Friday, April 29, 2011

Mr. Nielsen

One odd hobby of mine is my fascination with entertainment. No, not just show content and celebrities, but how shows do in ratings and how networks market and make money. Almost every day I will check in with the Nielsen ratings system to see how shows are holding up in the ratings. I know what is an acceptable total viewer number, what is a good demo number (specifically in the 18-49 and 18-34 age range), and how shows try to make money. I understand how the internet and DVRs are measured (mostly), how once syndication kicks in shows get more expensive and usually have trouble settling contracts (a la “Bones” and “House” this year), and the most important part is, I find it all fascinating.

The thing is, measuring television viewing is a flawed system. Since DVR and online streaming, no one really knows how many people are watching the shows and what commercials are getting to the viewer. No one really knows for certain that the 18-34 demo is really the most important range to broadcast to- their reasoning is 18-34 year olds typically watch less TV so their viewing is more important because they really want commercials for their products to reach them since they are watching less. Who knows if commercials actually work- in the age of the internet and DVRs do people actually pay attention or do they zone out/fast forward through them? They only assume (and hope) that their assumptions about marketing are correct. In the age of 100+ cable channels, people watch most individual shows in less numbers than they did even ten years ago. But there are other ways to make money now- DVD’s, iTunes, Netflix, hulu, product placement (love how your favorite FOX shows plug Toyota’s all the time? Never noticed?- pay attention b/c Toyota sponsors FOX), and the big momma of SYNDICATION ($$$$$). For instance, when Friends was on in the 90’s, it normally had viewership in the 25-35 million range. That is UNHEARD of today in network TV (besides American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, and football)- most decent shows get about 10 million viewers and some even less than that if their 18-34/49 demos are good. Shows that were cancelled 10 years ago would still be on today. Execs also don’t just base their decisions on whether or not to keep a show on numbers- it has to do with fan base, critical acclaim and word of mouth (remember all the backlash about "Firefly?”)

Anyways, it is a very interesting phenomenon. Network TV doesn’t make money like it used to- cable rules because customers pay for the channels so they can have smaller numbers and still make money. That’s why network TV has been under such fire lately- how can they produce quality, ground breaking shows that make money, when they are competing against networks who can be riskier and more explicit in their content because they can survive on smaller numbers. It's why reality shows are so popular now- cheaper to make and easy to market to specific target groups. It will be interesting to see how this all changes in my lifetime considering how much about TV has changed since its inception.

So go and pay attention to ratings and television shows- it is a nice hobby that teaches you about the high-powered business world of big money making companies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Money 101

The past nine months have been full of milestones in many ways, but the biggest is that I am living on my own and supporting myself for the first time.  The most interesting part of this has been learning how to deal with money. Now, I have always been conservative with my money- I remember saving up for Barbie Dolls in my piggy bank at 7 years old and thinking when I had enough money to buy one (a whole 7 bucks!) that I was rich. I have always had a savings account and have worked since I was old enough to- starting in the snack bar at the pool the summer I turned 14 to lifeguarding the summers I was 15-17 and then working at Great Wraps and Cold Stone my senior year. In college I worked at UVA Catering (best job ever) and while at home I waited tables at Cheeburger. In grad school I waited tables at Brio until I got my current job last August. So I have always been a good worker, a good spender, but an even better saver. I was able to chip in to my three trips abroad (Italy/France in high school, Oxford in college and Italy this past summer) and I had enough money my last year in college to buy my car in cash. I also paid for all of my graduate school, though living at home saved me a ton of mulah (thanks M & D!).

I am the first to admit that I am also lucky. I may have always worked (luckily I am one of those people who likes working) but my parents also allowed me to save- they paid for all of college undergrad and all of my food (and even gas) until I got my job last August. I owe a lot to them. But I have also been smart with my money- I pay attention to how much things cost and always save. I set goals for myself and almost always get them. I do not waste my money if I can help it, and I try not to be too stingy.

But part of growing up and learning how to deal with money is taking risks with it and enjoying it. The past few weeks I finally decided I needed to do more with my money then have it sit in a savings account with little interest. Certificates of Deposit, which I did all through college, are pointless because interest rates are so low. And I know nothing about the stock market to do my own investing (but I am working on it). So I decided to consult my big bro who is very investment-savvy. The first thing I did was put my savings into a higher interest savings acount available online. I chose ING Direct, which is offering a 1% savings account, which is the best you can find right now AND is what I would get doing a CD anyways. Then he suggested I start a Roth IRA. I had looked into IRA's and was semi-knowledgeable about them. So I asked a few questions and opened one with Vanguard. Luckily, I did it right before the tax dedline, so I was able to contribute the maximum to the 2010 year along with 2011. I also did research with my work (which has a great retirement system) and found that they do NOT have cash match plans (bummer) with a 401k or a 457. So I decided to hold out on that and just focus on the IRA and high interest savings account for now. But I am more open to investing and doing things with my money instead of saving everything and just having it sit. I did make an early mistake of checking in on my IRA frequently only to find a week in that I had already lost $100. I have not looked since!

My dilemma, though, is that I tend to save a lot and allow myself little to spend. Then if I need to spend more one month, I often feel guilty. This is not a good way to go about life, because it is about living and enjoying yourself, so I am trying to work on that. I do enjoy traveling and will allow myself money to travel, but I have a hard time spending a lot out to eat or for entertainment on a weekly basis. I am a work in progress in many areas...but I do feel more aware and smart about my money now that I am doing something with it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I freakin' love New York City.

This was my 5th trip to the Big Apple and I swear I cannot get enough. The energy, the sites, the sounds, the ability to NOT have to get into a car to go everywhere (that's a big plus), the parks, the diversity, the people and of course the celebs. I love it all.

This trip was the 4th time I have gone up there with my mom and we always have a good time because we just like to experience everything. This time we did some new things and revisited some of our favorite places. Here is our trip in a nutshell:

- We left Richmond on the train at 8 am and got into Penn Station at 2:20
- Walked to our hotel off of Times Square and walked around
- Dinner at Roxy Deli (it's tradition- Matzo Ball soup!!!)
- Saw Daniel Radcliffe in "How to Succeed in Business"
- Stage door for some autographs (the body guards/police were mean so we didn't get to see him are two funny videos showing our dismay at the lameness of them)

- The Today Show! We got on screen during the 8:30 segment and are in the background of the hour with Hoda and Kathie Lee (links are on my facebook page). Here's a video to show how close we were to them during the 8:30 segment:

- Walked from Rockefeller Plaza to the Natural History Museum. Lots of children and a wait but very cool museum.
- Walked back through Central Park and saw the movie set of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
- Took the 'Sex and the City' 3 1/2 hour tour. AH-MAZZ-ING
-  Got half price tickets to "That Championship Season"
- Saw "That Championship Season" and got autographs from Chris Noth and Kiefer Sutherland (and even talked with them- they were awesome)!!!

- Up early and to the Empire State building. Very cool. We only had to wait and hour (later in the day the line was 4 hours).
- Walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero, Soho, Tribeca, West Villiage and did a lot of shoppping:). We literally walked 10 miles through the whole day.
- Got standing room only tickets to "Memphis"...bad idea after all the walking but very cheap!
- Saw "Memphis" 

We left Friday morning at 10:30 and got in on time to Richmond at 4:40.

*This was my first out of town trip since my Lasik, and I must say, it was amazing not having to worry about my glasses or contacts with the long days and windy conditions outside. Definitely worth it to do it.

** All the pictures from my trip are on facebook- there are too many to upload here!

** WHYYYY is spring break almost over?!?! Ugh.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Post of Other Posts

Today I have to pay homage to the tragedy that unfolded to my dear friends, neighbors and the community at Virginia Tech four years ago on 4/16/07. I have touched on this topic before, so I won’t go into it again. If you missed that post (or want to read it again), go here.
Also, in keeping up with posting other posts, a blog I follow had a great post the other day that really keeps in step with my views on social media. Check that out here.

And on an unrelated note, it’s finally my SPRING BREAK (after only 14 weeks since winter break, which was a torturous long time). These breaks make my job so much more enjoyable, I tell ya. I will be heading to NYC on Tuesday with my mom, so I will be MIA for a while, but, don’t worry, I will have plenty of pictures and stories to share when I get back. Happy spring until then!
Also, I finally got a haircut today after 8 months. And I got bangs. Holler.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Robyn the Runner, Part 2

Training for the Monument Avenue 10k got me further “into” my running. If you had told me just 3 years ago I would turn into a runner, I would have laughed at you. Especially since my dad ran all through my growing up and I thought he was nuts. I remember in high school conditioning for soccer in the springs and dying running a mile. I always had the philosophy of “I need to be running for something…like the soccer ball… or from a robber.” Now I make my soccer team run because I like to (I’m so evil).

Anyways, in training for the 10k, I began doing long runs every weekend (after the 8k that ran through my neighborhood in February, I found a good route for long runs). Usually on Saturdays I started out run/walking 4.5 miles but found after only 2 times, I could run the whole way. Then each week I tacked on a half mile until I got to 6.2 miles and then I worked on my speed. I found out quickly that speed came naturally once my muscles could handle the distance (however, the amount you work doesn’t change- it’s just the same amount of work now makes you run faster). And after mile 2, I can basically just keep going. I now am on the mindset that the first 2 miles stink the worst, so I might as well run less days a week but longer since once I’m warmed up I can just keep going.  Even this past weekend, I ran for an hour just because I could. Yup 6.5 miles just for the heck of it, and afterward I wasn’t even that tired. It’s amazing and addicting. So much so that Sunday, instead of doing an easy short run, I still did a 4.2 mile run, and I was not sore at all.

Now, I still wouldn’t call running fun. Yes, I do it, but I’m not excited before I go out and it's hard. It is a constant mind game in getting myself going and staying going. But with endurance also comes the mindset that stopping would be pointless since I wouldn’t need much recovery time anyways. I still have to get through aches and pains while running, but they’re easier to ignore and push through now than they used to be (it also helps knowing that I can do it and have done it before). BUT once the weather really heats up, I will be running much less because I hate running in the heat.

I have noticed changes in my body from running more, too. It isn’t necessarily in the form of weight loss (though a slight one has occurred, but keep in mind I always worked out before I got into running), but an overall toning and muscle definition has occurred. I find that my abs/stomach are firmer and my legs have more definition.  I am ready for bikini season!

Now people are asking me- when are going to run a half marathon? NEVER! I still have no desire to train for a half marathon because after an hour, running gets boring. Also, I run for fitness and I don’t need to run 13.1 miles to be fit, thank you very much. Those that want to train and do it- great- but at this point in my life, I do enough.

*Random fact: I don’t sweat. Seriously- it’s always funny with my roommates, because I will come in from a 5 mile run just damp and my face its normal color. Normal people come in drenched and bright read. I think something is wrong with me. I should be studied.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Restlessness

I had one of those weekends where all my roommates were out of town and all my friends were busy. I enjoyed it for half a day and then panic set in…
Now, as you know, I am one of those people that doesn’t like to be too busy or too not-busy. Ideally, I would like half of each weekend day to myself and then half with friends/family doing something. Friday night was fine- I went happy hour bowling with my coworkers, which ended around 5:30. Then I ran some errands to the grocery store and settled in for a movie. I would have liked to go out (which is rare on a Friday- I tend to die early after a long week) if I lived closer to where I wanted to go, but I was feeling too lazy to drive. So I went to bed at 11. Holler.
Some 10 hours of luxurious sleep later, I woke up. It was chilly but a perfect day for a run. Since I didn’t have much to do, I ran 6.5 miles. It felt good. After a shower and lunch, I settled in for some Netflix free-trial-love to watch LOST. At about 3 pm I started to go stir crazy. I had to get out and be with civilization. I ran errands (Garden Ridge is my new happy place) and then met my parents for dinner. They were the only people I talked to all day, so we had a long meal at Panera.  After dinner I went to Target and then went home to love on my Netflix some more, this time for a movie. I was in bed again by 11.
Another 10 hours later, I had the same type of morning. I ran. I showered. I watched a movie on TV while doing laundry. I then went to my parent’s house for the afternoon and did a dog walk. We had dinner and watched the Masters. I got home at about 7 and then my roommates came home. Yay! People to talk to!
To some of you this might sound like an ideal weekend- nothing much going on, time for some good workouts and R&R. I agree- part of it was ideal. But I am the type of person who can’t be alone doing my own thing all the time. I need social outlets- I need to talk to people, meet up for a meal or an event, do SOMETHING. I don’t need to be doing doing doing all the time, but I can’t be doing nothing at all either. It’s also not necessarily what I am doing, but it’s about doing it with someone. Even if a roommate had been home to hang out with, I think I would have been ok because I would have had a social outlet. Especially when my weeks are so busy, I have a hard time winding down on the weekend.
So my question to you- what do you do when you’re getting socially antsy? I have friends who can be holed up in their house for days without leaving and not think twice, but I am not one of those people. Thoughts or tips? Would this have been an ideal weekend for you?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Famous Friends

I must admit, I have pretty cool friends.

I was minding my own business last Tuesday at the gym on the elliptical when I looked up from my magazine to the TV on the wall (one is always on ESPN) to find my friend in a Ford commericial! I literally screamed out (luckily, not many people were there at 3:00 in the afternoon) and then was completely confused- WHY HAD SHE NOT TOLD ME?! For a TV/Hollywood obsessed buff like me, this is a huge deal (I mean, you have to remember when I got on E! News from doing the "Talk Box" in Vegas, right? I FREAKED OUT)! Still wish that video was online...

Anyways, apparently she didn't tell really anyone, because she didn't know she would even get on, but here is her famous commercial (her part starts at 2:03):

Go Mallory!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Unwelcomed Comments

It seems to me that everyone has an opinion these days. And those opinions aren’t necessarily friendly.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy reading blogs and following news on the internet- whether it’s for serious awareness or just for fun (hey, gotta get in my celebrity gossip). BUT I find that many websites now allow “commenting” where you can post your opinion about the article you just read. And oftentimes, these comments are nasty!

It says something about the state of our society when people always bring down people through anonymity. Since they can’t be seen or tracked, they often say whatever they want knowing they can’t get in trouble or have anything bad come of it. To me, these comments show more than just poor grammar and spelling (and sometimes intelligence); they show the unfortunate state of our society and the people in it. It’s gotten to the point where if I hear of something happening in the media, I know what nasty comments people will say. For instance, this week on Dancing with the Stars, Kirstie Alley’s partner fell during the performance. I knew immediately that the internet would be blowing up about how it’s because she is “too fat” and that he “can’t support her.” I was right- except the comments were much worse, calling her a “fat cow” and making comments about weight requirements for those “poor dancers that just can’t support all the heifers!” And even today as Tina Fey announced her pregnancy, one commenter stated, “Great, another reason for her to get uglier.” Same type of response when Tori Spelling commented in an article about wanting more kids…”breeders make me sick.” We are so nice. Even on CNN- articles are mocked for the way they are written, writers are called stupid and the people/topics they’re about are mocked and dismissed- even sudden deaths of innocent people (“how can you say she died trying to save others or making a difference? Sounds to me like she had done her job and was going home.”)

Sure, maybe what people say anonymous on a website aren’t their true feelings and don’t reflect how they would act/say on a normal basis. That can be true with all social media- facebook, websites and even blogs. What is online doesn’t show who people truly are- it is part of a persona they want to express in a safe way. Still the fact that social media makes it ok for people to get into fights online or to broadcast their discriminatory comments and negative nature is just silly and stupid. Maybe that says more about our society than what people actually say on those boards.

Or maybe it is also my fault that I actually pay attention to these things and get angered by them, but with the prominent influence of social media and the news media online, it is hard not to. And that’s what is probably the saddest part of it all.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Running with 41,000

Whew! It finally came- the race I have been training for all winter- the Monument Avenue 10k! It is a great Richmond tradition held in late March/early April every year in the heart of the fan in downtown Richmond. This year my brother Nate ran it and my mom walked it, too. You may recall that this is only the 2nd time I have done it (but my third 10k), but I set a goal for myself last year when I finished the 6.2 miles at around 1 hour 7 minutes, to complete it this year in under an hour. Well...drum roll please...I finished the race this year at 55 minutes and 34 seconds (a personal record)!!!!! This exceeded my expectations greatly, as the week leading up to the race I was thinking I would get closer to 58 minutes. I averaged an 8:50 mile, though the first two miles were under that average and I finished the first 5k at 27:33 (also a personal record for a 5k). I'm not gonna lie, the race was hard (I always mentally curse myself as I am running, so most of the race is a battle going on inside my head). It goes as follows:

Mile 1: Whew! Running is awesome!
Mile 2: Alright, keeping up the pace. Some good bands at least. (Why do I sign up for these runs?)
Mile 3: Why is this not a 5k?! Well, at least I'm halfway!
Mile 4: In the groove! I think I can do this!
Mile 6: Why is the last .2 miles the longest?
Finish line: WOOOO! WATER please!

I really cycle through those thoughts every 10k I do. During my training runs the 2nd and 3rd miles are the worst, then I get into a groove, and then at the very end I get slower. I need to work on finishing better (my last mile was my slowest) but due to my time, I qualify to be a seeded runner next year! And, though I cannot do the Carytown 10k this year, I do have a few 5k's coming up that I will do, and to train I will still do long runs on the weekends. Even though I am running faster, it is still hard work and not easy, but I like being outside instead of in a gym and want to keep up with my progress!

Me at mile 5- hey dad (but I'm beginning to hate life)!

Nate in his stride


After the race! Go VCU!

Also, just to show you the VCU pride all over Richmond- even Walgreens has a say, as did many businesses in Richmond (I won't bore you with all the pictures). I am sad to have it all be over but it sure has been a fun few weeks!