Monday, August 06, 2007
I'm not proud of this, but a few nights ago TB and I were reading Pirates Past Noon, an installment in the Magic Tree House series, and I dissolved into helpless laughter when I saw the heading for chapter 4: “Vile Booty.”
I had to make up a cover story, fast.
Last weekend we saw The Niece, who is now seven months old. She's a cutie, with those ice-blue eyes that only little kids and movie stars have. My brother – her father – and I had a long talk about the various shocks of fatherhood, not the least of which is the lack of a phase-in. Once the kid comes home for the first time, it's “game on.” (Watching him try to control her at brunch while also eating his own food brought it all back. I miss those days, but not enough to try again.) The Niece was utterly fascinated by The Boy, who was very sweet with her. The Girl was much more interested in the cat.
In a sudden burst of awareness, I signed TW and me up for more life insurance. The rep on the phone said “yeah, a lot of guys your age, you know, around 40, suddenly think of this.” Thanks for that.
That said, I'll admit that my winter boots are now old enough to drink. (Seriously. I bought them in 1986. They were 'out,' then 'in,' and now 'out' again. Soon enough, they'll be 'retro-chic.') At this point, they've cost about three dollars a year. I'm hoping to get them down to two.
Although the XM/Sirius merger strikes me as a bad idea – if years of being the local cable monopoly's bitch taught me anything, it's that unregulated monopolies behave horribly – I was heartened to see the combined company offer an “a la carte” channel option as a sweetener. Now if only I could get the tv companies to follow suit. I'll happily pay for Comedy Central, Noggin, and the Food Network, but I feel no need to pay for Fox News, QVC, or Telemundo.
My brilliant concept for The Food Network: Bachelor Top Chef. Take chefs from the elite of the elite, and allow them to use only what is found in some representative bachelor's kitchen. No more than one pot may be used. (“I liked the concept of dressing up the microwave burrito with the Cap'n Crunch, but it's a fine line between 'carmelized' and 'set fire to.' And I think I would have used the Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch, to give it a Thai flair.”)
I have to stop reading The Oil Drum. I can actually feel my blood pressure spike when I look at the five-year projections. I know enough history to know that neo-Malthusians usually wind up looking foolish in the long run, but I also don't see the easy resource substitution for oil, esp. for transportation. Planes don't run on coal, and ethanol is little more than a sop to agribusiness. My modest proposal for hitting al-Queda where it really hurts: invest in alternative energies and technologies. Hit the bin Ladens in the bank account. Get those plug-in hybrids moving, stat!
I also have to stop listening to Marketplace. They reported the other day that the Chinese are looking at buying some British investment banks. The reporter explained that it would make it easier for China to denominate its current-account surpluses in Euros, rather than dollars. This is a Bad Thing. It would force us to raise interest rates to prevent total currency collapse, just as the subprime mortgage crunch is gaining steam. I believe the economist's term for this is “stagflation-a-go-go.”
The Boy has basketball camp this week, and he couldn't wait to get started, so he begged me to take him to the court at the nearby park and get him started. He's at an early enough stage that my miniscule knowledge of basketball (“you have to dribble the ball if you want to move with it” “shoot overhand”) is still news to him. By the end of this week, he will have already surpassed what I know. When we returned, The Wife asked if I taught him to do a layup. Uh, that would be 'no.' On the bright side, my hamstring remains miraculously unpulled.
For reasons I'll leave to the experts, it seems that people walk more slowly in the Costco parking lot than in any other non-funeral-related setting. They also seem to move with less sense of direction than you'd expect a sensate being to have. I have no explanation for this. They can't all have pulled hamstrings.
Note to the guy down the street: blasting hardcore rap while pruning your shrubbery isn't fooling anybody. You're still pruning your shrubbery. Deal with it. (Word you never hear in rap: azalea.)
It's all about the food coloring: The Boy picked up a little plastic volcano, ideal for stuffing with baking soda and pouring vinegar in through the top. Not content with that, I suggested adding red food coloring. Much fun was had by all. Quoth The Boy: “I love science.”
The limitations on fossil fuels are not entirely due to economics. Some are due to physics (the Earth itself is finite), mathematics (a 3% annual increase in coal consumption would consume a mass of coal equal to the mass of the earth sooner than you might guess), and chemistry (you can turn coal into oil or gas, but the price has to be right because it takes lots of energy to do this).
China has to be careful. They can't really afford to crush the US economy back to 1930 until they can sustain their own economy without exports to the US via WalMart et al.
Basketball camp should generate some blog material when TB returns. Did you send him off with the right kind of sneakers?
--The XM-Sirius merger faces a big technical hurdle. They use dissimiliar technologies in the radios and satellites. If there were a way to iron it out without me having to get a new receiver and without costing me more money, I'm all for it. I'd also like a singing pony that poops ice cream.
--A regular imponderable of mine: what would be the hardest "Iron Chef" secret ingredient? Sheep eyes? Pop rocks? Durian, the foulest-smelling fruit in the world? My current vote is for the dreaded "circus peanuts." Yeeg.
--"Gardening Rap" could be a new genre. As our generation ages, it seems more and more likely. "Yo, whassup/ I'm workin' it/ I'm trimmin' the azalea/ Gonna be a party/ Gonna be a bacchanalia!" (I didn't say I'd be any good at it.)
Baking soda + vinegar + red food coloring + volcano model + enthusiasm = future scientist.
Baking soda + vinegar + red food coloring + volcano model + little plastic people and animals placed in path of "lava" + evil cackling as toys are submerged in flow of magma = future mad scientist.
Something to consider.
It is hard to find bloggers in the community college system that are not apologizing for it.
by the way, are all these thoughts happening at the same time?? :)
Your point about the monopoly is spot on -- if allowed to merge, what's to keep them from upgrading their service in years ahead, without any competition? What about the radios? Will they keep improving, or turn into the phones you'd have to rent from Ma Bell?
But I'm not a subscriber, so those aren't my concerns, of course -- I'm more concerned about the impact the satellite monopoly would have on terrestrial radio stations, which can't compete nationally, but are after the same advertisers.
So I do think the merger would be a mistake, for everyone except maybe Mr. Karmazin.
I see two main themes in the post and the comment. The first is that these two companies will somehow be able to leverage a monopoly on audio presentation, and force their ware on the unsuspecting public. The second is that these megaliths will, through size of listening audience, somehow crowd out the earth-based "local stations."
Speaking as an XM Subscriber, with several radios, I am not captive to their service. I still find a need for drive time radio in certain markets, and enjoy the local news when listening to the national, syndicated shows.
Where XM and Sirius currently win out is in the commercial free music area. Note, since they are commercial free, they aren't competing for those "commercial/advertising dollars."
And btw, have you listened to the ads on those stations? Forget for the minute that they remind me of spam for the ears (So, it's not viagra they hawk, but rather an all herbal "enhancement" treatment...) none of them are LOCAL. That's where terrestrial radio still has it's niche.
I don't see the masses abandoning all other forms of delivery, either. I suspect listeners still enjoy CDs, plugging in the MP3 player, or listening to local talk, news and sports. In addition, there is one other competitor has arrived as well. Podcasting. I listen to more podcasts than radio, and if one were to talk about an opportunity for niche marketing that certainly is it.
Think about it. As a brewer of beers only to be consumed by left handed drinkers within 20 hours of brewing, I most likely cannot afford to advertise in large markets, where most listeners are not interested in my product. But get me on that podcast that talks about the nuances of left handed fresh beer drinkers, and I have a target ready audience!
So, don't think of the market as "satellite vs satellite" or even satellite vs terrestrial. It's a bigger competitive environment with all sorts of "places" to market and and generate advertising revenues.
Oh, and if you guys haven't ever listened to podcasts--don't. They are addictive!
(Since you listen to XM, you'll get the reference: most of what gets played on Beyond Jazz simply isn't available on terrestrial radio. Outside the biggest metro areas, it's even worse. Given a tiny niche of listeners, you need nationwide reach to justify a channel.)
I'm a fan of podcasting, and I've gone on record urging Aunt B, at Tiny Cat Pants, to do one. Podcasts are great for spoken word, but not so hot for music, given intellectual property laws. (Totally agree that they're addictive, btw.)
You're right, of course, that if the costs become unreasonable, I could always drop the service. But if I did, my music options would be reduced to buying stuff I already know about, or listening to whatever's on the utterly predictable commercial stations. It's hardly a national crisis, but those of us whose tastes are a little left of the dial found an oasis in satellite, and I'd hate to lose it.
Sarah, the community college system has its origins in the ideals of people like Justin Morrill, who pushed the idea of a land grant college (to teach engineering and scientific agriculture to the, literally, unwashed masses along with some culture) through Congress. [Just checked, and Wiki has an excellent bio.] No one has to apologize for the ideal of opening up academia to persons who did not go to an elite private academy rather than a rural public high school. That ideal lives on today in the Community College, particularly as the large state universities Morrill helped create have evolved into semi-elite institutions.
I just have to say that your family reunions must be a trip. how many other siblings do you have?