Sunday, September 27, 2009

The United Hates of Duhmerica

Believe it or not, I welcome an opposing viewpoint. Even when I think I've got a solid idea of what might work, or what's best, hearing other perspectives can shift my thinking or perhaps solidify my position with even more confidence. I just prefer that it be an informed viewpoint. Repeating sound bytes and bullet points makes you sound...lazy. Dropping f-bombs and populist insults makes you sound angry and, quite frankly, moronic.

Instead of doing the research, assessing multiple viewpoints, and coming up with possible solutions, or even your own thought-out opinion, it's just easier to quote someone else, and in just a few words.

What really boils my blood is when someone jumps onto an issue to express poorly masked hatred. The recent "march" in Washington on September 12th is a perfect example. "Taking our country back" is offensive, threatening and ignorant language. Taking it back from whom? Ourselves? Perhaps a coup? You want to fix something? Get involved, and not just from your Facebook account.

Rallying against immigration? Step back a generation or two and many of us were immigrants. Step back a few more, with the exception of the true Native Americans, and all of us were, none of us invited, or worse, brought over against our will - not exactly a hallmark of freedom.

Listening to the interviews and anger that day just made me sad. Myopic, angry "Christians" who only see color, whether it be white vs. any other shade or red vs. blue, and actually seem giddy with the chance to express these views as if they're universally accepted or true, is disgusting. And until you have a sit-down with God on YouTube, I'd refrain from criticizing the spiritual beliefs of others that don't coincide with yours.

Giving lunatics a stage is probably the saddest of all. Not because they're not entitled to express their opinions. Because they don't actually represent basic American thinking: left, center or right. I don't believe Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Jebediah Moran Clampett reflect the majority of Republican thinking. So how about some intelligent articulation by someone who does?

When I face a new issue at work (in management-speak an "opportunity"), we don't come up with two diametrically opposing views and see who wins. We also don't craft an 1100-page solution, filled with ridiculous, unrelated caveats. And we don't ask this first: "Whose idea is this?" We look at the issue from multiple perspectives, identify various scenarios, weigh the pros and cons, and then put an action in place. I'd like to see more of this in our own US government.

When someone makes the statement: "I don't want the government running health care," there can be many valid reasons behind that statement. But I rarely hear what they are, or what we should do instead. Personally, I don't want to leave it to insurance companies, because I don't believe they have the patient first; they can't, they're profit-based. And I don't want to hand it over entirely to the federal government, but state-run oversight with our current insurance-based anarchy has its own problems. Centralized coordination, with protections and oversight, may actually save lots of money, and lives, in the long run.

Imagine for a moment if water was not considered a bare necessity or utility. Delivering water to your home for sustenance, plumbing and bathing is now in a competitive environment where the local provider can charge you whatever they want in an unregulated free market. That would suck.

I don't want everything "government-controlled", but where do you draw the line? That's usually the issue. It's easy to say no involvement. But everyone wants some involvement. Otherwise, we'd all be responsible for fixing our own roads, building our own bridges, removing dead deer from the highways, putting out wildfires, ensuring whatever is poured into our rivers, lakes, streams, oceans and skies is to an acceptable limit that doesn't kill us... I could go on and on and on.

And I believe it would be very hard for any of us to personally deny another human being from care that they need, especially a child, whether they're currently employed, covered, or even a citizen.

Saying we aren't "socialist" doesn't solve anything either. It just tosses around labels and imagery and more misunderstanding. Ensuring all of us have the necessities (food, air, water, shelter, health care, educational opportunities, the abilitiy to compete fairly, protection from enemies, including ourselves, free speech), and that no small, unrepresentative, non-philanthropic sector has too much wealth/power/control, would be OK with me - no matter what you call it.

The purpose of government, and all of the agencies and departments, is to manage the infrastructure, whether local, national or global. And you need organization around those tasks or you end up with chaos.

I could drop f-bombs and insults all day. That's not going to solve anything, and just divide us further. I used to wonder how the hell we ever got into a civil war, where we actually took up arms against each other. I don't wonder anymore. Now I just hope we find a way to address the roots of our anger and find a way to live and work together again.

And remember, when you criticize "the government," which you have every right to do, be specific and conscious of the fact you're criticizing your neighbors and fellow citizens. Teachers, police officers, EMTs, firefighters and our military are all part of "the government." People who bring you your mail, who make sure there's clean water making it to your house, and who ensure, even in a free market, you aren't being taken entirely advantage of in the name of "fair trade."

So stick to your values, and your opinions, but try to listen to the other sides (there are always more than two), get involved, and stop the hating. It's a waste of your energy and solves nothing. Stress too much and you'll end up in the hospital. I just hope you have good coverage.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The New Fall Season - The Ultimate TV Spreadsheet (UPDATED)

Check out my new TV page where I have the new Fall 2010 Schedule PDF and
Fall 2010 TV Spreadsheet: Fall 2010.


To put it politely, I'm a detailed-oriented individual. I enjoy organizing information and love my spreadsheets. I also have a thing about linear thinking: Beginning, Middle, End. I start a book on page 1 and finish at "The End." I don't skip ahead. I don't read chapters out of order.

When I watch a movie, I start from the beginning or don't watch at all. And when I watch television -- and that's all the time -- I prefer to follow the order of every series from episode 1 to the end. For most sitcoms, this isn't necessary and I will break that pattern, especially for fun shows in syndication. But for dramas, there are story arcs, evolution of characters, show history/mythology references and call-backs, etc. The episodes are meant to be watched in order.

Anyhoo, my obsession is your gain. I create a TV spreadsheet every fall, based loosely on a spreadsheet provided to me many years ago by my friend Steve, who also enjoys watching lots of TV.

If you'd like to use it for yourself, or are curious about peeking into the mind of a slightly OCD neurotic like myself, before I get my own episode on A&E (or Syfy), go for it. You can download it from my MediaFire site here for free.

I've taken the time to put nearly every US primetime show (broadcast and cable), with their premiere dates, in this grid.

If you'd like an explanation of how I use it, please read on.

The first tab is called Key. It's just a guide of the items I use to track shows on the seven daily tabs.

The second tab is Channels. This lists the networks referred to in the other grids, with a column for the standard definition channel and the high definition channel. It's pre-populated with the channels for my FiOS service in Howard County, Maryland. All you need to do with this tab is update the blue channel numbers according to your local service, and your channel numbers will automatically appear on the seven individual daily tabs, which I'll explain in a minute.

The third tab is called ComingSoon. I find it quite handy. It's an alphabetical list of shows (also displaying network and approximate air date) that aren't back on yet, like American Idol.

The fourth tab, Premieres, is an alphabetical listing of all shows and their Fall start dates. I skipped the few summer series that are already in progress.

Finally, there is a tab for each day, but they all serve the same purpose. I've broken them out because I despise unnecessary scrolling, unless it's me pontificating in a blog. :-) I find them useful for tracking what's coming up, what I've recorded, what I've seen and missed, and what to catch up on in the reruns, on NetFlix or on DVD.

Let's start with Sunday, the first day of the week, at least according to my calendar. The rows are the TV shows. I provide the title, network, channel (HD for nearly all), start time and stop time (both U.S. Eastern Time).

The columns are the dates. "Off" means it's pre-season. A green block with "HD" in white letters means a new episode is coming up and I want to tape it/watch it. I used to use "SD" for shows that weren't in high definition. Most are now, and gosh, that's really anal, isn't it? If the letters are in red I missed it. If it's a checkmark I've seen it. If it's "---", there was no new episode that night.

The other six tabs work exactly the same way.

These are new sheets for anyone to use. The premiere dates have the first HD block in them. They're accurate to the best of my knowledge.

This should be obvious, but simply delete the rows of the shows you don't care to follow. And, no, I don't watch all of these.

I hope it serves a useful purpose for you, even if it's just the Coming Soon portion.

Perhaps it's all Willie Wonka's fault. If Mike Teavee had a different first name, and wasn't also a cowboy, maybe I would have read more.