Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good morning, everyone. I spent yesterday dealing with an equipment problem--no, not the computers. They are working very nicely, thankfully. Some time ago we suddenly started having trouble with our DVD collection. A couple of months ago, and with increasing frequency, the disks we viewed would hang up, the sound would become choppy and the pictures would freeze. I have rarely had to clean a disk so I figured that maybe it was time and cleaned the disks. But I looked at them first and I just couldn't find a smudge or scratch anywhere. Lately, the just cleaned disks stuttered and froze when we put them back in the player and newly purchased disks did the same. We weren't sure what was going on until I decided to put a couple of the disks into the computer. They played perfectly. So we decided that the problem was likely with the player. We don't know now how old that machine was--Mom can't find the receipts now. We did remember the struggle we had to set up the monster--at least three long calls between us and Best Buy (where we bought it) and/or our cable company and several hours figuring out how the connections worked. Remembering that struggle we have watched the transition from DVD to blu-ray with some trepidation. And we were not at all happy at the thought that the nice collection of movies we have would have to be replaced. But with the DVD player going out (after such a nice long life) we had to bite the bullet.

We considered two options. Hooking up our computers to play through the tv or replacing the player with blu-ray. The decision was made easier when the very nice sales associate at Best Buy told me that the blu-ray players all had to be able to decode not just blu-ray formatted disks but DVD and CD as well. Evidently that was part of the agreement that opened up the adoption of blu-ray. If we had read some more on the specifications of the blu-ray players we would have known that but we are like many people, I think, we use these things but don't really know all that much about their workings. And we run on past experience and our past experiences with such technological changes hasn't been very pleasant. This time, however, it has been quite uncomplicated and pleasantly surprising. We have lost the ability to play the tapes we still have but that isn't much of a loss. We have been gradually replacing the ones we wanted anyway. We were able to very easily hook up the blu-ray player and we found the navigation on the machine very easy. We tried out a couple of the DVD that had been giving us problems and they played flawlessly and, we think, with better picture quality. And, as an added bonus, the blu-ray player is internet wireless capable so we could, if we really wanted to, tap into Netflix (which we don't want at this time) and Pandora (which we enabled right off the bat.) The transition has been a very nice surprise. I just found Tosh McIntosh's blog thanks to Ronni Bennet at Time Goes By and he has a marvelously funny piece about elders and technology.

On to other things. Kay mentioned a few days ago that she was getting very sick of politics. I know how she feels. I often think a prerequisite for going into politics is that one would have to have the rational parts of one's brain shut down. What I hope is that the seemingly irrational tone of politicians today is really just an artifact of the 24/7/365 news cycle which has given way too much coverage to the nut cases, the irrational, and the over the top pronouncements. The problem for most of us is to find those politicians who are reasonable, balanced, and thoughtful. There is so much noise out there that that is, increasingly, difficult.

Here is a bit of disturbing news that, as the writer of the article says, has flown under the news median radar for the last two years. It seems that many of our states could join Little Orphan Annie in singing Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow.' They funded the increasing costs of paying for the extended jobless benefits by borrowing from the Federal Government. Now they have to figure on how to pay the first interest payments which are due this coming fall. In case anyone thinks that the financial bind on the states stems from the extension of benefits beyond the 'normal' 26 weeks originally mandated, the extended benefits were paid by the Federal Government. The problem for the states came in paying for the original 26 weeks because they had not fully funded the unemployment compensation 'trust' funds they were supposed to maintain.

So, the mainstream media has, at least in this case, discovered the connection between the weather, which has been very weird over the entire globe, and food prices. Although, the Tunisian situation only surfaced on our national broadcast news when this week, I have seen it simmering in the blogosphere and on alternative news sources for a while longer. Why do I follow such depressing stories? Self preservation. If I know what may be coming I can figure out how to deal with how it may affect me and what I might be able to do to mitigate the negative effects. I don't intend to die of a heart attack worrying about what might happen--but thinking about the implications of what is happening on what might happen gives me a chance to find alternatives before the crunch.

Here is a prime example of why I am so cynical about politics. At first I thought this had to be a joke but I was wrong. There really is a bill that has been introduced titled the 'Free Industry Bill' which would indeed specifically not include CO2, methane, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, nitrous oxides, and sulfur hexafluoride as pollutants. My first reaction--what the f##k else is there? My second reaction--how much have the 79 co-sponsors been paid by and/or how much stock do they have in which industries? My third--well, legislators did try, once upon a time, to define pi as equal to 3.0 so I guess this is just a little less hubristic. I guess the bill's title must be a short form of "Free Industry (to do whatever it damned well pleases) Bill." The rest of us can just go and choke on what they spew but, what the hell, we'll have jobs (maybe). For anyone who wants to look at this piece of crap it was introduced as H.R. 97.

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