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.

Let’s Talk About Ads

Let’s talk about ads! Not the science behind marketing, blah blah blah. Smarter people than me can take care of that conversation. Instead, I want to talk about ads in general, and things that are ad-supported.

The topic that brought this to mind was a recent post on /r/podcasts about sponsors.  It was what you’d call on Reddit, a “shitpost” – a low-effort post with nothing to say.  From that spawned an actual discussion at least, with opinions being split between supporting ads and being vehemently against them.  Personally, I’m okay with them, and here’s why.

Full disclosure – I work in an industry that relies on advertising to generate revenue (radio).  I am slightly biased, but not for the reason of perpetuating a source of revenue / income.

I am a podcast creator  myself; I don’t use ads in my show, but rather rely on a Patreon campaign.  However, I understand the need for ads to offset production costs.  I have made a conscious choice to not skip ads for a product I am downloading for free.  I do not make the financial decision to donate, so I don’t want to cheat the creators out of ads that they feel are necessary to support their craft.

I understand that listening to ads on a podcast is not an act in itself that will bring them money.  This is more of a moral decision on my part.  But in a similar vein, I also decided to disable adblockers in my browser so that websites I frequent benefit from my ad views.  I understand that there’s whitelisting things you can do, so that terrible ad-based sites suffer, but I would rather just not go to those offending websites.

We live in a strange time, I think.  Younger generations feel entitled to block out all advertising to get what they want.  Some would gladly pay for subscriptions in exchange for an ad-free experience, but I think that might get close to the erosion of net neutrality.  This is also probably a ‘slippery slope’ argument in the making, so I’m going to stop there.

I think that my final opinion on the matter is that I’m perfectly fine with ads, if they are supporting a medium that I’m not paying for.  Radio, podcasts, and web sites – those are great examples.  All of those have options for ad-free experiences as well in most cases.

For radio, there is Satellite Radio available (for which I have a subscription – I enjoy both Satellite AND terrestrial radio); for podcasts, there are a host of options; for websites, ad-free versions have been around for years.  Apps have paid versions as well as ad-supported free versions.

Where it gets less tolerable are services such as Television, where I pay a subscription service and still get ads.  However it is still tolerable, because I realize that the ads are supporting the channels, so it’s really the cable service that I’m paying through the nose for.  TV is complicated, guys.

What are your thoughts?

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud over the weekend – yes, I typed that correctly; I started the book sometime Friday and finished it Sunday.  If you want to skip my review entire, I’ll tell you straight up that I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

As I mentioned, I was able to finish it in a weekend.  Surely I missed a lot of information, but at around 215+ pages, it’s not a very dense work of non-fiction – there aren’t a lot of words, and the bulk of it is juxtaposed next to images to help drive the point home.  It makes for a very quick read, but the material is there to make it a very deep dive if you’re so inclined.

The format is presented in black and white, with one chapter briefly featuring bits of colour (for emphasizing the uses of colour in comics).  Everything was otherwise clear in terms of conveying information, so definitely no marks lost for lack thereof.  In fact, I think the one chapter about the use of colour helped to bring attention to the material at hand.  Releasing it in colour may have diluted the information a bit, maybe.

The book is clearly well-researched.  McCloud knows what he’s talking about, and goes back to information and comics centuries’ old.  There are a few parts where it feels slightly repetitive, but never dry.  I really enjoyed how it made me realize some of the unseen techniques going on with comics that I hadn’t really considered before.

At times I felt a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas presented, and I feel like McCloud went a little far-afield with some of his ideas.  But overall it was presented in a friendly format and is a fun essay to read through.  4/5, definitely recommend.

Hunter – by Wil Wheaton

Alright, so I re-read Wil Wheaton’s short story Hunter tonight; I’m posting this from mobile, so you’ll have to find the link when I wrote about it in my last post.

Anyway…It’s not as good as I apparently made it out to be in that post. If I were to grade it now, I’d give it a 3. The world building is done well, but the characterization is only okay. I can see my own writing reflected here. 

Also, the twist at the end? Not really that big of a twist ending. 

I still recommend it if you have some money to blow – it’s pretty cheap after all. And it’s a short read. Took me maybe ten to fifteen minutes. 

Latest Snoke Theory

I’ll just leave this here.

The 20th Anniversary of Our Lady Peace – Clumsy

20 years ago Monday, Our Lady Peace released Clumsy.  Speaking without doing any research or looking up basic data, I’m pretty sure this was their most popular album, and definitely the biggest fan favourite.  Personally, I prefer Spiritual Machines – but I have a place for Clumsy for sure.

I would have been 12 years old when it was released, turning 13 in March of the same year.  I remember being vaguely familiar with Our Lady Peace, hearing about them briefly in some band feature vignette on YTV.  Rock music in general wasn’t really on my radar in 1997, but I think it was my brother that suggested I select this album from one of those mail order CD catalogs that were big in the 90s.

This was one of the albums that transitioned me to a predilection toward rock music.  Still more pop-oriented, as I think in the same year I also picked up John Mellencamp’s Mr. Happy Go Lucky.

Anyway, I don’t have a lot to say about it other than reflecting on my life when it was released.  I still listen to this album from time to time, and it holds up really well.  If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s pretty much available everywhere for purchase online or streaming, so you have no excuse.

 

An Unpopular Opinion

This is probably going to get me ZERO fan mail and INFINITY hate mail, but I have a problem with Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative.

To be clear: I support the initiative in general – mental illness is a serious issue and raising awareness is great.  And if you use their #BellLetsTalk hashtag, they are donating money to the cause.  I support that.

But my problem is with that hash tag.  Maybe I’m overthinking it, but what started out as a great campaign has, in my eyes, turned into a big advertising push disguised as a charitable cause.  I have more to say on the matter, but before I do – I’m going to figure out a way to donate some money to the cause without tweeting Bell’s proprietary hash tag.

I’m not 100% clear on how to do that, because Bell only says it’s donating money “to #MentalHealth initiatives” – I’m not sure where it’s going.  At this time, I sent out a tweet asking where I can donate directly instead of going through Bell.

As to my previous point about Bell disguising an advertising campaign as a charitable effort; I found an interesting Globe & Mail article from 2013.  I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person who has an issue with the angle of this campaign.

In reading the article, it struck me as odd that the interviewer was so focused on asking ‘why mental health’ and ‘were you concerned about any negative reactions to the brand’ – which actually tells me that Bell has done a great job of supporting the cause and giving a positive spin on it.  I mean, I’ve never had any negative impressions about the brand simply because they support mental health initiatives, but that only 4 years ago these were questions that needed to be asked is telling, at least to me.

But here’s the part of the article that I focused on – even though it was a small part of it.

Why attach your name? That gives the cynics a chance to dump on the campaign and dismiss is as marketing.

I can understand that there is cynicism. But if you know about the issue of mental health, you know the single biggest barrier to people getting help is the stigma. So having an organization with the history, breadth and heft of Bell being associated with it so publicly gives a boost to the mental health community.

OK.  I will admit that is a good reason to attach the brand to the cause the way that it is.  And I totally understand that you can’t go about this using a hashtag like “#LetsTalkBell” because then it sounds like you’re trying to talk about your next phone/tv/internet package.

Still, I think I would prefer it if the hashtag was simply, “#LetsTalk”. The campaign as a whole is fine to include name branding – but in a way I feel like throwing in the brand name dilutes it a little bit.

On the other hand, this is one day in the year that I see people address mental illnesses in a frank and honest manner, when otherwise it might not have been brought up at all.

So I think I have come around on my unpopular opinion – the tweet for this blog post will include the #BellLetsTalk hashtag to raise some money.  But I still plan on finding out where I can donate money directly, as I wrote above.  I feel more comfortable doing something like that in a less vague, more open manner.

Let’s Talk.