Dancing in the Moonlight

Triggering memories with just a song title.

This morning, at 3 AM, a mouse walked into the humane mousetrap I’d set at the bottom of Alex the Bird’s cage. As it struggled to get out, the rattling of the little plastic trap woke me up. At 3 AM.

I’m not sleeping well these days and once I was up and had silenced the trap I couldn’t get back to sleep. I reached for my iPad and checked out Twitter and Facebook. My U.K. friends are always up in the middle of my night and I thought they might have something interesting to say or some interesting link to follow. Something to keep my mind off the personal problems that are making sleep so tough these days.

I found a Facebook update from a pilot friend who’d just returned from an overseas contract. I’m assuming he won’t mind if I reproduce it here:

I have not used Pandora on my phone for about a month.This morning before I select Pandora to plug into the jeep I am singing “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”! It was the last song I had on A month ago! I did not remember that, but my subconscious did!

Ball and Chain Ad
Image from killingtime2 on Flickr.

And that triggered a memory from forty years ago…sitting on my bed in the attic bedroom I shared with my sister, listening to “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest on a Panasonic “Ball and Chain” AM radio. My radio was dark blue, my bedspread and the wallpaper were pink. It was 1972, the year the song came out, and I was about 11 years old. I was just beginning my “music enlightenment” — discovering that there was more music than the Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole my parents listened to on their console stereo downstairs. I tuned into WWDJ in those days, a Hackensack, NJ-based pop radio station.

I remember fiddling with the tuning dial on that radio, picking up weak signals from faraway places like Chicago and Philadelphia and Boston.

I clearly remember listening to other Top 40 pop songs on that silly little radio: Precious and Few (Climax), Also Sprach Zarathustra (theme from 2001; Deodado), Crocodile Rock and Bennie and the Jets (Elton John), Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins and Messina), My Maria (B.W. Stevenson), Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean on Me (Bill Withers), American Pie (Don McLean), An Old Fashioned Love Song and Shambala (Three Dog Night), Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is? (Chicago), Oye Como Va (Santana), Angie (Rolling Stones), Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band), I Shot the Sheriff (Eric Clapton), Killing Me Softly with His Song (Roberta Flack), My Love (Paul McCartney and Wings), Alone Again (Naturally) (Gilbert O’Sulllivan), Brandy (Looking Glass), A Horse with No Name (America), Without You (Nilsson), I can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash), The Candy Man (Sammy Davis, Jr.), I Am Woman (Helen Reddy), Nights in White Satin (The Moody Blues), Song Sung Blue (Neil Diamond), Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree (Tony Orlando & Dawn), You’re So Vain (Carly Simon), Superstition (Stevie Wonder), Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye), Photograph (Ringo Starr), Half-Breed (Cher), Brother Louie (Stories), Love Train (The O’Jays), Will It Go Round in Circles (Billy Preston), Kodachrome (Paul Simon), Give Me Love (George Harrison), and Time in a Bottle (Jim Croce). With a little help from Top 40 songs lists, I can go on and on. What kids today call “oldies” is what I listened to on that silly little radio in the early 1970s.

I was listening to that radio in my bedroom when Jim Croce‘s death in a plane crash was announced in 1973.

In 1973, I began buying record albums and playing them on a portable turntable set up in a corner of our room. I still have those albums, many of which have the year of purchase written in the upper corner of the album jacket.

In 1974, WWDJ suddenly switched to an all-religion broadcast. By then, I’d begun exploring FM radio with WNEW-FM, a real rock station, on the same console that played Sinatra for my parents downstairs.

All those memories, triggered by a Facebook update.

This morning, when I sat down at my computer, I decided to play Dancing In the Moonlight. I was very surprised to find that it wasn’t on my Mac in iTunes. Easily remedied: I went to Amazon.com, did a search, and had the MP3 playing within minutes. 99¢ wasn’t much of a financial burden for a music-based flashback.

For a moment, in my mind, I was back in that old attic bedroom with that silly little radio on my bedside table, listening to its tinny sound. Back then, could I ever imagine that I’d be listening to the song from my computer, plugged into a surround-sound system in an RV in the middle of Washington State? I don’t think so.

And to my Facebook friend: thanks for triggering the memory.

The iBooks Author Gamble

Taking a chance and not liking what I see so far.

iBooks IconIn late February and early March, I spent about 2 weeks porting my existing 242-page iBooks Author book to iBooks Author software for publication as an iBooks 2-compatible interactive (or “enhanced”) ebook.

Moving over the text wasn’t a huge deal — mostly copy and paste, followed by the application of styles I’d created or modified for my custom iBooks Author template. But rather than simply copy and paste the 100+ screenshots that are part of the print, epub, and Kindle format books, I decided to rely on videos to tell the story. So I spent most of that time recording a total of 3 hours of original video content based on the numbered step-by-step instructions in the book. I also used the Gallery widget and created an illustrated Glossary.

The final book turned out to be 150 pages and 1.3 GB in size. And it looked awesome (if I do say so myself) — the perfect example of how a iBooks Author could be used to create how-to content.

The Waiting Begins

Final Count
It took 55 days for this book to be approved by Apple.

I submitted the files to Apple via iTunes Connect on Sunday and began waiting for approval.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — I spent the week waiting. It’s now Friday and I’m still waiting.

In iTunes Connect, the book’s status remains:

Book In Review. This book is currently being reviewed for quality assurance.

A New Week brings New Developments

Final Count
It took 75 days for this book to be approved by Apple.

I’d already committed to converting my Making Movies book to iBooks Author format. Because the video for that book already existed — I used video clips taken from the example movie — the creation process was much quicker. I figure I put a total of 10 hours into the conversion process. I submitted it today.

And that’s when I discovered two things:

  • Apple no longer allows submissions of books created with iBooks Author 1.0 (or 1.0.1). It requires the latest version, released the other day, iBooks Author 1.1, which includes support for the new iPad. My iBooks Author book was created with the previous version. Is that what’s holding up approval?
  • A warning appeared on screen when I attempted to upload my 233 MB book, telling me that Apple recommends that books be no larger than 200 MB because some users might have trouble downloading a larger book file. My iBooks Author book was considerably larger than this. Is that what’s holding up approval?

Of course, there’s no way of knowing. Apple’s iTunes Connect/iBookstore support is absolutely dismal. If you ask a question, you’re lucky to get a response in less than a week — if you get any response at all. And that response is likely to be “canned” — in other words, boilerplate text possibly chosen at random by the support person who handled your request.

Rejection Could Be Painful

And nagging away at the back of my mind is a blog post by Seth Godin where he reported that his book had been rejected from the iBookstore because it contained links to printed books on Amazon.com.

While my book doesn’t contain any offensive links — at least I don’t think it does — what if Apple decides to reject it because it’s too big? In the wrong format? They don’t like my videos?

All I can think of is the hours and hours of work I put into that edition, possibly wasted on the whim of some reviewer at Apple.

Apple Needs to Get Serious

Today I read a blog post on TUAW about the antitrust lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice is apparently mounting against Apple. In it was this line:

Apple says that it wants to sell as many ebooks as possible, which is totally believable since the company is still a relative bit player in the ebook market.

From where I sit, I don’t see Apple being very serious about this at all. If Apple were serious, it would have a much better process in place to review and approve iBookstore submissions. After all, you can’t “sell as many ebooks as possible” if dozens or hundreds of them are stalled in the approval process day after day for a week or more. It wouldn’t be rejecting ebooks because it doesn’t like the links they include. And it certainly wouldn’t generate frustration and dissatisfaction among content creators — the people actually creating the books they supposedly want to sell.

Call Me an Idiot

I’ll beat a few of you to the punchline by admitting that I look like an idiot.

Back in January, when everyone was voicing outrage over the iBooks Author EULA, I wrote a blog post that told people they were basically worrying about nothing. In response to concerns about the approval process, I said:

I see Apple’s approval process as a GOOD thing. Right now, there’s nothing stopping anyone from publishing any crap they want as an ebook and distributing through services like Amazon Kindle. This is a far cry from publishing as we’ve known it, where only authors and works approved and edited by an experienced, professional publishing company team would be published. Apple’s review process helps weed out the crap and make its library of content more valuable to iBookstore shoppers. While some folks might be fearful that Apple will not approve their work, I’m not — and you shouldn’t be either. People who can turn out quality work should have nothing to worry about as far as the approval process goes.

Now there is some concern over Apple using this power to censor content. For example, perhaps they refuse to publish a book that says negative things about Apple or its founders. (Remember how they pulled all of a certain publisher’s books out of the Apple Store after they published an unflattering biography of Steve Jobs some years back?) I’m not terribly worried about that, but I do admit that it is a possibility. Obviously, if there are documented examples of Apple not approving something that should be approved, I’d be willing to revisit this point. For now, however, I don’t think it’s an issue.

Yes, I’m an idiot.

I didn’t realize that Apple’s approval process had the potential to be slow and unfair.

I naively assumed that Apple was concerned with quality — after all, isn’t that what’s holding up my book: a quality review? And quality didn’t worry me because I know I can create quality work.

But what if it’s some other criteria that Apple’s reviewers are concerned with? Something other than links to Amazon.com? File size, file format. Or, worse yet, something I can’t fix? And how will I know? When will I know?

Every day that book isn’t in the iBookstore is a day that I — and my partner, Apple — don’t sell any copies.

What to Do?

What’s the right answer? The right approach?

Well, I can tell you one thing for sure: I’m not going to waste another second of my time assembling yet another title in iBooks Author and submitting it to the void via iTunes Connect.

Instead, I’ll wait — as if I have any other option — and see approach. And I’ll use this experience to guide me for future submissions created with iBooks Author.

Got any iBook Author/iBookstore stories you want to share? Comment on this post.

March 19. 2012 Update: It has now been more than two weeks since I submitted my first iBooks Author-created book for approval to the iBookstore. I am still waiting for approval. This is not a good sign, folks. If you’ve already gone through the approval process, please take a moment to tell us how long it took. And if you’re waiting, please let us know how long you’ve been waiting. I’ll update this when (or if?) my book is approved.

March 28, 2012 Update: I finally heard from Apple about the first book I submitted. It had a number of trademark-related issues that needed to be resolved. I wrote about them here.

May 1, 2012 Update: While I was traveling, my iBooks Author book was finally approved. I believe the final count of days until approval was about 55. I removed the count up timer. My Making Movies book has still not been approved. I feel completely idiotic that I actually believed my books would be reviewed within a week.

May 23, 2012 Update: My Making Movies book was finally approved. I believe the final count of days until approved was 75. The last 3 weeks was spent nagging Apple to explain why it was holding back the book for metadata issues without putting a “ticket” on it.

TV to Go

I get my Daily Show fix.

I’m not a big fan of television. It’s the universal pacifier and the majority of current programming is so mindless that I think it can do more harm than good. But there is one television program I try hard not to miss: The Daily Show. I find Jon Stewart’s news commentary both eye opening and extremely entertaining. In fact, when the writers’ strike was in full-swing, it was the only program I missed.

Daily ShowAt home, I watch The Daily Show via DVR (digital video recorder, like TiVo, that’s built into our Dish Network satellite receiver). Not only can I store them away until I have time to watch them, but I can fast-forward through the commercials. (I really hate watching commercials. What a complete waste of time!) But here in Quincy, where I’m spending the summer in my camper, I don’t have a television at all. And after a week of withdrawal from the Daily Show, I decided to do something about it.

While I can go to Comedy Central’s Web site and view entire episodes online, my funky, unreliable Internet connection makes that positively painful. Too many pauses! So I broke down and bought a “season pass” on the iTunes Store. For $9.99, I can get the next 16 episodes of The Daily Show downloaded directly to iTunes. Even though my Internet connection fades in and out, iTunes keeps track of where the connection broke and resumes the download from that point. So I can actually download an episode over several Internet sessions. I can then watch the episodes at my leisure.

I should mention here that I’m a bit of a news junkie. The stereo in my camper is almost always tuned into NPR. While NPR gives one view of the news, it’s great to be able to supplement it with Jon Stewart’s take on current events.

My iTunes Plus Shopping Spree

I pick up a bunch of albums full of classics my parents used to listen to.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s; my parents grew up in the 40s and 50s. When I was a kid — before I learned to tune in a radio by myself, that is — I was kind of stuck listening to the kind of music my parents liked. I’m talking about Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, and other “vocalists.”

Although I didn’t really like the music, I didn’t hate it, either. And nowadays, hearing those old songs brings back memories from my childhood. I can still remember trimming the Christmas tree in the living room of our New Jersey home, listening to “It Was a Very Good Year” from an LP on the console stereo by the stairs.

I’ve been collecting some of those old songs for a while, as well as songs from way before that time — big band songs that really made you want to swing. But I never really got into collecting this music as much as I wanted to complete my classic rock collection with my favorite songs from the 70s and 80s.

Sometime within the past year or so, I stopped buying music online. I was simply fed up with the limitations put on the DRM-protected music available on the iTunes music store. I wasn’t interested in breaking the law and downloading music from illegal sites. I wanted to buy it. But I couldn’t see buying an entire CD at a store for $15 or more (plus tax or shipping or both). So I pretty much stopped buying music, except, of course for new releases by my favorite artists: Steely Dan, Eric Clapton, etc.

Frank Sinatra Album CoverEnter iTunes Plus. I wrote about it on Wednesday, explaining how you could use it to update your iTunes Store purchases of EMI-published music to remove the DRM and improve sound quality. One of the things I didn’t mention in that article is that I bought a DRM-free album, Classic Sinatra – His Greatest Performances, 1953-1960. I don’t know about you, but I think 20 songs for $12.99 and immediate gratification without DRM restrictions is a pretty good deal.

So good a deal, in fact, that I stopped by on Thursday and picked up two other albums: Dino – The Essential Dean Martin and The Very Best of Nat King Cole.

I’m buying this music for a few reasons reasons. First of all, I like it and I want to add it to my collection. Second, I think it’s a great deal. And third, I want to do my part to support legal online sales of DRM-free music.

Let’s face it: I’m not a music pirate and most people who rip CDs and buy music for their iPod aren’t either. The music industry is not going to go broke by removing protection from the music. I believe more people will buy it with the restrictions removed. I believe that this could be the answer to turn around the music industry, to get more people buying music again.

But then again, I might be extremely naive about this whole thing and one of the few fools buying iTunes Plus music.

What do you think? Use the comments link or form to share your thoughts with other site visitors.

My New (Old) Office

I move back to old quarters.

I spent much of today preparing to move my office back into my house. Late in the afternoon, Mike arrived from work and we loaded a bunch of stuff into the back of his pickup. I’m now typing this from my relocated office.

For the three and a half years, my office has been in a condo I own in downtown Wickenburg. I moved it there after the last tenant broke their 1-year lease and abandoned the place. When I discovered that nice white carpet (installed by the previous owner; I’m not a complete idiot, you know) completely trashed, I decided I was sick of tenants and sick of having a three bedroom house with only two occupants and no guest rooms.

We moved our offices to the condo in August 2003 (I think). It was nice to have a dedicate workspace, a place I had to go to to work. It got even nicer when DSL became available and I could get fast Internet.

But as time went by and I got more and more involved with my helicopter work, the downtown office became an inconvenience. If I had a call for a flight, I’d have to hurry home and get changed into normal clothes before driving to the airport. That was about 30 minutes shot to hell. And I started to get lazy, to not want to go to work in the morning. That’s not a good thing when I’m facing a deadline.

I wanted an office at Wickenburg Airport, but the powers that be in Wickenburg decided my small business wasn’t worthy. I guess I told too many truths on wickenburg-az.com. Made a few people feel uncomfortable. They decided to punish me by not letting me have an office at the airport. When I got the FAA involved — after all, the town’s agreement with the FAA has an “economic non-discrimination” clause — they started “cooperating” and finally got around to putting out an RFP for the 1000 square feet of land I had my eye on. But do I really want to be a tenant of the town? I thought so at first, but after dealing with the town’s crap for the past eight months, I’m pretty sick of it all and not very interested in giving the town any of my money. Frankly, most of my business comes from Scottsdale these days anyway. I’m still trying to decide whether to bid on the space after all.

So I decided to move my office back into the second bedroom at our house, the same room that was my office when we first moved here 10 years ago. It’s a 12 x 10 space with a nice, big closet. There’s no additional cost and a nice tax deduction for a home-based office. Best of all, I can go to work at any time of the day or night without commuting a single mile.

Mike’s office, which occupied the master bedroom of the condo, has been reduced to the size of a desk and set of shelves in the upstairs “den” where the television and stereo are. Not too shabby. He tunes into Sirius radio on Dish Network while he’s working and listens to it in surround sound. The window he faces has the best view in the house.

The view from my officeMy window also has a nice view. It looks out into the garden with the mountains in the distance. I just finished setting up the Webcam for wickenburg-az.com, which shows the view. Here’s the small view. (Well, if you’re looking at this during the week of January 22, you might actually be seeing the inside of KBSZ studios; there’s a tiny Webcam problem right now.) When spring comes, I’ll start working in the garden again. I’m looking forward to it. I miss gardening, but when my office was in town, I never seemed to have time for it.

Right now, 2/3 of my L-shaped desk has been moved into my office. My Dual G5 computer and the big 20-inch Sony monitor has been hooked up. I put the Dell speakers on the computer, but I think the old Altec Lansings sound better, so I’ll put them on tomorrow. I’ll get the last piece of my desk later in the week, after I clear space in this room for it. (Still got one of the old “library” shelves in here.) That’s also when I’ll bring in the printers and the Ethernet hub.

Other stuff that cluttered my office is gone. I sold the G4 that was my Web server — it sold for $335 on eBay yesterday and I shipped it out today — and I moved the G4 eMac to KBSZ studios for audio streaming. Today, I disassembled the Dell Dimension L933r computer that was my old PC test mule in preparation for donating it to the local library. My old Strawberry iMac (a G3) is in the garage, waiting for me to restore it to factory settings and dispose of it. I gave my old clamshell iBook SE to my next door neighbor, who is home-schooling her four young kids. She now has her own “computer lab.”

That leaves me with a very reasonable 3 computers for my work: my Dual Processor G5 (now about 3 years old), my relatively new Dell Latitude D820 laptop test mule, and my reasonably new 15″ Mac Book Pro test mule. Oh yeah, and my 12″ G4 PowerBook, which I really can’t part with. No need for all the desk space I had in my downtown office. I’m even cutting myself down to two printers (rather than the 3 I had accumulated). Look for some new items on eBay soon.

Getting rid of all this old equipment feels good. Although I actually threw away — in a Dumpster! — three external SCSI hard drives and a dual bay SCSI CD-ROM reader today, most of the other equipment is finding a good home. I hate throwing stuff away, but I really hate storing it. And let’s face it: old computer equipment has very little value these days.

So now I’m sitting at home in my office at 8:25 PM, listening to iTunes music on my G5 (right now: “Wish You Were Here” on Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd). It’s later than I’d usually be working. I think I’ll be working longer hours with my office in the house. Getting more work done. Blogging more.

And doing a lot of work in my pajamas once again.

CDs vs. Downloads

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the inconvenience of downloading music from iTunes. Yes, you read that right. I said inconvenience.

Sure, it’s great to download music immediately, when I want it, and pay only 99¢ per song. But what’s not so good is the restrictions on music use:

  • I must register every computer I want to play my purchased songs on and I only get 5 of them. That covers my desktop Mac, my PowerBook, my Mac test mule (for writing Mac books and articles), my Windows test mule for writing Windows books and articles), and my husband’s laptop. About a year ago I was faced with a not-so-unique problem: the motherboard on my dual G5 went bad and needed to be replaced — before I could unregister it from iTunes. I lost one of my computer registrations and had to do battle with Apple to get it back.
  • I can’t easily back up my purchased music. I need to go through some kind of procedure that I simply haven’t had time to explore. In fact there seem to be restrictions on how I copy the music, period.
  • Apparently, there is some loss of quality if I burn purchased music to a CD and then rip that music to a computer. I haven’t played around with this enough to have the full story, but I shouldn’t have to spend the time to figure out why my music quality should change. It shouldn’t change.

Fortunately, I have an iPod (or three) so the fact that iPods are the only MP3 players that can play iTunes purchased music isn’t a problem for me. But I understand that it’s a major gripe for other people.

I was going to write a blog entry about all this, but now I don’t have to. I just read a piece that expresses my feelings and frustrations on this matter better than I could. From Alpha Geek: CDs vs. Downloads on Lifehacker:

DRM, the chief source of all this grief, is the love child of Satan and Osama bin Laden. If I could pay 99 cents for an unprotected, unrestricted, 320Kbps MP3, I’d do it in a heartbeat–and it would be all over for CDs. Instead, online music stores treat us like thieving children, locking us into one bit rate, one file format, a limited number of CD burns, and other annoying handcuffs. Apple and Microsoft impose the worst kind of restriction: Songs purchased from iTunes and Zune Marketplace can be played only on iPods and Zunes, respectively.

And later:

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve rekindled my love affair with CDs. They let me do things, to borrow from Old Blue Eyes, my way. See you in hell, DRM.

Thanks, Rick Broida, for putting my thoughts into words. See you at the CD store.

Podcast Stuff

Maria Speaks Episode 31: Podcast Stuff.

This episode marks my return to Maria Speaks after a two-month break. It covers my change in podcasting technique, a new video podcast I just created for Flying M Air, and the podcasts I subscribe to.


Hi, I’m Maria Langer. Welcome to Episode 31 of Maria Speaks: Podcast Stuff.

I just spent the past three hours redoing the Maria Speaks podcast. I used to publish it with Blogger and FeedBurner. Now, since my personal Web site is blog-based using WordPress, I cut Blogger out of the picture. It took me three hours to create or modify blog entries to embed my thirty existing podcast entries on this site. Well, twenty-nine. One of them covered an eBook I no longer distribute, so it didn’t link to it.

I developed this new method of podcasting — new to me, I should say — to reduce the amount of work required to publish a podcast and keep all podcast information together. I used to use a WordPress plugin called podPress, but I removed all references to it and disabled it today. Keep it simple — that’s what I decided. And the technique I worked out is relatively simple, utilizing an existing WordPress blog and FeedBurner. I wrote about it in an article to be published soon by Informit.com. When it comes out, I’ll link to it on the Aritcles page of my Web site and create a podcast based on its content.

For some reason, my “Maria Speaks” podcast has more subscribers than ever. That makes me wonder, since I haven’t released a podcast episode since September, and that episode was a bit more commercial than I like. This time last year, I was releasing one or two episodes per week. I ran out of steam last December and have been releasing them far less frequently. Still, my subscriber numbers have been climbing steadily. It doesn’t make sense to me, but it did convince me to release more content. The way I see it, when all these new subscribers start getting the new content, they’ll either like it and stick around or not like it and leave.

In the meantime, I started a new video podcast in October for my helicopter charter company, Flying M Air. I have literally thousands of photographs taken throughout the southwest, in places I fly to. I also have photos taken by my husband and by professional photographer and Bigfoot Hunter, Richard Noll.

Rick accompanied me on a test run of Flying M Air’s Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure. The deal we struck was that in return for all all-expense paid trip, he’d let me share copyright on all the video and still images he took. While he has the ability to sell these images as stock photos or use them in other projects, I have the ability to use them in marketing material to help sell the excursions and in articles I plan to write for publication about the trip. It was a win-win deal. Richard took lots of pictures from the air, which is something I simply can’t do while I’m flying. He also took video images with something a few clicks better than the little Canon digital video cameras I have. I’m still going through the over 1,000 still images and 3 to 4 hours of video he left on my MacBook Pro’s hard disk before departing back to the Seattle area.

I decided to turn my library of photos into video brochures for Flying M Air’s tours, charters, and excursions. The result is “Come Fly With Us!” (subscribe), which currently has three episodes. Another episode will be released Monday. (That’s one of the good things about my new podcast publishing technique; I can schedule a publication date and time. This makes it possible to record several podcast episodes at once and release them periodically over time.)

Part of the learning experience for creating this new podcast was finding legal music to play while the images were showing. I wasted a lot of time looking. Some sites promoting “royalty-free” music for podcasts required that you buy the songs to use them. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the songs were sold at iTunes prices or even a few bucks, but they were asking for $25 or $39 dollars per song. I use each song on just one video podcast episode and plan to release new titles once a week until I run out of material. That music was simply over my budget.

The much hyped GarageBand.com promised royalty-free, free downloads music. But the vast majority of artists didn’t allow free downloads of their songs. And since I was looking for relatively mellow instrumentals — you know, mood music — I had trouble finding what I wanted there in the first place.

I finally wound up on MagnaTune.com. I heard about it during an interview with the site’s founder, John Buckman, that Miraz had referred me to. MagnaTune predates iTunes by about two weeks. Although it has a limited number of artists on board, it offers very reasonable licensing of its music for podcast use. I’ve been getting tunes for my “Come Fly with Us!” podcasts from MagnaTunes since then and giving credit to the artists at the end of each video. I hope they sell some music.

Speaking of music, if you’ve been listening to Maria Speaks for a while now, you may have noticed that I changed the “theme song” for this podcast. The reason: I had a one-year licensing agreement with FreePlay Music for the old tune, Floater. Last year, when I bought that license, it cost $25/year, which I thought was reasonable. When I went to renew, the price had gone up to $100/year. I guess they decided to cash in when podcasting took off. That’s above my budget for a free podcast that doesn’t even earn any advertising revenue, so I decided to find a new tune. The new tune is is a segment from a nameless bit that I got off a public domain music CD I acquired back in 1996. I spent about an hour yesterday going through the one thousand plus songs on that CD set to pick this one. I’m not sure how much I really like it, but I do need something for my opening and closing credits.

The main topic of this podcast episode was supposed to be a quick discussion of some of the podcasts I listen to regularly. So let me dive into that for a few minutes.

I want to start off by telling you what I don’t listen to. I don’t like podcasts that mix discussion and “Garage Band” music. For example, I used to listen to a podcast about words hosted by two guys who seemed to guess more about word origins than actually research them. They’d pick few words or phrases and do a 40-minute podcast about them. The way they’d stretch out that podcast is by inserting a few Garage Band songs into it. Trouble was, their taste in music was nothing like mine, so I found myself having to fast forward through the music filler to get to the discussion meat. Fast forwarding is not always easy when you’re listening on an iPod and driving in traffic. When I realized that the content I was interested in wasn’t that good to begin with, I dropped the podcast. Ditto for the writing podcast some woman was doing. I wasn’t listening to hear music. I was listening to hear content. If the content was music related, the music would make sense. But it wasn’t and it didn’t.

In general, I don’t listen to music podcasts at all. Finding new music is low on my priority list. So if you you think you might find some tips for new and exciting music podcasts here, you will be disappointed.

What I do like listening to is podcasts that can enlighten me, teach me new things, or make me laugh with intelligent humor. I listen to podcasts primarily when I’m driving or flying, although I do have a i-Fusion speaker thing that makes it easy to listen when I’m working in the kitchen, making dinner or tidying up. So if I can be trapped in a place doing a relatively mindless thing and listen to something that’ll expand my horizons or make me laugh, I’m pretty happy.

That said, here’s a brief summary of some of the podcasts I listen to. You can find links to these podcasts on the transcript for this podcast. Go to www.aneclecticmind.com and click the Podcast link in the navigation bar to find it.

First on the list are a handful National Public Radio (or NPR) podcasts. There are 355 of these podcasts and I’ve tried at least 20 of them. I listen to five of them regularly.

  • NPR: Story of the Day is a daily selection of a story from NPR’s programming. These stories are wide-ranging in topics: business, war, travel, entertainment — you name it.
  • NPR: Business Story of the Day is a daily selection of a business story from NPR’s programming. Stories cover anything business related, from Silicon Valley news bits to global oil production information and lots of stuff in between. It keeps me informed about the business world.
  • NPR: Satire from the Unger Report is a weekly podcast of satire by Brian Unger. It’ll make you laugh — and think.
  • NPR: Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is a weekly radio quiz show about the news. It has a panel of three celebrities (no, not the kind in People magazine) and call-in contestants. The questions and answers lean toward the comical, so the show is extremely entertaining.
  • NPR: Sunday Puzzle is a weekly podcast of word games with an NPR host, Will Shortz (of the New York Times), and a telephone contestant.

I’ve tried other NPR podcasts, but eventually lost interest in them. And as I prepared this list, I noticed a bunch of new ones to try out. So I might report on some additional podcasts from NPR in the future.

I also listen to American Public Media (APM) Future Tense. It’s a great podcast with short episodes about technology topics.

I listen to three PBS podcasts:

  • American Experience is a podcast with short episodes about historical topics. Recent episodes included the Gold Rush and New York.
  • NOVA is a podcast of brief stories from the NOVA science television show.
  • NOW is a podcast of rather lengthy stories form the NOW news television show. Sometimes the stories interest me and I listen to them. Other times, the stories don’t interest me and I just delete them.

I also watch a NOVA video podcast, which I find excellent. It combines science information with video and still images in a 2 to 3 minute podcast. I like some episodes so much that I save them as movies on my iPod so I can show them to others.

Speaking of video podcasts, I also subscribe to a number of others:

  • GARY-PAUL TV is a video podcast of weird stuff published by Gary-Paul Prince of Peachpit Press. My favorite episode, which I’ve saved as a movie for future viewing, is “Drinking and Driving Texas Style.”
  • Comedy Central: Stand-Up is a video podcast of stand up comedy segments. I only like about half of these, but the ones I like arae really good, so I keep checking in.
  • National Geographic Video Shorts are short video segments from National Geographic television shows.

I also used to enjoy a video podcast called CockpitCast, which showed video out the front window of various commuter jets as they landed at airports in western U.S. cities, but there hasn’t been a new release in a long time, so I don’t know if the pilots are still doing it.

Another aviation podcast I enjoy is Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase. Betty is a flight attendant who loves to travel. She brings along her tape recorded and gets stories from other flight attendants, pilots, and people at the places she flies to. The stories are great but the audio quality is pretty bad sometimes. Still, I think it’s worth a listen. My favorite story? The one where a passenger who died of natural causes during a flight was not declared dead until after the flight was more than halfway to its destination.

For tech news and info, I’ve been trying two Wired magazine podcasts:

  • Wired Magazine is a podcast of short pieces from Wired magazine columns.
  • Wired News is a podcast of short news stories from Wired magazine.

I also subscribe to Slate magazine‘s Daily podcast, which includes interviews about Slate’s online pieces as well as audio versions of some of Slate’s online pieces. It gives me a chance to “read” Slate without having to visit the site. Of course, I only get a small portion of the thoughtful gems available online. I used to subscribe to Slate’s Explainer podcast, but have given it up because the topics weren’t all that interesting to me. You might like them, though, so check them and out see for yourself.

I subscribe to the WordPress podcast because of my interest in WordPress software. I admit that I’ve downloaded all episodes and have listened to just three of them. I think the podcast is good, but I have to be in the right frame of mind to listen to them.

The same goes for the Podcasting Underground podcast. Good, informative stuff, but I have to be in the mood to listen to information about podcasting.

For politics, I listen to a pair of real left-wingers. Sorry, but I am not a conservative at all, neo or otherwise.

  • Real Time with Bill Maher is an hour-long podcast of Maher’s HBO television series. He does an interview and then discusses one or more current political topics with a panel of three that usually includes one celebrity entertainer and one political figure. His panels always include someone sitting on the right, so both sides are represented. While I don’t agree with everything I hear, I like to hear the various viewpoints on current political topics. New Rules is a much shorter podcast that includes just the New Rules he lists at the end of his show.
  • MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann is a collection of Olbermann segments from his MSNBC Countdown television show. Olbermann is a Bush basher — do doubt about it — and it amazes me that he says some of the things he says. It’s a real example of the First Amendment in action — if Olbermann said these kinds of things just once in a place like North Korea or Iran or Iraq under Saddam Hussein, he would have been shot dead for treason. But in our country, we’re allowed to voice all kinds of opinions. Olbermann’s aren’t the kind that’ll ever get on Fox News. My favorite bit? The count of times our president said “Stay the course” after Tony Snow told the press he’d only said it eight times. Classic reporting.

I also started listening to Penn Jillette’s weekday radio show on FreeFM, PennRadio. Penn Jillette is the big, fast-talking guy from the magic duo of Penn and Teller. An atheist (his Nevada license plate is the word “ATHEIST”) and libertarian, he definitely has some non-standard views of politics. But he also covers non-political topics. I don’t enjoy all of Penn’s podcast episodes — I probably delete about half of them without listening to more than a few minutes — but I like enough of them to keep my subscription. One of my favorite episodes was his interview of Phyllis Diller (who I didn’t even know was still alive). Ms. Diller had some fascinating stories to tell and I was especially touched by Penn’s patience when her memory failed her more than once during the interview.

And finally, one of the first podcasts I ever subscribed to, podictionary. This daily podcast, with 2 to 5 minute episodes, discusses the origin of a word or phrase. A weekly digest version is also available. Many, many thanks to Charles Hodgson for his dedication to the subject of word history.

Now you know what I’m listening to. What are you listening to? Share your comments and suggestions with me and other listeners by posting your comments on the transcript for this episode. Go to www.aneclecticmind.com, click the Podcasts link in the navigation bar, and scroll down until you find the “Episode 31: Podcast Stuff” entry. Or just use the Search box to search for the number 31. Then use the Comments link at the bottom of the entry to read other people’s comments and add your own.

And as always, thanks for listening. More later.