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Podcasts I Listen To

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Since I haven't been creating anything lately, I figure that I might as well tell you what I have been wasting my time on. You know, on the off chance that you have time to waste and can't find anything to waste it on.

Over the past few months I have been listening to a lot of podcasts. For me, they are an almost ideal form of media. They are always with me on my iPhone, they can be played according to my own schedule, and they feed my need to constantly take in new information. They are ideal for distracting me during boring things, like exercising, or for keeping my brain from thinking about my own problems as I try to fall asleep.

The things I listen to regularly include:

Dr. Kiki's Science Hour - A breezy, layman's level science program that covers a variety of of topics. Depending on the topic it's either completely gripping, or great for listening to as I fall asleep. Usually the former. 

Engadget Podcast - The podcast summary of the week's technology news. Good enough that I listen to it even though I have read all the articles on the site throughout the week.

Joystiq Podcast - Videogame news, presented with enough snark to keep it interesting. Also, in addition to news they actually do a pretty good job of injecting some analysis covering game design, the game industry and videogame culture. Probably the podcast I look forward to most each week.

Stuff from the Science Lab - Yes, another science podcast, this one from (you will be seeing a lot from them...). Just got started, and still finding their footing, but again, a very accessible, layman level science program.

Stuff You Missed in History Class - Also from, this one is usually 1/2 an hour on some obscure, or not not so obscure, bit of history. Occasionally they will cover several aspects of a particular topic over a couple of episodes, for example, the abdication of Kind Edward in one episode, and another whole episode about his Nazi sympathies. Fun!

Stuff You Should Know - A completely random podcast, again from Toppics are all over the place, ranging from a discussion about how credit default swaps work, another on Jack the Ripper and Ripperology, all the way out to a show about the Necronomicon. You can never predict what the next show might be about, but they are all entertaining, and feed my need to trivia.

The podcast that my friend Dale is on. If you are dorky enough to get the name, then you are dorky enough to appreciate this show. While it's theoretically about gaming (like, at a table, not on a TV), it wanders all over the place and is really more about dork culture in general.  The guys on the podcast are engaging and funny - listening to it reminds me a lot of wasting my youth hanging out with my friends  and talking about games. movies and books. Also, if you search for it on iTunes, iTunes asks "Did you mean taco?", which amuses me.

Today in the Past - John Hodgeman provides an audio "page-a-day calendar without the pages", always in less than a minute. The events described are pulled from the strange and delightful alternate universe that he has previously documented in his books "The Areas of My Expertise" and "More Information than You Require". I want to live in this universe.

Also, while I haven't listed them out, I have basically stopped listening to anything on NPR on the radio. No more driveway moments, since I can just pause and start listening again when I have a chance. Yes, I do donate directly now to the shows that I listen to, while still keeping up a minimum membership in my local NPR station. God! Leave me alone!

All of the things listed above can be found in the iTunes store under podcasts, and you can subscribe to them so that every time you sync up your iPhone of iPod you have new stuff to listen to. If you have any favorites of your own, feel free to list them in the comments

Now I must go back to being a hermit and ignoring everyone.

No Sales Are Final

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For the last few months I have been tempted by the Amazon Kindle. First by the Kindle 2, which is a neat, relatively small, portable device that can hold within in it more books than I would ever need to carry around at once, and instantly download, just about anywhere, any books that I might need. The release of that Kindle DX, a larger device with a bigger screen, seemed even more attractive, since I am rapidly going blind in one eye.

All of that ended today when I discovered that Amazon had, at the request of a publisher, went out to all the Kindles in the world and deleted a bunch of books, ironically including George Orwell's 1984, because the publisher decided that they should made a mistake in offering a digital version. So Amazon, using technology they had not fully disclosed to the purchaser, went out and zapped those books, and gave the purchasers a a refund (I assume in store credit) for the purchase. Imagine if Barnes and Noble had decided to break into your house, take a couple of books off your shelves and leave a gift card on the nightstand. Same thing, for all intents and purposes.

It was already bad enough that Amazon was using the DMCA to take away your right of first sale (the ability to sell something that you have purchased to someone else). They have now made it quite, quite clear that you don't own anything even for your own use.

This is, as I have said before, the biggest threat of digital goods. While in their raw, un-administered, un-DRMed form digital goods are generally vastly superior in utility to their physical equivalents (searchable, portable, scalable in resolution, etc) the restrictions that are put in place by the people doing the "selling" are making them useless and unreliable. Music that has DRM generally only works so long as the company that sold it to you is in business - once the DRM servers go off line the music becomes unplayable. Media purchased for one system cannot be used for another. As President Obama learned a DVD purchased in in the US cannot be played in a DVD player purchased somewhere else in the world. Now we find that Amazon can decide to "unsell" you a book without your consent just because they feel like it. Apparently they have said they won't do this again, but there is no reason to take them at their word, since they didn't say they would do it in the first place, and the technology to do so remains in place.

Consumers need to begin resisting this move away from ownership and towards "licensing". "Licensing" is presented to the consumer as a sale, however the terms are always mush less favorable, seldom fully disclosed,and what is disclosed in generally disclosed in a EULA that consists of several pages of dense legalese that the consumer by-passes since the transaction is presented as a sale and they think they know their rights in such a transaction.

Personally, I did not use the iTunes music store until it went DRM free. Instead I purchased CDs and ripped them, or when it came out, used the Amazon MP3 store. While both of these still have ridiculous licensing agreements that attempt to deny me all manner of rights that I have as a consumer, at least since they are not DRMed they do not fall under the DCMA and if I choose to violate the EULA by exercising my rights as a buyer (say by selling a song I purchased and deleting all of my copies, something that the right of First Sale clearly allows) I have a leg to stand on in court. If it was DRMed I would be violating the "no circumvention" clause of the DCMA and would certainly lose, pay fines and maybe go to jail, even though I clearly have the right to re-sell something I have purchased.

While some might call these restrictions, and Amazon's recent intrusion into private citizen's personal devices to remove material they found unsuitable "Orwellian", I have to disagree. "Orwellian" is really tied up in associations with government oppression and control of the population, while what we are experiencing is an attempt by corporations to use the law to take away the rights of consumers.

So, in honor of this latest, and most vulgar attack on the rights of consumers, I would like to propose a new phrase, one to specifically apply to these cases of corporate overreach in an attempt stamp out the rights of consumers - "Bezosian", in honor of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

Hopefully, having this word coined will casue him to stop and rethink his position, just as Dan Savage's popularization of the new noun "Santorum" caused former Senator Rick Santorum to abandon his homophobic hatred and lead a better life.

Update - An boingboing post with comments I am posting more stuff into.


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...makes me super, super happy. If you are totally cool and awesome, you will know why.

A Sad Day For Journalism

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It seems that on August 3rd we will lose the only newspaper with the balls to print the stories that no one believes, but everyone sort of wishes were true.

Nintendo Wii

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So, through a complicated and extremely suspicious series of events I managed to get a Nintendo Wii on launch day, despite having failed to pre-order one. Suffice to say that it helps to know people...awesome people.

Anyway, after playing with the thing for a few weeks I have decided to finally write something about it.

It's pretty freakin' awesome.

The motion sensing control is pretty good - not nearly as bad as some of the early reviews were saying. It's not perfect, but it's certainly very, very usable.

The Mii character maker is cute, and so far everyone has been very pleased with their ability to make a game character that resembles them. Oh - our Wii number is 3951 5687 0232 8752 and the nickname is "edgore" if you want to add us and let our Miis mingle with yours.

The games are all pretty good - none of them are spectacular, but they are all really fun to play, especially with multiple controllers and multiple people. I don't think there has ever been a console launch that was so heavy with games for more than 2 players.

Playing with this thing reminds me a lot of my first 128K Macintosh back in 1984. The Mac had only black and white graphics, but it had a mouse and a graphic interface - you interacted with programs not by typing cryptic commands, but by moving the mouse around and manipulating virtual objects. That's what using the Wii feels like. I can imagine a version of Soul Caliber, for instance that insead of relying of a series of button presses for combos instead uses the movement of the Wiimote for control.

And that would totally rule, though not as much as my idea for a giant monster games where you ducttape Wii-motes all over your limbs and rampage through a virtual city.

My other game ideas for the Nintendo Wii include:
1. Baby Harp Seal Hunt - You know that you have already thought about it.
3. Beat Beat Cop! - Combines the challenge of rhythm games with the fun of wailing on suspects with a nightstick
4. The Babysitters' Club - Shake the Wii-mote to shake the baby until it stops goddammed crying.

Don Adams

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Finally, something not on a personal note.

I just found out that Don Adams died today at the age of 82. Get Smart was one of my favorite shows when I was growing up. The Cone of Silence, the Shoe Phone, Hymie the Robot, The Craw - these were all hilarious, but the thing that made the show amazing was Don Adams' dry, snappy delivery.

To my surprise, he had 7 children. Like you, I had always assumed he was, you know. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Short (fictional) Story

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When a relationship ends the worst part is property. It all belongs to someone, and figuring out who owns what is the hardest job you will ever face.

In our case it’s a house. All the other stuff – the CD collection (all mine), dishes and knick-knacks will all work out. It’s where we stay that I know is going to be a problem. We can’t both stay here; not forever.

I tried to make things easy by getting out of the bedroom and sleeping on the couch in the living room. It’s not a permanent solution, but it gives me the time to figure things out.

It’s not the best place to get a good night’s rest; the damn thing was build out of horsehair and hardwood in 1973 and it feels like it. Even worse it’s right next to the bedroom, so I can hear every noise she makes in there. I never hear her come home, for all I know she never leaves, but I can hear her in there all night, until I finally fall asleep. I never hear her in the morning – if she gets up, it's after I do, so I am off at work and miss that.

Got to go to work, after all; house payments, electricity bills. All that stuff does not care that your world has fallen apart at the seams. I am pretty sure that I cannot expect to see any kind of a condolences from any of my creditors.

I know that she leaves the bedroom when I am not there; sometimes I will walk down the hallway towards the laundry room and get a hint of Opium.

This arrangement has been in place for months now. Me out here, her in there and out paths don’t cross. Probably that is for the best – I have no idea what I would say to her if I saw her. It’s not that I am mad at her; Yes, I am mad at her. But I really don’t think it’s her fault; I’ve got no right to be mad, or angry or any synonym you could find in Rogets'; "pissed" if you've got a recent version. I’m just sad and disappointed. I’m at a loss for what to do. I know that none of this is her fault.

It’s possible that deciding the sleep on the couch is a poor strategy. It puts me in sight of the computer room – her's on the right and mine on the left. I can see hers from where I lay on the couch - blank screen, cold - when I fall asleep.

Some mornings, when I wake up it’s on – fan humming and screen lit up. Blearily, I will get up and turn it off. It’s tempting to check her history or her email, but honestly I'm afraid of what I might find. So I just turn it off.

Sometimes, after I find her computer on I’ll get an email telling me that she is sorry and that she loves me. That she wishes she could make it right and that everything could just go back to being like it was.

I delete them. I don’t mark them as "junk", because then anything else she sent would get shit-canned before I ever saw it. But I can’t save them, I have to delete them.

You have to understand. it’s been 3 months since I made sure all her email accounts were closed, and over 8 months since the accident – a drunk slammed into her car at 60 miles an hour. They assure me that she died instantly and didn't feel anything.

But in the room next door the sounds continue and these emails still come some mornings. Someday maybe I'll stay home unexpectedly and see what comes out of the bedroom and leaves that trace of Opium in the air. I know though that I will never open the bedroom door.

You Don't Like What?!?!

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So, apparently in his latest book of essays (I have no idea what it is called, because, frankly I don't care) Jonathan Latham makes a comment about true movie geeks who judge their relationships success (or more likely, failure) by the cinematic compatibility of their erstwhile/former mate.

I totally get this.

I really think that I have gotten better over the years. My wife can't stand Brazil, which is obviously the 4th greatest movie ever made (points to those who know which 3 are better, and why), but I love her anyway (most of the time).

But I really do understand that movies are a litmus test - the movies that you like (or don't) tell more about you than any internet quiz you could ever take. I don't care which Star Trek Character you are most like (did Wil Wheaton get Wesley Crusher when he took that quiz? Have to ask) - all I care about is whether or not you liked Blue Velvet. If you did, then affinity between us is possible. If you didn't, then what did you think about City of Lost Children? (My wife hates it also, but see note above re: Brazil...)

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