Category "PhD Process"
April 20, 2006
Music to write to
I've been trying to dedicate more time to writing recently. This morning, instead of going directly to my office, I spent about an hour at a coffee house near campus. I booted up my laptop and turned off its wireless device so I wouldn't be tempted by e-mail and web browsing.
The coffee house has a nice mix of background busyness. I find I'm distracted both when there's too much going on and also when things are too quiet, so the coffee house in the morning is a happy medium. But I do find myself distracted sometimes by the music they play there. Today, however, I found a good solution: pop in the headphones and have Billy Holloman playing on iTunes.
I didn't always appreciate organ-based jazz, but Ben introduced me to the finer points of the Hammond B3. As a gift last year, I gave Ben This is Organ Night, a CD collection featuring Billy Holloman on organ. The album gets its title from a regular feature at the St. Paul jazz club, the Artists' Quarter. Tuesday night at the AQ is Organ Night, as you can see from their calendar. (We'll have to get down to the AQ one of these Tuesdays...)
As I discovered today, this is great music to listen to while writing. There are no vocals to be distracted by, the fluid tones of the organ serve as good background music, and the tempo of the songs helps keep my thoughts flowing and the fingers typing. I caught myself swaying back and forth, bobbing my head to the music on a few occasions, but that didn't seem to raise any eyebrows -- I'm just glad I wasn't in the library!
I recommend you head on over to the album's CD Baby site where you can listen to decent-sized MP3 samples of the tracks. If you like what you hear, you can order right there (not available from iTunes). CD Baby is great "little online record store" that sells music directly from independent musicians.
April 14, 2006
They Might Be Giants podcasts
I've been meaning to promote They Might Be Giants podcasts for a while now. I created a link in the right-hand column a while ago (fun with Photoshop!), but haven't gotten around to posting about it.
For the uninitiated, They Might Be Giants are a quirky, fun, and very talented pop/rock group that has been around since the '80s (official site). If I had musical talent, I'd want to be something like TMBG. They are always trying new things, incorporating new technology (and embracing old technology), and love to bring their fans along for the ride.
The podcasts are just the kind of bizarre, fun, and unexpected audio tracks you'd expect from TMBG. The podcasts play like an alt-radio station program you'd find at the left of the dial. They're hosted or DJ'd by John and John's alternate personality, Cecil Portesque (which doesn't quite work for me, but no biggie). Cecil spins new songs, new takes on old favorites, a few songs by other groups, and some interviews. (Fans of the Daily Show will especially like the interview with "the Deranged Millionaire" played by John Hodgman towards the end of Podcast 3A (See UPDATE below). He also appears on the intro video of tmbg.com website.)
I know I'm biased on this issue, but I think the TMBG's podcasts are some of the best examples of what podcast can be. Check 'em out -- they are in mp3 format, so you don't need an iPod to listen to them.
UPDATE: I just found out from today's TMBG newsletter that they've had to take down some of the earlier podcasts due to bandwidth limitations. So everything before podcast 4A isn't available to new subscribers...