Tag Archives: podcast

Two Degrees: Cities, Architecture and Our Changing Environments

Source: Two Degrees: Cities, Architecture and Our Changing Environments | Commonwealth Club

There were a few things in this podcast that struck me. The first was the summary of the thesis of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Societies collapse because one of the 3 following things happen:

  • They don’t think there is a problem
  • They think there is a problem, but think it’s someone else’s to solve
  • They think there is a problem, know it’s theirs to solve, but take ineffective action

This describes how lots of things fail, not just civilizations. I’ve seen so many software projects fail on premise #1 and #2. It seems simple, but as a framing it’s pretty good at classifying where things are stuck.

Efficiency is not sufficient

A lot of the talk was about how we’re going to need to change the built world. We hear a lot of talk about efficiency, which is good, but not sufficient. When it comes to the efficiency of cities, dense infill near transit hubs ends up far surpassing any retrofitting of buildings. Building cities around the idea of decreased car miles is super critical.

Will pipelines carry Hydrogen in the future?

One thing I did not realize is that a lot of our city level infrastructure for the methane/natural gas network existed before natural gas was widely used. It used to carry Coal gas, which is a mix of a lot of things, but notably 70% hydrogen. This means that the city level infrastructure could be reused to supply hydrogen gas in a future where we don’t want to be burning methane. 

There was lots more in the episode, and I’ll have to listen to it a second time because it was so informative. Not everything fits in my brain going over it only once. You can listen to the whole episode on the Commonwealth Club site.

Podcast Roundup 2016

As we round up 2016, I figured it’s useful to share what’s in my podcast rotation, and why you might want to add them to yours.

Skeptics Guide to the Universe

This is a weekly science and critical thinking podcast that’s really good at keeping you up on the latest science coming out, as well as building your critical thinking skills. You both get information on latest scientific discoveries, deconstruction of sometimes very poor science reporting, and a weekly Science or Fiction quiz that both is lots of fun, and helps figure out where all your odd biases are.

No particular episode jumps out for the year, this is more about getting a steady diet of facts, critical thinking, and reality every week.

More information: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/

99 Percent Invisible

A weekly podcast about the Built World (architecture and design). I find incredibly useful to understand how the world is shaped (literally). The subject matter goes all over the place, and the production quality is amazing. Who knew that in 1970s Chili there was a cyber command center to help govern the country? Now you do – http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/project-cybersyn/.

More information: http://99percentinvisible.org/

The Long Now

The Long Now foundation is based on the idea that we are in the middle of the arc of Human History, so with 10,000 years behind us, we’ve got another 10,000 years in our run. What kind of thinking, values, and information do we need to promote for the next 10,000 years. Part of this is a monthly lecture series which you can get as a podcast (you can get video if you are a member).

In 2016 the 2 episodes I learned the most from were:

Radical Ag: C4 Rice and Beyond – http://longnow.org/seminars/02016/mar/14/radical-ag-c4-rice-and-beyond/ – which has an incredible primer on the state of food production in the world, and what is needed to feed the planet in 2050. I also learned a ton about how plants actually make sugars, as the team described the grand goal of upgrading Rice’s sugar production to meet world demand.

1177 BC: When Civilization Collapsed – http://longnow.org/seminars/02016/jan/11/1177-bc-when-civilization-collapsed/. Which was part of a book tour about a time in history where we had a very global world, and it collapsed rather quickly. It’s a part of history I knew little about, and also helps remember how long the arc of human history really is.

More information: http://longnow.org/

The Common Wealth Club of California

The common wealth club is now producing over 300 events a year, much of it gets dumped into the podcast. It’s useful in being such a wide spectrum of things ending up in it. Lots of people on book tours, but also there is the Inforum and Climate One programs that specifically look at technology issues and climate issues. Because of the volume I freely skip past things that don’t turn out to be interesting, but I’ve also gotten surprised by some things I didn’t think I would.

The panel discussion on sustainability in the fashion industry was one of those – https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/2016-05-17/you-are-what-you-wear-fashion-matters.

More information: https://www.commonwealthclub.org/

The Allusionist

A quirky podcast about language and the origin of words. It only runs every other week, but it’s always a fun dose of something different.

More information: http://www.theallusionist.org/

Imaginary Worlds

A podcast about scifi and fantasy worlds, and why we create them. In 2016 there were some great bits on the economics in fanstasy and scifi universes, how do you pay for that invasion? An exploration of the year without summer in 1816, which gave us Frankenstein. And a look at the role of maps in Fantasy epics.

More information: http://www.imaginaryworldspodcast.org/home.html

Radio Lab

Always a favorite, though you have to get used to their editing style. In 2016 Radio Lab also did a spin off about the Supreme Court called More Perfect – http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolabmoreperfect.

The story that stuck with me the most in 2016 was Debatable – http://www.radiolab.org/story/debatable/ – it’s about Debate Club, but it’s meta enough that you just have to listen to understand.

More information: http://www.radiolab.org/


There are a few more that come and go, but this was really the most notable during the year. If you are looking for more quality content, anything from the list above will fit that bill.

BBC – the Elements

BBC the Elements

A close look at chemical elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. Where do we get them, what do we use them for and how do they fit into the economy?

via BBC – Podcasts and Downloads – Elements.

BBC is running this very cool audio series that dedicates 40 minutes each to every element in the periodic table, specifically looking at how it fits into our economy. They are doing one element a week and started last November, so are about 1/2 way through the periodic table now.

So far all the episodes I’ve managed to randomly catch on WAMC have been great. But if you want the complete set, they’ve got it loaded up as a podcast as well. Definitely worth your time.

Massively collaborative synthetic biology

I recently started listening to podcasts by the Long Now Foundation, which is their monthly recorded lecture series. They’ve all been really good. However, this month’s talk on Massively collaborative synthetic biology by Drew Endy was beyond really good. This is one of the best things I’ve listened to all year.

The talk gives you a primer on the current state of bioengineering, through lens of the iGEM program, which works with high school and college students participating in annual competitions to build reusable bio bricks. This program was born 10 years ago as a winter session class at MIT. Incoming students had the expectation that they would be taught about bioengineering, especially how to create organisms… except, no one had really figured that out yet. So instead the faculty framed this as a “let’s learn together” exercise. And it grew from there.

During one of the iGEM summers they were working on changing the smells of e coli. Part of this exploration involved going to a local cheese shop and picking some of the smelliest cheeses to tinker with the options they had in front of them. In the process the students asked and interesting question though: most of these cheeses are small batch artisanal. As such, these are made by humans by hand. The human biome is massively diverse in bacteria. Could it be that the cheese maker is more than craftsman, but also mother to the cheese? The bacteria of the cheese maker herself being an important part of the final product.

There is also an interesting wander through the ethics of the field. Right now the conversation (via news reporting and entertainment) around genetic modification is starkly black and white. It’s doom or it’s salvation. It’s definitely neither. But until we get out of a black and white world, we can’t actually have the useful and productive conversation about the space.

Drew also lays out this vision of retooling our mater supply chain to be one that’s biology based instead of petroleum based. Making stuff today largely requires fossil fuels. Not just for feed stock, but for the energy of the whole transformation process. But in a bioengineering future we could transform our making of stuff to be the growing of stuff. Going straight from the raw source of energy on this planet (the Sun) into the manufacturing process. To me, this is a really compelling future.

Honestly, these snippets just touch the surface. Do yourself a favor and have a listen to the talk. You won’t regret it.


Interesting Listening

The Commonwealth Club of California has become one of my new favorite sources of audio, with some really great speakers over the last month.  Here are my favorites, all are worth listening to.

Investigating Cults

David Sullivan, Professional Cult Investigator

Learn about cults from a man who’s seen them from the inside. Professional investigator Sullivan describes the process of identifying and investigating cults, providing an overview of how cults recruit, convert and maintain control of their members through a variety of psychologically coercive techniques. A licensed private investigator for more than 19 years, Sullivan has worked in collaboration with leading authorities in the area of undue influence.

MP3 Audio Here.

Richard Dreyfuss

Academy Award-Winning Actor; Founder, The Dreyfuss Initiative

Recognized for his roles in Jaws, American Graffiti, and Mr. Holland’s Opus, Richard Dreyfuss has issued a call to action in our classrooms. Dreyfuss believes civic education is the foundation of public education; yet over the years, it has become more about memorizing facts and dates than understanding context and history. By incorporating logic, history, and critical thinking with a national standard, Dreyfuss hopes to inspire a new way of teaching and preparing America’s youth. Learn more about his bold national initiative to enhance civic education in today’s classrooms.

MP3 Audio Here.

Tony Hsieh

Author, Delivering Happiness; CEO, Zappos

In conversation with Geoffrey Fowler, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Meet the man who built a business based on happiness. Hsieh co-founded LinkExchange and sold it to Microsoft for $265M in 1998. He then took Zappos from $1.6M in 2000 to more than $1 billion in 2008. Contrary to the take-no-prisoners persona one might presume would be required to rake in such revenues, Hsieh has made his mark by focusing his business model, ironically enough, on happiness. Hsieh now brings you his secret recipe for Zappos success. How does a company go from $1.6M to more than a billion dollars on happiness? And how did Hsieh make Zappos one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”?

MP3 Audio Here.

David Boies: Challenging Law and Making History

Attorney; Chairman, Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP

Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, Stanford University; Co-director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Stanford University – Moderator

Challenging Law and Making History: Overturning CA’s Prop 8 Gay Marriage Ban.

Boies has been deeply involved in some of the most prominent legal disputes of the past two decades. From serving as special counsel to the Justice Department in the United States v. Microsoft trial to representing Vice President Al Gore in the Bush v. Gore case following the 2000 presidential election, Boies’ legal experience is extensive and varied.

Together, Boies and former Solicitor General Theodore Olson have successfully overturned California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. The judge’s ruling on the case happened just one day before this program was recorded. In a recent interview with Salon.com, Boies asserted that overturning this legislation will “improve the lives of gay and lesbian couples…it will not in any way harm heterosexual marriage.” In 2010, Boies was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. Boies provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Prop. 8 case, and provide insight into what it takes to challenge the status quo and make legal history.

MP3 Audio Here.

I’m also sticking these all over in Sean Cast as well, for anyone that wants to add to their normal podcast listening.

Maker Culture on Commonwealth Club

There is a great piece up on the Common Wealth Club’s podcast feed on How to DIY (no page yet, so the link is directly to the mp3). It’s hosted by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, and has the editors of Make Magazine on it. A big part of their inspiration was Popular Science and Popular Mechanics from the 1920s and 1930s, when those magazines were largely about making your own stuff in many different contexts.

It also let me find out that the World Maker Faire is coming to NYC in September, which I’ll need to check out. There is also one in Detroit at the end of July, which I consider an inspired choice.

Sean Cast

Last week I started using Read It Later again, which I really like.  It occurred to me what I also really wanted was a Listen to it Later, which would automatically get things onto my Android phone so that it would come up in rotation in my driving around.  It was on that list of things I’d get around to eventually, until I came across a 1.5 hour Douglas Adams talk that I had to listen to.

The net result is Sean Cast, another wordpress instance where I’ll be posting audio I want to listen to later that isn’t in one of my regular podcast feeds.  You might want to listen as well, in which case you are welcome to subscribe to the podcast, or just look at the site from time to time.  No promises other than it’s stuff that is interesting to me.

What I’m listening to

After I got my HTC Hero and purchased DoggCatcher, I’ve now got this entirely seemless podcast experience as my phone grabs the newest stuff any time I’m on wireless.  It caused me to do some trimming and tuning on what is being pulled down as I work towards having approximately the same number of hours of podcasts a week as I’ve got car rides and yard work.  For those interested, here is what I’m listening to now.

  • Drunk and Retired.  I honestly can’t even remember how I originally found this podcast, it must have been through something ruby related at one point.  This is Michael Cote’s original podcast with Charles.  They talk about random tech topics, zombie topics, now some fatherhood topics, but it’s all around interesting, and lots of fun to listen to.  Charles has some really great insights on development, and I’ve loved listening to his various journeys through ruby, java, and javascript.  I enjoyed D&R enough that I went back to the beginning and listened to the entire backlog.  I even really enjoyed the 4 hour scotch tasting episode… and yes, your read that right.
  • IT Management Podcast.  Once Cote got hired by Redmonk, he started producing more podcasts covering a range of subjects Redmonk was doing analysis on.  I tried most of them, but IT Management Podcast is the only one that stuck.  John Willis has a real wealth of knowledge in the industry, and very recently got hired by Canonical on cloud strategy.  The podcast is honestly more cloud than “good old fashion IT management”, as the boys would say, but that suits me just fine.  If you are looking for a good source on what’s new in cloud computing, this is one of the best out there.
  • AstronomyCast.  Once I got my telescope this was suggested to me by a friend of mine.  AstronomyCast is incredible, just flat out incredible.  Each of the 162 30 minute episodes to date takes on a specific topic in Astronomy and gives it a really wonderful treatment.  The back and forth being Pamela and Frasier is really fun to listen to, and the do a great job of making the information very accessible.  Honestly, anyone above the age of 12 could probably get into this quite easily.  After listening to the entire AstronomyCast back catalog I feel like my knowledge of Astronomy is now at quite a reasonable level.  This podcast also has the added benefit of being very wife friendly.  It is one of the few science or technology podcasts that Susan is eager to listen to when we are doing a long drive in the car.
  • Slacker Astronomy.  Before I found AstronomyCast I found Slacker Astronomy.  The slackers publish far less often then AstronomyCast, and it is a more free form model.  To get into Slacker Astronomy you need to know a few more things about physics and astronomy out of the gate, as there is less explanation there.  I appreciate that though, and am always psyched when I find out there has been another slacker podcast posted.
  • 365 Days of Astronomy.  In case you didn’t realize, this is the International Year of Astronomy.  This podcast was an interesting experiment to get volunteers from all over the world to put together 10 minute podcasts and have a new one every day.  They aren’t all great, but there are a lot of great ones in there.  And the breadth of volunteers and subjects is quite nice.  Even if you aren’t into astronomy, check out this one epsiode on Roswell that really debunks a lot of the story and timelines associated with that myth.
  • Geologic Podcast.  The theme song in front of the 365 days of Astronomy was done by George Hrab, and eventually I decided to check out his podcast.  It’s not about geology.  George is a musician, a skeptic, and all around great story teller.  He also has a sense of production values for this podcast that rival some of the greatest radio being done today.  The Geologic podcast airs once a week, and the moment I get my new episode I jump from whatever I’m listening to and flip over to it.  The last time Nick and Heather were around I put in on in the car, and it happened to be the episode that starts with worst gig ever.  I’m not really sure how we managed to stay on the road as we were laughing so hard during that story.
  • Radio Lab.  Radio Lab is This American Life meets science reporting.  It tells some really compelling stories that all have some element of science in them along the way.  I’m also really happy that it gives Robert Krulwich an outlet again, as I’ve always really appreciated him as a popular story teller.  I find him far more compelling that Brian Green or Neil deGrasse Tyson as a popular voice for science.  I do realize that he doesn’t have the same credentials, but his ability to do outreach is far greater.  Radio Lab is a WNYC production that is done somewhere irregularly, but great none the less.
  • This American Life.  It is probably hands down the best radio being produced today.  A bad This American Life episode is still quite good.  A good one… will make you weep, laugh out loud, and totally rethink some opinion you’ve held, all in the same hour.  I’m really happy that the folks at This American Life let the podcast out there, because many other shows of that quality on NPR have not.
  • Planet Money.  Spawned out of the great This American Life reporting on the financial crisis last year, Planet Money was an attempt to bring a 3 times a week podcast out there that tried to explain economics for mere mortals.  Planet Money was strong out of the gate, but had some issues finding a voice after 4 months of the financial crisis.  Fortunately, they eventually did, and really broadened their approaches to exploring economics as applied to many fields.  The many episodes they’ve done over the last 4 months on the economics of health care in the US have been incredible, and really informative, and often surprising when you start to understand the complexities in the current health care system.  It also gives you a much more nuanced understanding to what a “free market” means, because every market is just actors inside of constraints.  Economics is really about understanding how those constraints (be they incentives, regulations, taboos) change how the actors interact.  The Pirates Have Timesheets episode gives you a really nice example of that.
  • Wait wait don’t tell me.  This is the NPR news quiz show.  It’s sort of daily show light and airs weekly.  I get it as a podcast mostly because 11am on Saturday is a dubious time for me to be near a radio.  If we’re working around the house, I typically listen to it live, if not, it’s podcasted for me to enjoy it later.
  • The Media Project.  While On the Media is probably the more popular national show on this subject, I really like the take our local public radio station does with this.  Sometimes I’ll catch the Sunday rebroadcast live, if not, it’s on the player and I listen to it that way.
  • This Week in Science.  This was a suggestion in DoggCatcher, and the first episode I listened to seemed quite good.  I think this one is sticking around.

Things I used to listen to but gave up on for one reason or another

  • LUG Radio.  This show was great, but it ended.  Damn you!
  • Linux Outlaws.  While it’s still probably the best Linux show out there, it’s far too dry for me.  I know a lot of folks that like this more than LUG Radio because it’s PG language instead of a hard R, but I don’t mind vulgarity at a certain level in my podcasts.
  • Security Now.  I really felt like the information density was too low in this.  While I do like Leo… the other guy got on my nerves from time to time.  I know lots of folks that like this podcast, I’m just not one of them.  Perhaps if you were more of a Microsoft user it would be more relevant.
  • Floss Weekly.  I was pretty frustrated by the treatment of Justin on the OpenSim episode.  I just don’t think it’s right to put someone into apology mode on an interview show about the platform their project is written in, especially a show that gives smalltalk a pass.
  • TWiT.  John Dvorak is always wrong.  I’m now convinced that is an axiom of the universe.
  • Google Developer Podcast.  This had similar issues to a lot of the Google developer bits on youtube.  Informative but bland and too much reading scripts.
  • The Gaurdian’s Tech Weekly Podcast.  This had exactly the opposite issue, it was too over produced.  You could hear them watching time codes the entire episodes.  One of the beauties of podcast medium is that if it’s 28 minutes or 34 minutes, it doesn’t matter.  You don’t need to rush something, or cut it off, to fit into a standard time block.  They seem to have missed this memo.
  • Some Ruby Podcast.  Honestly, I don’t even remember which one it was, but it had the same issue as Linux Outlaws.  High on dry facts, low on interesting stories or banter.  You really need to be a multi level black belt at podcasting before you are allowed near a sound effects board, and these guys broke that rule.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some along the way, and I’m sure my listen list will be a bit different in a year, it always is.  I’ll actually be interested in revisiting this post in a year and see what’s changed.  Perhaps this might help you discover some new things to listen to.  If so, or if you have other suggestions for your favorite podcasts, or this inspires your own write up of what you are listening to, I’d love to get a comment from you.

P.S.  Hope all you Americans out there have a happy Turkey Day tomorrow.  Turkey and Cranberries are about the best things in the world as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

Updated (11/28/2009) to be more specific on my criticism of FLOSS weekly, as Randal correctly called me out for having just a vague slap down.