Have you tried listening to podcasts yet?  Don’t know what a podcast is?

Podcasts are similar to radio or TV shows, but you download them to your device to listen/watch later, or stream them.  There are podcast programs built in to most smartphones, and devices like Apple TV.  There are many excellent and mostly free choices available for whatever computer you use.  The podcast program keeps track of the list of episodes currently available for each show, downloads or streams them to you, and plays them for you when you are ready.  It’s sort of like a digital video recorder for radio.

I use Downcast on my iPhone.  I use that instead of the Podcast app that Apple provides because it works better, or at least did when Apple split podcasts from its music player app.  Downcast keeps up with the list of episodes available for each podcast, and downloads each new episode onto my iPhone as it becomes available.  Later on, usually in the car, I listen to the unplayed episodes in the order that they came in.

There are podcasts about just about everything.  In my case, I’ve followed shows about drum corps, classical music, technology and news.  Some are available in video form – I save those for watching via Apple TV (which I love, BTW.)  Most are really well produced, professional shows, and they vary in length from a minute to more than an hour each.

Most podcast programs include a way to search for shows. Perhaps the easiest way to find them is using iTunes and the iPhone to subscribe and listen.

Here’s the one’s that I currently listen to:

  • Freakonomics Radio – “The hidden side of everything.”  This one makes you think.  I can particularly recommend the latest episode, This Idea Must Die, which presents several discussions of commonly accepted ideas that should be retired.
  • NPR’s Story of the Day – a 4-8 minute story selected from the day’s broadcasts on NPR.
  • POP ! TECH ! JAM – “The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more.”  A fun show by two NY Times writers.
  • Reply All – “a show about the internet.”  Short (<20 minute) segments about various things happening on the Internet.
  • Serial – “Serial tells one story – a true story – over the course of an entire season.”  The first season was investigated a murder and conviction in Baltimore, and caused a national sensation.
  • StartUp Podcast – “A series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one.”  This was started by Alex Blumberg, of This American Life and the business-economics series Planet Money.  Relatively short (<20 minute) episodes, with an almost no-holds-barred discussion of real issues facing people getting started in business.
  • This American Life – “This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners.”  The podcast is the same hour of material, usually uncensored.  Consistently excellent story telling.
  • APM: Composer’s Datebook – “Reminding you that all music was once new®”  A short (2 minute) presentation of classical music and/or composers that were premiered or born on this date in history.
  • APM: Marketplace Tech – a daily rundown of (computer) technology news.  5-8 minutes each.
  • HDTV and Home Theater Podcast – “a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.”  About 45 minutes per episode.
  • Kim Komando Live – Kim is a syndicated columnist who calls herself “America’s Digital Goddess”.  I mention her podcast last because I like it and dislike it.  You’ll have trouble finding a direct subscription link from her site, because she is more active than any of the above at “monetization”, working to get money from subscribers.  The podcast is short (usually 1-2 minutes), but almost half is a commercial for something that she is selling.  She is also more paranoid, maybe justifiably, than most of the other techies I listen to.  Use the search function in your podcast program to subscribe instead of paying, unless you  want to support her financially.

Recent publicity from my church

I was honored to be the staff member profiled in this month’s “Words of Grace“, the parish newsletter for my church, Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston.  The article starts on the bottom of the front page, and continues on page 4.

I am a parishioner, choir staff singer, and the IT guy for Grace, so am pretty heavily invested in everything that goes on there.  This is one of the big reasons why I am so sensitive about the ongoing conflict between the breakaway “Diocese of SC” and The Episcopal Church.  Grace remains steadfastly part of The Episcopal Church, which is absolutely where I want to be as well.  Grace also currently houses the ongoing official diocese of The Episcopal Church here, The Episcopal Church in SC (which is actually not allowed to call itself the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of SC” or other variations that make sense, thanks to legal aspects of the schism.)

Most of the time I think I have a great handle on the issues dividing the groups, and then other times I get confused because of various spin and intertwined feelings about the role of “sin” in life.    I am convinced that it comes down to whether women and LGBT people should be allowed to participate in ordained ministry, due to perceptions of biblical direction and sin.  I see nothing in women or LGBT people’s gender or sexuality that determines their spirituality (other than general rejection from those who believe the bible clearly orders these matters.)  In conservative, bible-belt South Carolina, I am in the minority.

Anyone who has read my previous posts may remember that I’m not particularly convinced that the Christian (or Jewish) Bible should be used as THE definer of “sin”.  As a “recovering Catholic”, I am well familiar with the role of sin and guilt in trying to live a good life.  I have been indoctrinated with the notion that something will happen to my soul after death, perhaps including judgement by God and/or St. Peter, or I will need to atone for my sins.  I don’t know if I buy that – certainly I have lots of doubt.  The conflict between the factions of the Episcopal church, and the many, many Christian denominations and other major religious systems have convinced me of only one thing – that religion is largely a creation of men.  Some people have had spiritual experiences, and some believe to have heard God speak to them.  Some people have dedicated large parts of their lives to the recording, analysis, and propagation of their beliefs.  I don’t know if it is possible to validate any of that.  Much of the beliefs of Christians are recorded in The Bible, which I understand to be a collection of inspired writings, but not necessarily a historical record.  I do think there is plenty in the book to learn and live by.

I strongly believe in science and reason.  My training in philosophy is relatively weak, and I tend to get lost on matters like exegesis.  I feel that religious discussion enters into a mystical realm where reason and judgement become intertwined.  I hate being judged, unless I’ve willingly entered into a competition.  I don’t think life is inherently a competition for salvation after death.

I usually avoid expressing my opinions about religion or politics on Facebook or other social media.  I suppose this space is technically social media, but it is mine, and I have some control over the dialogue.  I actively avoid becoming flame bait, and am also concerned about professional backlash.  Too many people that I am connected with on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have widely divergent views.  Some of those feel the need to proselytize when they disagree with me. So, I hope it is understood that this space represents my opinion only.  I welcome comments here, but will stop them if I need to.

Besides the links above, I strongly suggest looking through these two for much more detailed analysis of the TEC schism in SC:  Warning: They are from the “liberal” view of the conflict.

It probably won’t surprise anyone that I am also a Democrat …