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Archive for the ‘North Carolina’ Category

Update: more photos from this year’s trip; video on my Facebook page.

This is a hemlock in North Carolina’s Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, blasted to smithereens by the U.S. Forest Service. All along the 2-mile trail, which we hike each year on our trip to Snowbird, are these blasted stumps.

Apparently the Forest Service fears that they might fall on hikers, so they took ’em down. In places it looks like a devastated moonscape. It will likely be years before it recovers. The hemlocks have been blighted by the invasive insect called the woolly adelgid. The lower trail is startingly bare, but the upper loop with the giant hundreds-year-old poplars is in much better shape. Ironically, with so many hemlocks now down, you begin to realize how many of them are still standing – dead, of course.

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Wilmington StarNews

We got through Hurricane Irene in pretty good shape, all in all. There was a lot of wind and rain from the storm, which made its closest approach to Wilmington (about 80 miles) in the middle of Friday night/Saturday morning August 26/27. But there was little real damage compared to what was feared.

We went to bed Saturday night with strong winds and rain, and woke to calm blue skies. The photo, from the Wilmington StarNews online, is from an area not too far from both the apartment and the rented house we’ll move to in a couple of weeks.

The biggest problem for most people was probably loss of power. At one point early Saturday Progress Energy was reporting that over 50% of customers in New Hanover County were without power. We were without power at the apartment for something less than 24 hours (I was at WHQR, on the air, for much of that time). But we got power back at about 10 pm Saturday. Cable came back this morning, and Internet service a bit later.

This was my first hurricane. To tell the truth, we’ve seen more problems in Cincinnati with the Hurricane Ike windstorm and some blizzards. But we were lucky — hurricanes are frightening, and many people in Irene’s path weren’t so fortunate.

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This week’s roundup:

1) At a local Wendy’s I ordered my usual (baked potato with margarine, small chili, no cheese, medium unsweet tea) and got a bonus. It was 5 cents less than what I’d been used to paying. I realized that on July 1 North Carolina’s sales tax had gone down 1 percent, thanks to the Legislature’s budget for 2011-12 (the Governor’s budget veto, the first in NC history, was overridden).

2) UNC Wilmington announced that it’s losing almost $17 million in state funding, which will result in a loss of 147 staff positions, plus fewer courses and larger class sizes. Overall the UNC system, historically one of the best in the South (and beyond), will lose $414 million, affecting every campus.

3) An item from Radio Sales Today (“Affluent Americans More Optimistic, Within Reason“) quotes Stephen Kraus, VP and chief research and insights officer at Ipsos Mendelsohn. Their new study that shows that this segment (household income over $100,000, about 20% of the U.S. population) is slowly regaining confidence in the economy, after reaching a low point in April 2011. Here’s the quote that caught my eye:

The study also found a big behavioral difference between people making less than and those making more than a quarter million dollars a year. … Kraus says that difference reflects something else about the U.S. economy that has been in process since the middle of the last century: The rich are getting richer and the middle and upper-middle class are disappearing.

Interesting matter-of-fact tone there. Kind of reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s description of seeing a snake and feeling

a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

On the plus side, I saved that nickel.

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Another geek alert:

Last time I wrote about digitizing LPs. Here’s my newest techno toy: the Zoom H2 digital recorder. I used this on a recent trip to Virginia for the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition.

My sister Jean, a musician and educator who lives near Wayne in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia had invited me and I decided to test the H2 as a field recorder. I was really impressed. I used it for a story I later did for WHQR. You can find the story, and some of my original files, here.

With an 8G card, the H2 can record about 12 hours of stereo in WAV format, which is far less lossy than mp3. Of course, for the web and for many purposes mp3s are just fine; I use a Mac program called Amadeus to convert WAV to mp3. More on Amadeus later.

The H2 actually uses 4 mikes in pairs to record sound. You can direct the sound recording to the front stereo (facing you as you look at the controls), rear stereo (facing away), 2-channel front and rear, and 4-channel surround.

I quickly realized that for audio production I got best results from the 4-channel. In this mode the H2 actually makes simultaneous recordings from the front 2-channel and rear 2-channel. You can choose whichever one you like, or both. The front version takes in a 90-degree stereo field, good for a small group of musicians, for example. The rear setting’s field is 120 degrees, better for a larger group.

For my music recordings, even though I recorded in 4-channel mode, I only used the rear track since I was recording a fairly large group and didn’t need anything from my direction. What really fascinated me, though, was the way it worked for my interview with Erynn Marshall of the Blue Ridge Music Center.

I held the mike about halfway between the 2 of us, so the front channel got my voice and the rear channel got hers. All around us was the ambient noise of people cleaning up after a concert by Doc Watson.

You can see what this looks like in this Amadeus wave file. Originally these were two separate files; I copied and pasted one into the other, after clicking “Add New Stereo Track.” So now there are 2 stereo tracks here. My voice is in the 2 upper channels, hers in the lower 2. You can easily see who speaks when.

What’s remarkable is that the makers of the H2 thought to flip the stereo image between front and back, so the surrounding ambience is correct even though they point 180 degrees opposite each other.

We’re still not at a satisfactory stereo image, though. So I click on the upper track (my voice) and click “Merge With Next Track”. Voila! one single track with nice stereo ambience, and both of our voices in the middle.

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Not me! Here’s proof, from my office window. The city is pretty much shut down today. Typically these don’t stick — they tell me — but precipitation is supposed to last a while and it’s not going to get much if any above freezing.

Still much less than Cincinnati, though.

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Well, Helen and T.C.’s little boy made the news again. The Wilmington Star-News did a profile of me in today’s paper, complete with a picture that looks like I’m trying out for “WHQR 3-D”. Here ’tis.

Wilmington has definitely exceeded my expectations. I went to a rather glittering banquet last night for the Willie Stargell foundation, which raises money for kidney dialysis care at Cape Fear Regional Medical Center here in Wilmington. Stargell of course was a legendary player for the Pittsburgh Pirates who died of kidney failure; his widow Margaret is from Wilmington.

Thanks to her dynamite family and friends (probably a couple of hundred), they had a great turnout. Everywhere you looked there was a sports legend. I had a nice conversation with the great ex-Pirate pitcher Kent Tekulve, who was at my table. It’s been a while since I went out in public in a tux, out of consideration for the public weal.

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Here in Wilmington we have been soaked, drenched, waterlogged, sodden and just plain wet all week. Over 20 inches have fallen since Monday of this week — as much as typically hits during a serious hurricane. Water Street, one block from the WHQR offices, was flooded on Thursday. Two of WHQR’s crackerjack reporters, Michelle Bliss and Rod McClain, filed stories with NPR about the flooding.

But today the skies are clearing, the river is full, Riverfest starts this weekend and the beaches are not too crowded with turistas. Here’s a very nice article about me by Bob Workmon in Wilmington’s Beat magazine. Bob’s a great radio guy and a great writer guy as you can see — in short, a great guy in all respects.

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