Questions & Answers: Volume 4

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Podcast Transcript

Every February, podcasters will come out of their hole in the ground. If they find listener questions, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. 

As I peeked my head out of the ground this month, I found a plethora of questions, which means that spring is right around the corner….if you are in the northern hemisphere. 

If you are in the southern hemisphere, say goodbye to summer. 

Prepare yourself for the fourth installment of listener questions and answers on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

Let’s get right into it. The first question comes from Shelby Frizzo. They asks, “Of all the cultural & religious celebrations that you have been to across the globe, what has been your favorite and why?!”

I haven’t really been to a lot of religious celebrations, and it isn’t something that I go out of my way to experience.

That being said, I have found myself at the right time and place and have experienced a few. 

I was in Singapore exploring the city when I came across a Hindu Holi celebration. I didn’t really know anything about it, and I had no idea what to expect. I ended up spending several hours there photographing everyone, and it was extremely messy.

If you haven’t seen a Holi celebration, it is basically a giant fight with colored powder. The powder gets into everything. My hair was pastel colors for a week, my clothes were basically permanently dyed, and I had to spend a whole lot of time cleaning my camera. 

I also happened to have been in Jerusalem during Holy Week. Again, I didn’t plan it, but I was there before Holy Week was starting, so I just extended my stay there to experience it.

I got to experience Passover in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Easter Sunday for western Christians and Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians.

I could probably spend an episode talking about everything I learned and experienced that week, but those two would definitely be the highlights. 

Kevin Hultgren asks,

Was your interest with Rome and The Roman Empire brought on by your travels or were they the reason for your travels? My suspicion? You’ve always been interested and traveling it gave a much better base of knowledge.

It was definitely something that was developed while I was traveling. I had read several general books about ancient Rome before I started traveling, but it was definitely something that piqued my interest while I was on the road.

There are simply a LOT of Roman ruins around the Mediterranean, many  of which are in pretty good shape for being 2000 years old. Many of them can be found in places that you don’t think of as being Roman, like the city of Jerash in Jordan, Caesarea in Israel, Merida in Spain, and a whole host of what are some of the best sites in the world in North Africa, most of which I have yet to visit.

We simply know more about the Romans than we do about the Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, etc., because they left behind far more written material. Most of what we have from other Ancient cultures consists of stone engravings or archeological finds. 

In comparison, we have Julius Caesar’s first-hand written account of his campaign in Gaul.

Also, as you probably might have seen from the various episodes I’ve done, the western world is still profoundly influenced by ancient Rome, down to our calendar and alphabet. 

Joey Warren asks,
“With all of your travels is there one thing or place here in the states that you find particularly interesting?”

Absolutely. I’ve been to every US state twice, and I’ve visited half of the 426 sites in the National Park Service. 

Probably the one thing that really stands out is the trips I’ve taken in Alaska. In particular, the lesser visited parks such has Katmai National Park, Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, and parks above the Arctic Circle, 

Some of these, like Wrangle-St. Elias, aren’t particularly difficult to visit, it’s just that Denali and Glacier Bay get all of the attention and are even easier to visit. 

I could talk for hours about all the great attractions which can be found in the United States. There are a few places that get most of the visitors, like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon, but there is plenty of great stuff beyond that. 

Amy Elizabeth Morrison asks, “Will Thor Thompson be running in the 2024 presidential election?”

No Amy. Thor does not run for president. Countries run to led by Thor Thomsen. 

Chris Gordon asks, “While you were away did you record new episodes or did you double up before left? Taking time off can be exhausting.”

I did not. I produce and record all the episodes of the podcast just before they are released. 

I was attending a podcast conference, which forced me to adopt a slightly more normal schedule. Instead of staying up really late, I started waking up really early. 

I’ve kept to that schedule since I’ve gotten back, and I’m working on trying to get ahead of things a bit. 

However, until I can hire someone to help out, I assumed I’ll always be producing the shows at least the day before. 

Jeff Loftus asks, “I assume you track listens on individual episodes. Can you name 1 episode where you’re surprised at the lack of listens and one episode where you’re surprised how many listens it received?”

While I do know the stats for each episode, there isn’t a whole lot of variation in downloads. The growth of the show tends to overwhelm any individual variation in episode topics, so it is hard to separate that from the data.

There have only been a few cases where an episode was shared on Reddit or something, and that resulted in a sort term spike, but it is impossible to predict those. One was the episode on Alan Francis, the world’s greatest horseshoe pitcher, and another was the episode on morse code. 

Mallory Moyer asks,  “Did you know there are volcanoes on Io the moon?” – Luke Who is someone from history you’d like to get a cup of coffee or a beer with?

Luke, I did know that. There have been photos taken of the volcanoes erupting by probes sent to jupiter. You can clearly see the plume of the volcano against the backdrop of space. 

As for who I’d like to have a drink with, I actually have an answer to that: Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin was a very smart guy with a wide range of interests who lived just before the scientific and industrial revolutions of the 19th century. 

Trina Wellington DeAnda asks,  “Did you find your passport?”

No, I did not, but I also haven’t really looked. I’m going to be moving within a month and when I do I’ll have an opportunity to go through all my boxes. 

Millie Shaw, asks,  “As a public speaking teacher, I so deeply appreciate your well-crafted messages with a clear thesis and structure. Each podcast is a beautiful example of an engaging informative speech. How do you manage the gargantuan task of sifting through the available information and narrowing your focus to fit a roughly 10-minute episode? I find that this is often the biggest challenge for my students. Do you start with a really strong thesis and work from there? What advice would you give a novice speech builder on how to choose the best/most relevant info?”

First, Millie, let me say that I competed in academic speech and debate for years, and was also a coach for about ten years as well. I competed in Expemoranesou Speech in high school and was one spot away from making the final round at the national tournament. 

My background in competitive speech was, far and away, the most important thing I’ve done in terms of my ability to do this podcast. 

Most of what I do nowadays is pretty intuitive. I don’t start with a thesis so much as just something which is interesting. That has to be the kernel of any episode. There has to be an interesting story behind whatever the episode is about. 

This podcast usually isn’t about crafting an argument or defending a thesis. My episodes are usually not trying to persuade anyone. I’m just trying to tell an interesting story about some person, place, or thing that most listeners might not be familiar with. 

Filtering out the unnecessary information is more of an art than a science. I’m often trying to condense something very complex, something which someone probably wrote an entire book or did an entire doctoral dissertation about. 

In trying to explain something in a short amount of time, the most important thing is that people walk away with the gist of the story. The thing you have to ask yourself is does this support the core of the story, or does it detract from the story. 

Michael Miller, asks  “What are your thoughts on the in-depth tours now that things are getting back to “normal”?

I absolutely still want to do it and I’m talking to a company about planning the tours. 

The problem is that when I first floated the idea, the show was about 10% the size of what it is now, and I still got a ton of interest. Now, I assume it would be even greater. 

I really don’t want to run a large tour that has to move around by bus. However, if it is a small tour, it becomes difficult to justify taking so much time away from the podcast. 

One possibility I’ve considered is something like a river cruise, where we could, in theory, take over an entire boat. It would much simpler for me to organize as I wouldn’t have to deal with hotels, it could support a larger group, and we could do special events on the ship each night, including special lectures. 

Not exactly what I was originally thinking, but probably much more feasible. 

Katherine Friedman asks,  “What are some of your favorite books?”

My favorite book series, by far, are the Dune books by Frank Herbert. There is a lot to the original Dune book that most people miss, and when you read the later books, you realize that the hero of the story is in fact, not the hero at all. 

I’m a big fan of the Foundation books by Isaac Asimov.  

Most of what I read is, not surprisingly, non-fiction. The list of great non-fiction books I’ve read is pretty long.  

Two good ones I’ve read recently include 1491 by Charles Mann. This was the inspiration behind my episode on the Great Dying of the Americas. It tries to condense all the latest research on what exactly life was like in the Americas before Europeans arrived.  

The other is The Second World Wars by Victor Davis Hanson, looks at the second world war in a larger framework looking at economic and industrial policies that all but guaranteed the outcome.

Doug Lori McDonald asks,  “Are there any show ideas that, while researching, unexpectedly took you down rabbit holes, leading to a multitude of new show ideas?”

Absolutely. It happens all the time. Take the subject of volcanoes. I initially did one on the Mount Tambora Eruption of 1815. That opened the door to Vesuvius and Paricutin, and a general episode about volcanoes. However, there are tons more volcano-related topics including big eruptions like Mount Saint Helens and Krakatoa, as well as culturally significant ones like Mount Fuji. 

I’ve done or am in the middle of similar series on the planets, elements, rivers, and small countries. 

Graham McIntosh asks,  “Have you ever been to Northumberland in Northern England? Many castles. Roman Wall and forts. Wonderful coast line.”

I have not. Unlike many countries, my exploration of England has mostly been piecemeal. I used to visit London every year for a conference, and I would then take a week afterward to explore a different part of the country. I have yet to get north of the Midlands.

I’m aware that there is a lot of great stuff up there, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. 

The last question comes from Benjamin Pister “Are there any topics you’ve decided to avoid because they would potentially be too controversial or political?”

I try to stay away from any and all current events. The reason for it is that there is a lot of content on the internet that deals with topics in the news. I’m not really sure there is anything I can contribute which isn’t already being done by other people. 

It isn’t so much a matter of staying away from politics or controversy as it is just trying to find a niche that I think is underserved. I think that there is a huge need for general knowledge about the world. If people have a better understanding of the world, and its history, they can better understand and process the information they get from the news. 

That is it for this installment of questions and answers. 

If you want to ask a question next month, or if I didn’t get to your question this month, just join the Facebook group. I’ll put up a call for questions a day or two before the 6th of the month, which is the day I do the Q&A shows. 

We are getting close to 900 members in the group.