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day permlink Saturday, 21 January 2006

permlink Recording; Metro contest

In preparation for laying down some audio, I finally got myself a proper microphone over New Year's.

Only knowing what I'd absorbed over the last 15 years and from a little Googling, I assumed I'd be getting a Shure SM58 or the Beta 58A, since they're typically mentioned as fine vocal mics that won't break the bank.

But when I visited Guitar Center and chatted with the plugged-in dude at the counter, he was very convincing that I'd be just as well off or better with the more modern Audix OM2 (which cost about 1/3 less than the Beta). I figured what-the-heck, went with the Audix and used some of the savings to get a more versatile & durable mic stand than I'd planned on.

From looking around on the web afterwards, it looks like the guy wasn't just making it up. So, I feel pretty good about the choice.

What to use it on first? Having finally cracked open the Missing Manual for GarageBand (a highly useful book), I did some quick & dirty self-multitracking of a couple of old a cappella arrangements. The recordings were pretty sloppy, but as a proof of concept they were just right.
Medley saw this a few weeks ago in the Washington Post:

Metro Launches a Star Search: Contest Will Choose Train 'Doors Closing' Voice
Worried that commuters have turned a deaf ear to the "doors closing" recording that warns when a train is about to pull out of a station, Metro officials plan to record a new message this year and are searching for new talent. The agency is holding a contest to choose the next voice of Metro, and anyone -- professional or amateur -- is welcome to compete.

... A group of Metro officials ... will select 10 finalists based on vocal quality, versatility, enunciation and elocution. The finalists will be asked to make a recording in a professional sound studio in late January. A panel of outside experts in marketing, elocution and advertising will select the winner, whose name will be announced in February, Farbstein said.

The winner doesn't get a professional recording contract, a concert tour or even a free ride on Metro to hear the recording. "Just bragging rights" until the next voice of Metro is found, Farbstein said.
And here's the official announcement, with the full rules including the long sentences auditioners had to speak (not just "Doors Closing"). No money will be won, but you'll be a little bit famous for a little while, and who knows what other Doors winning might.. Open.

Well. Yay for having my own private studio now (i.e. a mic and a Mac)! Last week I made good use of my Audix OM2, made my custom audition CD and mailed it in. I guess I'll hear if I'm one of the 10 finalists by next Thursday, since that's when the finalists will record some more phrases.

I've felt pretty confident about my chances to get into the final 10, though after that there's no telling who will get the nod; it'll depend on all sorts of things like what the judges had for lunch and whether contestant X reminds them of an old flame.

I've felt pretty confident, that is, until I found this update from a few days ago (1/18):

Washington Metro Wants Freebie [ABC News]
Cathy Asato, a Metro spokeswoman, said 246 CD and audiotape submissions had been received so far.
Doh. And there were two more days to go before the deadline..

As a wild guess, let's say twice that number came in by the deadline. 500. So one has to beat out 490 other entries, or 98% of the field, to make it to the finals.

I no longer feel especially confident of my reaching the finals, but honestly I still feel pretty good.

On a side note, the ABC story noted an incongruity that I wasn't so aware of (I don't follow the internals of the Metro system much):
...But Metro officials, who found a way to pay $238,000 in severance and $116,000 in pension benefits each year to a chief executive it just fired, won't pay anything to the winner of its "Doors Closing Voice 2006" contest, saying this is for fun, not for profit.

That has irritated some members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who think the contest winner should get at least $237, the fee they would get for a three-minute recording that does not air on TV or radio.
AFTRA does have a point, & also ABC is right to imply that if the world were fair, the fired chief wouldn't be sponging a six figure salary out of the Metro budget for the rest of his natural life while someone who will lay down recordings to be used citywide will be stiffed.

But clearly hundreds of people were willing to do this for nothing but the notoriety and uncertain other future rewards. Including me. Wish me luck. :) permlink   Recording   0 comment(s)   Add a comment...

permlink su | do | ku

One of the distractions I was tempted by at the end of last year was the new daily puzzle in the Post, "Sudoku". It's apparently been gaining popularity internationally for about a year, but it's far from reaching a saturation point because almost nobody I mention it to has heard of it.

It's typically based on a 9x9 grid of numbers, but there's no math involved, just logic. From the Wikipedia entry:
The attraction of the puzzle is that the completion rules are simple, yet the line of reasoning required to reach the completion may be complex.
(Reminds me of the World Poker Tour tagline, "takes a moment to learn and a lifetime to master".)
Sudoku is recommended by some teachers as an exercise in logical reasoning. ... The puzzles are often available free from published sources and also may be custom-generated using software.
In fact, you can try some interactive puzzles for free online at places like

I enjoy it much more than I do the old grid-style logic puzzles from grade school - Sudoku is much more compact, it's easier to pick one up in the middle if you got stuck on it days ago, and you don't have to keep going back and forth between sentences written in very contorted ways that are sometimes open to interpretation.

People in DC have been lobbying the WPost for harder puzzles since they're getting too good at the daily ones, so a few weeks ago the Post started printing these on Sundays (called Samurai Sudoku). It gave me quite a start when I first saw one.

There are some good Sudoku books out there if your paper doesn't carry the puzzle (or even if it does). Two cool ones (both < $10) are The Big Book of Su Doku #1 and Total Sudoku. They're better than the rest IMO because they include other variant puzzle types in the back, not just page after page of 9x9 grids.

Anyhow. Anyone else out there hooked? Never heard of it? I haven't done one myself in a few weeks, but that's mostly a function of the ridiculous month I've had, on multiple fronts. permlink   Unpaid Endorsements   8 comment(s)  
I just heard of it a couple weeks ago and ended up finding a puzzle online somewhere. It was fun. I think I would prefer the online version of the game because it was able to tell me if I was on the right track or not without telling me exactly where I had made an error. I'm trying not to play any games on the computer these days though, so I'm not really hooked. I would be if I were playing it though:)
      ...posted by Joni on January 21, 2006 7:11 PM
I've known about it for ages, yet have no interest in it. I got bored with logic puzzles (I used to love doing the logic puzzles in my dad's Dell Crosswords book) about midway through college, and sudoku feels like the same kind of exercise.
      ...posted by Sidra Vitale on January 21, 2006 7:25 PM
They're *everywhere* in Australia. The big newspapers carry them; newsagents have books of them. I see people doing them on the bus. My boss prints them out off the web to do at home later. I even saw a parody in one of the big bookstores: "SHITEDOKU", where instead of numbers you had to use the letters in shitedoku. :)
      ...posted by Kris on January 22, 2006 3:40 PM
Two of my colleagues at VT in Northern Virginia told me about it. So I tried it out. Now I'm hooked, too. The ones in the Roanoke Times are way too easy, but I got a book and that's keeping me occupied.
      ...posted by Allen on January 22, 2006 4:08 PM
Add me to the list of the hooked. I've been doing Sudoku puzzles for several months. Just yesterday I picked up the "Original Sudoku calendar" from Borders -- it's one of those page a day calendars, and since 2/3 of January is gone, it was ridiculously cheap. It's nice because all the puzzles in it are handmade. I've done 5 of them so far, and 2 of those were very clever -- not a bad ratio.
      ...posted by Katxena on January 23, 2006 9:47 AM
I am shocked that you found a salesperson who had a clue. Do they sell stereos at this place too? At this point, I'm thinking we should just wait another five years to see what happens with audio media (and let the kids grow up a little too).
      ...posted by Joni on January 24, 2006 10:41 AM
spouse appears to be very hooked, analogous to pre-existing addictions to crosswords and logic puzzles of other sorts (like the weirdo Nation crossword-esque things). passed on the samurai link, which might cause brain-explosion... :)
      ...posted by acm on January 26, 2006 12:03 PM
Here is a very good sudoku site: Fiendish Sudoku

It posts new puzzles every day at five levels of difficulty, and the puzzle layouts are all hand-made. It can give hints and step-by-step solutions. It also has a choice of three grid sizes, multiple undo/redo, and several options for printing.

For a real challenge take a look at Samurai Sudoku. It's the only free samurai solver on the web as far as I know. It posts a new samurai puzzle every day.

- KristinW

      ...posted by KristinW on February 2, 2006 6:35 AM
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