Podcasts I’m Listening to in 2018

I’ve both added and dropped some podcasts since last time around. Where I’m listing the same podcast as last year I may use the same description as in the past with slight (or no) variation.

Public Radio

Radiolab – Heard about them because sometimes their stories are used on This American Life. Radiolab is a lot like TAL except with a much bigger focus on sound effects. It is, in a way, the descendant of the old radio shows of the 30s and 40s. (Approx 30-45 min)

Marketplace – This is a really good economics show.  They talk about news that happened that day as well as stories that have been pre-prepared.  This podcast has really helped me to understand the recession and why it happened as well as whether it is getting any better.  (Approx 30 min long)

Codebreaker: A tech podcast. Season 1 asked the question “Is it Evil?” of various technologies.

On the Media –  Although not always perfect and although it leans a little more left than moderate, On the Media is a good podcast about media issues.  Examples include: truth in advertising, misleading news stories on the cable networks, debunking PR-speak from the White House, and other media literacy items.  I tend to enjoy it nearly all the time and it’s a good balance to news on both sides of the spectrum, calling out CNN as often as Fox News. (Approx 1 hour long)

Fresh Air – Fresh Air is one of NPR’s most famous shows.  It is similar in topic scope as Talk of the Nation, but without any listener call-in.  Also, it tends to have a heavier focus on cultural topics (books, movies, etc).  Terry Gross has been hosting Fresh Air for decades and is a master at interviewing her guests.  Every once in a while there is a guest host or the interview is conducted by a specialist in that industry.  (Approx 1 hour)

Freakonomics – Essentially an audio, episodic version of the eponymous book. If you enjoyed the insights of the book, you’ll really enjoy this podcast. (Approx 30 min)

The Infinite Monkey Cage – a BBC radio show about science. A panel of scientists (and one media star who is interested in science) talk about a topic. The only bummer is that the shows are quite infrequent. Something like 4 weekly episodes per quarter (Approx 30 min)


Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – if you’re a history buff you really need to be listening to this podcast. Dan’s well-researched podcast presents bits of history you never heard of in ways you never thought of it. He does a great job of making ancient societies relate-able. The only bad thing is that there is a long gap between episodes due to the research involved. (Varies. Approx 1.5 – 4 hrs)

Hardcore History Addendum – Meant to bridge the gap between Hardcore History episodes, it focuses on interviews and smaller topics.

The Dollop – A very funny and very profane look at American history. The premise: The host tells a story of American history to the other guy, who doesn’t know ahead of time what the story’s about. It’s a premise that leads to some great reactions from the person not in the know (usually Gareth, but sometimes they do a Reverse Dollop). Also, listening to this podcast is a great reminder that the past is full of some really messed up people and situations.

History Unplugged – I found this podcast when I was looking for Dan Carlin’s new podcast that’s supposed to bridge the gap between Hardcore History episodes. I enjoy his question and answer episodes. (20 minutes)

Tides of History – I liken this podcast to the other side of Hardcore History. Dan Carlin tends to focus on the big movers and shakers in history. So far, in Tides of History he’s focused a lot on the experience of the common man (or woman) in the time period he’s exploring. Very entertaining and, unlike Hardcore History, it’s not on a George RR Martin update pace. (Usually 20-40 minutes)


WTF with Marc Maron – This is a pretty solid podcast which mostly consists of Marc Maron interviewing comedians.  As with any interview-based show, the episodes are hit or miss, although more often than not they are really good.  Occasionally he does a live show in which he’s still interviewing people, but with 4-6 per episode it’s much less in-depth.  And, since it has an audience, the guest is performing more than being open.  The only irritating thing is that Marc starts off each episode with a rant/listener email reading.  Most of the time this is neither interesting nor funny.  Clearly the reason people are tuning is is to hear the interviews or they’d take up a minority of the show instead of the bulk of the show.  So I wish he’d do his rant at the end of the episode so that those of us who just want to hear a great interview with a comedian we like can easily skip the monologue.  (Approx 1.5 hours long)

Science Fiction Short Stories

Clarkesworld Magazine

Escape Pod

There isn’t much to differentiate these two podcasts.  They both feature great selections of short stories.  I added them to my podcatcher to get a dose of fiction among the more non-fiction podcasts I usually listen to.  Also, there’s something great about short-form fiction where you have to build the world AND tell the story in a very concise way.  The main difference between the two podcasts is that Clarkesworld has pretty much just one narrator who’s quite incredible.  Escape Pod tends to have a group of narrators.  Most of them are great – every once in a while there’s a less than stellar one.  Clarkesworld tends to end the story with the narrator’s interpretation and Escape Pod tends to end with reader comments from a few episodes ago. (varies. 15 min to 45 min)


How Did This Get Made – Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas (plus the occasional guest) watch movies from the last few decades that will probably be in the future’s version of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The movies are often incredibly baffling and full of strange plot points. One of the best parts of the show is “Second Opinions” where Paul goes to Amazon.com to get 5 Star ratings for the movie they just spent about an hour lambasting. Every other episode is a mini episode that previews the next show, has a section called “Corrections and Omissions”, and Qs and As. The first two sections are great. The last one varies depending on the quality of the questions and answers. It can be pretty funny, but sometimes I just skip it. (Approx 1 hr)

Twinsies – Andy Wood from Probably Science and another guy who might just mention that he has a film degree from Arizona State talk about two movies that came out around the same time and are almost the same movie – at least superficially. For example Antz v A Bug’s Life or The Illusionist v The Prestige. Good for film/pop culture nerds. (approximately 45 minutes)


The Bugle – Jon Oliver (from The Daily Show) and some other guy talk about the news. In a way, it’s like a How Did This Get Made for news. Also similar to The Daily Show in the incredulity of what people in the news are doing. (Approx 30 min)

Political Gabfest (from Slate) – This has taken the role that Talk of the Nation’s Wednesday slot left vacant when the show went off the air. They talk about politics (usually swinging heavily left or sometimes libertarian while ToTN was more neutral) and I get a dose of what everyone’s talking about in politics. (Approximatly 1 hour)

Common Sense with Dan Carlin – If you like the attention Dan puts towards Hardcore History, then you’ll probably love this take on the news. Usually Dan takes one (max 2) topics from the news and by the time he’s done with it, I’ve seen 2-3 different points of view. Sometimes there’s a clearly right point of view (the sky is blue), but other times each side has valid points and neither one has the complete high ground. Dan is a complex creature, like many of us. On some topics he’s more likely to agree with Dems, other time Republicans, and sometimes neither. Other times he agrees with their Platonic Ideal Version, but not their RealPolitik version. Either way, I’m always overjoyed when it shows up – which is somewhere between biweekly and monthly. (Approximately 45 minutes)

FiveThirtyEight Elections – a great, wonky podcast from the guys that brought you the most accurate election predictions. Has continued beyond the elections due to the odd circumstances of the new administration.

What Trump can teach us about Con Law – Hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible and Elizabeth Joh, a constitutional law professor, it explores issues of constitutional law around statements, executive orders, etc that Trump has made. Very informative and explains a lot about how certain things that affect other politicians don’t affect the present. (15 minutes)


Sword and Laser – A fantasy and sci-fi book club. They interview up-and-coming authors and discuss the book club’s monthly book. Also cover news and upcoming new releases. (Varies. Approx 30 min)

Rocket Talk (Tor.com)note: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 19 months since the last episode. The host speaks with one or two Science Fiction and Fantasy authors about various things: their latest book, trends in the genres, publishing trends, etc. Sometimes a great show and sometimes I skip it halfway through. (Approximately 45 min)

Give Me Fictionnote: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 34 months since the last episode. A pretty hilarious (to my sense of humor) super short story podcast. It’s recorded live (which often spices up comedy) and seems to skew Gen X/Millenial in its humor.  (Varies, but usually under 15 minutes)

Talkin’ Toons with Rob Paulsennote: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 10 months since the last episode.The great voice actor behind two Ninja Turtles, Pinky, Yakko, and many, many other cartoon characters interviews other voice actors. It’s like WTF,  but without the annoying self-reflection 10-15 minutes that I always skip on Maron’s podcast. If you enjoy voice acting nerdom or want a place to start, check this out. It’s recorded in front of an audience which is often great, but once in a while leads them on tangents that take away from their great anecdotes. (Approximately 1 hour)

Boars, Gore, and Swords: A Game of Throne Podcast – two comedians (and sometimes some friends) discuss each episode of A Game of Thrones and each chapter of the books. While it’s primarily funny, it does sometimes lead me to some deeper insights into each episode.

The i Word: An Image Comics Podcastnote: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 15 months since the last episode. different writers and artists working on a comic for Image Comics are interviewed about their comic as well as something unrelated to comics that they’re really into.

The Allusionist – a podcast about words, where they come from, and how we use them

Nancy – A WNYC podcast about LGBT culture. It’s fascinating for me to hear about a culture I’ve absolutely no experience with and the differences in the life experiences of the hosts and their guests. Also interesting having Kathy Tu as a co-host because the bits of LGBT culture I’ve seen before were from a white perspective and she provides an asian perspective on the LGBT experience. (15 minutes)


You Are Not So Smart – the host, who wrote an eponymous book, tackles topics of self-delusion. Examples include placebos, alternative medicine, and conspiracy theories. (Approximately 45 min)

Probably Science – some comedians who used to work in the science and tech fields bring on other comedians (of various levels of scientific knowledge) to discuss pop science and where the articles might be misleading.


99% Invisible – Similar in scope to the NPR podcast Invisibilia, this one was there first. It explores the things that are in the background of life. Examples include architectural details we often miss or stories that tell how regions came to be. Production is similar in sonic greatness to RadioLab.  (Approx 15 min)

Tell Me Something I don’t Know – a gameshow from the guys behind Freakonomics. Learn some new facts in a fun and often funny way.

GoodMuslimBadMuslim – a window into what it’s like to be a Muslim in modern America.

Politically Reactive – note: I’m still subscribed to this podcast, but it’s been 5 months since the last episode. W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu discuss politics with some jokes and some interviews with people mostly on the left, but sometimes on the right. They are respectful and always provide context to what’s being said.

More Perfect – Explores Supreme Court rulings and how they affect America.

Song Exploder – they pick a song and a member from that band explains how they put it together. They usually look at each layer of the track – vocals, drums, guitar, etc and talk about why each decision was made. Can range from interesting to revealing.

Milk Street – a cooking podcast that goes along with Chris Kimball’s new enterpise, Milk Street. (Approximately an hour)

Business Wars – focuses on business rivalries like Netflix v Blockbuster, Nike v Adidas, or Marvel v DC. Usually 4-6 episodes per topic and a reasonably deep dive into the subjects.

Imaginary Worlds – a look at what makes science fiction and fantasy so enjoyable whether as books, film, or music.

Review: Elantris, Part 1 of 3

Elantris, Part 1 of 3Elantris, Part 1 of 3 by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of Sanderson’s earlier books and it’s exploring similar themes as Warbreaker, so while I’m enjoying it, it’s definitely not as good to me so far. What does it share with Warbreaker? The idea of divinity on Earth vs a god you can’t see, humans becoming divine, and an arranged marriage between royals who haven’t met. What’s weaker from Sanderson’s lack of experience – The Prince seems to be a bit of a Marty Stu so far – a little too perfect in every way.

But there are lots of things I like so far:

Sanderson writes some pretty able women – or at least has in these two books. In this book (contrasted to Warbeaker) the marriage is the princess’ idea. Her father’s actually initially against it, but realizes it would be good politically. While in the new court she uses her brain to manipulate others into giving her what she wants or needs. (Manipulate has a bad connotation, but she’s not malicious) She gets into a metaphorical chess game against the priest in which they’re each trying to outdo the other. And the princess gets herself accepted into a group of nobles to formulate a plan to save her new city.

I like the idea of the AIs that allow a fantasy skype in this world. As in the later Discworld books, I think there’s something interesting that comes from modern tech in a medieval or Renaissance world. So while most fantasy stories can count on a slow movement of information as a plot device, a world with these AIs allows for faster communications. It also serves as an information retrieval device.

So far, across these two novels, Sanderson has also proven adept at starting off with a cartoonishly evil antagonist who then becomes more of a person with complicated morals. I’m enjoying the information we’re learning about the high priest and how he’s trying to make this city’s conversion as bloodless as possible. It makes his fanatical acolyte all the more dangerous.

It’s fun to have the 3 chapter structure where you see the same event or aspects of the same time period through each of the three viewpoints.

Finally, I really like the inclusion of the princess’ uncle’s family. I like the comic relief of his kids. I like how it shows just how much her uncle has grown and changed. And I am enjoying the fact that it’s a modern blended family which doesn’t happen too much in fantasy (at least the way it’s been depicted in this first book). He has step children with whom he has a regular relationship (not some fantasy hatred of step-children). Also, the uncle is a great chef from having traveled the world and so he does the cooking. Overall, it’s a continuation of the refreshing modernity in a fantasy novel that isn’t urban fantasy.

So much can go so wrong with three different people planning independently and with their goals seemingly at odds. We also have the 3 month timer before an invasion or destruction or something. I’m looking forward to it and perhaps parts 2 and/or 3 will get a higher rating.

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BBQ Danielle’s Marinade Chicken

A week or so after the smoked chicken, Danielle did her marinade on a whole chicken we’d cleaved in half. I cooked it on the Weber Kettle at an average of 350 F and it came out GREAT! I did a 2 zone setup with the dark meat facing towards the fire. I took it out when the breasts were 160 (which was approximately 180 for the dark meat – which is the temp most people like dark meat). Look at how juicy that came out!

Chicken BBQ'd on the Weber Kettle
Chicken BBQ’d on the Weber Kettle

Review: The Making of Prince of Persia

The Making of Prince of PersiaThe Making of Prince of Persia by Jordan Mechner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this as part of a bundle – probably Storybundle as I’ve bought nearly all their video game bundles – and I had put it off in favor of other books because I don’t have a strong connection to Prince of Persia (POP henceforth). My family was working poor until I was getting into later elementary school, by which time a lot of computer game industry had lost its first “death” to the consoles. By the time I was playing computer games, it was mostly just RTSes hanging on and we weren’t anywhere near the Steam Renaissance that would make the PC the best place to play games again (except for bad ports).

But a couple months ago, I sat at my computer and took at look at my To Read list on Goodreads and the 400-odd unread ebooks in my Calibre database I’d bought because, “how could you not buy 15 books when they’re about $1 each?” So I made a plan to try and satisfy my need to read newer books with my need to read the books I’d purchased (or face my wife’s wrath at wasting money on books). So I basically sorted the books by date added to Calibre and selected (approximately) one book per bundle (or free release from Tor.com’s ebook club) and when I got to this bundle, I decided to take a look at these journals.

While I was never an Amiga gamer (see above), I’ve read plenty of how it was the superior machine in terms of what it could do at the time compared with Macs or IBM-Clones (what we now call PCs) and yet management ran it into the ground and we were left making up for progress all these decades. Likewise, BeOS was superior to Windows and Mac when it came out, but MS used their anti-trust strong-arming to keep it from taking off. So I’m already used to the idea that the best don’t always rise to the top. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to see how Mechner was thwarted and we almost lost this amazing contribution to video gaming.

Mechner had Broderbund as his publisher – one of the giants of computer gaming at the time. I remember everyone having Print Shop Pro. I remember playing Carmen Sandiego at school and eventually owning it when my family got a computer around the time I was 11. They merged with Sierra, maker of my favorite adventure games as a kid. But they didn’t know what to do with this action game. And they refused to give Mechner a promotional budget. I’m sitting here in 2017, knowing how great this series becomes – I played a bit of the Xbox version when my brothers had it one time when I came home from college. It is the spiritual ancestor of the Assassin’s Creed series. It ends up becoming a movie. Just goes to show it doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is brilliant if you don’t have the right support. (Spoiler: Eventually he gets the right support)

Who should read this book? Anyone who’s interested in the game development scene of the late 80s and early 90s. It was a time when one person could put together a great game and by allying himself with just a few others, produce an incredible game. Since these are his journals they’re very personal, not technical so I think you can enjoy it even if you’re not a technical person.

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Review: Star Wars: Dark Empire

Star Wars: Dark EmpireStar Wars: Dark Empire by Tom Veitch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I said in one of my status updates, this is no longer canon as Disney erased the Extended Universe canon when they took over the franchise. I’m not bothered – we comic book fans are used to canon being changed and alternate universes. I can still enjoy the story.

What’s interesting is that this is a radio play based on a comic book. If I remember correctly, it’s by the same people who did the NPR radio play of the original trilogy. The voice acting is a little wooden, but Billy Dee Williams stops in to do Lando and his acting is great.

The story is interesting, but seems a little rushed when taken out of the context of a comic book. The idea of Luke toying with the Dark Side, given his family history is interesting.

One thing I don’t get about this storyline is that only Leia and Han’s kids are potential Jedi. Yet, before Vader killed the Jedi, there were tons of Jedi. And no reason to think it was hereditary.

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June 2015 Video Game Report

The Witcher (3 hours): Finally had some time to get back to The Witcher. It definitely isn’t the type of game where you want to have long gaps between playthroughs. But there isn’t much I can do about it.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (30 minutes): Scarlett just asked me if we could play Sonic. So we tried to get past the third world for a while, but I kept slipping up.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Sonic and Tails fall into a world I can't get them out of
Sonic the Hedgehog 3: Sonic and Tails fall into a world I can’t get them out of

Aladdin (30 minutes): Then she asked me to play Aladdin. I got further into the game than I EVER did in my youth.

Aladdin for the Sega Genesis
Aladdin for the Sega Genesis

Review: The Pen & the Sword

The Pen & the Sword (The Ballad of Nick & Mina 1)The Pen & the Sword by Jonathon Wolfer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think all the problems I have with this book can be summed up with one sentence. This book needed an editor. If it had an editor, it needed a more experienced one. I am not going to fault someone for small spelling errors and grammar mistakes -I make them all the time in reviews and blog posts. But there were a lot of grammar issues, especially apostrophe use. Still, what an editor would have done is tighten up the story a bit.

Now to what I enjoyed about this book. It was fun to see a book take place in the eighties. This also allowed the main characters to be without the net, cell phones, or social media. All of those would have complicated the story inn an unnecessary way. The conceit is pretty interesting – a two-person Buffy story. In fact it’s almost Buffy and a gender swapped Willow, but that wouldn’t do justice to the creativity in display here. After all, Nick has powers in his own right. Once I start thinking of it in those terms, however, the school scenes seem less superfluous.

This book didn’t see me in fire the way Wool did, but the world is interesting and I really like Mina’s personality. In the real world a teen me would’ve wanted to befriend her and wish we could get together.

Additionally, the pacing issues I felt were less is an issue once I got to the end. This is clearly meant to tell the entire story over a trilogy. The sequel is not “More adventures with Nick and Mina”. It is the climax to a sorry begun here. Not my favorite style, but the pacing is probably ok over three books.

The significance of Mina’s name was not lost on me.

Well, on to the sequel.

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The MPAA members know damn well there are legit uses for bittorrent….

….but pretend there aren’t.

Main quote:

In some ways, this is so incredibly shortsighted. Here Sony is so committed to the idea that torrents can’t be shown to have any legal, non-infringing uses (even though there are plenty), that it won’t even allow its own staff to experiment with ways to use the new technology to their own advantage. But just the admission in the email alone shows that Sony’s top execs know damn well that there are legitimate, non-infringing, uses for BitTorrent, and they’re deliberately trying not to use them just to make BitTorrent look much worse than it is.

Way to make me feel old, Spotify. #ThrowbackThursday music today is from when I was in high school and beginning of undergrad.

2014 Blog Stats

WordPress sent me my Jetpack stats email for 2014. Here’s what they said:

A Small Change at the ends of the Posts

I’ve been working with my host to try and figure out why my relatively low traffic site has been having issues. So I’ve rejiggered WP Super CACHE to work well on the site and I’m using Cloudfare on most, if not all, of my WordPress blogs. Yet I’m still getting some periods of time where the site’s offline. So, after many years I’m getting rid of Sociable and YARPP (which produces related posts). YARPP, in particular, if often called out as a plugin that requires a lot of resources. Here’s how things looked before I changed it:

YARPP and Sociable
YARPP and Sociable

Now I’ll be switching to WordPress.com’s Jetpack equivalents. Hopefully that helps. If it jacks everything up, I can always switch back.