Lend me your ears, part 5

And the discovery and education continues…

For the previous offerings: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

Coming to us from the BBC World Service, this one reminds me somewhat of my much-loved A History of the World in 100 Objects. It includes a wide range of products and services, from barcodes to insurance to paper. They explain where these things came from, why they were revolutionary, their broader influence and importance, and their ongoing value and evolution in today’s world. Episodes are fairly short, so good for a quick hit of smartiness, or you can save up a few for a fascinating binge.


Exposes the seedy underbelly of Providence, Rhode Island, and its fascinating and corrupt movers and shakers over the past decades. From New England crime boss Raymond Patriarca to dirty mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci and beyond. Classic mobsters, mayhem, and accents straight out of central casting.

The Infinite Monkey Cage

The longer format of the weekly BBC Radio 4 show, with Robin Ince as the straight man, and British science’s favourite media son, Prof. Brian Cox. Each episode irreverently tackles a science topic, from sleep to gambling to climate change, assisted by a panel of scientists, academics, writers, and comedians. The Christmas episode on ghosts was a particular highlight. 🙂


As advertised, these are long interviews (typically an hour or a bit more) with a variety of interesting folks, the key connecting thread being that they’re all writers or editors (or both). That’s a pretty broad category, though, as interviewees range from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Nate Silver to Malcolm Gladwell. I don’t listen to every one, but when you get a good one, man, is it interesting stuff.

Note to Self

This one styles itself as “the tech show about being human”, which is true, though it leans heavily at times on lifehacking and projects – things like making ourselves more efficient, establishing good habits, etc., which isn’t really my thing. (I skip that stuff.) It also tends to lean toward issues and lifestyles of the modern family, which can be pretty interesting, but since I don’t have kids, often more from an anthropological standpoint. It does also get into deeper issues, like privacy in the digital age, and dealing with racism and other bigotry online.

Only Human

This one wraps science and humanity around politics and currently events (US-centric). Like US “bathroom laws” and how they tie into real families with trans kids, and the clinics and medical staff that work with and treat those kids. Or medical care on Native reservations accompanied by centuries old well-earned mistrust of the establishment. Or accompanying a doctor whose mission it is to provide safe abortions in the south, and how increasingly difficult that’s become.

Revisionist History

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10-part series that takes a historical event, recounts it, deconstructs it, and then sheds new light and context on it. Binge listening to this basically saved my sanity during the madness of January (thanks, US politics). The first episode, for example, begins with an obscure female British artist who briefly shot to fame in the 1800s. It broadens out to a discussion of sexism (and other -isms) and explores the phenomenon of “moral licensing”, which is something you’ll have been aware of your whole life and will be immensely grateful to have a term for it. As global and historically broad as some of the stories and context are, some stuff, like the later episode involving the Mennonite church, hits remarkably close to home.

See Something Say Something

Buzzfeed is doing great things for diverse voices, a shot of sanity in this world, and just damned good, funny content. This one’s new-ish, and is about being Muslim in America (which gets more scary and relevant by the minute…) Often times I don’t connect terribly well with millennial-hosted or focused media, but this has been really good, and mixes pop culture with religion, anger, intelligent discourse, and irreverence. The range of guests has been smart, savvy, and eye-opening, from civil rights lawyers to university freshman teenagers. Much needed perspectives and a lot of fun, especially for this middle-aged white lady.

Weekly Infusion

Still relatively new to this one, and it’s a bit slick and produced for my taste, but it does also dig into medical issues, which is right up my alley. I was introduced to it via Nicole Angemi, who I follow on Instagram (she was a guest on an episode). I’ve never seen any TV stuff Dr. Drew has done, but suspect the podcast is more than enough exposure to me. They make things really accessible, and often have celebrities or notable people in areas, either who have a personal stake in a medical issue, or who are experts in a particular area. Topics range from conditions like anaphylaxis and epilepsy to synesthesia.

You Must Remember This

This has been my most consistent binge since I found it. Seasons typically follow a broad but consistent arc, like Charles Manson’s Hollywood, or the Blacklist/McCarthy Communist Witch Hunts, or Six Degrees of Joan Crawford. The general tagline is the exploration of the secrets and forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century (roughly 1900-2000). There’s plenty of juicy gossip, sex, and scandal, as well as history, politics, and the development of the movie biz. Any delusions of glamour you ever had will be doused with booze and set on fire with a carelessly tossed cigarette. I have a feeling these binges are going to pay off well at future pub trivia nights.

Not feeling great today

Those I saw who predicted this election outcome the earliest and most clearly are those who study history and hate. The civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement — there’s always been “conservative” backlash to social progress in the US. A Black president? Same-sex marriage? Americans will once again get to learn from the forgotten history they’re repeating.

People of colour always knew that this is what America looks like. So did Muslims, Jews, women, and others. (White, Christian women apparently decided they were somehow different.) If you’re still not clear, if you’re still shocked, it’s never been laid out for you in more clear primary colours. Charts, graphs, it’s all there.

When those previous movements happened, though, straight, white, Christian men still had their traditional privilege and supremacy. In the workforce, at home, in society. The cracks had started by the 70s, though. And now these demographics are decades older and more scared. They can’t provide the way they once did, they aren’t respected like they once were.

And a world that doesn’t look like them or agree with them or believe in them is leaving them behind. But there are still millions of them, and they have lashed out. You can’t point to or blame one group. This wasn’t solely about race or gender or socioeconomics. Though it was each and all of those things. It took a whole lot of people buying into very scary messages to make this happen.

But millennials and those younger didn’t make this happen. The majority of people of colour didn’t make this happen. And the Baby Boomers are senior citizens now. The backlash is small, comparatively, though it is going to have some ugly consequences well beyond one term in office.

What will come from children who have been terrified that their families could be torn apart and their parents or grandparents deported? What will come from those who are not part of the ever-shrinking white “Christian” minority? What will come from women who don’t accept that any or every man could or should get to act like their creepy uncle? What will come will not be comparatively small.

But it also won’t happen tomorrow. America now has four years to see what damage will be done. Those who clung to blatant lies will learn to their too-sad-for-irony dismay just how big and voluminous the lies were. And that they are not getting their privilege and supremacy back.

Today, 300+ million people get to look their neighbours and co-workers in the eye. And have awful conversations with their children.

So you voted and were active online and that didn’t work this time. For those who aren’t happy about this result, you’re not done. Your family needs you. Your communities need you. Your country needs you, whether it realizes it or not. And it needs you in person. Not just Facebook statuses or tweets or what have you.

It needs money and time and bodies to volunteer. It needs protection and protest and lobbying. If you hate what this presidency stands for, get out and fight it. If you’re not sure how, there are plenty of people already doing the work. Look to them. Women fighting for their reproductive rights. Indigenous people fighting for their land and environmental rights. Black people fighting for their right to live.

It needs friendship and learning and love and abandoning comfort zones.

Be careful how you use your anger, though. Misdirected anger is a good part of how this mess happened in the first place. Loving thy neighbour isn’t always easy. But little about getting through this will be. Because America has shown itself and the lid can’t go back on that box. And you can’t just move to Canada.

Now no one can claim they don’t know it’s broke. Back when Obama and Clinton ran against each other for the Democratic nomination, there was the question, almost bitterly joking, of whether the US was more sexist or more racist. Now you know.

I woke up this morning thinking, “What have you done?”

But it’s done. The question now and tomorrow is: What will you do?


This is a picture I did not take of myself at the local coffee shop, working and scrolling through social feeds — wall to wall Ghomeshi verdict reactions — while We Are The Champions plays over the stereo, followed by Losing My Religion.


Lend me your ears, part 4

It seems I’ve done a lot of discovery since the last update, so here’s what I’ve been entertaining and educating myself with.

For the previous offerings: part 1, part 2, part 3.

The Allusionist

Helen Zaltzman from Answer Me This talks about the English language. Quirks of words and phrases, where sayings came from, invented languages, colloquialisms and slang, history and evolution, you name it. Good stuff for word nerds.

Another Round

One of the most recent I’ve added. It’s American, but our cultures and such are sufficiently intertwined that it’s all relevant. The hosts are two African-American women, and they do make fun of white people and white culture fairly often. But honestly, it’s entirely deserved, and it’s funny. They recently had a section that was kind of like a spoof of Canadian Heritage Moments, but it was a satirical look at moments and “facts” from Black history. Hilarious. Just as hilarious was the guy they got on who did comparable ones from white history. It’s not all goofing off, though. Combined with all of this there’s a lot of discussion of race and related issues, gender, socioeconomics, straight up pop culture (it is from Buzzfeed…) and some really great interviews from people like Valerie Jarrett, Anil Dash, and Hannibal Burress. You never quite know what you’re going to get, which makes it more fun.

The Black Tapes

I started listening to this one because Paul Bae of You Suck, Sir is one of the producers. It’s been alright, but I think I’m getting close to done with it. It’s about investigations of the paranormal, a bit X-Files-y. The idea being a serialized investigation of an unsolved case each episode, but they got away from that pretty quickly. The dialogue is also a bit rough sometimes, and they go way over the top with the soundscaping for suspense and drama.

Death, Sex & Money

Another quite recent addition, but I love how you’re never sure which focus you’re going to get. The last episode I listened to was an interview with Lucinda Williams, so come on, right? Basically the idea is that they focus on those three things you’re never supposed to talk about, and then delve into them with interesting people who have plenty to say.


History, folklore, and stories woven together — one per episode. Aaron Mahnke has a bit of a Shatner thing going with how he talks, but you get used to it. The stories are true… with a hint of mystery and plenty of the unexplained. But Mahnke does a good job of weaving in myth, folklore, the supernatural, and other relevant things to give richness and context to the stories. And they never entirely wrap up tidily. Hmm…

Planet Money

A bit similar to Freakonomics… but not really. All manner of finance-related topics covered from a variety of angles. The recent episode on the anatomy of a scam was fascinating and heartbreaking. It went deep into phone scams: how they work, who they target, etc., and included actually audio from companies that’ve been busted. Great investigative work. But then there are others like the one about “delicious cake futures” that’re just hilarious. Again, you never know what you’re going to get, but always fascinating and fun.

Reply All

“A show about the Internet”. Which it is, but another one where they get into all kinds of things. Definitely one for internets geeks like myself. The most recent one I listened to was about why this couple’s house in Atlanta was ground zero for lost phone “find your phone” signals, resulting in strangers knocking at their door at all hours. Insane and so interesting. There’s also a segment called “Yes, Yes, No” where they break down some weird tidbit or meme and explain what it means and where it came from. Even if you think you’re pretty savvy, it’s an awesome leap down the rabbit hole of online culture, and surprisingly often they reveal a lot more depth than you’d expect.

Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project

Another round of serious geekery. Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage and friends just… talk about stuff. Projects they’re working on, particularly Adam’s, geeking out over… things. Things they like, things they’ve made, things other people made that they wish they had… There’s a definite maker bent and a geek pop culture bent. Like The Martian has gotten a lot of love over the past while. But they talk about everything from billiards to camping, and it goes along with the Tested show as well. For science!

Stuff Mom Never Told You

This one I’ve been listening to for years, but it previously got lumped in with the other How Stuff Works podcasts that I’ve listened to, so time to break it out. Cristen and Caroline cover all things female, gender, feminist, political, historical, pop culture, health — you name it. They dig into intimate issues and sing the praises of unknown historical heroines, and never flinch. Good stuff.

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Like the above, have been listening for years, so time to give it its due. It is an American podcast, so there’s plenty of US history on offer, but they do cover plenty of other countries, time periods, and types of history. Everything from fashion, to art, to great dynasties, to titillating scandals, to amazing characters, to disasters (both ancient and modern-ish). Also, Holly, one of the hosts, has a bit of an obsession with Queen Victoria… They’ll look at new books on various topics and have had some excellent author interviews as well.

A few more that I’ve recently come across and will be checking out…

Only Human
The Stuff of Life (Another How Stuff Works podcast by one of the hosts of Stuff to Blow Your Mind)
Note to Self


Here is a picture I did not take of a kid deciding to do some impromptu sledding by taking a running leap down the hill behind the tuck shop at the park. Lacking a sledding device was of no concern, as the front of his nylon snowsuit was sufficiently slippery to get him most of the way down the hill. And when he stopped, which was fortuitous, since there was no barrier between him and the boardwalk next to the lake, he finished off the distance by turning 90 degrees and rolling the rest of the way.

Well played, young sir.


This is a picture I did not take, looking in on Perimeter Institute on a Friday evening while walking my dog, when their Christmas party was in full swing. Bright colours, music, groups socializing, and pockets of awkward dancing downstairs, while here and there on the otherwise dark upper levels, a few offices were illuminated, and backlit physicists poked away at the great mysteries of the universe instead of rockin’ around the Christmas tree.

Peach muffins

I had some late rhubarb to use up, so found this and made the recipe. They were wonderful. But then peaches came ripe, and I wondered…

Wonder no more. These are amazing.


  • Make it with 1.5 cups of peaches cut up small, instead of rhubarb.
  • If you pour boiling water over ripe peaches, leave them submerged for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water, the skins will come right off, often in one piece. Makes them a snap to slice up.
  • Be generous with the cinnamon and vanilla.
  • I use yogurt instead of sour cream, just because it’s on hand.
  • Don’t bother with the topping. (The recipe can use it for rhubarb since it’s not real sweet, but peaches don’t need it.)
  • If you make them big with shoulders, you’ll get a dozen from this.


This is a picture I did not take while standing in a field at the dog park, the breeze redolent of honeysuckle and lifting the damp hair off my neck. And watching the local osprey casually soar past on the hunt for a meal for its chicks.

Lend me your ears, part 3

Went on a bit of a podcast-adding binge a little while ago, thanks to coming across mentions of new ones, and an article that listed oodles. Since then I’ve listened to and whittled things down a bit, so here’s the new stuff I’m enjoying.


I mentioned CANADALAND in my previous podcast post, and have been finding it really educational. COMMONS is their take on a Canadian politics podcast. Now, typically I can’t stand politics, and given my avoidance, don’t know as much as I likely should. (I tend to bone up when I need to, like when there’s an upcoming election.)

Wasn’t initially sure what to think, as this seemed to be politics for dudebros. That said, I like the schtick of having a politics podcast hosted by guys who weren’t any more into or educated in politics than I am. It means that while they have shows about what the Senate is and what it’s for, they also ask questions during interviews and stuff about terms and concepts that get thrown around a lot (e.g. what is populism? what does fiscally conservative means?) Sometimes they already know but are asking for their listeners, sometimes they don’t know.

They’re young, educated, urban guys, but balance dorking around with intelligent discussions and interviews. And they aren’t white, which gives them an additional perspective (e.g. recently with the shootings in South Carolina). They also call each other and themselves out when they screw up, like in a discussion among four people, three of them men, asking the other male interviewee instead of the female one (who’s a gender in politics scholar) about a gender in politics issue.

Episodes are short enough (half an hour-ish) that they don’t get bogged down, and I’m caught up, so with nine episodes under my belt I can say that I’ve been learning and enjoying.

Freakonomics Radio

Same schtick as the books, etc., and one I’d listened to some time ago, but then it seemed to disappear. Back now and enjoying it. Economics isn’t really my thing, either, so it’s interesting to see it approached from angles that do interest me, or have a certain “WTF?” aspect. Like recently I listened to an episode on the economics of being a sex offender (it’s a really bad idea – aside from being punished for the crime, you’re going to be punished socially and financially pretty much forever). That ended up being even more interesting and timely with a recent article I read on the families, etc. of sex offenders and their experiences.

Not all episodes venture into such uncomfortable territory, but if you love peeking at the world in different ways, it’s a great way to get the brain grinding away.

All the Books

I love and hate this podcast. Love because it’s about books and recommendations and the hosts are adorable. Hate because it’s expanding my “to read” list faster than I can ever keep up. This is a fairly recent addition to Book Riot’s shows; they’re eight episodes in, and each week they list their favourites among that week’s new releases (hardcover, paperback, etc.) From time to time they do a broader episode, like for the end of June they did an episode on their favourites of 2015 so far.

I’ve read a couple of the books recommended so far, and while they’re not always 100% my thing, they’ve all been really good, and I appreciate the mental expansion. They also get a nice variety of men, women, authors of colour, stories for kids or YA, fiction, biography, etc., so there is something for everyone.


I’ve already gotten my friend Dave hooked on this one after sending him their cocktails episode. This one’s also fairly new, and is all about food through the lens of science and history. Everything from how temperature affects the taste of your drink to commercial snail farming.

There’s some cute “friction” between the hosts sometimes, as Nicola is British by birth, and so has very across-the-pond opinions on many things related to cuisine, manners, etc. Whereas Cynthia is American and Jewish and her east coast experiences reflect that, too. The ladies are both writers and journalists and have gone on some amazing adventures. And hey, what better way to learn all about a gazillion varieties of potato than to go to Peru and attend a festival for them.

Really interesting, will make you want to eat everything, and will give you endless cocktail party factoids.


This one’s about unseen factors that shape our world, though that sounds pretty vague, and if you just start listening to episodes things can seem kind of random. Also, apparently people think that the hosts, Lulu and Alix, sound the same, but I don’t find that to be the case. 🙂

The episodes can be on huge topics, like how humans’ tendencies to assign (or chafe against) categorization shapes our world, or how our expectations of “disability” may be off base. I really like the combination of stories and anecdotes focused on the topics, but also how they blend that with science and studies and all that other rigorous stuff.

These are longer shows, and I don’t need to binge listen to them, but they’re great for being out on a long walk with the dog and whatnot.

Mystery Show

Dave got me hooked on this one, which is just so quirky and charming. The premise is that the host and chief investigator takes on a mystery for each episode. Something that’s been bothering someone for some time (could be weeks, could be decades), and solves it. That could mean finding out something, returning something to its owner, etc. It can’t just be something solvable by using the Internet, as we’re so prone to doing these days.

It’s also fairly new, but has been a lot of fun so far. One of the earliest episodes I listened to was about returning a unique belt buckle to a chef. Turned out to be an amazing chase and surprisingly poignant. Most recently it was the quest to find out how tall Jake Gyllenhaal is. (Slight spoiler: the man is really fun, a great sport, and utterly charming.)

Certainly unique, and really gets you pondering unknown or unsolved things in your own life and how one would go about solving them.

White Coat, Black Art

This is a CBC offering featuring a guy who’s a Toronto ER physician. It’s not specifically about his adventures, though, but more broadly about medicine and healthcare, in Canada and comparatively around the world, and how that ties into history, politics, and our society. In a country where we have a huge Baby Boomer cohort getting ever older, and the challenges that brings, there’s a lot to talk about. He also has some fantastic and intriguing guests, and some fascinating glimpses into how healthcare gets handled elsewhere (like the US and Europe), for better or worse.


This is a picture I did not take while Sherry and I were on our way to a Hip concert. Stopped at a light, I noticed loud music after a moment, unexpected music: the Hallelujah chorus from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Blasting out the open windows of the big, red 4×4 pickup truck in front of us, while the driver rocked out/hand-conducted out the driver’s side window.