ABS Podcast – Episode 5: Planned Obsolescence

Did you think I wasn’t going to publish the podcast anymore? WRONG!

I’m back, and with a mammoth episode for good measure: a whopping 57 minutes that will guide you through the intricacies and nuances of how everything man-made gets old, and how we can learn to avoid the frustration caused by being unable to update a phone we bought just a few years before.

I focus mostly on technological devices, but I also compare them with cars, fridges, and even a Boeing 787 aircraft just because I love planes and I actively look for any random excuse to talk about them.

Don’t forget to “like” the new Facebook page for Avian Bone Syndrome!

Links of interest mentioned in the episode:

NewsHosting’s Usenet binary revolution

I recently had the chance to try Newshosting‘s Usenet service, and I was very favorably impressed. For those who don’t know, Usenet is one of the oldest communication systems on the Internet, dating back to 1979. It was born as a bulletin-like system, and is very similar in usage to e-mail. Unlike e-mail, however, it’s greatly decentralyzed and news servers, as they are called, synchronize with one another. Each server carries several groups (also called newsgroups; normally they’re counted in the thousands), and each one of them is dedicated to a specific topic.

While Usenet usage is unfortunately declining for text, heavily supplanted by web-based forums and, in more recent times, social networks, it’s being more and more used to carry binary contents. There are many groups (whose name normally include “binary” or “binaries”) dedicated to the exchange of video files, audio files and, essentially, all sorts of material. In this arena, since very few ISPs still run a newsserver at all, and those few that do will just not carry binary groups, several commercial Usenet providers fill the gap. I am currently a customer of UsenetServer, but I may just switch to NewsHosting.

I want to make it clear that it is not my intention to advocate or promote piracy in any way. This post is solely dedicated to highlighting the differences between Usenet binaries and the more widely known BitTorrent system, and showing how NewsHosting got it just perfectly right. Let’s start from the beginning, but if you want, you can jump to the review by clicking here.

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TV shows I’ll be watching

In case anybody cares, here is what I will be watching:

  • Weeds (season 6), Showtime, Mondays — in progress
  • Cougar Town (season 2), ABC, Wednesdays — starting Sept. 22nd
  • The Big Bang Theory (season 4), CBS, Thursdays — starting Sept. 23rd
  • 30 Rock (season 5), NBC, Thursdays — starting Sept. 23rd

Of course, if you — like me — don’t live in the US, there are ways to watch them almost live. You could start looking at the sidebar of this blog, for instance.

Why am I saying this? Well, I may write about the shows here as I have done in the past, so be warned.

Incidentally, you may notice that they’re all sitcoms, aside from Weeds which is somewhat difficult to classify, but definitely has quite some humor. That’s because the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting worse and S.A.D. is lurking in ambush behind the corner. By the way, do those Philips LivingColors thingies help at all?

Cougar Town, a lighthearted sitcom worth watching

Cougar Town is an ABC sitcom focusing on the life of Jules Cobbs, a recently-divorced 41-year-old woman (played by Courteney Cox) who struggles to find a new partner and ultimately her place in the world, as most men her age are either married or going after younger girls.

The name of show is obviously a reference to the slang word “cougar,” which refers to an older woman who pursues younger men (see Wikipedia), and to the football team mascot of the local high school. However, do not expect to see a woman chase young man after young man, because — despite what the first few episodes might suggest — that’s not how the story unfolds at all. Indeed, the first season explores the life of a group of 40-something friends (both married and divorced), and that of Jules’ son.

The writers chose a lighthearted approach to all the topics touched by the show, and that’s probably why it works. There isn’t much room for deep, philosophical conversations between any characters, and their “life-changing revelations” are fast-paced and often quite dull. One might wonder whether the characters themselves are that superficial, or if they deliberately choose not to seek important changes in their lives, settling for the path of least effort.

Still, as I said, the whole thing works. Keep in mind that this is not a show you’re going to watch if you’re looking for intricate storylines or subtle details that only come up when you play the episode again. You still find yourself looking forward to what’s happening next, no doubt, but it’s more out of curiosity than anything else. In other words, you will likely not “root” for any characters; except maybe Andy, as the guy is so clumsy and resigned that you can’t help but wish that he finally gets his way sooner or later. In any case the acting is not bad at all, and the two other female characters’ approach to life, Ellie (Christa Miller) and Laurie (Busy Phillips) do change quite a lot over the course of the show.

An interesting thing I noticed is that, while sex is inevitably a common topic and you will get clear visual clues that a couple just made love (that is, cuddling in bed under the sheets), there isn’t any nudity at all. However, even with the lighthearted approach, I suspect that a kid — and maybe even a young teenager — would fail to grasp many of the implications of divorce, age disparity and so on.

This leads me to the only complaint I have about the series: the liberal use and promotion of alcohol, specifically wine, by virtually all the characters except Travis, the son. One episode actually pivots about Jules’ attempt to stop drinking, resulting in an unusual intervention by anybody else to urge her to start drinking again. While, as I said, Cougar Town is certainly not targeted at kids or teenagers, I am surprised that such glorification of alcoholic beverages made it through. Let’s not forget that we live in an era in which there have been attempts to rate movies as “R” simply because someone smokes in them.

The episodes are quite short, barely touching 22 minutes each. If you have access to the box set or to the video files, that means that the whole first season will take less than nine hours to go through.

All in all, Cougar Town is a nice show to watch and every episode is packed with comic moments and funny quotes that will not fail to entertain. Here are a few clips to give you an idea:







And if you manage to watch season 1 quickly, you’ll be pleased to know that season 2 premieres on September 22nd.

Chords for “Soft Kitty,” from The Big Bang Theory

One of the funniest “inside jokes” of The Big Bang Theory is the song that Sheldon’s mom used to sing to him when he was sick. It’s featured in three episodes, as you can see here:


The song is, like most lullabies, very simple. I came up with the chords earlier today, while jamming with my ukulele. Here they are, for all my musically-inclined nerdy readers. Corrections are welcome.

[G] Soft kitty, [C] warm kitty,
[G] little ball of [D] fur;
[G] happy kitty, [C] sleepy kitty,
[G] purr, [D] purr, [G] purr.

Interesting trivia: they are almost the same chords as The Lion Sleeps Tonight, except for a minor difference in the last verse that shouldn’t prevent the most creative among you to fit one into the other.

Should you prefer so, you could play it as C F C G / C F C G C or by whichever transposition makes you happy.