Ask the Geek: Podcasts


Dear Geek,

School vacation week is coming up and though the prospect of allowing screens in the car to keep my children quiet during a long ride is appealing, my moral compass is steering me in a different direction. We’ve done audiobooks but sometimes we begin to lose interest if they are long recordings. Looking for a tech way to help entertain myself and my kids on a trip with one catch — not requiring them to be stuck watching screens.

Do I ask for the impossible? Maybe, but prove me wrong, Geek!

Thanks in advance,



Dear Hashtag,

I’ve had to do my share of drives and I agree, much of the time audiobooks work great. I’ve allowed screens but feel guilty sometimes when I allow them, so I concur there’s the need for a different option. Thankfully, I utilize another option that I love, and you’ve likely heard of them even if you aren’t currently subscribing to any. They are podcasts.

I consider podcasts to be streaming internet radio shows and since they don’t require an expensive sound studio to create, there are tons of them on about almost any subject. Some podcasts are actually just old recorded radio dramas, some are meant to seem that way, but most are more of a talk show/discussion format.

Listening to Podcasts is most easily done using an app while streaming them through your cell phone or tablet. Podcast Addict and Castbox are two apps I’ve used, and I’m a big fan of both. They each have slightly different looks and feels to them, but are similar in what they achieve, which is to deliver entertaining audio content.

When I tell people they should listen to podcasts, the conversation quickly turns into questions about what I like to listen to and “do they have any about this or that.” What do I listen to? I’m all across the board. Not so surprisingly I listen to a show called “All about Android,” which discusses new android phones, tablets, apps, and hardware manufacturers. As an admitted geek, I find it pretty interesting. I love Mike Rowe’s “The Way I Heard It,” which is very similar to the old Paul Harvey “The Rest of the Story” radio show. Mike tells a story about something and the main character in the story ends up being someone or something famous but he doesn’t reveal what it is until the end. They are short and described as being for people with “a curious mind and a short attention span.” I think that covers 99 percent of us. There’s the Ted Radio Hour with amazingly interesting talks about a wide range of topics and the speakers are excellent. The Podcast I’m most entertained by currently is called the Nerdist (though it is undergoing a name change to the id10t podcast). I know, the Geek talking about the Nerdist at first glance seems as much fun as reliving the concept of the Island’s roundabout in its planning stages, beaches getting closed in favor of plovers, or even reading a detailed political history of our Island’s drawbridge construction (yes, the temporary and permanent bridge). The Nerdist is probably my favorite podcast though, and it’s not a nerd who hosts it. He considers himself nerdy but he’s comedian Chris Hardwick and he has a fascination with 80s trivia, which some consider nerdy. Chris has a variety of guests, varying each podcast, and the discussions they have are remarkably candid. I’ve heard Alex Trebek talking, not about Jeopardy stories but also about home repair, Will Ferrell telling about old SNL skits that didn’t make the cut and family vacation stories, and other celebrities discussing and laughing at their personal lives, retelling stories about popular things they have done, or even expounding on their insecurities. While the Nerdist podcast is incredibly entertaining, some of the language in it won’t be something you’ll want playing over the radio for your kids to hear. As a heads-up, some four letter words gets dropped in the conversations from time to time. Maybe the podcast is better listened to with only adults in the car.

The other question I mentioned regarding available content, well — I rarely find myself unable to find content I’m looking for, even if it’s something quite obscure. To get started listening to podcasts, I’d install one of the apps I mentioned and search for oddball stuff you find interesting, as well as more mainstream interests. Try some podcasts out and please comment on this article with your favorites, I’ll give them a listen. Podcasts are a new age of radio shows, and there’s a world of content out there, most of it free. Give it a try, because like Mikey and Life cereal, I think you’ll like it.