Thursday, April 10, 2014

I replaced radio with podcasts

So, I may be late to the party. But I don't feel that way. I actually listened to many earlier Podcasts and precursors to Podcasts. Some were called webcasts. Or netcasts. (There was actually something called a webcast before it was an audio/video stream or file, but maybe we will talk about that some other time.) (No I am not talking about spiderman!) (Fine, it was a pre-cached internet back when the 14.4 modems were fast. It pulled content while you were reading that fit your preferences and history so that when you were done reading, the next likely content you wanted was already downloaded.)

So, anyway, Podcasts have replaced my radio listening almost entirely. This happened fairly slowly, but now is almost complete. What has happened is that I was able to find a reliable app, that wasn't iTunes to listen to them with.  I use the iPP Podcast Player that works on my Android devices.

This also lets me create my own mix of content. I am not at the mercy of a broadcast schedule or selection. And its can be free. (there are paid podcasts, but I don't listen to any of those.)

Here is my current list:
  1. Freakonomics Radio
  2. Debug (this is a computer geek discussion of technology)
  3. Dead Robots Society (This one is about writing and publishing fiction.)
  4. Star Talk Radio (Neil Degrass Tyson from the Haden Planetarium answers questions.)
  5. Federalist Society Event Audio (Conservative Political presentation and panel discussion recordings.)
  6. I added Hello Internet, but the episodes seem to be slow in coming.
  7. I reacently added NPR: Planet Money. 
  8. Finally, today I added Grammar Girl.
I expect that as time goes on, I will add and remove some. modifying my selection.

Now, just like my rants about the superiority of on demand programming. I have some observations here.
  1. Many of the podcasts that I listen to have sponsors. So the Podcaster pitches a service or product for money. Just like an add on the radio. 
  2. Unlike radio, (talk radio), podcasts can be listened to later. That's one of the things that gets me interested. I can binge on handful of programs before I add it to the subscribe list. And then I can listen to the latest or older programs based on my preferences. 
  3. Like radio, there isn't a big barrier to putting out current and timely content. If you are set up to produce radio, it should be simple to edit and publish that content as a podcast. So even "breaking news" could be podcast if you wanted to. There would just be a publish and download delay. So while it may not work quite as well live reporting, its a tradeoff that for the content I prefer works.
  4. Since its not just live, I feel like there is more of an effort for accuracy on the part of the Podcaster that the Broadcaster on the radio. Sure they can be the same guy, but there is less of a push to fill air time. You can edit the dead air out. But on live, even with a small delay, there is a limit to the opportunities to check a reference or restate something to make it more accurate.
  5. Finally, the ability to pre-download a selection of content for travel, or whatever purpose, makes Podcasts fill a whole new niche of consumption for me.
So this is how Podcasts have replaced radio for me. They weren't quite ready in the past. But today, they are mature enough to step up. If you've tried them in the past, give them another shot.

And if you listen to podcasts that you like, or you make a podcast that you want to suggest, drop me a link in the comments and I'll take a listen and reply with what I think. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

What if we are wrong?

I just listened to an intriguing podcast from Freakonomics Radio. It was on making predictions. And they talked about a bunch of things. They had, as one of their guests, Philip Tetlock who is an expert and researcher of people that make predictions.  And he basically said that people who are dogmatic in their views, were poor at making predictions. (among other things.) After some discussion he made gave a simple test to uncover dogmatism.

"What would it take to change your mind?"

People that can't readily answer this question, haven't generated any opposing views of the topic they are predicting. If you can't answer this question in a reasonable amount of time, then you are probably dogmatic in one way or another.  (You hare committed to your view.  Or you listened to someone else who is committed to their view and not considered the issue further.) Either way, this makes you a poor predictor.

And at this point my mind began to race as I thought of myself. What discussions and arguments do I engage in that I don't adequately consider alternatives to. A few pop up;  Global Warming ('climate change' to you syntactical waffelers. ) Minimum wage. Second Ammendment Rights. And government regulation of things.

The first one that lends itself to examination is Global Warming.
  1. Its a prediction of the future
  2. The whole argument is data based.
So, for the record, I don't think GW is real, in that I don't believe that we are in a warming trend caused by too much CO2.  (Yes, humans exist as part of the environment. And, yes, as part of the environment we leave a foot print. Just like everything else.)  

I have this belief because of the evidence I have seen and the natural processes I have studied and observed.  (My being an evil capitalist that only cares about money has nothing to do with it. If I were an evil capitalist that believed in GW I would start a business capitalizing on it.)

So here is the question. "Roy. What would it take to change your mind about Global Warming?"

This is a dangerous question. Because if I answer it, I'd need to really be willing to change my view. And that might be embarrassing.

But here are the answers.

1. I'd need to see a series of years where we could find regional average temperature increases from year to year on all regions. (Basically I'd like to actually see global warming happening.)  This is not a single or couple of regions, but all regions, increasing every year, for more than three years, (actually, lets say 10 years.)

2. I'd like to see some record in the geological record where temperature increases trends happened after a CO2 increase. According to the data as presented by Berkley's climate modeling data, all historic data points to a CO2 increase following a warming trend. So lets find some time that it has happened before, like we are saying it is happening now.

Okay, I think I've done it. There is what it would take to change my mind.

Now if you are an adherant to Climate Change or Global Warming, please answer the same question.

"What would it take to change your mind?"

Friday, April 4, 2014

About People and Happiness

Part of the story of buddah is that after he left his home, a palace where all sick, old and sad people were forbidden, he began to study the various religious philosophies. It is said that he became a master in each of them.  Then, when they failed to teach him enlightenment, he move to the next one.

If you are only looking at the number of religious philosophies of India back at this time, such a thing would have been impossible. There were just too many to do that in a life time. And to try and attempt this today, on a global stage, it would require multiple life spans to accomplish.

Luckily, this isn't necessary. To paraphrase a proverbial way of looking at this, "You don't need to eat the whole cow-pie to know you have bitten into one." And likewise, one doesn't have to become a master or reach the highest or deepest level of a religion or philosophy to know if it will make you happy.

People just aren't built that way. As a species, we have a highly developed ability to recognize patterns. Its so advanced, that we sometimes find ourselves jumping to conclusions without enough data. I remember as a child, our family stopped at a gas station outside of Las Vegas, and the attendant gave us our change in quarters. (He did this to encourage us to put them in the slot machines of course.)

My mom decided to teach us the futility of gambling and gave my brother and I each two quarters. So I put mine in, and on the second pull, I got back 6 quarters. I was excited and my mother was less so.  My brother put in his quarters, and on his second pull got back 10 quarters.

Well I quickly declared, that we are winning on every other pull and we should put our 2 quarters back in that we each started with to get even more money. Of course neither of us won again, but we did walk away with a bit more than we started with, and a mother that worried she had not taught the lesson she had intended.

My point is, that even as children, we are seeking and recognizing patterns. Patterns are all around us, and we follow them to get the results that we are looking for.

When the result is happiness, we don't have to try and experiment with every form of entertainment, drug, religion, family arrangement, or occupation to find out what will make us happy. We can follow a pattern that leads to happiness simply by looking at other people and determining if they are happy, and what their lifestyle is like.

Lets start with some extremes.  Last time I was waiting for a bus downtown, I saw some homeless people in the park. They had slept there. I watched them and was quickly able to determine that that lifestyle was not one that would make me happy.

This year, I saw a youtube video of a couple that moved to California so they could grow pot. The police had taken their children and they had all sorts of legal troubles. They had a nice house and a great view, but I don't think this lifestyle will make me happy either.

This has been going on my entire life. And I have been gathering as many of the lifestyle attributes as I can to make me happy. This is why I have a wife. This is why we have children. This is why I go to work everyday. (I tried starting my own business a couple of times, but the pattern that starts a business and makes me happy at the same time is still a mystery to me.)  I go to church almost every week.  I pray with my family. (I eat with them to around the table.)

And I confess, I am happy.

Someone tried to sell me on Amway. (This didn't make me happy. But I got through it.) And one of the things they kept trying to identify was something that I wanted. A big house. A big boat. A big check. All of these things may be nice, but I had to tell them over and over that I wasn't just being resistant. (I was being resistant but not only.) But that I really had what I wanted out of life.

My wife and I sometimes have looked at our life with wonder. How did we get to be so lucky. And I think I know.

We didn't try and find a brand new, experimental way to live and be happy and prove to the world that we were smarter than everyone throughout history.

We did follow all of the best patterns available of people that had happy lives and happy marriages and happy families.

Happiness is a pattern. You just have to follow it.