no. 20 – why I opened and closed an OKCupid account (part ii)

So…years ago, a meaningful and somewhat turbulent relationship had come to an end. I spent the better part of 4 months after the breakup flip-flopping between reorganizing my  life and focusing on what could have been if only…this or that. Somehow, my ex and I kept finding ways to return to one another…whether it be a very platonic sleepover or a lunch date.

I knew she wasn’t ready to let go of our friendship, and I would agree that that was the hardest part of the entire breakup. Who cared that we wouldn’t be sleeping with one another ever again? When it came down to it, knowing that we would never be able to look across a room at one another and have a deep conversation within a split second’s worth of eye contact was the reason it hurt so much.

I had told this person just about everything I could imagine, and I had heard her every thought as well. We knew each others dreams and fears and everything in between. But suddenly we were holding all of these pieces to a picture neither of us dared to hang on our walls. It was a very jilting moment.

I will never forget the night I went to a party after the breakup. She and I had always gone to events together, and we had been known to host a good number of gatherings at our place as well. First, let me admit that I am a self-proclaimed homebody. I love hanging out at home or meeting with small groups of people. She was different. She wanted the attention of a room. She wanted parties and drinks and music, and it was always too much for me.

So, when I went to this party it was different. It was on my own terms for once. I showed up alone and knew that I could leave whenever I wanted. That made me happy…and then I saw her there. She greeted me in that way that a friend greets a friend…very happily but with distance, and I was angry. I watched her have a good time with our joint friends that night and watched as she and a friend of mine flirted in front of me. And even now after all this time, part of me still feels bitter… and maybe someone would excuse this feeling and say that I maybe could or should have felt disrespected by my ex, but I was more disgusted by my friend whom had constantly said she was worried about me as she watched me lose close to 40 pounds in a matter of 8 weeks. What bullshit all of that was.

It was at this party I remember deciding I needed to move on. I needed to talk to someone new whether that be a friend or whatever. I just felt like I needed a distraction. So, the OK Cupid account went up, and I got a couple of hits but mostly from people in which I had no interest. Suddenly… I got this cryptic message from someone.

Well, to clarify, it was the name that was cryptic, not the message, and the messenger did not have a picture on her account. She alleged that she did not have a picture because she didn’t want her students to find her. I found out that she was teaching at University and getting a masters in creative writing. Naturally, I became interested, and before I knew it, I found myself meeting with her a block from campus.

The date was… interesting. I remember parking and then walking up to a coffee shop to meet her on the patio. I believe she already had a cup of tea, and I remember her asking me if I wanted anything but I said no because I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time. Come to find out, she was not eating at the time, so we were quite the pair.

We set out on our walk, and I learned that she was on a cleanse and that a friend had introduced her to these daily juices. I told her I had gone on a couple of cleanses but that I made my own juices. She suddenly became very inquisitive about how it affected my bowel movements, which was not entirely off putting because I can put things into a clinical perspective; however, I admit I did find it a bit odd considering it was the first date.

As we continued on, she told me she preferred to walk. I asked if she felt safe and if she carried pepper spray or anything with her.

“Nooooo,” she said. “Do you?”

I pulled a bottle from my purse to show her what it looked like. Again, this curious woman began to ask questions, including if I would allow her to spray it in her tea because culinary artists were then “flavoring food with pepper spray.”

“It’s a really big deal right now,” she said.

I obligingly handed it over to the strange woman, and reflecting on it now, she could have sprayed me in the face with my own weapon if she were any more outrageous than I surmised she was (but she didn’t). I watched her take timid sips of the tea.

“It’s peppery,” she said. “Do you want to try it?” She held the cup out to me.

“No, thank you,” I told her. I couldn’t imagine drinking after her.

Before I knew it, the long walk had wound up at her door step, and within a half hour I had already found myself in a strange woman’s living room. The house was very calm and clean…a lot like my own at the time. She showed me her juices and some books she had about happiness, one of which I still actually have in my possession.

“Do you want to play scrabble?” she asked with this wild look in her eyes. I had this feeling that she played scrabble religiously, or perhaps with her former partner, which I have neglected to mention until now. She spent a very good portion of the date telling me about her ex and asking me questions about mine. I avoided these questions and not out of fear of vulnerability. It was a date after all, and why would I talk about my ex on a date with someone when the entire point of the encounter was to focus on something other than her?

Anyhow, I agreed to play, and play we did until it was apparent that I was bored due to being more than 100 points behind.

“Do you want to lie down?” she asked.

I was quiet for a few seconds, and I didn’t want to be rude/uncool. “I guess,” I replied.

We went into her room and lie down on the bed.

“Do you mind if I cuddle with you a little?” she asked draping her arm across my body.

I literally stared up at the ceiling in silence. What the hell was I doing? More importantly, what the hell was I letting happen because I wasn’t exactly initiating or refusing…I was now a couple miles away from my vehicle, and it was getting dark outside.

She began to talk about pain…about darkness, about anger.

“You seem so calm. So regal,” she said. “Are you ever angry?”

“No, not really.” I told her, “I don’t know how to be.” I stiffened.

“It’s in there. It’s somewhere. Everyone is angry….You’re so quiet.”

Yes, I am lying in a strange woman’s bed because I didn’t have the sense to say no or the creativity to suggest something else! I thought to myself.

She went on to say something about still waters running deep and then asked if she could kiss me. Suddenly, I grew a spine and told her that I could not do that, that that wasn’t a good idea and I needed to get going. I thanked her for her time, and she walked me back to my car, which was 2. miles. away.

When we got back to the car, she handed me a note. She told me not to open it–that she had planned on slipping it into my purse to later find but couldn’t because I unlike most women did not leave my purse unzipped.

Once home, I opened the small envelop and pulled out a note which had been drafted on a typewriter sometime prior to the date. It mentioned that she liked me along with bread and butter pickles…

 

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no. 19 – why I opened and closed an OKCupid account (part i)

In my last relationship, my ex and I were best friends. We told each other our thoughts every waking hour. If I was in the bathroom, she was in the bathroom. If she was cooking, I was beside her dutifully cutting vegetables. If I was tidying up the house, she was literally sweeping and scrubbing the floors behind me. And at every event, I was stood beside her regardless of how tired I was and how much I didn’t want to be there. We were like a brain. I was right right hemisphere, and she was the left.

When we broke up, I immediately threw myself into creating a new life. I began securing a apartment, furnishing it and getting my affairs in order. These things were easy to do as they did not involve her. For once, I would make decisions without consulting anyone (though I’m certain she would have liked the new space I created…we both saw eye to eye on using color boldly). I would make purchases without consulting anyone, and I would decide what friends did or didn’t come into my house and at what hour.

When it came to matters of separation, we were very civil with one another. She was extremely sorry for having hurt me, and I was very much still in love with her and couldn’t imagine being angry or lashing out in any way…which in essence meant that she was asking for very little and I was offering a whole lot more. I told her to take the bed, the couches, the dresser and my favorite thing of all, the vintage dining table. We had two flat screens at the time. I actually took the larger of the two, then got rid of it.

She had what she considered to be a small request. She asked for some of the wedding china my mother had given us as a gift. This china was from my mother’s failed marriage by the way, and she had given it to us as a gift because:

  1. We were engaged to be married.
  2. She thought I may appreciate the sentimentality of it.
  3. She no longer wanted the memory of the marriage.

Nice symbolism, right? I refused to give her any of it. I just couldn’t give someone whom “almost” married me, wedding china. And this was the first time I remember ever really telling her no (which became quite addictive and should be further discussed in another post) to something she wanted, especially when part of me hoped that the request meant something more. I remember hoping that maybe it meant that she loved me, but deep down I knew it wasn’t the case.

For her, I imagined, it was a way to say “I love you” without being held accountable for it, a way to leave a door open in the event things didn’t work out and she ended up utterly alone. And maybe it was just some weird attempt to memorialize the time we had spent together.

However, for me, it would have just been another concession. So, while I appreciated the attempt in its complexity, it didn’t seem fair to either of us. It wasn’t fair for me to give it, and it wasn’t fair for her to carry the burden or attachment to what we once had, which is what that china would have represented whether she chose to see it or not.

A couple months passed, and we were taking our final steps to situate ourselves separate from one another. I settled into my new place, and she had settled into hers. Suddenly, things finally sank in. The left half of my brain was officially gone. I was a crazy right brained fool with nothing left to create and was experiencing a meltdown of epic proportion. I stopped eating, stopped talking to friends, and decided to take a week off of work to recuperate. Several weeks later, I was still pathetic, but I at least I was managing.

I had no idea how to act now that my best friend was gone. It was like I was going through withdrawal, and this was complicated by the fact that she still wanted to be friends and would call and ask to come over. And of course, our shared friends still wanted to hang out with us simultaneously. It was a very confusing and difficult time. This was the point at which I decided I needed new friends, friends I didn’t have to share…friends that didn’t keep talking about her.

And this is when I opened myself up to a very strange encounter on OKCupid…

~To be continued~

no. 18 – why you shouldn’t wait for someone else to teach your kid

When I was growing up, I was in constant search of answers, and I loved learning to the point that I was absolutely obnoxious. Everyday, I’d ask my mother why things happened, what things meant or what would happen if “x” occurred. If my questions persisted long enough on any given day, she would literally start to ignore me. This is the point at which I would start to say “mom” twenty times, she would finally say, “What?!” and I would say, “Never mind…” as I cowered behind some nearby piece of furniture.

The year leading up to my first day of kindergarten, it seemed like she had alluded to the fact that “they” were going to teach me to read just about everyday. “They” meaning, the school, not her.

I still remember the first test I ever took – the test to see if I could actually get into kindergarten. I wasn’t sure of what I would be tested on, but I knew one thing; and that was kindergartners learn to read.

So before we headed up to the school that day, I grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote the alphabet on it with crayons because:

  1. I wanted to make sure that if they asked me to recite it or write it down that I would be able to.
  2. I  planned to read over it in the car on the way there ( I did NOT want to sing through the song like a bumbling idiot to figure out what letter came next, and I was even more concerned that by singing it, I might give the teacher the impression that I thought “eliminopee” was an actual letter).

When I arrived, I went through a series of tests mostly related to motor skills. The teacher asked me to play catch with her, and she and I threw a bean bag back and forth. Then, I remember her asking me to touch my thumb to each finger individually in one direction and then backwards, and from what I remember, I did fine; but that’s all I can remember for testing. I think I remember a hearing test, but I can’t be sure…

Afterwards, in the car, I pulled the folded up sheet of paper from my pocket and looked at it. She had not once asked me about the alphabet. I couldn’t believe it. This place was going to teach me to read, and she didn’t even want to know if I could write or recite the alphabet?! Unreal!

Day 1 came, and there I was sitting on a large carpet with 20 other children looking up at the teacher. She had written her name on the board and went on about some business I don’t remember. I raised my hand and waited on her to call on me.

“When are we gonna learn how to read?!” I squealed in excitement.

“Oh, we’re not gonna do that today.” She quickly went back to what she was talking about. No explanation. Nothing!

WHAT?! I thought. I had been set up! I was supposed to be learning to read, and there I was sitting on the magic flying carpet with a bunch of degenerates whom were fine with guessing shapes and colors. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

The bus ride home was a silent one. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. When we reached my stop and the bus doors flew open, I jumped from the steps and ran home balling. Hard. I walked up to my mother completely broken and in tears, sobbing so hard I couldn’t put into words what had happened.

“Katie, what’s wrong?!” she must have asked me a hundred times.

“They didn’t {trying to breathe} Teach me {trying to breathe some more} How to Reeeeeeeeeeead!” {I sobbed even harder}

I was in straight up shambles. I can’t imagine what she must have been thinking looking at her sobbing mess up a kid, destroyed by a teacher putting off a reading lesson. Had my mother simply showed me how to read, a lot of things could have been prevented:

  1. This level 10 meltdown.
  2. 50% of my daily questions.
  3. 50% of “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!!”
  4. 50% of “MooooooooOOOOOOoooooom?!”
  5. Me continually saying, “Look! I can count to 100! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9…..”
  6. Me trying to learn about life from gems like this:

And I share this story because I believe there is a lot parents can do to set their children up to be successful in life as long as they participate in the learning.

How to Create a Successful Learner

1. If your child wants to learn, never wait for someone else to teach them, especially if you know it’s within your means to communicate it to them. Calculus? Ok. But reading is fair game.

2. Make sure children know it’s not just okay but also encouraged to ask questions. Children are always learning regardless of what they are formally being taught, and that’s a fire you don’t want to risk extinguishing. Not to mention, when questions are not answered and children are left to their own devices, they come up with any number of half truths. Talk about a confusing world to live in!

3. Recognize accomplishments and honor young learners, but don’t overdo it. I craved this kind of attention, and my parents may have given me $1 for each A on a report card, but good compliments were hard to come by. I ended up getting these compliments from teachers mostly, and this fortunately reinforced my love for learning. But that’s not always how it goes. Praise your child for less than stellar work, and you risk fostering entitlement. It’s a very thin line.

via Daily Prompt: Successful

 

no. 17 – privacy : a form of social preservation and destruction

via Daily Prompt: Privacy

For me, privacy has functioned as a form of survivalism, as a way to keep threats at bay. And I’ve used it as a way to protect not only me, but also my loved ones. In the last year, however, it turned out to be one of the most destructive conditions of my life.

A year and a half ago, I ended a 3 month stint of unemployment and started teaching at a Christian owned college, a place at which I’d learn after making mention of an ex-girlfriend, did not approve of my lifestyle. I remember the room suddenly hushing after clarification of a pronoun…Another faculty member walked in, and one of the instructors motioned for her to walk outside where she whispered something to her before they both reappeared.

As you can imagine, it being 2016 and all how awkward that was for me. My prior place of employment had plenty of open-minded individuals. I sometimes made jokes about being a lesbian at work, and people laughed, but for the most part, I was never really made to feel less than (except for that one time someone at work insisted that conversion therapy could change gay people – which I know from personal experience, it can’t, but that’s a whole other story). Suddenly, I felt like I was in an episode of…

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Everyone was pretty polite and chatty with me up to that point, and everyone remains that way unless I bring up my personal life. So as a form of social preservation, I quickly and earnestly began drawing lines.

I drew lines around the relationships I had created. All of my relationships (romantic or otherwise) outside of work suddenly didn’t exist to the majority of faculty. The fact that I have a pseudo-stepdaughter became a lie of omission.

I drew lines around the the things I said and the times I shared them. I already felt that my opinions in the classroom were of little relevance. I always play devil’s advocate with students anyway. But suddenly, I realized that other faculty members had very little tolerance for different ideas and that they got pretty emotional about things. The impending presidential election was very telling of just how little they thought about other ideas.

I drew lines around rooms of my home. When I got home, I went upstairs and hid in the bathroom. I was so stressed from hiding myself all day. I was exhausted, and I didn’t really know how to verbalize any of it without making my family feel horrible, so I just hid and suffered in silence. I compulsively read religious materials in shame and further disconnected myself from the real world.

And after doing it all for so long, my brain just couldn’t take it any longer. When 2017 appeared, it screamed opportunity. It said, “You don’t have to do this anymore!” And I said, “Yes…I do, but it can be different.” So I started blogging, and it has been. It has been hugely different.

It’s been different knowing that my thoughts exist. It’s been different knowing that someone somewhere is reading them, and it’s been different knowing that that exchange has absolutely nothing to do with my livelihood.

Did I mention that all of this is somehow accomplished from the privacy of my home?

 

 

no. 16 – plagiarism | how it’s done and are you doing it?

I came to WordPress to become part of a community of writers, to join a group of like-minded individuals who take pleasure in writing just as I do. To clarify, I was not just looking for a community of people who enjoyed writing. I was looking for a community of people who had respect for the craft of writing and more importantly, the people doing it.

I’ve explained in a previous post reasons why bad writing is good, and I strongly believe that because as long as a writer is practicing authenticity, the writing will improve over time. “Bad” writing can be good when developing writers risk vulnerability and struggle to find the right ways to convey their thoughts. I explained how important it is that we appreciate a writer’s work even though it may not be so polished. Essentially, we should make some excuses for developing writers.

However, there’s definitely a limit to that. The line stops with plagiarism. It’s the type of thing that causes students to fail in college, and more importantly, it’s the type of infraction that ruins careers and companies in the real world.

As for WordPress, it’s a quick and easy way to alienate other users and lose respect from your followers.

Plagiarism.org has a very comprehensive article on the matter, and they also start off by acknowledging that there is some confusion surrounding it:

Many people think of plagiarism as copying another’s work or borrowing someone else’s original ideas. But terms like “copying” and “borrowing” can disguise the seriousness of the offense[…]

So while people are aware they may be copying someone else’s ideas, they don’t understand the legal ramifications of doing so. And if you aren’t sure of what constitutes plagiarism, the site goes on to list several examples:

  • turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not

Just slapping your name on it

The first example is the most clear. Everyone knows that it’s not permissible to turn in someone else’s work with your name on it. It’s a blatant sign of disrespect and a refusal to acknowledge the original writer’s hard work. If someone did this to me, I would be furious.

Failing to give credit

Now, as far as not giving credit to someone when you know they are the originator of an idea, it’s just sleezy. Don’t be this person. These are the types of people that you work with  who when the boss suddenly comes around take credit for a group’s work and fail to mention your part in the success. They are shameless self promotors and don’t understand how community functions.

Refusing to quote

Sometimes, students refuse to put information in quotes because they aren’t sure of how to do it. To be fair, this one is sometimes a mistake, but it doesn’t stop me from failing a student’s paper. If I have spent an hour lecturing on plagiarism and how to avoid it, the student deserves the consequence. At no time in industry will he be able to publish materials without giving credit. There will be consequences, and they will be far worse than an F on a paper. We are talking law suits in the realm of thousands of dollars, termination without severance and unemployment.

Taking it out of context

This is when you insert a quote in your work to make a point the original writer never intended. Oddly enough, it happens in the media all the time. I wonder how often media outlets actually face consequences for taking things out of context…

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Another time this may happen is during reports that require substantial readings. For instance, perhaps you assign your students to write a paper on Moby Dick. Now, if this class of yours is a requirement, there is a very good chance they are not reading that book. First of all it’s too long for a required course, and second of all, it’s really boring. Anyhow, all a student has to do to make his points is read CliffsNotes, open a searchable PDF version of the book, which can easily be found on sites like gutenberg.org and search for quotes associated with keywords. As long as the student is willing to read surrounding information, he may manage to pull it off. But often, they are too lazy to do even this, so the quotes appear out of context and ruin their grades.

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Changing a word here and there

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I don’t see this often and probably because I terrified my students. Copying and pasting into Word and then using the thesaurus for every other instance can be easily spotted. Now, I don’t know how close other teachers read, but it doesn’t take too much time to spot an error like this. If the student doesn’t have a strong command of the English language, he won’t be successful at selecting the appropriate synonyms to begin with. But on the rare occasion that he is, he might incorporate a quote that leads me right to the page he copied the syntax from.

Quoting too much

This is just obnoxious and lazy. If you have an assignment that requires you to write only 600 words and to implement a couple of quotes, I can assure you, your teacher is most likely expecting you to limit your quotes to one or two sentences. Original work is required in scenarios like this. If half of a student’s paper is quotes, he receives a 50 in my class because only 50% of the work is original. Any more than that, and he receives a 0.

Checking for plagiarism

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The fastest way to spot plagiarism is to run it through a plagiarism checker. The internet has a lot of them. I typically use duplichecker.com, a free software application, because it searches the internet for quotes in the paper and can find them regardless of whether the student appropriately cited them. The website in question will appear and enables me to review the students work and the original source side by side. Any copy material will appear highlighted in red on the webpage.

This also helps me to identify if the source students included on the works cited page is the original source. Sometimes students record a random citation and include it with the quote. Perhaps they don’t think I will verify it. Perhaps they do it because they believe I won’t realize they copied from the original site and are hoping to throw me off. And maybe, just maybe they do it because the quote they were required to include in their paper never existed to begin with. I have seen all of these things happen. On the rare chance you are doing this because you forgot to write down the original source, run your paper through a plagiarism checker and it will find it for you.

Do you have any questions on plagiarism or tips to avoid it?

Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

no. 15 – what do you do when you lose your credit cards?

I’m a huge proponent of wearing chinos to work. They’re casual, come in a variety of colors and still come off looking somewhat professional for classroom teaching. At least that’s what I keep telling myself since I’m not wearing jeans to teach.

One of my colleagues is continually asking me what my thing is with dressing nautical…as if that’s been my intention all along. But apparently alternating stripped and solid teas with woven belted chino pants and canvas shoes makes me look like I’m about to board the USS Drab.

I suppose It’s what happens when you shop predominantly at The GAP–aka that dark chasm where fashion goes to die. The clothes are comfortable and overwhelmingly predictable year round. If you select the right pieces, you can match with literally everything you own. My purchases are so safe that everything in the bag typically matches with what I originally go into the store wearing.

Maybe it’s symptomatic of being a middle class American… not having time to worry about clothing choices. I mean, I certainly don’t have time to worry about these things. I prefer to minimize such decisions so I can go about my day fulfilling other creative desires…

…which is why this morning when I reached into the pocket of my washed fatigue colored chinos and felt the formation of a small hole, I couldn’t trouble myself to take them off and put another pair on.

In fact, as soon as I walked downstairs to the kitchen, I had already gone through the process of forgetting and remembering when I put my keys in my pocket and they appeared as a bulge somewhere on the middle of my thigh.

“Oh, great.” I thought to myself. 11 or so hours later I would be scrambling around campus looking in classrooms for my wallet…wondering where I must have left it or if a student stole it off the desk when I walked out the room.

My wallet is actually a very slim metal business card holder from the 80’s… or it was. It’s so small, it can only carry 3 cards, and as such, houses my drivers license, debit card and credit card.

As you can imagine, I did not make it home with the wallet. For at least an hour, I wasn’t entirely sure what had happened to it. However, it became abundantly clear when I walked through the gate into my courtyard. My phone suddenly slid down my leg and froze in place on my left shin.

It was then that I realized I would have to cancel all of my cards. I would not be waiting to see if the wallet turned up in my colleague’s car the next morning. I would not wait to see if I had accidentally slid the wallet under the computer keyboard as I was grading earlier that night. And I would not wait to see if I found the wallet in the grass or along the campus walking path.

The wallet could be anywhere… and though I presume it actually is on campus, I’d be foolish not to report the cards lost. Even if a student finds it, he will know all of my information now, including where I live.

What we are normally advised to do when we lose credit cards:

  • Look around a little more. It’s always possible the card has ended up in a place you don’t normally store it. I had begun to think I had the card sandwiched between textbooks and that I had shoveled it all into my bag before I left campus. I had hoped it would be there and planned to wait to report it until after I got home. And of course I did look through my bag, but I was pretty sure I knew what happened the second my iPhone had become part of my shin.
  • Freeze your accounts. A lot of companies give you the option to temporarily suspend your account. This means that in the morning when you come to your senses and remember where the card is, you will still have the card in your possession and can reactivate it. And this is nice because being without your card between 5-7 days might be a nightmare. I’m too paranoid for this line of thinking. I imagine someone could take a picture my ID and credit card numbers, so I just straight up cancelled them. Once someone has your credit card numbers and address, which were both in my wallet, they can make any number of purchases online. Not to mention there are too many students where I work who already consider themselves hackers.
  • Pay attention to your accounts. I hope you already do this, but it’s vital you do it in a situation like this. Careful monitoring and proper reporting can prevent someone from continually racking up charges on your account and ruining your credit.

Have you ever lost a credit card or dealt with compromised data? How did it happen, and what did you do?

 

 

 

no. 14 – Podcast Ready

This evening when I got home, I saw that the first episode of my podcast had magically uploaded to SoundCloud!

If you have been reading the blog up to now, you’ll see that the content isn’t exactly anything new, but there is something pretty cool about posting a story on podcast. It brings it to life in a whole new way…

Now, I think if you like NPR or TED Radio Hour’s format, you might like the style in which it was produced. My aim is to keep them all relatively short, so they should never be longer than 20 minutes.

So, check out the Podcast tab and take a listen while you are in the shower or in the car…or cleaning house?

Let me know what you guys think!