Listen To This

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Three podcast episodes I heard this past weekend that you might like…

Related to my recent rant concerning creativity as a skill, a segment of Freakonomics asked Where Do Good Ideas Come From? (61:34) The host spoke with a scientist, a graphic designer, a museum curator, James Dyson (of vacuum cleaner fame), and others about their creative process.

This is the third part in their series titled How To Be Creative and part two is also good, asking Why Do Schools Kill It Off?

Another podcast segment was also part three of a series, this one from Planet Money and dealing with the issue of antitrust (23:56). Specifically this segment discusses whether the size and reach of huge companies like Amazon “is a threat to competition, and ultimately to consumers”.

As with every segment of Planet Money, they do an excellent job of making a complex issue both interesting and even entertaining.

Finally is the first episode of a new podcast from the news site Quartz called Should This Exist? (33:36). Each segment looks at the promise of a new technology, along with the possible negative impact on both the user and society.

The first invention certainly fits the criteria: Halo is a headset that is supposed to stimulate the brain and help the wearer learn “as fast as a kid”. As they say, what could possibly go wrong?

My only criticism of the segment is that I don’t think the host challenged the inventor enough, especially on the potential ethical issues. But the premise of the podcast sounds like it will be worth at least a few more listens.

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Three readings worth your time this week.

The Trans-Siberian Railway, tracks that covers seven time zones and 5,772 miles between Moscow and Vladivostok, is the stuff of travel legend. This package from the UK Telegraph includes a short history of how it was built and a first-person narrative from a reporter and his family making the passage, including some great photos. (about 16 minutes)

As teachers we’re told that we must provide students with specific, clearly defined expectations for all of their work. But what if doing that inhibits creative thinking? That’s an interesting, counter-intuitive idea explored in a new book about creating a culture of thinking in schools. Read this excerpt and see if you think the author makes his case. (about 8 minutes)

Earlier this week, Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature and it was, to say the least, a controversial selection. But it’s hard to argue with the selection committee who say that Dylan “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” This New Yorker piece is one of the better celebration of their choice. (about 3 minutes)

Two videos to watch when you have a few minutes.

This is an interesting confessional from someone turned off to math by his middle school teacher, someone who is now an English teacher himself. How many current educators, math or otherwise, have a classroom management style to the teacher who convinced him to quit math? (4:19)

 

In this TED Talk, UK comedian James Veitch relates a story about his exchange with a faceless email server after receiving the kind of unsolicited messages we all get and can’t seem to unsubscribe from. I love his observation, “The internet gave us access to everything. But it also gave everything access to us.” (7:40)

 

One audio track for your commute.

You probably read about the investigation into Wells Fargo where the bank paid a relatively small fine, the penalty for employees who opened tens of thousands of accounts without customer permission, just to meet sales quotas. Planet Money put a human face on the story and spoke to two of those employees, one of whom called the company ethics line multiple times to report the violations. Listen and wonder who was on the other end of that ethics line. (18:32)

Fantasy Economy

I don’t follow any sport very closely and I’m certainly not into fantasy sports leagues the way some of my friends are, although as a hobby, I can think of worse ways to spend your time.

However, an episode of Planet Money from last week, The Real Economy of Fantasy Sports, is an intriguing look at this $1.7 billion (with a B!) part of the American economy. And Alex is right that the Manning brothers (they’re quarterbacks, right? :-) rapping is pretty bad.

The segment is just one more reason to subscribe to this podcast. In around 20 minutes, twice a week, they do a far better job of explaining finance and economics than any other media organization, especially the cable channels dedicated to the topic.

A Musical Economics Lesson

This song, produced by NPR’s outstanding podcast Planet Money, explains in under two minutes one huge part of the crap financial firms were pulling in 2006, 07, and 08 that crashed the economy.

And there’s a very good reason it sounds like something Mel Brooks might have written for the shysters in The Producers to sing.

If you want a more detailed explanation of how one big company plotted to screw things up, listen to the first segment from a recent edition of This American Life.

I don’t claim to completely understand all the economic concepts involved, but the report makes it very clear that someone (probably many someones) should be in jail.

The Economics of Merit Pay

On Monday’s edition of the outstanding NPR podcast Planet Money, the hosts looked at the issue of teacher pay.

During the program they reviewed the many factors that might go into differentiating salaries and spoke with an economist about how the system under which most K12 teachers in the US are paid compares to employee compensation in the real world.

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This short discussion is one of the best overviews of the subject I’ve ever heard, possibly because it’s coming from people who are not teachers (although the mother of one of the hosts is), politicians, or education “experts”.

It’s well worth spending 20-minutes of your time to listen.

And if you’re at all interested in an approach to understanding the economy and personal finance that’s very different from what is produced by the talking heads channels, subscribe to this podcast.