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.

Lend me your ears, part 2

Podcast rolls ebb and flow and change. Sometimes you listen to a series, then it’s over, like A History of the World in 100 Objects. Or you listen to the first set/season, then it’ll be a while until the next one, like Serial. So here’s some stuff I’ve been listening to since the last post.


News, media, and criticism about Canada. Jesse Brown is the guy who broke the Ghomeshi scandal (the most common way new folks would know him now). It’s opened my eyes to how little I know about what’s going on, news-wise, in the country, and who’s making the news (and what their agendas are).

Caustic Soda

I did a full binge listen of this one of the entire archive. It took a while, but it’s a lot of fun. Big time geeky, lots of science, lots of grossness, sometimes really interesting guests. Plus the Muppet Show cover theme song for when they have guests always makes me grin.


Of course. It became a phenomenon this fall, and it was everywhere, so I checked it out. A dozen episodes delving into a 15-year-old murder for which they may or may not have convicted the wrong guy. They crowdfunded their way into a second season, but no word yet on what the topic will be.


In keeping with the true crime vein, stories recounting actual crimes with interesting details, weird twists, or lingering mysteries.

The Truth

Short radio plays/vignettes that are odd, affecting, and strangely engaging. It’s really hard to describe, but hooks you quickly.


This is a picture I did not take of a woman wearing a parka, pink pyjama pants, and slippers, sitting on a dining room chair with her feet up, and sipping coffee in zero-degree weather on the balcony of her new condo.