Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Modest Proposal (Which Would Probably Never Work)

With all the technology that exists today, there must be some way to provide TV viewers who don’t care to sit through marathon local TV coverage of severe weather and would rather see the program being pre-empted by the live storm coverage.

Many of the local TV stations that provide live severe weather coverage have at their disposal auxiliary channels – which usually have far lower viewership than their main channel – to which the interrupted programming could be switched. Viewers could be told, either by a “crawl” on the bottom of the screen or by mentions during the severe weather coverage by the meteorologists and news people who are providing the live coverage, that the interrupted programming could be seen on their alternate channel.

Case on point: yesterday afternoon’s bout of severe storms which hit north and west of Madison. The local live coverage pre-empted the popular game show “Jeopardy” on WMTV-15 in Madison, and the folks at Channel 15 got an earful of complaints from callers and on the station’s social media platforms.

Listen, friends: as a retired broadcaster, I can tell you that you’re not going to change the minds of the news managers and meteorologists at these stations. They’re going to interrupt programming to do live severe weather coverage, period, end of sentence. They see it as a critical mission to keep their viewers informed when there’s dangerous weather around, and they’re not going to be dissuaded.

I just wish that for those of us who don’t care to sit through the extended weather coverage, there would be a method whereby we could continue watching Jeopardy. Or whichever show is being interrupted.

But, I suspect my proposal is fraught with all sorts of legal issues. In the specific case of yesterday afternoon, I’m guessing that Channel 15 couldn’t just switch Jeopardy over to CW, another local channel owned by the same company that owns Channel 15. And I suppose the lawyers would holler if NBC-15 would say “during this live severe weather coverage, Jeopardy is being streamed live on our website, NBC15-dot-com.”

We’re fortunate in Madison to have a great collection of seasoned professional meteorologists providing excellent, knowledgeable, authoritative severe weather coverage. I’m honored to say that some of these folks – like Gary Cannalte at Channel 3 – have been personal friends for decades. They're very, very good at what they do.

But when the severe weather is 50 miles away and not headed toward me, I selfishly wish that there was a way I could see the program being interrupted, instead of the radar-indicated tornadoes.

I’ll take “Alternative TV Coverage” for 400 dollars, Alex…….

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sunny's Week Of Hell

Sunny, seen above with our granddaughter in a 2016 photo, is the sweetest and gentlest dog you’ll ever meet. She’s a show-winning purebred Blue Merle Collie who we rescued from the show circuit in 2010. She can be a fierce protector of our yard, keeping the squirrels and chipmunks and turkeys and various other wildlife at bay, barking at them and chasing them. But with humans, Sunny is the kindest dog around.

This week, the week of our Independence Day celebration, is Sunny’s week in hell.

Sunny is scared to death of fireworks. She hides, scratches the floor or carpet with her right front paw, hyperventilates, and paces. Her older sister (actually, half-sister) Shadow, our other Collie, isn’t bothered by the unpredictable loud booms. But the noise really gets to Sunny.

I understand some people want to indulge their propensity to make loud and unpleasant noises on the 4th of July, but for the past several years, some of our exurban neighbors have taken it to the extreme. They buy professional-grade fireworks like aerial bombs and cherry bomb mortars and set them off all night.

Not just on Independence Day, but, since it falls on a Wednesday this year, they’ve assaulted us with their explosive devices starting the weekend before and will continue every night through the weekend after the 4th.

Our township has noise ordinances and rules about fireworks that go into the air, but the cops won’t enforce the laws. I understand lax enforcement on the 4th, but – 10 nights of aerial bombardment from 9 PM to 1 or 2 AM? Please. I’ve called the cops and given them the exact addresses of the three “launching pads” within a few blocks of our home, but – no joy.

Last year our veterinarian gave us some “doggie Prozac” to use in calming her down, but the stuff, even at the lowest dose, knocked her for a loop. One dose made her sleep so soundly I worried about her respiration and made her loopy the entire next day. She could barely stand 16 hours after the dose was administered.

We haven’t tried the thundershirt, because reviews from actual users on Collie discussion boards are split 50-50. Half swear by them, half say the expensive garment did no good. Maybe buying one and trying it is our next step.

Channel 15 in Madison did a great TV story with a war veteran who suffers from PTSD, and how the fireworks affect people like him. I can’t find it on their website or I’d give you a link.

If you’re one of those people who loves to blow things up and make loud noises, just please be aware that all of us do not share your joy in these things.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Years ago, before the period of media newsroom devouring, my friend George Hesselberg would occasionally devote his column in the Wisconsin State Journal to a HDDTTWA topic.

The letters stand for “How Dumb Do They Think We Are?” and, in his inimitable style, George would relate an example of a person or company or institution that was trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

I recently jettisoned one of my two day-jobs, a job which required me to use a land-line to get higher quality audio recordings (news interviews) than you typically get with a cell phone. When I made the call to the company (initials AT&T) to cancel my land-line, I came prepared for the same kind of HDDTTWA runaround I got from them about 15 years ago, when everyone in our house had a cell phone so there was no need of a land-line.

I called to cancel the landline. They told me it would be cancelled the next day and that I’d get a “final” bill. Of course, it didn’t happen. A month later, after I’d paid the “final” bill, I got another bill, and discovered the land-line was still active.

When I called them to say WTF, the lady exclaimed “oh – your cancellation didn’t go through!” I told her that if it “failed to go through” this time, I’d refer the matter to the fraud division of the state consumer protection department – knowing full well that companies as large as the one in question have no fear whatsoever of such agencies.

Fast-forward to March of 2018. This time, when I called to cancel the land-line, I recorded the conversation. I even warned the nice young lady that I was recording the call. She assured me the land-line would be cancelled immediately, that it would be disconnected within 24 hours, and even asked me what kind of message I wanted people who called it to hear.

A few days ago, when the land-line was still connected, and another monthly bill arrived, I called the company again. This time the guy on the line assured me that they had no record of any call cancelling the service, and that every time someone from the company discussed anything with me about my service, a “digital fingerprint” would be on my file, and there was no such fingerprint.

I asked him if he wanted to hear my conversation with his colleague a month ago, when I was assured the line was cancelled.

Long pause.

I said “perhaps you should connect me with someone in a management or supervisory capacity”.  Suffice to say that about 20 seconds after I began playing the recorded conversation to him, he caved. Said the matter would be taken care of immediately, gave me a “cancellation confirmation number”, and, long story short, it’s disconnected and I’ve paid the “final, final” bill.

They think we’re pretty dumb.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

There’s Retired, And Then There’s RETIRED

Paul Ryan isn’t retiring. He’s not running for re-election. Big difference. My guess is he’s not even retiring from politics. I’ll bet he will soon become another highly-overpaid lobbyist. And maybe he’ll accept an invitation to a corporate board or two, to add a few million dollars to his annual earnings.

I’m retired. Not capital-R retired, but I’m down to one personal services contract that keeps me off the streets and keeps my mind active. I’m going to be 69 in a few weeks, and I’m counting the days until my child-bride retires. Capital-R retires.

At age 48, Paul Ryan probably could actually capital-R retire, but I don’t think that’s likely.

For my friends from out of state who follow politics, you may or may not be aware that it’s quite likely that Ryan would not be re-elected in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. For one thing, Ryan has served well the interests of the Koch Brothers in Washington, but as for the folks in Janesville and the eastern part of the 1st WI District – not so much. That fellow with the hard hat and prominent moustache is looking more and more likely to win that election, no matter who he faces.

I’m not a historian and I don’t know how the historians will write Paul Ryan’s chapter. I’ll remember Ryan as a failed candidate for Vice President, and a failed Ayn Rand acolyte who leaves office with a trillion-dollar nation debt as his heritage. How ironic, for someone who billed himself as a policy-wonk fiscal conservative.
I will say this: Ryan is gettin’ our while the gettin’ is still sorta good.

There’s a storm a’comin’.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Radioactive News

I spent a bit of time this morning watching MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and  Fox News. I had a minor surgical operation on my foot a few days ago and the doc said I should take a break from work every couple hours and elevate my foot.

So, during my foot-elevation time around 9:30, I scanned the TV band. I watched a bit of CNN, a bit of MSNBC, a dab of CNBC, and then landed on Fox News Channel. They were talking about how dangerous train travel has become. Three train wrecks in the past few days.

I try to achieve some balance in what I watch. MSNBC constantly bashes Trump. CNN does, too. So I throw in a little Fox News Channel to at least get a sense of what a third of America believes is happening.

After the trains are scary story, the Fox News Babe (I'm sorry - I shouldn't objectify people) explained how the stock market was just fine, that this is a correction, that the ups and downs this morning show how the market is just seeking a new level. Hmmm. She sounded pretty intelligent and composed. I thought Fox would paint a gloom and doom scenario, but - they surprised me.

Then, they swung into a story I hadn't seen or heard anywhere else this morning. Some Homeland Security dude said the terrorists "crown jewel" is to blow up another airplane, that airplane travel is extremely dangerous. After his spiel, the FNC anchors nodded approvingly, and repeated the line about how blowing up an airplane is considered the crown jewel of terrorist achievement.

Very scary. Airplane travel. Scary. Bombs. Terrorists.

Then it was time for a commercial.

The commercial was an enticement for me to buy silver. I was told that banks and other money houses are hoarding silver. Silver is my safe haven against global market turmoil. Smart people are buying silver, because they want to be safe from the global market turmoil.

It was then that it struck me: watching Fox News is sort of like exposing yourself to radioactivity. The body can take small doses from time to time, but constant exposure is toxic.

And to make sure that everyone hates me, I think it's fair to say that the same can be said of MSNBC. Joe and Mika ridicule the President every morning. The nighttime MSNBC hosts bash Trump constantly.

Overexposure to either extreme is toxic. Somebody oughtta invent a cable TV news dosimeter, which would beep and boop loudly to warn you that you're approaching a toxic dose of cable TV news.

I think you'd reach your daily limit of exposure in a much shorter time watching Fox News, where the world is a very scary place, and there are so many things you need to be afraid of and hate.

It may take a bit longer, but I think this dosimeter would also go off to warn you of a possible toxic overdose from MSNBC and CNN.

Perhaps an advanced version of the dosimeter would automatically switch your TV to the Game Show Network or The Hallmark Channel when you're in danger of a cable news overdose.

It's a way you'd be assured of fairness and balance.