fun new professional projects
Thursday, January 15 2004
I'm arranging a barter exchange with the local community FM radio station, WKZE. I will give them computer service in exchange for advertising. Unfortunately, though, my end of the bargain required that I drive to their broadcast studios over in Sharon, Connecticut. I made my first visit there today, despite attempts by Mother Nature to thwart me. A couple inches of snow had fallen last night which hadn't been completely removed from the road and temperatures were about zero Fahrenheit, but my worst problem was frost formation on the inside of the car's windows. It formed much faster than I could clear it, and much of the time I was either driving in a translucent bubble of uncertainty or staring through the tiny hole I could keep clear on the winshield directly in front of me. I'd also forgotten my wallet and the car only had a quarter tank of gas (and a tire with a slow leak). Between the low visibility, sliding around on the salt-slickened road, and my lack of a wallet, I was just going to bag the whole mission. So I drove home, somehow making it up Dug Hill Road. But then Gretchen told me the meanings of the more mysterious icons on the Honda Civic's dashboard, amd I had the information necessary to launch something of an anti-frost jihad. I did finally make it to WKZE, having survived windshield frost, a general lack of road signs, being stuck behind slow-moving grannies, and coffee spills the whole way. I was a half hour late.
As you might imagine, WKZE is full of really interesting people doing really interesting things. What else can you expect of a radio station operating out of a Victorian house on the village green of a sleepy New England town? Everybody there seemed to be a DJ, although they usually had other specialized radio station jobs as well. It was amazing how calm and matter-of-fact they were despite the pressures of real-time entertainment. Traditional broadcasting is an intimidating world to me. It's scary for the same reason telephones are scary. It's not a medium conducive to deliberation and multiple edits. You have to think on your feet and get it right the first time. I'm really only familiar with the broadcast model of the web, where you write something, test it, upload it, and only then do people experience it. At a radio station, at least one not run by robots, people sit in front of microphones and have to have their wits about them as songs come to an end. So as I worked, I worried that any mistake I made might have immediate effects. My first patient, you see, shared a room with a production clip library machine essential to the operation of the station, and my second patient was the DJ's air-time web reference. (It was a cramped space and I kept bumping into the DJ, Jimmy Buff.) As it happened, neither of these computers was attached to the production network, a very restricted LAN completely isolated from the internet. The only data exchanged between them was analogue.
It turns out that there's lots of computer work that needs doing around WKZE, but I think I could used to hanging out there. They have barter arrangements with all sorts of local businesses and, just as one example, their kitchen overflows with freshly-baked goodies of all descriptions.
This evening Gretchen and I went to Stone Ridge to meet with Jon, one of our oldest mutual clients, to figure out how to maintain an online log of his upcoming kayak expedition along the coast of Gabon. We decided to have me build the site, and then, once he's in Africa, he'll call us every so often by satellite phone and leave a message that Gretchen will transcribe and I will post, weblog style. (I'll provide a link once things get going.) It seems like it could be a really fun project. My mind raced as I considered what sort of whiz-bang multimedia googaws to throw in. Jon basically told me to go nuts and spare no expense.
Later we dined with Jon and his wife Brigitte at Northern Spy in High Falls. Dinner conversation was mostly about the Democratic primaries. Jon seemed to think Gretchen is some kind of wild-eyed überidealistic womyn power extremist (but in a good way), expressing only half-joking condolences about the fact that Carol Mosley Braun had just dropped out of the race. He also said a few things that implied we weren't fooling anyone about all the pot we smoke. (I wish he wasn't quite so wrong about that one.)
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