Good, Thoughtful Hosts #210: Bonus Episode -- A Chat With Your Host + Favorite Fictional Cities

WAIT! As we did at the end of season 1, we’d like to share a postscript episode where moderator Sarah Steimer once again becomes a guest on her own show. Producer Travis Estvold spins the mic around and asks Sarah about her takeaways from season two — and we unveil a bonus question that was asked of each guest this season.

About Our Guest

Now unable to go anywhere in the world without being recognized as the beloved moderator of Good, Thoughtful Hosts, Sarah Steimer is also a veteran journalist, editor, and all-around curious human. A resident of Chicago, Sarah spends her off-hours taking care of her new pup, Dottie, seeing live music, and traveling.

Sarah Steimer and cohost Dottie

Episode #210 Transcript | Listen on SoundCloud

Producer: That’s it! Season 2 of Good, Thoughtful Hosts is in the books. Hello, everyone, I’m Travis Estvold, a producer of this here podcast. And perhaps not so unexpectedly, because we did the same thing as a postscript to season 1, here’s what we hope will be a fun bonus episode for our recently wrapped second season. Once again I’ll be spinning the microphone around and asking our moderator, Sarah, what she learned from our guests during their conversations. An extra tidbit this time, though: Sarah asked one specific, somewhat whimsical, question at the end of each interview this season, none of which have yet aired. We’ll play clips of those answers, then respond to the question ourselves. So strap yourselves in, Hosties — Is that what we can call fans of this podcast? May need to workshop that a bit still. In any light, thanks for supporting the show and enjoy!

Sarah Steimer: I’m Sarah Steimer. I’m the moderator of Good, Thoughtful Hosts.

Producer: Hello again, Sarah. Once again, I’m in that awkward position of stealing your microphone away from you, or at least pointing your microphone back in your direction and, and asking you some difficult questions. We’ll try not to make it actually difficult, but, , season two, bonus episode today, right? We have wrapped up season two.

Sarah Steimer: That’s right. We put in the work, we put in the time. And I think it was a very successful season. So if you missed any episodes or the entire season, you should go back and listen because I think this was a great season.

Producer: I wholeheartedly agree. This season we did s omething a little bit more on the curation side. We had a theme for the season so that all of the guests and the subjects loosely or very directly sort of fed together. What can you tell us about the theme that was this season and can you sort of apply some definition to it?

Sarah Steimer: Yeah, absolutely. So the theme, as you mentioned, either loosely or very directly, was this concept of the 15 minute City, , and the idea is that most of your daily activities, this and that, whether it’s going to work, Shopping, going to school, you know, taking care of healthcare needs, things like that, that it can be easily reached.

All of those things can be easily reached from home by way of a 15 minute walk, bike ride, maybe taking the bus, things like that. But really trying to rely on simple forms of transportation and having everything close by versus having to, you know, drive 25 minutes away to park in a parking lot to go grocery shopping.

So it’s really about trying to create these sort of microcosm spaces where all of your needs can be met. And , like we said, we talked about that in a very literal sense. But then sometimes in, a looser sense, I would say.

Producer: What a super fascinating concept. Especially interesting too because as producer slash just avid audience member of the show, it’s kind of interesting to hear you asking questions from an urban Chicago based lifestyle to my suburbia in Boise, Idaho, and seeing where we overlap and have very different lifestyles and hearing kind of how design can maybe make life better for both of us at the same time.

Sarah Steimer: Yeah. As someone who does not own a car, I haven’t even driven in like over 10 years, it’s easy for me to be able to kind of conceptualize around this idea of how do I get to all of my needs?

And granted, I work from home so we can go ahead and take out the commuting piece for me. But at pretty much everything else I do, I can reach very easily by bike, walking. I’m now using lime scooters. So I do really appreciate this concept of having all of your needs met without it being not only hard on the environment, but maybe hard on the economy if I have to leave my neighborhood and take my money out of the neighborhood. It’s a cool perspective to be able to have.

Producer: How did the theme play out across the different episodes? You talked to kind of an array of different people.

Sarah Steimer: Yeah, I’m sure at times it maybe felt like a stretch, but I do truly believe we stayed very close to the theme and I was looking back at our SoundCloud of all the episodes from this season and really it’s a really cool way to review everything.

So, you know, even going as far back as our first episode, which was talking about electrification with Alex Russell, we talked pretty specifically about one building on one college campus. It’s an older building and it’s not a one for one switch necessarily, but how do you sort of electrify all of that and thinking about that in that 15 minute city perspective was more about, once you start here, once you start by electrifying this building, then you can move outward and it’ll start to have ramifications across the entire campus and how one thing can make a difference for this. It’s sort of that domino effect in a lot of ways. When you think about, okay, as soon as you start to bring maybe more restaurants into a city, well then you’re gonna start bringing more jobs into the city. You might start bringing more grocers into the city. It’s thinking of that full concept as an opportunity to weave a bigger web eventually.

One of my other favorite examples is when we talked about universal design with Randy Rhoads , we were looking at that from a very small perspective. So think about the city as an apartment building. As soon as you get everything working better and easier within one building, you can think of that as sort of a microcosm of the 15 minute city, the 15 minute building, where all the needs can be met for people with varying abilities without a problem.

And then you can even take it out when we talked to Sherry about retail research, things like that , what was kind of cool about that is like, you can think of the 15 minute city in sort of like a metaverse sense. So how do we make sure that all of your needs are being met whether you are in a physical retail store or you’re shopping online, how do we sort of connect those dots and make it easier to exist within that space without having to feel like, the online sphere and the offline sphere are two totally different places. It’s really kind of connecting them a little bit better.

There are of course, like more obvious examples, like when we talked about the Root District. That’s very much this idea of a 15 minute city, of course, in a very literal sense, but you can think of it in a far more abstract sense, or you can think of it as more of that microcosm, whether it’s an apartment building or a single building on campus or an entire college campus.

Producer: I’m definitely hearing micro and macro takeaways there. You’re definitely, listing out some really specific things that you were able to kind of take away from the season. Were there any other sort of sub themes that presented themselves ? one episode to the next is definitely like telling me, maybe not in the exact same words, but like, there’s definitely pieces dovetailing connecting episodes to one another.

Sarah Steimer: Yeah, hundred percent. And I mentioned this in the final episode of the season, too. One, we talked about food a ton in this season, which again, more than happy to talk about that, but it’s, it’s such a major need, whether it’s food as entertainment, like going to restaurants or food is a very basic need, you know, just being able to feed yourself and not having to drive forever, or the food has to make even a long- distance trip to you. But the two big things that really stuck out to me were number one in all of these situations, communication, communication, communication. Whether that was at the very beginning, understanding the needs, but also looping in the people who are actually going to use the facility, the city, the park, the whatever the user is so important and as much as that seems like an o duh topic, you know, at the same time, when you have a lot of expertise coming in by way of designers, architects, engineers, et cetera, it’s easy to think that you already know everything. But then when you sit down and actually talk to people, maybe they do really like their cars and they’re not trying to go car free, or maybe they do have this specific need for, we don’t just want a park that we can use in the summer, we wanna use it year round. There could be so many things and not only is it a conversation before the project even takes off, but it’s constantly checking back in with people, whether it’s the developer, again, the user, everyone in the process needs to be in constant conversation.

Because that’s the thing too, is, you know, like any good city, it doesn’t just stay static for years and years to come. The public changes, our needs change.

And then the other thing was that it really, it felt like in all of these situations where This concept of a cycle or even recycling is really important, where if this happens, then that happens and then that can happen and everything comes back around.

It’s sort of that closed loop system. When we talk about Trying to make sure you shop local. If you spend your dollars local, they’ll stay in the economy and it’ll make the neighborhood stronger. It’s really similar to a 15 minute city in the sense that if you are spending your time there and the upkeep is there and you’re putting your dollars back in, all of that, it’s this very regenerative concept I would say.

Producer: I thought the guests really entered their topics in a way that overlapped with each other, and yet each of them seemed to kind of bring a very unique viewpoint to the conversation. And I will just say I wanted to throw some props your way yet again and say, while I know that you record this podcast like an interested journalist, with the prep that you do and the conversations that you’re having, you come across very much as somebody who’s invested in these topics and also somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about despite learning about this, similar to the audience, kind of along the way, right?

Sarah Steimer: I appreciate that. Fake it till you make it. Uh, but it’s also, I mean, I say this to you, I say this to other people when I talk about things like design and architecture. You can’t get away from it. I’m not floating in the middle of nowhere. I’m living in an apartment building. I’m within city planning. You cannot shut your mind off to the effects of this, that, and the other thing, whether you walk into a store and you’re like, these aisles are too narrow. I know that this is bad design. You know, like it is this constant reminder and when you kind of have this behind the scenes peek, it’s exciting to kind of pull that curtain back.

Producer: You did something kind of fun this season. You kept the mic rolling, but we didn’t put ’em into the episodes. You asked a bonus question of each one of our guests this season, and got kind of some quirky answers, what question did you ask them and what was the experience like of having these conversations?

Sarah Steimer: What I asked at the end of each episode that everyone will now get to hear the answers to, in keeping with that 15 minute theme, I asked everyone what their favorite fictional city is, and we had some interesting answers. Some of them were, very esoteric, some of them were very fantastical.

I actually think that a lot of times people’s answers stayed pretty true to their expertise also. Yeah. Which was interesting. I’ll let you guys just listen to them here and now.



Alex Russell: what was the city that the Jetsons lived in? This is, this is taxing me a little bit. I’m not quite old enough to have complete relevancy in here.

It was Orbit City.

Okay. There we go. So I found this really interesting that this was, this was a point that I became aware of. I didn’t know this, just, uh, innately, but, uh, yeah, George Jetson was born last year and we are currently living in The Jetson’s future. So there you go. Uh, orbit City.

Sheri Blattel: I think it seems very appropriate since we just talked about the metaverse, that my favorite fictional city is one that I haven’t created yet because I’m still collecting data to be able to make it perfect in the metaverse.

Kara Eberle-Lott: Okay. It’s gotta be Atlantis. And that is because it might not be fictional, it might be real. They just don’t know. And I’m obsessed with ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, all of those things.

I just find those civilizations fascinating. So it’d be amazing if it was actually real and they found it someday.


Tim Johnson: I had to wrestle with this one for a little bit, but I’m, I’m gonna go with, uh, with Pawnee, Indiana. I do appreciate a good parks and, and recreation department. I, I’m all about playing, I also love the, the tension between, Ron and Leslie. I think that two different, you know, political views and stances in life are able to work together. I think that’s kind of my ideal.


Nora Bland: I think I’m gonna have to go with Dr. Seuss’s Whoville. I really love how, how

whimsical it is and they’re all about, about gratitude and it’s really founded on inclusivity and, and kindness.

I also love the way it, it looks, you’ve got all these organic shapes and curvilinear forms. Really just some, some wacky architecture, very gouty esque, but also introducing some of that biophilic design, um, nature inspired. I just really love the, the vibe of Whoville.


Randy Rhoads: So I gotta say I really love the Minas Tirith. I think I’m saying it right.

Minas Tirith is a city in Lord of the Rings. I don’t remember which specific one, but it’s just the, it’s the one where Gandolph is riding his horse up, up through this beautiful white marble city that he’s climbing up to the very top of it. And it’s just all these arches and incredible plazas and, great people spaces, and obviously it’s a city and people are living there and there’s, you know, people’s homes and all this stuff, but it’s just this incredible amalgamation of beautiful Italian and I guess like Slovenian cities all crammed into one, but it’s just this gleaming white thing. And, uh, the movie that I just thought was really incredible, kinda like in Game of Thrones, the, you know, the cities there that they would show these mint cities with, in that case, red tile roofs that just go on forever. But there was always incredible public spaces that you’d see, you know, terraces and plazas and overlooking beautiful oceans and things like that.

Rebecca Muchow: So my favorite imaginary city, this actually was a tough question, but the one that popped to my head was Brigadoon. So Brigadoon is a city that shows up out of the fog every 100 years.

It’s an ideal city. It’s, it’s perfect. And what I recall from the musical and the play, you can’t, if you find it and you go into Brigadoon, you cannot leave it. Unless you or you cannot stay unless you choose, if you fall in love with somebody and you choose to give up the outside world. So, uh, it comes with risk.

I believe, I believe it’s a Scottish folklore, but don’t quote me on that.

Jimmy Talarico: The one that came to mind was in Tron and, just thinking about the colors and the idea of like living in a computer, which is super weird, but I think the thing that really stood out is how the, the cars and those motorcycles move on. What, I guess you call ’em roads or whatever the circuits are, and they take the corners at 90 degree corners without slowing down.

And I just thought that was always kind of a cool thing. So I’d like to see what that feels like.




Producer: Kind of a tough question. It feels like there’s some pressure.

Sarah Steimer: You answer it. You answer it.

Producer: Uh, okay. So I had sort of a top three. I will not commit to these being my favorite fictional cities because that’s just too much pressure. These are just ones I wanna float for your consideration, okay? Mm-hmm. I thought Asgard from the Thor mythology is good cuz I’m Norwegian and so fun, like, sort of Scandinavian paradise sounds kind of cool.

The city from Inception, which is really just a city inside your own mind is kind of an interesting one to think about where you’re building things as you go and you can create things on the fly and cities can fold up on top of themselves and all that.

But, if I’m gonna be forced to commit , I’m gonna say Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter series. The fun little kind of rustic city very near to the school where all the kids are going. And there’s a joke shop and there’s this effectively all ages bar apparently where you can go and order butter beers and there’s the shrieking shack that’s haunted. And then everybody around you would all be wizards and witches and there’d be all this magical stuff happening and lots of hijinks.

Now it’s your turn.

Sarah Steimer: I wanted to choose something that feels very reflective of like a true 15 minute city. And I was like, okay, but it has to be imaginary. And I was like, well, I don’t really watch or read fantasy. All right. That was a little bit trickier, but, Hear me out: Sesame Street.

Producer: Oh!

Sarah Steimer: Yeah, yeah. Good. Right, because you know.

Producer: That’s a great one.

Sarah Steimer: I understand that obviously it’s based on New York City, you know, of course. Which is kind of like a perfect example in a lot of ways of a 15 minute city. But what’s great about Sesame Street is like, well, a, you get to hang out with Muppets, but you almost never see any vehicles either. You’ve got your little corner grocery store where you know everyone, you’ve got the trash is right there. Everything is very easy to navigate, it seems. You get to learn a lot. I’m going with Sesame Street. I think that’s my favorite fictional city. Yeah.

Producer: Oh, as the, as the parent of triplet toddlers I am a, a throwback through current day Sesame Street fan. Oh yeah. I just adore it.

Sarah Steimer: And there’s so many different housing types. You’ve got the garbage cans, you’ve got oversized Bird Nest, there’s just whatever you need is really right there. So I, I think it’s Mr. Hooper. You Can’t beat it. You can’t beat it.

Producer: I couldn’t agree more. Last question before we call it a final episode here. your photo for this episode is of you and your pup. What can you tell listeners about your sometimes silent, sometimes very vocal, uh, co-host?

Sarah Steimer: I would have her say hello, but she’s sleeping on her favorite orange chair right now.

You know what I’m gonna tell you? So I’ve had this dog for almost a year now. She’s still a pup. She’s not, she’s 11 months. One of the best things about having her, especially now that it’s summertime in Chicago, is that we are taking the longest walks in the world and I’m learning so many new things about different types of accessibility in terms of navigating her through spaces.

And one of the biggest things to me was there are not enough walk-up window cafes in the city for me to be able to just like wander up. This morning actually, I got a cold brew and she got her little like cup of whipped cream. It’s made exploring really interesting and it’s also made just seeing the hits and the misses throughout a city.

Enjoy the little photo of Dottie more than me, please.

Producer: Awesome. Well, Sarah, thank you for your time this episode and a great season. Congratulations on that and we’ll be back looking for more content from you here real soon.

Sarah Steimer: Awesome. And thank you Travis — as always, an ideal producer. Thank you so much.

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