if its too loud, turn it down

Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Cut Express Import/Export settings for getting Kodak Playsport Videos onto YouTube (mac howto)

If you have ever used Final Cut Express (FCE), and are not already familiar with video editing software, you know that there's nothing "Express" about it. It's basically just a slightly less feature-rich version of Final Cut Pro. I'm not sure who the target audience is for FCE, because it ain't newbies! NOTE: Pro editors will probably have a more efficient way of doing this...but that's not what I am, and that info is nowhere that I can find on the internets.

Anyway, after alot of trial an error, I figured out a decent process for getting videos from my Kodak Playsport camera, into FCE, editing them, and then exporting for YouTube.
  1. For max expediency, scrub your raw footage with Quicktime. Create a folder of small clips you want to edit in FCE. Otherwise the next step (conversion) will take many hours. Use Quicktime's "Trim" function.
  2. You have to convert your Quicktime files to something FCE can use without having to render. Super lame. So, get MPEG Streamclip. It's free. Open that, hit Command-B (Batch list) and drag the clips you want to convert into that window. Choose "Export to Quicktime" on the next dialog box, choose a destination folder for your converted clips in the next dialog...then in the final window use these settings: Compression: DV/DVCPRO - NTSC, Quality: 100%, un-check "Interlaced Scaling" and leave everything else the way it is. Click "To Batch" and then click "go" in the batch window. This takes a long time. If I have alot of long clips I just let it run overnight.
  3. Create a new FCE project, and add your clips to the project. Do the editing on them. You shouldn't need to render.
  4. When you're all done editing, go File->Export->Using QuickTime Conversion.
  5. Click "Options" in the file dialog box.
  6. In the "Movie Settings" dialog, click "Settings" and use these settings: Compression Type: H.264, Quality: Best. Leave everything else.
  7. In the "Size" dialog, use "Custom", enter "960 x 720" (can also try 1280x960) and leave everything else.
  8. In the "Movie Settings" dialog, leave everything else, and go ahead and export
That's going to produce a file that should be good to go for YouTube. I do not know why it doesn't fill the whole screen. I'd love to know.

Final note: if you also use the Fuji Z33WP or XP10 in video mode and mix in footage in with the playsport, you have to crop the fuji stuff. In the "Motion" tab of the viewer, expand "Crop" and add a value of 1.5 for left and right, and a value of 12.5 for top and bottom.

Update: this is very helpful

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Comcast SUCKS! Sucks, Sucks, Sucks...

I am visiting my parents in Florida for Christmas. They, like millions of people in America, suffer under the oppressive thumb of the giant cable-and-internet monopoly known as Comcast. I have disliked Comcast for years for their ambilavent attitude about service and support, but this experience broke me. I wanted to post this on the internet just to have it out there. Rather than typing it all out, I'll just give you the Instant Message chat transcript where I tell the story to my friend.


2:08:10 PM rory: we should dump comcast
2:08:12 PM friend: sounds like Comcast pissed you off?
2:08:21 PM rory: they outright lie to their customers
2:08:42 PM friend: what happened?
2:09:02 PM rory: our internet was out all day the other day.  I suspected it was may have been due to high winds (even tho i think cables are buried), but I gave it time
2:09:31 PM rory: finally contacted them in the evening...oh yes, there's an outage in your area, but it's showing here they are 98.9% complete fixing it.
2:09:41 PM rory: Please be patient for 24-48 hours.
2:09:44 PM friend: haha
2:09:49 PM friend: 24-48 hours
2:09:50 PM rory: what?? 98% complete??
2:09:56 PM rory: but ok, i'll check in the am
2:10:17 PM rory: am comes, still no internet.  contact them again...we're not showing a record of any outage in your area
2:10:24 PM rory: for [CENSORED]'S sake!
2:10:56 PM rory: they determine it's the cable modem.  so i take it to the damn office and wait in the [CENSORED]ing line to get it replaced.
2:11:07 PM rory: get back, set it up, activate it
2:11:34 PM rory: all i get when I try to connect is redirected to a comcast.net page "OOPS - your activation is not complete"
2:11:38 PM friend: haha
2:11:45 PM friend: jeeez
2:12:20 PM rory: call them again.  the idiot woman goes thru all this same bs they do every time someone calls.  finally she says, "sounds like a software problem on your computer"
2:12:39 PM rory: I say, "well, it's the same on both the pc and mac". 
2:12:48 PM rory: she says, then they are both broken
2:12:58 PM rory: that I need to contact microsoft
2:13:18 PM friend: oh my god
2:13:20 PM rory: I was LIVID
2:13:23 PM friend: i bet 
2:13:36 PM rory: I flew off the handle.  my mom had to come take the phone from me.
2:14:01 PM friend: haha
2:14:10 PM rory: so i said, no way.  no [CENSORED]ing way are we doing business with them anymore
2:14:21 PM rory: I will do whatever it takes to switch to verizon.
2:14:34 PM friend: so did they eventually get it working at your parents' place?
2:14:37 PM rory: which is a FAR better service
2:14:45 PM rory: well...
2:14:47 PM friend: or you switched already
2:14:54 PM rory: they're coming saturday
2:15:04 PM friend: they have cable?
2:15:07 PM rory: but I can't tether til then
2:15:08 PM rory: yeah
2:15:22 PM rory: so I contacted comcast again today
2:15:51 PM rory: on the "live chat", so they couldn't [CENSORED]ing say it was a problem with the computer
2:16:10 PM rory: because if i'm [CENSORED]ing chatting with you over the internet, then the [CENSORED]ing computer works
2:16:37 PM rory: anyway, the dude in india finally got it to work
2:16:44 PM friend: did he say what the problem was?
2:17:10 PM rory: he didn't know, he just "sent a new signal" to the modem a couple times and it started working
2:17:18 PM friend: sounds fishy
2:17:30 PM rory: the whole [CENSORED] company is fishy
2:17:39 PM friend: yeah, i've never liked them
2:17:40 PM rory: they have been doing this to people for years
2:17:43 PM rory: years and years

Friday, November 5, 2010

Adjust volume on an entire mp3 collection with mp3gain/aacgain

This command will adjust the audio so that the gain is roughly the same on an entire mp3 music collection. In other words, makes it so the output volume on different tracks is the same to your ears. It is assuming you have mp3gain/aacgain installed.

You'd have to be feeling pretty gamey to do this. Having said that, the risk is fairly low since no actual changes are being made to the mp3 itself, just the metadata (it's reversible).

find . -name *mp3 -exec mp3gain -a -k {} \;

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rory's all-time top 10 dance songs

  1. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  2. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  3. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  4. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  5. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  6. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  7. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  8. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  9. Daft Punk - "One More Time"
  10. Sugarbabes' version of Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" set to Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?"

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rory's all-time top 10 classic punk songs

  1. Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device
  2. Gimme Gimme Gimme (Version 1) - Black Flag
  3. Breaking Free - Gorilla Biscuits
  4. Hate Breeders - The Misfits
  5. Summer Romance - New Bomb Turks
  6. Slash Your Face - Dogs
  7. No Time - The Saints
  8. Rise Above - Black Flag
  9. Lexicon Devil - The Germs
  10. Riot Squad - Cock Sparrer

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Connecting multiple external monitors to a Macbook Pro

4 Monitors

Are four high-resolution, independently-managed monitors possible with a Macbook Pro? Yes. Excessive? mmhmm. Awesome? You bet!
Stop laughing at my ancient keyboard and yes, I am watching "The Hangover".

I've been using a Macbook Pro (MBP) for three years now and still love it. I've made a few upgrades to it that have brought it more or less up to date: maxed out the RAM at 3GB, swapped out the drive with a 250GB solid state drive, and attached a 24" LCD monitor to the DVI out interface.

But one thing I did miss from my desktop days was being able to connect multiple external monitors to the computer using a dual-head video card or multiple dual-head video cards. That extra desktop space really helps with productivity. I suppose that begs the question...why not just get a Mac desktop? Travel.

Until relatively recently, MBP multi-monitor the options were surprisingly limited and/or prohibitively expensive, despite the fact that the MBP has an ExpressCard34 slot that seemed ideal for the purpose. But, the problem has finally been solved...and I've even tried a couple of these solutions. Here they are:

1. Crappy

Tritton Technologies SEE2 XtremeI was excited when the Tritton SEE2 Xtreme became available. At under $100 it appeared that it would affordably allow me to connect an additional 24" LCD monitor to my Macbook Pro. And that it does, but not very well. My spirits sank as soon as I plugged this thing in and started dragging windows into it. It behaved as if I was connected to it over VNC. Anything moving lags considerably, and it has to "refresh" new windows really pretty much like VNC does. It's particularly incompatible with Thunderbird - when trying to highlight text to copy/paste, the cursor disappears!! And video...don't even think about it.

In its defense, the 1920x1200 screen resolution of my monitor was alot for that little device to handle (though it DOES say it's supported). So much so that it would even black out for a few seconds roughly every hour or so, almost like it was being overloaded or something. Very annoying. Please do not waste your money on this (but if you want mine, I'll sell it to you cheap).

There are other USB DVI solutions out there like VillageTronic's ViBook and Kensington's Dual Monitor Adapter. I can't imagine they are any better though, I don't think USB is a robust enough interface to handle hi-res video properly.

2. Decent (I guess...haven't actually tried this one)

Matrox TripleHead2GoThis one's been around the longest, relatively speaking. Matrox offers DualHead2Go and TripleHead2Go devices which do just as the names imply...allow you to connect two or three external monitors to a computer (doesn't need to be a Macbook, but that'll work). At the time of writing, the DualHead2Go Digital Edition, which is the one you'd want with a MBP, is around $200.

It doesn't use USB or ExpressCard interfaces, it actually takes the DVI out signal and splits it into two or three. In effect, what that does is make your external monitors one HUGE monitor in the eyes of the OS. Now, you could look at this as an advantage or a disadvantage. Some people love it. I personally think it's a dealbreaker. You can't have your external monitor be your primary monitor unless you want the dock stretched all the way across two or three monitors. You also have to use matched monitors because the colors and resolutions can't be independently managed in the OS. Sorry - no thank you!

3. The BEST

After exhaustive research I concluded that the only way to go would be a solution that used the ExpressCard34 interface natively (i.e. no adapter necessary). There are a few of these.

There's the Digital Tiger's SideCar which is about $1,500. Ixnay on that one. Not even sure OS X is supported. Then there's the Magma ExpressBox1 which will set you back about $725. Nope! Then, there's the one I actually ended up getting...

ViDock 2 Mac Box

The ViDock 2 Mac Box with a Sapphire 2600XT dual head video card installed. A well done piece of machinery.

The VillageTronic ViDock 2 Mac Box is the only affordable solution out there that does what I want...allow me to attach two external monitors, manage them as separate displays in OS X, support 1920x1200 resolution, and run high-performance apps like video with no lag. Warning: this solution is somewhat DIY.

The box itself cost $200 and is just that...a box with a cable coming out of it. At the business end of the cable is the "magic", an ExpressCard34 interface card. Inside the box is a PCI express slot. It's meant to take a Mac Pro ATI 2600XT Video Card, which is conveniently discontinued! So, one must be acquired off of eBay. There are also a few aftermarket manufacturers that sell new ones, but you have to be very careful about the dimensions of it. The ViDock 2 is meant to take this card specifically, which is 256mb. I got the Sapphire 512mb card because that's how I roll, but you can get a used ATI 2600XT 256mb card for about $100. So, total cost is going to be about $300 to get this thing going. Well worth the cost relative to the productivity gain of having multiple high-performance monitors.

Once you have the box and the card, it's relatively easy. if you've ever installed a PCI card into a desktop the process is essentially the same...few screws, that's it really. Plug the box's external power in, plug each monitor's DVI cable into the box, then the ExpressCard into the MBP. One thing about the ViDock is that it's not a hot-swappable solution, so be sure you shut down before plugging in the ExpressCard. Once you boot up, you'll see all your displays in System Preferences...no extra software needed!

There's a couple more wrinkles you should be aware of. First, this solution will only work with generations 2 and 4 of the MBP. To find your generation, pull down the Apple menu in the very top-left of your screen. Select "About this Mac", then the "More info..." button. That opens System Profiler. Under "Hardware Overview" look for "Model Identifier". It should say something like "MacBookPro2,2". The generation number is on the right side of the comma.

Why only generations 2 and 4? I got in touch with Josh at VillageTronic, a small shop out of Witchita, and he helped me a great deal with my questions. Apparently in generation 3, resources were "taken away" from the ExpressCard34 slot so that it is not usable to interface with a dual-head video card. The put those resources back in generation 4, but took them away again in generation 5. And if I am correct, the 15" version of the generation 5 MBPs doesn't even have an ExpressCard34 slot, only the 17". So that's definitely something to be aware of.

Here's the second, possibly deal-breaking wrinkle...the ViDock 2 Mac Box may no longer be available. At the time of writing, I could not find the item on the Harmonic Inversion (VillageTronic's store) site. I don't know why this is. It's possible they discontinued it because there's no future for it, I suppose that the likliest reason. When talking to Josh a while back he tried to steer me towards the cheaper ViBook Plus, but when I said I'd tried USB solutions and they were too slow he agreed I needed the ViDock 2 Mac Box. That seems to indicate they were planning on discontinuing it.

You could contact VillageTronic and they may be able to scare one up for you (I am pretty sure they are machining these things themselves, not getting them from China). It's also possible that the ViDock 2 Box will work just as well, but this is unverified. If you are a real nerd, you could even try to build your own.

But trust me...if you can get a hold of one of these, it's well worth it. Since there are two heads on the video card, one DVI interface on the MBP itself, and of course the MBPs built-in display, you could conceivably run up to FOUR high-resolution, high-performance displays from your MBP. Life changing! OK, that may be overdoing it a bit...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A pocket audio guide to Peter Matthiessen, E.J. Watson and "Shadow Country"

(click here to skip down to the audio section)

"I don't go looking for trouble...but when trouble comes to me, why, I take care of it."

Sounds like something Clint Eastwood would say in a spaghetti western. Instead, it was uttered by an even more mysterious and enigmatic bad-ass named E.J. Watson, the real-life main character of Peter Matthiessen's epic book entitled "Shadow Country - A New Rendering of the Watson Legend". It truly is the Great American Novel. It consumes you, makes you want to know more...stays with you long after you've finished reading it.

EJ Watson

A rare photo of E.J. Watson himself,
from the PBS documentary "No Boundaries"

E.J. Watson so fascinated Matthiessen that he devoted 30 years (more than a third of his life) to researching, writing, and imagining the Watson character and the myth that surrounded him. Originally, Matthiessen published the story as three separate books, dubbed "The Watson Trilogy" in the 90s. But he was never quite satisfied with it, so he took 10 years to completely re-write it, and published "Shadow Country" in 2008. The book is classified as a work of fiction, but as Matthiessen says, "it's the closest to the truth that anybody's ever come." Unconcerned with plot, Matthiessen kills Watson off in the first few pages of the book, and spends the remainder of the 900-some pages discovering just who this E.J. Watson guy is. Ultimately Matthiessen wanted to answer the very first question he ever had about Watson...why a large group of Watson's neighbors — who admitted they genuinely liked and admired him — felt they needed to kill him with a barrage of bullets. Thirty-three bullets to be exact, not counting buckshot...and the ones that missed.

E.J. Watson's various monikers speak to his diverse personality. His given name was Edgar Artemis Watson, born 1855 in Edgefield County, South Carolina (which Matthiessen claims is the most violent county in American history) where he grew up under the thumb of an abusive, drunken father. Fleeing his father, Watson left home early and bounced between North Florida and the "Nations" of Oklahoma. He developed a reputation as a killer when he was tried (but acquitted) in Oklahoma for the murder of the female outlaw Belle Starr. He later escaped from jail, and likely a lynching, where he was being held on suspicion of horse theivery — a crime considered worse than murder in those days. He fled to the primitive, sparsely-populated wilderness of southwest Florida known as 10,000 Islands, where he changed his name to E.J. ("Jack") Watson, ostensibly to seperate himself from his past. 10,000 Islands (now part of the Florida Everglades National Park) was a haven for outsiders, deserters and men on the run from the law. It was truly a frontier land, even well into the 20th century. A character in the book calls 10,000 Islands "the ass end of hell." Even today, the Florida Everglades and the adjacent 10,000 Islands and Big Cypress is the largest roadless area in the lower 48.

In Southwest Florida, Watson painstakingly hacked out a 40-acre sugarcane farm from the dense mangrove and shell soil, and built a very successful cane syrup business from scratch. His sugarcane farming methods are believed to be the foundation of Florida's large sugarcane industry today. In this frontier land, where he became known as "Planter Watson", he changed his reputation from that of an outlaw to one of a hard-working, entreprenurial businessman who was well-liked and well-respected among his neighbors, associates and, uh...quite a few women. He had three wives (not all at the same time), and a number of other mistresses. He was ruggedly handsome, intelligent (known for quoting Shakespeare), had an affable personality, was very generous, could tell a great story, and had a real sense of humor. People just plain liked him.

Chatham Bend

The house at Chatham Bend, where bad, bad things happened. The Watson Place - the only house ever built in the Everglades - ultimately burned down in the mid-1940s. It is rumored that the National Park Service itself torched it. Photo from the book "Totch: A Life in the Everglades".

But Watson still had a dark side. He was a heavy drinker with an explosive temper, and considering he was unusually tall, unusually strong and had icy cold blue eyes...he seems like the kind of guy you wouldn't want to mess with. As one character describes him, "He looked like God, and he looked like Satan and he looked like Uncle Sam...all three at once!" He always dressed well, even when he was at work in the fields. Kept a pistol in his pocket at all times and was known to be a deadeye shot with any firearm. Legend has it Watson killed dozens of people who crossed him, though Matthiessen (who's obviously done by far the most exhaustive research on Watson) isn't so generous. He says, "I couldn't seperate him from about seven [killings]". One legend is of the "Watson Payday" where he employed folks — usually loners and drifters — for an entire season of cane growing, and after the harvest when they went to get paid they got killed instead. Not quite the reward they'd hoped for! It was through rumors like this that he earned his most infamous nickname, "Bloody Watson." In one interview, Matthiessen relates how when researching Watson, he came across a family in New York (need to verify) who used to tell their children "now you get to bed, or Mr. Watson's gonna git ya!" Nice parents. But it speaks to the power of the mythical "Bloody Watson"...he became the quintessential boogyman. He was both good and evil, charismatic and dangerous. I can see why Matthiessen would want to solve the enigma of the Watson character. When asked how Matthiessen filled in the gaps of what was known about Watson, he says "I put myself in him." So what we get is a synthesis of the real person of Watson, with elements of the author himself.

The other important character in "Shadow Country" is the land itself. Two common threads in all of Matthiessen's books (not that I've read them all, this is just what he says) are "marginalized people, places and creatures" and "the frayed relationship humans and nature." While not terribly hospitable to people (except the natives), the Everglades hosted a rich and diverse ecosystem of birds, fish, reptiles and other wildlife, and Calusa (now extinct), Seminole and Mikasuki indians who had been there for thousands of years. But commercial fishing and hunting wreaked havoc on the land, and the federal government itself nearly destroyed it entirely by undertaking a massive wetland drainage program in the late 1800s. Three bloody Seminole Wars were fought there between the natives and the US Army, though the indians were never actually subverted. Matthiessen's descriptions of the land and it's trials are a major element in the book, and are in fact a metaphor for the checkered past of the United States as a whole. His alchemy with words sets a sense of place in my mind like no other book has ever done.

Chatham Bend Map

The approximate location of Watson's cane farm, Chatham Bend
(click to view in larger map)

For his massive 30-year undertaking, Matthiessen won the 2008 National Book Award. It was his second National Book Award — his first was for "The Snow Leopard" in 1978. He is one of the few authors to win the award for both fiction and non-fiction books.

Similar to Matthiessen's obsession with the character of Watson, I'm fascinated with Matthiessen himself. I find Matthiessen's story every bit as intriguing as Watson's.

Matthiessen developed his love for nature and wild animals at an early age, having grown up in rural Connecticut (as a child he kept a den of copperhead snakes as pets). He and his brother roamed the Connecticut backcountry hiking, fishing and birding. For school, he boarded and later went to Yale where he presumably cut his chops as a writer. Matthiessen then went on to serve in the Navy in WWII. Afterwards — and this is where it gets interesting — he was recruited by the CIA and sent to Paris to spy on what the CIA deemed to be Communist threats. As cover he began the famous literary magazine, "The Paris Review" with his childhood friend George Plimpton. As cover! Matthiessen calls his 2-year stint with the CIA "the only adventure I've ever regretted." He very obviously does not like to talk about it. He says he quit because he found himself more in line with those who he was trying to spy on than his employers.

He later became a commercial fisherman, then a charter boat captain, and also tried to make a living as a fiction writer. But, by this time he was married with kids and was having a hard time paying the bills. He soon discovered that non-fiction was the way to go for making money. He got hooked up with an editor at the New Yorker who liked his work, and that launched his writing career in earnest.

In total, Matthiessen's written 30-plus books, both fiction and non-fiction. Although he is most well-known for his non-fiction (i.e. "The Snow Leopard"), he is very clear that his heart is in fiction writing. He says he did non-fiction "to pay the bills" and doesn't like writing it because, "you're stuck with the facts...or should be, anyway." His books are usually well-received critically, though he's had only two New York Times bestsellers in his career, "Far Tortuga" and "Killing Mister Watson" (the first book of the "Watson Trilogy").

Not unlike his buddy E.J. Watson, Matthiessen is nothing if not diverse himself. In addition to a successful writing career, Matthiessen is also well-known as an explorer, a political activist, environmentalist, an expert birder, and a Zen Rōshi. His spiritual path that led to Zen Buddhism began in the 60s, when he and his then-wife (who later died of cancer) were heavily into experimental drugs, particularly LSD. To this day he claims that if properly prepared, LSD can offer deep insight into one's mind (he does not still use LSD). Searching for non-checmically-induced methods to achieve altered states of consciousness, he and his wife eventually discovered Zen Buddhism in the 70s, which he still practices and teaches today.

Quick Addendum: More Everglades Reading

Totch: A Life in the Everglades

Totch: A Life in the Everglades: Essential Everglades reading.

I recently came across a book called "Totch: A Life in the Everglades" which I highly recommend after you've finished reading Shadow Country and/or The Watson Trilogy. It's an autobiography of a gentleman called Loren "Totch" Brown, who was born Chokoloskee, FL in 1920, and spent his life in the 10,000 islands. The book provides additional context about the region, and corroborates alot of the facts in Matthiessen's Watson writings. He personally knew several characters in the book like Luscious Watson, The Smallwoods...Watson's good friend C.G. McKinney was his grandfather. He even lived at the Watson Place on Chatham Bend for a while during the Great Depression. He can attest to the blood stains in the house. Totch himself could easily had been a character in Shadow Country if he'd have been born earlier. He was a farmer, fisherman, gator poacher and drug runner. He was a real Florida outlaw, and has the stories to prove it.

Audio of Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

I've found the best way to get into the mind of Peter Matthiessen is to listen to him talk. Preferably, on my iPod. So, for myself, and any other Matthiessen fans who'd like to partake, I've compiled a complete set of Peter Matthiessen interview/lecture/monologue mp3s for your iPod listening pleasure. Many of these were ripped from video (with WireTap), and in those cases I included the link to the video in case you want to watch that as well, which you should.

Listening to Matthiessen speak is a unique experience. At 82 years of age, he has a deep, wise, gravelly voice...you can almost hear the Zen within it. Some of the topics covered in the interviews are repetitive, he appears to have had "talking points" when making the media rounds promoting his books (mostly "Shadow Country"). However, there are distinct nuggets of goodness in each and every one. No interview is exactly the same as another. If you listen to all of these, you'll end up feeling like you know him pretty well.

As serene as he comes across, an interesting thing I discovered is that he is also somewhat of a crank (his words). He is an exceedingly private person. Dislikes it when people recognize him in public and hates it when devotees of his writing visit his house. Virtually nothing is known about his Tanzanian-born second wife, and he rarely mentions her in interviews. When sitting on planes, the first thing he does is give his seat-mate a icy cold look as if to say "I am not chatty." He also says being a Zen Rōshi does not preclude him from feeling rage about what he perceives as injustices. He speaks quite strongly against George Bush, Big Oil, the FBI (who actually sued him) and various other people or organizations that antagonize the causes he's invested himself in.

The files are in the order of the most recent first. I've included a brief synopsis of the forum and topic for each mp3 below. I also bolded the ones I think are of particular interest. Enjoy the words of one of America's most gifted and prolific living authors!

Forum : WPSU Conversations at Penn State - Author's Reflections
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 56:16
Air Date: Thursday, January 21, 2010
Description : This one's interesting because it doesn't talk much about Shadow Country. He talks about his life and the highlights include his 2-year stint as a spy for the CIA, his LSD usage with his first wife, and his path to Zen.

Forum : 2008 National Book Awards
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 10:32
Air Date: February 2, 2009
Description : Gail Godwin presents the 2008 National Book Award in Fiction to Peter Matthiessen, for "Shadow Country." Eric Bogosian introduces Godwin.

Forum : PBS NewsHour's "Art Beat" segment
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 14:12
Air Date: December 31, 2008
Description : Jeffery Brown interviews Matthiessen, mostly about Shadow Country. Matthiessen also reads from his book. I included both segments in the audio.

Forum : Salt Lake City Public Library
Media : Article | MP3 (right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as"
Stream :
Length : 1:43:41
Air Date: November 13, 2008
Description : Peter Matthiessen and photographer Subhankar Banerjee talk about their collaboration on the Arctic. Unless you're REALLY into the arctic, skip right to Matthiessen, who comes in at 38:10. Skip to 51:00 if you want to get right to the "Shadow Country" material. A very good segment because he reads quite a bit from the book, it's interesting to hear him speaking the character's parts in the southern vernacular.

Forum : KUER RadioWest (NPR)
Media : Article | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 52:02
Air Date: November 12, 2008
Description : Doug Fabrizio talks with Peter Matthiessen about "revealing the world through words"

Forum : WBUR's "On Point" (NPR)
Media : MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 45:18
Air Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Description : Tom Ashbrook talks with Peter Matthiessen about "The Snow Leopard", Zen and environmental issues. Very little about Watson. Has a nice call-in portion except for the first call, she's a fruitcake.

Forum : Leonard Lopate Show WNYC (NPR)
Media : Article | MP3 (right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as"
Stream :
Length : 21:34
Air Date: Monday, June 09, 2008
Description : Leonard Lopate interviews Peter Matthiessen mostly about Shadow Country. A great place to start if you haven't read it yet.

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 22:04
Air Date: May 27, 2008
Description : Charlie Rose interviews Peter Matthiessen about Shadow Country. He is quite obviously irritated at Charlie's questioning about his experience as a spy for the CIA.

Forum : The Free Library of Philadelphia
Media : Article | MP3 (right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as"
Stream :
Length : 58:29
Air Date: April 17, 2008
Description : Perhaps the best interview with Matthiessen I could find. He's has a good rapport with the interviewer, also an author. He wanders quite a bit in his answers, it's interesting to see where his mind takes him. Nice Q&A bit with the audience at the end.

Forum : Writer's Symposium by the Sea
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : Dean Nelson interview's Peter Matthiessen at a writer's forum. This one is distinct from the others because he tells personal stories I've heard nowhere else. He talks about nearly getting killed in the Sudan, encountering old men in the swamp backcountry, and there's an allusion to when he came across a dead guy in an alley when he was a young man. He is actaully quite jovial.
Air Date: April 1, 2005
Description : 28:45

Forum : "Web Exclusive" on Orion Magazine Website
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 13:36
Air Date: September 1, 2004
Description : Sort of a monologue about Politics and the Environment, Globalization, Resources, and Ethics and Corporate Profits and Common Sense. Not terribly interesting (to me, anyway), but does give some insight into his political views.

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 18:33
Air Date: December 9, 2003
Description : Discussion with Matthiessen, about his book "At The End of the Earth: Voyages to Antarctica". Tells Rose that his favorite book to date is "Far Tortuga" but hints that it might be replaced by the book he's working on (which will become "Shadow Country")

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 16:43
Air Date: March 21, 2002
Description : Interview about his book "Birds of Heaven" about Cranes. Bet you didn't know there's a Crane sanctuary in the DMZ between North and South Korea. Not a terribly interesting interview otherwise, though he does talk a bit about Antarctica.

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (to download, right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as")
Stream :
Length : 10:19
Air Date: April 26, 2000
Description : From Charlie Rose site: "Peter Matthiessen, nature writer and co-founder of "The Paris Review", discusses his book "Tigers in the Snow", which explores the efforts being made to save the species and contemplates the impact of their majesty and grace on our collective imagination."

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as"
Stream :
Length : 15:55
Air Date: June 3, 1999
Description : Charlie Rose interviews Peter Matthiessen about "Bone by Bone". Interesting because even though Bone by Bone had just been released, he hyas already resolved to synthesize the "Watson Trilogy" into one book. He tosses out "The Labyrinth" as a speculative title (refernce to the everglades). He also discusses EJ Watson in depth, the Columbine shootings, and the dark side of humanity. Good interview.

Forum : The Charlie Rose Show
Media : Video | MP3 (right-click and choose "save as" or "save target as"
Stream :
Length : 23:10
Air Date: November 26, 1997
Description : A great interview because of its age, done at the time the second book of the Watson Trilogy, "Lost Man's River" was released.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top 10 OS X tools & utilities I couldn't live without

These are either free, cheap, or not super cheap but worth every penny. All of these have made my life easier. I often wonder how I got by before I discovered each one of these. This is not a paid advertisement! (free ones are noted with an asterisk *, though donating to the developers is a nice idea!)
  1. Quicksilver * - It's hard to define Quicksilver because it does so many things. Basically, you can configure it to perform tasks on your Mac with keystrokes. Launch apps (obviosuly), but also launch searches on commonly-used websites, do math, pause iTunes, add an event to your calendar, etc. It's magic. I couldn't live without it. Seriously.
  2. SubEthaEdit - This is the greatest text editor I've ever found - and I've tried alot. It's fast and simple, yet has all the functions you'd ever need. I have it open all the time to use as my scratch pad, do regex on data, or convert characters or line endings. I don't do much actual coding in it, for that I use Eclipse, You certainly could, as it has syntax highlighting for all big languages.
  3. WireTap Studio - This is my go-to app for almost all audio work. It's primary function is to rip audio from any source (mac audio, or from any app specifically), but it has a great audio editor built in. It's not as functional as Audacity's but it's so much easier to use. OK, it's no Logic Studio but sometimes you just need a fast, quick and dirty audio editor.
  4. Default Folder X - OS X's built-in file system navigation is decent, but leaves something to be desired. If you open/close/save lots of files each day like I do, this app is incredible. It integrates seamlessly into the OS.
  5. SuperDuper! - I'm a backup freak (learned the hard way), and this app makes it a cinch. There's no backup scenario that SuperDuper! can't handle. It's saved my ass several times and besides that, it makes transitioning to new hardware a breeze.
  6. iTerm * - Best terminal app I've ever used. Tabbed terminals, and so much more.
  7. X11 * - This little piece of genius is actually part of the OS X distribution (optional install, Xcode tools). The wonder of it is, it allows you to run graphical *NIX applications (like GnuCash) natively. OS X is itself a UNIX distribution, after all. Of course, you'll also need a slick package manager like MacPorts or Fink to install your apps (I've used them both and they are both pretty nice).
  8. VLC * - Plays pretty much any media file that's playable. Soooooo much better than Quicktime. Even comparing it to Quicktime is insulting to VLC, because it does so much more. There are so many neat, tweakable functions I continue to discover. And it's a joy.
  9. Disk Inventory X * - I am also a disk cleanup freak. When your hard drive is full, or approaching full, sometimes it's hard to see where huge chunks of data are located in the filesystem. This lays it all out for you visually so you can go in and delete, delete, delete.
  10. Reggy * - Super handy little regular expression tester.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The three things I would need to actually get work done on the iPhone

I love my iPhone, it has freed me quite a bit from my desktop computer. But there are many instances that I am out, and I am unable to complete simple work tasks on the iPhone because multiple applications are needed. The hardware and OS tools that a computer has available to allow you to synthesize your workspace to get tasks done, are just not available on the iPhone...even though all the apps I need are. It's not a huge deal, but I think the barriers to actually being able to get work done are small(ish). I've narrowed it down to these three simple things:
  1. An External Keyboard - The touchscreen keyboard just isn't workable for alot of typing. I'd love something external that either folds up, or is very small and can "cradle" the iPhone. Keyboard shortcuts (like Command-C, Command-V) would need to be incorporated into the OS.
  2. A Pointer (Mouse/Clickable Trackpad) - This is in conjunction to, or perhaps even part of the keyboard. This would allow for much easier editing of text, and easier highlighting of text for copy/paste. The copy/paste function on the iPhone now is OK, but very cumbersome.
  3. Multiple Applications Open/Fast Application Switching - Right now iPhone seems to have limited support for multiple apps to be open. For example, you can listen to music while using Safari. I'd love if you could open as many as 4 applications at a time, and have a keyboard (see #1) shortcut to switch quickly between them. If I could have Mail, Safari, a simple text editor and TouchTerm open all at once, switch between them easily, and cut/copy/paste text between them, I'd be in heaven.
Of course, these three things are all dependent on one another. And the big issue here would be RAM. Supporting external hardware and multiple running applications would really slow the iPhone down. However, I think the gain in productivity would be worth the cost of the slowdown.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Record an early broadcast of "This American Life" to listen to at your leisure

If you're like me, you don't like to be tied to your local NPR station's schedule for "This American Life" each weekend, and you don't want to wait until Sunday for the This American Life podcast to become available.

Solution! Time-shift an early broadcast of This American Life on the internet. That way, it's available for you to listen to when it's convenient for you. For me that's usually on my iPod, on my Saturday run.

The earliest reliable and listenable stream I've found is on WUIS in Springfield, IL. It airs on Friday evening at 7pm Central time. They provide a quite listenable 56k stream at this URL:
It's great for me because I am on the west coast, so it comes on at 5pm my time and is available at 6pm. There are earlier internet broadcasts of This American Life on east coast NPR stations, but I have found their streams to be too low-quality or unreliable.

If you know of an earlier broacast that's of decent quality, let me know in the comments. Whatever stream you use, be sure to donate to the station to compensate for the bandwidth. And of course, donate to This American Life!