All A-Twitter Over Podcasting

V. got me back into podcasts by suggesting an episode of This WEEK in TECH. Another TWiT, All A-Twitter, got me curious enough about Twitter to spend my evening hacking it into my blog. As if I needed another technological obsession!

Last year’s flirtation with podcasts didn’t last; too many subscriptions and an unexpectedly clunky user experience doomed it after a few weeks. My subscription list is shorter this time. The iTunes/iPods experience is better if still a little clunky. What’s really making this affair last is boredom with my overplayed music collection and an eighth-inch in-dash jack.

My car, current love of my life, a 2006 Royal Blue Pearl Honda Civic Ex, has its own iPod. I got a black nano just for driving since I was too lazy to figure out how to use playlists with MusicLink, Honda’s iPod integration, on my old iPod. The podwide song or album shuffles would bring up some really disconcerting musical combinations, so it was easier to just have another iPod with consistent music that I could leave in car–especially since the MusicLink cable is in the glovebox and can be a real hassle to manipulate.

The commute would be perfect for podcasts, but my problems with music and MusicLink would be even more annoying with podcasts. So I started listening to podcasts at work, the lesser of two evils since conversation can be distracting but is better than being annoying. I listen to music at work to shut out things like my neighbor’s teleconference about the Siberian office’s PBX problems or chit-chat about last night’s game. An NPR program can be even more distracting because it’s actually interesting.

How could Honda get MusicLink so wrong when everything else about my Civic felt custom-built for me? It turns out that Honda did a better job designing MusicLink than documenting it. My one disappointment with the Civic was really just my own impatience at being lost in translation–a very poor first translation of the MusicLink manual. Hoping that Honda had an upgrade for MusicLink that might support podcasting led me to a fresh PDF that now has me using playlists and artist searches without too much digital-voice-induced annoyance. This Civic is close to eclipsing my other favorites–my HP48 calculator, my Amiga, and even my 1991 Midnight Blue Honda CRX DX. *sigh* It may be time to name it. But I digress.

I got halfway through a particularly fascinating Fresh Air at work yesterday, but I had a meeting with the GC and couldn’t just sit at my desk twirling the mouse until it ended. I decided to see what plugging my old iPod into the 1/8″ jack on the dashboard would do. Of course it did exactly the right thing! The music nano paused when I attached the podcast iPod! I could have my podcasts and my music without unwanted fidgeting! OK, go ahead and put me in the easily amused/impressed category.

This reminds me of my first fling with NPR, during my radical minimalism phase: For a year I didn’t watch television, turned off the ringer on my phone, and had three or less pieces of furniture per room. Radical minimalism gave me one of my most productive years, but it also my most antisocial year because of how much people rely on idle chatter about TV with strangers and casual acquaintances to break the ice. When you hate sports and don’t watch TV, there’s only the weather and that’s thirty seconds tops.

This was when I first succumbed to The Driveway Effect. My commute was forty minutes shorter than the hour-long programs running on NPR when I was on the road. It took TBS showing Babylon 5 daily for months, moving downtown coerced by A., and going freelance to moderate my minimalism. I gradually lost track of NPR as my schedule changed and other things clamored for my attention.

Now podcasts and an eighth inch jack are doing for NPR what TiVo and my LAN did for TV. I get what I want when I want it. This may be a love that lasts–and may even outlast the broadcasting format that birthed it.

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