Podcast You Should Hear: The Dan Le Batard Show

Podcast: The Dan LeBatard Show
Genre: Sports, comedy
How can I listen?: Apple Podcast, Stitcher, ESPN Podcenter, Tune In

What’s it about?: The LeBatard Show is a daily sports radio show that refuses to be a sports radio show. They refuse to take sports too seriously and instead, they opt for finding the humor or interesting things in sport that no one else is talking about. They also have no fear of abandoning sports altogether and going off into who the hell knows what topic.

The more time you spend with the show the more rewarding it is. To get there you have to realize what it is not. It is not a show that talks in-depth about games before they happen, it is not a show that makes predictions or peddles in sports cliches. Instead, it is a show that makes fun of sports and everything around it for being so serious. In return, the crew refuses to take themselves too seriously and they have fun in the process.

Sometimes, I wonder what the show sounds like to the uninitiated. What do you think when you hear them talk to Tim Legler about his Halloween decorations instead of the upcoming NBA games? Or when they bring Ron Magill on to answer animal questions? Or why so many callers refer to Tim Kurkjan as Tom and no one bats an eye? If you have any of those questions it probably means that “You don’t get the show!” but that doesn’t mean that you can’t.

The show is centered around its namesake, Dan LeBatard, an award-winning journalist formerly of the Miami Herald. LeBatard is joined by co-host Jon “StuGotz” Weiner, producers Mike Ryan, Billy “Guillermo” Gill, Roy Bellamy, Chris Cote, and Allyson Turner. It is the best-produced show you’ll hear, but what makes it even better is each person has their own character and get their moments to shine (really waiting on a new Roy Top 10).

The LeBatard Show airs five days a week on ESPN radio with a local hour airing before on 790 the Ticket in Miami. All four hours are available (sans commercials, and bits with music) each afternoon for listening in podcast form. There is also a daily best-of version that I refuse to listen to because the reward of the show is hearing everything and not feeling left out when the polls come around.

If Seinfeld was the show about nothing (it wasn’t, the show on the show was but I digress), the LeBatard Show is the radio show about nothing and it’s why I love it.

Length: 4 daily podcasts ranging around 30 minutes a piece, best of podcast is about 60 minutes
Similar Podcasts: Fiyastarter Podcast, The Right Time with Bomani Jones

Song for a Moment: Blossom Dearie – “Try Your Wings”

It’s raining.

I sit in a laundromat of a new locale. This large space shared only by three other people. The natural soundtrack is the vibration of washers and dryers, the droning of ABC news, and the cascading of raindrops against the window.

Like always I opt for my own soundtrack instead of settling for what is given to me. When it rains, I love to listen to Blossom Dearie. It’s not that her music is depressing, or sad, but between her words and just above the music, it’s almost as if you can hear the gentle tapping of rain.

It’s not a rain of sadness, but it’s not a rain of new beginnings. It’s the rain that creates puddles children splash in. The rain that rinses a few days of dirt off of your car. It’s the rain that we need for growth. It’s safe, but enough of a bother that it’s not comfortable.

When I listen to Blossom Dearie I can hear her baby doll voice juggle these feelings, these emotions, in ways that a more powerful voice might not manage. There is a deftness, a gentleness that holds onto you and walks you to the other side of the road letting you know that it’s okay.

You aren’t alone and the marathon you’ve run in your head your entire life can end. It’s not an assurance that tomorrow will be better, but that it can’t be if you continue down the same path.

When she sings she plays the strings to my insides. One word could tip off a smile, a longing, a love, or a sadness but it always comes back to balance. Never going too far but never denying it all.

So I watch the rain and smile. I still live and still have time to be who I have always wanted to be.

 

Get Out My Pocket: Facebook’s War on Free Will

Over the past five years, I have saved hundreds of long-form articles using Pocket.

My intent was to save articles I didn’t have time to read in the moment. As time passed my eyes were bigger than my attention span. The problem with that is there is SO MUCH GREAT LONG-FORM WRITING out there.

Seriously. If you are on any social media platform you will be exposed to at least 10 truly great articles. These are just the articles that people in your network shared. Believe it or not, there is a wide world outside of that. So over these five years, I have found myself saving everything. As a result, I have hundreds of articles saved that are begging to be read. So I’m going to read them in random order.

The first article is Franklin Foer’s Guardian piece from September 19, 2017, called “Facebook’s war on free will.” To sum up the article I’ll paraphrase Kanye West “No one (corporation) should have all that power.”

So what power does Facebook have? Well, it all lies in the algorithm. We’ve all heard the word before but Foer explains it’s utilization:

The essence of the algorithm is entirely uncomplicated. The textbooks compare them to recipes – a series of precise steps that can be followed mindlessly. This is different from equations, which have one correct result. Algorithms merely capture the process for solving a problem and say nothing about where those steps ultimately lead.

These recipes are the crucial building blocks of software. Programmers can’t simply order a computer to, say, search the internet. They must give the computer a set of specific instructions for accomplishing that task. These instructions must take the messy human activity of looking for information and transpose that into an orderly process that can be expressed in code. First do this … then do that. The process of translation, from concept to procedure to code, is inherently reductive. Complex processes must be subdivided into a series of binary choices. There’s no equation to suggest a dress to wear, but an algorithm could easily be written for that – it will work its way through a series of either/or questions (morning or night, winter or summer, sun or rain), with each choice pushing to the next.

In short, algorithms are one of many steps that will lead us to the singularity. When you log-on you are surrounded by them. They recommend you a TV show on Netflix, a song or album you might like on Spotify, an item you might be interested in buying on Amazon, and that isn’t scratching the surface. Algorithms are capable of doing things that a room full of the brightest minds on Earth can’t even comprehend. Foer continues:

Algorithms can translate languages without understanding words, simply by uncovering the patterns that undergird the construction of sentences. They can find coincidences that humans might never even think to seek. Walmart’s algorithms found that people desperately buy strawberry Pop-Tarts as they prepare for massive storms.

So what does this have to do with Facebook? Everything.

Over a billion people have Facebook accounts. More people than you would like to admit use Facebook as a one-stop shop for socializing, news, entertainment, and memes. While you get all of this information on your timeline it isn’t by chance that they end up there. It is, you guessed it, algorithms that suggest posts and point you in the direction of news that reflects your mindstate. It was this very situation that allowed Facebook to be exploited during the last Presidential election.

If it were only the news that you received, videos you played, or memes you saw that would be bad enough. Instead, Facebook’s power is exposed by them using their super large user base which allows them to run experiments.

Facebook sought to discover whether emotions are contagious. To conduct this trial, Facebook attempted to manipulate the mental state of its users. For one group, Facebook excised the positive words from the posts in the news feed; for another group, it removed the negative words. Each group, it concluded, wrote posts that echoed the mood of the posts it had reworded. This study was roundly condemned as invasive, but it is not so unusual. As one member of Facebook’s data science team confessed: “Anyone on that team could run a test. They’re always trying to alter people’s behaviour.”

If this was a thought experiment that would be one thing. The fact this was an actual experiment that they tested on people is scary. What’s even scarier is no oneknew, besides the people running the experiment, it was taking place. If someone suggested this type of abuse of power was possible a few years ago they would have been accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

The ability to control that many people through a suggestion is dangerous. One could argue the positives in nudging people away from negative behaviors subconsciously. I would say that it involves impeding on someone’s free will, and it is a slippery slope that is destined to lead to abuses.

The many Facebook experiments add up. The company believes that it has unlocked social psychology and acquired a deeper understanding of its users than they possess of themselves. Facebook can predict users’ race, sexual orientation, relationship status and drug use on the basis of their “likes” alone. It’s Zuckerberg’s fantasy that this data might be analysed to uncover the mother of all revelations, “a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about”.

When you consider all the information we willingly give Facebook. Through each status, each image, each comment we give a little bit more of ourselves. That is not enough for Facebook. It is not for any altruistic goal, but to control us to point us in a direction that benefits them the most. They strive to know us better than we know ourselves by keeping track of our likes, what we view, and more. It’s all enough to make me wish I could give it all away, but it might be too late for all of us.

Comment of the Week: October 6

Some of the best advice you can give someone online is to stay away from the comment section. Why? Because they can be a bit of a cesspool. You can find evidence of some of the worst and dumbest of humanity.

All that said I still peek at the comments. Why? It just happens to be amongst all of those terrible people are posts that force me to stop everything and laugh. Each week I will (attempt) to share the comment that made me laugh the hardest.

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Breakfast at Timothy’s #20

 

Days like these I’m glad my crappy iPhone 5C is incapable of being updated.

While the lack of storage space gives endless hours of frustration when I have to decide between taking a picture, having a downloaded podcast, having Instagram, having Spotify, or none of the above. There is the blessing that I am not awakened by the horrible news of the domestic terrorist attack in Las Vegas.

The veneer of hope is gone, and we’re confronted daily by the world’s ugliness. It takes no more than two downward scrolls on your Facebook or Twitter timelines to be confronted by a new tragedy. The weight of everything can be exhausting and demands people take an extra measure of self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself it can be hard to make it through each day. That not only touches on the issues in the world but also the things we carry in our own lives.

My form of self-care has been music, and while I have no musical abilities of my own I’ve found pleasure diving head first into music. Whether it’s old favorites, Spotify recommendations, or songs in my own collection that I haven’t spent enough time with it is just about coming up for air and gathering myself.

So without further ado here is another collection of songs for the 20th edition of Breakfast at Timothy’s. Hopefully, these songs add to your sanity and make your day at least 1% better.

Playlist:
1.) Sabrina Claudio – Too Much Too Late
2.) Tom Misch, Carmody – Wander With Me
3.) Steve Lacy – Some
4.) LION BABE – Hit the Ceiling
5.) Franc Moody – In Too Deep
6.) Aeble, Tom Aspaul – Better By Your Side
7.) Ekkah – Figure It Out (Night Edit)
8.) KAYTRANADA, Syd – YOU’RE THE ONE
9.) Tove Lo – Disco Tits
10.) Joe Hertz, James Vickery – Ritual
11.) M.I.L.K. – Following The Sun
12.) Two Another – The World Demands It
13.) Reva DeVito – Kisses
14.) Sunni Colon – Sweet Pearl
15.) Sinead Harnett – Unconditional
16.) Jarreau Vandal, Olivia Nelson – Someone That You Love
17.) HONNE, Izzy Bizu – Some That Loves You
18.) Jessie Ware – Midnight

Below are links to listen:
Mixcloud | Spotify | Download

Happy Birthday Cameron!

Every superhero has an origin story.

Some include dying planets, dying parents, or radioactive spider-bites. But yours was different. I was driving home from King of Prussia, and your Mom called me.

She didn’t speak. “Lin, what’s wrong?” I asked, but she only responded with heavy breaths. It was Saturday, September 27th and you weren’t due until October 10th. You couldn’t be coming now. We weren’t ready. wasn’t ready.

We took three classes to help prepare, and somehow I knew less than I knew before. I pushed the anxiety aside. How did I convince myself? By telling myself it was a false alarm. But I should’ve known better. Just like months prior when your impatience initially showed its face. No one can ever tell you not yet.

The anxiety return as I opened the door to our place in Manayunk. The ceiling fan and light in the dining room were on. The rest of the house was dark. “Lin!” I screamed out, but no response. I charged up the steps and looked into the bedroom. She wasn’t there. I looked in your room, and she wasn’t in there either. I had no idea where she could be and then I looked in the bathroom and saw her sitting on the toilet hunched over.

We moved your Mom to the bed, and I began to text our Doula. I told her the symptoms and she let me know that IT was happening. Debbie told me to ask the usual question of how far apart the contractions were but your Mom didn’t know because the contractions she felt weren’t the kind our class taught us about.

Your Mom got in the shower (for what seemed like hours) allowing the hot water to hit her back. Then as she got out I had her bounce on the exercise ball. Debbie the Doula said this would help with the childbirth (but she didn’t warn us that this ball would haunt us for months). It was then that I noticed a dark patch on the ball. I told your Mom to stop and I looked. It was blood.

At that moment we were no longer waiting for a certain time between contractions. We were going to the hospital. Problem is we lived in Manayunk. I had to run five blocks up a hill to get to my car. A car I parked because I convinced myself this was a false alarm. Debbie gave me a call and in a calming voice said, “Tim, listen to me. Breathe. Just breathe. Lin’s going to be fine. Just repeat after me, and breathe. She’s going to be fine.”

I drove the car back to our place and loaded the pre-packed bags in my trunk. We are off, albeit really slowly (side note: you’ve been in the car with me a ton of times, but for some reason when your Mom is in the car I drive a lot slower. Maybe that’s the Pennsylvania driver in me coming out, but this time? I was going 10 miles under the speed limit. I was driving like your Grandmom).

When we arrived at the Pennsylvania hospital I felt a sense of relief. This is where the professionals take over. That relief faded when I discovered the hospital doors were locked (strike one), the valet service was only on weekdays (strike two), and the parking garage had a power outage (strike three). A security guard came out and took your Mom in a wheelchair as I had to find a place to park.

I drove around looking for spots until pulling into Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Grabbing the bags, I ran slightly over a quarter mile from one hospital to the other. I went up the elevator and once I was cleared by the nurses who pointed me in the direction of your Mother, I heard her…

“Hey, you! Get back here!” She screamed as a doctor exited the room, “I need to poo!” I was confused and, quite frankly, scared. What the hell did I miss in the time I was trying to park. I barely had a chance to sit down before they began to wheel her to another room because the main event was about to occur.

It was there that I saw her completely exhausted, but even more resilient. It was there I saw her doing something you can never prepare someone for (it was also there where the sight of her pain and lack of progress caused me to leave the room and momentarily faint in the hall… but let’s stick to the important stuff).

So much happened that it all blurs together. I remember the nurses’ impatience, I remember your Mom screaming “I hate you, Cameron,” before profusely apologizing, I remember her gasping at the ring of fire “What the fuck was that?” she yelped. I remember Debbie speaking words of encouragement as she put lavender on her pillow. I remember your head crowning before retreating back inside your Mom.

I also remember how people have always said that when your child is born you fall in love with them that very moment. That everything changes. Yet that’s not what I felt. There was the realization that there was no going back to normal. That everything was going to be different. That you were an absolute stranger who came from us.

I cut the umbilical cord and handed you over to your Mother. She was exhausted not only from giving birth to you, but from carrying you, and pushing you out into the world. With God’s help, she did something that a man could never do. She brought life into this world. The sight of such power was bewildering.

The part of writing this now is putting everything in place because it feels like you were always here. We just didn’t know you yet. And as you got used to this us you let your personality be known from the beginning. You refused to be swaddled, you refused to sleep in the bassinet, and you had a bowel movement down your Mom’s arm.

I remember that first night when the nurses stopped checking in so frequently, and neither of our families knew you were here yet. It was just us. Our first night as a family and you were our little secret. Eventually, we let the world in through phone calls, social media posts, and texts. Letting our newfound light find its way.

When we left the hospital we realized how little we knew. We were sent back home with the most precious thing in the world without a clue of how we would keep you alive. Luckily, your Nana was with us for that first week.

That first night home you cried. A cry so powerful, so relentless that we had no idea how to stop it. We tried nursing, tried walking, tried holding, and it wasn’t until we handed you over to your Nana that she settled you back to sleep. She was our safety blanket until she had to leave.

There are thousands of books, blog posts, and opinions about parenting but the truth is no one knows anything. All we truly know is that it’s not easy. Each child presenting an exception to a (far too long) list of rules. We found things that worked and your Mom proved herself to be a superstar as she nurtured you as if this was the role she was prepping for her entire life.

Through years we saw first eye contact, first smile, first roll, first crawl, first night in the crib by yourself. Each first was a monumental achievement which highlighted how much we take for granted every day. We saw you grow and become you.

You tell stories. You dance. You play drums. You like the Steelers (and think the Eagles are trash). You love Paw Patrol, and Word Party, and Elmo, and Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show.  You love to make art. But these are just attributes and not who you are.

Sometimes I watch you and I’m in awe. I can see glimpses of myself in you, but my awe comes in the form of how you aren’t like anyone else. That you are your own person. That makes me happy (even if it can be frustrating) because we aren’t letting you stick to limitations.

Remember this summer when you were scared of rides? Now, look at you. These are just snippets. Just moments and new ones occur faster than I can recall the old ones. So instead of being stuck in the past, or being anxious about the future, I’m planting my flag firmly in today.

I am proud that I am your father, and I can’t wait to see you continue to grow, learn, and become something completely brand new.

Love,

Dad

Podcast You Should Hear: Mogul

When I first started listening to podcasts my rotation was small. It consisted of The Sound of Young Ameria (now Bullseye), Fresh Air, Radiolab, Science Friday, and This American Life. It was 2004, and it was the brave new world for me. When I bought my 80 gig iPod classic, I intended to listen to music on it. That changed the moment I realized some of my favorite NPR shows were available to listen as well. The moment I subscribed to my first podcast became the moment my obsession began.

Fast-forward to 2017 and it is almost impossible to go to a website that doesn’t have a podcast attached. They are no longer limited to independent sources and public radio personalities. Thanks in part to the phenomenon that was Serial (and all the talk that grew from it), podcasts are now big business.

So with so many options to listen to where do you start? What should you listen to? Well, my friend, you’re in good luck because that’s what I’m here for. In this space, I will recommend a podcast series or single episode that you should check out. Are you ready? Okay, here we go.

Podcast: Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
Genre: Audio Documentary
How Can I Listen?: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play Music

What’s it about?: In many ways, the story of Chris Lighty is the story of hip-hop. His career in the music industry started with his carrying crates of vinyl records for DJ Red Alert. Later he was hired by Russell Simmons’ Rush Artist Management. While his career was rising he had to make a decision to leave behind behaviors learned as a member of the Violators gang. As Chris became more of a business man he had a tremendous impact on hip-hop being the monster commercial success it became in the late 90’s and 2000’s. One of his greatest moments came when he spearheaded the historic 50 Cent deal with Vitamin Water. To those who knew Chris, he was a success, he was happy, and he was confident. Then on August 20th, 2012 everything came crashing down when Lighty committed suicide.

If you come to Mogul expecting a complete telling of the life and death of Chris Lighty you will be disappointed. With the lack of archival audio from Lighty interviews (he didn’t give many) it left a void that had to be filled otherwise. So instead of being a deep dive into Chris’ story, it became a character sketch. This sketch included anecdotes from Chris’ upbringing, stories of his conflicts with well-known figures in hip-hop, and commentary by people who knew him best. What ties it all together is the narration by Reggie “Combat Jack” Osse who speaks as a contemporary of Lighty’s who is discovering the story the same time as we are.

For some, the highlights might be the bits and pieces of hip-hop history that are shared, but the heart of the podcast is depression and how Lighty struggled in silence. Despite all of his achievements, he faced equally harsh falls and not everyone was as it seemed to those on the outside. It shows how depression isn’t an “affliction for white people,” and that someone could be suffering even though you can’t tell from the outside. It is because of this that many of his friends and family believe he was killed, and that he would never take his own life.

What really made Mogul make an impact on me was that it showed Lighty as a complex character. Where the podcast became more than just okay was when it told the story of Chris’ marriage. It was then it became apparent that Mogul wasn’t going to just be a rosy telling of Chris’ life. It showed that Chris was more than anyone depiction given by the people in his life. He was not a hero, he was a human, he was complex, and he had his virtues and failings.

It is not a perfect podcast, but I found so much that I enjoyed that the negatives did not take away. So if you have any interest in hip-hop or narrative storytelling I’d suggest you check this out.

 

Length: Three hours split over six podcasts
Similar Podcasts: Serial, S-TownCrimetown, and Stranglers