News from the Pod

In the past week my life has evolved from a clunky PC with 512 KB of memory to an ultra-fast MacBook with 4GB. Paired with the slothfulness of an ancient dial-up system, the PC could take half an hour to download a subject I was researching and the cache was so small that I had to restart the computer to print anything. In anticipation of the MacBook's arrival, I installed a high-speed, wireless internet service myself. Pause for congratulations.

A more efficient way of doing things isn't all I discovered. I discovered podcasts. If you're under thirty I can visualize your eyeballs rolling back in your head. Podcasts aren't exactly new. I remember Terry Fallis mentioning that he offered free podcasts of his book The Best Laid Plans before publishing it but I didn't know what that meant. Now I know.

Apple has several models of iPods but I decided on an iPod Nano because it comes with a built-in memo recorder (I almost said tape recorder, but of course there are no tapes and I didn't want to date myself. Ha!). Initially I wanted an iPod to download e-audiobooks from the library but after several frustrating sessions with the library's Overdrive system, culminating in a desire to whip the iPod into the computer screen, I decided to forget the library altogether and see what was free on iTunes. And that's how I found podcasts.

All of the major universities and news services around the world offer their lectures, newscasts, and interviews on podcasts. So far I have downloaded the Massey lectures, author interviews about their latest releases, daily front page updates from the New York Times, the BBC, and the CBC, and listened to amazing lectures from the University of Edinburgh. It's like being in university again without the staggering tuition cost.

I finally get it, the reason kids are growing earphones with umbilical wires. The world is accessible to them and they know it, whereas us bibliophiles are taking longer to get the picture. Apart from being an amazing resource for a writer, I think the iPod Nano would be a fabulous gift for an elderly person with limited mobility. Every day there would be a new podcast in whatever area of interest they choose. They could watch Martha Stewart debone a turkey or Jamie Oliver put together a delicious pasta or listen to an intelligent discussion of China's nervousness over holding such a large proportion of U.S. debt. These are not brains to be wasted.

In our household, my husband has inherited the PC and uses it to order books from the library and check out the Chapters web-site. We pass each other in the hallway and he says, "Hi Mac!" and I reply, "Hi PC!", the difference being, of course, that we're perfectly compatible.