You Don't Need a New Gadget to Get the Job Done

All week I’ve been telling myself that my project for this weekend was to get the newsletter sign-up for up and working. Since deciding that I actually want to monetize that site (officially, The Thomas Jefferson Education Consortium), I’ve been mentally stuck at square one.

So I got up this morning, excited to get started, and my wife asked me to go to the store to get a few things that she needed for my daughter’s birthday party. That seems to just be the way that Saturdays go. Its not my wife’s fault, its not the kids’ fault, its not even my fault—it’s just the way things manage to turn out, especially when you’re trying to pull away from the status quo.

While I was getting ready to go out, it occurred to me that I could make better use of my driving time if I had the digital voice recorder we’ve been planning to buy (for recording speeches that Rachel and I give). I toyed with the idea of going to Radio Shack to see if they carry a decent one, since I’ve not been impressed with what they stock at Wal-Mart, but I also realized that I work only a few miles away from Fry’s Electronics, and that would be a much better place to do my comparison shopping. So I was stuck between buying something I wouldn’t be happy with at Radio Shack so that I could use it today, when I needed it, or waiting until next week to get something that will better serve my needs, but waste my time today. Oh what a conundrum.

Then I had a minor epiphany. I noticed an old compact cassette recorder in my box of odds and ends when I was cleaning up my study (otherwise known as an office) a few weeks ago. I felt kind of strange when I dug it out of the storage room, but it could certainly serve my purpose. Luckily we even still had some double-A batteries left from the van trip to Idaho. (Long story short—the van CD player doesn’t work, so we used an low-powered FM transmitter attached to the headphone jack of a portable CD player to listen to books-on-CD on the radio.) Now I just needed a cassette tape. Rachel pointed me to a box of old tapes, but I only found one that wasn’t labeled, and it ended up containing a performance her little sisters did many years ago. So I figured I’d just stop at the grocery store on the way and grab one. The grocery store doesn’t carry them. So I stopped at Target. I was told that Target quit carrying cassettes in April. I guess the third time really is the charm, because when I tried Radio Shack, they actually had cassettes, although the cheapest ones were $3.99 for 2. I guess there is something to that law of demand thing. In any case, I finally had a hand-held device for recording my thoughts, even if I was 90% of the way to my original destination.

I actually managed to get down a lot of my thoughts and plans for my weekend project in the five minutes before reaching Trader Joe’s. I also found out that neither the fast forward nor rewind buttons work. Alas, the costs of extreme pragmatism.

I rambled on for most of the trip home, finally getting my thoughts out of my head and into some semblance of physical form. I once heard that writer’s block doesn’t apply to speaking, and I think that that observation really has merit. I was able to clarify some of the ideas that have been rattling around in my head for years in the few minutes it took to drive home. What a relief!

When I got back to my desk, I did what I should have been doing for the last I-don’t-know-how-long—I put my plans on paper. I rewound the tape in the console cassette player downstairs, then played it back (stopping frequently) as I wrote everything down in my commonplace book. Now I finally have a single reference point, outside of my head, where I can find my task list for various projects, so that I can just do them, one at a time.

Now I’m addicted. Next week, at my earliest convenience, I’m going to get me a digital recorder for use on my long commutes, hopefully one with a clip mic to keep my hands free (and on the wheel). That should be a much better use of my time than singing with the radio or screaming through closed windows at idiot drivers. In fact, I’m hoping to be able to compose most of my blog entries on the road and then just transcribe them when I get home. I think that’s my best idea yet!

Since this post is actually about recording thoughts, ideas, and plans in an audio format, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of what it sounds like when the eclectic and eccentric things in my head come out in verbal form. So I rewound my tape in the other player again, fed it from the headphone out jack on the recorder to the microphone in jack on my laptop, and recorded it using Audacity. Then I trimmed it down, cleaned up some of the tape hiss, and exported to a low-bit rate MP3. Here’s the result.

Audio icon My thoughts recorded in analog715.76 KB