Turtle Wax makes me look smart!

My latest TV commercial just debuted. It’s for Turtle Wax’s new line of car-care products. Not only is that the smartest I’ve looked in years, but it’s also the most car washing I’ve done in a decade.

Check it out!

Proper Email Technique

emailI know this might sound kind of dumb or even come off as condescending, but I feel I need to drop a little knowledge on proper email technique when it comes to ‘To’, ‘CC’, and ‘BCC’. I find that these are rarely used properly and thought I might try to do my part to change that.

Obviously, the simplest email is 1:1. Jon emails Bill. Bill’s name goes in the ‘To’ field. Done.

I think were it gets a bit confusing is when there’re multiple recipients and how those recipients relate to the message. So, for example, if I want to say something to Bill, Susan, and Claire, I would put all of their names in the ‘To’ field. I would also address the email to all of them, e.g, “Dear Bill, Susan and Claire” or “Hi all”.  I would not put one name in the ‘To’ field and the other’s in the ‘CC’ field while speaking to all of them.

If I want to say something to Bill, but I want to make Susan and Claire aware of what I’m telling him, then I’d put Bill’s name in the ‘To’ field and Susan and Claire in the ‘CC’ field. The message would be addressed only to Bill. In this instance, I’m not speaking to Susan and Claire, just letting them listen in on the conversation with Bill’s knowledge.

If I want to say something to Bill and let Claire and Susan listen in on the conversation without Bill’s knowledge, then I’d put Bill in the ‘To’ field and Susan and Claire in the ‘BCC’ field. This would let them see the email I send to Bill, but without him knowing.

And in case you’re wondering, and not old like me, CC stands for Carbon Copy, which is how things used to be duplicated back in the day. There would literally be a sheet of carbon in between two pieces of paper and when you wrote on the top sheet, it would make a ‘carbon copy’ on the bottom sheet. Some written forms still use this method, but it’s rare. BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy, with the blind referring to the recipient’s lack of knowledge about the other people seeing the copy.

I hope this helps!

Unread. Deleted.

unread_deletedI was discussing online dating (shocker) with someone the other day and I mentioned the fact that I’d setup several ‘boilerplate’ emails that I used on various sites to contact women. These cut-and-paste emails are written in a way that’s just generic enough so that I can use them again and again for an initial engagement. I’ve been doing this for years.  However, I don’t do it every time. When I find someone that truly strikes me, I write a personal, well-thought out email.

The person I was talking to asked why I didn’t write a personal email to each prospective date and my response was simple: unread, deleted.

Unread deleted is the status indicator for when a woman does exactly that with a message I write. She doesn’t read it, she just deletes it after viewing my profile. Basically, either my pictures or description is not up to her standards, so what I wrote in the message doesn’t matter to her. This infuriates me to no end.

Many times I’ll come up with a clever email or something that really digs into what she wrote in her profile. I put honest-to-goodness thought into it and try to craft something that will catch her eye. Only, it’s wasted. It’s not even looked at. It’s discarded with nary a thought. I hate that.  To me, it says that your personality is worthless, it’s all about your looks.  I don’t like what I see, so who you are is irrelevant.

This wouldn’t goad me so much if it wasn’t for the fact that women constantly complain that men are shallow creatures. That they don’t look inside and only care about the outside. It seems that there’s a bit of pot-calling-the-kettle-black going on here.

This is the reason why hundreds of women throughout the years have all gotten the exact same message from me and hundreds more will receive it in the future.

Trying to do too much

There’re two things that happened over the course of the last few weeks that made me think about theJust Say No topic of spreading yourself too thin.

The first, was an offer that came my way to be a part of a new room that’s trying to get off the ground. I was approached to be a part of a team that’s trying to promote a room in South Florida for comedy. I think it’s a great idea and I love the room, but I paused to really take stock of all of the things I have going on. Between co-hosting the Wake Up Late with Dougie Show once a week, co-hosting my own weekly podcast, Coming Up Short along with Eric Rosenblum, and the fact that I want to perform as much as possible, I was very hesitant to give the thumbs up. In the end, after some serious contemplation, I passed.

The other item that made me think of this topic is a conversation I had just the other night with a fellow up-and-comer. He, like me, is single and we were discussing dating. He told me that he’s made the conscious effort to dedicate time and energy to dating and finding someone to be in a relationship with. I, on the other hand, have the exact opposite feeling. I’ve actually made the conscious decision to not date. I started to think about what I really want to do and what’s really important to me right now and getting into a relationship was very low on that list. To that end, if my goal is not to get into a relationship, then really what’s the point of dating? It’s a time-consuming and expensive process. Both of those resources, time and money, can be better spent elsewhere right now I think.

Having said that, I’m not opposed to dating someone and/or being in a relationship, I’m just not dedicating any effort to it right now. If the right girl magical appears at my doorstep, I’m not slamming the door in her face; though, I’m not holding my breath for that to happen anytime soon.

I’m reminded of something I read about Steve Jobs and his thoughts on progress and achievement. I don’t remember the exact quote, but the gist was that a lot of the time, to move forward, it’s more about what you say no to, than what you say yes to.

The Lab – Setting Up My Home Podcasting Studio

My Home Podcasting StudioI’ve just started what is now my second (or maybe third?) podcast, this one being recorded directly out of my home studio. Or, as it was formally called, my spare bedroom that I converted into my office. After a few weeks of trying out different pieces of equipment, I’ve finally settled on several items and have it setup to where everything sounds great and flows smoothly. I figured I’d share this info for anyone that has an interest and hopefully it’ll save you some time and effort.

Before I go on, I just want to add in a little disclaimer: I will be including links to the products that I purchased on Amazon and those links are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one and subsequently buy something, I will get a commission on that sale. I’m telling you this because I want full transparency. I’m not promoting these products because I will earn a commission, but because I actually purchased them myself and use them to produce my podcast.

There are several pieces that you need to buy, the most important of which is a microphone.  I had previously purchased, and still own, a Yeti microphone from Blue. This is a fairly high-end USB microphone that produces fantastic sound. For my first few attempts at podcasting, this is the microphone that I used and it works very well. However, I soon realized that I needed more control over the sound that is coming into my computer (which I am using to record the podcast) then what the USB mic was giving me.

To have better control over the sound coming into my computer, I invested in a desktop mixer. I originally bought the Behringer Q802USB. This features two XLR inputs for microphones, but I quickly realized that I needed more. I returned the Behringer and purchased an Alesis Multimix8USBFX mixer which features four XLR inputs, all with phantom power, as well as two other stereo inputs. It also, as the name implies, features a USB port that connects to your computer that is used to channel the sound from the mixer into whatever software you’re using to record. More on that in a minute.

As the Alesis has XLR inputs, my Yeti Blue mic could not be channeled through the mixer. Blue does make a versions of this mic that features both a USB and XLR connection, but it’s considerably more expensive than just the USB version. Wanting full control of the sound being piped into the computer via the mixer, I invested in a CAD GXL2200 XLR mic. This is a fairly inexpensive XLR mic, but one that receives very high marks on Amazon for its sound quality. I have to say that I am very impressed with its quality both from a build and sound standpoint. I think the Yeti sounds a bit better in terms of richness, but not by much.

The podcast that I record here, Coming Up Short, features another local South Florida comedian, Eric Rosenblum. He decided to purchase his own equipment and ended up buying a ‘package’ deal from Amazon meant to simplify the process. The package he purchased contained an MXL 770 XLR mic, boom stand, pop filter and cable. While this definitely simplified the process and the MXL is a good mic (though not as good as the CAD or the Blue), the boom and filter are kind of cheaply made and I wouldn’t recommend either. I think you’re better off buying a mic and a boom separately. You might spend a little more, but it’s worth it.

The reason I upgraded the mixer is because in addition to Eric and I, we wanted to have in-studio guests. This means that we’d need a third mic (and headphones) for the guest. For this duty, I purchased a Behringer ULTRAVOICE XM8500 and Behringer HPM1000 headphones. Both were pretty inexpensive ($10 for the headphones and $20 for the mic), but they both received lots of positive feedback on Amazon. Furthermore, as this was just the ‘guest’ mic, I didn’t want to spend a ton of dough on something that wasn’t going to get used too often.

To hold the guest mic, I bought a Pyle-Pro PMKS3 Tripod Microphone Stand. It was less than $20, but the quality is FAR superior to that of the one Eric got with his package.  I also grabbed a Hosa HMIC010 XLR cable and foam ‘ball’ windscreen, which completed the guest mic setup.

So, now we’ve got three microphones and the mixer, but we were still missing one crucial piece: a headphone amplifier/splitter. This little box plugs into the headphone-out port on the mixer and, like the name implies, splits and amplifies the signal so that up to four people can use headphones to monitor the sound live. These amp/splitters range in price from $15 to over $100. I originally bought a $15 one made by Pyle and almost immediately sent it right back (it was a pile, alright). The sound that came out of it was scratchy and distorted and it was just all around terrible. I took a step up for my next purchase, which was a Behringer MicroAmp HA400 and it’s perfect. It was only about $10 more than the Pyle and the sound that comes out of it is crisp, clean and clear.

The headphones I use the V-Moda Crossfade LP. I didn’t buy them specifically for the podcast (I bought them a few years ago), but I absolutely love them, especially in this application. The sound is warm and rich and they’re very comfortable to wear.

With our hardware set, I needed to figure out which software to use. Probably the most used recording software for podcasting is Audacity, mainly because it’s available on both Windows and Mac (I’m a Mac user) and it’s free. It’s a good bit of software that’s been around for a while and it’s pretty powerful. Having said that, it’s still pretty much a straight-up recorder/editor. There are some effects that it comes with and you can add plugins, but there’s not much else to it.

As a Mac user, I chose to go with Audio Hijack 3 from Rogue Amoeba.  This has been a pretty amazing piece of software since the beginning as it allowed you to grab sound from any application on your machine (hijacking the audio, get it). With the 3.0 version, it’s gotten even more amazing.

Now, you’re able to build setups using drag and drop ‘blocks’ that you just connect to each other. You can create multiple setups, then save and reuse them. The beauty is, you don’t have to mess with the rest of your system settings. You just create these setups in Audio Hijack and they work while you’re recording. Once you close the program, everything goes back to the way it was on your system. So, for example, I use Spotify to pump music into the podcast. However, I don’t want Spotify (or my entire system’s sounds) running through my mixing board at all times. With Audio Hijack, I set it up so that when I’m recording the podcast, Spotify gets routed through the mixing board. Once I’m done, everything goes back to the way it was.

You can add it effects, record in multiple formats, get audio from literally any program on your computer (great for bringing on a guest via Skype) and so much more. I love it and recommend it to anyone using a Mac.

Finally, and while this really has nothing to do with my home studio, it’s still a part of the process, I use Podbean to host the podcast. For $36 a year (yes, a YEAR). You can upload your podcast episodes and Podbean will do the rest. They create an RSS feed for you (for subscribers), you can send your podcast to iTunes and it’ll even track statistics (plays, subscribers, etc.,). It super simple and is definitely worth the money.

Well, that’s it. I hope this helps if you’re trying to setup your own home studio. If you’ve ever been interested at all in having a podcast, I say go for it. It’s lots of fun and starting one is (fairly) cheap and easy.