Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A plethora of podcasts

My life was missing something subtle.

Mostly, I'm a pretty happy guy. I've had some crazy stuff to deal with in my past (note to self: blog about dealing with crazy stuff), but on the whole, I'm grateful for the good things in life and try to let the rest just be what it is. This is easier to do with big-picture stuff, like death and taxes. Sometimes, the little things find a wedge into my brain and poke in like a very small splinter under the skin. I can't see it, but something there is bugging me.

It turns out it was subconscious recognition of the need for spoken word entertainment in my life. I'm an American - I get a lot of television. I watch a lot of movies. Recently, I've even started kicking it old school with those book thingies I used to use all the time. I started slowly. I caught "This American Life" on the radio now and then. Eventually I tracked down episodes on the Web and was amazed by how compelled I could be by a story without pictures. Not a book, just voices. I could stream the old shows, so I started dragging my laptop computer around the house as I did chores. I had my wireless connection so I could listen to the show while I cleaned the bathroom. My advice to you if you don't like to clean: treat yourself to some good stories, and you'll find yourself looking forward to scrubbing the bathtub because it means you can enjoy this more.

I started adding other shows. I streamed "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and Leo Laporte's TWIT broadcasts. Locally, I got into "In the Loop". It was a slow progression at first. Eventually, this content became available for download, and I didn't have to stream it all the time. It all sped up when Selby joined the family.

Selby is my dog. He's a four-ish something beagle that came to live with us in 2007. He is the best dog on the planet and anyone wishing to challenge that assumption just ain't right in the head. So there.

Selby does have some needs that changed by life. For one, he potties outside. For this, I am grateful. Mostly. There are times when he needs to go out at 5 AM in January that I wish he wasn't housebroken. Ah well, the sacrifices we make. The other big one is he has to get some exercise, and someone has to go with him. Most often, that's me.

Now, Selby is cute as heck, but he is not a witty conversationalist. He needs a good 2-3 miles in the morning if we are going to prevent him from trying to taste the tantalizing tidbits tucked in our tasteful turf. I grab some poop-bags (yes, fully biodegradable from the fine folks at - I love the Interwebs) and off we go for a walk each morning about 5:30. My feet are moving, but my brain is in low gear. I enjoy the sights of the cathedral, downtown, Crocus hill and all the rest, but mostly, this is downtime. So I plug in the headphones and let someone else do the thinking.

All of this in the way of saying I have some recommendations for you. In a particular order:

1. RadioLab. Please visit and listen. I recommend starting with the episode on musical language, but hey - you really can't go wrong.
2. This American Life. No, they haven't even begun to lose it after all these years.
3. Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Just silly, but in a clever way. I was a contestant once. I lost.
4. Gadgettes. Molly Wood in particular just rocks. Kelly and Jason, you're great, but Molly just gets me. She does great video podcasts for C/NET as well, but today we're talking audio.
5. Windows Weekly. Yes, way geeky, but unlike some of the other TWIT podcasts, this is likely to stay on topic. Paul Thurrott is wry, and I love the depth to which we reluctant Microsoft minions are willing to delve to feel like we made the right choice.
6. This Week in Tech. When Leo Laporte doesn't totally derail the train on some completely untech tangent for fifteen minutes (really - I did *not* tune in to listen to you and your friends drink scotch. Really. No, for real.) this show can be very entertaining.
7. Planet Money. Kinda hit and miss, but still finding its footing. A podcast about the depression we are in, while no one calls it that.

I have more, but they are not the ones I make sure to get through each week. I listen to every episode of these, and I encourage you to check them out. If you need a test dog to walk while giving them a spin, I have a beagle that is happy to show you where all the rabbits in the neighborhood hang out.

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