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Digitizing LPs

True story: I bought 4 old long-playing albums at Goodwill and decided to digitize them. When I tried to find an LP cleaner at Radio Shack the clerk said, “What’s an LP?”

Some months ago I had bought a USB turntable for $50 at Costco. I had previously digitized cassettes, but never LPs. I was glad to find the Chad Mitchell Trio’s “Singin’ Our Mind” album again — most of those tracks are not available as files that I can find, and I have a nostalgic affection for the group. So lacking a cleaner (thanks, Radio Shack), I literally washed the LPs in warm soapy water, patted them dry and finished with a hair dryer.

The turntable setup was ridiculously easy and I downloaded the albums into Amadeus Pro for the Mac without trouble. As you might guess, all these albums had some small pops and clicks, and most of one side of the Mitchell album had a huge scratch. I used Amadeus’ Interpolate routine to go through and try to eliminate as many of the pops as I could. Here’s a screen shot of “Maladyozhenaya” in Amadeus before using Interpolate (click for a larger version):

Every one of those spikes is a major click. To use Interpolate, you have to go and locate each one of them; as you can imagine, a tedious process. Here’s a shot of what it looked like at about 80% complete:

Some were harder to fix than others. I had to fiddle with Amadeus’s display a bit to locate the 2 big clicks on the far left. The results aren’t perfect; there are places where I think I grabbed too wide a swath of audio and as a result Interpolate suppresses things a bit. But to my nostalgia-tinged ears, it’s much more listenable:

Clip of Maladyozhenaya before Interpolation

Clip of Maladyozhenaya after Interpolation

My weekend at Spoleto

I realized that after an enjoyable weekend at the Spoleto Festival, I would normally post something on this blog. Instead I worked on material for the WHQR website and for use on air. So here’s a link to that material.

I mentioned in the piece we ran on air that one of the pleasures of a city like Charleston and a Festival like Spoleto is just walking around, absorbing the sights and sounds, and finding interesting places to eat. Here is a highly personal list of places that I enjoyed on this trip. Some of these were familiar to me, others not:

Gaulart & Maliclet, 98 Broad Street — One place I always try to visit in Charleston. I’ve always wondered why we have both fancy and plain-but-good Italian restaurants in this country, and we we have some very fancy French restaurants (many over-rated), but we don’t have many simple places serving bistro-type French food. This is one. At one time they had a sister restaurant in Cary, NC, but now this is the only one. Great for a lunch stop as well as a late-night restorative.

Hominy Grill, 207 Rutledge Avenue — My son Brooks’ favorite breakfast spot when he lived just around the corner. Traditional Southern breakfasts made with flair in a very attractive old building. It must serve the Medical University crowd primarily; unlike the others here, it’s not downtown, and it’s closed on weekends. Get there by 8 am for best results.

Fleet Landing, 186 Concord Street — A great location in a restored Navy building. Spectacular views of the Cooper River, especially from their outside tables, really good seafood, and easy-on-the-wallet happy hour specials at the bar.

Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe, 62 State Street — Another good breakfast place. Not at all fancy (the tables you see here are in the parking lot of a Li’l Cricket convenience store next door), but very cheery and great food. It’s been written up in a lot of places, so it can be crowded, with few tables.

Toast, 155 Meeting Street — Another good place for breakfast (do you notice kind of a theme here?), though it’s more. It probably greatly benefits from its location on Meeting Street near the Market. Good food, but my sister and I found the service a bit spotty. They were very crowded, as would be expected in Charleston, on Meeting Street, during Spoleto. Best overheard conversation: at lunch on Sunday, the sidewalk was jam-packed with people waiting for a table. I heard a passerby say to his companion, “Man, they must have REALLY good toast.”

East Bay Meeting House, 160 East Bay Street — I didn’t know anything about this place except that it had a vacant table right next to an open window and I really needed to stop for lunch. Very nice ambience and bar, and I had a really fine panini. Unfortunately right after I got there they closed up the windows (to be fair, it was getting hot), but still a nice treat.

Noisy Oyster, East Bay and North Market — Ya know, sometimes you just gotta visit a tacky Tiki bar that plays a lot of Jimmy Buffet and has gallons of fried seafood and cheap happy hour drinks. You could do a lot worse than this one, which to this weary and thirsty traveler was touristy but not tourist-trappy. On a hot day with a lot of walking behind you, this begins to look like an oasis.

I’m at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. Today I’ll be attending the pretty-much all-day Sacred Harp singing at Piccolo Spoleto. SCETV Radio interviewed me for their opening show of “Spoleto Today” for the 2011 season. Here’s the podcast.

I’m in the second half of the show, which is about 52 minutes long. If you happen to get this on Saturday May 28 2011, the singing is from 10am to noon and 2-4pm at Gage Hall, 4 Archdale Street in Charleston.

Last fall I presented a “Life After PowerPoint” workshop for my pals at the GCASTD conference (Greater Cincinnati chapter of American Society for Training and Development). Since I typically see a lot of presentations, it was something very much enjoyed doing.

One of the participants contacted me recently and asked me to update it for a group of project managers who use PowerPoint a lot. Since I’m now in Wilmington, I’ll have to do it long-distance. My first webinar!

Anyhoo, in researching for the update, I ran across an interesting comparison between presentations given by Steve Jobs of Apple and Michael Dell of Dell Computers. Here’s a screen shot from a Jobs presentation:

and here’s one from Dell:

The blog where I found this notes that “Steve wants the audience to listen to him tell the story, rather than read the slides…Michael’s would work well if it were designed to be send to someone who would not have the benefit of hearing the story live, but next to Steve’s slides, they just seem cluttered.”

Yes, I’m a Mac guy. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s right.

This is today’s annual Easter sunrise service (using the Easter Vigil) of the Episcopal Church of the Servant  at Wrightsville Beach, NC. It began at 6 am with the lighting of fire. There were probably about 75 people in attendance.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Greg Ross’s Futility Closet is full of interesting tidbits. Here’s part of “Medley of Poems“, from Westminster Monthly, April 1910. A sample:

The boy stood on the burning deck,
His fleece was white as snow,
He stuck a feather in his hat,
John Anderson, my Jo!

“Come back, come back,” he cried in grief,
“From India’s coral strands,
The frost is on the pumpkin, and
The village smithy stands.

Full post here.

This is pretty cool:

New Zealand researcher Quentin Atkinson has published evidence that all human language may have originated in Africa, following the model of human population spread shown here. According to BusinessWeek, Atkinson’s study in Science

…analyzed the phonemes — distinct units of sound that differentiate words — used in modern speech and found that their pattern mirrors that of human genetic diversity.

As humans migrated out of Africa and began colonizing other regions, genetic diversity decreased. According to the study, phoneme diversity tended to decrease, too.

In other words, the farther languages developed from Africa, the fewer phonemes they possess. Think of the clicks and pops of the languages of southern Africa today versus the pretty much vowels-only speech of native Hawaiians.

We’ve known for well over a century about the origin and distribution of the Indo-European family of languages shown here, including English, a member of the Germanic branch. We know that Sanskrit pitar, Latin pater and English father all come from the same original. But efforts to connect other groups together by sound or word correspondences have been tenuous at best.

Atkinson’s research takes a completely different approach and so far many linguists — a pretty skeptical bunch on the whole — have praised the results as a breakthrough.

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

I was interviewed today by Wilmington’s NBC affiliate, WECT. Here’s a link to the clip.

They identified me as news director (corrected at the end of the piece), and once called now-former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller “Schillinger”, but overall it catches the essence of the problem and focuses on the local stations, which is where the emphasis should be.

The big issue is the “Congress cutting funding for NPR” trope that is is ultimately misleading. I carefully explained that NPR doesn’t get much Corporation for Public Broadcasting money, stations do. The target may be NPR, but the bull’s-eye is painted on stations like WHQR.

I’ll be in Cincinnati on March 10th. The Society for American Music is having its conference there this year, and they always have a shape-note singing. The Cincinnati group has been invited to join in.

It’s not listed on the conference schedule, as far as I can see, but we’ll be at Salons B&C of the Omni Netherland downtown, Thursday May 10th at 5:45 pm. This looks like an interesting conference, with lots of good stuff to do in Cincinnati.

I’m in the city where the Ashley and the Cooper Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.

This is a scene along Rainbow Row. It’s starting to get a little busy here but not terrible. I’m not quite a tourist, since I’m here for a shape-note singing, but close enough.

Oddly enough, leaf blowers are in full force. (Live oaks drop their leaves in the spring). It’s a beautiful day, flowers in bloom, lunch at Gaulart & Maliclet. Not bad at all.