Good thing 2021 was the year we fixed all of the brokenness of 2020, huh? OK, not even close. But for some people, 2021 was a year of reassessing, recommitting (or resigning), and reconnecting. And technology was a big part of that, whether through cloud services that kept us all occupied and sane, or game-changing vaccines that let us actually hug some of our friends and family members again.
On this week’s Gadget Lab, Michael Calore and Lauren Goode are joined by Adrienne So and Julian Chokkattu to discuss which tech products or services had the most impact on their lives in 2021—for better or worse. And while the Gadget Lab team knows better than to make any bold predictions or resolutions for 2022 (who knows what will happen next year!), they offer some tips for establishing a healthier relationship with tech in the new year.
This week’s tech recommendations … all have nothing to do with tech. Adrienne recommends The Witcher book series, by Andrzej Sapkowski, for its dry, nihilistic humor. Julian recommends Fine & Raw Chocolate, both for eating and drinking. Lauren recommends subscribing to physical magazines, such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and, you know, WIRED. Mike recommends pilsner beer, which is delicious and refreshingly low in alcohol content.
Adrienne So can be found on Twitter @adriennemso. Julian Chokkattu is @JulianChokkattu. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.
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Michael Calore: Lauren.
Lauren Goode: Mike.
MC: Lauren, are you ready to say goodbye to 2021?
LG: Is that the current year we're in now? Because I've lost track of time.
MC: I'm afraid it is.
LG: OK then, yes.
MC: Me too. That's what we're going to do this week. We're going to say goodbye to 2021.
LG: Let's do it.
[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays.]
MC: Hi everyone. Welcome to gadget lab. I am Michael Calore, a senior editor at WIRED.
LG: And I'm Lauren Goode, I'm a senior writer at WIRED.
MC: We are also joined by WIRED Senior Associate Reviews Editor Adrienne So. So say hello Adrienne.
Adrienne So: Hi guys.
MC: Welcome back. And we have on the show this week, WIRED reviews Editor, Julian Chokkattu. Hi again, Julian.
Julian Chokkattu: Hello.
MC: It's always a pleasure to have both of you here. Full house, full boat. We got four heads.
LG: Lot of gear in this room, this virtual room.
MC: Well, this is our last show of the year. Gadget Lab is going to be taking a break for the rest of December. So this week we're going to do our annual wrap up episode. Now this year, much like the one before it has been a lot with all the vaccines and the variance, supply chain issues and metaverses. It has been an eventful few months. We think it always helps to take a step back and look at how all of this constant change is actually affecting our lives.
We also get to express some appreciation for the people and the things that helped us get through this year when we do these shows. So we're looking forward to it and let's get right into it. Let's talk about the tech products that changed our lives this past year. Maybe for better, maybe for worse but I think we should go around the room and everybody can say their peace and talk about the thing that they loved or hated or observed in the world of technology that really made a difference. So, Adrienne, let's start with you. What big tech thing made the biggest impact on your life this year?
AS: So this year was the year that I got interested in gaming which was something that was not expected from all of my colleagues that actually work in games. And it's taking me a while to catch up with everything that has happened since I was playing Mortal Kombat with my cousins. And this is a particularly interesting year to become interested in gaming since as we all know, it's impossible to find any components anywhere. Supply chain issues, all the Bitcoin people taking all of the graphics cards. I could not have picked a better or a worse year to start becoming interested in this.
The main thing that I've been thinking about is cloud gaming because I started out with a Nintendo Switch, moved to a Stadia so that I could play bigger games without having to buy a console, got onto Nvidia GeForce Now so I could play other games. And today my Backbone One phone controller comes so I can get the Xbox Game Pass on my phone and finally play It Takes Two and Call of Duty. I am going to single-handedly start the cloud gaming revolution in my house this month. And it's crazy. It's just a really interesting thing to be coming to gaming from a totally different angle than all of my colleagues who are much better at games than I am and have had Xboxes for the past 10 years.
LG: Adrienne, I hear and understand some of the words you're saying here like Nintendo and Call of Duty and the Nvidia. But if you had to describe for someone who maybe isn't as into gaming what the essence of it is, what really pulled you in and drew you to it this year? What is that? What is that thing?
AS: Well, here's the thing. You can do it inside your house. I hadn't put it together that gaming is so incredibly social and it's so easy to do. And you just can do whatever and plug in a headset that hopefully has a boom mic and it's so easy to find people to play with. Any time this year that I've mentioned I've started playing games it's like, "Oh, you play games? Do you want to play PUBG on Stadia? Do you want to play Call of Duty on Xbox? Let's get on Sea of Thieves on the Switch. It is so easy to hang out with people on with games and I don't have to put on pants. This is a revelation to me. Please somebody who has been doing this for longer than eight months weigh in at any time.
JC: For me, it's like I find myself much more immersed in a hobby, for example. So I like reading, I like watching movies and TV shows but there's something about gaming because it requires you to do … You have to pay attention. You have to act on things, you have to do, you have to pretty much be involved very much in the entire experience of consuming it. So I prefer that a lot of times after I'm done editing a bunch of stories or writing, typing up a lot of words, the last thing I want to do is sometimes stare at another screen and just sort of absorb information or just sit somewhere and read more words. But sitting there and actually controlling a character and having that experience is something that's I think for me a nice way to blow off some steam at the end of the day. So, yeah.
MC: Blowing things up.
AS: Yeah, exactly. Lauren, we did a three on three battle royale in VR yesterday and I got to kill you a couple of times. Did you not see the appeal of this? Do you not want to do that every day? Can I-
LG: Yeah, I don't think Adrienne and I are sharing any sensitive information but we did have a briefing in the Meta Oculus Quest 2 headset. So Adrienne was in Portland and I was in San Francisco and then we were meeting with a bunch of folks who presumably were in the Bay Area or Menlo Park.
LG: And we were in Facebook or Meta, excuse me, Horizons … What? It's just called Horizons?
AS: It's called Horizons Worlds. The embargo lifted today so we can talk about it.
LG: Right, right.
LG: And part of what we saw was how developers can build game experiences from directly within the app, rather than say having to go work in Unity and then port things over to the Metaverse world. We played a game and we were running around this virtual universe and talking to each other and shooting at each other and it was fun. It was really fun.
AS: Yeah. We didn't have any legs but we had guns and that's the important part. It was-
LG: And a couple times I definitely ended up in some other part of the Metaverse where I could hear other players including Adrienne at a distance. And I was like, "Guys? Guys? I'm in the underworld. How do I get out?"
AS: They definitely sandbagged us. There were grenade launchers and things hidden in this game that nobody had bothered to tell Lauren or I about.
LG: It feels like a metaphor for reporting on Facebook.
AS: Oh God.
MC: Well, Adrienne you mentioned Stadia and some of the other cloud services and I've not really dabbled in that world. I'm usually just download games and then play them and don't be social. But what is it about cloud gaming that really appealed to you? And the thing that it sounds like hooked you?
AS: The crux of it is whether cloud gaming is enough of an attraction in and of itself. If I am perfectly happy playing on Stadia for as long as I want to play games or if this is just a stop gap measure until I can actually buy a console. How long I can hold out before actually just getting myself a PS5 or stealing someone else's, which may happen in two or three weeks. So I don't know. I may just drive up to Seattle and take someone else's. So someone else's PS5.
JC: I do want to say, I think cloud gaming is definitely going to be very popular. The biggest hurdle at the moment is just that you really need super fast internet. And so without that your experience is going to be crappy. So not everyone can afford that or not everyone just has access to that. And the one time I tried Stadia, my router was crap at the time because it was not a good experience at all. So maybe it's changed since then. But yeah so that's why I think that, that's a hurdle. But I do think the concept of it is really cool. I can play a AAA game without having to download and wait for two hours or require a super high-end PC or something like that. So it is cool and it's awesome I think that you are trying all the cloud gaming things for us.
AS: Awesome and a little bit sad but it's OK.
MC: Nothing sad about it. Nothing sad about it. All right, well let's move on. Let's go to Julian. Julian, tell us what is the thing in technology that changed you as a human being this year?
JC: It started late last year but this year I really got into electric bikes and electric scooters. The ones that you stand and ride not the Vespa kind.
MC: You and everyone else.
JC: Yeah. And yeah, it's insane. In New York it's exploded. I see an electric scooter every five minutes when I walk outside. It's everywhere and they're not sort of the rental kind like Lime or Bird or whatever weird name, adjective company that's out there. It's people owning their own scooters and I've been testing a lot of them for WIRED this past year and it's just been such a nice comfort to not have to worry about when a train is showing up or if a schedule is messed up or if there's not going to be a train on the weekend.
It's just not having to worry about getting into an Uber with someone and sitting in a car with your mask or just generally just not having to worry about all of that and just hopping on something and just going somewhere is nice and not having to worry about parking which is obviously the biggest thing in New York. So I can just fold them up and carry them up the elevator and plump them down in my living room and that's it. I have a way to pretty much go anywhere within a 10 to 20 mile radius. And I've picked up groceries, I've gone to pick up late night food orders that my girlfriend has craven for. Pretty much anything and even crazier in the summer, I tested a $2,000 scooter which is the high-end model. And I went from Williamsburg, Brooklyn to across the bridge to New Jersey in Palmerston Park and that's about a 17 mile … I think it was in total a round trip 17 miles-
MC: You have to go through Manhattan, right? So you go-
JC: Yeah. I went through and I went over the George Washington Bridge which all of it was insane because it was crazy steep hills and it was also the George Washington Bridge bike lane is insanely narrow but I did it and I had 30 percent left in the tank about when I got home, which is insane in and of itself. And it was just like I got to see a friend that … He's have been driving his car to visit me over the pandemic now and then and the fact that I was able to finally go see him without having to take three buses and a train was just … It was just amazing. It was amazing. So I can't stress enough that I think if you're in an urban environment and you're frequently taking an Uber to get somewhere or maybe hopping on a couple of trains or something, if a scooter makes sense for you and you have space in your home to put one or a folding e-bike or just an e-bike, I think everyone should get it. It's life changing.
LG: Julian. You mentioned this summer. So what happens when the weather is really bad?
JC: Yeah. There's the rub. That's when you take the train. But there are some scooters out there that are sort of waterproof but they all generally recommend that if it's light rain, you're probably fine. If it's a bit of snow you're probably fine. But for the most part, yeah maybe just take the train those days.
AS: I'm going to pop in here as somebody who's been riding e-bikes for a while in Portland, Oregon which is pretty rainy. This is when you put on your down puffy under your rain jacket and you go out anyway because the infrastructure changes over the past year has totally astounded me because at the start of the pandemic where I live in Oregon, which is a lot less dense than where Julian lives. They instituted different slow streets, they put up road barriers and the number of parents and people that I see, there's a whole e-bike crew that comes and goes and picks up our kids every day from school and stuff.
I think this is going to be one of the biggest changes to come about in cities in the next two to five years is how to make them more pedestrian and e-bike and scooter friendly because even in my own neighborhood, the solutions have been so many and so low cost and so beneficial. It doesn't cost anyone anything to put up some big orange cones in a bunch of the streets around our school, they've rerouted traffic to send cars off to a whole different door at my kid's school to make way for all of the e-bikes and scooters. It's awesome, it's totally awesome to watch. I think it's super cool and going to be really important especially when we think about climate change and clean power and all that.
MC: And you talk to the people who drive and they probably complain about it endlessly, right?
JC: That is an issue though. In New York there was a couple of stories where they had blocked off a couple of roads to make them pedestrian only. Yeah and people who have cars have apparently gotten really angry and a lot of those blockades ended up in some river not far from here.
JC: So people are really not happy with suddenly closing off roads that they used to drive in even if it is for the betterment of all mankind.
MC: Yeah. After a 100 years of designing our streets to accommodate cars, all of a sudden everybody is up in arms that a minority of people want to change that in order to save lives and improve the quality of living for many people in the city. And that's just the way it's going to go.
AS: Yeah. I haven't seen very much of that because I'm mostly doing school drop offs and pickups and it's really hard to get angry at a bunch of first and second graders but not impossible. I'll wait and see if that happens.
MC: All right. Well, let's pause here and take a quick break and then we'll come back and we'll keep going around the table. So Lauren, you're going to be up next.
LG: All righty.
MC: Welcome back everybody. Lauren, it is now your turn. What's the thing, the technological thing, the thing with the chip in it that changed your life this year?
LG: OK. I hate to say it but I'm going to say it. Peloton.
MC: Ah, come on, You love to say it.
LG: Yeah. This really started last year. So, like Julian, this is not just a 2021 trend and like Adrienne said, there's something about this that is directly related to the fact that we've maybe been spending more time indoors, if we've been quarantining or we have jobs that allow us to work from home. And there's a little bit of a gamification to Peloton to but Peloton as most people know is the really expensive exercise equipment. You can get an internet connected bike or an internet connected treadmill. They have these giant tablets attached to them and that tablet becomes a portal to either live streamed or on demand fitness classes.
I found in particular during the first half of this year, that it really helped give me a sense of community when I just couldn't really go see people or family in person the way that I wanted to. I did this thing in January with some friends and family back on the east coast who also were using either the Peloton app or the bike where we would set up competitions for each other. We started a private group where we would share our favorite classes. A few of us did a Haleakala climb over a period I think of five Sunday mornings. We'd get up really early ride for an hour until we got to the top of this virtual Haleakala Volcano. I found that even when I started to "go outside again" and interact with the real world, I was still using the mobile app, which you can subscribe to for just $13 a month as opposed to investing in the really expensive bike and paying $39 per month for the classes.
If you just use the mobile app, you still get access to things like yoga, strength training, outdoor running and walking exercises. And so even when I started to just want to be outdoors more, even after I got my first vaccine and I started to emerge from my cave, I found myself still using the Peloton app. Now I will say, I have fallen off. I just got a notification the other day that said this is your month in a snapshot for November and I worked out three times on Peloton. So I think a lot of people have fallen off now but I also think that these things are cyclical and yes, they've got me in their clutches. I'm probably not going to unsubscribe or stop using it now because January is around the corner and we all get that resolve in January to get in shape again. And so maybe I'll hop back on the bike then. But yeah, I think the Peloton really had a pretty material impact on my life this year.
AS: I am also a Peloton addict as Lauren knows. And it's just so easy to filter. I don't even have the bike, I just do the app and it's so easy to fit into your life. I work full time, I have two kids. I will just go and queue up a body weight workout for 30 minutes while Sean is toasting the Dino Nuggets or whatever for dinner. It's so easy to use and it's gotten to the point now after a year of using it that when the instructors are like, "Let's go Peloton." I'm like, "Yeah, that's me. I'm Peloton. I should get the sports bra that says Peloton." I don't know what it is about it. I feel like I just joined some Mega evangelist church or something and it feels so good. I don't know what to do.
LG: It is really cult-y. It's cult-y and I think a lot of people have these para-social relationships with the instructors where they feel like they're your friends but they're not, you don't really know them. But they feel like real people in your life and if that's what keeps you motivated to work out where maybe in a previous life you used to be able to go to a yoga class with 30 other people without worrying about your health or you used to be able to go for runs, jogs and runs with your friends and maybe that's a little bit harder right now. And so these instructors have replaced that … I don't know that interaction in your life.
AS: I think it's also the music. Here's the thing because I feel like I pick the instructor that I feel would probably become my friends in real life. And so when Olivia Amato cues up Celine Dion and I'm just like, "Yes, we would totally be in someone's living room like my heart will go on." This is like, "Yeah, we would totally be friends in real life." The fact that they can like choose their own music makes me feel really bonded to them.
LG: Yes, totally. Yeah. When Kendall starts playing, "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, I'm like, "Yes."
LG: So, OK. I can't believe I'm admitting this on a podcast.
MC: I have no idea what you guys are talking about.
JC: It's a good song. It's a good song.
AS: You've heard it. You've heard it, Mike.
MC: All right. We'll stop there so we don't have to do licensing.
LG: Wait, wait, can I say one more thing that initially I wrote it as a runner up to the technology that's changed my life. And then I thought this is insane, this is not the runner up. This is hands down the technology that has changed my life this year. It's the vaccines.
LG: The vaccines are the number one technological advancement, scientific advancement that I think has changed my life and changed a lot of people's lives. And it's almost become the moment when you sort of think back on 2021 for me in the telling of the year and when things started to change or when you got to reconnect with someone and give them a hug again. Or the time period in which I got the vaccine happened to coincide with my birthday. So that really felt like OK, I just get to interact with people again and see the people I love. And that was really wonderful.
MC: And it has a chip in it.
LG: Right. Of course. And now I, Lauren Goode, have 5G. I'm Lauren 5G. That's right. All right. Mike, what's the technology that changed your life the most this year?
MC: OK. Can I get … I don't know, pensive esoteric. Can I do a left turn here?
AS: I thought you were going to say, "Can I get a what, what?"
LG: I thought you were going to say, "Can I get two or three?" And I was going to say, "Well, you lost so go ahead."
MC: Oh, OK. So I would like to say that the thing about technology that changed me the most this year is that I was able to take a step back from technology in meaningful ways. So let me try to walk you through this. 2020, the year that the pandemic arrived, I like many people dove right back into technology. I spent all of my spare time on my phone. I spent all of my spare time watching YouTube videos and reading news and just going full immersion. To the point where it was really affecting my sleep, it was affecting my social habits. Obviously I wasn't socializing a lot but there was this period of a few months towards the end of 2020 where every time my wife spoke to me I had to say, "What, I'm sorry, I didn't hear that. I was looking at Twitter."
Because I was. I was constantly looking at Twitter. So around the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, I made some changes to my own digital health stuff. So using the wellness features of the smartphone I set up the timers that limited the amount of time I was allowed to spend in apps like Twitter and Instagram which are the big ones for me. I started using Instapaper more often. So if there was something I wanted to read, I would just save it for later and then I would find that quiet time where I could read it. Usually on my iPad because it doesn't have my phone. I think the place that it manifested the most was just in my daily habits in the physical world. So I started putting my phone face down while I was cooking in the kitchen. So for an hour, I would just listen to the radio and be in the kitchen and not check my phone. And I'm sure a lot of people are listening to this like, "You can't go an hour without checking your phone?" But actually yeah, I was in that spot where-
LG: We all check our phones a lot.
MC: We do.
LG: A lot more than we realize.
MC: So just putting it face down on the other side of the room was important. I started doing that when I went to sleep, I would put it on the charger that I could not reach from the bed. For times like right after work, if I had an hour after work, I would just flip my phone upside down and charge it. So I just started stepping away from it and trying to break that tether. The other thing is in my running. So I started running seriously a few years ago and like a lot of people, when I got into it I was doing at my run, I was wearing a Garmin watch, I went through three or four different types of wireless headphones so I could find the ones that I like the best for running.
Adrienne is pointing to her four sensors that she's wearing. She's got all of these fitness trackers that she's wearing. But she does write about fitness trackers, that's OK. But yeah, I wore a Garmin running watch, the seven something, something series Garmin watch. And got way into all that stuff. Had podcasts that I listened to. So I'm going out running and I've got four pieces of technology on my body. So at the beginning of 2021 I just took all that stuff away. I ran for a month with no watch, no headphones, no podcast, no phone. And really got back in touch with myself. And my running improved, my mental health improved. A lot of things just got better when I didn't have all this stuff on me. You know what I mean?
AS: I totally get it Mike because I run in this park by my house and my friends will see me in there and they'll be like, "Well you were really in the zone. So I didn't stop you or say hi or anything." So I actually took off my Apple watch and my Garmin and started just using the Whoop and the Oura because when I can't see my heart rate or my mile pace, then I'm so much more likely to stop away from someone 10 feet away and just be like, "Hey." And talk for a little bit. It's hard to let go of that tech anxiety, the fact that I'm probably getting slower but I don't know. Just turning your daily run into an outing instead of just something to check off the list has been a little bit paradigm shifting for me too in the past couple of weeks.
LG: There's also a way in which you can wear sensors on yourself or you might still be carrying your phone with you, even if you're not using it to listen to music or podcast or actively look at Strava where if you really want some of that data after the fact, you can still see how far you ran or if you're improving over time. But you don't necessarily have to be engaged with it so much on your wrist or wearing multiple sensors as you're doing the thing, right?
MC: Yeah. And for me, it's sort of like a mental trick. If I'm not wearing any of the sensors then this run is for me and it's for me now and it's not for me in six weeks or six months, it's not for sharing on the internet. It's just for me. It's me time. So it's been hard to do in all aspects of my life. I still feel the urge when I see the little alert show up and say, "Oh, you spent 30 minutes on Twitter today. You're not allowed to spend much more time on Twitter." And I'm like, "But I'm not done looking at Twitter."
I know that all I have to do is go into the settings and turn that off but I don't because I realize that the reason that I put it there in the first place is because I have a problem. So it was just the pandemic affected a lot of us especially people who work on computers and work on the internet, knowledge workers, the type of stuff that we do. We do internet journalism. We were already fully consumed by the internet and the pandemic just put this extra layer of internet over absolutely everything for everybody. So for me it was overwhelming and I really felt the need after six, seven months of being all internet-y to just take a bath and get it off of me.
LG: Mike, what do you think that says about how much of the onus really is on us as individuals, as consumers of tech to make changes in our lives versus the supposed software solutions that companies like Apple and Google have put out in recent years to have us track our time in apps? I tend to believe that our brains are wired to be responsive, no pun intended, WIRED. To be responsive to some of these dopamine hits that are coming through our phones and we're like, "Oh, colors, apps, notifications." And I think that software designers, it's been proven, have played into those instincts. So I'm not sure how much we can just say like, "Oh, it's all on me. Let's just turn it off and then I can distance myself from tech." I think in some ways we have established these really unhealthy relationships but how much of it do you think can actually be controlled by us?
AS: So Julian talked about this, the sleep focuses and the work focuses on max which I have started using and have actually been really helpful. And I also took all notifications off of my phone which was incredibly alarming. And there were a few weeks where people were just convinced that I was dead. Getting rid of that Pavlovian ding, ding. That has also been … I don't know. It really does suck that learning how to manage your time has become almost as much of a task as actually doing the things that you're managing your time to be able to do.
JC: I wrote a guide on WIRED.com on how to set up your focus which is one of the new features in all of Apple's new software versions for all their devices. And I'm probably the one person that doesn't follow any of that advice. There's a lot I could do to probably help myself in doing a lot of the things that what Mike was talking about. But I do think that these companies have created these tools because maybe they're out of good intentions trying to help us deal with all of the digital stuff that we're always dealing with. And I just think that it's there, it is completely on us to adhere to it and stick to it and mold our life around those tools to rely on screens less or separate ourselves from the internet a bit more. Because they might have provided it and you might expect them to do more but you can't really rely on them and waiting for a company to do something better is … You're going to be waiting for a while. So basically you just have to do it yourself I think.
AS: But Julian, they're people and they love us.
MC: I can feel it. Yeah those tools are … I'm glad they exist and I'm glad that I'm able to take advantage of them. But they're not a solution as you said. They were largely created as a reaction to the backlash against tech. So they have a political motivation. The companies that make the software have a political motivation for introducing those tools. And maybe it's a little bit cynical but I wonder what the altruism to politics ratio is there. I think that it's good that we have them but in the end they're not defaults. It is on us to actually set limits and I encourage people to do that.
AS: Yeah. It's hard to suck advertising dollars out of millions of burned out husks of human bodies. So let's all take care of ourselves so we can continue to check Instagram in a more healthy way.
MC: On that note, let's wrap up. We'll take a break and we're going to come back and we're going to do our recommendations. It's a very special year-end recommendations.
MC: All right. This is the last part of the show and because we have spent the whole first part of this show talking about tech products, we've got one rule for recommendations this week. No technology. Adrienne, you go first. What is your analog recommendation?
AS: So because we work in tech, my recommendation is analog but we're going to get to it in a techy way which is that … Yeah it's going to be super quick. The Witcher 3 was the video game that started it all for me. And season two of The Witcher TV show is starting on Netflix on December 17th which I'm super stoked about. So my recommendation that is not tech is the actual Witcher books. And I'm going to totally butcher this name. The author of the Witcher books is Andrzej Sapkowski who is a complete gem of a dry Eastern European nihilist. He draws upon actual Slavic mythology to write at these books. And so if you're interested in any of The Witcher monsters or stories, these all come from actual Eastern European folklore. So there's just this incredible rich, deep history that he's drawing on. And so the books themselves are just so deeply grounded in humanity and a really open-minded and egalitarian way.
There's a whole scene in one of the books where Triss, who is a female magician, she comes to see Ciri … Spoiler alert, Ciri has been living and training with three male Witchers and none of the male Witchers have told her about periods because they just didn't know about it and about puberty. And so Triss is tthere and she's like, "What the fuck are you guys doing?" And they're just like "Uhhhh." And it's such a human moment to be happening in the middle of this totally insane, magical universe. And I think that's part of the reason why the books and the game are so appealing is because the source of it is just this deeply human, rye, funny, writer. And he has so many quotes and it's so Eastern European and I can't think of one of them now but they all run along the themes of everything is just shit. It's all shit all the time. Don't worry about it. It's just shit. I don't know why, I love it.
MC: So uplifting.
AS: But in a funny, dry way which I can't do because I'm too American and too earnest. But if I were Eastern European I'd be able to say it in a funnier way.
MC: Just take a drag of a cigarette and then blow the smoke out and then deliver the line and I think everybody will get what you're getting at. All right. All the Witcher books, all the Witcher books.
AS: Just all of them at once.
MC: Julian, what's your recommendation?
JC: My recommendation is chocolate. I went to a local Williamsburg, there's a little chocolate factory. It's called Fine & Raw Chocolate. They're known for making chocolate bars and truffles, chocolate truffles. But over the pandemic, they had to try new stuff because sales were declining. And so they started making these chocolate spreads and apparently they became so popular that now they're known as a chocolate spread company first and then chocolate bar and truffles second. So we went to the factory and we did a little tour and I was like, "All right, we'll buy a spread." Tried the spread, it's fricking amazing. So I suggest everyone go to fineraw.com. You can pick up a spread, there's chocolate hazelnut butter spread which is the one I may have finished way too soon.
MC: That's like a Nutella analog basically.
JC: Kind of. My partner actually literally said this morning, "This is way better than Nutella." So if you're a fan of Nutella or any chocolate spread, this is something that you might want to try. And there's a bunch of different flavors too that you can choose.
MC: Did they make drinking chocolate?
JC: They did at the shop. No, I don't think they have any sort of drinkable chocolate things that you can buy from their website. But if you are in Brooklyn ever, you can swing by their little factory and they have little station there where you can order all sorts of chocolatey drinks.
AS: Mike, do you whisk drinking chocolate with your matcha whisk or is that forbidden?
MC: Oh no. The matcha whisk is just for matcha.
MC: Drinking chocolate, in my day we used to just call it hot chocolate but now it's drinking chocolate. It's like you can't get beats anymore, it's always beat root. It's like one of those weird marketing things where it's this is for kids but this is for adults. So adults have drinking chocolate. I don't know.
JC: Usually when I make hot chocolate it's from cacao powder. So is that what drinking chocolate? Is it specifically something else?
MC: No, it's exactly the same thing.
MC: It's just it has a fancy name because it's fancy.
JC: It is fancy.
AS: I can't keep up with this.
LG: It sounds alcoholic. Drinking chocolate.
MC: That's drunken chocolate.
LG: No, right.
MC: All right, Julian, thank you for that delicious recommendation. Lauren, you get to go next.
LG: My recommendation is not at all self-serving or self promotional. I just want to start with that caveat. But I think that you should subscribe to magazines. I can't even say that without laughing. Subscribe to magazines. They're not dead. But to what Mike said earlier, I'm trying to get away from the phone or the iPad or the Television or the Peloton or the gaming system at night. I really like physical media so I have a stack of books next to my bed. I have finally gotten over the idea that I'm going to finish them all and I've stopped feeling guilty about it. Now they're just there for the taking whenever I feel like reading a book. But I started subscribing to more physical magazines this year.
So in addition to getting WIRED which we get anyway because we work at WIRED, I subscribed to The Atlantic because our former editor-in-chief went to go run The Atlantic. And I figured, you know I should probably subscribe to the actual magazine. And I subscribed to one of the other great magazines in the Condé Nast family of magazines, The New Yorker. So we already had access to The New Yorker digital but I really missed reading the physical magazine. So I just subscribed as a little bit of a holiday gift to myself and I really like it. It's not the same commitment as reading a book before bed because at some point you're not going to finish the book, you're going to put it down unfinished but you can pick up a magazine and just read an article and you go to bed with your brain is filled with all of that really interesting information and you've read physical media. So you haven't been looking at a screen with blue light. And yeah, I recommend magazines. They are not dead yet folks.
LG: Mike, what's your recommendation?
MC: I'm going to recommend Pilsners.
LG: Pilsners. Good call. Are those drinking Pilsners?
MC: Those are drinking Pilsners.
MC: I'm going to recommend relatively low alcohol beer that you can see through because I've been a beer drinker pretty much my entire adult life wink, wink. And I have gotten pretty burnt out on what is on trend right now which is crazy high alcohol, double IPAs and Imperial Porters. I went to the store the other day to select a beer to relax with on a weekend and it was all IPAs and double IPAs and triple IPAs and over hopped IPAs and wet hot IPAs. And I love IPAs, they're great.
They've revolutionized everything for so many people but come on, give us some variety. So I went with a nice German selection and maybe a Czech selection. There are some wonderful Pilsners from the United States and from Canada. And these are not lagers, these are Pilsners, this is Pilsen-style beer. It's very light, very crispy. And just sort of a nice change of pace. I think there are plenty of good options out there for people who like to drink beer. But I know that a lot of people look down on Pilsners because they're cheap and they are low alcohol. They're four and a half, five and half percent which is half of an IPA. So a lot of people think that you don't get as much for your money but I'm here to tell you Pilsners are delightful. Stop ragging on them, they're great.
AS: I have a specific Pilsner recommendation.
MC: What is it?
AS: The alcohol in the early part of the pandemic, we all had different coping mechanisms in the beginning of the-
MC: It was flowing.
AS: It was flowing. So I also stopped drinking about a couple of months ago or whatever but I do have a drink one night a week and the Heater Allen is a brewery in Oregon and they make an exquisite Pilsner that they make locally that's based on a check pills and every time I have one on Thursday nights and I'm just like, "Oh my God. Why is beer so good? Is it jus this particular beer or is it Thursday or is it because I only have one beer?" The Heater Allen Pilsner is wonderful. So that is my favorite Pils.
MC: We get that brand down here in California too.
MC: OK. Well, thanks everybody for joining us to wrap up the year. We really appreciate it. Adrienne, Julian, thank you for being here.
JC: Thanks for having me.
AS: Yes, me too.
MC: And Lauren, thanks again for another year of co-hosting this gem.
LG: This has been an amazing year Mike. We've had some great podcast tapings. We've also had some great podcast conversations offline that unfortunately the rest of you will never hear.
MC: That's right.
LG: But when we're not podcasting, we're talking about podcasting-
MC: Pretty much.
LG: So we're here for you and we're really looking forward to doing more in 2022. So thanks to everyone who's been listening.
MC: And we are taking the rest of the month off. So this is our last show for 2021. We will be back the first week of January talking about CES. I know you can't wait. This show is produced by Boone Ashworth. Thanks for listening, we will be back next year. Put down your phone, drink a Pilsner, play a cloud video game, read a magazine, go for a little internet skateboard ride across a bridge. Be safe. Goodbye.
[Gadget Lab outro theme music plays.]
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