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Choose Your Poison

November 30, 2005 at 3:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Mr. T sent along a link to an article from USA Today that describes how the FCC, in a dramatic reversal, now wants satellite and cable operators to let consumers choose their channels. So-called “a la carte” subscription methods would give the consumer more power over their channel lineup.

I like the idea of giving consumers more choice, but I strongly dislike the idea that we might get there “thanks” to FCC meddling.

The FCC is taking its latest stand for a single reason: the FCC is run by prudish, uptight bureaucrats who want to force their vision of morality upon all Americans. OK, that’s a little harsh, but only a little. This move is part of the FCC’s post-Super Bowl boob effort to “clean up” television and radio entertainment. That’s not inherently an unworthy goal, but the FCC’s methods to date have tended toward government censorship and the stifling of free expression. Their desired ends, though reasonable enough, are being pursued with unacceptable—and likely unconstitutional—means.

What I find most amusing about the FCC’s latest push in favor of “consumer rights” (a wolf in sheep’s clothing if I’ve ever seen one) is that it is in reaction to the failure of the FCC’s own policies and practices. The FCC has long supported current “block” channel packages. Likewise, the FCC has for years pushed for program ratings and filtering technology that ostensibly allows parents to block certain programs or channels. The infamous V-Chip, for example, required in all televisions since 1996, has been a complete failure. Few critics were surprised. Solutions to the problem—and identifying the presence of a problem in the first place—should be determined by the marketplace, not by government bureaucrats trying to score political points.

Why is it that government’s response to failed meddling is never to apologize and back away, but rather always to come up with a “new and improved” way to regulate, intervene, and interfere? Even if the FCC’s new stance is a good one, their involvement is far more likely to make the television experience worse for the consumer than better. One of the potential side effects of a la carte channel menus is that less popular, “minor” channels will no longer be affordable for cable and satellite companies to carry. The end result is fewer channels, a heavier reliance on “mainstream” channels, and less variety and fewer consumer choices—the exact opposite of the stated goal of a la carte proposals. The FCC will eventually realize that, and they will have a solution: more regulation. They will tell cable companies to add surcharges to customers’ bills to support the minor channels, or maybe the FCC will require customers to add one minor channel for every X number of mainstream channels he picks from the menu. In any event, the consumer is stuck with fewer choices, higher costs, or both.

In short, the notion of a la carte channel selection is compelling, but such a system should be driven by the market, not by the government. If it were such a great idea, one of the major cable or satelite providers would already be offering it, and the others would quickly follow. Consumers have toyed with the idea for a long time, and cable and satellite providers are very aware of it. The fact it is not yet available is not a sign of marketplace failure, but of success. I have no doubt that a la carte menus and 100% on-demand pay-per-view options are in our future. But let’s let the people who know best—the consumers and the providers—determine when the market is ready to support those systems in a way that maximizes consumer choice and minimizes costs.

Home Visit

November 30, 2005 at 4:02am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Our case worker dropped by the house last night for our home visit. The visit was part interview, part information session, and part real estate appraisal.

The interview portion was easy enough. She didn’t really ask any questions we weren’t prepared for. In fact, many of her questions were similar to items we had responded to on the questionnaires that we each completed. There were a couple tricky questions, though. One that caught us off-guard was “What are the biggest challenges in your marriage right now?” It’s not that we don’t have our ups and downs—every relationship has them—but honestly, the biggest challenge we could come up with was deciding where to go to dinner each Date Night. I think part of the reason we had such a difficult time identifying any major challenges is that The Missus and I are very much in tune with each other right now, and it’s mostly because of the adoption process. Not only has this process forced us to think and talk about a whole host of topics (and come to some sort of a consensus on many of them), we’re also on a “we’re going to be parents!” high. After we’ve had a few sleepless nights with a screaming baby I’m sure we’ll have identified a few challenges in our marriage.

Our case worker also updated us on what comes next. In short, after completing just a little more paperwork, we will officially be approved to begin the “Pick me! Pick me!” process. It may seem strange to think of it that way, but in the open adoption process that’s not too far from how it actually works. Generally speaking, a placement with a boy happens within around five months, while girls take about eleven months. That’s not to say that five months from today we’ll have in our arms a baby boy, or eleven months from today we’ll be holding a baby girl. Those are just averages. There are far too many variables to consider to say that we’ll have a child in our home by

X date. Likewise, there are too many variables involved to say at this point whether we will adopt a boy or a girl (we have not expressed a preference).

The “real estate appraisal” actually was pretty basic. Our case worker noted the number and type of rooms in the house, number of smoke detectors, size of the yard, and other pieces of information that might be relevant to the appropriateness of our house for a child.

We’re getting closer. Hopefully before the end of the year we’ll be able to say that we are “expecting”. The major difference will be, of course, that we won’t have any idea when our due date might be.

Land of the Free

November 29, 2005 at 3:26pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Welcome to the new America.

Weekend Wrap-Up

November 28, 2005 at 3:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Good morning, oh cheery Lincolnites! There’s nothing better than going back to work on the Monday following a four-day weekend, eh?

Yeah right.

I don’t know about you, but I had a pretty decent weekend. I survived the in-laws and the in-laws survived me. I consumed about as many calories as I’ve ever consumed over a Thanksgiving weekend. The Husker football team made Colorado look awful. The only real downer of the weekend was the Husker volleyball team’s five-game heart-breaker to Texas.

Now here we are in a fresh week with December breathing down our necks. December. That’s ridiculous. Where did December come from?

How about last night’s weather? I thought for sure we were going to end up with a little thundersnow, but no such luck. We will, however, be blessed with 50—50!—mile per hour gusts of wind today. Good ol’ Nebraska. I know we have a few readers out in central Nebraska. How’s that blizzard treating you folks out there? I’m a little jealous, to be honest. I love a good blizzard. We don’t get enough of those here in Lincoln. It’s easy for me to say that, though, since I make Star Tran deal with the roads. The Missus, with her 30 mile commute, isn’t such a big fan.

Tonight The Missus and I will be visited at home by our case worker. Tonight’s home visit is the last big step before we are officially approved to proceed with the adoption process. The case worker will check out the house to make sure we can offer a child a safe home environment. She will probably also ask us some questions to follow up on our autobiographies, questionnaires, and financial records. Which reminds me: I need to send our case worker directions to our house.

I suppose I should begin my work day. I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Mr. T, I’d like some follow-up on the Jell-O and carrots salad, preferably with photos. And D.M.B., I hope your potatoes weren’t

too lumpy.

Gobbled

November 25, 2005 at 3:12pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Ahh, another successful Thanksgiving. The in-laws made it to Lincoln safely, the weather was decent, the food was fantastic. All in all, a great day.

Why, though, did I have to finish off the remaining mashed potatoes and stuffing, and then top that off with The Missus’ famous sugar-shock-on-a-plate peanut butter pie? I had to have passed the 5,000 calorie barrier. Even Daisy got into the act, with several carrots and some chicken on top of her normal food allotment.

I’m not sure what everybody’s plans are today, but I think “not much” applies to most of the crew. We’ll probably end up having Valentino’s for dinner, which will be a real trick since half the city of Lincoln is probably thinking the same thing. We may try Runza for lunch, since my sister-in-law’s boyfriend has never had what I described to him as a “German calzone”.

Right now I’d better go take Daisy for a walk. She’s beginning to get antsy and I’m afraid she’ll start barking at me if we don’t go soon. I don’t want her waking up everybody else. Which begs the question: Why am I the one who gets up with her every morning and takes her for a walk? Oh yeah, it’s because I’m a pathetic dog person and Daisy has me wrapped around her little finger.

Thanksgiving in America

November 23, 2005 at 3:22pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus works in Crete with several relatively recent immigrants and their families. My wife asked one woman if she planned to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. The woman replied in her heavy accent:

“No! I said to my sisters, who work at [a meatpacking plant], ‘What is the point of coming to America, finally getting a day off, and spending the whole day cooking? No, we are going to Lincoln to eat at a real restaurant.”

And lo, a new family tradition is born. Priceless.

When Euphoria and Misery Collide

November 21, 2005 at 3:52am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

What a strange feeling. On the one hand I feel like crap. I have a vicious sore throat, I only slept about two hours last night, and my body generally feels like it’s been run over by a truck. I can’t wait to pop a couple Tylenol Cold PM and spend the night in a deep state of unconsciousness.

On the other hand, I am absolutely ecstatic right now. Why? Because I friggin’ rule! Think I’m exaggerating? Well, I am. But you’d exaggerate too if you had just finished coding, using two computer languages you barely understand, a neato user interface for a nifty module that will help make Lincolnite a really unique community resource. It took me all weekend to beat JavaScript, PHP, and MySQL into submission, but I finally prevailed. I even threw in a few AJAX goodies to spice up the coolness factor. For now the module will mainly help me while I do behind-the-scenes work. Once I get some more content in the Articles, Directory, and Events sections I’ll probably post something describing how the module benefits site users.

I’m going to go eat a nice big bowl of ice cream, watch a little TV, and then hit the sack early. Nighty night, boys and girls.

Smoking Humor

November 19, 2005 at 12:17am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Overheard on 14th Street today, near Homer’s:

Man (holding a cigarette):  ... because smoking makes you cool!
Woman: Really? Smoking makes you cool?
Man: Yes, and by hanging out with me, you’re becoming second-hand cool.

Gas Humor

November 19, 2005 at 12:16am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Three guys are in a jail cell. They start to talking and find out that they’re all gas station owners.

The first one says, “I set my prices at a couple of cents higher than my competitors. I’m in here for price-gouging.”

The second one says “I set my prices at a couple of cents lower than my competitors. I’m in here for predatory practices.”

The third one says “I set my prices at the same price as my competitors. I’m in here for collusion!”

[Hat tip: The Agitator]

38 Bucks

November 18, 2005 at 8:35pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

38 bucks. That’s all I have to pay for my hotel room each night in downtown San Antonio. As a bonus, the place is neither a roach motel nor a drug den (my parents have stayed there before). The last time I stayed in a hotel in a major city’s downtown, my employer had to pay $160 per night. Hotel room supply must be far outstripping demand in San Antonio these days.

Going Too Far

November 18, 2005 at 4:37am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

How do you know when you have taken fertility treatments too far? Is there a “too far”?

Interesting questions, aren’t they? The Missus brought them up, although in a different way, just a few minutes ago. She was talking about how some women go to incredible lengths to have biological children, only to give birth to children with severe mental and physical handicaps. She mentioned that now that she has come to terms with the fertility issues underlying our decision to adopt, she has become very judgmental of women who go “too far” to give birth.

Is there really a “too far”? I think there is. Giving birth ought to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. But my understanding is that, for many women, there’s a strong psychological pull to deny that notion. That is, many women, whether they want to or not, think giving birth is the goal. They are wrong on several different levels, but they don’t necessarily have the capacity to realize it.

How is a woman supposed to know when she is approaching the “too far” barrier, or even when she has crossed the line? Is the line in different places for different people? I think it probably is. Fine then: how do you know where your line is? Even if it were possible to know when you’ve gone “too far”, we all know that being too close to a situation can make us blind to the realities that others see so clearly. Add in all the hormones a woman will have pumping through her body when she’s trying to make these decisions, and you quickly realize that making the “too far” determination is going to be very difficult indeed.

I don’t believe The Missus and I went “too far”. We called it quits somewhere between “urging” the biological process to cooperate and “forcing” it to cooperate. Perhaps that’s where the line lies, somewhere in the gray area between helping nature do her thing and sticking a gun to nature’s head. (If you pull th

e proverbial trigger on mother nature you’ve really taken things too far.) That gray area is, not coincidentally, where the financial costs really start increasing, which indicates to me that the medical community knows they are playing with forces they cannot quite control. As risk increases so does cost. It’s basic economics. The Missus and I judged at that point that the benefits of adoption outweighed the benefits of giving birth, when taking into account the relative risks associated with each. I feel very little regret about not trying “just one more time”. I think that means we made the right decision at the right time.

What about the morality and ethics of taking fertility treatments “too far”? Is it moral to wager that much risk against the quality of life of a potential child? Is it ever immoral to go to great lengths to bring life into being?

So many questions to think about as I wind down my evening.

No News at Newsweek

November 18, 2005 at 4:21am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I’m impressed. Newsweek managed to fill several pages of its latest issue with an analysis of energy costs and “alternative” energy solutions, and not once was nuclear power mentioned. Nuclear power is incredibly cheap and remarkably clean, yet it is so maligned that it didn’t merit a single mention in Newsweek’s articles. That ought to tell you just how much news there really is in “News"week.

While I’m griping, I should also get this off my chest: if you own a 6-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom house with a “cavernous” basement and a pool, you are not middle class, and you have very little room to moan about your energy woes. Seriously, Newsweek, that’s your poster child for the “victims” of high energy prices? Give me a friggin’ break. There’s a word for Newsweek’s miserable display: pandering. Pandering to the audience that brings in the big money advertisers. There is no journalistic integrity in making a victim out of the owner of a $500,000 house.

It drives me nuts that The Missus subscribes to Newsweek. It’s a horrible, terrible, awful weekly. She says she knows it’s not a good magazine, but that she needs it to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Considering the dearth of national and international news in the Journal Star I see her point. But Newsweek? It pains me to see it in my mailbox every week.

My First Final Four

November 18, 2005 at 1:16am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

It’s now official: I am leaving Wednesday, December 14th to drive to San Antonio to watch my very first Final Four. Get your tickets and head down with me! I’ll probably check out regional action at the Qwest Center in Omaha on December 9 and 10 as well. I figure if I’m only going to watch a few volleyball matches this season, they may as well be the most exciting matches of the year!

Krem, With Ice Cream on Top

November 17, 2005 at 8:37pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus and I went to Krem for Date Night last night, followed by a trip to Ivanna Cone. Read all about it on the inside.

Read more...

Restaurant of the Week?

November 16, 2005 at 3:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I have been thinking about this for a while, and now I would like your feedback. Lurkers, I want your feedback, too! Pretty please!

It’s clear that many of the regulars around here like food, especially when we’re talking about local food. Much of my search engine traffic comes from people looking for information about local dining options. Like Nebraskans generally, we like to eat.

How about starting an informal food “club”? Every week we will pick a restaurant that we will try to visit at some point that week. After each individual has visited that week’s restaurant, he or she will post a review or summary of his or her visit. No meetings, no club president. Maybe a secret handshake, though.

One of the most obvious benefits of this sort of a club is that we get to support area businesses. That’s always a plus. But there are additional benefits as well. For example, our summaries of our visits to the restaurant will be accessible to folks who try to find out information about that restaurant in the future. (I might even compile the summaries into a format that I will then post in Lincolnite’s Reviews section.) Those summaries will likely be pretty varied; some will love the restaurant, some will like it, and some will hate it. That’s a good thing.

Our summaries are also useful to the restaurants themselves. If everybody loved the taco salad and the funky music, the restaurateur should know that. He should also know what features of the restaurant people didn’t like. (Service too slow? Temperature too cold?) I can make sure the restaurant manager and/or owner sees our feedback.

There’s another bonus that really intrigues me: the possibility that we could actually run into each other now and then. Have you always wanted to chat about the Al-Skeini decision with Mr. T? Or about Husker athletics with D.M.B.? Perhaps you can connect with them for lunch or dinner.

I should clarify that we don’t always have to eat at locally-owned restaurants. I know a bunch of people wanted to try Granite City when it first opened up, for example. Our purpose ought to be trying a variety of foods and restaurant styles. There’s nothing wrong with trying a chain now and then. But if anybody suggests Applebee’s, I swear….

Does the general idea sound at all interesting to anybody? Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the idea? Where should we go first? What should the “club” be called?

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