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On the Dogwatch

A dogwatch is an evening shift of early or late duty, or the people who undertake it. This Dogwatch considers the natural world and the things that help us experience it—from dogs to watches, and everything in between. Ultimately, it’s a place where we go wherever curiosity takes us.

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42. Alex Crane: Stylish and Sustainable Clothing

A well-cut linen shirt, an organic cotton chore coat, or an extra soft merino wool sweater and cap are perfect to wear on any Dogwatch, which makes it even more of a special opportunity that we are joined today by Alex Crane. Alex is the founder and designer of his own clothing brand, Alex Crane, that provides garments intended to help you feel breezy and look sharp at the same time. What’s more, Alex has committed to making his clothing from 100% natural materials, and by 2025 he plans to have them fully biodegradable as well. Alex sent me several items so that I could experience his work in-person, and I can say that the materials, design, and cuts of his clothing are something that anyone who loves to go from the indoors to the outdoors should consider experiencing. When he told me that their linen is grown on the coast in Normandy, France, and the fibers spent their young life looking over the English Channel, I was intrigued. Now feeling the substantial and soft fabric in my hand, the value of this super-fabric is clear–it is an incredibly low-impact fiber environmentally, only requires water and sun to grow, is antimicrobial, and is 3x as strong as cotton.In our conversation, Alex describes how he came to design clothes and the development of his brand, the features that typify Alex Crane clothing, as well as specific aspects of the materials he uses, details of design, and the fit of the offerings. This is not just a talk on clothes, though. Alex provides perspectives on books he has read, water, the roles and responsibilities of clothiers and consumers, and fittingly, even helps us think about the evolution of beauty.So sit back and join us as we think about all the joy and comfort that can come from natural things.

1hr 2mins

29 Jul 2022

Rank #1

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41. Is the Casio F-91W the Best Navigation Watch? Navigation, Watches, and the Starpath School, with David Burch

If we were all actually on a dogwatch today, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, our guest for this episode is literally the first person I would choose to bring along. His name is David Burch, and he is not only the founder of the Starpath School of Navigation in Seattle, but he has over 70,000 miles of oceangoing navigation experience, has navigated across the Pacific over 10 times, and even has developed a “doomsday” kit, the size of a shoebox, that allows him to navigate anywhere in the world without power or any electronic devices for the next twenty years. Clearly, David is the one who could help us get to where we want to go.In our conversation, David describes the development of the Starpath school, his background in navigation and the new developments in navigational charts, and using the stars and technology as a GPS-independent mode of navigation. He also helps us understand why the Casio F-91W wristwatch–priced at about $14–may be the best watch for navigation, why using an analog watch to get a compass bearing, the “Boy Scout” method, is almost always ineffective, and why you should never make a smart aleck remark about the ocean. 

1hr 6mins

23 Jul 2022

Rank #2

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40. Worn & Wound, Watches, Windup, and Zach Weiss

It turns out that this episode of the Dogwatch is brought to you by the letter “W,” a show that can be described with an alliterative string on watches starting with our guest, Zach Weiss of Worn & Wound. Being one of the co-founders of Worn & Wound, Zach describes how the business grew from an inauspicious blog intended to help a friend choose a watch into what is now one of the primary sites for watch journalism and commerce. In a phrase, we learn it is “A place to discover watches and experience enthusiasm.” In our conversation, we talk with Zach about watches he is excited about, including two new ones on his own wrist, the goals and aspects of Worn & Wound, such as their main site for news and reviews, the Windup Watch Shop, and Windup Watch Fair. We also look ahead to the upcoming Windup fair in Chicago, and to new releases.

1hr 7mins

12 Jul 2022

Rank #3

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39. What Does It Mean to Be Human? Ask a Bird

Today we talk with Antone Martinho-Truswell, a biologist who studies learning and cognition in birds, and author of the just-released book entitled The Parrot in the Mirror: How Evolving to Be Like Birds Made Us Human. Our conversation today is about much more than birds. We as humans recognize the unique place birds occupy amongst animals, whether it is by putting an eagle on top of a flagpole or a raven on the dial of a watch, and we talk with Antone today to learn about the uncommon traits that birds and humans share, and what they teach us about what it means to be human. In our conversation, Antone describes the features that humans and birds share, how both of these groups converged on similar solutions to specific problems, some of the early studies on well-known organisms like the horse Clever Hans and Alex the parrot, and the incredible evidence of intelligence in birds like crows and parrots. Ultimately, these examples help us understand fundamental aspects of humanity, and some of those important life questions like why it is that when you tell your dog to sit, it isn’t able to reply, “no, you sit.”

1hr

6 Jul 2022

Rank #4

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38. Shackleton. The Brand that Prepares, Equips, and Inspires, Taking Cues From the Boss Himself

On top of the stack of the world’s expedition narratives, survival stories, and inspiring but hard-to-believe-they-are-true adventure books, sits Ernest Shackleton. The tale of the Endurance and Shackleton has become so legendary not only because of what he and his men did, but also because of how they did it: the underlying values they relied on, the character traits they exhibited, and the human feats of leadership and strength they enacted. Today On the Dogwatch we have the honor to talk with Martin Brooks, who co-founded the Shackleton brand with his partner Ian Holdcroft. In our conversation, Martin holds forth on Shackleton–known as “the Boss” to his men–and describes how they came to create the Shackleton brand, the values that it represents, and the reasons that quality gear is meaningful and essential for expeditions. We also discuss with Martin the various aspects of the Shackleton brand, such as their parkas, sweaters, clothing and platinum prints of Frank Hurley’s photographs, the expedition challenges they offer in such locations as Norway and Antarctica, as well as the newly minted Shackleton Medal that recognizes someone each year who has made a significant contribution to the protection of Earth’s polar regions. And don’t worry, along with looking to the future with the brand, we also look back at Shackleton’s adventures and discuss what we can learn from them. So pour yourself an extra ration of rum, or your chosen beverage, let your imagination drift to the distant horizon, and let’s get started with what is sure to be a very memorable Dogwatch.

1hr 15mins

29 Jun 2022

Rank #5

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37. Outdoor Style From London to the Lake District, with David Evans of the Grey Fox Blog

There is plenty to learn from the British in terms of classic style, especially for those who are interested in the outdoors. On this episode of the Dogwatch, we speak with David Evans, the man behind the Grey Fox Blog, one of the early style blogs and a mainstay of classic British lifestyle commentary. David is frequently featured in the media, and you can see his take on summer style this past week in the UK’s The Daily Telegraph.  In our conversation, David talks with us about the roots of classic British outdoor and casual wear, tweed and its production in Britain, as well as dogs and Land Rovers. We also discuss the ways in which we can strive toward a more sustainable approach to clothing and style.At the time of this recording I asked David about his dog Harry, and anyone who follows the Grey Fox on Instagram will know Harry from his frequent appearances. Just days after our conversation, Harry passed away unexpectedly. This was obviously very difficult for David and his family. Today’s episode of the Dogwatch is dedicated to Harry, and the positive energy and love that dogs can bring to us in this world in the ways that Harry did. So here’s to Harry, and our thoughts go out to David as well.

1hr 4mins

19 Jun 2022

Rank #6

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36. Before Shackleton and the Endurance There Was the Belgica: Madhouse at the End of the Earth, with Julian Sancton

Most listeners of this podcast will be familiar with the epic adventure of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance. However, the Endurance does not have a monopoly on being stuck in Antarctic ice, nor does it have precedence. Before the Endurance, Belgian captain Adrien de Gerlache took the Belgica on a southward expedition with the hopes of reaching the magnetic south pole. On the Dogwatch today we are fortunate to be joined by Julian Sancton who recently wrote Madhouse at the End of the Earth, a bestselling book that the New York TImes calls “exquisitely researched and deeply engrossing,” in which he tells the incredible tale of the Belgica, how it became lodged in the Antarctic ice, and how its crew, much to their detriment, became the first to endure the dark Antarctic winter. In our conversation, we get to know Julian’s background in journalism and writing, how he came to tell the tale of the Belgica, and learn more about the characters in the book, including Roald Amundson, who became one of most prominent explorers of all time. If that is not enough, I would think that starting the tale in Leavenworth Penitentiary will  peak the interest of most Dogwatch listeners.

58mins

9 Jun 2022

Rank #7

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35. Buckle Up: Timing, Driving, and Scoring Auto Racing with Legend Judy Stropus

For a normal shift On the Dogwatch, we proceed at the measured pace of a ship under sail, looking out at the natural world, considering interesting ideas as if we were having a conversation on an evening dogwatch shift. Today, however, we ramp the speed significantly as we learn how to time things that go very fast. We visit with Judy Stropus, who is a legendary timer and scorer in the auto racing world, and has also been involved as a driver as well. She is author of the Stropus Guide to Auto Race Timing and Scoring, is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame, and is the current Grand Marshal of Concours d’Elegance in Greenwich Connecticut. In our conversation we discuss the ways in which timing and scoring was done before the advent of electronic timers, and how Judy’s career developed both in the pit as a timer and on the track as a driver. We discuss a wide range of perspectives, including how timing and scoring is done, the place for fear on the racetrack (spoiler, there isn’t one), Judy’s friendship with Paul Newman, and her participation in what is casually referred to as the “Cannonball Run,” driving a Cadillac Limousine. So buckle up, and let’s get to our conversation with Judy Stropus.

46mins

1 Jun 2022

Rank #8

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34. Zen and the Art: Motorcycles, Maintenance, Pirsig, and Road Trips with Mark Richardson

As we get into the warmer weather of spring, many of us On the Dogwatch will start to think of road trips. One of the many great things about these trips is that they can afford us time to think about our lives. There is no more iconic North American road trip than Robert Pirsig’s travels inZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. On this Dogwatch, we have the pleasure to be joined by Mark Richardson, a longtime motorcycle and automotive writer, now writing for the Globe and Mail in Canada, who retraced Pirsig’s footsteps in Zen and Now: On the Trail of Robert Pirsig and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In our conversation with Mark, we discuss how he decided to write his book on Pirsig, what he learned along the way, and how he thinks about Pirsig and the book now.Our feature today is the pump at the Wayside Rest Area where Pirsig stopped on the first leg of his journey on Highway 55 out of Minneapolis. Mark stopped at what seems certain to be the same stop around 2004 and pumped the pump himself. Just several days ago, I made my own trip to this small rest stop. Although the pavilion is still there, the pump has disappeared. So where is Pirsig’s pump? If you have any information about this let us know, as we are on the trail of this important historical object.

54mins

18 May 2022

Rank #9

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33. The Nature and Practice of Bonsai, with Bjorn Bjorholm of Eisei-en Garden

It is rare to have the opportunity to speak with a true expert in the practice of bonsai. In fact, there aren’t very many of them, and most speak Japanese. We have the great fortune on this episode of the Dogwatch to be able to speak with Bjorn Bjorholm, who is one of the rising stars in the practice and study of bonsai. Luckily for us, Bjorn speaks Japanese and English, as he grew up in Knoxville, TN, and now oversees the flourishing Eisei-en Bonsai Garden in Nashville. In our conversation, we learn how Bjorn grew up with a strong interest in bonsai and Japanese culture, hear about his early experiences in Japan and his six-year apprenticeship at Kouka-en bonsai nursery in Osaka, Japan. Bjorn explains the approach of Eisei-en and how it compares to a traditional Japanese bonsai garden, and how bonsai helps us experience nature and get similar benefits if we went further afield.Our feature today is the forest style of  bonsai. This style is one of a number of styles–such as upright, slanting, and cascade–in which five or more trees are used to create a miniature forest. The number and species of trees chosen, their placement relative to one another, and their planting substrate work together to create a unique approximation of a forest scene. Bjorn shares with us that this form is the one that appeals most  to people new to bonsai. In our interview, he describes that he made a forest clump when he was 16 , and this is one of the very few plants in his garden that he will never sell.

57mins

11 May 2022

Rank #10