Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Economic Pain/Movie/Cuba Story and Americas

Local Economics

Film -- "State of Play"

Cuba Story Recalled

Americas -- Continent

Time has slipped right past leaving my blogging behind. Coincidentally my work load lightened just in time to allow me to throw myself wholeheartedly into preparing my income tax. The task becomes easier and faster every year since I first took over this project a few years ago. That job completed I've been interested in what is happening with the business economics in my community.

I noticed one of the major car dealerships has changed dramatically again. Some time ago ownership changed from selling a U.S. brand to be replaced by foreign company models. Now, the block long car lot is empty, the buildings vacant. Then, there was the announcement a company that owns major Southern California high end shopping centers is filing for bankruptcy. A couple of the centers are The Galleria, South Coast Plaza for anyone familiar with the area. Reportedly they will not close.

My part time rehab work has come to a screeching halt as I read in the paper there is a nationwide overall decline in need for health care services. There has always been a fluctuation throughout the year in services needed so maybe this is just one of those slow times.

I also learned at one local branch of a national bank the institution had a period of time in March when their customers with mortgage loans could refinance with no points or closing costs to obtain a reduced interest percentage rate charged. I think there was one problem with that offer. Far too many customers were never made aware of this opportunity, including some who even worked at that bank. That failure to disclose seems a bit strange to me. I wonder if other banks across the country are doing the same? Expect this bank didn't really want to reduce rates for many customers.

My Borders bookstore is trimming their offerings by eliminating selling CDs and DVDs, but so far seems to be surviving otherwise. I realize they are also affected by the general changes with purchasing transitioning to the Internet.

I've rewarded myself by taking time to enjoy some movies. I appreciate having a reduced rate for special showings at our relatively new local theater. The most recent movie I enjoyed was "State of Play"
(trailer link.) Any movie with Helen Mirren catches my attention though she is not the star in this intriguing thriller starring Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams. I was reminded of recent years government figures romantic liaisons with ensuing disastrous consequences and the challenges facing newspapers efforts to survive as the plot unfolded. At least one critic I read faulted the movie for those all too obvious story aspects, but I didn't find them objectionable. I simply wanted to be entertained and I was.

Meanwhile on the national and international arena all sorts of changes are evolving. Am delighted to see our President focusing attention on Central and South America. Certainly the issue of our relationship with Cuba has been long overdue for review.

Whenever I think of Cuba I am reminded of a young woman I met years ago when I returned to college. Several years after graduation she unexpectedly contacted me relative to further professional activities. The result had a positive indirect profound effect on my continuing career. We had no further contact after that and I no longer even recall her name, much less where she lives.

Earlier she had told me a story of her youthful actions primarily motivated by the relationship she had with a young man strongly opposed to our Government's actions banning American citizens traveling to Cuba. As she told me her story I could recall their student group was front page news with pictures in print and on broadcast media for weeks those many long years ago.

I don't intend to discuss that historical periods political issues pros and cons, but national and international opinions and feelings ran high on the topic. She spoke of being one person in a small group of young people who defied our Government's ban on travel to Cuba and visited there. She reported meeting Fidel Castro early in his ruling career and playing ping pong with him. Their student groups visit was not a very popular act with many in the U.S. at the time. She described repercussions these young students experienced when they returned home to the U.S. and some she perceived for many years after.

Several years ago in an hour long drive home from a more distant airport than a closer one which I prefer to use, a young college student was the only other passenger in the van. She said she was majoring in International Studies and had a specific interest in all the countries south of our border. She appeared to be of European descent so I was intrigued that she would care about these countries our nation has all too often given meager attention. She soon realized I shared her interest and concern. Her conversation became quite passionate as she spoke of the importance of these countries and the value of our nations relationships with theirs.

I wonder what these two women think of the efforts of our new President? I especially hope the latter young college student who would now be an upper classman, or graduate student, has pursued her dream of someday being in a position to facilitate the cohesiveness of all the nations on our continent, north and south that benefits us all.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reeling from Digital Converter Box

Technology changes for me continue in addition to my new laptop computer adventures (beginning with previously described “Tech – Unintended Consequences,” followed by some frustrations described in “Technological Mysteries.”) Now I have been confronted with converting to digital television and combating propagating remote control units.

My analog television has been up dated with the addition of a digital converter box. This installation enables me to expand my reception to over seventy high definition television channels from less than twenty analog stations. I receive most all local TV digital channel broadcasts now. When the switch from analog to digital TV finally happens, presently scheduled for June 12, 2009, I’m ready to receive even more should there be additional digital broadcast channels and stations.

If anyone reading this who doesn’t have cable service or a high definition television (HDTV) hasn’t yet prepared for this change, you need to visit this digital TV government website, order a discount coupon ($40 value.) Allow several weeks for coupon receipt, then purchase and install a digital converter box available where you buy electronics i.e Best Buy, Costco, Sears, Radio Shack to name a few stores. Maybe there is someone in your community who is unable to obtain a discount coupon to whom you could donate yours if you don’t use it. I’ll write about coupon donation another time.

My previously existing roof antenna installed for analog reception when we moved here over a quarter century ago has required no adjustments. My younger TV accepts all the television stations digital broadcast signals I received in analog and a combination of many additional channels plus a few new stations now. Digital television programming with just my converter box is clearly a dynamic process as more channels and stations may be offered in the future.

An independent commercial station, “This,” has recently added a movie channel featuring classic movies and more current stars’ early movies. A listing of U.S. stations is on this Wikipedia link. I’m enjoying spontaneously being able to enjoy this entertainment fare when I’m in the mood for such film viewing.

Here are a couple examples of recent film offerings: “The Woman in the Window,” a 1945 film noir starring Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett with Raymond Massey, directed by Fritz Lang. Later film fare starred a youthful actor John Travolta in the 1981 thriller “Blow Out” with Dennis Franz, and John Lithgow, written and directed by Brian De Palma.

A couple of the traditional local affiliate major commercial networks offer additional channels including constantly updated local/national weather and news. In some ways I prefer their offerings to what I’ve seen on cable’s Weather Channel when I’ve visited Midwest and east coast cable households.

A few of these digital TV channels cater to our diverse Los Angeles, California area cultures by offering programming in a multi-variety of foreign languages. I’ve identified Spanish, Armenian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese languages so far. Those channels sometimes feature English, too, or English captions. I understand some non-English speakers in other countries have acquired English by watching American movies captioned in their language. It occurs to me these stations might offer an opportunity to familiarize myself with some other languages. Maybe I could even learn a few words and phrases in languages other than English.

Perhaps someday I’ll succumb to a cable television subscription, but so many of their programming basic stations don’t interest me. Often additional channels I might want must be purchased extra in addition to accepting so many of those unwanted basic stations. I realize I currently receive a few stations in which I have little interest, but so far they all come to me free over the airwaves we citizens own. I really have all the programs I have time to see now, anyway.