avoiding news overdose

I have been an NPR listener since my college days in the 1970s. I don’t know how I managed during my year in Laredo, 1977-78, but other than that I have always had an NPR station to listen to.

I have to admit to taking a break during the Bush II years. It simply made me ill to listen to his voice or to discussion of this policies. For those eight years I listened to sports talk radio, which made little sense because the only sport I like is baseball. There’s only a couple of months in the middle of summer when the talk is pretty much exclusively baseball. Basketball goes well into June, and football talk starts early in August. But that’s what I did.

As soon as Obama was elected I was back to NPR. Given my current routine it’s easy to spend a lot of time listening to NPR. I don’t generally catch Morning Edition, because by the time I get past breakfast and the local television news, walking Tasha, and then my own walk or yard work it’s over. But after morning edition is Here and Now, and I can get that from 9:00 to 11:00 on one station or from 11:00 to 1:00 on another. I normally skip the mid-afternoon shows, but All Things Considered starts as early as 3:00 and goes as late as 7:00. That’s a lot of ATC given that it’s a two-hour program.

I want to stay informed. That’s just being a good citizen and a thoughtful person. But I can overdo it as well. Taking time out to listen to music is not a bad idea.

And. I have all these NPR podcasts programmed into my Internet radio. I have topic-based podcasts on the subjects of author interviews, book reviews, food, popular culture, and religion. And I have program-based podcasts for shows like Fresh Air, Science Friday, Soundcheck, Leonard Lopate, and Studio 360. I need to listen to more of those.

Now that’s a good idea.

NPR’s Book Concierge 2014

If you’re looking for a traditional list of the best books of the year, the New York Times published their 100 Notable Books of 2014 online yesterday. If you would prefer something more interactive, National Public Radio has exactly what you need. For the second year in a row they have published NPR’s Book Concierge, which just went live today.

I loved this tool when it appeared for the first time last year, and it is every bit as cool in its 2014 incarnation. The books that NPR reviewed or otherwise covered in 2014 are all tagged with various filters. There are general filters like NPR Staff Picks and Bok Club Ideas. There are genre filters like Biography & Memoir, Historical Fiction, or Mysteries and Thrillers. Then there are filters based on personal preference, such as Rather Long or Rather Short. There are 27 filters in all.

What is marvelous about this tool is that you can mix and match filters all day long. For example, you can select Historical Fiction and Seriously Great Writing. Or you can select NPR Staff Picks and Mysteries and Thrillers. You could select Realistic Fiction and Tales from Around the World.

It’s not that I don’t have enough of a backlog of books to read, but I’m like a child with a glittery, colorful new bauble when the NPR Book Concierge shows up.

One caveat: You’ll need to use this on your desktop or laptop PC. Don’t expect it to work properly on your tablet device.



breakfast routine reset

For many years, at different times and in different locales, when I was single and lived alone, I didn’t turn on the television at breakfast time. My routine was to turn on the radio tuned to my local NPR station.

When Terry moved to the Bay Area in 1993, her habit was to turn the TV on in the morning to Good Morning America on ABC. I didn’t object, but at some point I got tired of Joan Lunden saying, “Isn’t this a wake-up call?” in response to any number of issues. I suggested we switch to the local morning show on Channel 2, which was then independent and later affiliated with the new Fox network. (Wisely for the Bay Area, they have always kept arms length from the news side of Fox.)

This has been our routine ever since, but while the routine has stayed the same, the program has evolved. It has morphed from a Today-like news magazine into a straight newscast. It has also evolved from covering serious news and issues to specializing on murders, car wrecks, and fires. We were both getting tired of that. Never mind that that the weatherman wasn’t giving us the forecasts we wanted to see (we need rain!).

I suggested to Terry that we leave the TV off in the morning and that we listen to NPR instead. She agreed. This has worked out well. The news isn’t necessarily positive or encouraging, but it is not sensational and is well-reported in the familiar NPR style.

Sometimes it’s good to look at those ingrained routines and change things where it makes sense.