Weighing The Different TV And Internet Options

We’ll be moving into our new house in a few weeks, and one of the key impending decisions for us is:  what to do about TV and internet coverage?

At our old house we went with cable-based service provided by Time Warner.  Our TV and internet coverage was generally reliable, but it was expensive and we really grew to dislike — actually, “hate” is more accurate — Time Warner and its employees’ collective attitude about customer service.  They seemed to revel in making us jump through stupid hoops for no apparent reason.  We won’t go back to TW because we know we’ll just end up infuriated.  WOW is the other cable provider in Columbus, but its on-line reviews seem extremely mixed — it’s great or it’s awful, with not much in between.

IMG_4686The second option is a satellite service.  Our new house already has a dish on the roof.  I think it for DirecTV, but I haven’t paid attention because I don’t like the idea of a dish on my roof.  Now I think it needs to be considered as an alternative.  However, satellite services seem to only provide TV and “partner” with another company to offer internet — which just means, apparently, that we’ll have to deal with two providers rather than one.

A third option is AT&T U-Verse “internet TV,” which would provide one-stop internet and TV.  The house we’re staying in now has it and we haven’t had any service problems, but the TV offerings are limited and don’t include some of the “basic cable” channels that we’ve come to like, such as the Big Ten Network.  Of course, that may just be a matter of getting a different package.  The more high-end TV channels, too, aren’t simple to get to and involve juggling multiple remotes.

And the final option is:  only internet service and no TV.  Since we’ve been at this house, I’ve gone for days without watching any TV.  We’ve got friends who’ve forsaken TV and seem perfectly content.  Maybe that’s an option — but I think we’d regret it when the next seasons of Game of Thrones and The Leftovers start and I want to watch a football game.

We want to make an informed decision in selecting among a confusing array of choices.  I’d be very interested in any thoughts on these options, and particularly in personal experiences with WOW, DirecTV or Dish, and AT&T U-Verse.

From a-Ha To ZZ Top

After months of painful work, my careful reconstruction of my failed iPod is coming to an end.  I started with a-Ha, worked my way through the Beach Boys and Beatles, through Elton John and Veruca Salt and Yo-yo Ma, compiling dozens of different playlists along the way, and have finally hit Zuilli Bailey and ZZ Top.  After that end-of-the-alphabet omega point, there are some random Japanese characters and numbers — .38 Special and the 5h Dimension figure prominently, for example  — but we’re basically done with the project.

What does it all mean?  I’m not sure, except for this:  there are a ridiculous number of talented musicians out there, and an even more ridiculous number of great songs,, and I desperately want to have them all.  What surprises me in my effort is that there is so much great music that I want to have on my iPod, just in case — and also how much fun it can be trying to organize it into playlists.  My musical tastes are broad, and if someone tells me I’m going to need to choose among the Beatles, the Temptations, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, Merle Haggard, George Jones, John Coltrane, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, and countless other artists, I’m not going to be a happy camper.

Fortunately, the old iPod has sufficient storage capacity that I don’t have to make such choices.  I can winnow things down without cutting crucial things out — and that is a great luxury of the modern world.  We are lucky we live in times of such technological advances.

In Search Of The Internet Cafe

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Our cruise ship passengers are a diverse lot, from many different countries, but when we hit an island we share one common goal: find an Internet cafe with free wireless so we catch up on our email since the last stop. Amazingly, this is not difficult. Even on the tiny island of Mayreau, population 300, you can find multiple internet options that not only allow to connect with the world but also drink cold local beer — on Mayreau, it’s Hairoun — with Bob Marley playing on the jukebox and views like the one below. Not bad . . . but it is the 21st century after all.

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Webner House On The Web — Literally

Selling a house sure has changed a lot since the last time we did it!

20141107145227103797000000This shouldn’t be a surprise.  As you would expect, technology and social media have been brought strongly into the mix.  Yesterday a professional photographer come out to take pictures of our happy homestead, and now they’re on the web.  You can find the link to the photos, taken on a rainy afternoon, here.  Our realtor also instantly prepared glossy brochures with the photos and a description of our house and neighborhood that are resting on our kitchen island, ready to be reviewed by potential buyers, and there is a basket next to the front door with plastic shoe coverings and a little sign asking that visitors use the booties to avoid tracking outdoor debris into the pristine Webner House premises.

Speaking of visitors, there’s no need to worry about that potentially awkward seller-buyer encounter.  In fact, there’s an app for that.  I downloaded it today, and it is supposed to keep track of when people are going to be visiting.  Our realtor also calls, emails, and texts, too, to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to a showing.  The only thing I’m lacking is an ankle bracelet to give me a reminder electric shock when it’s time to hit the road and let the visiting couple roam freely through the house.

How Common Is Plagiarism?

On Friday the U.S. Army War College formally revoked the master’s degree it had conferred upon Senator John Walsh, a Democrat from Montana.  The college found that Walsh had plagiarized significant portions of the research paper that he was required to complete as a prerequisite to graduation.

A review board at the college found that Walsh’s plagiarism was “egregious,” that the paper was “primarily composed of verbatim liftings from other sources,” and that the plagiarism was “intentional.”  According to news reports, Walsh’s office said he disagreed with the report’s findings but accepted the review board’s decision; he also apologized to the people of Montana.  Walsh, who was appointed to the Senate seat, dropped out of the race for election to a full term after the New York Times reported the plagiarism charges.

How common is plagiarism — the act of borrowing someone else’s work or ideas without attribution?  No one really knows.  Some years ago the Los Angeles Times reported that 30 percent of college term papers were plagiarized.  Another piece says that many college students engage in a practice called “patchwriting,” where they don’t simply engage in verbatim copying of prior work but instead try to paraphrase and rearrange.  In either case, of course, the writer isn’t doing their own original thinking.

The internet has made plagiarism both easier and more difficult.  Easier, because there is so much content that can be borrowed with a few clicks of a mouse; harder, because there are now software programs and services that can scan phrases and compare them to see whether matches are found in the mass of words floating somewhere in the cloud.  It’s hard work, but if teachers care enough, they can ferret out plagiarized work.

Of course, the means of accomplishing plagiarism doesn’t explain why people are motivated to plagiarize in the first place.  Perhaps the best indication of the commonness of plagiarism is the fact that you can find multiple articles addressing the most common excuses students offer for their plagiarism.  Sad, isn’t it?

A Small Price To Pay

Today I got a notice from WordPress.com, the website that hosts the Webner House blog, provides the software that allows the easy creation of postings, and keeps an archive of our blog running back to the first posting in February 2009.  The notice said it was time to pay for another year of our family’s little contribution to the internet.

The price?  $20 for 10 GB of space.

What a bargain!

I don’t pretend that the Webner House blog means much in the grand scheme of things.  It’s not setting public opinion or providing essential insight into modern culture.  But it is fun.  I long ago told Richard, who set it up and presented it as a Christmas present in 2008, that the Webner House blog was the best present I’ve ever received.  It allows me to vent and satisfy my nagging writing Jones, it makes me feel like I haven’t totally lost touch with the modern world, and it provides a forum to give an occasional shout-out to people and things that make my life better.  And I like it when I hear from EJ, or am challenged by Winship, Doug, or Marcel.  If you can’t defend your opinions, maybe you shouldn’t have them in the first plact.

As I’ve mentioned before, blogging is great because it allows Joe Everyman to have his say.  It is the First Amendment and Speakers’ Corner writ large, where technology means that anyone with a computer can conceivably reach anyone else with a computer and voice their views.  Their position may be rejected or approved, be treated as enlightened or idiotic, but at least it is made public and, potentially, heard.  And that is a great thing.

All of that for only $20?  Rarely, if ever, will you find more value for the buck.

Fake Wireless Network Names

If you’ve got the wireless function activated on your smartphone, occasionally you’re going to get pop-up information boxes asking if you want to link to some random wireless networks that happen to be operating in the vicinity.  Usually the network names are generic and instantly forgettable, like “mywireless” or “Millerguest.”

Recently, however, my cell phone listed a wireless network name that stopped me in my tracks:  “FBI Surveillance.”

For all I know, it really was a network for FBI agents who were checking things out nearby, but I’m guessing it was a razz by a fellow American who is tired of the government snooping on our every activity and thought such a wireless name might cause the rest of us to develop  enhanced awareness of threats to our liberty.  If so, it worked.  It also got me to thinking:  what are some other fake wireless network names that might give the random cell phone user whose wireless search function is on a bit of a jolt?  Here are some suggestions:

mobileebolatestinglab

123KGBSleeperCell

Satan666

joebidensexden

DronePilotNet

HackMyNeighb0r!

KochBrothers$$$$

Your suggestions are welcome.  C’mon, America — let’s call an end to lame wireless network names!