TopGear Season 10 Episode 4 Review – Drive Across African Desert

This week’s show was not the funniest one ever. It was really about jaw dropping risk and edge of your seat drama in a more serious sense. I was drawn to the show’s risky challenges of driving across most of the continent of Africa in old used cars and was suprised that they were able to pull off as much as they were. Many times they even decided to reveal the team of 20 people or so that were traveling with them to ensure saftey, fix the cars repeatedly, film everything and manage camping all along the way.

I think this is good because the idea that they really travel on these far away expeditions by themselves is beginning to get a little hard to believe. In fact those of us that have been watching for a few years now are pretty wise to the idea that they have a huge crew to make these situations which look unplanned work. Sure it’s not scripted but it is very planned out. So that was nice to see and it is always cool to see them demolish some cars and run them on the frames only.

And it was nice to see that James was right for once that his Mercedes (not merc, that is a mercury guys) was really quite good in the challenge and held up the best overall minus the weight issue in the salt flats. That wouldn’t be legal here or in europe probably so it’s good they did it there. Anyway check out the site and see clips from the show.

What we eat and How we eat

I have been thinking more and more about what I eat and how I eat latley because my health hasn’t been great in the past year and I wonder how much my diet contributes to that. I also realized not being able to cook really puts me in an awkward place only eating pre made or pre packaged foods. And that could be a problem. My body then has to process out all the chemicals and preservaitives used to keep the food from spoiling, give it betetr flavor and color as well as add texture and smell. All those things that make their product yummy may not be good for our health and our bodies have to work harder at removing all of it before it gets to be a problem.

The things I live on are lean cuisine microwave meals, canned soups, dried fruit, fresh fruit when I can get it, sandwiches, eggs, english muffins, nuts, yogurt, granola bars, cereal, diet soda, cranberry juice, diet ice tea and whatever takeout is local. At work it could be chinese, potbelly sandwiches or a hot dog and fries. At home it could be pizza or a salad. But overall I am sure the makeup of those foods is not what I should be eating nor does it have the full balance of nutrients I need.

I have never learned to cook because I never have time. I am always running around busy and working 8-10 hour days. I am lucky on weekends if I can vacuume the appartment, go to the grocery store, take out the trash and do the laundry and dishes. And that is only because I don’t have to work or be anywhere else. If I do have to work on the weekend and there is a family thing like there was last weekend and I don’t have a free day, everything sits 2 weeks.

So how do we busy urban people get better food that is better for us? I am not sure yet but as I find out I will post more.

The New Radiohead Album

I am listening to the new Radiohead album courtesy of a friend who downloaded it for free ala the new pay as you see fit system and apparently share as you see fit system. It is interesting that they have used the record companies to market them to the point where they are household names and have an awareness level that is really high.  (thanks guys!) And now have struck out on their own because record companies keep way too much of the profits for themselves when the artists sell well. (despite their flawed distribution system)

My friend who downloaded this didn’t think it was too great, he said it sounds exactly like every other Radiohead album and is kinda not evolving anymore. I am not a person who keeps up with music much so I don’t have any past history with listening to Radiohead and I feel like it has Toyota commercial written all over it. Maybe it’s because it’s somewhat repetitive of past albums and I may have heard the sound on the TV or something, but I feel a lot of Bono in the songs and a lot of Honda and Toyota commercials. It’s that we want to be hip sound of a Yuppie aging and doing something safe.

Maybe that is how they will make their money on this album? Through corporate sponsors getting rights to use their music in ads. Maybe they should just write for ad agencies. I don’t know. I just would b curious if they would list the average sale amount from the album on their site. I am curious if it is higher than 0.99? It has nothing to do with quality of the music, it’s that people can’t afford everything and want everything at the same time so they want everything as cheap as possible these days. There is just too much out there to consume.

What to eat? Cheap Food & Eating on a Budget

I was recently looking for budgeting blogs to tune in to and read about how other people save money and I ran across the Trying to Follow blog, (which is a religious based blog, although I am  not religious in any way) which had a post about living on a budget. I give credit to those people who do live on a budget because I have always found it to be difficult. Especially living in Chicagoland and working downtown, the costs of transportation, food and rent are a lot higher than I would like. Anyway, this blog had a budget of $1,000.00 per month for living expenses. That isn’t much. It broke down as:

Rent: $500

Car: $100

Food: $100

Miscelaneous: $100

Entertainment/Fun money: $100

Emergency: $100

I pay more than double in all those categories! This led me on a search for blogs that are about eating cheaply (and healty if possible) and how to cook cheaply at home. And suprisingly while there were a lot of suggestions there were very few sites that had any usable information for me. I only found 3 reasonable recipies on the Cheap Eats blog in 3 years worth of posts. I also got a suggestion of SlashFood which was useless because is a blog mostly about making expensive gourmet cuisine and just had one post abou very vauge ideas about how to maybe save money on food. I am beginning to think that the people who do know how to live affordably aren’t really interested in sharing how they do it. And I guess they don’t have to really. A lot of what is on these 2 food blogs is also really fed by advertisers. About 1/2 of the posts on Cheap Eats were reviews of free food he was given by manufacturers. And the cost per meal for those foods was $5-$7 bucks. That’s not going to get you through the month on $100.00 or less. Ok, so it may not be possible to live on the budget listed above in Chicago, but I still think it is good to look into and find out more about. Since these blogs havan’t really helped, do you have any suggestions on how to cut money from your budget? Cheap recipes? On food or any other area?

Disturbing Trend

I have noticed this trend with cell phones for a few months now. People who have their phone on speaker and are listening to music in a public place or s conversation that seems like they aren’t participating at all in, just listening. It’s weird. First off they usually do this in some public place like the train or a shopping checkout line where people can’t get away from you to avoid this annoyance. And it is annoying. The second weird thing is that the sound qualit is awful, scratchy, choppy, distorted and they are still listening to these song clips over and over again. Are these the ring tones? Do these people know that’s not what ring tones are for? The worst part about this is that these people seem to be oblivious that they are seriously pissing off everyone around them and that it is wrong to do anything like that in a public place that causes that much noise pollution. I thought we were past this kind of a trend when boom boxes went out of style and people started carrying walkmans. When and how can we evolve to the next thing so these people who blast things from their cell phones for their own entertainment will stop?

Fantasy TV Watching?

First there was fantasy football, then it spread to baseball and basketball. Now you can get most any sport to play a “fantasy” game where you choose players and use their real game stats to give your team points and stats by technological magic, and voila, you get an alternate reality that no one really sees, but the results are good for entertainment, friendly wagers and bragging rights.

I have a feeling this is a truly American phenomenon. Instead of being happy and content with the smorgasbord of entertainment options available to them the consumers now want to falsely feel that they are smarter than the coaches, owners and managers and manage things on their own. Well I can say that from working in several offices that have been possessed by this phenomenon, it never works out like you think it will. Most everyone looses their money and has less control over the players they recruit and how things go than they think they will. Coaches are coaches for a reason. They’re actually good at what they do.

The newest entry into this fray is a site for managing a team of TV shows, like a fantasy Television network. The winner gets a very real 100K prize, but what they really hope to do is get people more interested in watching TV again. So they pay out 100K to one guy. (less than 1/4 the cost of one :30 commercial on Grey’s Anatomy) The other million people are watching more TV for free. It’s reality TV that everyone can participate in and a really cheap ad campaign. It’s just the cost of the site and the techies that run it and the prize. This is far cheaper than a print ad campaign or an Internet campaign saying, “Hey, remember TV”?

I have always been curiously interested in how gullible people are in respect to contests and sweepstakes. Reality TV and Fantasy games and contests are really a slightly tweaked formula of the same kind. People buy lottery tickets for a prize that they will sadistically never win, enter contests where they really only loose their personal information to a marketer and still think they will win the publisher’s clearinghouse sweepstakes. Now they are apparently are gullible enough to follow along with TV shows not because they are learning anything or because the content is high quality, but because there is a 1 in a million chance of winning 100K. I wish people weren’t so easily swayed.

New Assistant Service AskSunday.com 212-660-9960

 ask sundayI just heard about this cool new personal assistant service that is available by phone. It is called Sunday. The ask sundayweb site is asksunday.com and the number is 212-660-9960. You can join for free, but in order to get the personal request service it is $29.00 per month. That is a lot less than hiring a secretary, but I don’t think they will process your expense reports either.

They are great for certain things. Like flight status, and kind of a travel agent, driving or walking directions, booking zipcars and other transit methods, find and purchase tickets to rare events, book doctor’s appointments, follow up on billing disputes for credit cards or businesses, wake up calls, setting golf tee times, finding locksmiths, maids and drivers in whatever location you are in, making dinner reservations, ordering food to be sent and ordering anything you want from online or catalogs.

So it is within a certain range of tasks, but isn’t that nice? I think for someone who travels a lot and is really busy, this would be a great help.

Fight WalMart Killing America

I am pretty anti-walmart. I never shop there, and the few times I have been there I have been pretty dissapointed in the store. But what is more dissapointing is how they hurt the American Economy by putting small businesses out of business, killing the economy in small towns, underpaying and underinsuring their workers while over working them, and buying the vast majority of their goods from China. I realize now that this is not just a WalMart phenomenon. Even the well liked Target buys a lot from China. So does every store you can think of. If I tried to not buy anything from china, I wouldn’t have anything to buy. I have been looking at labels more and putting stuff back that has the made in China mark on it, but it is hard. Its cheap and affordable and WalMart knows that this is the drug that americans are addicted to; Cheap Stuff. So in favor of our own economy and job in the USA, we should try and buy less form China and reduce the urge to buy lots of stuff. And here is a good site about the walmart fight: http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/ Check it out and sign up on their email list for updates.