41256 the podcast

For a long time I’ve loved Radio 4’s Pick of the Week show, as it deftly rounds up little snippets and highlights from the quite endearing amount of content the station puts out in seven days. But of course, it’s just a selection of Radio 4 content, and the show is broadcast on Radio 4, so it’s a touch homogeneous.

The Beeb also does Podcast Radio Hour, which is an admirable attempt at showcasing some variety of podcasts, although it inevitably spends a bit too much time on one person’s choices, and I never find this sort of curation of podcasts particularly helpful.

But I recently stumbled on the truly wonderful 41256, a podcast of just over four minutes, released weekly, which collects together bits of often unrelated audio. And it’s always a really good listen.

The source of the clips is sometimes BBC documentaries, but often not. And the editing is usually quite slick, and often rather amusing in terms of juxtaposition.

41256 describes itself as an audio commonplace, which I like.

The shownotes are also great, and they’ve helped me track down the source of a good clip on more than one occasion. It also helps one to understand just how much effort must go into producing this podcast. The listening, noting down, editing, producing, publishing, shownote writing… All of it.

While I catch up on 41256‘s backlog, it’s become a lovely little buffer between the longer podcasts I tend to listen to.


On a not unrelated note, and something Caroline Crampton’s PodMail newsletter has covered previously, it’s sometimes tricky to know how to link to a podcast.

I’ve opted, above, to use the iTunes page. But I don’t use iTunes – not at home on my PC, and not on my phone to listen to podcasts. And iTunes doesn’t even host the files… They just kind of point to them. If you look at a podcast’s iTunes page but you don’t have iTunes, you can’t even preview the audio. It’s just… kind of a list of episode titles.

Also, when podcasters beg their listeners to leave a review, where is best to do this? Probably iTunes – but I don’t see how to do it. Maybe it can only be done via the iTunes app?

In this case, 41256‘s true source (i.e. the source of the audio files and, presumably, the feed iTunes draws from) appears to be on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/41256 – but this doesn’t feel right either.

I don’t really have a horse in this race, although I do listen to a lot of podcasts and enjoy reading about their production and precisely these sorts of issues. When John and I had a podcast, we gave it its own website, which felt like the right thing to do.

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2018 Weeknote 19

Time to restart weeknotes, I think. Sorry about the hiatus.

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This week I had a film developed and printed for the first time in a few years. I posted some of the pictures here. It was a very pleasant experience, not least because I have a handy branch of Snappy Snaps nearby, and I found an unused scanner at work that has done nothing for three years, but that scans film negatives in at remarkably good quality. It was of such great quality that it’s now got me thinking about films from my past that I only ever digitised from the prints, or where I feel I could make better negative scans.

The quality of the scans is one thing, but what I loved was convenience of scanning two strips of negatives in one go (so, eight shots), and having the built in software not just crop them, but also colour-correct them automatically. I frankly can’t believe that before now I made do with a) scanning prints, b) getting crap neg scans from the photo shop, or c) trying to do my own scans on a too-cheap neg scanner myself.

Finding a good way to digitise physical ephemera is so far in my wheelhouse it’s not even funny.


Elsewhere this week I watched Jurassic Park for the first time in a wee while. By God, does it stand up. It’s so hard, of course, to separate it from the version etched in your brain – the lines, the scenery, the concepts, the score – but it still feels rollicking and vital. Of course it’s dated in place – it’s 25 years old this year, which is insane. But it holds up magnificently.

I also played the start of L.A. Noire again. Years ago when  I lived with him I watched John play through most of it and I think we both concluded that it’s gorgeous and nuanced, but ultimately quite boring. With the recent chat surrounding the remaster for Switch et al, it seemed like a good time to pick it up – especially as it was only £1.50 at CEX. Anyway the first few missions went by smoothly – the formulaic searching-the-scene-for-clues only feeling slightly clunky. But I forgot the ratio of mission to open-world, and I feel like that’s where I’ll lose interest in the end. But for now, as a primarily narrative-driven piece of entertainment, I’ll carry on until I don’t want to any more.

I also watched this interesting video about the current world record Super Mario Bros. speedrun. It was pitched to me, variously, as “like watching a Swiss clock maker explain his machine,” and, ” even if you aren’t into video games it’s pretty interesting.” I’d say it was somewhere in-between. At least, between M and I watching it, that’s the impression I got. It definitely had a handful of really interesting bugs and…. not hacks, but exploits, that are vital to shaving off the seconds – and sub-seconds.


20180515_075755.jpgFor many months now, I’ve been in the habit of reading from a couple of diary compilations – one of London diarists, the other with a rural angle – and around the turn of the month, a few pages from an almanac which talks about natural occurrences.

On top of of that, I always have my Kindle handy, and recently I’ve gotten into the habit of sending a so-called long read or an edition of an email newsletter to it.

The latter works only some of the time – some newsletters are more text-based than others, with some being mostly links (to be ctrl-clicked while browsing) or containing too many images to play nicely with an e-ink device.

But now and then, a well-formatted, single-column newsletter consisting of mostly text works a charm.  Two recent examples:

  • Craig Mod‘s Roden Explorers – the latest issue is here – usually contains tales of walking, meditation, photography, some tech insight, and whatever is bubbling around in Mod’s always-fascinating mind.
  • close, a monthly newsletter only onto its second issue – here – but this entry made for very interesting/familiar reading as a 30-something member of an extended collective community of folks who found kinship online in the early 2000s.

There are others, but I felt the need to jot down two solid examples while they were fresh in my mind. I tend to use one of two Chrome extensions for sending a newsletter (or any web article) to my Kindle – Send To Kindle by Amazon and Push to Kindle by fivefilters.org. They take a couple of minutes to set up, and your mileage will inevitably vary depending on what you send. But both can provide a preview of the content as it will be sent, so you can quickly see if it’s going to work or not.


Very pleasant, several months after starting things, to announce the launch of the new website for the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain which I’ve helped create.

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It’s mostly been a ‘simple’ WordPress.org installation, but there was quite a lot of content to convert, a fair few design principles to incorporate, and – as always – more technical issues than I had expected, mostly around the hosting.

The client was fantastic throughout, and it was a largely enjoyable experience for me, with experience being the operative word as I was able to learn quite a bit even doing something I felt was very much in my comfort zone.


In weekend-related activities, last Monday was a Bank Holiday, so M and I popped up to St Albans to visit friends and have a little wander. It was the third of three ridiculously pleasant Spring days so much ice cream and iced coffee was consumed, and the cool interior of the cathedral was most welcome.

The previous night we’d spent camping in West Sussex – a glorious little site on the wilder side of things. No showers or buildings, and just a few portaloos or compost loos dotted around with the occasional cold water tap dotted around. And, most importantly, they allow fires, so I was in heaven.

It was a great opportunity to test out some new camping gear ahead of a longer trip in Summer. But mostly it felt remarkable in feeling like a 2-3 night trip away, all completed within 36 hours or so. The nearby village of West Hoathly also has a lovely pub or two. And one nice surprise were views across to the ridgeway of the South Downs. We were able to pick out Chanctonbury hill fort and various other landmarks from our recent walk.

And then this weekend just gone, the good weather continued, so we were able to have a little barbecue on the patio – partly in celebration at having decided to scrub the slabs, tidy up the plants, and to buy some new ones to replace the feeble amongst them that didn’t survive the winter.

Onwards, into summer.

Shooting film with the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

A few years ago, when hunting high and low for a specific camera, I picked up a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.

Here it is:

It wasn’t the Ansco Autoset I was looking for – that’s a long story for another day, but this is in fact a slightly later evolution of that camera, and much more user friendly.

It’s a lovely 35mm film camera produced in Japan in 1966, with a few really nice features. It’s not the most attractive camera, though it isn’t unattractive, and it’s a touch on the heavy/boxy side. But as someone who has shot several films with a Zenit E, this is a wee bit lighter.

While clearing out my storage locker recently I came across the little Minolta, all tucked away in its hard-wearing leather case. Strange, I thought, as I got rid of most of my film cameras a few years ago. But I couldn’t resist taking it out for a spin last weekend. It already had film in, with 3-4 shots taken, so I took it along for a day-trip to St Albans.

 

One thing that’s great on this camera is the battery-powered light metering which actually enables it to be run fully automatic – save for focusing. I ran fully automatic for all these shots. Luckily, the focus system is quite nice, too. Rather than the split-circle style found in some cameras, this one uses a small smudgy area in the middle of the viewfinder, through which one sees two images. Align the two overlayed bits of the image (ideally on an edge, or some other contrasting feature), and that is what will be in focus.

It turned out really well – a mixture of shots indoors and out, from the glaring sunshine of that sunny bank holiday we had, to the dark crevices of a thousand-year-old cathedral. Another neat feature is how quiet the shutter is. I’m more used to the hefty CLUNK of an SLR, and this is more of a quick click.

The below were taken on bog-standard Pound shop Kodak 200 film (most likely approximately six years old, too). I’ll be picking up some new film for the Minolta, as I really enjoyed using it.

The rise and fall (and rise?) of lifelogging

I was talking to someone the other day about the concept of lifelogging. This isn’t that unusual; I keep strange company. Oddly enough though, the term had popped into my head just the morning before – as these sorts of things often do, when one least expects it. I had quickly jotted it down as I realised I wanted to consider it further, and I was bound to forget about it again.

I knew I was bound to forget about it as I realised I hadn’t thought of the term for many months. Possibly even years. It’s not a thing that has occurred to me in ages. And I think I know why.

Lifelogging, in certain examples, was the term applied to clipping a semi-autonomous gadget to oneself that records audio/video/images at intervals which are then indexed and searchable. A sort of memory extension. There were a few examples of this product, including the Memoto in c.2012, and more recently the Google Clip.

More generally, lifelogging was the term applied to deliberately recording stuff like one’s step count, photos taken, and various other metadata, usually on a huge scale. The problem, it seems to me, was always making sense of that data. Not a problem, of course – better to amass the data first and analyse it later. Or, form a startup, amass the data, then fold and delete the data.

Anyway, as soon as the term reappeared in my consciousness, I assumed it had faded out of common use, and Google Trends implies the same:

lifelogging

Interestingly, the term ‘quantified self’ – which always seemed to me the colder, spikier, more tech-y, less warm, fuzzy, and human of the two terms – shows a similar curve in Google Trends, but was apparently more commonly used. It also appears to have emerged ever so slightly later than lifelogging did. But they both share the same rise and fall in usage, according to Google:

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And I guess I know why: lifelogging is something most of us do now, almost by default. I’m guessing the peaks above are the tipping point where ‘most’ people’s smartphones did all this stuff for us without needing to really consider it.

Our smartphones log our location data – usually by default – all the photos we take are backed up and indexed surprisingly well using AI to guess the content, and using EXIF tags to log the location. And most smartphones seem to include some sort of health recording, even if just step count – with some folks using devices like a Fitbit or Apple Watch to record such data more deliberately.

I think what I’m trying to say is that we’re probably doing more lifelogging than ever – we’re just not calling it that any more.

International Dawn Chorus Day and Soundcamp

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This weekend is International Dawn Chorus Day. The first Sunday in May has become a good moment to stop and enjoy the increasing cacophony of natural sounds as Spring settles in.

Depending on your feelings, this can be little more than a half-noticed thing on a warm night with the window left open. Or it can be something worth waking up early for – to seek out some nearby woodland or farmland and really get amongst it.

If you want to go another step further, you could even listen to Soundcamp’s live audio show, a 24-hour broadcast called Reveil aiming to capture the chorus as it rolls across the face of the globe. There are also various Soundcamps taking place: literally campsites for like minded folks to turn up and listen in to the dawn chorus as it unfolds.

You can even take part in the audio feed by streaming your local environment  via microphone and internet connection, and allowing the main feed’s curators to bring in your sounds. There’s a lot more information on how to do that, and the project in general, here.

The great thing is that this won’t sound the same everywhere – for some it’ll be a familiar twittering, but elsewhere it might be captured by hydrophones bobbing in the ocean waves.

Starting on the morning of Saturday 5 May just before daybreak in Rotherhithe near the Greenwich Meridian, the Reveil broadcast will pick up these feeds one by one, tracking the sunrise west from microphone to microphone, following the wave of intensified sound that loops the earth every 24 hours at first light.

In 2018 Reveil features new streams from the UNESCO Monarch butterfly Biosphere Reserve at Cerro Pelón, State of México, the Noosa Biosphere Reserve in Queensland, Australia, a gull colony on South Walney Island, Cumbria, UK

The broadcast will run from 5am on Saturday morning until 6am on Sunday morning.

Whatever the source of the audio, you’ll be able to tune in online here, or in London via Resonance FM, who will play snippets including 5am-6am and 10.30pm-12am on Saturday, and Resonance Extra, which will be playing the whole thing live. Resonance Extra was recently added to the DAB Trial London multiplex.