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.

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

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.

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.

Close the bathroom door

This past week having brought us Valentine’s Day, of course the digital landscape was awash in content about relationships and sex and being more successful at both of those and whatnot. This was one of them.

As I read it, I got a little twitchy, as I am still wont to do, recalling the trials and tribulations of a long-distance relationship even this many years later. The Internet was getting mainstream then, but it was primitive. We mostly communicated online via telnet programs and email. Not too many people had cell phones yet, and those phones didn’t have cameras, apps, or any of the other key features that enable you to be connected 24/7. Hell, we wrote letters to each other.

But what I found really interesting about that article is that it’s a lot more broadly relevant than just for long-distance romantic pairings. I don’t know how many times it’s happened at this point where I’ve run into someone, or have intentionally met up, and they’ll inquire about something that we’ve never talked about before. Now, I freely admit to my senility, so my reply is often, “Did I tell you about that?” And as often as not the reply will be that they saw me mention it on Twitter or Facebook. Right.
Continue reading “Close the bathroom door”

Lend me your ears

Back in July of 2010, I did a post about podcasts I was enjoying. I was much newer to them then, having forsaken the radio for content that was actually new, original, and – gasp – educational. Well, it’s been a few more years, and my podcast listening has grown and expanded, so time to share a few more that I enjoy.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Andrew turned me on to this one, which comes to us from the BBC. If you’ve ever watched a show like Britain’s Secret Treasures, this is quite similar, and one of the objects featured so far is one that was also on the show.

Each podcast they feature an item from world history and talk about what it is, when and where it came from, what it was for, and other socio-cultural contexts, often with interviews with really interesting folks. There’s already been some Attenborough. 🙂

Answer Me This!

Two British people get questions in from all over the world, though mostly from other British people, about anything and everything, and then they endeavour to answer them. Some of them relate to trivia, some actually require a bit of research about origins and such, and some of them are filthy and funny. Cuz, y’know, it’s the internets. Olly really, really loves his cat, Coco, and Helen hates cats.

How Stuff Works

These were some of the first podcasts I started listening to, and now that I’ve long since caught up on the backlog, still enjoying a few of them, specifically Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Stuff Mom Never Told You, BrainStuff, TechStuff, and Stuff to Blow Your Mind. There are also some video ones that I catch up on while painting, doing dishes, etc.: Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know, Stuff of Genius, Stuff From the Future.

They cover pretty much anything and everything, and there’s enough of them that if the topic isn’t of interest, just skip forward.


Another Discovery one, technically. (Discovery bought How Stuff Works a while back.) The two hosts from TechStuff and another guy. Longer format, and topics cover a potentially broader range – e.g. science that’s not necessarily tech, as well as social implications and things like that.

The Memory Palace

Part of the Maximum Fun network now, though publishing is a bit inconsistent. Interesting little vignettes from history. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, often presented from a really unique and brain-twisting angle.

Savage Lovecast

Dan Savage’s advice show wherein people call in and leave questions, comments, rants, etc. It’s human sexuality-centric, though there are cultural aspects as well, particularly those relating to non-vanilla, monogamous, heterosexual relationships and interactions.

I don’t listen to this one regularly, but will binge listen for a week or two until I’m tired of the weird problems of the young/old/gay/straight/bi/trans/kinky/etc. I don’t always agree with Savage’s perspectives or advice, but I learn a fair bit, too, which is even better than just being entertained.


Another one from Maximum Fun, and fairly new. Justin, the husband co-host, is also one of the three brothers on My Brother, My Brother, and Me. I tried listening to that one but wanted to punch all of them after about five minutes, so I don’t listen to it anymore.

In this one, Justin plays the dumb everyman to his wife, Sydnee, who is a doctor. They (mostly she) present a medical condition, phenomenon, etc. and discuss how it was perceived and treated throughout history. As you can imagine, many of them are rather horrifying from a modern perspective, but can also be kinda funny, hence the tagline, “A marital tour of misguided medicine”. Everything from headaches to fertility issues shows up, and if you’re the kind of person who makes it a point of visiting 19th century surgical museums while on vacation (yup), you’ll dig this.

Welcome to Night Vale

This is weird. That cannot be overstated. Ostensibly it’s a community updates radio broadcast from a desert town in the US. Except there are angels and aliens and wild dogs and homicidal wheat and wheat byproducts. There’s not just a local constabulary, but a Sheriff’s Secret Police. There’s a long and expensive boardwalk, except there is no water anywhere near the town.

There’s an eccentric old woman and a dreamy scientist, and random shadowy characters who come and go. Occasionally people get vaporized. Or there’s a bake sale. Anything could happen. Like I said, weird. But with fun music and compelling overall.

The Moth

The Moth is a series of storytelling events that go on around the US, and are semi-professional. A lot of the speakers present more than once, there are awards and a championship and such. A lot of the speakers are also professional writers and the like, and I gather you call a hot line to pitch your story idea, and they work with you to polish it up and get it ready for prime time.

The podcast is a distillation of these stories (which are also played on the radio in the US, I gather), and rarely disappoint. In fact there’ve been a couple of times when I probably shouldn’t have been driving while listening, they’re that engrossing. There’s a book, too, of hand-picked stories, which I will be reading soon. Highly recommended.

This American Life

Probably the most well-known of any of these. I believe it remains the number one podcast in the US. I am not a fan of the host, Ira Glass’, voice, but you get used to it. It’s a bit like The Moth, in that it contains in-depth stories about lives often very unlike your own. But it’s also journalism, too, to get these stories, with a fair bit more socio-political commentary, whether it’s about a Chicago school with a lot of gun deaths, or just how dangerous acetaminophen is.

The topics cover an amazing wide range, and some shows are a lot more heart- or gut-wrenching than others, which is cool. The amount of work that must go into making these shows is staggering.

Quirks and Quarks

From the CBC, podcast version of the radio show. All manner of science, and plenty of dinosaurs – everyone likes dinosaurs! I’ve also noticed that there tends to be a lot of women among the scientists they interview, which I appreciate.

Freakonomics Radio

Same folks who wrote the books and whatnot, and similarly themed topics. Pick some aspect of society, dig into it, go “hmm”. Not consistently produced, and haven’t seen one in a while, but there’s a considerable backlog.

Ontario Brewer

A great way to get to know the breweries and beers of Ontario, and the people who make them. (Craft brewing folks tend to be a lot of fun.) I find Mirella Amato, the host, to be fairly pretentious, but it’s not really about her. I also tend to only listen to every other podcast. They do two per brewer, first picking a couple of their beers and talking about them, as well as the brewery history and whatnot. Then in the second one they pair the beers with cheese, chocolate, etc. A podcast about people talking about tasting things strikes me as a bit dumb.

99% Invisible

My newest pickup, recommended by two very different friends, which is a good sign. It’s about design in the world, architectural and otherwise. (A project of the American Institute of Architects, among others.) It looks at things you may never have seen, and things you look at every day. Mars could be talking about a specific iconic building, or about a guy who is trying to draw All the Buildings in New York. A good way of shifting your perspective a bit.

The Nerdist

I find Chris Hardwick a little annoying sometimes, and things can get pretty in-joke-y when Matt and/or Jonah are there. However, they also interview really cool people, so those are fun. I don’t listen to all of them, and skip the ones where it’s only Chris and co. talking, or when the guest is someone I don’t know or care about. Plenty of great geek culture, though.

StarTalk Radio

Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s space-y show/podcast. Have to admit I haven’t listened to this one in a while. He gets some really cool guests, but the musical bits are so annoying. Includes both Tyson talking science, and discussing with the guests. The cool part is that they’re not all boffins. Could be Dan Aykroyd or Tony Bourdain or Joe Rogan.

So there’s my current line-up. As a bonus, here are two video series of which I’m also a big fan.

Crash Course World History

John Green delivers the history of the world in 10-ish minute chunks. He explains the what, where, when, etc., as well as how those things affect the world now. He also has mad love for the Mongols, which never stops being funny. Aside from learning a more inclusive, less west’n’white version of history, you’ll also get fun tidbits, like how the Silk Road (which wasn’t just one route) helped bring the plague (Black Death, anyone) to Europe from Asia.

Thug Notes

Big props to Dave for turning me on to this one. Sparky Sweets, PhD, delivers book/play summaries and analysis on classic works of literature, from Austen to Shakespeare, in 5-ish minute increments, accompanied by entertaining animations and charmingly colloquial language. Seriously, just go watch one to understand. Frankly, his summaries and analysis are better than a lot of the formal education in lit that I’ve received. And way funnier.

Maybe there will be pineapples…

I’ve been online nearly 20 years, and internet culture being what it is, I’ve seen a lot of cats. And yet, only one has stuck with me for years. Not pictures or video, but a blog with fairly creative “spelling”, belonging to a cat named Abbie.

I no longer remember how or by whom I was introduced to the blog, and Abbie never posted all that often, but it always made my day when he did (with a bit of help from his owner, Rob). Abbie was a cat with poor spelling and grammar before those lolcat types made it mainstream. And Abbie was far more philosophical, insightful, and dry of wit. (While still maintaining a healthy appreciation of naps and seafood.)

Abbie has also provided two important phrases. Abbie’s sister Martha was a pirate, and she died several years ago. (Warning: tear-jerker.) From that post came the phrase “good pirate”, which is a very high compliment to pay someone, and all that need be said if someone is worthy of being a friend.

The other is “Maybe there will be pineapples”, from this post. Not sure why that struck me so much, but it seems to nicely sum up the potential in the unknown, and how adventures can be found in so many places. That one may end up as a tattoo one day.

Abbie survived much of cat life, including getting sick, losing his companion, and even being lost for a couple of weeks. His posts were funny and poignant, and of great credit to Rob.

Abbie died this week at 16 of pancreatic cancer. A decent run for a cat, but as any pet owner can tell you, far too soon. I cried unabashedly reading this, which was okay — I knew a number of my friends were doing the same. Funny how the internets can do that to do, leave you so invested in a pet you’ve never met, and a guy who shares many wonders of life through a semi-literate feline de plume.

With any luck Abbie and Martha are sailing the seven seas, with all the tuna they can eat and clean laundry they can recline on. And maybe there will be pineapples.

what do you think of That

Don’t talk to strangers

In an odd coincidence, given my post about cell phone contents from yesterday, and my general boggling at the volume of content that “kids these days” produce, I got a first-hand look at how that happens last night. (Update: Amusingly, I just found this, too.)

From time to time people misuse two of my email addresses. I don’t think a lot of people understand that Gmail doesn’t recognize certain spacers, so sock.monkey@ goes to sockmonkey@. Also, people forget numbers and things, so what should have been sockmonkey2000@ ends up going to sockmonkey@. You get the idea. Well, sockmonkey@ is me, and fairly regularly I get signed up for online kids’ games and social networks, emails from teachers, emails from grandmas, and all manner of other stuff. I also get mobile-centric, like iMessages and people trying to FaceTime with me.

Most of the time it’s just mildly annoying. When I can, I get my address removed from accounts, or login and do it myself. I let teachers and grandmas know they have the wrong address, and I refuse FaceTime requests and ignore texts until the people clue in. Sometimes it’s worrisome, as teachers have sent me pictures of people’s kids, and pre-teens have tried to have texting conversations with me.

There’ve also been messages that I’m not entirely sure were actually from kids. It’s a tactic predators can use to crack open the door, so to speak. And some “kids” have said some rather odd and aggressive things. Blech.

So last evening when I was in class at krav, I got some texts. Good thing my ringer was turned off, because when I left and got out to my car, I discovered I had 135 texts — within less than an hour and a half. Needless to say I was a bit surprised. (I might get that many texts in six months, usually.)

Turns out a girl who’d been accidentally texting me for a few days (but who I thought had clued in and stopped), added me to a group chat with 13 other kids. And they were talking. A lot. Actually no, they weren’t. Most of the messages were emoji. A surprising number were from kids added to the chat, pretty annoyed, demanding to be left alone.

Note that all of these kids were added to the list by email address or phone number, and I could see all of them. And I’m pretty sure these kids weren’t even in high school yet. (I googled the girl who’d added me to the group a few days ago, and it was scary how much I could find and how easily.)

Things were reasonably quiet overnight, and I figured I’d just ignore it as I usually do, and it would go away. Except then they started up at 7am. I was not impressed. So I told them that they had the wrong email address and to stop texting me. I also pointed out that they’d sent all of their contact information to a total stranger.

Instead of taking that seriously, I got a bunch of replies like, “I’m not a stranger, I’m _____!” Yep, I had their emails and phone numbers, and now they were telling me their names.

Then the girl who added me to the group said, “That’s not a stranger, that’s my friend Gabs!” I replied that no, I was not “Gabs”, sockmonkey@ was not her email address, and that she should really be more careful. That apparently got through to her.

I got a flurry of, “OMG sorry!!!” and was asked to delete the messages. I replied that I had been deleting the messages for a week, and to remove me from the list. (Yeah, because deleting a message will fix everything.) Finally, the messages stopped. I kinda hope they were a tad freaked out when they got to school that day.

All told, over 200 messages in ~12 hours, and they weren’t even saying anything. And I would love to have a chat with their parents…

A Calendar of Tales

One of the initiatives for the BlackBerry 10 launch (I started working there in May, as you’ll recall) was bringing on board three celebrity ambassadors to do various things with their crafts, involving a Z10 phone. While I am interested to see what Alicia Keys and Robert Rodriguez do, they are not my primary interest. However, my love of Neil Gaiman and his works is well known.

That love increased exponentially when he announced his project, A Calendar of Tales. He asked 12 questions on Twitter, one relating to each month of the year, and then wrote stories based on 12 selected tweeted responses. Alas, none of my responses were selected, but he did retweet my January response, which pretty much gave me an all-day nerdgasm.

That was part one, and the stories were published yesterday. Download the PDF for your reading pleasure.

The next part is art. Those who’ve been participating via Twitter, or anyone who reads the Tales, really, is invited to make art relating to one or some or all of the stories. Medium is up to you. Then 12 pieces — one per month — will be selected, and A Thing will be made. A calendar, a book… something.

Can’t wait. 🙂 Gotta say, this has been cool enough and community-creating enough to suspend my cynicism about (anyone’s) corporate marketing… for a bit.