Blackout…

One of the walls of the room wherein I’m trapped for eight hours a day features three large televisions. At any given time at least one of them shows a feed from the major cable news outlets shouting the current headlines at us. You don’t realize how little “new” news happens in a day until you spend months with rehashes and repeats washing over you every 30 minutes. It’s possible there’s a lot of news breaking out there somewhere, but it’s an awfully small portion that anyone is going to spend time talking about (and trying to monetize through advertising).

One of the better side effects of this 40-hour a week exposure is that my brain seems to have developed a basic self-preservation strategy of tuning almost all of it out. When someone asks “hey did you hear that?” I can usually respond honestly with, “no.” The other side effect I’ve noticed is that this constant stream of news has left me bereft of the desire to watch or seek out any news for the rest of the day.

With the exception of a few minutes of local weather and finding out the daily body count in Baltimore when I get home from work, the rest of the night is almost completely news free. I should show more of an interest, but I find this newfound disinterest to be a remarkably freeing experience. Sure, I still care what goes on in the world, but I’m becoming a hell of a lot more selective about what I want to burn an increasingly limited amount of mental bandwidth learning about or engaging on.

Some news is good for entertainment value (when bad things happen to stupid people), other bits are good to know because it impacts finances (business news and federal budget stuff), and finally there’s the space allocated to any news or information involving animals. Past that, maybe I should care, but I just don’t. Whatever intellectual energy I have left once I get home is far more effectively spent focused on the next spy novel or great thick books about war.

I intend this self-imposed (partial) news blackout to continue indefinitely.

Recency bias…

Game of Thrones is kind of known for it’s big set piece battle scenes. The Battle of the Blackwater. The Battle of the Wall. The Battle of the Bastards. All are real standouts for their own reasons. Last night, in what I’m pretty sure was the shortest episode of the entire series to date, our friends over at HBO gave us another battle – and in a lot of ways it’s the one that most fans have been waiting a long, long time for.

There are a thousands sites where you can go for a recap of the actual episode, but I’ll just say that Spoils of War ranks well into my top five episodes at the moment. That’s not so much because of the battle itself but because it has finally brought cast members back together who had been separated for so long. In past seasons you could cheer for the Dragon Queen in Essos without worrying about your favorite characters in Westeros. Now, though, long time favorites find themselves head to head – and given that the story springs from the mind of George R.R. Martin, any of them could be fair game for a painful death.

It may just be the recency bias talking, but last night was the first episode of this shortened season that made the long wait for Season 7 really feel worth while… and now my heart is breaking that there are only three episodes left before the next long wait.

Picking easier…

With of the ludicrous cost of cable television I’ve toyed off and on for about a year with cutting the cord and trying to cobble together a collection of streaming services that would get the job done. After some exhaustive research, the real problem became the fact that to get all of my non-negotiable programming I was going to end up needing essentially all the streaming services.

I’m grudgingly forced to admit that cost not withstanding, cable is just the most convenient way of getting what I want. Getting those 40 channels means I end up paying for 300. As much as I hate writing that monthly check, I’m resigned to the fact that I’m just going to go ahead and keep paying for the convenience of having it all piped in through the same service.

For the better part of a decade I’d been living with my old 40-inch 780p plasma screen in the living room. Its picture quality didn’t justifying the full HD experience and I’d always resisted handing over the extra $10 a month for HD channels. The 58-inch monstrosity now residing in my living room, though, made standard signals look like absolute rubbish. So I gave in and took a Saturday side trip to my “local” Comcast storefront.

I have to confess the swap out to HD boxes all around was quick and easy. The truth is, I’m tremendously impressed with the picture quality that’s getting sent over the wire. I’m impressed enough at least to keep paying the bill until a real industry disruptor comes along.

I set out last weekend to make my life cheaper and easier and was forced into a choice between the two. Under those circumstances I’m going to pick easier just about every time.

The nine o’clock hour…

HBO has provided the valedictory hour for my weekends since a guy named Tony ran north Jersey and the Barksdale crew controlled the corners in west Baltimore. With tonight’s season ender for Game of Thrones I guess I’m back to casting around for something at the nine o’clock hour to punctuate the end of the weekend.

I should probably be a responsible adult and use that extra hour to get something closer to eight hours of sleep, but somehow I know that’s not going to happen. I haven’t really looked at what HBO is rolling our for the summer or fall seasons – and the Walking Dead are still to far away to contemplate.

Worst case scenario I find myself a good book to fill the extra time. As much as I like reading, allocating one hour a week to get lost in the flickering glow of a really good drama feels like something I’m actually going to miss.

Mmmmm… leftovers.

The LeftoversI’ve been watching The Leftovers on HBO. For those not following along at home, it’s a series based on what would happen after 2% of the population, men, women, and children simply disappeared. There’s plenty of self-loathing, searching for inner peace, questioning authority, and general social stress, you know, a basic dystopian adventure.

Without giving away any key plot elements, it seems to me that all of the characters are slowly descending into their own personal version of madness. Maybe that’s why I take exception with the show’s premise, especially since the great disappearance included the evil as well as the righteous. It was an equal opportunity vanishing.

I tend to think that if I woke up tomorrow to find 2% of the population had disappeared, I’d largely shrug and think of it as a good first step. When the other 97.999% bugger off, then we’d be in business.

Comcast, once again, sucks…

If there’s are recurring threads to this blog, one of them must certainly be my ever increasing disdain, annoyance, and hatred of Comcast. Last year, I argued, cajoled, and bullied my bill for internet and television down to a svelte $97.04. That bought me 80 channels, “performance” internet, and HBO – the one splurge that’s non-negotiable (at least until HBO figures out a way to let people subscribe to them as a service instead of as a cable add-on). When I opened my bill this morning and found the price jumped to $124.09, well, let’s just say that they’ve given me one more reason to be less than impressed with their service.

Sure, business costs increase. Got it. Understood. Yet somehow, I don’t think the cost of delivering television and internet here to scenic Rental Casa de Jeff increased 25% year-over-year. Cutting the cable seems like a more and more realistic option for me every time they dish out such asshattery. Of course I’d still be saddled with a business relationship with Comcast because they have a monopoly on high speed out here in the wilderness. They suck, but sadly are the least bad of a host of truly god awful alternatives.

We can land a goddamned man on the goddamned moon, but can’t seem to come up with a way to watch Game of Thrones and surf the interwebs for less than a C-note a month. Maybe when the Chinese take over they’ll figure this mess out for us.

The not so mysterious case of Comcast sucks…

Well, tonight you were schedule to get the post you should have gotten yesterday… But it seems “Comcast is experiencing technical difficulties that are impacting your cable television and high speed internet service.” Therefore, since I don’t feel like re-typing the damned things with my thumbs, you get another day of space filler. So in conclusion, Comcast sucks.

Yes, I know this is a first world problem… and since I live in the United States and not some remote herding camp in East Dirtbagistan, we’re just going to call them problems from now on. It’s one of the perks of living in the first world.