The first was Clive Thompson's latest opinion piece in Wired, "Why We Should Learn the Language of Data," where he argues for significantly more education about stats and probability in school, and in general, because:
If you don't understand statistics, you don't know what's going on—and you can't tell when you're being lied to.
Climate change? The changing state of the economy? Vaccination? Political polls? Gambling? Disease? Making decisions about any of them requires some understanding of how likelihoods and big groups of numbers interact in the world. "Statistics," Thompson writes, "is the new grammar."
The second article explains a key example. At the NPR Planet Money blog (incidentally, the Planet Money podcast is endlessly fascinating, the only one clever enough to get me interested in listening to business stories several times a week), Jacob Goldstein describes why people place bad bets on horse races.
After exhaustive statistical analyses (alas, this stuff isn't easy), economists Erik Snowberg and Justin Wolfers have figured out that even regular bettors at the track simply misperceive how bad their bets are, especially when wagering on long shots—those outcomes that are particularly unlikely, but pay off big if you win, because:
...people overestimate the probability of very rare events. "We're dreadful at perceiving the difference between a tiny probability and a small probability."
In our heads, extremely unlikely things (being in a commercial jet crash, for instance) seem just as probable, or even more probable, than simply somewhat unlikely things (being in a car crash on the way to the airport). That has us make funny decisions. For instance, on occasion couples (parents of young children, perhaps) choose to fly on separate planes so that, in the rare event that a plane crashes, one of them survives. But they both take the same car to the airport—as well as during much of the rest of their lives—which is far, far more likely to kill them both. (Though still not all that likely.)
Unfortunately, so much of probability is counterintuitive that I'm not sure how well we can educate ourselves about it for regular day-to-day decision-making. Even bringing along our iPhones, I don't think we should be using them to make statistical calculations before every outing or every meal. Besides, we could be so distracted by the little screens that we step out into traffic without noticing.
Our minds are required be good at filtering out irrelevancies, so we're not overwhelmed by everything going on around us. But the modern world has changed what's relevant, both to our daily lives and to our long-term interests. The same big brains that helped us make it that way now oblige us to think more carefully about what we do, and why we do it.
Yesterday my wife Air and her co-host KA posted their 150th and final regular episode of Lip Gloss and Laptops, the podcast they started way back in 2006. The blog will continue, with frequent updates about the cosmetics and beauty industry, but the podcast had become too much work.
As for the vast majority of podcasters, the LGL show was a hobby, not any kind of paying job, and so was only worth continuing while it was fun. When KA left as regular co-host earlier this year (she started grad school), the podcast became a lot more work for Air, even with other guest hosts in the interim.
And then my latest new cancer growths dropped our family into a yet more intense pit of chemotherapy and medical treatments and side effects and general hell, so that not only takes more of Air's time, but also makes it more difficult technically, since I've been the engineer and producer of the show since the beginning.
Nearly four years and 150 episodes is a pretty long run for a podcast. Lots of people will miss Lip Gloss and Laptops, me included, but it was a good time while it was going. And you never know—some one-off special episodes might yet appear from time to time.
The podcast I've co-hosted since 2006, Inside Home Recording, has been nominated for a 2009 Podcast Award, in the Education category. We're up against some heavy hitters, such as Grammar Girl and The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, so to have a chance of winning, I'm asking for your help.
Simply go to PodcastAwards.com and choose Inside Home Recording in the Education category. (Feel free to pick any other shows in other categories too.) Then put your name and email address at the bottom and confirm your vote when it reaches your email box. Finally, if you can, please do it again tomorrow, and each day until voting ends on November 30. Each person can apparently vote once per day.
I'm not sure how good a shot we have, and the prizes aren't huge, but it would be fun to win. Thanks!
I'm the co-host of Inside Home Recording and engineer for Lip Gloss and Laptops, my wife's podcast. We're trying the usual social-media methods of garnering nominations for the annual Podcast Awards, which have been running for a few years now and are organized by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.
If you'd like to help out, here's what I'd ask you to do by the deadline of October 18, 2009:
Remember, the deadline is October 18. I'll let you know when the actual voting begins after that, especially if either of our podcasts get in. And of course, please subscribe to the shows if you don't already!
I turn 40 today, and in honour of that, here is "Dodging Buses" (3.7 MB MP3 file), a three-minute instrumental number. Like many of my others, it has that signature Penmachine granky guitar-bass-drums sound, with a hint of AC/DC. I started recording it back in March, using my Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar tuned to an open E chord, but only in this past week did I add bass, mix, and then master it.
The name comes from something I've said numerous times during my past two and half years of cancer treatment: the saying goes that you could get hit by a bus anytime, but personally, I feel like I'm dodging buses every day. It's licensed for you to share and reuse, as long as you give me credit, so have fun with it.
Last year, I wrote about CBC's two radio tech shows, "Spark" and "Search Engine", and how they were sometimes hard to tell apart. CBC management felt the same—"Search Engine" was downgraded from a full radio show to a podcast only last year, and recently got cancelled altogether, despite being one of the network's most popular podcasts.
Fortunately, TVOntario picked it up, and host Jesse Brown has now put out two episodes at the podcast's new home. (You can subscribe using the RSS feed or at iTunes.) The Facebook group stays the same, with the new name. If you were a "Search Engine" listener before, I encourage you to subscribe at the new feed.
And I do have to say, Brown's new clean-shaven look is a big improvement over his old scruffy '70s rock star beard.
My wife's podcast Lip Gloss and Laptops is giving away two $155 Aveda Earth Day gift packs of various cosmetics and body products. The draw is open to Canadian residents only, and you have to enter by the end of Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 2009. If it sounds like your kind of thing, the details are over at the LGL site.
What's the Earth Day connection? I haven't read the press info for the bundle, but I can tell you that the packaging is definitely green in colour, and you get a really sturdy canvas shopping bag if you win too.
Incidentally, I've never known how to say Aveda (or AVEDA, as they sometimes capitalize it). Ah-VEE-dah? Ah-VEY-da? AH-ve-dah? Anyone know?
Over 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.
My first-ever filling is done. As I expected, it was pretty straightforward. It took about 20 minutes once the freezing was in, on a beautiful sunny day with a wonderful view of downtown Vancouver from the dentist's chair. The only surprise was how sore my jaw got from keeping it open the whole time, with the dental dam in my mouth.
The local anaesthesia is starting to wear off now, but even that's not too bad. My upper lip no longer feels like a flap of rubber, for one. Unfortunately, I'm having some of those interminable intestinal side effects from my cancer medication now. That doesn't help, but it does make any residual dental pain the least of my problems.
Time to watch Destroyed in Seconds. It's a good distraction while I'm out of the bathroom. Speaking of distractions, I picked a better one to hear on my iPod during the procedure: the always incisive and funny Savage Love sex advice podcast.
I had to turn up the volume during the drilling.
The shows cover GarageBand '09, Simply Ageless Foundation, different types of audio delay, Barry M Cosmetics, too much Nickelback, and Rejuvelash Natural Declumping Lash Exhilarator. I'll let you guess which podcast addresses which products.
After I took some pictures of the taping of CBC's "Q" last night, I let CBC know about them, and this morning, here was the result:
Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte have used my tune "More Red Than Red" as theme music for their Windows Weekly podcast since 2006. But on their latest episode, they thought about maybe replacing it with the title track from the album "Enigma," by Microsoft's retired chief of Windows development (and longtime guitarist) Jim Allchin. So I tried to dissuade them at the Penmachine Podcast:
The "Turrican Van Halen" reference is part of the Windows Weekly show—it refers to the old Commodore 64/Atari/Amiga game "Turrican."
I made this available as Inside Home Recording TV Episode #5. You can also download it (H.264 video) or watch it at Viddler, Blip.tv, Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo. Licensed for you to share and reuse, as long as you give me credit.
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.
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.
Just slightly over a year ago, I tried to answer a question realistically, not for myself, but for numerous people who ask me. The question was: can you make money from blogging and podcasting? I've been blogging a long time, so some people think I might have an insight there. Who knows, really?
I answered anyway. My answer, in short, was that yes, blogging and podcasting can be your job, just like being a musician can be a job. But for most people, "making money" has to mean making a modest living, working hard (sometimes to the point of burnout), having some luck, and treating it as a small business like any other.
If you expect sudden riches, that's like expecting your garage band to become Coldplay, or your basketball skills to take you to the NBA. Yeah, a miniscule few manage that sort of thing, but it's not wise to bet on being one of them. Even Dan Lyons, who ran the immensely popular (and stingingly funny) Fake Steve Jobs blog for a couple of years, acknowledges that: "I never made enough to quit my day job."
Jason Kottke has a good response to that:
As businesses go, blogging is a lot like shining shoes. There are going to be very few folks who own chains of shoe shining places which make a lot of money and a bunch of other people who can (maybe) make a living at it if they bust their ass 24/7/365. But for many, shining shoes is something that will be done at home for themselves because it feels good to walk around with a shiny pair of shoes.
That's regardless of whether the economy is good or bad. Oddly enough, before I even read that, I shined up a pair of my shoes today. Personally, I have no plans to start a shoe-shining business.
UPDATE: Dave Winer makes an interesting point on this topic.
Back in 2004, I began posting some of my original songs and instrumentals here on my website. Some months later, I turned those postings into a podcast you can subscribe to. In February 2006, I started using Apple's iWeb to publish it.
However, earlier in 2008 iWeb started exhibiting a nasty bug that prevented me from updating the podcast, so Penmachine Podcast subscribers saw their subscriptions lie fallow for eight months. But the drought is over now that I have ditched iWeb, and the Penmachine Podcast is back at (logically enough):
You don't need an iPod or iTunes to listen, just a computer. If you do subscribe, your old subscriptions should automatically update. But if you want to subscribe anew or resubscribe using the new permanent feed address, you can use these:
I'm currently migrating all the old music and spoken word stuff over, and have only made it about half-way back, to 2006. So there are still two years' worth of posts to go back to 2004. You'll see them reappear over the next few days in the feed and on the Penmachine Podcast page. And I'll be posting more new tunes soon!
My wife Air was pretty shocked when her podcast, Lip Gloss and Laptops, won the Best of 604 award for Vancouver's favourite audio/video blog or podcast. At this evening's award ceremony at the Cellar nightclub in Vancouver, they were up against some tough competition, including Tiki Bar TV.
Alas, co-host KA couldn't make it down, so when their win was announced (to a big cheer throughout the room), Air accepted the award from Rebecca "Miss 604" Bollwitt solo. Also cool was that the runner-up for the category was our pal, the legendary Dave Olson. Rebecca will soon post the award results at her website, so check back there for the complete list of winners.
UPDATE December 12: Here's the list of winners. Lip Gloss dominated their category with 35% of the vote—quite a landslide.
Air and I were both nominated for our podcasts and for our personal blogs; in that second category, local mega-marketing blogger John Chow (how did I not know about this guy before?) took the prize, but everyone was pleased as punch that the runner-up was Corinna's Gus Greeper blog, which I wrote about last spring. It's instructive that two so very different blogs—one focused on doing business and making money online, the other intensely personal—can come one-two on the list.
Thanks to Miss 604 and her team for putting together a great event and a fun contest among Vancouver bloggers in just three weeks.
P.S. Kris Krüg made his own list of winners, and named my site here as one of his favourite personal sites. Thank you too, kk+.
1. Ever wonder how great photographers capture amazing images? How do they happen to be there at the decisive moment? Scott Bourne's post at This Week in Photography about his recent photo "Cranes in the Fire Mist" tells you. There is some luck, yes, but much of it is long preparation and experience. Decades' worth, in Scott's case.
2. Today is the last day of voting for the Vancouver-area Best of 604 web awards put together by Rebecca Bollwitt, a.k.a. Miss604. The awards reception is tomorrow night. While of course I suggest that you vote for your favourites in every category, if you need a hint or two, my wife's podcast Lip Gloss and Laptops is nominated in the video blog/podcast category, and her personal site Talking to Air appears in the heavily competitive personal blog list. (Yeah, I got nominated for some stuff too, but why split the vote?)
3. If you listened to Canadian rock music in the '90s, you know the Vancouver band Odds. Well, they're back! After a hiatus of 12 years, earlier in 2008 they released a new album, "Cheerleader," under the name The New Odds. Recently they managed to get the rights to their original name Odds back, so (follow me here) Odds became The New Odds, and are now back to Odds again. Bass player Doug Elliott is a friend of mine, and also plays occasionally with my retro act The Neurotics, and appears on a track on my podcast. If you're on Facebook, join up as a fan on their new Facebook page.
This week I'm spending all day every day at the B.C. Cancer Agency having my blood tested, blood pressure taken, and ECGs done as part of the Phase I clinical trial I'm participating in—hence my lack of blog posts.
It's not much fun, but I do have plenty of free time in between tests. I spent most of today sleeping after a mostly sleepless night of intestinal side effects (now much better). But yesterday I was more awake, and spent some of my time taking an old guitar riff I'd recorded more than two years ago and building an actual instrumental tune out of it. The result is:
There's something of an '80s U2/Police/New Wave feel to the track. I'm not sure where that vibe came from, but it's still pretty obviously one of my kerrang-kerrang geetar instrumentals, as usual. I hope you like it.
For the past two and half years, I've been using Apple's iWeb to publish my Penmachine Podcast of original free MP3 music, interviews, and such. It's always been a pain to use, especially when the files aren't hosted on Apple's .Mac/MobileMe service (which mine aren't), but I kept working with it out of inertia and because it was worth knowing how iWeb works, as well as because I don't update that podcast very often anyway.
But earlier this year, Apple went and broke iWeb for podcasting, and seems in no hurry to fix it. So while I figure out how to migrate my podcast over to some other platform (probably WordPress, but we'll see), I'm just going to post the two new songs I have for it here. I'll add them to the Podsafe Music Network soon too.
Each link goes directly to the MP3 file for the song, so right-click or control-click to download it instead of playing it in your browser. Unless noted otherwise, all MP3s linked from this post are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. Use them as podcast theme music, backgrounds, or remix them, or whatever—just give me credit:
As a bonus, here are all the free MP3 songs (again, mostly instrumental) I've published to the podcast since I started in 2004, in semi-alphabetical order. Tracks with an asterisk * are also available on my album Penmachine Sessions from 2005:
If you missed my interview on CBC Radio earlier today, I have an MP3 file of it available now (5.2 MB, about 12 minutes). I spoke with host Stephen Quinn about all the drastic stuff I've been through since June 2007, including my major surgeries and several chemotherapy regimes, as well as the new phase of my cancer treatment, that of living with the disease rather than simply trying to destroy it.
Incidentally, I had intended on publishing the audio to my Penmachine Podcast too, but Apple's iWeb software, which I use for that, has a nasty bug that's been around since April, and which doesn't seem any closer to being fixed. It prevents me from updating the podcast without a lot of extra work, so I think I'll just plan to switch over to a less awkward podcasting tool in the near future. I'll let you know when that happens—and I'll have some new original music to post there too.
Finally, a new episode of Inside Home Recording should be online tomorrow too.
NOTE: This post is a pure podcasting nerd-fest. If that's not your thing, feel free to move on.
I help run two podcasts published using the fine open-source blogging software WordPress. A few months ago, when the latest version of WordPress, 2.6, came out, I immediately upgraded one of the sites, Inside Home Recording (IHR). Whoops. Mistake. The new version broke the key podcasting plugin we use, podPress.
So I held off upgrading the other podcast, Lip Gloss and Laptops, keeping it at WordPress 2.5 to maintain compatibility while waiting for a podPress upgrade. Over at IHR, where it was too late, I instead installed the new Blubrry Powerpress podcasting plugin as a substitute.
UPDATE 21 Oct 2008: For those of you using the Blubrry Powerpress plugin, there is a new update that fixes the problem I talk about below, which Angelo discusses in the comments. His summary: "We've just made a new version (0.4.0) which now displays an image in place of loading quicktime files. We use a simple blubrry play icon as the default play image, but you can provide your own play image by adding a custom define to your wp-config.php that includes the URL where your custom play image is located. This new option is documented at the bottom of the Advanced Tweaks page for the Blubrry Powerpress plugin." Kudos to the Blubrry team.
Now, Powerpress is fine. It does the job, and recognizes most of the detailed settings from podPress, but it doesn't offer as fine-grained control, and has one major problem: for non-MP3 podcasts, such as the Enhanced AAC files we use at IHR, it puts up a little movie player (as does podPress), but in doing so (unlike podPress) it also starts loading the podcast file whenever someone visits the web page. For pages with a lot of podcast episodes on them (like our AAC episode index, or even our home page), that really slows down page load times, wastes bandwidth, and throws off audience statistics.
So I wanted podPress back, but for various reasons the developer has been very busy, had his site forums hacked by spammers, and has otherwise been unable to update his free plugin to work with WordPress 2.6 for several months now. I couldn't wait any longer.
But it turns out the fix is a simple one. The new WordPress feature that seems to be interfering with podPress is post revisions, which track changes to posts. Cool, but I don't use it. The No Revisions plugin turns off that feature, and voila!, podPress works again too.
So I installed No Revisions at both the IHR and Lipgloss sites, deactivated Powerpress at IHR, upgraded to the latest WordPress at Lipgloss (using the great WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin), and everything seems to be working fine. Page load times have speeded up, simple players are available for all podcast files, and I'm back where I want to be.
If you're a podcaster with similar problems or have been postponing your WordPress upgrade, this solution might work for you too.
When I was a kid, financial news was perhaps the most boring thing in the whole world, except maybe the TV farm report that frustratingly preceded early-morning cartoons. (That farm news seems to have disappeared here in Vancouver. Even the telephone weather line I used to check, pre-web, before bicycling to university each day, no longer reports hay drying conditions in the summer.)
I can't say that my opinion of money and business news has changed much in the intervening decades. It's usually a snore-fest of inscrutable numbers, impenetrable market analysis, and a parade of old guys in dark suits and ties. (Yeah, I hire an accountant to sort out my taxes after my perfunctory sorting of income and expenses each year.) Despite the impacts of global markets on everyone's ability to get a job, buy things, use credit, and so on, it always seemed so disconnected from my daily life that I just couldn't get interested.
Well, these past few weeks have certainly removed world financial news from the "boring" category, but I still can't pretend to understand what's going on very well. If you're like me, I strongly recommend This American Life's recent audio episode "Another Frightening Show About the Economy." Before you listen to that, however, I suggest you check out its predecessor from May 2008, "The Giant Pool of Money," which dissects the American sub-prime mortgage disaster that preceded the current credit crisis.
Both shows do an amazing job of explaining terminology such as "commercial paper," "credit default swaps," "leverage," "financial instruments," and other stuff I never bothered to learn about, and of putting together the chain of insanity that led to today's bizarro state of affairs, where supposedly laissez-faire conservative governments around the world are desperately spending hundreds of billions of dollars to nationalize banks and insurance companies. Even if you work in the finance industry, are a savvy investor, or otherwise have a handle on this stuff, check out the two shows. You'll likely learn something anyway.
John's episode 38 (MP3 file) is titled "Film at 11." I talk about how I now approach making black and white pictures, as well as the cross-processed colour photographs I've taken in the past couple of months. Plus John and I discuss other differences between film and digital photography for archiving and backup.
The podcast I co-host, Inside Home Recording, turned three years old today. That's pretty old for a podcast.
A couple of months ago I noted that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has two technology-focused radio shows, "Spark" and "Search Engine," and that I couldn't always figure out how they were supposed to differ. (In the comments, Darren Barefoot noted that one way to tell is that "'Search Engine' almost always comes with a sense of righteous indignation, which gets a bit old after a while.")
It looks like CBC also wondered why they had both shows, and has now dissolved "Search Engine" as a radio show by having host Jesse Brown report on technology for other CBC Radio programs. This despite "Search Engine" being one of the network's most-downloaded podcasts. So there will still be a compilation podcast, and the blog will continue too.
That's not a bad solution. Of the two shows, I prefer Nora Young's lifestyle-focused "Spark" over Brown's more politically obsessed "Search Engine" anyway, and "Spark" is coming back in much the same form as before. "Search Engine" will be quite different, since Brown will be working on his own without a team of correspondents, producers, and researchers. We'll see how that goes.
It's worth listening to the last regular show of "Search Engine," however. In it, Brown interviews Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice about the lousy new Canadian copyright legislation currently before the House of Commons. Prentice doesn't come across well—but in this case, I think the righteous indignation is appropriate.
I co-host Inside Home Recording, a long-running audio podcast about recording music and other stuff in your home or project studio. Earlier this year we launched InsideHomeRecording.tv, a companion video podcast that offers short tutorials on the same subject. I just put together my first episode, which shows the process I use for my wife's podcast, Lip Gloss and Laptops, to get good sound reasonably efficiently and cheaply:
You can download IHR TV #3 (H.264 video) or watch it at Blip.tv, Vimeo, and Viddler. A shorter version is also on Revver, YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. You can receive IHR and IHR TV updates at twitter.com/ihr. And you can subscribe to either the original IHR audio show or to IHR TV.
Let me tell you, though, video is hard. I constructed this episode using a combination of Final Cut Express (to import high-definition video from our AVCHD camcorder) and iMovie '06—which is an old version of that program—for editing. There was lots of importing and exporting, syncing and chopping up and reassembling, and general mucking around with stuff to get it to something I liked.
The reason I undertook such a convoluted process is that Final Cut Express is a big, hairy, complicated program. It does more than I need, and is nearly impossible to sit down and figure out by using it, while the "re-imagined" new iMovie '08 is too simple, designed with a minimalist set of features for absolute video beginners, which even I am not. But iMovie '06 is the perfect mix for me. Even so, it took hours and hours to put the episode together.
My next one will come together faster, because I've figured out some stuff, but I have a new respect for people who make videos, TV shows, and movies for a living—especially editors.
Almost five years ago, I wrote about my favourite keyboards. Alas, things have changed somewhat: most of the links in my original post are broken, and Apple has stopped making the old transparent black-keyed Pro Keyboard and now produces some interesting but very different super-thin models instead (in between, the company made a tolerable but ho-hum white keyboard that also acted as an excellent crumb tray).
This week, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin wax rhapsodic on their podcast about the ancient Apple Extended Keyboard II, pictured. I have three, as well as two Apple Keyboards (not the Keyboard II) that use the same keys, several miscellaneous USB keyboards, a decent basic PC PS/2 keyboard, and a treasured IBM 101. The 101 is currently hooked up to my eMac with a PS/2-USB adapter, with keys remapped with the Mac's System Preferences.
The Extended Keyboard II and the IBM 101 are the twin holy grails of keyboard nerds. Unfortunately, my EKIIs have been sitting in a cupboard for years because I never got around to buying an adapter to make their Apple Desktop Bus (ADB) connectors work with newer USB Macs. But now Gruber and Benjamin may have inspired me to track one down.
I spent many a year pounding my fingers on an Extended II, in university and as a freelance technical writer. The IBM 101 is a very different beast, also built like a tank but with a more metallic, punchy feel, and an audible note to its astoundingly loud typing sound. As yet no one has been able to replicate what's good about these devices, so if you're a serious computer typist, you'll need to track down a vintage one.
And no, you can't have mine.
You already heard the full-length unedited version of my interview with Nora Young (pictured) of CBC Radio's "Spark." Now here's the edited version in the latest complete episode of the show, with extra bonus material including me reading some of my blog posts, and my podsafe tune "Striking Silver" as background music.
You can download the whole episode as an MP3 file, or if you're subscribed to the Spark podcast, you'll get it automatically. If you prefer to hear "Spark" on the radio, it airs Wednesday, April 30 (tomorrow) at 11:30 a.m. and Saturday, May 3 at 4:00 p.m. (a half hour later in Newfoundland, of course), on CBC's Radio One network, which is 690 AM in Vancouver. This episode also features internetfamous blogebrities such as Merlin Mann and Amber Mac.
As part of my slightly twisted effort to use my cancer treatment as leverage to get me the kind of exposure and fame my more modest general talents haven't done, I was interviewed on Wednesday for the show "Spark" on CBC Radio (as I've already flogged).
You can now hear the full-length talk between me and the always sultry-voiced Nora Young—a voice made even huskier by her fighting a cold at the time. Here's a direct link to the MP3 file (24 minutes, about 33 MB) too. I'll probably link that up at my podcast after the edited version goes to air next week.
I like that "Spark" doesn't have the traditional media attitude of holding on to its source material like a state secret. It's unusual enough for a radio or TV program, publicly funded or not, to post full-length versions of edited interviews online. But to do it days before the final version appears is still more innovative. I'm not sure I'd even do that.
Every weekday on the radio, and weekly on its podcast, the program spends an hour delving deeply into its title. Its documentary producers talk to politicians, physicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, poets, artists, writers, historians, and others about topics as diverse as China's 15th century naval fleet, the modern relevance of Don Quixote, theoretical physics, Picasso and the musical avant-garde in Paris during the 1920s, and golf.
And that's just this week. I heard bits (alas, only bits) of the Chinese navy broadcast last night while I was running errands, and was entranced. I sat in the drugstore parking lot for a few minutes because I couldn't tear myself away.
There is a separate feature page (with RealAudio streams! Who still uses that?) and podcast (with proper MP3s) for the ongoing series "How to Think About Science," which started last year. There are already 17 hours in that group of shows alone.
"Ideas" will grow your brain. I recommend you dedicate some time to it.
CBC Radio has two programs (also available as podcasts) that confuse me a little: "Spark" and "Search Engine." I like them both, but they seem to cover a lot of the same territory of life in the digital age. Sometimes I can't remember which one had a particular segment—was it host Nora Young at "Spark" who interviewed the guy who edits Hillary Clinton's Wikipedia entry? No, it was host Jesse Brown from "Search Engine."
I suppose it doesn't matter. I'm glad there's enough of an audience for my kind of techie social nerdity that CBC has two shows about it. Yay again to Tod for helping the network get on the podcasting train after jump-starting it with the CBC Unplugged show almost three years ago.
Anyway, I'm going to call "Spark" my favourite of the two shows now, because it looks like I'm going to be on it. Nora—that's her on the bike—indirectly heard about my recent talk on life, death, and my blog, and contacted me through Facebook (appropriately enough) to see if I might like to be on "Spark."
One of my weaknesses is appearing in the media. I've always loved seeing my name in print, or being on the radio or TV. So my immediate thought was, "hell yeah!" We'll likely record something next week for the "Spark" episode airing (and podcasting) at the end of the month. More details to follow.
Incidentally, Nora's other podcast, The Sniffer (not affiliated with the CBC), has been on my subscription list for a couple of years now. I recommend it.
I didn't really get podcasting at all until the middle of 2005, which was some months after the technology first appeared in late 2004—and right about the time iTunes started supporting it. The first person to start a real podcast in our family was my wife, who launched Lip Gloss and Laptops with her friend KA in March 2006.
Their show has now reached its 100th episode. That would be a milestone in any medium, but in podcasting it's a big one. A good percentage of podcasts podfade and stop publishing long before their 100th show. Others, like my my personal podcast and the other one I co-host, publish irregularly and so take a long time to rack up the numbers (despite starting back in 2005, Inside Home Recording hasn't even reached episode 60 yet).
But other than a few holidays over Christmas and such, Lip Gloss and Laptops has come out every Wednesday for over two years. Even if you're not into the beauty and cosmetics industry, which it covers, it's an interesting and informative listen. (As the show's audio engineer, I hear every episode.)
So congratulations to Airdrie and Kerry Anne on their 100th show. I'm sure they'll be hearing lots more cheers from their fans around the world too.
Back in February when my podcast co-host Paul and I made our most recent trip down to the Lab With Leo studios here in Vancouver, no one knew that it would be the last shooting week ever for the show. But not long afterwards, Leo Laporte emailed to tell us it was the end of the line: after ten years of creating Call for Help and The Lab for TV in the U.S. and Canada, it had been cancelled.
It's a pity that a tech show like The Lab, which covers a wide variety of topics and doesn't talk down to its audience, couldn't survive—or even get U.S. distribution. Fortunately, Leo (who has been covering technology on radio and TV for decades, and has even won an Emmy award) isn't standing still, and plans to launch an online version of the show in the next few weeks from his studio in Petaluma, California (also, incidentally, the town where Mesa-Boogie manufactures its guitar amplifiers).
As far as Inside Home Recording goes, we've started posting tutorials over at IHR TV, which may later include some live-action explanatory episodes like our segments on The Lab. And though it's far less convenient than driving a few minutes across Vancouver, if we ever find ourselves in California wine country, we might appear on Leo's new show down there too.
Over at Inside Home Recording, we recently started IHR TV, additional short video tutorials that augment our regular longer audio podcasts. As part of that effort, we used some of the money we get from sponsors and advertisers to buy two Panasonic HDC-SD5 high-definition camcorders. (Bought online, two of them cost only very slightly more than a single one at local retail stores.)
The last camcorder my family had, which sits half-broken in our basement, was an old Samsung analogue Video 8 tape-based machine, from 1998. Given the improvements in other consumer electronics, from personal computers to digital cameras to televisions, over the past decade, I'm not sure why I'm so surprised at this little camcorder, but it's a remarkable machine.
Consider, first, that it can record at 1920x1080i "Full HD" resolution, with something like six times the detail of our old camera, using a very nice mechanically stabilized Leica lens. It stores that information not on tapes, but on the same SD cards used by the still cameras and audio recorders we have at the house. The whole camera is only about a third larger, and almost exactly the same weight, as the old Samsung battery—being smaller than my hand, it almost gets lost among its accessories in our camcorder bag.
Perhaps most remarkably, Panasonic has put real thought into simplifying how the camera works. There aren't many buttons and dials, they're clearly labeled, and everything is easy enough to figure out that the manual (which is long and detailed, but only averagely written) is only necessary for some of the more detailed settings. The SD5 even takes pretty nice still photos.
Those huge HD videos, however, require a lot of horsepower to edit: only one of the computers in our house (my Intel MacBook) will even import the massive AVCHD video files directly. And, following the trend in pocket still cameras, there is no longer a viewfinder: you have to look at the pop-out LCD screen to frame your shots. Like too many consumer electronics today, the camera also comes festooned with garish and difficult-to-remove little stickers advertising its features, the software it comes with, and so on. I removed those immediately.
It lacks a couple of pro features that would be useful: the only sound-in is from the stereo microphone, so you can't connect an external mic or line-in sound, which is something I'll work around with a separate audio recorder if needed. (Very cleverly, though, the microphones can focus in on your subject as you zoom the lens, and electronically filter out some wind noise. Nifty.) Similarly, while it comes with cables to send sound and video out to a TV or other device, you can't record video from any source other than the lens, so I can't, for instance, use it to digitize any of our old footage.
With devices like these, it's no wonder people can now smuggle broadcast-quality video out of the world's war zones and trouble spots. We'll see what I can do with this camera and my mediocre video skills for our modest little podcast.
I spoke to the BC Branch of the Editors' Association of Canada a week and a half ago, about how I've integrated my online and offline lives since getting cancer last year. I've now posted an enhanced audio podcast of my talk, which includes my slides as part of the MPEG-4 file (24 MB, about 1 hour).
If you're subscribed to my podcast feed, you may already have the file on your computer or iPod.
My Inside Home Recording podcast co-host Paul has been making instructional videos for macProVideo.com for some time now, and he's good at it. So when he proposed that we start putting out short video podcasts in addition to our regular audio show, I knew they could be useful.
Now we've posted our first episode of Inside Home Recording TV (IHR TV). This one Paul recorded entirely himself. It's about using Propellerhead's ReWire to link their Reason software to Apple's Logic Pro.
We're trying something new with this video podcast. As usual, you can subscribe to watch on your computer, Apple TV, iPod, Zune, or whatever. In addition to posting it on our own site, you can also find each episode free at the video sharing sites Revver, Vimeo, Blip.tv, and YouTube. Plus we post them to Facebook, and will note each new show (audio and video) at Twitter.
There's going to be a podcaster meetup this Wednesday, March 12, 2008. Details:
The End Cafe
2360 Commercial Drive (just north of the SkyTrain)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Alas, I won't be there—I have yet more chemo that day, so that night I'll be in sad shape, curled up in bed watching The Food Network, or sleeping. But my co-host Paul plans to be there, and I'm hoping some of the rest of you will too—if you're not at SXSW in Austin, of course.
You don't need to be a podcaster or blogger or whatever. If meeting other webby types is up your alley, head on down. Doing a little RSVP at upcoming.org or Facebook would help with planning, I guess, but you should also just be able to show up.
Have a drink or two for me, will you?