After spending years commuting for nearly two hours a day, I always find it ironic that I stopped doing that right before I first had an iPod. How that would have changed the way I spent that time! Audiobooks, podcasts, smart playlists – the mind reels.
Nowadays, my commute is wonderfully short, so I stick with music (via iPod and an auxiliary line in, of course) in the car, with few exceptions. While I find most podcasts seem to be a very inefficient way of learning about things that I could read about much faster, a real exception to that is the Stratfor podcast.
I first heard about Stratfor in 2003, during the run up to the Iraq war, but I am always surprised how few people I know who have heard of them. Founded by George Friedman in 1996, the firm’s name comes from ‘strategic forecasting’ (yes, it’s a bit forced, I think), and they describe themselves like this:
For the last decade, Stratfor’s expertise in international affairs, public policy, and security has positioned our clients to effectively plan ahead, reduce risk, and identify opportunities essential to their interests. Within our three core practice areas, Stratfor provides a complete and integrated portfolio of services ranging from online subscriptions to custom-tailored consulting projects.
They have all sorts of products that cost all sorts of money, but they also maintain an email list where they send out free essays on a host of topics. The free issues are very well written, but I am so buried in email, I confess to letting them stack up. Since last spring they also distribute a free, daily podcast. Topics range all over the globe, and include a wider range of countries and issues than I would normally follow, so I am often exposed to new things. The firm’s style is pretty apolitical – perhaps I should say realpolitik. By that I mean they focus more on the practicalities of a situation, and less on the agenda of one side or another. For example, I think they are one of the few places in the media where I hear descriptions of Iranian actions that make sense to me.
To subscribe to the podcast, they ask you to register for their free emails, which are well worth your time. I encourage you to do that, although if you know how to Google, you can find their podcast URL with no need of registering. Either way, plunk that URL into iTunes or Google Reader and take a few minutes each day to catch up with the world. Plus, you’ll get a daily dose of Colin Chapman’s droll humor and snappy accent.