Put This in Your Ears

So we’ve got an open layout at work – no cube walls, big room with at least 30 people in it.To anyone who makes layout decisions at their place of business, I… wouldn’t recommend this. It is L O U D and distracting and super awkward. All I can do is slouch down in my seat, keep the silent pact with the three people in my eyeline to never acknowledge each other, and keep my earbuds in as much as possible.

Last strategy is problematic for me because I’ve never been one to work with music. No idea why; I love music, but I think it tells my brain it’s Fun Time or something. Most of the time I use my White Noise app (I’m sure there are free ones; that one’s $1.99. Has a lot of sounds to choose from though, and you can mix them together) 

But if I’m working on something mindless and I want a little brain stimuli to keep myself focused, I’ve started listening to podcasts! Just the right level of engagement, without being too distracting.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite podcasts… Give ’em a try if you’ve got a similar work situation, or a long commute (or a lot of this Free Time I’ve heard legends of). All of these are on iTunes, and I’ve also linked to their own websites, below.

  • Welcome to Night Vale – If you try only one of the podcasts on this list, be sure to tune in to the community radio station of this sleepy (and fictional) desert town, where nothing is as it seems. Best to start from the beginning of this one, since there are a lot of callbacks and recurring characters. You can probably tell if you’ll like it or not from the pilot ep. Welcome to Night Vale is hard to categorize… It’s like if H.P. Lovecraft and Douglas Adams collaborated on a podcast. I’d maybe call it Bizarre Horror-Comedy? You really just have to hear it.
    Radio host Cecil Baldwin (the most soothing voice in the world) will keep you up-to-date on such community news items as:

    • The opening of a lovely new Dog Park (please note: neither dogs nor citizens are allowed to enter, look at, or think about the Dog Park)
    • Important announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police
    • The tense mayoral race between The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, and Hiram McDaniels (who is literally a five-headed dragon)
  • Nerdist Podcast– Nerdist is the Internet empire of comedian & perennial host Chris Hardwick (who you may recognize from Talking Dead, @midnight, the Nerdist TV show on BBCA, or some thing on MTV when I was like 7, apparently). There’s a lot of great content on the Nerdist network, but my favorite is the titular podcast. Chris sits down and chats with a guest for an hour… often a comedian, sometimes actors or musical artists. Co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray join when possible. I say “chats” because it never feels like listening to an interview – it’s more like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. It always seems like everyone involved is having a good time, and you end up hearing huge celebrities (huge as in: Harrison Ford, Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal…) get into some really genuine, personal stuff. Lots of interesting insider perspectives on the industry, too. This one you can just jump in wherever – pick a guest that you like.
    • The Indoor Kids – Also on the Nerdist Network: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon talk about video games (and things tangentially related to video games) with a guest. I’m not even a huge gamer but they’re pleasant conversations. Kumail and Emily are married, so they have a cute dynamic.
  • The Dork Forest – A treasure trove of fascinating stuff, this one: Jackie Kashian talks with (seemingly pretty random) guests about their “dorkdoms” – the (definitely very random) subjects that they’re obsessed with. I’ve learned about monitor lizards, traffic court, and Vonnegut, among other things. It’s cool how someone really dorking out can make even obscure/boring subjects interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t do it for me and I skip an episode… sometimes I end up paying complete attention to international tournament regulations for the rubber on table tennis paddles. Completely unpredictable, and awesome.
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