Podcast recommendations for your impeccable taste

I previously called this entry “Podcast is podcast and Minecraft is Minecraft” and mentioned how I had been listening to podcasts while playing Minecraft recently. It needs just little enough of my brainpower so I can still listen to the story being told, so I initially thought the two were a good match. But then I decided podcasting while minecrafting was a bad idea, because two hours later you’ll still not really have accomplished anything but another cubic house. Maybe I should try listening to podcasts while cross-stitching or something like that?

At any rate, here’s a list of some podcasts I like:
Criminal – A podcast about crime. I really don’t like their website design and having to navigate through those episode pictures, but they’ve got some good stuff. Like the one about counterfeiting money (The Buck Stops Here) or the one about lie detectors (Pants On Fire).
Snap Judgement – This one has interesting stories, although I’m not such a big fan of the sound effects they use. The “Unforgiven” episode stood out, especially the second part.Death, Sex & Money – I’ve come to really like this and the interview style of the lady behind it, Anna Sale.
This American Life – Certainly a classic, and I guess lots of other podcasts were inspired by this one!
Omega Tau – A podcast about science, with some really interesting episodes, like the one about the Concorde. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but they do cover things exhaustively and have some English and some German episodes.
WTF with Marc Maron – Some very interesting interviews, although you have to get through about 20 minutes of him ranting about his life every time. The one with Melanie Lynskey was great. (Get it while it’s free!) You can listen to his last 40 or so podcasts for free, if you want to listen to the older ones, you need to get a premium account.
NPR’s Planet Money – Short podcasts with very interesting topics, like the one about the blue palettes!
PRI’s The World in Words – This one’s about language, highly recommended.

This list illustrates again why it’s so difficult to find time to listen to them. There are just so many good ones out there! Maybe I should start going running after all?


Behind the scenes of Gravity

For those who have watched Gravity, I recommend this YouTube video that explains the technology behind making the movie. I thought Gravity was entertaining although it did have a lot of Hollywood clichés. I still would have recommended it for the effects despite a certain crucial scene in the film that defied the laws of physics. But actually seeing HOW they did it gives me even more appreciation for it. I’m simply amazed by what things people are capable of. (If you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to avoid the video because of the big spoiler at the very end.)

See for yourself here:
Gravity screenshotAlternate link: YouTube search “From Script to Screen”.


IKEA Hackers

I found this cool post on IKEA Hackers that I’d like to re-post here for the record. I think it’s quite ingenious what people come up with out of necessity, either because they don’t have a lot of money or because they simply can’t find the furniture they really want.


A small cheap desk made from IKEA shelves.

This simple desk requires two Expedit shelves, which currently go for 12,99 EUR for the small Expedit and 29,90 EUR for the big Expedit. So you could build a desk like this for EUR 42,89 (which is about $55).

Read more at IKEA Hackers. While you’re there, you might also want to check out the bedroom dress boys.

Japanese classes

I have decided to invest some money in my education and have signed up for a beginner’s course of Japanese. I’ve already had two lessons (of ten) and it’s been very interesting so far.

It’s interesting to learn a language that is so far removed from the languages I’m familiar with. It seems when I had my first Spanish class, they gave us a text to read, gave us a few pointers on how to pronounce things, and then had us pick the text apart and explain what it was about. This is easy for a language where continent (German: der Kontinent) is el continente or where to compare is comparar.

In Japanese, everything’s different, beginning with the fact that they start reading from the back to the front, top to bottom, right to left. They have hiragana, katakana, kanji, which at the beginning all look like weird squiggles. While in German, you can be friends with someone for years and barely ever say their name, apparently you have to use a person’s name constantly in Japanese. They have two words for four, but don’t use one of it because it sounds like their word for death.

We have so far had learned some random things by heart (how to introduce ourselves, the numbers, how to say please and thank you and “This is a pen.”) and I’m now eagerly waiting to find out some of the rules of the language (like, what’s up with all the -asen and -asu).

I’m happy to report that I’m motivated and still enjoy studying a lot, and I’ve found several tools to help me, which I’d like to recommend to any Japanese learners out there:

New website is up!

This is a brief post to celebrate that my new website is finally up. It’s at www.vanna.de, just as before, and there’s a brand new blog that comes with it at https://vannaspages.wordpress.com/ (easily reachable through the Blog button on my website). Where I previously had two blogs, at envanna.wordpress.com and devanna.wordpress.com, now both languages happily cohabit in just one blog. All old entries should have been imported and there’s a button at the top if you only want to see the German or only the English entries. Easy peasy!

I also had the ever so lovely Suiki make a new logo for me with a wombat on it. So there, go see my website, this little cute wombat wants you to.

wombat logo

Linkage: Fun Stuff on the interwebs

If life were a video game, that’s how I’d get to work, too:

Gamer Commute on YouTube
(Alternative Link)

Also interesting, this article on the ridiculousness of in-store HDMI cable prices. Or rather, the links in this article, to this lovely HDMI cable for $2,594.75. Read the reviews. Quote:

“When I got this cable, it came wrapped in bacon, which I thought was pretty weird, but shrugged it off, slid off my recliner into my Rascal, scooted from the living room to the kitchenette, and started cooking my bacon-wrapping.

As the smell of delicious pork back filled my double-wide, I turned around to look again at the box the cable came in.

Could this be? Yes! It was a “3 wolves barking at the moon shirt” and even better, it fit me perfectly (I wear an XXXXL).”


Linkage: Printers from Hell

[This should be an image of my printer.]

The type of printer I have. I know you were dying to know.

Do you like printers? Really? Why?

Actually, I do have a nice laser printer that I bought for something like 99,- EUR a year ago. It’s a laser printer/scanner/photocopying machine all in one, and I’m rather pleased with it so far. It ate some paper a while ago and I haven’t had to buy a new (and likely rather expensive) new toner for it yet, so that might be part of why I like it so much.

However, before I had a nice fancy laser printer, I had a typical inkjet printer. It was a good one, actually, and I remember the first few pictures that I printed out in color. They looked really good. But then I didn’t print much in color anymore, and the ink dried up. It also started printing out stripes in normal text, and at some point it refused to print at all half of the time. And anyway, I could go on, but why should I if someone else so nicely put what all is wrong with the printers of the world. Click on the image to see the whole text!

[Printers were sent from hell to make us miserable.]

Click the image to see the whole, very accurate text.

Pay-what-you-want marketing experiment

Indie game developer 2D Boy just made an interesting experiment, in which they sold their game World of Goo for whatever price you were willing to pay.

I find this quite interesting from a business standpoint. Considering that most things are freely (if often illegally) available on the internet, I think exploring new marketing strategies is of paramount importance, probably more so for smaller companies than for large companies.

2D Boy wrote an exhaustive blog entry about how the experiment went and they also published an interesting chart on how much people decided to pay:

[Statistic of what ppl paid]

Click for a larger image.

Many people only paid one cent for the game, (16,852 of them), and 15,797 paid between $1 and $2. They even had a questionnaire later on where they asked people to answer why they paid what they paid, and while many said “That’s all I can afford right now” (which I don’t buy for the 1 cent crowd, as I imagine anyone who can download a video game online could probably do without at least $1), many also said they wanted to support the “pay-what-you-want model”, many said they already had it but wanted it for another platform, too. Some said “I’ve played the game but never paid for it, took this opportunity to get legit”.

They also wrote that their sales of the game on Steam rose 40%, which makes me wonder whether maybe some of those that paid 1 cent for the game decided to buy it for the normal price once they tested and liked it.

I also wonder whether the people that only paid $0.01 would have bought/obtained the game through any other means or whether they wouldn’t have been customers any other way.

It’s also interesting to know that 2d Boy made no money on purchases of around 30 cents and under, as they had to pay PayPal for those purchases, too.

“Since the birthday sale started, about 57 thousand people bought World of Goo off our website. The average price paid for the game was $2.03 a significant percent of which went to PayPal for transaction fees. Normally, they keep about 5% of the revenue, but because PayPal fees are structured in a way that they take a larger percentage for smaller transactions, we ended up paying over 13% in transaction fees. For all purchases of around 30 cents and under, we actually saw no money, PayPal took it all, but they probably ended up losing money on most of those transactions ($0.01) as well, they’re not the bad guy.”

At any rate, I suppose this could be a good way to make some money off of a digital “product” few people are buying anymore.