Sunday, February 27, 2011

What I'm Podcasting

My podcast tastes have been evolving and these are my top three at the moment:
  1. On the Media -- Consistently excellent look at current events and how they're portrayed in the media (both new school and old school media). Highly recommended for those looking for greater insight into the changing landscape of media.
  2. Planet Money -- They bring light to complicated financial current events by bathing them in context, history, and speaking in layman terms.
  3. Freakonomics
This next list is ones I enjoy, but they fall into my second tier priority (where second tier = not getting listened to on the bus Monday or Tuesday, but Wednesday at the earliest as I tend to update podcasts over the weekend).
  1. Radiolab -- This show is tough to beat when they spend an hour going in depth on topics like silence, deception or unintended consequences.
  2. Sound Opinions -- This has been a fave of mine for years, but I'm beginning to tire of it a bit. Still, they regularly have sweet interviews like this week with Gang of Four.
  3. The Dinner Party Download -- Clever, funny, witty, and boozy.
  4. Studio 360
  5. Dirtbag Diaries -- Personal stories from adventurous outdoorsy people who climb, bike, paddle, etc.
  6. This American Life -- Format may be growing slightly tired, but I love it when they focus on current events like when they partnered with the Planet Money folks to delve deep, deep into the origins of the recession or when they explained the myriad inefficiencies that have evolved in our health care system, each over multiple hour-long episodes.
  7. The Moth -- Best of live, spoken word, all true storytelling from NYC.
  8. The Writer's Almanac -- At 5 minutes each, great for listening to 10 episodes in a row including positively plenty pretty good poetry.
My routine is normally to listen to these on my 40-minute walk and bus ride to and from work each day, during the non-bicycle commuting season, of course. And that may be the only downside to my bike commuting -- it makes it harder to keep up on the podcasts.

Just like the books I read, this list definitely skews strongly to non-fiction. I guess something I've learned about myself is that I yearn to learn, even if most of the time I forget what I learned after a few days. Oh, to have a better memory. But here's to life's little pleasures.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Darning Socks: A Lost Art?

    I tend to wear out my socks by tearing a hole in the back of the heel when I pull them on. This makes them uncomfortable to wear and I've always felt guilty just throwing one sock away. Sometimes I have other socks that are identical so if I throw one away then I'll have a spare in case another one gets torn or lost. But sometimes there aren't any other matching socks so if I throw away one I might as well throw away its pair, too. And that seems ridiculous to me.

    Growing up, my family was selectively very frugal.

    In the olden days, the woman of the house would mend torn socks with a technique called darning. You don't hear that word much anymore so last year I figured I'd give it a try. After all, I have a needle and thread and can find 20 minutes for a little mending. Plus, I have a shade of misplaced confidence because replacing buttons is a skill I've acquired over the years.

    So I did a little research. Turns out darning is a little harder than I thought. To do it right you don't simply knit the hole closed by sewing the sides of the hole together like if you had just a slit in the knee of your trousers. You actually need to completely fill in the hole with new thread in order to keep the integrity of the shape of the sock for lasting comfort. Like this:

    So I decided I'd pay someone to do it for me. That way I still don't feel so guilty about throwing away socks that are still 90% good because, well, where is "away", anyways?

    I waited until I had 4 socks that needed to be darned and took them to the downtown Mpls skyway tailor I often use. They told me that they don't darn socks. Hmmm. Maybe it is a lost art.

    Disappointed but not discouraged, I biked up to Tom's Tailors on Grand Ave a couple weeks ago and asked him to do them. He said he could do it, but that I most likely wouldn't like the outcome because people have complained to him that the socks are not comfortable anymore after being darned -- something about the threads not matching up well or the seams or whatever.

    But I had nothing to lose and was now on a quest, so I gave him one of my socks as a test.

    A week later I picked it up and when I wore it the next day it felt good as new! So I dropped off the rest in all different styles -- old school wool, cotton, fancy outdoorsy hiking types -- and they became good as new, too, each filled in with the proper type of thread. I guess our grandmothers were on to something.

    The only slight hangup is the price. I think I paid $6 per sock which is more than most of them cost originally, but I was completely willing to pay it because I felt better not contributing to a landfill and didn't have to make a trip to the store to buy new socks (I'd much rather bike to the tailor than enter any sort of store that sells socks).

    I'm happy to report that darning socks is not a lost art...yet. It may be endangered but only needs to be rekindled by a new generation to regain its rightful place in society.