Getting through this pandemic hasn’t been easy. Each day can feel like a slog, especially when, for many people, the necessary shelter-in-place restrictions have no end in sight. While being cooped up and isolated from others isn’t pleasant, there are some ways to make the experience more bearable.
This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED service editor Alan Henry and WIRED senior writer Adrienne So join the show to talk about the gadgets, media, and lifestyle adjustments that have helped them get through quarantine so far.
Find more WIRED recommendations for the gear and tips to get you through the pandemic here. Read Joe Ray’s review of Eat Your Books here. Read more about how to get free library books on your Kindle here. Read Alan’s guide on how to pump up your playlist here. That Vulfpeck song is “Wait for the Moment.”
Adrienne recommends the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet and the show The Expanse. Alan recommends Aukey T21 True Wireless Earbuds and Freefall Radio. Mike recommends the Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer and NHK World’s Dining With the Chef.
Adrienne So can be found on Twitter @adriennemso. Alan Henry is @halophoenix. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our executive producer is Alex Kapelman (@alexkapelman). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.
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[Intro theme music]
Michael Calore: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, senior editor here at WIRED. Lauren Goode is out this week, so we’ve got a bit of a different show for you. I’m joined by WIRED service editor Alan Henry and WIRED senior writer Adrienne So. So first, Alan, welcome to the show.
Alan Henry: Hi, thanks for having me.
MC: Of course, your debut appearance, it’s great to have you. And hello, Adrienne. Welcome back. A multiple-time returning guest star on this show.
Adrienne So: Yay. Hey, Mike. Yeah, my kid is out today, but I’m here without her.
MC: Today we are going to be talking about the various things that are helping us, the three of us, get through the current global health crisis. Right now it’s the first week of July. We are several months into the coronavirus pandemic, with over 10 million cases worldwide and over 500,000 deaths. And whether we’re directly affected or not, the crisis has filled all of our lives with grief, fear, and uncertainty. But we also know one thing that does a better job of protecting us than anything else, and that’s isolation. So even though some cities and states are gradually reopening, most of us are going to stay cooped up for a while longer.
We wanted to use this episode to pass along some of the things that we’ve been using, to make sheltering in place more bearable. If you’re a regular listener of this show, you know that we always do a segment at the end where we each make a recommendation. And you can just think of this episode as one big recommendation show, just like the Covid-19 shelter-in-place, survival edition.
We hope that some of the things we recommend are things you can make use of as well. That’s the whole reason we’re doing this. So we’re going to divide the show into three segments. First, we’ll talk about the gear that has improved our quality of life during these last few months. And then we’ll discuss the changes in our routines that have helped us adjust. And at the end of the show, we’ll each recommend pieces of entertainment, like a book or a podcast or a program, that’s been keeping us happy.
We’re going to start with hardware. So Adrienne, you’re on deck first. What is the gear that has helped you the most over the last few months?
AS: As I think I mentioned on my previous appearance on Gadget Lab, I have been sheltering in place with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. It’s been a couple of months now, and our daycare still isn’t open. So we’ve cobbled together our quarantine pod with another family, who also has a 3- and a 5-year-old. We’re doing a nanny share and putting together hours and arranging four different parents’ schedules, and it’s driving me bonkers.
So the thing I was going to recommend is the new Amazon Fire Kids tablet. It just came out, I think, a month ago. And I have a couple of other kid entertainment devices right now. I have the iPod Touch, I have a mini iPad, but the Kid’s tablet is the one I’m really relying on right now, because my 5-year-old doesn’t nap anymore. It’s foam padded, and it has Amazon FreeTime, which is Amazon’s platform. You can set an age range, from 3 to 7, for age-appropriate entertainment. So I can just park her on the couch for an hour or two, so I can get something done every now and again.
I was going to recommend something a little more exciting, but if I had to recommend the one thing that is getting all four of us through a workday, it’s probably a Kid tablet.
MC: Is it rugged-ized at all? Because I know that some of the Amazon ones are sort of made for bashing around.
AS: Well, they upsell you. For an extra $20, one of the things you get is this huge, foam-padded puffy case with a stand. And I say it’s totally worth it. I can hear my daughter walking around the house going, “Oops. Oops.” Just bashing into things. And it’s been totally fine. But the other thing about the Fire tablet is that it has a two-year worry-free guarantee. I recommended the tablet to another friend. His 5-year-old was holding it, and he literally smashed it full on into the corner of the table. He would just smash the screen, from pure frustration, like all of us right now. They returned it, and Amazon sent them another tablet right back. So if you have a younger kid, it’s totally worth it.
MC: Yeah. I think Amazon is happy to replace those, because they know that if they send you a new one, you’ll keep consuming content on Amazon. Right?
AS: Yeah. That’s the other thing. But you can also … I snuck into the parent dashboard and just blocked everything that had Barbie on it. And she’s like, “It’s so weird. It’s like Barbie doesn’t exist.” And I was like, “I know, it’s like she vanished from the earth. I don’t know what happened.”
MC: All right, Alan, what is your gadget recommendation for people?
AH: So it took quarantine, and me sitting around at my computer and taking phone calls and things a lot, for me to really get into true wireless earbuds. A friend of mine turned me on to the Aukey True Wireless Ear Buds. And I’m sitting here, just holding the charging case. I’m not an AirPods person—I am an Android user, which is why I’m not an AirPods person. And I have terrible nightmares of being one of those people, here in New York City, who will lose one ear onto the subway track, and then have to wait five hours for somebody to come and get it with a broom, and now it’s grody and disgusting. And I don’t know if I ever want to put it back in my ear.
All that aside, the Aukey True Wireless Earbuds sound great. They’re like, $30. Sometimes they’re on sale for less. I think I got mine for $22, on sale, at Amazon. And they are the earbuds that convinced me that wireless earbuds aren’t that bad. They fit well. They sound great. And I can sit here and talk to my dad on the phone while I’m writing an article, and no one is the wiser either way. So it worked out really, really nice that way.
But I just thought it was really cool, because it was such a low price point, to get into actual wireless earbuds. The ones I normally use have a cord that goes between your ears, and that makes me feel more secure. If it falls out of my ear, then it’s still on my person, somehow. But again, take your advice from me with a grain of salt because, I was that guy who’s like, “There’s no headphone jack in my phone. Argh.”
MC: I’m also one of those people. I’ve tested a bunch of those wirefree, wireless, true wireless, whatever you want to call them, ear buds. And the problem that I kept having is that, they sound great, but when I put my phone in my pocket and walk around, they start cutting out all the time.
AH: Yeah. Absolutely.
MC: I understand that that’s been getting better. But is that still a problem, on the cheap end?
AH: It depends. My experience is that in summertime it’s fine. I can put my phone in my pants pocket, and I still have great reception. In the winter, I put my phone in my big jacket chest pocket. And that’s apparently too many layers of clothing. I can’t hear the music I’m listening to while I’m walking down the street. So it’s still an issue. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but it’s definitely still a thing.
AS: Yeah. Wirefree versus wired headphones are also a perennial argument among workout headphone users. And I am a huge fan. I always recommend the wired ones, because I’ve been running and had the wirefree ones pop out of my ear. Then you spend 10 minutes digging through a bush in the middle of a trail, trying to find this darn little earbud. So, yeah, I generally prefer the wired ones, as well.
AH: That’s easy for me, because I don’t exercise. I do exercise, but I don’t run. I tried running, and I was very bad at it. But yes, if I were actually running around … I will wear the wireless ones in the house, when I’m sitting around. But when I’m going out, I put on the ones with the wire, across the back of my neck. Just, I don’t want to lose anything.
AH: Even if it’s just 20 bucks, that’s still a lot of money. I don’t want to just throw 20 bucks on the subway tracks. I don’t want to just lose 20 bucks, or 10 bucks, at the gym. So I completely understand.
MC: Well, thank you for that recommendation.
MC: I want to tell you guys about my rice cooker. This has been quite a journey for me. I was gifted a rice cooker, a Zojirushi rice cooker, about 15 years ago by a coworker. And it was really simple. You just plugged it in, and it had a cook and a keep-warm function. And that’s it. Nothing fancy. I used that rice cooker three or four times a week for about 15 years. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. It still works fine, but I started getting the itch to replace it when people started telling me about rice cookers that had timers on them. So you can set it for 5 o’clock, and then you just leave it on all day. And then it turns on at whatever time it deems appropriate, to have your rice ready at exactly 5 o’clock.
And I was like, “I could definitely use that, so that I’m not forgetting to make rice, and then having to wait 45 minutes before I can have dinner. I just know that the rice is going to be ready and waiting for me.” So I got it. And it was a crazy upgrade. I think I spent, like, $140 on it. It’s the standard 3-cup, programmable rice cooker. It has this long inscrutable name, but it’s also a Zojirushi model.
And it has completely changed everything in the kitchen for me, because not only does it cook really great, perfect white sushi rice, it cooks quinoa perfectly. It cooks short-grain brown rice perfectly. It also cooks steel-cut oatmeal, it has a special setting, for steel-cut oatmeal. So I can eat perfectly cooked oatmeal, every morning, which has just been awesome.
So it’s the perfect device not only for making better meals, but for me, it’s unlocked a whole new level of meal preparation. And for that, I’m eternally grateful to the engineers who created this miraculous device.
AH: I am a Zojirushi stan. I dropped money on the Neuro Fuzzy 6-cup years ago, and the thing’s a tank. It’s still working fine. And I have tried to fool it. I’ve said, “Oh, maybe I’m going to make rice that’s a little bit more sticky this time.” So I’ll add a little bit more water, or something. Nope, can’t fool it. It comes out perfect. “Well, OK. I’m going to add much less water and see. I’ll show you.” And it still comes out perfect. I can’t fool the thing.
And also, it’s law in my house that the little startup song that it plays when you press the button? You have to dance to it in our house. It’s the law. You have to dance to it when the rice starts, and you have to dance when the rice is done.
MC: Does yours do “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?”
AH: Yes. Yes, it does.
MC: Well, the best part about this whole thing for me is that I get to give the old one to a friend who doesn’t have one. It has all of this awesome karma that has developed over the years, and it’s just going to land in their kitchen and immediately brighten their whole household. I know it.
All right. Well, right now we’re going to take a break. And when we come back, we’ll all share our life hacks and our little tricks that we’ve learned to do around the house and other practical tips.
MC: Welcome back. Sometimes, you can’t simply improve your quality of life just by buying a thing. More often, you have to figure out how to get more out of what you’ve already got. Especially during a time when we’re all trying to stay in our homes, where small changes can make a big difference. So, Alan, please tell us what is an adjustment that you have made, to better manage your life at home?
AH: Well, mine starts with having bought a thing. But, which completely invalidates my entire … No, it doesn’t. But, I bought smart lights, and it took me a really long time to get into smart lights. But, once I did, the first thing I did was set up a chill out mode for my bedroom. Mostly because, I like to read before I go to sleep, and I just wanted a sleep environment that was more welcoming and more conducive to good quality sleep, even if I’m not going to get a lot of sleep.
So every night, at 10:00 or 11:00 PM, my lights turn to this really cool reddish, and slowly fades into a purplish … I know blue light is bad, but still, I like purple … A chill color. And, that’s my signal to also prep the rest of the bedroom for sleeping. So I’ll shut the door, I’ll turn on the humidifier. I’ll turn up the air conditioner. I will draw the blinds. I will turn on my Lectro fan, my little white noise machine, and get really chill and ready to bed down. It’s fantastic.
And eventually, what I want to do is, make all of that stuff automated. So I have a chill out scene, or a chill out routine, that I don’t need to trigger. It’ll just go, at bedtime. But, turning my bedroom into this kind of sleep oasis, that I can just enter and immediately be drowsy is, that’s my thing. I’m really here, for that.
MC: So, do you make this scene happen with a tap on your smartphone, or do you use a voice command?
AH: With a tap on my smartphone. I could use a voice command, we are a Google Assistant house, but Google listens a lot. And listens a lot, when I’m not talking to it. So, I don’t want to risk voice commands, just yet.
MC: And also, I have to ask. What is the temperature setting that you go for, when you sleep?
AH: Ooh. Oh, this is controversial.
AH: 65 degrees.
MC: My man.
AH: Yes. I like it extremely cold.
MC: Yes. Dead ass cold.
MC: Is the only, is the appropriate temperature for sleeping.
AH: Nope, if the temperature is above 70 something in my room, I can’t sleep. I’m starting to toss and turn, and I will throw the blankets off.
AS: What I need is a lock screen on my computer, or on my phone or something. Because my big problem with going to sleep is logging on to Facebook or Twitter, or something. And then reading one thing at 11:30 p.m., that has me completely enraged, and then prowling around my house for the next three hours. I’ll be like, “Can you believe what this person from high school said?” That is, yeah. I think the new Apple Watch has a lockdown setting that will just stop you from using your devices, after a certain time. So I think that would be, that’s the thing that I want, to help me go to sleep. But I don’t know if it’s out there, yet.
MC: There’s also that thing that, what is it called? Oh, yeah. Discipline.
AS: It’s right there, Mike. The phone is just, right there.
MC: Well, why don’t you give us your life hack, Adrienne.
AS: OK. My life hack was, meal planning. And I also went out and bought a thing. So, we were in pretty strict lockdown, for about a month. There were four of us, my husband and my two kids. And my kids eat five times a day. And we were trying to not go to the grocery store more than once a week, and it was just turning into this huge mess.
So, about a week after lockdown started, I bought two whiteboards and I have one white board, right now, for my shopping list. And another white board, where I plot out each meal per day, per week. So I have to write it all down, and that way, I can make sure that I have everything I need for the whole week to feed everybody in my house.
I’ve also been experimenting with a couple of different meal planning apps, like eMeals and Mealime, which helped you put this all on your phone. But the website that I like right now is called Eat Your Books. I think it was reviewed by one of our other writers, Joe Ray, and basically, enter in every single one of your three million cookbooks into a website. And then, you can search by ingredient or recipe, and just pull out the recipe that you were thinking of. Because I’m always getting the chicken thighs from Epicurious, versus other chicken thighs recipes, mixed up. And just having them all in one place to look up, when I need to cook dinner, has been a really big help. And, if I don’t hate all food by the end of this, that will be my major success at the end of this pandemic, because food is just such a pain right now.
MC: And you guys are cooking for four. So I imagine that’s probably more stressful, than people who are just cooking for one or two.
AS: Yeah. And it’s mainly just, trying to keep isolated, and not being able to just run out to the store if you forget something. Like, “Oh, we ran out of hotdog buns. I guess we’re just not having hot dogs for the eleventy-first time, this week.” And I keep telling my husband, I would never have survived on the Oregon trail. If I had to pack everything in my wagon, and just not go shopping for three months? We would just die. We would just be in the middle of Oklahoma and I’d be like, “I forgot the honey. It’s done, it’s over. Turn around.” It just sucks.
MC: That’s OK. You shouldn’t feel too bad, because I think everybody died, on the Oregon trail.
AH: Mostly of dysentery.
MC: All right. Well, I want to tell you about the thing that I’ve been doing, which is, I’ve been exploring all the different ways to get free books on my eReader. I have a Kindle, and this is the same Kindle that I’ve had for close to a decade. The things last forever. There’s also a Kobo, that I’ve been using for a couple of things, which is this Canadian device that is sort of like a Kindle, except a little bit faster and a little bit better, but the battery life is not as good.
Anyway. I’ve talked about this before. The best way to get a free eBook on your Kindle, is through your local library. If you have a library card and you live in a place, a city or a county, that has eBook lending through the local library? You can use an app called Libby, that’s made by an organization called OverDrive. And basically, you can borrow eBooks from your library, just like you would regular books.
You log in, you use your library card to sign up for the service. So it connects you to a library, and then you can browse your local library’s eBooks, download them to your Kindle, read them. And then after 30 days or three weeks, whatever your loan period is, they just disappear from your device. So it’s really nice, because you can set up queues and you can … Some things you have to wait for, because there are only so many copies, available to all the people in the library. But you can organize it in a way so that you always have new books coming in, as the old books are disappearing.
Obviously, the barrier to entry there, is that you have to have a library card. And right now, your local library is probably closed. But, in response to the pandemic, some libraries have been doing online card issuing. So you can go on the website, and you can get a card, through there. Others are doing it through the mail, because you just provide a photocopy of a bill, or your driver’s license. Something that shows that you live in the area that the library services, and you can get a card through the mail. It takes a little longer, but there are ways to do it.
If that’s not going to work for you, you don’t have a card or your local library doesn’t have eBook lending, there’s also this thing called Prime Reading. Which is, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, there are thousands of books that you can download onto your Kindle, for free. There’s contemporary stuff. There’s nonfiction, from the middle of the century. There’s classics, like James Joyce and the Bronte sisters and Dostoevsky. There’s also a bunch of kids books. So, that’s always an option.
If you’re not a Prime user, or you’re not interested in that, then there’s Project Gutenberg. Are you guys familiar with Project Gutenberg, at all?
AH: Oh, yeah.
MC: So, it’s free eBooks from, basically anything before the 1920s, which is when modern copyright law started applying to published works. But it’s, you can get versions of books that you can read in a browser, as PDFs, on a Kindle. It’s a very esoteric searching and downloading experience. You have to learn. A little bit, how the device works. But if you’re interested in reading Henry James or Richard Henry Dana, then it’s definitely worth it, for the antiquated stuff. Having to figure out the hoops that you have to jump through.
AS: Some of the antiquated books that I like are the etiquette manuals. You can get 18th and 17th century, like Arthur Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette, or something. And it’s pretty crazy, how much all of this applies today. I really want to recommend that everyone on Twitter read tips on how to not be boring. How to not be a reply guy. It’s all there. They knew this, during the Civil War. So there’s no reason, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t apply these today.
MC: What’s the old saying? It’s like, “Those unfamiliar with the past are doomed to repeat it.”
AS: Yeah. It’s just, it’s so… You think of people, you’re like, “OK, they wore corsets. What did they know about anything?” And then they’re like, “If somebody is clearly not interested in the thing you’re pontificating on, change the topic.” And it’s just like, “Yeah. Wow.”
AH: Imagine that.
AS: I know. They didn’t teach this in school.
MC: All right. Well, those are all great recommendations, so thanks, guys. We’re going to take another break, and for the end of the show, we’re going to recommend pieces of media that people can enjoy.
MC: OK. Now, we are on to the last segment of the show. And usually this is where we drop our heat rocks, our recommendations that you have to check out. But this week, we’ve kind of already been doing that for the whole show, so we’re going to give the recommendation segment a bit of a twist and ask everybody to share a piece of media. A show, a podcast, a book, whatever, that you have been using to fill the hours during our shelter in place. So, Adrienne, let’s start with you. What’s your recommendation?
AS: So, it turns out that quarantine is the perfect time to … I’m not the first person to point this out, but I’ve been catching up on the last 10 years of media while I’m in quarantine. So I watched every single Marvel movie, all in order. And then, right now, I’m binge watching The Expanse. And it turns out that not only is The Expanse one of the best science fiction shows that have ever come out, but it’s perfect for gear writers. I just keep looking at everything. They explain how to use mag boots, and you’re just peering at the mag boots. Like, “How do those work?”
Holden has his special little space coffee tumblers. And I’m like, “What is that? What is the coffee machine they’re using? What are these tumblers? Can I buy these tumblers on Amazon?” The level of detail in this show is just so, it’s so amazing. And it’s so irresistible, and it’s really hard to not be taking notes, through every single episode. Do you watch it, Mike?
MC: No, I don’t, no. I haven’t watched it yet. Like you, I’ve just got this massive queue of things that I haven’t watched yet. I think we’re working our way through a couple of old HBO shows, and The Expanse is on the list, but it’s probably about five or six slots down, right now.
AH: My problem is, I’m surrounded by Expanse fans. One of my best friends is-
AH: … and I have not seen it. I haven’t seen it. In fact, my partner has watched the whole thing, and I usually am sitting in the other room playing video games. And I’ll pop out and be like, “Hey, how are you doing? How is everything?” And then, it’s on. And I’ll sit, and I’ll just stare for 15 minutes and I’m like, “This show is incredible.” And then I’ll snap out of it, and I’ll go back to playing video games because I’m like, “I’m not ready for this. I’m not ready for this, right now.”
AS: It’s so incredible. One of the things that I also really like about it is just that, it’s so diverse. The cast, the fact that there’s 10 people wandering in space, and maybe one of them is white. It’s just like, “Of course. Of course, this would be happening. Like, why?”
AH: A global spacefaring civilization, imagine that.
AS: I know, crazy. Just like somebody named Naomi Nagata who is Black and Asian and, obviously. It’s such a … Yeah. And the way that they talk about food? They have discussions of the different kinds of cuisines that developed in different parts of space, and how Martians have to really adjust their taste buds to like Belter food. And, it’s so incredible, but anyway.
MC: All right, it’s going to the top of the list. You convinced me.
MC: All right, Alan, what have you been getting into?
AH: So, getting into is kind of difficult to say, because I’ve been a fan of the show for a very, very long time. It’s a podcast called Freefall Radio, and most of us will know it is a podcast. But actually, those of you in the San Francisco area, will know it as a radio show. It’s on, was on KUSF. I think it’s KXSF, it’s a low power station.
MC: That’s right.
AH: It’s hosted by David Bassin. I think he does it on Tuesdays, live. But I listen to it through SoundCloud, Mixcloud and I stumbled on it ages ago. And I’m a big music person. I love listening to new and experimental music, world music, jazz, future jazz, Afrobeats, stuff like that. And, when I stumbled on this podcast, when it was a podcast, it blew my mind.
And now, I’m at the point where I listen to every single episode, every week, as soon as it comes out. I get push notifications on my phone. And, if you know me, that is wild, because I hate push notifications. And, I will let Freefall notify me the instant an episode has been posted. So, that’s my recommendation. If you’re into music at all, you will definitely hear something new in every single one of his episodes. And that to me is wild because, I’m a DJ. I have a lot of music. I have a huge music collection, and putting something in my ears that’s brand new is a difficult task, I’d like to say. And he does it fantastically, every week.
MC: So, does it lean in any particular direction? Is it along the lines of Afrobeats and jazz, and that kind of stuff?
Alan Henry: Yeah, a little bit more future jazz, a little upbeat, I would say. And sometimes, he’ll just roll out some Coltrane or some Miles Davis, or something that’s really, really, not traditional jazz, but jazz that you’ve probably heard some of, in the past. But, other times it’ll just be a track from a Japanese rapper, or a Senegalese lyricist who’s just starting out and put out their first album. And he’s apparently the only person in the world who’s ever heard it. So it’s wild, it’s wild. But it’s all good. That’s the thing. I’ve never heard a song on Freefall that I didn’t like, at least.
And then there are … and that’s the bottom of the barrel. The top of the barrel are the songs that I immediately go to SoundCloud and save, or I’ll go to YouTube and add to a playlist, or something.
AS: The playlist you put together, the Pump It Up playlist?
AS: Alan, that was truly incredible. I was just wandering around. I love that we put the entire, all of Beyonce combined discographies on there. I was like, “Yes. That’s it. That’s all we need.”
AH: Yeah. That playlist is 142 songs, eight hours of music. And someone dared me to put the entire Beyonce Homecoming album in it. And I was like, “How dare you, dare me to do a thing?” And so, I did. I just did. And a few people have noticed, but not that many. Because you can just hit play, and start listening to it. And then an hour and a half into it, you just realize, “Wow, there’s a lot of Beyonce, in this.”
AS: You were like, “Nobody’s mentioned it, because everyone was so happy.”
AS: So, I was talking to Parker, who is another one of the product writers on staff. And he dropped a couple of Vulfpeck songs into Slack. And one of them, I wanted to vote as the new theme song for the Gadget Lab. It was like, “I’m a products guy, money will be spent,” or whatever. And I was just like, “Oh my God, nailed it. Nailed it, Parker.” But, I forget the name of the song, right now. Maybe we can put that, somewhere.
MC: Yeah. We can put it in the show notes.
MC: All right. Well, Freefall radio, I am going to give it a shot because I’m always, always listening. I think the only way to walk through this world is with your eyes and your ears open. So, thank you for that.
My recommendation is, it’s basically, I have just been watching a lot of NHK World programming. This is a news and lifestyle station, a television station out of Tokyo. And in Japan, it’s just called NHK Tokyo. And then, they also have the World service, which is an English language service. And, it’s just a bunch of shows. Travel shows, history shows. There’s one where a person gets on a train, and just travels from one city to another, on a train. And you spend half an hour with them, on the train. It’s pretty amazing.
There are a couple of shows that I turn to, every single time there’s a new one. And the one that I’ve been getting way into over the last few months is called “Dining with the Chef.” It’s a cooking show, and there’s a few different formulas that are applied, to the cooking show. Some shows are Topic A, and some shows are Topic B and some shows are Topic C. And, they’re all shot on a rotating schedule, by different crews. And you never know what you’re going to get, from week to week.
But one show is in a studio, and it’s a chef named Chef Saito, who’s a total cornball, who shows you how to make something in Japanese cuisine that has a very heavily technique way of making it. You have to cut it a certain way, you have to use a certain kind of oil. You have to heat it to a certain temperature. You have to move the chopsticks in a certain way. And he shows you how to do that.
And then, there’s a different type of show that’s also Dining with the Chef, where it’s Chef Rika, who is a homemaker. And you’re in her kitchen, and you’re watching her make traditional home cooking. And then, there’s also a travel aspect to it. But either way, no matter what you get. It’s a half an hour, 25 minutes of just awesome, inspirational, beautiful things that look absolutely delicious that you want to try to make.
So if you’re at all interested in Japanese cooking and you’re at all interested in cooking, I highly recommend “Dining with the Chef.” It is a gateway into the wonderful world that is NHK World. Alan, I noticed you were like nodding in agreement, when I brought this up.
MC: So, what’s your NHK thing?
AH: Everything. When I lived in Washington, DC, NHK World was an over the air channel. So when I cut the cable cord, I could just watch it. And we did. It was the channel we left the TV on. So, there’s a guy, John Daub, who does a travel show on NHK World. He also has a YouTube channel, where he does live streams, he’s hilarious. NHK World, I’m a little bit of a Nihonphile. I just have a thing, for Japanese culture and history, and it’s such a beautiful window to a place that I want to visit at some point, that it’s amazing.
I actually have the NHK World app, on my phone. So I can stream TV shows, whenever I want to. Yeah. It’s wild. It’s wild. So, I’m a big NHK World fan. Yep.
MC: I have that app, too. And to be clear, it is government propaganda, because-
AH: For sure. It’s a state owned TV.
MC: It is. And, half of the shows are about tourism, and places to visit in Japan. So it’s totally like, “Come here, and spend your money.”
AH: Yeah. 100 percent. It just works on me.
MC: Yes. Yeah. It works on me, too. And because it’s that way, it has this sort of upbeat, relaxing nature to it. Where it’s just like, “Look at how beautiful our countryside is. Look at how amazing our food is. Look at all of these wonderful things, that we have waiting for you, on this magical island.” And so, you sort of run the risk of exotic-izing it-
AH: Oh, yeah.
MC: … But it’s brilliant programming. And it’s the thing that relaxes me more than anything else on television, right now.
AS: Can you drop a quick hint, Mike, on how to hold your chopsticks better? Do you remember one quick tip that you can give to us? I mean, me, right now?
MC: You’re probably holding them too close to the tip.
AH: That’s a good tip.
MC: Move your hand back, away from the plate. And that’s not something that I learned on NHK. That’s just something that I’ve learned from life experience, I think. More than anything.
AS: Oh, OK.
MC: A lot of my relatives are Japanese. So they were all amazed that I knew how to use chopsticks, when I first met them.
AS: That’s amazing. Yeah. My dad’s family is Chinese, but I use a fork most of the time.
MC: You should use whatever you’re comfortable using. All right. Well, that was a lot of fun. So, thank you both for joining us, Alan and Adrienne.
AS: Yeah, thanks for having us.
MC: All right. And thank you all for listening. If you have feedback, you can find us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth and our executive producer is Mr. Alex Kapelman. Stay healthy everyone, and we’ll be back next week.
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