Blogging since 1998. By David Wertheimer

Month: March 2015

My vote for innovation of the year

LiquiGlide is my dream come true, because it solves this problem, as described by the New York Times: “Much of what we buy never makes it out of the container and is instead thrown away — up to a quarter of skin lotion, 16 percent of laundry detergent and 15 percent of condiments like mustard and ketchup.”

Of course, the folks at the Times and Consumer Reports never saw how much toothpaste I manage to eke out of that tube. (LiquiGlide-slicked Colgate may thus be my wife’s dream come true, too.)

Embracing unlimited content, cable TV edition

It is often stated that bundled cable is a poor value to customers, because it forces them to pay for channels they don’t, or won’t, watch. (Analyst Horace Deidu recently suggested that the entire cable television industry is a historical anomaly.) Given the sheer density of options that shows up when one hits the Guide button on a cable box’s remote, this is an easy opinion with which to concur. HBO Now and the rumored Apple TV service reinforce it.

I’ve never really subscribed to that perspective, though. I like having the myriad options at my disposal. And part of that is because, with so much programming now available, I never know where I’m going to turn next. Keeping my options open turns out to be extremely beneficial.

I flipped through the channel lineup of my cable provider, Time Warner Cable, to quantify which of the stations I’ve tuned into in recent memory, including my kids’ shows. My tally:

5 – broadcast networks
29 – basic cable channels
7 – kids’ channels
9 – sports and news channels
11 – premium and movie channels (excluding pay-per-view)

Fairly recent studies have claimed the average American watches 34 hours of TV each week across just 17 channels. My cable boxes are probably on for 20-25 hours, including weekend ballgames and evenings when the TV is on in the background. Yet we’ve managed to tune into 61 different stations with our viewing habits, perhaps more.

Part of that is because today’s channels have done a very good job of finding niche content and making it discoverable. It would be hard for a single network to identify, produce and broadcast “Mad Men,” “Pawn Stars,” “Episodes,” “Paw Patrol” and “Flip or Flop,” let alone figure out the proper market segment to target with that slate. Yet I have found my way to all of those shows (well, “Paw Patrol” wasn’t exactly my idea, but still). On TV, the paradox of choice is instead a boon to casual viewers like me.

Should the cable industry move toward pay-per-stream pricing, the serendipity of discovery will undoubtedly drop. Anecdotally, I can confirm this with my own viewing habits: I resisted a Showtime subscription for years, only opting in when I had multiple shows I wanted to watch. Meanwhile, I’ve never had a Netflix account, despite the provider’s increasing array of what I hear are great shows. I haven’t gotten around to signing up, and without an Internet-enabled TV in my bedroom, I remain rather content to flip to “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” reruns on nights when not much else is on.

Ironically, cable television is being disrupted and fragmented at the same time as its media counterpart, the music industry, is consolidating around flat-rate pricing. Of course, if cable TV cost the same $10/month that Spotify and Rdio do, the conversation around television would be a lot different.

Costs aside, all those stations streaming into my home, non-stop, prove useful and enjoyable. The business model that’s about to be disrupted is not broken; it’s simply overpriced and unsexy. And while I have my Amazon Prime streaming video and my Apple TV in the living room, I’ll be keeping my cable TV subscription for awhile yet.

I did a headstand today

The word achievement rarely hits me in a literal sense. Most of my days revolve around tasks and accomplishments, usually in a procedural sense: what got checked off the to-do list in the office today? Did the kids get to school on time, and with all their stuff? Did I remember everything on the shopping list I forgot to bring to the market? And my exercise, such as it is, usually takes on rote forms: 12 miles round trip on the bike to the office, one round of golf, a full hour of effort in the yoga studio, walking home from the far subway station. Not much in the way of achievement.

In the depths of a severe winter, I was happy today that I got to yoga at all. (That in itself felt like a bit of an achievement.) So when our instructor told the room to pair off for headstands, I smiled and decided to pass. I’d never done it and wasn’t about to try.

“Are you going to do a headstand?” the instructor asked me. Nah.

“Do you want a spot?” said the guy next to me. Nah. “Me neither!” he smiled.

But then a woman meandered over to me from several mats away. She hadn’t paired off with anyone. “Do you want me to spot you?” I asked her.

“Oh, no, already did it myself, I don’t need a spotter. What about you?”

“No, I can’t do a headstand.”

“How do you know? Why don’t I spot you?”

I sized up my new companion—older than me, relaxed, already done with her headstand—and realized saying no was no longer the right answer. “I guess I can try,” I said.

Down I went onto my yoga mat, head between arms, legs in a crouch. I gave a little kick and suddenly my legs were over my head. I could feel my spotter holding my left leg, firmly as I straightened my knees, then lighter as I found my balance. I was sure I’d fall at any moment yet I didn’t. I spent a good long while upside-down before bringing my legs back down without falling.

I sat back up on my knees. I was startled. Elated. Proud. Really proud and elated. I think I thanked my spotter four times for the encouragement. “You were good!” she said. “No shaking or swaying at all.” She pointed to the person next to me to show me a comparable pose.

I found myself beaming uncontrollably. “You made my night,” I said by way of a final thank-you.

When I got home, my kids asked me how yoga was (they both enjoy it themselves) and I found myself bragging to them like a kid myself. “I did a headstand!” I exclaimed, then helped the three-year-old do one. He beamed, too.

Life’s rhythms for a dad in his 40s are pretty workaday. Finding areas in which to achieve reminds us of how much more we can do when we take the initiative. My own little achievement wasn’t on par with running a marathon or finishing a novel, but the visceral experience resonated strongly. It has me excited to try harder at yoga, and to find more areas to experience that intense feeling of achievement again, whether I’m blogging or working or parenting or biking or whatever else may come next.

Thank you, yoga spotter, for the encouragement and the endorphin rush. You really did make my night.

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