The house, the reading, the writing, the web, and other various topics of momentary interest

Alright, it’s cold today.  the high is supposed to be 50, which means it’s actually about 45, which means the other side of the house is uninhabitable. I went over to fix lunch and froze my nuggets. Thank god for the microwave.

On the other hand, I finished nearly all of my grading this morning. And I think I tracked down the shut off valves to the second floor shower. At first I thought they would be concealed in closet of an adjoining bathroom, because that would make total sense.  So, I removed a loose panel in the closet, and was confident I would find a couple of knobs to turn. Well, no knobs.  there were these bizarre upside down copper udders, though. Did some looking through Lowes’ website and found that they are supposed to remove knocking in the lines from air. Kinda neat, actually, but an odd thing to see for the first time. I think I’ve found the cutoff valves in the basement, so when it warms up a bit, I can start tearing apart the tub faucet to see what I need to replace. I’m hoping the shower head is just clogged, but I think it’s going to more likely be the cartridge.

Also, I need to fix the toilet in the half bath. It won’t stop flushing once it starts. An easy enough fix, really.

More adventures in the basement. I hauled the majority of rubber backed rugs out of the basement yesterday. We think they played a role in deteriorating the cement in one third of the basement. In the middle third, they covered a couple of spots where it seems a previous owner tried to use a sledge hammer to level out the natural stone floor. Yeah, not sure what the was going through their heads and why they didn’t just go rent a grinder to take the high spots down slowly. Or, if the sandstone floor bothered them that much, why they didn’t just replace it with cement when they poured floors in the two other sections of basement.  It was definitely bizarre, and a bit disheartening to see the floor damage. Right now we’re thinking of hammering out the two spots that are damaged and seeing if we can find replacement chunks of sand stone to drop in.  Then I discovered that they managed to store more…stuff?… in a couple of crawlspaces in the basement under an addition they did. So I have to haul a small step ladder into the basement to boost up into these crawlspaces to haul out lord knows what. Yay.

On the non-house front, ebooks now make up 23% of all book sales. Not only that, but book sales in general were good. the digital market will continue to grow, and it becoming the dominant format is likely inevitable. At the same time, there is a tangible, tactile quality to paper bound books that is undeniable.  I still haven’t bought an ereader or tablet, I’m not sure when I ever will, but the market is undeniable.

Entertainment Weekly has an article up about a possible Shining movie prequel, and they got a couple of quotes from King about it. King doesn’t sound thrilled, and I don’t really blame him. For one, it’s not going to come close to Kubrick’s masterpiece of horror. Secondly, who cares about what happened to the previous caretaker? We know that already. Dude went nuts, axed his family. If they want to do something at the hotel, fine, but just take it out of The Shining world and use new characters and new events.

And Jeff Bezos with a letter that I disagree with. He can try to dress up his shop window and make it look like a part of the community of publishing/writing/etc., but Amazon is the new WalMart. If you were ever against Walmart because of how they drive smaller stores and companies out of business, you have no reason to feel differently about Amazon. While the publishing world certainly doesn’t do itself any favors with how it has approached the digital transition, Amazon has played an active role in hastening their downfall and turning small(ish) mistakes into catastrophes. It’s not all about the customer, it’s about control and it is about dominance, and in the end it’s about making as money as possible. If you’re going to shop there, either admit you don’t care or that you can’t afford to care. It’s okay, I couldn’t always afford to care, either. But now I can, so I make different choices.

Finally, something else I want to talk about that is a bit off the beaten path: Fox and CBS might become cable networks. The whys of it don’t particularly matter to me, but if you’re curious, it’s a good blog post from SF Chronicle. What I want to do is to pair this with the news that the city of Santa Clara is going to have free wifi. From my understanding of the history of television, the government essentially gave the broadcasting airspace to networks provided they give time back to the public in the form of providing the news. So, for basically an hour a night. And for decades it’s been a steal for the government, in that it has allowed for a populace informed about the nation and the world at a relatively low cost and high access. However, that has changed over the past decade or so. This isn’t about the quality of the nightly news, but the rise of the internet and the connected world. Television has become less important in our every day lives, at least in the sense of sitting down in front of a television and watching your favorite show at 9pm on Tuesdays. If you’re like me and my family, you don’t have cable, dish, or antenna. You just get all of your info from the web. You have a twitter feed you keep track of, you have a facebook account, you’re tapped into various rivers of information.  The problem is that this connection comes with a price. Here it seems to be anywhere from $30-120 a month. Thirty bucks doesn’t sound like a lot, but compare that to the nothing people are accustomed to paying for their broadcast television and their ability to get the news every night for nothing other than sitting through some commercials. And the Washington Post had a report from back in February about how the FCC wants to buy back some of these airwaves from broadcasters to set up a national free wifi network.

And this is why it is important. Not so we can surf gawker for free, but so that our populace – a populace becoming increasingly urban – can benefit from the sort of free access to news and information that previous generations of Americans benefited from. Would it eat into profits for wireless carriers and giant telecoms? Almost definitely, but it’s also entirely in the public’s good to push forward with such initiatives. This isn’t about getting something for nothing, but about knowledge and access.

 

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