Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let's Take the "Public" Out of the Public Broadcasting System

A letter to the Inquirer editors on Thursday got me thinking about the Public Broadcasting System and its relevance. Apparently, there is a move afoot to strip PBS of its government funding, and perhaps that time has indeed come. PBS had its glory in the old days of three networks and (maybe) a handful of UHF stations, when commercial-free television was a rare thing of beauty and something worth paying for.

When I was a kid (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) having a commercial-free television channel was a huge deal. We were shown landmark programs like "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and Carl Sagan's "Cosmos." We were treated to regular doses of "Nova," "Masterpiece Theater" and the more mundane "Mister Rogers Neighborhood." It was all great stuff, and unique in its element.

Now, with the advent of cable and premium channels like HBO and Showtime, the novelty of commercial-free television has worn off. Consumers get the premium channels they want (for a fee) and other cable channels (that they may or may not want) for another fee. We are all paying for television, and it is not necessary to pay for another network. In fact, one could argue that it is pointless to pay for a television network that is already a part of pay-cable. If I don't want HBO I don't have to pay for it. Asking me to foot an extra bill for PBS when I cannot cancel it is above and beyond what I should be asked to do for television.

Granted, they still have some great programs, but if there were no PBS, the producers would just take them to another network or one of the pay cable channels. Or, they could just leave them on PBS and PBS could become what HBO and Showtime are – pay for programming networks.

Television has grown in leaps and bounds (some for the better, some for the worse) over the past 30 years. PBS is an antiquated leftover, and is no longer worth the citizen's or the federal government's dollars. It is time for PBS to either join the ranks of other pay-cable channels or disappear entirely, and allow their programs to be produced by someone who can do it without taxpayer funding.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What's for dinner?

I finally figred out
what I don't like about those store discount cards. It's the clique of the "store club" that reminds me of how good things came only to those who belonged. Such is the case at the grocery store.
Cashier: Do you have a [store] card?

Me: No. I'm only here because I have a gift card.

Cashier: Well, I can't give you the sale prices unless you have a card.

Me: OK.

There I was, in the checkout line. The gift card has been unused since Christmas. I decided to spend it on nonsense items - trash bags, bird seed, toilet paper and paper towels - items that are ultimately destroyed upon use. Somehow, I feel as though spending "free money" on things that will be used to be destroyed is a minor victory. Such is the state of my life.

I feed the birds. I know what you're saying, "Hey, feed yourself and f**k the birds." Well, then maybe you should help.

That giant mess to the left of the tree is a suet cake. Since the suet cake holder is a piece of science crossed with obscure architecture, I could not get it to fit inside, so I laid it on the ground for the bottom feeders. They need to eat too.

The feeder in the middle is a creation of my neighbor's son. It's a steel pole with a tray on the bottom, with some openings for the birds to peck at. Mostly, it clogs up and provides a giant tray for the squirrels - nature's scavengers. Rats with furry tails.

The one on the right is a "squirrel proof" feeder that I bought at a local pet store. The little lid on top is supposed to keep the rats away. I think it works, since I see birds on the perches. That's a plus, since it's a bird feeder.

The biggest problem is the price of bird seed. If I get lucky, I can find a bag that would fill my feeder for $2.50. Otherwise, it costs five bucks to fill a feeder. I'm not sure the birds appreciate the effort - but I'll never know.

Wait ... I see a Cardinal and three Robins. Money well spent.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The magic of words.

The gang at IDT Energy sent a wonderful offer to my mailbox today - I guess. It's a little confusing because I took the time to read it. I'm supposed to qualify for some sort of rebate, but I don't know exactly how much money I can get back. I know it's something.

Is it $150 or is it more? And, if I can get "up to $150," then how can it be more? Isn't $150 the limit?

Of course, I won't get stuck with "sky high" utility bills. But how high is the sky? Can I have a sky high utility bill and more? Perhaps someone from their marketing department will leave a clarifying comment.

Sometimes I wonder if people think about things before they write them down or say them out loud.

I think about it.