Podcasts

When we dropped our son off at college in 1998, I suggested that he spend as much time as possible around exceptional people. College can be a good place to exercise that option. My belief is exceptional people give one a target in life. Alice and I were lucky enough to both work at a university for our professional lives, and we also did our best to surround ourselves with great folks.

Fast forward to about 5 years ago, when the Internet was becoming more and more an important part of my life. A new web page presented itself to me: TED.com

TED talks became a regular feature of my life and remained so for several years. For the first time in my life, I could enjoy the company of exceptional people, and listen to them talk about their fields of expertise without having to move from the computer screen in front of my armchair. I indulged in TED talks, and shared many of my favorites with friends.

The next level of technology that changed my access to great ideas was my discovery of podcasts. As you know, I do write a blog, but I never really caught on to blogs as a way to taste the world of ideas. But podcasts really opened my eyes. Even with the discovery of podcasts, I had to wait for one more technological breakthrough before podcasts started showing their current potential. The breakthrough was a new pickup truck.

My old truck, a 2002 Ford F250 was showing its age, so this summer I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself a new truck. I got the most basic model available with an 8′ box and no crew cab. This was to be a truck, not a car with a little box out back. But even with just the basics, it came with a radio with an unanticipated feature… the radio could pair via Bluetooth ™ to my smartphone. When the truck was new, I went through the pairing procedure as part of the familiarization phase, but didn’t really see any applications that grabbed me.

I was occasionally using my smart phone to listen to music, and one time I got into my truck, started it up, and started going down the road when suddenly the song I’d been listening to came up on the truck’s speakers. And it sounded good! I still owned an iPod in those days, so I paired it with my truck radio and began to use it to listen to some podcasts. It was great. I make weekly trips to town with my truck to run the week’s errands, and found that the miles just flew by when I had something interesting to listen to.

Next I downloaded an app to my smart phone called Pocket Casts ™, and began to use it for listening to podcasts. I also moved my music library over to my phone, and quickly rendered my little iPod obsolete. Now when I get into my truck, it talks to my phone, figures out what I was last listening to, and starts playing it for me. It is seamless, simple, and I hear a lot of good stuff while driving with very little effort on my part.

There are so many podcasts out there that I believe a professional trucker couldn’t listen to them all. I’ve settled on 7 of them. I can’t think of any I’d like to delete, and don’t think I could add any more, since I can barely keep up with the 7 I have. Here they are in no particular order:

Fresh Air, Freakonomics Radio, Big Picture Science, The Ezra Klein Show, This American Life, The Moth, and Waking Up (with Sam Harris). (note that the Waking Up podcast is in the process of changing its name, but if you do a search, you should still be able to find it.)

If you haven’t yet discovered the world of podcasts while driving, I encourage you to look into it. These things have changed my perspective on things, and frees me from the tyranny of finding something interesting on the radio dial. My little phone contains enough material to keep me interested during several cross country trips.

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