Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Archive for August 2013

Love It

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There is only one thing better than people who want you to fail who can’t help following your progress. And that’s them not knowing you know they’re following your progress. I heard a hip hop song recently with the line, “Keep the Haters fed up.” I love that line.

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August 16, 2013 at 13:52

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New Track: Gabrielle Glaser Interview

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A new track on SoundCloud “Gabrielle Glaser Interview”:

Author Gabrielle Glaser knows about women and drinking.  Throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and the 2000s, she watched women move from glasses of wine to flasks to sneaking big Merlot empties into recycling bins.  And she did a fair amount of drinking herself.  She’s written a book about it, called “Her Best Kept Secret”.  Don Merrill talks with Gabrielle Glaser about why women can be honest with themselves about their drinking and why AA doesn’t always work for them.

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August 9, 2013 at 00:39

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New Track: Ray Velez Interview

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A new track on SoundCloud “Ray Velez Interview”:

Razorfish Chief Technology Officer Ray Velez and CEO Bob Lord have written a new book about how to transform business where marketing and technology meet.  It’s called “Converge”, and Mr. Velez talks with Don Merrill about how our new view of technology affects everything from light bulbs to legos. This interview was done four days before the merger of Omnicon and Publicis. Razorfish is part of the Digital Media branch of Publicis.

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August 6, 2013 at 06:39

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Slight Update

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Well, in the last 45 minutes, I’ve tweaked the mixer and found it is, for some reason, more responsive than when I had it hooked up before. We’ll see when I test it on some live phone calls. But this is a win.

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August 4, 2013 at 02:34

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Counting to Ten

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I’ve been plagued with low mic levels for my interviews for months. People say they have trouble hearing me. So I did a few things to deal with the issue. I ordered a Shure SM7b, which is the microphone you’ll see in about half of the radio stations around the country. It’s what Michael Jackson used when he recorded “Thriller”, so I’m pretty sure that won’t be part of the problem.

I also decided to try two gadgets that are supposed to be better for my signal than the Behringer mixer I have. The Tube MP Studio Preamp, and the Onyx Blackjack Audio Interface. The preamp, I’m told will boost the output from the microphone. All it did was add hum. And the interface becomes a soundcard for my PC that will provide better, digital sound to my recording software than the analog output the mixer currently delivers. Instead, all it did was give me very low microphone output and delete my previous and primary sound device/driver within Audacity. Maybe they work well in other configurations, but I couldn’t make it happen. And there was collateral damage.

I found that out when I went to Dragon, a transcription software that I use with Audacity. Audacity used to show that device as one of a series of selections when I opened it to use with Dragon. That selection is gone now and I’m pretty sure it went away after I installed the Onyx software. And, I guess that selection was also used by my telephone answering software because now, it won’t play the outgoing message I recorded. As an aside, I had also ordered a new USRobotics 56K USB modem that is supposed to work with this software and let me add high quality voice functions, but the modem I got was data and fax only. I have been wrestling with different modems for this software, called EZVoice, for months. Anyway, I had to dig around to discover USRobotics had a firmware update that added voice. I was about to send it back because I thought I’d ordered the wrong one. Turns out it was the right one but nowhere on the box did it say “voice” even though it did in the online description. Ugh.

Why do companies do that? Why do they design their installations to kill anything else in your PC that is even remotely like whatever it is you’re installing? They say it’s to prevent conflicts. But it seems to me it’s more about market share by eliminating the competition. And what if it doesn’t work and you have to uninstall it? You can’t go back to your old software because it’s been destroyed.

So, I uninstalled the Onyx software thinking that maybe it was blocking or hiding the original sound device, called “Line 10 – High Definition Audio Device”. When I open Audacity, it’s still not there. And when I go to “Sound” in Windows, it’s there for speakers and microphone; the Onyx is gone. But I can’t make the microphone or the speakers, under either the recording or playback tabs, enable the old software. I go a couple forums and figure out that HDAD is a Realtek product, a generic. So, I download it and reinstall it onto my PC (Thank you, Realtek). Meanwhile, I unplug all of the new stuff, repackage and rebox it while I dig around for my receipts. As pretty as this new stuff is, pretty don’t mean shit if it doesn’t work. At least my old setup worked, if poorly. This stuff doesn’t work at all and I tried every configuration I could think of. Annoying.

So now, everything is working as it was … no, I take that back. The telephone answering system with the USRobotics modem configured to Windows 7, works. Two small victories; a well done undo, and a voicemail system that finally works as designed.

Falling From Grace

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Falling from Grace2

I love Scrubs. But there is one episode that I particularly like. John McGinty plays Percival Cox, Dr. Perry Cox. He’s Resident Supervisor and all around asshole. He makes life miserable for new doctors Elliott Reed and John “JD” Dorian, as well as other staff, management and the general public at large. He good, very good. And that makes him arrogant, very arrogant.

So one day, a dying patient comes in. And doctor Cox sees an opportunity to save three patients with the organs of this one dying patient. So, he barks to his resident staff and the surgical teams to do three transplants. Problem is, Cox misdiagnoses the dying patient and puts organs infected with rabies into them. All three die.

Cox is demoralized and devastated. And because the hospital is a family deep down, all of the staff decide to set up a round the clock visitation at his home because he won’t leave his couch, he won’t shave, he won’t talk. He is a broken man.

Cox mentors JD. So, of course, he is constantly humiliating him because, in his own way, he sees it as making JD tough. JD loves it, like a puppy looking for the next belly rub. And because he idolizes Cox, it’s hard for him to admit the mistake Cox made. So he avoids his mentor while the rest of his friends cycle in and out of the big man’s apartment.

But finally, he shows up. He sits down, and you can see JD is the only one Cox really wanted to see. And JD tells him he was scared to see him fallen. The point of the visit was for JD to tell Cox how proud of him he was. He says, “after 20 years of being a doctor, when things go badly, you still take it this hard. That’s the kind of doctor I want to be.”

Sometimes, after doing years and years of something, you can forget what it took to get there. You can forget the ethical struggles and the technical hurtles and the learning curves. You can forget the stupid mistakes and the need for forgiveness. You may be an expert, yeah, but you didn’t come out of the clam shell that way. You start to take what you do for granted. And then, something happens. The Indigo Girls relate to this in their song, “Watermark”, when they sing that every five years or so, you circle back to something you think you conquered only to realize it’s just a more complicated version of the same problem.

Sometimes, you need to be hit with a cruise missile of a problem that comes out of nowhere to remind you that, no you aren’t God. You aren’t even a lesser God. And it is at that point, I think, that you get real all over again.

Written by Interviewer

August 1, 2013 at 00:36