Talk Radio To Die For

Now this is the kind of talk radio that’s missing over here.

I mean, the US may have invented talk radio as we know it, and it certainly has its share of loudmouths, but this is an awesome example of how the Australians do radio on a whole other level.

Get all the messy details, and pics too, at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Melbourne’s underworld war was reignited on talkback radio today as gangland widow Judy Moran’s comments prompted a furious backlash from killer Carl Williams’s wife Roberta.

Mrs Moran told Southern Cross Broadcasting she wanted the death penalty for Williams, who pleaded guilty yesterday to killing her husband, Lewis, and her son, Jason….

Mrs Moran’s comments, especially her description of Barbaro who was killed alongside Jason Moran, appeared to infuriate Mrs Williams.

Mrs Williams, who is divorcing Williams at his request, rang in to the same radio station to contradict Mrs Moran’s description of Barbaro.

Snow Schmo

Here in the lower mainland we were all freaking because of an overnight snowfall that provided a real surprise for the morning drive.

Its easy to forget, in our west coast fog (figuratively speaking) that this more like it…

The RCMP closed the Trans-Canada Highway from Brandon to the Saskatchewan border Wednesday afternoon as another snowstorm blew into southern Manitoba.

Environment Canada said a low-pressure system over North Dakota is producing snow, heavy at times, in southwestern Manitoba.

from CBC.CA

Modern Approach to Old Problem

I’d never imagined that someone would have to come up with a way to make it safer for a parent to abandon a child.

Until I read this article in the International Herald Tribune I’d never even heard of a foundling wheel.

In the Middle Ages, new mothers in Rome could abandon their unwanted babies in a “foundling wheel” — a revolving wooden barrel lodged in a wall, often in a convent, that allowed women to deposit their offspring without being seen.

Now a Rome hospital, the Casilino Polyclinic, has introduced a technologically advanced version of the foundling wheel, and for the first time, a new mother left her baby there Saturday night. Full Story.

Go Forth With Confidence…and maybe a key logger

unlock 

Every time I read a story about a high school kid getting into trouble for hacking into a school computer, I react badly. 

Seems to me the kids should be getting extra marks instead of kicked out of school.

The latest story involves a tony West Vancouver private school, West Point Grey Academy, a school that charges upwards of 16,000 dollars Canadian tuition, and has had among its recent faculty, Justin Trudeau.

According to the Vancouver Sun, one or more Grade 12 students is being investigated, and may be expelled, for finding a way into the school’s computer system and snagging a recent exam.   The headlines reads: “Hacking probed at west side private school”.  Very ominous indeed.

Now, I’m relying on the Sun’s story for my facts here, in the print version of the paper, there’s some speculation that someone may have used a key logger to capture a teacher’s logon information on a classroom computer.

Here’s the thing that drives me batty.  These are supposed to be institutions of higher learning. Unfortunately, the kids know more about computers than most of their teachers.  My kids are in elementary school and when I read the Sun story out loud and got to the part about the key logger, they both went “D’oh”.  

I don’t know about you, but if I was leaving my computer unattended daily in a room of 30 video game playing, MSNing,  SecondLifers I’d be changing my password hourly.  And if my employers were goofy enough to network THAT computer into the a library full of highly sensitive exams, I’d just suggest promoting one of the so called high school hackers into the IT departments security expert.

Does the Vancouver Sun do this on purpose ?

While waiting for Brenda the Barber this morning, I picked up a copy of the Vancouver Sun.   

On the front page of today’s paper (Saturday Feb 24, 2007) there’s a huge picture of a Catholic archbishop, part of a series of depression.

I think it’s very brave of the archbishop to ‘go public’ regarding his battle with depression.

But then, on the front page of the next section, the headline reads “Parish priest charged:  Catholic cleric alleged to have touched boys”.

The two stories are in no-way related, but the juxtaposition made me wonder. 
 

Lunch with a hotshot BBC Journo

My friend Alf over the a the UBC School of Journalism has a guest speaker in next week.  You’ll need to bring your own lunch, sorry about that. Here are the deets:

The School of Journalism presents
A BROWN BAG LUNCH WITH RACHAEL NIXON
BBC World Service Editor of the Year
Deputy World Editor of BBCNews.com

“Adapt or Die: Multiplatform Journalism, the BBC and the Battle for Audiences”

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Room 104, UBC School of Journalism
6388 Crescent Road, UBC
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2

The world’s largest news organization, the BBC, is reinventing itself for a digital, on-demand age. Rachel Nixon is one of those tasked with bringing TV, radio and the Internet together to deliver big stories across multiple and emerging platforms. Find out why it’s no longer enough simply to write a good story and how journalists can remain relevant to their audiences in a converged world.

Who knows, by Tuesday there may still be some Northern Voicers hanging around, unable to tear themselves away from the endowment lands.  They’ll be the ones with the Mac laptops and Kris Krug Fanclub T-Shirts.

By the way, Alf (who’s a prof at the UBC SOJ) has agreed to a blog Q&A with me, so look for that here soon.

Simplest Camera Ever

I’ve been an avid photographer since I was a teenager.  It’s always seemed like magic to me, and continues to this day.

I started using a black & white darkroom when I lived in Calgary, at a place called the Photo Nut Haven where you could rent use of a darkroom by the hour.   I spent all my free time there learning how to develop film and make prints, getting tips from people around me and discovering a whole new photographic experience.

Later, when I lived in Winnipeg, I picked up a used large format Besseler enlarger that I set up in my spare room.  I still have the enlarger, though it hasn’t seen a roll of film in about 10 years when I started using digital cameras.   I like nothing better than a finely crafted (read expensive) digital camera.

But this weekend, my ten-year old son helped me experience the original thrill of my first introduction to photography.  He built a camera out of a tin can.

It was a school project he selected on his own – a pinhole camera. Although I’ve read and seen pictures taken with pinhole cameras, I’ve never used one, and despite understanding the theory, I was pretty skeptical that he’d be able to get anything more than some fuzzy grey shapes.

Never underestimate a 10 year old with a tin can, some scissors, information from the internet, books from the library, and a glue gun.

setting up

Our only ‘high-tech’ ingredients were photographic paper (to capture an image) and chemistry for developing.  We opted for exposure on paper rather than film so that we could keep things simple.  The guys at Kerrisdale Cameras on Lonsdale where great about helping him out, and they even gave him a ‘student project’ discount.

chem

My son lined the inside of his tin can with black craft paper, and used my drill to make a 3/8 inch hole in the bottom of the can.  He then taped a piece of tin foil over the hole. His books said to make a 1/75th inch hold in the tin foil, so he used a sewing needle to make a tiny pin-prick in the foil.

pinhole

Meanwhile, the lid got a “binder clip” paper clip hot-glued to the inside as a means of holding the photo paper in place. 

Next, a flap of left-over black paper and a twist-tie turned into a shutter to cover the pinhole.

shutter

A lump of modeling clay on the bottom as a type of tripod, and the camera is done ! 

Into the darkest bathroom in the house, loaded up some paper, and out to the driveway to take a photo.   The first exposure was 10 seconds and the paper came out totally white, we knew we needed lots more time.

I posed for the 2nd photo, and with a 2 minute exposure, here’s what my ten-year-old’s camera produced:

pinhole photo 2

Because he was exposing photo paper, he got a negative of course. So, a quick pass through the scanner, and ‘invert’ in photoshop, and VOILA !

pinhole 2

My son has become a whiz at cutting paper in the dark, loading up his camera, and finding someone to pose.  The cat won’t sit still long enough (yet) but he’s working on it.   Meanwhile, he’s learning photography at its most basic level – figuring out how to adjust for light conditions, how to develop the paper, and how to work in a darkroom. 

pinhole in action
The photographer at work, about to open the shutter.

Wikipedia’s pinhole camera page.
Kodak’s pinhole camera page.

Studio Anywhere

Anatomy of a Home Studio

I’ve been meaning to write for some time about how liberating great audio gear really is.

The goal is to have the studio go to where the talent is, and it’s been working really well for me, even on complicated set-ups. Of course the film industry has been doing this forever, but for some reason radio seems stuck in the studio model – probably because it’s convenient.

With this little rig I’m able to mix 4 mics, provide 4 individual headphone feeds for talent, plus 2 more for production. Everything runs off batteries so it’s totally mobile, which is great for in-car interviews. Its all going to a CF card at pro bit-rates or straight to MP3, and, the whole rig fits into a bag that’s about the size of a typical laptop bag.

I’ve given up on the pseudo pro Denon/Marantz stuff after too many problems – they just don’t hold up in the field. Instead, I’ve switched to the fabulous 702 recorder from Sound Devices – for one thing, the case is made of actual METAL and not plastic. It’s slim, light and completely geared for professional audio work, with loads of nice touches, including battery power that accepts standard VCR type batteries or larger pro external power packs if you’ve already got them.

I also love the way the knobs recess so they don’t catch on things while you’re working. You can actually read the screen in daylight.

In the past I’ve mostly only needed 2 channels for recording, but lately I’ve been needing more inputs for podcast interviews. Adding the 442 mixer to the rig is like a dream come true. Real PFL on a portable rig, awesome knobs that work in the field like nobody’s business, and metering you can see (and trust). I can even use the onboard mic to slate tracks, and the mic pre-amps are great.

Because I’m not a recording engineer, I like my gear to be easy to use, but sophisticated enough for me to dig into the details when I need to. This rig does it all.

Like all my audio gear, I picked this stuff up over the last few months from Oakwood Broadcast in Winnipeg.

In Praise of the Nap

nap dialogue box

Last week the service shop called the house to say the car was ready. It was 3:15 in the afternoon and my son answered the phone and promptly told them “Dad can’t come to the phone, he’s napping”.

When I went down to pick up the car, I was met with uproarious laughter. “Sorry we interrupted your nap, har har har“.

Truth is, the last laugh may rest with me, at least according to a new study that pretty much proves us nappers have something going for us…

In a study released Monday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and in Athens reported that people who took regular 30-minute naps were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease over a six-year period than those who never napped. The scientists tracked more than 23,000 Greek adults, finding that the benefits of napping were most pronounced for working men. (from the Boston Globe, via the International Herald Tribune)

I come from a long line of nappers.  On the Ouimet side of the family, napping is considered an art and is given its proper due.  As a kid, you learned early and quickly to tip-toe around the sleeping elders in their La-z-Boys, carefully watching ‘the feet’ for fear of movement, the tell-tale sign that a precious nap had been interrupted.

There’s no recliner in our home, but who needs it. All those years of flying 150,000 miles a year proved a powerful training ground for getting shut-eye in all the wrong places.  Call it modern nap-evolution, but I can catch zzz’s pretty much anywhere.

And who knew, I’m so much the healthier for it.

Don't Know Anything About It But Want to Do It

Two headlines from BBC news today. Draw your own conclusions.

Public Lack Knowledge About Sex. A UK poll of 495 people by the Family Planning Association found some thought exercise or urinating after intercourse could prevent pregnancy.

and

Over the Counter Viagra Piloted. Men aged between 30 and 65 will be able to buy four pills for £50 after a consultation with the pharmacist.

Full stories here and here