Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: August 2008

Droplets and Other Cool Compressor Tricks

I’ll admit it: I’m a Compressor fanboy. Now that it’s all grown up to Version 3, it’s more useful than cootie repelant at a Miley Cyrus concert. It can package your movie into any one (or more) of a dozen plus formats (including FLV if you have Flash installed), or your audio into MP3, AC3 and Dolby Digital. While it’s a super-easy program to use, it’s simple interface belies the power beneath. Apple has thoughtfully included a number of workflow enhancements that make your life esier–once you know about them, that is.

One of my favorite features is the ability to save compression presets. Compressor comes pre-populated with a number of useful presets for a wide variety of workflows. But after some playing around, I came up with one that worked really well for creating videos in the right format for ProPresenter. I like h.264 for my codec, and I tested various data rates to come up with a high quality image. I set up various other settings like de-interlacing and progressive scanning, frame sizes and audio settings. After I was done, I saved it as my ProPresenter preset and I’m done.

You can come up with presets for a wide variety of formats, then apply them with one-click ease.

Now, once a video is completed in Final Cut Pro, I select Export via Compressor from the File menu. FCP creates a temporary reference movie of the video and imports it as a new project in Compressor. I drag my ProPresenter setting on the clip, change the filename and destination and hit submit. In all, it takes under 30 seconds, and my videos come out in the looking great in the right format every time.

Now that I have my preset worked out, I can send that preset file to anyone who may be creating videos for us. As many of our volunteers are using Final Cut, they drag the settings file into their Custom list, and their videos will match my specs exactly.

Another little trick I’ve been using more and more is the Droplet. Kudos to Dave Smith at Creative Ideas for Twittering about this some time ago. I don’t use Droplets as much as I use presets, but I value them nonetheless. A droplet is essentially an icon version of your setting that you can drop a video on. The droplet launches Batch Monitor, which will compress your video using the settings in your Droplet.

Creating is one is a piece of cake. Simply select the preset you wish to Droplet-ize (I just made that up), and select the obscure icon for “Save Selection as Droplet”

I put my Droplets on the Desktop where they’re easy to get to. It creates an icon like this:

Drag a video onto the Droplet and, bingo, up pops Batch Monitor, ready to do your compression.

When it’s done, it goes away, and you have your newly compressed file ready and waiting. Droplets are very useful if you receive a file in a format that doesn’t fit your intended need. I use them as part of my archiving workflow.

Every few months, I create a DVD of our recent video projects. Since I play my files out as h.246s, they need to be converted to MPG2/AC3 streams for DVD Studio Pro. If I have the source files still on the system, I can simply run the videos back through Compressor and create the DVD files. But often I don’t, so I simply drag my archived h.264 copy onto my DVD Droplet and bust out the MPG2. If I have a bunch to do (which I normally do), I drag them all in and let it go to work. One could argue that it’s another trip through a compression engine and quality suffers, but h.264 videos look so good to start with, they convert to MPG2’s pretty well, especially at high bit-rates.

I also have a ProPresenter Droplet on my Desktop for transcoding files that come in from outside editors (who have not yet adopted my specs).

So there you go. Another couple of time-saving tips brought to you by a guy who eats the same thing for breakfast every morning just so I don’t have to waste time trying to decide what to eat.

FCC Proposal to Ban 700 MHz Wireless Mics

ProSound Web issued a story on Tuesday that detailed an FCC proposal to ban all wireless mics operating in the 700 MHz band. You can read the whole story here. For even more information, click here to read the actual FCC news release in pdf format, or here to read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Change order.

Having read through the article, the FCC news release and the NPRM (OK, I’m a geek…) a few times, here is my take. First, it’s still in the proposal stages. However, the writing is on the wall. I would guess it’s highly unlikely that this will get shot down. The dealine for comments is less than 30 days, and they have to reply in under 45. So my guess is that within a month or two, we’ll know for sure that all 700 MHz mics will need to be shut down on February 17, 2009.

But in my mind, that’s not the bad news. What worries me is the second half of the NPRM  which states the FCC will start investigating claims of false advertising against wireless mic manufacturers for leading the wireless mic buying public to believe that we could operate wireless mics without a license to do so. Huh?

Here’s the deal. The FCC requires all operators of RF transmitters (TV & radio stations, ham radios, wireless mics and IEMs) to have a license to operate on a given set of frequencies. I don’t know about you, but I know of no one who actually has a license to operate a wireless mic. This is because the transmitting power of a wireless mic is so much lower than a TV station that it’s laughable to think a wireless mic would cause interference. Since the only other devices operating in the same specturm as wireless mics were TV stations, and TV stations obviously have the power advantage, the FCC left us unlicensed (and technically illegal) wireless mic operators alone.

This could all change if the FCC decides to open up the “white spaces” (the open frequencies between TV stations in any given market) to other low-power RF devices (to deliver broadband internet, for example). Presumably these devices would be licensed by the manufacturer, and could be the victim of interference by a wireless mic.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, and/or complaints filed against wireless mic operators by any new devices, we could be in a lot of trouble.

The uptake on all this is simple. If you have wireless mics operating in the 700 MHz band (that is from 698-806 MHz), you have about 173 days to get rid of them. And don’t wait until after the deadline to put them on ebay hoping people in South America will buy them because the rule prohibits the sale of 700 MHz equipment after the DTV transition date. Get the stuff listed now (thought it’s not likely to be worth much).

Also, be prepared to endure a possible licensing process or the restriction of your wireless spectrum. If you currently run a bunch of wirless channels every weekend, start thinking about how you can get back to some wired mics (they’ll sound better to boot!). We moved all our vocal mics to wired earlier this year, and I’m in the process of cutting our wireless mic inventory down from 16 channels to 8, and our IEMs from 9 to 4 (and adding 4 Aviom mixers to make up the gap).

I know the wireless manufacturers have been telling us it’s all going to be all right, just buy new gear and it will be fine. That’s good for them, as they’re selling tons of new wireless gear right now. But if the rules change again, which they might, we’ll be stuck with the tab (again).

Remember, a wired mic (with good cable anyway) is far less suseptable to RF interference and will almost always sound better than a wireless one. And you won’t (for the foreseeable future) need a license to operate it!

Remote Mixing, The Next Day

Alright, so yo have your computer happily talking away to your Yamaha digital board. You move a fader on screen and it moves in real life (that never gets old). Getting here was the subject of yesterday’s post, which you can read here if you missed it. Hopefully, you’re wireless so you can even to it from across the room. And that’s all well and good, but what are some real-life applications of this very cool technology? Well, here are a few that I can think of.

Digital Patching

One of the greatest things about digital boards is that you don’t have to physically patch anything anymore. You can route any input to any fader (or even two faders), and any mix to any output (or combination of outputs). And while it’s as handy as a bluetooth headset for talking in the car, it can be a bit of a pain to do right on the board itself. It’s not hard, mind you, it’s just not always 100% intuitive. Especially if you are a visual-type of person (guilty as charged). This is but one reason I never mix on the M7 without my laptop handy. Check out the patching editor:


Changing the input or output patching is as simple as point and click! (click to enlarge)

I really like this interface. We’re looking at the Output Patch here, because that’s where I do most of my patching. The mix busses are listed on the left, and it’s easy to name them so you can keep them straight. The actual outputs are on the top. Want a mix bus to go to an output? Put an orange dot there. It’s that simple. If that doesn’t save time, I don’t know what will.

Metering

Perhaps the most common use for my laptop during a service is to act as a complete input meter. With the meter pane up, I can monitor all 48 channels in, plus stereo. Or I can quickly check my output levels (which is a bit redundant since we have the meter bridge–but if you don’t, it’s right here).

All of your inputs and outputs can be metered at a variety of points in the signal chain, with or without peak hold. (click to enlarge)

I don’t know if this ever happens to you or not, but every week, I do a sound check and get initial levels from each instrument. Then, during the service, everyone plays louder. Sometimes a lot louder. I’ve taken to setting my initial levels at -12 or less, knowing that when it all comes down, everyone will be up near 0. Because we’re digital, once we run out of bits, we’re done. So I try to avoid clipping at all costs. The meter section helps me keep an eye on who got way too loud so I can dial them back a tad. Turning on Peak Hold makes it even easier to spot. Sure I know the console has a full-screen monitor page, but this looks way cooler.

Preservice Building

Since I can, I like to get as much of my show built before I arrive at church. I’ll plug in all my channel names, set some initial monitor levels, get my patching in line, that sort of thing. Studio Manager lets you do all this off-line, and gives you the ability to save your settings to a file that you load onto your USB key. Pop in the key, load the show, and you’re 80% there. Using the individual Channel Overview, you can dial a lot of things in quickly.

In this window, you can adjust nearly every parameter available for each channel. (click to enlarge)

Using this window, you can dial in monitor mixes, matrix sends, load EQs from the library, adjust initial settings for dynamics 1&2, set up DCA and Mute assigns, turn phantom power on and off, even patch in stuff from the Rack. And using the arrows in the top left, you can quickly go through all your channels. I’ve found this to be a huge timesaver.

In-Venue Remote Mixing

Now, I’ll make a distinction here. When I say in-venue, I’m referring to mixing by remote while being in the room the console is in. It’s the functional equivalent of picking the board up and dragging it around the room with you while you listen from various points (if that were even possible). Unless you have a room and speaker system that is really, really good, it’s likely that it sounds a little different depending on where you sit. If you have a room like ours, it can vary wildly depending on where you sit. Getting a good mix is all about finding a happy medium.

We used to walk the room, listen, make mental notes, then head back to the desk and implement changes. This process was fraught with problems. Not the least of which being that you can’t immediately hear the result of your changes in the area that you need to. Now, we just carry the laptop around and tweak from where we are. This has the added benefit of giving us the ability to respond to monitor requests from anywhere as well. It would never fail that we’d be all the way over on the other side of the balcony and someone would need a little more keys. Now, we just dial it up. Everyone’s happy.

Plus, it looks really cool. One day I was mixing for the contemporary service and one of the pastors saw me wandering around the main level with my laptop. He said, “What are you doing?” I answered, “Oh, just making a few mix tweaks here and there.” He took a look at the screen and said, “OK, now you’re just showing off.” We both had a good laugh, but the reality is this goes a long way to helping convince people you know what you’re doing.

Out-of-Venue Mixing

This is the mode I operate in every weekend when I’m TD’ing Upper Room. I normally sit in the tech booth, which is essentially sealed off from the main room. We have a matrix feed sending to the booth, which is what we use to record the services. I used to spend a lot of time calling down on the com, “Can you give me a little more lead vox in our mix,” and “a little less electric guitar.” It got to be a bit annoying, for both me and the FOH engineers.

A few months ago, I figured out that I can dial in my own levels in such a way that doesn’t impact the FOH engineer, and gives me a reasonable mix. It’s not “mixing” in the truest sense of the word since it’s a bit coarse, but it’s close enough and gives us decent results. The key is in setting up the workspace correctly.

My standard, weekly preset with all 48 channels plus stereo inputs and DCAs accounted for. (click to enlarge)

By selecting to view only the first 4 mix busses (which I then toggle to the Matrix), I have enough height on my screen to almost get all 3 sets of 16 channels visible with minimal overlap. Now to really appreciate this, you need to enlarge the photo. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Circled in yellow is where we mix. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a bit coarse, but by dragging those little orange bars left or right, you can adjust the send for that channel. When I need a little more lead vocal, I go to that channel, and pull it up a little. It’s not an exact science, but it works. You can accomplish the same thing with more precision by hitting select, and going to Channel Overview, but that means you’re also hitting select on the board, and that can mess up the FOH engineer.

Now, from a setup standpoint, I highly recommend you go with mix busses for monitors and a matrix for a remote venue. The reason is simply this: If you have your mix busses in front of you, it’s way too easy to think you’re turning up your mix and accidentally turn up the lead guitar in the worship leader’s mix. Yeah, I did that. Once. But no more. I don’t even have the mix busses on my screen, so the worst I can do it turn it up too loud in the lobby. No real harm done there.

The beauty of this type of mixing is that you can be anywhere on your network. The tech booth up the stairs or in the gym on the other side of the building. Doesn’t matter. As long as you’re on the same subnet and can access the mixer, you can tweak the send to your heart’s content. And you don’t bug the main FOH guy. 

One More for the “Because We Can” Category

We have now crossed into a whole new realm. I’ll give the disclaimer that it’s not entirely practical, and because it’s a bit slow, you really can’t mix this way. But it’s really cool. With the advent of version 2.0 of the iPhone (and iPod Touch) software and the App Store we can now ascend to the 7th level of geekiness.

Using Mocha VNC, a Virtual Network Control application you can remote control your Mac. Technically, you could do it on a PC too, but I understand it’s tricky to set up. Download the App onto your iPhone, then drop into System Prefs on your Mac and enable VNC control (that’s a bit redundant, isn’t it?). How to do that is beyond the scope of this article, but it’s not hard. Poke around in the Sharing pane a bit, you’ll find it.

Next, launch Parallels, Fusion or Bootcamp and get Studio Manager running on your Mac. Now, connect to your Mac via Mocha VNC. Guess what? You can now control the M7 from your iPhone.

Now we’ve reached a whole new world of geekiness here… (click to enlarge)

Now, before you go rushing out to buy a new iPhone just so you can mix from it, let me warn you that due to the limitations of bandwidth, the screen refresh rate is pretty slow. That means that your visual feedback loop is so slow that you can’t tell if you’re actually moving a fader until the screen updates. The fader moves in real-time, but you can’t tell if you’re actually on it or not. The most useful function of this is turning on and off DCAs at the moment. But it’s only version 2.0–we’ll get there. I keep wanting to do this in front of Brad, the aforementioned pastor who thought I was showing off when I was mixing from my laptop. Now I want to tell him, “Oh yeah, the laptop is just way to heavy to lug around. This is where it’s at…” Now that’s showing off!

Remote Mixing with Yamaha’s Studio Manager

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a month, you know that we currently mix on a Yamaha M7CL-48 at Upper Room and CPC. I can’t take credit for putting it there, but it’s what I would have put there if someone asked me. For all but the largest churches, that desk hits the absolute sweet spot for performance and value. It’s smaller sibling, the LS9 is also a great board. The following applies to both of those, and other Yamaha digital boards, such as the PM5D, DM1000 & 2000, 01V and O2R (though some may use slightly different software).

First, let’s talk a little about Studio Manager. It’s a Windows-only program (bugger–however some Yamaha stuff runs on Macs) that enables your computer to talk to the console in question, and make control surface and configuration changes. Studio Manager is like a shell that translates commands from another application, the editor–which is board specific– to the network, and ultimately to the board.

To make this work, you first need to install the DME-N Network driver (if you don’t do it first and try to run Studio Manager, it will pitch a fit and not work until you uninstall Studio Manager, then install DME, and finally reinstall Studio Manager–what can I say, this is Windows). The DME Network driver essentially translates input from the editor into Midi and sends it to the board. It’s a bit wonky, but it works. Next, install Studio Manager, and finally the editor application for your particular board. All the software you’ll need is available on Yamaha’s website. I have all of this set up on my MacBook Pro, which I access using VMWare’s Fusion that runs Windows XP. Occasionally the network connection gets flaky, but overall it works well.

Interestingly, if you have several digital boards around your church, and they are all on the network, you can load all of them into Studio Manager, and work with them all. This could be a lot of fun, or extremely confusing. You be the judge.

It’s also important to note that you must have your board on the network and accessible with a static IP address prior to getting launching DME-N Network. We hooked ours into a Linksys wireless hub/switch, so we can access the network wirelessly with a strong signal in the sanctuary. Once we make some changes in our IT structure, we hope to be able to tunnel in from the outside and access the board from home.

Enter your board’s info, or have the software discover it for you.

Once all your software is installed, make a trip to the Windows Control Panel and launch DME-N Network Driver. You can either type in your board’s IP address directly or have the software discover it (oddly, it’s under Advanced Settings). Give it a name that makes sense (especially if you have more than one) and Save & Close. Now you can launch Studio Manager.

Set your board for Input and Output.

Hopefully, your board now appears in the Input Ports and Output Ports columns. Check those off, and click OK. If it doesn’t you may have to go through a round of re-starting and double-checking settings. I had to play with this for a while to get it to work the first time. After that, it’s been working OK. 

Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for…

Finally, you can add your board’s software to the Studio Manager “workspace.” Then it’s time to fire it up and see what she does. You’ll be presented with an interface similar to this (or exactly the same if you have an M7)

The basic interface for remote mixing. (click to enlarge)

You’ll view individual channels in banks of 16 (which means 3 windows for all 48 channels). There is a detail channel mode, patch editors, full metering, the Library, the Rack, Scenes, DCAs, Matrixes, the whole works. You can adjust almost every function on the board with the software. Some things are far easier to do in software (like patching), others are far easier on the physical board (like mixing). Either way, having the control of the board on your laptop, PC or tablet is very useful.

That’s a basic setup, more detailed instructions are found on Yamaha’s website. Now that we’re up and running, tomorrow we’ll talk about a few applications for this amazing technology, and even go one better, just because we can. Read part two here.

Stuff Mike Likes

As I’ve been on vacation for a while, my blogging output has suffered. However, thanks to Google Reader, I’ve kept abreast of all that’s going on in the blogosphere (well, at least for the 25 blogs I follow). During that time, a few things have crossed the wire that I think merit your attention.

The first is a blog that’s new to me, Church Audio & Sound, written by a guy named JB. I’m serious, that’s all he’s got for ID on the blog. And while I might argue that audio and sound are essentially the same thing, and thus the title is redundant, it’s a really good blog. JB goes into great detail on the finer points of sound, and always has something useful to say. He’s done several multi-part posts on things like microphones and the basics of sound. If you’re new to doing church sound, or just want to brush up on some knowledge check it out. After you finish reading my posts on sound, of course ‘;-).

Next up, Dave Stagl has had some really good stuff over at Going to 11. His recent posts about time aligning overheads and snare mics (with demo audio), and system optimization and especially setting up compressors (look for it in the Audio category, it’s not on the front page anymore) were really interesting. The thing I appreciate about Dave is that while he is very knowledgeable, works in a big church and has a lot of resources at his disposal, so much of what he talks about is useful (at least in theory if not in practice) for others in smaller settings. I’ve borrowed quite a few ideas from him.

Finally, my friends at FaithTools (a podcast you should definitely check out) turned me on to a blog called Stuff Christians Like. While he generally does not talk at all about techie stuff, it’s one of my favorite blogs ever. It’s incredibly well-written, quite often funny and always worth my time. You should most definitely check out the Sound Man/Sound Girl Haiku and Understanding How Metrosexual Your Worship Leader Is–priceless). He also writes 2 other blogs (prolifically–where does he find the time?) which are also worth checking out. I turn to Jon whenever I need a little pick-me-up. Great stuff.

So there you go. In lieu of actual, new blog content, here’s something to tide you over until I get caught up on my writing. Fear not, there will be new posts on mixing remotely using Yamaha’s Studio Manager tomorrow and Friday.

Outdoor Worship

Upper Room has had a tradition for the last seven years of taking our worship gatherings outdoors several times each summer. This year is no exception. We have the entire month of August slated for outdoor worship, though for the first time ever, the first weekend in August was moved indoors due to threatening weather. Thankfully for me, I was on vacation at the time. And the following week. This past weekend however, I was there and ready to roll.

Now, you have to know that since even before I was hired, everyone’s been telling me how great outdoor worship is from a tech standpoint, because we hire in a sound company to do the sound. So in theory, we don’t have to do anything. As it turns out, I think I worked harder this Sunday than I have since I got here. I thought I left the roadie life behind when I took this cushy church gig. Not so, apparently. I was told, “Yeah, the sound co just needs a few guys to help unload the truck…it’s a few cases and takes like, 10 minutes.” Right. And the few guys means me, our volunteer producer and her boyfriend. And the few cases was closer to 30. And to keep on schedule, I helped hang the rig and set the stage.

This all sounds like I’m complaining, and I’m really not. It was a lot of fun, the guys from the sound co (Reach Communications) Dan & Matt were super-cool and it was a lot of teamwork. And it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to get down and dirty with setting up a pretty good sized rig, so I enjoyed it.

For the sound geeks in the audience, here’s a partial breakdown of the gear on hand.

  • FOH: Yamaha M7-CL 48
  • Drive Rack: Nexo Dolby Lake Contour 2×6 processors (2)
  • Amps: Yamaha/Nexo w/ built in processing (didn’t catch the model)
  • Main Arrays: Nexo GEO S8, 12 per side
  • Subs: Nexo Alpha S2, 2 per side
  • IEMs: Sennheiser G2 driven by an Aviom Pro-16 snake (very similar to our own setup, which I’ve written about here)
  • Lead Vox Mic: Neuman KMS-105

All in all, it was a pretty sweet setup. It’s really quite remarkable the difference in clarity and presence those speakers have compared to our normal sanctuary setup (which I find to be completely insufficient). The gatherings take place at a nearby bandshell that faces into a hill. It’s a good 300′ from the top of the hill to the bandshell, but the sound was clear and even all the way up. Several people commented on how much separation they could hear between instruments, as opposed to everything mushing together in our room. Personally, I found it quite refreshing. I just wish I could have mixed it.

Here are some pictures I took to give you an idea of the venue. (click on any to enlarge)

The band practicing The band practicingAs you can see, the bandshell is quite good-sized. Our fairly small band had plenty of room to spread out. I think next week, we need dancers or something to take up some space.

Ghetto Iso Cabinet for the Guitar Amp Ghetto Iso Cabinet for the Guitar AmpWhen you don’t have a real isolation cabinet for the guitar amps, you make do with what you have. In this case, we used the absorption material from our drum shield in front, and packed in a bunch of other soft stuff in the back. For as ghetto as it looks, it worked great; sound levels on stage were very manageable. 

The crowd gathered and filled in nicely The crowd gathered and filled in nicelyWe had a good-sized crowd on hand, I would say 600-700 easily. It was a beautiful night, albeit a little warm. But we had a good breeze, and as the evening went on, shade covered more of the hill. We also have a BBQ prior to the gathering, so many came for the burgers and hots beforehand. Not to mention the giant inflatable toys for the kids.

Dan mixes from the FOH position Dan mixes from the FOH positionDan, from Reach Communications, was on top a very solid mix all night. On the apron in front of the stage, you can see the platform from which our missional director gave the evening’s talk. The biggest challenge of the night was dropping the speakers on stage left. The Genie lift was binding up and Dan had to climb on top of it to get the sections to drop correctly. That was fun. Note to self–always remember gloves.

If the weather cooperates for the next two Sundays, we’ll be back at the same spot and do it all again. I think the best part for me was to be able to hang out with the band after rehearsal. Normally, I’m tied up overseeing lighting, presentation and sound, so in this case, it was nice to just chill with everyone for a while. I’ve been brainstorming with a few of the band members about doing a podcast for this very blog; hopefully that’s something you’ll see coming up this fall.

Once September hits, we’re back indoors. We’ll be starting a new series and we will have a really exiting announcement that we’ll be inviting the community into being a part of. Can’t talk about it just yet, but keep watching. God’s doing very cool things with Upper Room, and it’s a joy to be a part of it!

Lessons Learned on Vacation

After a full two weeks out on the road, it’s good to be home. According to our trusty Garmin 360 GPS, we logged 2,446 miles; averaged 59.1 MPH while moving; drove for 41 hours, 11 minutes, were stopped for 11 hours and 56 minutes (some horrible construction in Wisconsin and Indiana); which translates into an overall average speed of 45.8 MPH. Interestingly, our moving average speed on the way to NY was barely 55 MPH. We hit almost all our construction delays going east; which meant that if I could calculate our return average speed, it should be a good bit higher. Call me a geek, but I find this interesting. 

Standing in front of what could be the world’s largest Weber Grill at the Weber Grill restaurant in Schaumburg, IL.

In all that driving, I had a lot of time to think. Here are some things that stood out to me (in no particular order):

Road trips aren’t nearly as much fun as the used to be. Between construction, traffic and probably age (mine), slogging my way down the highway for 8 hours a day holds a lot less appeal than it did 10 years ago. The thing I found most aggravating was roads that were completely rebuilt from the ground up only a few years ago are now being torn up again for repairs. Here’s to you, PA!

Sundays are a much better day to drive than Fridays; Saturdays are better than either. We drove from Cleveland to Chicago on a Saturday and we made some time! Traffic was light, and none of the construction zones were active. I will use this information to my advantage in the future. Avoid Fridays at all costs.

Two weeks is a long time to be gone. Call me crazy, but I would have rather had a single week off. Perhaps 10 days. By then I missed my bed, my routine, and my backyard. It was fun to see friends, but I wish it could have been more efficient. 

I need alone time. I already knew this, but it was reinforced during the trip. If I don’t get sufficient alone time, I get cranky. Vacation was tough because we were always staying with relatives (which meant we were invading their space), and I was surrounded by my family. I love my family, but I need time to be alone with my thoughts. Regularly. As in daily. I think the best day of the trip was the day I had lunch with my friend Jamie, after which I went back to the lake, took a walk, sat on a bench and just thought. By myself. I felt like a LiOn battery being recharged.

I love what I do. Again, I knew this before I left, but it was again reinforced. By about day 10, I found myself sitting with my laptop researching servers, network topologies, piano mics and other techie things. I just can’t stand to be away from the action for that long. I know it’s healthy to unplug for a while, but I need to do it in shorter bursts.

I don’t like having nothing to do. Perhaps this is the great paradox of my life. I’m both lazy and driven. After a week of not working, I didn’t feel like doing anything. Getting out of bed before 9 seemed like a chore. If I was ready to go anywhere before 11, I was doing good. It reminded me of the days after I sold my company and I didn’t have any compelling reason to get up in the morning. It’s fun for a few days, but after a while I felt like a slug. I need action. And peace. There’s a balance there somewhere…

I’m a creature of habit. Another paradox. In my work, I’m a change agent. I’m constantly taking things apart, changing them and making them better. I am always asking if there is a better way to do something. Change is my middle name. At the same time, I eat the same thing for breakfast every day. I have a strikingly consistent morning routine. I like things in the places I put them. Living out of a suitcase bugs me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve already made my system as efficient as it can be, and thus it doesn’t need change.

I have a good team, and good systems at Upper Room. Even on vacation, my cell phone never turns off. While I took my time off on weeks that we were supposed to have outdoor worship (and theoretically, no tech needs), for the first time in 7 years, outdoor worship was moved indoors. Though I wasn’t there, my team handled it well. I did field a few tech-support calls from my presentation tech, and I was able to solve the problem by logging in remotely (since I planned for that possibility). Still, my time off was not consumed by making sure things were happening back at the ranch. I’m one step closer to working myself out of a job.

I really like Minneapolis. No offense to anyone who lives in Cleveland, but it took me about 12 hours there to remember why I left. And while I love the Finger Lakes region of western New York, being back there didn’t elicit feelings of, “I wish I still lived here.” Which lead me to conclude that…

For me, home is where God calls me. When finally escaped Wisconsin Sunday (it’s a big stinkin’ state!), I told my wife that last summer, I never would have guessed I would be so anxious to get to back to Minnesota. I’ve lived in four metro areas in my life (well, actually three, one of them twice), and during each season, I was fully invested in that place. It was my home. But when the time came to leave, I felt no regret, and became almost immediately anchored to my new home. I think this is a protection mechanism from God, a true fulfillment of Psalm 37:4—God giving me the desires of my heart (He puts the desires there…).

Well, that’s what I did on my summer vacation. I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we’re back. I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow. We have some very exciting things coming up with Upper Room over the next few months. Life-changing big things. Stuff I can’t talk about just yet—but I will as soon as I can. God is doing a great work in our midst and I’m blessed to be a part of it. More techie stuff to come… I promise!

More “Said from Stage”

So this has been a lot of fun. People from all over have been writing in with their favorite quotes (or should I say mis-quotes). There are some good ones here, and to save everyone the time of digging into the comments section (and because I’m on vacation and feeling lazy and unwilling to come up with real new content), I’m collecting them here. 

This, of course, does not mark the end. Oh no. Want to be on the lookout for great mis-quotes whenever they happen. Send them in and I’ll keep updating the list. Good times! So here’s what we have today:

  • “Jesus came not to serve, but to be served.”
  • “We are owners, not stewards.” (from a series on stewardship)
  • “But God never promised us a roseless thorn garden.”
  • “And now let’s have Chris come up and play our capital campaign theme thong.”
  • “Please be seated in the house of Jesus.”
  • “It’s hard to be a man in a women’s department.”
  • and my personal favorite for this round…
  • “The disciples are kind of like a boy-band.”
  • Updated 8/3…
  • “Look at this picture of Steve, he’s so fat…uh, um I mean fast with his drill…” (referring to a picture of the facilities manager sporting a whole tool belt of power tools)

Thanks to Jon, Daniel, Osborn, Justin, Richard, and Bryan for those. 

As I mentioned, I’m currently enjoying 2 weeks of vacation. For me, vacation is sleeping late, sitting on the patio reading and writing and grilling out. The rest of my family is not taken in by this approach however. For reasons I’m still unsure of, I agreed to a 2500 mile road trip back to NY to visit family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about visiting family and friends, but 2500 miles is 2500 miles, and I have to drive all of them. So while I’d hoped that I could simply move my sleeping late, reading, writing and grilling to another venue, so far, I’ve not slept well, and we’ve been so busy visiting, I haven’t had much time to read or write.

Thus the lack of real content here. Not to fret, however. Once I get back from vacation (and then the 3-day staff retreat that immediately follows my vacation–yeah, I planned that on purpose!), I’ll be all refreshed and full of things to write about. We have some big changes in store for Upper Room, and that’s going to mean some really fun things to blog about. We also have some big equipment changes coming up and that will be fully documented here as well.

So thanks for reading, enjoy my vacation and if you get hungry for content, take a look at the archives. There’s all kinds of good stuff back there!

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