Thursday, November 13, 2008

When the steppe meets empire - MMW 4 review

UCSD podcasts are invariably a brief pleasure. Available as long as new installments in the feed are expected, but taken from us, swiftly after the last lecture as the lights flicking on in the cinema, when the end titles are still rolling. History lovers will need to be on guard and rake in MMW 4 (Making of the Modern World, era 1200 - 1750) by Professor Matthew Herbst, when they still can. (feed)

MMW 4, just as MMW 3 last year, distinguishes itself from other world history podcasts in that it pays so much more attention to the world beyond the Western. This slight shift in perspective brings with it new insights, like in the previous review, where we learned about the Mongols taking over nearly the entire Eurasian continent. This is where globalization began. And this meant trade as well as plague.

The rule of the Mongols was to be short, but the steppe proxies they put in power, even if assimilated, ruled so much longer and continued to add a steppe flavor to the old empires. Elements of this steppe flavor were religious pluralism and a more equal position for women. This went even for the Muslim Mughals, who ruled India and who, as so many other Mongols (Mughal is a Persian word for Mongol) had converted to Islam. It allowed them to rule the largely Hindu peoples of India and maintain a stable rule. They gave us Akbar and Shajahan. They built the Taj Mahal.

More Matthew Herbst:
Gengis Khan,
MMW 4 first review,
The Kingdom of Ghana,
Gupta History,
World history outside the European box.

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Preference settings per podcast

Under the label Instructions, I try to compile a set of help posts, giving some guidance to listening to podcasts and more. The first four are a quick guide for the beginner:

1- listen on line
2- download audio files
3- get iTunes
4- put feeds in iTunes

The next post I made, explains about RSS. This mainly showed how you can sign-up with an RSS reader (Google reader) and start following this blog.
5- RSS readers

6- For advanced users I posted my own strategy to manage podcast feeds by the dozens with the combined use of iTunes and Google Reader.

On the same subject an update for those big users of iTunes.

You have been suffering, like myself, I assume, from the default settings for podcasts: download the latest episode. This sounds like a nice middle road between the other two options download all episodes or do nothing. However, even with this method, once you are subscribed to a medium amount of podcasts, bit by bit, iTunes will fill up you storage room with endless stream of audio you probably are never going to listen to, even if you wanted to.

Therefore, like me, I assume, you have changed this setting to do nothing, leaving it for you to occasionally drop by iTunes and decide what to download and what to leave on-line. This is where I used Google Reader as an early warning system. Although it works fine and this still is my default approach, with version 8, iTunes has improved the options.

You can now set the preferences for each podcast specifically. This comes in especially handy for those podcasts you are sure you want ot listen to, or those notorious podfaders like the UCSD and BBC podcasts. When you select your podcast in the list, down the bottom of your screen you can click settings... and the dialog comes up. Choose well and live happily ever after.

The only thing left to desire is that you can access this option through a right click on the podcast, and not just by select and the clicking settings downstairs. We're getting there all right.

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