Podcast Madness: Midwest, Round 1

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

Read the first post here, then come back for the results.

Midwest, Game 1: Presidential vs. More Perfect

Presidential is a podcast hosted by Washington Post journalist Lillian Cunningham with an episode on each U.S. President. Naturally, I listened to episode 1 on George Washington. Cunningham interviews journalists and historians to briefly recap the character and legacy of the presidents, looking for lesser-known details and interesting facts to share.

While the first episode was interesting, there was a lot of “this is the thesis statement of my project” and not quite enough actual G. Washington facts. Maybe I’ve just already absorbed a lot of information about Washington? Now that I look at the timestamp, I see the episode was 48 minutes long, which is pretty short to cover Washington’s life. I think I also wasn’t crazy about some of the background sound effects and found them a little distracting. Maybe I should listen to an episode on a president I know nothing about. Like Benjamin Harrison. I know nothing about that guy.

More Perfect is an offshoot of the popular Radiolab podcast. It covers the Supreme Court and some of the consequences of decisions made there that ripple out into society. I listened to episode 1: Cruel and Unusual, which discussed the death penalty. You know, to start with something light.

It was fascinating, and I appreciated that they laid out some dissenting opinions. It made me think more about the death penalty and lethal injection, but without making me feel completely crushed by the conversation.

Winner: More Perfect


Midwest, Game 2: Common Sense with Dan Carlin vs. the Tom Woods Show

I listened to episode 314: Unhealthy Numbers of Common Sense with Dan Carlin, in which Carlin talked about U.S. healthcare. Whew. What a mess (not Carlin — the system)! He talked about how the U.S. stacks up against other comparable countries like Canada and the UK and guys, as we all suspected, it’s not great. We spend more on healthcare and we don’t get proportionally better results, and most average Americans completely hate the way the system works. The numbers are fairly dire.

While I appreciated his rant and agreed that the system is terrible, I felt kind of hopeless at the end. I’m a tiny person with no ability to change the mess and it feels like we should scrap everything and start over, which is ridiculous. We can’t do that. So I don’t know the answer… it’s probably good to talk about it though.

For the Tom Woods Show, I listened to episode 874: Snappy Answers to Anti-Libertarian Questions. Woods, the host, and his guest answered common questions about why one might be a Libertarian and addressed questions like:

  • do libertarians think the state is a force for good?
  • …but we can’t trust a free economy — don’t we need monopoly laws?
  • are you pro-business or pro-consumer?
  • this is not going to work — there are no examples of libertarian society

As someone who leans at least economically toward libertarianism (we can fight about politics later), I appreciated his answers. I think there are some problems with libertarian political philosophy, just like I think there are problems with Republican and Democratic political philosophy, but I appreciated the clarity of answers and addressing some common questions.

While I enjoyed/ became slightly depressed by both shows, I’m going to have to give the Tom Woods show a slight edge because I like having multiple voices to listen to. It could also have been that the healthcare mess was more depressing than rebuttals to economic questions.

Winner: The Tom Woods Show

Next time: the West.

Photo from Unsplash.





Podcast Madness: East, Round 1

Recap: 40 podcasts, single-elimination brackets — 1 winner will emerge!

Read the first post here, then come back for the first round.

East, Game 1:

In the East (top left of my podcast bracket),  I have the Truth & Justice Podcast vs. the Tim Ferriss Show. These are totally different types of shows, so it may be a bit of an unfair matchup.

However, we press on (or press play?)! Truth & Justice is a show where the host finds crimes where he’s convinced the authorities have the wrong guy, then deconstructs the crime and asks listeners for help in their areas of expertise. I listened to season 3, episode 1, about the murder of a Japanese-American woman (actually, I’m not 100% sure if she was American or just married to an American?). The crime was laid out for the audience in the first episode, and even from one episode I can see the puzzle. But I’ve only listened to the one episode so far.

While interesting, I’m not sure the presentation is quite my style. I wished they could have put the ads at the beginning and/or end, and not interrupted the tale of a brutal stabbing with an ad for Blue Apron. That was a little jarring. Plus, the narrator at the beginning sounded like he might be about to announce a wrestling match. So I’m not sure it’s for me.

The Tim Ferriss Show episode I listened to was episode 221: Mr. Money Mustache. Because, of course (in case you don’t know, in my day job I’m a wealth manager). Tim Ferriss had interesting questions to ask Mr. M. Mustache (Pete Adeney) about the way he lives his life, how he got where he is today, and tips for achieving early retirement. The short story is that Pete and his wife started out saving incredibly aggressively while they were young (at good steady jobs), retired when they had their son, and are living life, not working for pay to this day.

Tim and Pete talked a lot about “optimizing” their lives and how the key to retiring young really is to spend a fraction of what you make and to keep your goal in mind. The Mustache family lives simply, rarely drives, and are very DIY, but they aren’t tied to working for pay. They invested the money they saved, and now they’re doing quite well.

The interview was interesting, and I liked hearing about their philosophy of what the “good life” is, but there were a few times they veered into self-congratulatory “bro club” territory. I’m guessing their main audience is male?

Winner: The Tim Ferriss Show

East, game 2:

Next up was Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! vs. the NPR TED Hour.

Wait Wait is a current events quiz show, with a short interview segment with a guest of the week, as well as a panel. I listened to the March 4 episode with Jordan Peele. Some of the questions were easy, as I was familiar with the story they were referencing (hooray! I’m up on current events!) and others I had no idea about (boo, I’m ignorant about current events!). So maybe a good mixture.

Since it’s NPR, production value was high, and the hosts were clever, but I’m not sure that a quiz show is my thing, exactly. At least, I’d probably do better on geeky trivia than on some of these current events. There’s only so much time/ energy I can devote to keeping up, and I think I’d want to keep up too much if I kept listening.

The TED Hour seems to aggregate a few TED talks on the same topic and play clips of them while giving some backstory and connecting threads. I listened to the March 3 episode “Decisions Decisions Decisions,” which I thought appropriate to the podcast bracket exercise.

They told me decisions can be hard, and I should cut down on the number I need to make. Also, that marketers are geniuses who probably rule my life through product placement, and the way questions are framed can determine which answers are usually chosen.

In the end, I think I’m going to come down on the side of…

Winner: the TED Hour

This was fun! I’m looking forward to the Midwest next.

March (Spring) Podcast Madness

A couple weeks ago, in search of new podcasts to listen to while on the way to work, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, etc. I asked friends on Facebook to recommend podcasts to listen to. They responded enthusiastically, with 43 discrete suggestions. Thanks, everyone!

I decided that such enthusiasm be met with enthusiasm, and my brother (facetiously, I think) suggested I review them all and announce a “winner.” While I probably won’t write in-depth reviews of that many podcasts, I thought it would be fun to start a March Madness bracket to find a winner.  I know it’s April, but I started in March, and the alliteration and allusion to the NCAA basketball tournament is too good to pass up.

Of course, I expect that I’ll end up enjoying far more than 1 new podcast, but who doesn’t love a little competition??

Here are the details:

First, there were only 42 suggestions when I started the project (now there are 43), so the last suggestion didn’t make it into my bracket. I’m sorry. I also removed Radiolab and Invisibilia from the bracket because I already listen to them and love them, so I thought it might give them an unfair advantage, plus, it would make the bracket system more difficult.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do already listen to The West Wing Weekly, but I needed an even number, so it stays in.  I suppose I could replace it with the 43rd suggestion, but I want the West Wing Weekly vs. Pod4Ham matchup to stay.

Next, I downloaded a blank bracket and entered the 40 podcasts into the spaces. I tried pairing up similar themed podcasts for the first rounds. Not every podcast will compete against a similar genre in the first round, but there were a surprising number of crime and history podcasts, so I think it will work out well.


Then I created a “Podcast Brackets!” playlist on Overcast, my podcast listening app of choice (sadly, I am not being paid to mention them), and started downloading podcasts and adding two at a time to the playlist for a head-to-head listening experience.

Expect to hear results of the first round soon!


*I realized later that I misspelled “Ferriss” on my original bracket. No need to let me know. 🙂

Body-swapped or Transported?

Quick poll:

If you woke up one morning in an alternate universe, would you

  1. be in your body, just in the alternate universe OR
  2. be in the body of your alternate universe self and it’s just your mind that swapped places?

Which would you expect to be true?

Netflix Descriptions

Sometimes I wonder who creates the movie and episode descriptions on Netflix.


Yes, the caption really says, “To keep the peace, Kirk must dine with Klingons and drink Romulan ale. The Federation said there’d be days like this.”

First reaction: Whaaa?! That’s really what they’re going with here? There’s so much more going on in this movie! This is my favorite Original Series film, and the description makes it sound stupid. Come on, Netflix.

Second reaction: That’s hilarious. …It was a really bad day for Kirk. And non-nerds are probably not in deep enough to see this caption anyway.