Envisioning the Value of Money and Debt

I received this info in an email recently. I don’t know the source of the info or images. But it’s very sobering, and I thought you might enjoy sharing it with other in a form other than email…so I posted it here.

One Hundred Dollars

$100 – Most counterfeited money denomination in the world. Keeps the world moving.

Ten Thousand Dollars

$10,000 – Enough for a great vacation or to buy a used car. Approximately one year of work for the average human on earth.

One Million Dollars

$1,000,000 – Not as big a pile as you thought, eh? More than most humans will earn in a lifetime.

One Hundred Million Dollars

$100,000,000 – Plenty to go around for everyone. Fits nicely on an ISO/Military standard-sized pallet.

One Billion Dollars

$1,000,000,000 – Take a large truck with you when robbing the bank. Now we’re getting serious!

One Trillion Dollars


When the U.S government speaks about a 1.7 trillion deficit – this is the volume of cash the U.S. Government borrowed in 2010 to run itself.

Keep in mind it is double-stacked pallets of $100 million dollars each, full of $100 dollar bills. You are going to need a lot of trucks to freight this around.

If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now…but only about $700 billion – the same amount the banks got during the bailout.

One Trillion Dollars

Comparison of $1,000,000,000,000 dollars to a standard-sized American Football field and European Football field. Say hello to the Boeing 747-400 transcontinental airliner that’s hiding on the right. Until recently, this was the biggest passenger plane in the world.

15 Trillion Dollars

$15,000,000,000,000 – One trillion less that the US national debt (credit bill) of $16 trillion surpassed in September 2012. The Statue of Liberty seems rather worried as United States national debt passes 20% of the entire world’s combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In 2011, the National Debt exceeded 100% of GDP, and ventured into the 100%+ debt-to-GDP ratio that the European PIIGS have (bankrupting nations).

$ 114.5 Trillion Dollars

$114,500,000,000,000 – US unfunded liabilities
To the right you can see the pillar of cold hard $100 bills that dwarfs the WTC & Empire State Building – both at one point world’s tallest buildings. If you look carefully you can see the Statue of Liberty. The 114.5 Trillion dollar super-skyscraper is the amount of money the U.S. Government knows it does not have to fully fund the Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Program, Social Security, Military and civil servant pensions. It is the money USA knows it will not have to pay all its bills.

If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with everyone else to pay this back. The citizens of USA created the U.S. Government to serve them, this is what the U.S. Government has done while serving The People.

The unfunded liability is calculated on current tax and funding inputs, and future demographic shifts in US Population.

Note: On the above 114.5T image the size of the base of the money pile is half a trillion, not $1T as on 15T image. The height is double. This was done to reflect the base of Empire State and WTC more closely.

Harmony Magazine: Interview With Phil Keaggy (March 1976)

Over the Easter weekend in 1975, my friend Bill Gray and I traveled to Ithaca, New York to interview guitarist/singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy. We had actually interviewed him over the phone earlier in the week, but due to a bit of technical incompetence on my part, the quality of the phone recording was indecipherable. Bill and I were both fans of the Scott Ross radio show (which aired Sunday mornings in Central Ohio on WNCI), and we had always been curious to see the church where Scott was a leader and Phil Keaggy and Ted Sandquist were involved in the music program. So we used the occasion of my technical bumbling to head to Ithaca, to visit and interview Phil at his home…with plans to attend Easter services on Sunday, before heading home.

The interview was a wonderful experience. Phil and his new wife, Bernadette, were extremely gracious…despite the fact that I was an awkward 17 years of age at the time. After the interview, Phil pulled out his guitar and shared with Bill and I the song he had just recorded for his Love Broke Thru album…As The Ruin Falls (a C.S. Lewis poem, set to Phil’s lovely composition…still a favorite to this day). Afterward, I shared with Phil that I had recently begun to write songs as well. He handed me his guitar and asked me to play one…so I played the most complex song I’d written to that point…which was Proverbs 4:20-23 set to a contemplative melody. I was pretty proud of the song, as I had used a lot of unfamiliar chords pulled from the back page of a book on guitar lessons…but after I was done and handed the guitar back to Phil, he ran thru all the chords effortlessly. Of course, I was stunned!

The next year, in 1976, I moved to the Pittsburgh, PA area for a few months to work in radio. First, at WPLW, a small and very conservative station. That didn’t last very long, as contemporary Christian music was a real stretch for them. But then I got a call from WPIT-FM (now WORD-FM) in Pittsburgh (you KNOW a station has been there for a long time when they have the first three letters of the city’s name in their call sign!), and they wanted to talk about adding some contemporary music to their very conservative format as well. So I began playing Christian music there in the afternoons…and apparently, with a few bumps along the way, that’s still the general format of the station today…35 years later!

I also was living with a family just north of Pittsburgh at the time…the Hanchericks (Lou, his wife Peggy, and their kids). Lou was the publisher of Harmony Magazine, which was one of the earliest publications dedicated exclusively to the emerging genre of Jesus Music (later known as Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM). I still had this Phil Keaggy interview, which had only aired once previously on local radio in central Ohio…so Lou decided to make it the cover story of the third issue of the magazine (spring 1976), and then the interview was completed in the following issue (I don’t have a copy of this one anymore).

I thought it might be fun to scan the cover, the table of contents and the 3-page interview and post them here (click on the thumbnails to see the full-size scans). I hope you enjoy it!

Decent-Quality Podcast Audio Doesn’t Come Naturally

The fact that podcasters are often subject-matter experts doesn’t necessarily carry over into the actual process of producing the podcast audio. As a heavy-duty podcast listener, I can tell you that audio quality is often very poor…sometimes bordering on unlistenable. Wouldn’t it all be great if you could afford to outsource the audio production to a qualified audio engineer? But…that’s not the real world. So, while I am NOT an audio engineer, I did play one on TV. Well, that’s not exactly true. But I *was* employed as an audio engineer on more than one occasion…and my daily work as a professional voice talent *does* require me to record, edit and process my own audio. So I do know a little bit about what’s required. I’m sure there are better ways to do what I’m going to share with you here. Practice “safe audio” and consult your (audio) doctor before making life-altering changes. I’d also recommend that you contact Cliff Ravenscraft (The Podcast Answer Man) for more specific advice regarding equipment recommendations and the production process.

1. Recording: Get a decent-quality audio capture device. Halfway-decent microphones can be had for around a hundred bucks. Avoid using your laptop’s built-in microphone if at all possible. And when you get it, do NOT put your mouth right on top of it. If you can’t afford a “pop screen” (basically some panty hose stretched over a metal hoop), then angle the microphone off to the side a bit…at about 45 degrees from your mouth and talk PAST it…not toward it. Depending on the engineer…you’ll find recommendations from 6 to 18 inches from your mouth. Experiment with it and see what sounds best to your ears.

2. Recording Levels: Many podcasts consist mainly of interviews done over Skype. I’ve barely spent any time on Skype, so I don’t know how to tell you to do this…but keep in mind that the host and the guest should be at close to the same audio level as possible. Failing at this point makes EVERYTHING else harder from here on out. Do some testing. Your guest’s volume will vary…so learn ahead of time how to try to match your level to theirs (or vice versa).

3. Audio Processing: If your audio is clean and your levels are balanced, you probably don’t NEED to do a ton of work here…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any. Virtually EVERY home-produced podcast could benefit from a little of these:

  • Normalization: If you weren’t able to control the levels when you did the original recording, you might find that they are simply too soft overall. Normalization can pull everything up into a decent range. This is the first step I use in processing.
  • Noise Gate: Gating can knock out the “sound floor”…i.e., the background noise of the room. It can also soften soft sounds (like breaths) to the point where they become almost inaudible (this is a good thing). Getting a gate set properly will take some tweaking…but if you can get it right, you might find it really helps. If you’re in a really noisy environment, though, I’d skip this…prominent background noise dropping in and out is very distracting.
  • Compression: Think about where your podcasts are being listened to. Much of the time in a car, thru a mono bluetooth headset or ear buds in a relatively noisy environment. Sometimes, sitting in front a computer with decent speakers and low background noise. Best practice would be to produce with the noisier environment in mind. What compression does is squeeze the natural dynamics of audio into a much narrower band of sound. This means the soft stuff gets louder, and the loud stuff gets a bit softer. As a result, the overall levels can be raised a bit without blowing out the listeners eardrums.
  • Volume Adjust: After applying compression…if the compressor also serves an expander function, you’ll often need to adjust the volume back to within appropriate levels so as not to distort your final products. I find that cutting my compressed/expanded audio by 50% seems to do the trick. Your results may vary.

4. Delivery Format: We’d all like to sound like a million bucks, but to be realistic, bandwidth ain’t unlimited and neither is storage space on the iPod. Most non-music-oriented podcasts don’t need to be delivered in stereo at all….and should be using 32 or 64kbps mono. There’s no excuse to go higher than 128. That’s a mid-level music-quality audio format (so it’s overkill for most human voice/interview podcast formats).

5. Cleanup: There are many audio recording and editing programs out there. Personally, I use Sony’s Sound Forge. It’s far from perfect (and it’s expensive), but it works fine for recording and editing. I use Audacity for time compression. It seems to work a bit better than Sound Forge (although I detest its editing environment). Audacity is a free program, and well worth owning. You would be wise to learn to clean up your podcasts (or, if you are completely unfamiliar with the concept and don’t want to learn, paying someone a few bucks to do it for you). Listening thru will often reveal awkward pauses, “ummms” while you are thinking and just filling space, false starts to sentences, prominent mouth noises or electronic flukes that results in pops, click and short buzz bursts. Highlighting these and hitting Delete will make your podcast much easier to listen to, and will give you a more credible, professional sound overall.

6. Time Compression: If you’re a podcast or audio book listener, and given to heavy consumption of same…you may have found that using the iPods 2X feature is the best for you, since you can get a lot more info in much faster. However, you shouldn’t consider forcing that on everyone, lest you drive many away. Rather than chopping out breaths and squeezing, the best tool I’ve found is within Audacity. Select all your audio, then Effect >> Change Tempo. You will find that you can comfortably pitch your speed up in the range of 6-8% without causing additional stress to your listeners’ ears. It also has the indirect benefit of adding a tad bit more energy to your podcast…and many programs could benefit from a nudge in this direction.

7. Upgrade your profile: Once you’ve decided your really serious about this podcasting stuff, hire a professional voiceover talent to do an intro and outro for your show. No, it’s not cheap, but there’s a reason that every TV show you listen to has a professional voice to intro the host: it sounds CLASSIER. Make the script fairly generic, so that you don’t have to have it redone every time you tweak your format. And, if you end up with a commercial sponsor…unless they want your personal voice (which implies your personal endorsement of their product), hire that out as well. Unless you are a voiceover pro, you’re not going to sound as good as someone who is. And if you want to really protect the interests of your sponsor, you should make them sound as good as you can. You can find super-cheap voiceover talent at Fiverr.com. But I’ve only heard a couple voices there that I would consider professional quality. Your best bet would be to visit a site like Voiceover Superfriends, where you have several voices to choose from…folks who have been making their living for years doing this stuff are much more likely to deliver something you can be proud of.

So, there are a few tips for you. I hope you find them helpful. For “honest-to-God” audio engineers, please feel free to provide better options than those I’ve presented, or to correct anything I might not have gotten right. For anyone else who has learned lessons with improving the sound of their podcasts, feel free to share as well.

Monastery (1992)

Well, this was a fun little find this evening!

I did a lot of tags for radio and TV commercials for (Time) Warner Cable back in the late Eighties and early Nineties. And when it came time for a regional/national TV campaign, TW wanted to stick with the same “sales voice” they’d been using for years.

I have never sought out the camera…but I’m enough of a ham that I didn’t turn down the opportunity (plus, it was a decent payday!). So, Warner’s Mike Kenny and I flew to the Twin Cities in the dead of winter and stayed at a very nice hotel attached to the Mall of America. And early in the morning, we showed up at a production studio to shoot my part in this very nicely-done commercial.

The concept for the commercial was that I was the pitch guy for an irresistable offer on cable TV…and one of the monks in a monastery was so overpowered by the INCREDIBLE OFFER that he nearly broke his vow of silence in attempting to take advantage of it. 😉

I don’t remember a whole lot about the session (it’s only about 9 months shy of TWENTY YEARS AGO now…), but I do recall them dyeing my beard brown (because it naturally had a lot of red mixed in as well…by the way, this is NOT considered an issue today!) and having to do a bazillion takes. By the time we got back to Columbus later that day, I think the whole trip was less than 24 hours.

This was a great opportunity. I’m glad I found this again before the VHS tape decayed to dust!

The Best-Laid Plans of Macs and Men…

Let me get this out of the way first…I REALLY like my Droid. I’ve had it since December of ’09, and it has served me well. GREAT video camera quality (5MP), wonderful voice-to-text speech input (I can take text notes via voice input while driving down the road and clean them up before posting one I get back home), FREE Google turn-by-turn navigation. There’s LOTS to love…but a few things (things which are critically important to me) which have turned out to be an ongoing disappoinment. This as been my SmartPhone Reality Show Dilemma for the past several months.

So today, I am out running errands this morning…and notice that the little “lightning bolt” symbol is not appearing over my battery icon…despite the fact that it’s plugged into the car charger. It’s plugged in at both ends…there’s no “play” in the connection to the charging/port…so, what gives? No problem…when I get home, I will plug it into the charging dock on my desk…and all will be well with the world.

Except…nothing changes when it takes its place in the dock. STILL no little lighting bolt. Two more micro-USB charger tests later…still nothing (and they are working fine to charge other devices.

OK…this is starting to get serious. Time to get drastic. Could it be a software issue?

So I reset the Droid to factory specs…and…NADA.

“Hello, Verizon?”

I checked out all my options…and discovered that I could pay $90 for a replacement Droid…or I could pay $200, wait an extra day and and have a new iPhone.

“But,” I say. “The iPhone has documented Bluetooth issues with the current release of the OS. IF it doesn’t work with my brand-new state-of-the-art Plantronics Voyager to Pro+ bluetooth headset..that’s gonna be a problem. Do I have a return window?”

“Yessir…14 days.”

“Good enough. And in terms of availability…can this ship tomorrow? I have less than 15% power remaining on the Droid…and I have a business to run here.”

“Wellllllll…most phones would ship today…but the iPhone requires 2-day delivery.”

“So…Saturday, then, right? Assuming I pay extra…you guys have done that before for me.”

“Yessir…but the the iPhone requires 2-day shipment and does not allow for Saturday delivery.”

“I see. And one last thing…I was waiting to upgrade the Droid or switch to the iPhone once HD video camera capability was added. And I haven’t had a chance to check the specs on the version of the iPhone model you are selling. Is it HD?”

“Let me see here…(pause)…yessir, it is.”

“Great…we have a deal.”

So $215 later, my iPhone will be arriving on Monday. And I’ll be selling off the unchargeable Droid on craigslist to someone who has Verizon, has existing smartphone insurance (or upgrades to it), and wants to pay the $90 replacement charge for a new original Motorola Droid.

Of course, I now have to pay for turn-by-turn navigation. Fortunately, there is a five dollar special when ordering it with the new iPhone.

And my commitment to Verizon has extended by another two years…which is fine…they are serving us well.

And…I’ve lost the ability to take verbal notes while driving (unless I want to record the voice…play it back and transcribe it later) until Apple gets it act together and builds that feature into their OS.

But I love the Mac…regret my move to PC 10 years ago…and consider this a possible first step back toward the Mac for my computing needs. Until now…in addition to the cost of the computer…the cost of crossgrading my software was completely prohibitive. But despite the fact that I have 50+ websites to manage…because of WordPress…most of my site design and maintenance is now done online anyway. I don’t need Dreamweaver…and that’s becoming true of more and more applications as the world moves “into the cloud”.

And, most of all…this move to the iPhone addresses my biggest frustration with the Droid: music and podcast management. I have spent countless hours (and many dollars) trying to equal the intuitiveness and functionality of iTunes on the Droid (ESPECIALY the podcast subscribing-and-handling functionality). Some people like to claim that it’s bloated software (and I don’t use it to buy audio books or music anymore…Amazon and Audible are much better quality and often cheaper options, thank you). But I am eager to drop all the pretender apps for such purposes on the Droid and get back to the real deal.

Until Monday, if you need to reach me for business or pleasure…please contact me via e-mail…as I have no functioning wireless phone.

Two Quick Freebies

Since I had previously done an audio version of some of those Chuck Norris facts, a friend recently suggested that I do the same for some of the new Sarah Palin facts…so if you enjoy that kind of humor (as I do), come have a listen. If you like it, please consider sharing it with a friend or social bookmarking it.

Also, I released an album of my original songs for kids a few years back under the name Chuck Brown & The Chuckleberries. As of today, I’ve decided to make the whole album available for free download. If you have young kids or know of some kids who love music, give it a listen. You’ll find all 13 free kids songs from the album… plus a never-heard-before BONUS song download called “Bunny Baby”.

Thanks…now back to your regular Saturday programming! 😉