Stephen Thrasher, Comet Smasher

Getting into Podcasts

Friday, April 04, 2008 by Stephen

My dad gave me a Best Buy gift card for Christmas (thanks, Dad). Last week Rachel went and picked up a Sandisk Sansa Clip mp3 player for me (thanks, Rachel). My old player feels like a brick (an iRiver iHP-120); my new one is something like 0.9 ounces. I figured out the podcast thing so I can listen to programs while walking to work without weighing down my coat pocket.

A year ago, I picked up a pair of Shure E2c headphones from Target for $100. They go into your ear-canal like ear plugs. I can have the volume very low and still hear most everything despite wind, crowds, or traffic. There are two problems: 1) they can get uncomfortable after a while, and 2) you can hear your own footsteps really well, so listening while walking (or performing other internal mechanical operations like chewing, etc.) can be annoying. Try plugging your ears and stomping on the floor and you'll see what I mean. It can get pretty loud.

I might give up commuting with my Xootr for most days so I can listen (don't plug your ears while in traffic!).

To download podcasts for my non-iPod, I use Juice (see screenshot). I synchronize to my player using an entry in my backup utility, SyncBack.

Screenshot of Juice
Since I listen during my 20 minute walk to and from work, I now have 20 x 5 x 2 minutes = 3 1/3 hours per week to listen to audio. As with most things I do, I went all-out finding podcasts. Here's what I've downloaded:


  • Audiobooks with Annie (10-30 min, weekly) — A librarian reads public domain classics. Right now she's reading Anne of Green Gables. Each podcast is a chapter. I'm catching up from chapter 1, and she's on chapter 33.
  • Car Talk Call of the Week (5 min, weekly) — That's what I'm talking about! Just the highlights.
  • Classical to Go (5-10 min, weekly?) — Recorded in studio at WGBH in Boston.
  • Mission Network News Podcast, 2min (2 min, daily) — News about the field of Christian missions. Options for 1, 2, 5, and full-length ("interviews") clips.
  • MIT News (5 min, weekly) — Not too high a priority, but short enough to stay for now.
  • This Week @NASA (5 min, weekly) — NASA news.
  • Philosophy Bites (50 min?, weekly) — British people discuss philosophy in bite-sized chunks. I really like this one.
  • WBUR Daily News Update (5-10 min, daily) — Boston news, one story per day.
On the edge, I might get rid of it:
  • NPR: Justice Talking (50 min, weekly) — Discussion of law and society issues. Long, but might be worth it. So far topics have included pornography and college admissions (two separate topics).
  • NPR: Science Friday (5-10 min, 3 each Friday) — Topics about science. I might be selective about which podcasts I listen to.
  • Veritas Forum (1.5 hrs, varies)— Public talks at colleges from a Christian perspective. Whether I keep subscribing depends on how often they come out.
Already gone:
  • Car Talk (50 min, weekly) — Too long, as I hinted above in the "Call of the Week" podcast bullet.
  • MPR: New Classical Tracks (5 min, weekly) — Review of new classical music recordings. Nice idea, but I don't buy new music very often, and I think I prefer a podcast without someone talking during the music. NPR has a ton of those. MPR is Minnesota Public Radio, I think.
  • Stand to Reason (50 min, weekly) — Christian apologetics. Good, but too many announcements. Content density too low, wish there was a "content only" feed.
  • Travel with Rick Steves (50 min, weekly) — Rick Steves! But too long.
  • Word Nerds (50 min, weekly) — Etymology, word facts, etc. I never even listened to this one; there are just too many. In any case, there are shorter word podcasts, like the Merriam Webster Word of the Day.



At Apr 4, 2008, 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Might I also recommend This American Life with Ira Glass on NPR. I really enjoy this program, but never have quite enough time to enjoy a whole episde. (~50-60 minutes)

Does Rick Steves write good travel guides? We are going to Spain and Italy this month and are looking for guidebooks.

At Apr 4, 2008, 1:57:00 PM, Blogger stephen said...


Rick Steves has guidebooks [] for both Spain and Italy. He also sells DVDs of his TV shows grouped by location or theme and has tons of travel tips. You can get the flavor for his show by downloading clips through his video podcasts (there are lots; try Madrid, Sevilla, Rome).

For Rome, Florence, and Venice, Rick Steves has mp3 walking tours with maps. You can follow the supplied map as you listen to the mp3. They're free!

At Apr 9, 2008, 1:02:00 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

I really enjoy Religion & Ethics Newsweekly by PBS (a 30 minute-ish program), but I'm not sure whether or not you'd enjoy it.


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