Why I Subscribe to Both Cable and Satellite

I now subscribe to both DirecTV and Time Warner Cable for television services. How did this happen? And why? Am I an idiot? Perhaps. But its the way the world of media service providers work today.

Last year I switched from Time Warner Cable to DirecTV. TWC was charging an obscene amount for television and internet services. I got a very cheap DirecTV package with the same channels as TWC. The frustrating part is that internet service over satellite is expensive and pretty awful.

So, I had to crawl back to TWC for internet service. They offer independent internet service, albeit at a price higher than if I bundle it with TV. However, with cheap TV service from DirecTV, I still came out ahead.

Recently, my promotional price for internet with TWC ended. I called them up to try to negotiate a better rate. The funny part is that the customer service rep told me he could offer me a higher speed, at a cheaper rate, but only if I signed up for TV as part of a bundle. So, for the same promotional rate, I would have faster internet, plus basic cable (that I will never use as my DirecTV is still hooked up to my TV).

Why is this? Because TWC wants to be sold to Comcast. And, in order to seem appealing at a high price, TWC needs to look like it will offer a lot of paying customers. Customers who subscribe to both Cable and Internet are more attractive than just internet customers. Cable companies do not want to become dumb pipes that just serve you data. They make much more money selling you packages of TV, leasing you cable boxes and DVRs and selling you PPV and VOD movies.

So, I now subscribe to two TV services. What  a country!

Lakers busted 2013-2014 season

The Lakers have been terrible this year. Beset by an improbable number of injuries – not only among its three biggest stars, but across the bench too. They are among the worst of the NBA this year.

I have a theory that they may just be tanking on purpose.

This year Kobe signed on for 2 more years with the Lakers. These will likely be his last. He recently announced after coming back to play mid-season, and having a second injury, instead of coming back, he will simply miss the remainder of the season and just come back next year. This makes sense, since the Lakers have little chance of making the playoffs and should save their most talented player for his last couple good seasons.

By tanking this year, the Lakers ensure a good lottery pick for the upcoming draft. This mean they will get one of the better players coming up from the NCAA.

This is a good long term play for the Lakers. They will get a young hotshot who can compliment Kobe, who struggled to take it all on himself, even when he was healthy. Second, they could potentially get their future franchise player after Kobe retires. And he can study under the tutelage of one of the game’s greatest.

It is very dark for Laker fans. But the promise of the future is bright.

Apple Passwords Sharing Across Keychain

Apple has this system of storing passwords and secure credentials called “Keychain”. It saves your passwords so you don’t have to keep entering them, and it is supposed to store it securely on your system so someone else who gets on your mac can’t access it without knowing your system password.

With iOS 7, Apple brought keychain to iOS for their iPhone, iPad and iPod devices.

From the way I understood it, this meant you no longer had to track passwords as any you entered in Safari on your computer would track to your phone. Neat.

Recently, I discovered it goes a bit deeper than that. I started at a new workplace. This meant getting my devices on new wifi networks. After I hooked up my iPhone to the employer’s wifi with their password, I turned on my iPad.

I was pleasantly surprised as my iPad was already logged onto the network! This was especially nice as my employer hates giving out passwords, and insists on entering them through IT. Ugh.

How this next part really blew me away. This week I brought in my macbook because I had to handle something privately, and wanted to do it on my own laptop during lunch. As I turned it on, I saw the wifi active! The macbook even had the stored password from the iPhone!

That is one of those small really nice things that make you appreciate an ecosystem, but doesn’t sound like much when you are trying to decide between iOS, Android and Windows.

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An Unexpected Journey, Part II, Begins, Revolutions – Leaving WB

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February 28th 2014 is be my last day at Warner Bros. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working there.  As I tend to do, I get kind of worked up over goodbyes. When milestones and paths end I know all too well how quickly connections sever and how hard it is to keep relationships going.

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Hart of Dixie! Bluebell!

I will miss the grandness of coming on the lot. There is a bit of cache to being allowed through the gates. It is fun seeing the random celebrity strolling between stages, or working out next to you at the gym.

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I will miss the perks of working for one of the majors. The movie premieres, the sneak previews, etc.

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Where we keep the Animaniacs.

However, most of all I will miss the people. I worked with very smart, very passionate people. They care about putting out good product, and always keep the company in mind. But they also care about each other. It can be difficult to establish ties in large organizations, but it works at WB. Whether it was the cashier who remembered your name at the cafeteria, or the neighboring departments who ordered extra food when they catered lunch to share with you. (All my stories seem to involve food – which might be why I also was recognized at the gym – as I went quite often to work off those pounds)

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I learned so much at WB and was lucky to work under people who were not only intelligent, but willing to explain and guide someone relatively green through what scenarios meant and helped me develop new skills. I am extremely grateful to them.

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I am excited about my next venture, but I will look back with nothing but fondness at my time at WB.

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Dumb Starbucks Coffee – Trademark, Copyright and IP Law

A coffee shop in the hip neighborhood of Los Feliz opened up this weekend. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, as indie coffee shops in this hipster haunt area of Los Angeles are very common place.

What made this one different is its branding.

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The name outside the shop is “Dumb Starbucks Coffee”. It uses the Starbucks colors, the familiar mermaid logo and the same font.

Whoever set up the establishment paid a lot of attention to detail. Inside, the furniture looks like what you would expect to find in a Starbucks. Even the menus have that distinct Starbucks look. Well, with the word Dumb preceding everything on the menu.

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The store is getting a lot of attention, as you would expect.  When I went to check out this place this morning, the line was about and hour and a half long. That is a lot of attention.

Did it help that the coffee was free? Probably.  But lets look at the reason behind it.

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No, this isn’t a real Starbucks. It isn’t some clever marketing to get hipsters to allow a corporation to build a store in their neighborhood. And whoever started this shop knows they likely will get the attention of the real Starbucks.

But I think that might be the point. Here is their FAQ they hand out freely and is posted on the door.

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At the very end of last year, Starbucks sent a cease-and-desist to a small pub that sold “Frappicino” beer.

There are valid reasons for this – but what you need to know is that if a company doesn’t make an effort to protect its Trademarks, courts have found they must not care about them, and they can lose protection for them. So, if Coke let you make “Coke Gum” it is possible over time others could make Coke soda. And then the value of the brand is lost. Same with Starbucks and Frappacino.

I believe this Dumb Starbucks is an artist pointing out that Starbucks maintains very strong control over its branding. They say so right in their FAQ.

The shop won’t actually sell you coffee. Everything has a price on the menu, but when you order they tell you “its on us today!”. (Side note, the “employees” were SUPER friendly despite the LONG lines)

The FAQ seems to rely on “parody law”. However, Parody law protects artistic works – typically those covered by Copyright, not logos which are protected by Trademark law. So, how could this work?

Because the coffee shop is not a shop (at least this is what I assume the artist behind this will tell you). It’s an artistic performance. They don’t charge you anything. You are experiencing art. And using protected logos in parody art pieces falls under Copyright.

For example, if you’ve seen Fight Club you’ll recall all the starbucks cups littered throughout the movie. The use of that company and their logos played into the story and message of that movie quite well.

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If they were to charge, then they are using Starbucks’s name and logo in a manner promoting their own shop, and could be liable. Same reason you can’t make Stupid Coke as a real product sold in grocery stores. You would simply be using Coke’s logo to promote your own goods. The whole “parody” thing goes out the window when you are selling something, not making a commentary on something. There are a ton of Trademark issues there including dilution, consumer confusion, and others.

So, this coffee shop is an art piece meant to point out IP laws and corporate control of branding. Will this hold up? I would love for some of my TM/Copyright friends to chime in and give their opinions.

I think realistically they will 1) run out of money soon. Coffee is a cheap commodity, but it is still a lot of free coffee, cups, rental space, employee wages to pay. 2) Health and Hygiene – there was no Health Inspection certificates to speak of. How long before the city comes by and shuts them down? 3) Starbucks could still send a C&D and make them come to court to explain and defend themselves. I’m sure the artist would just further use that to point out how much of a “tight grip” Starbucks holds on its branding.

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Facebook Paper Strategy

Facebook launched a new app today called “Paper”. Naming convention problems aside, it is a great little app.

Visually it is much nicer to swipe through than the traditional app. Pictures are huge, scaling off the screen. The motion gestures are natural, using swipes to bring articles to the front and throwing them away.

I really like it I’ve already replaced the traditional Facebook app on my homescreen with it. Plus, it seems to keep most of the main app’s features like messages and notifications. It does seem to borrow a lot from Flipboard, and people seem to be making a lot of that. But I don’t think that is the intent.

I think the real play here is chasing the ever elusive goal for Facebook – monetization. Of the many “feeds” you can scroll through in the app – only one is your Facebook news feed, containing  pics and status updates from your friends.

The remaining 10 or so feeds are “curated news feeds”. Picked by Facebook editors, they are news stories they think are interesting. How long until Facebook simply charges content creators to have prominent placement in those feeds?

Facebook has already gotten some scrutiny for allegedly burying normal status updates and instead pushing paid ads and content to users news feeds. The exact algorithm is hidden as a company secret, so who knows for sure. But ever declining numbers of interactions and likes have people raising eyebrows. 

Do I think you should check it out? Definitely. It is a better way to scroll through Facebook. Do I wonder what the long term effects of it on actually use of Facebook will be? Definitely.

middle class

Economy runs on purchases

A few news cycles ago we were inundated with the phrase “Job Creators”. We needed to cater to this group’s every demand because they created jobs. And jobs are what makes the economy grow and continue running smoothly.

Except its not. Not when the jobs pay abysmally low salaries so that those job creators create an even fatter bottom line for themselves. For some reason this line of thinking persists. However, we are getting more and more evidence to the contrary.

The economy is not spurred by jobs alone. The economy is grown and continues running when people spend money, purchase things, consume. But they cannot consume when they barely make enough to live.

This post was influenced by the NY Times article today “The Middle Class is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.” The just is that businesses aren’t selling to a middle class anymore. They have to specialize in either the super premium market catering to the wealthy or be in the bargain basement budget market. There is no middle ground.

“As a retailer or restaurant chain, if you’re not at the really high level or the low level, that’s a tough place to be,” Mr. Maxwell said. “You don’t want to be stuck in the middle.”

“It’s going to be hard to maintain strong economic growth with such a large proportion of the population falling behind,” he said. “We might be able to muddle along — but can we really recover?”

Mr. Fazzari also said that depending on a relatively small but affluent slice of the population to drive demand makes the economy more volatile, because this group does more discretionary spending that can rise and fall with the stock market, or track seesawing housing prices. The run-up on Wall Street in recent years has only heightened these trends, said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS, who estimates that 50 percent of Americans have no effective participation in the surging stock market, even counting retirement accounts.

Long term growth is not made by 1% of the country buying a 4th yacht. Its made by millions of people using their incomes to buy new cars, televisions, houses. 

You want further evidence? Today, on the very day that report came out, the Dow Jones dropped a massive 30 points. Why? Because reports from American Industry show that they aren’t making anything. Why? Because no one is buying can afford to buy anything.

“The ISM for manufacturing was among the weaker numbers we’ve seen for quite some time, versus expectations. What was also concerning was among the components, the new orders number was weak,” said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. Unlike other components, the one for new orders can’t be explained away by the severe winter weather, he said.

What I'm Thinking

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