My 10 Favorite Songs of 2014

While it may seem a little self serving, I always like to jot down a list of my favorite songs from each year and this one is no different!

These aren’t necessarily songs that were actually released in this year, they just found me in 2014.

This was a wild and busy year.  It was great because Graham was a lot of fun, but at the same time there was also some stress, but what year isn’t like that?

The music I listened to still had a bit of electronic in it but I seem to have shifted to alternative pop a little….. I hope you find a few songs you like.

Below are the 10 songs that I listened to a LOT and loved in 2014, not in any particular order.

Here is a link to the full playlist on Spotify. Alex’s 10 Favorite Songs of 2014

10. Lola Montez by Volbeat

Spotify Link: Volbeat – Lola Montez

Remember that Louisville music festival that promoted having gourmet man food? Well people laughed at it but I noticed one band on the lineup called “Volbeat” and checked them out because I’d heard good things.

I ended up listening to this song a lot in 2014.  It’s like a throwback to really good, old fashioned ROCK. It just has a great sound compared to some of the manufactured stuff we hear these days.

9. Red Eyes by The War On Drugs

Spotify Link: The War On Drugs – Red Eyes

Darn perfect song. It is really hard to hear the lyrics but I think if I fully understood them I’d like this even more. Very melancholy sound but positive at the same time?

8. Instant Crush by Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas

Spotify Link: Daft Punk – Instant Crush

There are songs on Random Access Memories that are better crafted and more experimental than this one but at the end of the day, I’ve listened to this song more than the others. I think it’s his voice along with the catchy chorus that keeps me coming back. And I’m a sucker for that simple synthesizer melody Daft Punk is known for.

7. Lay Me Down by Avicii featuring Adam Lambert

Spotify Link: Avicii – Lay Me Down

Aviv’s album “True” was fantastic. I listened to that album all year and it may well be my Album of the Year. Lots great stuff but this is a catchy, great dance song. I challenge anyone to play this at a party really loud and see what happens. I drank a Miller Lite and mowed the grass a lot to this during the Summer.

6. Champions of Red Wine by The New Pornographers

I have always heard the name of this band but never investigated them, but one day while listening to Spotify’s awesome New Music Tuesday playlist, this song came on and it’s stayed on my playlist as a favorite. The album Brill Bruisers is also really good but this is the best song to me. Similar to Red Eyes, it has a sad sound but also positive? Is this a message somebody is trying to send to me?

5. Are you Satisfied? by Marina and The Diamonds

Spotify Link: Marina and The Diamonds – Are You Satisfied?

So this is the only artist with two songs on this list and that’s pretty random. She has two great pop albums that were huge in Europe and she is releasing a new album in the Spring. I think she is going to break out in the States in 2015. Honestly, I’m not sure why she isn’t more of a household name already.  Her lyrics are great and she should fit right in with all the female pop artists tearing it up right now.

This song was really addicted to me because of the lyrics. Original and strong for the pop song it is.

“And it’s my problem if I have no friends and feel I want to die. Are you satisfied with an average life? Do I need to lie to make my way in life?”

4. If I Could Change Your Mind by Haim

Spotify Link: Haim – If I Could Change Your Mind

Great pop rock song by a great pop rock band. Great album and this is the highlight for me. They are also the women in the famous Taylor Swift birthday party photo that nobody names. Just an FYI there.

3. Paradise Is You by La Roux

Spotify Link: La Roux – Paradise Is You

She has made my list before in previous years.  La Roux released a new album this year as a follow up to her hugely successful self-titled album in 2009. Thankfully it was a good one.

Full of great electro pop but this SUPER SAD song is the best one on there.

2. DNA by Empire of the Sun

Spotify Link: Empire Of The Sun – DNA

A super odd Australian band. I liked this song so much I bought the album which has some good songs but none as strong as this one. I just love the mixing and the beat in addition to the great chorus.

1. Happy by Marina and the Diamonds

Spotify Link: Marina and The Diamonds – Happy

This song was released just this past week as a preview of her new album coming in the Spring. A little corny but seriously, isn’t this a good song? I’ve never heard a song about being happy sound so sad.

That’s it!  These are the songs I listened to while I researched, worked, mowed grass, changed diapers, and ran among other things.

My personal observation of the 47%

I’ve been thinking about the comments Mitt Romney made during that fundraising dinner in May about the 47% of the public who don’t pay income taxes. The same people Romney said he could never convince to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

It turns out that a lot of those 47% are people who do work pretty darn hard, but their income isn’t enough to be taxed.

I worked part-time at a Subway sandwich shop in 2002. It was a simple job for me. I came in at 9AM and left at 3PM three days a week.

My boss “Kim” was the manager. She was in her late twenties and a single mom of two sons around the age of 10.

She opened the restaurant every day at 7:30AM and stayed until 5PM.

She was responsible for ordering supplies, hiring, firing, scheduling, serving, cleaning, customer service and pretty much anything else. She had a hand in everything as a manager would.

She cared a lot about doing a good job and was always concerned about her kids.

She made $8 an hour and overtime was absolutely NOT an option. If she got any, it was a write up.

This pay likely made her enough of a “slacker” to not have to pay income taxes and be a part of the 47%. I hope she didn’t have to pay taxes.

Kim was part of the 47% and she was one of the hardest workers I know. She took a lot of responsibility for her own life.

-Alex

Make that iPad work for you

The first iPad came out in 2010 and ever since then, it has been an unstoppable phenomenon, and why not? With it’s great design, ease of use, portability and of course, cool factor, everybody wants one.

However, there is one killer app the iPad has that still isn’t being used to it’s full potential. That’s its function as a presenting tool.

Working in media advertising, our team is regularly consulting with customers to showcase our products and deliver a story about how we can be a solution to their marketing needs.

However, the standard method for doing this is outdated. Create a large number of slides in PowerPoint, printing a copy out for each person at the meeting, and presenting them slide by slide is old and usually pretty boring.

If you have an iPad, I say it’s time to move on from this and start using it for presentations. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • Compact: You don’t have to spend the time printing out a bunch of pages, binding and carrying them around.
  • Fresh: Presenting with an iPad tells your audience that you are savvy with the latest trends in technology.
  • Efficient: You can have as many digital copies as you like and email them on the spot to anyone who wants a copy.
  • Media: It can display movies and audio. This is a game changer, especially in my field where video is a big part of what we do.
  • Interactive: You can draw on it! Writing out notes and doodling on the screen as you present can be a powerful tool.
  • Cool: It’s an iPad!

So if using the iPad for meetings and presentations is such a homerun, why isn’t everybody doing it?

Because it has a slight learning curve and it’s hard to break old habits and learn something new.

Of all the things the iPad makes easy, creating a Powerpoint on a computer and converting it to an iPad isn’t one of them.

If you use a Mac with Keynote at work then you are good to go. Simply download Keynote for iPad and link it up to iCloud. Piece of cake.

But the problem is most offices aren’t using Macs at work…

But fear not, there are several ways to successfully show a PowerPoint presentation on the iPad.

Your first step should be to set up a Dropbox account. (It’s free after all). Dropbox gives you a folder to save items within a cloud. Once your PC has a Dropbox folder and your iPad has the Dropbox app, anything you save in your Dropbox folder on the PC is automatically accessible on your iPad.

It works insanely well. That’s step one.

Once you’ve got Dropbox up and running on both your PC and iPad, here are a few methods to successfully get your PowerPoint presentation onto the iPad.

1. Keynote on the iPad.

For $9.99 you can download an iPad version of Apple’s Keynote presentation software. Once you save your PowerPoint presentation in your Dropbox, you can open it up within Keynote on the iPad to play it since Keynote converts PowerPoint files.

The idea here is great but it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth. Many of your fonts, animations and images may become skewed after the move to Keynote on the iPad. If you are like me, this isn’t good enough. Part of telling a great story is making sure your images and big pictures are exactly like you had them originally. It matters!

You could try to edit the presentation in the iPad app to fix it but honestly, it’s too much tedious work.

This is an option but not my preferred method.

2. Convert PowerPoint to PDF and open on iPad.

This is a bit more reliable.

Once you have your PowerPoint presentation finished, save an additional copy of it as a PDF within your Dropbox folder.

When you open the PDF up from your iPad, 9 times out of ten, you will have exact replicas of your PowerPoint slides. Plus you can shuffle through them directly within Dropbox or open and save them in iBooks.

The only downside being you can’t use animations but if a story is crafted well enough, you shouldn’t need them anyway.

3. Save each PowerPoint slide as an image.

I just discovered this format the other day. Once your PowerPoint presentation is complete, screen capture each slide and save them in your Dropbox folder as an image, then on the iPad, open those and save them to the camera roll.

You can then create a new photo album of just those images. You then have high quality pictures of each slide and you can shuffle them if you need to.

The only downside being you can’t email a copy of the piece on the fly to your audience.

Summing it up.

There are several different ways to get your presentation from PowerPoint to the iPad, they may sound complicated but after going through the process a couple times, it becomes quite easy.

The iPad is an excellent storytelling device. It can convey images, media and data better than a boring printed out slide can.

All it takes is the courage to go out, break some of those out of date habits, and try something new.

What to watch in August

It’s already August people!

We are starting the final stretch of Summer and I have to be honest, it can’t end soon enough for me. I’m ready to break out the sweater vest and enjoy some Fall festivals.

So what great shows are starting new seasons this month on Cable? Here are a view I’m going to keep my eye on.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Aug. 8th at 10 p.m. on TLC

TLC just needs to change their name to “Trash Loving Channel.” They are quickly becoming the Jerry Springer of Cable TV networks, but people watch it and they get ratings.

As if Toddlers and Tiaras isn’t a bad enough show, “Boo Boo” is a spin off following one of the particular colorful contestants. I don’t really know what to say except I think this show will probably garner some good ratings.

Hell on Wheels. Aug. 12th at 9 p.m. on AMC

The first season of this Civil War era show received lukewarm reviews from both critics and viewers, but it still pulled respectable ratings.

Coming back for a second season, the action and intensity looks to increase considerably, and we all know the quality programming that AMC regularly produces. This could be the season that makes or breaks this show.

 

The Great Food Truck Race. Aug. 19th at 10 p.m. on Food Network

A competition show about food trucks? Why the heck not! Considering Louisville has a strong Food Truck community, I figured to include this show. It could be good?

Married to Jonas. Aug. 19th at 10 p.m. on E!

A new reality series following the marriage of Kevin Jonas and…… No…..  Just no…

So those are just a few of the shows both good and guilty pleasure bad to keep and eye on.

What are you watching?

Alex’s Favorite Recipes: Slider burger with cheese

If any of you have read my blog, you know it can be a little dry sometimes.

Let’s face it. Media and advertising research doesn’t always jump off the screen. Even if you have an interest in it like me, it can still bog you down.

This is why I’ve decided to occasionally break out of the world of qualitative/quantitative research and spice things up with a post about some of the things that keep me happy when I’m not crunching TV numbers.

Everybody knows I enjoy food so my first post is one of my favorite recipes. A great, small burger with cheese guaranteed to be an exploding success to just you or anyone you have over for your next social gathering. Just follow the recipe below:

Petite hamburgers served with cheese. Commonly known as “Sliders.”

Ingredients:

  • Local grocery store.
  • Mode of transportation if grocery store is not within walking distance.
  • $5 cash or $5 available on debit/credit card.
  • Box of 6 microwavable White Castle Cheeseburgers.
  • A microwave (with access to power).
  • Plate (optional).
  • Napkin (optional).

1: Travel to your nearest grocery store using a mode of transportation or walking. It doesn’t matter which. Simply pick the option that makes the travel as comfortable for you.

If going to Kroger, avoid the first Wednesday of the month if possible. If going to Wal-Mart, avoid it.

2. Locate the frozen food section. In most grocery stores this will include several chilly aisles with tall glass doors holding food behind them. You will know you are in the right place If you open one of the doors and it’s cold inside.

Within the frozen snacks, pickup a box of six White Castle Cheeseburgers, but be careful  not to select the hamburger only option. It doesn’t include cheese. A lot of people make this mistake and it greatly reduces the quality of the final product.

3. This is where it gets a little tricky. The White Castles are packaged together in bags of two. Pull out one bag, carefully rip one side of it open, and separate the castles so they are no longer stuck together, but leave them in the bag.

4. Place the bag of castles directly on the inside floor of the microwave. Start the microwave on high for 90 seconds. For instructions on how to do this, see Microwave instructions.

5. Once the microwave dings, that means the 90 seconds are up and the castles are fully cooked. CAREFULLY pull the bag out of the microwave. They will be very hot and steam will be pouring out of the bag. This can burn you.

6. Remove the castles out of the bag and eat them. I advise utilizing the optional plate and napkin if you are entertaining others.

Note on DOUBLING the recipe: Many of you will want to double or triple this recipe. Two White Castles are good for a snack but if this is meant as a full meal, you will probably want to eat all six. If all six castles go in the microwave at the same time, I recommend increasing the cook time to two minutes.

Side drink recommendations: A good cheap Sutter Home Wine or Bud Light compliments these sandwiches nicely.

I hope you and your family get as much enjoyment out of this recipe as I do. I’ve been making it for years and whenever I feel the need to cook something special. It’s my go to choice.

It’s HOT. So let’s watch these shows.

Holy Moly it’s hot outside here in Louisville KY.

I don’t know where you live but chances are it’s pretty darn warm there as well. So as we sweat our way through this July, here are some of the hyped shows to keep your eye on if you plan on beating the heat by staying inside.

Breaking Bad. July 15, 10PM on AMC

This is THE show of the month people. I finally jumped on this bandwagon and watched all four of the previous seasons in anticapation of the 5th season’s premiere on the 15th.

It is such a great show. It reminds me of the good ole’ days of Lost on ABC. Lots of twists, clever writing and amazing performances.

WATCH IT.

Political Animals. July 15, 10PM on USA.

http://www.usanetwork.com/videos/Political%20Animals/Promos/vid:18710050

Man, going up against Breaking Bad is a tall order but Political Animals may be just the show to do it.

Not a full series but instead a mini-series, this is one of the first shows to copy the success of the mini-series format History Channel had with Hatfields & McCoys.

A political drama staring Sigourney Weaver, this could easily be another Summer smash for the USA Network.

2012 ESPY AwardsJuly 11, 9PM on ESPN

Sports fan? The ESPY Awards always delivers a large audience. I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan but in some ways, this show is a great way to see a recap of the entire past year in sports.

ESPN is also fantastic at producing some great montage pieces of great plays as well as some hilarious segments.  It may be worth a DVR recording.

The CloserJuly 9, 9PM on TNT

The Closer is one of those shows that’s delivered a strong audience every season. One of the top rated cable shows in Louisville last Summer, it returns this month for it’s final season.

Kyra Sedgwick is fantastic and has developed a strong following.

Hoarding: Buried AliveJuly 29, 9PM on TLC

Personally, my favorite hoarding show is Hoarders on A&E. It is superior in every way. Come on, it has Bill Paxton on it, but since that show isn’t new this month, I guess I have to go with TLC’s version.

My fascination with hoarders never seems to go away. I don’t understand it and I guess that’s why I like watching it.

Also, it makes me feel a lot better about how clean my house is.

SHARK WEEK!!! Week of July 30th. 9PM-11PM every night on Discovery

It may be at the end of the month but how can I not mention Discovery’s Shark Week! It has become a national holiday. Embrace it. I even wrote an entire blog post about it.  See here.

So those are just a few of the shows to keep an eye on, but there are many more I didn’t mention. New seasons of White Collar, Project Runway, and Leverage also start this month.

I’m all for being outside but if it’s too hot out, at least you have something fun to watch inside.

Were You a Nickelodeon Kid?

I’m 30 years old as I write this. Holy Crap.

As I’ve been moving into my old age, I’ve been thinking about some of the stuff I used to watch on TV as a kid and one fact is very clear.

I was a Nickelodeon kid.

Hey Dude! Double Dare, Family Double Dare, Salute Your Shorts, Clarissa Explains It All, Are you Afraid of the Dark? All That, Rugrats, Doug and the list goes on and on.

Besides Full House, these Nick shows were all I watched and I figured every other kid my age watched them as well.

…But they didn’t.

When I met Kayla she broke the horrifying news to me that they did not have cable growing up.

I can’t imagine my childhood without this amazing shows. As the Nickelodeon generation continues to age, all of these shows are showing up on YouTube but I figured I would post some of my favorites all right here in the blog.

So below is a MASSIVE DUMP of the shows I grew up watching and I have to say, the writing and acting on these are unmatched.

“Hey Dude”  1989-1991

Nickelodeon GUTS 1992-1996. (I freaking loved this show and the British ref chick? Yeah)

Are You Afraid of the Dark? 1991-2000 (2000?!?!?!?!?!?)

What Would You Do? 1991-1993

Salute your Shorts 1991-1992 (Hey, that’s the kid that was John’s sidekick in T2!)

Wild and Crazy Kids 1990-1992

Legends of the Hidden Temple. 1993-1995 (Impossible)

All That. 1994-2005. (2005?!?!?!?!)

Clarissa Explains It All. 1991-1994 (I had a younger sister)

Nick Arcade. 1992-1993 (This was seriously the worst show ever)

Double Dare. 1986-1993

You Can’t Do That on Television.

Doug. 1991-1994 (Always rocking to The Beets)