Better Know a Jackal Retired

Better Know a Jackal

A weekly interview with fans of podcasting: who they are, what they are into, and their thoughts and opinions about podcasts and podcasting.

Hosted by Mike Beasterfeld.

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16: Don Schaffner

October 9, 2014 at 8:00AM • 55 minutes • Wiki Entry

Mike chats with Rutgers University professor, Don Schaffner. "Better know a bug counter"

Show Notes & Links Presented by CacheFly

General background

Don is a professor of Food Science at Rutgers University, and he lives in Freehold, New Jersey. He grew up in Ithaca New York, and attended Cornell University. He moved to Athens, GA to attend graduate school, before joining the faculty at Rutgers.

Current interests

Don's current interest is losing weight. A buddy of his recently dropped 70 pounds using the iPhone app “Lose It”, and that convinced Don it was time. Lose It syncs with Fitbits and Withings Scales, among other devices.  Don's other cool new toy is a treadmill desk. Don's not a great typist while seated so the treadmill desk has given him a renewed interest in Dragon Dictate.  Don's current research interests include understanding the factors that influence microbial cross-contamination, including handwashing effectiveness, and whether the “five second rule” is real.

Growing up

As a high school student Don played D&D and collected comic books, and discovered the sport of fencing.  As a graduate student at UGA, he regrets was not going to see R.E.M. at the 40 Watt Club.  In High School Don, learned to program in Fortran using punch cards.  In graduate school he took classes in Pascal, Fortran and assembler, as electives because he thought computers were cool.

Origin Story

Like with some (many?) of other guests, Don's 5by5 story start's with Merlin Mann.  Don was a 43folders fan back in the day. He started listening to 5by5 when Merlin did his spot on the Pipeline. Don became a guest 5by5 guest himself when he pitched Dan on the idea of talking about food poisoning.  From Back to Work, Don discovered The Talk Show, Hypercritical, Build and Analyze, and Systematic.


Favorite active show - B2W

Favorite retired show - Hypercritical

Favorite not on 5by5 - Roderick on the Line

Other great podcasts: Accidental Tech Podcast, Your Daily Lex, Just the Tip.

Gratuitous self promotion: Food Safety Talk

Stuff to check out 

Merlin and John Gruber at SXSW a few years back. 


TV watching generally consists of whatever Don and his wife both like. That might be British crime dramas, Doctor Who, or The New Girl. Last Tango in Halifax is a great British show, season 2 just just out on Netflix.

TV shows that Don consumes when traveling are those that his wife doesn’t like, most notably The Wire (about to start re-watching for the third time) and Adventure Time.  

The last great fiction book Don read is called “The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break”.  He learned about this from Alton Brown’s podcast episode with John Hodgman. Another highly recommended book is "Gun Machine" by Warren Ellis.

Other stuff

Don became active in his local Boy Scout Council when his sons were scouting age. All three have fond memories of Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. Don is still active in the Council, but in a volunteer administrative position. Don recently finished his term as president of the International Association for Food Protection. He is also an editor of the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

On the web

Don's Rutgers University webpage, his tumblr at, and on twitter at @bugcounter.