simplifying my walk

For a number of years now I have listened to lectures from The Great Courses on my iPod when I took my walks. It has worked out well and I really enjoyed it. Recently I wrote about how I couldn’t get a clean copy of the lectures onto my iPod from iTunes. What I did was start streaming my lectures from the Great Courses app, which has worked out fine now that we have a more generous data plan on our iPhones.

Great Courses for iPhone appInitially I was concerned about the transition from WiFi to cellular as I got out of range of our house. Turns out that’s not an issue. That is all handled seamlessly and I listen to the lecture without interruption as I head out.

The other advantage is even better. At one time when I downloaded lectures from the Great Courses I could click a button and it would download all 24 or 36 lectures automatically to iTunes while I walked away. Some time back they changed that, and I had to download each lecture individually. Big pain.

Now that I’m streaming I don’t even have to think about that. And instead of having both my iPod and my iPhone (with the fitness app that records my time and distance) on my belt, I only have my iPhone.

Simpler and easier. Much better!


iPod strangeness

iPodFor many years now I have listened to lectures from The Great Courses on my iPod when taking my walk while I tracked my progress using the fitness app on my iPhone. However, the last time I transferred a new course from iTunes on my computer to my ancient iPod the audio was full of chirps and scratches, even though the sound on my computer was clean. I tried a number of different methods to get clean sound, but without success.

As an alternative I downloaded the Great Course app to my iPhone. With our new and improved data plan, there were no concerns about my streaming the course as did my walks. It has worked out well. I only need to take one device on my walks and the sound quality is great.

Meanwhile I downloaded a music .mp3 file, imported it into iTunes, and transferred it to my iPod. The sound was perfectly clean.

I don’t understand.


Redefining Reality

Redefining Reality coverRedefining Reality: The Intellectual Implications of Modern Science
Professor Steven Gimbel, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $39.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

This course is sweeping in its scope.

Professor Gimbel’s premise is that there has always been a redefinition of reality as a result of advances in science and technology. He covers pretty much all of the sciences including physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, and even psychology. He goes back as far as Plato and Aristotle and takes science fully into the modern era, discussing string theory and virtual reality. Gimbel has a great breadth of knowledge and understanding. He even covers popular culture, including books and movies, rather extensively.

Sometimes Gimbel would get too down in the weeds and I would find my mind wandering. This is not the best Great Courses lecture series I have listened to, but much of it was quite interesting.


A History of India

History of IndiaA History of India
Professor Michael H. Fisher, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $64.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

This is a highly ambitious course. It succeeds.

Professor Fisher starts thirty thousand years ago discussing the native peoples of India, the Adivasi, who were present when later groups, the ones who ended up controlling India, arrived. In fact he starts millennia before that if you include the first chapter in which he discusses the geology of the region. He concludes discussing modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and mentions events as late as 2016.

In thirty-six lectures Fisher covers the little known Indus civilization, the rise of Hindu religion and culture, the Muslim rule of India, the British domination of the region, and the emergence of the modern nations of the region. Fisher is not an unbiased observer. He loves India and has lived there for extended periods. He clearly has a fondness for Hindu culture and religion. Nonetheless, he offers a balanced perspective, giving all of the players fair treatment.

If you are looking for a broad overview of the Indian subcontinent this is a great place to start. You might want to invest in the video download, as I know I missed a lot of visuals. However, I listen to these lectures on my walks, so the audio download is what I purchase.


Becoming a Great Essayist

Becoming a Great Essayist coverBecoming a Great Essayist
Jennifer Cognard-Black, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $24.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

I very much enjoyed this course. As a blogger I appreciated what Professor Cognard-Black had to say about what makes a proper essay. You can write about your own experience any time you want, but until you include a more universal component, until you work in a perspective to which your readers can relate, you have not written an actual essay.

For anyone desiring to get serious about essay writing, this can be a highly useful course. Cognard-Black discusses a wide variety of essay types: skeptical, reasonable, empathetic, visual, and on and on. She reads from well-written, evocative essays. And she gives assignments. After discussing a particular type of essay she provides instructions how to get started writing one.

There is a lot of valuable material here. I expect to listen to this course again.


recycling The Great Courses

I have downloaded more than sixty audio courses from The Great Courses since I first began buying them in 2010. Given that, it is becoming harder to find a course I am interested in when it’s time to load a new set onto my iPod. Sometimes new courses do get my attention, as did English Grammar Boot Camp, though I ended up getting the video of that one.

Great Courses logoWhat I’ve done then, is to recycle courses that I’ve listened to previously on my walks. A while back I reviewed Between Cross and Crescent which describes Jewish civilization in medieval and early modern times. I followed that with The World of Biblical Israel, which is a great course on exactly that topic. Currently I am listening to The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity, which describes the transition of Christianity from its status as a persecuted minority to becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire.

I’m reviewing fascinating material and saving money at the same time. All good stuff.

Save


English Grammar Boot Camp

English Grammar Boot Camp coverEnglish Grammar Boot Camp
Professor Anne Curzan, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $44.95 when on sale, Video download $69.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back – the sale price will come around again

This is one of the most enjoyable of the over 60 Great Courses series I have purchased.

I generally buy lecture series from The Great Courses to listen to on my iPod when I’m out walking. When I discovered this course, however, I knew I would be missing out if I didn’t get the video. So I did something that I have never done: I got the video download. The vast majority of my Great Courses purchases have been audio downloads, and I have purchased a few DVD sets, but this was my first video download. I’m glad that’s what I did. I downloaded the Great Courses iPad app and was able to stream the course while sitting in my comfy chair.

I know Anne Curzan’s work. I very much enjoyed her course The Secret Life of Words. And this course was an absolute delight. Don’t let the title fool you, however. “Boot Camp” should not, in this context, be construed to mean “basic training.” This course is anything but basic. In the first lecture Curzan says, “I’m a complete geek about grammar—and I have a feeling that you’re here, taking this course, because you also care a lot about language and how to use it well. You’re in the right place.” (I was so taken by this course that I did something else I have never done: paid for the complete course transcript.) There is definitely a lot of grammar geek stuff in this course.

Curzan is a linguist, which means she is as much concerned with how language is actually used as she is with proper usage. In fact more so. That’s not to say that anything goes. She very much understands the need for proper grammar in written English, and she tells her students (and us) that using certain constructions might cause the writer to be judged by certain readers, or that a certain usage might simply be distracting to the reader. At the same time she points out that certain rules, such as not splitting an infinitive or not ending a sentence with a preposition, were established more or less arbitrarily.

If you are a grammar geek you will love this course. While I included the price of the audio download, I highly recommend the video.