The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2017-12-30T17:34:07-07:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. iPhone X impressions Nic Lindh 2017-12-30T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/iphonex.jpg" /></p> <p>Yes, this is the best iPhone ever made. Of course, every iPhone, as Apple loves to remind us during the unveiling, is the best iPhone ever made. How could it not be? Faster processor, better camera, better screen, etc.</p> <p>But iPhone X is fundamentally different. Ditching the home button is a <em>massive</em> change to how you interact with the device. Swiping from the bottom of the screen and unlocking with FaceID sounds like a detail, but it is not—it’s a fundamental change to the soul of the experience. More than ever, it feels like you’re interacting directly with a ghost in a machine.</p> <p>Side note: This is probably part of Apple’s somewhat pathological loathing of physical buttons and ports. Anything on a touch device you can do by touching the screen itself is a little bit closer to the platonic ideal of the device, while buttons and ports are grudging allowances to physical realities. Realities that are to be hunted down and destroyed whenever possible.</p> <p>I feel pretty confident on a late-night tea jag Jony Ive scratched open a vein with a perfect pencil and wrote that phrase or something like it on a wall in the design studio in his own blood, calligraphing the San Francisco font perfectly.</p> <p>But enough fan fic.</p> <p>Of course, iPhone X is not perfect. Nothing man-made is. But it’s a major leap toward that platonic ideal.</p> <p>For the record, I moved to iPhone X from iPhone 7, so just one generation. (Unless you want to enter Apple’s space-time continuum and count iPhone 8 as a generation immediately superseded by iPhone X within a month. But that’s a bit silly, isn’t it?)</p> <p>The first thing to notice about iPhone X while setting it up is the screen. That OLED display <em>still</em> looks fake to me sometimes. It just doesn’t seem a screen can look that good. Really. That screen is jaw-dropping even if you’re just coming from a phone one generation away.</p> <p>It’s like the first time setting up a Kindle, when I thought the e-ink screen was a sticker on the screen—a screen just shouldn’t be able to look that good.</p> <p>But like with Kindle, iPhone X’s screen really does look that good. It’s incredible.</p> <p>The device itself feels hefty. Not heavy, but substantial, and it is just a touch too large to be comfortable one-handed. Not as ungainly as the Plus models, but just, just too large. (And I say this a large peasant-man with beefy hands.)</p> <p>So what about the dreaded notch? Meh. You stop seeing it very quickly.</p> <p>Obviously it would be better if it wasn’t there, but apart from marring the platonic ideal, in actual usage your brain filters it out quick.</p> <p>Though as somebody who uses a VPN quite a lot, it’s annoying that the notch can’t display your VPN status continuously; it just reminds you of the VPN right when it connects on the right side of the notch, and from there on it’s up to you to check the status yourself.</p> <p>Annoying, but I’m probably an outlier in even using a VPN.</p> <p>The home bar—a.k.a. home indicator, a.k.a. blotch thingy, a.k.a. grabby thing—is your visual cue to, hey, dummy, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go back home.</p> <p>It’s a very useful visual reminder for the first few days of using a home button-less device about what you have to do to escape from an app, and a clever idea in general. The kind of thing that reminds you that very smart people who care a lot built this thing.</p> <p>But after a few days it becomes visual clutter. It would be nice to have a switch in the settings to remove it, but that probably won’t happen for a while. Patience, grasshopper: Apple will not remove it or allow it to be removed until they feel sure the removal won’t overwhelm the elves at AppleCare.</p> <p>In the meantime, your brain gets good at filtering it out as well.</p> <p>It is interesting, though, those first few days when years and years of habits have to be broken—it’s a bit panicky at first to not have the comfort of the home button there. <em>Oh, no, what do I do?</em></p> <p>And even though Apple gets a somewhat deserved amount of shit for their “courage” in removing things, making a radical change like removing the home button must have caused more than a few sleepless nights for the <a href="">denizens of the space ship</a>.</p> <p>They didn’t have to do that. Nobody was telling them to do that. But they did it. And it was the right decision.</p> <p>For me, FaceID has worked mostly flawlessly. The only—very slight—annoyance is that I have to hold the phone just slightly higher than my body’s default for FaceID to recognize me. And I’m starting to hold it higher, inch by inch, without really thinking about it.</p> <p>FaceID is smart. FaceID is always learning. At first it had difficulty with my face without glasses, but a couple of password entries later, it got that. Then it had a problem with the wreck that is my face when I first roll out of bed in the morning, but same story, a few password entries later and all good. Always learning.</p> <p>The battery life is spectacular, at least comparable to battery life on the Plus size models. I haven’t done any specific benchmarking, but it feels like a Plus and I never feel battery anxiety.</p> <p>The battery life is greatly aided by QI charging. QI charging is magic. Spend some money on little pucks to litter around your home and office and now you can just drop the phone on them whenever you’re not using it and the phone sits there and charges.</p> <p>It’s a lot like remote controls for TVs, which—since I am as old as the seas—I used to scoff at when they first showed up back in the day. What kind of loser can’t get their lazy ass off the couch to change the channel, I yelled at the sky. What kind of decadent bastard <em>wants this</em> I yelled, shaking my fist at the sky.</p> <p>Turns out I did, as did everybody who ever got their mitts on one.</p> <p>It’s obviously not a hardship in any meaningful way to stick a cable into your phone to charge it—it’s preposterous to pretend otherwise. But QI charging is just that tiny little bit less frictionless, that little bit more sci-fi.</p> <p>And yes, I know Android had it first. Thank you for the reminder.</p> <p>I’m not about to switch platforms and ecosystems and find app replacements and purchasing my apps again just to be able to lay my phone upon a puck, no matter how magical it is.</p> <p>Still, pretty freaking neat.</p> <p>Here’s where we talk about how Apple gets me every year: Better cameras. Before the keynote, I am steady in my resolve. I do not need to update. The phone I currently have is great. I shall not be swayed and keep giving them all my money.</p> <p>Apple, during keynote: “New iPhone has a much better camera.”</p> <p>Me: “Dammit, I need that.”</p> <p>And iPhone X has fantastic cameras. So much better than previous generations. As is, amazingly, par for the course.</p> <p>The last thing, which is a smaller thing and not a reason to upgrade by itself, at least for me, is that Apple keeps defying physics with the speakers. Every generation they get a little bit better and louder. Physics being physics, they’re not what anybody would call objectively <em>good</em> but they are indeed better and louder.</p> <p>They’re not good enough that I’m not going to go Bluetooth to a speaker to listen to podcasts in the morning, but they are getting there. In an incredibly small physical package.</p> <p>This is why iPhone X feels so substantial—even if the most of the weight is battery, you know there’s so much technology brought back from the edge in there, it’s touching, in a weird way.</p> <p>The amount of software engineering, materials science, and manufacturing prowess evidenced by iPhone X—and the other flagship phones from other manufacturers—is almost humbling. We, as a species, can build this. Or, we can argue about whose holy text is the correct one and murder the ones we don’t agree with.</p> <p>I like Apple’s focus.</p> <p>If you’re a technology enthusiast, iPhone X will make you very happy indeed.</p> <p>If you’re a normal human, you can wait and spend the money on something else that makes your life better, knowing this kind of technology is coming to us all as time marches on.</p> <p>It really did take courage to release something like this and break with so many traditions. So kudos, Apple.</p> The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it Nic Lindh 2017-12-28T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Sir Terry Pratchett</p> Smart homes for the wealthy Nic Lindh 2017-12-17T00:00:00-07:00 <p>We had a contractor at the house a few days ago to do some maintenance. Because it turns out houses fall apart as they age and you have to keep pouring money into them—who could have guessed?</p> <p>But anyway, the contractor noticed my Google Home in the kitchen and talked about how he’s been installing smart switches for his clients for several years now.</p> <p>After our house he was going to another client with a much, much more expensive home to install Malibu lights and a sprinkler system. Instead of installing the timer systems that comes with the sprinklers and the lights he was going to install smart switches and show the clients how to use them with their voice and their phones.</p> <p>This is probably a “duh” thing for a lot of people, but I know that if I was a contractor I’d dread the tech support calls I’d get for something like that. He said he never gets a call—his clients love the smart switches.</p> <p>His decision also makes a ton of sense if you’ve ever had to program a sprinkler system or Malibu lights with the timers that come with the systems. Those timers are—I can only assume, based on the amount of swearing I did myself setting them up when we first bought our house—designed by engineers who actively and enthusiastically loathe humanity, progress, and beauty.</p> <p>Don’t believe me? Here, have a cold beverage and <a href="">enjoy some instructions</a>.</p> <p>What surprised me about our contractor’s faith in smart devices is that as far as I’m concerned we’ve been so achingly close for so long for this kind of devices becoming acceptable for the masses.</p> <p>They’re not there yet since we still have competing standards, not just with Echo, Google Home, and HomeKit, but also competing wireless standards on the backend. Oh, it gets complicated, boy does it ever get complicated.</p> <p>So it was interesting to get a report from the frontlines saying we’re at that stage in the technology cycle now where rich people are passively getting set up with voice controlled devices and are happy with them.</p> <p>Or contented, at least. And if you have spent any kind of time providing services to the kind of people who own multi-million-dollar homes, you know that they are not the kind of people who are shy or timid about expressing their displeasure. Which means the kind of smart devices this contractor is installing are huge successes with his clients.</p> <p>Which means the smart devices are close to ready for mass consumption. The installation just needs to get easier so you don’t need a contractor to install the things and help you get up to speed.</p> <p>And of course the prices need to drop significantly.</p> <p>Smart homes are close now. Closer and closer.</p> <p>And yes, I know that anecdote is not the singular of data, but what he said jives with everything else I’m seeing.</p> Book roundup, part 24 Nic Lindh 2017-11-27T00:00:00-07:00 <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="retribution-the-battle-for-japan-1944-45-by-max-hastings-"><a href="">Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45, by Max Hastings</a> ★★★★★</h3> <p>Just like all of Hastings’s other World War II histories, <em>Retribution</em> is utterly masterful. It covers the horrors of the last year of the conflict in great detail, weaving together the different strains of events into a master narrative, and paints an indelible picture of the madness of Japanese culture at the time, the perversion of <em><a href="">Bushido</a></em> into virulent, nihilistic fascism.</p> <p>Hastings also makes a strong case for how the events of World War II in the Pacific laid the intellectual framework for how America was to engage in its future wars:</p> <blockquote> <p>The outcome of the Pacific conflict persuaded some Americans that they could win wars at relatively small human cost, by the application of their country’s boundless technological ingenuity and industrial resources. The lesson appeared to be that, if the US possessed bases from which its warships and aircraft could strike at the land of an enemy, victories could be gained by the expenditure of mere treasure, and relatively little blood. Only in the course of succeeding decades did it become plain that Japan was a foe uniquely vulnerable to American naval and air power projection. Some modern US historians assert that the pursuit of decisive victory is central to the American way of war. If true, this renders their country chronically vulnerable to disappointment. The 1950-53 Korean conflict proved only the first of many demonstrations that the comprehensive triumph achieved by the US in the Second World War was a freak of history, representing no norm. Modern experience suggests that never again will overwhelming military, naval and air power suffice to fulfil American purposes abroad as effectively as it did in the Pacific war. Limited wars offer notable opportunities to belligerents of limited means. Only total war enabled a liberal democracy to exploit weapons of mass destruction.</p> </blockquote> <p>He also provides a strong case for how the release of atomic weapons over two Japanese cities did not by itself avert the necessity of an Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, but rather that they were the logical escalation of the ongoing American terror bombings that, together with the naval blockade, already had the Empire on the verge of collapse.</p> <p>(“Olympic” was the code name for the Allied invasion of Japan.)</p> <blockquote> <p>The Japanese continued to delude themselves that they had time to talk, time to probe and haggle with each other and with the Allies. They believed that their ability to extract a huge blood price from their enemy before succumbing represented a formidable bargaining chip. Instead, of course, this helped to undo them. It seems irrelevant to debate the merits of rival guesstimates for Olympic’s US casualties—63,000, 193,000, a million. What was not in doubt was that invading Japan would involve a large loss of American lives, which nobody wished to accept. Blockade and fire-bombing had already created conditions in which invasion would probably be unnecessary.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[…]</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The dropping of the bombs did not represent, as Truman and others later claimed, a direct alternative to a costly US invasion of Japan. The people disastrously influenced by the prospect of Olympic were not Americans, but the Japanese, whom it persuaded to continue the war.</p> </blockquote> <p>Other historians disagree, of course.</p> <p>If you’re interested in history, and especially if you’re interested in World War II, Hastings is your guy. Brilliant.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> <em>Retribution</em> is titled <em>Nemesis</em> in some markets.</p> <h3 id="boomerang-travels-in-the-new-third-world-by-michael-lewis-"><a href="">Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>After the economic collapse of 2008, Michael Lewis decided to travel to world hotspots of the aftermath of the collapse to see how they were faring, including Greece, Iceland, and Ireland.</p> <p>Lewis is, of course, a master storyteller and has a wonderful knack for finding interesting characters to illustrate his points.</p> <p>In <em>Boomerang</em> the Greek monks who became real estate magnates and a colorful Irish protestor stand out as larger-than-life yet still believable characters, but the book is full of them.</p> <p>Personally, I decided to read <em>Boomerang</em> thinking it’s almost been ten years since the crash and I was emotionally ready to relive it. I was wrong.</p> <p>Reading the aftermath of a bunch of sociopathics making themselves millionaires on the backs of the rest of the world still makes me fume, and probably always will.</p> <p><em>Deep breaths.</em></p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-collapsing-empire-by-john-scalzi-"><a href="">The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Just like <em><a href="">Old Man’s War</a></em>, <em>The Collapsing Empire</em> is grand, fun space opera in the tradition of Heinlein. John Scalzi, of course, is the current master of that tradition, having mastered the interplay between grand sci-fi ideas, character building, and goofiness, all coupled with deceptively simple prose that doesn’t call attention to itself.</p> <p><em>The Collapsing Empire</em> is the beginning of a new series and as such it has to spend a fair amount of time and energy on world building, but with that caveat out of the way, it still doesn’t reach the heights of <em>Old Man’s War</em>.</p> <p>The problem, at least for me, is that the world just isn’t as invigorating as the one in <em>Old Man’s War</em>.</p> <p>But it’s a good start to a new series and just plain fun. Hoping it hits its groove in the next installment.</p> <p>If you’re a fan of Scalzi’s other works or fun space opera in general, you can’t go wrong with <em>The Collapsing Empire</em>.</p> <h3 id="all-systems-red-by-martha-wells-"><a href="">All Systems Red, by Martha Wells</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>This is a fun medium-future sci-fi novella about an android that is rented out for security duties in corporate space exploration.</p> <p>However, this particular android has a broken “governor module” meaning that it can make its own decisions.</p> <p>It also refers to itself as “Murderbot.” (Cue dun-dun-DUN sound.)</p> <p><em>All Systems Red</em> is a quick, fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a little space opera and a little cyberpunk with a sprinkling of noir.</p> <p>I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.</p> <h3 id="ninefox-gambit-by-yoon-ha-lee-"><a href="">Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The first installment in the <em>Machineries of Empire</em> series, <em>Ninefox Gambit</em> is trippy and weird far-future space opera.</p> <p>The main thing to know about this novel is that you will have a very hard time understanding what is going on, but at the same time it is beautifully written and ultimately worth it to understand the opaque setting.</p> <p>But you need to be tolerant of confusion and having strange and sometimes disturbing ideas thrown at you.</p> <p><em>Ninefox Gambit</em> is weird, yo. If you’re up for putting on your thinking cap, it’s a very interesting read, loaded with Grand Ideas.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> Review: Bosch TV series Nic Lindh 2017-10-04T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/bosch-review.jpg" /></p> <p><em>Bosh</em> is a TV series on Amazon Video, included with Amazon Prime, based on the novels by Michael Connelly.</p> <p>I’ve been a fan and reader of the novels since they first started appearing, way back in the halcyon days of 1992, so I was excited when the news broke of the TV serialization.</p> <p>If you’re not familiar with the novels, they are gritty police procedurals that follow detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch as he deals with gruesome murders, even more gruesome police department politics, the press, and his own psychological dysfunctions.</p> <p>And yes, he’s named after the <a href="">painter of grotesque hellscapes</a>. Which is fitting.</p> <p>In my opinion it’s one of the great detective series, up there with Ian Rankin’s inspector Rebus. Both series do a great job of following a character through time, having their circumstances change, and having the events they live through affect their personalities.</p> <p>Thumbs up to both series.</p> <p>If you’re new, you should most definitely start at the beginning, which for Bosch is <a href=""><em>The Black Echo</em></a> and for Rebus is <a href="">Knots and Crosses</a>.</p> <p>(<em>Knots and Crosses</em> actually isn’t all that good, but it is the beginning of a series which gets way, way better after that and damn it we have to have rules or we’re just animals.)</p> <p>Personally, though, I think Connelly’s <a href=""><em>Lincoln Lawyer</em></a> series is sharper than the Bosch series. Those might be fighting words in some circles, but Connelly started the <em>Lincoln Lawyer</em> series at the height of his powers after he’d worked out his (few) kinks with Bosch so they’re more spare and focused.</p> <p>But this is about Bosch. One of the great police procedural thriller series and one that uses Los Angeles almost as a character. Los Angeles in all its grit and sun-blasted weirdness.</p> <p>And since 2015 it’s a TV series.</p> <p>As of this writing, there are three seasons to the series, which instead of going novel-by-novel uses several novels per season, banging them together, tweaking and updating them for today.</p> <p>In the novels, Bosch is a Vietnam veteran, but TV series Bosch is a middle-aged man today, so he’s made into a Gulf War I veteran turned cop. (It’s necessary to keep his military background since it formed his personality so much.) In the novels Bosch was a “tunnel rat”—the soldiers who went into the Viet Cong underground fortifications to fight and die alone in the darkness, while TV Bosch was, wait for it, <em>sigh</em>, special forces.</p> <p><em>Why? Why always special forces?</em> There are other soldiers.</p> <p>But be that as it may, the series is updated for today including the age and background of Bosch.</p> <p>So how is it?</p> <p>First off, the cinematography is great. The series uses Los Angeles as a character just like the novels do and a lot of it is gorgeous. If you happen to have a 4K TV with HDR support, <em>Bosch</em> will show you why you spent all that money on your black slab.</p> <p>The acting is also good straight through—weary detectives, sleazy politicians and sweaty perps, everybody digs in and seems to have a good time working.</p> <p>The first season has some interesting development of supporting characters, especially Bosch’s partner and Bosch’s boss, who both foreshadow plot points of interesting lives.</p> <p>Unfortunately, that gets a bit lost in seasons two and three, both of which feel a bit uncertain—the pacing gets ratcheted up with Bosch dealing with a murder, and another murder, and a court case, and his daughter, and office politics, and on and on, in a frenetic pace.</p> <p>It feels—at least to me, and I could certainly be wrong; this is just a feeling—like the writers didn’t feel sure the source material was strong enough, so the show had to become faster, more amped up.</p> <p>The pacing and supporting character development were great in the first season. It felt a lot like a British crime procedural. Seasons two and three feel more American.</p> <p>This is not a compliment—most American crime procedurals are dreck as far as I’m concerned. Looking at you, <em>CSI: WhateverleastIgotpaid</em>.</p> <p>That being said, it’s still good. I wouldn’t have watched it all the way through if it wasn’t. At its best it’s riveting, with some great plot points and turn-arounds.</p> <p>The biggest problem with the series is Bosch himself. <a href="">Titus Welliver</a> plays the title character and he does do a good job of it. But he’s terribly miscast.</p> <p>Bosch in the novels is a live wire—a damaged individual who oozes menace and physical violence. At least the way I read them, he’s also an imposing, physical man. Welliver is not.</p> <p>He tries to make up for it with a three-cups-of-espresso intensity that might work if you haven’t read the novels. But if you have, it’s just not the same thing.</p> <p>Somebody like Swedish actor <a href="">Mikael Persbrandt</a> from the <em>Beck</em> series or, if he hadn’t passed away, <a href="">James Gandolfini</a> of <em>The Sopranos</em> would have brought that sheer physical menace to the role.</p> <p>This is what keeps the series from being really great and from embodying the feeling of the novels, that sense that Bosch is on the edge of <em>hurting someone</em> all the time.</p> <p>Nevertheless, what we do have is pretty good. If you’re into police procedurals, <em>Bosch</em> is well worth watching.</p> <p>But, screamed the old fogey, the books were better!</p> Getting started with podcasting Nic Lindh 2017-09-10T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/podcasting-heil-pr40.jpg" /></p> <p>I love podcasting. Podcasts have almost completely replaced radio for me. It’s amazing how much excellent content is out there, free for the download.</p> <p>It’s awesome that no matter what niche thing you’re interested in, somebody else out there is way, way more into it than you are and is making a podcast about it.</p> <p>And now I have <a href="">my own Swedish-language podcast, Amerikapodden</a>. It’s tiny, but I very much enjoy creating it.</p> <p>I’m a web developer and a technologist, so it should have been easy for me to get going with this, but it was way harder than I thought, with more things to think about and more things to purchase than expected.</p> <p>Of course the Internet has many, many guides to podcasting and an avalanche of forums where people discuss podcasting, but for a novice it’s difficult to parse the information and separate the lunatics from the knowledgeable.</p> <p>Most of the guides on how to podcast are written by successful podcasters who’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s great and appreciated they share what they know, though they may have forgotten or repressed a lot of the things that were challenging when they first started out.</p> <p>Which is why I’m writing this getting started guide before I get comfortable and start to forget.</p> <p>This comes from the perspective of somebody who is good with technology but had little experience with audio production. However, the guide doesn’t make any assumptions the reader is good with technology.</p> <p>Like any other difficult task, the best way to conquer it is to break it down into smaller, achievable tasks.</p> <p>Many people have done it. You can do it, too. And you don’t have to be a nerd to do it.</p> <p>Before we get into the nitty-gritty, a warning: <em>Don’t get bogged down in gear.</em> So, so much of podcast discussion devolves into nerds yelling about microphones. Mics are important, sure, but they’re way, way less important than the Internet would have you believe.</p> <p>Think about the shows you like. How many times have you thought, man, I wish they were using a different mic? Do you know what mics they’re using? Do you care?</p> <p>So don’t let picking a mic give you an anxiety attack.</p> <p>As a matter of fact, don’t let any of the myriad decisions you have to make paralyze you—if you don’t know what choice to make, just make one and move on. You can course correct later as you have more information.</p> <p>Let’s dig in. Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable.</p> <h3 id="content-is-king">Content is king</h3> <p>The content is what matters. The words you put into your listeners’ earholes. Those are what really matter.</p> <p>What you do to think up those words, to record those words, and to get those words to your listeners’ earholes does not matter to your listeners at all.</p> <p>Your listeners want to be entertained or provoked or soothed or informed, or whatever your podcast provides for them. That’s what matters to them, so that should be what matters to you.</p> <p>Which takes us to the first point: <em>You are going to suck.</em></p> <p>At first, you will suck. Podcasting is not a natural act. Unless you’re a standup comedian or already have experience as on-air talent, you will suck.</p> <p>Fortunately, if you care and work at it, you will suck less and less and then you will become good.</p> <p>Making a podcast is hard work, with the emphasis on work.</p> <p>I don’t say this to be discouraging in any way. I say this to soften the blow when you listen to your first effort.</p> <p>If you don’t believe me, <a href="">listen to Ira Glass of This American Life</a>, one of the best in his field, talk about storytelling. The part I’m referencing is in the third part of the series, but I recommend watching through from the beginning.</p> </div></div></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="//" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <p>As Glass says much more eloquently, you suck at first because you know what you want to achieve but you don’t have the skills to achieve it yet. You can only get the skills through practice.</p> <p>Nobody just picked up a guitar and played Stairwell to Heaven perfectly.</p> <p>In the second part of the video, Glass also gets into how <em>everything wants to be crap</em>. Which it does. Any creative endeavor you embark on wants to be crap. This is super important to understand.</p> <h3 id="master-of-your-domain">Master of your domain</h3> <p>Podcasts obviously live on the Internet so they need an Internet home.</p> <p>I always recommend people purchase their own domain for anything they do on the Internet. This is a long topic, but to condense it down, if you own a domain you can put your content in many different places and move your content around as you see fit without your audience noticing. You never want to have to tell people to resubscribe because you moved things around.</p> <p>Your podcast should have a home on the Internet. It can be a Tumblr site, a WordPress site, a SquareSpace site or whatever. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can map a domain to it so your content and your Google juice are transferable.</p> <p>A .com domain usually costs around $12 per year, but you don’t have to get a .com. Whatever weird domain extension you like is fine. .coms are the gold standard, but don’t worry too much about it.</p> <p>Though I have many, many reservations about Facebook, the easiest thing you can do is to simply create a Facebook page.</p> <p>Obviously you can’t host your podcast there, but you can use it as your online presence, though I strongly recommend against it being your only online presence. The reasons for that is a long rant and I’ll elide it for the purposes of this post.</p> <p>Here’s what I recommend: Purchase a domain and set up a simple site for your podcast. At the very least, it’s a place to point people and for Google to find you.</p> <h3 id="hosting-the-actual-podcast">Hosting the actual podcast</h3> <p>You’ll need a place to upload your mp3s so your audience can download them. (Yes, they should be mp3s. It’s the lowest common denominator. Your file format is not where you want to go bleeding-edge.)</p> <p>This can be any kind of web host. Just a place where podcast players can find your files.</p> <p>However, if you want download stats—and you probably do, so you can know how many people are listening—you need a “real” podcast host.</p> <p>There are a couple of usual suspects: <a href="">Libsyn</a> and <a href="">Blubrry</a> are the major players, and <a href="">Fireside</a> is a new contender that looks nice.</p> <p>Personally, I host my own files and use <a href="">Podtrac</a> for the analytics. If you’re a web nerd you can download and use a <a href="">Jekyll podcast template</a> I created.</p> <p>Libsyn is the 800-pound gorilla in the space and they know what they’re doing. A lot of the podcasts you already listen to are probably on Libsyn.</p> <p>Don’t try to jerry-rig your own analytics and hosting unless you really know what you’re doing.</p> <h3 id="the-equipment-you-need">The equipment you need</h3> <p>The audio quality of your show depends on you and your audience. Some people create hyper-produced shows with NPR quality and some yell into their phones and post that.</p> <p>It’s your call.</p> <p>Your audience might be very forgiving of audio quality or they might disregard anything that sounds less than “professional.” It depends.</p> <p>That being said, the better you can make your podcast sound, the better off you are. Different people have different thresholds for what sound quality or lack thereof they’re willing to tolerate.</p> <p>Fortunately, it’s not very expensive these days to create audio that sounds decent.</p> <p>This means you’re going to have to spend some money. You can spend literally <em>any amount</em> of money to make your podcast sound better—the audiophile sky is the limit—but you don’t have to spend a lot.</p> <p>(It’s kind of funny how in audio there really isn’t an upper ceiling on what you can spend, either to produce it or consume it.)</p> <p>But you don’t have to spend a lot to get to a minimum threshold where people stop paying attention to the audio quality and start paying attention to the content. Which is where you want to be. You don’t want listeners to turn off your podcast because they can’t hear what you were saying.</p> <p>Your audience simply shouldn’t think about how your podcast sounds. It’s all about the content.</p> <p>When it comes to which equipment you need, Dan Benjamin has made his living running <a href="">a podcast network</a> for many years, and he has put together a battle-tested <a href="">list of podcast equipment</a>. Dan knows what he’s talking about. Listen to him.</p> <p>It’s up to you how much money you want to invest. The more you spend, the better the quality, but only you know your budget and your aspirations.</p> <p>I’m currently using a <a href="">Heil PR-40</a> that feeds into a <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1505087823">Zoom H5</a> recorder.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/podcasting-the-studio.jpg" alt="Heil PR-40, Zoom H5, Sony MDR7506, and a clicker" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Heil PR-40, Zoom H5, Sony MDR7506 with replacement pads, and a clicker.</div> <p>I <em>love</em> the PR-40. It works great for my voice.</p> <p>This setup is working well for me and I really like not having my computer involved in the recording. The Zoom only does audio recording so there are fewer opportunities for gremlins to come sneak in. It has one job and it does it well. But that’s just my personal opinion.</p> <h3 id="the-studio-matters-more-than-the-equipment">The studio matters more than the equipment</h3> <p>No matter what gear you buy, where you record matters more.</p> <p>The number one enemy of high-quality audio recording is room noise. If you go buy the top-of-the-line stuff <a href="">Dan Benjamin recommends</a> and you record in a concrete bunker, you will sound terrible anyway.</p> <p>Your terrible recording can probably be improved by an audio engineer with very expensive software, but unless you have one of those on hand, you’re SOL. And you really, really don’t want to get yourself into the soul crushing business of salvaging bad audio.</p> <p>So record clean. With audio, you need the cleanest inputs you can get. Which means recording in a sound-dampening environment. If you can build a studio, that’s great. Most people can’t.</p> <p>Personally, I record in my man cave/monk cell, which is the tiny room where I watch TV and write blog posts. I put <a href=";sr=1-4&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503791137">some acoustic dampeners</a> on the wall, and they have helped my quality tremendously.</p> <p>(As an aside, for your man cave if you want to watch movies loud, acoustic dampeners will help with the audio quality for your TV in a major way. You know, if you need another reason to make the investment. Echo is bad, unless you’re a cathedral.)</p> <p>But if you’re just getting started or you don’t have the money to spend to sound treat a room, you have two great options: A car or a closet.</p> <p>Car interiors dampen sound a ton. Record in a parked car and it will sound great.</p> <p>A walk-in closet full of clothes also dampens sound a lot, so just go stand in a closet and record and you will sound like you’re in a fully-treated studio.</p> <p>I recorded my first podcasts in a walk-in closet with a <a href=";sr=1-5&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503791506">Blue Yeti</a>, a mic that’s notorious for picking up room noise, and it sounded great.</p> <p>Cars and closets are your friends.</p> <p>A last-ditch solution if you don’t have access to any kind of dampening space is to record under a heavy blanket. You will feel like an idiot and you will get sweaty, but you will sound good.</p> <p>The rest is experimentation. Record and listen. Hang more blankets on the wall, record and listen. Move the mic to a different location, record and listen.</p> <p>Only you know what you and your audience consider good enough.</p> <h3 id="technique-matters-even-more">Technique matters even more</h3> <p>No matter what equipment you have and where you record, if your technique is bad it will still sound bad.</p> <p>Remember when I said this is work? We’re close to the inside of the onion now, but this layer is tricky because this layer is all you.</p> <p>When I first started I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for tips on recording technique, and it was mostly fruitless. But recording technique is super important.</p> <h4 id="get-closer-to-the-mic">Get closer to the mic</h4> <p>Be as close to the mic as you can. Seriously. You should be closer than you think you should. You should feel the mike as you record. Closer is better. No further than a hands-width distance from the mic.</p> <p>If you’re really close, you can turn down the gain, which means you will pick up less room noise and your audio is cleaner.</p> <p>Being close to the mic also means you’ll blow your plosives. Plosives are “p” sounds. They cause a sound wave that makes your mic go nuts and emit a really ugly sound. Plosives are bad.</p> <p>To get rid of them you need a filter. It can be a pop filter or a windscreen, which one doesn’t matter, only that it works.</p> <p>You’re the only one who can find out what works for you.</p> <p>How do you find out? Record! Listen to yourself.</p> <p><em>Get closer to the mic.</em></p> <h4 id="wear-headphones">Wear headphones</h4> <p>When you’re recording, wear headphones. If nothing else, use the ear buds that came with your phone to monitor yourself.</p> <p>Even if, like me, you’re only recording yourself talking, wear headphones. <em>You must know what the mic is picking up.</em></p> <p>In a controlled environment like a studio, you’ll know what’s going on, but there will still be surprises. Did the recorder conk out? Did you just find a new angle that makes the mike pop? Are the gardeners outside suddenly loud enough to bleed through?</p> <p>Whatever it is, you want to know about it while you’re recording, not while you’re editing.</p> <p>Wear headphones.</p> <p>It’s the cheapest and easiest insurance policy you can get. If you’re recording and you’re not wearing headphones you’re inviting disaster.</p> <p>Use whatever headphones or earbuds you have, though I recommend the <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=musical-instruments&amp;keywords=sony%2Bmdr%2B7506&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503793442">Sony MDR7506</a> headphones—they’ve been a studio standard forever, they’re built like tanks, they’re comfortable, they’re not all that expensive, and you can use them to listen to tunes when you’re not recording.</p> <p>If you watch making-of videos of songs, you’ll probably see your favorite performers wearing the Sony MDR7506 headphones in the studio.</p> <h3 id="edit-your-show">Edit your show</h3> <p>Some people can just step up to a mic and lay down a perfect recording.</p> <p>Those people have sold their souls to Satan.</p> <p>You won’t be able to do that. So you need to edit your show.</p> <p>Editing your own voice is painful. You will hate how you sound. How you hear yourself when you’re talking and how others hear you is very different. When listening to a recording of yourself you hear yourself as others hear you. You are not used to this. You will find it painful. This is normal.</p> <p>Audio editing is a skillset unto itself and audio editing software goes from free to quite expensive.</p> <p>The Wirecutter has a nice roundup of <a href="">recommendations for podcast editing software</a>. Professional voice actor Mike DelGaudio—who runs the <a href="">Booth Junkie</a> YouTube channel and has a voice to kill for—<a href="">really likes Reaper</a>. I’m personally using <a href="">Hindenburg Journalist</a>, which I like for its focus on spoken audio.</p> <p>As a sidenote, DelGaudio has a great tip about <a href="">using a clicker when recording</a> to make editing out bad takes a lot faster and easier.</p> <p>But in the end whatever software that fits your budget and your personal software taste will work.</p> <p>How heavily you want to edit of course depends on your goals, but you definitely need to go in and take out false starts and long pauses. But it’s possible to spend limitless time editing.</p> <p>It’s in the editing you can really make your podcast shine.</p> <p>As a sidenote, I’m old enough that I remember editing by literally cutting reel to reel tape and let me tell you whippersnappers that editing in software is so much faster and easier it’s almost ludicrous.</p> <p>You’ll note, though, that these are several different skill sets: writing, performing, editing, and uploading are very different skills and you will find that you’re better at some than others. This is normal.</p> <p>This post became much longer than I was expecting. Thanks for reading it and I hope it was useful.</p> <p>Now go out there and record something cool for me to listen to!</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong> Some links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback from Amazon. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and is appreciated.</p> Review: Novels of the Malazan Empire Nic Lindh 2017-09-03T00:00:00-07:00 <p>It might be that with the state of the world these days you want to take your mind off things. A great way to accomplish that is with epic fantasy. And there’s no fantasy series more epic than the awesome <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series.</p> <p>But if you’ve already read all 3.2 million words—yes, 3.2 million words spread out into ten novels, which is a <em>lot</em> of words—of the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series and are jonesing for more, I bring you good news!</p> <p>If you’re not familiar with it, the <em><a href="">Malazan Book of the Fallen</a></em> is a high fantasy series that spans a world and a history of a world and ultimately is a haunting meditation on the meaning of mortality. The sheer scope of Malazan is mind-blowing and that Steven Erikson pulled it off is incredible.</p> <p>The series starts with <a href=";qid=1472341005&amp;keywords=gardens%252Bof%252Bthe%252Bmoon&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Gardens of the Moon</a>, which will leave you utterly confused and enthralled. It’s not an easy read, but magnificent.</p> <p>But if you’ve already read Malazan and want more—and why wouldn’t you want more, the world of Malazan is so rich and deep—Erikson’s co-creator of the universe, Ian C. Esslemont, has written a six-series cycle called <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> that take place in the same time frame but with different characters—though there is some overlap—and tells a different set of stories that tie in to the main stories of the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em>.</p> <p>As an aside here, I’m not a Dungeons and Dragons guy, mostly because we were not aware of it in the small Swedish town where I grew up. If I had only known, I’m sure I would have been one of those guys, but I wasn’t introduced to D&amp;D until I went to college in the States, at which point in my life I was much more interested in hanging around night clubs making feeble attempts at dating women.</p> <p>My biggest frustration with a lot of fantasy is that it feels like some guy—it’s usually a guy—wrote down his awesome D&amp;D campaign and unless you’re that guy, it actually isn’t that interesting because the characters came out of a D&amp;D campaign and are one-dimensional and boring to everybody but you.</p> <p>Not so Erikson and Esselmont. They have myriad—perhaps too many, even—characters, and a lot of those characters are quite interesting.</p> <p>However, Erikson and Esselmont have, to put it mildly, different writing styles. Erikson has found the elusive <em>Epic</em> knob on his keyboard and turned it to 11, while Esselmont writes more prosaically. Not that Esselmont is a bad writer by any means, but he hasn’t found that <em>Epic</em> knob Erikson did.</p> <p>But Esselmont does grow as a writer as <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> goes on.</p> <p>The series consists of <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=night%2Bof%2Bknives&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1504481267">Night of Knives</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=0X91PW6VBJ7SP01KJNCW&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=gJwEF&amp;pd_rd_i=0765363488&amp;pd_rd_wg=oSzmZ">Return of the Crimson Guard</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=NEW0C8GF3BWC247H5XEQ&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=HNAdX&amp;pd_rd_i=0765329859&amp;pd_rd_wg=6fkKE">Stonewielder</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=SR3220MF5G1BQPJ3FH89&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=0Afn8&amp;pd_rd_i=0765329999&amp;pd_rd_wg=rcdOD">Orb Sceptre Throne</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=ZY3DQY7SN04AM6WV8KCK&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=JKqP1&amp;pd_rd_i=0765330016&amp;pd_rd_wg=YFwDY">Blood and Bone</a></em>, and <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=1K3KNCYP3K2TDKBE24DB&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=KSSfJ&amp;pd_rd_i=0765330008&amp;pd_rd_wg=RfeGI">Assail</a></em>.</p> <p><em>Night of Knives</em> is frustrating, as it’s told through the viewpoints of characters who have no idea what’s going on and thus you as the reader have very little idea what’s going on, and Esselmont’s prose in this novel is pretty rough. If it was a stand-alone there’s no way I could recommend it.</p> <p>But then he finds his stride and the series picks up steam. So don’t let <em>Night of Knives</em> put you off—it gets much better.</p> <p>As a whole, <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> is satisfying and a worthy inclusion in the canon. And despite being less <em>Epic</em> than Erikson, Esselmont does use much fewer words, so these are more normal-length novels instead of the bricks that make up the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em>.</p> <p>Obviously, this series is not where you should start, but if like me you find yourself jonesing for another shot of Malazan, dive in to <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> to find out more about the Forkrul, the Stormguard and the Crimson Guard.</p> <p>Highly recommended.</p> Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States Nic Lindh 2017-08-26T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.</p> </blockquote> <p>—W.E.B. Du Bois</p> An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it Nic Lindh 2017-07-30T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Jef Mallett</p> Photos from Pacific Beach Nic Lindh 2017-07-29T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/pacific-beach-hero.jpg" /></p> <p>We live in Phoenix, where eight months out of the year are paradise and four months are a scorched hellscape. July in Phoenix is not only ridiculously hot but it’s also when the humidity kicks in, so there’s no more dry heat—it’s a wet heat, and oh yes, you might die.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach1.jpg" alt="Surfers" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers waiting for waves off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>The people of Phoenix, being somewhat rational, decide en mass that July is a good time to get the heck out, and geography being what it is, most of the mass decides to drive to San Diego.</p> <p>So that’s what we did.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach2.jpg" alt="Surfers on a wave" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers catching a wave off Pacific Beach. Note the lunatic not wearing a wet suit.</div> <p>Turns out, Pacific Beach in July is packed. We booked a room at the <a href="">Ocean Park Inn</a>, a hotel we’d used before about ten years ago, which is decent and right on the beach. What we didn’t know is that sometime in the last ten years somebody opened a lounge called <a href="">Firehouse</a> right next to the hotel, and Firehouse has a truly, epically, loud sound system. We’re talking sub-effing-sonic earthquake bass.</p> <p>Annoying? Meh, perhaps a little.</p> <p>We couldn’t hear it in the room, fortunately, but leaving the hotel meant untz-untz-untz.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach3.jpg" alt="Surfers paddling" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers paddling for a wave off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>Which made me realize I’ve aged out of Pacific Beach pretty severely. So many people. So loud. Get off my lawn.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach4.jpg" alt="Surfers" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers waiting for waves in the sunset off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>As a sidebar here, who decided it’s somehow socially acceptable to walk and bike around with a shitty, shitty little Bluetooth speaker blaring your tunes? I would like to speak to the manager, please.</p> <p>But me being crotchety and old aside, Pacific Beach is gorgeous, the entire California coast is gorgeous.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach5.jpg" alt="Massive bubbles" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">This gentleman was blowing massive bubbles to the delight of children.</div>