Favorite Things Holiday Edition 2018: Podcasts and Newsletters

Whether you enjoy art, yoga or origami — or if sun-bathing is your jam — you may find yourself craving some non-musical listening or reading.

At this time of year we often find ourselves with some open time. What a relief!

Hopefully, you are spending time away from your usual cognitive load — thinking about and experiencing different things.

These are some podcasts and newsletters that I’ve been enjoying lately. They are largely NOT about management, decision-theory or even politics (with a few exceptions for other info junkies like me). They explore other things outside of technology and good thinking. Hopefully, some of these are areas in which you do NOT earn a living. I aimed for the OTHER.

You may notice a theme. Food recurs a lot. I love food-related content, even though I don’t eat most of what I hear or read about. For example, I bake, but don’t eat baked goods. And I could never bake enough to justify how many baking recipes I have or the number of baking tips I have learned through various sources.

I also listen to the ins and outs of meat curing technique, butchering, or how to cook tenderloins, hamburgers and expertly spatchcock a duck. But, I eat none of those creatures. So what? The idea is to be fascinated and have one’s horizons expanded.

The same is true of the history-related material. I am NOT a history maven. In fact, I barely remember school history classes, so tedious were the teachers I had. But I love history when it is presented with rich context and less obvious detail.

This is a small selection. Most have tons of episodes or editions you can peruse, so no shortage of choice or bingeability.

Hopefully something will tickle your fancy — and give your brain the room to stray outside of your normal lane.

Let me know — and PLEASE share your own finds here or on Twitter.



The Walrus (The Walrus Foundation): This is a Canadian publication that is (I say, apologetically) often about politics. But it is even-handed, non-inflammatory or sensationalist, and extremely well-done. Trust our neighbors to the north to bring reason and civility into one place, where tough issues can be reasoned through in a thoughtful way. Recent topics included lipstick as a feminist statement, the evolution of the adversarial relationship between media and politicians, and the potential of science to revive extinct species. They leave no aspect of life untouched.

Nautilus   I can’t possibly articulate what this platform is better than they themselves do. So here is how Nautilus characterizes itself: “Nautilus is a different kind of science magazine. It delivers deep, undiluted, narrative storytelling to bring science into the largest and most important conversations we are having today. It challenges the reader to consider the connecting tissue that runs through the sciences and connects them to philosophy, culture and art.” It delivers on its mission, in spades. I wish I had enough time to read all that interests me within it. One recent article I loved was about how a food’s color affects our experience of its taste, and another was an inquiry into whether algorithms need their own regulatory body like the FDA. The issues are all thematic, so every article within touches on a chosen theme. It’s like This American Life meets Scientific American, multiplied by an order of magnitude of depth and rigor.

Quillette  This is a magazine dedicated to academic-y article that might not make it in academia because they may be politically incorrect or otherwise in danger of being rejected by peer-reviewed publications. The subject matter ranges from feminism to AI, biology to art, and everything in the middle. It won’t all interest you. But if you want a break from your own echo chamber, you may find a very learned, rigorous and well-edited source here.



The Sporkful I love this distracting podcast for it’s utter irrelevance and lack of usefulness. It is about food, but not about cooking.  And it’s not a foodie show or a reverie to chefs or restaurants. Instead, it consists of a variety of interviews and themes that include food, cooking, culture and more. A few recent episodes include the judgments we make about restaurants based on how the staff look, and a day trip in which the host allows his itinerary to be dictated by Atlas Obscura, and more.

A History of the World in 100 Objects This BBC Radio 4 production is a remarkable (and episode-limited) show that takes various objects as the starting point for a broad historical discussion. The objects themselves have been curated by the British Museum. It sounds like a strange premise because it is. But it’s fascinating. One episode I listened to was about an Aboriginal spear dated to the time of Captain Cook’s landing in Australia, and the realities of the world at that time. History through artifacts.

Future Skills  This was initially a Swedish program. It stars Mikael Syding (very noteworthy hedge fund manager) and author/thinker Ludvig Sunstrom. Now it’s in Engish and available worldwide. Don’t let their lack of name recognition in the pop culture US stop you from listening. This is good stuff. They really do talk about identifying and building skills for the future including how to develop yourself as a leader, thinker, investor, strategist and more — and they have guests ranging from Tyler Cowen (economist and co-producer of the Marginal Revolution website) to neurobiologists to strategists and more. But their basic orientation is economics. That makes it slightly afield of strict technology business fare. This is a great resource. 

Proof   This is a production of science/food media behemoth America’s Test Kitchen. Need I say more? Expect stories and detective work regarding all things Americana and edible. Subjects include food at fairs, Jelly Bellys, tiki cocktails and more. It’s new, so only about 15 episodes so far. But they are yummy. 

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