Monday, September 29, 2008

The Frugal Soundman

Sunday was the 45th anniversary of the founding of my church.

Imagine that. Kennedy was president (but with less than two months to live) when Christus Victor Lutheran Church was founded in Fayetteville, NC.

A few weeks before this festival celebration I was notified that this was to be an outdoor service and that I would need to supply a Public Address (PA) system.

Ummm... OK.

Having been in various garage bands since 1973, I had accumulated a lot of bits and pieces of such gear over the years. I jettisoned quite a bit of it when I moved to Fayetteville ten years ago, though.

Taking a quick inventory I determined that I had enough microphones and stands to to the job. I had my choice of two PA amplifiers: an old Fender solid state 4 channel head and an ancient Bogen 3 channel unit (pictured).

Rounding up speakers was the main challenge. I had acquired, via a yard sale, one of the two cabinets designed to go with the Fender PA ensemble. The problem is that there were only two of the four 10" speakers left inside the column. Each speaker is 32 ohms. The idea is that four such speakers would result in an 8 ohm cabinet when wired in parallel. Two such cabinets would provide a 4 ohm load, for which the PA head had been designed.

In any even, a single, two speaker cabinet would not cut it.

I mused about throwing the speaker column on a band saw and cutting it in half, but further review showed that not to be practical. Aside from the utter lack of band saw access, the cabinet construction was not conducive to such a plan.

I set about pricing rental units at a couple music stores.

Back in the 'seventies, my band could rent a two-column, 4-channel system for $35 a weekend. We'd pick it up Saturday morning and play the gig that night. Since the store was closed on Sunday, we'd return it Monday, after school.

The cost of a 21st century system had risen to about $125 a night. And I'd have to shell out $250 for TWO days' rental, even though both stores were closed on Sunday, anyway.


I decided to cruise the local pawn shops in search of inspiration.

I found pair of cheap, SANYO stereo speakers with 10" woofers at the CASH CONVERTERS. They were two 36" tall black boxes with black speaker cloth. They came to $16 with tax. Schweet! All I had to do was pop the SANYO logo off the fronts and no one would be the wiser.

Once I got them home, I pulled out the cheap-o 10" woofers and replaced them with the 32 ohm Fender speakers. I left the dinky-toy mid range and tweeters disconnected. I installed 1/4" jacks on the back of the boxes. Connected in parallel, I now had a 16 ohm load.

Next, I wired the two 12" speakers in my YAMAHA guitar amp into series, which gave me a third 16 ohm cabinet.

I would use the two pawn shop cabinets for front left and right sound with the third guitar cabinet placed in the center rear to reinforcement. the whole mess should come out to be an 8 ohm load.

I tried it with the Fender PA, but the results were disappointing. Not loud enough and pretty flat sounding, I concluded.

I plugged the speakers into the Bogen head, set to an 8 ohm load. Loud and clear! Once again, the Bogen came through in a pinch.

The last thing needed was a LONG speaker cable for the most remote cabinet. A trip to the local mega-hardware-barn revealed that "speaker cord" cost 35 cents a foot. Hmmm. I spent $16 on a pair of speakers and now I have to spend TWICE that for a single cable? No dig!

In the same aisle were 100-foot "light duty" electrical extensions cord for $14 each. SOLD! I lopped off the electrical connectors and soldered a 1/4" plug on each end. It worked like a charm.

I schlepped this rag-tag assortment of parts over to the church Saturday afternoon.
I found two improvised stands for the pawn shop speakers: a book cart and a keyboard stand. They were both the same height. Bonus!

Sunday morning, I got to the church at 8:15 and set up the PA. By 9:30 it was in place and functional. The choir practiced a hymn and I "got my levels" for their mic and the electronic keyboard's line-in signal.

The service started at 10:30 and went off without a hitch.

By 12:30 I had everything pulled down and went for some grub in the fellowship hall.
I was soaked in sweat and red as a lobster from being in the sun for five hours, but I thank God for providing me what was needed to once again to meet a specific need.

And, you know, the whole thing kind of took me back to my garage band days. Except for the rock and roll and having to play guitar all night it was kind of like doing a gig.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Post-Audit Post

The follow-up audit went down Wednesday morning.

This was a big deal, as the original audit (before my time) did not go so well. It has been a spectre looming over my tenure here like a scary boogie man. It has been a career -ender for some.

Two higher-ups from the home office came in to town for this audit, just to make sure everything was going to go OK.

The auditor arrived mid-morning and after a brief meeting we went out to the plant to follow our process flow from beginning to end.

The months of hammering on the quality system really paid off.

I was able to provide objective evidence to answer his questions. This is a very good thing during an audit.

By 11:30 the whole thing was over.

The auditor said that based on his findings he would revise the results of the previous audit to reflect all the corrective actions he found in place since his last visit. (The revised scorecard is expected at week's end.)

To coin a phrase, "WHEW!"

I received some "atta boys" from the various managers.

The fact of the matter is, that no ONE person can make a quality system work within a plant.

EVERYBODY needs to participate. People have to be trained. Work instructions have to be followed. Documentation has to be maintained.

If a company expects one lone Quality Engineer to run around like Jimminy Cricket and nag people into compliance that company (and that Quality Engineer) is doomed.

I rode out the rest of the day on a professional state of bliss.

Of course the next email, the next phone call or the next problem on the floor is all it took to drag me back down to reality.

But, gosh, it was so nice to get that audit out of the way!

Thanks for everyone's prayers, encouragement and good vibes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Crunch Time!

Well, gang, the long-dreaded customer follow-up audit will happen at 10:00 AM this Wednesday. (The previous audit paved the way out the door for a previous Quality Manager. Guess who is in that particular cat bird seat this time 'round?)

It is hard to believe that there are only two work days left.

As if that isn't enough professional stress, the BIG KAHUNA chewed tail at the 3:00 PM Friday staff meeting on a wholly unrelated subject. In response to this additional potential career-ender, I blew my Saturday morning trying to get stuff in place to address this new concern. I had wanted to spend this time to further prepare for Wednesday. But, ah, well...

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as mid-week approaches. I'll endeavor to let you know how it all goes down.


Friday, September 05, 2008


I ate lunch at a McDonalds this past week.

I chose a ninety-nine cent cheeseburger, a dollar side salad and a "small" dollar drink.

A regular hamburger is eighty-nine cents, but I felt like blowing an extra dime on that slice of cheese-like substance. So, the price of the cheeseburger meal I selected was $2.99 versus $2.89 for the hamburger version.

A hamburger "Happy Meal" costs $2.69 and consists of a hamburger, "kid-size" beverage, small fries and a toy. The cheeseburger "Happy Meal" costs $3.09.

I wonder why there's a forty cent price differential between the CB and non-CB "Happy Meals" when an a la cart upgrade to CB is only ten cents?
I am of an age when I remember when McDonalds' signs use to proclaim that x million hamburgers had been served.

Then they stopped keeping track of the exact number and just stated "million and millions served."

Then they updated to "billions served."

Obviously, a lot of people have eaten a lot of McDonalds burgers over the years.

But I have never encountered anyone who has said, "Boy, I wish I could make my hamburgers at home just like McDonalds makes their hamburgers! You, know, all flat and tasteless."

Why is that, do you suppose?

Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever encountered anyone who makes their own home-made Oreos, either.

What is it about industrially-engineered, machine-made food that is so popular?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Well, gang, September is here and it promises to be a monster month at the ol' factory.

The somewhat off-center centerpiece will be a customer follow-up audit on the 24th. There is much to be done and it is just possible too much energy is being expended in too many directions. The good news, however, is that two people in my strata are really pouring time and effort into the preparations and for that, I'm thankful.

I keep praying for focus and resources. I thank God for what he continues to provide. "Be still and know that I am God." Now there's a challenge!