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Podcasts for geeks

One of the first things I set out to do after I got my Cowon D2 was to seek out some new podcasts. Podcasts are all the rage around the internets these days, but if you have been living in a cave the past years, here is a short update:

A podcast is like a radio series, except you subscribe to it with a web feed (or equivalent) and get each new episode on your computer, which you usually then upload to your portable media player.

So, where do you find podcasts to subscribe to? Well, if you know exactly what you're looking for, you can just go to a search engine and type in something like model railroad podcast, if you're interested in model railroads. Chances are that, whatever your interests are, someone has made a show about it.

If you want to get an idea of what kinds of podcasts are out there, you can browse sites such as PodcastDirectory.

Here are some of the podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis.

Are We Alone? by the Seti Institute

This is a professionally produced 50-minute weekly program about various scientific subjects. Even though it's produced by the SETI Institute, SETI is only occasionally a subject. This is my absolute favourite; if you check out only one of the podcasts on my list, this should be it.


This monthly podcast presents some of the latest findings in neuroscience research in a popular format.

STAT! The Podcast of Neurology News and Medicine

When I first discovered this podcast in the Podcast Directory, I expected something along the lines of NeuroPod. But the two podcasts could not have been more different. Whereas NeuroPod has a pop-sci approach to the frontlines of research, STAT! is made by doctors, for doctors, and has a practical, clinical focus. The typical episode of STAT! is an in-depth discussion of subjects such as what you ahould do if a patient comes into your office with a TIA. Nevertheless, I found this podcast utterly fascinating, and if you can get over the jargon (this was probably the first time I heard the word “iatrogenic” spoken), I warmly recommend it.

Unfortunately, it seems that this podcast has been discontinued, or put on ice: the latest episode available was published on April 6th, 2008.


This is another clinical podcast, which “strives to bring you the latest information about dental technology and clinical techniques”. I find dentistry a fascinating subject, partly because almost everyone goes to the dentist once in a while, but few people know much about what they do and why they do it.

Science @ NASA

Irregularly published short news stories from NASA, about 3 to 10 minutes each. A slight degree of hum, but you only really notice it when the episode ends.

The first draft of this entry included a recommendation of Eirik Newth's science podcast Superstreng. Unfortunately, since then I received the dismaying news that it has ceased production. (Actually, it was not primarily a podcast, but a show on Radio Norge that also appeared as a podcast a couple of days letter, often with additional material. Radio Norge is apparently no longer interested in airing the show.) But if you can understand Norwegian, all 118 episodes are still available for download at the Superstreng site.

[Saturday, Sep 13, 2008 @ 23:13] | [] | # | G


It made me sad to hear that Bosnia and Hercegovina's national anthem from 1995, Jedna i Jedina, had been retired only a few years after its adoption. I realize that the lyrics may have been too Bosnian-oriented to use in a multiethnic state, but that melody was sooo beautiful. I have a CD with 60 or so national anthems, played by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. I always thought that the Bosnian hymn was the best of the lot.

Yesterday, John Cowan sent me a pointer to National Anthems Reference Page, which has MIDI files, lyrics and sheet music for most national anthems, and some other hymns. This site rekindled my fascination with national anthems, and I decided to do some research to find out which anthem, since the old Bosnian anthem was replaced, is the world's nicest.

So now I've heard through maybe three quarters of the songs on the site, including those I've already heard elsewhere. Guess which non-fictional, current national anthem is at the top of my list?

Yes, indeed. The new Bosnian national anthem, made official in 1998, by the title of Intermeco. These people really know how to make patriotic music!

[Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 @ 14:58] | [] | # | G

Advantage Decadence bar: better than nothing, but just barely

On my way to Uppsala today, I was at the Narvesen kiosk at Trondheim Airport, amassing my usual stockpile of newspapers and magazines for the long, boring flight. I usually buy Illustrert Vitenskap when on the go, but I'd already read the current edition when I was home for Christmas. Instead, I bought VG, Dagbladet, Dagens Næringsliv (Norwegian tabloids), Linux Journal and a new offshoot of SciAm called Scientific American MIND.

While standing in line, I noticed a new candy bar lying on a shelf at the counter. It was called "Advantage Decadence Bar". It also had the name of "Atkins" in small type on it, and a reference to "net carbs".

I don't exactly have positive associations to the Atkins name, and I'm not in a hurry to change to a "low-carb lifestyle". But I thought that, hey, it might actually taste good. So I bought it on a whim, and hurried on.

When I opened it up on the plane to Oslo, my first impression was that it wasn't very sweet, compared to most any chocolate bar I'm familiar with. This was to be expected — low-carb entails low-sugar, after all. To compensate, it had slightly more cocoa flavour, but not nearly enough, in my opinion. Besides, the chewy texture on the inside made me expect some counterpoint to the cocoa flavour, such as fudge, nougat or maybe caramel. But alas, it was the same insipid cocoa flavour all the way through.

So overall, my dice throw for Atkin's Decadence would be 2. It's not the worst chocolate I've tasted — I actually finished it later that day at the hotel room, because I was in the need for a sugar rush, and my brain didn't realize that there was hardly any sugar there. But still, it's leaning towards the yucky end of the scale.

On the other hand, the worst chocolate I ever tasted I just threw away. That questionable honour goes to some Santa figurine made by a German company whose name I can't remember some time in the 1990s. I remember the taste distinctly as similar to rancid butter — although in retrospect, it might have been just that it was some extremely bitter chocolate made from second-class cocoa.

[Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 @ 22:05] | [] | # | G

Ad Verbum: a successful IF form experiment

If you like Interactive Fiction at all, I would like to draw your attention to Ad Verbum, a marvellous game written in 2000 by Nick Montfort. When I first downloaded this, I really didn't expect it to be any fun at all |AMP|emdash; I prefer IF that is more a story than a game, and I generally detest puzzle-heavy games because they tend to get me stuck early. As Graham Nelson puts it, an adventure game is a narrative at war with a crossword puzzle; in this game, the narrative doesn't really put up much of a fight at all. And I love it! Because the puzzles in Ad Verbum are really good puzzles.

Screenshot of Ad VerbumIn Ad Verbum, the adventurer's day labor corner assigns you the job of clearing out the mansion of the Wizard or Wordplay. You basically have to remove all objects from all rooms in the mansion, and place them in a container. Sounds easy? Well, it would have been, weren't it for the fact that all commands have to start with the same letter as the name of the cardinal direction the room is in. Now, that is one blatant breach of the rule that players should never have to 'guess the verb'. And the upper stories of the building sets even more restrictions on the commands you can enter.

I admit that I had to use the hint system extensively to complete this game. But I have an excuse. Which is that I am not a native speaker of English. I strongly suspect that mr. Montfort must have used a thesaurus when writing the game, to cover all synonyms of 'take' and 'exit' that starts with a specific letter. But I managed to complete at least a sizable portion of the puzzles unaided, which is more than I can say about other nominally 'puzzle-light' games. In short, an incredibly funny game, worth a few hours of your time.

[Tuesday, Mar 18, 2003 @ 20:06] | [] | # | G