Sometimes it seems as though everyone on the planet already knows how the latest thing works. It wasn’t long ago that I didn’t know thing one about podcasts or blogs, though, and perhaps you don’t either… yet!

What is a podcast?

The basic thing to understand is that when I say “podcast”, I’m just talking about a digital audio file. These usually come in the form of an MP3 file which can be downloaded and listened to on an MP3 player or directly on your computer. The iPod is one kind of MP3 player, but there are many others.

The thing that makes this digital audio file unique, the thing that turns it into a podcast, is the fact that you can subscribe to it like a magazine, and have every new episode delivered to your digital doorstep. I explain how that works here.

How can I listen?

You can hear my podcasts by either subscribing, or by listening right on your computer.

At the top of every post on this website that contains a podcast, you’ll see an online audio player. The player looks just like this sample graphic:

Just click on the triangle! The player will magically open, and the audio will begin to play. (Be patient, though — depending on internet traffic and the speed of your connection, it may take a few seconds to start.)

If you want to download the audio file to your own hard drive, click on the little gold MP3 icon beneath the player (depending on your operating system, this will require a right-click or a control-click). This will bring up a dialog bog asking you where you’d like to save the file.

What’s a blog, and how do I use it?

A blog is just a specific type of website. It works by allowing me to write a short piece — usually including a title, a short chunk of text, and photos — which is called a post. Posts appear in the large, left-hand column of the Sparkletack website in chronological order, with the most recent one showing up at the top (you can see the date that each post is published right under the title).

One of the great things about this is that I can categorize every post — a powerful organizing tool. You’ll notice that at the top of the right-hand column there’s a short list titled “pick a category”. Each of the choices in that list is one of my categories — when you click on one, the website shows only the posts in that specific category. In other words, clicking on the link “Podcasts” will make the website display only posts with podcasts. Voila!

And if you want to go back to seeing all of the posts at once, just click the home menu link at the very top of the webpage — or just click the big sparkletack up there.

How do I look for things?

You can search for subjects or words on simply by typing it into the search window at left (the white rectangle that says “are you looking for something?”) and clicking the search button underneath. This will tell the website to show every post that mentions the subject you’re looking for.

You can also see every post I’ve written by clicking on the archive link at the very top of the page.

Can I tell you what I think?

Yes! Another strength of the blog website is that you, dear reader, can comment on what you read or listen to. Just click on the have a comment? link beneath the post’s title, and you’ll see a simple form in which you type your name, email address, and whatever thoughts you might conceivably have about my post or podcast. You can read what other people have written too, and connect with other Sparkletack listeners around the world.

Sparkletack reviews

The review sections work the same way as the other categories — simply click on Historical book reviews or Walking tour reviews in the right-hand column and the website will display only the posts concerned with books or walking tours. I’m writing more of these reviews every month, by the way, so it pays to check back… or better yet, to subscribe.

Have fun! And if you’re confused, or have any questions or problems with any of this, feel free to send me an email: richard (at)