Reincarnation TV – When Cable is Screwy

flat-panel-tv

Okay a little background to explain why we have what we like to call ‘reincarnation TV’.

In 2007 we decided to make a major life change and ditched cable. It was a somewhat monetary decision but was primarily based on an experiment to see how our lives would change.

We LOVED it. The most amazing thing was after just a few months of no cable, Christmas rolled around. Our lovely children deprived of endless commercials had a completely amazing gift wish list. There were tons of the useless things that were on endless commercials that they were no longer aware of. We loved it. They read more books, we read more books. We played family games together almost once a week. It wasn’t that we never turned the TV on, we did. Of course we still used it for watching DVDs, our Netflix cue was finally under control. We even plugged in the occasional video tape. We could get a few channels from the attenae, which meant we could still watch SNL whenever we got the urge. And perhaps most importantly we turned to places like CBS, ABC, and NBC online and then with great relish we discovered Hulu and other streaming television. We were in 7th heaven.

Fast forward to Feb 2009 and FCC had been pushing hard for a transfer of all broadcast stations to move to a digital format. And even though they pushed that plan out to later this year, one of our local stations (the one with Nascar on it) already made the move to digital.

Now even though we had made a major move away from consuming tons of TV we had upgraded our set to a flat panel HD. So we were ready and set the TV up to receive a digital signal. Now unbeknownst to me, the Mattman had negotiated an upgrade to our internet service with Comcast and since the price was cheaper to bundle faster download speeds with cable, we had signed up for cable again but never connected it to our TV.

Converting the TV to it’s digital input gave us amazing images and this led the Mattman to wonder if we would get any other new channels with our HD setup. He then remembered we had some cable service (we assumed the most basic kind) and he plugged the cable in.

And alas reincarnation TV was born. We get some basic local networks, most of the PBS stations and here is the weird part. No other typical basic cable channels, like CNN or TNT, Discovery, etc. We get MTV and Cartoon Network. But the best part is we get a bunch of channels that are either premium or pay per view. This past weekend we have confirmed the following movies:

Twilight

Twilight

Milk

Milk

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Australia

Australia

Madagascar 2

Madagascar 2

Changeling

Changeling

Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia

Now we call it reincarnation TV cause we will start watching one of these movies and then all of sudden it will rewind or fast forward or switch to some other movie or network like CSPAN. It means that whenever we turn on the TV we never know what we are going to get or for how long. At first we were confused but I think we have decided we kind of like it. It lends a certain amount of adventure to watching TV that you just don’t expect.

I assume we are somehow connected to someone else’s system, either their dish or DVR set up and so we are at the mercy of what they are into (for example today the Handmaid’s Tale was on and it kept forwarding to the naughty parts). We had called Comcast to come and sort us out the first week but since they came on the wrong day and we missed them, we have decided we like this and we don’t want them to fix it.

And there you have it, reincarnation TV, because one show will die and another will come and take it’s place. It’s fun. Too bad you can’t try it.

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Death to America, Finally Realized?

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2008/07/16/fl5.jpg

For many years we have watched as those in other countries protest and chant “Death to America”. I heard an interview with someone from Iran recently who was stating that this does not necessarily mean death to the people of America but to their ideals and vices which are contrary to the teachings of Islam.

I think with our current economic environment we might finally be putting some of these vices to death in ways that no armed conflict or attack could ever acheive.

And the one American vice most likely to change: Greed

I was having dinner with a friend last week and he brought up the fact that the new economic climate might mean a signigificant shift in the way we live our lives in America. It should come as no surprise to any walking talking citizen that we have been on a spend it now, pay for it later binge for far too long. Here are just a few statistics to prove my point:

According to an article by Stacy Mitchell at www.newrules.org:

“Between 1990 and 2005, the amount of retail space per capita in the U.S. doubled from 19 to 38 square feet, while per capita retail spending has increased by only about 14 percent. In the last year alone, developers built 143 million square feet of new shopping centers and bigbox stores.”

We have shopped and shopped. Bought cheaper and cheaper products (that break or fall apart sooner and sooner, necessitating yet another purchase). We no longer know how long a blender should last, what it should really cost and what it should cost to sustain a reliable work force.

We are completly caught up in newer, cheaper, smaller, and newer. Yes newer seems to be the overwhelming marketing strategy. How many new kinds of potato chips, crackers, oatmeal and any other number of food products, does the grocery store need to roll out each week to entice us back into Walmart?

As the recent bank bailouts have illuminated, we have been on the short side of make money now and worry about the consequences later. As much as we would like to say that the executives and stock brokers have been the ones to have the short view, it really has been all of us. We have been living large, buying cheap, throwing away and buying again like there is no tomorrow.

But sadly tommorrow has come. And for most of us things are like a really bad hangover. We all just want to jump into bed and go back to sleep until this is all over. But I think this change will ultimately be a good thing for America. We need to rediscover things like value, sustainability, reasonable consumption, and most importantly living within our means. And maybe, just maybe, we will put a dent in our Greed. And put to death one of the things that make us the target of those around the world.

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Want to be the person that isn’t laid off?

I have been a manager of people for over 10 years. I have hired and fired and sadly during this time, seen my fair share of layoffs. Some layoffs are clearly an opportunity to clean out deadwood but other are ones that cut deeply and competent, well intentioned people are let go. I have set in on many meetings where a group of managers have to make the gut wrenching decisions on who will get the axe. Have you ever wondered how those decisions are usually made? Well here is a little glimpse.

You could be on that list if:

You often respond to new ideas with “we tried that and it didn’t work” or “that won’t work” or “that will be too much work”.
Now this may be true but then again it might not be. The person who always poo poos ideas and is a general pessimist generally isn’t fun to work with and begins to be perceived as difficult to work with and perhaps even avoiding work. If there really is a good reason why you think an idea is flawed be fact based, quote statistics if available, outline other alternatives, and in a worst case scenario, let them discover for themselves why it was a bad idea.

– You often criticize others and rarely praise others.
Some people deserve criticism and no one trusts someone who never says something bad about someone else. But if your comments weigh too heavily to the critical side, then you are likely to be perceived as over judgemental, inflexible and generally people begin to want to avoid you. What better to avoid you than recommend you be one of those who is let go.

– You are a constant procrastinator or have be asked multiple times to complete something.
I am your boss, not your mom. I don’t want to nag. I hired a highly competent professional and expect that you can manage what I asked. If at the time I asked there was an unrealistic goal, you need to speak up then and renegotiate or at the very least renegotiate during the project if you feel the deadline will be missed. Waiting for me to ask you where something is, is too late.

– You are really quiet and afraid to make any waves.
Sure it is bad idea to be too negative or too vocal but it also risky to be too quiet. Everyone at every level in every position needs to have some element of marketing to their job. If others don’t know what you do, why and how you do a good job and can recommend improvements then I am not likely to be able to defend why you should keep your job.

Who is likely to make the cut?

People who are:

– Generally upbeat.
– Are willing to take on new tasks.
– Get things done on time.

You would think these ideas are a no brainer but you would be surprised how many people I have worked with and currently work with who just don’t seem to grasp the obvious.

Good luck in the next RIF.

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A sign of my obsession?

Okay it is no secret to anyone who knows even the littlest bit about me that I enjoy cooking and preparing food. In fact I had what I would describe as a nightmare or perhaps an epic dream last week, where in a house full of guests left a party at my house because they didn’t want to eat my food. I think when you dream about such a mundane thing it can safely be called an obsession. As a sign of my obsession I will catalogue for the things I keep at WORK so I can feed myself and more importantly those around me.

jan-23rd-0341

The implements
– A small plastic bowl, good for cereal
– A small glass bowl, good for microwaving small amounts.
– A small glass pan, good for microwaving moderate amounts.
– A large noodle bowl, usually used to make salads.
– A small dipping bowl, usually for soy sauce or other dipping sauces.
– A spoon, knife and fork, for the obvious.
– A small nalgene bottle for water. (Doubles as water source for plants.)
– A large nalgene bottle in which I make iced tea almost everyday.
– Two insulated tumblers, usually for hot tea, rarely coffee.
– A medium size cutting board, for cutting up bread and other baked goods.
– A bread knife, see above.
– A small storage container for leftovers.
– 3 small reusable storage containers with screw lids.
– A medium storage container for leftovers.
– 10 sets of chopsticks (they always give me two when I order sushi and I only use one)
– A box of zip lock bags
– A box of tea sacks for loose tea.

The ingredients:
– 4 boxes of tea, assortment of black, Earl Grey, Green Tea and Chrysanthemum.
– 1 large box of Korean Ginger Root Tea
– 3 small canisters of loose Chinese Tea, Ti Kuan Yin, Jasmine & Tung Ting Oolong
– 1 medium bag of blueberry walnut granola
– 1 medium bag of rice krispies
– 1 medium bag of cheerios
– 1 medium bar of Ghirardelli Mint Chocolate
– 2 packets of hot chocolate mix
– A bag of handfuls of dried cranberries
– Medium Zip-lock Bag of Salted Pecans
– Small bag of Candied Pecans
– Small bag of Candied Walnuts
– Medium bag of Sunny Cranberry Trail Mix
– Medium bag of dried Cherries
– 1 box Vinta Crackers
– 1 box Roasted Gorgonzola Crackers
– 1 Tub Chocolate Chip Cookies
– 1 very small bottle Maggi
– Small bottle of honey
– 2 boxes of Jaipur Vegetables from Trader Joes
– 1 box of Pav Bhaji (potatoes, tomatoes and veggies) from Trader Joes
– 1 box of Dal Makhani (black lentils and red kidney beans) from Trader Joes
– Small boxes of assorted cereals
– Giant box of Fiber One Granola Bars (bad idea as I can only eat 1/2 at a time, damn Costco)

In Mini Fridge:
– 4 bags frozen jasmine rice
– 1 bag frozen Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce
– 1 Container of Meat Lasagna from Trader Joes
– 1 Container of Chicken Sausage and Polenta from Trader Joes
– 1 Large bag of fresh baby Spinach
– 1 Container of Crumbled Goat Cheese
– 1 Container of Crumbled Gorgonzola
– Bottle of Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
– Bottle of Sweet Chili with Kaffir Lime Dipping Sauce
– Small Nalgene Bottle of Coffeemate Plain
– Jar of Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
– 6 can Coke Zero
– Jar of Poppyseed Dressing
– Bottle of Balsamic Vinaigrette
– Bottle of Champagne Pear Vinaigrette
– Small Container of Fresh Roasted Beets
– Small Container of Steamed Lentils

I think I am ready for the Apocalypse. Come on over if you get peckish.

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2009 New Year’s Promises

I generally don’t like New Year’s Resolutions but a new year also brings the thoughts about what new things we might want to explore or accomplish: So here is my list. I reserve the right to update this at any point.

1) Try a new local restaurant I have never been to each month.
2) Keep up with at least daily updates on Twitter.
3) Help my team write really good development plans for 2009.
4) Camp at least 4 times this year. (Hurrah for new camp stove).
5) Try a new beer each month at our regular WAP (Work Avoidance Program).
6) See a new foreign film each month (thank you Netflix).
7) Install a new floor downstairs.
8) Help John learn to drive my car before he gets his permit. (Hurrah for manual transmissions)
9) Help The Service Project become a vital ministry at our church.
and the long shot….
10) Get off the continent.

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Top 5 Comedy Sci Fi Movies

There are so many movies out there and so very many I have not seen. But I have probably seen more than most. Largely due to my screen writing class in college. Our instructor handed out a list of 500 movies we needed to see for the script writing and it just grew from there. (Still haven’t completed the list of 500 just yet). So I started to keep a list of movies I had seen, in fact I complied a database of movies I have seen before I had access to computer. Once I received my first computer and learned how to use excel, I migrated my data from my notebook (ha ha funny double entendre) to a spreadsheet. A few years years ago I began to adopt cloud computing and I now maintain my list on IMDB. If you care to see the whole thing you can go here here My point is there are so many movies and so many ways to categorize and refer to them. John just finished watching Galaxy Quest and it made me think about my favorite comedy Sci Fi movies. And so here they are:

5. The Fifth Element. .

The 5th Element

The 5th Element

This movie is at the bottom of the list as it is not a comedy per se, but I include it as comedy instead of straight up sci fi as it is really a very funny movie. Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas, a former military commando ends up protecting the 5th Element, in human form portrayed by Milla Jojovich, from evil forces. I love most things by Luc Besson and like another under appreciated Bruce Willis comedy ‘Hudson Hawk’ it does not get nearly the attention it deserves. Favorite scene, the airport check in scene where everyone is Korben Dallas. Also like Gary Oldman’s Zorg character quite a bit.

4. The Rocket Man..

Rocket Man

Rocket Man

Harlan Williams is very funny as a computer programmer nerd selected for a Mars mission. There are so many great scenes in this movie it is hard to chose just one. The entire candidate vetting act is full of hilarious moments. The isolation chamber puppet act, the pulling g’s till you puke, when he scream like a girl after being selected. There are those who say this movie is very juvenile, but sometimes those are funny movies.

3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy..

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

A very good adaptation of Douglas Adams great book. Earth is mistakenly destroyed to make way for a new intergalactic highway, but fortunately Arthur Dent accidentally caught a ride on a passing ship and now he hitchhikes around the galaxy finding a purpose and the meaning of life. Mos Def is great as his partner Ford Prefect and Sam Rockwell is perfect as clueless President (channeling George Bush Jr.) Zaphod Beezlebrox. Favorite scene, the truth gun that makes you say what you are really thinking but doesn’t work on women since they already do that. Interestingly enough two of the standouts from Galaxy Quest, Sam Rockwell and Alan Rickman are also great in this movie.

2. Men in Black 2 ..

Men in Black 2

Men in Black 2

Men in Black 2 is a rare example of a sequel which is better than the original. Secret agency of men administrate the aliens among us on earth. Will Smith is so watchable in this movie as Agent Jay as he is in most. Love Tommy Lee Jones as Agent Kay. And another alum from Galaxy Quest has a great role in this movie. Tony Shalhoub is a seriously under appreciated actor who can completely disappear into his character is great as Jack Jeebs, black market dealer. Favorite scene, when Agent Jay goes to bring back Agent Kay from his normal life as a postal worker completely surrounded by aliens.

1. Galaxy Quest..

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

Speaking of Galaxy Quest. This movie is so funny for so many reasons. Spot on spoof a Star Trek conventions and washed up former TV actors. Former TV show actors are recruited to help actual aliens defeat an enemy. My daughter Greer says Tim Allen is way better in this movie than the Santa Claus movies. Sam Rockwell is hilarious as nameless crew member number 5. Sigourney Weaver plays the usually vapid female from every sci fi TV show to a perfect pitch. One of favorite actor of all time Tony Shalhoub is also amazing in this as Tech Sargent Chen. I love the scene where they land on an unknown planet as everyone else is freaking out he is calmly eating his crackers and cheese pack. The kids helping from earth led by Justin Long as Brandon are a great portrayal of obsessed fan boys and girls. This movie in many ways redefined what a sci fi comedy could be, funny and smart, spoofing and original. We watch this movie often in our house and our kids love to quote it often.

So there you have it, my list of Top 5 Sci Fi Comedy movies. Let me know what genre you would like me to cover next.

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On my new obsession – Tweeting

My latest obsession

My latest obsession

I joined Twitter about two weeks ago. I know this is not a new phenomenon but it is yet another application, toy, website or service that I or the Mattman has joined, that is generally ahead of the curve. Here are some examples.

Joined AOL so long ago I have my name as a login and with a fairly common name (Google my name and I am almost never in the top 20 pages) this is extremely rare. I interviewed with AOL for job a few years ago and they were impressed.

Joined Netflix back when the only had one plan: 4 movies at $19 per month. In fact we are still granfathered into this plan but we pay $17 for 4 movies. I think you normally get 3 at a time for $17.

Bought the Gen One IPod, with mechanical wheel and all. Still have it and it still works. We also have like 10 other IPods.

Joined YouTube about a year before Google bought them. This was when it was mostly people talking to each other and big media hadn’t discovered them yet. I miss the old YouTube.

Starting reading blogs like BoingBoing before I had even heard of a blog in the general media. Like in 2001.

We bought our first DVD player in 1998, there weren’t very many DVDs to chose from back then.

Bought our first cell phones in 1995 or it may have been 1994. They weren’t like Sat Phones, but they were still pretty huge.

Starting watching Hulu within a month of it’s launch.

Cancelled cable more than a year ago and only watch TV through the Internet. From the news reports I hear this is very rare for our age.

Matt says we are late early adopters. We usually aren’t the one willing to brave something before anyone else has tried it but we usually are well into something before it breaks big.

As for Twitter, so far I love it. I think my favorite thing is it is like a mini diary. Fun to go back and see where I have been.

Feel free to follow me there at LestyoubeJudged.

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