MC Frontalot in the house

To make last night even MORE interesting we were being videotaped by a crew from Vaguely Qualified Productions for the documentary film Nerdcore Rising.

Kimmy Gatewood and Negin Farsad

Nerdcore Rising is about MC Frontalot and the evolotion of Nerdcore Hip Hop.

From the web site:

Nerdcore Rising is a documentary that will uncover the new wave of hip-hop called Nerdcore by following the godfather of the genre, MC Frontalot and his geeksta entourage on their first national tour. They will perform everywhere from gaming conventions to D&D tournaments. And, of course, we’ll get to meet nerdcore fans in all of their Magic-playing, pocket protector-wearing, Mensa-bragging, Jolt Cola drinking, internet-gaming glory.

You can see a trailer for the documentary here.

We were even joined in the studio by MC Frontalot himself where we witnessed some pretty awesome nerd core free-styling.

Barrett Canon, MC Frontalot and Dwight Silverman representin', yo!

Barrett Canon and MC Frontalot

Another successful fundraiser

Last night’s show was the last of three fundraising episodes for this fund drive. We were tasked with raising $1920 per show. To make the goal easier to speak to I just announced it as $2000 as a nice, round number.

During week 1 we raised nearly $2700 which was pretty awesome. Our listeners stepped up in a big way. We were joined by Renee Feltz of the KPFT News Department as the fund raising coordinator during the program. Her energy added greatly to the efforts. We also had the services of Robb Zipp on the phones and taking pledges. Thanks Robb!

During week 2 we fell short of the goal by about $500 so that was a little disappointing. Still, with the overage the first week we has some cushion and in terms of the overall goal we were right where we needed to be. Renee was out of town and Robb was absent as well. Dr. Simotas was our fundraiser coordinator and she did a good job. It was her first time to work with the Technology Bytes crew so it didn’t gel as well as I would have liked.

Last night we were re-joined by Renee Feltz and Robb Zipp in their usual roles and Dr. Simotas joined us in the studio. It was a winning line-up as we blew through the goal with 30 minutes left in the show. I think having a fully qualified ObGyn in the studio and on the air during a computer technology talk show pushed us over the edge. The final tally for last nights show was just over $2600.

Alexandra Simotas in the control room with phliKtid

Overall, we exceeded our goal and it was a successful fund drive for us.

from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea

Technology Bytes is moving back to it’s old time slot of 8-10 pm. We had been moved to the 7-9 pm slot for awhile but it was just not the same so I lobbied for our old slot and they finally gave it to us. The change takes effect Wednesday April 19th.

This is part of a station-wide programming revamp. Many shows are moving. The new program schedule is online at the KPFT website and can be downloaded in PDF format directly from this link.

In other Tech Bytes house-keeping news; Groovehouse has been doing an awesome job as the new phone screener, following in the footsteps of the original Phone Girl, Leslie the Phone Girl, Phone Boy and David. And beyond that he has become the official photo-chronicler of Tech Bytes at the studio and at our events. You can check out his work in the on-air gallery of geekradio.com.

Some of my favorites:

Jay Lee, Barrett Canon, Lauren Steffy, Dwight Silverman Jay Lee and Barrett Canon Phlikitid in the control room

Captive audience

One of the odder aspects of doing radio is the fact that prisoners in Huntsville tend to listen to the station.

In this fast paced, connected Internet world we live in it’s all instant messaging, cell phones and e-mail. Of course the inmates at the local correctional facility don’t have access to such amenities. When someone there wants to make contact they have to do it the old fashioned way and send a hand-written letter.

I tend to get about two or three letters a year from someone in the Wynne Unit. You can always tell it’s prisoner mail when you see it. The hand-written address on the envelope is dead giveaway. When you open the envelope to remove the letter a small piece of paper usually falls out that says

GENERAL INMATE CORRESPONDENCE – TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE – INSTITUTIONAL DIVISION

It’s like one of those ‘Inspected by #42’ tags that you find in the pocket of a new pair of pants.

Most of the time the letter tends to be a question about what to study to get a computer job when the inmate is released or some other question about something we talked about weeks before.

Last night there was a letter in my station mailbox and it was immediately obvious it was another prison letter. I opened it up and read it. It was an unusual letter in that it asked nothing of me. No question to respond to or anything. It was just one prisoner’s observations on the show.

This is how it started off:

Jay and everyone else,

Greetings. Yes I’m writing from prison but before you start thinking I’m some tin-foil hat wearing weirdo stalker type person, let me assure you I have never even owned a tin-foil hat! Kudos on the show, I’ve even learned a thing or two but usually, though, I just tune in for all the jackassery so double kudos on that!

The rest of the letter went on to describe, quite humorously, some of his observations of the program. I read the whole thing on the air last night. I hope he got to hear it.

It made me think how much I miss hand-written letters. There’s something about holding a piece of paper in your hand and reading the contents when it’s something crafted just for you in such a manner.

Oh, and it had the word jackassery in it! That is, certainly, an underutilized term that I think should be used much more. As you prowl the Interweb today you should drop it on your friends in casual comments and conversation.

Another initiate to the broadcast hole

Wednesday night’s broadcast of Technology Bytes will feature yet another guest host in the studio.

Tomorrow night we will be joined by Kyrie O’Connor. Kyrie is best known for her efforts at The Houston Chronicle blogs under the name MeMo writing about, well, read it yourself and you tell me.

She’s also an occasional guest on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me program along with such notable talent as Paula Poundstone, P.J O’rourke, Sue Ellicott and others.

Kyrie has a long standing love hate relationship with my regular co-host, Dwight Silverman, who she affectionately calls Evil Dwight.

This should prove to be quite fun! Apparently she’s under the same impression.

Hey! NPR! Listen up!

Lucky me!

When I go to the Houston Chronicle site to update The HelpLine Blog and I see that banner pictured above it’s like seeing my name in lights.

I was just browsing through the archives of my column and was amazed to realize I have been writing for the paper for almost 6 years now.

What an amazing experience the whole technology explosion has been for me. From my humble beginnings as a sales dweeb in the computer department at Best Buy over 11 years ago to working in the IT department of a huge software company today.

Along the way I have gotten to do cool things and meet amazing people.

When I was the operations manager at Neosoft many moons ago was when I first encountered technology columnist Dwight Silverman. Dwight was the original HelpLine columnist for the Houston Chronicle.

Technology Bytes was still in it’s infancy and Dwight was an early adopter of residential ISDN. I had many opportunities to sit on the phone and go over the configuration of his Pipeline 25 whenever his Internet connection would drop. Over a short time we developed a rapport and he even wrote a very nice article about the radio show for the Chronicle which gave us a much needed push in listenership back in those formative years.

I moved on from Neosoft in 1999 but did not lose touch with Dwight. He guest hosted on the show every now and then and in 2000 he informed me that he was getting promoted at the newspaper and would be giving up the HelpLine column.

The story on how I came to take over the column varies depending on whether you talk to me or talk to Dwight.

My recollection is that Dwight didn’t even offer me the opportunity to apply for the position. When I suggested the idea to him I seem to recall him dismissing it rather out of hand, citing my lack of journalism credentials. In my mind I pushed the issue and was granted the opportunity to write a test column to be reviewed by his editor and they would consider my application. It was none-too-encouraging, but my desire to be a media-whore was strong.

I took the time to find the original e-mail exchange. This is the response I sent to Dwight when he announced his moving on to other things at the Chronicle:

To: Dwight Silverman
From: JLee
Subject: Re: The times, they are a’changin’ (was Re: Tech Bytes)
Cc:
Bcc:
X-Eudora-Signature:

Wow….big changes!

Maybe I should apply as your replacement…

At 09:26 PM 08/21/2000 -0500, you wrote:

Jay –

You may be interested in this note I’m sending out to my sources…

Effective Monday, Aug. 28, I will no longer be covering business technology for the Houston Chronicle. Instead, I am taking on the job of Web Development Editor for HoustonChronicle.com, the newspaper’s Web site….*snip*

And this was his reply:

To: “Dwight Silverman”
From: JLee
Subject: Re: The times, they are a’changin’ (was Re: Tech Bytes)
Cc:
Bcc:
X-Eudora-Signature:

Ha! Maybe you should! Got a journalism degree?

At any rate, I applied and Dwight ended up helping me quite a bit with my first efforts at writing the column. In the end the position was offered to me and I accepted.

Things have evolved over the years. The HelpLine column is now an almost daily blog and remains a weekly feature in the business section of the paper on Tuesdays. It used to be Wednesdays, same as the radio show which made Wednesday Jay Lee Day for awhile, or so I dubbed it when Andrea declared that nothing important or entertaining happened on Wednesdays.

Now Dwight is a regular on the program and we’re going stronger than ever as the show approaches it’s 11th anniversary in June.

I just love being a geek and getting to do what I do.

Security!

I absolutely less than three Keith Olbermann from MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He’s funny and his ongoing rivalry with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has had me in stitches here recently.

There’s been a bit of a brew-ha-ha lately over an incident on the Bill O’Reilly radio show when he threatened a listener with calling Fox Security after the caller mentioned Keith Olbermann’s name.

Apparently Bill made good on the threat and had Fox Security contact the caller. Keith did a bit on it during his program and actually interviewed the caller.

O’Reilly is an example of talk radio gone terribly wrong.

Although I wonder if I should threaten callers to my show who mention my nemesis with a visit from KPFT security? It could easily put the fear of gawd in them to know that a bunch of disorganized liberal vegans might pay a visit to their home or place of business and stage a peaceful protest.

Yea, there’s an idea.

So very tired…

Last night was the final fund-raising episode of Technology Bytes for this pledge drive. We did very well. Three shows during the run and we exceeded our overall goal for the drive. Last night was not looking like it was going to be a success until the very end. Our goal was $2280 and I just rounded it up to $2300 and pushed for that. About 1 hour and 15 minutes into our two hour slot we were hovering around $400/$500. Needless to say, I was sweating it. We kept pushing and pushing and in the final minutes of the show we went up over $2400. Whew!

After nearly 11 years on the air with this program I am still amazed at the support we get, even if our listeners like to make us stress till the last minute.

Speaking of support for the show, one of the best comments from a listener/subscriber was “Appreciates Jay’s subtle gay humor” which came after we were razzing Smiley who was our off air coordinator for the fundraiser. He’s an unabashedly flaming individual. The subscriber who made the comment was quick to point out that he is also gay.

For some reason members of the gay and lesbian community seem to like Technology Bytes. We get on air mentions from the Gay and Lesbian Voices program on occasion and even Ray Hill, Houston’s most famous gay man, never hesitates to drop a kind word about what we do. Perhaps there is a solidarity between our two social groups due to our shared ostrisization. I like to think that, in our own way, we are activists for a good cause and that is the reason for the good will from such a diverse group.

In other Technology Bytes news, Groovehouse has joined the crew to answer phones and screen calls to be on the air. So far, so good. He’s been in the control booth with Phliktid for the last two shows. We’ll see how he holds up after we banish him to the phone room of isolation

Next week we get back to our normal routine. It’s always good to get the support but I like just doing a normal two hour show withouth the added pressure of fundraising.

The end of an era

Kaveh Kanes is closed.

This is a sadness.

Technology Bytes has hosted our monthly geek gathering there since March of 2002. It was the scene of our 10th anniversary party featuring Drop Trio. It was the only place downtown to grab a good cup of coffee and have some relaxing wi-fi. The space was just COOL!

GAH!!!!

There’s a rumor that two long term employees may re-open it. One can only hope.

In the meantime we need an alternate location for the January geek gathering.
Maybe Cafe Artiste.

Ask and you shall receive

Doing radio on a public radio station for 2o years and it all comes down to one thing. Fundraising. Of all the feedback I receive about Technology Bytes this is where it counts. Three fundrasing espidodes this drive. 2 down and one to go.

Breaking it down:

last week’s goal: $2160
last week’s total: $2450

last night’s goal: $1920
last night’s total: $2331

next week’s goal: $1800
next week’s total: ???

Thanks to my awesome crew!
David, Phliktid, Barrett, Dwight and Peter
And thanks to all the volunteers who came down to answer calls and take pledges.

A grand experiment in tech radio

Aurora Losada
photo by Dwight Silverman

On the the show last night we took advantage of a special guest to try something new. We were joined in the studio by Aurora Losada, editor of the Chronicle’s Spanish-language publications. Dwight had told me that Aurora was a fan of Technology Bytes and I invited her to be on the program.

Hailing from Spain and fluent in Spanish, Aurora was a perfect candidate for us to try something I had been wanting to do for some time which was to take questions in Spanish, translate them, answer them and then give the answer back to the caller in Spanish. Aurora agreed and our foray into multilingualism took flight.

The very first call was from a listener named Carlos. It worked like a charm. The rest of the evening we had various Spanish speaking callers mixed in with our regular callers. I don’t know if it was technically “good radio” but it was a blast for me and the crew and the callers who spoke Spanish seemed to enjoy it as well.

To the best of my knowledge this is the first time a technology talk show has been broadcast attempting to field calls in both English and Spanish and to my mind, it was a HUGE success.

Thanks to Aurora for being such a good sport. As Dwight mentioned in his blog, when it came to all the good natured kidding around that we like to do, “She gave as good as she got.

The “Tower of Babel” affect was achieved when Bill called in from Germany via Skype and spoke a bit in German.

All in all, four languages: English, Spanish, German and Geek.

2005 Houston Press Best of Houston Awards

2005: Goods & Services

Best Tech Geek
Jay Lee

Jay Lee, Houston Chronicle Help Line columnist and co-host of KPFT/90.1 FM’s Technology Bytes, makes understanding the oft-frustrating wired world of computers possible for even the most basic of users. Lee’s strength is in his simple instructions and advice. But if you want to get hard-core, he can also out-geek any challenger on the methods of machinery. Lee first became interested in computers in high school in 1978 with a Tandy TRS-80 (that sleek design, the sensuous hot buttons…oh, wait, we’re talking about a machine here…), but he didn’t own his first system until the late ’80s. “It didn’t work when I took it out of the box, but I was able to sort it out myself. That’s when I knew I had a knack for computer troubleshooting,” he says. Lee notes that spyware is now the “single most common cause of computer performance problems today” and preaches with the zeal of Jimmy Swaggart in a whorehouse about the urgency to back up, back up and back up your computer’s data and files.