Weekly picks March 15-21

I read a lot and I listen to a lot of podcasts. Here’s an annotated selection of what has caught my attention lately:


RadioLab – La Mancha Screwjob

One of my favourite podcasts, Radiolab manages sometimes to draw connections between things that you would think are utterly unrelated to each other. This episode connects the world of pro wrestling (which I have always thought of as soap opera for the hyper-masculinized) and Don Quixote by Cervantes (the tilting-at-windmills adventure which has always fascinated me).

Turns out (and it’s obvious when you think about it) they’re both meta-narratives, where the spectator is drawn into the story with a nudge and a wink, where to question the authenticity and veracity of the story is to ruin the experience. The question isn’t “Is this for real?” The question is “How can I, as an observer, fully engage in this wonderful, crazy journey?”

Caustic Soda – Turtles

I’m giving away my unorthodox sense of humour by outing myself as a Caustic Soda fan! This podcast is not prime-time listening. No topic is too gruesome, horrible, or cringe-inducing for these guys, but they’re also pretty funny and, more importantly, science-based. They do their research.

I’m a late convert to this 6-years-running podcast. I started listening after I met co-host Joe Fulgham at a Vancouver Skeptics in the Pub event a year or so ago. When I saw him again at the monthly downtown Vancouver SiTP last week, he said he was surprised there was enough grossness for a CS episode on turtles (I wasn’t!). Which got into a whole ‘nother string of grody animal husbandry anecdotes from people there. A good time was had by all.

Star Talk Radio – Star Talk Live! Evolution with Richard Dawkins Part 1

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of my favourite people, and this is one of my favourite podcasts. I include this show because I found out that Richard Dawkins is married to a former actress who was a Doctor Who companion, who actually ended up married her Doctor (Tom Baker) for a time. She was introduced to Dawkins by their mutual friend Douglas Adams. That is actually more impressive to me than Sir Richard himself. Mind. Blown.


New York Times – The Heartstopping Climbs of Alex Honnold, by Daniel Duane

I used to be a rock climber, but Honnold is in a staggeringly unique league of his own. He climbs free-solo (without ropes or protection) big, difficult walls that take others days to scale. I’m always intensely interested in free-solo climbers; mostly I wonder if there are any former such climbers who didn’t fall to their deaths. Maybe Honnold will be one of the few …

The Atlantic – What ISIS Really Wants, by Graeme Wood

When is a terrorist group more than a terrorist group? When it is motivated by religion rather than politics or thrill-seeking, and world governments would do well to study those motivations closely. “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” My Political Science/Sociology background and interest in current events has not waned over the years.

Frank SidebottomFrank, by Jon Ronson

This short e-book is only CDN$2.99 on Amazon. It’s the true story of Frank Sidebottom, the strangest musical group you’d ever want to see, fictionalized to the nth degree for the 2014 movie starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, and Domhnall Gleeson (as the Ronson-ish character).

And finally:

Using Trello for your Personal Productivity System

I’m trying out the Kanban productivity system, using Trello, while I’m between work assignments. So far I’m impressed – I love the visual aspect of it. Blog post to come later, when I’ve had more time to play around and evaluate.

Image of Frank Sidebottom by James, used under Creative Commons License.