doing something old-fashioned

I did something old-fashioned a couple of weeks ago. I responded to a postal mail solicitation to subscribe to a physical, paper magazine. It was from The Christian Century to which I was a long-time The Christian Centurysubscriber. I let the subscription lapse, along with many other print magazines, when I was laid off in 2014. But I always enjoyed the publication, and the price was really good. In fact I looked for an equivalent price online so I wouldn’t have to wait so long for my subscription to start. I couldn’t find one.

So I wrote a check, put it in the return envelope, and mailed it off. Now I still have probably another four weeks or so before my first issue shows up. But it will be good to be seeing the magazine again.

a good experience with the cable company

Before we arrived here in Hemet in May 2015 we made arrangements for our television/internet/telephone service. We could have gone with Time-Warner and have been able to see the Dodgers games, but consensus was that Time-Warner was a pain to deal with and had poor service. So we chose Verizon, which was easy to get set up since we had Verizon for telephone in Gilroy.

In the intervening time, Time-Warner was bought by Charter Communications and Verizon left the California market (except for wireless), having turned over their phone/internet/television service to Frontier Communications.

Frontier CommunicationsIt was coming up on two years since our service initiation, and that meant an end to our two-year discounts. I got a mailing from Frontier saying that I should call them about a new two-year plan. I dreaded doing that, as I feared a rate increase. I made the call, however, and was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, I got a very friendly representative who was stateside. She was very helpful and told me that instead of the second level channel package plus the HBO/Cinemax combo, I could get the top-level package, which included HBO/Cinemax, plus Showtime and a bunch of other channels. My telephone and internet service would be unchanged. And the cost? $12 less a month than what I had been paying. Still no Dodger games, but we continue to get the Angels.

I’m happy. It’s nice to have a pleasant experience with a service provider.

the incredible shrinking newspaper

We get two newspapers here at home, the Los Angeles Times and the Press-Enterprise. The L.A. Times is doing well in spite of its ownership struggles. The PE has had its own ownership struggles, but is doing not as well.

For some months the business section in the PE has been folded into the back of the front section, rather than being an independent section. Late in the summer our local columnist retired, I suspect not of his own volition. He was not replaced. Shortly thereafter a regional columnist retired, also not replaced.

Press Enterprise mastheadMore recently, the paper eliminated the TV grid and reworked the comics page. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, when the comics are in the Life (now Lifestyle) section it consists of a whopping four pages.

I care because I grew up with this newspaper. In the sixties it was the morning Daily Enterprise throughout most of Riverside county, and in the city of Riverside it was the afternoon Press. Saturdays and Sundays it was the combined Press-Enterprise. I was a Daily Enterprise paperboy for a number of years, getting up at five a.m. to deliver the paper and collecting subscription fees at the end of the month.

It is a different world now, and the afternoon newspaper has gone the way of the of the dodo bird. But it is hard to see my newspaper facing such hard times.


thank you, Vin

I can’t let the occasion of Vin Scully’s final game yesterday go by without taking time to think about how much Vin has meant to me.

Vin ScullyThe Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. I was four at the start of the season and five when that first west coast season ended. My dad began listening to games right away, so I learned baseball from the youngest age. Here in Hemet we are about ninety miles from Los Angeles, but the games in those days were broadcast of KFI which was then a “fifty thousand watt clear channel station,” so we had no problems getting the games day or night. Even when we spent three years in Barstow, out in the high desert of San Bernardino county, the games came in clearly.

There were so many intense, exciting games. The one I most remember, however, was Vin’s call of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. That was September 9, 1965. I remember that evening well. The entire family was at home in our living room. The television was off and the radio was on. I remember the tension build as Vin Scully’s play-by-play made clear that something special was happening. I remember Vin noting the time on the scoreboard clock. I remember the excitement when the game ended. I think we were all holding our breath in the living room.

I spent many years away from Southern California and the Dodgers. And in spite having spent a number of years as a Giants fan during my Bay Area days (that’s another story) I migrated back to the Dodgers when we came back here in May of 2015.

Vin had reduced his workload to (mostly)  just home games, and a dispute over fees meant that more than half of Southern California television viewers could not see or hear Vin, except for the first three innings which were simulcast on radio. Fortunately an arrangement allowed the local station KTLA channel 5 to carry Vin’s last six games. That was a delight.

We will miss you, Vin. Enjoy your retirement.

photo credit: Floatjon. cropped. Creative Commons License 3.0.



Food & Wine

Food & WineI wrote last month about subscribing to Food & Wine magazine. The first issue arrived and it was nice to get. I mentioned that the magazine was published by American Express, but when it arrived I saw that it is now part of Time Inc. How did I miss that? An online search told me that it was bought by Time in 2013. Seems American Express had to sell its magazine group because as a bank (at its core) they are not supposed to be in other businesses.

No matter. It’s nice to be getting the magazine, and they have a rather different take from Cooking Light. Recipes do appear online, so I can add them to my database, but their format is not conducive to copy and paste, so I have to do some reformatting before I can add them.

But still, nice to have that mag around again.

magazine subscriptions

Anyone who has ever subscribed to a magazine knows how goofy subscription rates can be. There’s that low introductory rate, and then the regular rate. But depending upon how you renew, rates can vary greatly.

Cooking Light magazine coverTerry and I have been subscribing to Cooking Light for a very long time. The last few years we have been on credit card auto-renewal. The renewal rates have always been reasonable. Until this year. I got my auto-renewal notice recently and it said that I would be charged $39.95 for a year. What? I don’t think so. I thought that if I called and cancelled I would be offered a lower rate. But I never reached a human being. The automated voice recognition system just let me cancel.

Then, a couple of days later I got an email saying I only had one issue left and asking me to renew. I clicked the link and it offered one, two, and three year rates. The two year rate was $34.00 – five dollars less than the one year rate in my auto-renewal. That works. We both really enjoy Cooking Light and didn’t really want to lose it.

In the meantime, after my cancellation and before the email notice, I subscribed to Food & Wine at a very good rate. We had subscribed before, but let it lapse when we were cutting back at one point. As an American Express publication, the line between the editorial and advertising sides is rather blurry, but I don’t read it for the articles, I read it for the recipes. And they do tend to have really good recipes in Food and Wine. I’m looking forward to getting it again.

hanging up the microphone

This year of 2016 has become a year of broadcasters retiring. On New Year’s Day Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards did their last Rose Parade broadcast. Vin Scully is in his last year broadcasting Dodger games. We will miss them, and their replacements, however good they might be, will never equal them.

Rose Parade photo by Prayitno. Creative Commons license.

Rose Parade photo by Prayitno. Creative Commons license.

There is, however, something to be said about going out on one’s own terms. I love the story of the opera star, who, when asked about the timing of her retirement, said, “I want to retire when people say, ‘Why do you retire?’ and not ‘Why don’t you retire.’” Superb advice.

Some people do stay on too long. I think Arthur Fiedler stayed with the Boston Pops about two years too long. I loved listening to Bill King broadcast Oakland Athletics games on the radio, but in his last couple of seasons his partner Ken Korach had to give him a hand on many  particularly complex or quickly executed plays.

Vin Scully seems to me to be as sharp as he ever was. Stephanie and Bob were still superb in their final broadcast. That’s the way to go out.