1 – So my laptop bit the dust back in early April. I hate typing on my desktop at home and I was swamped at work last month. Hence, no blog writing.
But it’s been way too long and this week has been slow so I’ll make an attempt.
2 – Mark Cuban pens one of my favorite blogs. He’s not in there writing something new every day but when he does, it’s usually packed with information or thoughts or opinions I find fascinating.
This week he took on TV and the internet.
Entry one: The Future of TV is…….TV
If you don’t want to read either, I’ll sum up what he’s talking about because it deals with something I’ve been engaged in for years.
Cuban is using statistical data to show that not only are people purchasing the biggest and the best TVs they can afford, they’re purchasing a lot of them. His theory is this is evidence that internet video, while obviously popular, is a fad and nothing more than something tech geeks get into. After all, when you invest in a 60″ 1080p set you’re going to want to take full advantage of it. Why would you watch this week’s episode of Lost on your 24″ computer monitor when you can check it out on this brand new set of yours over DirectTV or cable? Or why would you stream a movie over Netflix and watch something at significantly less quality when you could rent a Blu Ray or grab something from Video On Demand and see it with the quality that the creators intended?
His second blog again a swipe at internet video, albeit in another (less obvious) way. He’s obviously seeing talk of how internet streaming of digital content could be the future in American homes and he’s trying to provide a practical criticism, this one dealing with the issue of bandwidth. His stance is if people demand their media over the net, the cost for bandwidth will be astronomical and your typical family won’t be able to afford the rates. He believes that families will have to have their own network manager to say who in the family can use the net and when, and who is really going to do that? Why bother with downloading games and movies over the net when cable and satellite offer thousands of options on demand?
Cuban is a very brilliant individual but I come down opposite him in both instances.
The second blog posting is either very ridiculous or I (and every one of his readers if the comments are an indication) am misunderstanding his point. I won’t even touch the idea of Net Neutrality, because his blog certainly doesn’t.
The problem I have with Cuban is the trade-off. He’s talking convenience and quality. I would argue the convenience is negligible at best, and the quality (while less) is still very good while the cost and selection via internet video far outweighs the benefits of hard copies and VOD.
2b – Here’s why.
I’m pretty typical of most people my age. I’ve got a TV I wish was a little bigger. I have high speed internet in my place with a wireless router. I have a satellite package with a lot of channels I don’t watch. I subscribe to Netflix. I have a gaming system with games I don’t play anymore. I have a nice receiver and sweet surround sound.
I’m the kind of guy that Charter or Comcast or AT&T or Time Warner or DirectTV or Netflix wants. For the last two years I’ve forked over thousands of dollars for service that I didn’t need and in some cases really want.
That changed this week.
I canceled my DirectTV.
I called Charter and told them that I could no longer justify the $60 a month I was paying for internet and that I was going to go with AT&T DSL for half the price. Not only did the guy on the phone tell me he would change my price from $63 to $29, he locked in my price for two years and bumped my download speed from five megabytes to sixteen.
My next step was Netflix. Cancelled.
After that it was a trip to the Apple Store. I’d been researching wireless routers and settled on the latest Dual Band Airport Extreme. It would replace my two-year old Wireless G Linksys.
Went home, set it up and it was time to test.
Using my PS3, my now blazing fast internet connection and bitchin’ router I followed the steps here and selected an old episode of Veronica Mars. After five seconds of buffering, I was watching very near DVD quality content. BAM.
Now, to Mark’s credit, this is exactly what he was talking about in his first post:
I’m not exactly using the path of least resistance. I have to use my PS3 as a web browser. Without a keyboard and mouse it takes a couple minutes to navigate to the TV show or movie I prefer. I’m sacrificing a little quality because I’m at the mercy of whomever ripped this file. I’d say that it’s damn close to DVD quality, much better than standard definition, much worse than HD. I’m relying on multiple devices; the user he envisions only needs a cablebox or satellite receiver and a TV.
However, I weigh those negatives versus the positives:
1 – I’m not paying $90 a month for DirectTV and $10-50 a month for Netflix.
2 – I’m not worrying about returning a disk to a Red Box or BlockBuster.
3 – I don’t have to worry about what I want to watch already being checked out.
4 – I don’t have to wait six months for this week’s episode of Supernatural to be out on DVD, I can get it thirty minutes after it airs.
5 – I don’t have to get in a car to pick up my media.
6 – The online library is substantially larger than whatever you’ll find at your local rental store or whatever is playing using OnDemand.
7 – New releases, and by that I mean those that are still in the theater, are often available online months before they become available on DVD or OnDemand. Last night I watched a DVD quality version of The Losers. That’s been out, what, two weeks?
8 – I’m doing this without the use of file sharing apps like BitTorrent and I’m not responsible for any illegal activity. It’s the same as running a search on Google Video and watching content there. It’s the person who’s hosting the file on their server that’s liable.
9 – If I do want to download a copy for myself, it’s as easy as changing a setting in my Divx online player and caching a version on my hard drive. From there I can watch it on my iMac before bed or stream it to my PS3 over my new high speed connection.
THE drawback in this setup is very simple: live sports, particularly those in your market. If I want to watch the Brewers or Bucks or Packers my options are either find a shitty delayed stream and watch on my computer, or go to a bar.
But come on. Honestly, is having an excuse to go to your favorite pub really the worst thing in the world?
3 – Work has been on my mind a lot lately. Stretches like this come and go. When I’m busy I feel indispensable. When I’m not I wake up worrying if I’m going to get laid off.
It’s a shitty feeling. It’s tough when you don’t trust your management enough to understand that some weeks I’m going to be ahead of my work cue and have little to bill out. Other weeks I could be slammed and at work ten hours a day. There’s just not that much consistency when we’re talking about the nature of what I do.
Right now I’m in one of those lulls and it’s made me consider what I’m doing here in Eau Claire and how long it can last.
Would I love to stay? Put down some roots and really feel like I’m starting the rest of my life? Hell yes. I like this town. In the summer the golfing is outstanding. The weather is great. My brother, and soon my sister, live here. I’m within a short drive to all the family and friends I love. The winters are sort of dog shit but there are options. I could take up ice fishing, I guess.
But I don’t think that’s likely to happen. Odds are I’m going to have to move to a more metropolitan area at some point, I just don’t know when.
4 – If you could do whatever you want, if you were given a chance to do it all over and start a different career, would you?
That’s another thought that’s been floating around in my head.
When I was fifteen or so I remember vividly sitting in my dad’s office back in Marshfield. I was talking to him about a project our high school made you complete, one in which you focused on a potential career and a plan to get there. I was talking to the old man about what he thought might work for me and his first words were,
“Don’t be a teacher”.
This caught me off guard, for obvious reasons. I was sitting in the office of the Superintendent of Schools. He had been a teacher. His dad had been a teacher and principal of a high school. His brother was a principal. His sister was an elementary school teacher.
So when he said the family business shouldn’t be on my mind, I crossed it off. I trusted his thought process. After all, it made sense. I was always the kid who knew everything about computers and technology. I was the kid in elementary school librarians took out of class when they couldn’t get the printer to work or the Mac froze on them. The kid who jumped into the Senior High’s network from home and played around with teacher files when he was 12 years old. The kid who spent years in the technology lab instead of the weight room.
I was a geek, and the Tech Boom was just starting. My dad thought the life of a teacher would be a waste and I’d be better off using my technical skills to conquer the industry. Run a network, build web sites, consult…something.
So I did, and to be honest I make a good living doing what I do. I enjoy it. But if I had it to do all over again I’d trade all of this to teach.
My brother and I live together. Every day I hear about the little shits he teaches in his 4th grade class. The athletes he coaches for varsity football. The anticipation in his voice when spring break or summer vacation comes up. Not gonna lie, I’m incredibly envious.
When you’re fifteen years old you don’t think about things like industry layoffs or tech trends or how the economy might be when you’re 10 or 15 years older. You don’t think about what occupations will be in demand or which occupations will always be needed.
If I were able to take a time machine back and give myself some advice I’d say look into two things:
1 – Teaching
2 – Cooking
I’d have loved to been a Tech or English teacher, and I’d have equally loved to own, operate and cook in my own restaurant.
Also, maybe a divorce lawyer too. Couples I know are dropping like flies. With the divorce rate the way it is, those bastards have to be making money hand over fist.
5 – One mistake I avoided was sports journalism.
I obviously like to write. I always have. I think I’m decent at it. When I was younger I used to dream I was like one of the scribes in Dan Jenkins novels, having a byline at a major newspaper or magazine.
I romanticized the notion of watching an event and working my ass off to fax home my recap or article (typed on an old Smith-Corona) on a deadline, a bottle of cheap scotch next to me.
“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky…” and all that shit. Yea, I wanted to be Grantland Rice.
Grantland Rice, however, would be in serious danger of losing his job in 2010. These days, in the age of blogs, message boards, twitter and instant box scores, it’s not uncommon to have the average fan know more than the reporters that cover the team. Combine that with the massive problems facing the newspaper industries and some of the nation’s best writers have been left out in the cold.
Take, for example, Hall of Fame reporter Hal McCoy. In 2009, after 47 years on the job, the Dayton Daily News decided they could no longer afford a beat writer to follow the Cincinnati Reds and McCoy was forced to retire.
It’s sad, and I’m a reason he was forced out.
These days, I know about something long before it ever gets to print or TV. My desktop twitter app sees to that.
Yesterday I got an Adam Schefter tweet that Lawrence Taylor had been arrested for rape. At that point there was no mention on ESPN.com. There was nothing on TV. But inside of 15 minutes the story was everywhere except the print media. By the time the story hit the shelves the next day it was old news.
This problem isn’t unique to sports, obviously. It’s the nature of the news industry.
I implore you to read this outstanding blog post by the wife of a long-time newsman. It’s a bit heartbreaking, but you won’t be able to take your eyes away.
6 – If you happen to find yourself in the Eau Claire area and you’re the kind of person who likes to swing the golf club, you owe it to yourself to play Wild Ridge.
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the conditions are at that course right now. It’s early May, and they’re incredible.
I’ve played a lot of courses in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and right now I don’t think I’d take another track.
If you’re a golfer in Minneapolis or Marshfield or Wausau or wherever and you’re looking for an awesome experience, check it out and look me up. It’s not even pricey. Twilight rate is $20.
7 – A links roundup.
• What Makes a Fart. I LOL’d like a bastard.
8 – And lastly, allow me to welcome the newest addition to the King family.
He’s my sister’s new lab. His name is Cooper. He’s eight weeks old. He’s the cutest thing alive.