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Echolocation for amateur podcasters

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I decided on today’s word after reading a thought provoking article at Wired.com. The article is titled The Blind Fragging the Blind and its about video games for blind gamers. I was surprised by the nature of the games. The games are very sophisticated including a purely audio version of the first person shooter Quake and of all things, a driving game. BSCGames.com offers many games designed for the blind and visually impaired. They also offer several sound trailers if you want to learn what an all audio gaming experience sounds like.

So today term is echo location. It is a technique that uses sound instead of sight to determine the location and in some cases the size of objects. Echolocation is used by some animals including bats and dolphins although they us sound frequencies that can not be heard by human ears.

Human echolocation is used by some blind people.

We have all probably walked through a large empty room and heard the sound of our foot steps echo off the distant walls. Even with our eyes closed we would know we were in a large room and as we approached a wall we would notice the changing sounds of the echos. This is echolocation.

I imagine video games designed for blind and visually impaired players take advantage of the echo location phenomenon to orient the player in his or her environment.

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Hear of podcasting? No? You must be a troglodyte


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Today’s word was suggested by Garrick over at The First Crack Podcast “heavily caffeinated public radio”. The word is troglodyte and Garrick came across the word at The Trend Junkie. The Trend Junkie is a podcast that covers trends in marketing, technology and media. I have only listened to one of Garrick’s First Crack Podcasts but it very interesting. It was recorded at a bar and on top of that it was about the Stapleton development in Denver- only a few blocks from my home. Also check out his site for a cool podcasting button. A real physical button.

Back to the word. A troglodyte is a person who lives in a cave. It has also come to mean a person who dislikes or afraid of technology like a luddite. The word evolved from the Greek trogle meaning a hole and dyein meaning to enter.

I wish I could tell you about a fugue – podcast


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I came across today’s word on Dean’s site hannotte.net. The word is fugue and Dean is a listener who let me know googolplex may not be the largest named number. Skewes’ numbers and Graham’s number maybe larger. But as Dean poined out the idea of the largest named finite number is silly. A named number could be defined as the largest named number plus one.

Back to a Fugue. In psychology it is a rare disorder in which a person suffers a memory lapse and then flees their home or job. The person may then assume a new identity completely forgetting their previous life. Fugues usually occur during times of extreme stress and rarely last more than a month.

More commonly a Fugue is a specifc type of musical composition. Now I usually research several sources for each podcast and then summarize what I think are the key elements. But I know so little about music I will quote the wikipedia definition.

A fugue is a type of piece written in counterpoint for several independent musical voices. A fugue begins with its subject (a brief musical theme) stated by one of the voices playing alone. A second voice then enters and plays the subject, while the first voice continues on with a contrapuntal accompaniment. Then the remaining voices similarly enter one by one. The remainder of the fugue further develops the material using all of the voices.

I did compare that definition against several others and it seems complete to me. But the study of music is not my forte.

Fugue comes from the Latin fuga which means flight and fugere meaning to flee.

You can listen to Johann Sebastian Bach’s C-minor fugue from the Well Tempered Clavier I, in 3 voices courtesy of wikipedia.

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I hope the church doesn’t subject podcasting to a blue law


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This past Sunday I needed some kirsch for a dinner I was making and as I headed to the store I remembered the blue laws.

A blue law is a law that curtails activities that can occur on Sunday. The term is also used to describe any law that has its roots in a puritanical desire to legislate morality.

This weekend it meant I couldn’t buy Kirsch at a liquor store on Sunday. It is against the law to sell alcohol in my home state of Colorado. Mind you I can go to a bar and get a drink.

In fact about half the US states and several provinces in Canada ban the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Other blue laws include bans on the sale of alcohol on election day, restrictions on how late alcohol can be served or sold (in Colorado you can’t buy alcohol after 1:00 am at a bar or a store), restrictions also curtail who can sell certain types of alcohol, (in Colorado you can only buy liquor at a liquor store nowhere else, but you can buy beer at a grocery store as long as it is only 3.2% alcohol)

Not all blue laws relate to the sale of alcohol, many prohibited any business being conducted on Sunday. Today, at least in the US, most are related to alcohol sales.

I was unable to find an authoritative etymology of the term but it first appeared in the late 18th century to refer to various religiously motivated laws enacted by the Puritans.

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Do you have the Audacity to record a podcast?


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Today’s word is audacity. I choose it for two reasons. One, it is a good word. Two, it is the answer to a question I got last week from Vlad – how do I record my podcasts?

First the word. Audacity is a noun that means boldness or confidence, often with a negative connotation. “Can you believe the audacity of that brick layer? Telling me, the architect, how to design this house.”

The word originates from the Latin audacis, audax and audere. All of which relate to bravery or boldness.

Now to answer Vlad’s question. I use Audacity, an open source, cross platform multi-track audio editor and recorder. Obviously the name is a play on the word audio. I record most of my podcasts on my 12 inch Apple PowerBook with a USB headset mic from Logitech. Occasionally I use Audacity on my Windows XP machine with the same headset or with a desktop USB mic. I don’t use any filters but I do try to get a quiet room and I usually normalize my voice track after recording.

I like Audacity because it is multi track so I can easily shift the intro and outro music and any clips I add play. A couple other pluses are it is free, it is cross platform so I can open my recording project on my mac or windows machine and best of all it has unlimited undo’s so if you make a mistake editing you don’t have to freak out.

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If podcasting was called currycasting it would eponym and a portmanteau


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Today’s word is a -onym word, a word that ends in -onym. -Onym words usually describe words or are related to names and words. Such as homonym, synonym.

I have collected tons of these -onym words and I trying to figure out the best way to make a podcast or maybe ten podcasts out of them.

For now let’s just look at today’s -onym word, eponym. An eponym is a name that is derived from a person’s name. For example the element Einsteinium is an eponym. It is named after Albert Einstein.

An eponym can also be the person for whom something is named. If podcasting was called CurryCasting then Adam would be an eponym. I guess with Curry Castle he is an eponym anyhow.

A few years ago the band R.E.M. release a hit album named Eponymous. Which I guess is a play on the common Self Titled Album title.

Thank you Robert (“dont poke the Internet with a pencil”) Cooper. I appreciate you pointing out my RSS typo. Check our Robert’s site devoted the free and open source operating system known as Linux at http://www.screaming-penguin.com.

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Flotsam, Jetsam and Ducks- a podcast


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Today I have two words for you. Flotsam and jetsam. Both are nouns and both describe stuff that had been thrown into the ocean from a boat.

Flotsam is, broadly, floating debris or a collection of miscellaneous stuff. Technically, it is stuff that has fallen off a boat, either cargo or wreckage. Flotsam can also be used to describe a population of emigrants or castaways. Flotsam can be traced back to various Old English, Old French and Germanic words meaning float.

Jetsam on the other hand is cargo or ship parts that have been deliberately thrown over board, jettisoned. Usually to lighten the ship’s load in a time of distress.

In 1992 thousands of rubber ducks were washed off the deck of a cargo ship. Since then the ducks have been tracked all over the world by scientist to study the effects of ocean currents.

P.S. Jon Udell has posted a tool for creating bookmarklets that allow you to search your local library for a book you have found at Amazon. For example you come across a book at Amazon.com and you are wondering if your library has it. Click on the bookmarklet and it will look the book up at your local library. To build a bookmarlet for your local library visit Jon’s site.

I also want to thank Ian Olsen-Clark for creating one that works with my local library in Denver Colorado. If you need a bookmarklet for Denver’s Public Library of for Ian’s local library, Chicago Public Library visit Ian’s site- theboxfactory.com.

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Podcasting, the next juggernaut


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Today’s word was sent to me by David. The word is juggernaut. It, like pundit, is an english word borrowed from India.

Juggernaut is a noun with has three definitions. Although they are all closely related, two of them completely new to me. This first definition is the one I am most familiar with- an unstoppable force. The other definition are more religious in nature and are derived from the Sanskrit Jagannāth meaning “lord of the world.” One use of Juggernaut is the title of the Hindu god Krisha or Vishnu. The remaining religious definition is a belief or institution that elicits unquestioning devotion or to which people are sacrificed.

David sent me this word after I confessed I wasn’t aware of very many english words of Hindi or Sanskrit origin, but he wasn’t the only one. Craig Patchett of the GodCast podcast also sent me two list. One of Hindi words and one of Sanskrit words. I never would have guessed shampoo, swastika, sugar &orange were derived from Indian languages.

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How Clever I want to be with Steganography- a Podcast


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How do you hide a message in plain sight? Steganography. It is an idea I have appreciated for a long time but I still have no idea why I would use it. Steganography is the art or science of hiding the existence of a message. A steganographic message typically looks like something simple like an innocuous photo or a newspaper article. The secret message is hidden in the photo or newspaper article. The idea being if those spying on you don’t know there is a message, it is much harder to crack.

Clever techniques include using the first word of a each paragraph in a longer document to compose the message. Of course this is very simple trick.

I wish I better understood the math of the more complex techniques. Fortunately there is software available to help you with these techniques. Pict Encrypt for OS X allows you to hide some text in an image file.

Want to do it on Windows? Check out securekit.com.

To my earlier point, I think steganography and cryptology are very cool. I just wish I had a reason to use them.

Be sure, if you want to know more, to read the interesting thread on Slashdot.org about steganography & steganalysis.

With all the fear of terrorism I am sure steganography & steganalysis (the detection of steganographic messages) will be increasingly important fields of study.

Steganography and Podcasting? I am sure there is a way to hide a message in a podcast. Anyone interested in figuring out how?