Death of an Acquaintance

Last night I learned that a guy I met when I was traveling over in Cambodia died recently in a motorcycle accident.

I haven’t been in touch with him since I left Cambodia (this was 2 years ago), but it still was a shock to me that I’ll never have contact with him again. Death comes for everyone, but for some well before their time.

This makes me think more about my relationships with folks. When you’re traveling, you make these great relationships, but they are one off things most of the time. When you are in the same place for a while (while traveling, for a job, just living life), you have the opportunity to make stronger connections just due to proximity to the same people. It makes me appreciate what I have.

There are a couple fascinating parts to this learning of his death for me…

I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for Facebook. I might have wanted to get in touch down the line and received no answer. It would have been weird.

The other thing about Facebook is that we have no common friends. There is virtually no one who is a friend of mine who also knows him. Though, there are other connections aside from Facebook, so I have found at least one person to talk to about this.

Not that it’s that much of a coincidence, but I am reading about the slow march towards death right now. “Tuesdays with Morrie” is about a gentleman with ALS. I was just reading the chapter where they talk about death. “The truth is, Mitch,” he said, “once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” In the chapter, Morrie talks about how we take death for granted a bit. It’s something we know is going to happen, but we don’t fully grasp that it can happen at any moment.

Motorcycles are dangerous. A friend of mine had a parent that was recently in an accident as well.

I don’t know how much this will change me, but it’s a good reminder that life is worth living.

Podcasts I Listen To

I listen to a lot of podcasts right now. Generally, I’m only listening if I am driving somewhere or working out. So here are the 34 podcasts that I currently listen to and where they rank in my personal favorites at this moment in time.

  1. Radiolab
    My favorite podcast. It comes out sporadically, but I always enjoy new episodes. They make them memorable. The very first episode I listened to was “Normal” about how wolves and dogs evolved and how a group of monkeys had their social hierarchy. The most recent fully new episode was “Debatable” about a team of gay black men who rather than debate on the chosen topic, decided to talk about how the way the debate was happening was disadvantageous to them. They won the national championship. Again, huge fan of this podcast. Jad, Robert, and the team do an amazing job.
  2. Rob Has a Podcast
    I’m a Survivor fanboy, and there is no better podcast about Survivor than Rob Cesternino’s. He does a great job getting former contestants on the show to talk and analyze Survivor. I enjoy almost everything he does on this channel that deals with Survivor.
  3. The Poscast with Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur
    This comes out sporadically (last episode as of right now was the beginning of January). It usually has a bit of a discussion with Joe and Michael which is interesting and I wish they would spend more time on. Then they go about a random draft of some sort. They might draft balls, or sports plays, or superheroes. I’m a big Posnanski fan, so this is right up my alley.
  4. The Bill Simmons Podcast
    Great interviews at times. General sports podcast. Been reading him since around 2000. He recently made the move to HBO, which has brought different guests on. Big fan of this podcast.
  5. Freakonomics
    An economics podcast that I really enjoy. Always enlightening. In the early days that I listened to this, there was a lot more “Wow” moments. But now it’s just interesting.
  6. Hello Internet
    The podcast where CPG Grey and Brady Haran (both of them are Youtubers) discuss whatever they want to discuss. I actually really enjoy their back and forth. They get pretty deep into things at times. They also always follow up on things that may have changed or things that they have to add about past stories. I do enjoy this one.
  7. The Tim Ferriss Show
    Interview podcast. I’ve been a fan of Tim’s for a while now. His conversation topics have a huge range. I’ll probably learn something if I listen to the podcast though, so I look forward to this. They tend to be on the longer side though, which gets kind of annoying.
  8. Serial
    The big hit was huge for podcasts. I liked the first season (with Adnan), but didn’t love it like others did. This second season (following the Bo Burgdall trial) is a bit of a dud. The music is great. Interested to see what they’ll have in store for season 3.
  9. This American Life
    One of the pinnacles of radio/podcasting. It’s a collection of stories around a theme. It’s very well done. It tends to be a bit on the depressing side, but still one that I look forward to listening to.
  10. Planet Money
    It’s a podcast about money/economics. It’s relatively short at 20-25 minutes an episode. The issue that I have with this show is that there isn’t an episode that I really really enjoyed. It’s always interesting though. It’s just not a deep dive.
  11. The James Altucher Show
    This one is an interview podcast. Though, unlike other interview podcasts, James has really interesting people on and he asks really good questions. Regardless of whether I know who he’s interviewing or not, I’ll probably listen to the episode.
  12. Ask Altucher
    I just realized that this hasn’t come out since October. It was James and his wife answering questions daily. For whatever reason, this has stopped. I listened to almost every one of the 300+ episodes.
  13. Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project
    Adam Savage from Mythbusters and his gang chat about various things. They’ve given me some great recommendations on books (The Martian, Seveneves). The chats aren’t super long, so it doesn’t feel like I am giving away too much time to this podcast, which is good.
  14. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
    As of this writing, I just am getting into this. I recently listened to a couple of one-off episodes. Now I am right in the thick of World War I (with “Blueprint for Armageddon III”. These are very thick pieces of meat and it’s not something that I can just have on in the background. I really have to be listening to them. I feel like I will rip through the available episodes pretty quickly. I only have to finish the BfA, King of Kings (1-3 so far), and the Wrath of Khans. Don’t think that’s easy though. All of that is probably 33 hours of listening.
  15. Dear Hank & John
    The weekly podcast that Hank and John Green put out. They are the Vlogbrothers on Youtube. I’ve been watching them since about 2011. Thoughtful commentary in general. It’s just a question podcast pretty much, so it’s not one of my favorites, but it passes the time.
  16. Invisibilia
    I’m still kind of waiting on this one. There hasn’t been a new episode since July. It’s a highly produced show, so I think they are taking their time on things. Apparently, a new season is coming out in June. I guess we’ll see. This is a podcast about the invisible things in our lives.
  17. What’s the Point
    It’s a half hour (or so) show about various statistics. They try to dive into stories that stats bring up. It can be pretty interesting at times.
  18. FiveThirtyEight Elections
    A podcast about the election season. I’m not sure how much longer this will last after the elections this year, but the commentary they provide helps me stay in touch with what’s going on. It’s election statistics porn, basically.
  19. WTF with Marc Maron
    Much like the Nerdist, it’s an interview show. If it has good guests, I listen. Otherwise, I don’t. Marc is able to get pretty deep with some folks though. It’s a good listen when it’s good.
  20. The Nerdist
    Chris Hardwick and his crew do interviews the majority of the time. This one is really hit or miss, but generally you know what to expect going in. I will listen to it if it’s an interview that I want to hear. It’s really easy to just scrap an episode (which I do a lot) if I don’t feel interested in it.
  21. Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler
    Another interview show that heavily depends on the guest. The format of this one gets a little old though. Aisha doesn’t really do any research ahead of time and they basically talk chronologically about the guests career. It can be good, like with Gabby Reece (which unfortunately is in the archive now). Recently, I haven’t enjoyed it as much
  22. Startup Podcast
    This was very interesting at first as it followed the startup of Gimlet Media. But now that Gimlet is a thing, there isn’t a whole lot to report about, and I don’t really want to hear about other companies. So this has definitely slid down my rankings.
  23. 99% Invisible
    It’s usually a quick episode that I can get through in my walk to the gym. I don’t love the podcast, but it remains interesting. It talks about the hidden structure of things.
  24. PTI
    Around the Horn
    They are ranked the same, but PTI is the one that I enjoy more. They are just audio versions of the ESPN shows. I don’t listen to them religiously, but when they are talking about some big sports story, I am interested to hear their take.
  25. Effectively Wild: The Daily Baseball Prospectus Podcast
    It’s baseball, daily. Very easy to just skip an episode if I don’t seem interested in the content. Can get pretty dry at times. But they put up interesting discussions as well.
  26. Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney
    This one is much the same as Effectively Wild: daily baseball chatter. I like the conversations in this one as I am much more familiar with the folks who come on the podcast, but Buster tries to do too much with this one. There are a lot of recap audio clips that I just don’t care for. The baseball conversations are what keeps me coming back.
  27. Talk is Jericho
    It’s a wrestling podcast. Chris get’s into some good conversations with folks as he has a good head on his shoulders. It’s easy enough to skip the podcast if I don’t like the guests. But he ventures outside of wrestling at times, which I enjoy.
  28. The Steve Austin Show
    The Steve Austin Show – Unleashed!
    These are together because, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which is which (the Unleashed allows unfiltered language). Some interesting interviews, but I really like when Steve does match breakdowns where he comments “live” on matches. Very easy to skip these interviews, but some goldmines pop up every now and again.
  29. Off Camera
    This one was recently added. I’ve enjoyed their Youtube snipets. Some of the episodes are interesting, but it really depends on the guest. Very much a Hollywood interview podcast.
  30. The Moth Podcast
    It’s a podcast where regular folks tell stories. Because of that, it’s hit or miss. Due to it being hit or miss, it’s not one that I really look forward to every time it comes out. Hence why it’s near the bottom of my rankings here.
  31. Post Show Recaps: Live TV & Movie Podcasts with Rob Cesternino
    I subscribe to this solely due to their Saturday Night Live commentary. Otherwise, I just delete all the episodes. I do enjoy the banter about SNL though.
  32. InsideTV Podcast
    I subscribe to this only because they have the Survivor interviews the next day after the show. I’ve never listened to a whole show. I normally will just fast forward to the Survivor interview.

Achievement Get: My Fitness Edition

When I was in High School, I lifted weights because I played football. It was expected that we do so if we were on the team. I don’t even remember how I kept track of things, but I do remember that I had a pretty good squat. I remember that there was just one person on the team who squatted more than I did at the time.

Aside from what kind of form I had, my other curiosity has recently been, “Why did I stop?”

The best answer that I can give is that I stopped playing football and didn’t see a reason to keep doing so. I don’t think I was on any kind of program.

If you dig back into my archives, you can tell that I’ve stayed active throughout my life, lifting or not. I ran for a few years; finishing a 5K in 23 minutes (which was my only 5K time though I bet I could have done better) and finishing a half marathon in an hour and 52 minutes (had there been less people on the course, I definitely would have finished sooner). I’ve done probably 12-15 sessions of P90X at this point. I got ripped doing that, but what I didn’t realize then was that I wasn’t really getting much stronger.

So this brings me back to lifting. I started again at the beginning of last year (though, my interest really peaked at the end of 2012 just in time for me to tear my Achilles). Because High School was my only real time of lifting barbell weights, I really don’t remember how much I lifted back then. There is no way it was as much as I lift now though.

In the weight lifting community, there is a goal of 1, 2, 3, and 4 plates on the big lifts. 1 plate of 45’s on each side for the Overhead Press. 2 plates of 45’s on each side for the Bench Press. 3 plates for the squat. 4 plates for the Deadlift.

I recently reached the goal for squats. These have always been my favorite exercise. I’m slowly getting there with the other lifts, but seeing the progress is fun. I wonder what would have happened had I kept lifting through college and beyond. There’s no way to know. We are where we are and we just have to keep progressing.

Tipping: What is it good for?

Why is tipping a part of our culture?

On the one hand, I get it. People want to reward good service. This works perfectly well for some jobs.

But one where it doesn’t work so well in is waiting tables.

Not only does tipping not improve service, it isn’t doled out according to service anyway.  You are more likely to get a better tip if you are attractive than if you give amazing service.

It also turns out that restaurants end up having the cooks leave their positions to wait tables because the money is better (because the tips aren’t spread evenly among everyone). So there is this constant battle between the front of the house and the back.

Some eateries are changing this. I really do hope it sticks though. It is so confusing for folks who come here from abroad. But more importantly, it makes it easier on everyone so we don’t have to do math at the table.

I know that I enjoy going to other countries and not having to worry about tipping. Though, then I inevitably DO worry about tipping because I wonder if they do tip in these places.

This kind of goes hand in hand with the culture discussion from yesterday.

If We Hide Behind our Phones, Are We Really Discovering the World?

One of the books I am reading right now is a travel book. The author is riding various dangerous modes of transportation. I’m currently reading about the dangerous trains in Mumbai, India. They are so full that every boarding experience is an exercise in wrestling.

Another aspect that is really interesting about this book is the lack of privacy that people have in other parts of the world. Many of the people who I would talk to see it as a “Third World” thing. As our country has gotten richer and more technologically sound, it’s easier to get away. After all, 200 years ago the best thing that money could get you was privacy.

But is that all good? In this book, The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World… Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes, the author continues to see happiness and comfort in folks who have much less than he does. Some of the people in the places he visits are interconnected in every way, much like what small towns here in the states seem to many of us. Everybody knows your business in small towns. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

New York City, with over 8 million people living there can be the loneliest place on the planet. But if I go back to my hometown, I just have to stand in the local grocery store for a few minutes before I run into someone I know.

It’s all a matter of perspective.