Sunday, December 2, 2018

College Football Playoff 2018

I do this every year, and I'm doing it again this year. I'm telling you what the NCAA FBS Subdivision (what I still call Division 1-A) playoffs would look like if they did it right.

All 10 conference champions should be in a playoff. They won their conference, and that should mean something. A place in the tournament is a suitable reward for accomplishing that goal

Keeping in mind that limiting it to the conference champions leaves out some really good teams that are better than half of those conference titleholders. So, add the six best teams, as determined by a committee -- just like the CFP is done today -- to the tournament. Have #1 host #16, #2 host #15, and so on. Losers in the first round still get an opportunity to go to a bowl game.

The winners would advance to the next round, with the highest surviving seed hosting the lowest surviving seed, and so on. That leaves four teams left, and those teams would meet up New Year's, just like the CFP does today. The difference is, the final four got there by winning a playoff game, not solely by a committee vote.

Seeding, to me, should be the conference champs first -- similar to how the NFL does division champs first -- with the Wild Card teams rounding it out. This year, for example, Georgia didn't win their conference, but are considered one of the best by the CFP. They would be in the playoffs, but behind Northern Illinois, for example, since NIU won their conference.

Some won't like putting NIU and UAB above Michigan, but they won their conference. Besides, putting all ten conference champs higher will make for some better games. I mean, which is a better game: Alabama playing NIU or Penn State? App State playing Clemson or UAB?

Here are the seedings, listing the teams, the conference championship if applicable, record, and CPF ranking (or other as noted):

  • Alabama (Southeastern) (13-0) (#1)
  • Clemson (Atlantic Coast) (13-0) (#2)
  • Oklahoma (Big 12) (12-1) (#4)
  • Ohio State (Big Ten) (12-1) (#6)
  • Central Florida (American) (13-0) (#8)
  • Washington (Pac-12) (10-3) (#9)
  • Fresno State (Mountain West) (11-2) (#21)
  • Appalachian State (Sun Belt) (10-2) (#30 Coaches)
  • Alabama-Birmingham (Conference USA) (10-3) (#34 Coaches)
  • Northern Illinois (Mid-American) (8-5) (--)
  • Notre Dame (12-0)(#3)
  • Georgia (11-2) (#5)
  • Michigan (10-2) (#7)
  • Florida (9-3) (#10)
  • Louisiana State (9-3) (#11)
  • Penn State (9-3) (#12)

This gets everybody that can make a case for being included a chance to prove it. Whoever wins out from that pool of teams is worthy of being called national champions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

1,100 movies

Several months ago, I mentioned that I had passed the 800 mark in movies in my digital library. Well, I have more than that now. I've now surpassed the 1,100 mark.

Just so we're clear, I have some movies on DVD that I haven't ripped to digital. But, I'm not counting those.

How much have I spent on all this? I have no idea. And I'm not gonna do the research to see. I'd not like the answer, so I'm not gonna do a lot of work when I know I won't like the answer.

Most of the digital movies I have are from purchases from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU, or Fandango Now. You see, I have a MoviesAnywhere account and many purchases from any one of those services will automatically be added to the other. Not all, to be sure, but many. About half. 528 of my 1,100 movies are digital purchases that are in the MoviesAnywhere library.

I need to mention one other thing. Some movies are movies that I don't really own. Not exactly piracy. Not exactly. I better explain.

I still have a Netflix DVD account. I have a queue of movies that I set up for them to send me discs. I'll rip the DVDs out and add them to my library. Now, how is this not piracy? Lemme 'splain.

I rip the movies so I can watch them on one of my streaming devices. It's in with the other movies, and I can simply find it and play it. And, if I don't like the movie and don't want to keep it, I delete it. So, I'm getting rid of a movie I didn't buy, but had because I rented it from Netflix.

But what about the movies I do like or want to keep? Well, I keep them. Only, I will buy it from one of the streaming services. For instance, had I rented (via Netflix DVD service) "The Searchers" which is one I didn't have. I ripped it and decided I wanted to keep it. So, I have a pirated copy, right? Well, not really. I bought it this past week when it went on sale, as I said I would do. I do that with all the movies I want to keep. I'll check sales, and buy them when they're on sale. If after a time they're not on sale, I'll pony up the full price. Then kick myself when it goes on sale a week later. Either way, I'll buy and download the new digital version and delete the ripped version.

I have all the ones I ripped from DVD tagged, and those ripped from rentals I check digital sales every week. Those I ripped from DVDs I own, I still check, but my focus is on ripped rentals. After all, I haven't paid for them, and I buy those first. I did buy Silverado last week, which is one I had ripped from a DVD I own. It was $5, so I made it a fully digital HD copy, and deleted the older copy.

So, piracy? Maybe you could make that case. But I'm renting via DVD and buying those I want keep to add to the collection. I'm good with what I'm doing. Ripped rentals and just keeping them? Nope. Won't do that. I will buy them or I will delete them.

Anyway, I recently hit number 1,100 in my library. But what was movie 1,000? Pride of the Yankees, which I bought after having ripped it from rental. I bought it when it went on sale. And, I'm glad I did. It's currently unavailable from Amazon streaming.

Oh, and movie number 1,100? The Man From Hong Kong. Yeah, I didn't expect that answer either.

I'm past that number now, heading towards 1,200. I may or may not post about that. I didn't post about number 900 -- Drunken Master, which I didn't see coming either -- or number 1,000 when it happened.

I just need to figure out why I'm buying martial arts movies. I don't even like martial arts movies. I don't even remember buying them, but I see them in my library.

I wonder if my grandson got hold of my remote again. Gotta keep a closer eye on that boy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Bring back ties

I'm not trying to make a fashion statement, although I regularly wear ties. I want them to bring back ties. Not the necktie, but tie ball games.

I'm primarily talking about college football, since the professional game is a bunch of whiny millionaires that aren't fit to carry Jim Brown's or Johnny Unitas' shoes. I don't care what those clowns do.

In college football, we need more ties. It complicates things, and nobody is happy with it. So, why do I want them to bring back ties? Because that's life.

Sometimes, you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes nobody wins. That's life.

Sure, it'll cause some inconvenience. And now that they have a mini version of a playoffs in Division 1-A -- they still need to have a 16-team playoff, not this 4-team thing -- it will be necessary to break those tie games through the semi-finals.

What about the title game? Well, if it ends in a tie, we have co-champions. That's how life is sometimes. Nobody wins. Even in the most important things, sometimes there's no winner.

Then there's the fact that there is no limit on the number of overtimes. The players have fought hard for 60 minutes, and are being asked to put themselves at risk even longer for a game. Sure, they want to win. Everyone wants to win. But sometimes, nobody wins.

Put a limit on the number of overtimes, you say? Well, if a tie is okay after, say, four overtimes, why not after three? Or two? Or one? Or none, since ties are okay?

So, how to implement this? Well, I'm for just doing it. Unless it's a playoff game before the finals, then a tie is a tie.

Conference championship game? A tie is a tie. Co-champions.

But what if the game determines who plays in the Porcelain Bowl? Let the Porcelain Bowl invite one of them. Or pick somebody else.

Of course, that won't happen. But they could allow ties in non-conference games as a start. How likely is that? Well, when there's games like Alabama playing Sister Mary Margaret's School For Wayward Girls, it's unlikely. But imagine how excited Wossamotta U would be if they managed to play Ohio State to a tie. For them, not losing is a win.

There have also been some great tie games. There was the Harvard-Yale 29-29 tie. The Notre Dame-Michigan State 10-10 tie. The Notre Dame-Army 0-0 tie. The Army-Nave 21-21 tie. Classic games all.

And, with all that football does teach some of the players -- those with enough character to pay attention -- is that sometimes, you just don't win. Sometimes, nobody does. But you have to accept it.

Yeah, I'd like to see the tie brought back to college football. It's a life lesson that's important. It's frustrating. Nobody is happy. But sometimes that's life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cable again

I have cable TV again.

That's something I never expected.

You see, I'm a huge advocate of cutting the cord. I'm generally not a fan of cable TV. Or satellite TV. Since January 2011, I've been watching TV mostly by streaming content. But, suddenly, I now have cable TV service.

Let's get some stuff out of the way first. I'm paying for Internet and TV (by whatever means) at two locations. At one location, I dropped cable in January 2011 when, after crunching all the numbers, I determined that I'd save $65/month by dropping cable and moving to streaming. Now, that $780/year ($65/month x 12) was not full savings. I had to buy a Roku. And a TV antenna. And I had to buy a few TV episodes that weren't available by other means. Still, I had a large net savings for the year. So, I was happy.

New offerings came available. Hulu expanded. Amazon Prime streaming expanded. Netflix expanded. Services like Sling TV came along. All that just reinforced by decision to drop cable. Everything was great.

Later, I began paying for Internet and TV (by whatever means) at another location. That location was serviced by an entirely different cable and Internet provider.

At the second location, I found that I could get a decent broadband Internet connection plus local channels cheaper than Internet service alone. Yeah, I didn't believe it at first, but sure enough, that was the case. Which meant I didn't have to shell out anything for an antenna. I'd get Internet service cheaper, and could watch local channels (which is all I would have picked up from the antenna anyway), and it wasn't a bad price.

Every 6 to 12 months, I'd have to take my happy butt down to one or the other of the cable offices -- I get better results in person because of my charming personality -- and renegotiate a price. After my experience with the second provider, I learned to check for packages that aren't advertised. And, that continued along for a bit. Well, it continued until late September.

In late August or early September, I'd add Sling TV with the Sports Add-on so I could watch college football. After the season, I'd drop Sling TV. Sometimes, I'd use DirecTV Now or one of the other streaming services if they had a great deal on a package or offered a free streaming device. I ended up with several Apple TV devices or Roku devices by doing that. Still got a Roku in the box, never opened.

Recently, one of the locations had gone up, meaning the 12-month "special" had expired. So, I marched myself down to the cable office and started negotiations. This time, when asking about the cost of services, I found out that I could get Internet and a basic cable package -- not a locals only/lifeline package, but one with ESPN and other cable channels -- for a decent price.

I calculated the cost of Internet plus Sling TV with Sports Add-on against the cost of Internet and Basic Cable. And, what do you know? The Basic Cable package was cheaper.

Now, before I ran to sign up for that, I checked into a few other things, such as how well authentication against apps on Apple TV or Roku -- I didn't bother with Amazon Fire TV or Android TV, since Apple TV and Roku are over 95% of my watching -- and found out that they'd work. The local cable company even supports that single sign-on for many apps on Apple TV.

My streaming service that included ESPN was going to renew today, but last week, I got the cable service going, and now I've dropped my streaming service in favor of cable TV. Which surprised me.

If you had told me that I'd be going back to cable, I'd've told you that you were crazy. You still might be crazy, but telling me I'm going back to cable has no bearing on that assessment. Because here I am. A cable user.

I feel so dirty. But I'm saving money.

Took 'em nearly eight years to get the message.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

John McCain

I haven't said much about John McCain's death. Heck, before now, I haven't said anything about it. Not even to people privately.

There's not anything I could add to what people have said. I will say that I voted for John McCain for president in 2008 because he was a better choice than the idiot the Democrats nominated. I had some strong online disagreements with some people at that time. They said he was no better than Obama. I thought just about anybody would be better than Obama. I still feel that way.

I don't regret my 2008 vote. McCain wouldn't have been the president I wanted, but he would have been a better president that what we got. I thought that then, and I think that now.

I wasn't a big fan of his throughout his political career, but I did respect his service. I've seen people online trashing his service, and I don't particularly care for that. Don't like his politics? Fine. I'm right there with you. Don't like his service? I'm not gonna join you on that.

One thing in particular that's been going around again relates to the aircraft carrier fire that killed 134 service members. Yes, McCain's plane was the source of the fuel that fed the fire. No, McCain wasn't responsible. The Navy determined that a missile was accidentally launched from elsewhere on the carrier, that the missile hit two planes (including McCain's) and started a spill that was ignited by the missile rocket engines, and that the missile landed in the ocean without exploding.

[The YouTube]

How much of those statements about McCain are from misinformation or people that just don't care about the facts, I don't know. I'm not a fan of either.

What I'd rather focus on are the good things. Like I mentioned, I didn't always agree with McCain on some things, many things, in fact. But let me conclude with this appearance on Saturday Night Live, from back when it was funny.


Monday, August 20, 2018

UPS has PSd me off

I had a Roku suddenly stop working the other day. That's actually unusual -- or has been until recently.

You see, I've had Roku devices since 2010, and I've had great success with them. I'd replace them only because I wanted a newer device for one reason or another. I'd hand the older ones off to family or friends and enjoy the new one.

Well, I've had a couple of different Roku Ultra boxes lately, due to problems I've experienced. And one of them was one I bought from Walmart that suddenly stopped working. So, I took it back to Walmart. Only they said I had to contact the manufacturer. So, I contacted Roku, and after a couple of days, they finally issued an RMA. So, I shipped it off via UPS last week.

Well, it's been a week and I still haven't heard back from Roku. So I pulled out the receipt and put in the tracking number and found out ... UPS is delivering it to Roku today.

The receipt shows I paid $19.66 to ship it last Monday. The tracking information shows they picked it up last Monday. A week ago. Made it down to Jacksonville last Monday night. And finally made it to California yesterday ... six days later. Well, it's out for deliver to Roku in San Jose today.

$19.66 for UPS to take a week to get a package to California. Heck, I coulda put it in one of those big Priority Mail envelopes from the Post Office and had it there last Wednesday for $6.70. And, no I didn't compare before I shipped. There's a place a couple of blocks from the house that is really convenient. What's not convenient is paying almost $20 for something to take a week to deliver.

Yeah, UPS has PSd me off. I shoulda used the Post Office. And you can bet, next time, I will.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Getting thrown out of Disney World

I've only been thrown out of Walt Disney World once in my life.

Now let me pause for a moment and say that I suspect that statement may surprise people, but for different reasons. Some may be surprised that I was thrown out of Walt Disney World at all. The others may be surprised that it has only been once.

When did this happen? Why recently. Quite recently.

You see, I normally wear a hat and coat. The hat keeps my delicate skin from being ravaged by the sun. Actually, it's partly due to a really bad episode of sunburn I received in Kuwait. So, lately, a hat has been a part of my wardrobe. Not a cap. A hat. A grown man hat.

When you wear a hat, you also should wear a coat. Looks better. Plus, a coat is great for concealed carry, as I'm not a fan of open carry.

I've had a shoulder holster for a bit. My first one actually broke. Not sure why, but it broke. So, I replaced it, but my new one didn't come with a place to hold an extra magazine. I've been carrying the extra magazine in my coat pocket.

Well, as I mentioned, I went to Disney World recently. They don't take kindly to carrying weapons inside -- although a Leatherman is okay -- so I left my .380 in the car. But, I forgot I had the magazine in my coat pocket.

I was reminded of it when I took emptied my pockets at the gate to enter the Magic Kingdom park. They called all kind of security folks, including a bunch of deputies, to look at it.

They wanted to see my ID, my carry permit -- Georgia and Florida reciprocate -- and had a few questions. Then they said I could leave. So, I left.

I put the magazine in my luggage and went back to the park and had a good time. Maybe I'll tell you more about the trip, but you've already heard the best part.

If I get thrown out again, I'll tell you all about it, though.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day (2018)

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Directors I apparently like

As I was looking over my movie collection, I noticed a few names of directors that, well, surprised me. Mostly, it had to do with how many, or how few, movies of any particular director I had in my movie library.

I had the most Buster Keaton movies, which really didn't surprise me, considering that I have some of his two-reelers. I have, as of this writing, 16 of his movies; that is, movies he actually directed. Of those 16, only two are feature-length films:
  • The General
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The others are shorts:
  • The Balloonatic
  • The Blacksmith
  • The Boat
  • Cops
  • Day Dreams
  • The Electric House
  • The Frozen North
  • The Goat
  • The Love Nest
  • My Wife's Relations
  • One Week
  • The Paleface
  • The Play House
  • The Scarecrow
As for the director whose name is on the most of the movies I have, it really didn't surprise me that it's Alfred Hitchcock. What surprised me was that I only had 11 of his films:
  • The Birds
  • Family Plot
  • Frenzy
  • North By Northwest
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Rebecca
  • Suspicion
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Topaz
  • Vertigo
I thought I had Lifeboat, but I don't. Same with The Wrong Man, The Trouble With Harry, Strangers On A Train, Notorious, and others. I've seen them, but didn't realize I didn't own them. I don't have as many Hitchcock films as I want.

I have nine movies by William Wyler and Steven Spielberg. I never would have picked those off the top of my head as being directors of who made up that many of my film library. I sort of have nine by Ridley Scott, but that number included two versions of Blade Runner and two version of Alien. So, I actually have seven of his. I also have seven by Martin Scorsese and seven by Billy Wilder. Again, I never would have thought that, until I actually sorted by director and discovered that.

What probably surprised me most was that I only have one film by Akira Kurosawa: The Hidden Fortress. Which means I don't have Seven Samurai. Or Yojimbo. Or Rashomon. Or... well, you get the idea.

I had no idea I liked William Wyler that much. Looking at the actual films, most of them aren't films I'll watch again and again. Same with Spielberg's films.

Of course, that's probably true of most of the movies I own. Which makes me wonder why I even own them.

Probably because I can. Which is as good a reason as any.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ad blocking

Ads, ads, ads.


Pop-ups. Banners. Those darn things that cover your entire page.

Everybody hates ads.

Well, except the people that create them. And they still hate them when it's somebody else's.

We all hate ads. Or, are mildly irritated by them at times.

But, the other side of the coin is -- and you knew this coin had another side -- sometimes, those ads allow us to see content that we'd otherwise have to pay for.

Keep in mind, people aren't entitled to the fruits of your labors. If you create something, others have no right to it. It's yours.

If you're a tailor, people don't have the right to demand you make them a suit.

If you're a carpenter, people don't have the right to demand you build them a house.

If you're a farmer, people don't have the right to demand your crops.

And, if you're a Website owner or developer, or a streaming content provider, people don't have the right to your labors. Yeah, it kinda works that way.

So, what's this got to do with ad-blockers? Well, some of the content you view on the Web, or on your streaming device, is provided at no monetary cost. Sure, you pay for Netflix, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Web pages that you don't have to subscribe to (or at least, it's optional) or streaming services that you don't have to pay for.

They are in the business to make money. That's the bottom line. They choose to make money by offering content for you to enjoy and then show you advertisements for which they get paid (or sell for inclusion in their content).

Yes, some Web pages have those popups all over the place. Or those videos that automatically start. Or ads that cover the page. Or other such irritants. That's why there are a bunch of ad blocker plugins that are extremely popular. Of course, they block by getting between you and the content, meaning they read all of your content.

All of your content.

All. Of. It.

Didn't think about that, did you?

So, how do I deal with it? Well, I avoid content that I don't like. If the Web page has annoying ads, I'll avoid that Web page. If an app on my phone has too many ads, I'll stop using the app. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option. If the streaming service has more ads that I care to deal with, I'll not use that service. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option.

How should you deal with it?

I'm not the boss of you. Deal with it as you see fit. But think how you'd feel if you were the other person. How would you want a consumer to deal with something that you did they didn't like?

That's actually good advise for many things: think how you'd feel if you were the other person.

I'm about to do just that. I think you're probably tired of hearing me go on and on about this.

So I'll stop.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Android TV (Mi Box)

Image: Xiaomi
I've tried different streaming devices over the years: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and TiVo. They all have their good points and bad points. Any of them would be a good choice for streaming. One or another my be better or worse for any particular individual based on the where they want to get their streaming data from. For example, if someone is big into iTunes or has a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV is probably the best option. If someone is totally immersed in Amazon, the Fire TV might be the best option. There's no one answer that's right for everybody.

Recently, I added another streaming device to my collection: the Android TV player, Mi Box.

It's a cheaper alternative to the Nvidia Shield, which is the Flavor of the Month for many of the Kool Kidz that stream. Personally, as intrigued as I might be by the Nvidia Shield, I'm not going to put out $180 just to test something. The $69 I shelled out for the Mi Box was the upper limit on that kind of silliness.

So, just to be clear, I haven't used the Nvidia Shield. However, it and the Mi Box are both Android TV devices. The Google Play Store apps for one will work on the other. I know there are ways to side load content onto the Nvidia Shield, but I'm not interested in that. If you are, you can find videos on The YouTube. I'm not interested. I'm looking for stuff that anybody can go into a store or purchase online, take the device, and use. No jumping through hoops. Simple. That's my focus.

Anyway, my point there is what I'm writing about the Mi Box is mostly applicable to any Android TV device.

What I like about the device is that it's easy to set up and use. It's very responsive. It supports 4K, though I don't have a 4K TV. It comes with some common popular apps already installed. It even comes with an HDMI cable included. It doesn't take long to get up and running.

But, what do I not like about it? Well, apart from the pre-installed or recommended apps, it's not that easy to get all the apps you might want through the standard interface. If you have the Play Store installed, you can browse the limited selections there. There are more apps available than show on the Google Play Store app on the Android TV device. While they do show many of the biggest, that's not always the case. For instance, Spotify doesn't show when browsing on the device, though Pandora does.

A slightly better option is to use the voice search to search for apps. For example, to install the Boomerang app, I couldn't find it when I searched for "Boomerang," but did when I searched for "Boomerang app."

Another option is to search for apps from the Google Play Store Website. As with the voice search, simply searching for the app name might not be good enough. I had to search for "Boomerang for Android TV" to find that app.

One major omission, at least in my opinion, is that DirecTV Now isn't supported on Android TV. Philo isn't either. Sling TV is, Hulu with Live TV is, and YouTube TV is, so it has most of the major live streaming services.

If you've used Chromecast, it may be useful to know that Android TV devices have Chromecast built in. You can stream from your computer, your Android phone or tablet, or iOS apps that support Chromecast.

If you're looking for a good streaming device, particularly an Android TV device, the Mi Box is a good choice. It's not my top choice, because of the limited number of apps, but it's a good little device.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Fox News streaming

Got a text the other day from our old buddy Paul at the Mean Ol' Meany blog. Turns out he finally got fed up with cable and satellite when the bill topped $160/month.

Actually, Mrs. Paul -- not the fish stick lady, but Paul's wife -- got fed up with it. And she tasked him to find a better solution. And it had to have Fox News. Live. Not some day-old videos of stuff, but live Fox News Channel.

So, Paul asked for some advice, and I gave it my best shot. He took my suggestions and information into consideration, made a decison, and now all is happy at Paul's house.

That's when it occurred to me that others might want to cut cable but still get Fox News, or some other news channel that isn't crowded with life-long Democrats, socialists, and other criminals.

So, if you are in the same situation as Paul and his lovely lady -- you want to cut cable but still want certain channels -- maybe I can offer some advice. Maybe.

We're going to primarily focus on Fox News, since that's what Paul was asking, and since it's probably the least leftist news channel.

Now, there are a bunch of streaming services that are basically small cable packages. Only you get them via Internet streaming than by cable TV or a satellite dish. They're cheaper than most cable packages, but don't have 500 channels.

Sling TV, Philo, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV are the ones I've tested. They all have their good points.

If you want Fox News, we can rule out Sling TV and Philo right now. All the others have Fox News Channel as part of their cheapest package. So, DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV are all good streaming options when it comes to offering Fox News Channel.

YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue are both $40/month. Hulu with Live TV is, too, but that price includes regular Hulu on-demand service ($8/month). So, if you already subscribe to regular Hulu, you'd only be adding $32/month to the bill. DirecTV Now is $35/month.

So, it comes down to add-ons and other channels.

If you want HBO, DirecTV Now only wants another $5/month for that, the best HBO add-on price.

If you want sports, all the services except Philo include ESPN and ESPN2. That's important to me and is important to Paul. YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV both include ESPNU and ESPNews. Hulu with Live TV also includes Fox Sports and SEC Network.

PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now both require their $50/month package to get ESPNU and ESPNews plus SEC Network, Fox Sports, and other channels.

So, for viewing stuff like Paul and I do, the Hulu with Live TV package is probably the best package for the money. However, like most everything else, it really depends on what you're looking for.

If you've been thinking about cutting the cord, but didn't want to miss certain stuff, do some research into what these different packages offer. You might find you can save a buck or two.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Crash! Pop!

The late afternoon storms we have in southeast Georgia this time of year aren't usually anything more than an irritant. Sometimes, the storms will change plans, such as not going to an outside event. Most of the time, though, it doesn't really mean that big of a deal. We're used to them, after all.

Not so, this week. The storm got my Roku.

I've had a Roku device for some time. Not the same device. I've upgraded over the years. In October, I bought a new Roku Ultra. It replaced a Roku Premiere that I got free with a Sling TV subscription. The Ultra is a better device, and has a wireless remote. The Premiere (since discontinued), is a good device, but doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Ultra, plus, it has an IR-only remote.

Anyway, I got an Ultra in October, and it's been a great device. Until this week, when the storm got it.

I was off work, and sitting there watching, I don't know, maybe something on The YouTube. The rain had started, and there was thunder and lightning, though not too close. Then, it was close.

There was a loud crash and flash, followed immediately by a loud "pop" from behind the direction of the TV and the screen suddenly going dark.

As I was thinking the lightning had taken out my TV, a "no signal" message came up. Okay, the screen was working at least. Maybe an input? Maybe the Roku?

I looked at the Roku carefully, and noticed there was no light. So, at least the Roku was dead.

I checked the other devices. I've got an Apple TV, a Fire TV Stick, and an Android TV box (MiBox), plus a TiVo connected to the TV. They were all working. Just the Roku was affected.

I pulled my older Roku Premiere out and hooked it up. It worked. That meant the HDMI input on the TV was fine.

Now, I needed to find out if it was the Roku Ultra, or simply the power supply to the Roku Ultra. Replacing the power supply is $10. Replacing the Ultra is $99.

So now you might be asking why didn't I use the power supply for the Premiere on the Ultra?

No, really. Go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, there's a simple reason: they don't fit.

For a while, all the Roku boxes -- first and second generation devices -- all used the same power supply, model number PW-01 for those keeping score.

Roku changed that beginning with the third generation boxes. They used the new PW-09 power supply, which had a different connector.

The Sticks had a different power supply, the PW-03, and the new Ultra (model 4660) had a still different power supply, the PW-11.

My current inventory? Roku Ultra model 4660 (PW-11); Roku Premiere (PW-09); Roku 2 XS (PW-01), and Roku Stick (PW-03). These different devices use different power supplies.

After some thought, I decided to not immediately replace the Roku Ultra. But thinking long term, I decided to move my Stick from the guest TV to the main TV, and put the Premiere in the guest room. After doing that, I was back up and running.

I did order a spare power supply for the Ultra. It was $10, but if that fixes the Ultra, I'll get off cheap. If not, I'll eventually buy a new Ultra and have a spare power supply for it.

[Edit: The new power supply arrived, and the Roku Ultra doesn't work. *sigh*]

For now, I'm using the Roku Stick on my primary TV. That means I can waste my time again with my Roku.

Speaking of which, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is calling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On Netflix

First, let me say up front that I don't subscribe to Netflix.

I used to subscribe to Netflix. But, I never watched.

Actually, I did watch it when Mystery Science Theater 3000 came back as a Netflix series. I had dropped it earlier, and dropped it again when I watched all the episodes. With the other streaming services I have, I found that I never watched Netflix. So, I quit spending the money for something I didn't watch.

Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk about people dropping Netflix.

You see, some people who don't like Barack Obama are ticked off at Netflix because they signed the former president and his wife to produce a show. How ticked off? Some people are canceling their Netflix subscription.

Of course, some of you know that I don't like the Obamas. I have no use for them. But, I wouldn't cancel Netflix on account of the Obama deal. That might surprise some of you.

Look at it like this.

ABC airs The View, which is just a bunch of left-wing women running their mouths. But, they also aired Last Man Standing, which had a lead character with a right-wing stance.

Boycotting ABC because they aired The View would have also hurt Last Man Standing. The proper thing to do would be not watch The View but do watch Last Man Standing.

I'd take the same approach with Netflix. I'd watch what I liked, and not watch what I didn't.

Any other approach doesn't make sense.

Now, I don't plan to subscribe to Netflix in order to not watch the Obamas. But, I won't let me let the Obamas stop me from subscribing to Netflix. I just need them to offer something I do want to watch.

Like a new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Going to the movies

I've always liked going to the movies. When I was old enough, I would go whenever I could. That meant not working, being near enough to something showing that I wanted to see, and having enough money for me or me and a date. When I was younger, I didn't get to go to the movies all that much, but I enjoyed it when I did go.

After I was older, I managed to see movies in some cities and towns across southeast Georgia. It kinda depending on what was playing where, and where I happened to be at the time. Savannah, Brunswick, Baxley, Jesup, Hinesville, and other places that had theaters or drive-ins. Hinesville, Baxley, and Jesup had drive-ins at one time or another. Of those, I went to the one in Jesup the most, because they've had one the longest. They still have one. It's one of only five in the state, and the oldest in the state.

Years later, I went to movies in Jacksonville and Orange Park a lot. Those were my first experiences with theaters that had a lot of screens. I even got paid to go to the movies. I wrote about that a long time ago.

In the last few years, though, I've not been to the movies a lot because there aren't a lot of movies I want to go see. Most movies suck, and those that don't are hard to enjoy because the theater is crowded with jerks and the seats are small and everything's expensive, and ... well, you get the point.

This past week, I went to the movies. I mentioned going to the movies in Jesup earlier. Well, in addition to a drive-in, Jesup also has a standard theater. I remember going to the old Strand Theater years ago. Then it closed. I don't know if it was something I did, but it closed for a few years. It reopened years later as a twin cinema. I saw that there are new owners now, and its been completely remodeled.

I spoke to some people that had gone to see a movie there. They raved about it. I wasn't sure about that. I mean, how good could a theater be? Seats are small, it's crowded with jerks, stuff expensive ... you get the idea. But, I thought if there was ever something I wanted to see, I'd go see a movie at the Strand Cinema in Jesup.

Now, even though I don't care for those comic book movies, I did watch the first Deadpool movie and kinda liked it. So, when I found out Deadpool 2 was playing in Jesup, I decided to see it there. And I did.

It was great.

I'm not just talking about the movie. Yeah, that was fun. But the theater experience was fantastic. The seats are roomy. They recline. There's a little table for food. Oh, did I mention the food? They serve food. Burgers. Fries. Hot dogs. Pizzas. Wraps. And they'll bring it to your table. Beverages? Yep. Cokes. Water. Slushies. Beer. Wine. Real food.

Oh, and it's not just the seats that are roomy. The aisles are too. Plenty of room. No one crawling over you to go pee. I've never had a more pleasant experience at a movie theater.

I'll go back to see a movie there. If something good plays, that is. But that's now my go-to place to see a movie. When I'm close enough.

That's how going to the movies should be.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


I first saw the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey about -- heck, I don't know how long ago. It was a long time ago. I saw it on TV, either broadcast or on a cable channel. It wasn't in the theater, I'm sure.

Thinking about it, I may not have seen it until I rented it on VHS. Huh. That would have been around 15 years after it was released. I'm thinking it wasn't that long after, so maybe it was on Showtime. I know it wasn't on TCM, because that didn't even launch until the 1990s.

Anyway, as I said, I first watched 2001: A Space Odyssey a while back. I enjoyed it. Well, most of it.

The nearly 3-minute long Overture with nothing on the screen made me worry that the picture had gone out.

The over 15-minute segment "The Dawn of Man" seemed way long.

The first words not spoken until nearly 26 minutes in (counting the Overture) was an anticlimax.

Taking forever for the stewardess to deliver food -- except the walking upside down was kinda cool.

The 3-minute blank screen and noise that was the Intermission seemed longer.

The nearly 10-minute Star Gate sequence also seemed longer.

Even with all that, I didn't hate the movie. In fact, I liked it. Still do.

The thing is, I always thought of it as a really long movie. And, at 2:28:50, it is. But, it's far from the longest film I own. In fact, it's only the 62nd longest film I own.

Cleopatra is over four hours long. Gone With The Wind is nearly four hours. Ben-Hur is really long. So is Lawrence of Arabia. And so are many, many other films I own. 61 in my library are longer than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I never would have figured that. I knew I had some long movies, but I would have thought that  2001: A Space Odyssey was in the top ten, not number 62.

I suppose that, despite how much I like the film, the parts that drag do really drag. It just seems a lot longer.

How much do I like the movie? Well, it is, by far, the most watch movie in my library, according to the play count.

How much do the draggy parts drag? Well, the reason I've watch it so much is that when I have trouble falling asleep, I put it on to play. I'm usually asleep before the monkey men get run off from the watering hole.

I think I'll watch it again tonight. Or, part of it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Stupid people driving

I hate stupid drivers.

There was one today that fits the mold of so many. They don't know how to act at an intersection, stopped for a red light.

Left the Walmart Store today, because of course I did. And, at the light that's at the main entrance, I was behind Stupid Driver. He, like me, was making a left turn out of the Walmart Store parking lot, and heading back into town. Well, downtown, as the Walmart Store is technically in town.

Anyway, he did the thing that you've seen Stupid Driver do before. He pulled up beyond the large wide white stop line. You know the line that tells you where to stop at an intersection? Yeah, that one. He pulled up past it.

And kept inching forward, hoping to change the light.

Here's the thing. You and I both know that the sensor that detects if a vehicle is at the intersection is before you get to the line. The lines cut into the pavement for the sensors are easy to see. But did Stupid Driver stop on the sensors? No. As I said, he pulled up past the sensors, past the white line, and kept inching out.

Now, as a Libertarian, I'm all for leaving people alone. But, as a non-stupid person, I find such activity worthy of being hit repeatedly with a stick. A big stick. With a knot in it. Maybe a nail in it, too.

So, what did I actually do? I pulled up to the white line over the sensor.

I didn't do that so he would be stuck missing the left turn light. No, I did it so I wouldn't be stuck by missing the left turn light.

Of course, by doing that, I not only allowed the left turn light to show for me, it also showed for Stupid Driver. Now, he is reinforced that he can continue to drive stupid and things will go well for him.

Maybe he's not really stupid. Maybe he just never learned what those grooves in the asphalt before the stop line are. And maybe he never learned what a stop line is. Maybe he isn't stupid, just uninformed.

Well, he looked about my age, meaning he's had over 40 years to learn these things. He gets no slack.

He's the Peter Principle in action. He's past his ability to do a job (driving) properly, but others are keeping things going.

So, maybe instead of calling his Stupid Driver, I should call him "Peter." Although "Dick" did come to mind.

Monday, April 2, 2018

800 movies

I now own 800 movies.

Actually, I think I own more than that, but I've converted everything I've got to digital and my digital library is now at 800 movies.

Now, to be fair, there are things counted as movies that aren't really movies. At least, I don't think of them as movies. Disney short films, such as those featuring Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and such are included in this. Buster Keaton shorts are included in this. All of he Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes (up to the new series, which I own but haven't ripped the DVDs yet) are in this also, as are some of their shorts. There are 39 short films in all, plus a few short film compilation collections. But I'm counting all of them. The compilations are a single entry, but the stand-alone shorts (not in a compilation) are each an entry. And the total is 800.

Is that a lot? I think it's a lot. It seems like a lot.

It's nice, though, being able to pick up the remote and pick any one of 800 films to watch.

Some, though, I won't watch. The Beast of Yucca Flats isn't a good movie, and I doubt I'll watch it. I'm not talking about the MST3K version, which I have, but the actual Coleman Francis "classic."

I doubt I'll watch How Green Was My Valley again. I didn't like it when I watched it the first time, so I doubt I'll watch it again.

Zontar: The Things From Venus? Doubt I'll watch that again.

Blazing Saddles? 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yep, I'll watch those again. Although that 25 minute segment at the end where the astronaut is traveling inside the monolith is boring. (It's actually only 9:21, but seems longer.)

Anyway, there are movies I'll never watch again, and there are movies I'll watch over and over. The bottom line is, I can watch them, any time I want. I can put any of them (but not all at one time) on my iPad and take them with me, if I so wish.

What was movie number 800? Training Day. I finally ripped the DVD out last week.

What will be number 801? Well, I've been meaning to get Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Yes, that'll be the next one.

Hold on a minute, will you?

* * *

Okay, I'm back. I now have 801 movies. I need to go watch that new Star Wars movie some time. Maybe this weekend.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Gone Google

I have a Motorola Android phone.

I have an HP Chromebook.

I'm writing this using the Chrome browser on my Chromebook.

This little blog is hosted on the Blogger platform.

I have a Chromecast streaming device connected to my TV.

I have a Google Home Mini sitting beside my favorite chair.

All of those are Google products. Android is Google's smartphone OS. Chromebooks are computers that run Google's Chrome Operating System. Chrome is also the name of the Web browser developed by Google. Blogger is the blogging platform owned by Google. Chromecast is Google's streaming device. And, of course, a Google Home Mini is a Google product, similar to the Amazon Echo.

Now, a bit of clarification might be in order.

I still have an iPhone, a MacBook Air, a Dell Windows 10 desktop, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV Stick, and TiVo. Yes, I still have those other things, but I do have a little segment of my life set aside that operates solely in the Google ecosystem.

Why, you might ask.

Go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, here's the deal. I'm trying to ensure that all my online business and my offline business are kept separate.

Remember when I was helping an old church lady with a smartphone? I ended up with an Android phone (more than one, actually) running on a cheap phone service. As I began compiling all my tax information together this year, I once again concluded that it sure would be helpful if my online life and my offline life were able to operate separately. So, I decided to actually do that.

I kept one of the Android phones (the Moto e4) -- because I like it -- and kept one of the the phone services (along with its own separate phone number) and configured it with the accounts I use for blogging and related online activity.

The Chromebook is something I was using when traveling. Mostly for blogging, as my iPhone handles everything else. I now use the Chromebook exclusively for blogging and other related functions.

I already had a Chromecast device, but rarely used it. If, though, I need to watch something related to blogging (it has happened), I've started using it excluseively. The Google Home Mini is connected to the same account as the Android phone and the Chromecast (as the Chromebook).

So, Basil has ... Gone Google. At least, as far as blogging-related stuff is concerned.

It's taking a little getting used to. Now, when I get an email or other notice related to blogging and all that stuff, I have to pull out the Android phone.

When I want to tweet something, I pull out the Android phone.

When I want to post on Facebook, I pull out the Android phone.

When I want to do anything that's not family-only or day-job related, I pull out the Android phone.

Yes, it's definitely taking some getting used to.

Friday, March 23, 2018

(Re)Generation Who

I’m in Baltimore.

“Why?” you ask.

No, really. Go ahead and ask. I’ll wait.

* * *

Well, since you asked, it’s that I’m attending a Doctor Who convention.

Why would I travel 607 miles to attend a Doctor Who convention?

Easy. I didn’t. I traveled farther than that. First, I drove to Atlanta, then flew to Baltimore. Then Uber to the convention at the Marriott. So more than 607 miles. I got that 607 miles figure because it’s 607 miles from here to my house, as the crow flies. And that’d be a darned tired crow.

But why this one? After all, there are Doctor Who conventions a lot closer.

Well, I’m a fan of the classic show. And the two surviving cast members from the very first season — the very first episode — were scheduled to attend this convention, called (Re)Generation Who. I said “were” because one has since canceled. Carol Ann Ford, who played Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s grand daughter, canceled this week. But William Russell, who played the Doctor’s traveling companion Ian Chesterton, is still scheduled to be here.

Also, there will be not one, not two, but three Doctors: Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor; Colin Baker, the 6th Doctor; and Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor.

Also, the entire contingent of 5th Doctor traveling companions will be here:
  • Matthew Waterhouse (Adric)
  • Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
  • Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka)
  • Mark Strickson (Vislor Turlough)
  • Nicola Bryant (Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown)
Now, before any of you nit-pickers start up, Gerald Flood, who voiced the 5th Doctor’s robot companion Kamelion, died in 1989. And Mike Power, who built the prop, died during the production of the series. So there.

There will be others there, too, of course, but there is a big 5th Doctor focus at this convention.

Though I’m disappointed that Carol Ann Ford won’t make it, I’m delighted that, William Russell, at 93 years of age, is still able to attend.

He alone is enough for me to attend. Everything else is a bonus.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mad Max on "The President and the Press"

I have a buddy -- he's real -- that, online, I call Mad Max. He embraces the name that was thrust upon him. Just like you and just like me, he's a little mad sometimes. Mad as in angry. Mad as in a little crazy. But, again, we all go a little mad sometimes.

Oh, I just remembered what that quote is from. Hmmm. I probably should have used a different quote. Oh, well.

Seriously, Mad Max a good guy. If you are in need, he'll help you any way he can. I think a lot of Mad Max.

He doesn't get on The Twitter, but he will show up on The Facebook. He'll leave some comments on other people's pages that get right to the heart of the matter, but he won't post much political stuff of his own. He's smart enough to use The Facebook as a stress relief. Cute kitties are his distraction from this crazy world.

He sent me this, because he's trying to keep his pledge to keep his activity on his page on The Facebook nice and light.

I have his permission to share with you.

The President and the Press

A few thoughts on the deterioration of press relations in the present day

These are just impressions of a casual observer of world events and history going back some 100 years. Certainly not scientific or learned – just some thoughts that occurred to me this evening, I'm not even sure why.

Any writing like this can devolve into a partisan thing right quick, a vicious attack on one side or the other. And that is exactly what this about, so I'm going to do my best to remain utterly neutral and objective over this little idea that somehow planted itself in my mind and won't let me go until I write it out and find someone who can get it out to others.

My subject is the relationship of "the Press" – once a few major newspapers, now a wide variety of media including late-night talk shows and Internet blogs – and "the President" – an elected official of the United States of America.

To make one thing perfectly clear: bias in the Press has always existed. We are all human, and have likes and dislikes. To say those perfectly human emotions do not affect our perception – and our relating our perceptions to others – is a lie. On the other hand, there have been many different types of Presidents – liars, scoundrels, corrupt, clean, dishonorable and honorable, good and bad -- and the conundrum for the Press – and for History – is to figure out which is which.

There was a time in my memory where there was a clear separation between the two, and they existed on two different planes of importance. The Press was definitely important – always has been – in reporting the news, investigating corruption, being honest, and thereby building trust, if not with politicians, celebrities, and sports figures, at least with the populace. There was also a time when the President – the highest elected office-holder of the land – was seen to be on a higher plane; you may not like him or her, but you didn't attack him, his character, his family, on a daily basis. Because there were greater dangers out there, and he was, after all, the Commander-in-Chief, and when all Hell breaks loose, God forbid, we need to come together behind our leader. There is no question every President all the way back, maybe even to George Washington, had his detractors in the Press, but overall, when it came down to it, there was at least some measure of decorum.

The country united with Woodrow Wilson, not at all a universally popular leader, a man who ran on the platform "He Kept Us Out Of The War." But when we went into what was then called The Great War, the country united. It happened again most famously with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on December 7, 1941, and continued until the day he died in office, and carried over to Harry S Truman.

It began to break down with Lyndon Johnson, but let's face it – the Vietnam War was longer than WWI or even WWII. The popular support gradually and then precipitously diminished and the Press criticized his administration, but it did not attack with the utter viciousness we see today. And it did not attack his family.

Nixon again came under attack, for a variety of reasons, many of them justified. Professionally, analytically, with deep research and well-founded / well-sourced information, the Press took him on, and they took him down.

And then, I think, something changed.

The Press realized they could take down someone they didn't like anyway, even while a war was on. They realized their power. And that other subset of the Press that began to emerge – the late-night comedy, Saturday Night Live, had a good few years diminishing the character of a man they didn't like – Gerald Ford – because he tripped a couple of times. Never mind that two lunatics tried to shoot him during his short administration – it was all good comedy – and the late-night "Press" and the established Press had good fun with it throughout.

Four years of Jimmy Carter proved to be enough for just about everyone, and near the end there was great fun made of "askin' Amy about nuclear war" and the dreaded "Killer Rabbit" incident.

And then there was a pause. The Press didn't like Ronald Reagan at all, but he gave them little to make fun of. He reapplied the honor of the Presidency by keeping a significant aloofness from the Press, speaking to the country right over their heads on rare but significant occasions, leaving the Press to quarrel about what he said amongst themselves in the newly-created format of a "talking-head panel."

George H. W. Bush continued the honor of the Presidency but had some significant failings with his base. A weak economy did not help, and he lost to what I consider the major pivotal figure in this amateur analysis – Bill Clinton.

There can be no doubt the Press loved Bill Clinton. But why? Certainly his policies might attract their personal feelings, but the same could be said for Lyndon Johnson, and near the end of Johnson's last year the Press was ready to throw him out.

My answer is that he seemed to love them. What other President of the United States had appeared on a late-night show playing the saxophone? That in itself remains a famous image. And in my mind, a vast diminishment of the importance of the office of the President. He wasn't "Up There," he wasn't "The Commander in Chief" – he became our buddy. Our best friend. And who likes to lose a best friend?

So the Press lost a best friend – twice – in the 2000 election – Bill had to leave office, and their new best friend, Al Gore, lost in a squeaker that came down to a few butterfly ballots in Florida. This was a bitter pill, and one that still sticks in their throat. For 8 years, George W. Bush – but not so much his wife and children – was vilified in the worst possible ways. This marked a clear departure from past practice.

And then along came Barack Obama – young, handsome, telegenic, great speaker. AND – what else did he do? He went on all manner of late-night talk / comedy shows, gave interviews to all manner of friendly Press, even appeared with internet blog posters that would otherwise have remained unknown to everyone. He was our best friend – We had a best friend again!

But best friends don't last, and he had to go away, so the Press picked a new best friend.

But she lost.

This, I believe snapped something in their minds. I also believe, to return to the point of this essay, that the Press no longer see the President of the United States as a person of great responsibility, a responsibility that would crush most of us, but as a person who should be someone they like. And if he's not the best friend they wanted, they'll revert to a Lord of the Flies bullying and eventual murder, if they can get away with it.

There, in a nutshell, is the problem between the Press and the President of the United States. One is an office established in the Constitution of the United States of America. The other are a pack of wild and dangerous children feeling lost.
Mad Max may be a little mad. But he's not crazy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Beginner's smartphone

Recently, I undertook the task of helping an older lady from the church get a smartphone.

How did I do? Well, I researched ten cell service providers, looked into cell phones, and gave her my recommendation. I think that's pretty good. I suppose the details matter, though, huh?

Where she lives, Sprint and T-Mobile don't offer good coverage, so I suggested she stay away from those services or services that ride those networks. For instance, Simple Mobile and Walmart Family Mobile ride T-Mobile. Boost Mobile, NetZero, and Virgin Mobile ride Sprint. Google's Project Fi used both Spring and T-Mobile. So, for her, those were out.

She currently has AT&T, and staying with them would be easy enough. The issue is that for the money, she could go with Cricket or FreedomPop (BYOP) cheaper. Of those, I recommended Cricket because of the low cost, and the peculiarities of FreedomPop.

I did suggest that Verizon would be a viable alternative to AT&T, as she could swap one company for another. Likewise, Straight Talk or Total Wireless would be cheaper alternatives to Verizon.

The other possibility I suggested was Xfinity Mobile. It rides Verizon, and has the best pricing on a single unlimited service phone at $45. Since she already has Xfinity cable, Internet, and home phone, it would be an existing vendor.

When it came to the phones, I suggested that she either get an iPhone, or an Android phone by Samsung or Motorola. Sure, there are other good Android phones, but the unlocked Moto e4 is a good phone at a really good price, and most Samsung phones are very reliable. I don't have enough experience with other Android devices to make a recommendation.

I wrote all this up and gave her a printout (10 pages) of the ten carriers and the phones they offer. I gave her the pricing on each of the plans, and a suggestion for each type of phone (iOS and Android) for each carrier.

What did she do with my recommendation? Nothing.

She'll eventually make her mind up about what to do (probably Xfinity Mobile, my gut tells me) and then want me to go to the store with her to make it happen.

So, I have that to look forward to.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kids and tragedy

My buddy Mad Max had some thoughts on kids and tragedy. He allowed me to share.
The only traumatic event of my young life was a drowning, a long time ago. A church outing, several days at very nice cabins by a beautiful lake, swimming and little rowboats. I was in a small boat with my Mom, her friend, and a few other kids. Older kids were cruising around in boats, paddling away, racing each other or just floating idly in the sun. It was some time after lunch, around 2 or 3pm. The Preacher had a meeting he had to attend, so he was gone at the time. My Dad had made a quick run to pick up some bait for fishing. There were others they left in charge, so its not like we were women and children abandoned.

A young fellow named Harold jumped out of his boat and began to swim toward ours. The theory of the adults is that there was a girl in our boat he was crazy about, that he wanted to impress her.

Halfway between his boat and ours, he stopped, and then went down. No one else seems to have seen it, but after the surface of the water smoothed, I clearly remember seeing bubbles burst and disturb that surface.

All others swiftly realized something was terribly wrong. Several of his friends dove in and went under, but came up with nothing. Mom and other adults were screaming at them to get back in their boats, terrified that more might go under and not come back. Some, including Mom's friend in my boat, were just screaming incoherently.

Because we were nearest where he went down, the few authority figures there were (older boys and the women, a couple guys on shore) designated my boat, with its screaming women and weeping girls and boys, to sit at the site until they could triangulate the position. All I wanted to do was get on land, but I had to sit in a chaotically panicked group and try to be patient.

After several nights of games and laughter in the large common room, that night was very eerie. Many of us just sat silently. Others quietly talked, particularly the older boys, shaken and unrightfully feeling guilty that they couldn't find him in time. Girls wept. Boys, too. Dad and the Preacher - you could see it in their eyes, they were wracked with guilt, both thinking they could have done something.

As it turned out, Harold got "the bends," a paralysis that locks up the muscles, and he sank like a rock - there was nothing anyone could have done. This was verified after they finally found him late the next day.

So, the point of all this? Here it is -

Any media truck coming down that trail that evening or the next morning would have been kicked so hard out of that area that they would never forget the experience. And us kids? We needed to talk with each other and our parents and our Preacher. We had absolutely no desire to make a name for ourselves by going on TV - the thought would not even have occurred to us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Washington's Birthday 2018

No, this isn't the first time you've read something like this here, but it's worth repeating.

It seems nobody wants George Washington to have a birthday anymore. Or ever.

George Washington was born on February 11, 1731. At least, as they used the calendar at the time. Great Britain and its colonies used the Julian calendar then, and the new year didn't begin until March 25. Weird, right?

Then, in 1752, Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar. That moved New Year's Day to January 1, in addition to causing a refiguring of dates. Among the changes was that February 11, 1731 became February 22, 1732.

Only, folks weren't done messing with George Washington's birthday. You see, 1879, the United States added Washington's Birthday as its fifth national holiday, joining New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Other days were added along and along.

In the late 1960s, there came a movement to make federal holidays fall on a Monday. In 1971, that was made to happen for four of the nine federal holidays. New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day kept their actual dates. But Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day were moved to Mondays. When Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. was added -- as it's properly known -- it, too, was designated as a Monday.

All of the Monday holidays fall on the Monday nearest the actual date, except one: Washington's Birthday. It's the third Monday of February, which means it can fall as early as the 15th, but never after the 21st. In other words, Washington's Birthday will never fall on Washington's birthday.

But wait! There's more!

In the last several years, there has been a diminishing of George Washington by people calling his birthday "Presidents Day." Well, it's not. Now, it's true that some states used to celebrate Lincoln's birthday (February 12) as a state holiday, and have combined Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday into one observance. But, that's only for some states. The U. S. holiday on the third Monday in February is Washington's Birthday. Take a look at United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103 and see for yourself.

It's been rough for George Washington's birthday, officially and unofficially.

First, they move his birthday from February 11 in one year to February 22 in another year. Then, they make it on a Monday that will never match the actual date. Then, they call it something else. Do some people hate George Washington? Maybe so, After all, he did help secure the blessings of liberty and help found these United States.

I think he deserves his birthday to be called by its proper name. If you hear anyone call it "Presidents Day," you have my permission to beat them around the head with a stick. Two, if you think they really need it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Smartphone research for an old churchlady

There's a lady I know from the church that wants a smartphone. She's in her 80s. I've known her since the 70s. Not her 70s, the 1970s. As in nearly 50 years. I'm often the person she calls with technology issues. And, apparently wanting a smartphone is a technology issue.

Sure, I understand that she doesn't know a lot about them, other than they are little devices that people carry around like a phone but use to get on The Facebook or search The Google or get The Email or other some such stuff. And, since she doesn't know much more than "iPhone," "Android," and "Samsung" are words that smartphone people use, she's not sure if she wants a Samsung, an Android, or an iPhone. Maybe even an Apple. She's not sure. As long as she can make calls, send a text once she learns how, and can do all the other things you can do with a smartphone which she doesn't know what that is but wants to do. Since she's not sure what phone will let her do all that, she's asking me.

Well, actually, she asked me a few weeks ago, because she's worried her flip phone is about to die. No, it's not doing anything wrong, but she's had it a while and she thinks it might up and die soon. So, she wants to get a smartphone. So, I'm researching smartphones for her.

I'm looking at carriers. She currently has AT&T and is probably paying more for her flip phone service than you are paying for a smartphone. I'll recommend she not go with Sprint or T-Mobile, despite the fact those are good services. Where she lives now, in a small town in southeast Georgia, Sprint is practically useless. T-Mobile isn't exactly useless, but there are places she goes where T-Mobile service is bad. So, I'm going to recommend she stick with AT&T, move to Verizon, or use a smaller carrier that rides one of those two services.

I'm probably going to recommend a prepaid plan. There are certainly no credit issues with her, but my research has shown, like many of you may already know, that for single line service, a prepaid plan is often cheaper. I didn't know that. But my research has indicated that to be the case. Regardless, some of the services I'm researching are prepaid only.

The other thing I'm going to recommend is an Android phone. Now, you may know that I have an iPhone, and have had an iPhone for several years. So, why would I recommend an Android phone? Price.

Sure, you can pay as much for an Android phone as you can for an iPhone. And, you can find certain iPhones for under $200 brand new from some carriers. But, overall, she can find an Android phone, and a good one, for less than an iPhone.

There's one other thing about an Android phone that doesn't hold true for an iPhone. If she calls me with a phone problem, I can honestly say that I have an iPhone and she would probably be better off speaking with some of her friends that have Android phones to help fix whatever is wrong.

Selfish of me? I don't care. You want her calling you? I didn't think so.

Now, to be honest, Android is a good phone operating system. And, some Android phones are good quality phones. Not just those expensive Pixel or Galaxy S8 or whatevers. So, she can actually get a good phone at a decent price. No reason to pay iPhone prices. I will steer her toward good quality Android phones.

Here are the carriers I've been looking at:
  • Sprint (already ruled out because of poor coverage in her area)
  • T-Mobile (already ruled out because of poor coverage in her area)
  • AT&T
  • Verizon
  • Cricket (rides AT&T)
  • Total Wireless (rides Verizon)
  • Straight Talk Wireless (rides Verizon)
  • Simple Mobile (rides T-Mobile and therefore ruled out)
  • FreedomPop (rides AT&T in her area)
There may be other carriers I'll look at. I don't have experience with Cricket or FreedomPop. I've used Total Wireless, Straight Talk, and Simple Mobile. I've ordered a FreedomPop SIM that I'll put in an old iPhone to try it out. Not sure when or how I'll try Cricket. I may have another spare phone around here somewhere. But, I'm going to actually try out the service and confirm it works well. I want to be comfortable in my recommendation.

When I tried Straight Talk some years back, the Android phone I got was a rather poor device. I don't recall the brand. The Android I bought when I tried out Simple Mobile was a Samsung Galaxy J3 Luna Pro. I currently use it as a mini tablet for my youngest grandson to play games.

So, I've been trying things out and researching prices, and I want to be able to make a recommendation to her later this month.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

iPhone X (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I was going to tell you my impression of the iPhone X. And, as a reminder, it's pronounced "ten" not "ecks" because it's a Roman numeral.

Anyway, I took a side turn and ended up telling why I got an iPhone X instead of what I thought of the iPhone X. I do stuff like that, you know. So, at the end of that post, I said "I like it."

Well, I'm going to go into a little more depth. I'll cover some of what I spoke about in my previous post, but not the billing part (which is where I got really sidetracked).

The size of the phone was my first concern. I knew from handling the Plus series phones from family members and others that I didn't want something that size. So, when I found out the iPhone X had a 5.8-inch screen, I ruled it out. That's larger than the Plus series 5½-inch screen. I thought the iPhone X would be around the same size of, if not larger than, the Plus phones. But no, it was closer in size to the standard 4.7-inch device. Slightly larger, but not much. The elimination of the areas above and below the screen, made for the larger screen size. The Home button was gone (more about that in a minute), and the area of the front camera and phone speaker was reduced. That made for a much larger screen on a slightly larger design.

I don't notice the difference in the size unless I handle a 4.7-inch iPhone and then pick up the iPhone X. In regular use, it seems the same size most of the time.

Okay now, the thing I was worried about the most: the Home button -- or lack thereof. I don't miss it. That surprised me. To use the "Home button," since there isn't one, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. I have no problem using my thumb for that. I used my thumb for unlocking on the 5s, 6, and 6s by touching the Home button, followed by a press and release. Touching it allowed the Touch ID to confirm my thumbprint and unlock it, and pressing it allowed the screen to become active.

With the iPhone X, I simply put my thumb where the Home button was, let it rest there slightly, then swipe up while looking at the phone. The differences are the swipe up instead of a button press, and the looking at the phone. Now, I was usually looking at the 5s/6/6s when I unlocked and opened it, but not always. With the new Face ID, if I'm not looking at it, it won't unlock. I can use the Passcode, of course, if I attempt to unlock it without Face ID.

Oh, and about the Face ID vs Touch ID? There's not much of a difference from the end-user perspective. At least, not for me. If my eyes are closed, or I'm otherwise not looking at the phone head on, it won't unlock using Face ID. I don't know how well it will work at a McDonald's drive-through, as I haven't hit a McDonald's drive-through since I got the iPhone X.

I used to drive through McDonald's just to screw with the window crew. I'd pull to the window to pay, hold out my phone, and they'd get this panicked look on their faces. Often, I'd tell them what to do and they'd go along with it, and they'd be amazed that the register told them the meal was paid for. Sometimes, they'd call a manager, who would usually know what to do, but occasionally had to be walked though it, too. I'll eventually hit a McDonald's drive-though just so I can screw with the crew some more.

Okay, now I need to think about what else is different on the iPhone X. Hmmm. Oh, yeah. The double-click to access running apps (Multi-tasking). Used to be, you'd double-click the Home button to call up the apps that were running in the background. With the iPhone X, you swipe up, and hold. I have no trouble with that. My mother does. She can never remember to do it, and when she does, she swipes with her finger, like she's brushing dirt off. I notice a lot of people make a striking swipe with their iPhones. I never did. I do things like you'll see on Apple's support pages where why have little videos and animations using the features. You can find an example here. In fact, I'm going to let that page tell you how to use an iPhone X and focus on my impressions from here on out.

The double-click of the Side Button to install apps had me confused at first, but once I realized what the on-screen animation was trying to tell me, I was fine.

Accessing the Control Center -- that's a swipe down from the top right corner -- is different. Used to swipe up, but that's now unlock. Hmph. Apple.

That's the differences and changes in behavior to use the phone. As for the actual use of the phone? Well, it's not really much different. I don't do a lot of photography, so I can't say that I find the camera a lot better. But, I understand it is.

The Animoji rhinf? Big fat hairy deal. I can now be a talking unicorn or a pile of poop. Whoop-de-frikkin-do.

Wireless charging? Well, I haven't been using that. But others have, and they love it. So, while I don't have first-hand experience with it, family members do and they like it. A lot.

All that to say the gestures and button pressed to activate a few features is different, but easy. In fact, when I pick up a different iPhone, or even my iPad, I try to use the iPhone X gestures. I'm used to it, and it didn't take long at all to get used to it.

In my last post, I said "I like it." But you got none of the details.

Here's my new summary of what I think: I like it.

Told you.