I'm torn.

On the one hand, I really love the Conventions. (Okay, given what they do to my blood pressure and the amount of shouting I do at the television, "love" is probably not the right word...) The Democratic and Republican National Conventions are my Olympics. I don't so much WANT to watch them as I NEED to watch them.

On the other hand, I get up absurdly early in the morning and the idea of waiting until ten at night to begin watching coverage of the Conventions is clearly laughable. I've actually had to ask people at work to stop talking about particular speeches so that they won't be spoiled for me.

How pathetic is that?

So, anyway, these are the tools that I use to keep up with mid-season election foolishness:

[I have no idea whether any of these websites will get through our school's filters. At this point, I think of online content at school the way I do Social Security - I just go on the assumption that it won't be there for me and hope to be pleasantly surprised.]



Audible is the service I use to download audiobooks. Over the past couple of years, somewhere around 90% of the books I've "read" have been ones I downloaded from Audible.

One of the great services that Audible provides its members is free downloads of any important political speeches. The first time I ever heard of the new kid, Barak Obama, that everyone was talking about was four years ago, when I downloaded his keynote speech from the 2004 Democratic Convention.

The speeches on Audible are high quality and have no commentary.


If you use iTunes, you can also subscribe to any or all of the Convention speeches and download them as podcasts. Again, this is free.


Sometimes, just listening to speeches isn't enough. When I actually want to watch election footage, I generally turn to YouTube. Given the nature of the internet, as soon as something interesting happens on the campaign trail and it is broadcast, it ends up on YouTube in a matter of minutes.

This is also the place to turn if you actually WANT commentary and like watching pundits wind each other up like demented clock-people.

If you have a taste for bizarre election conspiracy theories backed up by dubious video footage, YouTube is your place for that, too.

The Wall Street Journal's Interactive Electoral College Calculator

While this tool doesn't have much to do with the Conventions, per se, it is an incredibly useful and cool online application that helps make sense of the seemingly random and weird way that the candidates go about campaigning. It provides a state-by-state breakdown of the last few elections, showing the number of electoral votes and issues that have influenced voters in each state.

The really cool feature of this toy is that it lets you simulate various outcomes: what if Louisiana goes to the Democrats this time in response to Katrina? What if Virginia swings to the Republicans after all? This interactive map lays everything out for you in very clear and easy to understand graphics.

Yes, you could definitely find this information in a lot of places, but the interactive nature of this website makes it very dynamic and easy to understand. Pensylvania and Ohio suddenly seem a lot more important to me than they did before I used this tool.


(As If You Needed One)

I've been hearing a lot about  the speech Barak Obama made to the NEA a couple of weeks ago and wanted to listen to it. The easiest place to find the actual speech was on YouTube.

I'm not actually all that interested in watching the speech, though - I'd rather listen to it in the car or on a walk, so I used Zamzar.com to convert it to an audio file for me. I've done this before.

About a year ago, I really wanted to listen to a recording of a song I'd heard on a podcast - a cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. The only place I could find it was on YouTube, but it was easy to convert and now it is one of my favorite (though admittedly weird) songs on my iPod playlist.

(I just visited the Ukulete Orchestra's website and they now have it available for download there. If you like their music, please buy it from them.)

Here's how to do it:

When you go to the Zamzar webpage, click on the link that says, URL (that means a web address.) The website will reload and provide you with a space to enter the YouTube address for the file you want to convert. (It's easiest to just copy and paste this.)

When you select the format to download your YouTube video, scroll down and select mp3. This will tell Zamzar to skip all the video content and just give you a sound file to listen to.

That's it - very simple. Once you have filled in your email address and hit the "convert" button, Zamzar will email you a link to download your new sound file.

Possible classroom uses:

 · Recording sound effects for websites or Powerpoints

 · Making soundbites of famous historical speeches

 · Recording performances of famous classical music concerts

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a speech to listen to.

[It has been brought to my attention that this may violate YouTube's Terms of Use Agreement. While I doubt that specially trained YouTube ninjas will be sent to punish you for this, you should read the Agreement and make your own decision.]