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Monday, February 26, 2024

We're Feeling a Little Socially Distanced

As Covid-19 sweeps across the world, it has prompted thousands of people to isolate themselves to avoid spreading the virus. This week on Gadget Lab, we look at what happens when schools and universities close, conferences get canceled, and employees are told to work from home en masse. Then, we talk with WIRED digital director Brian Barrett, a longtime remote worker himself, about how to handle prolonged isolation without going completely bonkers.

Show Notes

Read Brian Barrett’s tips for working from home without losing your mind here. Read Lauren’s story about how universities are handling the virus here. Read more about the rise of virtual conferencing here. Read Arielle Pardes’ story about the ethics of ordering food during a pandemic here.


Lauren recommends the episode of Reply All called “The Case of the Missing Hit.” Mike also recommends a podcast: the Twenty Thousand Hertz episode “Satanic Panic”. Brian recommends just staying home, for God's sake.

Brian Barrett can be found on Twitter @brbarrett. 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.

How to Listen

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[Intro theme music]

Michael Calore: Hi everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor here at WIRED, and I'm here with my cohost, WIRED senior writer Lauren Goode.

Lauren Goode: Hi.

MC: And we are also joined by WIRED's digital director, Brian Barrett.

BB: Hey, thank you guys for having me.

MC: Of course.

LG: Brian is remote from Alabama, except really we're all kind of remote now, so—

BB: That's right, welcome to my world.

LG: Yes.

MC: That's right. On this week's show, we are going to be talking about the biggest story in the world right now, the coronavirus and its associated disease, Covid-19. There have been confirmed cases in over 100 countries across the world at this point, and as of this taping, there are around a 1,000 cases here in the United States. This has prompted all sorts of responses from different organizations. Schools have shut down, tech conferences have been canceled, and more companies are encouraging or mandating that employees work from home.

And I should mention that as we are taping this right now, we were sitting in the WIRED office, and I think there are two other people in the office aside from us. We snuck in to tape the show, and then we're going to close down the studio for the next couple of weeks and run back to our houses and continue working from home. It's eerie. However, I realized that this isn't necessarily the most gadgety topic for us to be talking about on a podcast called Gadget Lab, but this pandemic is going to continue to affect all of us for weeks, months, possibly even the rest of the year. And so I will promise you that in the second half of this show, we are going to pass along some tips for working from home. And for that part of the show we will also recommend some gear that you can get to help ease the transition if you're in a similar situation.

But first, let's talk about all of the cancellations. Lauren, we'd like to start with you because you did some reporting here this week. What's going on?

LG: That's right. There's a lot going on, and there have been lots of cancellations across all different sectors, but in a story on wired.com this week, I focus specifically on college campuses across the US. Universities are trying to be responsible right now, and so many of them, we counted, myself and Caitlyn Harrington, one of our amazing researchers and fact checkers, we counted more than 200 universities and colleges across the US that have either moved to online courses, are planning to move to online courses, or in some cases have even told students they need to vacate campus and vacate the dormitories. More than 200 so far over the past week or so. And so I think that the universities are trying to be responsible, and to their credit, it feels like a coordinated, or at least a cohesive, approach to limiting the spread of the virus.

Certainly more coordinated than what we've seen from governing bodies in the United States, and it kind of underscores what we're seeing happen right now in the US, which is that there's a lot of reliance on local counties or schools or other private institutions that are putting people in these kind of soft quarantines or urging social distancing, rather than necessarily getting some big mandate from the government the way that it's been working so far in places like China and Italy.

And so college campuses are just a part of that. So there are a couple of threads here that I talked about in the story, and one is just how challenging this has been for some of the teachers who teach at these colleges. In some cases they've gotten crash courses in Zoom or they've gone entirely to using things like Google Docs and Blackboard and Canvas. And some of them I spoke to indicated they feel like they're doing double the work and that it's hard to do this while they are quarantined at home and have kids at home. And they're trying to teach classes and they usually facilitate in-person discussions with students, and they can't do that necessarily.

And then, of course, the other people who are being impacted by this are the students. They're feeling unsettled, and particularly it's a lot of first-generation, low-income students who are feeling strained by this, because they may not have a strong social safety net or they're feeling financially vulnerable. And in some cases, colleges like Cornell, MIT, Stanford, Harvard have told them they need to vacate campus much earlier than they expected. It's a pretty emotional time for some of them.

[Phone call audio]

Jaden Deal: Hi Lauren, how are you?

LG: Good. How are you?

JD: No, I've seen better days.

LG: Yeah, I'm sure. I'm sure. What's going on?

JD: Well, I'm sure you probably talked to some other students like three layers everything. But with all the students basically getting evicted because of the coronavirus stuff, I feel like it's all hitting me today. Like this is happening. I just tried to go to clas,s and I was in class and just started crying and had to leave, so.

LG: Oh man. I'm so sorry.

JD: All of my professors are understanding, and, well, actually all of them have said if we don't feel up to come to the class, we don't have to is less helpful. But we're still trying to go to class and everything too, because otherwise we're going to miss out on the curriculum and get behind.

MC: So Lauren, tell us a little bit about this student that we just heard from.

LG: So that was Jaden Deal. He is a first-year student at Harvard this year, and he was someone who qualified for full financial assistance from Harvard. He comes from a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. He's a low-income student. He is part of a large group of students there who are classified as first-generation, low-income students. And he was feeling really unsettled when I talked to him. He had a plan, right? He said his father was going to fly out in May, pick him up and fly back with him. And then Jaden also was planning on doing this research job this summer back at Harvard, where he would have received a stipend for thousands of dollars that would help sustain him throughout the next school year. And that is now very up in the air.

I mean, these are the kind of financially vulnerable situations that some of these students are in. Another student who I spoke to explained how she has some mental health things that she struggles with, and she comes from a disruptive household, and now she has to go back to that household weeks earlier than planned. And she too was planning on staying on campus for the summer. So she's been pleading with the dean to somehow be allowed to stay. And I think some of these students like Jaden feel as though maybe the administration isn't doing as much as they could be doing.

[Phone call audio]

JD: Harvard doesn't even have a response to these kinds of things right now. The way that they put out this plan anger me so much. Well, they didn't put out a plan. That's what angered me. They put out those statements that says you have to leave at Sunday at 5:00 PM. Your cards are going to get deactivated. You have to move out all of your belongings and you can't come back. And students panic and everybody's in a flurry and then there's no plan and no resources send out directly by the university. Everything that we've been getting for resources has been coming from student groups and students as individuals. The support from the community is the best thing that's come out in this situation. The kind of support that I've been getting from all my peers in my classes is like amazing.

LG: But it doesn't sound like you feel as thrilled about the institutional support?

JD: No, because it's just not there.

MC: So what does the university have to say about all of this?

LG: Well, it's not just Harvard of course. It's many colleges and academic institutions across the U.S. at this point are canceling classes or finding ways around people being in person. Harvard said that the goal of these changes is really to minimize the need to gather in large groups, spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other. Harvard said our actions are consistent with the recommendations of the leading health officials on how to limit the spread of Covid-19. They're consistent with similar decisions being made by a number of peer institutions.

And that is true. I think that administrations really are trying to just limit the spread of this virus that at this point it still feels like we don't know a lot about and yet is incredibly concerning in many ways. And so I think they're trying to do the responsible thing, but some of these decisions may have been made hastily and now some of the students feel unsettled by it.

MC: Yeah, they are erring on the side of caution and often these decisions do have to be made quickly because the faster you act then the faster you can flatten the curve as they say.

LG: That's exactly right.

MC: Another sector of society that is going through similar problems is our sector, the technology industry. There have been multiple conferences canceled. All the tech companies here in the Valley. We have cases of Covid-19 here in the Bay Area, so Google and Facebook and Twitter and Square are encouraging employees to work from home. WIRED is encouraging his employees to work from home. Brian, you have been doing a little bit of scouting around in this area. Bring us up to date on what's going on in the tech industry.

BB: Yeah, I mean I think you've seen exactly like you said, if you have a big conference, people are canceling them, some kicking and screaming. It took South by Southwest up until the last minute and the city of Austin had to cancel it for them basically. But otherwise people are being proactive, which is good. I think you know, you've seen IBM has canceled his conference Google I/O. Apple would normally have announced its developer's conference by now, but they haven't. So they haven't technically canceled yet, but they haven't, they've also sort of not advertised it. So we'll see.

And then E3, which I think is maybe the furthest one out on the calendar and one of the biggest in terms of attendees also finally canceled this week. But I think the fact that it's happening in tech is great. I think we're seeing it in even more dramatic spaces. No more NBA games, NASCAR races. NASCAR races are going to happen, but without people in the stands. I remember there was a baseball game in 2015 when the Orioles played a game with no one in the stadium, not because of their record, just. I am a lifetime Orioles fan, so I can say that, but.

And I remember how it was. It was sort of a very weird experience. I watched the game online and it was bizarre and absurd. But I think that's going to be the new normal to the extent that any of these things do continue to happen. They're going to be without the spectacle of a crowd. I think look especially at the Olympics to see what happens there. It has not been officially delayed or canceled. But if it does go on, it's hard to imagine that they're going to let people actually watch the games.

MC: Yeah, you know, as of this taping the MLB hasn't made a statement yet, but I do suspect that the games played in the areas that are the hardest hit by the virus at this point will probably be played without a crowd, or moved. There was an exhibition game scheduled for San Francisco between the Oakland A's and the SF Giants and they moved that came out of San Francisco.

BB: And like I will make you a bet. I think that we're taping this on a Thursday. It goes live on a Friday. I think that sometime Thursday afternoon MLB will make the call and delay the season.

LG: It's crazy to think that just about a month ago on this very same podcast we were talking about the Samsung event and I'm pretty sure we did an entire episode on why you don't need tech conferences. And here we go, for very I guess different reasons, although we did talk about coronavirus at that time. Brian, do you get the sense that any of these leagues, organizations, groups at particular conferences are taking care of the employees and contract workers and hospitality workers who would normally work these events and make a lot of their income from these events? And now are probably dealing with the fallout from all of this?

BB: So this is a big question both for teams in hospitality service, but also gig workers generally who don't have a social safety net. And there's sort of a lot of questions there. But I think there's one very illustrative moment. When a Utah Jazz player was suspected of having Covid-19 they immediately got enough tests for everyone on the team, which is dozens of tests. And I think we know testing, the state of testing in America is not great right now. It's very hard to find them. They found dozens of tests for the Utah Jazz players.

Meanwhile the journalists and support staff were trapped in the same arena and area and did not have tests, and did not have guidance, although presumably they were just as effected. So I think the short answer is, no Lauren, I don't think people are thinking enough and doing enough to help people who are not the names on the marquee and that's going to be increasingly born out and it's going to be an increasing problem as we go along.

MC: You know, I think if you look at a town like Austin, Texas, which relies on South by Southwest, which is a 10 or 11 day conference that brings in tens of thousands of people. It's not a huge city. It is a bit of a party town, but South by Southwest takes over all of Austin. So all the restaurants, all the bars, all of the spaces, the whole brand activations are taking a big hit from the closure. And that is obviously a big problem for them. It's also a big problem for the companies that have spent tons of money and you know, planned on there being a South by Southwest, and now there's not. And for every conference that we hear about getting canceled, this is a problem that's going to be a localized problem that all of these companies and all the people who work for them and all of the restaurants are going to have to deal with.

It is a good thing that we're not having big groups of people gather, especially people who are traveling from all parts of the world to gather in one place. The one thing though about moving a conference online that there's a bit of a tension there I think. Because most of the reason to attend a conference is to see the people that you never get to see the like your colleagues who work in other cities and work for other companies and to hang out with them. And to spend time with them. After hours you go out drinking. You know, it's not just about the keynotes and the plenary sessions, it's about all of the socialization.

Removing that and moving a conference completely online or not having it at all is going to be detrimental to sort of that part of the work experience for a lot of people. And I'm really curious to see how that plays out. I would say equally so with universities, probably even more with universities, like online learning is … Technology has helped online learning a lot. You can do classes over Zoom, you can use Google Docs, you can use Google Hangouts, you can have study groups over the internet. But the actual experience of being in higher education, like going to college, going to university is the social aspect. Maybe it was just me, but I learned way more in the dorms and in my extracurricular activities than I learned in my coursework.

BB: I think that's absolutely right and I think on the conference side, especially because we're journalists we go and cover them. At a remove, I think we're pretty quick to dismiss their value because they're not actually for us, right? I think we forget sometimes that these are actually things that people do rely on, you know? And in terms of schools, what I start to wonder about, I have two younger kids. My kids are five and seven and so if and when their school gets canceled, there's not like a remote learning thing for them. I'm not going to put them on Zoom in front of their first grade teacher, right? Like so, I mean I might if she'll let me, but I don't think we'll get a lot done.

MC: Put them on Facebook Portal in front of there.

BB: Yeah, yeah. So I think there are so many models that are untested and that we don't know what to do. I think for a lot of people it's just going to end up being a wash, which is a shame, but worth it. Because you know, we got to do what we can to get ahead of this thing.

MC: Right. And of course what we're doing is called social distancing. Let's take a break right now and when we come back, we're going to talk about some tips for dealing with social distancing mandates and for working from home.


MC: Welcome back. If you found yourself working remotely due to the coronavirus, the experience can be a bit of a mixed bag. Sure it is nice to have no commute and to have cheap lunches every day, but after a while, cabin fever sets in and you start to go a little nuts. Luckily we have a few tips to help those who might be working from home for the next few weeks over the next few months. And even if you don't live in an area that's affected and you're still going into the office every morning, you should still take note of these tips because things could change or this could all happen again pretty soon. Brian, I want to ask you about the tips that you have put together for people who work from home as a working from home expert. But first I would just like you to quickly define what social distancing is and why we are asking people to work from home.

BB: Sure, social distancing is what it sounds like. It is keeping your space from other people. The reason that you want to do this, it's not necessarily to keep yourself from getting sick. I mean it is, but the idea is coronavirus is going to go everywhere eventually. You assume that most people are going to get it, but what you want to do is you want to make sure that everyone's not getting it at the same time. The biggest risk that we face is overwhelming the healthcare system. There aren't enough hospital beds, there aren't enough respirators. So if we keep our distance and avoid large gatherings where everyone gets sick at the same time, we can maybe flatten that curve out and make sure that people who need care can get it. Because there's enough room at the end for them basically. So in terms of how to work from home, and just a little bit about myself. I have been… I'm an Aries, and I've been working-

LG: Me too, when's your birthday?

BB: April 3rd.

LG: Oh, okay. Mine's five days later. We should have a little Zoom party. Okay, continue please.

BB: Oh thanks.

LG: All right.

BB: It's the only kind of party there is anymore. So I've been working from home for almost 10 years exclusively. I've been working remotely from Alabama for WIRED and elsewhere. And you know, I say these are tips, it's more … There's really one overarching tip that I can give people, which is make sure that you are creating boundaries between when you are working and when you are not working. And I'm not always that good at that, but doing little things like when you wake up, go ahead and take a shower and get dressed so that you feel like your day has started. Because if you haven't started your day, your brain's not going to come along with you. You're going to be tempted to get back into bed and you're just not going to feel as sharp.

You need a dedicated workspace. It's tempting to work from your bed, it's tempting to work from the couch. But once you're there, it's also even more tempting to lie down, take a rest. But it also, I think on the other end of that, it's not just about being productive. If you start to associate your bed with work, it's not going to be a very relaxing place to sleep. You know what I mean? Your bed becomes like an area of stress for you.

I would say also in terms of a lot of people are working over Slack right now and that's the only way they're talking to their coworkers, Slack and Zoom. Use Slack for more than just sort of perfunctory work things. Try to be sociable on Slack, send some dumb tweets, ask people how their day is. I know it sounds very basic, but I think the important thing is to remember is that it is easy to forget to do these things. And it's easy to slip into habits where A, your work life and your home life just kind of blend together into this big mushy mess. And you don't do either well and you sort of hate both. And B, you don't actually get anything done. So, the one thing I caution too is, everybody's different. Some people will find working from home the easiest thing in the world. Some people will think it drives them nuts. A lot of it is up to you, but that's why I think setting a few simple ground rules lets you work however you're most comfortable within a defined space.

LG: Those are all really great tips.

BB: How are you guys? You guys are a day and a half in. You obviously you're not doing it right now, but you're about to be. How are you guys feeling about working from home?

LG: Oh, I'm actually on about day four, because I started working from home last Friday. I do sometimes work from home anyway, so I started it last week and then just continued. And as I joked on Twitter yesterday by day four I was pretty much talking to a volleyball in my house. So yeah, no actually I tend to feel I'm a little bit more productive when I work from home. But you can go stir crazy and I think there are some important things to keep in mind, more some tips.

One is that it's really helpful to have cash on hand and I think you'll want to do this now especially because you don't necessarily want to keep going back and forth to your bank or touching your ATMs key pad. By the way, I have no scientific evidence at this point in time that your banks or your ATMs keypad is like any worse than any other surface. I'm just saying the thought of it. But have some cash at home and not prepper style cash necessarily of thousands and thousands of dollars stuffed in your mattress. But you're maybe at some point you're going to want to deliver food. Somebody is going to come over to help you with something. You just might need cash at some point. And so it's a good idea to go take some cash out and have it at home.

To the point of food delivery. One of the questions that I had for our colleague Arielle Pardes this week, wrote a great story about this on wired.com was, is it ethical to get food delivered at this point in time? And she wrote a really nuanced story about this and spoke to a lot of different people about it and concluded that for the most part it is, but you should be nice to gig workers and delivery people who come to your door. You should tip really, really well. If you feel better about having some social distance, perhaps ask them nicely to leave something outside of your door rather than touch their hand or they touch your hand or you exchange whatever it is you need to exchange.

She noted in her story that for example, Instacart workers, if they get an order to say pick up a dozen items from the grocery store and then they are unable to fulfill those items, sometimes they suffer in tips. Because people say, "Oh, you didn't get all those items." Well guess what folks? Not all the items you want are in grocery stores right now. Because all of the cleansing wipes and hand purifiers and what are they called? Sanitizers. All this stuff is in low supply, so if you do decide to hire somebody to get your groceries for you and they cannot deliver everything, be nice to them.

I think being nice and being kind is just a good rule to follow in general. But it's especially important to follow that rule in a time of coronavirus. And then otherwise I would just say similar what Brian said. Take walks, get up, move around, exercise, make a standing appointment to talk to family and friends so that they don't just kind of fall to the wayside as you get sucked into the internet vortex or whatever is. Your Netflix vortex or whatever it is you're doing. Try to maintain social interaction as much as you can, even if you're sort of hermiting.

Brian, do you want to hear something kind of funny? Brian's going to appreciate this especially. So last year at CES in Las Vegas Brian and I both noticed this smart dumbbell set called the JaxJox. I don't know if you guys remember this?

BB: The JaxJox. I do remember this.

LG: JaxJox, and Brian and I had like a friendly sort of back and forth of like, "Brian, do you remember this?" He's like, "No, you reviewed the JaxJox. No, you reviewed the JaxJox. So I ended up getting a loner set to try out months ago, probably, I don't know, two or three months ago now. And so I have these like kettlebells in my apartment now and I'm really happy that I do. Because at some point I need to send them back. But I'm like, "Oh great. I have some exercise equipment at home for when I'm going crazy and feel like I need to move around." Brian, do you still have yours?

BB: I do. I do. Yeah, I think exercising from home. There's got to be a good, I mean this is not a good thing for anybody, but Peloton and companies like that are probably feeling like they are providing a valuable service. Not sure how to put that, but yeah, I feel like it's a … But that also speaks to, I mean but like not everyone, but I think that also speaks to not everyone can afford to have a nice home set up, home exercise setup. I think the coronavirus generally is really exposing the differences in who has a safety net, who has the disposable income to ride this out and who doesn't in a pretty predominant way.

LG: That's absolutely right. Yeah. I don't mean to sound like joyful about the fact that I have kettlebells at home, that's for sure.

BB: How dare you?

LG: And no, and you're right. You're so right. It's exacerbating and exposing some of the inequities that really just kind of exist in society in general. And there are things you can do of course. I mean, take a walk around your neighborhood. And things you can do even if you don't have really expensive exercise equipment. Make a phone call, and make sure that phone call is to someone you care about, someone you love and check in on how they are doing.

I think in general, those are good tips for working from home. If at this point, honestly you're lucky enough to work from home because it's pretty much knowledge workers who are able to just sort of their jobs translate or report over to the digital world a lot more easily.

MC: Yeah, and you know, I think it is important to get outside. It is important to get out and walk around if you can. If you live in a city that's still allowing you to get out and walk around, which most cities are, that's an excellent way to take a 15 minute break. Because if you're sitting at your desk staring at the wall, even if you have a beautiful window that you're staring out of, it's still really important to give your brain and your body a break by making a change of scene. And walking outside is the best change of scene you can have.

Something that I have found to be particularly helpful is to inform the people that you live with what your schedule is for the day. So whether that's a partner or a child or a parent telling them, "Okay, I have two meetings and then I'm going to be working until noon and then I'm going to take a half an hour break and then from 12:30 to three I'm going to be working. And then I'm going to take a one hour break between three and four and then I'll be working from four to six.

And that way they know when to not bother you. Because if you're always at the office and then all of a sudden you're always home, that boundary not being established, the person that you live with may ask you to help them out with something or to answer a question or, "Hey, is now a good time to go to the store for me?" Things like that. And I think that it's sometimes difficult to make that boundary, but I do think that's an important boundary to have.

Just so if you don't have it, then you end up working a lot later in the day. To that regard, I would also say learn how the notifications settings work on your various pieces of work software like Slack on your phone, email notifications, turn them off at a certain point, except for the boss.

You can probably figure out how to allow one person's notifications to come through and everybody else's to not. That's a really important boundary to set. One other piece of advice that I would give is get your desk setup in order. Like if you don't work at home a lot and your company gives you a laptop, you may just, when you do work at home, just bring home your laptop and just type on your laptop. If you're going to be doing that every day I feel like it's a good investment to make to get accessories and peripherals that plug into your laptop. Like for example, a real keyboard, especially if you have one of those trash keyboards like the one that you're using Lauren on the new-

LG: MacBook Pro.

MC: MacBook Pro. Get a real keyboard. You know, you can get a nice mechanical keyboard on Amazon for about 30 bucks, 35 bucks. It's a great investment even if you're just using it for a couple of weeks, because it makes typing a 100 times easier. And that's not an exaggeration, that's an actual scientific fact. 100 times easier to type on a real keyboard instead of that trash keyboard on the MacBook Pro.

LG: Mike is pointing to my keyboard, you can't see, you don't have the visual.

MC: A brand I'd recommend is HAVIT. H-A-V-I-T. They make very good plasticky cliquey mechanical keyboards. Also you can get a dirt cheap gaming mouse, a USB mouse that plugs into your computer like under $15. I have one from a company called Pik Tek, P-I-K-T-E-K that I think I paid like $11 for, or $12 for, something like that. You know, just getting a couple of nice peripherals to make your computer easier to use when you're sitting at a desk is a great investment. If you've been thinking about getting a standing desk orientation or upgrading your chair, now is the time people.

LG: I totally respect how you shoehorned gadgets into this podcast.

MC: I honestly think it's important.

LG: Oh yeah.

MC: I think ergonomics are very important. Comfort is very important and people tend to overlook that in their home office. Because home office it's like, "It's kind of like I use it maybe once or twice a month or on weekends." And it's just, you don't spend all day every day there. But now you might be spending all day every day there for a month. So spend 40 bucks and get a keyboard and a mouse.

LG: Yeah. May I make one other social recommendation?

MC: Yes.

LG: When I was chatting earlier about reaching out to friends and family once a day or so and just making sure everyone's cool, do it with your neighbors too. Check in with your pet sitter, check in with the neighbors across the street, check in with folks who check in with elderly neighbors. Just make sure you know everyone's hanging in there and sometimes you can do this via text. Sometimes you can, maybe you shouldn't go do it in person. There are also social networks of course, like Nextdoor, sometimes Nextdoor and networks like it will simply amplify a certain level of fear, uncertainty and doubt, and they're known for that. However, they can also be really useful tools for seeing what's going on in the neighborhood and who needs help.

MC: It's also an excellent opportunity to meet up for lunch with somebody who you live nearby that you don't normally get to see.

LG: Yes, lunch is not totally canceled yet from what we hear. We'll see.

BB: Can I, speaking of cancellations, just want to circle back to that bet I made earlier. MLB has canceled all operations including spring training.

LG: Wow.

BB: … as of now.

LG: Wow. So since we started taping this podcast-

BB: Yes.

LG: … that has changed.

BB: Yes.

LG: Wow.

MC: I don't think we actually made a bet. Did we Brian?

BB: I said I will bet. And then I assumed that both of you took the counter side of that bet and now you owe me thousands of dollars.

LG: Well-

MC: How about.

LG: Yeah, look for that Venmo notification later.

BB: Thank you very much.

LG: For sure, you're welcome.

MC: How about I send you a cheap gaming mouse?

BB: Ooh, even better.

LG: He's going to send you a mechanical keyboard.

MC: Well Brian, thank you for chiming in on all the tips and for the conversation about the closures. We're going to keep you around for recommendations, so let's take a break and when we come back we'll go through those.


MC: Welcome back. Let's get right into recommendations. Brian, what would you like to recommend this week?

BB: I'm recommending staying home. Stay home!

LG: That's a good one.

BB: Don't go to the birthday party. Don't go to the anything. Stay home. That's my recommendation.

MC: Have you been invited to many birthday parties?

BB Yes, I have. My kids have two this weekend and I'm trying to get them out of it.

LG: How do you feel at this point as a parent? Like would you write to the parents and say like, "Hey, we're social distancing." Or would you come up with some other sort of excuse?

BB: I would come up with another excuse probably, because I'm a coward.

MC: Well, that's a fantastic recommendation. I hope everybody who hears this listens to it and obeys it. Lauren, what is your recommendation?

LG: While you are staying home, following Brian's recommendation, I recommend that you listen to last week's Reply All podcast episode about the mystery of the missing hit. I know I'm a little bit late on this. I finally listened to it last weekend. It was great. I thoroughly enjoyed it. They do a fantastic job over at Reply All. And I'm just going to assume that some folks are doing a little more podcasts listening from home these days. So if you are, listen to ours and then go to that one.

MC: I've been doing less actually because-

LG: Me too, I don't want to say that, but yeah.

MC: My podcast listening usually happens on my commute when I'm not riding my bike, so if I'm walking or if I'm taking the bus. And I have not been taking the bus, I've been riding my bike everywhere and then when I'm at home I'm working. Or I'm hanging out with my loved ones. So yeah, fewer podcasts.

LG: Yes, seem to be honest.

MC: I also have not listened to that Reply All episode for that exact reason.

LG: Well, now you know what to do. When you're saying, "Well, what's your recommendation?"

MC: Well, oddly enough, I'm also going to recommend a podcast.

LG: Oh really, just, at least you can tell from the medium through which we are currently communicating with you. We're all about the podcasts here.

MC: This one is really special. It's called, the show is called Twenty Thousand Hertz, and it's about music and it's about sound and it's about how audio fits into our life. It's a really fascinating series, specifically the episode that came out earlier this week or late last week. It's the new episode. It's called Satanic Panic and it is about the history of backmasking, which is where recording artists plays backwards messages on albums. This is something that was really popular in the era of the LP. Also in the era of modern studio recording. So from like the late 60s up until about the mid 80s there were all kinds of backwards messages being inserted onto albums and you could listen to them by playing the turntable backwards.

But with the onset of CD technology they kind of went away. And then now with digital technology, they're sort of coming back as sort of like a cheeky retro fun thing to add to your song. Of course, the religious right heard satanic messages in these backwards recordings. So a lot of recording artists were stigmatized and labeled as Satan worshipers, which is patently ridiculous. But this episode goes through that whole history and plays a bunch of examples for you and the guest on that episode is Brian Gardner who used to work here. He used to work on this desk as a senior associate editor. He's been on this podcast a number of times. So listen to the Twenty Thousand Hertz episode called Satanic Panic. Listen for Brian Gardner and then go back and listen to all of their other episodes, because it's a great show.

LG: Wow. This podcast has everything, coronavirus, gadgets, MLB, Satan worshipers.

MC: Dirty children at birthday parties.

LG: Yes, you don't need to listen to anything else. And most importantly, this podcast has Brian Barrett.

BB: Hey guys.

MC: Thank you for joining us this week, Brian.

BB: Thank you guys again for having me.

MC: Of course, and thank you to everyone for listening. If you have any feedback, you can find this all on Twitter. Just check the show notes. This show is produced by Mr. Boone Ashworth. Our consulting executive producer is Alex Kapelman. Goodbye. We'll be back next week from a remote location somewhere.

LG: Please stay healthy.

MC: Please stay healthy. Social distance. Boundaries, people.

[Outro theme music]

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