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Monday, May 18, 2015

100% Candice Episode 009 - Blathering On And Explosions

Sorry about my incoherence here. I'll blame it on hunger. Shortly after recording I had some pancakes for dinner.

My podcast recommendation this week is Pod on Pod, which might be the best idea or the worst idea, depending on how many podcasts you want to listen to. Pod on Pod reviews podcasts, and is a big part of the reason my podcast listening list has grown to 154 subscriptions.

For the next 15 minutes I talk a bit about the many ways I've entertained myself this weekend, including The Fun Home, Mad Max Fury Road and Pitch Perfect.

Follow my smiles on Clammr or Tweet me your comments about how much I haven't entertained you @cinn48.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Controversial and Curse-Filled Hoorah!

I am about to be controversial. You have been warned.

I am a proud (if not very loud compared to some) Green Party of Ontario member. I have worked on the last two provincial elections with our local candidates. In 2011 as a member of the communications team and then interim communications director, and in 2014 as the communications director both locally and provincially for the leader of the party, Mike Schreiner.

Since I discovered the party in 2007 I have voted Green in both the provincial and federal elections, but to be honest, I really don't know much about the federal party.

After the last provincial election I chose to join the local Green party executive, which operates as both our Constituency Association (provincial) and Electoral District Association (federal). I worked very hard on the last provincial election and while we didn't win the seat we made a lot of headway. Four years is a lot of time, and it would be easy to let all that headway slip away before the next provincial election in 2018. I don't want to see that happen, so I joined the executive, bought my Green Party of Canada membership and committed to acting in some way on the upcoming federal election.

So, as I mentioned, I really don't know much about the federal party. I, as many Canadians do, know that Elizabeth May is the leader of the party and that she won the first Green Party seat in Canada in the last federal election. I also know that Bruce Hyer, who was elected as an NDP member, left his party and became a Green Party member, giving us a second seat in parliament.

I've met both of these people through my work on the recent provincial election and all of my opinion of them pretty much comes from that.

Here's one part of my controversy. I don't know what to think of Elizabeth May. I know that she is a very hard worker, I know that she is a very good politician and representative for her constituents, giving many people a voice. I know that this leads to some interesting decisions on her part, like presenting a petition from people many consider to be conspiracy theorists.

My opinion of her is mostly based on what she has done in relation to the provincial elections I have worked on. To remain diplomatic and to say the least, I have definitely given her the side eye when faced with her outspokenness.

Here is the next part of my controversy. I don't know if I have changed my opinion in full, but after her speech/skit at the press gallery dinner, I have never been prouder to say she is leading the party I support.

Listen, maybe you don't know me very well, but I swear. A lot. In fact, I swear so much that an old roommate made me a t-shirt for Christmas one year which reads "I say bad words"

So, the plethora of f-bombs from the Leader endeared me to her.

On top of that, I am proud of my country and the not perfect system of democracy we have. We elect representatives to listen to us and make decisions in our best interest. Right now we have a party in power which has done their best to make our government insular, secretive, and instead of them representing our best interest, they are telling us how and what we should believe and care about. This frustrates me and it frustrates Ms. May. She spent a lot of last year doing a speaker tour to let people know, but few people listened.

And one more thing. I am a woman. I strive to grow up to be a broad. I am not some demure lady who was taught to be lady like, show respect and ne
ver speak out of turn. I have worked in very male heavy fields my entire life. I have always acted in just the same manner as the men I work with. Sometimes it shocks people, but I am simply being myself. I gave myself permission to be myself a long time ago. I am not going to change my behaviour or personality just to fit some societal norm of how a woman should act. It's been awhile since I've called myself this, but I am one classy cunt. And, at least in this case, so is Elizabeth May.

So, Ms. May, go ahead and apologize for lack of comedic timing, but please don't apologize for the sentiment.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

100% Candice 008 - What Have I Been Up To?

What? The last time we spoke was a month ago? That doesn't seem right...

Whoa, look at that, the last episode of 100% Candice was way back near the beginning of April. Oops.

Well, moving on.

What have I been up to in the last few weeks? Well, quite a few things I used to do. I'm trying to re-introduce more of the things I used to love. Can I love them again? I will only know by trying.

I also have a new podcast recommendation for you, and an app review. Will this morph into a tech show... I don't think so.

Candice's Podcast Pick of the Week - The Allusionist: Etymological Adventures with Helen Zaltzman in a Fortnightly Podcast

Put Clammr on your phone and join in the fun! Or just listen to my Smile of The Day posts.

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Next Fitness Challenge

And then I found the chart! I started at
50 and ended at 250.
Three years ago I took on a fitness challenge - a squat challenge. I've always thought that after my smile, my ass is my best feature. So I set out to make it even nicer. It was a while ago, so I don't remember what I started at and what I ended at, but I do remember that I had to do so many squats per day that I often did them in public while out with people. One night once I was doing 200 or more squats per day I was doing squats at midnight in a crowded bar while celebrating a birthday with a friend.

Since then I've become quite fond of fitness challenges. Typically I've done 30 day challenges and I've done lots of different exercises, including jump rope, planks, squats and push-ups.

For the first three months of this year I focused on push-ups. I did them on an incline on the edge of my couch for the month of January and finished the 30 days at 50 push-ups. For February I focused on doing them traditional style, on the floor. By the time I could do 15 easily I stopped challenging myself. I was doing 15 in the morning and 15 before bed every day. Then I learned about the 100 Push-Up Challenge.

I'm just crazy enough to try it!

It's a six week challenge, which is unusual for me, and it had many more rest days than I'm used to. But by week four I understood why doing push-ups every day during the challenge would be way too much. I spent the last three weeks of the challenge in pretty much constant muscle pain around my shoulders, my neck, my pecs. Ugh, I didn't realize how much pain I was in until this past week when it went away finally. I took a full week off from doing any push-ups at all. But that all ends today.

I finished the push-up challenge by being able to do 115 push-ups in under 15 minutes. After a week of not doing any, I tested myself yesterday and I did 75 push-ups in about 8 minutes. I think that's just fine for maintenance. Now I move on to the next challenge.

Any time someone asks me what my fitness goals are I tell them that I am 38 years old and in damn good shape, but I know that won't last forever. I want to continue looking and feeling good for as long as possible, that's my goal. That makes employees at gyms uncomfortable because that is not a measurable goal. When you join a gym they really want you to make a measurable goal so that 3 months later you can see if you are or have reached it and stay invested in being a gym member. Feeling good should be the only goal, but we as humans are kind of dumb and can't motivate ourselves on a wishy-washy goal like that. Especially when, like during my push-up challenge, I didn't feel that good while doing it.

Let's be real, I wouldn't mind that dress either!
So, I get pressed for a more measurable goal all the time at the gym and the only one I've ever actually had and the only one I've ever given once to a fitness coach, but am now sharing with the world, is that I want to have arms like Angela Basset's in her role as Tina Turner.

My next fitness challenge will stay in the arm family. I'm moving on to Tricep Dips.

I found a challenge online which begins at 5 and ends at 100. I tested myself yesterday to see how well I did and I started with, what I found out is, the more challenging way to do them, with legs outstretched. I did 15 with ease, so I will start there.

Since I continue to do squats every day my next 30 days will look like this - Tricep Dips 4 days in a row, one day off, 50 - 70 squats every day, and probably about 30 or 40 push-ups a day in one set.

This should let me continue my habits of maple syrup in my coffee and a cookie or brownie every day for at least the next 10 years. Why give things up when you can just achieve balance by adding more?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Changing Podcatchers - Overcast vs Downcast

I'm what's known as a "heavy user" of podcasts. Over the weekend I had to unsubscribe and then re-subscribe to every show I listen to. This took me two days. After investing so much time into that, I backed up the OPML file so that I wouldn't have to think so hard next time to remember the all the shows I subscribe to. Turns out it is 141 shows.

And very good thing I did since later that day my podcatcher of choice, Overcast, removed the security certificate for the version I was using. A security certificate is important, very important, for an app which regularly checks online and then automatically downloads files, it's what gives the app the ability to do that.

So, I woke up Tuesday morning in a state of panic since I had no podcatcher, no shows to listen to and was faced with the possibility of having to use the iPhone's native app to listen to shows. There was a time that was the only way I listened to shows, but now I just can't go back.

After asking around with other podcasters and podcast listeners, I settled on using Downcast. The idea of paying for an app before even seeing how it works also filled me with panic. What if I hate it? What if it doesn't do the basic stuff I need it to? As with most panic attacks, this was completely unnecessary. Of course it has the stuff I need. There are a billion free apps to listen to shows, one that actually costs money is going to be pretty damn good.

Now that it's been two days of playing around with it I have some thoughts. Let's start with what I loved about Overcast, and miss.

1. Speed control - Overcast has a slightly more granular speed control than any app I've used. Listening at 2x the speed is a bit too fast for me, and listening at 1.5x the speed is a bit too slow. On Overcast I was able to set the speed at 1.75x, perfect.

2. Discovery - Overcast could be synced with my Twitter account. There was a great section called Twitter Recommendations. Anybody I was following on Twitter, who also used Overcast, could recommend shows or particular episodes and they showed up there. A year ago when I switched to Overcast I did not subscribe to 141 shows. I've found so, so many great shows that I love through the Twitter Recommendations section.

3. UI/Branding - It's silly, but orange is my favourite colour and I loved that my most often used app was bright white and orange and made me smile every time I looked at it.

And here is what I am liking so far about Downcast

1. Playlist Sorting - I can sort the episodes in a playlist by a much wider variety of choices. Typically I sort by date, but I've found that Downcast let's me sort by Time Left, which I love. Some shows are 7 minutes, some are 3 hours. Some days I want variety and some days I want to spend with only one or two people. Sorting by time lets me hit play at the top of the list and listen to 10 different shows and different voices without worrying about it how long I will spend with one person.

2. Cumulative Time Stamps on Playlists - I can tell that there are 6 new episodes in my Meta playlist and that it will take me 6 hours and 17 minutes to listen to them all. Of course I listen at 1.5x so it will probably only take me 4 hours or so. Some days I just want to listen to podcasts about podcasts and some days I just want to empty a playlist. Now I have an extra bit of info to help me make my decision.

3. RSS Feeds Work! - This is a very specific one. On Overcast every time I added the RSS feed, or the website address for Broken Area Podcast, it wouldn't recognize it. No idea why, just wouldn't. So when I, out of curiosity, entered it in the search field on Downcast, there it was, right away. So now, I can listen to Dave and Isabelle do groceries, and Jon review movies, and Isabelle talk about art.

So that's it, some thoughts about what I miss and what I've found. I will add that the UI of Downcast is kind of ugly. It's cramped and has too much on the screen, and I'm not a fan of a grey or black background. But I'll get over that.

I still love Overcast, and if I ever update my phone to iOS8 or upgrade to a 5 or 6 I will probably go back to it.

What do you use to listen to your podcasts? What do you love or want to change about it?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Candice in Therapy - Episode 007

Hit record and started talking. I've been unmotivated and uninspired to record a podcast lately. It's not that I haven't had things to say, just something about hitting record and talking seemed like way too much energy for me. Hopefully I've gotten over that.

I share some thoughts about some of the coping skills I've been using to help me through this setback in life. And some new coping skills I hope will keep me from getting to an even rougher place over the summer.

I've also added some potential theme music at the beginning and ending of the show. My friend Aaron Soch wrote and produced it. He's super talented. And also records his own show interviewing artists and musicians around Guelph about their top 10 favourite albums, Wikazaru. Let me know your thoughts on the theme music, do you like it? Does it have the right tone and feel? Do you think I can learn how to play it on guitar and reproduce it live?

And once again, I'm sorry about the crying.

Follow me on Twitter at @cinn48 to see my daily gratitude posts.


Monday, April 6, 2015

On Podcast Audio

There is always a big debate in podcasting regarding audio quality. Considering that it is an audio only medium I guess it makes sense.

I think the debate really cripples the medium, however, because it puts a big barrier in front of people who could be sharing their stories online in a quick, easy and very intimate way.

Many people think they can't podcast because they will need thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment, and thousands of hours of editing time. The new hype surrounding shows like Serial only make this barrier bigger for potential podcasters because that show was incredibly heavily produced (and had a very large staff).

Here's the thing - your audio only needs to be "good enough". Sure, everyone has a slightly different idea of what "good enough" means, but basically you want to keep in mind that the average person listens to podcasts on headphones. You want to make sure there isn't a lot of high end noises like a high pitched hiss of white noise, peaking the microphone, or excessively sibilant S sounds. You also want to make sure the recording is loud enough so the listener doesn't need to turn their headphone volume up to maximum to hear you at a reasonable level. And that's about it.

Now, there are some exceptions I think to choosing "good enough" sound. And those exceptions are where people are trying to monetize right from the get go. And nowadays there are a lot more of those podcasts. I feel like if you are charging advertisers or asking your audience for money (not tips, but an actual salary) then you need to provide sound quality that is as good, if not better than listening to radio or television.

And this is where I talk about Gimlet Media. I love Gimlet Media and their shows StartUp and Reply All. I was a bit late to start listening, maybe by a few months, but I really enjoyed following the story of StartUp while watching the story of Gimlet Media in almost real time. And as a person who embraced the internet fully way back in 1996 I super enjoy the topics covered by Reply All.

But their audio is surprisingly bad.

Now, don't get me wrong, they achieve "good enough" and potentially even a bit better than that, but for a business which has thrown all of its eggs into the aural basket they should have bloody fantastic audio.

Most of the people working for Gimlet and producing shows have worked in public radio, including NPR and WNYC. They know what really beautiful audio sounds like, yet they have not achieved it.

I tweeted about this a few months ago and got a couple of responses from people who also felt the audio was not really great. Some even stopped listening over it. But I haven't. I really enjoy the content and look forward to the episodes.

I was reminded of the audio quality today though because I was listening to the newest episode of The Podcast Digest which interviewed Alex Goldman, one of the hosts of Reply All. Listening to the two voices of the host Dan Lizette and Alex talking to each other I was surprised to realize that it sounded way better than any episode of Reply All I've ever heard. I almost didn't even recognize Alex Goldman's voice because it was deep and warm sounding, almost lush.

I don't necessarily have a point, but I think it's worth noting that an "independent" podcast has better sound than a "professional" one.

I will add, however, do not judge The Podcast Digest by the intro and outro with a high pitched woman with a South African(?) accent and incredibly sibilant S sounds. I usually need to turn the volume WAY down when she comes on.