Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

California Game Warden Pat Freeling got the first tip off that something was wrong in Mendocino county back in mid-December, when he received an anonymous call from a disgruntled postal patron.

The tipster told Freeling that she'd gotten stuck in the post office line behind a man, shipping dozens of large cardboard boxes to east Asia. When asked what he was shipping, the man apparently told the caller that it was something very valuable, and gestured toward the coastline.

When Jeff Runions started his trucking career nearly 40 years ago, he had high hopes for what the job might bring.

"I wanted the American dream."

Since then he's seen the industry from every step of the ladder — as an independent owner-operator, a full-time company driver, a parts manager, and finally a trucking depot manager.

The gig economy has been criticized for failing to provide workers the benefits and stability of full-time employment and celebrated for its ability to allow workers to supplement their income on a flexible schedule. Ajmal Faqiri, an Afghan immigrant who lives in Virginia, has experienced both types of work arrangements.

He grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan and served as translator for the U.S. military before arriving in San Francisco on a Special Immigrant Visa in 2013. Faqiri has held more than 10 jobs, and started driving for Lyft in 2015.

Sunita Williams wasn't the kind of kid who wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. She wanted to be a veterinarian. But she managed to achieve the former kid's dream job, anyway.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

With his mischievous smile and playful stage persona, indie rock musician Mac DeMarco has gained a reputation as something of a merry prankster. But DeMarco says that what you see of him on the internet doesn't always tell the whole story.

Growing up, Liz Stepansky, the daughter of two schoolteachers in small town Illinois, thought teaching was the way to a stable, meaningful life.

"My dad would have students that would come back and visit him even years after they had graduated high school," she said. "And to see him develop relationships like that, it seemed like a pretty important job. I liked that."

After graduating from college in 2008, Stepansky, now 33, decided to follow in her parents' footsteps, and was ecstatic when she landed her first job as a public middle school teacher in South Carolina.

On a recent sunny afternoon at a solar farm outside Philadelphia, Pa., commercial drone pilots Tony Zimlich and Gunner Goldie are preparing for flight.

Dressed in hard hats and matching yellow vests, they run through a series of safety and equipment checks, and survey the surrounding terrain and airspace, before picking up what looks like a pair of oversized video game controllers. Then, with a streak of beeps and whirs, their drone — about the size of a milk crate — rises steadily into the sky above.

The Golden Record is basically a 90-minute interstellar mixtape — a message of goodwill from the people of Earth to any extraterrestrial passersby who might stumble upon one of the two Voyager spaceships at some point over the next couple billion years.

But since it was made 40 years ago, the sounds etched into those golden grooves have gone mostly unheard, by alien audiences or those closer to home.

The new film Crown Heights begins in the spring of 1980, with a single gunshot ringing out on a Brooklyn street corner. But the film is less a whodunit than a chronicle of the personal nightmares that killing set in motion. Colin Warner, an 18-year-old immigrant from Trinidad, was wrongfully convicted of the murder. The film tells the story of his two-decade imprisonment, and the friend who worked tirelessly to finally get him out.

If you've ever undertaken a creative endeavor, you may have found that inspiration doesn't always come when you're creating; sometimes, it strikes when you put your work down and walk away.

That's what indie-folk singer Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes discovered during his six-year hiatus from making music. The band's newest album, Crack-Up, came out this summer.