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    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Bye, Bye To The CBS Eye

    My non-Iowa readers, and you know who you are, are probably unaware of the little battle we are experiencing between Sinclair “Rightwing Bastards ‘R’ Us Broadcasting and Mediacom Cable. This means that, barring a last-minute resolution, I will no longer have access to CBS on my cable package after tonight.

    You can find a nice summary, though obviously from Mediacom’s point of view, here. To me, the heart of the disagreement appears to be this:

    Mediacom’s lawsuit against Sinclair was driven in large part by our desire to protect the interests of our customers. Sinclair has insisted that Mediacom pay for all of its stations in our service areas in a single package without consideration to the differences in the various markets. We believe this all-or-nothing scheme violates antitrust law.The ultimate result of this “tying” of Sinclair’s stations would be to increase the price of cable television to consumers by millions of dollars. It is not fair to our customers who ultimately bear these costs and we have decided to draw the line by asking a federal court to stop these practices by Sinclair.

    In effect, Mediacom is accusing Sinclair of requiring Mediacom to pay one price for all 23 Sinclair stations in 18 Mediacom markets instead of negotiating individual prices for each market. It’s easy to see how this could result in a nasty increase in the amount Mediacom has to pay for rebroadcast rights for Sinclair stations. Cable pricing is unfair enough as it currently stands; I would never pay for Lifetime on its own, for example, but have to pay for it as part of the package. But at least it is part of the package, and if I choose to watch it I can. Requiring Mediacom customers in eastern Iowa to pay for Sinclair stations in Alabama that are not now and never will be part of our cable package is beyond unfair.

    Sinclair’s statement of the situation is here. It might just be me, and it might just be my opinion of Sinclair, but I find their statement to be a lot more weaselly than Mediacom’s. Most noticeably, there is nothing contradicting Mediacom’s assertion that Sinclair is trying to force Mediacom to pay one price for rebroadcast rights to every Sinclair station in a Mediacom market.

    Now, being without CBS is not that huge a thing for me. The only thing it affects are Survivor (available online), NFL games (don’t really care all that much as CBS carries AFC games and I am an NFC fan), and TAR (ACKKKK!!!). But it is kind of disconcerting to think that a station I grew up with will not be there anymore. Still, I hope Mediacom doesn’t do a massive cave-in; I think Sinclair will be hurt far more, with advertisers jumping ship to other options, than Mediacom. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. At the very least, it inspired this little parody from me:

    So bye, bye to the CBS eye
    Turned my TV to the station but the station was dry
    Them Sinclair boys demand too much of the pie
    Guess I’ll pull the signal down from the sky
    Pull the signal down from the sky

    Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Brain Or No Brain

    I’m not usually inclined to watch Deal Or No Deal. It’s not appointment television for me by any means. But it is on prior to several shows that are appointment television for me, most particularly Heroes, and so I will, on occasion, watch parts of it. If you don’t know how it’s played, here’s a nice Wiki write-up.

    So anyway, last night’s contestant was a big ol Southern guy, currently unemployed, living in his sister and brother-in-law’s basement. His sister, brother-in-law, and best friend were there as his supporters. He got off to a nice start, eliminating lower-valued briefcases from the board, and at one point, getting a $218,000 offer from the banker.

    Now here’s the thing. After accounting for the fact that you’d probably lose roughly 35% to taxes, with $218,000, you’d clear around $140,000. I don’t know about you, but $140,000 would pay off all my debt, buy a new car, and give me a serious down payment on a house (or, if not a house, cover rent payments for four to five years) with some left over, and I’m absolutely certain I probably have more debt than our contestant. I’d have jumped so fast at the deal it would make head spins, which probably eliminates me from the contestant pool because I’d be too willing to make a deal instead of gambling and still playing.

    Not last night’s Brainiac, however. He chose to keep playing, after a couple more rounds of choosing briefcases, was down to a $57,000 or so offer from the banker. There was only one high value briefcase left on the board, the $750,000 one, and approximately five low value ones. But he kept playing, eliminating several low value briefcases, until there were only three left: the $750,000, the $100, and the $10. This prompted an offer from the banker of $150,000, which after taxes would still be roughly $98,000. I’m no longer making a down payment on a house with that, but I’m still paying off all my debt, buying a new car, paying rent on a new place for a year, and having some left over.

    Encyclopedia Brown’s support group was mixed. His brother-in-law and best friend were telling him to say no deal and eliminate another briefcase. But not his sister. Oh no. You could tell she wanted nothing so much in the world as for him to take the money and move the hell out of her house. When he said no deal, she plopped down in her chair, unable to watch what happened next. So what happened next? The next briefcase he picked held the $750,000, meaning his prize was either $100 or $10. He rejected the banker’s offer of $55, a split of the difference, and then walked away with $10, roughly, oh, $217,990 less than he could have had.

    So why am I writing? Is it to comment on a show so idiotic that the only skill you need is to be able to identify the numbers between 1 and 26? Is it to comment on the gambling mentality that says keep playing long after the odds have shifted against you? No. It’s because of this.

    As they kept eliminating briefcases, they would update and say things like “You started with a 1 in 26 chance of having a highest remaining dollar value briefcase and you now have a 1 in 20 chance!” But I don’t think this is correct. If you turned your briefcase in each round and selected a new one, yes, when you selected your new one you would have a 1 in 20 chance, but you don’t do that. So instead, you still have just a 1 in 26 chance, the original odds when you chose your original briefcase. Because your briefcase doesn’t change during the course of the game, the original odds don’t change. At least that’s how I see it intellectually.

    Yet, somehow, this doesn’t seem right intuitively. By the time you are down to three suitcases, you have a one in three chance that the briefcase you initially chose has the highest remaining dollar value. Right? Or are we talking two different things? Is it that you still have the 1 in 26 chance you chose the highest remaining dollar value briefcase initially, but the odds that you have the highest remaining dollar value briefcase in your possession changes as briefcases are eliminated? Does that make sense? Help me, mathletes!

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Leaving Pennsylvania In The Broad Daylight*

    *Note: Did not actually leave Pennsylvania in broad daylight, but rather under the cover of the night.

    Okay, this weekend was the road trip to Coatesville, Pennsylvania to drop off cats and a dog and pick up a four-year-old. Here are some bullet points from the trip.

    The trip was supposed to be me, three cats, and one dog. However, when I went to Lone Tree to pick up the cats from my friends who were housing them, Sweetie, the oldest female cat, had gone missing. She was hiding in Bob and Von’s basement like Anne Frank in the attic. As a result, only two cats went east. So, if anyone wants a cat, let me know. (She was found over the weekend while I was gone, too late to make the trip.)

    I’m glad I live in a civilized state where we don’t charge people to use the highway. From the far side of Chicago on, the trip was on tollway. Hat tip to the Indiana Tollway for being one of the best maintained roads I’ve ever driven on, for having a 70 mph speed limit, and for being the cheapest. Hat tip to the Ohio Tollway for being three lanes for all but about 50 miles of the 236 mile tollway. Hat tip to the Pennsylvania Tollway for, uhm, not having anywhere near as much construction as people said there would be.

    Heaviest amount of traffic, volume-wise? The stretch of 80 between I-55 near Chicago and Gary. This stretch also had the greatest concentration of billboards for adult-oriented businesses. Six if you count Hooters, and I do; Hooters is an adult-oriented business for people too cowardly to frequent actual adult-oriented businesses. “Oh, I go to Hooters for the food!” Right, and I go to strip clubs for the music.

    Worst congestion? The stretch of Highway 30 from Lancaster, PA to the extremely misnamed Paradise, PA that runs through Pennsylvania Amish country. For my local readers, think the bit of road in Main Amana with all the shops on a Saturday or Sunday, except multiply the stretch of road by five miles, the people by 100, and make the stretch of road a major highway instead of a side street.

    I know it’s judging a book by it’s cover because I didn’t go into either establishment, but I imagine the quality of entertainment at the Amish Musical Dinner Theatre and the quality of the food at Jakob’s Amish Barbeque is not very high. And don’t get me started on the store that referred to itself as America’s Best Southwestern Store. Southwestern what? You had an Indian and cactus on the sign, so I assumed Southwestern United States. Sorry, there’s just no way I am believing that America’s Best Southwestern Store is located in southeastern Pennsylvania.

    Note to hotel owners: If you offer me a complimentary newspaper, I? Will take it. That’s who I am; that’s how I roll. Conversely, if you offer me a lukewarm glass of orange juice and a cold Danish and call it breakfast, I? Will pass. That’s who I am; that’s how I roll.

    I took my mother’s car, because, well, mine sucks and her car is relatively new. It also has a six-cd changer, which makes traveling nicer. Here are some songs I listened to repeatedly.

    Dar Williams

    I've never had a way with women

    But the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could
    And I've never found a way to say I love you
    But if the chance came by, oh I, I would

    But way back where I come from, we never mean to bother
    We never make our passions other people's concern
    And we walk in the world of safe people
    And at night we walk into our houses and burn

    Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-I, Iowa

    How I long to fall just a little bit
    To dance out of the lines and stray from the light
    But I fear that to fall in love with you
    Is to fall from a great and gruesome height

    So I asked a friend about it on a bad day, her husband had just left her
    She sat down in the chair he left behind

    She said, "What is love, where did it get me?
    Whoever thought of love is no friend of mine."

    Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh, Iowa, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-I, Iowa

    Once I had everything, I gave it up
    For the shoulder of your driveway and the words I never felt
    And so for you, I came this far across the tracks
    Ten miles above the limit and with no seat belt, and I'd do it again

    For tonight I went running through the screen doors of discretion
    For I woke up from a nightmare that I could not stand to see
    You were a-wandering out on the hills of Iowa and
    You were not thinking of me

    Oh-ah-a- ah-a Iowa

    Untouchable Face
    Ani DiFranco

    think i'm going for a walk now
    i feel a little unsteady
    i don't want nobody to follow me
    'cept maybe you
    i could make you happy you know
    if you weren't already
    i could do a lot of things
    and i do

    tell you the truth i prefer
    the worst of you
    too bad you had to have a better half
    she's not really my type
    but i think you two are forever
    and i hate to say it but
    you're perfect together

    so fuck you
    and your untouchable face
    and fuck you
    for existing in the first place
    and who am i
    that i should be vying for your touch
    and who am i
    i bet you can't even tell me that much

    two-thirty in the morning
    and my gas tank will be empty soon
    neon sign on the horizon
    rubbing elbows with the moon
    a safe haven of sleepless
    where the deep fryer's always on
    radio is counting down
    the top 20 country songs
    and out on the porch the fly strip is
    waving like a flag in the wind
    y'know, i don't look forward
    to seeing you again soon
    you'll look like a photograph of yourself
    taken from far far away
    and i won't know what to do
    and i won't know what to say

    except fuck you...
    and your untouchable face
    and fuck you
    for existing in the first place
    and who am i
    that i should be vying for your touch
    and who am i
    i bet you can't even tell me that much

    i see you and i'm so perplexed
    what was i thinking
    what will i think of next
    where can i hide
    in the back room there's a lamp
    that hangs over the pool table
    and when the fan is on it swings
    gently from side to side
    there's a changing constellation
    of balls as we are playing
    i see orion and you say nothing
    the only thing i can think of saying

    is fuck you...
    and your untouchable face
    and fuck you
    for existing in the first place
    and who am i
    that i should be vying for your touch
    and who am i
    i bet you can't even tell me that much

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Wednesday Song

    Final move update tomorrow. For now, a song.

    Dimming of the Day

    This old house is falling down around my ears
    I'm drowning in a river of my tears
    When all my will is gone you hold me sway
    I need you at the dimming of the day

    You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide
    You know just where I keep my better side

    What days have come to keep us far apart
    A broken promise or a broken heart
    Now all the bonnie birds have wheeled away
    I need you at the dimming of the day

    Come the night you're only what I want
    Come the night you could be my confidante

    I see you on the street in company
    Why don't you come and ease your mind with me
    I'm living for the night we steal away
    I need you at the dimming of the day

    Yes I need you at the dimming of the day