26 Nov

Rinse, Repeat

No I'm not the Grinch.

Our radio dial is practically glued to Christmas music after Thanksgiving. The kids enjoy it, and it's a nice break from the normal stuff we listen to. I listened to it growing up, and I still do. However, Christmas music shares one major characteristic with your favorite "top hits" radio station -- a lack of variety. And I don't mean that they play the same exact song by the same exact artist. Confused?

I mean, how many times do I have to hear Jingle Bell Rock? Not just by Bobby Helms, but also Hall & Oates, Amy Grant, et al. I think there's like 500 versions out there (ok, Wikipedia says around 60) and a number of them are played on the radio.

Here's what seems like the playlist I've heard recently (slight exaggeration to illustrate a point):

We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
The Christmas Song (Choose your favorite artist's rendition)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Traditional, I forget who originally sang it)
Jingle Bell Rock (Hall & Oates)
The Christmas Song (Choose an artist you dispise, they probably sing this one too)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (horrible version by Mellencamp)
(and then for "variety", let's throw in a...)
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch

It's common for people to get tired of Christmas music by the time Christmas actually arrives, because they start playing the music around Halloween. For me, it's almost to the point where I have to stream the music online because every year, I'm reminded of how little variety there is over the local airwaves. I argue that part of the reason people get sick of it is for the type of playlist illustrated above. It's not really variety if you're hearing the same lyrics every hour, even though it's sung by someone else.

It's fine to throw in new version of songs every year, but where are the original songs? Where are the "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas"? The "Christmas In Your Eyes" (Gloria Estefan)? The "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (Mariah Carey)? No, we're stuck listening to yet another version of "O Holy Night", this time by Josh Gropin' (sorry, Groban)

To me, you might as well just play the same version of the song that you played before, because it's all the same. (and yes, those stupid versions recorded by American Idol contests where it's more about throwing your voice around trying to hit every note possible in 10 seconds than actually singing the song)

Have we lost all ability to write our own songs?

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19 Nov

Where have all the good shows gone?

Our definition of "entertained" has certainly changed over time, hasn't it? Especially for the kids when it comes to broadcast TV. And I argue it's for the worse (with PBS being the exception)

As you probably know, kids love cartoons. Saturday morning was, and still is, magic time when it comes to cartoon watching. I remember watching shows on all the major non-cable networks. It seemed like many of them were "sittoons" (a word I just made up) -- a real-life situation with a minor lesson to be learned, all while being delivered in cartoon format. Because I have a feeling this blog entry is going to get long, I'll list two of the main ones I can think of.

GI Joe's Public Service Announcements at the end of each episode always taught me never to go anywhere near power lines; told me what to do if my arm caught on fire; taught me to be cautious when coming near a stray dog.

Care Bears dealing with all types of real-life feelings: Getting braces, being ridiculed for wearing glasses, what to do when you feel like running away from home, and being bullied. Instead, we have the Simpsons, who indirectly teach us that to counter being bullied, we should bring our own band of punks.

And it doesn't have to be limited to cartoons.

Remember the older sitcoms? Leave It To Beaver and ooooooh, The Cosby Show! -- prime time TV shows that in my opinion balanced humor and morals within each episode (and yes, I know there were more sitcoms doing such things). You didn't dare go out without telling Mr. Huxtable where you were going. Or mouth off. Or not do your chores. There was grounding... and then a fair amount of time explaining why it happened and what to do about it.

Heck, even Family Matters, Step By Step, and Full House ON DURING PRIME TIME FRIDAY NIGHT, seemed to have a "sit back and analyze what just happened" scene at the end of each show (accompanied by the slow, sorrowful music)

I'm not saying that these shows' sole purpose was to teach us the rights and wrongs of life, but I AM saying that they constantly reminded us of those things, all while being entertained.

But now what's happened to these shows?

Let's start with the Saturday morning time slot. Well, the FCC helped ruin that with the introduction of the Childrens Television Act of 1990, which forces a minimum of three hours per week of Educational or Informative (E/I) content. Now while this isn't a bad thing, it did have adverse results. Broadcast networks don't want to touch any precious time from M-F for ratings purposes, so from 7am - 10am (or some portion thereof) on Saturdays, the three major networks show a special edition of Weekend News, as a way to fill the E/I quota.

Well, let me tell you, I know MY kids will wake up extra early on Saturday morning for THAT!

Then, when the quota is filled, they are free to show non E/I content -- but what's out there?

Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, That's So Raven, Hannah Montana, Sonic X, The Emperor's New School, The Doodlebops, Dinosaur King, Spongebob Squarepants.. ugh.

The shows are seemingly limited to battling, good vs evil, music-based or what it takes to be more socially hip. Where are those "little reminders"? Ok, so my kids are taught everything they wanted to know about the duck-billed platypus and how paper is made, but seemingly nothing regarding life-lessons. So Saturday morning is out.

So what have we got in the weekday after school slot? Psshhh... (insert laughter here)... D'ok. Next?

What about the weekday prime-time slot? Well, a talent show (Idol), another talent show (X-factor), ANOTHER talent show (America's Got Talent), a music show (Glee), 9,000 crime-scene shows, 34,220 law shows, reality shows (Survivor and the like), sports, old movies, and for the time slots that remain, comedies that sure don't teach a life lesson, and SURELY are not even close to being suited for children (constant use of arse, bizzniche, and the underworld).

But they're what get the ratings, and sadly, that's all that matters.

And the good shows that do exist survive on life-support via a smaller cable channel (Noggin, Boomerang, Nick At Nite, et al)

But nobody notices. It's like a game of telephone -- the first person gets the story close to perfect, the next person gets most of the details, and so on and so on. Everybody thinks they have remembered most of the key details they heard, until you examine the story at the end and compare it to the beginning. It's these small omissions from life... little gradual steps... to do something for the better of the whole.

The next time you're exiting the parking lot and seemingly nobody is applying the zipper method...

The next time a youngster doesn't hold the door open even though you were only 3 steps behind...

When your kids wander off without telling the parents where they are...

When it seems like nobody does anything without being paid for it...

When you see Johnny sitting alone at the lunch table at school and nobody does anything about it...

So it's up to the parents to constantly remind their children of important lessons (which is fine, but I can hear the telephone ringing). For crying out loud, we have some parents who don't spend quality time assisting their children with their homework questions (and if you don't believe me, read the studies). There exist reasons for this, some which are not by choice, but that's not the point. (telephone rings)

Little by little. One person at a time.

But don't worry, at least we've got people with good voices, good dancing ability and can play sports...

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04 Nov

Store this!

They just don't make them like they used to has never been so true, when you're talking about computer storage.

It's bad enough that I've been studying for my exam the last 2... decades (at least it seems like), but then a few weeks ago, I lost my fourth... yes, fourth external drive.

Meanwhile, I have only lost one internal drive in my life, and that was because of a bolt of lightning that blew out more than just the drive itself. I'm still working off internal drives that are from the early 2000s.

So why don't external drives last anymore, while their internal counterparts seem to last forever. It's basically the same drive, just placed in a different housing. The power hook-up is different I guess inside a computer than in the external drive (plugs into a computer power pack instead of the outlet), but that would seem about it.

Does an external drive draw electricity differently? Does it write to the drive differently (constant pulses of stop/start/stop/start) that basically work it over?

I mean, I'm at a point where I'm about ready to buy a computer tower that's fills my entire den and attach 3 different 1TB drives to it and see if they last. Screw external drives.

The biggest Gripe I've had is when I had all my information backed up from one drive onto the EXACT SAME DRIVE (brand/model/etc) which was stored in my computer drawer. I loaned it to my in-laws for storage for a brief period. Well, I lost the one drive, so I had to go to the in-laws to get it back. Theirs konked out as well. WTF?!

I repeat, my drive from 2001 is still fine and working. Even my server, which is being constantly used, is working from 2005, with no issues.

Meanwhile, I'm on my third external drive in 4 years.

I guess it's me.

(sorry, not much funny in this one. The Gripe was more for bad timing of both my drives going down at the same time I was studying. Oh, and the fact that I really REALLY want to know if there's something to the external drive failure rates, compared to storing it internally)

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