How Long Is Shortly?

We’ve all heard those “Greatest Lies Ever Told.” (Apologies to Fulton Oursler!) You know, the ones like “The check’s in the mail” and “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Then there’s the lesser known ones like “But honey, I’m only going to buy a couple things” and “The tow truck will be there in 15 and 50 minutes.”

I propose that a new one be added to the list: “A representative will be with you shortly.” We’ve all been on hold at some point in our lives and heard the recording of the nice, usually female, voice that breaks in to the on-hold music and says: “Your call is important to us. Please hold and a representative will be with your shortly.” Although the exact wording may vary slightly, they all pretty much follow the same script. I call foul on them all!

Almost 15 years ago we moved into our new house. We had the house wired for security and shortly after moving in, we had ADT come and install a system for us. After a few years, we were sick of the high price and the lousy service and switched to Checkpoint Services. A few years after that, they were purchased by Brinks Security, who, after a few years, spun that division off into a wholly-owned subsidiary call Broadview Security. Well, when that happened we knew what was coming next and it happened, Broadview Security was sold to ADT.

Now, we’re back where we started again. Shortly after taking over, ADT couldn’t resist and increased the rates. With nowhere to go, we had no choice to put up with it. Recently, we accepted an offer on our house and the one thing I was the happiest about was getting rid of ADT. I called and arranged to have our service canceled. However, a few weeks later, the deal fell through.

So, here we were, having to call them back up and cancel our “cancellation.” You would expect that this would be a simple process, if I could get a hold of someone to talk to. Over the course of a day, I spent almost two hours on the phone, waiting for a chance to speak to “an associate.” This was over the course of three attempts. The first attempt I gave up after 45 minutes and the other two attempts I gave up after 30 minutes. On each of the calls, they played the same song (only one) and it was only interrupted by that friendly female voice every 90 seconds reminding me that “an associate will be with your shortly.”

After a day of frustrations, I finally took to the ADT web site and filled out the contact form. I selected “Moving” from the list of departments to contact and told them briefly (I was limited to 250 characters) of what I wanted. About 10 minutes after we activated the alarm that evening to go out to run some errands, ADT calls back. (My daughter believes they waited for this to happen before they called!) Was it a call to handle my cancellation issue? Nope, they were calling me to try to sell me a system.

So, not only does there not appear to be anyone working in the ADT “Moving Department,” they also don’t appear to have anyone that can read the contact request properly. I guess I shouldn’t expect anything more considering the state of our <sarcasm> wonderful </sarcasm> government educational systems.

Time to make a phone call again….and wait on hold. If I go crazy, you’ll know it’s because they’re still playing that same song…over…and over…and over…and over…

The Boortz Commencement Speech

I am honored by the invitation to address you on this august occasion. It’s about time. Be warned, however, that I am not here to impress you; you’ll have enough smoke blown your way today. And you can bet your tassels I’m not here to impress the faculty and administration.

You may not like much of what I have to say, and that’s fine. This isn’t the first time you’re not going to like what someone has to say … your bosses, for instance. Things change today. There will be a lot less pandering to your every whim, and a lot more demands for performance. You will remember what I had to say though. Especially after about 10 years out there in the real world. This, of course, does not apply to those of you who will seek your careers and your fortunes as government employees … or as college professors.

You’ve heard the old saying that those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach. That sounds deliciously insensitive. But there is often raw truth in insensitivity, just as you often find feel-good falsehoods and lies in compassion. Say good-bye to your faculty because now you are getting ready to go out there and do. These folks behind me are going to stay right here and teach.

By the way, just because you are leaving this place with a diploma doesn’t mean the learning is over. When an FAA flight examiner handed me my private pilot’s license many years ago, he said, ‘Here, this is your ticket to learn.’ The same can be said for your diploma. Believe me, the learning has just begun.

OK .. it’s time for you to hear something – to learn something – that may, but should not, come as a complete surprise.

You are the victims of a terrible fraud. You have just completed your travels through an educational system that had no real intention of educating you … at least not too much.

You’re pretty hot at research right now, aren’t you? While those skills are still with you, perhaps you would like to put them to work studying the start of compulsory government education in the early part of the last century. Do you really think that the goal of our compulsory government education system has been to actually educate you?

Did you study H. L. Mencken? In 1924 he wrote an article for the American Mercury where he defined the true aim of our then-fledgling system of education. Listen carefully:

The aim of public education is not to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is the aim in the United States and that is its aim everywhere else.

Think about this. Who owns the schools? The government. Who mandates attendance? The government. Who staffs the schools? The government … with government workers. Who directs the work of the schools? The government. Can you see where it is in the best interests of government to suppress dissent and originality? Can you understand why government would want a standardized citizenry? Those who dissent; those who produce originality of thought; those who exceed the standards are a threat to what? The status quo, that’s what … and government likes the calming influence of the status quo.

There’s an amazing book that you need to put at the top of your reading list … now that you don’t have to focus on college texts any more. The book is by John Taylor Gatto, and it’s called “The Underground History of American Education.” Gatto was the teacher of the year in New York City. He wrote an extraordinary letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2001. Let me share the first part of that letter with you:

I’ve taught public school for 26 years but I just can’t do it anymore. For years I asked the local school board and superintendent to let me teach a curriculum that doesn’t hurt kids, but they had other fish to fry. So I’m going to quit, I think.

I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.

I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t train children to wait to be told what to do; I can’t train people to drop what they are doing when a bell sounds; I can’t persuade children to feel some justice in their class placement when there isn’t any, and I can’t persuade children to believe teachers have valuable secrets they can acquire by becoming our disciples. That isn’t true.

Just google “I quit, I think” and you can read the rest of Gatto’s letter to the Wall Street Journal. You’ve been had .. big time. Read the letter. You’ll see how —- and how bad.

Can you see why government would want to keep you dumbed down and placated? Gatto’s book explains it all. He talks about the effort to bring the Prussian style of education to the United States in the early 1900s. He describes his shock that Americans were to eager to adopt what he calls “one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture … an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens in order to render the populace “manageable.”

So … do you think you know enough to be a threat to the ruling class?

How many of you can name your two US Senators? How about the Vice President? Who is your congressman? How often is he elected? Can you give me the gist of the 10th Amendment?

Am I trying to insult you here? No, I’m trying to illustrate something.

What are the three branches of government? Who officially represents the government of this state – not the people, the government — in Washington?

How strong is your economic knowledge? Do you believe that the rich should pay their fair share? If so, can you tell me what percentage of total income the hated top 1% earns and what percentage of income taxes they pay? If you can’t, don’t worry too much. I’ve interviewed presidential candidates who can’t tell you.

Here’s a toughie …. What is the difference between a profit and a profit margin? Do corporations pay taxes? If so, where do they get the money?

A person who cannot answer virtually all of these questions is a person who is going to present absolutely no threat at all to current political thought. This is a person who will repeat government feel-good slogans and political mantras .. and then turn to a discussion of the last episode of “Lost.”

Feeling pretty good about your education now, aren’t you?

Now, I realize that most of you consider yourselves Liberals. In fact, you are probably very proud of your liberal views. You care so much. You feel so much. You want to help so much. After all, you’re a compassionate and caring person, aren’t you now? Well, isn’t that just so extraordinarily special. Now, at this age, is as good a time as any to be a Liberal; as good a time as any to know absolutely everything. You have plenty of time, starting tomorrow, for the truth to set in. Over the next few years, as you begin to feel the cold breath of reality down your neck, things are going to start changing pretty fast .. including your own assessment of just how much you really know.

So here are the first assignments for your initial class in post-graduate reality: Pay attention to the news, read newspapers – as long as we have newspapers — and listen to the words and phrases that proud Liberals use to promote their causes. Then compare the words of the left to the words and phrases you hear from those evil, heartless, greedy conservatives. From the Left you will hear “I feel.” From the Right you will hear “I think.” From the Liberals you will hear references to groups –The Blacks, The Poor, The Rich, The Disadvantaged, The Less Fortunate. From the
Right you will hear references to individuals. On the Left you hear talk of group rights; on the Right, individual rights.

That about sums it up, really: Liberals feel. Liberals care. They are pack animals whose identity is tied up in group dynamics and the principal of looting. Conservatives and Libertarians think — and, setting aside the theocracy crowd, their identity is centered on the individual – individual worth and achievement.

Liberals feel that their favored groups, have enforceable rights to the property and services of productive individuals. Conservatives (and Libertarians, myself among them I might add) think that individuals have the right to protect their lives and their property from the plunder of the masses.

In college you developed a group mentality, but if you look closely at your diplomas you will see that they have your individual names on them. Not the name of your school mascot, or of your fraternity or sorority, but your name. This group identity nonsense needs to go away … now. Your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity should begin immediately.

There’s a chance that, over the next eight to ten years, the lessons of life will not have brought you to the rational thinking processes of a libertarian or a conservative. If you find that to be your reality when you reach the age of 30 … 35 tops … then you need to rush right back here as quickly as you can and apply for a faculty position. These people will welcome you with open arms. They will welcome you, that is, so long as you haven’t developed an individual identity. Once again you will have to be willing to sign on to the group mentality you embraced during the past four years.

Something is going to happen soon that is going to really open your eyes. You’re going to actually get a full time job! You’re also going to find that you have a partner. This partner isn’t going to help you do your job. This partner is just going to sit back and wait for payday. This partner doesn’t want to share in your effort — just your earnings.

Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent; an agent representing a strange and diverse group of people. An agent for every single mother raising an illegitimate child. An agent for a research scientist who wanted to make some cash answering the age-old question of why monkeys grind their teeth. An agent for some poor aging hippie who considers herself to be a meaningful and talented artist … but who just can’t manage to sell any of her artwork on the open market.

Your new partner is an agent for every person with limited, if any, job skills; for every person who ignored all proffered educational opportunities, for every loser dreaming of nothing more than a job at City Hall. Your partner will be an agent for tin-horn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million-dollar companies who want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use the unimaginable power of this agent’s for their personal enrichment and benefit.

That agent is our wonderful, caring, compassionate, oppressive Imperial Federal Government. Believe me, you will be awed by the unimaginable power this agent has. Power that you do not have. A power that no individual has, will have or should have. This agent has the legal power to use force – deadly force – to accomplish its goals.

You have no choice here. Your new friend is just going to walk up to you, introduce itself rather gruffly, hand you a few forms to fill out, and move right on in. Say hello to your own personal one ton gorilla with a gun. It will sleep anywhere it wants to.

Now, let me tell you, this agent is not cheap. As you become successful it will seize about 40% of everything you earn. And no, I’m sorry, there just isn’t any way you can fire this agent of plunder, this looter, and you can’t decrease it’s share of your income. That power rests with him, not you.

Does it bother you that I’m not particularly fond of our government? Well, be clear on this: It is not wrong to distrust government. It is not wrong to fear government. In certain cases it is not even wrong to despise government for government is inherently evil. Oh yes, I know it’s a necessary evil, but it is dangerous nonetheless … somewhat like a drug. Just as a drug that in the proper dosage can save your life, an overdose of government can be fatal.

Now – let’s address a few things that have been crammed into your minds at this university. There are some ideas you need to expunge as soon as possible. These ideas may work well in academic environment, but they fail miserably out there in the real world.

First – that favorite buzz word of the media, government and academia: Diversity!

You have been taught that the real value of any group of people – be it a social group, an employee group, a management group, whatever – is based on diversity. This is a favored liberal ideal because diversity is based not on an individual’s abilities or character, but on a person’s identity and status as a member of a group. Yes – it’s that liberal group identity thing again.

Within the great diversity movement group identification – be it racial, gender based, one of the fourteen different classifications of sexual proclivities, or some other minority status – means more than the individual’s integrity, character or other qualifications.

Brace yourself. You are about to move from this academic atmosphere where diversity rules, to a workplace and a culture where individual achievement and excellence actually count. No matter what your professors have taught you over the last four years, you are about to learn that diversity is absolutely no replacement for excellence, ability, and individual hard work. Unless, of course, you are working for the government or academia.

From this day on every single time you hear the word “diversity” you can rest assured that there is someone close by who is determined to rob you of every vestige of individuality you possess.

We also need to address this thing you seem to have about “rights.” We have witnessed an obscene explosion of so-called “rights” in the last few decades, usually emanating from college campuses.

You know the mantra: You have the right to a job. The right to a place to live. The right to a living wage. The right to health care. The right to an education. You probably even have your own pet right – the right to a Beemer, for instance, or the right to have someone else provide for that child you plan on downloading in a year or so.

Forget it. Forget those rights! I’ll tell you what your rights are! You have a right to live free, and you have a right to whatever wealth you are able to produce with your labor. You’ll be disappointed to learn that you have no right to any portion of the life or labor of another.

You may think, for instance, that you have a right to health care. After all, the president said so, didn’t he? But you cannot receive health care unless some doctor or health practitioner surrenders some of his time – his life – to you. He may be willing to do this for compensation, but that’s his choice. You have no “right” to his time or property. You have no right to any portion of his or any other person’s life.

You may also think you have some “right” to a job; a job with a living wage, whatever that is. Do you mean to tell me that you have a right to force your services on another person, and then the right to demand that this person compensate you with their money? What if he doesn’t need your services? I can’t wait for you to point that one out for me in our Constitution. I sure would like to be a fly on the wall when some urban outdoorsmen (that would be “homeless person” for those of you who don’t want to give these less fortunate people a romantic and adventurous title) came to you and demanded his job and your money.

And while I’m on the subject of jobs

Feedback Control and Room Tuning Video

The following was originally posted in the Church Soundguy blog:

Some time ago, I posted an article on how to ring out a sound system: how to use your ears and an equalizer to minimize feedback and maximize system gain. If you’re not using an automated EQ, then this is one of the most important things you can learn.

This video explains the process, and shows how to use a spectrum analyzer in the process. If you set up portable systems, you probably need this video. The information is from Bill Gibson’s book, The Ultimate Church Sound Operator’s Handbook.

Are Your Drums Too Loud?

The following was originally published at Church Soundguy on April 10, 2008.


Controlling Drums in Church

By David McLain

Any time a band has some of its sound coming through the main PA system (usually vocals and electronic instruments) and some of the sound coming from the stage acoustically (most notably the drums) you have problems. The drummer must play loud enough to keep up with the sound system, which he cannot hear. However, playing loudly enough for the back row of listeners means that the drums are often too loud for the first several rows. It’s even louder on stage, which requires the rest of the band to play louder and turn up the stage monitors.

The result is a stage volume that is overwhelming – too loud for the room, and often louder than the main sound system in the room, and still unclear. People get frustrated and irritable, and some leave to find another church where they can understand the music.

A major part of the solution for this problem is to control the sound of the on-stage instruments, beginning with the drums. There are three steps in controlling drums in church:

  1. Contain the acoustic energy from the drums,
  2. Absorb the acoustic energy from the drums, and
  3. Reinforce the sound that you want from the drums

Containing the acoustic energy from the drums is the easiest part. The sound of the drums travels from the drum head to the ears of the people hearing it. The strongest part of that sound is generally direct line-of-sight.Many churches have installed plexiglass drum shields around the drums for this purpose. It’s cost-effective and it’s a reasonably effective starting point. The plexiglass reflects most sound, preventing the direct line-of-sight sound from reaching the people in the congregation.

This solves one problem and introduces a couple of new ones.

Plexiglass does not absorb sound; virtually all of the sound created by the drums is reflected; that means that the sound is still in the room, it’s just not traveling to the listeners in a direct route. The drummer often feels more confident now that he’s behind the plexiglass, and often times he plays harder, creating even more sound than before. Now that sound is bouncing around the room as reflected sound.

Reflected sound is, by definition, noise: it has the same amount of energy as direct sound, but because it is reflected, it has become “incoherent.” Now instead of hearing the clear “slap” of the snare from a single source, we hear reflections of that slap from various reflective surfaces around the room. The clarity is decreased, but the energy of the snare is still there, rattling around the room, muddying up the rest of the sound.

The second problem with a plexiglass drum cage is that the first reflection of the sound is concentrated back at the drummer’s ears. The potential for hearing damage is greatly increased. That’s one reason some drummers want to play loudly – they can’t hear the sound as well as they used to, so they feel the need to play louder.

The result of plexiglass by itself is that the total energy of sound is not decreased. Instead, it’s just bouncing around the room, making the rest of the sound muddy, and damaging the drummer’s hearing.

After we block the direct sound of the drums with a plexiglass drum shield, the next step is to absorb a good portion of the sound, to keep it from filling the room with incoherent echoes. This is generally accomplished with sound-absorptive foam.

Generally, the foam is installed in three locations: on the wall behind the drummer, on the plexiglass itself, and as sound-absorptive “lid” over the top of the drummer.

How much absorption to install is governed by several factors, some practical and some aesthetic. Since the drummer needs to be able to see the rest of the band, it’s best to not block all of the plexiglass. Rather, install foam along the bottom and sides of the plexiglass. Generally, the foam is not installed above the height of the drumheads themselves, and often only to the top of the kick drum. On the sides, install the foam higher, particularly on the side with the snare and hihat, as these are the greatest sources of sound.

Install a greater amount of sound absorption on the wall behind the drummer. In fact, complete coverage of this wall is often appropriate, up to the height of the plexiglass drum shield. Since the sound from the drums is omnidirectional it will either strike the wall first or it will reflect off of the plexiglass and then strike the wall. Absorption on the wall behind the drummer will be a big help in keeping the reflections around the room under control.

Some of the sound from the drums, of course, goes straight up, where it will bounce off of the ceiling before eventually making its way to peoples’ ears. If you have done an effective job of absorbing the sound inside the drum cage this reduced amount of reflected sound may be acceptable, or even desirable. It may still be too much sound, especially in a low-ceilinged room, or with a large drum kit, or with a particularly physical drummer. In this case, it may be necessary to add a sound absorptive ceiling over the top of the drum kit.

All this absorption sounds expensive, but it is possible to cover all three sections – on the plexiglass, the wall behind the drummer, and the lid – for about the cost of the plexiglass drum shield itself.

To this point, we have been reducing the overall volume of the drums. The stage volume is under control, so the musicians can hear themselves, and the sound from the stage doesn’t overwhelm the main speakers. The front several rows of the congregation are no longer being overwhelmed by sound. But now the back part of the sanctuary isn’t being reached.

The third step of controlling the drum sound is to put the drums into the sound system. At the very least, you’ll need to mic the kick drum, the snare drum, and the hihat. With careful placement, a single mic can pick up both the snare and the hihat, for a two-mic minimum.

As far as mic selection goes, my preference is to use a large diaphragm mic on the kick drum – either a dynamic mic like the Shure Beta 52 or the Sennheiser E602II, or a large condenser mic like the CAD E100. Dynamic mics tend to capture the “boom” of a kick drum well, and condensers can capture the “snap” of the sound. Audio Technica makes a mic (AE2500) that has both a condenser capsule and a dynamic capsule in it. Be sure that the mic can handle the high sound pressure levels of a kick drum closely miked.

Your first choice for a snare mic is a simple dynamic microphone, with the ubiquitous Shure SM57 being the most popular. It’ll take a number of accidental whacks from overly-enthusiastic drumsticks and keep working well. Dynamic mics can also be used on the toms, but there are several very nice tiny condenser mics that have become popular, like the AKG C418 or the Audio Technica PRO 35. Sennheiser makes a small dynamic mic for this purpose, the E604. These small, specialized mics generally come with their own mic clips which attach directly to the drum itself, reducing the number of stands and cables sticking out of the drum kit, and allowing the plexiglass drum shield to be brought in nice and tight.

In a large room, you’ll want to add a pair of overhead mics, to capture the overhead cymbals and the overall ambience of the drum kit. Small condenser mics like the entry level AT Pro37R or the higher priced Sennheiser E914 are common choices. Recently, the trend has been moving towards large-diaphragm mics overhead, including the inexpensive CAD GXL2200 or the versatile AKG C3000B. Be sure to experiment with mic placement, listening closely to the sound of each mic, t
o determine best placement on your drum kit.

If you have the room, I prefer using a compressor on both the kick drum and the snare, and an ideal world would call for gates on the toms, the snare and the hihat, to tighten up the sound, but most churches will stop before that point.

The main goal is to prevent the acoustic sound of the drums from either overpowering the rest of the band, or reverberating around the room, by bringing the drums into the sound system with the rest of the band. You’ll be surprised how much cleaner your band sounds, and how much easier it is to keep the volume under control.

David McLain is a church sound system consultant with CCI Solutions in Olympia, WA. He has been working with church sound systems since 1978 and with portable churches since 1988. You may reach David at churchsoundguy@gmail.com

Dumbing Down Our Children

People often ask me why I choose to spend thousands of dollars a year to send my daughter to a private school, rather than sending her to the government schools and using that money for our enjoyment. If you have ever read your local newspaper about what goes on in your local government schools, you understand why it is a bad idea to turn your children over to the government for education.

Here is an example from the Nashville, TN, government schools. This decision no longer allows the smarter middle school children to take high school math classes in middle school. They would like to have those students repeat material they already know rather than learn new material.

Before you think that this is an isolated incident, guess again. This type of decision is being played out in some way or another in every school district in the nation. These decisions affect the children long after they have left school. For an example of this you only need to go as far as your local DMV office and see that the tests have to be in multiple languages because our schools chose to not challenge the students to learn English, the international language of business.

Being the father of a strong-willed, intelligent child, the last thing I want is for my child to be dumbed-down. As with most intelligent children, if she is not challenged she will get bored. When she is bored she will get in trouble. This does not benefit her, the teacher, the school or society in general.

Is it worth it to give up some of the material things of this world in order for her to get a good education? You bet! We find that we are just as happy with what we have, knowing that we are doing what is right.