I recently spoke with Karl Kowalski about his work for TOS and what he does when he’s not producing audio articles for the journal.
Daniel Wahl: First off, thanks for taking time to answer a few questions.
Karl Kowalski: I’m happy to oblige, and I think interviews are fun.
DW: Let me begin by asking about your background. What did you go to school for and what has been your main line of work since then?
KK: This is one of the fun questions. I studied aeronautics and astronautics in college and I received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in “rocket science.” For several years after my college education, I was working in the aerospace industry. However, I’ve been programming computers since I was about ten, and that’s still what I did as a rocket scientist. About fifteen years ago I left the industry and have been working as a software developer on a variety of different types of software ever since. I’ve moved from mainframes, to PCs, and now to smartphones.
DW: How did you start working for TOS?
KK: I first found The Objective Standard back in 2007, and a year after that, I bought a gift subscription for a friend who I thought would enjoy the articles. When I asked her how she was enjoying the journal, she mentioned that while the articles on the cover always sounded interesting, she didn’t have the time to spend reading them. I knew she had an hour or so commute, and I knew she had an iPod, so I thought about recording a podcast of Raymond Niles’ “Net Neutrality” article, since my friend was also into computers and software. I wrote to and requested permission from Craig Biddle to podcast this one article, and then asked if he had any plans to put other TOS articles into MP3 format. And the rest is history.
DW: What are some of the challenges involved?
KK: Good question. I’m a low-budget podcaster, so I use my own computer and record in my living room. The biggest challenge is reducing the background noise – I’ve gotten most of the major sources removed, and I think I may try the next session using a computer with a solid-state disk, as this will keep things more quiet. Other challenges are more intellectual instead of mechanical. For instance, doing a dry-run and picking up on tongue-twisting word sequences before a recording, marking pauses in the text, and so on, really helps prepare for the live recording. One of my greatest mental challenges was in editing the recording. I discovered that it was easier and better sounding to correct a mistake during the initial recording than it was to change it later, so now I’m paying more attention to getting the correct recording the first time through, even if it means repeating a phrase or a sentence several times in succession. This has made editing the audio much easier and quicker.
DW: Why did you choose to work specifically with TOS?
KK: Simple—I love the articles. And I love the work—of all the different things I get paid to do, this is the most fun. I don’t think I can explain it better than that.
DW: What are some of your favorite readings so far, and why?
KK: Paul Hsieh’s articles on health care are the first to come to mind—I’ve been Type I diabetic for almost forty years, and his words and ideas resonate in ways that have me pondering just how much closer a cure could be, if only the government kept its hands out of the health care marketplace. I also enjoyed Craig’s recent article on career colleges as well as Michael A. LaFerrara’s article on school vouchers vs. tax credits. I come from a family with more than a few professional educators, and I respect what can be done when freedom is allowed to reign in the educational marketplace.
DW: Do you have any readers that you enjoy listening to in particular—or that you strive to emulate?
KK: Sean Saulsbury’s recordings are awesome, and I think he’s got a great voice. I also respect Matt Damon’s documentary films for his voice as well.
DW: What other projects are you involved with now that might be of interest toTOSreaders?
KK: Luckily, you’re catching me at a slow moment. I’m in the process of wrapping up my second book, “Macintosh Application Development for Dummies”. I recently submitted a Macintosh app to Apple’s Mac App Store, and am busily writing another one for the iPhone App Store to work with it. In addition, I’m a co-owner of a small company called BlazingApps that produces applications for mobile devices such as the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones.
DW: Do you have any apps on the market now?
KK: You can find DiabeticPad 1.0 available for $1.99 at the Macintosh App Store. This app lets me record the important data for maintaining control over my blood sugar, and also provide that data in a spreadsheet form for my doctor to review. I also wrote The Word Locker, a BlackBerry app available for free at the BlackBerry App World. This app was written for my first book, “BlackBerry Application Development For Dummies” and is a password-protected notepad app.
DW: Thanks again for your time today.
KK: It’s been a pleasure, and I look forward to reading and recording more articles for TOS.