How Do You Listen to Podcasts? (Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card)

I’ve spent more than one post on this blog talking about podcast sponsorships. Today, I wanted to talk about podcast listeners. There are a lot of stats out there for website users – where they came from, what they do on the site, how long they stay, and a lot more. While there have been strides in the last few months surrounding stats on podcasts, I feel like I still don’t know much about my listeners. I’ve tried surveys in the past, but they didn’t go well. So I’m switching things up a bit.

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Delivering More for Season 4 of How I Built It

Season 3 isn’t wrapped yet, but I’ve already started thinking of better ways to deliver for Season 4, coming in January. When I started How I Built it, I didn’t think I would see the success the show has had. It’s a formidable part of my income, it’s got over 100,000 downloads, and it’s growing in popularity.

When you first start anything, you are just finding your sea legs. Over a year in (and a fun obsession with this project), and I’ve got my bearings. I’m ready to go to the next level.

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7 Months: Watching my Daughter Grow

My daughter is 7 months today. If you’ve never had a child, let me tell you: babies get really interesting around the 5–6 month mark. I wish I thought about doing this log right in the beginning, though I feel like the entries would have been similar until now. Let me catch you up real quick.

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What are You Passionate About?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently that lead me to ask myself that very question. I’ve written about passion on occasion and have a general idea of what I’m passionate about, but the question struck me differently this time. I think it’s because the question wasn’t asked of me outright. It was posed this way:

…find something you passionately want to teach…

I started thinking about what I passionately want to teach and you know what? I came up empty. I’ve always taken a “demand-based” approach to teaching?—?if someone needs a course on something, I can make that course. I certainly bring passion to the classroom because I’m passionate about teaching. But what is something that I feel I need to teach? It’s a question I’ve been pondering since last week.

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Thoughts from the book Essentialism

My summer of books is going pretty well so far; I’ve finished 4 and am 1/2 way through 5, which is my first fiction book of the summer. Last week at the beach, I flew through Essentialism, which I was excited to read. The general idea of the book is to make yourself an essentialist by saying Yes to the things you truly want to do, and no the things you feel like you have to for whatever reason. The short of it is I highly recommend the book. Here are some of my takeaways.

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My Thoughts on the iPad Pro 10.5″

So I’m a bit of a technophile and an early adopter. Always have been; I had a Palm M100 in 9th grade because it looked cool. Plus it helped me keep my busy schedule of drama club and homework straight. Since then, I’ve tried to get new tech sooner rather than later. Sometimes I write about it. When the iPad Pro was announced, it wasn’t something I was able to buy. But I’ve been looking for a good way to draw on a screen since my first “tablet” in 2005. Well, I was able to get the iPad Pro 10.5″ this year; so how does it stack up?

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Smoking Cigars with my Grandfather

I guess this is technically my first cigar.

This past June was the 8th anniversary of 2 significant events in my life:

  1. My grandfather (Pop, pictured above circa 1989) passed away.
  2. I started smoking cigars.

I thought about this while I was walking around my back patio last Friday, in silence, smoking a cigar. It reminded me of an iconic scene [in my mind] of Pop standing stoically in his long, steep driveway, smoking White Owl cigars. I’m told in his younger days he’d smoke much bigger ones while working construction in the city (New York City) after he came here.

Second Generation Immigrant

I, like perhaps many my age or older, am a Second Generation Immigrant by definition. Pop immigrated here in 1949 when he was just 19 years old.

He’s perhaps the reason I’m such a proud Italian. It was nothing overt he ever did — Pop was never overt about anything really — just having a close connection to such a historical country is what did it for me. It’s the reason I’m so interested in the culture, and country in general. I love being an Italian-American. It’s the reason I want to learn Italian.

When I was about 12 years old I had to interview him for a school paper; I asked him a bunch of canned questions about Italy and how and why he came over. If only I could redo that today with the perspective I have. I’ll never forgot what he told me when I asked what it was like living under Mussolini when I was in my 20s: “Mussolini did a lot for the country. He just got in with the wrong crowd.”

2 Wishes

The other day, when I thought about Pop, I also thought of 2 wish I also have as a result of that time.

The first is about the weekend before he passed. On that Saturday, my mom told me that I should go visit him since I hadn’t seen him in a while.

My brother Phil with Pop in 2009

I decided to put it off until Monday because I was going to be near his house anyway, so I could stop in and stay for a little longer before heading back to Scranton, which is where I was living at the time.

I didn’t get that chance. I don’t quite remember the exact time, perhaps the very early hours of Monday morning, but I was in a deep sleep when my brother Robby came into my room. He woke me up and told me Pop passed away an hour or so ago. I was filled with shock, followed by sadness, followed very quickly by regret.

I wish I had just gone to see him on Saturday when my mom told me to.

It was a bit sudden; none of us knew Pop was sick, if he was. Heck, he didn’t even bother his wife that night. He just said he was going to bed. That was Pop in a nutshell…he didn’t want to bother anyone if he didn’t have to.

Pop’s Final Stash

The 4 of us with Pop at Robby’s Communion

When Pop passed away, my brothers and I had the task of clearing out his stuff. There was a lot of great things — family history, knick knacks from a full life, and of-course, his last stash of cigars: 10–12 White Owls.

The 4 of us each smoked one that day. It was my first cigar, though I had puffed on one or two in the past.

My Start into Cigars

It was an activity I really enjoyed. Just my brothers and I talking about Pop, bonding and enjoying each other’s company. We would do the same thing in November of that year, on what would have been his 80th Birthday. It snowed but I didn’t really care.

I actually had smoked my first premium, broadleaf cigar a couple of weeks earlier for my own birthday. This was my first foray into cigars and I never stopped. I still have 2 of his cigars actually. I had one on me when I got married.

I actually owe a lot to cigars. Many of the connections I forged with people in the WordPress community, my previous full time job, friends all over the country; even though Pop isn’t alive today, I feel the effects he’s had on my life. This brings me to my second wish:

I wish I got into cigars a little sooner so I could have smoked with him, at least once.

I know each of my brothers think of Pop pretty frequently. He was our last grandparent to pass away and the one that we were closest with, likely due in part to him seeing us make it into adulthood.

I think of him almost every time I smoke a cigar because it’s such a pleasure in my life that has brought me a lot of joy, friendship, and even success in my career.

As a matter of fact, I think I’ll smoke one now. Thanks Pop.

Smoking Cigars with my Grandfather was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


An Open Letter to My Daughter

Hey Little One (as Grandma Casabona so lovingly calls you),

I can’t believe you’re due in a week. To say this time went quickly is a bit of an understatement. In some ways it doesn’t quite feel real yet. But when I start to have that thought, I look at your mother, and I see you move, and I’m reminded how very real you are. I can’t wait to meet you.

I was never one for public outpouring of emotions. I actually like to think that I’m a pretty stoic person; everyone who knows me will tell you otherwise. But I do want to get some thoughts down in the waning days before my entire worldview changes (and you know, I’m low on sleep). Please bear with me; some of this will be cliche*.

*Ha! Since you’re new to the world, this won’t actually be cliche to you. Score one for Dad.

Every parent will have these predisposed notions of what they hope their kid will be. I’ve read that mothers will have a more concrete picture in their head of what their baby will look like. Right now, I just picture generic baby(tm). But I do think that you’ll be a Yankee fan, and a Star Wars fan. I think you’ll be outgoing like me. I think you’ll get all the best features of both your mother and me. I know it won’t be like that (except for being a Yankee fan, natch). And I won’t be disappointed because of it. There are some things I do hope and want for you, though.

I want you to be yourself.

Most people who know me know I’m not shy about my opinions. That I don’t fly off the handle, but I’m also not willing to back down and assert myself when necessary. It took me a long time to get there — well into college.

I hope that we teach you the difference between right and wrong. Armed with that knowledge, I hope you become the type of person your grandparents raised your mother and I to be. And because of that, I hope you’re never ashamed to be who you are. You will be challenged, and you will be wrong sometimes (more than sometimes if you’re like me). But at your core, I hope you know who you are. Being wrong isn’t all that bad, as long as you handle it the right way. It’s up to me to teach you that, too.

Don’t be Afraid of Experiences.

Your mother and I are going to have to do this balancing act that I know Gram and Gramps Casabona did preposterously well: we’re going to have to encourage you to do things while also sheltering you appropriately for your age. But the main take away is that I hope you cease the moment and opportunities that are presented to you.

When I was in High School, I was given the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Italy and Ireland for $900 — a ridiculously small amount of money, even by 2003 standards. I didn’t take it, and remember saying, “I can look at pictures on the internet.” I’ve since rectified that, going to both Ireland and Italy and spending 2 weeks in each place. But I hope you don’t have that same mindset.

You will Make Mistakes.

…and that’s OK. Mistakes are great. They make us who we are. They are perhaps the best way to learn. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my 31 and a half years. Not terrible life-ruining mistakes, mind you. Just little mistakes; misjudgements. Saying the wrong thing. Choosing not to do something when I should have chosen to do it.

Learn from your mistakes. Remember that every moment is a learning moment. If you do that, I’ll try to remember that every moment is a teaching moment.

Be Respectful.

If you’re anything like me, there will be people you’ll disagree with. They will be your peers, your teachers, your bosses, your elected officials, and your parents. It’s OK to voice your opinion — it’s why the first thing I told you is to be yourself. But remember that even when you disagree, you should be respectful. It will get you much more mileage than being a jerk. Trust me on that one.

We Will Always Love You.

Why am I telling you all this, even though you won’t be able to read it for a few weeks?

(Right? I still am not quite sure what I’m doing…I’m being told it’s more than weeks.)

I’m telling you this so I remember it. Because there will be times where things get difficult for all of us. Perhaps in my quest to make you the most spoiled girl on Earth, I’ll miss teaching you an important lesson. Perhaps in my anger, I’ll lose my cool and not communicate in the best way. But I need you to know, no matter what, your mother and I will love you. It’s up to us now, to teach you the things that we hope for you. If we do half as well as your grandparents, you’ll be in good hands.


Your Father

An Open Letter to My Daughter was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


What Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Broadcast tells us about Media Today

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Have you heard of Today I Found Out? It’s one of my new favorite YouTube channels, and the folks there put out great content 6–7 times a week. They are great videos about a wide variety of topics from history, to medicine, to science fiction. Today I came across this one, called The War of the Worlds Mass Panic (That Never Happened):

I encourage you to watch the video because it’s great, but I’ll provide some background info.

The War of the Worlds Mass Panic

In 1938, Orson Welles did a radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ popular book, The War of the Worlds, where beings from Mars come to Earth and promptly attack us. You can listen to the broadcast here.

What made it interesting was that it wasn’t just a reading of the book over the radio. It was reworked as a series of news broadcasts, reporting as if the attack was happening in real time. Interesting stuff! The story today is the broadcast was so believable that it caused mass hysteria because people tuning in thought we really were being attacked by Mars. Here’s the front page from the NY Times the day after the broadcast:

Pretty wild right? Who would ever believe something just because they heard about it on new media (more on this later!).

The Mass Panic Never Happened

As you may have guessed from the title of the video, the mass panic never happened. Most people knew it was fiction and the broadcast actually mentioned it was a few times throughout.

While a few people did call the NJ police department (New Jersey is where the broadcast took place), there was not chaos in the streets and no one was hurt. The video also points out that ratings for the live show weren’t even that good. So what happened?

The Newspapers Lied

The newspaper industry had quite a bone to pick with the new medium of radio.

That’s right! The newspapers had a bias and used this opportunity to slander radio. Here’s a quote by the NY Times about radio:

Screen from Today I Found Out

The video also points out that using words like “War” and “Terror” would sell more papers. Clickbait, before clicks.

It makes sense, in a way. Newspapers were trying to get a leg up over radio because it was new and sexy and taking away advertisers. This part really resonated with me because we see the same exact patterns in news today, almost 100 years later. But it was something else that really caught my attention.

Orson Welles’ Opinion About Radio & Television

Screen from Today I Found Out

The above screenshot is a partial quote from Orson Welles about how the general public treated radio and TV. I want to call out this part:

…but when the radio came, and I suppose now television, anything that came through that new machine was believed.

Sound familiar? We treat radio and TV news the same way folks in the mid-1900s treated newspapers, and we treat Social Media as they treated radio and TV: anything that comes through is to be believed.

Both groups have some justification right? With radio and TV, not just anyone could get onto it, so 1930s you would assume the information is vetted & therefore true. Today, we feel social media gives us a first hand account of what’s happening, and there is no source better than a primary source.

The end of that quote is pretty great too:

We wanted people to understand that …they shouldn’t swallow everything that came through the tap…

The Lesson: Not too much changes, and we can learn a lot from historical perspective

It’s really easy to say what’s happening now is “unprecedented” and that the type of backlash we’re seeing on social media is brand new — that Fake News is more rampant today than it’s ever been.

But here’s a fantastic example of newspapers perpetuating false news for their own gain, and a commentary on how people consumed the new media of the day.

I talked in a previous post about how we can combat Fake News. I think we should also take what Welles said to heart. Don’t swallow everything that comes through the tap. Don’t believe everything you read, whether you want to or not.

What Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Broadcast tells us about Media Today was originally published in Thoughts from Joe Casabona on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.