Review: “In Our Time” podcast and newsletter

One of my long-term listening pleasures is BBC4′s In Our Time podcast. The show is hosted by Melvyn Bragg, a novelist, cultural reporter, broadcaster, and a member of the House of Lords, in no particular order.

The show’s premise is to pick a significant topic from history, culture, science, art, philosophy, etc., bring in three scholarly or scientific experts on the topic, and let Lord Bragg serve as the audience’s guide and interlocutor. Bragg’s job is to absorb lots of detail (written and prepared for him beforehand by the week’s guest experts) and then attempt to lay out the topic from end-to-end for the eager-to-be-informed listener. All in about 43 minutes, which makes it fast-paced with lots of finely argued details and centuries of stories regretfully brushed aside or glossed over in an attempt to get out of the studio on time. Continue reading

Review: Elf, a reminder service to avoid overdue library fees

The Durham Country Library – which is a great organization I support with patronage and donations of both books and money –  does not notify me when books are either coming due or are overdue. This can be inconvenient when life gets hectic or I forget that the checkout period for DVDs is different from that for books. If you don’t have a system set up to remind you about such things, then it’s all to easy to forget when they’re due.

library card found in pittsburgh pennsylvania

Enter Elf (from its About page):

Elf is a web-based and email tool for library users to keep track of their library borrowings. Elf is like a personal assistant, whose task is to help with keeping track of what one has on loan from the library.

Designed with the busy or avid library user in mind, Elf is ideal for families with multiple library cards or for individuals (writers, researchers, students, readers, etc.) who have cards from different libraries.

Elf makes it easier to keep track of what’s due, overdue or ready for pickup from one or more library accounts. Users have the option to consolidate their library accounts into one account if they wish. This account is checked everyday and email notices are sent when items are coming due, overdue or when holds are ready for pickup. As well, get up-to-date realtime information by browser.

How many people knew about Elf before I did? Probably everybody, I bet. And not a word from any of you! I only discovered it by happenstance, through the weekly Back to Work newsletter. 

Durham happened to be in its list of libraries, and I eagerly signed up. I set the level of advance notice I want to receive (3 days) and provided my cell number so I could be texted also. Elf also offers RSS and iCal feeds if you prefer to be notified that-a-way.

It’s a terrific service, it’s free, and it’s simple to figure out. If you use your library card a lot, you should check out (heh) Elf.

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The Conet Project

http://www.irdial.com/dorchester_antenna_closeup.jpg

Closeup of Dorchester antenna (featured on Conet Project CD cover)

I must have heard about the shortwave numbers stations years ago on this Lost and Found Sound recording for NPR’s All Things Considered (original page, YouTube version).

The story was strange, the recorded sounds spooky, and the low-fidelity of the shortwave signal making them sound even spookier, as if other sounds and voices are edging their way into the transmissions. (I guess in this context, “spooky” has more than one meaning.) Continue reading

Domestic Comedy

Exchange between me and Liz as we drove past Ravenscroft school.

ME. That’s where Matthew did his play.

LIZ. Yeah, that musical about Noah’s ark. He was Ham.

ME. (Pause. ) (Seriously.) He was doing his best.

LIZ. (Pause.) No! His character! His character’s name was Ham! He was the son of Noah!

 

Software: Audiobook Builder

Audiobook Collection

Back in the days of iron men and wooden computers, I listened to audiobooks on cassette.

In 2001, I joined Audible.com and listened to digitized audiobooks using my trusty yet problematic Digisette Duo-Aria; for years, my secondhand cars only had cassette players so the Digisette served me well. I preferred listening to audiobooks over music whilst commuting, traveling, or just motoring about. The other great thing about digital audiobooks was that I could listen to them anywhere, while raking the leaves or working out. Carrying my books everywhere was as important to me as carrying music everywhere was to other people. I also subscribed to Audible’s various monthly or weekly audio programs, like NPR’s Science Friday, in those dark days before podcasts. Continue reading