Get a better microphone…

Now that we’re computer conferencing all the time, I needed a better microphone, (My MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone doesn’t work well. The volume is too low – perhaps there’s something wrong.) I suspect many others would benefit from a better microphone, too. Not only do they give a better sound, but a microphone close to the mouth minimizes other nearby sounds.

So I went on a quest to find a better solution. I found a variety of options, and tested several. I put my notes here so I can remember:

  • Bluetooth earpieces Any Bluetooth headset/earpiece that is advertised to work with your cellphone will probably work. They’re lightweight, have decent microphones, and boast a certain amount of noise cancellation. (Look for ones that can be paired to two devices, so you can use it with both your computer and your cell phone.) I own the Plantronics M70 – it works fine, and has 11-hour talk time (and when I don’t use it, the charge lasts for weeks). Apple AirPods or knock-offs should also work well, although I have not tested them.
  • Earbuds with cables Apple EarPods (corded) ($15 with shipping from MacSales) or from Amazon work fine for videoconferencing.
  • External microphone if you want to include multiple people on your end, or if you don’t want to be “cabled” to the computer… I own the Amazonbasics Desktop Microphone because it was highly-rated in a Wirecutter article. It works great.
  • USB Audio In Since not all computers have a combined headphone and microphone jack, you can add a USB “sound card” to virtually any computer. I checked out the TROND External USB AudioAdapter Sound Card and it works fine with all the 1/8 inch (3.5mm) audio inputs.
  • Gaming headsets These large (and heavy) headphones have a microphone on a stalk to pick up your voice. I own one, and it works just fine. But it’s obtrusive (viewers see those “cans” on my head) and not terribly comfortable. There are a zillion options: you can Google “gaming headset” to see the range.
  • My favorite For years, I used a Plantronics headset with my cordless phone. It’s lightweight, has good sound, and it’s cheap ($20). But it has a 2.5mm plug – so I bought an adapter cable ($8). This plugs right into the headphone jack of my MacBook Pro (both headphone and microphone work perfectly). But if this doesn’t work on your computer, get the TROND adapter.

All this assumes your computer has either USB, Bluetooth, or 1/8 inch/3.5mm headphone inputs. (All modern computers do.) I’ve included links to Amazon, but most items are available from lots of places.

Let me know what you’re using for your videoconferencing pleasure – richb.lyme@gmail.com. Thanks!

Enable Virtual Public Meetings

Change.org is hosting a petition calling on Governor Chris Sununu of NH to allow for “virtual meetings” for the normal business of towns and municipalities. I would include Select Boards as well as those listed below. As I said on the petition page:

It will be months before we are “back to normal”. Most town boards or committees might be able to “skip a meeting” because of an emergency. But real residents have real needs, and cannot realistically wait for boards that have been shut down for a protracted period of time.

Specifically, the petition requests the Governor to:

  • Allow and encourage for both state and local municipal boards to continue with standard timelines and regularly scheduled board hearings through a virtual meeting template, such as Zoom. This includes, but is not limited to, historic district commissions, conservation commissions, planning and zoning boards.
  • Allow and encourage board members, city staff, design professionals and the public to participate through an open video forum and email regardless of city or town charter.
  • Provide state guidelines on how the local municipalities should conduct meetings and insist that mandated timelines for board decisions be maintained.

If you agree, please go to the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/new-hampshire-governor-chris-sununu-enable-virtual-public-meetings-for-planning-and-zoning-boards-in-nh and pass the word to your friends. Thanks.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Renewable Sources of Energy article on the Warrant

I am pleased to present my first “guest posting” here on the blog. I support this article, and I hope you can cast your vote on the ballot at Town Meeting, March 10, 7am to 7pm.

Jim Nourse has been working over the last six months to gather support for an article on the Warrant in March to encourage the Town of Lyme to use 100% renewable sources of energy by 2030. Here’s his open letter to the Town, with the text of the Article 22 appended:

As we look forward to Town Meeting, I wanted to give you an update on where the effort to put forward a warrant article moving the Town and its residents away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy stands. The Energy Committed has voted 7-0 to support this article; the Select Board voted 3-0 to support the article. I have attached the article below.

I will be speaking in favor of the article at Little Town Meeting on Tuesday, March 3, 7 pm. I would love some support, if appropriate, from members of the audience. I would also encourage you to talk about the article with your neighbors and friends. It would send a very clear message if the votes at Town Meeting were overwhelmingly positive. A few talking points:

  1. This article is a non-binding advisory article to give a “sense of the Town” in moving in the direction of a non-fossil fuel energy future. As such it does not mandate any actions by either town officials or residents. It is assumed that town officials and residents will continue to be fiscally prudent as we make this transition.
  2. The Energy Committee sees this as the start of a town-wide conversation about how Lyme makes a transition to a non-fossil fuel, sustainable future.
  3. The article discusses the major reasons that this transition is both necessary and immediate. Fossil fuels are finite in supply and even as advances in technology make it possible to extract the remaining supplies (think fracking as an example), the cost of that extraction will continue to become more expensive. And, perhaps the most important reason, the need to solve rapidly intensifying climate change which in large part is driven by our burning of fossil fuels.
  4. People will ask what this transition might look like. If, as we expect, most voters support this article, it will give the Select Board and town committees a clear sense that this is the direction the town wishes to go in. It might mean a review and reshaping of energy guidelines for new municipal construction. It might mean the amending of zoning regulations to make it more conducive for community solar projects. It will guide the town’s committees as they update the Town Master Plan. It will most likely mean more community-wide initiatives like Weatherize and Solarize Lyme. It may lead to increased collaboration with area towns to aggregate electricity purchases in an attempt to both secure the most economical rate as well as purchasing from renewable sources of electricity. It may mean seeking state and federal grants for renewable energy projects. It will mean making sure that those residents who cannot afford to move to renewable energies are included in projects that provide access to those energies that are affordable.
  5. A final point for me is the recognition that this transition will not be easy or straightforward. There will probably be times when the town or residents choose a “better” alternative, but not the “best” alternative given financial or logistical limitations. People may wonder how we will ever arrive at 100% renewable electricity by 2030, or for heating and transportation by 2050. My response is that these are goals, that the sooner we begin to work towards them, the farther along we will be. If by 2030, only 65% of our electricity comes from clean, renewable sources then that’s still more than it is today.

And speaking of beginning right away – there are two town projects on the immediate horizon that should be influenced by a goal of transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. You will most likely hear about these at both town meetings. The pellet boilers that serve the town garage are in need of replacement and there are plans to construct a new fire station. There are choices in what type of heating source to install as well as design choices for the new fire station that will impact whether it can be easily retrofitted to renewables, i.e. PV panels, in the future. I hope that you will add your voices in calling for those in charge of making these decisions to move away from fossil fuels and towards a future of renewable energy.

Many thanks for your support of this transition. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Best,
Jim

Article 22-Renewable Sources of Energy

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at
https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Warrant-Article-22-Final-02.20.2020.pdf
)

Public Meetings, February 22 & 25

There will be two public meetings at the Converse Library in Lyme to discuss the petitioned Planned Development amendment. Not only does it provide a measure of fairness for landowners near commercial properties on Route 10 but it enables new housing opportunities here in Lyme.

I support this Planned Development amendment. We all know that Lyme (and the entire Upper Valley) have a housing problem. Seniors can’t downsize in Lyme, many people who work here can’t afford to live here, and there’s no economical way to build modest price housing.

We are looking for a lively but civil conversation on this important topic. Please attend and let your friends know about the meetings. Thank you.

Saturday, February 22, 11am, Converse Library
Tuesday, February 25, 7pm, Converse Library

 

Linkblog

  • Senior Housing in the Valley News The Valley News discusses the upcoming special work session on Monday, 25 Nov to work on the language for senior housing. It’s interesting to note that the draft language still does not permit either of the kinds of development received as public input.
  • Senior Housing at Lyme Planning Board The draft that resulted from the 25 Nov meeting. This meeting has been continued, and the Board will meet again on 2 Dec 2019.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

What are your plans?

Back in October, I was fortunate enough to run into Mike Kiess from Vital Communities at the NHHFA Housing and the Economy Conference. Mike suggested that I could ask people what kinds of housing would serve their needs. His questions:

  1. What are your plans? At some time in the future, you may choose not to live in your current home. Where would you like to live? What options would you want?
  2. What services do you think you’ll need over time? Who will provide them? Will they live in Lyme? If not, how far do you expect they will have to travel to get to you?
  3. What’s going to happen to your current home? Are there Lyme residents who might move in? Or will you hope/expect that it will be someone from out of town?

So, what are your plans? I’d like to hear them – richb.lyme@gmail.com or maybe we can have coffee. Thanks!


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

55 is too young for me

At the last meeting, the Planning Board discussed potential changes to the Ordinance to permit some form of senior housing in Lyme.

The first proposal was to use the Federal HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995) definition of, “at least 80 percent of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older per unit…”

The immediate judgement from the Board was that 55 years was too young to be used for Lyme’s definition of senior housing. You can view the discussion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhDsnEmhrTw&t=6516

If you have opinions about this, please consider attending the next Planning Board meeting on 10 October 2019, at 7:00pm in the Town Offices. If you cannot attend and wish to express your thoughts, you can send a note to the Planning and Zoning Administrator to be read at the meeting at zoning@lymenh.gov and please cc: me – richb.lyme@gmaiil.com


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Proposals for Senior Housing

The Planning Board is considering changes to the Lyme Zoning Ordinance to permit the development of Senior Housing. I propose to use the existing Planned Development language to permit a broad range of housing for seniors.

Planned Development allows placing multiple buildings on a single parcel, multiple dwelling units within a building (up to six), and retains the dimensional controls of the district, which means that construction under Planned Development could not be any larger than would already be allowed on the lot. The three proposals are:

  1. Create a new definition: Senior Housing is a living arrangement where at least 80 percent of the occupied units include at least one resident who is over the age of 55.
  2. Change the definition of Planned Development 4.49A to say, “Planned Developments may be 100% residential. At least 15% of the floor area shall be reserved for residential use. “
  3. Change Article IV so that a Planned Development for Senior Housing is permitted on any parcel with frontage along NH Route 10.

I submitted the following document to the Planning Board for review at their next meeting on Thursday, 26 September 2019. If you can, please attend the meeting to give your input at 7:00pm in the Town Offices.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Proposals for Senior Housing

(Can’t read the PDF above? Download it at https://RandomNeuronsFiring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Proposed-Senior-Housing-Amendments-25Sep2019.pdf)

‘President of Seiko’ Strategy for Receiving Good Service

A long time ago, my watch wouldn’t keep time. It’s a Seiko Kinetic with a dark green face. I like it a lot: it’s a mechanical (analog) watch, but it’s electronic, keeps extremely accurate time, and I never have to worry about batteries. When it stopped working, I sent it to be cleaned at a local jeweler, and then they sent to the factory a couple times, but the problem persisted.

My good friend and business partner Stuart suggested that I Fedex the watch to the President of Seiko, with a nice note asking what can be done. About three weeks later, my watch came back, working perfectly, no charge. And it has continued to function perfectly to this day.

Why did this work? Like Seiko, every company president has a team whose job is to take care of problems. They are charged with “making things right”, so the problem doesn’t even need to reach the desk of the president.

If you’re receiving poor customer service, find out the name of the president of the division or company – the higher up, the better. (Google is your friend).

Prepare a short, polite note telling why you are disappointed by their service. Give specific details about the problem, and what you have done to try to resolve it. Name names, if you wrote any down during your calls.

Summarize with something like, “So I decided to ask you for help.” and make a clear request for what would make you happy. (Make sure it’s something they have the power to fulfill.)

Send a real letter – physical stuff still has power at companies. Use overnight or two-day delivery to give bigger impact, and also to confirm they received it. Include “Personal” in the address – it might get more attention.

At the worst, it’ll cost you a few bucks for the Fedex. If they blow you off, you can savage them publicly. But if they do the right thing – and lots of times they will – they give you a great story for social media.

US Robotics Acoustic Coupler

Ahhh… the memories… Back in the day (around 1978), I had one of these beauties. All you had to do was place the telephone handset into those cups (really! [1]), dial up your favorite server, and Presto! You were on-line at 300 bits per second. And for only $139 – it was heaven!

While rummaging through my files, I came upon its (dot-matrix) printed manual, so I scanned it for posterity. Enjoy!

Photo credit: http://www.swtpc.com/mholley/USR/USR_Modem.htm

[1]: Wait… What? You had to insert the handset into those cups? Why? AT&T insisted on this  to “prevent damage to the telephone system” from third-party (unlicensed, untested, unreliable) equipment. Only after the Carterphone decision in 1968 would AT&T allow you to make any sort of electrical connection to the phone network. Before that, you could not connect your own telephone (you had to rent one from AT&T), or a fax machine, or a modem, etc.

USR-310 Acoustic Coupler Manual