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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The end of the beginning

As Winston Churchill put it, "This is not the End.  It is not even the Beginning of the End.  It is, perhaps, the End of the Beginning."

With this entry, I finish my participation in the December version of NaBloPoMo 2008.  It has been worthwhile; once again, as with NaPodPoMo, I've had demonstrated to me that one only inspires interest by continually producing interesting content.  And "continually" is the operative term here.

Someone once pointed out that for a blog to be successful, it has to be consistent in content, but also consistent in producing new content.  For all the claims of SEO mavens, Google mostly looks for continual production of new content.  For all the contentions of quality-over-quantity mavens, if you don't have sufficient quantity, no one will notice your quality, or at least not as many folks will.

For 30 days I produced one podcast a day.  For 31 days I produced one blogpost a day.  I have seen more interest in both cases, simply because there was more to be interested in.  Certainly, I could have produced better-quality and more interesting content.

But that would demand I actually know something.

Not happening this year.  Maybe next year.

Griz


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brown Recluse

I've noticed something that's kinda troubling.  Since I've been laid off, I've essentially never left the house.

This is not a good sign.  While I'm still blogging, still podcasting, still Twittering, still doing alla the online stuff I usually do, I'm not going anywhere, outside of the occasional cigarette run.

How the heck do I get up to speed on a new job, or even find a new job, when I don't even leave the house?  Add to that, it's not particularly good for me to just sit at home all day.  Should really get out and go somewhere, anywhere, just to break the cycle.

I'm very much lacking in social skills, and if I don't exercise what little I have, I lose them.  Happened once, a few years back.  Wasn't pretty.

This reclusive behavior has really gotta stop.  The Internet is not the world.  Even if the world outside is cold, it's still the world.

(sigh)


Monday, December 29, 2008

Another big storm?

We're supposed to get another moderately big snow today, with more on Wednesday, they say.  Mostly, it'll be a wind problem.  Blowing snow is always a worry, especially travelling around here.

My sister and I are supposed to go up to Mom's in Silver Bay in the next few days.  The "Winter Weather Advisory" is mostly for north of Duluth, but it extends as far east as Silver Bay.  So driving up there is liable to be worrisome.  And if the snow persists up through the rest of the week, who knows?

We each got Mom a big present this year.  I got one that arguably will be more fun for me than her, but it'll be a good thing for her to have, one of those things it'd be marginally irresponsible for me not to get for her.  Although my sister says I'm kidding myself, she doesn't have the technical background to understand, really; no offense, just sayin'. 

My sister got her something I recall Mom saying she was considering getting.  Even if she doesn't use the full capabilities, it'll still be useful -- and it looks very nice, too.  Gotta be careful what I say about the gifts; dunno if Mom reads my blog, and I don't want to spoil the surprise!  ;-)


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

I'm mentally working through the idea of doing more frequent podcasts.  Again.

I said I was going to do that at the end of NaPodPoMo, but then I didn't manage to have a book ready to record for "Stories from the Hiber-Nation."  I still don't have a book picked, so I'd imagine I'm unlikely to get anywhere near daily on that podcast.  But it seems like a good idea.  I notice that since I did 30 podcasts in 30 days, my listenership has gone up tremendously -- not Feedburner-detected subscribers, but listeners who go to the website to download shows.

I am also learning the true meaning of "the Long Tail."  The biggest recent show I've had is 60 listeners.  But go back to the earliest shows, I've got one with nearly 500 downloads over the past two years.  Eventually, everyone listens to "The Lost Episode."  Didn't think it was that big of a deal at the time, and in fact, I was thinking then I'd just pull it back down after a few days.  Still don't know why people still listen to that, though I suppose it was a rather intense, personal show.  But folks still do. 

The other big show is episode 17, "Infinite Diversity."  I suspect that's all about TR Kelley's music.  The audio on my talking is a bit crappy, but the music turned out well, and I "went deep" on TR's music and background.  Wish I could do more of that.  And then there's Episode 43, "Some Days You Eat the Bear," which has an incredible number of listeners.  That's another one that stumps me.

And every show I've ever recorded has been listened to at least twice this month, and is listened to multiple times every month.  That's the long tail.  Do enough small projects with a little bit of interest at a time, it can really add up quickly.

It's almost a shame I can't set up one of those pre-roll-advertising redirects with my Libsyn-hosted page.  I just might have enough traffic there to inspire some advertiser interest.  Wouldn't get rich, but it might pay the podcasting bills.  Actually, the podcasting bills are the least of my worries.  It really isn't very expensive to do what I'm doing now.  There's more I could do there, and I have a friend who's been strongly suggesting (shall we say) that there are projects I could start rather straightforwardly, that could lead to potential business.  It wouldn't be impossible to turn podcasting into a small business -- not a living, but a small business.

And maybe a living.  I can still dream.




Saturday, December 27, 2008

My next big promotional idea -- and a Win-Win Proposition, too!

I have a wonderful plan.

I just started following @ScottMonty on Twitter, the Ford Motor Company social media guy. And that got me thinkin'. Ford has lots of trucks, and their sales have fallen off a bit with the current economic situation. I have a podcast, and listeners have fallen off cause I'm kinda boring...

So, how about this: Ford gives me a Ford F150, no wait, make it a Superduty, that's the big one, right? And I do a promotional giveaway on my podcast. I get listeners, they get Social Media Buzz, everybody wins. I mean, sure, they could do that on one of the really big podcasts, but where's the news value in that? This would be Really Big News, now wouldn't it?

I can't see any reason why Ford wouldn't go for that, can you? But I'll have to ask the folks who make the Grizzly ATV, too.




Friday, December 26, 2008

Four Walls Around Me

Listening to an old James Taylor song (there's another kind?), "Bartender's Blues:"

I need four walls around me, to hold my life,, to keep me from going astray,
And a Honky-Tonk Angel to hold me tight, to keep me from slippin' away.

Yeah, that's about right. Right now I'm laid off from work, and I know I could well do better finding a job somewhere else. Even in good times, this is a bad place to be unemployed. And these aren't good times. But here, I have all my stuff in messy piles around me, and I have a pretty good idea where it all is. That's important to me.

The other day, I was watching "Mozart & the Whale" on my DVD player. (Got it from Netflix, and now my sister's mad I signed up for it. Oh, well, just wanted to see that one film.) At one point in the film, Isabelle cleans up Donald's (thoroughly filthy) apartment. She even replaced his (slimy) shower curtain. Donald comes home and sees all that neatness, and freaks out. "I thought you'd like it," Isabelle says, bewildered. And Donald shouts, "You stole my life!"

Aspie thing. You wouldn't understand.

Or maybe you would?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Translations for Christmas

Added yet another Cool Feature! Consider it a Christmas present.

I added a script from Yahoo Babelfish that translates the page(s) into a dozen or so different languages. I don't know if anyone not reading English will be interested, or will even find the page, since the original language is, of course, English. I found it when trying to read a German-language webpage, the only page I could find on one particular topic.

But it was easy to do, and I thought it might be useful for some people. Hope you get some good use out of it. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Morning Before Christmas

I'm supposed to go to my sister's late husband's family's house for Christmas Eve dinner. I didn't really get them anything. I did make one of my Audio Christmas Cards, but that's it. I'm tempted to bring along my computer, just so I have something to do.

I will bring along my audio recorder and digital camera, of course. Let's not be unreasonable here. And hey, that'd give me a reason to bring along the laptop, so I could record the party and then burn a CD of it! Yeah, that's a good excu... reason.

I hope you're all happy and warm as you can be this Holiday Season. It's been a stressful holiday for me (that not-currently-employed thing), though I think I did at least one thing rather well, the "Audio Christmas Card" podcast episode. Hope you downloaded a copy, since I didn't send you a card as such. I didn't send anybody else cards, either.

Oh, well, Christmas comes but once a year -- thank the PTB -- and then we get to enjoy the coldest part of winter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Audio Christmas Card

As I've mentioned, I'm laid off. Don't have much in the way of cash. Still getting Unemployment, but that's no where near what I was making fulltime, when I was fulltime.

Wanted to get a few things for a few people, at least something for all the usual suspects. Spent some money on Mom, because she's Mom. Spent some money on my sister, because something perfect for her came up, and it wasn't too expensive.

I found an alternative. While I don't have money, I do have recording gear, a CD burner, blank CDs, a working inkjet printer, and regular paper. So I did an Audio Christmas Card. I kinda cheated on it, granted. I recorded a Christmas story for my "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" podcast, for the Christmas episode, tonight. The story came out well enough and pretty enough and sentimental enough, that was what inspired me to create the Audio Christmas Cards.

I also Googled for "CD Sleeve Templates," and found a post describing how to format a sheet of 8 1/2 X 11 paper so it can be folded into a CD sleeve. Added a bit of artwork, burned a CD with only the story part, not the intro or extro, folded it up inside, and "Bob's yer uncle." And I can repeat that till I run out of blank CDs. Got lots of paper and a new ink cartridge.

The CDs could be prettier. The sleeves could look more expensive. But this much, I could do.

Merry Christmas, fellow unemployed folk!

Griz

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nothing Goes As Planned

A short while ago, I spent $25 to order a pop filter from eBay. I've been having a real problem with pops when saying P-words while recording my podcasts.

Last night, I went to Radio Shack and spent $3 on a "wind filter." It's basically a little "cap" made out of "audio foam," that you put over the top of a microphone, to block wind, especially when you're going to be recording out of doors. I'd lost the wind filter that came with my H2 recorder, shortly after I got the thing. I tried to replace it with a random piece of foam.

Turns out, with the wind filter on there, I don't get pops anymore. (sigh) So now I have a $25 pop filter that serves no particular purpose for me. I suppose I'll give it a try, to see if it helps anything. Can't return it and get the $25 back; it is eBay, after all.

I really shouldn't be allowed to have money.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Shopping

Went out with my sister tonight, to do some Christmas shopping.

I didn't really accomplish much. I got something fairly expensive for my Mom, but I don't know if she'll understand why it's necessary. I have some other stuff to do related to that, and the additional stuff might make it more worthwhile for her.

I got something moderately expensive for my neighbor. He might actually appreciate it. He'd borrowed something from me a while back, and so got him something similar, figuring he ought to get some use, or at least some fun, out of it.

I have a phenomenal number of young relatives, and I have no idea what to get for kids these days, and if I did know, I wouldn't be able to afford it anyway. Stuff is so expensive, and I'm unemployed at the moment. The real young babies, they I understand even less. I'd get the wrong thing.

I dunno what to get my sister. There's probably nothing appropriate. And I hardly ever see my brother or his wife & kids anymore, so I dunno what they'd want, and again, I probably couldn't afford anything.

I hate Christmas. Except, there's pie. I like pie.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why I like MediaMonkey


Didn't have anything else to talk about today, but I wanna make sure to post something, and I was just sitting here listening to my next 97 hours of podcasts on MediaMonkey, and I thought, "Hmmm..."

I've been using MediaMonkey again for what, a week or three now. I say "again," because I started using it quite a while back, then gave up on it. It was fine for playing audiofiles I already had. But I had to cope with downloading alla my many podcasts, and then try to get MediaMonkey to handle them properly.

I tried several other options for the podcast-aggregation process. The system that should have worked best was PodcastReady. They do have some seemingly well-conceived products, including especially "MyPodder." Works on almost any computer, almost any MP3 player that can be managed as an external harddrive. Doesn't work in Vista, though, and my computer runs Vista, so I was out of luck there. Their other product, "AutoPodder," works under Vista. But it doesn't work reliably. In fact, it would periodically lose all its setup information, and I'd have to start over.

I looked at "Juice Receiver," free form Sourceforge.net, very capable, and almost what I wanted. Insists on storing MP3's in folders by show/album name, and apparently not configurable to do otherwise. Didn't like that, so I dropped it.

It was about that time I remembered MediaMonkey from years earlier. Thought it was at least worth a look.

First of all, MediaMonkey is up to version 3.06, so it should be very stable and reliable, and that's been my experience. It had its roots as a music file/MP3 manager, and the Podcast-specific stuff is a later addition. They claim it can manage as many as 50,000 files, and I don't doubt it.

It reads the metadata inside MP3 and other sorts of files, and indexes all your audio based on all the main ID3 tags. It also offers user tools for changing the tags in your files, and a substantial number of user-configurable, additional tags, also indexed. This offers tremendous flexibility in searching your collection. You can create playlists based on any parameters the program can identify and has indexed.

It has built-in CD ripping and indexing capabilities. You can either have the program index the music on your CD collection, or rip digital copies of your CD audio and index that, or both. I only own 4 music CDs these days, so I used that functionality, but certainly didn't stress it much.

It also has CD Burning options. So, you could rip your CD collecti0n, build a playlist of your favorites from all your CDs, and burn a CD "mixtape" with only your favorites. Haven't used that, but I have my pack of CD-R's sitting next to the laptop for Some Day Real Soon Now.

What I do use, heavily, is the podcast subscription options.

Setting up a subscription is fairly simple, and can be made lots simpler. From the Podcasts menu, select "Subscribe to new Podcast." Give the setup screen the link to the RSS feed, MM goes and gets the show title and description from the feed. Uncheck "Customize this podcast," and it will be handled according to the current "Global Podcast Options."

Currently, I am subscribed to 122 podcasts, including a half dozen audiobooks from Podiobooks.com. Yikes! I set Global Podcast Options to check all 122 subscriptions once an hour. If it discovers new content, it downloads the latest file. And if any podcast file is over 1 day old and already listened to, it is deleted in the update process. So I don't have a bunch of old podcasts I won't be listening to taking up space on my harddrive. Sounds simple when you put it that way, huh? It took me most of a week to figure that out.

Through Global Settings, Media Monkey can hold onto old files for a week, a month, or a year, or simply never delete them. It can also delete shows that are, say, 1 week old, even if you haven't listened to them, as far as you know. That way, you can ignore past shows you'll never catch up on anyway. This is particularly handy if you subscribe to something like AP's hourly news podcasts. One podcast an hour can pile up really quickly, even if they're short.

You can also manually download any or all the files listed in a Podcast feed. For example, I just subscribed to Coffee Break Spanish. Lovely show, teaches one Spanish bit by bit. Unfortunately, I subscribed 10 weeks after they started over from the beginning, and Show 10 was pretty much unintelligible. So I went back and told MM to download Episodes 1 - 9 inclusive. "Hola! Que tal? Bien, Grathias!" (It's Spanish from Spain, not Mexico.)

Now, let's suppose, like me, you subscribe to the main TWIT.TV feed. All their different shows in one feed. With Media Monkey, I'm fine, I can separately configure any subscription. In this case, I told the system to download 10 files whenever there's new content. And, apparently, it successfully ignores files it's already downloaded, even then.

If I want to listen to my podcasts my usual way, that would be all of them, oldest-to-newest. So I set up an AutoPlaylist that does the searching and sorting for me. Periodically, I tell MM to update my "Now Playing" list from that AutoPlaylist.

Use an MP3 player, maybe? How about an iPod or iPhone? Media Monkey is fine with those last two, they say; I don't know, I don't own one. But it copes with my generic $30 MP3 player by treating it like an external drive. I pick and choose which podcasts I want kept up-to-date on the player, and then have MM fill the remaining space with randomly-selected music from my ripped CDs. It maintains a list of the files that should be on the player, prompts me to delete any it thinks should be taken off, and does this automagically whenever I shove an SD card in the slot on my laptop. Or, I can tell it to update from a Playlist, say that AutoPlaylist I mentioned.

Lately, I've been listening to my podcasts on my laptop, since I've been off work and don't go out much at the moment. The internal player is currently loaded with 96 hours of podcasts of various lengths, and is playing them in sequence old-to-new, while periodically adding new ones on the end. It acts very nearly like a radio that plays only stuff I want to listen to. Sure there are web-based options that will do this. But MediaMonkey would work for another 96 hours even if I was nowhere near a WiFi Hotspot; the files are already local, stacked, indexed and organized for continuous playing.

I can set in detail the filenames and folder structures MM uses to store the files, including the option of just keeping the filenames the original feed uses. And I have the option I wanted in the first place, just save all the files in the root directory on my SD card for entirely straightforward management as I choose. Which gives me the further option of using the same setup to create a card for either my Motorola GPX or my Palm Tungsten E, which also works as an MP3 player.

It also has built-in support for various Internet Radio sites, configurable inside the program. It doesn't do video (yet). But it will play the audio from some video files, MP4 files being a noteable example.

Sounds pretty formidable, huh? Well, yes, it is, and that'd be the downside. The program is massive. It is likely Media Monkey will do what you're likely to want to do, but there's a significant learning curve. So, if you're like me, an inveterate tinkerer, you'll be fine with this program.

I think this program does everything my Mom would want for listening to podcasts. But she's not very technically savvy, and I think this program would intimidate her. I'd have to see if I could get it all configured so it'd do it all automatically, with essentially no intervention by her, other than clicking the Play button. And I'm not so sure that's possible.

I use the Free version. There's also a Gold version, with several more options fully implemented. There may be options I don't even know I don't have, because I've never tried them. I dunno if the paid version is worth it, but I think the Free version of Media Monkey is worth trying. As I said, if you like fiddling, this is your fiddle.

Griz

Friday, December 19, 2008

Young Junius

I'm currently listening my way through "Young Junius," an audio novel by Seth Harwood. It's sort of a prequel to Seth's first "dead tree" novel, "Jack Wakes Up," and the rest of the Jack Palms series, all of which have been previously available on Podiobooks.com.

In "Jack Wakes Up," Junius Ponds was a player, a mover and shaker in a dark world. In "Young Junius," we see him as just a kid in a dangerous world, where trouble, crime and death are part of the neighborhood. When his brother Temple is killed in the street, Junius goes to Marlene, the Oracle, to find out why and by whom. And things pretty much go downhill from here.

I listened to book one, "Jack Wakes Up," and loved it. I listened to book two, "This is Life," and liked it. Different tone, different style. I listened to Jack Palms 3 -- don't know if it ever got a formal title -- and didn't finish it. Got too violent for me, about halfway through. Too many people, and one in particular, loving violence, cruelty, and causing pain. I'd imagine people who aren't me might like the third book as well as the other two. And some might like it better.

This book hearkens back to what I liked about "Jack Wakes Up." There's violence here, people die. But no one takes joy from it -- it's just something you do, when you have to. It's a different world than where I live, though not so different from some places I've lived in the past.

Young Junius is clearly the boy who becomes the man we see in "Jack Wakes Up." He doesn't entirely understand the world he's fallen into, but at least he knows that. And he knows that he's been put into a situation he really can't control, and doesn't want. But there's stuff he's got to do, and it'll be ugly. It's do or die.

I recommend you check out "Young Junius" on Podiobooks.com, if you've listened to the Jack Palms series first. And if you haven't, well, you can appreciate this book without the first three. But they'd be a good place to start.

Come to think of it, the first book in the series, "Jack Wakes Up," will be available in paperback via Amazon.com, coming up in May 5, 2009. And to think all Seth's success was due to my reviews! ;-)

Here's a link, if you wanted to pre-order.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A First Attempt at Voice Acting

Today, I got to record my first voice acting roles, for two audioplays done by a group called Misfits Audio. It was kinda cool, and Captain John Tadrzak, the producer/director, seems to have been quite pleased with my work. I suppose I have a bit of an advantage; I have the tools and experience to clean the files up a bit before sending them off.

It's a bit wierd-feeling, recording lines all by myself. When I used to do stage acting, of course, there were people to play off of. Not now. And of course, I always seem to sound much better before I start recording. Can't think why.

And now I want to do more. And I want it now!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A New Job, Maybe?

I signed up on Monday to go out for a job interview/testing today at a local company. I've actually tested and interviewed out there before, for two jobs at once, in fact. But they decided at the time to not hire me. That happens there. It usually takes several tries to get a job at that (rather large) company.

And how do I know that? A whole slew of folks who'd previously worked for my erstwhile current employers got hired away by that other company over the last several years. I still have, I hope, a number of folks to give as references for the job, who I've worked with in the past, and who work there now. In fact, the lady who hired me where I am now (more or less) works at the new place now.

So we'll see. It'd be a heck of a commute for me. But I knew that going in. And hey. It's a job, and even pays well!

In further news, I decided to drop my membership at Voice123.com. It turns out the free membership there, apparently, just gives me the opportunity to link to their site, which helps them more than me. And I get informed of all the new projects they have. But I don't get invited to try out for them, and can't even be found in their search engine, unless I pay $300 or so for a Premium membership. Since I don't have $300 to blow on something so chancy, I quit the free account.

Use your own judgement.

As for me, I've been cast for an unpaid voice acting role in an audioplay coming soon to an Internet near you. So we'll see how that turns out, huh?

Griz

UPDATE: I missed the bus, so I missed my appointment. And they didn't have a day available for rescheduling. Oh, well. Next time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cars and Lightning

Listening to Leo LaPorte's radio show (via podcast), called "The Tech Guy." Fella just called in about his car getting hit twice in a minute or so by lightning. Leo brought up the old, mistaken assumption that cars are protected because of the rubber tires. Not particularly so., and I'm surprised Leo didn't catch that. Maybe he didn't want his listener to feel foolish?

Cars are (or have been) protected, not by the rubber tires, but by the steel bodies. With the massive voltages involved, wet rubber doesn't do that much, and certainly cars can and will be struck by lightening. The conductive body of the car does provide a better path to ground than the surrounding air, so the lightning is more likely to travel through the car than the air. Same with aircraft, even though they "aren't grounded." A path travelling through the body of the aircraft is electrically easier than a path through air, even wet air. Above and below the aircraft, the lightning is travelling through air, of course.

So, how are cars protected? Well, the metal box inside which you're sitting is lots more conductive than you are. The car's body acts as what's called a Faraday Cage. So the lightning is much more likely to travel through the metallic car body and around the human passengers.

And now I'm wondering -- cars are now made out of non-metallic materials, cause they're cheaper. Do cars still adequately protect their passengers from lightning?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back in the Saddle


Ya know what I'm thankful for -- or at least I will be, I think?

If you've followed the blog from the beginning, you'll recall I used to do some stage acting. Even got paid a couple times. Never was good at all that eye-contact and physical coordination stuff, though.

Well, just a couple days ago, I auditioned for a audioplay being put together by Misfits Audio. And I got a part!

It's acting, a bit like radio acting in results. But I can record my lines here, send them across the InterTubes to the Producer, and it all gets massaged into a (hopefully) cohesive show on his end. I've got one or two "spear carrier" roles I might end up doing, and one fairly meaty role. Both comedies, so I can't really say "audio drama." And I don't have to schedule time to get to tryouts and whatnot., either.

This sounds like fun. I hope it still "sounds like fun" when I'm done recording it! ;-)

Yay! Now I've got something to be thankful for!

Griz

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Storm Today!

The news is claiming we're gonna get hit with a really big snowstorm today and tomorrow. They're talking maybe a foot of snow in some areas, with us getting maybe 6 - 8 inches.

Been a while since we've seen any real snowstorms. We used to get huge storms several times a year. These days we might get one significant storm a year. Otherwise we have bare ground and deepfreeze temperatures. This is not good for the crops, the lawns, or the pipes; we've seen a lot of burst waterpipes over the past few years, seems like.

I plan on taking some nice pictures with the digital camera I was given by a friend/fan/fellow podcaster last year. I've never been much for taking pictures. But hey, got the camera, got a Flickr account, got a whole bunch of places I'm expected to put photos, guess I oughta take some, huh?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ON Second Thought


After listening to my previous review of Terry Fallis' book, "The Best Laid Plans," and listening to the rest of the book, I decided I was dissatisfied with the review. So I'm going to be recording a followup review as part of my next show. I'll also be recording a review of at least one other audio book.

I'm fine with that. It's not the first time I've done a followup review of a book, once I've finished it. And I'm not quite as articulate as I may sometimes seem. When I wrote the original review, I didn't say what I meant to say. Unfortunately, with podcasts, I don't get to go back and change them after posting them. I suppose I could, but X copies are already out in the wild with the old info.

Likewise, I suppose I could go back and edit the blogpost with almost exactly the same review, but I think I'll wait and let the followup podcast review speak for itself.

Griz

Friday, December 12, 2008

Voicework?

Yesterday, I created a new account on Voice123.com, a site for voice actors to find work, and producers to find voice actors. Haven't finished setting everything up yet.

I really like the idea of working as a voice actor. I'm told I have a good voice for some purposes. I recall one young lady suggesting I'd be good at "down-home, folksy" political ads, or words to that effect. I picture something like Wilford Brimley did not too very long ago. I'm not as old as he, but that's a good thing -- good for me, anyway.

I'm still pretty much clueless as to how one starts at such things, but I suspect that's always the case. In any field of endeavor, I find, one never really knows how to start until long after one is in the full flow of a career. Then one has plenty of advice to offer the new folks -- who won't be able to understand the advice well enough to take advantage of it, till they in turn are well into it.

Since I haven't actually done any voice work yet, I don't have any samples or demos to offer. But I think I'll take advantage of what I do have. I have the promos from my own podcasts, plus a dozen I recorded for play on other folks' podcasts, to see if I can inspire in their listenership interest in listening to my offerings.

I only have a vague idea why anyone would want to listen to my shows, but I'm getting there. Right now, I have 78-or-so subscribers total, 19 subscribed only to "Grizzly's Growls," 21 subscribed only to "Stories from the Hiber-Nation," and 38 subscribed to the main feed, which includes both. I'm assuming no one would subscribe to both single feeds, or to a single feed and the combined feed. Not really sure, though.

Anyway, I at least have those promos to offer as "demos." Not what your average voice actor would have. But who says I'm your average voice actor?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just as I suspected

Just stopped by the "Minnesota Works" website, part of trying to find a new job, as I've mentioned. And guess what.

11,300 Position Openings. 46,881 Active Resumes.

"Well, there's yer problem!"

Granted, my own resume has been active for all of the last six years, while I've been employed. And "Position Openings" are only open a short while, till they're closed. But even so, it kinda boggles the mind, huh? I gotta find something, though, don't I? I gotta try. And I might get some luck. You never know.

I gotta get a haircut and trim the beard, too. It's fine to be an older guy with long hair and a beard if you already have a job. But job hunting, looking like this? Probably a bad idea.

It's my considered opinion that the economy will recover a lot faster than most people think. I predict there'll be significant improvement in the economy by May. Give it a year, and a lot will be on the upswing. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, I gotta get a new job. Something.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Okay, now you can worry

Just recently, I got an email from my employers. The office where I work will be closing early next year, and I'll be out of a job. All the work goes to HQ in another state, for efficiency reasons, they say.

I am still, technically, temporarily laid off due to Lack of Work. But my employers say it is highly unlikely there will be any work to which to return before they close the office in February. So now I'm officially looking for work. And of course, this is a lovely time to be looking for work; I'll have lots of company, won't I?

Sympathy would be appreciated, and thanks in advance. Or, if you'd rather, I've still got the "Donations" link on my websites. I've even added subscription-type donations, $1 a month and $5 a month. I have no idea why you'd want to, but you could. Certainly, if you're a fan of the podcasts, this does offer an opportunity to show appreciation and support.

So, what was the theme of this month's NaBloPoMo again? Oh, yeah.

Thanks!












Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Best Laid Plans - Review




I'm currently listening/reading my way through three different audio books at once. Was going to do one at a time, but I wanted some variety. They're all good, and all favorites, but for different reasons.

One is Terry Fallis book, "The Best Laid Plans." This is a political satire, and it's certainly not my first. It is, however, my first Canadian political satire.

Daniel is an experienced Liberal political activist who's worked for the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, who's become thoroughly disillusioned with top-level party politics. He decides to leave, but doesn't want to make enemies among the high & mighty. So he takes on one last task: to run a campaign in a Riding where there's a tremendously popular and charismatic Conservative incumbent. He isn't expected to win. He's expected to get a candidate, run a campaign, and fail gracefully, so the Party doesn't look bad.

I've read a fair number of political satires, and this book touches all the usual bases for such. There's our young and disillusioned Hero, the beautiful Love Interest, the bumbling Authorities, the smart-but-tired Old Wise Head, the two strange-but-noble Freaks (seems to me there are always two). And there's the idiosyncratic Candidate, who refuses to run a conventional campaign. I know how these usually end, and I suspect I know how this one will end.

Still...

I'd first come across Terry Fallis on his podcast, "Inside PR." He's a knowledgeable and respectable PR professional with years of experience, including experience in a position similar to our Hero. (I doubt the book is autobiographical, exactly.) Initially, it kinda threw me hearing his voice as a novelist, but I got used to it. He's also very well educated and articulate, and since our Hero Daniel (in the Lions' Den?) is a Ph.D. and English professor, that helps a lot.

The politics is interesting. Sure, it's Canadian politics, that's part of it's charm. The book is even educational, in that sense. I won't try to explain any of it to you, that's what the book is for, in part. And yet, there's plenty that's recognizeable to a Minnesota boy like me. I even ran as a candidate in a guaranteed-to-lose election once. Politiicians are politicians, sad to say.

The characters are charming. The "grumpy but loveable" candidate, Angus MacClintock, is also smart, well educated, clever, and inventive -- and no, they're not all the same thing. Look it up. The story is told from the first person Hero, which is also standard, but works well in this book.

One comes away with the feeling (as usual?) that one could wish more such people were involved in the political process on both sides of our border, and in all other countries as well. And maybe they are. One can hope, too.

I encourage you to listen to this book. It's available at Podiobooks.com and at author Terry Fallis' website, in both cases via podcast.

And also, of course, it's available in real, hold-it-in-your-hand book form through Amazon.com, through this link: The Best Laid Plans: A Novel

Monday, December 8, 2008

International Listening Year [I.L.Y.]


I wanted to share with you an idea I came up with today, called "The
International Listening Year
."

My first inspiration for the idea came from something called "the National
Day of Listening
," a project of the StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an
organization, connected (somehow) with NPR, that conducts an oral history
project. They've been travelling around the country for several years,
recording one-hour interviews with people from many walks of life --
usually older folks -- burning CDs of the interview, giving one copy to
the interviewee, and filing a copy with the Library of Congress.

I think this is a wonderful idea, and I recently subscribed to their
podcast to check it out.

They recently presented the National Day of Listening, on November 28.
This project was intended to inspire people across the country to do their
own one-hour recordings with their own families and significant other folk
with stories. Another excellent idea. They announced recently they've
extended the NDL through the Holiday Season, to encourage more
participation. I encourage interested parties to look into the NDL.

My first thought was, "Gee, any podcaster has hardware to do that, and a
portable like mine would be nearly ideal." StoryCorps does offer to rent
out hardware for the process, for $150. That'd just about buy one of
these Samson Zoom H2 Handy Recorders like I use.

My second thought, "No reason a podcaster couldn't do something similar,
and without rushing to participate in the NDL." So, what would be the
best way to do such?

Interviews are hard, harder than just saying your own stuff. They're
particularly hard for me, for reasons you may know. Beyond that, doing an
interview for a whole hour? As a one-off, an hour is almost easier to
record -- you don't have to think about what to include or throw out. But
if you want a good interview, you want to keep it shorter. And most
folks, I think, would be uncomfortable with trying to talk for a whole
hour, anyway.

But wait, five minutes? Everybody's got five minutes or so, don't they?
Lots of people have more. Not everybody has the hardware/software/skills
to make the recording, but We Could Fix That. If you record a half-hour
or an hour, you should be able to distill that down to at least a solid
five minutes, no?

So, recorded, five-minute interviews, with a similar set of interviewees,
and a similar content. But an independent project, produced by
independent podcasters with the will, the skills, and the hardware...

Now, one problem with the NDL is the limited audience. The interviews
StoryCorps records themselves get into the Library of Congress. The
recordings of everybody else don't. The recorder is expected to file the
recording away for future generations on their own. Which is fine, such
as it is.

StoryCorps, as I mentioned, does a Podcast with some of, "the best of,"
their own recordings. As far as I know, they don't use the NDL recordings
for that. They do post a minimal number to their website, but relatively
few. So much is lost, and so much more could be done.

Keep in mind I was thinking about this after finishing National Podcast
Post Month, and starting National Blog Post Month. I already was familiar
with the Social Network idea, and what others have done with Ning to
handle such event-based networks. And that suggested the idea of creating
a Social Network to produce these five-minute interviews.

A "National Month of Listening?" Thirty interviews in a month? Not
bloody likely. Maybe a "National Year of Listening?" Not every day, say
one per month, or perhaps just twelve within the year. Plenty of time to
find twelve really good interviews -- not with the celebrities that get
interviewed all the time, but with folks that might otherwise never get to
tell their story.

Hated the name. Thought back to the Donald Fagen song, reoorded by Steely
Dan, "IGY." The International Geophysical Year. The year I was born, a
scientific event better described elsewhere -- but also a celebration of a
more hopeful view of the future than we've had since. And a favorite song
of mine. I want my Spandex jacket and flying car!

Thus:

The "International Listening Year" is a social-network and Podcasting
challenge. Starting in January 2009, participants commit to record at
least twelve, five-minute interviews, with twelve different people
(probably) who don't normally get asked for their stories, and to offer
those five-minute interviews as podcasts.

As I mentioned, I created a Social Network on Ning,
http://ilyear.ning.com. Also, as I did for NaPodPoMo (sort of) and
NaBloPoMo, I created the mechanisms for a collective podcast feed for all
ILY participants. Should work quite simply, I think. (I've made
something similar work before.)

If you are currently a podcaster, this should be quite doable -- you'll
have a whole year. If you can do more than twelve, that'll probably be
fine. But what I'm hoping for is that each five-minute recording is the
best you can make it, worthy of the trust of your subjects, and
demonstrating your respect. The "traditional" first six, after all, would
be Grandma and Grandpa on both sides of the family, and maybe Mom and Dad.

Or make your own list. "This is Liberty Hall; you can spit on the mat,
and call the cat a Bastard." But if this thing "has legs," you might wish
later you'd given it your absolute best. And the standard five-minute
length makes sense to me; one problem we had with keeping up listening to
the NaPodPoMo shows was, some shows could be an hour, or even two hours
long. Don't tire out Grandma.

The collective feed will be a limited aggregate feed of participant's
regular RSS feeds (through Yahoo Pipes and Feedburner), including no more
than X of your most recent ILY recordings, each simply marked for the
aggregator to find (explained later) -- so your content stays on your site
and in your feed. With sufficient participation, the collective feed
might have to be cut back to only your most recent recording, just to keep
Feedburner from choking on the size of the thing.

Since it's the International Listening Year, that means anyone in the
world could (potentially) participate. (Languages? Hmmm...) And the
year starts, naturally, on January 1, 2009. So does the project.

Wonder how you get stuff into the Library of Congress? Or Archive.org?

Comments can go to my blogpage, my Podcast's page, or via email. I look
forward to your interest in taking up the challenge. The Ning group is up
and more-or-less ready for business. Anybody else like this idea?
Suggestions? Refinements?

Griz

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The "Stranger" Problem

Just recently listened to Spider Robinson's reading of John Varley's book, "The Persistence of Vision," on his "Spider on the Web" podcast. It reminded me of an objection I had to another Utopian story, and all other Utopian stories in general.

In "Vision," Varley's main character is a man in his late 40's, who is unemployed and decides to walk to California (in a different, recent past). On his way, he stumbles across a small commune in New Mexico. The commune is entirely populated by deaf and blind folks and their children. (Why is part of the story.)

This small, isolated community has developed a rather wonderful utopian society. They have learned to be so effective in communicating by touch that they simply can't lie to each other or conceal anything. They are utterly at peace with each other, financially self-sufficient, and of course, very happy. The hero becomes dissatisfied with his own place in this small world, and leaves. The citizens of the community develop essentially magical powers, not well-explained.

Anyway, like most utopian societies, it is absolutely possible such a place could exist. If you could create a financially self-sufficient, isolated community of deaf-and-blind folks with psychic powers.

I was reminded of reading Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" back in high school. In the story, they also create a small self-sufficient, apparently wonderful society, and all is just hunky-dory, due to the presence of Valentine Michael Smith, with magical powers. The English teacher who assigned the book (it was in Creative Writing class, I think), claimed that Charlie Manson used "Stranger" as some of his source material for his ideal world -- after "Helter-Skelter," the latter being not Utopian at all.

Hence The "Stranger" Problem -- "Stranger's" Utopia is absolutely possible -- if you can come up with a multi-billionaire orphan raised by giant, psychic slugs on Mars. I'd argue that "Starship Trooper" is another such Utopia -- you need universally noble Military veterans. I'm a veteran, and I'm not Universally Noble. or "Time Enough for Love." Got a 1000-Year-Old-Man with perfect genes handy? How about perfect body repair, and reliable human cloning, and so on, and so on?

Utopias are wonderful ideas, and "The Persistence of Vision" is a wonderful story. It is, arguably, a better story than "Stranger in a Strange Land." But when the potential existence of a Utopia depends on the existence or creation of a near-impossibility, then the Utopia is also a near-impossibility -- so near as to make no difference. One assumes otherwise at one's peril.

That said, if you don't assume you can treat that Utopia as an achievable whole, there are pieces and ideas in them that can be useful and may be achievable Some Day. That is the point of SF, if one looks for more than entertainment. By the same token, Dystopias, such as those described in Johnathan Swif't's "Gulliver's Travels" and other fantasies, can contain valuable bits and pieces about mistakes in existing societies, but are not documentary, simply explanatory.

By the way, Spider Robinson reads nearly as well as I do, and gets better books. ;-) So I recommend you jump out to his podcast page and listen to his reading of this and other stories.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Way too many feeds?

I have a little technical dilemma.

I am now the proud owner of eight Feedburner feeds:

Changeling Turkey -- Which was the feed for my first blog, Changeling Turkey, then an extra (and largely unused) feed to my current blog. As of now, it's a feed of both my regular podcasts plus the Odiogo-voiced, computer text-to-speech "podcast" of my Blog text.

Life and Times of a Minor Local Celebrity -- The main feed for my Blog.

Grizzlys Growls Podcast-Only -- Just my original "Grizzly's Growls" podcast.

Hiber-Nation Forward -- The "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" feed, but in First-to-Last Order.

NaBloPoMo -- The National Blog Post Month Collective Feed. (By the way, I just added a Blogroll of all the Feed participants to my blog, if you're curious.)

Stories from the Hiber-Nation -- The regular newest-to-oldest "Stories" feed.

The NaNaPooPoo Network -- An attempt at a Podcast Community, so participating podcasters can combine their efforts to promote the one feed, "A rising tide raising all boats," as they say.

The dilemma is probably settled. I couldn't figure out what the heck to do with the Changeling Turkey feed. But I had a way to combine all the different audio into one feed that Feedburner wouldn't choke on. So I figured, what the heck, probably no one will care. There were only two remaining subscribers, anyway.

But the question is reasonable. What commitment do I owe to even a small audience like those two, to keep that feed pointed at the content they subscribed to? If I do make a change like the one I made, is is immoral and unkind, or just an inconvenience? The only input I know of I got from those individuals was their initial subscription. And the only way I have of asking them, is to post something on the Blog, which'd go to all the people on the blog, most of whom see no change at all.

Maybe the change will be useful for people, say, who can't see and/or want all my content in audio. The Odiogo thing keeps the text as the "show notes" of the audio. Or maybe it'll be useful for nothing whatsoever. But I worry about being fair in these things.

I recommend Odiogo for bloggers who want something to experiment with. There's only a male voice, but it's okay, I guess. I like to fiddle with technical things. Often, it's pointless. Sometimes I think maybe alla this brilliance will appear valuable, someday, and I'll get a job out of it.

I'm not holding my breath.

Griz

UPDATE: And now I've added yet another feed, for the International Listening Year project, which is why [I.L.Y.] is on the subject of this message -- for experimental purposes. (sigh)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Clever Old Guy, Will Do Tech for Money

Day 5.

I have been lucky enough, for most of my life, to not own new or cutting edge computers.

Since the mid-70's, I've been fiddling with whatever computers I could get my greasy little fingers on. Initially, that was a time-sharing system through the local high school. Later on, I'd have whatever the latest (programmable) calculator I could afford. And I couldn't afford much.

I did, briefly, have three new computers, back in the First Home Computer Boom. Yes, there were two. In the first, lots of companies making game machines added keyboards, put in ROM-based BASIC (which is how Microsoft got their start), and called it a "home computer." It was, sort of. Those I had were Tandy Color Computers. And the ads at the time claimed that you hadda get your kid a computer, or they'd be behind the other kids in school, and would never get a really good job. Right.

During the Second Home Computer Boom, the market was dominated by IBM PC's and Compatibles, and by Apple's Macs. I couldn't afford the "real thing," but I could occasionally get someone's old or broken computer at a rummage sale for $50 or so. And, since I was starting with nothing, I really had to learn how to squeeze as much as possible out of this very old hardware. I wrote batch files, did a bit of programming, wrote my own mailmerge program for sending out resumes en masse. I couldn't afford to be afraid of breaking stuff, and had to learn what would and wouldn't foul up the computer.

So now, even though most of the stuff I know how to do is out-dated, I know enough of the fundamentals of why things work the way they do, I can puzzle out how to use the newer hardware and software, often better than other folks. And I can tell when things are just not working, as compared to being something I don't understand. The new hardware and software is created based on habits and ideas from the old hardware and software. So it's still helpful. Just not profitable, sad to say.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Public Health Care, and why USians have been robbed nekkid.

Day 4.

And it happens again. Oh, the big issue is how Old People feel about health care and public agencies taking responsibility for public health. So we're arguing about the annoying attitudes of old people. And we are NOT discussing the fact that private companies are robbing us blind, have been robbing us blind, and will continue to rob us blind. And the Government, funded by the thieves, say "buying from thieves is a Good thing!"

When do we say, "Okay, we're capitalists. We Capitalists, as compared to those shameful Communists and Fascists, think that folks who demand money should get no more than they can earn. And We Capitalists expect that putting ourselves in the best Capitalist position is best. And our best position, as Capitalists, is us doing our buying as a group. And the best possible group to deal with buying medication and medical treatment is All Of Us. And the best way to organize that group is to get the government we have to pay for ANYWAY to do that particular job for us. They're good at demanding money and being cheap bastards."

Why aren't we using that?

Why don't us oh-so-clever-and-informed capitalists say, damnit, we're PAYING you to sort this crap out, SORT IT OUT? Why are we ALLOWING these idiot employees of ours to mangle the obvious solution for dealing with OUR needs, which are of course paramount, because we damn-well pay for it?

Because we're stupid?

At least I can be thankful that I still have my health. So far. More or less.

Griz

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lots and lots of time...

Day 3. I now officially have Lots of Time to Blog. Seems I got put on a seasonal layoff, that might well last through the end of the year.

This is fine, financially, I think. I am eligible for Unemployment, and my employers never contest unemployment when it's due to Lack Of Work. And my Unemployment eligibility is figured IIRC based on the hours and money I was getting in the six months prior to the most recent six months. Now I've been working part-time, then I was working full-time, at the same hourly rate. And I'm not required to apply for other jobs; I am, after all, supposed to be returning to my old job.

Even though they figure based on 3/4 of my net pay, I'll still be making more, best as I can figure, than I would make if I was Actually Working. This is assuming I remember correctly how alla that Unemployment stuff works.

Of course, for NaBloPoMo, this gives me ridiculous amounts of time for blogging, as well as my usual podcasting. The term of the layoff is indefinite. They will probably call me early in January to come back to work. Or, they could call tomorrow and tell me to come back to work.

So, it should be all good. What could possibly go wrong?

Griz

UPDATE: Just did the online "paperwork" for unemployment. My eligibility turns out to be $175 a week. Not near what I'd make working. Oh, well, it's temporary. I should be thankful I have some Unemployment coming in, right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanks!

I have never been too hesitant to take credit for the audio quality of my podcasts. I do read well, and the "Stories" have been pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. And I do, often.

Yet much of the quality comes from the nice hardware I get to work with. My sister bought me a brand new laptop, and a Samson Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, for a late Christmas present last year. About $1000 US for alla that. And the Zoom makes me sound much better than I used to. And the laptop makes editing a whole lot easier and faster.

So I have to say "Thank you" to my sister for that. I read and speak well enough to do right by the equipment. I gather folks like listening in particular to the "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" shows. But gotta give credit where credit is due.

Griz

Monday, December 1, 2008

NaBloPoMo

Now that I've struggled my way through NaPodPoMo, I figured the best way to get my rest was....

to start NaBloPoMo, National Blog Post Month. A blog post every day for 30 days. Oh, wait, December, 31 days. What's one extra day? Shouldn't be that hard.

Seems like it should be easier than the Podcasting thing. Writing is just one step in the process of Podcasting. And I managed 30 podcasts -- mostly not written by me, since I did "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" all the days I didn't do my regular show, and HN is me reading a book -- reading very well, but reading.

But all were recorded, edited, and posted by me. And the Grizzly's Growls shows were written by me, to the extent they were written.

Of course, this is about guaranteed to be Famous Last Words. Something will go wrong. Then again, nothing went wrong in November. What could possibly go wrong? ;-)

Griz