Serial is pretty darn addictive

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 8.32.16 AMI heard about Serial quite a while ago, but I didn’t listen on purpose.

Let me back up a bit.

Most people are familiar with This American Life. A spin-off of that series hit the airwaves last year, in the same general style, but with a twist: For the entire season, the show would tell only ONE story. Week by week. A serial. And so they named it… Serial.

I enjoy books in a series. It’s a happy day when book one concludes, but I can pick up the story with book two. Or three. Unless the author hasn’t written it, yet. Then, I’m frustrated.

And so, when Serial began, I decided to wait until I could binge-listen. Season One is now complete, and you can listen to all twelve episodes whenever it suits you.

Season One tells the story of a murder in Baltimore, Maryland, back in 1999. A high school student is found dead, and her ex-boyfriend is arrested for her murder. Did he do it? He says he is innocent.

Once I started listening, I was hooked. Whenever possible, I listened to Serial.

I listened to it as a Podcast which I downloaded to my iPhone. But there is also a website, which you can find, here: Serial Season One. You can listen through the website, as well, and there you can also find photographs and copies of the documents, etc, which are mentioned in the story.

Serial was so popular, so well received, that there will be a Season Two. Next time, I will listen as it airs, week by week. It’s too good to wait.

Serial, Season One

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Speaking of Chemistry: A New Science Podcast

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 12.06.23 PMI am a podcast listener. I subscribe to many (too many!!) but I enjoy them all. So far on this blog I have suggested a few, such as my all-time favorite, A Way with Words, the Moth, and a few others.

Today I am linking you to a new podcast that just launched last week.

Actually, the very first episode was posted on YouTube last month, but a production decision was made to try out episode number 2 as a podcast, instead.

Now this brings up an interesting question:

Video or Podcast?

Obviously there are pros and cons, and personal habits enter in as well…. Many folks prefer podcasts because they can listen as they work out, do chores, or commute to work. The YouTube version, however, provides the consumer with marvelous videos to complement the stories.

Would you prefer to receive such content as a video or a podcast?

Personally, I am more likely to listen to podcasts for the very reason that you can be doing other things at the same time. I am less likely to sit in front of the computer screen to watch something and dedicate my time to that, and that, alone. (However, full disclosure here, since my daughter-in-law (Carmen Drahl) is one of the co-hosts, I really do enjoy watching her host this episode! :) )

If you like science, I’m sure you will enjoy these programs. Speaking of Chemistry (the podcast) is now available through iTunes, free to subscribe. Learn about spider silk, e-cigarettes, and more.

And please ……… spread the word!!

Episode 1: Speaking of Chemistry

and now….


Episode 2: Speaking of Chemistry: Latest podcast covers spider silk, e-cigarettes, and much more.
FREE in the iTunes store

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Weekend Distraction: Swell Radio (it’s like Pandora, but it’s Talk)

Screen shot 2013-10-11 at 10.45.32 AM I only recently discovered this app, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite for me. And I’m not alone. Listener ratings are high, and it was selected as one of TIME’s Best iPhone Apps of 2013.

But let’s back up a bit. Remember Pandora? Pandora learns the music that you like and plays it. It’s a personalized radio.

And so …. Swell Radio operates on the same principle, but for TALK. It learns as you listen, and selects things for you that it thinks you will enjoy. You have the opportunity to click a thumb’s up button if you really like it. Swell will also pay attention to how long you listen to a particular selection, and will shape its offerings for YOU.

When you first bring up Swell on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll see these directions. They are very simple. No learning curve (for you). Swell will be doing all of the learning. :)




I am a listener, and I listen to “talk” on my iPhone a LOT. I have many favorite podcasts such as A Way with Words and the Moth to name just two. But up until now, when I wanted to find something new, I had to sift through podcasts, reading reviews and getting recommendations. No more! Now I’m discovering new things all the time.

With Swell, you just start listening. If you like what you hear, enjoy. If you don’t, just swipe and move on. Swell will figure out your tastes, and select things for you based on your listening habits.

When presented with your listening screen, you can fast forward a bit, go back to something you missed, or pause and come back later.


If you tap on the screen, it will flip over and give you more information about whatever it is that you are listening to.


I’m enjoying this app. Although I swipe often, I’ve also had the lovely experience of some very new and interesting listens. I’ve heard things and been exposed to podcasts that I know I never would have found on my own.

Swell Radio is FREE in the iTunes store and can be used on your iPhone or iPad.

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Another Podcast Recommendation (for Readers!): Books on the Nightstand

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If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am a big huge fan of podcasts. I am also a huge fan of books. Bring them both together, and, well… I’m happy.

The only thing thing that limits my podcast listening is time. There are so many wonderful choices, that it is tough to narrow them down.

In the past, I have shared some of my favorites, A Way with Words and the Moth for starters. Today I will be suggesting another, a podcast for readers, called Books on the Nightstand.

But before I do, let’s digress a moment to talk about the Podcast App. I had some misgivings when it first appeared, but all is well, now. It is a great app, and I use it every day. Podcast subscriptions update automatically, and I am notified when I have something new to listen to. The timer is absolutely the best thing ever invented. :) All’s good with the Podcast app. No iPhone or iPad is complete without it!

If you are a reader, and you like to read/think about/learn about/chat about books, this podcast is made for you. I have listened to many others, but I keep coming back to Books on the Nightstand.

It is a regular (usually weekly) conversation about books between two folks who are part of the book business (altho they make the point that this podcast is totally separate from their jobs). Ann and Michael chat about their favorites, or about general topics, and every week after a listen I always add more books to my “to read” list.

Their conversation is always interesting and their recommendations are sound. They also maintain a website where you can listen to the podcast, and look over previous episodes.

They have developed a marvelous database on their website of books that they have discussed, with references to the posts and podcasts where they have been mentioned. This is an awesome resource.

And finally, if you get really involved, they organize several gatherings during the year, throughout the country, called “Booktopia”, bringing readers and authors together.

Subscribing to Books on the Nightstand is free in the iTunes store.

The Moth: A Podcast All About “Living Life”

I love podcasts. I am subscribed to about a dozen, and I could easily subscribe to dozens more (only Time stands in the way). There are so many awesome choices.

For new readers, I’d like to refer you back to two earlier posts, to read about podcasts, and the podcast app, and where I happily recommend one of my all time favorites, A Way With Words.

Today I’m highlighting another of my regularly-listened-to podcasts, The Moth.

If you enjoy stories, if you like to read, if you like to write, if you enjoy people, if you are interested in ….. Life, well then, it’s a no-brainer. You will enjoy The Moth.

I think the best way to describe The Moth to you is to paste the following description directly from their website:

“It is brilliant and quietly addictive” – The London Guardian

“New York’s hottest and hippest literary ticket” – The Wall Street Journal

The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.

Basically it is people telling stories in front of a live audience.

I’ve been listening for a long, long time, and the variety of stories is astounding. Some stories are burned into my brain forever, while others were funny, or heart wrenching, or silly, or fascinating, or downright awe-inspiring. And, to be very honest, some have been not-so-good. But the majority are. Good. Great, even.

There are a few stories on their website (just click on “stories”), so you can sample some efforts such as a child-stutterer who learned to speak to animals, a carpenter who nearly died and then found a reason to stay in NYC, and a few others.

With a podcast subscription, you get a new story (usually about 10 minutes long) every week or so, and a look at life from a multitude of varied perspectives.

A subscription to The Moth is free and available through the iTunes store, and you can also search for it and then subscribe directly from the Podcast App.

What is a Podcast?: and a Favorite Recommended

I probably subscribe to far too many podcasts. Even so, I have deleted dozens. There are just so many choices! Good, quality choices.

Podcasts are audio (or video) programs that you can download and listen to on your portable device.

Some of them are professionally made programs which originally go out on-air as featured radio or television programing, just wrapped in a podcast way so that you can listen on-demand (whenever it suits you).

Other podcasts are made by enthusiastic amateur folks exploring an interest. If you have a hobby, and interest or a passion ….chances are there will be a podcast dedicated to your line of thinking. There are simply thousands of podcasts available.

I listen to podcasts every day. They accompany me on walks, errands, car rides and housework.

Over time, I’ll be focusing on some of the ones that I enjoy the most.

Today I am highlighting one of my very favorites, “A Way with Words”.

A Way with Words is an example of a professionally-assembled radio program that is also made available through podcast (listen-on-demand) format.

Hosts Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette answer questions from callers about language. This podcast is entertaining, enjoyable and educational. I can’t improve on their description of the program, so I am pasting it here, directly from their website:

A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show about language examined through history, culture, and family. Cohosts Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette talk with callers from around the world about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies. The show is heard by more than a quarter-million listeners each week over the air and by podcast.

Here are a few examples of topics explored in the program:

******** If we’re talking about the whole lot of something, we call it the whole kit and kaboodle. But what’s a kaboodle? In Dutch, a “kit en boedel” refer to a house and everything in it. For the sake of the English idiom, we just slapped the “k” in front.

******** Grant and Martha share some more terms that make a person sound old-fashioned these days. Ever get a blank stare when you mention the icebox?

******** How do you pronounce garage? Does it rhyme with “barrage,” or do you say it like the British so it rhymes with “carriage”? The variations abound, and they all work.

I especially enjoy it when they discuss the origin of words. One in particular stuck in my brain: I learned that the word “dreary” originates from an old medieval word (sounds like “drehrig”) that was the gooey stuff that remained on a sword when it was used in battle. Awful, huh? But how fascinating to learn that something so yuchy has evolved into the word “dreary” of today! It makes a lot of sense.

Each episode is approximately 50 minutes.

A Way with Words is actually originally sent out as a broadcast radio program. There are several ways you can listen.

* You can listen to it in the traditional radio way if the time and station both work for you in your area. Stations are listed on their website.

* You can also listen by visiting the A Way With Words website. All of their programing is available on-line. Just browse yourself to an episode and hit the “play” button.

* And finally, (my choice) you can download episodes to your portable audio device through your Podcast App. (You can find my post about the new Podcast app here.) Just search for A Way with Words, download any episodes you choose, or subscribe and have them delivered to your device automatically.

A Way With Words. You will find their website here.

Podcasts: Mixed Feelings About the App I Was Waiting For

I was excited this week about the new release of the Podcasts app. I am a great user of podcasts, I listen to them often, and although managing them via syncing my devices to the computer has always been easy enough, it required several steps, and basically was a pain to do. It took effort, it took time and it took thought. Yuch!

The new Podcast app promises to eliminate any and all work required to get our favorite podcasts delivered to our devices. This sounded so awesome to me, I downloaded it immediately.

My first impressions are mixed, but overall it is a huge step in the right direction.

When I downloaded Podcasts to my iPad and iPhone, the app was smart enough to know about all the podcasts that I already subscribe to, and it pulled them all into the app. So, when I opened Podcasts for the first time, I was greeted with a neatly tiled page with a square representing each of my podcasts. You can change this tiled screen to a list version by tapping the lines at the top of the page. These appear in slightly different spots on an iPhone and on an iPad, so just look across the top on either device to find them. I marked it below with the arrow. (I’ll be using photos from my iPad, in the landscape orientation. Layout looks slightly different in portrait, and on the iPhone.)

If you tap on “edit” you will see a list of your podcasts, and you can delete or re-order them from here. To re-order, just touch the series of lines to the right of each podcast, and leaving your finger on those lines, move your finger up or down, and you can reorder the list (and therefore the presentation of the tiles).

You also set your preferences individually for each podcast (again, this looks a bit different on the iPhone, but similar). Open the settings by touching the gear on the iPad version and a menu will drop down, allowing you to turn on your subscription, automatically download newly added content (I love this), and select how you want episodes to be kept and sorted.

My happiest moment with this app was the discovery of the timer. You can set it to play for a chosen number of minutes, or the whole podcast, and then turn off. A great feature, although it wasn’t very easy to find.

Here is how you find the timer:

Tap on a podcast to open it. Tap on the episode that you want to hear. You will now see a large picture representing the podcast, with black empty space around it. Tap ANYWHERE, either on the graphic, or in the black space, and the graphic will lift and expose an old school tape player with a few extra controls, and among them, the timer. The timer is represented by a little clock with a few zzz over it.

To “shop” for new podcasts that you might enjoy, you can get right to the store from this app. Tap on “Top Stations” or “Catalog” to get into the store. “Top Stations” allows you to see what is popular in different categories, while “Catalog” takes you to the original store layout where you can easily browse through boatloads of podcasts.

As happy as I am to have episodes downloaded automatically, and to have a long-awaited timer built in, there have been some disappointments, as well. I was surprised to see that although it recognized some of the podcasts I had listened to, it was not accurate overall. For instance, I am a regular listener of “A Way With Words”, but the app did not recognize that I had listened to all of those episodes. I am hoping that this feature will work as I listen now from within this app. I’ll be sure to update about this, later.

The largest concern is the syncing between devices. This doesn’t seem to be working well at all, and a quick look around the internet tells me that I am not alone with this concern. However, I’m going to assume that this will be fixed, and I’ll work around it for now to enjoy the pleasure of having the newest episodes of my favorites automatically downloaded and a timer to use in the evening.

Podcasts is free in the iTunes store