Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The best job ever!

Nice curves baby!

I spend a lot of time in this blog talking about three things very near and dear to my heart: MBH, LB, and cooking, particularly baking. And unless it is a rant, (i.e. see this post or this one), you rarely read about what I do to earn a living. I wrote about it once in this postbut since my last post was a long winded gripe about work, I thought I'd share something that is good about my job. No strike that, what is my favourite part of my job: turning a 19,600 seat NBA/NHL arena sound system into my personal stereo system. Today I finished tuning the new, improved sound system that I designed for the Boston Garden (The Fleet Center until a few months ago when TD Banknorth bought the naming rights from the now defunct Fleet Bank and restored the true name back to the building). I don't mind telling you, it sounds damn fine.

Now, what makes my job one of the best jobs ever? Well, a few things. First, as I wrote about before, there is something about the thrill of cranking a 150,000 watt sound system up really stinkin' loud until your ears bleed. Ok, that is an exaggeration, the sound system at the Boston Garden was designed to meet and exceed the minimum NBA specification of 105dB. How loud is that?? Basically that is equivalent to a jack-hammer at 20 feet. To put that in better perspective, a packed pub at happy hour with the jukebox playing at normal "bar" level is about 95 dB and that is as loud as most people can shout over. dB (decibels, the unit of loudness) are logarithmic and in their world 1+1 does not equal 2 but rather = 10. So, if something is 95 dB (our example pub) and you compare it to my Boston Garden sound system, well my sound system plays 10X louder! In fact, it will play 20X louder because I can easily hit 115 dB before the limiters, a safety valve so some numbskull operating the system when I leave the building doesn't blow up speakers, engage. 115 dB BTW is about as loud as a jet engine taking off from 40 feet. Oh and one more BTW, that is what rock concerts START at because by the time the band gets to the third set, the sound guy and band's ears are numb and they can't hear the mix so the sound guy starts cranking up the volume and by the time you stagger out of the place three hours later, you have just exposed your precious hearing to over 120 dB for an extended period of time (and taken about 4 years off your ears lifespan) So ALWAYS take those little foamy earplugs with you when you go to a show...this ends my public service annoucement and the science lesson. Now where was I....

Oh yea, telling you about the things that make my job really cool. Another thing that makes my job really cool is I get to go behind the scenes at some really neat places. My job has taken me backstage at an Elton John concert where I met Sir Elton and then proceeded to set him up with a groovy monitor rig for his keyboards. It got me on the tour bus of Kiss (not for THAT reason....jheesh). They weren't there but I got to fix a speaker on their surround system for the bus video system and drink a beer with the road manager who fixed my brother up with back stage passes to meet the band! (which I never fail to remind my little bro of when he gets too big for his britches). I've been to too many NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, college football/basketball games to count (no, not 'bama yet Todd, but when we redo the system there next year, I'll let you know) and always had the best seat in the house: the catwalk high above the action or at the sound booth. I think my favourite place my job has gotten me is either the winter olympics at Nagano (say it with me boys and girls...sushi!) or the summer games at Barcelona (can you spell T-A-P-A-S? Come on, I had to get some food in here). The best backstage in all of opera you ask? Paris without a doubt. Even though the MET in NYC does have the best flywing and it was a blast to fly across the stage while rigging a back stage fill speaker.

Besides these perks, there is one other thing I really, really get a thrill doing. And that is taking a really nasty sounding room like an arena or big cavernous theatre and designing a sound system so that the owners and the ticket buying public can hear and understand every word said and the music played through the system sounds just like it does when you listen at home (albeit in a slightly bigger room). My favourite moment as a sound system designer? Well, it wasn't filling all 111,000 seats at University of Michigan's Big House with sound so loud the police in Ypsilanti, MI five miles away get calls during game day nor even making sure Pope John Paul II was heard from front to back at the Basilica of St. Paul (but that DID send a tingle down to my toes). No, it was watching a lowly church secretary breakdown in the back pew of her church in tears because she had never heard the cassette tape of her grand-daughter's piano recital sound so good. That system consisted of one speaker, hung in the center above the pulpit and filled a church that sat about 200 people. But, having that woman walk up to me after I was finished tuning the system and hug me was the best feeling ever. And that, my dear reader, is what I love about my job.

Playlist for Tuning the Parquet

When I tune a system (with basically means, set up the amps and equalizers, etc), I use songs from albums that are very well recorded without a lot of extra studio processing on them. I also use songs from artists I don't necessarily LOVE because if I do use those artists I get lost in the music and quit paying attention to the mechanics of tuning a big system. I save them for after I'm finished setting the system up when I can enjoy the fruits of my labour. I have certain songs/cds/artists for each different part of the system. Oh and I don't normally listen to the whole song through, just certain parts over and over and over and over (another good reason not to use music your really really love. You will hate it after hearing the same 30 seconds for four hours straight). Here are the tunes I used this week at the Garden. There are links if you want to hear what I heard and if you want to see more pictures from my tuning at the Boston Garden go to here.

-Falling into You: Celine Dion (Say what you will, this woman sings on key and is produced impeccably. This is the song I use to get a baseline on the system before, during, and after I finish)

-Make You Happy: Celine Dion (Great for making sure I have the kick and snare drum sounding just oh so right)

-The Chain: Fleetwood Mac (I KNOW I've got the system rumbling at the bottom end when the John McVie's bass guitar solo rattles signage)

-It's AWESOME baby- Dick Vitale/Tribal Dance - 2 Unlimited (From Jock Jams 3. The system will get up and go for the jumbotron guys when I actually do a little dance to this one)

-Angel: Sarah McLachlan (I break my rule about not listening to artists I love with this one. The piano and her voice are just so clean that I know the mids and highs are locked in with this song)

-Male Voice from Syn-Aud-Com (10 minutes of a guy with a great radio voice talking about the history of installed sound. Great disk to make sure speech is understandable in a 5 second room)

-Pink Noise:20Hz - 20kHz (I actually get applause from the other folks in the building when I turn this stuff off but it helps me see what I need to do on my analyzer when I set a baseline equalization for the system)

-Tone sweeps from 30Hz - 300Hz (I use these to ring out low frequency rumbles in the room that will destroy the punch. I use a tone generator to do this part of the set up)

-Breathe Me:Sia (I just HAD to hear this song on this system)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

One big rant...

Lately I have been very unorganised and procrastinating doing anything remotely productive in all areas of my life, normally a sign of extreme stress for me. I'm sure most of this has been caused by recent upheavals at work. Profits are off significantly in other divisions of the publicly held company I work for and layoffs have started in all groups, even mine which is the ONLY profitable division and running ahead of projections. I had to lay off three members of my team in the past two weeks and despite assurances from the top brass, I don't think they are over. This stress has been combined with the stress of having a new director of my brand who I don't seem to have made a connection with, well a favourable connection with that is. All this means I am to say least worrying about my job. Which I need. Especially since my salary IS the salary that is the constant in our household (MBH is a consultant and computer security programmer who works contract to contract). Without it, MBH and LB will not be able to be kept in the style to which they have become accustomed (not to mention NSTAR won't get their money for all the AC we have been using the past few weeks). Stress has taken over my work life.

Of course, being the high strung Type A person I am, I have been bringing this stress home with me causing MBH and I to be at odds most of the time. I know he mutters "b#$%^" under his breath when I berate him for not putting the dishes in the dishwasher during the day (he works from home most of the time and gets lost in his work. Being chronologically challenged he doesn't realise the time and despite best intentions to do so, forgets) or for not taking the empties out to the recycling bin. I don't want to be a harpy and nag, he isn't doing these things to spite me. I even tell myself on my long commute home, made longer lately by all the bleep, bleep, bleepin' idiots....um, I mean fellow commuters, who can't use the Big Dig right now because of the ceiling collapse in one of the tunnels and are now over-running every other route in and out of Boston, that I will NOT say anything when faced with dishes in the sink or three bottles on the table when I walk into the back door. But I just can't seem to help myself. Yesterday it was a full out melt down and right now we are barely civil to each other. I'm sure if he could, he would pack LB into a duffel bag and take himself out of the line of fire. I'm awful thankful he hasn't but...

This longer than normal commute and the extra hours I'm putting in at work trying to keep my department below the radar of the head mucky-mucks (not to mention trying to find a way to show the new director I DO know what I'm doing) has meant that I have had absolutely no time to cook like I want to in the evening. Cooking for us is one of my major stress relievers. I putter in the kitchen, catch up on podcasts, and try new things in my quest to introduce MBH to a new food group. Now, it is fix whatever is quick, throw it on a plate, toss it at MBH, clean up and go to bed. No time for reading or catching up (not that MBH is speaking to me). No time to post a blog entry or finish the four drafts I have started. The only thing productive I've done the past two weeks is clean the bathroom.

So, today, what do I do? I unload in my blog. This post started out as a "catch-up". I had a paragraph about the cupcakes and scones I made to order for a friend's baby shower (complete with pictures). I was going to tell you about this other really odd hobby of mine, ship watching, and not little boats either but 700 foot plus lake freighters on the Great Lakes. I was going tell you about the phone call I got from the middle of Lake Superior yesterday from a friend working one of the Lakers (The Reserve) while he stood on the bow and talked over the fog horn from the ship (very cool!). I was going post a picture of LB and his attempts to help me make the bed this morning. Do I do any of this? No, I vent and rant.

At least my bathroom is clean...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

WCB#57: King of all he surveys

The heat and humidity finally broke on Friday allowing us to open the windows and let some fresh, non artificially cooled air into the house. Of course, as soon as we open the window next to MBH's computer, LB immediately jumps into the sill. This is his favourite place to sit during the spring, summer and fall. The window faces the street but is high up from the sidewalk. MBH calls this LB's "death looks from above" pose because LB can sit in the window and look down upon the squirrels who like to bury nuts in our front yard during the fall and the birds who search for seeds and worms. When someone walks by he is known to announce his presence with a loud meow; leaving the passer-by startled when they look up and see our big gray monster in the window. Mostly though, he just likes to sit and watch the world go by secure that he is the king of all he surveys.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Our Cyber Family and Friends

This isn't the post I sat down to write tonight. Tonight, I was going to post about another dish I had cooked from the fabulous Mitchell Davis cookbook, "Kitchen Sense". I had uploaded the food porn shot to flickr and refilled my wineglass with chilled French rose. I had the cookbook in front of me, MBH snuggled up next to me asleep and LB lying belly up at the foot of the bed with the fan blowing on him. All I needed to do was let the noise in my head quiet down and I would be all set to write. But, before I started my own post, I wanted to finish catching up with a few bloggers/podcasters as I hadn't had time to read their blogs/listen to their podcasts while I was away on my two week business trip and I was feeling neglectful.

It was during the updating of my ipod that I discovered that Dan O'Leary over at "Hotel Coffee" had experienced a life changing personal tragedy. His younger brother had been brutally murdered the day I left for my trip and I didn't find out until tonight when I read the post on the "Hotel Coffee" blog. As I read about this horrific event and the comments all his listeners have left, I started crying. I haven't met Dan personally but over the past almost year, Dan has become someone I would consider a good "cyber-friend". I have helped Dan with his audio for his podcast (Dan is a commercial pilot who podcasts) and we have exchanged some funny emails back and forth during the past several months. Dan is the soundtrack to my baking/cooking and sometimes, my "in-flight" entertainment during my business trips. He also has a great sense of humor (albeit very dry) and great taste in music, which he shares every week on his podcast. Dan is also a regular here at The Sour Dough (you may have seen some of Dan's funny comments on several posts). Basically, the type of person that if I met in person, I would sit next to at a pub, buy a beer for, and we would become friends.

Why am I posting about this? Because, this awful event made me realize tonight how connected I have become to people I have never met and never talked to beyond emails and how much many of you mean to me. MBH and I were talking yesterday about friends and the fact that we don't have many. I joked that I don't make friends easily but tonight, while sitting here typing this post, I know that statement isn't true. I have quite a few friends. I talk with them often. We share our joys and triumphs together. We commiserate and conspire together. And, when tragedy befalls one of us, we morn and share our sorrow with each other. This is the network of friends we have now. Not just the ones in our hometowns and those we grew up with, went to school with, work with, or otherwise physically met but those we have made a connection with in this virtual world of our making.

I hope Dan and his family know that out here his friends are thinking about him. I hope that they feel the comfort that those of us who Dan has touched with his podcasts and blog are sending their way. I hope...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

WCB #56: Staying cool on a hot 4th of July weekend

After a very cold and rainy spring and early summer it finally feels like summer is suppose to feel like and just in time for the 4th of July Holiday too! Since Boston is the birthplace of the American Revolution, the 4th of July weekend is a big event. Normally almost 1 million additional people descend upon our city to roam the streets that Paul Revere, Sam Adams (yes, he was a real man and not just a picture on a beer bottle), John Hancock and the other founding fathers roamed, hear the Declaration of Independence read from the Custom House balcony just like it was read on July 8th, 1776, and watch the USS Constitution go out for it's turn-around cruise during Boston Harborfest. The holiday culminates on the 4th when the Boston Pops Orchestra plays the 1812 Overture complete with cannons and fireworks on the Esplanade. It is one of the biggest 4th of July celebrations in the US and probably the most famous.

Normally, MBH and I hibernate this weekend. It isn't that we aren't patriotic but rather after all these years living in Boston, unless we have out of town guests who haven't been to Boston for the 4th, we just prefer not to join the throngs of people downtown. But, since the weather has been so wretched the past few weeks, we decided not to pass up the opportunity to enjoy the sunny skies and warm temperatures. After a later than normal start to our day, we got off the subway at the Charles Street station and walked through the Public Garden...right into the middle of the 90th international convention of the Lions Club parade. There were marching bands, units dressed in native costumes of their country (who knew that Japan had the second largest number of Lions Club in the world?). We wandered through Back Bay and the South End and had a late lunch at Legal Seafoods in Copley Plaza. After walking through the shops at the Prudential Center, we decided to go home and escape the heat and humidity of the late afternoon. All and all a very nice summer day.

And when we returned home, we found that LB had already found a perfect way to beat the heat. He was lying on his side, feet propped up on the French doors between our living room and MBH's study on the hard wood floor next to his scratching pole. During the summer, if we can't find him, this is normally where we can find him; the coolest spot in the house.