I’ve Been Eating Watermelon Wrong

For years, my answer to the question, “What’s your favourite food?” has been watermelon. Despite being an enormous fan of almost every dish imaginable, there’s something about a thick, juicy slice of watermelon that has me salivating. Maybe it’s the colour scheme, the sweetness, the texture, or a combination of the three, but I’ve always loved holding a piece by the rind and attacking it with my face.

Now, because of my passion for this fruit, I could never understand why anyone would leave any of the pink (red?) flesh on the rind when they claimed to be finished. I would gnaw at the rind until every trace of colour was gone, and all that was left was the gross white part that gives one a tummy ache (as well as the green skin itself, of course). I understand the pink flesh that borders the white doesn’t taste quite as good, but I still like it- it’s still watermelon. So the other day, I was devouring a slice and I was suddenly struck with a question:

Have I been eating watermelon wrong my whole life?

I stopped chewing and looked down at the fruit in my sticky hands. I knew what was about to happen: I would experience euphoria while I took the first few bites, but once I got down to scraping my teeth along the rind to finish every last trace of colour, I would be left with a sad, plant-like aftertaste in my mouth, not to mention the intense need to floss. I furrowed my brow and wondered, “Is it worth it?”

I began devising alternate methods of eating my precious watermelon, and I landed on one which seemed promising: what if I cut it off the rind (which I know everyone has done), but eat the white-border parts first? That way, my first few mouthfuls taste fine, but I’m saving the delicious bites until the end, leaving me with a sweet aftertaste and an immensely satisfied feeling in my tum.

And I was right. It was amazing. I ate it with a knife and fork (call me a sell-out), and a huge grin.

This may not seem like that big a revelation for you, but for me it was monumental. I chose to re-evaluate what was not only the best part of something I love, but what was most important, something I wanted to savour, and prioritise my enjoyment accordingly.

Maybe there’s a lesson here about saving the best things until after you’ve ground through the rest, or not wasting a good thing on a bad aftertaste, or even exercising self-control, but I don’t know. I’ve discovered a better way for me to eat my favourite food, so I’m happy.

Advertisements

Moses the Misfit [Scripture Read Badly]

Moses was born at a time when Hebrew boys his age were being murdered. His mother, Jochebed, desperately tried to hide him, but when she could no longer, made a basket and sent Moses down the Nile, in an act of surrender, hope for a better life for her son, and possibly because she preferred to say goodbye properly than to have her son ripped from her arms.

Little Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, but was swiftly put in the charge of Jochebed once more, this time on behalf of the princess. Moses’ own mother nurses him and raised him until he was older.

This got me thinking: did Moses always know he was a Hebrew?

Nothing in Scripture suggests that he found out when he was an adult, yet that assumption is prevalent thanks to The Prince of Egypt and other on-screen depictions.

I would argue that Moses grew up knowing he didn’t belong in Pharaoh’s court, that he would have spoken Hebrew as his first language, that he would have faced prejudice from within his palace home.

Perhaps this is the reason he finally snapped and killed an Egyptian; not because he suddenly empathised with the mocked and beaten Hebrew, but maybe because he related to being bullied.

Nonetheless, the day after he struck the man down, Hebrews were openly scoffing at him when he tried to break up a fight. The fact that he ran away in that instant leads me to think that his own people were unwelcoming to him. Forty years later, he doesn’t even feel comfortable presenting God’s promise to the Hebrew elders and needs his brother Aaron to advocate for him.

It’s possible that Moses was the embodiment of what his people would later become: a drifter with no home. But I’m sure it was important for him to act as a liaison between the two peoples, knowing both well, yet belonging with neither. We see later that Egypt-dwelling Israelites didn’t act in full obedience to God, yet Moses did (mostly), perhaps because his lack of belonging allowed him to pursue the promise of God fully.

What do you think? Am I way off? Let me know!

For further discussions about Moses, check out Scripture Read Badly, a podcast I co-host.

The Ideal Star Wars Generation: The Younger Millennials

I may be wrong, but I think I belong to the ideal generation to experience Star Wars.

Society is torn regarding Episodes I-III of Star Wars. While some praise the prequel movies as an immersive and engaging look into the history and mythology of the Star Wars universe, just as many are outraged- or indifferent- about their very existence. Sure, the naysayers have a valid stance: Jar-Jar, politics, “Little Annie”, CGI, Padmé, Jar-Jar, etc., etc. I get it. However, there are also many good things about them (including the lightsaber choreography, Darth Maul, new planets and aliens, etc.). The quality of the prequels is not what I’m here to debate.

If you grew up with the Original Trilogy (the “OT”, to those who regard Star Wars as scripture), and especially if you were a young kid at the time of the release of any of those movies (’77-’83), I’m sure you are at the very least aware of the hype surrounding Luke Skywalker and the gang. Every Star Wars fan likes those films, and holds them in high regard, myself included. But after a 16-year wait, a large amount of the OT generation were taken aback at the on-the-nose, over-explaining, complicated nature of the Prequel Trilogy. I understand that.

However, I was five-and-a-half years old when Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out, and grew up as the prequels were released. I am what is considered one of the younger Millennials (born in 1993). I loved the prequels as they came out, and LEGO Star Wars, as well as the Battlefront video games helped me familiarise myself with their stories and characters to the point where I had successfully forgotten/ignored all the bad stuff (read: dialogue) in Episodes I-III. Ten years on, I see the weak points/characters/acting with far more awareness, but the nostalgia I acquired through being the age I was at their release supersedes all the cringe-worthy moments.

This is why I believe that my contemporaries (those born between 1990 and 1999) are the “chosen generation”. I could be wrong- it might just be me being a massive Star Wars nerd- but I would speculate that those of my decade were generally more accepting of the prequels. Anyone that likes Star Wars enjoys the OT (almost without exception), so the younger Millennials already score 2/2. The Sequel Trilogy is now underway with Episodes VII-IX, and we are chomping at the bit for the new special effects, more modern vernacular, complex and mysterious characters (as opposed to the standard “goodies” and “baddies” of the OT and prequels), and, of course, we didn’t have to consciously wait 30 years for the legacy characters (Luke, Han and Leia) to grow old, since the OT came out before we were born.

Generation Z (2000-present) is growing up with the flashy visual effects that the OT lacks and the prequels do okay at, so I can imagine kids these days may even be less inclined to regard the originals as the masterpieces they are. They may also think the prequels look tacky and fake. Who knows?

The most contentious trilogy is obviously the prequels, and I think many people my age are more forgiving of those movies, considering our age at their release, and thus more open to the direction of the overall saga. Plus, we’re in our 20s now, and we have a new Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future, and we are old enough to be fully immersed in the new films, yet not too old to feel like it’s losing the original magic (since we would also say the prequels were magical, even if it is just nostalgia).

There are, of course, exceptions to this theory, and many OT generation Star Wars fans are on board with all the new stuff, though there is a staunch group of (justified) purists that believe the original three movies should have been the only ones. For the most part, these are Generation X-ers whose nostalgia is closely tied to the originals at the time of their release.

My point in all of this is that you are most likely to enjoy and regard whatever trilogy you grew up with as your favourite, and my being a Millennial allows me to be better at identifying the beautiful moments in all of the movies, even if it is only because I can forgive the prequels.

What do you think? Does liking the prequels make you more receptive to the new movies? Am I way off the mark? I tried to stay on target, but I possibly got lost in my own spiraling thoughts. Let me know in the comments or email ryan.luke.winslade@gmail.com with your feedback.

The Real Reason You Wouldn’t Have Done Better Than Adam and Eve [Scripture Read Badly]

In the beginning was the Garden. Everything was perfect. Adam and Eve were without sin, the animals were perfectly at peace with one another, and the word “death” was only a concept. But then things changed.The perfection was disturbed by a walking, talking serpent. This creature made Eve question what she knew to be true, then succumb to eating of the fruit, passing some to Adam as she did so. People joke about this all the time, insisting, “I wouldn’t have listened to a talking snake.” And that might be true, but maybe not.

Regardless, Eve did listen to the serpent. And here’s why:

Prior to that moment where he said, “You will not surely die,” Adam and Eve had never ever been exposed to a lie. For all they knew, they had remembered God’s instruction wrong, and the serpent had it right. They had no reason to mistrust what he was saying, so they listened to him. And if you were them, you wouldn’t have known what a lie was either.

The problem with saying you would have done things differently is that, unlike Adam and Eve, you already have the knowledge of good and evil, due to their decision. Without knowledge of evil, all would appear good, pleasing and perfect, including lying, hissing serpents. They could not even fathom what “deception” was, let alone recognise the Deceiver. You would have fallen. Perhaps humanity was destined to fall. Perhaps we were designed to fall. 

Or perhaps I’m completely wrong. What do you think? Email ryan.luke.winslade@gmail.com with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you! Also, check out Scripture Read Badly, my podcast where myself and a mate discuss this type of stuff.

Genesis 1-2 Being Literal Doesn’t Matter [Scripture Read Badly]

I grew up my whole life believing that God made everything in 144 hours (i.e. Six 24-hour periods). I believed that the theory of evolution was evil, that it denies the presence and handiwork of a Creator. I believed that taking a firm stance either side of the “creation debate” was critical to my ability to exemplify the Gospel to others. But then I began reading Genesis 1 and 2 more closely.

Far be it from me to say God couldn’t make everything in 144 hours; in fact, I am entirely into that idea. However, I read through the account in preparation for the first episode of Scripture Read Badly (my podcast that you should totally check out!) and realised that, although the first five days seem really straight forward (if you consider creating stars and galaxies a relatively quick process), the sixth day appears to last long enough for God to not only create all the animals of the earth (or their most ancient ancestors), as well as Adam, but also for Adam to name all the animals of the earth- not to mention Adam sleeping long (and deep) enough to have his rib extracted and fashioned into Eve.

Again, not that things would have necessarily needed to take a long time. Adam could have slept for 10 seconds and it would have been long enough; and there might have only been a handful of creatures that he needed to name. The point: We don’t- and can’t– know.

Sure, there are workarounds and loopholes we could use to validate our arguments, or we can take leaps and bounds in our faith in macro evolution or in a young Earth, but at the end of the day (24 hours?), we are all in exactly the same position: that of uncertainty.

I think I cared about this issue because I was insecure in my faith- as if God needed my help to defend the scriptures; as if the Lord God, who is a strong and mighty tower, was actually a stack of Jenga blocks that could come crashing down if the right argument poked at it enough. But he’s not. It’s okay if Genesis has a poetic depiction of creation. It’s also okay if it is 100% literal. This is not a hill that I want to die on, and I honestly think it doesn’t matter.

God created everything; how long it took isn’t very important.

What do you think? Am I a heretic? Am I denying the inerrancy of the Bible by being open to a poetic account? Leave me a comment or email ryan.luke.winslade@gmail.com.

Social Media: How to Be Successful

I’m being cheeky in this post, so I don’t want you to expect any actual tips. These are some simple observations I’ve made over the last year or two of “trending” social media methods. If you find yourself defending your own social media usage as you read this stuff, then it would be safe to conclude that you observed and adopted these methods before I did (even if I prefer to make fun of this way of doing things instead of actually following it). Take what I say with a grain of salt. There may be some overlap between platforms, too, so give me a bit of grace.

images

  1. FACEBOOK

It seems Facebook’s question, “What’s on your mind?” has stood the test of time, resulting in random thoughts, jokes or song lyric status updates becoming the norm. In recent years, more ways to create an amazing Facebook presence have become popular. One such way is to share memes (bonus points if you make your own actually-funny memes); or you could add photos of a sunset or social outing to your photo album named after the year (e.g. “Life in 2017” or “Twenty Seventeen: a Year of Possibilities, in Which I Most Likely Do What I Did in Twenty Sixteen, with a Few Notable Differences”). Additionally, you could express your political opinions, enjoying the uplifting and positive discussions that are sure to follow. Furthermore, you could perfect your “Relationships Expert” persona by sharing those “I’m a single, confident, ‘I don’t need a man’ woman who is so secure in being single that I will almost definitely be in a relationship within a month of sharing this; but I’ll still empower women who want to save their first kiss for their 10-year wedding anniversary” kind of blogs. You’ll probably get at least one thousand shares and “You go girl!” comments. Oh, and if you’re a male, just invert all the pronouns/analogies appropriately (e.g. “Why I’m no longer waiting for Mrs Right”) and you’ll probably get double the response, since girls will now view you as “on the market, but too good to say it plainly”. Works every time.

new-instagram-icon-2.jpg

2. INSTAGRAM

There are only a few ways to truly build a successful Insta-presence, so pay close attention. First, and most obvious: post selfies of you (+friends/family/pets/babies) doing something awesome; second, you can play off one of your recent triumphs as no big deal (e.g. “Just climbed Everest. #nbd #smashedit #anotherdayintheoffice”); next, try posting a photo of landscape/nature of any kind (human presence optional), with either an ambiguous, faux-profound caption/Bible verse/quote by a philosopher/quote by a celebrity of any kind (either hashtagging nothing at all, or going all the way and #hashtagging #every #single #word, making sure to use such tags as #vsco #vscocam #pnw #adventure #musings #etc). If you’re a parent, obviously post pictures of your kids, especially babies, hashtagging their full names until they’re old enough to have their own account. Lastly, the classic coffee/food shot (or the Christian classic, #coffeeandtheword).

twitter-bird-white-on-blue

3. TWITTER

Tweets are basically ammunition for the argumentative and easily misunderstood. 140 characters were practically made so everything you “tweet” will be taken out of context, so why not help everyone out and post some out-of-context quotes or thoughts? You’ll certainly amass attention this way; and no publicity is bad, right?

logo

4. BLOGS (technically social media, but hey)

Pretend that what you have to say is completely original (and interesting); no one has ever written exactly what you have, so why not say it too? Blogs are essential; no form of literature is more crucial to the development of society today than what you write on your free-use, hardly-customisable website. Anyone can change the world with a single blog post. Also, no need to edit/spell/grammar-check or have an avid reader/writer proof-read it and give feedback. Nobody cares: good art doesn’t need fine-tuning. And again, every blog that has ever been written by someone with absolutely no great platform is entirely necessary. Don’t hold back if you have a keyboard and an opinion.


Now, I know I haven’t been the most subtle; my tips got more and more sarcastic as you made your way down the list. If I sound a bit jaded, I apologise. Please know that my intention was not to make anyone feel attacked, but to make fun of “the system” of social media platforms. I hope you found it insightful, and I also hope it made you laugh a little.

Did I miss any tips? Let me know!
Post a comment, or email ryan.luke.winslade@gmail.com. I would love some feedback.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started a Podcast

I’ve been podcasting on and off for about two years. I started my own show because I believed I had something of value to contribute to people, and because I often found myself having conversations that I wished had been recorded. As everyone knows, when you want to start an endeavour and are not quite sure where to begin, you Google it.

As I searched around, I found a bunch of sites with lists like this, showing a step-by-step process by which you can start your own podcast and get it out there for the world to hear. I followed the instructions and was approved by iTunes within a week. It was awesome; anyone in the world could hear my voice. I felt like I had made it. But within a few weeks of actively podcasting, I realised that there is a lot more to “making it” in podcasting than just getting your show up on the internet.

So to help you, I have compiled a list of things that it is extremely important to address before you begin recording your first episode. Here they are:

1. Your microphone will determine your sound quality

Podcasting is obviously all about sound. You may think that your computer’s built-in mic is good, but I guarantee that your favourite podcasters have an external microphone hooked up to their computer. While you don’t need to sound like a professionally recorded radio program, people won’t want to listen if it sounds like you’re speaking into tin cans connected by string. That said, most podcasts can get away with someone calling in over Skype with a computer’s internal mic, as long as you aim for at least one person on the show having a good mic.

I would recommend a simple USB microphone, usually $100-200. I use a Blue Yeti mic, and it’s very reliable and sounds terrific.

2. A listener’s first impression is often your introduction

It’s a good rule of thumb to have something at the beginning of your show to gear the listeners up for your main content. That said, try to keep it short and simple. If you’re using music, make sure you have the necessary permissions to do so (which may mean using music by someone you know, or using free music from somewhere online; alternatively, I would be happy to write you an intro for cheap – my email is below). What tripped me up early on was keeping it short. If your intro is longer than 30 seconds, it’s getting a bit lengthy. Try keeping it between 10 and 25 seconds, especially if it’s the same intro every time, or else your listeners might be put off (but not necessarily).

3. Make sure you have a clear idea of your content

This is one that nipped me in the bum in my own podcast. The premise for my show was “to talk about stuff and look at things a little differently”. I know, that’s pretty vague. Without me clearly nailing down what I was going to talk about, it didn’t ensure a secure listenership. When a TV show has its first, “pilot” episode, what it is doing is testing the waters, showing the audience generally what to expect from episode to episode. This means a viewer knows within an episode or two whether or not they are going to stick with the show. It’s predictable (more or less). My podcast wasn’t. Even though the format didn’t change, it lacked a certain consistency that ultimately led to my show’s downloads declining.

What I would recommend is to define your show’s parameters before you start, so that you aren’t making things up as you go along (which is typically unsuccessful). You don’t have to state them in your first episode; you should try showing your listeners what to expect by example of your first few episodes.

Identifying the usual length of each episode early on is also an important step to take. You may want a longer show, but if it’s not dynamic enough, you may find people dropping out. And that brings us to…

4. Keep it dynamic

A good way to ensure a consistent listenership is to not always be exactly the same. Ways to do this include:

Interviews or guest appearances – it’s a different voice, and they may add their own flavour to the mix. Plus, their friends/fans might begin listening to your show as a result;

Recurring segments – doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate, but it’s always something to keep in mind;

Bonus episodes – if an interview went overtime and you had to cut it down, put out the whole thing as a separate episode; or if you have something to say that won’t be an entire show by itself, you can put it out as a mini episode;

Audience interaction – reading out listener’s emails, taking suggestions or reading reviews from your listeners can often motivate them to keep on listening. This feedback from the audience can sometimes be critical, but it is often helpful and could motivate you to keep going if you’re discouraged. Always promote audience interaction.

5. Find a hosting site for your audio

There are a thousand “how to…” videos that could show you the ins and outs of uploading your podcast to any number of hosting sites. Sites like Podbean.com are really good if you don’t want to jump through lost of hoops to get your show “out there”, and they show you really cool statistics, etc. But if you take that route, you can only upload small files before you have to start paying for the service (which, all things considered, is probably worth it). But, after an excruciating amount of time researching and trialling, I have discovered that…

6. You CAN podcast for free!

Trust me – I do it. Here’s how (it may get confusing, and may not be relevant, so feel free to skip this step!):

I host my files on the Internet Archive (archive.org), then embed the URL for each audio file in a WordPress (wordpress.com) blog post.

There is a way to set up an RSS feed (which iTunes gets your new episodes from) in WordPress, but I won’t go into that here. In short, I take WordPress’s RSS feed and use it to create a new, shorter, personalised one in Feedburner (feedburner.com). Feedburner also has some statistics, but not as many as a paid site. Just Google how to set up your RSS using WordPress and Feedburner; it’s pretty simple.

I go to one of my already uploaded episodes on Archive.org (again, skipping the part where you actually upload it, which is easy), then open the VBR MP3 link, copy the URL (http, not https – just delete the S and hit enter) and pasting it in the “embed media from URL” slot in a WordPress blog post (under Insert Media). Once that embed code is inserted into the post, I write a description for the episode, make sure the correct Category box is selected, then post it.

If your WordPress and Feedburner are working together properly, not only should you be able to play the episodes on your WordPress site (using the cool little player), but if you type your Feedburner feed into your web browser, it should take you to a list of your show’s episodes that will allow you to select “Play now”. That is how it should show up.

But how do I get my podcast in the iTunes store? Here’s how…

7. Submitting your podcast to iTunes

This should be one of the simplest things about setting up your podcast. There are very clear instructions on the iTunes website that show you how to submit a podcast in the iTunes Store. Basically, you need a podcast description, you need a working RSS feed with at least one episode on it, you need a picture for your podcast (which has to be pretty big) and you need to select whether it is explicit or not. And also, you need to relax. Once a podcast RSS feed is submitted for review, it will most likely get approved. If you’re a regular podcaster that doesn’t have any bad stuff (like racist content, for example), you can take it easy. It is probably going to get approved. They will notify you when it’s up, and then you can start sharing your podcast with the world.

8. Sometimes gaining momentum takes a long time

Getting the word out there about your podcast will take some shameless self-promotion. If possible, I would suggest trying to ramp up to the release of the first episode before it airs so you start out with a wide exposure. To do that, you should do your best to get your friends and workmates on board, asking them to spread the word (by sharing a Facebook post, or by plugging it on their own shows, or in their own networks). It’s an unfortunate truth that the podcasts that “blow up” are few. Most people that have successful podcasts already had some kind of pre-existing platform that they started from, whether that was as an author, musician, actor, politician, etc. It can be hard for the rest of us to get off the ground. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually!

9. Podcasting alone can be difficult to maintain

Firstly, if you’re all by yourself on the mic, people may eventually get bored of you (which is why keeping it dynamic is important!) – sad, but occasionally true. I often found it hard to maintain a good quality of content if I had no one to discuss things with, too, so I began to do interviews. Having another person or two on the podcast may mean you have to share the glory, but if they’re the right person, your show could get exponentially better as time goes on. Having a co-host not only means more variety, but also a broader initial audience (they’ll know some people you don’t, and vice versa), and more ideas. On top of that, maintaining consistency with releasing episodes can be very difficult by yourself. With a co-host, you can keep each other accountable to recording dates, motivate each other and share the workload. It’s always more fun to hear two friends banter with each other than to hear one person by themselves (with a very few exceptions).

10. Have fun!

I know it sounds cheesy, but if you take yourself too seriously (like I did), you will probably find the slow start pretty frustrating. Remember that you’re just a person talking into a computer hoping that someone will listen to what you have to say. If you think about it, it seems pretty ridiculous. When I first started, I thought that my voice was the only voice that mattered. I thought that people who chose to not listen to me thought they were better than I was. I was wrong. I was pretentious and entitled, and it sucked the joy out of the experience. Podcasting is about being interested in what you’re talking about. You’re not the final authority on whatever topic you choose to address. You’re just you. Remember to have fun – you’ll miss out if you don’t.

Does that list help? Let me know! Email me at ryan.luke.winslade@gmail.com with your feedback.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑