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Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more. Hosted by Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin.

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5by5.tv/b2w

Episodes

519: Designated Toilet

DISCUSSED: Dan has updates on Texas's recent weather events and the unanticipated cascading effects on complex and interconnected infrastructures; then, for dessert, your hosts explore the delights and insights of the "isolated tracks" rabbit hole.
2021-02-23
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518: 10% of a Headache

DISCUSSED: As The Lone Star state struggles with a surfeit of anomalous weather events, your hosts dig into the challenges inherent to all sorts of complex, interconnected systems.
2021-02-16
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517: How Daddy Make That Paper

DISCUSSED: Doing pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good; Dan discovers a shark is menacingly circling one of his product names; there's a reason Merlin is not in the corner office; your hosts fondly recall the Avon products of their youth; Dan shares a terrific anecdote about George Harrison and Phil Collins; please don't use my things for things those things aren't things to be used for; Mission: Impossible movies are very good; if you want to really appreciate something, it helps to make yourself be an amateur again; a recommendation for a very smart Mac location managing app; Merlin presents a lengthy and disordered jeremiad on HomeKit, HomeKit apps, and the new iOS playground; which is mostly all just to say: why are email apps still so terrible?
2021-02-09
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516: The Steely Dan Dad

No way am I even going to attempt a description this week. With that said: [this is a good one]
2021-02-02
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515: Please Do Not Tapdance for Me

DISCUSSED: There are things that one wants to see less or fewer often; is this particular button actually hooked up to anything?; there is literal must-see TV and you must see it literally immediately; everything is catching on fire; four basic steps for being a successful adult (who has to deal with other adults); thoughts on creativity and focal length; the process of unpandemicizing, or: do we still know how to put a Casual Corner in a mall?; Dan is loving his iPad; Merlin introduces a theory on The Velocity of Writing Instruments; and, finally, a quick celebrity cameo.
2021-01-26
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514: Chicken Wipe

DISCUSSED: Dan continues to explore the exciting possibilities of his latest hardware acquisition.
2021-01-19
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513: A Preferred Testicle

DISCUSSED: life's relentlessness continues apace; Cash enjoyed Dan's modified Godfather trilogy; celebrating Lil' Inappropriate Books; a terrific recent use of "Layla"; some Inside Baseball talk about a recommended app segment; then, for the balance of the episode, your hosts start diving into Dan's exciting new acquisition and how best to put to good use.
2021-01-13
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512: You Have a Mustard Fetish

DISCUSSED: Merlin looks at a shelf and then, for some reason, discusses it; walls and Japanese beds and jokey-sized dishwashers all benefit from wheels; life is different when you live on a boat; it's important to find the right tool for the job; some people see forests, while others see trees; Merlin performs his very good Gordon Ramsey impression; Merlin also performs his very good David Lynch impression; in Follow-Up, we learn the extremely unsatisfying reason Personal Requests weren't working on a HomePod; there is discussion of the power of Siri alongside frustrations with its poor documentation; interesting bugs are discussed; your hosts explore the similarities between good documentation and good recipes; weird comic book feet are explored; tips on good media your hosts are enjoying; and, finally, there's some rapid-fire app and scripting recommendations.
2021-01-05
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511: One Ringy-Dingy

DISCUSSED: Making a problem go away is not the same thing as solving the problem.
2020-12-29
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510: I Cannot Afford Your Loyalty

DISCUSSED: The generational struggle to understand things we can't understand, dealing with other people, and Star Wars.
2020-12-22
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509: The End of the River

Sometimes, no one can see the ball?let alone reach the ball.
2020-12-15
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508: Oscarbation

DISCUSSED: Habits, cycles, and patterns of thinking. Why it's difficult to rehearse success?but surprisingly easy to rehearse failure.
2020-12-08
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507: Voltron of Luck

Discussed: the paths of thought and emerging from a rut the size of the Grand Canyon.
2020-12-01
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505: Everything is Everything

DISCUSSED: From Jerry Lewis to a drinking bird in a scant 80 minutes.
2020-11-24
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504: Double Wrong

DISCUSSED: lot of projects going on!; praise for Nicki Minaj; some recent TV shows that are important to your hosts; Merlin is a little obsessed with a new Mac productivity app; interrogating problems with deliveries and porch pirates; vehicle theft can be very confusing; and, finally, some insight nobody asked for into Merlin's ambitious new hardware project.
2020-11-17
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503: My Emotional Porthole

DISCUSSED: Merlin's additions to Bunch have him stepping on his own dingus; maybe it's time to invert the permissive legacy model for who gets access to us (as well as how and when); there's no amount of technology that can make other people be decent; Oh. Hey. Defaults? Be better; also, please quit stealing my focus; Dan is not buying anything new; your hosts talk about the various (often non-obvious) costs of adding, changing, or removing features; maybe building your whole business on Facebook wasn't such a great idea; passing discussion of Bloom County, Muppet dogs, and a Tilikum bottle; the tale of Underscore's unexpected success, and the costs it brought; talk of affordances; and, finally, Just cough up some dough, Mac!
2020-11-10
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502: Lifestyle Billy Butcher

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a lot to say about the benefits of making lists; this leads to an old-school stemwinder on "Journal" calendars, functional playlists, shared Notes, the lessons of the cutlery drawer, desire paths, arbitrary grids, "Reference" albums, urban bike hooks, auxiliary paper towel holders, and more; praise for The Boys; the magical combination of Halide and Pixelmator Photo; Dan resurrects a beloved podcast; and, finally, Merlin endorses a really weird British weather report that can help you sleep.
2020-11-03
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501: You're Sad Wrong

DISCUSSED: hey, it's an advice episode!; San Francisco has a lot of available office space; a musical unguent for your soul; a cool font that makes accessibility pretty; getting in front of your next wave of depression; the Emotional Police are here to cite you for your numerous infractions; and, finally, Merlin highly recommends a recent podcast episode about why we're all so exhausted and what we might want to do about it.
2020-10-27
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500: The Legacy of Guessing

DISCUSSED: Sending good vibes to The Dude; Merlin has a couple awesome app recommendations; some Follow-Up on the Apple Event, including what your hosts are ordering and what they're each excited about; which kinds of things your hosts do and do not find useful about the Apple Rumor Industrial Complex; Dan tries on a new iOS camera app; Merlin recommends a clever web cam app; some of our voice friends hear well, others understand well, and some sound good, but none (for now) do it all; finally, Dan finds some productivity insight, courtesy of The Buddha.
2020-10-20
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499: Where the Boulder Lives

DISCUSSED: Merlin is reporting live from the show floor; Dan is due for a new phone; nostalgia for buying a carton of cigarettes; praise for Netflix's "Challenger" series; Merlin shares some updates on his big resource-leveling project; gotta find those big rocks, amirite; interruptions are the death of the tech person's day; remember, your work is part of your life?not separate from it.
2020-10-13
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498: Soviet Satellite Hair

DISCUSSED: Merlin craves an easy visit with Floyd; Spirit's lawsuit no longer winds on down the road; Question: what obligation does a company have to support their developer tools? And for how long exactly?; when are new film editions not "the good one?"; despite swearing not to do so, a popular service for monetizing indie content is, as they say, put on blast; lot of talk about business things; waiters shouldn't lie to people who used to be waiters; exciting developments in the Drafts ecosystem; and, finally, Merlin unleashes an old school stem-winder on taking a recent stab at resource-leveling?using technology!
2020-10-06
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497: HBO Plus 98 XP for the Enterprise

DISCUSSED: the boys update one another on some very good media they're enjoying; everybody loves a movie with a big world; Merlin pitches Dan on the improbable magic of Ted Lasso; talk turns to some new features of Apple's recent OS updates; at length, Merlin makes a case for exploring the amazing new functionalities of widgets, complications, and especially the apps of Underscore David Smith; Guardian gets an exciting update and a pro plan; there's some talk of the challenge in finding a VPN that actually does what you think it's doing; it seems like the show is over, but then there's twelve minutes of movie talk with a focus on children and boobs; finally, Merlin kinda busts a gut about trying to run a Mr. Rogers on the kids you care about.
2020-09-29
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496: The Costume Beej

DISCUSSED: Folks, this one is a doozy, and that's all I'm gonna say about that.
2020-09-22
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495: Even the Mammals

DISCUSSED: Merlin is reporting live from the show floor; remember to photograph your kid's room; some bearded dragon updates; some thoughts on pets; Merlin's grandfather was a reluctant dog obsessive; Dan wants to read you a label; Merlin met a fellow cadet; check out Dan's videos; Merlin is loving iOS 14, especially the smarter Siri suggestions; speculation on how machines learn; your hosts still want Macs to be Macs; Big Sur notifications are basically a Bop It; are we getting diminishing returns from theoretical Mac improvements?; Dan has a really good analogy involving wrist watches; there's a reason normal people don't like their apps to change; Merlin puts review requests on blast; an edit button would still be nice; Merlin finds himself with an unusual opportunity to field test some disused home tech; and, finally, it is hoped that Frasier will leave of his own volition.
2020-09-15
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494: The Sucker?s Sort

DISCUSSED: California has no shortage of crises; Dan's got a brand new bag; thoughts on exercise as prophylactic medicine; extremely anecdotal data on the rise of fake ratings and reviews on Amazon; the return of "A cool thing I learned this week" brings some very neato apps, tips, and whatnot.
2020-09-08
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493: Flimsy, but Useful

DISCUSSED: Rabbit, rabbit!; Dan wants to be sedated; at some point, Merlin had most of the optimism bred out of him; a lot of problems and small beefs get overlooked for survival and sanity reasons right now; Dan shares listener recommendations for movies like the Missions Impossible; time was, you went to the weird video store and just hoped you got the good guy; Dan wants to remind you that he signed a letter of agreement?a CONTRACT; maybe it's time we abandon that increasingly meaningless term, "screen time"; Merlin thinks you can give a baby a name that's funny in only one way, but never in more than one way; every generation demonizes a new technology that they're sure will corrupt the youths; Dan has strong thoughts on the Indiana Jones trilogy (yes, there are exactly three and only three); no one is as persuasive as Sean Connery; Merlin made some movie lists; sometimes you get something that's "mostly for your kid" when it's totally not for your kid; Dan draws inspiration from Roald Dahl's work setup; this is probably a pretty good time to be risk-averse; a reminder that there are still always opportunities to improve how you operate; this leads to an examination of "desire paths" and learning from what your intuition and previous behaviors are trying to tell you; Merlin's Infrastructure Week is extended as he goes ham on speeding up his Mac; and, finally, Merlin discusses a useful Mac utility before putting it on blast.
2020-09-01
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492: Siracusa Daylight Time

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a lot of infrastructure going on; your hosts share strong feelings on time zone discrimination and its attendant big-timing; Dan has more cool videos coming to his channel; some boring nerd talk on voice recording options; Dan needs your suggestions for more movies like the Missions Impossible; in Follow-Up, there's some good news and some bad news related to both COVID and San Francisco; hurricanes are coming!; Merlin figures out why Safari on his Mac got so slow; thoughts on DNS Server choices; Merlin endorses a podcast episode that involves some very Back To Work ideas; everything is copy; and, finally, some concerns about nicknames plus several important questions about the consensuality of Jake Robert's titular snake.
2020-08-25
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491: You and Your Hog

DISCUSSED: time is hard; X-Men for eight cellos; in follow-up, Dan has some clues for troubleshooting his jumpy screen; it's valuable to understand what problem you didn't solve; then, of course, comes the extended weekly airing of COVID grievances; Merlin needs advice on choosing a Zoom recorder; check out Dan's new thing!; recommendations for Ted Lasso and Ethan Hunt; some lessons to bring home from vacation; plus, some more reckons on life after COVID.
2020-08-18
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490: Penetration Engineer

DISCUSSED: Dan is joining a campaign, and Merlin's eyesight now precludes him from being an AD&D dungeon master; Dan has a concern about his laptop screen and needs your help; then, the boys settle in for a good, old-fashioned recommendations episode; podcasts, pens, video editing apps, a 3D printer, a new SoundSource, hard drives, and even a moisturizing cream for your little patch.
2020-08-11
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489: Not a Monkey Man

DISCUSSED: the joys of a movie that reveals itself over multiple viewings; good storytelling is difficult but so rewarding; as you know, Bob, a lot of movies have that Walk Hard problem; Merlin has questions about Dan's day-to-day in Travis County; people are cooking the books; why do so many people have the Extremis virus these days?; we could still make a big dent; and, finally, wow, the demands for performance sure can be exhausting.
2020-08-04
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488: Uncle Dad

DISCUSSED: Merlin has discovered a unique new voice emerging from the medical and spiritual communities; your hosts interrogate the implications of this new material; Dan and Merlin have media recommendations; as a main topic, your hosts explore the many, intertwined complexities of trying to figure out "the future" right now.
2020-07-28
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487: Nostradamus Pants

DISCUSSED: There's really only one topic right now, and it's not going away any time soon. Many analogies and historical echoes are explored. The future, if it exists, is going to be very weird.
2020-07-21
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486: The Ballad of Danny Knife

DISCUSSED: knife talk and flea market nostalgia; a deep dive on state knife law; knife tips from listeners; Merlin reinstalled Homebrew; comfort viewing amidst these challenging times; also, a healthy fear of Australian spiders.
2020-07-14
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485: Travis County, P.I.

DISCUSSED: Merlin has flies in his bathroom; Dan's town is really going through some times; there's some COVID talk, duh; Merlin solved a very strange iOS beta bug; main topic involves some thoughts on the Apple betas and the tantalizing future that they imply; Dan has a new keyboard and an accompanying conspiracy theory; leathers men are discussed; and, finally, Merlin needs to use the bathroom?provided the flies will allow it.
2020-07-07
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484: Default Settings for America

DISCUSSED: the things we can and cannot do anything about; the things that can and cannot change; and the wisdom to know all of the differences.
2020-06-30
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483: You Are Free to Leave

DISCUSSED: Dan and Merlin take a first look at Apple's recently-announced iOS and iPadOS updates.
2020-06-23
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482: Two Pills Only

DISCUSSED: Merlin is nauseated, and Dan has advice on what you definitely should or should not buy at a gas station; Merlin says he'll be brief, but, as usual, it turns into a real stem-winder as?; Merlin addresses the complexity of treating mental illness in a way that doesn't upend your body and life; Dan needs some TV show recommendations, but has very strong feelings about talking animals; Merlin wonders aloud if he's ever met @Darth; case close.
2020-06-19
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481: Feelings of Mouth

DISCUSSED: Dan and Merlin talk about hot dogs.
2020-06-09
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480: A Gracious Dyad

DISCUSSED: not everything can be everything; pain accumulates; getting weepy about a cool teacher; expanding on our new thought technology for reframing negative thoughts and feelings; abstracting that new thought technology to tons of different endeavors; why won't they just let me win this video game?; the scissors and Scotch Tape are wherever you left them; the joys of ritual and control; the importance of infrastructure; break the big thing into a bunch of little things; Merlin performs a brief recitation of Back to Work's Greatest Hits; please cut up my food for me please; theme dining nights rule; praise for Daniel Kahneman; it used to be so confusing when TV shows had inside film and outside film.
2020-06-02
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479: Use or Avoid

DISCUSSED: Skype struggles; nobody likes parsnips; Dan remotely teaches Merlin to cut his own hair; Dan introduces a new game show, and Merlin is dealing with poop; life is not currently optimized for multiple-event days; Merlin challenges you to remember when exactly eight minutes has gone by; why we'll eventually each discover what the hell happened on our personal Galápagos; the exhaustion of Zoom calls; an omnibus recommendation related to movies; finally, Dan Columbos Merlin with a question about napping, which leads to some surprising insights on our feelings about success and failure.
2020-05-26
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478: Morbidly Obese Clemenza

DISCUSSED: discussion of The Freshman and thoughts on what makes a movie "hold up"; has anyone ever craved a three-star movie?; what Merlin really wants is a smart friend; Dan is enjoying On Becoming a God in Central Florida; the difficulty of making weird good; I didn't buy it a beer; your mask is not a case for your beard; Dan has follow-up on bikes; Merlin has follow-up on companies and WFH help; thoughts on what we know and don't know about the difficulties of ??reopening??; the benefits and challenges of being a chain-worrying project manager; praise for the Austin Grackles.
2020-05-19
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477: The Immediacy Filter

DISCUSSED: Here we are in Spain; a lot went on behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz; also Modern Problems existed; further discussion of 80s movies; they used to make more movies; B-MO gets a show?; secrets of the child whisper network; Saturday morning memories; C19 is making a lot of holes and gaps in kids' lives; what even is the deal with colleges?; wisdom from the great Kevin Kelly; it's one thing to know something, but it's another thing to know something; and, finally, beginning to explore how best to level resources and expectations as many of us work from home.
2020-05-12
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476: Paul Williams Sat Alone

DISCUSSED: Dan has concerns!; every road has many parts, but you seriously need to show your humanity; stop signs are really just velocipede serving suggestions; not all wood floats; too soon; an ambitious crossover is proposed; Cormac McCarthy rules; Phillip W. Battery sure has a lot going on for a busy and attentive new dad; as a main topic, your hosts bounce off a terrific recent episode of Merlin's beloved You're Wrong About; hey, what B2W-ish lessons can be drawn from the response to the Y2K "bug"?; ultimately, it is just so hard to solve one problem without potentially creating five other problems; memories of New Year's Eve, 1999; for once, Dan wasn't concerned at all; more praise for YWA, and a humble apology to Sarah; hey, listen, don't be ashamed to find delight; praise for Slugline 2; a recommendation for a James Franco movie.
2020-05-05
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475: ¿Why Not Dos Otros?

DISCUSSED: Merlin is having a strange day, and Dan notices everything; please remember that fear and stress and anxiety are pretty terrible motivators; praise for On Becoming a God in Central Florida and 1Password; security theater vs. security reality; Dan's new mouse is as quiet as a?what's the word?; Brushing with Hardest Available Toothbrush Considered Harmful; Dan is gently exposing his son to one of the great films. So what?; a couple great pieces on making actual good passwords; recommendations for a Sondheim special and a terrific YouTube guy; extensive advice and suggestions for a listener moving to a Mac; learning almost anything is a lot like learning The Metric System; and, finally, praise for the great Peter N. Lewis.
2020-04-28
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474: The Confidence to Keep Pedaling

DISCUSSED: our perception of value is definitely personal and maybe even a little generational; sometimes, the only thing you can afford is the best; a listener question about where your hosts are with comics; further praise for TaskPaper; updates on macOS text editing; Merlin capitulates to Catalina; Dan answers a listener question about coping with chronic back pain; learning how to stop rehearsing frailty by embracing the wonders of momentum.
2020-04-22
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473: French on Tom Sawyer

DISCUSSED: Dan loves it when things just work and so does Merlin; Dan is composting, and Merlin is down to clown; ¡repita después de mi!; massive real-time follow-up; playing with iBeacons; excellent follow-up and notes from listeners; many reccomendations; memories of Grad Night; this is a very silly one.
2020-04-14
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472: Sunday Afternoon Feeling

TW: very brief mention of suicide around minute 24. DISCUSSED: a classic three-act episode! Expertise is difficult to explain?let alone to teach; the Sunday Scaries are real; it's an interesting (and surprising) time for people with anxiety and depression; let's keep trying to give each other a break; some follow-up on Descript and the One-Drawer Project; You Look Nice Today is back; finally, Dan has some tips on surviving working from home.
2020-04-07
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471: One-Drawer Project

In this very intimate episode, Dan and Merlin share some ideas for positive yet do-able projects to improve your life and world in these dumb, scary times. Also, covered in this episode: recommendations for Max Richter's Sleep and an insane new podcast production app called "Descript".
2020-03-31
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470: Battery Car Man

Difficult times and the Venn overlap between anxiety and OCD. Hang in there, everybody.
2020-03-24
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469: Israel, Jr.

DISCUSSED: ?CATS ? Now and Forever!?; BokBok.wtf; on civic responsibility; Dan browses worms, and Merlin finds him a spider; Dan wants some keyboard advice, and Merlin just needs a ride; some thoughts on engaging versus escaping right now; praise for Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo; suggestions for leveraging the wonder of libraries today; Dan is working on a big Minecraft project, also some listener letters.
2020-03-17
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