I Learned A Little History Tonight


Here’s a weird thought. I was thinking about Senator Joseph McCarthy today. Not entirely sure why.

I knew Edward R. Murrow stood up to McCarthy and that during the 50’s McCarthy went on a communist witch hunt. That’s about it. Oh and the pivotal point was the Army / McCarthy hearings. No clue what they were about.

I did some reading between shows. Here’s the tl:dr from Wikipedia:

McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” who were employed in the State Department.

In succeeding years after his 1950 speech, McCarthy made additional accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. He also used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or homosexuality to attack a number of politicians and other individuals inside and outside of government.

Among McCarthy’s targets were left leaning Hollywood intellectuals. Some great names became unhireable — literally. They could work, but not under their own name.

When McCarthy was publicly exposed as a lying bully, first on CBS by Edward R. Murrow then in a nationally televised Senate hearing by Army attorney Joseph Welch, he fell hard.

Senator McCarthy was angry at the Army because a staff member was drafted. Seriously, a Senate sized tantrum when he didn’t get his way. He was out for revenge and had no problem adding the Army to his list of flimsy accusations.

When McCarthy went after one of Welch’s staff, he was ready.

Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? – Joseph Welch Army–McCarthy hearings, June 9, 1954.

There is a documentary, but it’s not streaming anywhere or on-sale for a fair price. That’s a shame. I will read more.

We’re given sanitized history in school. This story is gripping and relevant. It really is relevant.

Got An Old Laptop?

Screenshot at 2016-05-22 17:35:26

I’m on the patio. My favorite spot.

This blog post is being composed on my ‘patio laptop,’ an older HP model that came with Windows Vista installed. Stef used this in college. It’s large by today’s standards — thick. Throws off lots of heat too.

A few months ago I bought the cheapest small SSD (Solid State Drive) I could, threw it inside (two minute job) and installed Mint Linux. I bought an aftermarket battery too. Total investment around $60.

For home users Mint is the current Linux flavor of the month. It is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian. In the open source world everything’s a derivative of something else. It’s hobbyist perferred, meaning there’s community support.

Mint Linux has a few subversions available, including one for machines with older and less beefy video cards, like this one.

Anyway, I’m here to recommend what I did for anyone with a little technical curiosity and an old laptop you’d like to revitalize! This thing has become a speedster.

This is not Microsoft Windows. You can’t run store bought Windows programs, but anything that loads in your browser works on this machine. Today, that’s most everything.

There are free programs to replace Word, Excel and Photoshop. Some are nearly as good. Some are not. Once you get used to the differences most are just fine.

Installing Mint required finding a program to burn the Mint files onto a USB drive. A few easy button presses got this machine to boot directly from the USB stick. There are lots of steps, but each is easy.

Linux is much more mature than it was years ago, but still not as sophisticated as Windows. Functionality isn’t missing. There’s just less polish.

Screenshot at 2016-05-22 17:33:03

Part of why Linux is fun for me is it allows you to play under the hood. That also means you can prang things. There’s less and less on an individual computer I care about and more things stored on my server or in the cloud.

My sound and video worked right off the bat. I did see some screen tearing and ended up loading an older video driver which seems more suited to my system. The video is now stable.

This machine is pretty much impervious to viruses, if only because there are too few Linux desktop/laptop machines to make malware pay! Most Linux machines run ‘headless’ 24/7 as servers or in other utility roles– think slot machines or the video displays that have replaced menu boards in coffee shops and fast food joints.

Like I said, it will help if you’re technically curious. Nearly every question I’ve ever had had an online answer available.

There is satisfaction in technical accomplishment. I won’t lie.

A Depressing Conversation


I spoke to a friend early this evening. Known him a long time. High level manager in my business. We commiserated about where TV has gone.

The landscape has changed. I started on TV two months after CNN began. Cable competition was virtually non-existent.

It was impossible to run a network affiliated television station and not make bags of money! With less competition, fewer large corporate owners and ‘guaranteed’ money, TV stations were run more for the public’s good.

We did things because we wanted to be good citizens of our community. Stations that understood this best were often the most successful. Which came first? Success or understanding?

I’m not saying stations weren’t out to make a buck. It was just a lot easier. There wasn’t Wall Street’s pressure to scoop up every penny.

In 1980 a single entity could own seven stations. Period. End of story. Now you can own signals which cover nearly 40% of the nation.

If you bought a station you had to, by law, hold onto it for three full years. How quaint.

It’s all different now. TV is a business of large corporations with the same hometown loyalty as WalMart or McDonalds. Their business models are totally based upon financial results. Being the best isn’t part of the equation. If you can do it fine, but never at the expense of profit.

Walk into a TV studio today and you’ll see robotic cameras. Lots of jobs have been automated away. Many reporters shoot their own stories. And everyone works for less.

And with lots more competition for skilled employees the competence level has dropped. My first 11pm producer at Channel 8 in New Haven came from the network. My last producer came from college.

The good old days aren’t coming back. There will never be falling bags of money nor enough employees to fill the parking lot.

This is actually one of the reasons what’s being done in Nebraska is so exciting. They are truly local stations firmly rooted in the community and owned/run by locals.

Who knows what position, if any, TV stations will take in the next decade.

About The May Sweeps

We are in May. In TV it’s a sweeps month. Breathless over-the-top reporting dominates the promotion cycle as stations try for every possible eyeball.

That’s offense, trying the grow the audience. I have nothing against that.

Stations play defense too.

On nights they expect to do poorly (i.e. in past years opposite the American Idol finale) stations find ways to remove individual newscasts from the monthly average. Sounds sneaky and it is. Often the difference to the viewer is minimal. But if you subtract a bad day the rest of your average goes up.

If a station promotes a special 10-15 minute segment in its newscast, like a weather or sports special, they’ll claim it’s not really the newscast that normally runs at 11. It doesn’t count in the average. Problem solved.

The longer I was in Connecticut the more I saw it being done. It’s not limited to one or two stations. It’s business as usual.

This is like Volkswagen and emissions. The ratings are accurate on paper. In reality the refs have been played.

Pizza And A Movie

Stef is visiting overnight. Tag, you’re the dogsitter. Helaine and I went for pizza and a movie.

Google Maps

The theater is located in an immense shopping center, The Marketplace. One side is in Tustin, the other Irvine. All the stores are outward facing. There is no covered passageway. If you have multiple stops, you drive from one side to the other. Too far to walk.

We had dinner at Pieology. Bless me Father for I have sinned — it’s not Pepe’s. It’s not Sally’s. It’s not Sergio’s

my pie

pieology assembly line

pieology over

Pieology is to pizza as Chipotle is to Mexican food. Sorta kinda, not exactly. That being said, in an area with too few Italians we make do.

As you walk down the line a series of fresh faced young people assemble your individual pie. One was named Tony! Definitely Asian.

I like my sauce light–just a little. Add artichokes and pineapple. Dried tomatoes and red pepper too. Better throw on some mushrooms and a little ham.

As it went into the oven I already knew there was too much on top. It’s more a matter of logistics than taste. The slices are small and thin. The dough is one step below crispy. They’re just not made to fold in half

Please note — we’ve been here at least a half dozen times, so they must be doing something right. And they’re twenty steps from the theater.
Money-Monster-PosterWe saw Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster,” starring Clooney, Roberts and Jack O’Connell. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is Jim Cramer from CNBC. Everyone will deny it up-and-down, but he’s Jim Cramer.

Julia Roberts is Patty Fenn, the show’s director. I’m not sure why it was written this way. Considering what Fenn did and her relationship with Clooney, producer was more apropos. Too petty on my part?

O’Connell is Kyle Budwell, a package delivery driver from Queens. He followed one of Gates’ stock tips and blew his entire savings, $60,000. He enters the picture as he enters the live studio with a gun and explosive vest.

I expect great work from Cooney and Roberts and wasn’t disappointed. Jack O’Connell is new for me. I am a guy from Queens. I bought his guy from Queens. I only now see he’s from England!

I liked the movie, though it often felt as if two directors were at work. The cop characters and scenes were all two dimensional with the police portrayed as uniformly inept and the scenes shot as if this was episodic TV.

It was really nice getting out with Helaine. I enjoy her company very much. It’s fun to watch your wife watch her Phillies win (on her cellphone) while the coming attractions ran. She was quite the catch.

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