Podcasts have only gotten bigger since I first started compiling these lists


Here's what I'm listening to. 

Do By Friday and the after-show, as well as Back to Work, Reconcilable Differences and Roderick on the Line. All feature Merlin Mann with various co-hosts: Alex Cox, Max Temkin, Dan Benjamin, John Siracusa and John Roderick. 

I also listen to Roderick (frontman for The Long Winters) and Benjamin on Roadwork. I've listened to a few episodes of Omnibus, Roderick's podcast with Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings. 

For comic relief lately, I've gotten back into the granddaddy of buddy humor podcasts, Uh Yeah Dude, with Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli, and I enjoy Jordan Jesse Go, with Jesse Thorn (of Bullseye on public radio) and Jordan Morris, and guest.

If I don't have any episodes of those I turn to Judge John Hodgman and My Brother, My Brother and Me with the highly prolific McElroy brothers (they have several others worth a listen). 

When I want some nerdy book, comics, movie and TV show recommendations, I dip into Snell's long-running pop culture panel show, The Incomparable. And sometimes I binge bad movie commentary from The Flop House.

Another binge-worthy show, good for driving with the family, is 99% Invisible with Roman Mars. 

For Mac-related tech stuff stuff, Upgrade with Jason Snell and Myke Hurley, Accidental Tech Podcast with Siracusa, Marco Arment and Casey Liss, and, occasionally, MacBreak Weekly with Leo Laporte and a changing cast. Sometimes I'll listen to Mac Power Users if the guest looks interesting. From time to time I'll binge John Gruber's Talk Show.

For news, I recommend The Daily with Michael Barbaro and other New York Times journalists, and Trends Like These, with Travis McElroy (one of the brothers) and Brent Black, which tells you about all the stupid stories of this stupid age that are trending on the internet. 

If you're using the iOS Podcast app, you're listening like an animal. Don't do that to yourself. Try Overcast. The speed settings can really save you hours of time without damaging the listening experience, the discovery functions are great and you can easily create smart playlists. 

If you enjoyed this post, buy my wife's book.

AuthorPatrick LaForge

I have increased my podcast listening in recent years, and there are many more podcasts out there since I first start compiling these lists. I was going to update the list last fall, then Serial came out, and everyone was writing about podcasts, so I figured I should hold off. I did listen to Serial, and thought it was fine, though a bit frustrating as journalism. 

A technical note: I now use Overcast on the iPhone as my main discovery and listening app, though I was also happy with Downcast. The distinctive features of Overcast, apart from the pleasing design, are Smartspeed mode and episode recommendations from people you follow on Twitter. Smartspeed saved me nearly 72 hours to date by eliminating gaps and silences in the recordings. I listen to a lot of shows, walking around New York or doing chores around the apartment, the same way some people used to listen to the radio or let the TV play. (Here's a list of other iOS apps I find useful.)

The podcasts I currently enjoy:

99% Invisible. Roman Mars takes a look at human design and the psychology of the built environment. Endlessly fascinating. Pleasingly short episodes.

Accidental Tech Podcast. Marco Arment, John Siracusa and Casey Liss talk about Apple and other tech. It can get into the weeds on developer talk sometimes, and that's when I just look at Twitter or play chess.

Answer Me This! Humorous trivia with British accents. 

Back to Work. Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss movies, comics, parenting and, sometimes, productivity. 

Buddhist Geeks. The intersections of Buddhism and digital technology are explored. 

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. A former LA radio and TV personality with an interest in history takes deep dives on everything from Genghis Khan to the root causes of World War I. Quite lengthy and compelling, good for long drives. 

The Ethicists. Answering readers' ethical dilemmas, with writers from The New York Times Magazine and Slate. 

The Ihnatko Almanac. Andy Ihnatko, tech writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, and Dan Benjamin talk about movies, music, books, comics and tech (the "clickable arts"). 

The Incomparable. A weekly dive into geeky media, including movies, books, TV, comics and more, with a rotating panel of guests hosted by Jason Snell. 

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Silly, profound, vulgar comedy from public radio's Jesse Thorn and his college pal Jordan Morris, with a variety of visiting comedians and other guests, with reader contributions ("momentous occasions"), part of the Maximum Fun network. I listen to occasional episodes of the network's other podcasts.

MacBreak Weekly. Leo Laporte, Andy Ihnatoko, Rene Ritchie, Alex Lindsay and others talk about all the latest Apple, Mac and iOS news. Includes software and hardware picks. 

Mac Power Users. Insanely detailed and frequent helpful Mac productivity tips from Katie Floyd and David Sparks, two lawyers who know a lot about Apple software and hardware. 

My Brother, My Brother and Me. The McElroy brothers banter and answer advice questions posted on Yahoo Answers and other sites, on this Maximum Fun podcast. 

The Memory Palace. Short tales of the past, sometimes only a few minutes long. Offbeat and fun.

Notebook on Cities and Culture. Colin Marshall interviews cultural creators, intellectuals and scholars. Despite the plural "cities" in the name, the fixation seems to be on Los Angeles, its history and efforts to reverse the dominance of the car culture. 

Oh No Ross and Carrie. They apply a scientific approach to new age claims: ear candling, isolation tanks, reiki, dowsing, reflexology, etc.

Risk! Real-life stories and story-tellers, sometimes disturbing or explicit, exploring the full range of human emotion and experience.

Roderick on the Line. John Roderick of the Long Winters band and Merlin Mann talk about life. 

Savage Lovecast Dan Savage gives sex advice to people with problems so esoteric that your own interests will seem quite vanilla.

Song Exploder. Musicians pick apart their songs, telling the story of how they were made. 

Systematic. Brett Terpstra interviews nerds and geeks about workflow, hardware and software.

The Talk Show. John Gruber, the Mac blogger behind Daring Fireball, talks to various tech journalists and developers about Apple products and other tech. 

This American Life. The public radio show with Ira Glass, so you don't have to remember when it's on the radio locally. 

This Week in Tech. Leo Laporte, John C. Dvorak, Dwight Silverman, and many other tech writers talk every Sunday about the latest tech and computer news. 

Tomorrow. A new project from Joshua Topolsky, formerly of The Verge. Good so far. 

Uhh Yeah Dude. Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette (the actor's son) banter and crack jokes about offbeat news items and other esoteric matters.

Upgrade. How technology from Apple, Google and Amazon is reshaping our lives. With Jason Snell and Myke Hurley.

Welcome to Nightvale. Updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, from the activities of the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers and the local weather, which usually includes a good song. 

You Are Not So Smart. David McRaney explores human self-delusion related congitive biases, heuristics and logical fallacies.  He interviews scientists about their work, then he eats a cookie from a recipe sent in by a listener. The guy really likes cookies, maybe too much. 


AuthorPatrick LaForge

Some friends have been shaking their heads because I have been unapologetic about my intention to get an Apple Watch. I even woke up at 3 a.m. to place the order. It is expected to arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks: a 48-millimeter stainless steel watch with a classic buckle (like the leather band on this pictured 38-millimeter model). Technically, it's a belated birthday gift from my wife. (Buy her book so she can afford to pay this off.)

In recent days, I've also been to the Apple Store twice to try on watches,  and I ordered an extra band, a blue leather loop

Critics dismiss the watch as a toy, overpriced, a first-generation or beta product, an overhyped object of desire. And they may be right. But as I've on Twitter and Facebook, some people go to Vegas; some people buy beta tech.

I don't always get the latest and greatest gadgets: I'm still using an iPhone 5S and a relatively old MacBook Air. And I'm not a complete Apple fanboy. The current device on my wrist is a Fitbi, and I have found a lot of recent Apple software disturbingly buggy. The new MacBook leaves me cold. 

But I do enjoy understanding new product categories: I owned the very first iPod, iPhone and iPad. They all changed my life and how I thought about my work as an editor, to varying degrees. I have owned Palm Pilots and Netbooks, Rokus and Amazon Fire TV, and countless other new gadgets. This is my hobby. Some people drop money on fancy clothes and sports cars. This is what I enjoy, the life of a pre-cyborg. 

I could rationalize this as a work-related purchase, since my employer does indeed have a wearable news app in testing, and we'll have to monitor how we present our content there, but I haven't asked and would not expect The Times to pay for a Watch -- certainly not the stainless steel version. And no, it doesn't bother me that better, faster watches will come out in a year or two. I'll think I'll be happy with this version for a while, even after new ones come out, so long as it delivers on its basic promise of getting my face out of my iPhone. 

Early reviews have confirmed my hunch that the Watch could improve my daily life, which has gotten increasingly overwhelmed by notifications, messages, and connectivity. I am hoping a device on my wrist will give me a little distance from the tyrant in my pocket. It's too short of a path from a single, often unimportant notification to 15 minutes of scrolling through email, checking Twitter and so on.

Many of us have had the experience of checking the time or a text message on our phones, only to become engrossed in other things, even among other people. Often, when I finally look up, they are all buried in their phones too. 

And that has become a big problem I need to solve. I can't chuck my phone. It is a necessity for work and home. But in recent years, I have been getting more involved with Zen Buddhism and sitting meditation, zazen. This experience has made me more aware of the distractions that take me away from the present moment. I am hopeful that the watch will be a better, more refined tool for managing interruptions. For my work, I am always going to need calendar invitations, important emails, notifications, even social media, but I'm hoping to restore a little balance and make that invisible world of communications less intrusive. 

The Watch will also replace the Fitbit on my wrist with more comprehensive health and exercise data. I have enjoyed the Fitbit Flex but am always annoyed by its limitations. It doesn't even tell me the time. The Watch will let me use Apple Pay, which my 5S phone does not support. That seems convenient and more secure than our antiquated credit-card technology. I am a fully vested member of the digital economy, rarely using cash and putting everything on a charge card that I pay off each month. 

I hope the watch will be a less obvious way to stick out as a tourist in strange places when I'm using maps. I hope to listen to podcasts and maybe give Siri another chance. I do want a place for the most urgent emails, calendar invitations, reminders and news alerts to find me, while leaving the rest on the phone for later.

I want to see what independent developers come up with. (It would be great someday if the Watch could pick up on bluetooth signals from the devices of other people near me, reminding me their names and other details, because I'm pretty bad at remembering faces.) 

The hardest part may be deciding which apps to leave off the device. I really want it to be a simpler and more focused experience than using my phone. Just the essentials. 

It also looks great on my wrist. I was worried it would be too big, too geeky or, worse, ostentatious. I could be wrong, but I don't think that will be the case, once the first early-adopter excitement dies down. In the end, we'll just see it for what it is: a watch, with some useful functions. And that's fine. 

AuthorPatrick LaForge

Some people have found the older installments of this list to be helpful, so I figured it was time for an update. The Apple App Store for iOS continues to suffer from discoverability and search issues. App prices have dropped, but it can still be costly to try out new mobile software. I am mainly focused here on the iPhone, but many of these apps work on iPads and have Android or other non-Apple versions versions.  I pay for these out of my own pocket and do not accept compensation related to these, with the exception of the two mentioned here that are offered by my employer. The order is roughly based on frequency of use. 

My iPhone 5S home screen circa September 2014.

My iPhone 5S home screen circa September 2014.

Calendars 5 I have found myself having to juggle a lot more meetings, staff schedules and invitations in recent years, so I needed something with more features and multi-calendar ability than the built-in calendar. As my old brain's memory has started to misfire, I find myself setting calendar items, alerts and reminders for more and more things to keep me on track even in my home life. This app syncs with BusyCal, my desktop client, and both work well with gmail and iOs calendars. You can set up events with natural language: "have coffee with Joe at 9 a.m. on Thursday" will be converted into a regular calendar item.

Omnifocus The essential, intuitive to-do list, project manager, organizer, lifesaver. Expensive, but I buy it for every device I own. 

Tweetbot As the official Twitter site and its apps get more commercial and intrusive, with new distracting features I don't find helpful, this continues to be my tweeting standby. Key features: You can save draft tweets and mute people temporarily when they are live-tweeting sports or other events you don't care about.

Overcast There are many great podcast apps out there, but this one allows you to see recommendations from people you follow on Twitter and has a key feature, Smartspeed, that subtly eliminates pauses and silences in recorded shows. In fewer than six months of heavy podcast listening, Overcast saved me nearly 24 hours.

1Password This has become an amazing tool now that iOS 8 integrates it with the iPhone fingerprint reader and Safari. I can safely log into any account on the phone, without having to remember my increasingly long and complicated passwords, with no fear that someone could get into my accounts if my phone were compromised.

Weather Underground The best, most-detailed weather app I've found, and I've tried them all. I use it in combination with Dark Sky, which gives local, highly focused accurate alerts with radar images about rainstorms ("light rain for next 20 minutes"), essential for walking and biking around New York.

Slack This chat room / messaging tool is becoming essential for editing teams working on many of our new products in the newsroom. I am quickly alerted to a range of keywords -- from my own name to "stylebook" -- no matter where I am or what I'm doing, if I choose to be paying attention. 

Unread This simple, intuitive RSS reader has replaced Reeder on my screen. I switched around the time Google pulled the plug on its feed reader. Good for breaking away from the curated streams of people you follow or various services. 

Digg I also have my RSS feeds flowing into Digg, which is a good reader. But I've also become addicted to the "top stories" curation, which does a good job finding the best content every day, a mix of both substantive and viral links. 

Quotebook from Lickability. 

Quotebook from Lickability. 

Quotebook I bought this because I know a couple of the developers but I didn't really expect to be using it as much as I have. I've now saved dozens of quotes found on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. The auto-detection and import functions are remarkable. 

Evernote I have used Evernote as a junk drawer in the cloud for years, and the tools and notebooks have steadily improved, making it a useful part of my workflow for articles, pictures, and other information I want to save. Clip web pages, use the OCR scanner to make PDFs searchable, stash notes for the future. Combine it with Hazel on a Mac desktop for auto-saving of downloads, bills and other important documents.

Fitbit I wear a Fitbit Flex and obsessively check my daily steps and other activity here. It syncs data with the wrist device via low-energy bluetooth, and, now, with some other health apps I'm still trying out that use Apple's new Health Kit functionality on iOS. So far I do not share data competitively with friends, but I would if anyone is game.

Drafts and Simplenote are very plain, simple note-taking apps where I jot down bits of information. Drafts has more features, with actions that can create tweets, emails, append items to Dropbox files, and more. But Simplenote, which syncs with Notational Velocity on a computer, is faster and simpler with more intuitive search of the notes. At some point I'll probably shift completely to drafts.

ProCamera The iPhone camera app has a confusing menu system. The buttons are too small, it takes too long to switch between stills and video (you have to scroll past "square" and other dumb options), and there are Instagram-style filters that pop up at inconvenient times. For a long time I used Camera+ (from Tap Tap Tap; big buttons but no video) and Camera Plus (from Global Delight; has video and interesting wifi sharing). Lately I have been using ProCamera, which seems to be the best of the lot.

Chess.com Nothing beats playing real people. I've tried many of the apps and desktop sites but many were buggy, with lost connections at mid-game being the worst part. This is the best I've found. The free version is fully featured, but I chose to give them money for a subscription, which gets you some advanced game statistics and tutorials. 

Curated links from around the web on NYT Now (swipe to the left).

Curated links from around the web on NYT Now (swipe to the left).

NYTimes and NYTNow Two different flavors of The Times. I use the first one when I want to see the report as the editors intended, and the second as more of a breaking news stream, with curated picks from around the web.

iTrans NYC Comprehensive New York City subway information, including detailed construction alerts. 

Dropbox Useful for syncing some apps and content (Drafts, 1Password, etc.), ready availability of documents and pictures from my computers. 

Dreamer  A handy dedicated tool for recording a dream with a date/time stamp when you wake up in the dark. The screen is black, so you can type without a bright light in your face. It's simple but a little clunky. Some kind of automatic archiving to Evernote or Dropbox would be nice, but you can email the entries manually.

Instapaper  Still my go-to read later app, for links and articles saved from Twitter, Safari, Facebook and so forth. 

Buffer  Let's say you have a heavy tweeting habit. Maybe you don't want to flood your users with 20 tweets in 20 minutes. You can set up a schedule in Buffer that will sprinkle the tweets out at a more manageable rate. It could be used in more nefarious ways, but I'd avoid that: don't be the person auto-sharing joke tweets during a national tragedy. 

Cellartracker The best wine cellar site now has its own app, which has a better look and works better than my previous one, Cor.kz. Keep track of bottles you own (or have owned), how much they cost, ratings and reviews (including your own tasting notes), and when they get consumed. Enter data automatically by scanning the labels with your camera.

Webster's New World and Oxford Shorter English dictionaries - These are so much handier than a huge book or searching the web. Enter a few letters and move quickly and responsively to the entries you want. 

Flipboard After ignoring it for a couple of years, I have recently resumed using this magazine-style web reader, which can give you detailed collections from The Times, your friends on Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Google Plus, and more. They keep adding features and improving the experience. 

TextExpander The useful text shortcut app. Create short snippets that fill in your email signatures, phone number / addresses, entire form letters, corrected spellings, foreign words with correct accents, etc. I use it on all my devices. The new iOS 8 version has its own iPhone keyboard. 

Put your situation in a sentence and let Beats pick the music. 

Put your situation in a sentence and let Beats pick the music. 

Beats  I tried this streaming music service out on a whim ($) after Apple bought it, and I find I prefer it to Spotify, iTunes Radio and Pandora. It features a lot of curated playlists, detailed information about the artists, and a good selection of music. The play-a-sentence feature seems gimmicky ("I'm in the car & feel like road-tripping with my boo to indie") but can be fun for a gathering so you don't have to be constantly playing deejay. The user-interface is O.K., though sometimes non-intuitive; I have gotten lost in menus trying to find my way back to a feature. I don't use this much on the phone, but at home, I stream Beats from my purely entertainment-focused iPad Air via low-energy Bluetooth to a Marshall Stanmore speaker, which sounds (and looks) sweet. I hope Apple keeps the best parts of Beats but integrates it with iTunes in some way so I can use my purchased music library in a single app. 

Shazam What's that song playing in the restaurant, bar or shop? Shazam tells you, and even shows you where to buy it. Rarely fails.

Swarm and Foursquare  I fear Foursquare has damaged its user experience and business by spinning check-ins off to a separate app, Swarm. I'm still using it, but a whole lot less than before. I added a lot of tips to restaurants and other venues, which I found useful on subsequent visits to neighborhoods. I have left very few tips since check-ins were moved over to the ugly orange Swarm app. I still find it useful to check the apps for nearby stuff, but I fear that the quality of the information will slowly be reduced to Yelp-level quality. I have Yelp too, but it can quickly turn into an ugly, confusing rathole of bad information. The key difference is that Foursquare encouraged users to focus on the positive ("try the crispy tuna roll") rather than asking people to be less-than-useful reviewers ("the waiter on Sunday night was very rude.") 

Facebook The only way I check my feed, once a week. It would be even better if it stopped nagging me to download the separate Messenger app, which I don't need. I discourage emails or private messages on Facebook. Too many inboxes in my life already.

Pinbook  I save all my tweets and favorited links on various platforms to the social bookmarking site Pinboard and use this to look at them. Sort of like the old Delicious service.

Opentable Still a great way to find restaurants with available tables for reservations at the last minute. 

Kindle, Audible and comic publisher apps. My preferred book app on iOS devices is for Kindle, because of my large Amazon library, although the continued Apple-Amazon wars mean it's laborious to purchase ebooks (and audio books via Audible, also an Amazon company). Best workaround is to put Amazon store web apps on your home screen. I have a similar problem on the iPad with Comixology, since Amazon destroyed in-app purchases after buying that company. My workaround for comics is to use the apps from Marvel, Image and other publishers; they use Comixology technology but still allow in-app purchases via iTunes. It's not clear how long that will continue.

Threes, Dark Nebula 2, Catan HD My current, insidious time wasters. 




AuthorPatrick LaForge

I'm a big podcast fan, so I was intrigued by two articles over the weekend, one in The Washington Post and the other from Fast Company, both with similar sourcing and examples, noting the rise of podcasting and podcast networks.

Podcasts are now a lot easier to download and listen to on the move, thanks to smartphones and built-in audio technology in cars, and they have a profitable advertising model for networks that can pool resources or hosts working in small teams from home. 

From The Post: 

Maybe it’s the intimacy of hearing soothing voices piped into your ears through a pair of headphones — or maybe it’s just how much time people need to kill listening to something. Americans spend more than three hours a day commuting, working out and doing household chores that can be accompanied by audio entertainment, according to census data studied by Matt Lieber, a former public radio producer...

From Fast Company:

As more shows prove the magic of podcasts to generate actual money, audiences continue to grow. In the last year alone, the amount of people listening to podcasts has gone up 25%. And people who podcast, podcast hard, listening to an average of six podcasts a week.


AuthorPatrick LaForge

I mostly read Twitter on my iPhone using the Tweetbot app. When I see an interesting article, but don't have time to read it, I usually save it to Instapaper, the read-later service. There are plenty of such services, but Instapaper was the first and best, and I like that I have access to my articles on many devices, from my computer to my iPhone to my two iPads (a mini for work, an Air for home pleasure use, like movies and games).

Two iPads? Wow, that's excessive. Yes. Maybe I'll explain that some other time. 

Anyway, even though I love iOS devices, when it comes to reading something long on a digital device, I prefer my Kindle Paperwhite. There's something comfortable and productive about a device that feels like a book and looks like paper (in all lighting situations). I get a lot of reading done without interruption of things like news alerts and Twitter, that is best for reading long things. 

But back to Instapaper. For whatever reason, I often forget to check my queue there on my computer and iOS devices. When I'm using those devices, I'm just much more likely to be drawn to Twitter, Facebook or the NYTimes site. So the articles pile up. Recently I was browsing Twitter and Aerocles mentioned that he would like to have a print version of his Instapaper queue. I don't want that, but I remembered someone mentioning that you could have it sent to your Kindle. Sure enough. The Instapaper site walks through it pretty well

So I'm going to give this a try, having a delivery of my Instapaper saves at the end of the day, where I'll find them on my Kindle. A few pointers: Use the free.kindle email address so you don't get charged per delivery over 3G by Amazon. And given the limitations of both Instapaper and Amazon when it comes to images and other non-text, this works best for long text articles. There are also sites that do not let Instapaper save the full article. 

I'm making a few other changes. I've gotten into the bad habit of just sending things to Instapaper when I really just want to bookmark them or save them for the future. I have an Evernote account, so I'll probably start using that more for long-term saving of articles (though I find it to be both a powerful and overwhelming service). And as for bookmarking, I already have Pinboard set up to save any link that I favorite or retweet. I often just forget it's there, a sort of junk drawer of last resort. There is a modest, onetime fee. It has many powerful functions if you really want to get into it. 

(For my own thoughts and notes on the go, I use the app Drafts, which has some powerful shortcuts for forwarding bits and snippets to Dropbox, Evernote, Twitter, email and other services. It also syncs across multiple iOS devices. It's sort of a souped-up version of Notational Velocity and Simplenote, which was my go-to app for that for a long time.)

Thanks for reading. I'll update this post after trying this for a while. I won't be surprised if I discover that the real value of Instapaper is giving me permission to not read things. When I'm in Twitter, I'm trying to very quickly catch up on news and maybe share a few things. I don't necessarily want to get caught up reading something long. Sending it to Instapaper eases the guilt or postpones the reckoning. I'm saving it for later.

Jan. 12 update: The collections come over to the Kindle in a relatively pleasing automatic layout. Today I added a new wrinkle. Since I get most of my reading from Twitter links, I used this recipe on IFTTT ("If this, then that"), which automatically sends favorited tweet links into Instapaper. Then at the end of the day (I hope), these will in turn be sent to my Kindle for reading all at once. 


AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesiPhone Apps

I bought this Penguin edition in the mid-1980s at Louie's Bookstore Cafe on Charles Street in Baltimore. The paperback combined Paul Auster's three surreal detective stories about New York. I have not read all of his subsequent novels, but these spoke to me. For some reason, ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed stories about mysterious disappearances. I also enjoy literary twists on genre fiction (mysteries, science fiction, fantasies). I remember the jacket copy for "Ghosts" was particularly intriguing: "Blue, a student of Brown, has been hired by White to spy on Black. From a window of a rented room on Orange Street, Blue keeps watch on his subject, who is across the street, staring out of his window." But a passage in the third book, "The Locked Room," probably sums up how I feel about Auster's work. The narrator finds a notebook belonging to a writer who has vanished:

If I say nothing about what I found there, it is because I understood very little. All the words were familiar to me, and yet they seemed to have been put together strangely, as their their final purpose was to cancel each other out. I can think of no other way to express it. Each sentence erased the sentence before it, each paragraph made the next paragraph impossible. It is odd, then, that the feeling that survives from this notebook is one of great lucidity. It is as if Fanshawe knew his final work had to subvert every expectation I had for it.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book

My parents bought this 1980 collection for me as a present, probably for birthday or Christmas. It is amazingly comprehensive, and I recall reading it many times. The list of authors ould be familiar to any fan of science fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Blish, Philip Jose Farmer, John Varley, Theodore Sturgeon, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. , Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Isaac Asimov , and many more. Most were originally published in pulp magazines or other cheap editions in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. With 754 pages of tiny type, it supplied hours of entertainment. I recall reading it in the cool of the basement on hot summers (we had no air conditioning), in an old raised ranch in a subdivision on the edge of a field in a town that was on the verge of economic collapse. A lawn mower buzzed somewhere. A cat was probably curled at my feet. That house is sold. My parents are long gone. I had not opened this book in decades, until I decided to write this post, but some memory of those days has kept me repacking it into boxes, smoothing his tattered dust cover, from upstate New York to college in Ithaca, to Baltimore, to Pennsylvania to various New York apartments. And here it is, like a time capsule I stashed away for myself in the last days of adolescence.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

AuthorPatrick LaForge
CategoriesThis Old Book

I remember that my father had a copy of "The Last Whole Earth Catalog," which came out sometime in the 1970s. This Millennium version was released in 1994 with the tagline " Access to Tools & Ideas for the 21st Century." Its huge size -- about 384 pages, roughly 24 by 12 inches, has made it tough to lug around all this time. It's basically a compendium of cool stuff of the sort that the Web and Internet have made obsolete in print form (though the catalog lives on, I guess, and we still have Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools). This edition of the print catalog includes a foreword by Stewart Brand (mentioned earlier on this blog), one of the creators of the original 1960s era catalog. So now that we are here in the post-Internet 21st century, what remains of value in here? Some of the topics covered: organic food, edible landscaping, lucid dreaming, psychedelics, bicycling science, virtual reality, comix, zines, fringe video, self-defense for kids, meditation, erotic literature, building a sidewalk telescope, do-it-yourself CD-ROM, satellite TV, and "Internet: How to Use it." An excerpt from the latter:

Before you get too excited about Mosaic, remember that image and sound files can be huge. If you're connecting over a phone line using SLIP/PPP, the experience can be like sipping jello through a straw. Mosaic looks good at TI speed, which is commonplace at CERN and NCSA. From home, even at 28,800 bps, those hourly SLIP/PPP charges add up, with most of your connect time spent waiting for images to transfer. The Web is, for better or worse, people's information space of choice as we move into the second half of the 1990s. But using it comfortably requires high bandwidth connections that are currently beyond most home users.

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

AuthorPatrick LaForge

I don't watch a lot of TV, but I do listen to about 10 to 15 hours of podcasts a week, while walking around, doing chores, working out or dozing off.  I use the Downcast app on my iPhone now that Apple has crippled podcast functionality in iTunes and released a buggy app. Here are the latest ones holding my interest, in alphabetical order; it's heavy on Mac stuff and comedy. Downcast has a good search, auto downloads in background and a simple playlist function that can serve you up the latest episodes one after another.

Generally speaking, the best talk podcasts produced these days come from several networks: Leo Laporte's Twit, Dan Benjamin's 5by5, Jesse Thorn's Maximum Fun and Mike Monteiro's Mule Radio.  Public radio outlets also offer most of their shows as podcasts (This American Life, Planet Money), and I listen to some of them but have not listed any here. Many also offer video versions, but I generally stick to audio, both to conserve storage on my phone and to avoid sitting around so much. Schedules, links and other details listed here were current as of February 2013.

Back to Work: Merlin Mann ostensibly discusses productivity and working life with Dan Benjamin, but often they just riff about comics, music and tech. Nearly every Tuesday. About 1.5 hours.

Boars, Gore and Swords: A humorous discussion of the HBO series "Game of Thrones" and the books on which they are based. Weekly, Sun. or Mon.; 1.5 hours+. 

Buddhist Geeks: Discussions of and interviews about modern Buddhism with a technological bent. Weekly; day varies. 20 to 35 minutes.

Bullseye: Jesse Thorn's followup to "Sound of Young America," the public radio pop culture program. Usually Mondays. About an hour.

Generational: Living with technology, with interviews by Gabe Weatherhead. Usually Saturdays. Up to 2 hours.

Ihnatko Almanac: Andy Ihnatko, the tech writer and mutton-chopped ubernerd for The Chicago Sun-Times, talking about films, movies, comics and whatever else catches his attention, with Dan Benjamin. Thursdays. About an hour.

iPad Today: Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane with the latest news about iPads and iOS apps. Thursdays. About an hour.

Jordan, Jesse, GO!: Extremely vulgar comedy discussions from Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris, with regular guests from the worlds of standup comedy and podcasting. Mondays or Tuesday. About an hour to an hour and 45 minutes.

Let's Make Mistakes: Design and tech discussions from @mike_ftw and company. Mondays. About 45 minutes.

MacBreak Weekly: Leo Laporte, Andy Ihnatko and assorted guests talk about Macs, Apple and iOS. Tuesdays, about 2 hours.

My Brother, My Brother and Me: The three McElroy  brothers are humorous advice experts. Mondays. About an hour. 

Quit!: Dan Benjamin wants you to quit your corporate stooge job. Takes live calls. Fridays. About 1.5 to 2 hours.

Risk!: Dramatic and humorous real-life stories by comedians, celebrities and ordinary people, often told before a live audience, hosted by Kevin Allison. Variable schedule. About 30 minutes to an hour.

Roderick on the Line: John Roderick, of the Long Winters band, and -- yet again -- Merlin Mann talk about arcane history, music and life in general. Erratic schedule. About an hour.

Savage Lovecast: The sex columnist Dan Savage gives advice to people from all types of orientations. Ear-opening. Tuesdays. About 45 minutes to an hour.

The Talk Show with John Gruber: The blogger behind Daring Fireball talks with guests from the world of tech about Apple, movies, books, coffee and gadgets. Erratic schedule. One to two hours.

This Week in Tech: Laporte and assorted guests talk about general technology news. Released late Sunday, early Monday. About 2 hours.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour: Comedy in the style of old time radio broadcasts. Thursdays. Vary from 30 minutes to an hour.

Uhh Yeah Dude: Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette with a weekly audio news of the weird roundup. Thursdays. About an hour.

You Look Nice Today: Surreal conversations with Merlin Mann, Scott Simpson, and Adam Lisagor. Erratic schedule. About 30 minutes. 


This science fiction novel by Colin Wilson is really a novel of ideas, and my teen-age self found it quite compelling, so much so that when I lost my paperback copy I ordered this out of print hardcover first edition. There's an element of fantasy to the book, as it describes the adventures of two scientists trying to find rational explanations for what seem to be nearly mythological forces dating back to the ancient Mayans. The scientists are in pursuit of heightened or cosmic consciousness -- brain operations give them the power to read minds and travel back in time to Shakespeare's era -- and, well, then a bunch of other crazy stuff happens. Wilson said that after he read H.G. Wells at age 11 he wanted to write "the definitive novel about time travel. Time travel is a perpetually alluring idea, but it always sounds so preposterous... The question of how to make it sound plausible is quite a challenge." He pulls it off. 

    This Old Book is a series of posts about books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades.

Some of the readers who wander through here seem particularly interested in the topic of introverts and ambiverts. Today I came across this collection of introvert fairy tales (via @phaoloo) that might be of interest to them. The site's motto is "A Quiet Kind of Happily Ever After."

An excerpt:

Snow White escapes from her family who follow a strict fruitarian diet and flees into the forest. She is taken in by a bunch of kind and friendly men with stable jobs, but eventually the stress of living in a share house with seven other people who are fond of communal singing leads her to self-medicate and OD.

Her housemates take care of her as best they can, but don’t really understand the problem. Eventually a woodcutter comes along...

AuthorPatrick LaForge

This 1901 book by Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D., formerly medical superintendent of the asylum for the insane in London, Canada, was reissued as a paperback in 1969, and apparently thousands of copies were sent to the used bookstores of Ithaca, N.Y., where I ran into so many copies of it that I finally broke down and bought one. "A classic investigation of the development of man's mystic relation to the infinite," the book describes something that might sound similar to zen enlightment, or a born-again Christian experience, or various other mystical states. There are charts and footnotes. The best part is the second half that lists a number of people -- some well-known historical figures, others individuals listed only by their initials -- who the doctor believed had attained this state of consciousness. They include: Gautama the Buddha, Jesus the Christ, Paul (the saint), Mohammed, Bartolome le Casas, Francis Bacon, Honore de Balzac, Walt Whitman, Spinoza, Pushkin, Tennyson, and Thoreau. Among the anonymous adepts is H.B., who wrote of a realization that came upon him while reading the only copy of Darwin's "Origin of Species" available in his town:

The first real mental illumination I remember to have experienced was when I saw that the universe exists in each of its individual atoms -- that is, the universe is the result of a few simple processes infinitely repeated. When a drop of water has been mathematically measured, every principle will have been used which would be called for in the measurement of hte heavens. All life on the globe is sustaned by digestion and assimilation; when by voluntary and traumatic action these stop death follows. The history of an individual mind is the history of the race. Know one thing in its properties and relations and you will know all things. 

     This Old Book started as a Tumblr, which is also archived on Palafo.com. These are books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades, with a few comments attempting to figure out why I have held onto them.


Walker Percy, a physician and practicing Catholic in the American South, wrote a number of interesting novels, the best-known perhaps being "The Moviegoer," winner of the National Book Award in 1962 (or was it?), beating books by Salinger and Heller. But Percy also wrote some oddball nonfiction, including this one, billed as "The Last Self-Help Book." It seems to have been an attempt to puncture some of the astrological, spiritual and pseudo-therapy books on the market in the 1970s. It is a strange and entertaining read (marred, alas, by the casual homophobia of that time, among other flaws). The book is part humor, part spiritual quest, part a treatise on semiotics before that word was in vogue. It is also part self-help quiz, and part riff on Carl Sagan's popular science book "Cosmos," with one of the best arguments you'll ever read against suicide. You'll find that in the chapter entitled, "The Depressed Self: Whether the Self is Depressed because there is something wrong with it or whether Depression is a Normal Response to a Deranged World." 

     This Old Book started as a Tumblr, which is also archived on Palafo.com. These are books that have survived many purges from my shelves over decades, with a few comments attempting to figure out why I have held onto them.

AuthorPatrick LaForge