Dogma Free America
Despite rumors to the contrary Rich's actual brother Rob was back in the role of cohost. There was a possibility Rob was going to hang up the USB headphones but emails and (unconfirmed) one "light" hostage taking incident convinced Rob a Rob-less DFA was not a world many people wanted to live in. Rob did announce the worst kept secret in the Orman household, Rob's podcast called ERCast. Rob, as I've noted, is an actual medical doctor. That's some family. Rich is a lawyer. The Orman patriarch Augustus Tiberius Orman is a lawyer and Rob is an actual medical doctor. Pretty high achievers. Like all other shows, DFA this week covered the typical craziness inspired by dogma. Two stories stood out:
Orthodox Jews in Israel are protesting a proposed law that would let people who sign their organ donor cards to be bumped up on waiting list for organs. Apparently orthodox Jews believe donating their organs is a sin. However, their faith does not preclude them from getting organ donations. Errr.
Another head smacker was a story about a psychic protesting a law that regulates fortune tellers in VA. The psychic claimed she doesn't tell fortunes. She just tries to guess the first letters of person's deceased friends 'n' family. Or some such crap. I found it kind of funny that a broad interpretation of the law could probably be applied to mainline Christians.
I downloaded and enjoyed the first installment of Rob Orman's Ercast podcast. As noted above, Rob is the cohost of Dogmra Free America. He's also an actual medical doctor. I guess he practices emergency medicine. Technically no one calls the ER "ER". Real doctors. I gather, call it "ED" as in "the emergency department". Rich Orman suggested if Rob wanted the general public to tune in, no one would ever think to find it using strict hospital terminology.
ERCast is intended by Rob to be a podcast both doctors and lay people can enjoy. A bit like EconTalk I suppose.
The first ep is well in keeping with your typical first podcast ep. Shows its potential but still clearly a work in progress. That's not a bad thing. I don't know any podcaster who ever goes back and listens to the five first episodes of his/her own podcast without a full bottle of Paxil and a fifth of bourbon nearby.
I would have liked Rob do to a Russ Roberts and take a few more seconds to explain some technical terms but Rob's first ep was otherwise brilliant. It was the equivalent of having a teacher called Mr. Butts. First day he's going to be like "okay, let's get all the jokes out now and then we can get down to work." Rob's first ep was about weird stuff he and his fellow ED doctors have had to remove from anuses and the odd lady's vagina. I guess ED doctors get asked about this topic the most from lay people. However, if you thought this was going to be a giggle worthy show, the show goes into so much excruciating graphic detail, well, I'll say this much. Who even knew there was such a thing as an anal speculum, let alone a bi-valved anal speculum? (Don't bother to Google images on that… it just brings up about 10,000 Japanese porn sites). And who knew a doctor could get three fingers and a catheter up and behind the lodged object? Great Xenu, this episode might leave you a bit dizzy.
I knocked off Episode of 150 this weekend of Hrab's wonderful show. It opened with a story about his band the Philadelphia Funk Authority and their experience doing a sound check at a gig. There was then an awfully long intro. I guess when Hrab hits some major numerical milestone like episode 100 or episode 150 he does some extended count down, playing clips from the previous 149 intros. As I noted last time, I love the show but there are times when I'm not embarrassed to say I need to fastword. It's either that or fill out the complicated paperwork for my refund. The PFA story and the super extended intro didn't leave much time in the 45 minute podcast to get to many of Hrab's features in but we were treated to another installment of Religious Moron of the Week. Hrab tends to cover some of the more popular items that crawl across Yahoo news over the week and it's always nice to hear George's POV. In contrast, DFA tends to avoid some of the bigger news items of religious douchery and digs up really obscure horror shows. So to get your bases covered, it's probably best to listen to both podcasts.
Astronomy Cast put out a new one this week. The output has been somewhat irregular as of late. I think it used to be a weekly show. It's hosted by Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. Gay is a working astronomer type and Cain, I believe, is a software developer but happens to be a big time amateur astronomer. Astronomy, unlike plastic surgery or nuclear chemistry, is one of the few fields that welcomes and relies upon the contributions of amateurs. I think nasty job demands have gotten the better of Cain and Gay so their output has suffered. But who am I to complain? This week's episode was about Enirco Fermi. Fermi always reminds me of an old old BASIC computer game called PICO FERMI BAGELS. This game was a hoot when I was ten and played it on my dad's 8K main frame computer. I'm an old geek. Anyway, Fermi did more than lend his name to a computer game from 1973. He is known for things like the Fermi paradox and helping the USA develop nuclear weapons ahead of the Germans. There's a story that the reason nuclear scientists had to get Einstein to write a letter to the US government warning them a nuclear bomb could and would be built is Fermi's initial warning was coldly rebuffed largely because the US government bureaucrat he explained it to just assumed Fermi was a crazy "dego". Anyway, a great ep about a great scientist.
If you've not heard of Monster Talk, well, I guess you've not heard of Monster Talk. It's a new podcast and has taken the skeptical podcast market by storm. It's hosted by a trio of veteran skeptics: Blake Smith, Ben Radford, and Dr. Karen Stollznow. They're applying the forms of skepticism to monster claims. The show probably came about because of the utterly lame cable show Monster Quest, which seems to get real scientists to talk at length about weak evidence for bigfoot and then the Monster Quest editors selectively quote the scientist to make it appear the evidence is stronger than it is.
Of the many great things about Monster Talk is the hosts always have on guests who take really complicated and interesting scientific topics and break it down for the average Joe listener. You always come away from a Monster Talk podcast a little bit smarter.
This week they had on a guest who's a finger printing expert. He thinks he's discovered evidence on a few casts of dermal ridges of an unknown primate. You might initially think this guest is a crank but he comes across as being genuine and guy who just tries to interpret evidence before him by the rules of his profession. He appears to have no dog in the Bigfoot fight. He's just been presented by something that seems to fit genuine "finger prints" that are primate but don't belong to any known primate. The hosts treat the guest with the utmost respect and this month's (it comes out about once a month) episode was another sure winner.
NPR Planet Money
The Planet Money episode I caught this week was about how the spice trade shaped the world as we know it today. It's a fairly well known story but the Planet Money crew managed to tease out some interesting new trivia facts. Like Arabic merchants would make up fantastic stories about where pepper and other spices came from. They had to climb high mountains and battle giant birds to get the spice. The Planet Money crew understood this to be a way for merchants to charge more. They likened it to high priced restaurants that try to convince you your beef doesn't come from a standard cow but comes from a cow raised under the most luxuriant conditions.
This American Life
TAL's episode was about guns. The show opened with a story by Sarah Vowell and her father who was actually a gunsmith and her having to come to terms with her dad's politically incorrect profession. The Vowell story wasn't her best but meh. There was a story about a guy who grew up in New York and how his neighborhood changed after gun makers started to market guns to young black males (apparently the while middle classed male market had been saturated). It was an interesting idea but then as a Conspiracy Skeptic I'd probably want to see evidence. Sounds a lot like the gentrification conspiracy: rich whites saturate black neighborhoods with cheep booze and guns. These neighborhoods happen to be in the city and near downtown financial cores. Sure would be nice to live there and walk to work, if it weren't for all those people living there. So, the claim is they suffuse the people with fortified wine and malt liquor. Crime shoots up. Property values go way down, and then the rich white people waltz in, buy up the property for a song, and turn on the sand blasters. The show matched stories of a woman who survived a mass killing at a McDonald's in Texas and then became a gun advocate with a cop who was shot at point blank range several times who became a gun control advocate. The TAL crew didn't really seem to take sides in the debate despite the assumption of NPR's liberal bias.
The Moth Podcast
If you like This American Life (released on Monday), The Moth Podcast is a nice mid-week fill in. Each week, the podcast features an audio clip of people telling real 5 minute stories on stage without notes. I guess The Moth is a spoken word thingy and they host these story telling events in major American cities. This week featured Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is probably best known for his fascinating book The Tipping Point (and Blink). Gladwell related a tale about how he was a best man at his totally pussy whipped friend's wedding. At the reception, Galdwell and his other friend sung a humorous song to their friend and the bride, who was a notorious ball breaker. The bride saw no humor in the song and hated it so much she walked out of her own reception, with her husband in tow. Funny stuff.
Monday is always a power day for podcast. It features the release of TAL, EconTalk, and the Ottawa Skeptics's Reality Check podcast. It opens with another one of their funny, funny songs "I want proof" sung to the tune of "I want money" (you know that cool Flying Lizards tune). This week the crew covers counterfeiting, has an interview with Junior Skeptic Daniel Loxton (a fellow Canadian), and they tackle the myth you burn more calories eating celery than you get from it (kinda sorta true).
Russ Roberts this week interviewed fellow George Mason University economist Larry White on an economist called Hayek. If you remember last week I posted a link to a rap video Roberts had a hand in writing. The rap video was about Heyek vs Keynes. Hayek was very big into free market economics while Keynes was reasonably big into the government having a hand in the economy. If you didn't quite get what they were rapping about in the video, this EconTalk is a good primer about what Hayek believed.
The SeoulPocast's main squeeze Joe was away this week and Stafford and Jennifer held down the fort. Each show is introduced by the ghostly voice of Korea's greatest king, King Sejong (he invented the Korean alphabet). Joe plays the voice of King Sejong. In his absence Stafford voiced the customary intro. Stafford claimed he was Prince Munjong (Sejong's son and successor). Ah, I love obscure historical jokes. Their guest this week is a teacher who goes by the Korean name for a female tiger, Hwarangi. Hwarangi, as far as I can tell, is a very tall, beautiful blonde Australian woman. Her actual blog is quite sarcastic and biting and not always endearing to the Korean nation. Tall, attractive blond women are frequently confused for Russian prostitutes in Korea. Most Western women in Korea stop laughing after about the third or fourth time they're cornered by a drunk salary man and asked "how much?"
Hwarangi rarely pulls punches in her blog about the difficulty she experiences sometimes just trying to go from her apartment to the grocery store. Not to pick on Koreans, of course. Try to be a young Asian woman in North America. There's a certain class of North American males who will make all kinds of assumptions about your sexual availability and willingness to "go" too. The take away is men are pigs in equal proportion no matter nationality.
A couple of the more interesting stories on this week's SeoulPodcast were the Korean governments attempt to pump up their falling birth rates, ostensibly the lowest on the planet. They're literally trying to turn hump day (Wednesday) into hump day. Government offices will kick workers out before 7 pm. The concept is they'll go home and make sweet, sweet love to their wives. In Korean culture, it's considered a career limiting move to leave work before your boss. If your boss is working until 10 pm, you have to stay at your desk until 10 pm, even if means screwing the pooch (ie playing Starcraft). And if the boss then says "hey, let's all go out after work, drink,and get a whack of prostitutes to sexually entertain us in a noraebang" well a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. This has created a nation of hung over sleep deprived white collar workers who aren't making enough babies. Or that's the theory. It's more likely couples just want a car and Blu Ray DVD player.
I listened to a couple old eps of The Paracast. The Conspiracy Skeptic's official Staff Astronomer Stuart Robbins has been taking on some of the odd claims of a UFO believer named Michael Horn. Horn had a couple rather charged interviews with The Paracast crew. Despite the name, the Paracasters are reasonably skeptical delvers into the UFO topic. You can read my extensive take (and my own appearance on their podcast) here. Suffice it to say, when the Paracast crew turns on the rational with a "believer", it's fireworks time. It was great stuff.