Podcast Roundup–The Academics

If I am using the WordPress filters correctly, it’s been almost two years since my last Podcast Roundup. Two years! It’s probably because in the past two years I’ve found more to watch on TV (until I got tired of TV) and less time to listen to podcasts. There’s an explanation for that: When the kids were little, I could take them to a park and let them loose while I listening my heart out. Now they’ve seen a bit of the world, and the chances of me going to a park and not running into someone to talk to are much, much lower. People don’t like it if you recognize them and don’t take the headphones out of your ears. They really don’t. It also happened that I turned in my little iPod Shuffle Second Generation for an iPod Nano Fourth Generation.

The Pink One

It’s a device with more features and its sync process is a delight to behold (compared to the Shuffle), but it has no clip. I loved clipping my Shuffle to my shirt and walking away. This one is not so easy to carry around, and its buttons seem more sensitive; I’ve leaned against the kitchen counter with it in my pocket and triggered some functions, and that’s no fun when your hands are full of raw chicken juice. I know that there’s a Nano with a clip now, and Husband got one for either his birthday or Christmas last year, and it’s neato, and I would love it, but I hate the idea of upgrading a perfectly good device when I have bras and pants pockets to tuck my own device into. Plus this one comes with video games, which have come in handy when Fella is really, really annoyed to sit through an hour of watching Filly and a bunch of other preschool girls practice ballet. He’s getting pretty good at this mazes one. Of course, handing the device over to a kid further impairs my ability to listen, and now I have a backlog of 550 podcasts in iTunes to get through. Yep. So let’s tackle a few, shall we?

The Good Stuff
The real find of the past few years was the UCSD Podcast service. I made my way over there after someone had recommended a UCLA Sociology course that the professor had recorded. After I’d listened to a whole quarter’s worth of lectures, I wondered if UCSD (where I graduated from) had a similar set up. I hit the jackpot. A good number of professors record their classes for podcasts, and you can listen along from home. The bulk of my podcast backlog is courses; the terms last 10 weeks and you’ll get two or three lectures a week. Some quarters I’ve been interested in three or four difference courses, and they just pile up. Luckily (Sadly?), the professors that frequently record podcasts are starting to repeat themselves, so there have been fewer that have interested me. The one thing that caught me by surprise about the UCSD podcasts was how quickly most of them disappear from the server when the quarter is over. Very occasionally some will disappear each week. You really have to stay on top of the feed if you aren’t listening to them regularly to make sure they are all there. iTunes warns me, so that hasn’t been a big deal.

Highlights
I love the Making of the Modern World series (MMW). It’s a general ed course for Roosevelt College at UCSD, and there are six of them. I’ve been through MMW4. (Somehow I screwed up on MMW5 during Winter 2010, so I’m waiting for them to come around again.) The stellar professors have been anthropologists David Jordan and Tara Carter. I’ve followed each of them to other courses. I’ve also really enjoyed Stephen Potts from the Literature department and Catherina Gere, who researches science history.

American Museum of Natural History
Last summer, when we were still annual passholders at Disneyland, we decided to have a blow-out Disney extravaganza right before the school year began. We splurged and stayed at the fancy hotel–the Grand Californian–from the Wednesday through the Friday before Labor Day (the best time to go; no lines anywhere). There was an entrance to the park from the hotel, and the kids were finally old enough to not have to schlep a stroller everywhere, and we had good times all day long and then everyone would crash except for me because I am always up too late. So I’d hook up the laptop and fool around online (mostly posting pictures to Facebook to update the relatives and gloat to friends). A side effect of that was that there’d be all these other hotel guests with all their laptops hooked up to the same wireless connections, and you could go exploring through their iTunes libraries. I’d always check out their podcast lists. I’d never known the Natural History Museum had a podcast, and it’s a good one. The website archive doesn’t really match up to what you can get from the iTunes Store, but the links to subscribe to it are there.

There are a few ongoing series of lectures that the Museum hosts, and I listened to enough of each to realize I don’t really need to hear anymore. The Brain Master Class is one of those; there are cooking and wine-tasting classes, too, that I thought would be more interesting but require a lot of live audience participation to enjoy, I think. It’s the one-off lectures that are fantastic. I just listened to something about the mind of the marine mammal; I’ve heard one about projections for space exploration over the next century; there was a scholarly debate about the nature of the universe, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I have not yet heard the one about snakes and lizards, or the one about robots. They are long, and, well, you know. Backlog.

The Sociologists
BBC Radio 4
I am still listening to the BBC Radio 4 podcast In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg and the topics have been as diverse and in-depth as ever. It was the plug at the end of each episode for Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor that got me hooked on that one. I’m not sure if I’ve reviewed it before. Taylor’s half-hourish programs usually cover two topics each, on a wide variety of social issues. Mostly he’s interviewing an academic who has published new research (a few have had a different format). The episodes waiting for me to listen to include “Facebook in Trinidad,” “Playboy,” and “Dirt.” (Like, soil dirt. Not gossip.) The podcasts disappear from iTunes within a week, but you can listen to back episodes via streaming on the website. The website, I might add, that just asked me to take a survey about my browsing experience and then booted me out when it learned I was in the United States. Not only that, I had to scroll through an alphabetical list of countries before I could even select “United States” instead of “United States” being listed at the top. The nerve of some people! I’m assuming that those responsible will be sacked.

Office Hours
I basically read “Sociological Images” daily, and it’s part of a larger network of blogs (“The Society Pages”). The banner at the top of the page cycles through the top stories on the other blogs, and I followed some link about Unequal Childhoods to the “Office Hours” blog, which directed me to an audio interview with author Annette Lareau, which put a podcast into my iTunes which led to a subscription opportunity. I’ve only heard a few so far, but I really like them. They are about a half-hour each, and the topics that have caught my eye include “Highways,” “Modeling,” and “Breastfeeding.” They have back episodes going back to November, 2008 on the iTunes server right now. They seem to update every week or two.

Up Next… The Television Podcasts!
I don’t watch as much TV as I did a year ago, but damned if I don’t listen to reviews of all of it!

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