Move process takeaways

  • The final month would have been easier if we had been more vigilant all along about getting rid of unneeded things: Clothes we no longer wear, infant clothes, toys, and other things that we no longer need, kitchen bowls and tools and other things we never use, furniture that we don’t care about, etc.
  • It would have been helpful to have someone watching the kids for us during the final week, when daycare was closed, and especially during move day. We managed, but it was hard for all of us.
  • It’s hard not having a final destination for two reasons:
    1. We needed to put most of our belongings in storage. We wanted to avoid the silliness of having movers unload our truck into a storage locker only to move it back onto a truck months later. It’s wasted effort and adds opportunity for things to get damaged. We wanted a storage container but we felt that the storage container options weren’t great. PODS is the name everyone has heard of, but even those are a bit small. And expensive since we would have needed two of them. U-Haul has storage containers but they’re even smaller—we would have needed three or four of them. Also we didn’t want the storage container to be sitting in front of our condo for days. We wanted it to be dropped off, immediately loaded and then immediately taken away. The best we could manage was to schedule to have U-Pack drop off the trailer (their “storage container” is just the trailer portion of a semi truck) in the morning, schedule the movers to come that afternoon, and schedule U-Pack to pick up the trailer “some time the next day.” That’s a lot of coordination of notoriously unreliable parties on a street where you’re supposed to have a permit to park longer than two hours.
    2. Anything susceptible to heat damage shouldn’t be put in storage. That means we either had to mail it to our temporary house in NC, carry it in our baggage on the plane, or get rid of it. That includes food (we tried to eat most of it over our final months but we still ended up throwing a lot away), batteries, a fire extinguisher (gave it away), climbing ropes (took all three in our baggage), and camp stove fuel (gave the propane to a friend and mailed the isobutane/propane mix to myself).
  • Estimating how much space your belongings will take up in storage or on a moving truck is hard. U-Pack estimated that we’d use 17 feet of the trailer but we ended up using 21 feet. I was actually impressed with how close their estimate was considering it was based on a phone interview. One of my biggest fears was that we wouldn’t fit everything into the 28 foot trailer. I don’t know what we would have done.

Two noteworthy mistakes

  • When I went back to the moving truck to adjust some tie straps and put the lock on (had to buy one first), I took my jacket off and left it on the floor of the truck. I forgot to take it with me when I left. I think it might have even blown away without me noticing, so I didn’t see it and forgot to look for it. It was a $100 jacket but I’d had it for ten years. I was a little mad at myself, but it’s not the end of the world. At least it wasn’t brand new.
  • Edie had a doctor appointment scheduled for March 29, her last day of daycare. We decided to move it to the following week to take advantage of daycare as much as possible, since the kids would be with us the next week anyway. But that meant the appointment was in April and our insurance ended March 31. So we’ll either have to pay out of pocket or sign up for COBRA, which we were hoping to avoid. She got a few immunizations, so the appointment won’t be cheap. We haven’t seen the bill yet (good lord the world of healthcare moves slowly), but I estimate this to be a roughly $850 mistake.
Posted in All | Leave a comment

Moving update, the final week

We did it! we’re in North Carolina now. The final week in California was definitely the hardest, but no major problems, so that’s good.

  • Took Edie to her one year doctor appointment.
  • Took Toro to the vet to get a health certificate. Our airline (United) officially requires them even though no one ever asks to see it.
  • Took electronics to Green Citizen, a local electronics recycling center. They seem like the best bet for responsible electronics recycling around here.
  • Took batteries and antifreeze to the San Mateo County Household Hazardous Waste Disposal site.
  • Sold the Corolla with Peddle for $780. It was fine. Mostly easy, though the tow driver who picked it up arrived 3 hours 15 minutes after the end of his 10am-11am window with almost no communication at all (he called at 1:55pm and said he’d be here at 2:15pm). I assume he’s just some local tow truck driver and he got other calls that morning that were more urgent or paid better, so he took those first. I think donating it would have been about the same amount of effort and probably would have given us a larger tax deduction compared to the amount Peddle paid, but I imagine we’ll take the standard deduction again when filing our taxes next year since it’s so high now, so we wouldn’t benefit from the donation.
  • Picked up a rental car.
  • Sold a ton of stuff on Craigslist. Our TV for $50 (47 inch LG 47LE5400 from 2010), some decent-but-outdated computer parts from 2014 for $20 (Intel Core i7-4770S, 32 GB DDR3 memory, Asus Z87M-PLUS motherboard, and 430W Antec power supply), iRobot Roomba 650 Vacuum for $20, a decent pair of KEF C55 speakers from the late 80s for $30, a small bedside table, a Pack ‘n Play.
  • Paid the second installment of our California property tax.
  • Our No Parking signsPosted our No Parking signs outside. This process is super basic. Basically we went to city hall and told them we wanted to reserve space on the street for our moving truck. We told them the street name, date, and time, but it wasn’t clear if they did anything with that information. They sold us three blank paperboard No Parking signs for $3 each. We wrote in the date and time ourselves and were responsible for putting them up. We bought some long poles from Home Depot and taped the signs to the polls. It felt like we could have written pretty much anything on the signs. We felt weird.
  • Packed a ton of boxes.
  • Canceled Comcast.
  • Watched both kids all week because daycare was closed.
  • Moving day! The moving trailer was dropped off. The movers arrived and loaded everything while Emily and I watched the kids and Toro, took furniture apart, and finished packing/throwing things away. It was a hard day. We also handed off all our keys to our realtor.
  • We stayed in a hotel that night then flew from SFO to RDU the next day.
Posted in All | Leave a comment

Moving update, four weeks in

It’s been a busy two weeks since my last status update. We have just nine days to go and our kids won’t be in daycare for the remainder, so it’ll be harder to get stuff done. We have a good bit more to do (mostly more packing and getting rid of things), but I think we’re in good shape. Here’s what we did over the last two weeks:

  • Made a partial plan for our health insurance. Basically we’ll wait to do anything until we’re in NC. If something happens before then we can purchase COBRA and it’ll retroactively cover us starting from when our work health insurance ended. And then once we’re in NC we’ll compare COBRA and the options and go with whatever is better.
  • Picked up my new glasses. They’re great.
  • Took our Subaru Outback in for software updates for two minor recalls.
  • I requested quotes from a ton of car shipping companies and Emily and I discussed the timing of shipping the Outback and selling the Corolla. Car shipping will take between five and twenty days, with not much predictability, and even the pickup is hard to schedule exactly ahead of time. We decided that it would be easiest to ship the Outback early so that it’s there when we get there (or arrives shortly after we do), and then wait to sell the Corolla until shortly before we move. We picked a transport company, made arrangements, and dropped the car off with them. Price is $1,500 (I requested top placement in the carrier in an attempt to reduce damage from rocks flying up from the road, which was an extra $100). This was on the higher end of the estimates (the lowest was around $1,100 without top placement, and many were around $1,300 without top placement), but the company was reputable and had a local presence where we could drop off the car, which was more convenient for us than having to coordinate with a truck driver to pick it up.
  • Booked a rental car for the days between when we sell our Corolla and when we fly away.
  • Filled out the owner questionnaire portion of our disclosure packet for selling our home.
  • Replaced block and tackle window balances and a broken sash guide on a single hung window.
  • Had Home Depot measure the bedrooms in our condo as a preliminary step before replacing the carpet.
  • Subsequently went to Home Depot, picked out carpet, purchased, scheduled installation, and got HOA approval.
  • Rented a truck and took our mattress to Shoreway Environmental Center in San Carlos for recycling.
  • Gave away our two Ikea Malm dressers from 2006. We’ve moved with them four times and I’m not sure they’ll survive much longer. Some Ikea furniture is sturdy… these were not.
  • Gave away a super cheap small bookshelf.
  • Gave away a rug.
  • Took stuff to Goodwill.
  • Dropped off old infant car seat at California Highway Patrol for recycling. It had been used for three maybe four babies and was approaching the manufacturer’s expiration date. We didn’t feel comfortable passing it off to someone else. Also Edie threw up an unimaginable amount in it and neither of us wanted to clean it.
  • Emily spent a ton of time researching moving and storage companies, calling them, and summarizing the options, and together we spent a ton of time trying to figure out the best option for us. Do we or don’t we want to keep stuff in storage? If we put stuff in storage, should we use transportable storage containers or have movers unload into a storage building, and then later have movers move from the storage building to our final destination? If using storage containers, will it be easier to use a few smaller containers or one big one? Should we use their movers or hire our own? If our couch is too big to fit in the less expensive containers, are we better off getting rid of the couch and buying a new one? We decided on a 28′ moving trailer from U-Pack. A moving company will load it for us, then U-Pack will pick it up and park it at a storage lot until we need it. My takeaway is that the storage container options aren’t great. PODS is expensive, U-Haul’s containers are small. There are a few other options that are some combination of too small, bad reviews, sketchy, etc.
  • Got “no parking” signs from the city of San Mateo so we can reserve space on the street for our moving trailer. I’m still a little worried about this.
  • Packed Emily and my bikes in boxes. If I could do it again I would pay one hundred whatever dollars per bike for the local bike shop to pack them. Or at least my bike. It sounded expensive, but after having done it myself… it was definitely a pain in the ass. It was hard to pack the bikes in a way where I felt comfortable that they wouldn’t get damaged in the move.
  • Packed a ton of boxes.
  • Also, of course, continued raising two kids.
Posted in All | Leave a comment

Moving update, two weeks in

Friday, March 1 was Emily and my last days at our respective jobs. We’re flying out April 9th, which gives us only five weeks to prepare and we have a long list of things to do. We’re two weeks in. Let’s recap what we’ve accomplished:

  • Interviewed listing agents for selling our San Mateo condo and signed with one. This was stressful and not something Emily or I enjoyed.
  • Researched and bought a laptop for me.
  • Ordered new glasses for me.
  • Returned some library books and checked out others.
  • Gave away lots of baby things that we no longer need.
  • Sold our bed frame. Emily has never liked it and it’s a good time to replace it.
  • Took our 2003 Toyota Corolla in for a recall service. This car has had 10 recalls, four of them are for airbags, and it only has two airbags.
  • Bought our plane tickets.
  • Wrote my last newsletter for our homeowners association (I was appointed to the board last year after the previous Secretary moved away).
  • Organized my homeowners association notes and handed off responsibilities to my replacement.
  • Did our taxes.
  • Mailed in a form to request a refund for money on one of our Clipper cards.
  • Straightened out some pre-tax transit funds shenanigans.
  • Went running (four times!)
  • Went climbing (twice!, though I climb once a week anyway, so nothing new here).
  • Averaged more than 7 hours of sleep a night.

One observation: Our kids are in daycare during the day and Emily and I initially felt weird being at home and not being responsible for them. We can do whatever we want without worrying about saddling the other person with kid duty.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Deciding whether to rent or sell

As mentioned earlier, Emily and I are moving out of our condo in San Mateo. We had to decide whether to keep it as an investment (and probably offer it for rent), or sell it. It’s not an easy question! If we sold it we’d likely invest in stock market index funds, so let’s compare the two.

Return on investment

This is the most qualitative consideration. We want to know how much we would expect to earn in a typical year from the two options.

Our home was first sold on December 12, 2003 for $620,000. Current value as of March 12, 2019 is approximately $1,300,000. That’s a return of 209.68% over fifteen and a half years, which is an annualized return of roughly 5%. That’s just for the property itself.

Expenses are $13,156.12 yearly property tax and $618.74 per month HOA dues, which comes out to $20,581 per year. That reduces the annualized return to 3.42%. Note that yearly property tax is only allowed to increase at most 2% per year due to Prop 13, so assuming Bay Area real estate appreciates more than 2% per year, property tax can be expected to become less of a burden proportionally as time goes on. Also I expect the monthly HOA dues to increase at a greater rate than inflation as part of the HOA’s plan for the reserves to be “fully funded.”

What if we rented it out? Looking at similar-sized rentals on Zillow we could expect a renter to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 per month. Let’s assume $4,500 per month. Let’s also assume 100% occupancy, 10% property management fee, and $1,000 per year in maintenance expenses. That’s $47,600 income per year. That brings the annualized return up to 7.08%—hey, not bad. If we wanted to be generous and assume $5,000 per month rent with no management fee and no maintenance then that’s $60,000 per year which is an annualized return of 8.03%.

Now what about the stock market? Let’s look at SPY because it’s enormously popular (most assets of any ETF). Let’s use the same fifteen and a half year time range as above. Assuming this random website that I found with Google (appears to no longer be working as of 2019-03-14) is correct, the total return is 244.19% which is an annualized return of 8.45%. That doesn’t account for taxes paid on the dividends. And of course there’s no guarantee future performance will match this rate.

So that’s pretty close. Of course there’s a high margin of error in the above numbers and it only increases over time. There’s no guarantee real estate or the stock market will appreciate at the same rates. But from my point of view it’s basically a wash. Neither option is obviously better than the other.


Owning stock is trivially easy. We use Schwab with “reinvest dividends” turned on, so there’s no ongoing work. The yearly tax filing effort is negligible—we’ll own stock either way, so there aren’t any additional 1099 forms.

Owning a home and not offering it for rent is fairly easy: Pay yearly property tax (manually-initiated online ACH transfer once or twice a year). Pay monthly HOA dues (auto draft). Maybe carry some kind of insurance (maybe not necessary if it’s unoccupied, since the HOA carries insurance on the building). Vote on HOA ballots.

Offering it for rent is significantly more work. Approving tenants. Coordinating with management company. Deciding on repairs while not being local. Dealing with tenants who might violate HOA rules. Keeping track of income and expenses and handling it correctly when filing our taxes (and forcing us to file with California, too).


How dependable are the two options? The stock market has ups and downs but it averages out over time. I think it’s unlikely the US economy will collapse and never recover, and so risk of catastrophic loss of value is low.

Owning an expensive home is scary. It’s a lot of eggs to have in one basket. I’m not worried about sea level rise (I think it’s likely dams and locks will be built at the Golden Gate when sea level rise becomes severe enough to affect us). I’m not worried about fire. I’m mostly not worried about dam collapse (though I believe we are in the path of the Crystal Springs Dam). I’m mostly not worried about the Bay Area real estate market collapsing (there might be dips but I think it’ll be ok in the long run). I’m a little worried about potential loss of value from catastrophic earthquake.

So I think it’s unlikely the condo will lose significant value, but conventional wisdom is that it’s better to diversify. Real estate in aggregate is a sound investment but one unit of real estate has risk.


  • The return on investment from operating the condo as a rental is not clearly higher than investing in stock market index funds.
  • Owning the condo, and especially operating as a rental, is more work than stock market index funds.
  • Owning the condo has more risk, though this factor is insignificant.

And so in an effort to simplify my life and responsibilities, my preference is to sell the condo.

Two footnotes

At the top I said, “we’d likely invest in stock market index funds.” That’s not 100% accurate. We’d probably spend part of the money on a new house (or down payment on a new house). If we didn’t sell the condo then we’d quite possibly need to get a mortgage in order to buy a new house. It’s possible that mortgage rates are low enough that the mortgage would be effectively “free”—I haven’t checked.

When selling a primary residence there’s a “home sale exclusion” where, for married couples filing jointly, up to $500,000 of profit from the sale is tax-free. It seems like it’s not possible to take advantage of this if the property is converted to a rental. Which means that when the property is eventually sold we’d need to pay taxes on around $300,000 of profit (the approximate increase in value since we’ve lived here) that we otherwise would have avoided.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

We’re moving!

Friends! The time has come for Emily, Ruby, Edie, Toro and I to move back East! In April we’ll be selling our condo in San Mateo. We’ll be bouncing back and forth between Raleigh and Wilmington for a few months starting in mid-April while we figure out our next jobs and where we’ll be settling down long term.

Leaving our friends and family in the Bay Area is definitely the hardest part. We’ll miss you! We’re working through the end of February then taking all of March to pack and clean and plan and prepare. We’d love to see people before we go!

Why are we moving, you ask? A lot of little reasons that add up. We’d like our kids to see their grandparents more. We’d like a bigger house (two kids in our two bedroom condo is tight). We’d like a yard. We’d like to spend less time commuting. We’re hoping to spend less on daycare (currently about $40,000 a year).

Friends and family in NC: Looking forward to seeing you in a few months!

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Rounding numbers in Python 2 and Python 3

There are two changes to rounding between Python 2 and Python 3 that programmers should watch out for when migrating. I realize that Python 3 has been out for ten years, but I also know there are still people using Python 2 so there’s a chance this info is still useful to someone.

Ties away from zero vs. ties to nearest even

Python 2’s rounding behavior is “round to nearest, ties away from zero.” Python 3 uses “round to nearest, ties to nearest even,” sometimes called “banker’s rounding.” This change manifests in both the built-in round() function and in decimal.Decimal.quantize().

I think this change is great. Ties-to-nearest-even is a great choice. But if you want the Python 2 behavior in Python 3 you’ll have to do some work. For float it’s easiest to make your own function. See this example (starting after “if you need the Python 2 behavior”). For Decimal you can specify decimal.ROUND_HALF_UP when calling quantize().

I wish Python 3 round() took a rounding scheme parameter because the alternatives are cumbersome. Also it’s hard to mimic round()‘s behavior exactly, especially for positive/negative numbers and positive/negative values of ndigits.

round() does or does not cast Decimals to floats

This change is more subtle. Python 2 round() always does floating-point arithmetic, even if you pass in a Decimal. But Python 3 round() delegates to the class of the value being passed in. This means Decimals rounded with round() are susceptible to floating-point imprecision in Python 2 but not in Python 3.

I think this change is great, too. Let me give you an example from Python 2 to explain why. First let’s round the float 1.006 to 2 decimal places:

>>> round(1.006, 2)

Makes sense. Now let’s try rounding 1.005 to 2 decimal places. We expect the same result because Python 2 rounds ties away from zero (“up” in this case, since the number is positive).

>>> round(1.005, 2)

That’s weird. What happened? It turns out 1.005 can’t be represented exactly as a floating-point number. You can see this if you convert 1.005 from float to Decimal:

>>> decimal.Decimal(1.005)

Oof. But we’re using floating-point numbers and they’re notorious for this, so we only have ourselves to blame. Conscientious programmers would avoid this problem by using decimal.Decimal. Let’s try it:

>>> round(decimal.Decimal('1.005'), 2)

Oof—still wrong. This time because round() converts to float. That’s an easy mistake to make. Honestly I think it would have been better if Python 2 round() raised an exception if called with a Decimal, because implicitly converting to float with the possibility of incorrect results due to floating-point imprecision is likely not what the programmer wanted.

So what’s the right way to round a Decimal in Python 2? This awkward incantation:

>>> decimal.Decimal('1.005').quantize(decimal.Decimal('0.01'), decimal.ROUND_HALF_UP)

Yeah. Not great. It’s definitely an improvement being able to use round() in Python 3 (provided you’re ok with ties-to-nearest-even, anyway).

Guidelines for working with numbers with fractions

  • Use decimal.Decimal unless you need performance and know that imprecision is acceptable, in which case use float.
  • Decide what rounding scheme is appropriate for your application (ties away from zero, ties to nearest even, etc) and make sure your code is using it.
  • Don’t use round() with decimal.Decimal in Python 2.

An unrelated complaint

This isn’t Python-specific, but I hate that floating-point numbers are a default. In the world we live in, where programmers may not have a computer science background and may not be familiar with the pitfalls of floating-point arithmetic, I think there is no reasonable default. It’s too easy for programmers to get behavior they don’t want. I like strict languages and I think we’d be better off if languages forced programmers to specify either floating-point or decimal.Decimal/BigDecimal/etc for every number that has a fraction.

Posted in Computers | Leave a comment

Podcast reviews

I’ve started listening to a lot of podcasts over the last few years. Mostly when walking to and from work. I took some time to write my thoughts about each one. Partially because I thought other people might be interested, but also to have notes for myself because my memory isn’t great.

To give you an idea of my interests, I like listening to podcasts that help me have informed opinions. I prefer non-fiction. I prefer hearing facts and information rather than feelings. I prefer hearing aggregate data rather than personal stories.

Here’s the list:

The Memory Palace

Recommended? Yes! But you’ve got to focus and listen actively.

“A storytelling podcast and public radio segment about the past.” Ten to fifteen minutes long, every other week. Little tales from history. Usually great. Well-researched and wonderfully written. Nate DiMeo is an amazing storyteller. One of the best of our time. For an example episode, try “If You Have to be a Floor.” He chose it as his episode of the year last year and it’s kind of a masterpiece. If you’re still undecided, here are a few other episodes that I thought were above average: “Snakes!,” “Numbers,” “No Summer,” “Every Night Ever,” “Overland,” “Lost Locusts,” “Victory,” and “Local Channels.”

Planet Money

Recommended? Yes!

NPR’s economics podcast. Eighteen to twenty minutes long, twice a week. Usually great. Three example episodes that I enjoyed are “Cow Noir,” about cattle rustling, “How to Hide a Million Dollars in Plain Sight,” about money laundering, and “The Man Who Sued Iran,” which describes what happens when a US citizen sues a country in a US court.

The Indicator from Planet Money

Recommended? Eh. I suggest Planet Money, first. If you like that and want more, then listen to this, too.

Shorter, less-refined, economics-related stories from NPR’s Planet Money team. Nine minutes long, five days a week. Usually pretty good.

99% Invisible

Recommended? Yeah, if you make things or are thoughtful about how things work.

“The thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” Twenty to thirty minutes long, weekly. Usually great. For anyone who builds things (software in my case), it’s always good to have regular reminders of design considerations even if they’re totally unrelated to what you’re working on.

This American Life

Recommended? Yes!

Each week they choose a theme and present stories related to that theme. Sometimes journalism. Sometimes humorous. An hour long, weekly. Often great, though sometimes I’m not interested in the theme or specific story. A good amount of variety. On the journalism side, their story “Didn’t We Solve This One?” about granting visas for Iraqis and Afghans who have helped the US was something I hadn’t heard about before (semi-related: the ProPublica story “How Asylum Works” has great info about the asylum process). On the humor side, “Kid Logic 2016” is great. “No Coincidence, No Story!” is also an easy listen.


Recommended? Only if you have a lot of time to listen (e.g. road trip or long commute).

Investigative journalism/long-form telling of a nonfiction story. About “love and death and justice and truth.” Three seasons so far of nine to twelve episodes each. Thirty to sixty minutes per episode. It’s well made and the stories are interesting, but it’s a big time investment. Like reading a novel vs the CliffsNotes.


Recommended? I guess. I think your average podcast listener would enjoy it.

About one man and a small town in Alabama. Seven parts, around an hour each. Not exactly my cup of tea, but the story is fairly interesting and the production quality and writing are top-notch.


Recommended? Eh, probably not. Unless you’re particularly interested in container ships, in which case maybe start with Episode 3.

About global trade, economics, and container ships. Eight parts, around thirty minutes each. It’s alright. The episodes rely on a lot of anecdotes and interviews, which I’m generally not interested in. It might be Episode 3 that talks in detail about how the ships and containers and ports work that I found most interesting.


Recommended? Mildly.

Stories about interesting crimes. Thirty minutes, every other week. I was worried it would be dark and gruesome, but it’s mostly not. Not really educational, just entertaining. An example episode that I liked is “On the Run.”

The Breakthrough

Recommended? Only if you have a particular interest in how journalists work.

Interviews with investigative journalists about how they got the information for their stories. Released sporadically and currently on hiatus. I have a great appreciation for ProPublica (disclaimer: I’ve donated a few hundred dollars a year for the past few years), but this podcast is just ok. I think it’s helpful for journalists to disclose how they obtained their information when possible, and I like hearing the details of investigations, but I found myself wanting to hear the story itself, not just the investigation. I would prefer a podcast that walks through the story as well as the work that went into researching the story.


Recommended? Meh.

They attempt to “hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety” and “shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society.” Fifty minutes, weekly. Mostly good. I always appreciate the benefits of investigative journalism to society and I appreciate the work done by Reveal, though I do feel like their stories tend to present a single viewpoint rather than the viewpoints of all affected parties. And sometimes they focus too closely on individual anecdotes without discussing aggregate data. I think it’s fair to say they have a bias in defense of social justice. Also, I think it’s satisfying when journalism hints at ways to improve the problems they’re discussing and I feel like Reveal generally doesn’t do that. It’s a great podcast for anyone looking for problems that need solving.


Recommended? Nah.

They take a story from the news and do a deep dive. Forty minutes, once a month on average, though episodes aren’t evenly spaced. It’s decent, but not for me. They cover news that I’m interested in, but there’s generally nothing revelatory. Lots of recap and anecdotes. I’ve usually heard most of it just from keeping up with the news on a daily basis.

Trump, Inc.

Recommended? Meh.

An open investigation into Trump’s businesses and administration. I think Trump and many of his associates are sleazy and I appreciate that people are investigating, but I don’t like hearing the details of their sleaziness on a regular basis. I’m not in danger of forgetting about their sleaziness. Possibly useful for law enforcement looking for crimes, or lawmakers looking for loopholes to close.

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

Recommended? Yeah, if you’re interested in law.

Discusses the constitutionality of various actions by Trump. Twenty-five minutes, once a month. By Roman Mars of 99% Invisible. I like it, but it’s pretty dry.

30 for 30

Recommended? Yeah, mildly.

Each episode does a deep dive about a major sport-related topic (though season 3 was entirely about one topic). Around forty-five minutes, once a month (though they’re released in batches and the podcast includes other interviews between the batches). Pretty good overall, though the stories are heavy on interview content. Not really educational, just entertaining.

Outside Podcast

Recommended? If you like fitness, hiking, camping, climbing, or other outdoor recreational activities.

A wide range of stories and interviews about recreation, the outdoors, the human body, health and fitness, survival, and gear and apparel. Around thirty minutes, two to four times a month. It’s a good change from the rest of the podcasts I listen to. Some of their stories I like and others I skip.

The Sharp End

Recommended? If you’re big into climbing or you’re a gym climber thinking about climbing outdoors.

Each episode discusses a climbing accident in an interview format. Around thirty minutes, once a month. Mildly interesting, but I don’t think I’ve learned much from it other than obvious things like: be conservative, be cautious, limit risk, wear a helmet, tie a knot on the end of your rope. Associated with the American Alpine Club and Accidents in North American Climbing.

Your Parenting Mojo

Recommended? Nah.

Research-based parenting ideas. Twenty to forty-five minute episodes every other week. It’s ok, but not for me. I found the parenting suggestions to be useful but I’d rather hear a summarized version. This podcast goes into too much detail about the underlying research for my taste. I’ve only listened to about five episodes, so my opinion is limited. It seems like episodes are usually either interviews or recaps of science journals/research studies. It felt like the presenter was almost reading an article, which I found tiring to listen to. I would like it more if it was shorter: Just suggestions + very quick reasoning about why, rather than longer explanations.

Science Vs

Recommended? If you’re the kind of person who is prone to believing misinformation from people around you and you think you’d benefit from hearing impartial information.

Picks a topic (gun control, MDMA, vaccines, nuclear power, etc) and discusses it using facts and data. Forty to fifty minutes long, averages around two episodes a month, though they’re released in batches. It’s ok. Easy to listen to. Fun. I like puns. I stopped listening about a year ago so this may not be true anymore, but I don’t like that they try to narrow down topics to a single “good” or “bad” verdict. In reality most issues are much more complex. I especially noticed this with the gun control debate. It’s a very difficult question… It can’t only be decided by science. Also philosophy, psychology, and economics. How much value do people put on their freedom to own a weapon vs their freedom to be safe from other people’s weapons. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think the US would be better off if guns were more restricted. I just think it’s hard to make that case using data.

Welcome to Macintosh

Recommended? Nah. Unless you like obsessing about Apple.

Assorted stories about Apple and Apple products. Twenty to thirty minutes per episode with shorter stories mixed in. Released in seasons of five or eight episodes about once a year. Some interesting content, but I never found the stories super compelling. A little too anecdote-y for me. I prefer meatier info and I prefer hearing about things I’m not familiar with.

Freakonomics Radio

Recommended? Mildly.

Wide range of interviews, discussion, and information. It’s hard to pin down. Thirty to sixty minutes, weekly. The content is good. I stopped listening because I don’t have quite enough time for it and there were other podcasts I preferred more. But I imagine I’ll listen again eventually.

Wolverine: The Long Night

Recommended? Nah.

Detective fiction featuring Wolverine (yes, the one from comic books). One season so far. Ten parts, thirty minutes each. It was ok. I like mysteries, Marvel, Wolverine, and interesting radio fiction, but I thought the story was just average. The Wolverine/mutant aspect is actually pretty minimal. It mostly just feels like crime fiction. I guess I liked listening to it, but my attention waned.


Recommended? Nah.

About the Bundy family—the idiots who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for a month in 2014. Seven parts, thirty minutes each. I think the story is mildly interesting to read about, but listening to it for three and a half hours is probably overkill. Basically the family thinks they’re entitled to use federal land because they think the federal government has no legal claim to it and the legal system repeatedly sides against them.


If you’re still looking for things to listen to, here’s a random list of other podcasts that I’ve seen recommended but that I haven’t listened to.

Posted in All | Leave a comment