Five Podcasts to Enrich Your LIfe

Podcasts are great. They can make a long commute bearable and often entertain while educating. There are podcasts for every subject under the sun, making it possible to deepen your understanding of something you love or discover a new interest. Here are five that I never miss:

Everything’s Coming Up Podcast

The Simpsons is widely regarded as one of the most influential shows to grace television, particularly for the first decade or so it aired. Everything’s Coming Up Podcast dissects the show, with each episode of the podcast focusing on one episode of the show. Hosted by comediennes Allie Goertz and Julia Prescott, each episode also features a third guest host. Many of them are quite famous, and some have even worked on The Simpsons itself!

Listening to this podcast not only brings back great memories from one of my favorite shows of all time, it also floods me with nostalgia for the days when my friends and I would sit around and quote The Simpsons ad nauseam. It’s good to feel like your have a tribe. Allie Goertz and Julia Prescott are the historians for mine.

Our Fair City

A sci-fi comedy radio drama, Our Fair City tells the tale of a far-flung future world trapped in nuclear winter. The majority of humanity struggles to survive in the last city. The residents of this city are all policies of HartLife, an insurance-company-turned-nation-state. It’s a hilarious post-apocalyptic dystopia loaded with mad scientists, mutant creatures both friend and foe, and corporate leadership run amok.

Our Fair City just re-produced their entire first season, and there are five more following it to leave you at the very least smirking, if not laughing out loud. Just mind the carnivorous mold.

Star Talk Radio

Hosted by astrophysicist and science superstar Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Star Talk covers a wide range of topics at the intersection of science and culture. He often has celebrity guests alongside the researchers and scientists that specialize in the topic du jour. The show isn’t afraid to go into controversial topics or even take a controversial stance. Bill Nye recently did a show about how he’s rethinking the roles and safety of GMOs. Star Talk is a fascinating and entertaining way to expand your horizons and see the world around you in a new way.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

On the flip side of Star Talk is Stuff You Missed in History Class. Hosts Tracy and Holly present two deeply-researched topics each week. The subjects range across the whole of human history, covering the gamut from the history of harmonicas to Britain’s former practice of exporting orphans to their colonies. If Star Talk helps you better understand the world we find ourselves in, Stuff You Missed in History Class helps understand how it came to be.

Judge John Hodgman

Minor Television Personality John Hodgman is one of my favorite writers. Each week, he presides over minor domestic disputes. Is a hot dog a sandwich? How often should one wash a bath towel? Should a father compel his studious daughter to stop doing homework in order to watch his favorite movies? Hodgman listens to both sides of an argument and doles out a sentence that is just and fair. Unless someone gets his obscure cultural references, in which case they win by default. The show is always engaging and funny, and it is layered with inside jokes and snarky commentary that makes each episode a blast to listen to.

 

BONUS: Shameless Plugs

I excluded a few shows I listen to from the running because I know people deeply involved with them. It think it would be disingenuous to put them in a top five, but it would also be foolish not to mention them at all!

Art Shmart

My best friend Dmitry and I love art, and we also love bantering. We combine the two here. We choose a subject for each episode, research it(or not), and then present its history and our opinions on the subject.

 

Press Start to Play’s PSTPcast

Hosted by my good friend Christina, the PSTPcast features a roundtable discussion of video games. I occasionally write for Press Start To Play, and have even been on a few episodes of the show itself.

 

Champagne & Snark

Ana Fernatt is an incredibly talented blogger, a social media maven, an engaging host, and an all-around great person. She interviews all sorts of people and gets them to open up and tell unique stories that you really don’t hear anywhere else.

Posted on July 19, 2015 .

Why I'm Back on a Mac

I sold my Surface Pro 3 a couple weeks ago and bought a MacBook Air. Less than a week later, I returned the MacBook Air and bought the new MacBook. Yes, the controversial, expensive, not very powerful, only has one port MacBook(a review is forthcoming). My problems with the Surface Pro 3 — the less-than-stellar keyboard, the abysmal trackpad, the unreliable WiFi — never became more bearable. Neither did the Windows 8 App Store. Plex struggled to stream SD video. Comixology  needed to be reinstalled monthly. Google outright refused to create a YouTube app.

After nearly a year of trying, because I really do love the concept, I gave up on Microsoft’s grand experiment. Before the Surface, I was always a Mac person. Apple has their faults, not the least of which is the way they have stumbled time and time again in the world of enterprise computing. However, their build quality is second to none, and for home use the Mac shines.

It would be disingenuous to say that Windows laptops never match the build quality of a Mac. We use Lenovos almost exclusively at my place of employment, and they’re all solid and well-constructed. I use a Thinkpad Yoga S1 every day, and it’s a perfectly useable computer, save for the abysmal trackpad. I think Apple builds better hardware than anyone else, but it’s not impossible to get a well-built Windows PC.

There are other issues I have with Windows, though, like the fact that the UI simply doesn’t scale properly. This is as much on third-party developers as it is on Microsoft, but on a high DPI display nothing looks consistent. Apps that were written with them in mind look good, but apps that don’t support scaling look tiny and become nigh-unusable. If you use both a high DPI monitor and a regular one, you have to either work with tiny UI elements on the high DPI screen, or huge ones on the standard DPI one. Apple’s methods for UI scaling waste lots of computing power, but they maintain a consistent experience. It’s never jarring to open an app, because you never find yourself faced with icons smaller than the mouse cursor.

I’d talk security, but at this point security is more about the user than anything else. If you’re careful on a PC, you’ll be safe. If you’re careful on a Mac, you’ll be safe. If you instead decide to download a bunch of pirated software from BitTorrent and install everything your computer prompts you to, you’ll wind up with issues on either platform.

Apple’s efforts to integrate functionality between iOS devices and the Mac OS are nice, but I don’t use them much. In fact, sometimes I wish I could turn them off. Every time my phone rings, my home becomes a cacophony of notifications that continue for seconds after I answer it. I have exactly one friend that I FaceTime with, and even that’s somewhat rare. I use enough cloud storage that iCloud isn’t a good deal, and I moved to Lightroom when I got the Surface Pro 3, so I’ve never even looked at the new Photos app.

At the end of the day, I’m willing to admit that being Mac-centric is as much a personal choice as it is a reasoned one. I don’t feel a need to get swept up into a platform war. Every so often, it’s nice to check out what the rest of the world uses. In the end, though, I’m happy where I am. I really don’t need much more of a reason than that.

Posted on June 6, 2015 .

The Day the Robots Left

I don’t think anyone could forget the day the robots left. All of them, shiny and identical and carbon fiber-plated, marching down the street in sync. Everyone was afraid of revolt. That they’d take us over, and make us their slaves.

That didn’t happen.

Posted on April 28, 2015 .

The Initiation

“We’re here,” Sophia’s mother said, gently touching her shoulder. Sophia woke slowly, lifting her head from the window of the passenger seat and tilting it toward the clock on the car’s center console. She squinted for a moment, then rubbed her eyes before the green blob of light became a readable LED display.

“Geez, Mom, it’s already tomorrow,” Sophia mumbled, still groggy.

“I know, honey. But we have to do this tonight. Come on.” Elizabeth Harris stared at herself in the rearview mirror, gazing into her own tired green eyes. It took a moment to convince herself, but eventually she unbuckled her seatbelt and got out of the car. The forest preserve parking lot was empty, save for them, and Elizabeth made sure to park as far from the area’s lights as possible. She opened the trunk and took out a leather handbag, which she slung over her shoulder, then walked around the car to the passenger door and opened it for her daughter.

Sophia looked up at her mother through overgrown chestnut bangs. “Is it going to hurt?”

Posted on April 16, 2015 .

Northern California: Day Two

Sleeping in on a weekday is so wonderful. My host had to work, so she took me out for breakfast before heading to the office. I spent my first morning in Fresno doing very little. After writing and an episode of Orphan Black, I got a little more up-to-date on my woefully unread RSS feeds and then decided to go for a walk before lunch. There was a large park within a mile of where I was staying, so I made that my destination and headed out.
Though the walk itself was uneventful, there were plenty of little reminders that I wasn’t in Illinois. Obviously, there was the weather and the vegetation. It’s nearly impossible not to have a massive palm tree in your line of sight. There were less tangible things, as well. The roads are wider, with more lanes in either direction. There is simply more space. I noticed the same thing in LA.

Posted on April 3, 2015 and filed under Travel.