March 10, 2009

How Stuff Works

The Amtrak train ride from Chicago to Detroit takes five hours. That's when the train runs on time so usually it takes longer. This past weekend, it took 5 1/2 hours on the way to Detroit and six hours to get back to Chicago.

I know this route well. I've taken it during the day and at night, during Christmas and in the dead of summer. In the past few years, my train trips have become less frequent as Mike and I usually take his car. But just because I don't take the train, it doesn't mean I'm out of practice. I know how to prepare for a train ride.

It's a long haul so I try to prepare for it all. I dress in layers. I bring food with me (train food isn't any better than plane food). I bring lots of reading materials. This time I had three magazines and two books. I of course make sure my phone is fully charged, but I only use it to call my mom so she knows when to pick me up. I'm not one to catch up with old friends in public settings.

By far though, the most important thing I bring is my iPod. Mainly because there are people on the train who like to catch up with old friends in public settings. Or people who bring radios on the train. Seriously, loud audible radios. So their owners can listen to ghetto rap. True story. Guy behind me on this last train ride on the way back.

With every train ride I find the general public more annoying and less considerate, so as of late no matter how many reading materials as I bring, I hardly read them. I need my iPod to drown out all the general rudeness surrounding me. Books just don't cut it.

I don't always want to listen to music, so I've been trying to mix up my playlist. The last few trips I've taken, I've been all about free podcasts. I've downloaded a lot of This American Life episodes, as well as Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. This last time, I also downloaded Real Time with Bill Maher as well as the The Rachel Maddow Show. But by far my favorite new podcast is called Stuff You Should Know.

Stuff You Should Know is from the Web site How Stuff Works. Two of the writers take questions readers submit to the web site and then make a podcast lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes about the topic. My first time listening to this podcast was on the train, but I was completely hooked from the first episode. I listed to several of the episodes I downloaded, and thanks to them learned the following:
- The government had a hand in creating the San Francisco drug culture of the 60s. (Episode: Did the CIA test LSD on unsuspecting Americans?)
- That some people use the "C" rock as evidence that the moon landing was faked. (Why do some people think the mood landings were a hoax?)
- If you invest in a 401(k) it it possible that you've invested in a piece of your own mortgage.(How mortgage-backed securities work.)
- Some scientists say that around 70,000 years ago most of the human population on earth was wiped out and had to repopulate itself from just 15,000 people. (Will we soon be extinct?)
- There are water purification facilities on earth today that are turning salt water into drinking water. (What exactly happens if we run out of water?)
- There is a garbage pile twice the size of Texas at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. (Recycling and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.)
- Roughly 400,000 identity theft cases every year can be attributed just to pre-approved credit card applications. (How does junk mail work?)

Interesting stuff. There's a ton more. I think they record a new podcast every Tuesday and Thursday. So the next time you find yourself on a train, I highly recommend this podcast. Unless you're the type a person who likes hearing strangers catch up with old friends. Because if that is the case you'll have all the entertainment you need.


Kristin said...

Love the podcasts! I did the same thing for my flight to AUS, could have listened to about 20 more than I brought. Isn't it amazing how much information there is out there?

Glad to hear you kept yourself occupied and informed :)

Anonymous said...

Amy, This is your best yet. Yes I do read them quite often. Keeps me in touch with you, our family and "MY" second city. Aunt Janet

kelsalynn said...

In a lot of ways, I'm jealous of your bus commute... I wish I had that time to just enjoy a good radio talk show like that.

I have time at night after work, but honestly, the TV is usually on... it's not as good, yet do I turn it off and just turn on the radio??? nope... I need to work on that.