No post today…

In case you were sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something from me, it’s not happening. Got too busy this week. But if you want some fresh content check out my podcast at www.alternativeairwaves.com!

Podcast Subscription Post

I almost labelled this as the “Monthly Podcast Subscription Post” but thought better of it.  I’d like to have this as a regular feature on the blog, but I don’t know yet if it’s going to be monthly or maybe less frequent.  Either way, I think the format may change, but you’re going to see this kind of post pop up more than once!

I subscribe and listen to a lot of podcasts.  Usually, I don’t have the time to listen to more than a few in a day, so I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to adding or dropping shows.  I have no problem trying out new shows if I like the description or it comes recommended, but I quickly drop shows from my rotation if it doesn’t “do it” for me.

These posts won’t have much info added to them, with the exception of new subscriptions & dropped subscriptions.  For those, I’ve got a brief write-up of why I added / dropped the subscription.

With that said, here’s my current subscription list, pulled from my OPML file in Pocket Casts:

Active Subscriptions
(Podcasts with an episode in the last 90 days)

  • Cynical Cartoons
  • Overthinking It
  • Filmspotting
  • Toronto Blue Jays Podcast
  • Harry Potter and the Sacred Text
  • A Cast of Kings
  • Make Dad Read Comics
  • Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast
  • The Night Time Podcast
  • CBC Radio 3 Podcast
  • Writing Excuses
  • Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast
  • Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder
  • A STORM OF SPOILERS
  • Hokey Religion: The Star Wars Podcast
  • The Benchcast
  • Missing & Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?
  • Sens Callups
  • Almost Educational
  • Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin
  • Good Job, Brain!
  • Transporter Room 3: The Star Trek Podcast
  • Under the Influence
  • Anthology – The Twilight Zone and Classic Sci-Fi
  • Birds All Day
  • Polaris Podcast

New Subscriptions

  • Side Hustle School
    • Why I added it: I’m skeptical of this one but the subject matter is something I’m interested in: “A daily show for everyone who works a regular job and wants to start an income – earning project on the side . In each episode , listeners will hear a different story of someone who ‘s started a side hustle – along with what went well , how that person overcame challenges , and what happened as a result . The show is written and hosted by Chris Guillebeau , the New York Times bestselling author of The $ 100 Startup , The Happiness of Pursuit , and other books.” 
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz
    • Why I added it: this was based on description alone.  It sounds like it’s a podcast about Sound Design, something that is inherently COOL: “You may not think about the sounds you hear every day but somebody has . The voice in your phone the effects in your video games that drum machine in your favorite song There are people – and stories – behind every one of them . Join your host , Dallas Taylor , on an exploration of the stories behind the world ‘s most recognizable and interesting sounds.”
  • The Pitch
    • Why I added it: based on the description, I figured I’d give it a try. After all I like Shark Tank / Dragon’s Den a little: “A show where entrepreneurs pitch investors for funding Like Shark Tank , but smarter”
  • Steele Wars : Star Wars Podcast
    • Why I added it: Steele has appeared a few times on Plumbing The Death Star and I wanted to add some more SW content to my list.

Dropped Subscriptions

  • Beware & Warning
    • Why I dropped it: The humour just wasn’t for me.  I felt that the length of the shows was also too long for what I wanted from the episodes. I respect the work they do but it’s just not a show for me.

Inactive Subscriptions
(I haven’t declared these “dead” yet…)

  • Eric and the Legion
  • Radio Free Burrito
  • The Adam Sandcast
  • The 6th Sens Podcast
  • Rathole Radio
  • TV CRIMES
  • Memories of the Futurecast
  • Days of Old

Archie Comics

I recently got turned back onto Archie comics when I decided to dive into Jughead, which is currently being written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics).  I’ve only read the first two issues (this part of the run currently by Chip Zdarsky) but it’s fantastic. Very reminiscent of the classic Archie comics I remember reading. 

So I think I’m going to start picking up the Archie digest comics every now and then. My brothers and I used to read them ALL the time when we were kids. In fact, I’ve been meaning to pick up our old collection again next time I’m at my parents house. 

The greatest thing about these comics is that they’re easy to read through, and are funny no matter how old you are.  And I don’t think the humour has changed in the over 75 years the comic has been around. I love that each writer keeps the same overall style while brining their own flair to the series. 

I just found a book that must be from 2008 or so. It’s things like this panel that crack me up every time. 

Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?
Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?

I’ll do a full review post of the Jughead run once I finish it. But spoiler alert – it’s fantastic and you should read it. 

The Connectome

I was listening to the official Star Trek podcast (as you do) the other day, and there was an episode that featured Morgan Gendel, the writer of The Next Generation classic episode The Inner Light, to discuss the episode and various topics.  The whole episode was interesting, but he was particularly focused on what’s known as the Connectome.

Here’s a description of the Connectome, from Wikipedia:

A connectome is a comprehensive map of neural connections in the brain, and may be thought of as its “wiring diagram”. More broadly, a connectome would include the mapping of all neural connections within an organism’s nervous system.

The study of the connectome was described in the podcast as akin to mapping the human genome.  Basically, understanding this aspect of the human brain would be HUGE in terms of understanding how we work, and also in adapting technology to fit our needs.  I won’t go into all of the specifics and ruin it for you, but some of the ideas broached in the episode with Gendel and Hoffman talk about some really cool, and also slightly terrifying, things that could theoretically be done with an understanding of the connectome.

If you’re not into Star Trek, just ignore some of the trappings of the episode and focus on the interview.  It’s really good, and is a good way to kill an hour while you’re at work or commuting.

My Personal Comics Renaissance

I was never a huge comic book reader when I was younger.  In fact, minus a few issues that have fallen apart or I’ve given away, I still have all of the books I’ve ever owned since my days as a youth.  Spoiler alert: that’s not very many comics.  The point here is that I didn’t have a large collection, and definitely wasn’t using my allowance to buy a new comic book every week or month.

I remember liking the idea of super heroes – Spider-Man specifically – but I don’t know how I got into that kind of thing, or how I ever first realized I “knew” Peter Parker’s origin story.  I guess it’s just one of those things that gets ingrained into popular culture that we’re aware of all the time.

I added to my collection when I was in high school, a little bit, when I found some cool Star Wars comics that I enjoyed.  Still not on the ground floor of when Star Wars came back into pop culture either – I was still more into the novels than the comic books.

But recently after discovering podcasts like Make Dad Read Comics, I’ve been getting more into comic books.  Some of them are pure indulgence (such as Civil War) but I’ve been largely more judicial in choosing comic books to read.  I’m not extremely interested in the super-hero genre, but tend to gravitate more toward the “literary” comic book.  More independent stuff.  I’m not counting Vader in that category, mind you.

But I also used to read web comics all of the time.  This is one area I’ve struggled to get back into, and I don’t know why.  Web comics are basically like news paper comics, but there are some really good ones out there that deserve attention.  Unfortunately I’m having to discover that all over again.  Dinosaur Comics is perennially my favourite, but I can’t say I can name others right now.

I think my personal renaissance stems from there being more choice these days.  The quality is also higher than what I remember as a youth – even 15 years ago, the quality was not as good as it is today.  I think it’s amazing what some people are able to come up with, and I’m always in awe of what people are able to draw.

Got any good comic recommendations?  Web or otherwise?

Vader Omnibus – Volume 1 Review

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Vader comic book series, and it was recently recommended to me by Patrick of Make Dad Read Comics to read it – I had a $50 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I finally picked up the first 12 issues, collected in Vader Omnibus – Volume 1.

If you haven’t come across this comic book before, the general idea behind it is that it follows Vader’s antics immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  It joins the long standing tradition of comics and novels filling in the space in between films, which I can always get behind.

I finally finished the book over the weekend, and I can say that I really enjoyed it.  One of the interesting things that it does is knock Vader down several notches.  He’s somewhere in between his status in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; he’s still taking orders from other Imperial officers (Tagge, this time), but isn’t quite as fearsome as he appears in ESB.

What’s interesting is that the Emperor is really displeased with Vader in this comic series.  The destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope is a big failure for the Empire, and for Vader in particular.  At this stage in the comics, Vader must really prove himself to the Emperor again, while being placed under the supervision of an Imperial officer.  What results is Vader taking it upon himself to gather his own covert forces to track down Luke Skywalker.

There are several cool flashback moments in the comic that re-contextualize Vader a little bit.  It made me realize that he was probably thinking of his past at a few different points in the movies, even though the prequel trilogy came much later.   But the real highlight of these first 12 books are Captain Aphra and her droid factory (I’m hit or miss on Triple-0 and BT but more on the hit side than miss).  I just found out today that she’s going to have her own comic book series – and I think I want to check it out.

I would gush more, but I need to give this another read through.  Especially since I also just learned that the second volume is coming out Feb 28th, so I have another book to pick up soon.  Suffice it to say that the Vader series is well-written, well-drawn, and is fun to read through.  I definitely recommend it!

I really want to meet Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips

This is going to be largely another podcast recommendation, but if I’m ever asked what celebrity I’d most like to meet, it’d be Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, together in the same room.  Those two are downright funny, and also (mostly) down to earth.

Apparently they know each other quite well since starring together on Star Trek: Voyager, and have crossed paths several times.  I learned today that both Picardo and Phillips were cast in Cowen Brothers movies – and I specifically want to seek out Inside LLewyn Davis now.

I would definitely want to meet both of them, but if I had to choose, probably Robert Picardo.  Anyway, if you want to hear some proof of their genius together (and apart), have a listen to some episodes from Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast.  I’ve listed them in order of newest to oldest.  Don’t worry, inside jokes are kept to a minimum.

What brought you here?

My brain is bereft of topics to write about today, so I thought I would keep it simple and just ask one question: what brought you to my blog today (or on previous days)?  Was there a specific topic that you saw that caught your eye?  Do you enjoy my writing?  Inquiring minds (well, just one) want to know!

“That is why you fail.”

I was recently introduced to MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Intake Report as a means for tracking progress with my weight goals.  I already subscribe to the notion of CICO – Calories In, Calories Out – but have had middling success implementing it in day-to-day life.  I understand how it works and everything, but my weight is fluctuating up and down constantly (which is expected, since I’ve been less than disciplined with my eating habits since Christmas/New Year’s).

weight-chart-90-days
My weight over the past 90 days. 

Looking at my weight over a 90 day period, I’ve mostly made progress that I’m happy with.  It’s the up and down business of the last month and a half that I could do better with.  For a solid two months from November to December, I was hitting all of my goals every week.  Since then, I’ve not had the best results.

So I looked up my own Calories Consumed report.  Immediately, I can see why I was set up to fail by my own habits.

calories-consumed-90-days
Calories Consumed over 90 days. Blue = my calories, red = goal.

The red line isn’t the most accurate – as my goal hasn’t been the same over 90 days; it’s actually gone down quite a bit, so some of the “high” days are probably closer to their target than they appear.

Still, I can clearly see where I faltered.  Yes, there are some days there that are showing way under my calorie goal, but I’ll be the first to admit that there are many days where I under-reported my calories.  A common theme for those days – and I know this is true – I often overate or was too lazy to figure out how many calories I ate.  I have a streak of 376 days – most are legitimate log entries, but I probably shouldn’t have such a long streak going.

In fact, I was going to let that streak die today.  I was sitting eating my lunch, leftover from dinner out last night, and hadn’t yet entered anything for breakfast, or my daily weight check-in.  I was mentally prepared to take a “skip” day, and let the streak die.  Take the weekend off.  I know MFP would probably send me a notification, gently reminding me that if I don’t login before midnight, my streak will end!

I was okay with that.  Ready to start a new streak, or at the very least get into a new rhythm.

But then I read that reddit thread above in /r/loseit (which is a fantastic resource, by the way!).  Consciously I know that my weight fluctuates constantly, and I’m not hung up on the day-to-day number – I just keep it because I’m tracking my numbers independently of MFP, so I don’t need to pay to extract my own data.  But looking at my progress this way aligns more with what I’m trying to accomplish with my weight loss efforts.

fu0mna2
My weight loss chart, from my Bullet Journal.

I’m trying to keep to a weekly calorie goal; this is easy in theory, but MyFitnessPal forces you to track daily.  I think keeping tabs on the calorie intake report (which I can pull for 7 days), and adding a column to my chart to include how many calories I’ve had vs my goal, will help me better manage my CICO efforts.

I’m going to wait until Monday to put this practice in full force, because I want to have 7 days’ worth of uninterrupted data to match with my tracking dates.  But I’m going to modify my weight loss chart as of February 27th – as I’ve already written it out until the 26th.  I don’t like scrapping perfectly usable tables.

Working toward a healthier life is a complete lifestyle change, and it’s hard.  It’s well worth examining what’s working and what’s not working, and constantly changing for the better.  For me, what works best is to analyze things as soon as I start to hit a plateau or steadily climb the opposite direction on the scale without fluctuating up and down.

I don’t think I will ever stop monitoring what I’m doing.  I hope one day I will be a little more relaxed about it, but I know that not being careful at all was what piled on the weight in the first place.  It’s all a matter of finding the right balance, in the end.

Freelance Writing

I’m always trying to think of ways to earn extra money – my goal for things like my podcast is to be able to run it without spending any of my own money.  So far, I haven’t been able to do that.  At most, I’ve been able to pay for my Netflix subscription and 1 year of hosting for www.alternativeairwaves.com with proceeds from SwagBucks (I typically get ~$25 a month, but it’s slow, grinding work).

One thing I used to do – and I honestly can’t figure out where I found the work before – was freelance writing.  The stuff I was doing, I really didn’t like that much.  But it was relatively easy work, and got me I think $20 for 5 articles (which in retrospect, was not very good pay).  I should probably dig up what I wrote to put a portfolio together, even though I have no idea where the things I wrote showed up online.  This was probably 9-10 years ago, too.

But writing is just about the only marketable skill I can think of to sell online.  I wish sometimes that I just had something I could do in 5-10 minutes and sell for $10 a pop.  But I just don’t have the creative, physical skills.  I’ve considered audio-related things, but sometimes that takes longer than what it’s worth.  If I applied myself, I could probably put together a podcast editing portfolio.  I just don’t usually have the time to provide the turnaround some podcast hosts require.

What kind of things have you done online to generate some extra cash?  Or in the parlance of the Internet, “beer money”?  Any suggestions for what I could do?  Just looking to find work to generate $25-50 a month that isn’t so tedious as surveys and offers that pay cents at a time.