Over the Air

A few threads connected…

Recently I was at a dinner party with some friends. A young teenager from the East coast was at the dinner and I asked him the question “Do you know anyone who doesn’t have cable TV?” He thought for a few seconds and said “Yes, one friend has satellite.” He didn’t even think to consider that anyone would just get over-the-air TV.

A couple of months ago I helped my parents pick out a digital TV and surround sound system. My parents are “old school” and don’t even want to consider paying every month for television, so we just plugged in the over-the-air antenna to the one on his roof and we were in business with digital television. The picture quality is very high – over the air digital TV broadcasts in higher quality than over cable or satellite because it is uncompressed.

Today they announced that the Cubs playoff games were going to be broadcast on TBS only. If you don’t have cable or satellite, you won’t be able to watch the game. This situation is compounded by the fact that the games start at 9pm central time; if you are older it isn’t reasonable to expect that they’d go out to a bar or restaurant until midnight when the game is done. Of course, lots of them have cable, but probably the majority of the people that DON’T have cable would be older than average. I imagine that WGN TV, which has broadcast the Cubs for years, will be flooded with calls from irate viewers.

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A Great Journalist / Writer – Michael Lewis

Recently on my travels to and from San Diego I had a few hours of uninterrupted time and I chose to read some interesting paperbacks. I usually pick something like a business book or a military history book but this time I decided to liven it up a bit and pick two books by Michael Lewis, one titled “Moneyball” about baseball and “The Blind Side” about football.

I remembered Michael Lewis from reading “Liar’s Poker” in the 90’s about Salomon Brothers, the famous trading firm. The name of the book was from a game that traders would play involving betting on the digits on US currencies, a game that could be played for big stakes.

Liar’s Poker is a fascinating book about a period of time when Salomon was essentially the “king of the world” to borrow a phrase from the highest grossing movie ever. If you are interested in what is happening in the sub-prime market with collateralized debt obligations (CDO’s) or the “securitization” of debt this is a great place to start since Salomon basically invented and popularized the practice for home mortgages.

One interesting element of the book is that Michael Lewis actually was a bond salesman in real life, and this enabled his book to be far more “real” than it would be if written in an interview type format. This was his first book; I think at the time he started out planning to get into finance and then decided to write a book; in retrospect you could also see him going into this business as a writing opportunity. To contrast this with other journalists that we take swipes at from time to time, Lewis clearly understood his material as only a true “insider” could.

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Victory at Sea [Updated!]

Many thanks to Dan from Madison for his kind hospitality in inviting me to go fishing with him last week. I can tell you now that Dan is a very nice guy*, not to mention that he was willing to commit himself to spending six hours on a boat with a complete stranger**. He is also a great sportsman, as befits one of Madison’s foremost bloggers and Chicago Bears season-ticket holders.

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Stoic Warriors 2 — Where Risk, Pain, and Death Are Ignored

In an earlier blog review of Stoic Warriors – The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind, I looked at some of the issues facing the American military as society changes its attitude toward individual suffering.

For several years past, I’ve attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is a spectacular assembly of films on mountain subjects — usually relating to outdoor pursuits, natural environments, and exotic cultures. There, I found the same male appetites for adventure, risk, and camaraderie … with many of the same grim consequences of fear, trauma, loss, and sudden death faced by soldiers. But there was a difference. A big one.

The trailer (below) for a recent year of the Banff film festival runs about five minutes. It does contain advertising but the ads are as interesting as the film excerpts for giving a feel for the festival and, by implication, for the prevailing social ethos.

After the jump, my views on the difference …

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