The Reason Why

sta-clara-university I owe you an explanation.  Normally, I don’t time-stamp past entries back into the present.  In this case, though, I felt the need to time-stamp the “Getting to Know Me” entry because I anticipated some new visitors after I participated Wednesday morning in a panel discussion about working overseas.

A few months ago, the director of the Santa Clara University career center contacted me.  She was looking for alums who currently live and work overseas to participate in a panel discussion.  I eagerly accepted the invitation, being a strong believer in the importance of networking.

This was to be the university’s first-ever panel discussion hosted via Skype video conference call and streamed live.  It took a few practice calls for the director and the panelists to work out most of the technical glitches.  The experience actually served to illustrate one of the challenges of living and working overseas: unreliable internet service!

SCU Mission Gardens
The lush grounds of Mission Gardens at my alma matter.

The discussion itself lasted an hour and featured eight panelists: two from Thailand, three from China, and one each from India, New Zealand, and Nicaragua.  An hour didn’t give us a lot of time but we were able to talk about what made our work-abroad experiences unique and what suggestions or advice we would give people interested in working abroad.

While there were a lot of different experiences, there were at least two common themes:

  • First, the importance of networking.  Whether through your alumni association or just through informal socializing, when you live abroad, many of your best breaks will happen because of a friend-of-a-friend or an “Oh, I was just talking to someone the other day who is looking for someone with that skill” conversation.
  • Second, you really have to be patient and take the big picture view.  Living overseas – and especially working overseas – involves a lot of challenges and uncertainties.  Few things ever go the way you plan and even fewer go easily.  Being able to put things in context and not let small things bend you out of shape will help save your sanity.

Near the end of the call, I shared my blog address as an additional resource for people who might be curious what life in Thailand is like.  That’s why I anticipated some new traffic.  If the first thing they saw was a picture of the emergency slide rafts of a Boeing 747, they might get the wrong impression.

If you are interested, you can view the recorded event here at Livestream.com.  There were a few technical glitches but all in all, still interesting.

 

Building a Better Acoustic Screen

After I resolved the issue of not having a monitor stand wide enough for my new laptop computer, I had to address the next item on my to-do list: building a proper acoustic screen to reduce extraneous noise when recording audio.  A major responsibility in my work is creating online training materials.  One part of this is recording the narration that accompanies the training.

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The condo unit I use as an office has concrete walls and ceilings and a tile floor.  From an acoustic perspective, the room is very “live”.  My previous arrangement was to use a stack of throw pillows, carefully balanced, to try and reduce the noise.  Not only was this prone to collapsing in the middle of a recording session, but it also didn’t do a very good job reducing the noise.

Over the past few months I had tried to source acoustic foam panels here in Bangkok, an elusive product that exists but nobody actually seems to sell.  Finally, after going to a high-end audio shop that I had been told would have the foam, an employee there told me to go to the Ban Mor district near Chinatown.  “That’s where everyone gets everything,” he explained.

Ban Mor is about two blocks of a small soi, or alley, located across from the Old Siam shopping center.  I go there all the time with Tawn but never realized we were literally across the street from the electronics district.  Going from shop to shop on the crowded street, I finally located a speaker store that sold sheets of acoustic foam.

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Truth be told, this foam isn’t the same high-density acoustic foam that I originally had in mind.  But it is dense enough to do the job and was not too expensive.  I brought the sheets home along with some plastic fiberboard then started constructing the acoustic screen.  The idea was to measure carefully so the the two panels would hinge closed with the foam fitting together like crocodile’s teeth.  This way, it folds up flat, allowing for compact storage when not in use.

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After about an hour’s work, I had everything fitting together neatly.  The noise reduction is much better than the pillows I was using before and I don’t have any problems with them collapsing mid-recording.  One more thing I did to improve the quality of the recordings was to purchase a better quality microphone. 

Previously, I was using basically any random microphone you could plug into your computer, just like the ones you might use to talk on Skype.  After some research, I settled on a Snowball USB microphone from Blue Microphones.  This condenser mic has both omnidirectional and cardioid modes and produces professional quality sound.  Pairing that with a pop screen and the acoustic screen and my recordings have improved many times over.

Another project checked off the list!