My Favourite Podcasts

I admit it, ever since I got an mp3 player at Christmas, I’ve been hooked — even to the point of learning a bit of Python (a programming language).

Why the programming language? My player’s back button is flaky, and I often walk on noisy roads, or listen with kids in the house. It can take five seconds to go back just 10 words, more if I have to dry my hands first. It only took an hour or so to find a free program (mp3splt) that will split by time. Most mp3 splitters split at silence — good for dividing a CD into songs, but not so good for my needs. The interface only did one file at a time, but it worked.

(A note about mp3pslt: If you want the nice interface, use Mp3splt-gtk. For the command line, use Mp3splt . The Windows builds are at the end of the list. The installer.exe files work fine with Vista. Since Wonderful Husband wrote the multiple file program for me, mp3splt has added support for multiple files to the nice interface.)

It also came with a command line for the actual splitter. Cue wonderful husband, who used his favourite programming language, Python, to write a program that automates the entire process. Then, of course, I wanted to play with some of the options. To do that, I had to edit the Python source. At one time or another, I’ve done the equivalent of a first year course in five different languages (five? Basic, C, C++, Pascal, Fortran, Prolog, and Forth. Also Ladder Logic (ugh!). Several versions of most of those, and some serious projects in a few.) So, after he gave me a quick “key differences” heads-up (whitespace counts!), I could edit it. (He still helped me a bit — the instructions for the splitter’s command line interface was poorly written, and Husband’s experience helped decipher it.)

So now I load up a folder with mp3s, run the splitter, and throw them onto my player.

At the moment, I use ThunderBird (yes, the email reader) to catch the latest episodes, but I’m experimenting with iTunes. I also use Firefox and DownloadThemAll to get older episodes — go to a “past episodes” page, then tell DownloadThemAll to filter for audio files. Castroller is also nice, combined with DownloadThemAll.

I try to keep up with current episodes of friends’ podcasts. Strangers’ recent episodes come next. Then archives from the beginning. I try to rotate them, so I don’t listen to five episodes of one podcast back-to-back.

Which leads to the next part of the post: Podcasts I regularly listen to. The episode length is for 90% of the episodes. The occasional one goes over — sometimes way over.

Knitting

Knit Spirit
Ivy Reisner discusses knitting and spirituality. She doesn’t confine herself — so long as it’s about knitting or spirituality, it’s fair game. I love seeing how the two topics merge. Episodes are usually 15 to 30 minutes long, unless there’s an interview.

Knit Picks (And a more convenient site for this one, for archive grabbing.)
You’d expect a podcast from the owner of a very large online knitting supply store to talk about how wonderful the products are, but Kelly’s a true knitter and spinner. She has faith in her products, but it’s not a sales pitch. She often suggests home-made alternatives, and she often talks about products they don’t even offer, like some specialty fibres. Maybe she’s just far-sighted — get us hooked on the craft with the cheap equipment, then we’ll want to upgrade. Her technical information is awesome, like the structure of wool fibre and tips for colour pooling. She interviews members of the Knit Picks staff, and all sorts of knitters and spinners. There’s also a great books section — enough that I can’t decide which book to get next. Episodes are reliably 20-30 minutes long.

Writing

The Writing Cast
Another by Ivy Reisner, about writing. She covers writing and publishing information. Episodes are 15-20 minutes long, or up to an hour if there’s an interview. My interview is episode 79, July 18, 2009.

I Should Be Writing
Mur Lafferty is a writer who is trying very hard to be published, and I expect she’ll make it. She gives advice, interviews a variety of guests, answers listeners’ questions, and talks about recent events in the field of writing. Early episodes are under 20 minutes. Later ones are about an hour.

Storytelling

The Seanachai
“Seanachai” is Irish / Gaelic for “storyteller”. The site’s “about” page has a bit of historical information about seanachais. Impressive people! Patrick McLean presents absolutely awesome short stories and essays, written by himself and others. Some stories are in series. The written background notes are also worth reading. Each episode is 5-10 minutes, but one interview was an hour.

Vinyl Cafe
I grew up listening to CBC radio. Stuart McLean keeps the tradition alive. He tours all over Canada, telling stories and featuring guest musicians. His most famous stories are about Dave and Morley. If you want to understand what it’s like to be a Canadian, this is a must-listen show. Each episode is an hour.

The Moth
I just discovered this one. It’s a group in New York that encourages storytelling. I’m not sure how long the episodes are.

Friends

Stuttering is Cool
Daniele Rossi challenged himself: Stop letting his stuttering get in the way of his life, and also create a place where other stutterers can feel less alone. He has succeeded. He started with ordering a moccacino at StarBucks, and now does presentations at PodCamp. Tons of interviews and listener questions. Some interesting interviews, too. Episodes range from 5 to 70 minutes.

Stuttering.Me
A super-short podcast by a speech and language professor who stutters. He discusses whatever’s on his mind, as it relates to stuttering, from the latest research and therapy methods (good, bad and criminal) to books about personal finance — and how the lessons therein can be applied to stuttering. Episodes are exactly 8.5 minutes long, including intro and outro music.

Fiction

Podiobooks
Not quite a podcast, but you can make it one. Free audiobooks, both classics (i.e., out of copyright) and new (i.e., copyright owner puts it up, the author herself). You can download as many chapters as you like immediately, or you can create an account and have it create a podcast feed for you — tell it how often to send you episodes, and it gives you a feed for you podcatcher.

Murder at Avedon Hill
The audiobook I just finished listening to. It started as the author reading the story, but over two years it evolved to a full-featured, multiple-voice combination of narration and audio-drama. For this one, I went directly to the author’s site, so got a lot of extras. You can get just the audiobook at podiobooks.com.

That’s it for now. It’s enough to keep me busy knitting and doing housework.

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