Week 5 comment round up (belated)


I think I may have found my final project story this week, based upon comments alone.  The comments on my Public Health story idea seemed to coalesce around the idea of a public health super hero-type character- I really appreciated the different layers the commenters added to my original thoughts.

I also learned via comments two things this week:  1) it pays off to actually review the tutorial items posted for us and 2) layering is actually easier than copy + paste in Audacity.

I have been falling down a bit on the job lately when it comes to getting out there and commenting on others’ posts, but the blog I did visit and comment on (the remaining member of my blog “team”) helped me see how to potentially approach the Chaplin Foley assignment (even though I ended up not doing it) as well as potential challenges.  I almost enjoy reading about the challenges as much as I do the final product- it helps me see I’m not the only one with (usually momentary) struggles!



All you can take Cactus- Audio Assignment 942


Trolling Craigslist is always fun, so the first audio assignment listed on Week 5’s page immediately jumped out at me.  Off I went to the local Craiglist “free” section and found this lovely post:

craigslist two

Sounds strange enough to me!!  Why anyone would want to take on such an awful job for “free cactus” is beyond me…but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

I started to think of audio and a western theme came quickly to mind.  Cactus=desert=western movie, right?  (Never mind that these cacti live in the Walnut Grove area of the south, where ever that is).  I went to Soundcloud and searched “western”.  I selected this track:

The track itself is quite a bit longer than I needed and has several different parts.  I saved the file, played it on my computer and recorded the portion I liked using Audacity.  (Which is a very low-fi way of doing things, but it seemed to serve my purposes.)

Next I wrote out the Craigslist ad on paper with breaks for where I wanted to pause of emphasize a word.  After reading out loud a few times to get the hang of it, I pressed “record” and recorded my voice using Audacity.

I then got to work layering the two audio files and trying my best to improve the sound.  I started with the background music as the “base” file.  Next, I imported my voice and time delayed it by a second or two to allow the music to set the stage, as it were.  The music was a bit louder than what I needed though, so I used the envelope tool to lower the volume on the background music.

Next, I cut off the extra background music I didn’t need, but left a few seconds on the end, which I faded out after the voice recording was finished.  And voila! A spoken word masterpiece is born:

I was much quicker in loading Soundcloud files on this post- I didn’t have to consult help to remember how to do it correctly.  I did have to go back to the Audacity screencast to re-learn how to do pretty much everything except record.  Hopefully Audacity gets easier; I’m still not finding it to be very intuitive.  I did have some blips with Audacity in that I couldn’t import the .aup files I had saved–I had to export them to MP3 and then import them from MP3 format.  Not a big deal, but a moment of panic when I thought I couldn’t use the files I had made.  Here’s a screen grab of the file in Audacity:

craigslist cactus screen grab

A story that is good for your health?


I was thinking if there were any work-related things I could pull into for a story idea this week.  I work with a lot of people in the field of public health.  You may be asking yourself “What is public health?”  Sounds kind of crunchy and idealistic, huh?  Well it can be those things, but what struck me was how much I hear from public health practitioners how difficult it is to describe their work.  Public health is many things–clean drinking water, seatbelts in cars, restaurant ratings from the health department, warning labels on cigarettes, vaccinating babies–that all add up to keeping a population healthy (whereas a doctor keeps the individual healthy).  However, when public health succeeds, you don’t hear about it.  You only hear about public health when something goes wrong: an outbreak of food-borne illness, when there is a vaccine shortage, when obesity reaches epidemic levels, etc.  How could I help tell the story of public health?  There are so many miracle stories from the field–eradicating (wiping it off the face of the earth forever!!) smallpox, for instance–I know I would have a wealth of information to work with.  It would be a matter of finding the most engaging angle and going from there.  Perhaps ghosts of diseases past- from the perspective of a previous public health problem like polio, smallpox, untreated drinking water, etc.

The most exciting moment of my dog’s day- sound effect story


Oy. Audio editing really scares me.  Which is probably (definitely) a large part of why all these assignments are late this week.  But I digress.

For the sound effects story, I started to think of what I needed:  a scenario that didn’t need dialogue and a scenario that was “noisy” or had noises that were easily recognizable.  As my pooch snored on the floor next to my feet, I thought about all the noises my dog makes that aren’t barks- snuffles, snores, skittering claws on the hardwood.  Hence, my sound effects story:

Scene- a peaceful, quiet weekday in the ‘burbs- mid-day.  The workers are at work; young children may play in their backyard, or are perhaps taking a nap.  Zoom to one house- the cew5x house.  It is quiet, with only the dog at home to guard the castle.  Doggie likes to nap and that is what he is doing at this moment. <snoring noises>

Until!  What’s that?  He hears the familiar drone and low hum of his old foe <delivery truck>.  The brown truck who rumbles down the street and sometimes makes that shrill, loud sound happen that really drives him crazy. <brakes sqeak; dog’s paws skitter across the floor as he runs to the door; doorbell rings; dog barks; truck pulls away>

Sound credits, all from Freesound:

Here’s what my Audacity track looked like:

sound story screen shotI almost threw in the towel on this one.  I had all my sounds ready to go and just could NOT figure out Audacity.  I had been using the manual and the tutorials and it just wasn’t happening.  After much too long, I then went to the YouTube tutorials page and quickly found a video that showed me how you have to make a new track to cut and paste onto…duh.  This just goes to show that maybe I should use some “new” media for the new media class, huh?

At this point if I were more patient, I would have put more effort into layering the sounds (e.g., the doorbell ringing and dog barking should happen at the same time, not one after the other).  I will leave that for another day, however- all my audio editing powers have been used up for today!

PS- my dog kept barking when I was playing the door bell sound, so I had to finish this assignment wearing headphones.  Silly dog!

Week 4 Summary- Say it with Flowers, er Design?


This week had me taking photos of beer at Costco and scouring 90’s movie posters for just the right one with Bruce Willis. Life is good!

First up: Design Safari.   I used wallpaper, beer, a coffee mug (of a famous WWII poster) and photos of an airport to discuss rhythm, color and dominance, form/function, and typography/minimalism.  I kept my eyes open early this week so I had a little time to take shots of things that caught my eye and edit down from there.  Looking back on how I described the items I picked, I don’t know I got it right (for instance, with the mug-minimalism, yes, but perhaps not typography).  I enjoyed doing this scavenger hunt, though and hope the next fellow blogger that flies out of Dulles takes a moment to look up when they get out of the taxi and marvel at Saarinen’s vision.

I was able to turn Friday night movie night at the cew5x house into the Four Icon challenge.  I decided to do this assignment when I was about halfway through the movie, so I jotted down some key words as the story progressed.  Three of the four icons are pretty obvious–the people who have guessed so far have got it right.  The fourth icon may be a little less obvious–but I enjoyed thinking about it while watching, and I enjoyed doing this post.  Finding the icons I was looking for was fairly easy and their simple black/white color scheme made things relatively easy to work with.  I’m interested to see what my classmates came up with.

Keeping with the cinematic theme, I decided to do a truthful movie poster.  In my original post, I talked about how the final product looked so simple even though it took me quite a while to a) decide on a movie, and b) to match the poster’s font.  If I were to go back and tweak it, I would want to see if I could somehow match the black of the poster (which is not true black) to the black of my overlay.  I could use Pixie to do that, now that I think about it.

As for story ideas, I thought about decisions–we have so much choice these days and so much information at our fingers to make decision-making easier.  So why does making decisions seem so fraught?  Perhaps there’s pressure to use all the information at our disposal?  I don’t have a clear line of sight into how that becomes a story, but it was something I struggled with this week, so thought it was worth a thought.

I enjoyed the focus on design.  I got to use my color wheel knowledge from long-ago art class in the Design Safari, got to work with icons (which are so hot right now), and use Pixlr a little more.  Like I said, life is good!


Decisions, Decisions…


Well here we are another week…and no white light, divine inspiration moments this week (so far- there are five hours left!).   Something that has been on my mind a lot this week though is decisions.  I’m making a lot of them lately and whether it’s where to grab dinner (always at the last minute, decision not helped if one is starving!), which roofer to go with to fix our leaky roof, or how to pick a day care center, they just don’t come easy–to me, at least.  I am blessed with choice–with disposable income with which to eat out, with a rainy day fund for house repairs, and with the funds to be able to put my child in day care so I can work.

But there seem to be too many choices!  And with the internet and all the information, reviews (both trustworthy and not- but how do you tell?), and “how to’s” out there, I don’t think it’s gotten any easier.  Could I make a “how to” a story, e.g., the story of how one actually finds and picks a day care center?  Or a roof?  Or to be less serious, say the best Lamborghini for the 1%er on a budget?