Tag Archives: Cedar Rapids Public Library

No More Pay TV

I might start sounding like an ascetic here pretty soon. I’ve cut my beer consumption down to near zero. I’ve reduced household spending to such a level that my wife might start howling over the winter. Yes, I turn the heat down to 56 degrees at night. Yes, it’s chilly but everyone is under several layers of down, fleece, and flannel. Deal.

Now, I’ve cut the cord. More accurately I ripped the dish off my house and cancelled DirecTV. Why? Like the average DirecTV customer my bill was ~$105 per month and the television had become a huge time suck. A little wiped out at the end of the day? Just sit down, fire up the DVR, and watch three hours of television shows you really do not care about. Pretty soon it is 10:00 PM and you are off to bed. Rinse and repeat the next day.

Stop the insanity.

With the latest increase in my bill notice coming via email I called DirecTV and cut the cord. The customer service representative was surprisingly pliant when I asked to cancel. It was not the horror show of redirection that I expected. I suppose that they think you will just be back shortly.

Another payoff of cutting the cord was the reduction in energy usage. As Markos Moulitsas has shown in his excellent series of posts on saving energy at Daily Kos  , the energy requirements of entertainment devices are huge. Here is the breakdown:

Even though I upgraded to DirecTV’s latest and most efficient receiver over the summer, my DirecTV infrastructure sucks up 42 watts of continuous power draw, or just over 1 kWh per day—about seven percent of my daily total usage, for something that is on 3-4 hours a day. Cable boxes, particularly those with DVRs, are equally inefficient. When I cut the cord, the 365 kWh I shave off my annual consumption will save me (at my average $0.19 rate) about $70, and that’s before I even tally the savings in programming (which will be dramatic).

My DirecTV infrastructure is probably similar—two receivers with on being a DVR—so compared to my rolling monthly average electricity consumption I would be saving nearly one month’s worth of electricity per year by not having these devices plugged in. Damn. Start multiplying that kind of power consumption across all the people with multiple televisions and receivers. Pretty soon you are talking about some serious energy usage.

In the meantime I do not know how this is going to affect my television viewing. I will more than likely start picking up a lot more movies at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. I might even get a Netflix subscription. Maybe I will read a few more books instead of placing my brain on the end table and absorbing entertainment.

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The Original Sharing Economy

The sharing economy gets a lot of press these days. Enable people to share something via an app—be it a car, tool, apartment, whatever—and there is likely to be a lot of people speaking breathlessly about how original or transformative this idea is to daily life.

There is something disingenuous about the heaps of praise ladled on the new barons of the sharing economy because the foundations are really quite old fashioned.

No one talks about the public library with breathless enthusiasm, but spend any time in a well-run public library and you will quickly gain an appreciation for how a community can embrace the sharing economy. Outside of a few books I have purchased as reference materials for my disaster bookshelf and a spontaneous airport purchase all of my reading material that comes in physical form comes from the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It’s not convenient for me, as I live on the north side of town many miles from its downtown location, but it has become my de facto source for books and movies the past six months.

It’s not just me either. Every time I visit the library it is being frequented by people who I perceive to be from all walks of life. My estimation is that in this age of “government is bad” thought from the talking heads of television journalism something as quaint as a library run by the government for the good of the community is probably akin to communism. While Joe McCarthy is spinning in his well-deserved grave I will gladly check out books for “free,” as a tax payer I know that some level of my income is redistributed and it does not bother me one bit.

The original sharing economy is broader than just the public library. I own a pickup truck and as any other owner of a pickup truck will tell you, “The day you brought that truck home you became everyone’s best friend.” Why? Because you have the vehicle that almost everyone in your neighborhood needs once or twice a year. Trust me, I have bartered the short use of my truck for everything from the obligatory six pack of beer—it helps to have a neighbor work in the beer distributing business when you want to get something new or unique—to more esoteric items like used kegs—it helps to have a neighbor who rents properties to college students.

The truck is just a tool in my opinion. And if you are the owner of a lot of tools you have been at the center of the original sharing economy since time began. Why does your neighbor need to buy a belt sander to round off the edges of a CrossFit-style jump box when you have the same tool sitting in your tool cabinet? The answer is that he does not need to go to the store. All a person needs to do around my neighborhood is ask.

This all comes back to community, which I feel is the ultimate bulwark against the potential threats of climate change and social upheaval. Community is the center of the original sharing economy and it does not take an app on a phone or a website or a new start-up company to make it happen. It’s about knowing the people around you. Novel concept, huh?

By the way, can I borrow a cup of sugar?