Friday, January 13, 2017

Is It Safe to be Back on the Grid?

Not sure how to use this thing. I need my 5-year-old granddaughter to visit.
 More than a year ago, we cancelled our cable TV.

The first-year price deal was gone, and the rate hikes were pretty bad. The TV provider also provided our land-line phone and internet service—and we decided that: A) Even old people don’t need land lines and B) Why are we paying that much for internet service when other providers are less expensive?

So, we bid Mediacom farewell, and, frankly, after the breakup we haven’t missed our ex at all.

But our new internet service provider changed rates for the new year, again after that first honeymoon year was over. Fortunately, they didn’t jack up the rates so badly that we were going to shop around again—and, oddly, the price change included an unexpected deal.

For X a month, you can access Facebook and WordPress and Blogger. For X plus $5 a month, you can also add DIRECTV.

Well, OK. In the past, again when the cable era was ending, we had thought about various satellite options—but we have a jungle to our south. Our yard includes mature oaks, a giant maple tree near the house and a young tulip poplar that is already rivaling it’s much older arbor competitors in height.

My wife pays the bills and texted me about the TV offer. I replied that I thought it was a good price, but I wondered if we would be able to have a dish installed given the treescape.

She said the person she spoke with at DIRECTV said it should not be a problem. I wondered if that were true, but said “OK.”

So today, the Satellite Guy showed up. “Do you have a dish?” he asked. “No,” I said. “OK,” he said, and then we wandered into the backyard. And he looked up and looked a little discouraged.

“Those are some big trees,” he said.

But then he went into the front yard and figured out that at the extreme northwestern edge of our roof, there is a tiny window of open southern sky, apparently allowing the satellite signal through. And so, DIRECTV has been installed.

Up in the sky! Neither bird nor plane. Dish.
Just in time.

What an odd media week this was. I am struggling, a bit, with what to write about for my Corridor Business Journal media column this weekend—it’s supposed to be about local media, but honestly, my thoughts and attention have been mostly national.

The week included Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes, and some of the predictable right-wing reaction that “you Hollywood leftists should entertain us and shut up about politics.” That reaction has a bit of a point, because I agree entertainers often speak out politically in ways that feel childish or trite, but Streep wasn’t talking about policy so much as she was taking Trump to task for being, publicly, an appalling communicator—in short, she was speaking in her area of expertise. And, even if she supported Clinton, on this particular subject she was spot on.

Next this week came Obama’s farewell address. It was a little weird, staged as it was in a big Chicago venue—it harkens back to the kind of rally that POTUS held in 2008 when he was first running to be elected. I think he was smart in a way to go with that kind of place because it’s where he is at his best—somehow, playing to a large crowd relaxes him and helps him break out of his often too-stiff persona. It was a powerful, thoughtful speech, and he made some important points about media. We indeed are seeing our democracy threatened by competing media walled gardens that have subdivided the marketplace of ideas.

Wow. It was only Tuesday. And the POTUS-elect hadn’t even yet had his press conference.

And then Trump did. It was awful. I’m not trying to make a political point here—but his demeanor, arrogance, the way in which the press was crowded into his lobby and berated by his own supporters—it may have been effective, it probably did inspire his insipid storm troopers, but it was truly horrible. It was authentic Trump in his repulsive splendor. It was almost heartbreaking to compare the grace and class of President Obama speaking with the petulance and bullying of President-elect Trump.

I mean, really. I felt myself ready to hurl at my computer a couple of times. Trump says he could run his business and be president, and he is the only person who could? It seems he can’t he go on for more than a few inarticulate sentences without spouting shameless nonsense.

And his defense of the obscene behavior he was alleged to have engaged in while in Moscow? That “there are cameras everywhere.” And he doesn’t like germs. His denial was weird and left me wondering how he acts when he thinks that there aren’t cameras around (yeah, I know, we’ve already had some evidence on this point). Even when Trump is correct—and I am not going to defend Buzzfeed for what they released—he can’t help but also be awful.

Well, I viewed the very Putinesque press conference online, not on TV. Streep I caught on YouTube. And the POTUS speech I watched on TV at the gym.

Now, I could watch them all at home on the big screen.

I must admit it’s a bit too easy to curb my enthusiasm. One week before Trump takes office, and I’m ready to view the new post-democracy era in America in HD TV in my own basement.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I Unexpectedly Place in Media Photo Contest

Fourth place photo in one category of a Cedar Lake photo contest. The three photos that did better were, as I recall, all sunset images. Cedar Lake is a great place to shoot sunsets!
Well, it was fourth place, but still. The “Friends of Cedar Lake,” a group that is working to develop a local industrial pond—a swampy area that was used as cooling water for a now closed power plant—into more of a local park and attraction cooperated with The Gazette, the Cedar Rapids newspaper, to run a photo contest of the lake this fall.

There were different categories, such as “wildlife” and “people.” I won fourth place in one of the categories—scenery, or something like it—for an image I made of afternoon clouds reflected in the lake.

I like Cedar Lake, I bike around it often since the most prominent local bicycle trail goes there, and I wish the local lake friends group all the best in its efforts to promote that body of water.

My entry in the photo contest was almost entirely by accident. On this very cold day in winter, it’s interesting to remember back to the extraordinarily warm fall we had. On Sunday, Oct. 30, Mount Mercy University had its “Halloween on the Hill” event, and it was also a production weekend for the “Mount Mercy Times” student newspaper.

I am the advisor to the Times, and so I was headed to campus a bit early that day (the Halloween event was to begin at 5, I think, I and was going to work for a couple of hours at the paper before it). Anyway, because I anticipated taking photographs of my grandchildren at a big party, I was carrying my Nikon camera with my on my bicycle ride. And because the day was so extraordinarily sunny and warm for that time of year in Iowa, I rode the Cedar River Trail down to Cedar Lake at about 3 in the afternoon, and shot some photos while I was there.

Then, after Halloween on the Hill and after more work at the MMU paper, I got home a bit late, but was glancing through the Sunday Gazette. I don’t recall the section it was in, but the paper had an announcement of the lake photo contest, which it was sponsoring along with the Friends of Cedar Lake.

Well, as chance would have it, I luckily had some nice images I had taken with my nice camera, which I rarely have with me when I ride my bicycle by Cedar Lake, so I figured, what the heck? I went online and entered a few photos—five, I think, since I have a folder on my PC desktop labeled “Cedar Lake” with five images in it.

I had shot the images in late October and entered them in the contest the following week, Nov. 1 or 2 or so. And weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything, so I figured I hadn’t won. I am happy to report I was wrong in that assumption.

I remained in ignorance of the contest results until my wife, who skims the weekly “Milestones” section in the Sunday Gazette, saw an image I shot printed in the Jan. 1 edition of the paper.

Well, cool, I guess. Although it might be nice to let a photographer know when he has won a minor bit of recognition. The Friends of Cedar Lake stated on a Facebook post that 50 photographers had submitted images, so I guess fourth place finish is OK.

The day I shot the images at the lake, I wrote this post for by bike blog. As you can see, I was pretty photo happy that day—sun drunk, I suppose. We don’t often have butterflies and bees on the day before Halloween in Iowa.

Well, seeing my picture in The Gazette was an interesting way to start 2017—an unexpected appearance in media. Here are the other images I submitted to the contest, by the way: