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Playlist: Patrick Skahill's Portfolio

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Proud to be a Nerd

From WNPR | Part of the Colin McEnroe Show: Fresh Voices series | 03:25

There's a tipping point in every nerd's life - the moment they accept it's cool to be, well ... uncool.

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Proud to be a Nerd
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Go ahead, ask anyone. I'm a huge nerd. I’ve learned to accept this, but I will admit I did not start out one of those “Proud to be me, so screw you” types. I desperately wanted to be cool, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

 

First, I will lay some of the blame at the feet of my parents. They were strict with me—and by strict I mean they never allowed me to do or have cool things, which, in retrospect, was really brilliant. I was allotted 30 minutes of television a day until junior high and I wasn’t allowed to listen to “secular music”. I consider this the catalyst of my nerdish ways. If you can’t watch TV or play with the newest, most popular toy, what do you do? You read, you write, or pursue some other nerdish hobby. My lack of 80s pop culture knowledge still shocks and horrifies friends …I mean, I didn’t watch The Goonies until I was 25.

 

Part of it is simply my ethnicity, as politically incorrect as it may be to say. Asians are supposed to be smart and while it’s a stereotype, at least it’s a positive one. Being one of only a handful of Asian kids in my town, I think teachers and classmates just assumed that I was smart, whether or not they were right. So, I was treated as a nerd practically on first sight. And while my parents were by no means the strictest of the parents in our Chinese circle, my father certainly made it clear that academics were a top priority.

 

However, I can’t blame my parents or educators for all my nerdishness. Throughout high school and college, I began to embrace it and would happily admit to myself that I enjoyed tearing apart Shakespeare’s plays and eschewing the mainstream. This was after trying to be cool and pretending I liked the clothes, magazines, music and whatnot that my peers were into. But I found that I never really truly enjoyed any of it. And I’m pretty sure everyone saw right through me, which probably made me even nerdier in their eyes.

 

Now that I am (gasp!) an adult, I am proud to announce, via public radio, that, yes, I am a nerd, and I am proud of it. I don’t want to listen to pop music in my car—I’d rather listen to NPR and learn something of the world around me. I don’t subscribe to tabloid or “women’s interests” magazines—mainly because, as a nerd, I believe that it’s a waste of paper and harms the environment. That, and they don’t teach us much more than who is sleeping with whom and how to wear lipstick well. I will choose styles of clothing that I am comfortable in—not because they’re hip or in fashion. At any given moment, I have half a dozen Scrabble games going on my phone. I prefer thoughtful news and documentaries to trashy reality shows. I will constantly be in the middle of two or three books and stay up half the night reading them. I am never going to have a clue who the newest “it” actress is until she’s no longer “it”. None of this is going to change, and I accept my permanent nerd-card with pride.

 

In saying this, I don’t think that being a nerd is a bad thing. Some of my best friends are nerds. Actually all of them are.  They are intelligent, well-read, thoughtful, insightful people who know what’s up in the world. They have ideas, they create things, and they are more wrapped up in improving things than they are in themselves But, I consider all of these traits good things. So go ahead, embrace your inner nerd…it's the new cool.

There's No Miss Manners for the iPhone

From WNPR | Part of the Colin McEnroe Show: Fresh Voices series | 03:00

Essayist Tracy Wu explains why we need an Emily Post for the digital age ...

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We've all been taught to say please and thank you, and not to eat with our elbows on the table, but when Mom was teaching us to mind our Ps and Qs, she had no idea that one day we'd be able to broadcast what were were doing at given moment to everyone we know...or run a small country from our telephone. Technology brings all sorts of conveniences to our lives but it also allows us to be obnoxious, rude, and downright stupid in all sorts of bold new ways. And as much as I love Dear Prudence, I'm thinking we need an Emily Post for the digital age.

 

Within the past few weeks I've sat through dinner while the guy behind me carried on a speaker phone conversation while his dinner companion sat on and watched, and listened to a girl in the bathroom stall at the movies exclaim, “OMG! I got 3 comments on my status!”

 

Our state of constant connectedness brings up all new issues when it comes to good manners. No one would think twice about having a conversation with a dinner companion, but what if that dinner companion is on the other end of a phone? And is it actually rude to check Facebook while sitting on a public toilet, or is it just gross?

 

Since there is no Miss Manners for the iPhone, I figure if we should all agree to adhere to a few simple rules for the sake of civilization.

 

First and foremost, if you are in the presence of an actual human being, he or she is automatically more important than your phonecalls, texts, or cyberfriends.

 

Second, phones are not for use in public restrooms – even if you're just using them to surf the internet. This is both courteous and hygienic. But it is also because I don't want to listen to your business while I'm taking care of mine.

 

Third, we all need to remember that what we type online will get around--especially if it's salacious or insulting. If you choose to express yourself in this way, you are not allowed to be surprised or upset at the repercussions.

 

Fourth, pictures posted online of others should not be incriminating or unflattering, if you wish to stay in the good graces of your friends and family. While you may look hot, your best friend may not be too happy about having a picture of her with her eyes half closed and spinach in her teeth for all the world to see. So, get familiar with photo cropping software.

 

Fifth, speaker phone is for use in private areas--your car, your home, your office. It's not to be used in a restaurant, store, or library. If you do use it in these public forums, I reserve the right to butt in on the conversation you are so thoughtlessly sharing with me.

 

I think these five rules lay a strong foundation for our emerging etiquette needs. Should you break any of these rules, you are fully subject to dirty looks, rude comments, loss of friends, and being labeled as a jerkface, and you forfeit all right to complain. Now, go forth and communicate...politely.

Music Bed 2:40 OUT 

Vanishing Craftsmen: The Blacksmith

From WNPR | 03:05

Technology and a lack of demand changed blacksmithing into a specialized trade.

Img_1061_small Blacksmith shops used to be common throughout America, but technology and a lack of demand has changed the craft into a specialized trade.

WNPR's Patrick Skahill explores what it means to be a blacksmith today with Mystic Seaport's Bill Scheer. Scheer worked at the museum for more than 20 years and is the current president of the Connecticut Blacksmith's Guild.

Vanishing Craftsmen: The Clockmaker

From WNPR | 03:10

One craftsman is disposing of our throwaway culture - one clock at a time.

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Clockmaker Raymond Pavkov trained for more than 8,000 hours to qualify as a master clockmaker. Since then he's spent years crafting, refitting and repairing antique clocks.

Pavkov works out of the Yankee Clock Peddler on Whitney Avenue in North Haven, Connecticut. He trained under a seventh-generation master clockmaker whose biggest piece of advice was to "always put yourself in the maker's place."

Producer Patrick Skahill visited his shop to gain insight into the art and craft that goes into working on the one thing most people will never throwaway - their antique clocks.

For more stories on Connecticut Craftsmen, check out WNPR's visit to a blacksmith's shop in Mystic.

Vanishing Craftsmen: The Clockmaker

From WNPR | 03:10

One craftsman is disposing of our throwaway culture - one clock at a time.

Picture_014_small

Clockmaker Raymond Pavkov trained for more than 8,000 hours to qualify as a master clockmaker. Since then he's spent years crafting, refitting and repairing antique clocks.

Pavkov works out of the Yankee Clock Peddler on Whitney Avenue in North Haven, Connecticut. He trained under a seventh-generation master clockmaker whose biggest piece of advice was to "always put yourself in the maker's place."

Producer Patrick Skahill visited his shop to gain insight into the art and craft that goes into working on the one thing most people will never throwaway - their antique clocks.

For more stories on Connecticut Craftsmen, check out WNPR's visit to a blacksmith's shop in Mystic.

Hair Rollers, Religion And Growing Up

From WNPR | 04:04

Storyteller Jennifer Munro shares a childhood memory about her father and an overzealous neighbor.

Clementine_mom_hairrollers_small Jennifer Munro is a storyteller for The Connecticut Storytelling Center. She is a grade school teacher in Madison Connecticut. This is a story about playing dress up and how her father finally scared away an overzealous neighbor who would knock on their door every Sunday morning ...

The Electrician I Thought I Killed

From WNPR | 04:40

An empty truck and an abandoned house gave storyteller Catherine Conant the fright of her life.

Zigazou76_small Catherine Conant is a veteran storyteller. Her work has appeared on the Moth Radio Hour and she tours regularly on behalf of the Connecticut Storytelling Center. This is a story about a time when she arrived home to find an open door, an unattended truck and a certain air of mystery (and horror) as to where her contractor had vanished.

Ever Wondered What It Sounds Like When A Cicada Gets Busy?

From Patrick Skahill | 04:10

The sounds of a cicada in the throes of passion with a light switch.

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Every 17 years, the East Coast plays host to one of nature's biggest - and loudest - parties. The guests are millions of periodical cicadas, red-eyed bugs who burrow their way out of the ground to mate, and sometimes, they do it with a light switch.
 
During sex, male cicadas cycle through three distinct courtship sounds. Females are mostly silent, but do lightly flick their wings to indicate sexual interest. John Cooley, a biologist at the University of Connecticut, helped discover the female wing flick and realized he could simulate it using a light switch.

In this audio piece, Cooley duets with himself - simulating male cicada calls while flicking the light switch in his hand. This results in a -- somewhat confused -- cicada cycling through three distinct courtship sounds and mounting the switch.