The FCC and Set-top Boxes

The dramatic headline “The FCC is going to war over set-top boxes” brought back memories of the time I was dealing with regulatory issues in the world of entertainment.   I think some things will never change as long as there is big money involved and there exists the institution of lobbying.  The battle to change the existing paradigm regarding processing and delivery of entertainment content to consumer eyes from signals that are delivered to the home by the cable companies, and to a certain extent satellite TV companies, has been ongoing for years.  It is the traditional television content delivery guys trying to protect their turf against the home entertainment guys who want to expand the reach of their systems and control how the consumers interface with the cable TV guy’s signals.   If you think that the opposition to the current cable TV signal handling paradigm in the home comes from organizations that are trying to protect the consumer and have their goodwill at heart, think again.  It is companies like Google and Sony who are on the other side, with their own business interests at heart.

It is all about business and money at the end of the day.  And I have to throw up my hands and laugh at the absurdity of all of it, because all of this fuss, and the use of significant monetary resources, is about entertainment and the distraction of the population, something far removed from the more basic needs of the people at large.  While reading the article above I came upon this video from John Oliver from a long while back on the topic of Net Neutrality.  It is dated at this point but still hilarious!

There is another battle well underway in parallel in the entertainment world where the forces of business are trying to change the way entertainment actually gets into your home.  Companies like Netflix and Amazon actually deliver entertainment content via the Internet, which is of course a very non-traditional approach to doing things.  Considering that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are almost always the cable companies themselves, this leads to the development of interesting business strategies by the cable companies to try to optimize return to their shareholders, all of which is supported by suitable lobbying of the government that is hoped to result in regulatory regimes that benefit one company or the other.

For heaven’s sake, it is only entertainment!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic

We just got through a major blizzard in our area that I have blogged about.  Woke up this morning to this sight in front of the house early in the morning.  It lasted only a few seconds.

Today is the first day after the day on which the roads to our neighborhood were cleared.  Our driveway is also completely free of snow and ice.  We have not been away from the house for four days. We will be venturing out into the still recovering neighborhood in a few minutes.  And I will be carrying my camera.  I feel optimistic!


And Finally We Are Done With the Storm

The snow had stopped falling on the morning of the third day. We had to clear up our driveway one more time from the overnight snowfall. This is the final result after we got done.

After that was done, we worked on digging a path to the front door through the snow piled over the walkway.

We enjoyed watching our neighbor’s cat playing in the snow.

Snow removal from the patio in the back was started because of concern about the patio collapsing from the weight of the snow.

The fourth day dawned with the cul-de-sac still not cleared of snow.  I was anticipating another day of being stuck in the home.

But we were pleasantly surprised by the morning arrival of the snow clearing equipment.

The guy driving the red pickup truck noticed me taking pictures from a window and did me a favor by breaching the wall in the snow in front of our driveway with a single run with his snow shovel.

And then we were completely clear after some more work expanding the breach to the width of the driveway.  The mail box can even be reached!

And hopefully that is that for this storm!

PS. As you can see, the front section of our roof is clear of snow because of the solar panels.  It all came sliding down with a massive thump on the evening of the second day.  Our neighbors all still have snow on their roofs.

After the Storm

It is the day after the storm.  And what a beautiful day it is!

As the sun rose over the cul-de-sac,

It began to shine its warm light over the smooth snow, and tops of the plants tall enough to peek out over their cover of white.

There is not a cloud in the sky.

But yesterday was another matter..

We confronted by a wall of snow when we started cleaning out the driveway just before noon.

This was perhaps the only time I stopped working before the job was complete.

When we came back later in the evening to complete the job, there was probably another foot of snow on the ground when we started.

We finally got the job done after the sun had set.

We will still have some clean-up activity today.  It will probably be a day or two before the snow plows make it to our cul-de-sac and clear the roads so that we can get out of the community.  They will probably leave a wall of snow in front of our driveway that we will have to breach in order to break free.

This was the amount of snow that collected on the table in the patio yesterday evening.

Lets see what adventures are in store for us today!


Half way through the Blizzard

I wrote yesterday about the blizzard that we were expecting. It is now the morning of the next day. We are now more than half way through the storm and have received more than a foot of snow.  The snowfall is only expected to taper down later in the day.

It was quite pretty outside last night.   It looked very peaceful in spite of the snow coming down, or perhaps because of it.


This morning we awakened to the wind and the following sights.


The night was quieter than I expected.  In the past, under similar conditions, we have awakened to the sounds of the house reacting to the storm, and to the sound of the wind whistling into the home through unsealed cracks in the window sides.  That has not happened this time, perhaps due to the work we had done this summer sealing up the windows.

Our neighbors have already started clearing their driveways.  Perhaps it is time for us to start.

The Storm Approaches

I was walking past the windows in front of our house early this morning when I noticed that it was quite colorful outside.  This is what I captured.


The colors lasted only a few minutes.  Within two minutes this is what it looked like.


And then it was gone, leaving behind grey and cloudy skies.

They have been predicting a storm of epic proportions in our area starting this evening and lasting through the day tomorrow – a blizzard that is expected to dump at least a couple of feet of snow in our area.

The warnings started a few days ago.  Even people from far away came to know about the impending storm and contacted us about it.  People have been caught up in the panic and stores are running out of things like bread, water and toilet paper(?).  Stores have run out of snow shovels.  Schools were shut for the day and offices have closed early.  The State of Maryland has declared a State of Emergency.  The metro system will be shut down over  the weekend.

We ourselves have buckled down for the weekend. Stuff that can be blown away has been removed from the deck.  There is enough food in the pantry and the fridge to get us through the weekend. A portable gas cooker has been bought so that we can have hot tea even if there is a power outage.  Major cooking will be done before the storm hits.  We have enough blankets.  We are all set!

And all of this because of the weather….there may be some people who live further to the north of us who are laughing.

Broken Wings (9/4/2008)

When I was a young lad growing up in Madras I used to enjoy the trips to Kerala for our summer vacations.  It did not take me too long to get bored during my stay in my grandmother’s place once I was there, but the travels on the train were one of the highlights of the summer experience.  The romance of these journeys by train never dimmed.  Arriving at the train station and wading through the crowds, to try to find one’s reserved compartment at the beginning of the journey; trying to sleep on the berths next to the noisy ceiling fans during the night as the train rocked rhythmically and sped on to its destination; trying to wake up at various points in the night so that I could see all the stations that the train stopped at, and perhaps even buy a cup of tea from a lonely chaiwalla on an empty platform; experiencing a sense of the power of the diesel locomotive while listening to its distant horn in the night – these are just some of the many, many, memories that come back to me as I write this.  The train would lurch back as the engine connected to the carriages of the Trivandrum Express at Madras Central Station, the horn would blow just as the train started inching forward into the evening, and from then onwards it was a nonstop adventure until the time we reached our destination.  Perhaps I was the only one sitting in the moving train during the daytime with my head against the iron bars of the open window peering towards the front trying to catch a sight of the engine every time it rounded a curve. Was I the only one trying to count the number of carriages on the train?  I might have been the only kid with the railway timetable for the Southern Railways in hand trying to figure out where the train was supposed to be at that particular time, watching the hundred meter markers by the side of the tracks and trying to figure out the speed of the train, trying to anticipate when exactly one would arrive at the next station.  I most likely was not the only one with my head stuck to the window staring at the passing green fields and coconut groves of the Kerala landscape, watching the local folk go about their the daily activities – magical people living their lives in a faraway enchanted land.

The first train stop in Kerala, after it crossed the Western Ghats, happened to be at a place that used to be called Olavakkot Junction.  (The name of this station has since been changed to Palakkad Junction.) If we were lucky we would break journey at Olavakkot Junction and we would make our way over the back roads to my aunt’s place the little village of Dhoni.  At that time there was nothing more than a few houses and surrounding farms in Dhoni.  But Dhoni was a great place to visit for a vacation. My aunt’s little house with its open front veranda looked out onto wide open spaces and the hills of the Western Ghats.  Up in the distance on the hills to the east you could see the trees and the forest, and if you looked up carefully you could even see the dirt road that led up into the woods.  Towards the front of the house was a bald hill where I probably experienced hiking and rock climbing for the first time.  From the top of the hill, one could survey the surroundings.  Getting to the top was a big achievement for me and I would feel a sense of elation.  In hindsight, I do not think that the hill was really as imposing as it appeared to me a child, but nothing got in the way of my imagination and the spirit of exploration.  I have to imagine that Dhoni these days is not the same as it was when I was growing up.  I am sure that the place has developed quite a bit and that one would be quite disappointed if one were to return, not just because the place has changed, but also because the sense of wonder seems to become more scarce as one becomes older, more jaded, and better trained for living and surviving in this world.

So, here I was many years later, a middle aged dude with internal plumbing problems, driving through the mountain passes on Route 15 north of Williamsport, PA, on our way back from Rochester after dropping Christina off at college, still feeling a little bit of that sense of awe and wonder while observing my surroundings.  It is not as if the hills of the Alleghenies are one of the great wonders of nature, but it still does not seem to take too much for me to be impressed when I out in the natural surroundings.  Hill after hill stretched out in front of me as the lanes of the endless highway weaved a magical path from mountainside to mountainside while leaping over the valleys that lay in between them.  Looking at the hills one wondered what it would feel like to be on top of them.  My instincts told me that I should explore the mountainsides on foot and look down on the valleys, the lakes, the rivers.    So long as it was a new experience in natural surroundings, it had to be interesting.  It occurred to me that perhaps in matters such as this I was still an easily impressionable little kid at heart – a kid occupying the mind of one who is supposed to be an adult.  Why is it that growing up and becoming a responsible person appears to be a somewhat orthogonal process to finding a way to continue to enjoy the simple and innocent things in life.  Something is wrong with the way we are being taught to think in this world.