Always fun when two parts of life meet


April 14, 2019

Few things are stranger, or more satisfying, than when two completely different aspects of your life come together. It’s like when your college friends meet your high school friends, or when you find out two of your Facebook friends are friends with each other, and how they met each other is unrelated to how you met either one.

That’s kind of what this column is today. If you’d read my most recent few columns, you’d know:

• It’s a really important detail in my life that the Associated Press has changed the way percentages are expressed. In short, prior style rules dicated spelling out “percent” in all instances, and now you use the % symbol unless it’s a casual use (pro athletes give 110 percent effort, even though it’s mathematically impossible).

• I’m a fan of the 99 Percent Invisible podcast, which is focused on the idea that great design is nearly invisible to us because it blends into our lives so easily. We’ll call it 99PI from here on out.

These two completely different things merged Friday night, as I was trying to listen to another podcast before I drifted off to not enough sleep. The podcast series is Reply All, most often described as “a podcast about the Internet that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” Most episodes feature hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman answering email pleas for help.

The podcast is titled “The Roman Mars Mazda Virus,” named for the 99PI creator and host. A listener named Ben wrote in confused that the factory stereo in his Mazda shut down every time he attempted to play a 99PI episode.

Mars said he’d received a handful of similar complaints, but could only guess what he was doing incorrectly. After a fun bit of banter, it was postulated that the stereo was failing because the podcast’s title uses the % symbol. Maybe the stereo reads that as code, and it’s like Spock is asking it to calculate the exact value of pi.

In other words, Mars wasn’t following AP style on percentages — he still isn’t, since visibility in this case isn’t really quantifiable, but I digress. Mars didn’t know if that was the issue, and he’d be crazy to change the podcast title after eight years because it may or may not fix a problem for a rounding error’s worth of listeners.

Goldman tested out the theory with other characters, and created a series of one-off podcasts:

• The ^space^ podcast went seven minutes, and mostly discussed riboflavin — also known as vitamin B2 and present in carrots.

• 100% Related, where he argues with a friend whether he’s completely related to each of his parents or only half-related.

• + = FUN. You can’t see them, but those are blanks.

• ><, where Goldman is given a recipe for a breakfast food with inexact measurements. For example, my favorite cookie recipe involves greater than one stick of butter but less than three sticks of butter.

He plays them for Vogt, who is amused and irritated Goldman wasted the time of talented people. Each one was sent to Ben, who tried each one on his stereo to try to replicate the crash.

I won’t go into detail, because A) I don’t want to give a book report on the podcast and B) I’d prefer you listen to it. But I will tell you they figured out what was causing the problem, and anybody with such an issue can write to the show and be sent a Mazda-friendly feed for the show.

It’s always interesting when two completely different aspects of your life come together. It’s even better when they solve a problem. It did not, however, help me fall asleep.

Kevin Wilson is editor of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact him at:

[email protected]


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