Category Archives: Special Stuff

Some posts I am proud of — at least my friends liked them!

A few comments on stupid sayings

These are a few phrases and sayings that really get under my skin. Time to share…

1. “Back in the day…”
This one is usually offered by someone no older than 21, referring to something that happened no more than about six years ago. So if you are one of these young people, and you say this, please consider yourself hereby immediately informed of the fact that for you, at this point in your life, there simply is no “back in the day”.

2. “He/She is in a better place”
Normally you hear this when one of your loved-ones has died. Oh — really? And where exactly is this “better place”? Because if it isn’t that hole in the ground and fancy box we just paid for, we got ripped off.

3. “Freedom isn’t Free”
Oh, really? Did you write that yourself? Your word-play is so clever! It really honors all the dead soldiers that you can spout out this vomitus on your Facebook page on the 4th of July or Memorial Day. Actually, to the extent we are free, my freedom was totally free (if you overlook the tax dollars I’ve paid to keep the American Empire going).

4. “Guns don’t kill people, PEOPLE kill people”
Usually heard after some nutjob with enough guns and ammo to arm a small nation goes crazy and kills a bunch of people with, errrrrr, guns? Yeah – guns. Another example of bumper sticker wisdom being substituted for actual thought.

5. “Everything happens for a reason”
This one usually rears its ugly head after something bad happens, to try and make you feel better. “I’m sorry your lost your job, but you know, everything happens for a reason.” Sure, of course. In that case, the job was lost so some asshole’s stock value can go up by 1 cent per share for a few hours. A good response might go something like this: “Really? How about female genital mutilation? What is the reason for that? Or how about anal cancer? What is the silver-lining in that dark cloud?”

6. “God’s in control”
See #5. This one also comes in the form of “God has a plan for everyone’s life”. Hopefully His plan doesn’t include brain cancer, flesh-eating bacteria, or having a gang of chimps rip your feet, face, and balls off.

7. “Stay where you are! Stay in the building!”
The Number One/Numero Uno lesson of September 11, 2001 is this: when they tell you to stay in the building, you need to get the fuck out of the building.

That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll think of a few more as soon as I hit the Publish button.

Kindle – thoughts

As technology marches on, my profession of librarianship has to change and adapt. On a personal level, that means if I don’t change and adapt, my skill set becomes outdated, and soon I’m a dinosaur.

I’ve managed to stay ahead of the curve with regard to web technology and multimedia production, and that fact has served me well. However, until now, I have not taken the eBook plunge. 
It’s not that I have hated eBooks or anything, but I simply didn’t see that much use for them in my life. However, a lot of our patrons love them, so I have given in!

For the last few weeks I’ve been researching the various eReaders on the market. Initially I was drawn to the iPad, since it is a multi-functional device and a nice toy. However, for the reasons below, I opted for a different device.

After much consideration, research, and lost sleep, today I decided against the iPad and instead purchased a
Kindle Touch 3G . I decided that my need for an iPad is really minimal — I sit at a computer all day, and have a laptop at home, and hardly travel. I will use my MacBook until it is unable to do what I need, then I will simply buy an undated MacBook.

So to be clear, I was looking for a device first and foremost that is good for reading books. Not magazines. Not blogs. Not webpages. Books. Text. I was not looking for something to watch movies on, or otherwise “consume media”.

The Barnes & Noble Nook is also a very nice device. I decided on the Kindle for two reasons. 1)I think is more likely to be around in five years than B&N, and 2)Just looking for some eBook offerings that might be a bit more “odd” – some Henry Rollins stuff and whatnot – I discovered that just seem to have a much better and larger collection from which to choose. 

I had never really looked at the Kindle seriously before. It is really cool! Here are a few notes:

The E-ink: For someone like me who looks at an LCD monitor all day – Kindle’s E-ink display is just a lot easier on the eyes. A very pleasant reading experience. I was frankly shocked at how easy this thing is to read. I seriously think it is easier just from an optical standpoint to read than paper.   

Free 3G: is very clever. They have set these devices up with free 3G as well as Wifi capability. So you can log into the Kindle store from anywhere there is cell phone coverage and buy books. Very convenient for customers, and I’m sure a great investment payoff for Amazon.

Quality: The Kindle feels like a well-made device. I had expected it to feel kind of cheap and shitty, based on its much lower price than the iPad or other tablets. Nope. It feels really good.  

Size: Initially I had thought the larger display of the iPad would be superior for reading. Actually the 6″ tall screen of the Kindle is ideal. With the clarity of the E-Ink display, it is a perfect size. About the size of a paperback book. It is relatively light – a lot lighter than an iPad. 

Setup Ease: There is really very little setup required for this device. You don’t have to install any software on your computer. It will help if you already have an account on, but it will guide you through that process if you don’t. Here is how it worked for me. Took it out of the box. Plugged it into the USB port on my computer to power it up. Once it had a little power, I turned it on. It guided me through some basic setup stuff. It asked me for my account email and password. Mind you — this is all happening via 3G — seamlessly. There’s a button in the main menu that says Kindle Store. I pushed it, searched for the book Blood Meridian, and purchased it. Within 20 seconds — maybe less — the book was on my Kindle. The Kindle Touch without 3G is a little less expensive, but in my opinion the 3G is worth it.  

Turning pages, etc.: To turn a page, you just have to tap the screen. If you tap the left side of the screen — maybe the left 15% of the page, it will go back one page. Super easy. You don’t have to “flip” it with your finger.  

Dictionary and Notes: My first book on this thing is Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, which uses a lot of archaic language. I’ve run into quite a few words I didn’t know. By simply touching and holding your finger on word for a second or two, you engage the device’s built-in dictionary, which brings up a little window displaying the definition. Really quick and helpful. The window that pops up also allows you to enter notes, like writing notes in the margin of a normal book.  

Cover: I always hate buying covers for mobile devices. THAT is what kills me. I hate spending $30 or whatever on 3 cents worth of molded plastic to cover my iPod. However, knowing how rough I can be on gadgets, I forked over for this leather Cover for the Kindle. I was just looking for something that didn’t look like Tinkerbell designed it and that would actually fit the device (not some generic thing that wouldn’t work that well). When I got back to my office and put the Kindle in this cover, I was delighted to discover there is a built-in light at the top, that swings out and provides just the right amount of illumination to read the thing in low light or the dark! Cool! I hadn’t even noticed this feature when I bought it.  

Other stuff: There are a lot of other cool features related to social media, the ability to see comments and annotations in books from other people you follow on Amazon’s Kindle site, etc.  I really haven’t scratched the surface of this stuff.

So as you can probably tell, I’m really very happy with this purchase. After buying the device, the cover, and the $40 extra warranty to replace the device if I run over it with my car or something I spent less than $300. You could of course do this much cheaper, but I really recommend getting a Kindle that takes advantage of the free 3G. It is worth the extra money. I think if I’d spent $600 or $700 on an iPad I would be feeling some buyer’s remorse right now. Instead, I think the Kindle Touch 3G has delivered more value than I was expecting.

Podcasting Setup and Process

As I prepare for our recording session for episode 3 of the Freestyle Podcast, I was thinking that a good blog post might be a description of my podcasting setup, and maybe some explanation of the process.

It may seem kind of backwards to be doing an audio-only production on the internet, but audio-only is great! For one thing, like the radio, listeners can enjoy an audio podcast while doing something else. They don’t have to be watching it! I listen to a lot of podcasts every week while I work and I really enjoy them. There are a lot of funny, smart, and interesting people out there doing this stuff.

You don’t need a lot to produce a podcast. Obviously you need a computer, some software for recording and editing the podcast, a microphone (the built-in mic on a computer can work, but isn’t great), and a little knowledge to distribute the podcast.

Technically, simply putting an audio file on the internet is not podcasting. The idea of a podcast is that listeners can subscribe, and their own software will simply download the new material automatically when new material appears. Once you subscribe, the rest is automated.

I use the Mac platform for my home computing, but I will somewhat address the needs of PC users too.

OK, my goals when I began getting my podcast setup purchased were:

  1. To get a reasonably good sound quality using a fairly good microphone, 
  2. Have the ability to have 2 mics in my “studio” for conversations, 
  3. Not spend tons of money 
  4. Be able to interview people in remote locations by phone or internet.



I am using my 5 year old 13″ MacBook. Any computer with USB ports and a standard 1/8″ audio-in port will work.One nice thing about doing audio-only is that audio doesn’t require quite as bad-ass a computer as HD video requires (at least to do it well).


Editing: I use GarageBand to edit my podcasts. It came on my MacBook, and is inexpensive anyway. I never really used any instructional materials to learn to use GarageBand. It has a pretty good user interface. A free alternative is Audacity, which is available for both Mac and PC platforms. Audacity is good, though I have found it a bit more confusing than GarageBand. One trick for GarageBand: the application defaults to 120 beats per minute, and has a limit as to how many “beats” a track can have, which at the default limits you to importing a little over an hour of audio. If you reset the beats per minute to 60, you double the length of the audio you can import, which should cover most of your needs.

Audio capture: You can, of course, capture audio directly into Garageband from your microphone, but what if you want to capture audio from an internet conversation via an application like Skype? The solution for this, if you are a Mac user, is an inexpensive application called Audio Hijack Pro,which allows you to capture all system audio, and in fact can be directed to capture audio from specific apps. So if you have a Skype session going, you can select Skype as the source of your audio capture. This is what I’m using to capture audio for the Freestyle Podcast, which I then import into GarageBand for editing. I’m not actually sure what you’d use on a PC for this function.

I also use Audio Hijack Pro to capture audio from various web sources like Youtube to use on the podcast.

Audio Conversion: You may occasionally want to convert audio files from one format to another. I use an application called WonderShare, which is better known for video format conversion, but it will also do audio, converting nearly any format to nearly  any other format.

That’s about it for software. Pretty simple.

Microphone and Mixing Board

If you are doing anything involving recording your voice, a good microphone is your greatest tool. If you want to talk to another person right there in the studio, you really want to have a setup that will allow the use of two mics. However, if you only want to use one microphone, here is a nice setup you might start with.

I did a little online research, reading articles like this one, and then went to Guitar Center to shop. They had some nice stuff, and for me it was pretty convenient.

I decided to start with a little more flexible mixing board — one that allows the use of numerous inputs, has some effects, and most importantly, connects to the computer via USB connection. I chose the Alesis MultiMix 8 USB FX. I’ve been very happy with this mixing board. Once plugged into the computer and turned on, it is easy to get all my applications to accept it as the input source.

Rather than spend a lot on a fancy condenser microphone, I purchased 2 Audix OM2 mics. Guitar Center had these on sale for about $50 each. I also got a couple of good mic stands. My one complaint about these stands is that it is hard to get a pop shield (the screen that keeps your hard P sounds from sounding horrible on the audio) to fit very well. I need to work on this a bit. But again, these are $30 mic stands, and they are well-built and heavy. Good stuff.

Now, while working on my first podcast I discovered that I was having trouble  getting enough volume from my mic, through the mixing board, and into the computer. I had to turn the levels on everything all the way up, which resulted in a sound quality for my voice that I wasn’t really happy with. Rather than spending money on an expensive, powered, amplified mic, I got this microphone preamp, also at Guitar Center. It worked really well for podcast #2 — problem solved. Of course, adding the preamp required getting an extra mic cable to hook it all together. I’ll need to get a second preamp at some point, for the other mic.


I use headphones while recording, so I can get a good idea of how it really sounds. Also, it prevents my microphone from picking up the slightly delayed version of the conversation coming from the speakers.

A few final words on equipment choice

As you can see, I got 2 mics, a good mixer, and mic stands for around $300. I was prepared to make that much investment, which is not high if you look at the stuff that is available. You can spend as much as you want on this stuff — no real limit. You could absolutely get started with just your software and a cheap USB microphone or your computer’s built in mic, and that might be good for initial experiments, but I really suggest you get a small mixing board and good mic. It makes a huge difference.

If you plan on going “into the field”, you may want to get some kind of digital voice recorder that allows you to record good quality audio and easily import the digital files into your editing software. I haven’t gone this route yet. Likewise, it would be nice to have a more mobile microphone setup, but that is for the future.

The Process

Prior to recording the podcast, I get everything up, make sure I remember the settings for my software, test it all and make sure I’m getting the audio recorded, and test my audio levels.

Regarding audio levels. If you’ve never done this before, audio levels might seem a bit confusing. Here is some very simple advice. Most of your software and equipment will have little meters or gauges that will show the level. In most cases, as the sound volume level gets high, the meter will go into a yellow zone, and then a red zone. Yellow zone means it is somewhat too loud, and will sound a bit shitty. Red means it is really way too loud and will definitely sound like shit. I have had luck with this: I set everything so that it is barely not making it into the yellow during normal conversational volume levels. It should get close to yellow. You want as much volume as you can get without going into the yellow. It should only go there if you really raise your voice, and into red if your really really raise your voice.

So take some quality time before the actual recording to get the levels right. It makes a huge difference.

A few words on editing.

For the Freestyle Podcast, the lads and I actually record over an hour of material from our conversation. Usually about 1.5 hours. I then go through and delete sections that don’t really add to the conversation, are boring, or for some reason we don’t want in there.

Then I do the same thing again.

Then I do it again.

Yes, I chop, then chop, then chop some more. You have to be merciless in the editing process. You can’t be in love with the sound of your own voice. A lot of stuff you might have had a lot of fun talking about simply doesn’t add value to the podcast, and in fact makes it worse. Just like editing an article or a paper. You need to collect material, then only use the best stuff. Kill the rest.

My personal opinion is that 30 minutes is the right length for a podcast. 40-50 is OK, and is where we are on the Freestyle Podcast. I think that because we have 3 people talking, 40-50 minutes works pretty well, but is really, really pushing it. I would like to get them down to no longer than 40 minutes. So even with all my editing, I am still putting up some long podcasts. If you are going over an hour, you need to really reconsider the podcast — split it up, edit more, whatever. Few people are going to listen to the whole thing if it is that long.

Editing audio is time consuming. Unlike video, in which you can zip through and quickly edit something, audio really requires that you listen to the material in real time. This is another reason you don’t want to have a 2 hour podcast.


By format, I don’t mean what kind of audio file you create, but rather this: One person? Two people? Interview? Conversation? Different segments? Give this some thought. A conversation between two or three knowledgeable people can be more interesting than a monologue by one person.

Audio Format

OK – what kind of audio file will you use as the final format of your podcast? MP3? M4A? WAV? From GarageBand, I save my file to the desktop in the M4A format. When I upload it to my account on Podomatic, it gets converted to MP3.

Hosting and distributing your podcast.

You will  need to store your podcast file somewhere so that people can download it. Two popular online services for this are and  I personally use Podomatic, though both are good.  gives you a free option to get started with, so you don’t have to buy an account right away. gives you some nice features. For one thing, your podcast page on the site has embedded audio players, so people can actually listen to the podcast on your page. It allows listeners to download your show too, and provides links by which listeners can subscribe to your podcast using various services like Google+, iTunes, and My Yahoo! It also allows people to join Podomatic and then leave comments about your podcast. So it really becomes the homepage of your production.

Getting your podcast on the iTunes index is actually very easy. I was surprised. Within two days of submitting it to iTunes it showed up. Here is the process.

OK, well, that’s about it.


I enjoy reading, and I enjoy books. However, I became a librarian not because I “love books”. It was 1993, and I was interested in the emerging Internet.

That being said, like a stubborn mule digging into the trail and refusing to be moved, the eBook revolution has failed to move me, and I find myself perhaps, yes perhaps, loving books.
Remember about 15 years ago, when you would go to someone’s home and see their music on the shelf? Has it been more than 15 years? Whatever. Maybe you didn’t know the person that well, but man, that record and tape collection told you a lot about them. You knew when you saw that Huey Lewis and the News album in your date’s collection of cassette tapes, right next to the Footloose soundtrack,  that it was time to get the fuck outta there. The music collection was a crystal clear window into that person’s soul, empty as it might be, and those horrible albums were the equivalent of today going into your date’s place and seeing a prominently and proudly displayed and lovingly framed poster of Tim Tebow or a Certificate of Godliness from the Baptist Student Union. 
But no longer. In most homes, including mine, you will be hard-pressed to find a single recorded musical artifact on display. It’s all on the computer, on the iPod, or “in the Cloud”. Oh sure, we have a bunch of CDs. They’re all in boxes in the garage, their contents transferred to our computers. I can’t tell you the last time I purchased a CD. No, sadly, I simply conveniently download music from iTunes, where my musical tastes are analyzed by the latest algorithm and I’m told that because I purchased a Bad Brains album from the 1980s that I might also want to buy Men Without Hats.

Books are the same way. They tell you what  people’s interests are, what kind of stuff they think about, perhaps what their political or religious opinions might be. Do they read for entertainment (science fiction, romance, mystery, etc), or to be informed and enlightened (A Brief History of Time, Cosmos)? Or perhaps they  read to be misinformed/uninformed (Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and other idiots).

So if you come to my home, and you find our “library”, you will see our interests, passions, and concerns. You may see a book on Mexican culture, or a stack of them, on the kitchen table as my wife works on a paper. You may find a book of punk literature by Henry Rollins by my chair, a book of skateboarding photography, or maybe a history of Aikido. The books  help make the house “ours”. They are serve their intended purpose, but also serve an aesthetic purpose. They are physical reminders that we are more than just America’s Funniest Home Videos viewers.

Now, take all those books, and put them in the computer for display on an eReader, and you have killed all that. You have gained some portability, of course. Oh sure, you can take hundreds of books with you on a trip if you need to do so, but really, how often is that? What is this obsession with having all our shit with us all the time? I can understand it with music, but books?

I have a lot of other issues with eBooks, but I won’t go into them.

So, as a librarian I must be competent with the new technology. That’s fine. I see its good points. They are a good option for reading. Trees don’t die (at least not directly) from their manufacture. They don’t take up much room. They are good for reference material. And if you are on a business trip in Outer Mongolia, and need some new reading material, the people in that yurt in the neighboring valley might have satellite internet so you can download the complete works of Dostoevsky.

Soon I will begrudgingly join the eBook club, but I will not join the cult, because I’ve never been unable to read because my book wasn’t charged up. 

Now Fight Like Apes!

Alternative title for this post: My Good Friday Sermon

My wife is a big fan of the Dana Gould Podcast. Occasionally I listen to it with her, and it is indeed a very entertaining podcast. If you don’t know who Dana is, well, click here.

On this week’s podcast (Ep.4 Apocalicious), Dana and his cohorts discuss various aspects of apocalyptic films, in particular the Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, both starring Charlton Heston. I share this admiration for these films, in particular Planet of the Apes. Great movie. Some great social commentary on the film.

My introduction to the Planet of the Apes films occurred in 1973, when I was in the 3rd grade, when the final film of the series was released — the great Battle for the Planet of the Apes. OK, sure, it didn’t have all the great metaphorical stuff that the original film had, but it did have an army of apes fighting an army of human mutants. For a 3rd grader, that was pretty awesome.

In the coming years I would see all of the Apes films on TV during “Ape Week” on channel 8’s afternoon movie, and become somewhat of an expert on the details of the series, including the confusing paradox related to time travel. I was the proud owner of the General Ursus model kit, built and painted with the patience of an Orangutan scholar.

But back to my Battle for the Planet of the Apes story…

My mom dropped me and a friend off at the theater to see the film, and it was glorious.

In the days following my viewing of the film I have a vivid memory of telling a friend of mine from down the street all about it. I mean, I was stoked, and wanted to share this experience. C’mon! We’re talking APES with guns and underground mutants! And we’re talking TALKING apes!

This kid came from a very religious family. I won’t mention the denomination, but I will say it was one of those sects in which they go to church every time the doors are open, which seems to be nearly all the time. Now, I didn’t grow up in a family of heathens, but damn, my parents worked!  We went to church for an hour on Sunday morning, and that was it! Combining that hour with the time needed to get dressed in all our finery as well as travel time, and you’re looking at nearly three hours of precious weekend. So an hour was all the Lord got from us. Sorry, Jesus, but we have stuff to do. Plus, the game is coming on — gotta get home fast.

But I digress…

I was telling this kid — we’ll call him Richard — about the movie. He informed me that his parents wouldn’t let him see those movies because the films said that “people came from apes”.

Thinking back now, I realize that even at that age my own world view had begun taking shape. I had a set of World Book and Child Craft books. I was totally into science. My mom was a highschool math teacher and my dad was a junior high science teacher and coach. I was already aware in a very rudimentary way of evolutionary theory.

I remember realizing, right then and there, that I was smarter than Richard’s parents.

For the first time, I had run into the wall of ignorance and stupidity that religious fanaticism can create. Yes, just to be clear, I’m saying that if you think the creation story of the Bible (or any of the other creation myths from the world’s religions) is the literal truth, you are stupid. Sorry, the truth hurts. Smart religious people don’t put so much stock in myths like this. They find ways to still believe their religion while not ignoring science. Most, I think, compartmentalize the two competing world views, which I find a bit psychotic at best and intellectually weak and dishonest at worst.  The ones who are both smart and honest discard their religion, or become deists or something similarly vague.

I’m not saying that Richards’s parents(or you) are a bad people. No, they were very good people. But not the smartest.

This realization, however, extended beyond a simple disagreement over human origins. You see, I was suddenly enlightened that a great many adults were probably wrong about a great many things, and I would have to use my own mind to figure out who the idiots were.

I told my mom about the incident, and I remember her essentially just saying “They’re stupid, don’t listen to them”. Hahahahahaha. Of course she didn’t use those exact words, but her meaning was clear. But she really didn’t have to tell me. I had already come to the same conclusion.

Religious fanaticism depicted in the original Planet of the Apes — sadly by the head scientists. Must be Republicans.