K-LOVE: Radio Listening Even I Can Love

I’ve been listening to a lot of radio lately.

Yeah, I know. Big deal. I work for a bunch of radio stations, so I listen to the radio all the time, right?

Okay, true confessions time. No, I don’t listen to the radio all the time. I listen to the radio when I have to. With ten different transmitters to monitor, there comes a point when I’ve heard all the radio I can stand.  I seldom listen to those stations for enjoyment—I’m evaluating the technical quality, coverage, or audio processing. I’m listening for technical issues that cause subconscious annoyance to average listeners and, in the wrong quantity, can make them tune away. Even when I try to listen to one of my stations for enjoyment, I can’t turn off that evaluating-the-signal thing. It’s even hard to turn it off when it’s not one of mine, but for the right programming I can do it.

Like any other consumer, when it comes to listening for enjoyment, there are some things I just don’t listen to. Sports, for example. I’m not into sports all that much, and I find no pleasure whatsoever in listening to grown men talk smack like ten-year-olds (a primary component in some—but not all— sports talk programs). I also don’t listen to Hip-Hop when I don’t have to. I find some of the songs outright offensive, and that offense has nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with content. I don’t listen to a lot of talk radio either, and when I do there are certain triggers that will make me tune out faster than you can say Arbitron. Any form of racist rhetoric for example, including those who believe I should apologize for being born Caucasian. I have zero tolerance for racism in any form. Period.

A common thread that runs through all my tune-out triggers is negativity. I don’t need any extra negativity weeds in the garden of my mind, thankyouverymuch.  I have to tolerate a certain degree in order to do my job and coexist with a negative world, but I don’t have to consume negativity when it’s optional. I prefer to put as much positivity into my ears as possible. I need encouragement to fuel my soul so I can encourage others. That’s exactly why I’ve been listening to a lot of radio lately.

My favorite radio station these days is known as “Positive, Encouraging K-LOVE.” It’s not just a radio station, but a network of hundreds of stations coast to coast all carrying the same programming. Some are full-power signals owned by non-profit Educational Media Foundation (EMF), some are leased signals (what the industry refers to as a LMA, or Local Marketing Agreement), and some are low-power satellators (satellite-fed translators), but all carry the same listener-supported format of Contemporary Christian Music with relevant personalities and content. K-LOVE’s mission statement is:

To effectively communicate the Gospel message to those who don’t know or fully understand it, through full-time contemporary Christian music and short educational elements over radio and the Internet-using modern day language and the highest professional standards.

As I see it, they’re doing exactly that, and doing it well. It’s remarkably close to the kind of Christian radio we used to dream about producing ‘back in the day.’  K-LOVE is exactly what I need (from a listener’s perspective) in a radio station. It cleanses my head, encourages my heart and feeds my soul. I don’t just like K-LOVE, I need K-LOVE.

Even if you don’t have one of K-LOVE’s over-the-air outlets where you are, you can listen anywhere you have internet connectivity. There are K-LOVE apps for iPhone and Android phones, as well as streaming through their website that works well on my Android tablet.

I love K-LOVE. I think you will, too. Check it out.

Conquering The Vortex

vortexEvery now and then when I have to run into work after hours—just for a second, a quick in-and-out where you’d leave the car running if you weren’t paranoid about having it stolen—Sharon will say, “Don’t get caught in The Vortex” as I’m walking out the door.

And, I understand exactly what she means.

And, it often doesn’t stop me from getting sucked in.

But, at least she tried.

I admit it. I’ve got a nasty tendency to get sucked into things. It’s a product of my non-linear ADD brain chemistry. If you’re a linear person and you’re already shaking your head like my fifth grade teacher, let me just say that the ADD community forgives you. God loves everyone, even linear people. It’s not your fault. Seriously, it’s okay. We’re used to it.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. The Vortex. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain at a possible “quick trip to the office” on a Saturday morning to reboot a problem satellite receiver:

9:50 AM: Arrive at office. Window of opportunity to reboot is from 10:00 to 10:06, so I have ten minutes.

9:51:00 AM: Log on to computer intending to check the errant receiver and see if it’s still misbehaving.

9:51:30 AM: Paper I left on keyboard reminds me I didn’t file my expense report, just as intended.

9:52:00 AM: Open Excel, pull receipts off the cork-board, begin entering into expense form.

9:54:15 AM: Realize I’m missing a receipt from one of my online vendors. Open browser, surf to their website.

9:54:30 AM: Promo on vendor’s home page reminds me  need to buy some USB cables. Click promo. Prices look pretty good, but can I do better?

9:54:45 AM: Staying on-task, I log into my account and send the missing receipt to the printer.

9:55:00 AM: While receipt is printing, browse to competitive vendor’s website to comparison shop.

9:57:30 AM: Competitor’s prices not bad. Try a third vendor just to be sure.

9:59:45 AM: Third vendor has best prices. Order a dozen.

10:00:15 AM: Discover why third vendor’s price is so good. They don’t have any in stock.

10:00:30 AM: Google USB cables looking for price as good as third vendor.

10:02:00 AM: How many cheesy discount cable places are on the internet? At least 3,437,294.

10:05:30 AM: Find better price, but product looks like poor quality.

10:06:00 AM: Click back to original vendor. Price doesn’t look so bad after all. Place order.

10:07:30 AM: Print receipt, walk down hall to network printer, right past rack full of satellite receivers.

10:07:45 AM: See errant satellite receiver’s blinking alarm light. Check watch. Say something neither edifying nor uplifting. Next opportunity to reboot satellite receiver is 11:00 to 11:06 AM.

10:09:00 AM: Back in office. Since I have fifty-one minutes before I can try again, I might as well get some work done. Finish expense report.

10:14:00 AM: Check email. Order confirmation says USB cables are out of stock, back-ordered six to eight weeks.

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. You get the point.

The Vortex is one face of a multi-headed creature living inside the ADD brain. It can be an ugly face—A very ugly face—but before you go all condemnation on me, I have to point out that the same brain chemistry that supports The Vortex also supports another face, a beautiful face, a face that is a pure and wonderful gift. I call it The Elevator, because just as The Vortex pushes you down, The Elevator lifts you up.

The Elevator is the face of those wonderful spurts of creative energy that lead us to new inventions, new ways of solving old problems, and new ways of thinking, interacting, and managing our world. The Elevator gives us new stories to tell, or radically different ways of retelling classic stories that make them new again. The Elevator lifts us up to places where we can see things that nobody else has seen. A ride in The Elevator is one of the most exhilarating experiences a person with ADD will ever know. In fact, it is The Elevator that causes me to be a bit offended at the very term Attention Deficit Disorder. In The Elevator, ADD isn’t a disorder. It’s a gift.

The conflict here is that we can’t have one without the other. Remove the chemistry that enables The Vortex, and The Elevator becomes a sweet memory and nothing more. The price of our Elevator ride is The Vortex, just as the price of riding in your car is insurance, fuel and maintenance. We can’t remove The Vortex, but with a little help and a lot of work we can manage it.

Vortex Management

There are no magic check-lists that will keep your Vortex at bay. If there were, I’d be selling it and making a pile of money. You need to find what works for you, and when you find it do it with all you’ve got. Here are a few tools that have worked for me:

  • Understanding.

When I was diagnosed with ADD and began to learn about my brain chemistry and how it works, a whole lot of things about my life began to make sense for the first time. Once I understood that I wasn’t bad, just wired differently than the majority, I could begin to see patterns in my life, ways I’d adjusted and self-medicated and learned to cope with the difference—and ways I hadn’t. This is an area that can be difficult to work on alone. You might need a coach, whether professional or amateur, to help you see yourself. Understanding how you’re wired will equip you to make the most of what God gave you.

  • Nudges.

What I’ve come to understand about The Vortex is that all I need to do to be sucked in is do nothing. In the scenario above, I was sucked into hunting mode. All it took to pull me out of that was a reminder. Understanding how easily I can be sucked in, if I had arranged in advance for a reminder that my window to reboot had arrived, I could have accomplished the reboot the first time around. All it would take is something as simple as an alarm on my phone, or listening to the satellite feed so the silence at the top of the hour would get my attention.

  • Proximity Effect

I’ve learned that there is a direct relationship between proximity and focus. In other words, the farther you are from the thing you need to keep in focus, the harder it is to maintain focus.

Duh.

In my office, I could neither see nor hear the offending equipment I’d come to reboot. If I’d chosen to pass my time working on something close to the receiver, the odds of forgetting the primary mission would drop exponentially.

  • Triage

My friends at Merriam-Webster tell me the word triage means “The sorting of patients…according to their need of care.” In other words, when you go to the ER with a sprained nose, the guy who’s bleeding all over the floor gets first priority. I use triage in my work every day, prioritizing broken equipment, technical requests and deadlines constantly. I’ve learned that a little triage can go a long way toward keeping me on-task and out of The Vortex. In the example above, I didn’t have to go into my office. I could have seen what I needed on the front panel of the receiver. If I’d never opened the office door, I probably would have done the reboot on schedule.

Management=Results

Imagine the scenario above with these simple Vortex management tools applied:

9:50:00 AM: Arrive at office. Window of reboot opportunity is from 10:00 to 10:06, so I have ten minutes.

9:50:30 AM: Stop at office door. TRIAGE: Is there anything in there I NEED to reboot the receiver? No. Don’t even go inside.

9:52:00 AM: Arrive at satellite rack. Observe blinking error light. Check other readouts. Check time.

9:53:00 AM: NUDGE: Patch audio from target receiver into speaker, so end of program will remind me to reboot if I become distracted.

9:55:00 AM: PROXIMITY: Error light on rack a few feet away catches my attention. I investigate.

9:57:30 AM: Error not a big deal. Clear error light.

9:58:00 AM: PROXIMITY: Standing near rack, Take out iPhone, check mail, browse Facebook feed.

9:59:00 AM: Bored. Fling angry birds at pigs to pass the time.

9:59:50 AM: End of satellite program audio reminds me why I’m there.

10:00:00 AM: Reboot receiver.

10:00:30 AM: Fling more birds.

10:03:00 AM: Check receiver. Reboot complete, everything is happy.

10:06:00 AM: Listen to satellite-delivered program on car radio while driving home.

10:12:00 AM: RESULTS: Arrive home and thoroughly surprise Sharon, who expected my “quick trip” to take hours.

If it seems a little too easy, that’s because you’ve never done it. It’s not easy at all, and there are days when it’s nearly impossible—but it will always be impossible if you don’t try. I’m not parroting that “You can do this if you’ll just buckle down and try harder” thing linear people are so fond of bashing us with. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me in my childhood, I would have squandered all that money long ago.

Here’s the thing: those linears are half right. You—and I—can do it. We just can’t do it their way.

Discover how you’re wired.

Find the way that works for you.

Then, meet me in The Elevator.

 

 

About “The N Word”

Everyone’s been buzzing this week about Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s decision to bail out of broadcast radio following that over-publicized “N-word” boo-boo on her nationally syndicated program. It’s really unfortunate that Dr. Laura feel the need to do jump ship—although there are four months between now and the end of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she surfaces in January on some other radio network.  Stuff like that happens in this business all the time.

Even more unfortunate is that Dr. Laura’s point—a very valid point—has been lost in all the name-calling and rock-throwing that followed her unfortunate foot-chomping moment. If only she’d had the good sense to say, “N-word, N-word, N-word” instead of actually using the N-word, perhaps the conversation could have turned more productive.

Dr. Laura’s point was, quite simply, that there is a double-standard in our society when it comes to the N-word. When I searched for a suitable picture to accompany this post, I found zillions of pictures of African-Americans wearing T-shirts with the offensive word emblazoned upon them, album covers, artwork, and other such examples of the same word being used daily, and I’ve yet to hear of the African-American community boycotting musicians or protesting in front of stores selling the offensive apparel.

Let’s be honest here: If Michael Baisden or Tom Joyner had made the same point in the same way using the same words, would it have even caused a blip in the national press? I’ve heard both of those national radio talents say things that, in the mouth of any Caucasian radio talent, would cause an immediate one-way trip to unemploymentland.

It’s a double-standard. It’s wrong. Period.

Personally, I find the “N-word” offensive. It’s offensive on African-American lips, it’s offensive on Caucasian lips, it’s offensive on any lips.

As a boy, I used that word once in my father’s presence—and I do mean exactly once. When I picked myself up from the floor, he explained to me in his salty and straightforward manner that if he ever heard that word on my lips again, I’d be taking a break from further conversation while having my teeth removed from my throat. He went on to say that he served side-by-side with black men in World War II who bled the same shade of red he did. He learned to judge a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. He taught me to use the same method of measure.

Looking back, I can still recall the passion that drove his anger that day. It still speaks to me as it did then, of heartache-laden memories he seldom allowed to surface, respect for those who served our country regardless of their race,  and anger he could usually control when sober but that overtook him when he drank. I always felt there was more to Dad’s interracial war experience than he shared with me that day.  I regret that I never pursued that with him.

I do not, however, regret that I never again said the “N-word” in his presence.

It’s D(TV) Day!

analog_tv_270x270

Today is the day!

It’s here!

The big shutdown of Analog Television has arrived!

(Yawn.)

Okay, be honest: Are you ready for the digital television conversion?

Yeah, I thought you were.

Anyone who doesn’t know that by midnight tonight all full-power analog TV transmitters will be shut down has to be Amish—and I have it on good authority that the Amish are sick and tired of the DTV transition, too.

Still, on Wednesday of this week, the Nielsen Company released research showing that 2,8 million American households are “completely unready for the transition.” While 2.8 million might seem like a lot, it’s only 2.5% of TV-equipped households. After all those months of annoying crawls, PSA’s and special programs, can they still say “we didn’t know” with a straight face? Perhaps they’re waiting for President Obama to personally deliver and install their converter box.

One explanation for at least a part of that 2.5% is that Low Power TV (LPTV) stations aren’t required to shut down their analog signals yet, and some of those unconverted households might be in rural areas served only by LPTV. They could also be in larger markets but prefer to watch only their favorite LPTV channel. They could also be waiting for the change so they can claim discrimination. There are also those who believe those converter boxes are “the government trying to spy on us.” Seriously, I’ve heard people say that!

For me, there is a sad aspect of this historic day. People are so sick and tired of hearing about the DTV transition that they just want it to be over. Many have missed the great historical significance of the day, the great and honorable tradition that is being laid to rest. When the first round of analog shutdowns occurred here back in February, I watched some of them and was horribly disappointed. At the appointed time, they just flipped the switch. No ceremonial moment, no salute to the generations that brought television to this historic milestone. Just a quick cut to snow and a licensee who’s delighted to lose that chunk of the electric bill.

I wonder what the true poineers of television would have to say about this day?

Philo Farnsworth, the man who, at 13 years of age, conceived the concept of image scanning and reconstruction upon which analog TV is based, went on to develop the first working electronic television system. Farnsworth didn’t get the credit due him because he was an ethical man, a genius who didn’t have the deep pockets (or lack of integrity) of David Sarnoff’s RCA. When fellow inventors from RCA asked to tour his laboratory and see his device in operation, it never occurred to Farnsworth that they might illicitly copy some of his technological developments. Farnsworth and RCA spent years in court over those infringements, and eventually Farnsworth won.

Philo Farnsworth would be fascinated with the new technology. Ever the inventor, he’d be in it up to his eyeballs and be having a blast seeing it in action. He’d probably improve on it, too.

Another big name in early TV development was Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, a Russian-born scientist who worked for RCA and developed much of their early television technology (including the parts based on designs “acquired” from Farnsworth). I believe that Zworykin’s reaction to today’s television might be found in an interview some time after his retirement in 1954. What follows is not a transcript, but it’s mighty close:

Interviewer: “Of all the many inventions to your credit in the world of television, what invention gives you the most satisfaction?”

Zworykin (heavy Russian accent): “Da Svitch.”

Interviewer: “What?”

Zworykin: “Da Svitch.”

Interviewer: “I don’t understand.”

Zworykin: “You know, Da Svitch, so I can turn the damn think off.”

I hope those engineers who use “da svitch” today will do so with reverence and respect, because without Analog TV, the world would be a very different place today. Whether better or worse is a never-settled debate—but it would definitely be different.

Rest in Peace, Analog.

Thirty Seconds of Fame

Whew! It’s been a crazy few days in Dan-land. I attended the annual ACFW Conference last Thursday through Sunday, and I’m just now getting to the place where I’m slowing down to catch my breath. Crazy days, to be sure—but good crazy.

Check it out! I won!

Yup, that’s me. Do I look a little giddy? Well, I should, because I was. My novel The Voice took first place in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest, Contemporary Fiction category.

It was a surreal moment for me. Sure, I knew there was a 1 in 5 chance I’d win. There was also a 4 in 5 chance that I wouldn’t, and the other competitors were far from weak writers. I decided well in advance that I’d maybe take third place, with a slim shot at second. After third and second were announced, I wasn’t sure what to think.

When I heard my name and title, I think I stopped breathing for a few seconds. By the time I took my first step toward the stage, I knew exactly how I had to deliver my 30-second acceptance speech.

You see, early Thursday morning just before leaving for the airport, my wife Sharon told me she really wanted to go to the conference with me this year, because she knew I would win and she wanted to be there to see it. She may have said something early on, but she never pursued it because it would be an expensive trip and we had a lot of expense this year. I could see it in her eyes. She honestly believed I would win. She deserved to come along if she wanted to; I could never do any of this without her love and support. Had I known sooner, I would have found a way to cover the cost—but it was too late.

On my way to the stage, I pulled out my cellphone and called her. I had just stepped onto the stage when she answered and I gave her the news from the podium. I can’t recall every word of my acceptance speech; I wish I had a recording so I knew what all I said. There is, however, one part I remember well. I thanked God for the woman on the phone, someone who was not surprised to hear I had won first place, would not be surprised when I receive a contract from the wise publishing house that buys The Voice, and she will not be surprised if one day she sees my name on a best-seller list. She believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself, sees great things in me I cannot always see, and is the very best Gift God ever gave me, second only to Salvation. She’s my wife, Sharon, and without her I would have never been at that podium.

I concluded by having all 600 or so attendees greet Sharon as I held up the phone. I believe the resounding roar made even the rowdy, chicken-dancing wedding party next door pause, even if for only a moment.

So, I’m now a Genesis winner. There was a lot of interest in The Voice before the awards, and even more afterward. I have editors and agents pursuing me, quite a change from the normal routine. As I told a couple of folks that night, my new goal is to become disqualified for next year’s Genesis contest (contracted authors are ineligible).

I’ve had my thirty seconds of fame and I’m back in Little Rock, back at the keyboard, getting back into the routine of life. Before me stands a frightening question.

Can I deliver what I’ve promised?

Watch this space and find out.

On Don Imus and Racial Slurs

I’ve been biting my tongue and slapping my hands ever since the flap with Don Imus and his comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team hit the news. Well, okay, I haven’t been biting my tongue, as my wife will surely attest. But, the time has come when I’ve got to speak my mind through my fingers–so here it is.

I don’t agree with or approve of Don Imus’ put-downs, either of the Rutgers team, or fat people, or any of his other targets. His radio show isn’t (make that wasn’t) on in my market, and if it were, I wouldn’t listen to it unless it was on one of my stations and I was working out a problem that required me to listen.  After thirty-five years in the radio business, I know that’s the most effective way to deal with offensive radio hosts–don’t listen.  When people don’t listen, radio programming changes. It’s one of the laws of the broadcasting universe.

Should Imus be fired? I don’t think so, at least not for this particular infraction. It was fairly mild compared to some of his shtick.

But, now that Imus has been fired for racially insensitive remarks, does this mean that other radio hosts who make racially insensitive remarks are on the chopping block? For example, the well-known, nationally syndicated black guys whose programs routinely contain insensitive racial slurs toward white folks? Probably not. It seems that we live in a land that openly supports racial double standards. It’s okay for a black radio host to make fun of white folks. If white hosts make fun of black folks, that’s different. If a white person complains about the racial slurs made against them, we’re told that our complaint is racially insensitive, and we are called racists. I speak from experience.

The other day I heard Harry Smith of the CBS Early Show interviewing a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists. He asked a fair question–the term “ho” is common in Hip-Hop culture, so how do we define who is permitted to say that and who is not? The NABJ representative non-answered the question–twice. Why? It was a legitimate question, and as a journalist the interviewee should have been prepared with an answer.  My question is even deeper:

Why do we even have a “National Association of Black Journalists” in the first place?

It is by definition a racially discriminatory organization. If someone formed a “National Association of White Journalists,” it would be branded as a racist organization before the ink was dry on their charter. Why is it that the “National Association of Black Journalists” isn’t considered a racist organization? It’s simple, really: it’s a racial double standard. Apparently, some people are allowed to be racists in America.

Jesus had simple, straightforward attitude about racial discrimination: He would not tolerate it in his disciples–period. Racism in any form is wrong. What Don Imus said was wrong. Treating any person in a different manner than someone else because of their race is wrong.

Racism in any form is wrong.

Period.

In any direction.

By the way, Cingular 3G is live in Little Rock!

I actually discovered that Cingular’s 3G HSDPA data service was up and running a while back, and verified that it was there (testing if nothing else) when I got the new Dell Latitude D820 with its built-in HSDPA card. It worked pretty well back then, and it’s still working well today. The difference is that I have reasonable evidence that Cingular is about to admitthat it’s up and running. My first indicator was a chat I had the other day with a Cingular tech at one of their cell sites where I have a radio transmitter on the same tower. The second indicator is that I installed a Cingular-branded Sierra Wireless Aircard 860 3G PC card modem for one of our on-air talking heads who will soon be yakking about the new service on the radio. He’s about as technically astute as a pan of macaroni and cheese, but he’s a “Personality,” so it’s assumed that his endorsement will move consumers to flock to their favorite Cingular store and snap up those $49 cards ($149 with $100 rebate) and $79.99 Laptop Connect plans. They may be right, although I’ve observed that there are a lot of tech-savvy types who will quickly see through the “personality with talking points” endorsement. That could work against marketing to that segment. I once proposed doing some endorsements from a more techie person with on-air experience — such as myself — but it never got past the station sales types, who generally think “personalities” are better than “people who know what they’re talking about.” Go figure.

I’m waiting patiently (well, alright… notso patiently) for Cingular to release their Cingular 8525, a WM5 PDA phone with HSDPA. It will be the first actual hand-held data device (I don’t count phones with WAP browsers as data devices) to use the new 3G service. I want one. I can’t stomach Blackberry’s devices, because they have lousy web browsers and no third-party software. WM5 isn’t the best thing on the planet, but it’s manageable and there are lots of excellent applications, many that I already have on my Dell Axim X50v PDA.

Hey, Cingular… want a real-world beta tester? Maybe a technically-qualified endorser? An engineer with a big mouth? 😉

So far, HSDPA has been encouraging. I’m looking forward to experimenting with using it for remote broadcast audio — it could be just what we’ve been waiting for in Little Rock.