Monday, February 27, 2006

More obsessing about The Last Frontier

It's a conspiracy! Gotta be!

No, it's not enough that the Travel Channel shows programs about Alaska frequently. No... Now Fox Reality Channel is in the mix as well, showing a marathon of "Bachelorettes in Alaska" over the weekend. I'm willing to sit through all the drivel just to see the scenery (and I'm not talking about the women). Just further whets my appetite to visit there again.

Then Discovery Channel does its part. They showed the flick "Grizzly Man" last night. More beautiful cinematography of Seward's Folly.

At least this time I didn't dream about Alaska. Which was welcomed as I probably would have spent my slumber with visions of grizzlies, knowing my psyche. Not good for my time of repose.
In tribute to my memories of last summer, I will occasionally post some pics of the 49th state in this blog. Starting today.

Busy weekend. I actually am glad it's Monday. Made green chile for a cookoff with the men's group at my church. My dish went over well. Plus I was drafted (some weeks ago) to speak for a few minutes by means of introduction, as I am somewhat new in this church body. I hope I didn't sound too obnoxious or too loquacious. Initial feedback was all positive which is always an encouraging sign, even if the reporting parties are just being polite.

And I admit it. It's not too difficult to talk about oneself.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bits and pieces

In case you were wondering, I was out of town for a while last week and have been playing "catch-up" with some other obligations lately.

Just ask anyone in my family of origin: I am a James Bond fanatic. Have been ever since the early '80's. So I took notice of the news reports of some fans not liking the choice of Daniel Craig as the new Jimmy. Roger Moore comes to his defense.

I'm willing to give Craig a chance. For me it is not the issue of the actor but the screenwriting. The past few movies have taken a darker, more violent edge to them. This is perhaps closer to the realism of being a secret agent, yet the earlier Bond films had the inclusion of humor (some movies more than others). It was this level of humor that propelled the Connery and Moore flicks to the stratosphere and makes them still enjoyable to watch today. I also want to see if the filmmakers will again stay true to the Ian Fleming novel "Casino Royale." A return to Fleming's works may also give the series a shot in the arm.

My prediction for spring and summer: The Diamondbacks will not do well. No contention for the NL West this season. They will stay just above the Colorado Rockies, who will dwell the cellar as usual.

Regardless, I will attend several D-Backs games this season. And I will take my daughter as well. There is still fun in attending a baseball game, even if the team is mediocre.


Doesn't he say this every spring?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Finally figured it out...

Yet another message from my subconscious this early morning. During this particular slumber I first was touring a house Geogal and I just purchased. What was noteworthy about this venture is that the house was located in Wasilla, Alaska. The temperature outside was already a bit cold. Then this reverie metamorphosed into me looking down onto an Alaskan creekbed and seeing a bear far below.

I did visit "The Last Frontier" last summer and my only regret was that I couldn't spend more time there. You better believe I'll visit there again. However I do have a mild lingering feeling to just move there. Flat out relocate.

But I won't give in. You see, I have suffered from this type of desire for nearly all my adult life. Visit a place, then want to live there permanently. At this time, though, I want to put down roots and the Phoenix area seems just the right place. Plus over the past many years I learned that changing my physical location does not translate to changing anything about my inner self. Just like the oft-used cliche: "Wherever you go, there you are." Oft-used because it's true.

And who's to say I cannot vacation there? Over and over?

Some others have this affliction. Some end up in places such as Arizona or Alaska due to these locales being so different from much of the U.S.

I also anticipate Alaska (even the Anchorage area) will not be suffering from the same problems with urban sprawl as are the Phoenix, Tucson, and Las Vegas areas (just to name three in my vicinity). Heck, I could always retire there. (Just gotta convince Geogal it's a good idea.) But in the meantime I took Geoana to a Valentine's Day party at her school, which provided me the opportunity to spend a little time at Border's. Perused a copy of this tome, which just adds to my Alaska thirst.

I can always go there in my mind.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Satellite radio, part 6 (The End)

Another icon decides satellite radio has a future.

Since 1981, when I found out I could pick up another city’s AM station on an table radio, I have been interested in the radio industry. As with many fields, radio today has undergone many significant changes in the past 25 years. Using that perspective there is no reason to think terrestrial radio will not adapt to the challenges posed by the satellite providers. Do you remember the latter half of the 1980's? By that time Top 40 music had all but vanished from the AM dial and FM stations were beginning their ratings dominance in most every metro area. Many, both inside and outside the business, were predicting that AM radio would be extinct in just a few years’ time, particularly when the failure of AM stereo in the United States convinced many that longtime AM listeners were quickly defecting to FM. Then a guy named Rush showed the public that AM radio could once again make a respectable showing in the ratings book.

FM stations now are being challenged not just by satellite radio but also by podcasting. Does this mean that the days of FM listening are numbered? Looking at the ability of the medium to adapt to the changing times, one is inclined to answer “no.” True, people being able to listen to their choice of music without being interrupted by commercial breaks or newscasts is undoubtedly one of the reasons XM and Sirius are continuing to increase their subscriber numbers. And with more people downloading music and converting their existing CD collection to the MP3 format it follows that a larger segment of the population will purchase not only an iPod but also car kits to allow them to enjoy their hand-chosen tunes while behind the wheel. Yes, I predict FM radio will survive but will change to accommodate the particular demands and tastes of the public.

In his outstanding book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey advances the concept that the pie is large enough for everyone to have a sizeable piece. Therefore we should avoid the stance that if one party benefits and grows then the remaining parties are somehow denied. If AM and FM broadcasters can recognize the marketplace and adapt accordingly, then the listening public is the ultimate winner without the need for the terrestrial broadcasters to “kill off” the satellite competition.

This morning was a good example of the above. Here in the Valley of the Sun, the buzz for the past 72 hours is regarding Operation Slap Shot. I tuned in to a local sportstalk station to hear the program hosts give their take on the subject. Not long afterward it was time to take Geoana to school. I began to listen to music on Sirius, but later tuned into one of the local AM stations for a traffic report. Back to Sirius for more music. Go to the gym to work out. Listen to terrestrial radio (on an armband radio) while on the treadmill. Listen to Sirius on the drive home. Listen to XM (via my DirecTV dish) while eating lunch. Listen to my iTunes on the computer while writing. You get the idea. I like my audio companionship and each has its place.

I can’t wait to see what the years ahead will give me regarding music, news, and talk, not just in my car but also in my home and on my computer. Not to mention the portable devices that will likely combine aspects of the above technology. I’ll be listening.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Satellite radio, part 5

10 million.

As of this writing, that’s about how many subscribers the two satellite providers achieved.

The reasons for XM and Sirius making inroads into the territory occupied by terrestrial radio since the 1920's are several, some of which I already have enumerated in earlier postings. Along with these aforewritten reasons is the “convenience factor.” I’ll define this by relating a conversation I had many years ago with two male friends. The subject of discussion was the installation of garage door openers. Both of these guys were attempting to install the openers in their respective houses. After hearing their gripes about trying to mount a heavy object onto a ceiling I laughed and said: “You guys have it all wrong. The trick is to buy a house that has an opener as part of the deal” (As you may have guessed, my home already had the opener installed when I bought it.) I probably didn’t further my fellowship with either one after that statement but my point was clear. Having someone else do the dirty work is almost always beneficial.

Whether it’s a plug-and-play system or an in-dash unit, having the required receiver and antenna already in the vehicle is undoubtedly a boon to the two providers. Nearly all new vehicle manufacturers (both foreign and domestic) have inked deals with XM or Sirius. Even “across the pond” automakers are catching on, as evidenced by Rolls-Royce providing lifetime Sirius service in their vehicles sold in North America. (But the suits at Sirius are aware this won’t result in a great number of new subscriptions...)

Perhaps the contribution to the increase in satellite subscribers due to the equipment being available on the car dealer showroom floor is best illustrated by my own mother and father. In 2004 they bought a Honda Accord which came with XM service. On their most recent journey out to my home (a trip close to 1000 miles) my father commented how having the satellite radio is handy, given the direct route takes them through many long stretches of desolate nothing. Certainly there is little desirable FM radio through that territory but having a diverse selection of music or talk without losing the signal helps the hours pass. I then noted that they chose to keep the XM service even though their free first year had passed. “A year?” my mother replied. Turns out they only got three months free after purchasing the vehicle. Apparently they decided it was worth the monthly cost to have satellite radio in the car. And, this is from a couple that has never been too quick to embrace new technology. (Sorry Mom and Dad! Please forgive me.)

So not only are new-vehicle buyers being exposed to the benefits of satellite radio, but the hardware manufacturers are also taking note of the increased interest in satellite radio technology. When I was in the market for a satellite radio receiver I was very surprised by not only the different receivers available, but also by the lower cost. In 2001 and 2002 when the services launched I looked over the displays at Best Buy but knew it would be years before I had anything like that in my own car, given the fiscal obligations of being a parent and homeowner. Last fall, when I began looking around the Internet for prices on plug-and-play units I learned I could purchase a unit for either provider for around $50 before rebates. Just as DBS TV such as DirecTv and Dish Network took a few years to reach real popularity (in no small part due to prices coming down), so also it will be for Sirius and XM. Bet on it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The day after...

ABC's coverage of the game was OK. But for my money there's nothing quite like listening to the Super Bowl in Danish, Japanese, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese. Those were just some of the offerings available on the satellite radio. Geogal and I actually were impressed enough with the BBC's Super Bowl broadcast that it won out for our listenership while in the car to pick up Geoana from a Sunday evening event.

Speaking of satellite radio, no, I haven't forgotten or abandoned my series on why the medium will survive. In fact, I will post the last two segments this week. Promise. Cross my heart.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Further oddities

The final score: Seahawks 31, Steelers 21!

Or so it unfolded in my dream this early morning. But I had no actual chance to watch the Super Bowl due to other vague-and-never-defined responsibilties. As it went with just about all my slumber-induced brain activites, there was no logic or order as to the sequence of events. Yet they always somehow seem to make sense during my repose even though the moment I awaken I am aware enough to dismiss the just-concluded discord as "it was only a dream."

Sometimes that's a relief.

Truth be told, I have no real preference regarding tomorrow's gridiron contest. I have a difficult time rooting for or against either team. And I am willing to admit I really enjoy watching the Super Bowl just to check out the commercials. Just like most everyone else.

Regarding my previous post, it seems James Lileks has the same malady that afflicts both Mary Katherine and me. Read the paragraph about the ice cream.

And it seems I am not the only one who liked a particular variety of Kool-Aid.

Someone out there REALLY wants it still.

Could a trip to the Great White North be in my future?

Enough about that. If the game's final score is anything like the above, I probably better start paying more attention to my subconscious. Or head to Vegas.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My own sense of bad taste

Mary Katherine Ham, writing on Hugh Hewitt's blog today, shared her affinity for the now-discontinued Vanilla Coke. After describing another failed product she enjoyed she had me laughing out loud with this sentence:

"Wow, Mary Katharine" you're thinking to yourself, "you must have phenomenally bad taste, since everything you like fails miserably in the free market."

I can relate.

Back in my college days I had many sources of enjoyment. Two of these were Campbell's Chunky Chili Beef soup and Purplesaurus Rex Kool-Aid. It was sometime just after I got married when I was grocery shopping and realized neither of these items were available any longer. Some of the other store patrons must have wondered what was with my dysphoric sigh.
But I can still remember opening a can of Chunky Chili Beef, adding some Pace picante sauce, and eating the spiked soup with a warm rolled-up flour tortilla. Now that was some good eatin'.

And, hey. I can always mix grape Kool-Aid and lemonade Kool-Aid and make my own Purplesaurus Rex.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Real life

...hit me square in the face yesterday morning. Put the key in the ignition, turn it, nothing happens.

You probably know the routine. Call the auto club, have it jump-started. Car starts but the problem persists as soon as the engine is turned off. Is it the charging system or the electrical system? And the more pressing question: How much is this repair job going to set me back?

So...I get to have AAA tow the thing to the repair shop today.

Oh, well. I guess if a vehicle is going to fail, there is no better place for it to quit than inside one's own garage. Suppose I should count my blessings. After all, it's only money.

There also is an amusing side story to all this. When little Geoana (age 4) found out that the car wouldn't start she offered the solution that I should buy a new truck. I think it's definitely time to begin teaching her about money and what things cost.

And no, I did not implant the new truck suggestion in her mind.

Darren Urban's piece in today's Tribune addresses the Arizona Cardinals choosing Larry Fitzgerald in the 2004 draft, passing over Ben Roethlisberger. The article is fair to Fitzgerald, acknowledging his Pro Bowl selection this season. Yet I believe that had the Birds picked Big Ben, the team would be no better today. After all, Roethlisberger has very good protection from his offensive line and the Steelers have a better-than-average running game. These are two things the Cardinals have lacked for at least two seasons. It's hard for any quarterback to throw touchdown passes when he is constantly hitting the turf only two or three seconds after the ball is snapped.