Monday, April 30, 2012

Mindless Cross-Promotion

I moved a step closer to cutting the cord this weekend.  The introduction of a Roku player into the house has definitely made me more reluctant to watch anything on cable.  The offerings are too weak, the scheduling too rigid.  I'm just not getting much for my money there.  The saving grace had been Comcast Sportsnet.  That's no longer the case.

That station interrupted Saturday's sports highlights with a breakaway to the local NBC affiliate to get a weather forecast.  Ugh.  First of all, CSN's Toyota Sportsnight is so inundated with commercials I don't want to lose any additional minutes to something other than sports.  That is all the more true for a weather forecast that, if I wanted one, I could easily call up on my telephone. 

More importantly, they've entered the same cross-promotional hell that ESPN entered into years ago when I kicked them to the curb.  Congratulations, Comcast, on having acquired NBC.  Boffo for you!  But now are you obligated to juice the ratings for the local NBC station?  Are we now to be treated to advertisements for the latest shows on NBC primetime?  Will there now be crossovers to the Today show? 

Comcast Sportsnet might now have become just another station, just another part of a network that exists only to boost the numbers for the other parts of its corporate entity.  It now stands out less from the other stations, of which there are already way too many. 

Why do we still have it, the digital cable?  There's so much to read online and in print.  There is so much we can watch through Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  Why bother with a box that brings me channel after channel of sameness? 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I wonder if I can learn from this

Yesterday I saw a student depart.  I've known him since 2008.  I've known him to be troubled for some time.  Yesterday he withdrew from school.  Withdrew may as well be a euphemism for dropped out / kicked out.  With six weeks remaining until graduation, and no possibility of earning a passing grade in some critical courses, he withdrew.   

He exhibit some symptoms that made me think he's battling an addiction, which is sad, but a problem I'm unequipped to help.  For some reason, it's easy for me to say that this isn't a problem I can solve, I'll trust others (parents, counselors, administrators) to make an attempt at solving it.  They might succeed, they might fail.  I tolerate the ambiguity. 

Often I find it tempting to get too involved helping others solve problems.  Usually, others seek my help.  Sometimes I jump in because I think my help is desired.  And in the last months, I've gotten burned a few times helping in those situations. 

I think I made the right call gauging my involvement with that troubled child yesterday.  It's not a problem I can solve, aside from being a stable, honest, and caring adult who shows that he likes the child.  I need to apply this mentality to other situations so I can more wisely put my time and energies to use. 

A book I'll probably never read, but should

When I was in college we spent time in a methods class talking about Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson entitled Rise to Power.  The professor used it as an example of meticulous research.  At that point in my learning, I wasn't necessarily a fan of Lyndon Johnson, and I was already reading a lot for my classes, so I passed on reading it. 

I guess the fourth of five books has been released now.  And it's getting a lot of positive press.  George Will writes in today's Washington Post about it.  Will offers an interesting vindication for political history: "Caro . . . is also a valuable anachronism, a historian who rejects the academic penchant for history 'with the politics left out.' These historians consider it elitist and anti-democratic to focus on event-making individuals; they deny that a preeminent few have disproportionate impact on the destinies of the many; they present political events as 'epiphenomena,' reflections of social 'structures' and results of impersonal forces. Caro’s event-making Johnson is a very personal force." 

I don't know if I would have voted for Lyndon Johnson had I been of age in 1964.  I still don't know how truthful it is to call him a great or even good president.  His is a difficult presidency to distill into one clear judgment.  However, his five years and two months in office are some of the most intriguing to study and some of the most meaningful to teach.  I've come to admire his leadership though I don't necessarily think it was always marked by wisdom. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

A bad time for incumbents

An interesting last week of politics: In PA the Republican candidate blessed by the governor for the Senate nomination got his barn doors blown off.  Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate striving for the Attorney General nomination with the blessing of the Democratic establishment got beat, too.  President Obama's polls are sinking low enough that it seems like charisma-less Romney is drawing even.  Overseas, the French are about to dump President Sarkozy.  It's a lousy time to be an incumbent, or associated with them.

My question: Is it the incumbents who are to blame or is it us for not being patient enough to give them a real chance? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Investing One's Time

Recently a news program was inviting callers to chip in with personal finance advice they had found valuable and one gem from a caller really stuck with me: "Invest your time, don't spend it."

Wow, is that a hard one for me to follow, but it's one I think I need to do.

One can invest one's time in a lot of things. I think it's possible to invest it in leisure, in friends, in advancing oneself at work, in family, in fatherhood, in Church, in maintaining a blog. I don't think the advice is a call to be a workaholic. It seems to me like it's a call for one to be purposeful, a word I like to use a lot with my students.

My last month or so has been humbling, in part, because I've been spending time rather than investing it. My time is something I'm usually quite willing to give: to band, to Church, to my kids, to my work, to doing more than I need to do at work. But if I'm spending it so freely in so many places, I don't know if I'm really investing it. And I think it's time for me to figure out where to stop spending time and focus on where to invest it. It means I'll have to say no more often, which I think I can do politely, but it doesn't come easily to me. Maybe young, in the midst of a career, married, with two kids (who are no longer babies), and with a growing extended family is exactly the point when one needs to find ways to invest time rather than just spend it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Sunday News Roundup

Some insights I found interesting:

Ruth Marcus on latest iteration of the mommy wars.

A silly idea from Sheila Bair. The $10 million amount is absurd, but I like absurdity to prove a point. My amateurish economics isn't adequate enough to inform me as to why we can't offer Americans the option to accept income tax refunds in the form of U.S. bonds. I think we'd benefit from a more transparent connection between our personal financial wellbeing and the debt our government maintains.

Maureen Dowd wrote of how boring the 2012 election might be, given the two candidates. One point I would offer, however, is that maybe the American people have settled on two men who just happen to be faithful husbands, good fathers, and otherwise decent human beings. Is it possible that we got something right?

And then there's this little kernel from New York Times regarding the tempest-in-a-teapot nature of today's news cycle.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Local History

Recently a fellow member of the choir passed on a 2004 booklet chronicling my town's history. I didn't know much about the town that is my home until I moved into it ten years ago. In the past two or three years, however, my understanding of what used to be here or there has started to accelerate. So I was grateful to receive a publication that gave me some additional insight about businesses and houses that have disappeared.

My most pleasant surprise, however, was how my son took to this book. He found it on the table yesterday morning and apparently pored over it until he had to go to school. When I expressed some surprise at this, my wife simply reminded me he was my son. So, this morning we did our first history walk. We took the book with us, strapped my daughter on my back (she can still just barely go in the kid carrier I have) and we walked about town for the better part of an hour, aligning photos with buildings. It was really one heck of a way to spend a Saturday. Therapeutic, in fact, after what was a miserable week at work.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

May it be joyous. I look forward to a day where I can sing, listen, and be a dad.

Oh, this is sad

So, apparently a producer at NBC news creatively spliced tape to distort what happened in the tragic Zimmerman-Martin incident. I'm a little surprised anyone really thinks that they can get away with such a cheat in this age of digital transparency.

I wonder if the producer or anyone else working on that report took a few moments to pray for a young life lost, that young man's family, or for the heart of another man who will be haunted for his life at the knowledge that he took a life.