Weekly Podcast Plunder #7

by Chris

If you follow political discourse, there’s a good chance you have heard the word fascism thrown around, often with enthusiastic zeal. While fascism today seems to be synonymous with authoritarianism, digging into the actual political philosophy and its modern day incarnations may turn out to be a matter of urgency in the digital age. Enter, this week’s podcast recommendation:

Historian Yuval Noah Harar examines the intersection of fascism and technology in a recently published episode of Ted Talks Daily. In it, he makes an important distinction between nationalism and fascism, and points out how technology and the consolidation of data can make a significant difference in how the fascism of the future can succeed where the fascism of the past failed.

Weekly Podcast Plunder #6

by Chris

Just when you think we’re done with the English language, I’m slapping you across the face with an episode of Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl Podcast.

Clocking in at a mere 12 minutes and 14 seconds, this podcast is a useful refresher on the difference between the words “lay” and “lie”, as well as a few other language facts you may find interesting.

If you found that podcast beneficial, I’d recommend perusing the rest of the Quick and Dirty Tips website, which is full of tips to help you become a better communicator. The website also hosts “quick and dirty tips” ranging from health and relationships to finance and pets.

Further Reading

Mignon Fogarty has published a healthy selection of books under the Grammar Girl name. It’s definitely worth a look to see if there is a book that speaks to your deepest language fears.

Weekly Podcast Plunder #5

by Chris

Consciousness is one of the deepest, and sometimes unnerving, mysteries to haunt our species. We anchor our sense of identity to it, and yet we don’t have a complete understanding of its nature. In a recent episode of the podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind, hosts Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explored what it means for a machine to display what could be interpreted as a preference for survival, if it is even possible for machines to gain true consciousness, and the ethical questions that would follow.

The episode, entitled “Machine Consciousness and P-Zombies“, began with a hypothetical question that tests your instincts on this question. I won’t spoil this scenario for you, but it should spark an interesting debate in your mind. The conversation eventually brings up the philosophical concept of pseudo-conscious humans known as “P-Zombies”, which call into question the nature of our own consciousness.

This conversation forces us to confront how little we truly know of ourselves. This particular subject matter is timely, as we are a species that does not fully grasp its own consciousness, but one that may inadvertently create it in something else.

Further Reading

If you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, you can check out Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith. This book examines how consciousness may have evolved twice on earth by exploring how various cephalopods interact and behave. Both philosophical and evolutionary concepts are explored in an accessible manner in this book, so you needn’t worry about hitting a conceptual brick wall while you read.

 

Weekly Podcast Plunder #4

by Chris

This week we’re circling back to the Stuff You Should Know podcast. How could I not when hosts Josh and Tuck dedicated an episode to our use of language?

When Words Take on New Meanings covers how the meanings of words change over time. They discuss the differences between the descriptive and prescriptive approaches to the definitions of words.

While I generally fall on the descriptive side of the fence, that definitions are not immutable, I worry about how gradients of meaning can be stripped away from our language if we are too careless. This worry was encapsulated by their inclusion of the word decimated in the podcast.

While decimated is now known to be synonymous with wiped out, it actually used to mean that something was reduced by 10%. Now, I’m not saying that any use of decimated should require figures to prove that exactly 10% of any given thing had been lost, but moving back to the original meaning gives the word a sense of scale, as opposed to having just another term for annihilated, destroyed, eradicated, etc.

In short, enjoy English for the ever-changing playground that it is, but please consider tempering that free spirit with an appreciation of the diversity within our dictionaries.

 

With that digression aside, the episode is a great opportunity for you to consider where you stand on the issue of definitions, so check it out.

Further Reading

Notable cognitive scientist Steven Pinker released a book called The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Pinker’s work is a useful examination of how we use language in the 21ist century and the traps into which writers can stumble when trying to communicate ideas.

Weekly Podcast Plunder #3

by Chris

This week’s stand-out podcast comes courtesy of National Public Radio’s “Planet Money”. In this episode, entitled “Worst. Tariffs. Ever.” hosts Kenny Malone and Sally Helm discuss the ramifications of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act on the American economy.

As a citizen of voting age, I find myself obliged to learn as much as I can about the economy, which is a herculean task when grafted onto the day-to-day obligations of my life. Given that the economy ties our loves together, however, it is important to be able to put the latest economic news in proper context. This is exactly what this podcast does, having been published amidst news of tarries and trade deals. While the case study used here is American, there are universal elements of toxic politics and shortsightedness that serve as an important cautionary tale to us all.

So, if you’re ready to remember how woefully unprepared you are to vote responsibly, click this link to visit the podcast’s page.

Further Reading

A few years ago, I picked up a book called “Economix: How our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures” while visiting Montreal (because I KNOW how to let loose on vacation!) In this book, the history of world economies (with a heavy focus on the American story) is explained in comic form. As economic theory can be a contentious issue (as the book, itself, even covered,) you may not find yourself agreeing 100% with the analysis, but I found that author Michael Goodwin does a great job of giving you a crisp and accessible overview of how the economies have morphed over the ages.

If you find learning about all of this daunting, you’re not alone. I’m still terrified of my own ignorance. It’s like my own Jason Voorhees, except instead of a machete, he’s chasing me with my high school report card.

Weekly Podcast Plunder #2

by Chris

In our second podcast to be recommended on Grog Boat, Stuff You Should Know hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark bring us to New England in the 19th century, where locals nailed down what ills were afflicting their households: fucking vampires!

It’s a wonderful romp through the superstitious landscape of our past. After all, it’s not like folks in our modern culture fall for nonsense.

Right? Guys, right?

The casual banter between the hosts and the overall laid back atmosphere of the podcast highlights the humanity that first endeared me to podcasts and YouTube hangouts. That being said, the hosts do keep the episode to under an hour and stay on point, for the most part.

Click this link to visit the episode’s page on stuffyoushouldknow.com.

Further Reading

Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire” or any other modern vampire tale will do. The hosts actually touch on the cultural influence of the vampire scares, and it’s interesting to see how our works of fiction have added to the mythology of vampires.

See? I even refrained from making a hacky “sparkling vampires” joke.

Why are you still reading? Go! Listen to this week’s podcast pick.

Weekly Podcast Plunder

By Chris

Thank god for podcasts. They have taken over music as my go-to company for long road trips, and their convenient format lets me easily engage with fascinating interviews and listen in on the minds of comedy geniuses at work (looking at you, Monday Morning Podcast!)

I wanted to keep an ongoing record of my favorite podcast episodes on a weekly basis. Every Wednesday, I’ll be adding a podcast from the previous week that I enjoyed, be it due to the episode’s utility, comedy or a fascinating subject matter. So, if you’re bound for an arduous journey, and are in need of accompaniment without having to subject yourself to the horrors of an occupied passenger’s seat, check in to see if there’s anything you’d like.

This week, I wanted to feature an episode of The Art of Manliness Podcast. On this episode, entitled “Why Group Culture is so Important to Success,” host Brett McKay interviewed author Daniel Coyle about the nature of group culture, and its importance to our performance. The conversation touches on group cultures ranging from Pixar creative teams to the trenches of WW1.

I found the focus on group culture provided a lot of context to the teamwork and self-improvement books that have read over the years, and it should be an interesting supplement to your teamwork development, as well.

Click this link to visit the episode’s page on artofmanliness.com.

Further exploration

Daniel Coyle wrote “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups”. Those looking for more insights from the author can start there.

Aside from the author’s work, I would recommend a book called “Extreme Ownership: How Navy SEALS Lead and Win.” This book was written by Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, and focuses more on the individual experience and its effects on group dynamics.