TopGear Season 10 Episode 7 Review

I enjoyed this week’s show. It was good to see something different. James, Richard and Jeremy all go buy vintage British cars from the 1970’s. They all seem to be small economical cars that are 4 door hatchbacks or mini 4 door sedans. They also seem to be the design that my dad’s 70’s era Buick century 4 door hatchback was based on. buick century hatchback, 4 door, 1970's(what was going on in that decade?)  Then they do some unusual tests to see how well these cars have dealt with age.  The funniest ones are saved for the end when they have to drive the car on a bumpy test road and have eggs in a colander strapped above their heads. Additionally they all loose parts of the car along the way. This was probably the funniest part. Surprise always helps the funny. Later they also fill the cars with water via a fire-hose and try and see how far they can drive them before they drain below the steering wheel. Clearly the BBC TG staff has been bored lately and working hard on new unusual ways to torture their presenters. Jeremy’s car doesn’t fare well since it keeps loosing doors unexpectedly. So, I may have ruined the surprise.

The star in a reasonably priced car segment was fun. Jennifer Saunders of French & Saunders show and Absolutely Fabulous fame comes by to take out the Chevy whatever around the track and she is surprisingly fierce. She is really competitive and apparently fearless. I guess you can get that way when you do comedy, you can’t really be scared of anything in order to do that for a living. Anyway she ends up 2nd on the board. Way to go Jennifer! It is great to see that since I am a fan of her work.

Other than that they do some mucking around in the news about Korea and forget that Holden (vauxall minaro) is from Australia. they also insist on pronouncing Hyundai as Hiaundai instead of Hunday and Jeremy forgets how to use the TV and prints out all his pix on paper.  Jeremy also burns mucho rubber in a new Aston Martin DBS. He concludes that it is really a juiced up DB9 replacement. Ok, but there are many of us that are completely ambivalent about that. It’s gorgeous but unattainable.

Coincidentally there is also an article in TIME magazine about the 15 million BBC channels all with the same name in the UK and the issues they have had keeping viewers and trying to not rig the unscripted shows they run. They make no mention of TG of course, because it’s a pretty successful franchise. I do thing that the BBC is doing ok really and not nearly as badly as they might say because in addition to all the fees they extract for ads on BBC America and the TG site, according to TIME they get $275 bucks from every TV receiving household each year in the UK. Whether it’s paid through taxes or directly I don’t know, but no one else gets that here. ( except PBS? but not that much) Sounds pretty good to me.

Anyway enjoy the full version online at YouTube here:

Holiday Movie Guide 2007 – Top Movies to see this Christmas

I have been looking at the New Movies being released in the next month and it looks like there will be a lot to see over the christmas holiday break. A lot of big blockbuster movies will be out and hopefully everyone will have more free time around the holidays to go out and see them at the theaters. (or at least kids and teenagers will, adults may still be working) Some of the movies I think look good are:

1. Sweeny Todd (the demon barber of fleet street)- This is an adaptation with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter from a musical. So expect singing, but also expect something unique and dark that only Johnny Depp and Tim Burton could bring you. I wouldn’t expect gore here, but I would expect the odd take on the world that seems to be their specialty and expect some humor too.

2. I Am Ledgend– People are excited about seeing Will Smith in a movie again since this is supposed to be a movie adapted from a graphic novel. That seems to be the golden ticket with the teens and 20’s people of today. Nothing is hotter underground than the comic culture except maybe zombies and vampires and this has those too. It’s scifi genre with a killer virus. Scifi is a genre that Will Smith does well so maybe this will be a sneak attack because people have been kind of bored with Will Smith lately. But I am not so sure about those vampires. I think that’s where this one falls off the edge of believability.

3. Kite Runner – a movie that is small and independent and features cultural differences between the west and the middle east. I think this is a contemporary and relevant story right now and people appreciate the truth in stories that entertain and educate at the same time. We can all relate here.

Online Christmas Shopping Coupons

I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done even though it is not even December yet. I was smart and got online and got things bought the easy way. (without standing in long lines and driving all over the place) I do like shopping online more that shopping in malls this time of year and it’s much more productive. Luckily there are also great sales online and coupon codes for even better deals. Coupon Chief has been a site I have used before that I like because it has coupon codes to stores I actually shop at. One I shop at for myself more than others is Old Navy. They have great deals to begin with and then with a discount it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free. I also shop a lot at Target for gifts because they have something for everyone. I have been able to find sports stuff for my brother, small kitchen appliances for my mom and well my dad is impossible to shop for. Check them out if you are stuck for what to get your family and friends this Christmas. They might give you some good ideas.

Top Popular TV Shows by Ratings November 2007

television, TV, showsEvery once in a while I like to check in on TV ratings and see what the most people are watching these days. My tastes don’t seem to be the same as the general public, but it’s interesting to see what they’re into even if it’s shows I would rather get a root canal than watch. This is how the list looks for the top 30 TV shows on network free TV in the past week (from the media week daily programming insider email)

What I think is surprising is that this list doesn’t look all that different than it did a year ago, or even 2 years ago. Last year Heroes was doing better but that is about it. Statistically we are still pretty much watching the same shows in 2007 that we were in 2005.  (yes, football got shifted around a bit in the mix, and “Samantha Who?” is new but that’s not a lot of change in 2 years)

Is it also just a little amazing that something like Charlie Brown still holds the attention of viewers after all these years? It’s nice to see something traditional on TV actually get some viewers.

Only 1 freshman series on the list. I guess there really weren’t many winners from this year’s new shows, so the writer’s strike could have started a whole lot earlier.

And how does 60 minutes keep drawing in an audience? I watch that and think it’s a show for old people, by old people. (and really bushy eyebrows) But then again only about 25% of our country is high school age or younger, (although it’s 1/3 of our lifespan) so maybe that isn’t such a bad demographic to pursue.

8 shows are Crime Dramas and 8 are reality shows. Except for Dancing with the Stars (which is almost a variety show) I could see all of them dropped and not miss them.

The rest: 5 dramas, 3 comedy and 3 sports. I am really surprised that Football is doing so well on Saturday and Sunday nights. Traditionally people are out of the house on Saturday night and TV ratings (much like internet traffic) is at it’s lowest point of the week so for any Saturday Night show to be on this list is amazing.

Top 30 Network Shows – Ranking by Total Viewers:

1. Dancing With the Stars – Monday (ABC: 22.85 million)
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC Philadelphia at New England: 21.81)
3. Dancing With the Stars – Tuesday (ABC: 20.96)
4. Desperate Housewives (ABC: 18.64)
5. NCIS (CBS: 17.34)
6. House (Fox: 16.89)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS: 16.13)
8. Criminal Minds (CBS: 15.88)
9. CSI: Miami (CBS: 15.83)
10. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC: 15.03)
11. CSI (CBS: 14.75)
12. CSI: NY (CBS: 14.56)
13. Samantha Who? (ABC: 14.38)
14. Grey’s Anatomy (ABC: 14.11)
15. Two and a Half Men (CBS: 13.91)
16. Cold Case (CBS: 12.98)
17. Sunday Night Football (NBC : 12.91)
18. The Bachelor: After the Final Rose (ABC: 12.30)
19. Brothers & Sisters (ABC: 12.25)
20. Without a Trace (CBS: 12.21)
21. The Amazing Race 12 (CBS: 11.80)
22. Law & Order: SVU (NBC: 11.69)
23. Survivor: China (CBS, clips show: 11.58)
24. Rules of Engagement (CBS: 11.48)
25. The Bachelor (ABC: 11.22)
26. Saturday Night Football (ABC: 10.96)
27. Heroes (NBC: 10.80)
28. The Unit (CBS: 10.76)
29. He’s a Bully Charlie, Brown (ABC: 10.42)
30. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC, Sun. 7 p.m: 10.37)

Holiday Shopping Guide Online

This time of year everyone is looking for the best gifts to give and the best deals. It is hard to pick out stuff from crowded department stores and guess what people will like. There is a new blog I ran across called shoppingaddicted.com that reviews products and has some good suggestions for gifts this christmas. It would also be helpful for keeping up with what is new and hot in consumer electronics and some shopping web sites. It’s just gotten started so there isn’t a ton of information yet, but it looks promising. Check out the blog for more info.

Why ATT High Speed DSL Sucks

Apparently this is turning into a rant blog this week. I am trying to get my parents set up with DSL service within the Chicago metropolitan area and AT&T came back with the message that the service is not available in the area. How nuts is that? ATT sends us a million direct mail offers for DSL and then tell us it’s not available in our area? Its a suburb with 50,000 people and a subdivision with 250 homes and they say DSL is not available in the area. Ugh. It’s like they don’t even want our money.

So, after that first call from some guy saying it just isn’t available in the area I called the 800 number and got someone who also said it is not available in our area (big suprise) and I asked who I had to talk to about finding out why. She had to call 3 other people before anyone knew anything other than what their computer screen told them to say, and then finally we found the denial of service was because of a “shortage of facilities” meaning that we were the last ones to sign up and the bandwith was all taken. So, we put in an engineering ticket to see if they can fix this or if it still gets denied. Then I will have to call back again and get someone to submit more tickets to see if they can get this resolved. It would be ridiculous to have dial up when you want DSL and we can’t get cable because the line was cut accidentally during some yard work many years ago.

You would think that if service wasn’t available because of a shortage of facilities they wouldn’t deny it, they would put it on hold until they could build out the system to accommodate it. I don’t mind waiting a few weeks for them to add more capacity I just don’t believe that no is the appropriate answer when customers are there with money in hand ready to buy. And when I have to work this hard to get something this basic, why is their customer service system so inept at getting orders complete? It’s turning away revenue. Why is this an ok business practice when it pisses off the company and the customer?

Cleaning out the Garage

The garage at my parent’s place is packed. It is so packed with yard related stuff that it is getting tricky to pull both cars into it and not hit anything. I normally wouldn’t notice but I was there over the thanksgiving weekend helping cook and syating there a while and I brought the garbage cans in and couldn’t find a place to even put them. The spot they had was taken within the time they were out for a day. Besides needing a cleanout of all the old pots, watering cans, hoses, clippers, rakes and shovels, it also needs a floor cleaning.  Garage floors get all stained from the cars over the years make them look gross even though they’re not in bad shape really. I guess they knew what they were doing with quality in home building in the 1960’s, we just have to clean it up a bit. But maybe I will leave that until it gets a little warmer outside.

TopGear is Pissing me off! (BBC America Edits a Lot Out)

topgear, BBC AmericaOk TopGear and company, I thought you had finally come to your senses and finally decided to broadcast TopGear to the United States via BBC America. I was glad the US Pilot was scrapped (because there was no open audition for it) and people would stop uploading your videos to YouTube because they would be able to tune in and see it on TV like 350 million other people around the world do every week. But NO, I saw it for the first time this weekend and I am sorry to report that it’s screwed up again. Here’s why:

1. The season is off for broadcasting to America. They show season 9 on BBC America and Season 10 is airing now. Why do they make the US wait 6 months behind everyone else? See reason 2.

2. They cut out 1/3 of the program!! WTF!!!@!>? I know the BBC America’s monetization format is from subscriber fees AND commercials but jesus, why can’t you just leave all 60 minutes of the show intact for just this one show? Or extend it to be an hour and a half? Putting 20 minutes of commercials in and taking out 20 minutes of content ruins it. It is no where near as good if you chop it up and put commercials for razors and beer every 5 minutes.

3. WTF is up with the promos showing the big funny moments before each commercial break?? You’re spoiling it. It’s not supposed to work like US TV where you bait someone along for 3 hours for a payoff after you have monetized them to death. Just let it run for 60 minutes and then play commercials for a 1/2 hr before or after.

Seriously. This is awful. And it’s not really TopGear. You can’t ‘get” TopGear in bite size pieces. You don’t get the relationships or the references that are particularly UK or European unless you sit and watch the whole thing and then think about it for a while and watch it again. And duh, that is why we LIKE it. We want to learn about how things are over there, and see what they have to say. It’s entertaining because it’s worldly and different.

Please, I beg you to just sell the full format shows in a DVD box set that is in it’s complete 60 minute format.  Start releasing season 1 now and roll out the rest over the next 2 years. Seriously it is the only way you will ever really win over the Americans, by showing us the same program the same way you show it to the rest of the world. Jipping us by selling a 1/2 assed version just sucks.

At this point I recommend only watching the full versions on YouTube and not watching it on BBC America at all.

New Travel Site Contest for Key West

There is a new travel web site called Trusted Tours and Attractions that is having a contest drawing for free tour tickets from all the people who sign up for it’s new e-newsletter. I thought I would mention it in case you wanted a chance to win 4 tickets for the tour of your choice in the city of your choice. It doesn’t cost anything to enter.

For example if I won I might go to Key West because it’s warmer than Chicago this time of year and I have never been there. I am a fan of white beaches and crystal blue water and it looks like they have plenty of that there. I am sure it would be great to get away from the oppressive cold here for a while, but if I left I probably wouldn’t want to come back until around April or May. In Key West the Tropical Bike Tour looks like fun. I have been bike riding around here a bit and it’s a nice way to see things slow enough to enjoy them and cover more ground than walking. The Glass Bottom Boat also looks interesting with it’s view of the coral reef and I am sure that the Butterfly Conservatory would be great for taking pictures. All in all it’s a better place to be than Chicago right now.

Google to hit 900? Then what?

I was reading yesterday that Google increased it’s marketshare in search by about 1 percent to 64.5% of the searches done in the US each month. The up side of this is that they are gaining marketshare from the other few search competitors and are poised to continue being the leaders for a long time to come. The down side is that they may only be able to obtain around 80% of the market (without buying competitors) and that last 15% they have to go before topping out may only take another year to obtain or 2 at the most. That means that this Google run on stock is a limited time deal. The increase in stock price seems to follow the increase in market share and we now see the end in our sights. We know they are doing a lot to pursue getting google offline to cell phones via mobile advertising and maps on gas station pumps, but this is not the same as tapping a 180 million person online market by becoming everyone’s home page. It will take a lot longer and more technology develpment before google is relevant on phones. Most people have web access but if they are like me, they decline it now as a costly extra service that runs really slowly and is difficult to use on a cell phone screen. User interfaces have to become better. Screens have to become better. Unlimited Web access has to be free on your phone with your plan. I know that Google has overcome other challenges in the past but they are used to getting what they want quickly and this beyond the web growth is not going to happen as quickly as they would like and it may not arrive soon enough to pull us out of a recession in 09. It’s the 10 year curse and it’s coming back at the end of 09.

Online Dating Sites

I am not really a fan of dating sites online because people really don’t represent themselves as who they really are online. I have met some people that way and they are always different than their profile says. I guess it’s an imbellishment thing. There are other ways though to meet people online. MySpace, Facebook and forums that allow you to see who people are through what they write over time can all be alternatives to the match.coms of the world. You can communicate over time and get to know someone in a way that isn’t fake. It’s easy to fake a profile it’s hard to fake a conversation or many conversations over time.

Short Week for Thanksgiving

A lot of people are out of the office this week and everyone who is here is in jeans and casual clothes. Everyone is on the phone with family trying to coordinate arrivals and departures already. And Michigan Avenue is lit up like it’s Christmas already beneath the layer of fog that has just rolled in. I like 3 day work weeks and I hope that I can get some stuff done and off my plate while everyone else is out holidaying. I like quiet times like this in the office. The phone isn’t ringing off the hook, the work actually can get done and you have some time to ponder where your work is going. Plus th girl who mumbles on the phone for 3 hours every afternoon is out so you can actually think. I wish for a workspace without annoying coworkers this Christmas. No one who taps, clanks, throws things or whines in a super annoying voice. And I wish that the 6- month- coughing- sick-girl who mumbles and murmurs inaudibly on the phone to friends family and who ever will listen to her gossip can please get another job. Soon.

New E-Book Reader: Kindle

e-book, reader, kindle, read write webI saw this today via read-write-web and I was amazed by the fugly-ness of this device. I was hopeful that an electronic book reader would be revolutionary and evolutionary at the same time and this looks like it is from 1989. Was it designed then? Couldn’t they find any better materials? Why beige? Ugh. It doesn’t look comfortable to hold while riding to work on the train either. Someone from Apple should redesign it in 5 years when all the bugs have been worked out. In the mean time I will stay with reading my books in print just like the old days.

Some new sites to explore

My friend Meg linked to this site SEO moz that I had heard about but not kept up with and they had a web 2.0 competition of sorts not too long ago and the list of winners and runners up is an interesting list of sites to explore on a Friday afternoon. I have not been through all of them yet, but I am interested to continue surfing because there are so many I have never heard of. (and I am on the web at least 8 hrs a day)  So, for the new emerging web and some old favorites I recommend heading over to the seo moz site and taking a gander at their list. Not so much for the sake of who got what award, but for the general discovery of new sites that you might like and be able to use. It’s always interesting here on the internet.

Even More Business Confusion

I work in metrics so I see a lot of new data and have to decide what it means and how it can help us, but I was hearing someone talk about a business intelligence position here today and I realized I don’t exactly know what that is. It’s not what I do but I am not sure what it really is either. So like we need any more confusion about what the strategy is here and what data is used to make decisions. Some day I would like to be involved in some of these decisions but I am not sure that will ever happen.

In the mean time though I looked up Business Intelligence on Wikipedia and it says that its about the use of data about the key performance indicators for your business that should be driving what you are doing with planning for your business. Some people like to hire outside Business Objects Consultants with fancy predictive modeling software to tell you what to do next. There seems to be an entire industry devoted to this type of work. Other people likeo get down and dirty and get into their own accounting books and metrics data of their own business and make decisions that way. I have to say that I think the latter is the better position to go with. Sometimes software can help but your business has to have multiple key performance indicators and conversion metrics to need that kind of package.  And you have to have some big huge savings from this analysis to justify the cost of it in the first place. So, I guess that by hiring someone internally to do this here they are doing the right thing. I should be glad then that we won’t be over run by a gagle of consultants any time soon.