I’m a big animal lover. Doggies, kitties, even reptiles. When I see them, I want to pet them and talk to them in a cutesy voice. I admit, it’s incredibly obnoxious.
Yesterday I got a wonderful surprise. One of my Saturday chores is treating our hot tub. I didn’t even look hard in my backyard before stepping outside. I just grabbed the chemicals and opened the door. Before I could get both feet outside, I noticed a deer standing right in the middle of my backyard! I quietly closed the door and looked again, and noticed that between my backyard and the one next door there were three. I’m pretty sure it’s a mama and two youngsters. I quietly added the chemicals, took a few photos, and then got back inside so I wouldn’t spook them. I then stood there for a while, just watching them walking around and hanging out. It was beautiful.
I have been on the internet since 1995. I have used a lot of different search systems in numerous browsers. Today, I am ready to say I have a new favorite system.
But first, a little history. I started back in the day on America Online, using their limited mix of tools. But I will never forget the day I figured out that once I was on, I could open up Internet Explorer and search from there. That’s when I discovered Yahoo!, which was great for its time. The website started with a curated list of categories, which you could click on to drill down to various sites and pieces of information that Yahoo! wanted to feature. You could also use their search bar, like you can do today. For its day, it was great. We were on the web and looking stuff up.
There were several other sites along the way, but one of the next huge breakthroughs was Google. Google was different from the others because instead of a start page with all kinds of links, it started with a blank page that just had a search bar. Put your search string in the bar, hit return, and then scroll through what came up. Google was using bots to “crawl the web” and index everything, instead of developing curated lists of content. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and “googling” became a household word.
But Google developed a number of problems. First, there are the ads. Do a Google search, and you will see sponsored links on the top, sponsored ads on the sides, and all kinds of other things that distract you. Similar to this is the ability to sponsor links so that even though they don’t appear as an add, they still float to the top of search. Any of these ads or sponsored links might have something to do with what you want, but they may not be the best possible result.
Second is the censorship. This is like the reverse of ads. Search engines tend to surface results based on a match of what you type in and what is most popular. So if you search for “how to clean your oven” it should show you sites and videos that show you this, ranked by which ones get the most clicks. But there are some topics and people that seem to get throttled down to the bottom of search or hidden altogether. Conservative websites and online commentators have complained particularly during election season when their traffic seems to go down and searches for their names or content don’t seem to surface results, despite having great success in the past.
At the end of the day, Google is not a search company. They are an advertising company. That may sound crazy, but look at their business model: they don’t make any money off you searching with them. They make money by people paying for ads and paying to boost search results with sponsored searches.
The next best thing (but not the best): Duck Duck Go
For the last few years I have been using Duck Duck Go. Unlike Google, Duck Duck Go promises to never track anything you search or the sites you visit. That’s great, I really do appreciate that. And I have not heard of them censoring content. But there are still ads. They are not nearly as intrusive, but they are there. If you are looking for a great free resource, this is it.
What I’m using now: Kagi Search with the Orion Browser
I heard about Kagi a few weeks ago, and it’s definitely different from anything else I have ever used. It has no ads, no tracking and (as far as I know) no censorship.
But if it does not have ads or tracking, how do they make money and stay in business?
Hold on to your hats because this may shock you: Kagi is paid search. That’s right. Kagi isn’t free. You can sign up for a trial which gets you 100 web searches and 50 AI searches. After that, it’s $5.00 per month for 300 searches on a starter plan, or $10.00 per month for unlimited on a professional. They also have family and annual pricing which is 10% cheaper. All their plans are listed here.
In all the years I have been online, I have never heard of a company charging for internet search. Sure, there are companies like LexisNexis and companies that charge for online background checks, but that’s not general internet search. So it may sound absolutely ridiculous, but I don’t think it is. Because they don’t have ads, sponsored links, or tracking, they are a true search company. You are paying to (hopefully) get the best search results without ads or sponsors (I’m sorry I’m repeating myself, but this is blowing my mind).
Now, because the search is paid, you can’t just go to (https://kagi.com) and start searching in any browser. You either need to add their extension to your browser and pop in your security key, or install their browser Orion) and log into your Kagi account. They also have an extension for Raycast.
I have been a die hard Safari user on both Mac and iPhone for years, but I decided to try Orion out. It’s not perfect, but it is good. Orion is lightweight, nice to look at, and can use Chrome or Firefox extensions. You can have your tabs on the top or the side (I’m digging having them on the side). The only problem I have with it is that the integration with 1Password is hit or miss. It’s not great at filling in credentials for you, but that could be a problem with the extension itself.
In my Kagi tests, I find I get results that are more relevant to what I am actually searching for. I don’t have to do very much scrolling to find good information, but if I do, I find things that are still relevant, just expanding on what I am looking for. That’s much better than searching for something and finding three articles that are the same thing, two articles that have nothing to do with what you are looking for, and then maybe finding something that will point you in the right direction like I typically get with Google.
The search also has tabs at the top for things like images, videos, news, and podcasts related to your subject. This is the same as most other search engines, so that’s not a special perk, but it indicates that they are in line with the trends that most search companies are doing.
So, should you give Kagi (and possibly Orion) a try? I recommend at least signing up for the free account and comparing the search to what you are used to seeing on Google or even Duck Duck Go. Whether you like it or not, I encourage you to post your thoughts in the comments.
Earlier this year, I discovered a great way to clean up my digital photos. It has been working great, and I wanted to share it. This idea is not original to me, but I don’t know who actually came up with it.
Why clean up Your Photos in the first place?
I have had an iCloud account since about the time it was introduced in 2011. I love the way it syncs all of my photos to all of my devices. If you are an Android user, you may feel the same way about Google Photos because it does the same thing. But there are two problems with this. First, neither your device storage nor your cloud storage is unlimited. If your cloud storage fills up, you can either delete some of your data or pay for more. But if your device data fills up, it can practically brick your phone. The device slows down to a crawl, you may lose the ability to open apps, and restarting does not resolve the problem. Even worse, you may not be able to clear the contents off your device because there is not enough room to move things to the trash before permanently deleting them.
So it’s a good idea to periodically look through your devices and see what data you no longer need. Deleting old messages and apps is good, but one of the things that takes up the most space is photos, especially with newer devices that can take hi-res images. But many people never go through and delete old photos because it can be a daunting task. Currently, on my phone, I have 7,899 photos and 324 videos. That’s a lot, but I know people who have 2–3 times that! No one wants to sit there and comb through all that data to separate the precious memories from the junk.
So, what’s the secret?
Glad you asked! Here are the steps to make this relatively quick and painless.
- In your photos’ app (iPhone or Android), click on the search tab.
- In the search box, type in the month and the date, without a year. An example of this would be May 15. This will show you all the photos you have taken on that date through the years. Sometimes it also shows you photos with text that matches the date, like the word “may” or the number “15,” but it’s normally only one or two.
- Scroll through the pictures and delete any you don’t want. I often find pictures of food I posted online (yeah, I used to do that), or signs or flyers that I took pictures of to remember them for the near future, or blurry pictures of my kids, or duplicates. Anything that does not bring you joy or invokes a fond memory you can probably delete, but it’s up to you.
And that’s it! This process is not a “quick fix,” but if you have years of accumulated data, there isn’t one. The good news is that it only takes about 5 minutes a day (at least with the number of pictures I have), and every picture you delete recovers some data, which is the goal.
Added bonuses to cleaning your photos
In addition to recovering some of your data, there are two other benefits to completing this process every day. First, it will make it easier to find the good pictures in your collection because you have less to look through.
Second (and I think even more importantly), it gets you looking through your photos and finding ones that you have not seen for years, or that you may have even forgotten about. Almost every time I do this, I see pictures of my kids that I completely forgot about, and it brings great joy to relive those memories.
And if you miss a day, you can always go back and put that date in another time, or just wait until next year and do it then. So don’t beat yourself up for not doing it!
So that’s my trick for trimming down my photos and reliving old memories. If you try it out, please let me know in the comments how it works for you.
This week in the United States is Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for all the people, experiences, and other things in our lives. This has been a pretty tough year. My wife lost her Dad earlier this year, which contributed to us going through a very difficult time. I also lost my day job due to a major change at the company I was working at, and then my wife lost hers due to budget cuts. I recently found a new job and am delighted with it, but she is struggling to find work after a contract ended following her employment. But through all of this, I still have plenty to be thankful for. Most importantly, God is good, and his mercies endure forever. Let me just tell you.
My first grandchild was born in September. My daughter had a beautiful baby boy. He is happy and healthy, eating like crazy, and a pure joy to hold. I’m looking forward to taking him to his first baseball game, attending his school plays, and imparting whatever wisdom and stories I can.
I am now working as an associate analyst for AML RightSource. We help banks and other financial institutions with their government-mandated anti-money laundering investigations. We investigate fraud, human drug and weapon trafficking, elder abuse, embezzlement, terrorist financing, and other crimes that involve money and its misuse. It’s fairly technical but very interesting work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about it and work in this space.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about this job is that I didn’t even know it existed. The Lord put it into my daily feed of openings I was looking through, and it clicked. One of the best parts is that I get to continue my nearly thirteen-year streak of working from home. My office setup has changed as they have added new computers and screens, but that’s okay!
Being Back Home
Perhaps the thing I am most grateful for this year is being back home. During the summer, I moved into a small apartment with some other people looking for roommates. It was lonely and depressing. But my faith grew from the experience. My prayer life took on new dimensions as I prayed for our marriage, relationship, and family. I also got some counseling, which helped me deal with insecurities and transform my deficiencies in self-esteem into strengths in God-esteem. I learned that the Lord loves His children (including you), and he wants us to delight in Him and to give us the desires of our hearts. Sometimes He allows us to go through difficult trials to learn and grow, and sometimes we go through these trials because of our own poor decisions. Whatever it is, turning to Him and aligning our hearts and minds with His will brings us to the happiest contentment we can have this side of heaven.
So this week, no matter what you are facing, my challenge to you is twofold. First, bring your praise and thanksgiving to the One who gave you and the rest of the universe life and meaning. Count your blessings and tell someone else about them, so they can know your joys and think about their own. Second, whatever you are going through that is giving you trouble or strife, bring it to the Lord. Tell Him about what is bothering you, what scares you, and what keeps you up at night. Then ask Him to come alongside you and help you, and then thank Him for that help. He already knows what is going on in your life, but He is waiting for you to ask. When you do, His Word says:
God has already promised that He will help you. So once you have expressed your fears and needs, begin to thank Him for the relief that He is sending you. I don’t know when it will come, and it may not be instant, and it might not be in the form you expect. But continue to thank Him with expectant anticipation because His love and help is coming.
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving with all of their family and friends.
“Thanksgiving Day Parade” by martha_chapa95 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.
Before reading this article, I recommend you check out my Mac Automation article for a better feel for the software you can use to perform automation on the Mac. The software in that article is almost exclusively for the Mac and not available on the PC, but Stream Deck works on all platforms.
When I started my productivity journey, I dove into different types of software I could use to help me be more productive. I bought and learned about apps like Alfred, Raycast, Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, and Apple Shortcuts. I learned ways to make my Mac open all the apps I needed to do my work, write my blog, or play Dungeons and Dragons online. It saved me time, prevented me from forgetting things, and was fun.
But about a year ago, I started researching ways to make my work easier using hardware, and I discovered the Stream Deck. This little device has completely changed not only the way I work but also how I think about doing work.
A Stream Deck is a brand of macropad, which is a device that can have buttons, dials, and sometimes touchscreens. All of these can be programmed to interface with your computer to do all kinds of things (mine is the Stream Deck XL, which only has buttons but has 32 of them). It uses software for the Stream Deck itself that interfaces with your other apps to perform tasks like opening an app, turning down volume, changing lighting in the room, or pretty much anything else you could control from your keyboard and mouse.
The Steam Deck was created for streamers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch, allowing them to switch cameras, activate effects, etc. without looking away from the camera. But it’s also a great tool for almost anyone who uses a computer to pay for their shoes (credit: Mac Sparky for that one).
I use my Stream Deck for general productivity work. I have buttons and screens for executing macros, launching or bringing apps to the foreground, and changing settings on my system. I’ll give you some details later, but first, let’s go over some of the cool ways you can set up a stream deck.
Setting up a stream deck
When I first got my Stream Deck, 32 buttons seemed like plenty. I didn’t think I would use them all. But as I got more into automation, it became harder to remember all of the keyboard shortcuts I had created. Putting things on the stream deck gave me a visual way to remember what I could do.
There are a number of ways you can set up a stream deck, and you don’t have to pick just one. Let’s look at some of the ways you can organize it.
Folders on a stream deck work very similar to folders on your computer. To create a folder, you drag the “Create Folder” action from the actions list onto one of the buttons. Give the folder a name and icon, then double-click on it to enter the folder. You will now see a blank screen of buttons as if nothing was on your stream deck, except for the top left button having an “up” arrow, which takes you back to the main screen that is “above” the folder. You can also put a folder on a folder screen, allowing you to drill down like you would on your computer.
When I first got my Stream Deck, I created a bunch of folders as categories and placed actions in the folders. It created great organization, but I found myself making too many button presses to get to the action that I wanted.
However, I recently found another Stream Deck action that makes folders more useful. When you create actions inside a folder, you can assign one action to the button, or you can assign a “Multi-Action.” This is not really an action in itself but a container for placing several actions that will happen one after the other, like a macro. Inside this multi-action, you first drag in the action you want to happen, then add the “Switch to Profile” action underneath it in the list. Once the other actions assigned to the multi-action are complete, the Stream Deck will switch back to the profile assigned; no button pressing is needed to get out of the folder. Keep reading for more information on profiles.
Here’s an example: When I need to take a screen shot, I push a folder button that takes me to a list of multi-actions for different types of screen shots (area of screen, whole window, whole screen, scrolling, and text OCR). These buttons are “hotkey” buttons, meaning when you create them, you tell them what keyboard shortcut you want them to press for you. When I push any of those buttons, it either takes the screen shot or gives me the crosshair to select the area, then switches the Stream Deck back to the first screen of my work profile, so I don’t have to press a button to get out of the folder.
One more folder example Sometimes I need to resize and move a window to another screen. I have a folder with options for resize, move, and move and resize. All of these actions are done through keyboard shortcuts in Raycast. The problem is that I have to first hit the Raycast shortcut to call it up, then hit the keyboard shortcut I have assigned for the resize or move. If I am doing both, I have to activate Raycast, activate the first action, open Raycast again, and activate the other action. I automated this by creating a folder with multiple actions. I click the folder, then click on a button for one of the three choices I want. The multi-action runs through the keyboard shortcuts for me, then uses the switch profile action to take me back to the right screen of Stream Deck buttons.
Another way to organize your stream deck is by extending the set of buttons with a “next button.” To do this, drag a “Next” button onto one of the buttons of your stream deck, such as the bottom or top right corner (but anywhere will work). When you press it, everything on your screen “slides” to the left, and you have a new screen of blank buttons. On this screen, you should put a “Previous” button (I use the bottom left corner, but just like with the “Next” button, any button will work) so you can get back to the previous screen.
I use this method a little bit, but it still presents the problem of having to press around to get to the action that you want.
This is my preferred method of organizing. A profile is like a shortcut to a screen that appears depending on which app is in the foreground, with that screen displaying buttons you want to use when that screen is active. For example, whenever I push my Slack Stream Deck button, it displays a page I created with buttons for various Slack channels in my main account, buttons for my most used DMs, and buttons to switch to other Slack accounts that I am a guest in.
I love this method because when I push an application button on my Stream Deck, it brings that application up on my Mac and instantly displays a group of buttons I need for that specific application and nothing else. If I push an application button tied to a different profile, it brings up that app and shows me buttons for that application.
As an example, here is my profile screen for the note-taking app Obsidian:
You can see in this shot that in the top left I have a bunch of buttons for commands in Obsidian, such as creating a new note or a check-in note. I also have buttons for some other apps I use while using Obsidian (the microphone and video buttons are for muting my audio and turning off my camera during a Zoom meeting, which is from a Stream Deck plug-in).
How to Use a Stream Deck for Productivity
If you have already read my Mac Automation article, you have learned about many of the ways I use automation to increase productivity. I purposely left out how I do it with a stream deck so I could cover it here after explaining about the stream deck itself. Now that I’ve done that, let’s talk about how I incorporate the Stream Deck into my workflow.
These are some of the simplest buttons, but they are very helpful. Using the “Open” action, you can launch an app or bring it to the foreground. This is a helpful way to jump between apps. When you drag this action to a button and select the app to open, it automatically uses the icon of the app for the button, so you don’t even need to assign an icon to it (unless you want to change it to something else). Also, as previously mentioned, this is a great way to switch profiles on your stream deck.
These are similar to the app buttons, but they are designed to take a URL instead of choosing an app. You can add the URL of any website you use regularly to get quick access to it. You can also use these buttons for URL schemes in apps that use them. For example, if your to-do list app creates a URL for each project, you could assign that URL to a button so you could jump into that project instantly.
I use this button a lot for Slack. Every channel and profile in Slack has a unique URL, which contains a code for the Slack team and a code for the individual channel or profile. If you log into Slack in the browser, you can find both of these codes and use them to create a link. Here’s a support document from Slack that explains it way better than I could: Reference: Deep linking into Slack
Once you have the link, you can add a website action to a button with that link. Use an image on the button that reminds you of what it is for, and then when you press the button, it will take you to the proper channel or DM in Slack. In my case, we have different channels for each company that is a customer. So I used the company logo for the button. For DMs with co-workers, I use a copy of their Slack profile picture. This can use up a lot of buttons, so I also created a Slack profile. When I click on the Slack button, it brings the app to the foreground and shows me the Slack profile with all the Slack-centric buttons.
My favorite buttons are the ones for setting up. Setups are macros that set your system up to do a particular type of work, such as opening all the apps you use to do your job, opening up your apps for editing video and closing everything else, etc. The main app I use for this is Keyboard Maestro, which can open apps and integrates Apple Shortcuts and Apple Script to do things it can’t on its own. I use a Stream Deck plug-in called KM Link to add the buttons. Once you add the plug-in from the Stream Deck store built into the software, you just drag a KM Link action to a button and select which macro you want it to run from the drop-down menu.
When I push the button to start my workday, the macro runs an Apple Shortcut to make sure my audio input and output are assigned to the correct sources. It then opens all my apps in quick succession. Then an Apple script runs to tell Moom to place the apps in the positions assigned for the work snapshot. Finally, it runs Shortcuts to start playing my favorite concentration sound from Dark Noise and put my devices in work focus mode. I know it’s finished and ready to go when a final Apple script tells me audibly that it’s time to get to work. All of this is done with one button press. It’s important to note that Keyboard Maestro also has quit app functions, so I also have buttons that close all or some of my apps, put my Mac to sleep, or log it out.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of ways to set up your Steam deck for productivity. It has made a huge difference in my workflow because I often find it easier to reach above my trackpad and press a button, but it also brings me a bit of delight because it’s fun to make something happen on my Mac by pushing a physical button instead of typing or using the trackpad. It’s also much easier to look at the pictures on the keys instead of trying to remember all the keyboard shortcuts.
Do you use a Stream Deck or other type of macropad? How do you use it? Do some bragging or leave tips in the comments.
I love podcasts. They are a great way to pass the time and learn something while doing mundane tasks like walking the dog, folding laundry, or anything else that does not keep your mind fully occupied. I have been listening on and off since the early 2000s, back when it was just guys grabbing a mic and recorder and talking about whatever they wanted because it was their show. No networks, producers, or production companies; just content.
A lot has changed. The whole genre has become more commercial, but some of the content has become really nuanced and in-depth. The variety is amazing. Search for any subject you are interested in, and chances are you will find a show about it. Some shows take 30 minutes to discuss one topic and move on; others cover a subject in depth for 12 hours over as many episodes.
So if you listen to podcasts and are looking for your next favorite show, or if you want to try it out and are looking for a place to start, here’s a list of a bunch of my favorite shows that I am listening to now.
Originally started as a Christian radio show by Chuck Colson, Breakpoint is technically three different podcasts in one feed: Breakpoint, The Point, and Breakpoint This Week. The original Breakpoint is a daily five-minute commentary by John Stonestreet, President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Each episode is about five minutes long and features one issue affecting the cultural moment. The Point is also a one-issue commentary, but only about one minute long. Breakpoint this week is a one-hour weekly show discussing the news stories of the week from a Christian worldview. The show is thoughtful and engaging and breaks down current stories and issues from a Christian viewpoint.
Upstream is another podcast from the Colson Center that features Shane Morris interviewing Christian authors and scholars about more theological topics. It can get pretty weighty, but after every episode he publishes a “Further Upstream” episode where he talks to one of his fellow Colson Center staffers who helps him make the original episode much more accessible.
Rooted in Christ
Rooted in Christ is a podcast of Redwood Christian Ministries, founded by my friend Eric Stephens. Eric interviews evangelistic thought leaders from around the country to learn their stories and inspire others to sharethee gospel. The show shines an up-close and personal light on their stories and is raw and honest.
Ask Pastor John
John Piper is a Christian pastor, teacher, author, and thought leader in Reformed theology. He is the founder of Desiring God, of which this is one of the podcasts. They release shows several times per week that feature sermon snippets, Pastor John answering questions from listeners, and other content. Pastor John is one of the most knowledgeable theologians living today, and yet his teaching is very approachable and easy to understand. Almost every point he makes on something is informed by quoted scripture.
Mac Power Users
These next two are podcasts by David Sparks. David is a lawyer by trade but has been using Macs and other Apple gear for 40 years. He and his co-host Stephen Hackett discuss all kinds of ways to get the most out of your Mac, including software deep dives, recommendations on software and hardware, and interviews with developers.
Also an Apple-centric podcast, David and Rosemary Orchard discuss how to get the most out of your devices using automation. Honestly, this is where I learned a lot of what I know.
True crime is a huge genre. There are tons of shows using a variety of formats. Some tell a story in one or two episodes; others take a whole season to dive into an incident and cover everything. Hosts also come from a variety of backgrounds, such as former law enforcement, investigative journalism, and armchair detectives, all of which put a different spin on the way they approach cases.
Let’s start with some weekly, episodic shows.
True Crime Garage
TCH is easily my favorite true crime show. The Captain and the Colonel have produced over 600 episodes. Some cases are one-shots; some cases take several episodes to do deep dives. I also like that they periodically go back to update cases that have seen new information come to light. They also have a really good sense of humor.
The Deck is one of several AudioChuck podcasts that I listen to. Each week, host Ashley Flowers tells you about a cold case that the police are looking for help with. Over the years, police departments have produced decks of playing cards with case information on the back of each card and distributed them in prisons, hoping that inmates might know something about the crime (hence the name). Ashely does her homework and delivers a good show.
If you like The Deck, you should definitely give Crime Junkie a listen. Also by Ashley Flowers, Crime Junkie is similar but with a slightly looser premise, as the cases are not always quite as cold. Along with Ashley’s co-host, Brit, they discuss all kinds of crimes and some mysteries to boot.
Anatomy of Murder
While the previous shows were headed by very knowledgeable enthusiasts, AoM is headed by two professional crime fighters. Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi is a former NYC prosecutor, and Scott Weinberger is a former deputy sheriff. They bring their experience to the show, offering insights about procedure and the justice system that others don’t have.
Hosted by investigative journalist Delia D’Ambra, Park Predators tells stories of crimes that occur in state and national parks. Each episode covers a different murder or other mystery. I enjoy camping, but this one makes me want to stay home.
This next batch of shows covers one case over an entire season, usually about 12 episodes. Some come out weekly, others all at once, so you can binge. They tend to have a lot more depth because they cover so much more information. If you’re a serious crime junkie, these are definitely worth a listen.
Counter Clock is another show by Delia D’Ambra. Each season, Delia picks one case and dives deep into every facet of it. I especially found seasons 3 and 4 fascinating. You can pick any season you want, download all the episodes, and binge it like a Netflix show.
Gone South is a documentary podcast with two seasons by Jed Lipinski. The first season is about the murder of Margaret Coon. While doing the research for season one, Jed learned about a loose crime organization known as the Dixie Mafia. It’s a really interesting story about organized crime in the Deep South.
Somebody Somewhere is another investigative journalism podcast, this one by Jody Gottlieb and David Payne. The first and third seasons are particularly interesting because they tell the stories of the unsolved murders of the only two US attorneys murdered while on the job. There are a lot of twists and turns, but they navigate them and explain everything quite well. I recommend binge-watching these if possible because there are a lot of details and they can get confusing if you go awhile between episodes.
Our final “category” or type of true crime podcast is the single season. These are similar to limited series (or what they used to call miniseries) on TV. They only have one season for the purpose of telling one important story. Once you listen to the last episode, you can remove them from your feed, although sometimes they may drop an update to the story in the feed or a trailer for a new show coming out on their network.
The Letter is both a tragic story of random murder and the senseless loss of a loved one and a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption. It tells the story of Zach Snarr, murdered by Jorge Benvenuto in 1996, and the pain and loss their family went through. But it also tells the story of how Jorge, captured and sentenced to prison, wrote a letter to Zach’s parents, apologizing for the crime, and how they got together to make some form of amends. Especially for me as a person of faith, I found the story to be a very inspiring story of repentance and redemption.
The Deck Investigates
As you may surmise from the title, The Deck Investigates is somewhat of a spinoff of The Deck by Ashley Flowers. But instead of dedicating each episode to one case, Investigates tells the story of the 1984 murder of Darlene Hulse over an entire season. Earlier this year, Ashley toured this story at live events, but now she has released it as a complete binge-able season.
One caveat on this show: I placed this in the only season category, but looking at the website, there is a mention of it being season one. So there is a possibility that this show could have more seasons. It may come down to whether or not Ashley finds another case that merits this kind of attention.
Undetermined is about the suspicious death of Jessica Easterly Durning and relates to the autopsy designation of undetermined for the cause of death. These cases get little to no attention or investigation because the police do not know for sure if foul play was involved. Jessica Noll and Todd McComas take you through the whole story of what we know happened and how the family has been fighting since 2019 to get more answers.
History is a broad subject with a lot of niche interests. That being said most of my recommendations are shows produced by Aaron Menkee, who does a great job finding largely unknown stories, that are often a bit weird and macabre. If these aren’t your cup of tea I would suggest doing a search for podcasts that cover your historical interests, as you are bound to find something that you like.
Lore is Aaron Menkee’s flagship podcast. In fact, it’s not just a podcast. Menkee has produced two seasons of a TV series and several books under the same name. Each week he covers several short stories from history in a style that is reminiscent of Paul Harevey’s The Rest of the Story. One of his taglines is “the scariest stories are true,” and from the episodes I have listened to, he may not be wrong. On any given week, you may hear about witch trials, pirates, ghosts, or any other subject that comes from our world’s crazy history.
Cabinet of Curiosities
Cabinet of Curiosities is similar to Lore, but it is more of a freak show than a museum. Twice weekly, Aaron delivers two short stories of the strange and twisted from history. Some of these stories, if you didn’t know they were real, you would swear were made up.
Grim & Mild Presents
Grim & Mild Presents has a similar format to the true crime podcasts that take a whole season to cover one case, but instead they cover a subject in history. The show is biweekly, covering 13-episode seasons with no breaks. Season 1 was all about the history of sideshows. Season two is about pirates. The current season is called Bedside Manners and details some of history’s most interesting medical techniques, like bloodletting or other weird cures for diseases.
If you are interested in learning more about journalism and how it works, check out Killed. Justine Harman explores the history of various stories that were never published because they were too controversial. She often interviews the reporters who worked on the stories but either had to take the story somewhere else or never got to tell it. This includes an essay on Gore Vidal from George Magazine and a story from a piece from New York that was meant to exonerate Jeffrey Epstein.
The Sunshine Place
This is a fascinating story! The Sunshine Place is the story of the rise and spectacular fall of Synanon, which started as a kind of hippie drug rehab program in the 1960s and devolved into a terrifying cult that featured beatings, guns, and fortified communes. Executive produced by Robert and Susan Downey, Jr., and narrated by Sari Crawford, whose father was a founding member and met Sari’s mother there, The Sunshine Place takes you on a wild ride from innovative rehab program to dangerous cult.
So there you have it. Hopefully, in this list, you will find something you like. If not, it might inspire you to go looking for other shows that cover your interests. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments.