I spend quite a bit of time in my car, commuting along California’s beautiful Central Coast to and from work. I estimate that I spend 10 hours per week driving to and from my day job as web developer or my secondary job as a university lecturer. I’m not sure how that compares to your commute or the average commute in general, but each trip is typically 30 minutes or more. Prior to this current setup, I had a position with the state that required me to drive 3 to 4 hours several times per month. That’s a lot of time in the car.

I also suffer from a terrible case of earworm, so I don’t listen to music as often as I could. I instead shy towards podcasts, having discovered many that capture my attention, imagination, or curiosity for one reason or another. Here are the podcasts I generally listen to and that make me happy when I see there is a new episode available. I will update this post to include recommended episodes…after my next drive!

The “Listen on My Next Drive” Podcasts

The “Cool, a New Episode!” Podcasts

The “I Listened to Everything Else So Let’s See If There’s a New Episode” Podcasts

Other Places Worth Checking Out for Podcasts

The global economy is receiving a lot of attention these days.  Something must be going on…

In addition to the articles and news story about the stimulus package and other more technical parts of the economy, there are articles and news stories focusing on the quirky personal stories, experiences, and trends in the economy.  For example, this week I saw a story that being frugal has actually become the trendy new thing to do.  In fact, some shoppers at the mall in King of Prussia are going so far as asking stores to place their goods in unmarked bags to conceal their luxurious spending.  Apparently, being comfortable during these dire financial times is turning into something to be ashamed of (I can’t find the link to that specific article, but I did find a similar article exploring the idea that frugal is cool).

With that in mind, here are a news stories I think we’ll soon be seeing with regards to the economic crisis:

1. Frugality will become more popular at weddings and bar mitzvahs. I used to cater and run a novelty photography business, so I am very familiar with the business of Bar Mitzvahs.  I also got married in August 2008 and have several friends who either recently were married or are about to get married, so I have had many discussions about the wedding planning and the costs.  These two industries are served by countless service providers and vendors with one primary focus: to convince you to spend as much money as possible for their service or product.  It isn’t too hard, either, since many parents and engaged couples view their event as the most significant day of their lives (or their child’s life) and therefore feel there is no price tag too big when it comes to planning their event

I can tell you from being on both sides of the event process (as a vendor and as a groom planning his wedding) that it is not necessary to overspend in order to plan a classy, memorable event.  For example, a recently married friend shared that his bride’s wedding gown cost more than my entire wedding did, and the reason they spent this much money on a gown was because it was their special day. While his bride looked beautiful, she did not look any more beautiful than my bride did in a more reasonably-priced dress, nor was their wedding any more fun than ours because of the loftier price tag.  Similary, another friend spent a lot of money on a DJ and said, “At that price, they must be fun!”   I can tell you from seeing many DJs at many parties that a DJ is not necessarily good or fun just because he charges a lot of money, just as a cheap price does not mean a DJ is boring or inferior.  In fact, It Takes 2 is a company that I have seen at many events (camp events, bar mitzvahs, and weddings).  Their prices are very affordable, and their events are some of the most fun that I have ever attended — either as a guest or as a vendor.

Since luxury is becoming loathsome and practical is becoming popular, it seems natural that this change in mentality will affect the wedding and bar mitzvah industries.  But, I don’t think we’ll see the economy’s impact on weddings and bar mitzvahs until the 2010 or 2011 season, since most of this year’s events were planned as long ago as 2006 and the economy was in better shape at that time.  Looking forward, will wedding and bar mitzvah planning become more practical because parents and engaged couples cut back on their spending, or will service providers and vendors lower their prices in an effort to still make the day special without being excessive?

2. How will the economy affect our commutes to and from work? I live in Philadelphia but work about 20 minutes outside of the city, and my commute to and from work requires about 10 miles spent on I-76 and I-476 each way.  Fortunately, I drive against the majority of traffic during both rush hours but my commute still has moments of a slow crawl, and these make the trip take twice as long as it does during non-peak hours.  Traffic in the other direction, however, is usually at a standstill during both the morning and evening rush hours.  That’s what happens when a lot of people are presumably heading to their 9 to 5 jobs in the big city.

One morning, however, I heard that almost 600,00 people lost their jobs in January 2009.  That’s a lot of people who are no longer commuting to work every day, and I am afraid to say that the number will probably be higher in February.  I wonder when a local news guy, looking for “The Lighter Side of the Economy” story, like Bruce in Bruce Almighty, will decide to report on this ‘advantage’ of our current economic crisis.  You know, kinda like how some media outlets were reporting that an advantage of the economic crisis is that fuel costs were dropping back to somewhat acceptable levels?  On one hand, I will enjoy a shorter commute to work every day and we won’t have to endure any more movies starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. On the other hand, it is terrifying to comprehend what empty roads during rush hour means.  Not to mention I will have less time to listen to Preston & Steve in the morning.  I kid, but the thought is really scary.

3. How will textbooks used in economics classes be rewritten? I have only taken ECON 101: Introduction to MacroEconomics (summary: Everything is dictated by Supply and Demand, just like the Wendy’s commercials ‘teach’ us), so I am not familiar with the curriculum employed by professors of economics.  At the same time, a big part of me truly hopes that the curriculum for every student majoring in economics since the 1930s includes a detailed, in-depth study of The Great Depression (TGD) (and yes, I am aware that TGD started in 1929 and did not end until the 1940s, but I hope our best minds were studying this event even before it was resolved).  Not just one week or one section, but one or several classes dedicated to studying the factors leading up to TGD, the pivotal cause of it, initial responses (or lacks thereof) and failures, and, finally, the responses and actions that worked.  Again, I don’t know if this is the case, but I hope it is considering how disastrous TGD was.  Looking forward, I wonder how our current economic crisis will be reviewed, analyzed, reported, and studied to educate future generations of economists, all of whom should help to prevent or respond to another economic crisis.

There are my three pressing questions about the economy.  What about you? What questions or observations do you have when it comes to the topic dominating our headlines?  What answers or responses can you provide to my questions?

A copy of my “25 Things” meme that’s been making the rounds through Facebook.

  • Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.
  • (To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1.    My birthday is July 12.  I have worked a 16-hour day on my birthday every year for the past 13 years.
2.    I hate when my soup and hot chocolate/tea is burning hot. I heat them up to “warm enough” before consuming.
3.    A character in many of my stories is an accomplished writer.  He has written the following books: “H2Whoa: 101 Fun Things to do with Water,” “Swallowcaust: Lack of Food in Concentration Camps,” “Fat Fatties and the Fat Fatties Who Love Them,” and “Nun of Your Business: Discrimination Among Entrepreneurial Clergy.”
4.    I hope to one day write the aforementioned books.
5.    I briefly considered joining the US Air Force in 2000.  Instead, I took a placement test for the US Census Bureau even though I had no intentions of working for them, and this single event launched me on a path that led to me having an M.Ed., wife, and job as Director of a Summer Camp. Seriously.
6.    When we were younger, the only time my brother and I were guaranteed to get along was when we were playing video games. Now, 22+ years later, we still play video games together thanks to XBox and the internet.
7.    I love driving to work every day so I can listen to Preston and Steve. When they go to commercial, I turn on the buffoons on 610 WIP and, when they annoy me too much, I turn to NPR.
8.    I still have every letter and Western Union I ever received during my 19 summers at Golden Slipper Camp.
9.    I love organizing information.   Give me Excel and some information and I am set for the evening.
10.    I love social media and the internet.  I write in two blogs, plus I manage 11 different websites!
11.    I think Scrubs is the greatest show in the history of television.  The writing is sharp, funny, and emotionally investing.
12.    I have participated in several fantasy football leagues, but the SFFL (Slipper Fantasy Football League) is my favorite.  I have been in this league with virtually the same people since 1996. I won one championship and lost two in my first five years in the league.  In the eight years since, I have not even qualified for the playoffs.
13.    My Arcadia roommate and I made a ton of short films that played constantly on the campus’ closed circuit TV.  From time to time, a stranger on campus would talk to me and make reference to a video I was in, or act like I was one of the characters.  I even had a stalker who asked me to be her date to the Spring Cotillion based on these videos.  I also had another roommate tell me that she hated our videos when she was sober, but there was nothing better to watch when drunk.
14.    Some of the best videos we created are not available.  Either the footage has been lost or the stories exist only in our heads or on paper.  One day, Clam Chowder and Harry Doobs…
15.    My brother and I always wanted a little sister.  I also wanted a twin brother.
16.    I described my earliest memory to my mother once.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  She later explained that I had described something that happened when I was 8 months old. I am not making this up.
17.    I often have realistic dreams of minor events that later come true.  I have not yet had a dream where I see the outcome of the Super Bowl or any other future event from which I could make a profit.
18.    I believe I have been reincarnated.  I can identify at least two of my former lives from memories and knowledge of events that I should not otherwise have.  The first time I was in Washington, D.C., I recognized a statue of a lesser-known individual from the mid-1770s.  My friend, Allison, crossed the street and was stunned when the nameplate on the statue confirmed the individual’s identity.
19.    I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease when I was 12 and did not walk for a while because of the pain.  I received physical therapy to help me relearn the natural motion of walking. For a while afterwards, walking required conscious effort and I still walk funny whenever I think about the action of walking itself.
20.    I have always been a pitcher in baseball, but in 1993 I started pitching submarine-style.  This is because I had severe tendonitis in my throwing elbow that kept me awake every night.  I did not want to give up my role as a pitcher, so I did not tell my coach.  One day, the pain was so severe while I was warming up that I started throwing submarine-style because it did not hurt.  I was deadly accurate with this delivery, and I had a lot of movement on the pitches.  The other team made fun of my pitching motion, but I was dominant and shut them down.  I have pitched submarine-style since that day, even though my elbow feels 100% fine.
21.    I love classic rock.  I also love cheesy pop songs, most of which are one-hit wonders.  Thank you, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Billy Joel, Baha Men, A-Teens, Hanson, and LFO.
22.    LFO is the greatest boy band ever. No contest.
23.    I am addicted to the Internet.
24.    I am an exceptional speller, and can recall almost any word I have ever seen or read. If I could go back in time and talk to myself at thirteen, I would encourage me to enter a spelling bee so I could destroy the competition.  I would also tell me to save a lot of money and bet on the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series.
25.    I used to have a bad habit where I calculated the syllables of every word I said by grinding my jaw.  It was probably borderline OCD because it started disrupting my sanity and sleep.  It took a lot of effort to break this habit.

I love absolutely cheesy pop songs. I’m talking about MmmBop (Hanson), Who Let the Dogs Out (Baha Men), Upside Down (A-Teens), and any LFO song.  You know, the kind of pop songs that are played on the radio and receive overwhelming attention for about two weeks, at which point the song becomes uncool and it is laughable to admit you downloaded the song from iTunes (or bought the cassingle, since all of the bands mentioned above had hits well before iTunes entered the music scene).  The thing is, even though the two weeks have passed, I still admit with great pride the love I have for each of the aforementioned cheesy songs (and many more).

This love for cheese extends to commercial songs as well.  I decided to compile my Top 9 List to share with you.  This list only includes songs that were written exclusively for the product, company, or message they are endorsing. Therefore, you will not find songs like Feist’s “1234” (used in commercials for Apple’s iPod) or any of The Beatles’ songs being destroyed in an ad campaign for Target.  Here is the list:

1. Mercenaries 2 Video Game – “Oh No You Didn’t” (be sure to listen to the 2:54 version!)
2. Tootsie Rolls “Whatever It Is I Think I See
3. Toys R Us “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (there are several version. I chose the 1991 version)
4. Fitness Made Simple’s “Fitness Made Simple” (it even has a funky breakdown at about 3/4 through!)
5. Snickers “A Song of Satisfaction
6. Kit Kat’s “Gimme a Break
7. Mentos “Fresh and Full of Life” (the ones with ignorant action followed by proud display of Mentos)
8. FreeCreditReport.com “New Car” or “Pirate Restaurant” or “Dream Girl
9. Pepto Bismol “Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion, Upset Stomach, Diarrhea, Yay! Pepto Bismol!

What are some of your favorite commercial jingles?  What are the cheesy songs you love, but don’t share for whatever reason?