Apr 19, 2011


Every time I think I've reached my limit, that at my age I just don't have the energy to follow yet another of the endlessly bifurcating trails of breadcrumbs that technology keeps throwing at me, I summon a little courage and try something new.

I heard about podcasts a long time ago but had always relegated them to "things too new and complicated for me to try." With a new vehicle and the decision whether to spend money to install my fancy radio with XM, I wondered if playing podcasts on my iPod might be a no-cost alternative to the $12 a month or so I've been paying XM for eight years.

Started with Google and proceeded to the Wikipedia page, which told me pretty much everything I needed to know. The easiest way for fearful folk like me is to open iTunes, click Podcasts on the top bar, and go shopping. I stuck with free ones, which abound. Downloaded two past shows from This American Life, which I always enjoyed on XM, and subscribed to receive auto-downloads weekly. Also grabbed shows from Skepticality and The Partially Examined Life, two titles I found intriguing.

Next I saved links to some other podcast sources listed by Google such as Podbean and fluctu8 for future investigation. Finally I visited XMPR, knowing I would find the free weekend podcast of the Bob Edwards Show. I downloaded eleven past shows and subscribed to this one too. I was delighted to see the site let me choose iPod-ready versions. Talk about painless.

Yesterday I plugged my iPod into my new car's aux input, ready to enjoy something thought-provoking on my half-hour commute. The darned thing was frozen, technology refusing to play ball. I shrugged it off and last night after plugging and unplugging it to my USB port a few times, it played fine.

Drum roll, please...

This morning I plugged it in and everything worked as promised. I listened to the first half of an hour show from Skepticality magazine. Breadcrumbs a-plenty poured from the factory radio's cheap speakers as this cheap listener enjoyed the same kind of intellectual stimulation that paid XM had been providing over the years. What a trip! to use the language of my semi-greatest generation.

And what a long strange trip it's been. Gutenberg and books, Hollywood and movies, Edison and the phonograph, then cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and now the MP3 incarnation of the talk show, the podcast. And all I had to do was give it a try, not so hard after all.

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