Invasion of Chipmunks [updated July 25]

Update: After getting things to sound reasonably normal when playing our podcasts, I thought I’d try the same thing from other computers. It turns out that the older sermons sound pretty good, and the “fixed” ones sound a little distorted. I think the problem was not in the recordings themselves, but in the machine playing those recordings. The computer I’m typing on now seems to play *all* digital audio so that it sounds a bit chipmunkish. If you’ve been hearing a similar effect on the older audio archives, then your computer may have the same problem. In light of this, I’ve changed the encoding process again to use the 44,100 Hz sample rate in our recorder. If you think this is not adequate, feel free to let me know.

I’ve finally looked into the slight distortion in our audio sermons. It made my voice sound slightly chipmunkish, but otherwise OK. Though I suspected the problem was a mistake on my part, it turns out to be a mistake on the part of our microphone recording device. The non-technical will be glad to know that I can apparently correct it, so hopefully future recordings will sound closer to normal.

The technically-inclined may want to know what the problem actually is. My recording device, a Zoom H2, seems to be using a sample rate somewhat lower than the rate it claims to use. Since I record this audio to compact disc, I use a sample rate of 44.1 kilohertz, meaning there are 44,100 digital samples taken per second. That’s the standard for audio CDs. However, when the CD has been made, or when your computer plays a file made with the incorrect assumption that the source audio was truly recorded at 44.1 khz, it results in some distortion of the sound. The effect is the same as with a tape recorder that runs slower than it should. When the tape is played on a correctly-running tape player, voices will be chipmunkish.

The solution for now is to have the recorder use a sample rate of 48 khz (an industry standard for DVDs and other media), which turns out to be a little lower than that as well. Then, when I encode that audio data for compression, I override the incoming audio file’s reported 48 khz sample rate with a sample rate of 44.1 khz. The result sounds much better in testing.

On a related note, I apparently upgraded some of the software needed to add a service to [the sermon audio archives]

on our web site, and the new version changed something. It rendered unusable the mp3 files from the first four Sundays in May, but I was able to restore the most recent one after finding and fixing the problem. The Speex files were unaffected.

: http://www.bethanythedalles.org/sermons.php

When the Culture Has Become Hostile to Faith

[Gene Edward Veith][veith] quotes [Anthony Sacramone][as], describing the way the Christian Church responds to a hostile culture. For a long time now, many have assumed that the American culture we live in somehow promotes, or at least allows Christian values. It has become evident over the years that this is not only untrue, but that our culture has been actively undermining and deconstructing Christian values. The goal of this strategy is the destruction of the Church, even here in the United States. Understand that when I write “Church,” I mean genuine believers everywhere who gather around God’s Word and Sacraments, not the visible institutions of this world that we call “churches.” It is the Church of Jesus Christ to which our culture is hostile, and this is evident in those congregations and church bodies that have abdicated the pure teaching of holy scripture. Those are the ones that our culture affirms, while faithful congregations and church bodies are condemned as “haters” and “intolerant.”

[veith]: http://www.geneveith.com/aliens-in-a-strange-land/_2267/

[as]: http://strangeherring.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/barbarians-really-grate/#more-6802

So it has ever been in this fallen world, and the sooner we accept the reality, the better prepared we Christians will be. In the article that Veith quotes, Sacramone points to the ways various denominations have established a foothold in the hostile culture. For Lutherans, he mentions Christian day schools, while for Roman Catholics and others, he mentions hospitals. He points out that socialized medicine may eliminate the most important characteristics of Christian hospitals, but our hostile culture has long attempted to compromise the foothold of Christian schools, too. In this phase of the struggle, things may be going better for our schools than for hospitals, but the next phase may bring something else. An evaluation of the current public school curriculum reveals an active agenda there that is hostile toward Christianity, and bent upon programming students with a secular worldview. This presents serious challenges to Christian parents, who are often at a disadvantage in the time they have available to spend with their children. At the moment, I am thankful that my own family is able to provide a Christian school at home, and I am happy to offer [materials like this][memorywork] for families and schools that can make some use of it.

[memorywork]: http://www.bethanythedalles.org/download/memorywork.pdf

The hostility of culture toward our faith is worth much meditation and prayer. Maybe there are other ways for us to establish a foothold for our faith, or to raise our children to be the future of the Church. But finally, we must concede that our own strength is not enough. The Church is founded upon the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, and only upon that foundation will she stand through the End.