom HS-NB01UBK (~$30) headset that he picked up over there in Japan. As you have been hearing lately, it catches the bass of his voice quite well. It picks up a fair amount of background noise, but I am able to kill that off with some basic filtering in Audacity well enough. Since I am editing with multiple tracks, that means I can also just silence out an entire area on his side if I need to. I ask that my co-hosts don’t rely on that and practice proper microphone etiquette and all, but at the end of the day, you cannot control when the little one decides to yelp!

Then there’s Heath. Up until recently, he has been using whatever generic headset he’s had lying around (he tells me it was the Logitech USB Headset H530). You may have been able to hear it (even though I try to cut around it as much as possible), but it would randomly peak when he would start talking, and it picked up a rather huge amount of background noise — it’s the kind of headset that works fine for gaming and casual conversations, but not for podcast discussions. With all the great content him and I planned on bringing to the podcast in the future, this just couldn’t last. In response to some random chatter on Twitter, we made it known that we were looking to upgrade Heath to some actual audio equipment. Our buddies Lemmy and Ryan came through with some donations that covered it all… within minutes! Heath would really have no need for a mixer setup the way I have things, so we decided to go with a dedicated USB setup for just himself. In addition to a generic pop-filter and the same Samsom BT4 boom stand (~$40) that I use, we went with the USB version of my microphone: the MXL 990 USB (~$100-150). Unfortunately, the USB version of the microphone comes with just a little stand that would never work for the way we like to actually be comfortable while recording, so to complement the mic and boom stand, I sent him an old, only-semi-broken MXL 90 shockmount (~$35) that I had from my first microphone (I had since gotten a replacement as a gift). One of the screws was slightly stripped, and the inside rubber portion needed a little glue, but all-in-all it was in perfectly fine shape! Appropriately so, Lemmy wanted a picture of Heath’s new recording setup… and so did I for this blog post!

Here’s what the good sir had to say about it:

I’m loving the new setup, and the audio quality is SO much better! After messing around with things, this is the setup I finally settled on. It’s somewhat like what I was using before, only my Logitech headset is now replaced with my new fancy microphone and boom stand. The MXL 990 USB powered condenser microphone is plugged into my laptop on the left, whose only purpose is to record the mic audio in Audacity. The laptop is also used to connect to Skype if I’m recording with anyone else over the world wide web. I then use my personal desktop computer to look up references while recording; typically there’s Kanzentai on one screen and Daizenshuu EX on the other. I would record on this computer, but Audacity tends to crash once I hit the stop button. Luckily my mouse and keyboard are Bluetooth, so I can set the keyboard in my lap if necessary. Of course I just use my headset as head phones while recording. But more importantly, there’s usually a beer just to my right on the desk and there’s a mini fridge full of it behind me.

So that’s pretty much where we stand. I don’t feel the need to really upgrade a whole lot more on my end, with the possible exception of eventually having four of the same microphones so even Jeff doesn’t have to bring one over. Oh, and some more folding chairs would be nice. Maybe a new desk eventually, too. And a mini-fridge for beer convenience. Do they make silent mini-fridges…?

(NOTE: We did not consult each other re: mini-fridges prior to writing this…)

I guess we should also treat Jake to upgraded equipment at some point in the future. Julian, too, if and when he ever makes his way back to the states.

Random Podcasting Inside Baseball

Nothing of huge interest to write about here, but if you actually follow along with this blog and/or me in any significant way, you might care at least a little bit.

I have been mentioning for a while how a new mixer was on the horizon. Since (I think…) Episode #0112 of the podcast over at Daizenshuu EX, I have been using my trusty Behringer Euroback UB802 (which isn’t available anymore, but the Behringer Xenyx 802 is basically the exact same thing). It has certainly sufficed up until now. I have not been completely happy with it, though — Behringer stuff gets the job done, but you will occasionally be reminded why it costs so little. My own mixer once decided that it was only going to output sound in the left channel, only to have the right channel return to full functionality a few months later. The Xenyx 1204 that I got for work now doesn’t want to output audio at all (which is why my little guy became somewhat well-traveled).

I knew I wanted to upgrade to something that had at least four XLR inputs, which would finally get rid of that pesky situation where someone comes over and I suddenly have more people than inputs on the main mixer, resulting in a totally ghetto daisy-chain. I also wanted something of a higher quality, of course. This led me to the Mackie 1202-VLZ3. A solid mixer from a solid company with an appropriate amount of features = sold.

The big guy came in last week, and I love him to death:

I have yet another boom stand on order, so once that comes in and things get fully set up, I might consider doing a “Version 3” of “My Podcasting Setup” (which was last updated just about a year ago). The basement “studio” has been awesome, and we just decided to put some shelves in, so it’ll get even nicer. Hurray!

Speaking of that there main show that I do pretty much every week, we get our e-mails and forum posts, sure… but I also like to occasionally step outside the internal comfort zone and see what other folks have to say about it. Just about two years ago, I posted up a couple choice quotes I happened to dig up, so I figured it might be worth it to do that again.

I really just wanted to share one particular bit of feedback, though. Upon clicking through to the person’s contact information, it didn’t seem that they are all that active (and this particular post was many months back), so rather than directly contact them (which I may still do), I figured it’s out there and public anyway, so I might as well publicly respond to it. Through the normal course of surfing + Google Alerts, I came across this thread on fanfiction.net where someone replied to a conversation about DBZ fandom and communities:

Having listened to vegettoex’s podcast for years until it boiled down to ‘what’s new in your life and lets recap a single volume of manga!’ sort of TL;DNL, I can say yes I’ve been to the forums. Not sure why you assume people haven’t been there as he’s one of the few big sites left from yester year. And while they are active in near 4chan trolling, gifs, bad AMV(bring back the good stuff please?) fandubing and the occasional decent debate, its still vanishing. Even there.

For starters, we make it a huge point to not excessively talk about ourselves. The introduction to each episode does indeed have a little “Hey, how ya’ doing?” segment, but it’s always a part of a larger “What new things came in…” or “What’s new on the site…” that is at least somewhat relevant to the DBZ-loving listener. I will certainly concede that much (much much much) older episodes may have had a little bit too much of the personal talk up front, but even then it was nowhere near what this post would lead you to believe.

The “Manga Review of Awesomeness” is a once-monthly topic. Its purpose was to allow new folks to follow along with a group of fans and their podcast about a franchise that has a ton of history that they might not be completely up on — they are “timeless” episodes that anyone can go back to at any time. Based on the feedback from our big survey, it also happens to be the most-enjoyed type of topic by a wide margin. “Majority” doesn’t mean “entire audience” though, so I can understand how there are folks who don’t care for it — that’s why it’s only once a month! I know for a fact that there are a bazillion other types of topics intermixed on a weekly basis, and they are purposefully arranged so that at least once a month there is a type of conversation (in-universe, product review, manga, etc.) that folks of a particular segment of the fandom can latch onto.

Yes, I run a very calculated show. I read and listen to every bit of feedback I can get my hands on. I’ve gotten back into the habit of listening to my own show even after I’ve edited it for release to critique it. I want it to be the best that it can be, to appeal to as many people as possible… but at the same time have just the right amount of pompous authority to show that we ain’t messin’ around, yo. You want to know something? Information you can trust? Ain’t no other place, bro-dawg.

(Also not entirely sure if they are referring to our website and/or forum with that stuff about troll images and such. That’s as far removed from the prison we run as can possibly be described.)

On the other hand, then we get comments like these on the rare occasion which reminds me exactly why I love doing this stuff so much:

Im a relatively new listener who once thought I knew everything about Dragon Ball from watching Toonami…..

I don’t think “thank you” covers it.

So that was a blog entry.

The Sculpted Monkey King

This past weekend we finally browsed around Grounds For Sculpture, an art… I guess you would call it “location”?… here in New Jersey. Their main showcase at the moment seems to be a collection from Keith Haring, whose work you would probably recognize if you saw it.

While that was neat and all (along with the bazillion strange and nude pieces littered around), only one sculpture truly caught my attention:

It was called “Monkey King“. You put those two words next to each other, and I take note. He did not look like any of the “popular” versions of Son Wukong (with his staff, etc.), but it apparently is indeed him — I guess it is from earlier on in the story when he’s just the plain ol’ “Handsome Monkey King”, and not yet quite “Great Sage, Equal to Heaven” (or, ya’ know, the dude who tends to the horses and doesn’t realize he’s being made a fool of). The piece is by Hyung Jun Yum and was made out of plaster in 2002.

Neat.

No Registration Needed! Need To Be Registered!

I saw this posted up at the library today and chuckled quite a bit:

What I’m pretty sure they are saying is that there is no extra registration necessary for their little Guitar Hero competition, but anyone who wants to complete must already be a pre-existing, registered member of their “Summer Reading” program.

What are your thoughts on forcing these teens to be members of the “Summer Reading” program before they can even participate in the video game competition? It seems to me that they would not even know about it unless they visited the library to see the poster in the first place, though it is possible that they heard about it from a friend, saw it on a website, etc. In any case, the library has most likely already accomplished their main goal of getting the kids to come to the building in the first place (the same way retail establishments get you into the store with giveaways or sales in hopes you will purchase something else), so why burden them with extra restrictions? Sure, some kids will show up just to play the game and ignore all the lovely books and the fascinating learning establishment that encompasses them, but is it that big of a deal? Maybe there have been issues in the past with random hooligan kids, but even random hooligan kids should have a chance to walk past some books…!

My Podcasting Setup ~2010ver.~

It has been over a year since I last wrote about and shared how the magic of podcasting goes down at Casa de EX. A lot has changed since then, but I just have not gotten around to writing up a new version. Our buddies over at the Unofficial One Piece Podcast asked the other day what we were using for a mixer, and when I pointed over to that blog entry, I realized just how out-of-date it was!

So here we go. I am happy to present to you the ~2010ver.~ of “My Podcasting Setup“. As always, I do not claim to actually know what I am talking about. I am probably wrong with much of what I do, and writing about how I accomplish it is most likely only perpetuating bad habits and sharing mis-information.

Oh, well.

I have killed two computers over the course of doing the show for Daizenshuu EX. First I blew the sound card in our Shuttle, and then its power supply died. Both are easy fixes, but it just sits over there on the other desk because I have been too lazy to open it up. Once that went down, I shifted over to using Meri’s old desktop from ~2000/2001 as a secondary recording rig. I tossed Ubuntu on it, and as described in the prior article, I used it to line-out for a dedicated Skype track recording.

All that is old hat.

Over on the Mac, Jeff uses a great application called Übercaster to record us locally and any extra, isolated audio tracks (such as Skype, bumper music, etc.). I’m running a standard ol’ Windows XP install both on my desktop and my laptop, and I have gone with a little Skype plug-in called Call Graph. It just works. When running alongside Skype, it automatically records the entirety of a call once one begins, recording your own audio in the left channel, and the other side (be it a single person or a conference call) in the right channel, spitting out a stereo WAV (or MP3) the instant you conclude the call.

Near as I can tell, though, it only records at 11 kHz — even if you tell it to record a 44 kHz MP3, it still records an 11 kHz WAV which it then converts to a 44 kHz MP3. This… is mostly serviceable. When you have folks like Julian who are just running a standard Logitech headset, anyway, the frequency of the audio file is not really taking much more of a hit than it already is due to the hardware. When we are done recording, I take the WAV into Audacity, split the stereo audio track, delete the left channel (myself), tell the right channel (Julian) to act as mono, and export the new, entirely-isolated audio track. Voilà.

(If I am recording with someone who knows what they are doing, I sometimes just have them record locally on their own end and send me their final audio once we are done recording… though I always am recording a back-up just in case.)

What about my own, local track, though? That I do not allow Call Graph to handle — I still record in Audacity at my standard mono, 44 kHz dedicated audio track. The two tracks (my own local track + Skype track) are easy enough to line up in Audacity for editing later on, either through a “1, 2, 3, clap!” or just from doing this for five years and understanding how a conversation is supposed to sound.

I still use a combination of Levelator and Audacity’s built-in noise removal for my post-processing — nothing special there. I am also stuck in my own ways by using Adobe Premiere to line up the segments with their respective bumper music tracks for the final mixing and export. I just really like the block-based dragging and snapping for that final step, I guess.

With that in mind, though, let us turn back over to the hardware.

The driving force behind everything is still my Behringer Eurorack UB802 (~$50-60) mixer. It is a great, compact little guy with two XLR inputs, phantom power support, decent gain/volume control, plenty of line-in and out support, etc. The UB802 seems to go through phases of being available versus unavailable, but the standard Behringer 802 (~$60) is something I picked up for Jeff over the last holiday season, and it is essentially identical to my own.

The main difference these days is that I have indeed jumped over to using a USB device to grab out the audio, rather than running an analog RCA-to-1/8-inch line-in cable. The Behringer U-Control UCA-200 actually came with the (larger) mixer that I use at work. It is their standard pack-in version with mixers, but the stand-alone UCA-202 (~$30-35) is what you will typically see for purchase online. I had spoken before about how the device takes over as the entire sound device for the computer — for example, I was unable to listen to the audio I just recorded through my headphones while it was plugged in. Once I stopped being an idiot and looked around a bit, I found that I could tell Audacity to still use the internal sound card for playback and use the U-Control device for recording, allowing me the same convenient usage I had always experienced.

For any recording where we need more than two local microphones (such as a “Manga Review of Awesomeness” or something for vgconvos), I no longer daisy-chain the RadioShack mixer into the Behringer. Instead, I have Jeff bring over his 802 and daisy-chain that into my mixer. We use the same process of RCA cables going from “Tape Out” on his to “Tape In” on mine that would have been used from the old RadioShack mixer, but now it is done with higher-quality equipment. It still introduces extra analog noise that I would rather not have to deal with, however. I have my eyes set on the Mackie 1202-VLZ3 (~$300) mixer with its four XLR inputs and non-Behringer, genuinely-high-quality parts. Behringer stuff is “OK”, but I have had a few issues here and there with the mixers to the point where I probably will not buy their stuff again.

Over on the microphone side, things are still pretty much the same… with the exception of what holds it for me. I am personally still rocking the MXL 990 condenser microphone (~$50-70), though these days it is supported by a boom stand. I am fairly certain it is the Samson BL3 (~$30), due to it not coming with a mic clip… but I no longer have the box to double-check that. Whoops. Sorry. The MXL 990 is just a tad bit heavy for it, but adjusting the three-legged support and balance of the boom extension will grant you just the right placement for comfort and not-falling-over-ness.

The main reason that the microphone is hanging on its side is because I accidentally stripped the screw-tightening mechanism for the shockmount, and have not felt like spending the money for the replacement MXL-90 shockmount (~$35) just yet. When you can buy the microphone (which itself comes with a shockmount) for just a couple bucks more, it is difficult to build up the desire to spend money to replace one that is just hanging on its side and not entirely broken.

Meri is still rocking the Shure 8900 dynamic microphone ($50). It is quite the handy mic to have around, since its included XLR-to-1/8-inch audio cable plugs in to the video camera I use at work, giving me a choice of a either a lapel mic or a hand-held mic. I double-wind-screen for Meri since her “pphf” sounds are a little harsher than my own. She is also still rocking the RadioShack “Heavy Duty Microphone Stand with Cast-Iron Base” (~$30), though it may be time to upgrade her to the Samson boom stand — they are just so nice to have! Comfort galore!

I guess the last thing to address is live recording and broadcasting that we occasionally do. Lately we have been using Stickam for no particular reason above any other service. We tend to broadcast Lo-Fidelity live more than anything else, mainly because it is just the two of us in one local recording area, so anything that happens can be broadcast with no extra effort — everything is right there in one place. When you start tying in things like Skype streams… sure, it can be done, but it requires more effort than it is really worth for such a budget setup like our own. Live recordings typically have two computers: one is a standard podcasting station like any other show, and the second is usually my laptop running the webcam. Our mixers have the “Tape Out” / RCA output that we typically use to output to the computer, but there is also the “Main Out” — I run a variety of cables and cord adapters to get that 1/4-inch stereo output down to an 1/8-inch plug. This runs to the line-in on my laptop, mirroring the exact same sound that is otherwise heading out to another computer for the main podcast recording. Sure, there is some (negligible) extra noise being introduced/lost going through all those adapters, but since that particular stream of audio is exclusively going to the live broadcast (and not the archived version for editing/release), it is not that big of a deal.

The next upgrade is going to be the room in which we record. Since moving into the new house, all recording has been done up in our loft. This is where we keep the computers, the old TV, CDs, DVDs, etc. It is a fantastic location (minus all the cat destruction, like my poor chair), but it is in a very open area. Sound bounces all over the place. When we have any more than two people, it starts sounding very “airy” in the recording, both due to the number of people (and thus the number of mics to adjust and compensate for) and the voices bouncing along the ceiling and down to the living room.

We have a finished basement with several rooms. Right now, “the brown room” (which is the second room off the main area) is a disaster of storage space. Boxes, appliances, and assorted things of nothingness take up all the space. It is perfect for a little recording studio, though. It is just the right size, the walls are not tall, the door can be shut… lovely!

Our Wi-Fi reaches down there, and since an entire show can be done with just one computer, there is nothing stopping me now from cleaning up that space and creating a great little recording studio in my basement. I might even get some extra sound-proofing padding for the walls… can you imagine how hot looking that place is going to be?! Speaking of “hot”, that is another perk to setting up shop in the basement — heat rises, and our loft starts boiling in the summer. The basement? Cool as can be!

I think that more-or-less covers how everything is rolling right now. Does anyone have any questions about any aspect, or better yet, suggestions on ways to do things even better? Specific articles to read to bolster some mad audio skillz? I still consider myself a total audio n00b, though I think I have a couple other skills that I have picked up over the last couple years that at least helps put together some decent shows…!

What Makes A Good Blog Entry?

I ask this question both of myself (to try and answer in an actual blog post… how fascinating!), and also of you all, dear readers. What does make a blog entry “good”…?

One thing to keep in mind is that I am not talking about a “blog” from a personal standpoint. This is work-work related (as opposed to hobby-work related), so the goals and methods will be slightly different. Are there any “professional” blogs that you follow? If so, what aspects really drag you in?

Here are a couple of my own thoughts:

Authoritative Tone
You know me well, by now — any writing that I do very purposefully takes on a tone of authority. If you simply act as if you know what you are talking about, it is all the more convincing! This is not something I am too concerned about, since the folks I will be calling on for articles have that authority… and I am the final word, anyway, so I get to copy-edit anything that needs it.

Be Personable
What makes a “professional” or “corporate” blog different from a standard press release is not just the tone, but the delivery. There needs to be a real voice. It can be a fine line walking between conversational and professional, but it can and should be done. Guest writers of relevant notoriety can be a huge help in lending a personable, yet authoritative, tone.

Outbound Links
Again, you know how I operate! If there is a source, it must be cited. Providing links to something other than your own website shows that you live in the real world and acknowledge that other people have ideas and opinions.

Make a Statement With the Post Title
It is a little basic, but it is true — grab the reader’s attention.

Know Your Goals
What do you want to actually accomplish with this blog? Do you want readers to comment? You need to ask them a question each time, then. Do you want to be picked up by news media? Be sure to mention your blog in conversations and other cross-promotions, have it readily accessible from your navigation… all the good ol’ regular stuff.

Maybe the best question to ask is: what makes a bad blog entry? What are some tell-tale signs that something is “off” and perhaps not credible, researched, authoritative, and even worth your time? Things like grammar and aesthetics (while important) are blatantly obvious, so we can skip past those!

Tara’s Crazy Howling

Time for another crazy cat story.

So our little cat, Tara, has this fuzzy red/white ball toy that she loves. She likes to fling it around through the air and go chasing after it. She has even become slightly dog-like and will play fetch to some degree, depending on how lazy she is about bringing it all the way back to your feet.

There’s one big problem, though. When she picks this toy up in her mouth and wanders around, if there is no-one to take it from her, she will emit this incredible howl to get attention… while it’s still in her mouth. She’s a very vocal cat, anyway, so that’s not entirely surprising. It’s just a horrendous noise, is all, and one you can hear from anywhere else in the house.

(MP3 sample from latest vgconvos recording; bit.ly re-direction)

tara

I mean, she’s super cute… but there’s a reason why we tend to hide the toy at night. Those 3 am howls don’t help the sleeping, much.

vagettoEx is banned

I was browsing through some YouTube comments again (I know, I know…), and noticed my video “Never Fall Apart” also uploaded on someone else’s account. I can’t really stop that, and don’t particularly care, either… but I was curious about the comments it might have, so I clicked through. For the most part, they’re the usual “I love it!” or “I can’t find this song on Limewire please send it to me for free because I’m an entitled little nitwit!“, but something stuck out to me even more than that:

vagettoex_banned

It’s such a shame. I share no pleasure in detailing the news that vagettoEx is banned. I don’t exactly know who he is or why he’s banned from whatever he’s banned from, though. Just figured I’d pass along the word.

No Phone, No Cable… Living Just Fine

I just saw this report over on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website talking about the cancellation/removal of land-line phones in favor of cell-phone-only service. We are apparently at a point where one-in-five American homes have removed their plain ol’ telephone service in favor of exclusively using cell phones. The wife and I have been this way since 2004 when we moved into our first apartment, and continue to be this way in the new house. In addition to that, we also canceled our cable television service shortly before moving, and continue to operate with no traditional television service.

You know what? Things are just fine.

In terms of telephone service, it makes complete sense to abandon the land lines. While the quality of cell phone calls still leaves a lot to be desired, it suffices more than enough for my phone conversation purposes, which typically do not last longer than one minute unless I am calling my parents. If I am on the road or otherwise out and cannot be reached, my simply not answering the phone is exactly the same thing as someone calling me and not being home to pick up the phone. Combine that with text messages that completely replace voice mail in terms of disseminating tiny bits of information in quick, easily-digestible form… well, you’ve got a winner.

As for television, it is equally fine without it. We have enough things to keep us busy after the move that we have no time to just sit around and mindlessly watch television, anyway. Once things settle back down a little bit (which they are already beginning to do), we still have more than enough viewable-passive-media to keep us entertained until the ends of time without needing to obtain anything else. Throw video games into the mix, and I have a hard time understanding why I would ever actually need cable service on my television. In fact, the word “television” does not accurately describe that 50″ Kuro in my living room now, since everything from that to the “old TV” to the computer monitors are really nothing more than display surfaces of varying sizes and aged technology. Whether it’s a video game, a DVD, a Blu-ray, episodes downloaded online and burned to DVD+RW for viewing on the PS3 or 360… all of these display surfaces act in exactly the same way without needing to pay someone to be constantly broadcasting a live signal to them which I have no interest in tuning into, anyway.

I will admit there is a strange sort of “learning curve” to not being able to just sit down, hit a power button, and expect an in-progress video. Everything must be manually initiated. In the long run, I prefer this. Beyond the cost savings, I find that I gain precious minutes here and there that might otherwise be spent mindlessly flipping channels before realizing there is nothing to watch and starting up some other activity. Now-a-days, I just go right into whatever that “something else” would have been.

I’m constantly reminded of that Seinfeld episode where Kramer wants to cancel his mail. Can we do that, yet?

Kids and Social Networking – Your Thoughts?

I am going to be doing a little presentation next week at a luncheon at an organization regarding children being online and social networking. The focus is keeping them “safe” in some sense, but it will be more along the lines of just being aware of what is out there, how to keep tabs on it, building the necessary vocabulary to understand it, etc.

I think the big thing I am going to harp on is just helping people understand why people join these sites and do the things they do. Once you understand the why, everything else falls into place. As far as I can tell from observation and my own personal experiences, the main reason is just selfish validation. What I mean by that is that people are using these sites basically for the purpose of having their own existence justified and validated by receiving positive feedback. Whether it’s Digg promoting things, Facebook with the “like” button and status update responses, Twitter and getting responses to tweets… everything is intended to be a virtual pat on the back to just prove that you exist.

While narcissism extends far into adulthood, there is no denying that it is far more prevalent among children (especially teenagers) and their rebellious age. It is always about finding your place, understanding where you fit into the world, blah blah blah.

What does everyone think about this? Would you describe it differently? What other reasons do people have for joining and participating in these social networking communities?

Older posts

© 2017 vegettoex.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑