Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lessons I've learned

As any of my students can confirm, I'm big on planning. When I go into the field, I make sure my equipment is working properly, I have extra batteries, and I always have back-up equipment. There is nothing more frustrating than finishing an interview that you thought was recorded, only to find out that (oh no) the tape recorder wasn't turned on or that the batteries went dead.

This type around, I decided to go high-tech. I bought a digital voice recorder. I love it, too. I bought a low-end (~$100 USD) Olympus D-2 that connects to my Mac via USB so I can download my audio files with no problem.

Until today.

I was in the middle of an outstanding interview with my neighbor, Julia (mentioned below). She's been here for over 2 decades, knows the history of San Miguel, and for years wrote the gossip column for Atención, the San Miguel bilingual newspaper. She has hours of stories, lots of free time, and can put me in contact with the most important old-timers (i.e., people who have lived here for 20+ years. In short, Julia is a folklorist's dream informant.

Until my digital recorder stopped working. I bought the D-2 because it has 18 hours of recording time. Yesterday I cleared the memory to be sure I'd be set to work with Julia today. About 45 minutes into the interivew, the recorder started beeping "memory almost full." I was only a few doors down from our house, so I apologized and excused myself from Julia's company and went home to download the files. When I did, however, the recorder kept telling me that the memory was full. I tried to delete another file I had missed. Then, the recorder just stopped working. It would turn on, show me the date and time, but would not record at all.

So, I went to plan B: using my MacBook and Soundstudio software to record the interview. Later tonight I found out that there is a bug in Soundstudio 3 (it keeps asking me to register and I've done that) and won't boot up. Discouraged, I walked back to Julia's to apologize and ask if we could reschedule. She was gracious, and quipped, "What, do you think I've got too many other things to do?" She is a wonderful person, very patient, and I can't wait to hear what else she has to say

But, my recorder is broken beyond repair (unless the Support Desk at Olympus can give me a hand via e-mail tomorrow). So, I'll head out to the Radio Shack (yes, they have those here) and see if another recorder is available. I've also reloaded Sound Studio, and it now appears to be working fine, so we'll see.

So much for planning ahead.

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