See, If You Can Hear This.

I heard an awesome documentary on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks entitled “See, If You Can Hear This.” about a technology called “The Voice” that allows blind people to see with their ears. The Voice consists of a digital camera and a pair of headphones and the computer in between that translates the visual image into an audio “image”. It is up to the person’s brain to process the audio information as a visual image, much like is done with light patterns collected by one’s (working) eyes. Basically, researchers know that we form images in our brain, not in our eyes. The eyes are just used to collect the light. Sound and touch and our memories are then combined with the light information from our eyes to form a visual image. Using the Voice, the blind are able to take advantage of the same process. The image they can form is not the same or as good as with the eyes (the frame rate of the Voice is 1 frame per second), but a visual image is definitely formed in the mind. The blind woman featured in the documentary tells the story of when she first saw the mountains over the desert using the Voice. Incredible!

The entire documentary is featured in a downloadable mp3, so go have a listen.

David Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries”

I just heard a great story entitled “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, where he talks about working as an elf at Macy’s Department Store during Christmas. Hilarious. Apparently there’s a drug test to become an elf.

It’s part of a larger hour-long show, but it occurs near the beginning. Only a Real Audio stream, but worth sitting down and listening to.

Why not God? by the Evil Genius

I listen to Dave Slusher’s Evil Genius Chronicles on a regular basis. I love this guy. He’s great. As a special episode, he recently recorded an audio essay entitled “Why I don’t believe in God”. As a religious philosopher, I’m interested in this kind of thing. It’s not a point-by-point diatribe on his atheistic beliefs, but a more personal story of his journey. As a former Christian myself, I can relate to his background. While I didn’t arrive at atheism like he did, I get the sense that we share the same values nonetheless. So I recommend that the readers of my blog head on over there, download his essay, and have a listen. Someday, I’ll have my own essay to write (or record).

Do you use Linux?

In an IT Conversations interview, publisher and open source advocate Tim O’Reilly talks about a paradigm shift taking place in software. To give an example of the failure to realize the new paradigm, he asks the question, “Do you use Linux?”. He makes the point that even if you use Microsoft Windows as your operating system, chances are that you use Google, and Google is running on Linux. Therefore you are a user of Linux. The point is that the PC no longer matters, nor does the operating system. Services that exist on the network such as Amazon, Google, eBay, etc. are becoming much more important than the software used to access them.

Have a listen to the following excerpt where he discusses this issue. (The full interview can be found here.)

Tim O’Reilly – Do you use Linux? (0.5 MB)

Geek, Like Me

Over the last five days, I discovered audio content on the internet, namely Linux radio shows, audio blogs, and podcasts. But this post isn’t about this. One of the gems I found is a site called IT Conversations, which hosts audio programs of interest to IT professionals. But this post isn’t about that either. A specific recording I found on IT Conversations was a talk given by Wil Wheaton at Gnomedex 4.0. People either remember him as the actor who played the young writer in Stand by Me or as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek, the Next Generation. Well, it turns out he’s not just a geek, but a blogging geek, and he’s published a couple of books from his weblog Dancing Barefoot and Just a Geek.

It’s a great talk. I really enjoyed it. He talks about his life on Star Trek, his decision to leave the show, the 15 years of regret that followed, and his coming to terms with himself and the demon inside named Wesley Crusher. It was entertaining and even touching. I cried.

So, go have a listen. Maybe you’ll even buy his books.

The Mad Philosopher gets political

During my year’s time in China, I’ve struggled with how to express myself politically while living in a country where it isn’t safe to do so. For example, people in China generally hate the American government. They talk about the U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003), but are quite isolated from the discussion and dissent going on around the world. Yes, there were anti-war protests in Hong Kong, but it would surprise me if the media in China reported this. Protests are illegal in the rest of China.

So I am left wondering how I can join and contribute to the discussion going on elsewhere in the world. Well, I listen to CJSR, a community-based radio station in Edmonton, the BBC news, and I read some of the independent media columnists on the Internet.

Here, I give the following two audio clips which were taken from the “Jay and Penny Show” on CJSR, and I encourage you to give them a listen as these are things you won’t hear elsewhere in the media.

The Worst President Ever (1.5 MB)

Howard Zinn on Just and Unjust Wars (3.4 MB)