Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Thanks to a bit of a kick in the pants useful advice from Professor in Training, I've recently discovered the wonderful world of podcasting. (Late adopter, moi?). So I thought I'd share my discoveries, and open up the comments to suggestions of further subscriptions!

The first thing I discovered is that I simply can't listen to spoken word podcasts while doing, well, anything, really. The second I start typing, or reading something interesting, or even thinking too hard, I just stop listening in any detail. This inevitably results in the episode ending, or the studio audience howling with laughter, and me having to go back to the beginning to work out what was said. I need to listen to these podcasts when I'm doing something that requires minimal concentration - cooking works, as does taking the bus (although that's the only thing it's good for). I've just bought one of those waist strap pack thingies for my iPhone / keys etc., so I'll try listening while exercising too. I imagine that circuit training will be OK for spoken word, while cardio will require music. We'll see...

Current spoken word podcasts:

  • Friday night comedy from BBC Radio 4 (I grew up listening to this stuff, it's hilarious)
  • Nature (I tried Science and New Scientist too, but there's a limit to how much science I can take on top of work and my print New Scientist subscription, so I chose the only science podcast that features British accents)
  • Ricky Gervais (really just short advertisements for his audiobooks - which also need my full attention when listening - but still very funny)
  • Stephen Fry's Podgrams (wonderfully rich and fruity)

I tried CBC radio's comedy podcast too, but it is unfortunately just as lame as most CBC humour (Rick Mercer excepted, obviously. Where's your podcast, eh, Rick?). It's like Little Mosque on the Prairie - I wanted to like it as it's such a great concept and the mix of characters seemed so promising. But the set-up to the jokes is so obvious, in true Prairie fashion you can see the punchlines approaching from miles away. Give me CTV's Corner Gas instead, any day of the week.

Music is a whole different story. I'm happy to listen to music any time, anywhere, and I can listen to most music while blogging or actually getting on with my work. In fact, I often work best with music on.

As I've said before, I tend to rely on friends to introduce me to new music - I don't listen to much radio in Vancouver, as you don't get the mixed genre stations that you find in the UK. Everything is either pure rock OR pure country OR pure urban OR pure pop, which gets a bit boring. But now, podcasts are introducing me to more new artists than I can keep up with! I have to be able to pay just enough attention to jot down the name of each new artist as they're announced, and then erase it if I end up not liking the song. I've finally found a good use for the little purse-sized notebook I got in my stocking at Christmas, and I'm accumulating quite a list. The only grumble I have is that the BBC doesn't make all of its music podcasts available to people outside the UK - so while I can listen to various "Introducing" podcasts that feature unsigned indie bands who I can't find on iTunes, I'm missing some good podcasts of newly signed indie bands, and most other genres are completely blocked overseas. C'mon, BBC! Sort it out, eh?

Current music podcasts:

  • Canada Live from CBC Radio 2 (this is the best of the bunch - live performances from around the country, featuring different genres every week. I've heard everything from hip-hop to traditional Celtic fiddle music. The first one I listened to featured a guy named Rob Lutes - I finished listening and went straight to iTunes to purchase all four of his albums, and even signed up to his Facebook group in the hope of hearing news about a West coast tour).
  • Radio 1 Introducing
  • Tom Robinson Introducing
  • Scotland Introducing (all BBC, all unsigned artists only)
Any other suggestions?

p.s. yes, I changed the template. All the cool kids are doing it, and I thought MacTavish deserved something a wee bit more sophistimacated. I've been thinking for a while that the old green colour clashed with the orange sky in the header photo, so this was a good incentive to actually do something about it...

p.p.s. does anyone else have problems with formatting bullet points in Blogger? Also, it really, really, really, needs an "undo" button.


  1. I always have to go into html when I do bullets to get out extra line spaces or add them in. You can use Ctrl-Z sometimes to undo one (very rarely more than one) thing - unless it already auto-saved! Yeah, I'm so used to an undo button that I seriously think there is one IRL, and I try to hit it sometimes, but so far, it hasn't worked that well! ;)

    A very nice "sea" green, btw.

  2. Geez - am I the only one that hasn't changed my blog's template!? Maybe one day. Too busy right now.

    I downloaded the latest of Gervais's podcasts/audiobooks last night (ie as soon as the newsletter arrived!) but haven't had a chance to listen to it yet - the gym is my best time as it takes my mind off my screaming muscles. I love Stephen Fry (in a non-sexual sense obviously as that would be weird) and didn't realise he had a postcast/gram so I'll definitely have to check that one out asap.

    If you're after new indie music, I can highly recommend triplej (aka JJJ). Their music is awesome and you can either stream it live, listen to recorded bits and pieces or download their various podcasts. The links are on their website and you can also get the podcasts from iTunes. Would also highly recommend Dr Karl's segments on JJJ for scientific trivia and nonsense - it's basically a phone in Q&A but he's absolutely fascinating ... he also won the Ig Nobel Prize a few years ago for his study into why belly button fluff is usually grey (I remember listening to the original phone in question that prompted this study!).


  3. Great new template - it's very classy indeed. I haven't been able to get into podcasts. I'm like you and I can't listen to something at the same time as using my brain at all. I did download a few from The Onion, which are always funny, and the CBC's Vinyl Cafe.

  4. Like the new template, much easier on the eyes. The green shade is very calming. Like a spa.

  5. Great new colors! For science, the naked Scientist is a pretty good podcast. Chris Smith is the host, British and likes puns. He used to do the Nature podcast and my heart broke a little when he left.
    For music, All Songs Considered from NPR is good for keeping up on new releases and bands of the indie persuasion.

  6. Thanks to everyone who commented favourably on the new template! I'm liking it a lot so far, I think it's a better match for the photos and other images at the top and right. And I like the way the main text column is separated from the sidebar, the way it does quotes, the bottom of each post on the main page... it's all good.

    SilverFox, yes, there was much messing about with html to get both bullet point lists to match! It's a much bigger problem when I save a post and come back to it on a later date, like I did with this one - even normal spaces get messed up.

    PiT, thanks for the recommendations! I actually do know someone who fancies Stephen Fry, so it's not THAT weird. Well, only partially. Mrs CH and Albatross, I'll check out your suggestions too - thanks!

    ScientistMother, feel free to come back and gaze at the calming colours any time Monkey is driving you mad...

  7. Ha! I logged on before tea this morning and forgot I'd changed the template - there was a moment of confusion. I've signed up to all your suggestions, and my iTunes library now exceeds the capacity of my phone for the first time, Creating playlist...

  8. I don't know why Blogger always/often adds extra spaces (p's or div's) when you go back to a draft (or upload new photos. When I save things as Published with a future date, it doesn't do that (except for new photos) - but then you have to remember that it's scheduled and to change the date if needed.

    It's really kind of annoying...

    I don't do podcasts too often, but the geoblogosphere has a PodClast that I listen to.

  9. Undo would be Apple-Z on your MacTavish. Oh, and I will miss the cheerful green. My ipod is tiny compared to your phone, so I have had to have playlists for awhile; my podcast listening picks up and dies, mostly dies when things get busy at work and my down-time (working out, commute, etc.) is the only time I can think in peace.

  10. I can second TripleJ for a radio station, as mentioned above. It was my favourite when I lived in Australia (and they produce awesome top 100 albums at the end of the year). In Vancouver, we have recently started listening to the Peak, 100.5. Seems to be a good mix so far - some old stuff, some new stuff, some indie, some local bands....not all top 40 and so far NO country (which immediately makes me abandon a station).

  11. I'm with Albatross on "The Naked Scientist" and I also like "Vinyl Cafe" and "This American Life". They are all spoken word podcasts though - good for data entry or running.

  12. SF, annoying is right.

    SG, I'll try to remember that - I seem to have a wee blind spot when it comes to that shortcut, which I have heard about before! I hope it works for more than one undo - my issue with this post was that I deleted a chunk of text while fiddling with the bullet points, and then typed something else before I realised.

    Oh, and EcoGeoFemme still has the same template as my old one (as of last night anyway, she may have fallen victim to the mass spring clean), so you can always go there for some cheerful green!

    Mermaid, I'll check out The Peak - it would be good to have something decent to listen to in the car (the radio usually gets stuck on sports talk radio, can't think why). I can take some country (like one song every couple of hours), but yeah, there's a limit.

    Wayfarer, where is THis American Life from? And what's the focus? I am trying to be a good (soon to be) British Canadian and support local content, but if the American one is good then I'll give it a shot too!

  13. My blog is still green. I've been wanting to change it and the banner photo since I put it up, but I just can't be bothered.

    I second This American Life, which is from NPR. It's just a collection of super interesting stories on a different theme each week. I love it. I also like Sound Opinions and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me also from NPR. The first is a music talk show and the second is a very funny news quiz show, but it might be more U.S.-focused than you'd like.

  14. I'll sign up and try a couple of episodes of each - I can always unsubscribe! Thanks for the suggestions.

    It aint easy being green.


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