31 March 2010


Eumerdification: writing to impress academics

Deep in the notes at the back of philosopher Daniel Dennett's 2006 book Breaking the Spell, there's a funny little story:

John Searle once told me about a conversation he had with the late Michel Foucault: "Michel, you're so clear in conversation; why is your written work so obscure?" To which Foucault replied, "That's because, in order to be taken seriously by French philosophers, twenty-five percent of what you write has to be impenetrable nonsense." I have coined a term for this tactic, in honour of Foucault's candor: eumerdification.

The word is much nicer in French, since in English it would be something like shittifying. So here's the definition:

Making academic writing at least 25% incomprehensible crap, to seem smarter.

I love that. I suspect there's some eumerdification in this article I reformatted several years ago.

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15 March 2010


Studying for jobs that don't exist yet

After high school, there are any number of specialized programs you can follow that have an obvious result: training as an electrician, construction worker, chef, mechanic, dental hygienist, and so on; law school, medical school, architecture school, teacher college, engineering, library studies, counselling psychology, and other dedicated fields of study at university; and many others.

But I don't think most people who get a high school diploma really know very well what they want to do after that. I certainly didn't. And it's just as well.

At the turn of the 1990s, I spent two years as student-elected representative to the Board of Governors of the University of British Columbia, which let me get to know some fairly high mucky-muck types in B.C., including judges, business tycoons, former politicians, honourees of the Order of Canada, and of course high-ranking academics. One of those was the President of UBC at the time, Dr. David Strangway.

In the early '70s, before becoming an academic administrator, he had been Chief of the Geophysics Branch for NASA during the Apollo missions—he was the guy in charge of the geophysical studies U.S. astronauts performed on the Moon, and the rocks they brought back. And Dr. Strangway told me something important, which I've remembered ever since and have repeated to many people over the past couple of decades.

That is, when he got his physics and biology degree in 1956 (a year before Sputnik), no one seriously thought we'd be going to the Moon. Certainly not within 15 years, or probably anytime within Strangway's career as a geophysicist. So, he said to me, when he was in school, he could not possibly have known what his job would be, because NASA, and the entire human space program, didn't exist yet.

In a much less grandiose and important fashion, my experience proved him right. Here I am writing for the Web (for free in this case), and that's also what I've been doing for a living, more or less, since around 1997. Yet when I got my university degree (in marine biology, by the way) in 1990, the Web hadn't been invented. I saw writing and editing in my future, sure, since it had been—and remains—one of my main hobbies, but how could I know I'd be a web guy when there was no Web?

The best education prepares you for careers and avocations that don't yet exist, and perhaps haven't been conceived by anyone. Because of Dr. Strangway's story, and my own, I've always told people, and advised my daughters, to study what they find interesting, whatever they feel compelled to work hard at. They may not end up in that field—I'm no marine biologist—but they might also be ready for something entirely new.

They might even be the ones to create those new things to start with.

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17 August 2009


My video course now at London Drugs

Remember my GarageBand training video? The one you can buy from MacVideoTraining (with a 20% discount using the checkout promo code ihr)? This one?

It's now available online from London Drugs too, as well as on DVD in their stores here in Western Canada. Why not buy some copies for your friends (and enemies, for that matter)?

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27 May 2009


Learn GarageBand from me on DVD

My Quick Start to GarageBand video course from MacVideoTraining (a company co-founded by my former podcasting partner Paul Garay) is now available on DVD:

My GarageBand video course now on DVD

You can get it at London Drugs and many other retailers in North America, or if you use the promo code ihr, you can get a 20% discount if you buy a DVD or download online. The discount code also works for John Biehler's iTunes course and other stuff from MacVideoTraining, including bundles.

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10 April 2009


My review of GarageBand '09

30 - GarageBand 09 on iMacOver the past year, I've put myself forward as something of an expert on GarageBand, Apple's intro-level audio recording and podcasting application. I've been using the program intensively, through every version upgrade, since it first appeared in 2004, and I've kept in touch with Apple (through both formal and informal channels) about it ever since.

Plus you can now buy a comprehensive video course I recorded to show you how GarageBand works.

So you might wonder what I think of Apple's newest version of the program. If so, I've just published a big GarageBand '09 review article over at the Inside Home Recording blog, which should interest you. There's also a link to my audio review from a couple of weeks ago.

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22 March 2009


Get 20% off my GarageBand video course

A few months ago I recorded a big series of more than 50 short instructional videos for the Quick Start to GarageBand course at MacVideoTraining.com, a new video training company co-founded by my former Inside Home Recording (IHR) podcast co-host Paul Garay. Some of their other training DVDs are available at lots of retailers throughout North America.

MacVideoTraining.com discount for Inside Home Recording listeners

However, if you want a better deal, you need to do it online. You can buy my course, or one of several others from the company, with a 20% discount on any single video or bundle, through a new affiliate program at IHR. Just go to insidehomerecording.com/mvt and enter the coupon code ihr at checkout.

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03 November 2008


Links of interest (2008-11-03):

Fabulous Weather, Eh?
  • “[Obama] said he likes to go out trick-or-treating, but he can’t anymore. [...] He said he guessed he could have worn a Barack Obama mask.”

  • America contains a strange dichotomy about teenage sex: "Social liberals in the country's 'blue states' tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter's pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in 'red states' generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn't choose to have an abortion."

  • From the same post at The Slog, back in 1970 Aretha Franklin sang and played piano in a lesson in soul that today's diva singers could still learn a thing or two (or twenty) from. In particular, her melisma (one syllable, many notes) is hardly noticeable, because she uses it sparingly and for (perhaps instinctive) emotional emphasis, rather than as a special effect. Maya Rudolph nailed it in this SNL satire in 2006 (sorry for the lousy audio, but you'll get it).

  • Darren, who never adds salt or pepper to a prepared meal, wonders why so many of us do, even before we taste it. Shouldn't food, he asks, be properly seasoned before it arrives?

  • Lisa has some good tips for photography on rainy days (also at TWIP)—especially useful right now in Vancouver.

  • It's inevitable that an article (via Pharyngula) about an estranged son of the despicable Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church provokes a nasty flame war in the comments, but to have Phelps's equally vitriolic daughter Shirley (who obviously keeps up regular ego-surfing) be the first to comment brings it to a new level. Nice work by The Ubyssey, by the way—their journalism and copy editing seem to have improved since my days at UBC a couple of decades ago.

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08 September 2008


Thinking about science

Arches NP Last Light 015b at Flickr.comHow strange that many people find science distant, or useless, or boring, or suspicious. I think the scientific impulse is naturally human, and that only the way some of us learn about it, and the way it is presented in our societies, is what mutes our interest.

Today's link on Daring Fireball to Wired reminded me of that. Writer Clive Thompson says that:

Science isn't about facts. It's about the quest for facts.

A few months ago, web comic xkcd made a similar point in reference to MythBusters:

Ideas are tested by experiment. That is the core of science. Everything else is bookkeeping.

I learned lots of things from my science degree, but the key thing was that it's not a catalogue of knowledge, but a process to find that knowledge. A process that, fundamentally, is fun for the people who practice it. We should all understand that to be the foundation for the many things we have invented and come to know over the past few centuries.

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24 February 2008


Ignorance and bliss

25 January 2008


A good place to learn about podcasting


Todd Cochrane, one of the hardest-working guys in podcasting, and his team at RawVoice have just launched podcastFAQ.com, which looks to be a great one-stop resource to learn about podcasting: what it is, how to find shows, how to make shows, and so on.

As someone involved in three podcasts (Inside Home Recording, Lip Gloss and Laptops, and my Penmachine Podcast), I often get questions about podcasting from both prospective listeners and people interested in making their own shows, so I expect I'll be pointing quite a few people in podcastFAQ's direction.

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