Author Archive: Tom

GeoPodcasting Revisited

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Back in 2007 I wrote an post entitled “Geopodcasting – Adding Location to Audio.” I had just given a talk at SC EdTech on geotagging, and the post was meant to explore the idea of geotagging audio files.

There have been lots of changes in the seven and a half years since that post came out. I wanted to revisit the subject and see what tools and options are now available for for adding location data to audio.

Back in 2007 photo geotagging was just taking off. It was (and still is, to some extent) a tricky process. Back then smart phones weren’t as prevalent, so not too many people had a hand-held device that could combine GPS, imagery, and audio. Today we have iPhones, Androids, and various tablets that can do all of this. So you would think that the process would be much easier. But is it? (more…)

Farewell Spock

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Live Long and Prosper

Yesterday the world learned of the death of Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. As you might imagine, there has already been a tremendous amount of eulogizing about a beloved character, actor, and human being. I don’t intend to repeat that, or post yet another image of the funeral scene from Wrath of Khan. There will be plenty of reminiscing online to go around. I will, however, briefly speak of my own memories of the character.

I was/am a Trekkie. I was one of those that could give the title of the episode during the first few seconds of airing. I could speak the lines before they said them on TV. I was not, however, a Trekker – one who dons fake uniforms and attends conventions. That’s probably only from lack of opportunity.

I remember my family watching Star Trek during its first run. I, however, was rarely allowed to watch it because it came on after my bedtime. I do remember those rare opportunities to stay up and watch the show on our old black and white TV. Remember that this was long before videotape or DVR, so if you missed the broadcast, you missed the show. I had huge gaps in my Trek knowledge.

In elementary school we would play Star Trek on the playground. My friend Michael Starnes played the role of Captain Kirk, Scott Wallace was Engineer Scott, and I was Spock. We would spend our recess time pretending to beam down to weird planets, and that our fellow classmates were aliens. Yeah, I fit right in with my classmates. I don’t remember which of my friends played McCoy, but of those mentioned, Michael died tragically in a drowning, and Scott many years later in an auto accident.

Fast forward a few years…

By this time the show was in syndication. I was staying with my brother, Houston, in North Augusta one summer. His next door neighbor lived on a hill, so they were able to get an obscure TV signal that carried the reruns. I would go over every day at 2:00 to watch the show for three weeks. I was hooked.

I started to collect Star Trek memorabilia. I had a model phaser, communicator, and tricorder trio. I had the blueprints to the Enterprise, and I had the technical manual. I’d read “The Making of Star Trek” by Stephen Whitfield, and my knowledge of Trek Lore was increasing.

I along with everyone else on the planet who had an interest in the subject, was drawn to Spock. He seemed the most reasonable character in the series, as the rest of the show began to look sillier with age.

Leonard Nimoy, of course, and many other roles. Now it’s fun to go back and look at a very young Nimoy in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Gunsmoke,” “Bonanza,” and other shows. Nimoy continued as “The Amazing Paris” in “Mission:Impossible”, but had a hard time finding non-Spock roles later. He would return to that role in “The Next Generation” and in the blasphemous reboot of Star Trek.

I could keep going, but I’ve not said anything new, or anything thousands won’t already post online. So, let’s just say, “Farewell, Spock.” May you find new adventures.

Sacred Music, A Sacred Space, and a Remembrance

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St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral

St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Today was our concert with the Greenville Chorale Chamber Ensemble. This is the small, 20-voice ensemble directed by Bing Vick. The concert, entitled Sacred Music for a Sacred Place, was held at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville. For me, it was a bittersweet experience.

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This morning I learned of the sudden death of Dr. Jeffry Jahn. Jeffry was celebrating his 25th year as artistic director and conductor of the Arizona Repertory Singers. Cause of death was an apparent heart attack. Jeffry was just a couple of years older than I am.

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In 1991 Laura took a sabbatical from Furman to do research at the University of Arizona. I left my teaching job and tagged along. During that year I sang with the Arizona Repertory Singers under Jeffry’s direction, and it was one of the defining experiences of that year. So much so, that I’ve compared my singing experiences with all other groups since then to my experience with ARS, and have tried to recapture that time. That just can’t be done, though.

Let’s start with the group itself. I became close friends with many of my fellow singers, and frequently visited their houses for parties and dinners. A fellow baritone was a computer programmer at the Mount Wrightson Observatory, run by the Smithsonian. He and I hiked from the bottom of Madera Canyon to to the top of the peak so he could do some work at the site.

We held our rehearsals at the old Masonic Lodge, a mystical place with amazing resonance. Jeffry could be temperamental, just like any other conductor, but he had a knack for precision and expression, and he was a delight to work with. I don’t remember any prima donas in our our group, and we achieved a marvelous sound. After rehearsals we would go on a quest to find the best Margarita in Tucson.

Arizona Repertory Singers had received a grant to bring the arts to some of the remote communities around Tucson. We gave concerts in some VERY obscure places. I remember one was straight out of the old west, with honest-to-goodness cowboys with six shooters strolling down the street. Our Christmas concert that year was held at San Xavier del Bac, a large Spanish mission south of Tucson.

Connecting that experience to our concert today…

One piece on our concert was Charles Stanford’s “Beati quorum via.” That piece was a signature piece for ARS. We sang it at almost all of our concerts, and it was on ARS’s repertoire when Laura and I returned for a visit several years later. As the Chorale Chamber Ensemble sang it this afternoon, I kept thinking about Jeffry, and I personally was hoping that we were doing the piece justice, in his memory.

The rest of our concert this afternoon went very well. The Greek Orthodox Cathedral was absolutely packed. I’m not sure there were any available seats, and we even had folks sitting up in the choir loft, from which we would be singing in the second half of the concert.

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We did a mix of sacred music in different styles. Laura’s favorite was “Sing and Ponder”, but mine was a piece entitled “Daemon.” In the second half we sang part of the Greek liturgy from the balcony. I told our conductor, Bing Vick, that it must be like singing “Blessed Assurance” in a Baptist church – we had to get it right. We finished with a set of spirituals back down front.

The concert was well-received, and we got a standing ovation. Members of the congregation came up to us and said that we got the enunciation of the Greek texts correct. It was a good concert, and singing those pieces helped me remember one of my favorite conductors.

Podcast Episode 2 – Feedback Wanted

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taphophile (plural taphophiles)

  1. A person who is interested in cemeteries, funerals and gravestones

People often wander through old cemeteries, and they do so for different reasons. Some are interested in genealogy and finding ancestors. Some are interested in the history represented by the lives lived within the cemetery. Some like the artwork of the headstones, and some like the literary discovery of epitaphs. A few are either drawn to, or repulsed by the creepy factor of old graveyards.

Stone carving was an expensive proposition, and prominent families often sought the best masons. The most successful stone carvers were located in Charleston, but their work can be found throughout the state. The next RandomConnections podcast looks at the history of funerary art in South Carolina and some of the practitioners of headstone masonry.

If you are one of those that likes to visit historic cemeteries, please take a minute to respond to one or more of of the following questions:

What are some of the reasons that you like to explore old cemeteries?

…or…

What is the most unusual thing that you’ve found in a cemetery?

…or…

If you could design any kind of tombstone (for yourself or anyone else), what would it be?

The app below will allow a 20 second recording, and I will receive the response as an MP3 file.

Your responses will be used throughout the upcoming podcast episode. I appreciate your participation.

DISCLAIMER: Names will not be used in the podcast. You will be anonymous, except for the sound of your voice. I can even alter that upon request. I reserve the right to edit and omit as I see fit. I’ll do my best to to make you sound good, and I promise not to rearrange your words to make you say something you didn’t. If you leave your e-mail address, I’ll send you a note to let you know when your voice is going to be included in the next episode.

Lost Roddenberry

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Gene Roddenberry

Quick, let’s play a game. What do the following actors have in common?

All-Bonds

OK, that one was probably too easy. Each of these actors played a character named James Bond.

How about another one? What do all these characters have in common?

Batmen

Right, that one was too easy, too. All of these actors played Batman at one time or another.

Now let’s make it a bit harder. What about these actors? They have something similar in common.

DylanHunt

If I told you that the three actors above are Alex Cord, John Saxon, and Kevin Sorbo, would that help? (And, no, they didn’t all play Hercules.) OK, I’ll tell you. All three of these played a character named Dylan Hunt. More on that a bit later.

Here’s one last one. These three also have something in common. Two should be very recognizable.

Data_Questor_Spock

The inclusion of Leonard Nimoy and Brent Spiner in the last set might make you think Star Trek. (Well, that, and the title of the post) But who’s this third guy? It turns out that all of the actors in those last two sets have been involved with projects created by legendary Gene Roddenberry. As Dwight and I were working on our list of science fictions predictions we started talking about Roddenberry projects, and Dwight suggested a blog post on Lost Roddenberry. So, here it goes… (more…)

Days of Future Past

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Here it is! Here’s the first episode of the Random Connections podcast!

The first episode is based on one of the earliest posts on the blog. I had made a list of science fiction predictions that would have come to pass by 2004 in a post entitled “Yesterday’s Tomorrows.” Ten years later I updated the list in “Yesterday’s Tomorrows, Revisited.”

This year, 2015, is a landmark for retro-futurists. It’s the year of Back to the Future, Part 2. Quite a bit has already been written in popular culture about the things that had been predicted that we don’t have – flying cars, hoverboards, and Jaws 13.

This podcast episode is in three parts, first, I asked several scientists what they thought about these predictions. Which predictions were the biggest disappointments? What inventions would they LIKE to see? In part two I look at some predictions that have come true, including a personal observation about a 1963 short story. Finally, Dwight Moffitt and I run down an updated list from the Yesterday’s Tomorrows post.

So, enjoy! I’m already working on the next episode, which should come out next month.

Update: After listening to the episode, I wasn’t happy with it. Therefore, I’ve done some brutal editing. I have left the original available. If you would like the full, director’s cut, you can download it here:

Random Connections – Days of Future Past, Director’s Cut

Also, the podcast is now available in iTunes. Be sure to subscribe!

Old South Tour with the Upstate Minis

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Ruby Red at Oakley Place

This past Saturday I joined up with the Upstate Minis for a run. Don Western from the group had put together an “Old South Tour” that would take us down through Laurens, Abbeville, Edgefield, McCormick, and Saluda Counties.

Several of us met at Century Mini and caravanned down to Laurens. There we met up with the others that would join us. There would be fourteen cars in all making the run.

Old South Tour-1 (more…)

Bridges, Bell’s, and Lakes

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Old Parkers Ferry Bridge Creased B&W photo

Ken had a craving. He wanted to visit Bell’s Diner in Toccoa, Georgia. I was more than willing to provide transport, and I was hoping that we would find some good food and interesting photographic opportunities along the way. We found an abundance of both.

I picked up Ken in Clemson, and we made our customary stop at MoJoe’s for a bit of caffeine. Suitably juiced, we headed west through Seneca, then over to Westminster. (more…)

New Venture – Podcasting!

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WPLS Microphone

Yep, you heard that right. I’m about to launch a new podcasting venture here at RandomConnections. I’ve got several episodes in various stages of research and/or production right now. Most of these are episodes are taken from previous posts, or are based on themes from previous posts. Right now I don’t have a timeline for when each episode will come out, but I’m hoping to have the first episode out within a couple of weeks.

In keeping with the idea of random connections, I’m hoping to include random voices and responses. Here’s how you can help…

Each episode I’ll post a couple of questions and ask for responses. All you have to do is click the big red “Record” button and answer away. I won’t identify anyone, apart from voice, and I can alter that upon request. I also promise to edit and make you sound good.

This doesn’t require much thought. I only need a few seconds for a sound bite. Just say the first thing that pops into your head.

So…ready? Here’s are the questions for the first episode:

2015 is the year the the movie “Back to the Future II” predicted flying cars, hoverboards, and a whole host of other miraculous inventions. Looking back at predictions from that movie and others, please answer one of the following questions. Take your time. You don’t have to leave your name.

UPDATE: I’ve just been made aware that the recording link doesn’t work on either Android phones or iPhones. If you’re going to participate, looks like it will have to be on a laptop or computer. Oh well.

What science fiction inventions or events are you most disappointed that we don’t have, or that didn’t happen?

…or…

What invention (within some modicum of practicality) would you LIKE to see in the next 50-100 years?

When you’re ready to respond, just click on the button and record. Be sure to allow access to your microphone.

DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to edit and omit as I see fit. I’ll do my best to to make you sound good, and I promise not to rearrange your words to make you say something you didn’t. If you leave your e-mail address, I’ll send you a note to let you know when your voice is going to be included in the next episode.

Trekking across Chester and Fairfield Counties – Catawba Country

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Catawba In green tones

Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!

– Ulysses Everett McGill, O Brother, Where Art Thou

I felt a lot like Everett McGill, at least as far as geographical confusion was concerned. No, I hadn’t escaped from a chain gang, nor had I been robbed by a Bible salesman. Earlier in the day I’d had a nice visit to Chester, had a great lunch, and had found some ghost towns along Highway 321. Now I was in the community of White Oak, and saw that I was twelve miles from Great Falls. As it turned out, Great Falls was also a geographical oddity – twelve miles from everywhere.

Twelve miles…seems like a reasonable distance. You can get there in a matter of minutes, so it’s easy to convince yourself, “Oh, that’s not far! I can just scoot over there!” It’s just far enough away to be inconvenient, but close enough to be tempting. The problem comes as the day gets later and the dozen miles multiply, taking you further away from home. (more…)

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