I listen to a lot of radio. It’s 2.5 hours round trip to get to school everyday (only three days this semester! But it will be four next semester…). It’s not a bad commute, per se. I don’t have to fight much traffic. I spend almost no time waiting at red lights. A good 60 miles of my 72 mile commute is on the highway. Once I get to the highway, put the cruise on, and turn on NPR, it’s actually kind of relaxing.
But sometimes I get tired of the radio. It’s so much of the same. And if I’m driving in the midday, the public radio offerings are hit and miss. Also, if it’s late (past dark), I don’t always find the radio to be enough to keep me as alert as I’d like. It’s in these situations that I mix it up with Podcasts.
I subscribe to a handful of podcasts that I recommend. They’re like listening to a CD instead of listening to Top 40 radio, except with words. Here are my favorites:
1. Radiolab. Radiolab is sciency with a dash of philosophy. It asks great questions, interviews interesting people, and makes use of cool sound-effects. The one-hour episodes keep me entertained for nearly my whole trip. And the shorter “podcast” episodes are fun mini-episodes. Recent episodes: Games, Detective Stories, Mapping the Tic-Tac-Toe-dom
2. Stuff Mom Never Told You. This comes from How Stuff Works, which has a bunch of podcasts. Stuff You Should Know is a sort of general, catch-all podcast of interesting things. I used to listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class, because, well, I missed a LOT in history class. But it turns out I still don’t really enjoy history… I’ve settled on just the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast. I enjoy the focus on women’s issues, and get lots of interesting dinner table conversation from things I learned. Recent episodes: Women’s Intuition: Myth or Reality?, Male Birth Control, Are Rebound Relationships Unhealthy?
3. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! Alan and I used to catch the end of Wait Wait after church on Sundays. We’d usually get lightning fill-in-the-blank, and if we were lucky, we heard the listener limericks. But then Browncroft added an 8:15 service, and we started attending it. So now I download the podcast. I don’t listen to it religiously. It’s mostly there if I need a big pick-me-up. It’s entertaining and able to distract me from a boring car ride, or some other chore.
4. Car Talk. See #3 above. I play this one for Alan when we work outside together.
5. The Dinner Party Download. I just found out about this one today, so I can’t say whether or not I recommend it. But I do think that I heard it live on public radio once when I was waiting at the U of R to pick up Alan on a Friday afternoon. A few journalists give short anecdotes from the week’s news so you have something interesting to talk about a weekend dinner party. The subtitle on the website is “The Show that Helps You Win the Dinner Party.” Awesome. I love making things like dinner party conversations (secretly) competitive. Recent episodes: Chuck Klosterman, Diabolical Hawkes, and Zagats in the Zeitgeist; Antonio Banderas, Old-School Candy, and Music from a Non-belieber
6. Spilled Milk. This comes from Molly Weizenberg of Orangette, whose blog I have been reading for years. She and Matthew Amster-Burton live in Seattle and talk about food. I love food and cooking, and really enjoy this podcast. Each week is a type of food: rice, butter, meat sticks, junk food. They talk about the food, giving you some background you might not have had before, and discuss a recipe or two that use the food. I learned how to make rice balls on the rice podcast, and now frequently make rice balls with tuna inside for a I-don’t-want-to-cook dinner. Recent episodes: Peanut Butter, Thai Salads, Dorm Food
7. The Joy the Baker Podcast. This is another blog turned podcast deal. I figured it would be food related, but it’s totally not. It’s two ladies (Joy of Joy the Baker, and Tracy of Shutterbean.com) just chatting. They chat on a topic—road trips, red flags—but that’s it. Sometimes they mention food, but only when it’s germane to the topic. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to two ladies talking, but I’ve realized how much I miss just chatting. Alan’s not a big talker, and conversations with my girlfriends tend to be about law school or church. Listening to Joy and Tracy chat reminds me of my friends in college. Plus it’s an awesome way to make the hour fly. Recent episodes: Modern Day Etiquette, 20 Questions, Halloweenie
Pocasts that are great, but I just can’t get into:
1. The Moth. This is people (regular people) telling true stories. They’re recordings from story slams that the Moth has around the country. It’s great. But for some reason I never choose it when I’m browsing podcasts. I think they’re a little too short for my current situation. I’d have to listen to like seven to fill up my whole commute, and that’s a lot of stories to listen to. But you should check it out. Maybe you’ll love it.
2. This American Life. Same problem as the Moth, just a whole hour long. TAL is awesome, and I love it, but it’s just not right for my commute. It’s cerebral without being as entertaining as Radiolab. Or something. And the rest of my day is too busy to spend an hour listening to an episode. Maybe if I started taking long walks… This would be perfect for long walks.
What about you? Have you heard any of these podcasts? Do you have any podcast recommendations?
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