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Problems, solutions, and podcasts

Problem: I kind of miss blogging
Problem: blogging takes up time which I don't have
Solution: limit blogging time to 15 minutes
Problem: blogging typically takes more than 15 minutes because I want to provide links, photos, given careful and balanced arguments, etc.
Solution: one link and one photo maximum, don't get hung up with having perfect posts. Warn people that:
**What you see below are my unprocessed thoughts, please ask me, or leave a comment, if you want more information or want to question what I'm saying. I may well be wrong.**

Which is what I shall try to do.


Yesterday I was invited to speak on a podcast, 'Tech Beat' (there goes the link), which is hosted by John Lim. It was interesting and with interesting co-invitees (or whatever they're called).

Anyway, I listen to many podcasts, and often find myself wanting to butt in, or wondering why the person said what they did. But I found out that it's not as easy as it sounds: I came away from the recording wondering if I should have said what I did, and how I could have said it differently.

There's one thing I want to develop a little more. John asked about the impact of blogs on the political scene in Malaysia, and will they make a difference in the next election. I said something about how they were really groundbreaking back in 2004-5, but now many of the SoPo blogs have lost something of their independence (e.g. Jeff Ooi, or Rocky's Bru), and there are also many more pro-government blogs. I concluded by saying that they may make some difference, but the elections will be decided on other things.

The last statement is obvious, people vote based on a whole host of factors.

Anyway, what I should have said was: it's not just blogs anymore. Back in the period leading up to March 2008 blogs were the driving online voice, and they brought a practical information distribution factor that bypassed the MSM, and also a - very important - symbolic energy that encouraged people to speak out and to imagine alternatives.

It's not just blogs. It's all the online media: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc etc. These have let the cat out of the bag. The powers-that-be will never have it the same again, where they could control information distribution quite effectively. Historically, it goes back before blogs also, to email and websites during the Reformasi period.

OK, that's it


My favourite podcasts

I love listening to podcasts - they are a great way to use some of that downtime in an interesting way - when you're driving, walking the dogs, cooking, and so on... I can listen to my favourite programmes whenever I want, pause them, rewind, turn up the volume (great for people like me with hearing problems), etc.

If you're wondering how to get podcasts, the first thing to know is that You don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts! (obvious to those of you who know, but not obvious to all). A podcast is just an mp3 file that you can download and listen to on any mp3 player, your phone (if it plays mp3 files), or on your computer, and some home stereo systems. If you have the proper equipment, and your mp3 player supports it, you can also transmit from an mp3 player to a car radio.

If you do have an iPod, then it can connect seamlessly with iTunes to update automatically when you connect it to your computer. But, you don't need an iPod to use iTunes - I like iTunes as it does really useful things like organising all my sound files in neat folders for me. It also makes subscribing to podcasts very easy.

When you subscribe to a podcast, this means that you tell iTunes (or other software too I suppose, but I never used another) to check online regularly and download the latest podcast. Most sites that offer podcasts also have a 'One click subscribe to iTunes' button which makes life easy.

Here are some of my recommended podcasts:

On Point with Tom Ashbrook: a daily phone in talk show from NPR (public radio) in America. Invites knowledgeable guests and covers a range of subjects. A bit America-focused, but generally interesting, and I've learnt a lot about America too, since I've started listening to it.

BBC World Service has many, including:
From Our Own Correspondent: BBC's foreign correspondents do random stories that are not necessarily breaking news. Great snippets and insights into all parts of the world. My long term favourite.
Interview : half-hour interviews with interesting people - politicians, business leaders, activists, celebrities...
Crossing Continents: "On the ground reporting from around the world which focuses on the human dimension of the big international stories."

Examples of other choices are:
World Book Club ; One Planet; Newsweek (Cantonese); World Business News

Radio 4
Thinking Allowed: Laurie Taylor usually has the author(s) of books on history, and social sciences, and host analytical conversations about the world we live in.
In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg : "The history of ideas discussed by Melvyn Bragg and guests including Philosophy, science, literature, religion and the influence these ideas have on us today."
Woman's Hour: News, Politics, Culture : Sometimes interesting daily programme on 'Women's issues'. I listen to it mostly for tips on bringing up children, but it also discusses other issues related to women - legal issues, art, whatever...

• Tech/Geek stuff
Digital Planet: Weekly BBC techie podcast, with the latest on gadgets, and the effects of technology on society.
The Digital Edge: local Malaysian weekly discussion on all things techie, geeky and related industry matters; hosted by @johnlim.
This Week in Asia: Weekly Singaporean-based Singapore/Malaysia based techie discussion with a regional focus (thanks @Cerventus for the clarification); similar to The Digital Edge.
Digital Campus: More or less bi-weekly. Based in George Mason University, academics discuss issues related to Digital Humanities - with a particular focus on history, libraries and museums.
Supernova Hub: regular high calibre discussions with leading academics, business people and technology experts - you can learn a lot here!
Yi-Tan Weekly Technology Call: this came highly recommended, but has yet to live up to expectations I'm afraid. The site is a bit messy, but if you want to subscribe via iTunes, click here.
TED Talks: also highly recommended, but all online streaming video as far as I can see. TED means 'Technology, Education, Design', and there are regular top speakers (e.g. Tim Berners-Lee) who impart wisdom in relatively short talks.

• Finally, The Teaching Company has many great lecture series with proper academics teaching everything from "Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition" (I actually understood quantum physics for a while!), through a "History of Ancient Rome", "History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon", to the "Roots of Human Behavior". They're not free, but if you're lucky you may find someone with a copy to share.