September 6, 2013

Audio Things!

I’ve really gotten into podcasts this summer. Normally, I find them difficult to focus my attention on, but some habits I’ve picked up recently have helped with this: I started running regularly, and I started playing Euro Truck Simulator 2. In fact, I liked the latter so much that I started a blog about it at

Just as French Fries are my delivery vehicles for ketchup, these new activities are my delivery vehicles for podcasts.

Well, I haven’t only been listening to podcasts. In particular, while driving my virtual truck around Europe, I’ve been listening to the BBC World Service. This was largely motivated by my desire to feel European, but it’s an excellent station nonetheless.

I’ve also been listening to audiobooks, which has been made particularly enjoyable by Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice technology. This allows me to effortlessly switch between the Kindle and audio versions of a book, depending on the context (both media can be purchased together for a low price). Using this, I alternately read and listened to Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which I highly recommend to anyone living in America.

And then there are the podcasts. Some of them are the staples that most people I know have heard of, like Radiolab and This American Life; I listen to them and they’re amazing for pretty obvious reasons. But there’s a few potentially lesser-known ones I’d like to highlight:

  • Life of the Law is my latest obsession. I first discovered this through the 99% Invisible episode An Architect's Code, which both shows collaborated on. It's a fascinating podcast that contextualizes our legal system in ways that make people like me, who are normally bored to tears by the law, utterly enthralled. This is probably aided by the fact that, like Planet Money—another unexpectedly fascinating show—every episode is relatively short and focused.
  • On The Media is consistently interesting to me because it examines the way the media covers current events. I'm not always interested in current events in and of themselves, but I am fascinated by the way the media covers them, so this podcast is often my gateway to understanding what's going on in the world.
  • Spark was recommended to me by Mark Surman and I love it because it's a show about technology for people who aren't, well, obsessed with it. This means that topics often focus on the impact of technology on society, with a great balance of coverage between its positive and negative effects.

I’ve been using an iPhone app called Downcast to listen to these, and have found it much more convenient and usable than the default Podcasts app.

If there are any podcasts you regularly listen to and think I might enjoy, please feel free to tweet your suggestions @toolness.

© Atul Varma 2020