Thursday, March 30, 2006


Listening to NPR on the radio again this morning. I usually listen to this when driving, but put on music at work. When listening to the news and discussions I find myself paying attention to the ideas and find my mind wandering, which might not be too good an idea while driving. But at work I need to concentrate on the problems in front of me, so the music drowns out conversations in the other cubes and I can better keep myself on one topic. I find that if I listen to conversations I tend to pay attention to those. This is good in a technical environment, because quite often I overhear things that later become important, such as new programs being installed that later have problems, and I can then remember who worked on them, or what changes were made.

One of the discussions on NPR this morning was about children that have a problem wetting or pooping in their pants. A surgeon in Portland has found that this is often caused by a medical condition called Tethered-Cord Syndrome, where a sheath at the end of the spinal cord in some children does not stretch as they grow, causing pressure on the nerves, which results in problems. She operates and cuts this sheath. According to the NPR story this is effective 90% of the time. My daughter several times has talked about students in her class with problems. One kid in her fifth grade class several years ago continually filled his pants, did not smell very good, and had no friends. Our daughter talked to his parents several times, and thought the problem was emotional and caused by the situation at home. Looks like it might have been a correctable physical condition. See the things you learn on NPR?

Las Vegas has two ‘Public Radio’ stations. One is affiliated with the university and follows the talk format, with new shows and interviews throughout the day, some of the shows being created locally and about Las Vegas topics. The other is at the community college down the street from us and follows the jazz format, with some of the national NPR stories periodically. I listen to the news one in the car, my wife listens to the jazz one at home, as background music. The news one is currently having their periodic fund raising event. Which means that for about fifteen minutes out of each hour they are trying to make you feel bad about having any money, please phone in and give it to us. I understand this situation, working with the San Diego PBS station.

A majority of their operating funds are from donations, so these radio and TV stations are forced to beg for money on air in order to stay alive. I just wish there was a way for me to set the radio to indicate that I sent in my money, just skip the commercials and go back to regular programming. This means that my listening for this week and next, or as long as the beg-a-thon goes on, is rather irregular. Instead of just listening I now push a button to switch stations when the local announcers come on. Unfortunately, most other stations are also filled with commercials, and at times I can push all six preset buttons on my car radio and find no music at all. So I play the game of ‘which one will play a song first’ and suffer through the commercials that keep the stations on air. Guess if I didn’t want the commercials I could pay for satellite radio, which it looks like I am about to do. Probably Sirius, so that I can hit Howard Stern periodically.

We tend to do the same thing at home with television. It seems that the percentage of time stations devote to programming is really going down. On the main networks it looks like fifteen to twenty minutes of every hour is spent in commercials. When the show switches to commercial I usually just sit there, but at times the commercials are so lame, or Volvo tells me about the population problem for the sixth time in a half hour that I just have to hit the change button. My wife is really bad, I thought it was guys that flipped channels, but when a commercial comes on she just starts pushing buttons on the remote, and I get totally lost. Though, it is very difficult to understand how we can flip through fifty stations (we are signed up for Cox cable, and get about 150 stations, some never watched) and find that all of them are in commercial breaks. Maybe there is a big national signal sent out that switch all stations from show to commercials at the same time. Once in a while (usually several times a night) even the shows are bad, and I find myself cycling through all the channels.

Back to reality, which is already in progress.

At home, E has found a new friend to play with:

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