Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Songs of 2011: Bonus Finds

Like many music bloggers, I recently posted my top 10 songs of the year.  Being a music fan, of course I had to check out the other lists from around the internet.  After exhaustively going through the lists of my favorite music blogs, I have found 5 more songs which are worth checking out.

1. Stepdad - My Leather My Fur My Nails
Stepdad is an electronic pop band from Michigan who have released an EP and this is the lead single from the album.  I love this kind of music, and what's great is the rest of the album is just as good.  They remind me of a happy version of The Bloodhound Gang.  Here is the video for their song.  Note: it is a very strange video, so you might want to just listen to the song. 


2. Dragonette - Pick Up the Phone
Dragonette is a cool Canadian band with an electronic sound and pop likeability.  They have a nice female lead singer and good songwriting.  I have heard several good songs from them so far and this one is my favorite.  I would definitely keep them on my radar.


3. Clams Casino - I'm God
Clams Casino is a new innovative hip hop producer from New Jersey.  With so many beats sounding the same these days, Clams is really stretching the boundaries by producing atmospheric beats that are at times even better without vocals over them.  Here is one of his instrumental hits called I'm God.


4. Azealia Banks - 212
Azealia Banks is like a cross between Nicki Manaj and Santigold.  In this song she comes through with 4 distinct vocal styles over a pumping house beat produced by Lazy Jay.  The vocals are equally dirty as they are brilliant.  Expect big things from her in the near future. 


5. Danny Banks - Monopoly
Danny Banks has an intense raw rap style which really stands out over the seas of rappers out there these days.  His personal style and outlook on the hip hop scene is different as well.  Monopoly has a bunch of punchlines over an electronic buzzing beat.  Get this one for free off his new album.
 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best Shows of 2011 - Top 20

I love watching tv so this year I decided to make a list of the best tv shows of the year.  I had originally intended to make a top 10 list, but there were so many good shows, I decided to extended it to a top 20 list.  Because I don't have cable or satellite tv, most of these shows are major network shows so keep that in mind if some of your favorite shows from premium channels are not on here. These are my favorite shows of 2011.

1. Breaking Bad
This show does get a lot of praise from fans and critics alike, and it is well deserved.  Bryan Cranston and the entire cast make this show thrilling and dramatic to watch week after week.  Having finished up it's 4th season, this was a good one, but not my favorite of the series.  Still, I am very much looking forward to the next season. 

2. Big Brother
This is one of the most addictive reality shows out there.  Big Brother has been on for over 10 seasons and I only recently started watching it a couple years ago.  It airs 3 times a week and I make sure to catch every episode.  The drama and scheming that plays out among the house guests is exciting to watch.  I can't wait until next season!

3. Secret Millionaire
This show doesn't get as much attention as some of the other shows, but it is one of my favorites.  In this one, Millionaires go undercover into poor communities and get to know people.  At the end of the week, they give money to the people who are in need.  It is a good hearted show that makes a difference in the lives of the people on it.  We need more shows on tv like this one.

4. Rules of Engagement
Another great show that does not get talked about very much is Rules of Engagement.  It is one of the best comedies on tv right now.  The characters are likeable and the writing is very funny.  This show has been on for several seasons for a reason.  If you like sit-coms and haven't seen this one, give it a chance.

5. Human Target
Human Target was a fantastic action drama that had it's second and unfortunately final season this year.  It's kind of like Mission Impossible each week where Chance and his crew have to save someone from being killed.  The characters were great and the episodes were fun and exciting.  If you missed this one, be sure to watch it online or on dvd.

6. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Rec is on a lot of people's best shows of the year list and for good reason. It is another one of the most funny shows on tv right now.  They have a great cast who work well together.  It is similar to The Office in terms of style, but as The Office has gone downhill, Parks is at the top of its game.

7. So You Think You Can Dance
You don't have to be into dancing to like this show.  I'm not a dancer, but I love watching SYTYCD for the contestants, judges, and of course the lovely host Kat Deeley.  This competition show finds America's favorite dancer each year.  The talent is amazing showcasing all different styles of dance, and the contestants themselves are just as great as we learn about them throughout the season.

8. Hell's Kitchen
You either love him or hate him.  I happen to really enjoy watching Gordon Ramsay and specifically his show Hell's Kitchen.  In this one, a group of chefs compete each week to become the next head chef at a nice restaurant.  There is tons of drama and action in each episode as you might expect with chef Ramsay.

9. America's Next Top Model
Ok, this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure.  ANTM had it's All Star season this year where they brought back some of the most popular models from the past 15 seasons. While I am not a fan of Tyra herself, I do enjoy this show.  There is a nice combination of reality drama mixed with artistic photography and competition.  This season had a lot of great contestants as well as some controversy.

10. Friday Night Lights
FNL had it's 5th and final season this year.  I did not even watch the first 4 seasons, but I got hooked on this last one and I'm glad I did.  The show was like a movie following this football coach, his family, the players, and the community in a small town.  There was a lot of good acting and the story was well written.

11. America's Next Great Restaurant
This was a new show that debuted this year where a group of restaurant entrepreneurs compete with each other to get the support and funding to open a new restaurant chain. Each week they competed to developed their brand and their food while being judged by experts in the food industry.  It was a good show and I hope it comes back for another season.

12. Outsourced
Outsourced was a new comedy that premiered this year but unfortunately was canceled after the first season.  It did not get a lot of support, but I really enjoyed the show and thought it was original and funny.  The show follows an American who was sent to India to manage a telemarketing group.  There were many lovable characters and hilarious moments throughout the season. 

13. Undercover Boss
In this show, CEO's of companies go undercover in their own business to see how it really is as an entry level worker in their company.  They get to see what goes on behind the scenes in their own company and find out what people really think about them.  This is another feel good show where at the end, the CEO rewards the good employees for their hard work and dedication to the company.

14. Man Up
Man Up was another new comedy that got overlooked and ultimately canceled before it even finished it's first season.  This was once of the funniest new comedies on TV, but apparently did not get high enough ratings.  It follows a group of guys, and their relationships with each other and their families.  It's hard to describe, but the characters are very funny and this one is definitely worth watching.  You can see the final unaired episodes on ABC.com or Hulu. 

15. Globe Trekker
Globe Trekker is a travel show that follows different guides as the venture to far off destinations around the world.  It is always interesting and relaxing to watch and learn about distant cities and countries from the comfort of your own home.  The show is well produced and the guides are very likeable.

16. X-Factor
Simon Cowell's new singing competition show debut in the US this year and overall it was pretty good.  It was fresh departure from American Idol which I have grown tired of.  In X-Factor individuals or groups of just about any age can try out for a spot on the show.  There were a lot of emotional moments and amazing singing as they found America's next pop stars.

17. Same Name
Same Name was a fun show that took celebrities and regular people who happened to have the same name, and had them switch lives for a week.  The famous person lives the normal live, and the normal person lives like the famous person.  The results are entertaining as you might imagine.

18. America's Got Talent
This was another one of those big budget talent competition shows.  What I like about this one is the diversity of the talent.  You get to see a lot of unique acts performing incredible feats as they compete to win a grand prize of money and a Vegas show. 

19. Love In The Wild 
Love In The Wild was a new reality show that took a bunch of singles and put them in Costa Rica to compete in challenges while being paired up randomly with each other.  Each week they could stay with their partner or switch.  The lowest performing group would be sent home.  Overall the show was fun to watch and the scenery of Costa Rica was beautiful.

20. Raising Hope
Rounding out our top 20 shows of the year is the light hearted comedy Raising Hope which follows a young dad, his baby, and his wacky family.  The show has some great characters and is different enough to stay fresh and bring the laughs each week. 

Check out the best tv shows of 2012 here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

10 Best Youtube Channels of 2011

One of my favorite things to do each day is check my subscriptions feed on Youtube for new videos that have been posted. The combination of Youtube plus the subscriptions feature is a great because it lets you keep track of your favorite Youtubers and get notifications about the new videos they upload.

I follow over 100 different channels and in this post I share my top 10 picks for 2011. These channels were active in 2011 and produced high quality content. For this list, I tried to stay away from the super popular channels that everyone knows about so if you are wondering why some of those are not on here, that is the reason.

Here are my top 10 favorite Youtube channels of 2011:

1. BF vs GF / Prank vs Prank
Jesse and Jeana from BFvsGF and PrankvsPrank have had a huge year and that is why they are number 1 on the list. They are a couple from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area who play pranks on each other and vlog their daily lives for us to watch each day. They are fun, entertaining, and have a loving relationship.
This is one of my favorite pranks where Jeana messes with Jesse using a universal remote.


2. Barely Political / Key of Awesome
Mark and Todd from Barely Political are the multi-talented duo behind the Key of Awesome music video parodies, puppet sketches, and various other comedic videos. They are masters of creating different characters and constructing laugh out loud worthy videos.
In this sketch, they have to decide on who should be fired from the team.


3. Simple Pickup
Simple Pickup consists of 3 guys who go out in public and try to pick up girls using a variety of odd tactics such as using quotes, dressing in costume, and behaving in an unconventional manner. This channel is as much entertaining as it is educational. Their videos will amaze you and make you laugh at the same time.
Here is the first one they did where they used internet references to pick up girls.


4. Bad Lip Reading
I have mentioned BLR several times over the past year because I have become a huge fan. In case you've never heard of them, Bad Lip Reading is a channel that takes music videos and completely turns them into new songs with different music and vocals. The results are remarkably good as original songs are created in the process. Their talent even earned them a spot in my 10 Best Songs of the Year list.
In this video, Justin Bieber and the guy from Rascal Flatts sing passionately about jumping beans.

5. Mediocre Films
Greg Benson from Mediocre Films has been around for a while, but recently he has put out some of the most hilarious and groundbreaking videos earning him a well deserved spot in the top 10 Youtube channels list. He does pranks, interviews, and the occasional music video, all which are likely to make you laugh.
In this video, Greg takes a simple idea such as pointing and uses it to prank people on the street.

6. The Wine Kone
Tony Wine is part creepy, part innovative, and part comedy genius. He is sort of like a dark horse in the Youtube scene, yet his talent is undeniable and you will be giggling at his videos even if you know it is wrong.
Here's one where he tells a story about an awkward interaction he had with a stranger.

7. Melissav87
Melissa Villasenor gained attention this year with her impressions act on the show America’s Got Talent. She was great on that show, and lucky for us, she has a Youtube channel where she posts her videos doing celebrity impressions and original characters.
Here's a reel where she does 21 different impressions.

8. MyHarto
Hannah Hart is a lovable young woman who is known for her Youtube series "My Drunk Kitchen" where she haphazardly cooks a dish while getting drunk in the process. While the food may not always turn out well, the video always do.
Here's a music video she made with Andrew from Songs to Wear Pants To.

9. Chess Club Comedy
I just recently discovered this sketch comedy group and while their channel is new, the makers of the videos have been doing their thing for a while and it shows. With just a couple videos released so far, both hilarious, this is definitely one of the channels to keep on your radar for the next year.
In this video, a husband loses his cool when his wife makes him guess too much.

10. Dave and Ethan
Dave and Ethan are a comedy duo who make videos where they interact with other people either by dating or interviewing.  They also tour the country and perform comedy bits for live audiences.
In this video, they go on the subway and try to pick up girls with a variety of tactics and pickup lines. 


If you liked these videos, please leave a comment below. What are some of your favorite Youtube channels?

Check out my previous top 10 Youtube channel list with some different channels and videos here.

To see the 10 Best Youtube Channels for 2012 go here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 Best Songs of 2011

2011 was a great year in music which made selecting the 10 best songs all the more difficult.  Over the past year I have collected a wide variety of songs and reviewed all of them to come up with the top 10 picks of the year.  Some of the guidelines for this list include:

- No artist repeats throughout the list.
- Song does not have to be released in 2011, it could be the year before.
- Omission of super popular songs.

Here are my picks for the top 10 songs of 2011:

1. Outasight - Tonight is the Night

Outasight is a singer/rapper who broke into mainstream this year with his hit Tonight is the Night which was featured in a Pepsi commercial.  This song has all the makings of a "song of the year" including good production, catchiness, and overall likeability.  Outasight's music is a fresh mix of funk, pop, and hip hop.  If you like these styles, be sure to look him up as he has a bunch of other great songs.

2. Demi Lavato - Skyscraper

Demi Lavato comes in at number 2 with this emotional well written song called Skyscraper.  In this song she has been broken down by a relationship, but is rising back like a skyscraper as the lyrics suggest.  This is one of those songs you can really feel.  It's the kind of song that can give you chills.

3. Meghan Tonjes - This Year

Independent singer songwriter Meghan Tonjes has had a huge year.  Gaining popularity from doing cover songs on Youtube, she has made a name for herself and has even released orginal songs such as this one called This Year.  It's an inspirational song that predict how this year is going to be a good one.  The message in this song certainly came true for her.

4. The Grates - Carve Your Name

The Grates are one of my new favorite bands of the year.  They are currently a 2 piece (former 3 piece) band from Australia who make fun, catchy indie rock songs.  This song, Carve Your Name, is not from their newest album, but it is my favorite song from them.  Their lead single from this year, Turn Me On, is also worth checking out.

5. Matisyahu - Miracle

I don't know what is it about Matisyahu, but the guy really knows how to make a hit song.  This one called Miracle debuted late last year.  It is powerful, uplifting, and has a great beat.  Matisyahu is on a hot streak having had his song One Day featured on last year's 10 Best list.

6. Bad Lip Reading - Rockin' All Night Long

Bad Lip Reading is a mysterious Youtube artist who takes other music video and creates completely original music and vocals to go with them by over dubbing the lyrics.  This idea is innovative as is, but when you realize that these songs are professional quality and actually better than the original songs, that's when you know you have something special.  Here's is my favorite of the year from them called Rockin' All Night Long where they used a Taylor Swift video and really made it a bangin' song.   

7. Alicia Keys - Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart

I found this one early in the year and while it is not from 2011, it was so good that I had to feature it in my top 10 songs of the year.  I'm not a huge Alicia Keys fan, but this song really struck a chord with me.  I love the instrumental and the vocals go perfectly with it. 

8. Nicki Minaj ft. Swizz Beatz - Catch Me

Like the previous song, I am not a fan of Nicki Minaj, but the collaboration here with producer Swizz Beatz really made this song a stand out.  The structure and beat are very different from most songs you hear these days.  It has several different elements from rap, to singing, to spacy vocals.  Catch Me is an emotional song with a beat that stays interesting even after multiple listens. 

9. Kylie Minogue - Get Outta My Way

I found this song through a Youtube video where a guy named Phil had it playing in his headphones while he danced around the subway among unsuspecting passengers.  Get Outta My Way is a catchy dance pop song with loops and layers that will get stuck in your head if you are not careful. 

10. Small Black - Moon Killer

It was tough to round out this list, but after much deliberation, I selected this song by a New York electronic band called Small Black.  The song Moon Killer has a sweeping instrumental and wondrous vocals that fill out the track and make it dreamlike.  Enjoy!

If you liked the songs on this list, be sure to leave a comment below!

Check out last years list: Top 11 Songs of 2010.

Also check out the Ten Best Songs of 2012

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Music Recommendations: Small Black, Avicii, Skizzy Mars

I'm getting excited for my top 10 songs of 2011 blog which will be posted in a couple of weeks, but until then, I thought I would share 3 songs that you should check out in the mean time.

First up is a song called Moon Killer by a group called Small Black.  I don't know too much about the group.  I found this song while browsing some music blogs.  The song has a dreamy electronic sound with vocals to match.  Have a listen.
Small Black - Moon Killer


Next is a new song by Avicii and Nicky Romero.  Apparently it is a leak and hasn't officially been named yet, but it does use a sample by Justice from the song D.A.N.C.E..  The song is much of what you would expect from Avicii with a danceable beat and catchy melodies.  Try not to get this one stuck in your head ofter 1 listen.
Avicii and Nicky Romero - D.A.N.C.E.?
(Track Removed)

Lastly is a song by a rapper named Skizzy Mars called Tara.  While I don't really care for the rapper himself, the instrumental is great with samples from Gwen Stefani.  Not too much else to say, so enjoy!
Skizzy Mars - Tara


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nielson Ratings Need to Be Replaced

The Nielson ratings system needs to be abolished.  If you don't know what it is, it is an ancient system of tracking what a small percentage of the country is watching on tv.  These ratings are then used to decide which shows will be kept on the air and which ones will be canceled.

The problem is, they are not working.  Good shows are constantly getting canceled and bad shows are constantly being kept on the air.  I'm convinced these Nielson ratings are incredibly inaccurate to what people are actually watching.

If we are going to base so much on ratings, it needs to be a much better system.  Every viewer must be accounted for, not just a tiny percentage of "Nielson Families".  Does anyone even know someone who participates in these ratings?  I sure don't.  All shows watched need to be accounted for and in all formats including online, recorded, mobile etc.

I am tired of seeing great shows getting canceled because of low Nielson ratings.  Why has this system not been updated?  There have been so many advancements in technology and yet the ratings system is still the same as it has been in the past. Come on tv industry.  Something has to be done about this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Signature Dishes - Cheap, Healthy, Easy to Prepare Meals

I don't do a lot of cooking, but I do have a few dishes I make that I thought I would share with you.  These meals are healthy and easy to make, not to mention, they are very affordable.  Below you will find the ingredients, directions on how to make it, and a picture of how it looks when it's done.  

Rice with Black Beans and Mixed Vegetables


Ingredients: Instant Brown Rice (Uncle Bens), Black Beans (Bush's), Green Giant Frozen Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli and Peppers) in the box, Butter.

Directions: Preparing this is very easy.  Cook the rice according to the box.  It takes about 10 minutes.  Cook the veggies in the microwave from a couple minutes.  Warm up the beans in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Put some butter on the rice and then mix everything together on the plate.  You can decide on the amounts of each depending on your serving size.  The cost for the meal is under $2.

Pasta with Mixed Vegetables 


Ingredients: Pasta (Barilla Mezzi Rigatoni), Marinara Sauce (Rinaldi No Salt Added), Green Giant Mixed Vegetables (Carrot, Cucumber, Green Beans) in the box, Butter.

Directions: This one is similar to the previous dish except it is pasta instead of rice.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Cook the vegetables in the microwave for a couple minutes.  Put the pasta on the plate, add some butter, and put the vegetables on top, and you are ready to go!  Like the rice dish, this one cost less than $2 for the meal.

Tips: I usually get at least 2 meals out of each preparation, and 2 preparations for each box of pasta and rice, so it comes out to about 4 meals per box.  You can substitute different ingredients and brands, for example, using a different rice or pasta, or a different kind of vegetable.  For health tips, I recommend not using a lot of butter to keep the saturated fat down.  Also for the sauce, look for low sodium varieties to keep the sodium content down.

I hope you like these quick, healthy, economical recipes.  If you try them, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missed Opportunities with Relationships

I don't have many regrets in life, but when I do, it usually involves missed opportunities in regards to relationships.  I think back to times when I probably could have gotten into a relationship if I had pursued it or taken a chance.  Often times I come to the realization that it could have been so easy at the time yet I was completely oblivious to the fact back then.  I tell myself that it won't happen again, but it always does.  Nothing changes.

It happened again today.  I was going to the grocery store after work and as soon as I parked I see this girl who catches my attention.  She had glasses like me and she looked like a single independent young woman, someone I could totally see myself going out with.  Right away I was nervous.  I actually paused for a moment so we wouldn't go in at the same time, but despite my efforts, we still did go in at about the same time.

We both got carts and went separate ways.  Missed opportunity I thought.  A few minute later, by chance I run into her again alone in an isle.  It was the perfect opportunity to go up and talk to her.  Now normally I would never do something like this.  I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing it and I would feel like I was inconveniencing her or something. 

Funny thing is, I had just watched a video on Youtube by SimplePickup and they had advice exactly for this situation.  It was running through my head.  Basically the advice was that even if you are nervous and don't know what to say, just go up and start talking.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even with this mind set, I still chickened out and walked past her without talking to her.

It makes me think, will I ever be able to do something like that and just randomly approach a girl who I might be interested in.

I go shopping at this store about the same time at least once a week.  I made a promise to myself, if I see her again, I must approach her and talk to her.  No excuses!  I have missed way too many opportunities in the past.  I can't let it keep happening.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

High School Reunion - Before and After Thoughts and Self Reflection


My high school had a reunion this past weekend.  The event was roughly organized through a Facebook group and thrown together at the last minute.  I'm not active on Facebook, but I had been following the posts about the reunion. 

Since graduation, I have not kept in touch with anyone I knew from high school; this being a decision I made by choice.  I have always been a bit of a loner or as I like to say "independent".  I had friends back then and participated in team sports, but when it came to socializing, I was never really into that.  If friends called me to hang out, I would, but I never called them. 

As time went by, I lost touch with everyone.  I went on with my life.  In the time passed since high school, my life has turned out ok in some areas, but not so great in others.  I feel like I'm not as accomplished as I should be compared to other people my age.  I think that's why even today I avoid hanging out with people my age because I don't want to be compared to them.

When I heard about the reunion happening, I was not inclined to go. To me, reunions are for the popular kids to go back and see their old friends.  I thought reunions were for for all the people who still look as good as they did back then to come back a flaunt it.  My impression was that it was for the people who became rich and successful to come back and brag about it. 

Not feeling like I am any of those 3 things, I decided not to go.  I feared if I went there, I would see my former classmates all still looking good, married happily with kids, and talking about the great jobs they have and how their lives are going great.  So I didn't go, but of course I am following the news and pictures that get posted about the reunion and what happened.

Here's where it gets interesting.  I just got through looking at about 100 pictures from the event and to tell you something, I was very surprised.  First of all, I didn't recognize half the people.  Either there were a lot of guests, or people just changed a lot.  I would say about 10% of the people looked about the same as they did before.  The other 40% I recognized looked a lot older and let's just say, not so good. 

Personally, the one thing I would have been self conscious about the most would have been my hair which has receded quite a bit.  I think most guys my age still have a full head of hair, but you know what?  About half the guys in the pictures were losing their hair just like me and they still showed up!  Another thing I noticed is how most of the guys got fat.  I never got fat, in fact I am still very skinny, probably even more so than I was back then.

So after looking at the pictures, and getting a little boost in confidence, I probably could have gone if I wanted to.  I don't regret it though.  Most of the people I knew back then, it appears didn't show up for the reunion either.  I bet there are a lot of people like me just lurking on the internet, spying on their former classmates, thinking the same thing about how they don't feel like they turned out good enough to go back and face their peers. 

It would be nice to rekindle some old relationships and establish some new networking connections with former classmates. Maybe someday if I become more content with where I am at in life, I might get on Facebook and reconnect with my old friends and acquaintances.  For now I can rest assure that perhaps I turned out better than I thought and that other people my age are not as different as I believed.  Who knows, I might actually attend the next reunion. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

5 Good Songs You Never Heard: Part 4

There has been a request for more new song recommendations so here is a continuation of the series featuring good songs that are not well known.  In this edition, most of the songs featured are from artists who I have worked with in the past. The styles here are pop and and electronic.

First is a song by an artist named Mark Crisman.  I found this guy on Myspace back in the day and he had some really excellent music.  I did a little searching recently and didn't find too much new music or news for him, so he might not be recording any new songs. Here is one of his hits called "Me Back Together".
Mark Crisman - Me Back Together
       
Next is a song by Luke Conard called The Luckiest.  Now hold on, you might have heard of him because he has gained some popularity on Youtube, and you might recognize the song because it is a cover of Ben Folds' The Luckiest, but this song was recorded by Luke back in 2004 before he became popular so not many people have heard it.  I think the song really suits him well and he did a nice job on the cover.
Luke Conard - The Luckiest (Ben Folds Cover)
       
Here is a song I almost forgot I even had on my computer. I knew I wanted to share a song by this artist named Mixwell because he is incredibly talented and has so many great songs.  While going though my files, I found this gem that was never even released.  It's called Love Life and it's an upbeat sort of reggae vibe with rap and electronic instrumentals. 
Mixwell - Love Life
       
Mistchiff is an artist known for his hard house dance music but every once in a while he breaks character and makes a song in a different genre.  In this one, Mistchiff showcases his singing voice and narrates a story about a man who showed up at his door, drunk and ready to kill him!  Once you know the lyrics to this, it is a lot of fun to sing along to.
Mistchiff - Mr. John
       
One of my favorite singers is a woman by the artist name Iza.  She is a Norway native and has the potential to be a huge singing sensation.  Iza has done a lot of collaboration work, but as far as I know she has not pursued much in the way of a solo career.  I have done much searching but she does not seem to have much of  a presence online to showcase her songs which is unfortunate.  I thought I would help by sharing one of her songs here.  Although she does a lot of collaboration with hip hop and electronic music, this one is an acoustic number.
Iza - Strong
       
   
Hope you enjoy these songs. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Jewel Wish Big Win Big Holiday Giveaway Game

My local grocery store chain Jewel has started a new promotion for the holiday season where you get these game pieces each time you shop and you collect them to win prizes.  It's like the McDonalds Monopoly game.  I started getting into it because it is fun to collect them and try to win stuff.

They are giving away $30 million worth of prizes from cash to cars to vacations.  Apparently there are certain game pieces that are common and some that are rare.  I found this list that shows which pieces are the ones that are hard to get: http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3493121

It looks like the odds of winning even the small prizes are rare, but I think I will still continue to collect them for fun and who knows, maybe I'll win something. 

Anyone else playing this game?  Have you won anything yet?  The game goes through February so there is still a lot of time to collect and win. 

Ensure Plus is so Expensive

I have been drinking Ensure Plus for a few years now because I have a hard time gaining and maintaining weight and it has a lot of calories.  You get 350 calories for an 8 ounce bottle, plus lots of vitamins which is great.  The problem is, it has become very expensive.  Most places sell a 6 pack for about $9.50. 

I have been buying the generic versions for a while because they are cheaper and still have the same nutritional value, but guess what?  Now those versions are disappearing!  My main store Jewel does not have them any more.  Target rarely has them in stock and even when they do, they are still expensive.  I even had to go to Walmart which had their own version which I don't like as much and it's still like $7.00 there.

They have them online at stores such as Amazon, but the prices are not much cheaper. 

I don't know if the price of ingredients is going up or what, but the overall cost is becoming too expensive.  Sometimes you can find Ensure coupons.  A while back I had some good ones, $3 off a 6 pack, but those coupons are not around anymore.

UPDATE 11-23-11
I just went to Jewel and the store brand is back in stock, the only thing is they changed the packaging type from can to carton.  I'm glad to see they didn't do away with it all together.

After trying the new version in the carton, I don't like it.  It is hard to drink without it dripping down the side and the taste seems to be not as good.  I don't know if they changed the formula or if the carton is changing the taste, but either way I don't like it.  I'll have to email them about this.

UPDATE: 2-15-13
The prices keep going up.  Average price of Ensure Plus is about $10-$10.50.  Even the store brands are usually about $8.  Sometimes you can find coupons for Ensure in the paper and if you use these when they are on sale, the price is ok, but still not cheap.

UPDATE: 11-25-13
Today I found the most amazing deal on Ensure drinks.  At Marianos grocery store, they were selling the 16 pack of regular vanilla for $5!  That is not a typo.  You read that correctly, $5 for a 16 pack of Ensure!  I had to stare at the price tag for about 5 minutes to figure out if this was actually right.  I kept looking around for someone who worked there to verify it.   Then I saw a big display of them also marked for $5 so it was true!  $5 marked down from the normal price of $22!  This is probably the best deal I have ever found in a  grocery store, especially for Ensure. The only catch is that I noticed the bottles expire in about 5 weeks, but that is plenty of time to drink them.  I don't know if they made a mistake and ordered too much or what, but this was some amazing deal!

UPDATE 5-23-16
I recently signed up for the Ensure coupons which helps because they will send you coupons like $3 off a multi-pack. You can get a pretty good deal with this especially if you find them on sale.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Awkward Kyle interviews Hilary at the Nitro Circus

Sometimes I find a video on Youtube that I just have to share.  This one is of a guy named Kyle Mooney who, in character mind you, goes around and interviews people while acting very awkward.  He is part of a comedy group called Good Neighbor and they have some good videos, but Kyle's interviews are my favorite.

This one is pure gold in my opinion.  It is one where he talks to some girl named Hilary about the Nitro Cirus which is like a motorcycle extreme sports kind of show.  


If you liked that, be sure to watch the featured video he did at the event here:


There is more where that came from if you are interested.  These are the kind of videos that might make you uncomfortable just watching them, but they are so funny at the same time.  I hope he does this at the next Comic Con convention.  There is sure to be great material there.

TV Talk: Regis and Kelly, Americas next Top Model, Man Up

Like most people who have to wake up early and go to work in the morning, I rarely get to watch morning tv shows. The only time I do is when there is a day off on a weekday, or during the summer if I'm not working. One of my favorite morning shows is Regis and Kelly. It's a light talk show where they have guests and talk about anything really. It's a fun show to watch, but sadly, this next week is Regis' last week. He has been doing it for so long and now he will be moving on. It is sad, but I think the show will continue. Even if it does, it won't be the same without him. We will miss you Regis!

1-19-12 UPDATE So now Kelly is hosting each week with a guest host.  Whenever I don't have work on a weekday, I try to catch the show.  It's still good.  My favorite co-host so far is her husband Mark Consuelos.  I think they make a great team.  Only problem is when you live with someone and work with someone, it becomes too much time with that person, so it might not be the best idea.  Maybe they can make it work.   

Another show I am watching this season which is sort of a guilty pleasure is America's Next Top Model. This season is an All Star season where they brought back some of the favorite models of the past 15 seasons. So far it has been a good season and they are making all the right choices for who gets voted off each week. I'm not a big fan of Tyra herself, but the show and the models are fun to watch. The one I want to win right now is a girl named Angelea. This is odd because I never really liked her in the past. She was kind of abrasive and had an attitude, but she has changed a lot. Now she is like the underdog and she has a better personality, one you want to cheer for. Can't wait to see what happens next week.

There is a new comedy I have been watching that just kind of showed up out of nowhere called Man Up. It reminds me a bit of the show Traffic Light that got canceled last season. This one is showing some promise and keeps me tuning in week after week. It's a half hour comedy that follows a group of young/middle aged guys and their relationships. It's worth checking out if you have the time.

Anyone else watching these shows? What shows are you watching?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remebering Mr. Rogers

"It's such a good feeling to know your alive".  Does that line ring a bell?  If you watched Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood as a kid, you are probably singing the song right now.  I had forgotten about Mr. Rogers until the other day when that song popped into my head.



I don't remember if I really liked the show that much, but I do know that I watched it a lot.  Looking back on it now, I'm glad I did.  Mr. Rogers was a great influence on generations of kids, including myself.  He made 895 episodes of that show to provide kids with something educational and entertaining to watch.  He also composed the famous songs you know from the show such as "Won't You Be My Neighbor".

Reflecting on myself after looking back on the show as an adult, I can see how it has had an influence on my character.  Even certain phrases I like came from that show.  I don't know if PBS is still airing the show, but if not, they should really bring it back, or use it as a model for new kids shows these days.

Thank you for all that you have done Mr. Rogers.  You will always be remembered.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Outasight - Next Big Thing in Music

I love when I find new good music, more specifically, a new good artist; one where you discover a good song, proceed to listen to some of their other songs and ultimately find out they are all good!  This rarely happens, so when it does, I get excited and have to blog about it.

I had heard this catchy song in a Pepsi commercial, you have probably heard it, it goes something like "Tonight is the night is the night... woo woo ooh ooh ooh".  So I finally got around to looking it up. Found it on Google by doing a lyric search.  It turns out the song is called "Tonight is the Night" and it is by a guy under the artist name Outasight.

I first go to the Youtube video that pops up, expecting to see something like 15 million views.  To my surprise, it only has like 100,000.  I know what you're thinking, that's a lot, and it is, but for a song that is featured in a Pepsi commercial, and sounds like a pop song that would be on everyone's top playlist this year, 100k is nothing.  Apparently, this guy hasn't blown up yet.  I predict this will change very soon.

Outasight is making his tv performing debut tonight on X-Factor which should give him huge exposure and no doubt people will look him up and find his other good songs.  I haven't even had time to fully go through his catalog and mixtapes, but already I have a few songs picked out to share with you.  First up of course is the hit "Tonight is the Night".


Next is a funky hip hop number called "It's Like That". Nod your head to this.


One more of his newer releases called "Figure 8"

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

X-Factor Review - First Live Show

When I heard X-Factor was going to be like another American Idol, I wasn't to excited to see it, but after watching it for the first few weeks, and seeing yesterday's live show, I have to say, it is one of my favorite shows on tv at the moment.  X-Factor differs from AI because it allows a wider age range, and lets groups compete along with individuals.  There are 4 judges who each team up with a certain group.  This adds some competitive nature among the judges which makes for good tv. 

Last nights 2.5 hour live show premiere was very entertaining.  I like how it was packed with content and no nonsense such as waiting until the last minute or going to a commercial break before announcing the results as is common for these types of shows.  Right after each group performed, they chose who was going home. 

Simon is his usual over-confident self.  LA is really into his group, maybe a little too much.  Paula is sweet and caring and Nicole is passionate. They banter back and forth when judging the singers after each performance.

One thing I don't really like about the show is the host.  He comes off as very impersonal and robotic.  I get that he has to keep the show on time, but many times he interrupted very important parts where emotions were high and people wanted to see.  He seemed to not know who the singers where, referring to them as "this girl" or "this boy".  It doesn't ruin the show, but he could show a little more compassion. 

I'm looking forward to next weeks live show where the viewers will start voting for their favorites.  Check it out if you haven't seen it yet. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Deep Thoughts on Life

Life is tough, but you can do it.  Sometimes I get depressed and unhappy with my life. It usually happens when I think about my limitations and compare myself to other people who supposedly have it better.  I think about all the bad things that are in the world and wonder why it has to be like that.  Why isn't it better? 

I wasn't brought up religious.  I know a lot of people believe in God.  Isn't God suppose to be in charge?  He made the earth a everything on it right?  Why would he allow all the bad stuff to happen?  I'm not really looking for a religious debate, it's just something I think about sometimes. 

You really need something to look forward to in life. You need something to live for.  What I realized is that this can be different for everyone.  Some people desperately want to get married and have a family.  For them, that is something they look forward to.

I thought about what I look forward to and the things I came up with are: browsing my favorite sites on the internet, watching good shows on tv, and listening to good songs.  These are activities I enjoy and they continuously provide new content. It is kind of sad that those are the things that come to my mind when I think about what I look forward to in life. 

Some people might say they look forward to hanging out with friends or family; maybe going out and doing fun things or traveling.  To some, those things are much more important that the activities I mentioned.

I may be going off topic, but this is just free flow writing after a session of deep thoughts.  I wonder about if there is an after life.  Personally, I think there is a good chance there is, that when you die, your "spirit" goes on.  I would like to think that karma is involved and if you were a good person, you will have a good experience in the next life.  Same goes for people who were bad, they would be dealt with accordingly after they die. 

I wonder if I am not doing the right things with my life.  I think about my job.  I need to do it to earn money, but in the big picture, it seems like a waste of time.  There are better things I could be doing.  I could be making better contributions to society. 

There is so much to think about.  So much to consider.  So much we don't know.  Life is tough, but we can do it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to Live Well on $15,000 a Year

I have seen a few articles about people who live on a small amount of income. I too don't make lot of money, so I thought I would share my tips for how to live well on a low income. Here are some of the ways I manage to make it work.

For housing, find a decent place near your work that is big enough for what you need. If you are thinking about buying a place and having a mortgage, make sure the payments, assessment, insurance, and taxes are low before deciding to live there. You will need to do all the calculations ahead of time to factor in all expenses and income to make sure it is an affordable option.

What about monthly bills? For electric, make sure you limit your usage. Only turn on lights when and where you need them. Avoid running the air conditioning/heating when you can get by without it. Unplug things you don't use very often. Use the new kind of light bulbs that use less energy. Same goes for water in that it should be used sparingly by avoiding long showers and running the water when it is not needed.

For internet, shop around for promotional rates from all available suppliers. You should be able to get a good deal for a year. If they raise your rates, call them up and haggle with them or switch to another company to get another promotion. If you want to cut out internet expenses completely, see if there are any free WiFi connections near your area.

For TV, use standard antennae to get the basic channels. It is free and there is enough good programing on the main channels to get by. If there is a show you really want to watch that is on cable, you may be able to watch it on your computer using the internet. Also you can get free trials for some of the top streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.

For food, avoid going out to restaurants or even buying fast food. Get most of your food from the grocery stores. Compare all the stores near you to see which ones have the best prices for the items you want. Get familiar with sale prices verses regular prices. Try to buy things when they are on sale. Use coupons if you find them for the things you are going to buy. Check discount stores such as Wal-Mart and Target for general grocery items as they tend to have good prices. Here are some of the best foods on a budget as well as easy and healthy meal ideas.

For haircuts, look into getting a pair of electric clippers which are great for doing your own haircuts at home. I have been using Wahl clippers for 10+ years and it is one of the best investments I have made in terms of saving money. The clippers only cost about $20 and will save literally thousands of dollars over the years from not having to go out to salons or haircut shops for hair cuts.

If you need a car, get a used car and make sure you are not overpaying on insurance. If you are a good driver, often you can get by without comprehensive insurance. Shop around to get the best deal by comparing different insurance companies. I personally have had good luck with Geico and State Farm. If possible try to pay off the car early to avoid paying interest in the long run. This tip also goes for the mortgage although this one may take time to pay off.

For health insurance, if it is not provided by your employer, you will be able to get it through the Affordable Care Act at HeathCare.gov. There are plenty of plans to choose from and you will get a credit to lower the cost each month if your income is not that high. You may even qualify for Medicaid if your income is under a certain amount each year.

Avoid entertainment expenses. There are plenty of free activities to do or ones that don't cost a lot of money. Personally, I don't go out a lot, so most of my entertainment is from tv and computer. Other options include going to a park, walking, bike riding, going to a library, a free museum, or a public concert.

Whenever you have to spend money on things, for example clothes or household items, research them to find the best prices. If you know what you want, look online and order it. Often the best prices can be found online at sites like Amazon and eBay and you can often avoid taxes and get free shipping. For local stores, check dollar stores and thrift stores for the best deals.

You can use a credit card to buy things but make sure it is paid off in full every month to avoid paying any interest. Often you can actually get cash back rewards for certain cards just by making normal purchases. I use the Chase Freedom card which offers 1% back or more on all purchases. 

Living like this, you won't get to eat at fancy restaurants often, drive expensive cars, or travel the world, but you can have good living conditions without having to earn a lot of money. Always try to spend less than what you take in so you have a profit each month. Over time it will add up and you can start to buy nice things and live even better!

Do you have any tips for frugal living? Feel free to share them in the comments below. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rules of Engagement - One of the Funniest Shows People Don't Know About

The new season of Rules of Engagement aired last night.  In case you haven't heard of it, it is a sitcom on CBS that has been on for about 5 seasons.  Due to odd scheduling and not much promotion, the show has gone someone unnoticed compared to other comedies such as The Office, Big Bang, or Modern Family.  I was lucky enough to catch onto it a while back.  I loved it and went back to watch all the episodes.

The show follows 2 couples, a middle aged couple, and a young couple.  It also features 2 side characters, one who is a rich, arrogant jerk, and another who is his employee who pretty much does what he says.  They all have different personalities and interact with each other throughout the episodes.  

In this new episode, Russel accidentally gets married to the girl Liz who he doesn't want to like, but for some reason, he can't help it.  I love this new character they have introduced.  I think she and Russel have great chemistry.  This should be a good season.

If you are new to the show, I recommend starting from the beginning so you learn who these characters are.  It is one of the best comedies on tv right now.  Don't pass it up!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More Frustrations with AT&T - U-Verse

I have had a lot of problems with AT&T internet as I have expressed in previous blogs.  Well, after a year, the frustration continues.  My 1 year promotional rate for DSL was up so I called them up to see if I could get a lower rate or change plans.  After talking to 2 people and going over different plans for over an hour, yes that is correct, I managed to get a "pending" plan.  So if I decided to change, I could call up and set it in motion.

The plan was to switch from DSL to U-Verse.  I wanted to stay with DSL and just go to a lower plan, but they said I couldn't.  Odd because on the website it still shows the lower rates.  They said the only thing to do was to switch to the new U-Verse and get a 1 year promotion on that.

At first they wanted to charge activation fees, and make me spend $100 for a new modem, but after negotiations, they waved those fees.  They offered me a decent rate for the new internet, but still it was more than I was paying for DSL before.  I said I didn't want to commit yet so the representative said, we could make the order pending until I was ready.  

Sounds ok right?  Next thing I know I am getting emails about order confirmations, and they are send me a modem!  Are you serious?  I call them up and try to figure out what is going on.  It turns out the order was set in motion, the only thing is that the activation was set for a later time in case I wanted to cancel it.  Still, now I have this modem I don't even want.  So I decide to cancel the whole thing.

Next day the modem shows up at my home and I then had to put new labels on it, go to the post office, wait in line and mail it back.  Not a good use of my time AT&T.

So now I still have my original DSL at the higher rate and I'm not sure what I want to do.  I might end up canceling the whole thing, who knows.  Why is everything so difficult with this company?

UPDATE 11-25-11

I thought I was done with this fiasco that is AT&T after I canceled my account and followed their instructions by sending the modem back.  Guess what?  I'm still getting a bill that says I owe them $100 for the modem, the one I never asked them to send me and the one I returned when they did send it to me.  I call customer service and they are not there.  I try the chat help on the website, they can't do anything about it.  So now I have to wait until Monday and call them when I get home from work.  I don't have time for this nonsense AT&T!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Good Deeds - Helping People

The other day I was in a grocery store and I saw someone had left their keys on a table where you get your blood pressure measured.  I thought, should I leave them there, or turn them into the pharmacy right by it.  I decided to turn them in because then they would be safe and if someone called the store or asked about them, they would have them.  As I was walking away, someone who was in line said something like, "There's a good Samaritan".  It made me feel good.  I hope the person comes back and gets their keys.

Not everyone does the right thing.  A few years back I remember a student of mine saying how he had once found a wallet and instead of trying to return it, he took the cash and tossed it.  I can't believe he did that.  Granted, he was young and one of the more troublesome students, but still, you would expect that people would try to do the right thing in a situation like that.

Today, I had the opportunity to help someone out, and I wanted to, but I passed on it because I was unsure.  Let me explain.  I was shopping for some parts for my car when a stranger approached me and asked if I could give him a jump start for his car.  I was a little surprised, but I was willing to help. I asked him where the car was and he said it was little ways away, somewhere where I was unfamiliar with.  The area I was in, is not a very good area, and I was not sure I could trust this guy.  He was friendly, but something about the situation just told me not to risk it. 

I thought perhaps I would go to this car with this guy to help him out and then get jumped or robbed or worse.  I didn't have a lot of time to think about all the different variables at the time, so I told him I was kind of in a hurry.  He thanked me anyway and we parted ways.  I would have liked to help him for sure, if only I could be certain his intentions were genuine.  At the time I thought, why couldn't he call someone he knew, or ask someone out by where his car was parked.  I just felt like it might have been a scam or something, so I passed up the opportunity.

Have you ever been in a situation like this?  Have you done a good deed for a stranger or have someone go out of their way to help you out?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Last Man Standing Show Review

I watched Tim Allen's new sitcom last night and overall it was better than I expected.  It's your traditional family style comedy with Tim as the dad in a house full of girls.  The first couple episodes have focused on this theme with plenty of "man" jokes.  This is ok, but I have a feeling it may get old soon.

The wife in the show I didn't care for that much. She came off as a drunk mom who didn't really care.  Maybe that is her character, but it is not appealing.  There are 3 girls in the house, each with different personalities.  I thought they were ok.

I think the relationships are what will be the best part of the show, both between the family and the supporting characters.  Overall the jokes were quick and funny for the most part.  I'm not yet declaring it a required viewing show, but I'll probably check it out next week if nothing else is on.

Update: 4-5-15 Wow this show is still on the air.  I did not end up sticking with it but it is surprising that is is still on after all these years!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale Review

So I just watched the finale of Breaking Bad and overall I have mixed feelings.  Warning, spoilers ahead!  Ok, I was glad to see Gus and his guys finally get what was coming to them.  Walt and Jesse can relax now.  Overall I thought the episide had some big moments, but most of it was a bit slow, especailly the parts with Tio spelling out words.  I think they could have edited those parts to move it along quicker. 

I had heard the finale would be "explosive", so the bombs didn't surprise me.  I like how Tio got revenge and helped Walt get rid of Gus, but the shot of Gus walking out and fixing his tie with half of his body blown off, I didn't like.  I get that Gus is hard to kill, but that was almost comical and totally unrealistic. I think it would have been better if they didn't even show him and you just heard what happened on the radio. 

I was surprised that they decided to blow up the factory, but it does make sense now that I think about it.  I was expecting a much bigger explosion, you know like you see in the movies with the good guys walking away and the huge explosion in the background.  Come on, no hero cliche for Breaking Bad? 

What was up with the flower shot at the end?  So are they saying Walt poisoned Brock on purpose?  I don't buy that.  So what, he did that so that Jesse would go to the hospital and then Gus would go there and he would blow up his car?  That is a bit far fetched to risk a kid's life.  Maybe I'm missing something, but something doesn't add up.  I'm going to listen to the BB podcast and maybe get some answers. 

So what is next?  I'm pretty sure they have one more season scheduled. They actually rapped this season up well and I could see it being the end of the series since Walt and Jesse are finally out of danger, but of course I want more.  I have a feeling the last season will have a lot to do with Walt trying not to get found out by his brother Hank.  You know there will be an investigation and there will be some clues that will tie him to it. 

Prediction, for the last season, I think Walt and his family will try to start fresh, but eventually the DEA and Hank will figure out that Walt was involved with everything.  He will possibly either go to jail, or Hank will get him out of it. I think he will be on his way to jail, but then he will die from his cancer before he even gets there.  It would be sad, but they knew it was coming and no one wants to see him in jail. 

Anyway, good season overall, maybe not my favorite season, but still very good.  Can't wait until season 5!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Random Rants: Marathons, Terms of Service, QR Codes, Job References

The Chicago Marathon was today.  I think deciding to run 26.2 miles is pretty ridiculous, and this is coming from someone who used to be a varsity distance runner.  It is not good for your body to subject it to that amount of work.  I am surprised to see how many people sign up to do it each year.  Most people probably don't run the whole time.  Maybe if you are going to do it with some friends and do a lot of walking in the middle it can be something fun to do, but running that distance is not a good idea as far as I'm concerned. 

Terms of Service agreements always bother me, especially when they put them in those little confined boxes, use capital letters, and have a long drawn out agreement using tons of "legal" words that no one understands.  You have to agree to these things all the time whenever you sign up for something of install a program.  And of course they don't give you the options to say no, so you have to "agree" or else you can't move forward.  Few people actually read these and usually it doesn't matter, but there is always the chance that they could put something in there that you wouldn't want to agree with.  That is why I don't trust these companies that make their agreements so hard to read and understand.  It just shows that they are trying to hide something and don't want you to read it. For once can we get a terms of service that is written in plain English?

What is going on with the trend of QR codes?  From what I understand, they are little squares that you scan with your phone and it pulls up a website or more information on a product.  It seems like these codes are showing up everywhere.  I think this is another one of those fads that get blown out of proportion for no good reason. I mean, I see and advertisement with a code.  They expect me to scan it and look up more information about it on my phone?  No thanks.  I'm trying to get less ads, not more ads.  There may be some practical applications, but for now, I'm not buying into it.

One thing that bothers me about filling out a job application is the references section.  You know the part where they ask you to put down the name and phone number of 3 people who know you so they can call them up and ask them if you are a good person to hire.  First off, I don't like giving out other people's information to people I don't know.  I know I wouldn't really want random companies calling me up asking me to talk about someone who put me down as a reference.  The 2nd reason why I think references are overrated is because of course people are only going to put down the contact information of people who like them and will say good things.  So what is the point?  No one is going to put down the names of people they don't get along with who might not put in a good word for them.  In theory the references concept sounds like a good idea, but in reality it is not very helpful in determining a good candidate for a job.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Minutes Podcast with Patience Hodgson and Mel Buttle

If you are up for some fun talk radio to listen to, check out The Minutes podcast which is produced every 2 weeks by the lead singer of one of my favorite bands The Grates, Patience Hodgson and comedian Mel Buttle.  Patience and Mel are a couple of ladies from Australia who talk about interesting stories that happen to them and just about anything else that is on their mind.  They both have great personalities and they are fun to listen to.

So far they have uploaded 4 episodes.  Being an American, you notice that even thought they speak English in Australia, there are a lot of different words they use for things as well as different expressions and sentence structures.  I have already learned several Australian words by listening to it.

The shows are about an hour to an hour and a half long.  They start and end with a custom theme song they made that is short but catchy.  You will hear entertaining stories about their childhood growing up and what they are up to these days.  Check it out!

Homeowners Exemption on Property Taxes being Phased Out

I received my 2nd installment for my Cook County property tax bill and like many, was surprised to see it has gone up significantly despite the fact that property values have gone down.  We had our building reassessed so the taxes were suppose to be lower and while the taxes did go down, changes to the homeowners exemption have caused the overall payment to go up. 

After looking over their website and not finding any information on why there is less deduction on the home owners exemption, I called the Cook County Assessor to get to the bottom of it.  Apparently they are phasing out the homeowners deduction completely within the next few years.  This is bad news for all home owners who depend on that exemption to help lower their rising property taxes.

It would be nice if they stated this fact to explain why the taxes are going up. I had to call up to learn about it.  I did a search and confirmed that the home owners exemption is being phased out.  This change is going to mean higher property taxes for all Chicago residents in the near future unless they make some big changes.  With a struggling economy, this is just another unwelcome obstacle we must deal with.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Economy, Protests, and the President - My Perspective

With all the talk about the economy, protests and presidential approval, I thought I would chime in on the issue.  Maybe it's because I have a job, but I don't think there is a big problem with the economy.  Yes there are people who are unemployed, and yes it is hard to get a job, but that just means you have to be more competitive and try harder.  The world, like the weather is constantly changing and you have to adapt.

If you have a business and something happens where your product or service becomes obsolete, it's unfortunate, but you have to move on to something else instead of trying to force things back to the way they were.

I think people need to take responsibility for themselves and their situations.  I'm tired of people blaming their problems on the president and the CEOs of corporations.  If times are tight, you need to save more and spend less.  Even when times are good, you should still be saving to cover yourself for when time go bad again.  People spend money they don't have by using credit and financing.  Using credit cards is fine as long as you pay the bill in full every month.  Financing is ok, if you have plenty of money to cover the entire expense, but you want to stretch out the payments. 

I liked Obama when he was first running for president and I still like him today.  People blame him for their problems when it is not his fault.  One person does not have control over everything that happens.  Yes he is the leader of the country, but he can't just make miracles happen.  He is a good guy and he wants the best for the people of the country.  Don't you think if he could give everyone great jobs and make everyone wealthy he would?

There have been protests with the whole "occupy wall street" thing. I have been reading about them and I still do not really understand what they are protesting.  To me it seems like that are unemployed people complaining about how others have jobs and are making a lot of money.  Maybe they have nothing better to do and they want to join something that is getting news coverage.  I doubt it will change much of what is going on with the economy.

Overall, people need to adapt to the current economy we live in, take responsibility and work hard.  Individuals have more control over their own lives than do big business owners or even the president.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Rebecca Black of Interviewers - Pavlina from Pavlina's Kidz Place

After searching for comedian Brian Regan videos on Youtube, I discovered a young 13 year old interviewer named Pavlina.  She did a 1 on 1 interview with him that was entertaining for all the wrong reasons, much like the Rebecca Black phenomenon.  Pavlina is a sweet girl who's interviews skills are what you might expect from an average 13 year old, yet somehow she manages to score interviews with big names in the entertainment business.

After watching several of her videos, you can see she follows a similar format for most of them by asking some generic questions from her list as she reads them off.  She usually replies with a short answer like "oh that's cool", and then moves on to the next question.  Interviewers often appear taken back, but get a kick out of doing an interview with someone other than an adult for a major tv or radio station.

From reading Pavlia's Youtube profile and seeing her videos, I get the impression that she is one of those kids with a mom who pushes her to do everything and be the best to a point where it is too much.  I could be wrong, but it definitely seems that way. 

Right now she has a lot of video interviews, but surprisingly not a lot of views at all; we're talking maybe an average of 100 views per video.  Her videos have viral potential and as soon as a website like Reddit or some famous blogger posts about her, her numbers are going to sky rocket.

Here are some of my favorite interviews she has done:
Brian Regan

Vanilla Ice

Mia Michaels

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Terra Nova Review

I watched the season premiere of the new series Terra Nova last night and overall I thought it was ok.  I like the futuristic and time travel elements.  The visuals and effects are pretty nice too.  It does play like a movie which is something you rarely see on tv these days. 

I like the actors that were chosen for the most part. The family is pretty good and the main Terra Nova guy is awesome.  Did anyone think that girl with the group of teens looked like a young Jan from the Office.  The resemblance was uncanny. 

One of the complaints I have is that it's a little unrealistic.  For example, I find it hard to believe that the main guy was able to escape prison and sneak into the portal with his family, not to mention they smuggled in the little sister in a back pack.  In this day in age, with this important of an event, it hard to believe something like that could happen. 

I would like to see some more advance weapons.  It seems like they should have more effective weapons to protect themselves from the dinosaurs. 

I like that they are starting up drama with the 2 different camps.  I also like that they have some mystery with the drawing on the stones and the son who has been missing.  I am not hooked on the show yet, but I will probably watch next week to see what happens.

UPDATE: So I watched the 2nd episode and it has kind of lost my interest.  I probably won't be sticking with this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

TV Review: Big Bang Theory, Parks and Rec, The Office, Whitney

Here is a quick review of some of the new fall tv show premieres that happened this week.

I was a fan of The Big Bang Theory in the earlier seasons, but not so much last season.  This episode was ok, but seems to be similar to last season.  I laughed maybe once.  I think the show is losing steam.  I still say the best character combo is Sheldon and Penny.  Either do more with those 2 or get Sheldon a love interest.  Bring back Judy Greer and have them get together.

Out of all the comedy showings this week, Parks and Recreation was my favorite.  It was great last season and it seems to be right where it was when they left off.  Aubrey Plaza is looking good this season, but I hope she doesn't lose the awkwardness of her character.

The Office is back with James Spader as the new boss or CEO as they have promoted him.  I think he is a good addition to the show.  He rally mixes things up and puts everybody on edge.  It's refreshing.  It should be good this season.

I have been looking forward to Whitney since I have become a fan of her videos on Youtube.  After watching the show, I thought she was great.  The show overall was a little bland, but actually I watched it again on a repeat and it was better the 2nd time around.  I think the character need a few episodes to develop their characters.  Whitney herself is good enough to tune into the show.  I'll stick with this one.

I watched the new episode of Raising Hope, and while I enjoyed it last season, I didn't really like this last episode.  They made it out so that the main character used to be a singing prodigy, but lost his talent after being hit in the head.  They kidded that shows with baby's only last one year.  Well this got a 2nd, but maybe that was too much.  

Lastly, Kitchen Nightmares is back with a new season.  Not much needs to be review with this one since it is the same kind of thing as previous years.  I like it enough to watch each week.

Don't forget to tune in for Rules of Engagement which returns on October 8th!

Friday, September 23, 2011

IQ Tests, Intelligence, Learning, and Brain Development

I took an IQ test the other day for the fun of it.  It was online and it was free.  Previous to taking this test I had considered myself to have about average intelligence.  I was never a straight A student and I don't seem to excel in any particular academic area.

So I take this test online.  It is about 38 questions and they are kind of hard.  They are logical questions that you really have to think about.  Also your time affects your score so there is pressure.  After I finished, I get my score and it is a 133.  I look up what that means and to my surprise, it is a very good score!  It is considered gifted and it means I scored in the top 2-3% of all test takers.

I thought I did ok on the test, but I never thought I would score that high.  I then tried another site with different questions and scored a 114 which is at the top of the average range, but I had many distractions during that test so I would bump it up to the above average range.  Still pretty good.

I would like to take the first test again, but it looks like they still have the same questions so that won't work.  So why did I score higher than expected?  I think one reason is because I had a decent education.  Another reason is that my social skills are not that great, so when I am interacting with other people, I tend not to talk a lot and I get kind of overwhelmed and can't think in social situations.  I think I am intelligent, but it doesn't show in those types of situations. 

Overall it was a bit of an ego booster to see those high results.  I would recommend everyone try it out.  Just search IQ tests and try out a few.

On a related note, I have been doing a lot of puzzles and brain teasers lately.  I have had extra time so I have also been learning about different topics, for example refreshing myself on Spanish and world geography.  Even with this short time I have been practicing and learning, I can really feel the results.  My vocabulary has been enhanced and I am using words that normally I wouldn't think to use.

Knowledge is one of the most important things you can have.  You should always strive to be learning and developing.  Don't waste time.  With all the resources on the internet available, you can learn anything you want for free.  Take advantage of these opportunities and fulfill your potential as a human being.