At the end of every episode of her J.V. Club podcast, Janet Varney plays MASH with the guest. If you’re a woman around my age, then I can’t imagine you not knowing what MASH is. For anyone else MASH is a game little girls play to forecast their future. In the version I played as a kid you usually gave 3 choices for categories such as who you were going to marry, what kind of car you would drive, how many kids you would have, what your job would be, etc. The MASH part stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, or House. In the little kid version of the game like with the addition of living in a shack as one of your potential futures, whoever you were playing with would also pick out something bad for you in each category. Janet doesn’t do that to her guests, so unless they pick something bad for themselves the worst thing they might wind up with is living in a shack.

Janet plays an updated version with her guests with mostly non-traditional categories. She has a standard rotation of categories that she uses, while changing them up and also adding categories that might be special for a particular guest based on who they are or the conversation they had leading up to the MASH game. It’s really fun to listen to every week, and the guests always get so excited about playing and hearing their “futures”. Since every week I think about the answers I would give, I thought it would be fun to take some of her standard categories and write my answers for them here on my blog.

A Food You Can Have Anytime You Want

This is Janet’s favorite category. She always uses it. It can be a general food like pizza or a very specific food perhaps something you can’t get easily or at all anymore. I decided to go with foods that I loved that were from restaurants that have gone out of business, so I can no longer get them.

1. Cheese Danish from New System Bakery – This was a bakery that was in my neighborhood for decades. It sadly went out of business a few years ago. I still miss it and am sad every time I walk by their abandoned location. I used to eat a cheese Danish from there every Saturday. I think what sets it apart for me is that it had more of a sweet bread base as opposed to the more flakey danish base that is typical of well danishes.

2. White pizza with tomato slices from Alyssa’s – Alyssa’s was a pizza/Indian place (For some reason there are a number of these in Baltimore. It’s an odd combo I’ve never seen anywhere else and in my experience the Indian food at them is lousy as you might expect.) in my neighborhood. They used to have 1/2 priced pizzas on Monday, and a group of my friends and I used to go every week. Even after that kind of fell by the wayside my husband and I still used to get pizza from there for ourselves most weeks. We always shared a white pizza with tomato slices. Their white pizza had sort of a garlic/olive oil sauce on it as opposed to the bechamel sauce you typically see and which I’m not that found of. It was a really good pizza and I still miss it.

3. Chicken Burrito from Curbside Cafe – Curbside Cafe was one of if not the first food truck in Baltimore. They only operated for a little over a year I think, then deciding that the food truck life was not for them. I heard them say they had no desire to spend another cold winter sitting in the truck, a sentiment I totally get. I do really miss their chicken burrito though. They used to park on my block for lunch on Thursdays, which was the day I didn’t go into work until 1:30, which meant that most Thursdays I treated myself to a burrito before a late night on the reference desk.

A Band that Writes the Soundtrack to Your Life

I’m amused now that I’m looking at the artists I put down. I seem to have a type in that all of these gentlemen play variations of music that I would consider to be southern, alt-country, folk rock type music. The second key for all of these is that they will play a mix of music both fast and slow because if you’re going to have someone creating a soundtrack for your life you’re going to want them to be able to write music to fit the mood.

1. Tom Petty – Tom Petty was the first person that popped into my head for this. I’ve loved him since I was a little kid. He’s the only artist whose music I’ve owned a box set of, and American Girl is my theme song. There is no way that Tom Petty was not my top choice for this.

2. Jason Isbell – If you’ve been reading this blog over the past year and half and somehow didn’t think that Jason Isbell was going on this list, you’re nuts. People can continue to ignore me, but I will still keep trying to tell you that Jason Isbell was one of the best singer-songwriters we have right now. I love him so much. Too bad I feel too guilty to drag my husband down to DC for a second time to see him this February after doing it last winter, and I somehow haven’t convinced any of the rest of you people that he is amazing.

3. Ryan Adams – I love me some Ryan Adams. He’s a crazy prolific songwriter, so I have no doubt he would be an excellent choice to soundtrack anyone’s life. He has a great mix of fun songs and more poignant songs. His songs also vary from rock to quieter songs. He would be brilliant.

Where You Have a Vacation Home

1. A lake house in the woods – I have always wanted a lake house with a dock and a little speedboat docked at it. I would love to have a place far enough way to feel like you’re getting away, but still near enough that you could go for a weekend. Stupid Maryland that has no natural lakes in it makes this somewhat of a pipe dream, but in my imaginary future I have this.

2. Bora Bora – I have never been to Bora Bora, so I may perhaps hate it there, but I doubt it. I chose this solely based on the awesome looking place they stay at in the film Couples Retreat. It is not a good movie, but the place they stay at in the movie looks amazing. It’s these cottages over the water where you could jump directly from the floor of your room into the clear blue water. I don’t have enough money in real life to stay somewhere like that, but in my fantasy life I do.

3. London – I love water, which is evident in my first two choices in this category. I decided to mix it up a little bit with the third. I have been to London a number of times including living there for a semester while studying abroad. It’s a city I love and which has affords me many of the cultural things that I love to do without the overwhelming crowdedness I feel when I’m in New York.

Your Celebrity Spouse

This category is full of people who I think are both attractive, whose roles in film and television I generally like, and from what I know of them I would like them in real life. If you know anything bad about any of them please don’t tell me because I don’t want to know.

1. Matt Bomer

2. Zachary Levi

3. John Cusack

Your Superpower

1. Go-Go Gadget-ness – As a shorty I always wanted to be able to reach things or see over things. In my head that always seemed to be like something that would be so easy to do if I could just say go-go gadget arms or legs and make myself taller or my arms longer.

2. Teleportation – I like visiting other places and there are lots of places I wish I could just pop into and out of to do a specific thing, but the time and money it would take to travel there makes it impossible do as much as I want. Being able to teleport places would make that so much easier.

3. Ability to be 2 Places at Once – It always seems that there are multiple things that crop up that I want to do that fall on the same day or I go to a music festival and the bands I want to see are playing at the exact same time. If I could have multiple mes that got to all go to different activities at the same time life would be so much easier, and I wouldn’t have to choose between multiple things that I want to do.

My Future

Playing the game through I have a mansion that is apparently a lake house. I’m not sure how that works, but I’ll take it. I can call up a chicken burrito from Curbside Cafe at any time I want while I listen to Ryan Adams play the soundtrack to my life. I’ll be doing all this with Zachary Levi, and we won’t have to worry about getting back and forth to wherever our lake mansion is because we can just teleport to get there.

Saving Myself from Myself

Yesterday I almost had a horrible professional moment. A professor had asked me to come to her class to help out her students with an in-class project. It’s something I have helped this professor out with several times before. One of the schools I work for has two satellite graduate campuses, one north of Baltimore and the other south of Baltimore. Every other semester I have worked with this class it has been held at the northern campus, so I just spaced when the professor said in her email that it was at the southern campus. I think I just registered satellite campus, and it’s that class and zoomed right on along in the email assuming it was where I had always gone before.

Thankfully God was looking out for me and gave me a little tap on the shoulder to double check that right before I left the library to drive to the class yesterday. I was totally sitting at my desk whiling away the last few minutes before I planned to leave, and thought to myself I should check the room location in our registration system since the professor wasn’t positive what it was when she emailed me. That way I’ll know for sure when I get there and won’t have to search it out. Cue moment of panic when I look up the class and it tells me that it’s at the other campus. I then double check the email the professor sent me and sure enough she clearly said the southern campus not the northern one. Since to be there by 12:15 when she asked I should have left at least 15 minutes ago at that point I raced out the door and got myself down to where I was actually supposed to be. I was a few minutes late, but so were they as the students were still rolling back in from their lunch break when I arrived. Phew!

I am so, so glad something prompted me to look up the class location. If I hadn’t I totally would have gone to the wrong place and missed the class since the two campuses are over an hour apart. That would have been bad and super unprofessional of me. In the future I will definitely triple check classroom locations when I’m asked to leave the library and work with a class wherever they are meeting.

Twitter Friends

My husband and I were watching the news the other night while eating dinner as we do. There was a story, which I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but it made some reference to people not interacting with strangers as much over stock footage of people in public places staring at their phones instead of interacting with those around them. Let’s put aside for a moment how ridiculous we all think these stories are and get serious for a minute. At the time I said to my husband the exact opposite is true for me. I am an introvert who is mildly terrified of interacting with people I don’t know or don’t know well. I am never, ever going to strike up a conversation with a random person in a public space on my own. It’s just not going to happen, and even if someone strikes up a conversation with me unless they are super chatty and can carry it all by themselves I’m trying to think of ways to get out of it as fast as I can. On the other hand I have made many friends online via Twitter. Some of these friends are still online only as we haven’t had occasion to meet in person because we are literally spread across the globe. Other people who I initially met via Twitter I have had the pleasure of meeting in person and I now consider friends in real life.

A few of them are Baltimore people or people outside the library world, but the vast majority of them are librarians just because library conferences bring us together in the same place and give us an opportunity to meet. These are people who I have enjoyed interacting with online and gotten to know that way so that by the time we meet in person we already feel like friends and not strangers. If it weren’t for Twitter I might sit next to one of them in a conference session and never strike up a conversation and meet them, but because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them online and feel comfortable I’m happy to get together with them in person when we get the chance. I’m already starting to make plans to meet up with some Twitter friends I haven’t met in real life yet at the American Library Association conference next month and am in fact sharing a hotel room with a friend I met via Twitter years ago. If you’re reading this and want to be part of those plans let me know.

So sorry Brian Williams, but I don’t buy your story about social media making us more isolated or whatever it was about. If it weren’t for social media I would actually have way fewer people in my life. For those of us who are shy and a little scared of talking to strangers social media can be a great way to actually expand our social circles not just online but in real life too.

Jacket Obsession





You always hear about women having an obsession with shoes. It’s not to say that I don’t have a fair number of shoes, but I am not attracted to them the way I am jackets. It’s ironic (maybe? I’m so paranoid now that I don’t know how to actually properly use that word) that I love jackets so much and yet hate winter and the cold with an equal fervor. If it weren’t for the fact that jackets are usually insanely expensive I would probably own a lot more than I already do. My husband thinks I have too many, but I think he’s wrong. I wear them all which means I definitely have room to own more in my rotation if not in my coat closet.

This is my newest acquisition. I think it’s super cute, though as many of the online reviews said there’s a lot going on around the top with flaps and buttons and I’m not sure I’ve actually figured out how it’s all supposed to fit together. Paul can’t complain about this one because he told me to buy it when I asked about it because one of his Christmas gifts didn’t work out, so this is the replacement gift.
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This jacket I bought out of necessity in Ketchikan, Alaska. Go figure that it was raining in the rain capital of the United States. I wasn’t very well prepared for that, so I picked up this rain jacket. It’s got a fleecy inside so it has a little warmth. Also I think it’s essentially plastic, so it was only $20.

2014-03-13 10.46.30This is my black trench coat. It’s light and is a good spring coat. I get a lot of compliments on it. 
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The one thing that makes me sad about that coat is the fact that it has this really cool piping on the inside that’s just hidden away. I always wonder why it wasn’t used as an accent in some part of the coat that someone other than me will see.

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This is your basic windbreaker that is also water resistant. I bought it prior to our trip to Niagara Falls a few years ago because I didn’t feel like I had a jacket appropriate for the temperatures and general dampness of that trip. It served me well then and on multiple occasions since.
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This is my favorite coat, and the one I by far get the most compliments on. It’s actually kind of hard to see in the light of this picture, but it’s a plaid trench coat that’s brown with kind of a mauve colored accent stripe.
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I bought this jacket last year on our trip to Utah again out of vacation necessity. The forecast when we left home did not include rain. When we got to Utah it very much did, so I needed a good water proof jacket to hike in. It was on sale, so I got a good deal on it. Plus I didn’t really have a good water proof jacket for outdoor activities before. I’ve definitely gotten use out of it since the trip I bought it on.

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This is my least exciting coat. It’s my basic black, wool jacket. I’ve never been super in love with it, but I desperately needed a new winter coat at the time I bought it and after searching at every store imaginable this is the one I finally settled on.

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I love this hoodie. It’s my favorite late summer/early fall jacket to wear when we go out and it’s warm enough to wear short sleeves during the day, but you need something to throw on because it gets chilly at night.

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This hoodie is actually is something made by Wyoming libraries. They did some ad campaign a number of years back that got a lot of press particularly for the image of the mud flap girl reading a book. I said something about it to my husband and he ordered himself a set of stickers that had the four images they were using on it. He also decided to throw in this hoodie for me into his order. They only made the hoodie with the image of a cowboy riding a book. Not surprisingly when I wear this I usually get asked if I’m from Wyoming.
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I bought this new winter jacket last year. I decided I wanted a down jacket that would be warmer than my wool coat. I am definitely happy I upgraded because as you all know this winter has been brutal. Though I like the style, and it is warm I have a giant complaint in that this thing sheds feathers like crazy. Beside the fact that in another winter or two I feel like there weren’t be any feathers left inside of it, every time I wear it I wind up covered in little white feathers. I am forever picking them off of my clothes and subsequently the places I sit down.

2014-03-13 10.40.24So there you have it. An inventory of all my jackets. I don’t think it’s too many. I could definitely use one or two more don’t you think?


Wind Map

I am insanely fascinated by this online Wind Map of the country. I can’t remember when I first became aware of it. Probably around the time of Hurricane Sandy because that is the first time I can remember looking at it and watching how such a powerful storm just seemed to draw all the wind from the entire country into it. It’s not something I look at every day or anything, but definitely when there’s any big weather systems going on anywhere I like to pull it up and see what’s going on. It’s really cool to watch major storm systems move and to see the vortex where all the wind is spinning around when something like that happens. It’s not quite as interesting on days when nothing major is going on. Then it looks kind of haphazard across the country. Obviously today with this nor’easter going up the coast it’s a good day to look at it.

It’s interesting as well that it was done as a sort of art project. It’s not any kind of official weather site. Someone is just using data to create a graphical representation of the wind. I kind of like that the idea behind is something more than here’s the weather. Check it out if you  haven’t and take another peek even if you have.

Quick Shots

I haven’t really felt like sitting down to write anything of length here in the past few days, so here is a quick list of things that are making me happy right now.

1. Like most of the eastern half of the country Baltimore is in a deep freeze right now thanks to this polar vortex. I’m thankful that I have a nice warm place to be (though my office is a little too warm at 84 degrees this morning).

2. The Frozen soundtrack, which I adore anyway is the obvious choice to listen to on repeat while I wait out this cold.

3. I got a new Nook for Christmas. I got the original one not too long after it came out, and it still works. My husband decided I should upgrade though while it still exists. I’ve never been a big collector of books. Most everything I read comes from libraries (this is one of the big reasons I originally went with the Nook over the Kindle, though you can actually borrow ebooks from the library for your Kindle now) or if I do get a book in print that I own, I either pass it on to a friend or  donate it to the Book Thing once I’m done with it. I rarely reread books, so on the inevitable day, whether that be soon or years from now, that the few ebooks I’ve purchased over the years disappear I won’t be too upset. Anyway, I digress. My new Nook itself makes me happy. I got the one with Glowlight so I can read in the dark, and it is extremely light. Even though I never thought my old one was heavy, the new one makes the old one feel like a ton of bricks. What is really making me happy though is the adorable sleeve I bought to keep it in. I smile every time I pull it out.

2014-01-07 08.20.594. I am hopeful that Wake Forest basketball has finally turned a corner. They seem to be doing better this season. I don’t expect they’ll be making it into the top 25 any time soon, but at least they didn’t lose to a whole bunch of nobody teams this year like they have done in years past. They also pulled off a win against a ranked North Carolina in their conference opener on Sunday night. Now they need to get a road win to really make me feel like they might be on the upswing. They have yet to win a conference game on the road during Bzdelik’s tenure. Sunday night’s game was the first game I’ve seen in the past 3 years that actually gave me a little bit of hope though, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’re heading in the right direction. They do need to work on their free throws a lot if they plan to win games though because Sunday was pathetic. They left a lot of points on the floor and though it worked out for them on Sunday, they’re going to lose a lot of games if they throw that many points away in the future.

5. That I have the luxury to throw away a gross cereal I bought at Target that basically tasted like cardboard with cinnamon on top. There are many people who don’t have enough food to eat and eat a lot of things they don’t like. As I threw away the nearly full box of cereal this morning in favor of opening something else that actually tastes good, I reminded myself how privileged I am to be able to do that, so that I don’t lose perspective.


Pope Francis

I’ve actually thought off and on about writing something about Pope Francis here on my blog, but never wound up doing it. I figure with the announcement this week that Time has named him their Person of the Year now is a good time. For anyone who doesn’t know, although I consider myself a Christian I am not Catholic. Ultimately I have a number of problems with the Catholic Church and the earthly hierarchy of people they place between humans and God. However, as far as popes go so far I have been very impressed with Pope Francis. As I am not a Catholic I really can’t speak super intelligently on the matter, but at least from where I’m sitting he seems to pointing the Catholic Church in the right direction with what seems to be a more inclusive focus towards people who have been shunned by the church as well as emphasizing social justice above all things.

I suppose I shouldn’t be entirely surprised given his Jesuit background. I work for a Jesuit university and have been nothing but impressed by the things focused on here. Jesuits from what I understand are very much into education and social justice issues, and both of things are very much emphasized where I work. I feel like these Jesuit values pervade the institution and I am often proud to be associated with the work they are doing. The Catholic Church is a very visible face of Christianity in this world, so even though it’s not my personal religion I appreciate any efforts that make me think that it might be starting to strive to fulfill Jesus’ mission a little better than I personally think they have been.

On Liking Characters

Remember over the summer when I binge watched the first two seasons of Scandal and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about? I tried watching the first few episodes of this season thinking maybe I would enjoy it more on a weekly basis when I could join in the conversation of everyone freaking out over whatever crazy thing happened that on that week’s episode. After a few episodes though I found it still didn’t work for me. I now have 3 or 4 episodes built up on my DVR that I have no desire to watch so I think it’s time to delete my season pass and move on. I have figured out that one of the main reasons I don’t really care for the show, though not the only one, is that there is not a single likable character on the entire show. If the White House managed to burn down with all of them inside I wouldn’t shed a tear for a single one of them.

My dislike of all the characters is also one of the main reasons I hated the book Gone Girl, which makes me pretty much the only living human being on this planet that didn’t think it was the most amazing book ever written. There is nothing redeemable about either of the main characters in that book and I there was nothing enjoyable to me in watching them continuously trying to do outdo each other for the worst person in the world award.

There was some online conversations in various places I saw in passing a few months ago that seemed to indicate that it was immature to think that things aren’t good just because you don’t like the characters. I think that is a slightly different argument, but I’m going to address it. I am not saying that books, movies, tv shows, etc that are composed of unlikable characters are not good. I am just saying they are not for me. Obviously many people love Scandal and everyone seems to love Gone Girl. I still recommend Gone Girl to people even though I disliked it because I get why other people enjoyed it. It doesn’t change my opinion that I found the characters to be hateful, awful people and I prefer to spend my time with people I don’t wish would get hit by a truck or something.

I’m not even saying that I need all the characters in the media I consume to be likable. There is certainly something to be said for a great villain. I just want there to be someone I can be rooting for. It doesn’t even have to be super black and white. The characters can be flawed human beings. I just need there to be someone who has some kind of redeeming quality and who deserves to go on living. Let’s take for instance the spate of anti-hero television that has pervaded cable television for the past decade or so. I like many of those shows like Sopranos, Mad Men, and Dexter to name a few. As flawed as the lead characters are in those shows they are written in a way that they at least have some qualities that are likable despite the horrible things that they do. There is something that makes you want to root for them. Or let’s think about things where there is a clear villain and the main characters are trying to beat that villain. It’s great to have a well-written villain that you can root against while also enjoying. Let’s take the mayor from season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for instance. No one wants the mayor to win, but he sure was fun to watch. It’s essentially the same thing for Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies. Ultimately you’re not supposed to want him to win, but he is such a fun villain that you almost want to root for him.

If you enjoy pop culture that includes nothing but horrible people, then please continue partaking of it. I on the other hand would prefer to spend the time I have to consume pop culture on things with characters who I like in one way or another. I will never be able to take in all of the pop culture in the world and not even all the pep culture materials that I would like to have time for. The queues of books, movies, and tv shows I eventually want to watch and read are long. I would prefer to not waste time consuming things that doesn’t please me even though other people think they’re good. I don’t think that makes me any less mature or cultured or whatever the argument was. I am a firm believer that there is enough pop culture in the world that I can enjoy what I want to enjoy and you can enjoy what you want to enjoy and then we all win.

Physical Keyboards

This may in fact be the dumbest thing I have ever written about on this blog, but it was something I was thinking about so here we are. I’m currently at a conference outside of Denver. I’ll probably write more about the conference itself later. Don’t worry I’m not wasting time writing this during a session. I came back to my room during one of the breaks because apparently if we haven’t had an opportunity to eat something in the past 2 hours it’s been too long.

Anyway as I was saying. I have an iPad but don’t use it that much aside from travel and as a cookbook, and let’s face it given the amount of cooking I do I don’t need it as a cookbook all that much. I do like taking it to conferences though because it’s lighter than dragging a laptop around and I can use it all day long without having to worry about founding an outlet to recharge during the middle of the day. I often drag my laptop with me as well because I hate not having a physical keyboard. I find doing most stuff on my laptop infinitely easier on my laptop than I do on my iPad. After spending the day yesterday typing notes on my iPad I was so excited to get back to my room to be able to use my laptop and the physical keyboard. I do have a physical keyboard that connects to my iPad via Bluetooth, but at that point I might as well be using my laptop at least if I’m at home.

I still have the original iPad. Target is running a promotion this week that if you turn in your old iPad even version 1 you can get a $200 gift card, which presumably I would then put towards a new iPad. Part of me thinks I should take advantage of it since my current iPad won’t last forever and I’ll probably never get the chance to make that much money from it, but the other part of me thinks it’s insane to contemplate spending $300 (the cost to me after the $200 gift card) on upgrading something I don’t use that frequently. I guess I have 2 days to decide.

In the meantime I’m going to go enjoy responding to some work emails on my physical keyboard before I have to head back down to the next conference session.


I’ve been thinking about writing a post about the website Tunefind for awhile now, then thinking no one wanted to read about a website, and then rethinking that this blog is about things that make me happy and the existence of this website makes me happy. So here we are. That is one really long run on sentence, but I’m too tired to figure out how to make it grammatically correct, and since it’s my blog I don’t have to. That makes me happy too.

Anyway, back to Tunefind. It’s no secret around these parts that I love both television and movies. In the last decade or so television has become a great way to discover new music. It’s almost rare these days for a show to not use music in some form or fashion. Some shows include lots of music. This is especially true of almost every show on the CW, but also other shows like Parenthood and shows that are no longer around like Chuck and Friday Night Lights. Other shows don’t incorporate music to that degree, but at least at some point may do something like a closing scene montage set to music.

Once upon a time if you heard a song somewhere and didn’t somehow hear what the song was it was probably an impossible task to find out what that song was. Then along came the internet and things got easier, and most of the time you could find out what a song was by picking up on the lyrics and Googling them. That was not always a foolproof plan though because with the music often playing in the background of a scene it can sometimes be hard to pick up on lyrics over the dialogue in a scene. Not to mention lyrics in general can be unintelligible in some songs. There is also the case where mostly what you’re getting is the instrumental part of a song, which is also something that is impossible to search for.

Now, however finding out what music played in an episode of a television show is so much easier than that thanks to existence of the website Tunefind, which lists the songs that were played in each episode along with a description of the scene they were playing over. A week almost never goes by that I don’t hear some song in a tv show that I’m looking up on Tunefind to find out what it was. I don’t even bother trying to figure out the songs on my own anymore. I just wait until the list of songs for that episode is posted on Tunefind and I’m all set to add the song to the running playlist I keep in Spotify of songs I’ve found via television shows. It’s brilliant, and I love it.