Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Let's race, Austin!

Austin will soon be home to a lot more high-speed driving.  That's right--they're finally widening I-35!

Yeah, right.

Okay, back on Planet Reality, I-35 may never be widened, but there will be some high-speed driving in the form of the Formula One United States Grand Prix:

“We are extremely honoured and proud to reach an agreement with the F1 Commercial Rights Holder. We have been diligently working together for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of Texas and back to the United States. All parties involved have a great amount of trust and confidence in each other and are committed to establishing the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ in Austin, Texas as a prestigious global event,” stated Tavo Hellmund, Managing Partner of Full Throttle Productions, LP.

Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of the Formula One Group stated: “For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event. It was thirty years ago that the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ was last held on a purpose-built permanent road course circuit in Watkins Glen, NY (1961-1980), which enjoyed great success. Since then, Formula One has been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix all on temporary street circuits. Indianapolis joined the ranks of host cities in 2000 when they added a road course inside the famed oval. Lewis Hamilton won the last Formula 1 United States Grand Prix™ in 2007, signalling the end to eight years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This however, will be the first time a facility is constructed from the ground up specifically for Formula One in the US.”

Mr. Hellmund added: “This is a case of the right timing in the right place. As many Americans know, Austin has earned a reputation as one of the ‘it’ cities in the United States. Austin features that rare combination of ideal geographic location and beauty. Its fine dining, world-renowned hospitality and excellent transportation infrastructure make Austin ideally suited to host and manage an event of this magnitude. Few cities if any in America could rival the connectivity of all the key elements needed for hosting a Formula 1 event as well as Austin. Now, many people around the world will have the opportunity to experience a world-class event, facility and city.”

An agreement has been signed that will make Austin the host of the race from 2012 to 2021.  No word yet on where a ground-up racing location might be built.  Let me take the opportunity to make the first prediction:  east of I-35.

Just plan to take some extra time if you want to drive over there to see the race.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Austin radio: 102.3, 105.9 swapping frequencies

In Austin, hip-hop music seemingly jumps from one frequency to another about every year.  First it was on 104.3, then 93.3 started competing, then 104.3 made a really ill-advised decision and dumped hip-hop, only to return to it six months later after watching their ratings decline by something like 75%, then 104.9, and now Austin's only source of hip-hop on the radio is 105.9 the Beat.

But not for long.

As multiple sources have reported, 105.9 the Beat is moving down to 102.3, sending the River upstream to 105.9 (the River has already updated its main page to reflect this change).

Most people in Austin might be wondering why Clear Channel, which operates both stations, would swap one for the other in this way.  The answer is fairly simple:  Clear Channel presently only owns one of the two stations, that being 102.3.  (I'd refer to these stations by their call letters, KFMK for 105.9 and KPEZ for 102.3, but knowing Clear Channel, these calls may change in the near future once this swap occurs.  Or not.)  Clear Channel divested itself of 105.9 a few years ago due to radio station ownership regulations and sold it, along with a lot of other stations in other Clear Channel markets, to something called the Aloha Station Trust, which, I assume, will eventually sell all these stations.  However, as stated above, Clear Channel is allowed to continue to operate 105.9 as its own station until Aloha does sell it.  And since The Beat has performed quite well in recent ratings periods, and much better than The River, Clear Channel very much wants to hold on to the successful format.

So, 102.3 the Beat will remain a Clear Channel property, while 105.9 the River will eventually find its way into someone else's hands, where it may or may not continue with its current format.  And thus Clear Channel remains quite happy with itself.

Meanwhile, Austin listeners find themselves changing their presets yet again.

Update:  The River has changed.  See here for info.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I hope Arizona follows through on this

Courtesy HotAir.com:

Since, as was noted in a comment to a previous post, the City of Los Angeles is boycotting the State of Arizona now, one Arizona official has taken it upon himself to offer his assistance with the boycott.  That official is Gary Pierce of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and his approach, while already having been mentioned by others (mostly blog commenters), is presented quite eloquently here:

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies — a vote you strongly supported — to show opposition to SB 1070 (Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act).

You explained your support of the boycott as follows: “While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the State of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona.  Our intent is to use our dollars — or the withholding of our dollars — to send a message.” (emphasis added)

I received your message; please receive mine.  As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the “resources and ties” we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.

People of goodwill can disagree over the merits of SB 1070. A state-wide economic boycott of Arizona is not a message sent in goodwill.

Commissioner Gary Pierce
(The original letter can be found here.)

If Los Angeles were to experience a blackout such as what Commissioner Pierce envisions, it would be just what its City Council deserves for its decision.  Kudos to Commissioner Pierce for this letter.

Govs. Brewer, Palin launch SecuretheBorder.org

Courtesy RealClearPolitics:

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have started a new website, SecuretheBorder.org, which is designed to help people understand the reality of the situation in Arizona with regard to illegal immigration, as well as the truth about SB 1070, the much-maligned, recently-passed Arizona law regarding this topic.  The bill is posted in its entirety on the site, so you don't have to go by what other people say, including me.  This will especially come in handy for people like Attorney General Eric Holder, who admits to not having read the bill he is criticizing.

The site also includes the following video, which includes Attorney General Holder's admission mentioned above:

In the meantime, the federal government appears to be full of people falling all over themselves to denounce Arizona for having the gall to, you know, actually want to have secure borders.  The nerve!

Sarah Palin, as one might expect, has plenty to say about those in the federal government who are continuing what she calls the "American Apology Tour":

On Fox News this morning, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley became the third Obama administration official in short succession to admit that he hadn’t actually bothered to read Arizona’s 10-page long “secure the border” bill before condemning it and criticizing Americans who support Arizona’s necessary efforts to do the job the Obama Administration should be doing. Crowley’s statement follows similar admissions from Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

At first blush this revelation seemed unbelievable, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. This now seems “the Washington way” of doing things. If the party in power tells us they have to pass bills in order to find out what’s actually in them, they can also criticize bills (and divide the country with ensuing rhetoric) without actually reading them.

Still I can’t help but feel outraged on behalf of Arizona’s citizens for the incompetence shown by these Administration officials. Arizonans have the courage to do what the Obama administration has failed to do in its first year and a half in office – namely secure our border and enforce our federal laws. And as a result, Arizonans have been subjected to a campaign of baseless accusations by the same people who freely admit they haven’t a clue about what they’re actually campaigning against.

The absolute low point of this campaign came last Friday, when a U.S. State Department delegation met with Chinese negotiators to discuss human rights. Apparently, our State Department felt it necessary to make their Chinese guests feel less bad about their own record of human rights abuses by repeatedly atoning for American “sins” – including, it seems, the Arizona immigration/pro-border security law. Asked if Arizona came up at all during the meeting, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner answered:

“We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.”

Note that he said “We brought it up” – not the Chinese, but the U.S. State Department’s own delegation. Instead of grilling the Chinese about their appalling record on human rights, the State Department continued the unbelievable apology tour by raising “early and often” Arizona’s decision to secure our border.

Arizona’s law, which just mirrors the federal law, simply allows the police to ask those whom they have already stopped for some form of identification like a driver’s license. By what absurd stretch of the imagination is that the moral equivalent of China’s lack of freedoms, population controls (including forced abortions), censorship, and arbitrary detentions?

Surely our U.S. Ambassador to China, John Huntsman, must disagree with the Obama Administration’s continued apology tour? We have nothing to apologize for. If Administration officials want to apologize to anyone, apologize to the American people for the fact that after a year and a half in office, they still haven’t done anything to secure our borders, and they join our President in making false suggestions about Arizona’s effort.

- Sarah Palin

Edit: Yeah, I know I had the website name wrong in the title to this post. But, since I know that people are searching for securetheborders.org, I'll leave a mention of it here in the post.  There is not a website set up at that URL, so I'm not linking it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

School district nixes basketball trip to AZ; Palin opines

In an attempt even less likely than that of Austin to change anyone's mind about Arizona's newly passed immigration law, a school district in Illinois took the step of canceling a long-planned trip to a tournament in Arizona by a high-school girls' basketball team.

This quote sums up the absurdity of the decision:

“The school has sent children to China, they’ve sent children to South America, they’ve sent children to the Czech Republic, but somehow Arizona is more unsafe for them than those places,” [the father of one of the players] said.

Political commentator and one-time high-school basketball player Sarah Palin phoned in to America Live with Megyn Kelly on Fox News today to weigh in on this issue.  As one might expect, she feels that canceling this trip was a bad idea.  Furthermore, she felt that the team ought to go on its own.  (Why not; they've been fundraising for this trip for months.)  See for yourself:

"Keeping the girls off the basketball court for purely political reasons is not right."

An open letter to the Austin City Council

In regard to the city council's planned "boycott Arizona" resolution, approved unanimously today, I submit the following:

  • Phoenix has been called the "number two kidnapping capital of the world", with a lot of kidnappings (many of which are said in the linked article to go unreported) related to the illegal drug trade.  Per the same article, "[s]ome officials have commented that all the Phoenix kidnappings are connected to illegal immigration".
  • A Pinal County sheriff's deputy was shot in the abdomen when he came upon a group of suspected human traffickers, who opened fire on him.  A manhunt for those responsible resulted in the arrest of 17 suspected illegal immigrants
  • Multiple areas in Arizona are littered with literally thousands of discarded backpacks left by undocumented immigrants entering the state.
  • Arizona residents, by a wide margin, support SB 1070, the controversial immigration law opposed by the Austin City Council.
Oh, and one other thing:  the Statesman article states that Austin "planned to send five employees to Arizona for three events this month".  This does not appear to add up to much money being taken away from the state of Arizona.

So, with all that said, one question remains:

Do you think the people of Arizona care one whit about what the City of Austin thinks of them?

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Time Warner update: May 2010

    Time Warner Cable in Austin, a topic that got me a link (to this post) from Wikipedia, has been rather silent in recent months, which, I suppose, is a good thing for those customers tired of seeing channels disappear from basic/standard cable unless they rent a set-top cable box from Time Warner for $7.99 a month.  But that still doesn't mean that Time Warner cares a great deal about its non-digital customers.

    As an example, consider channel 21, WGN.  For three days in April, basic/standard customers (I cannot speak for digital customers, as paying $8 for a set-top box is well below the line) were treated, when tuning to channel 21, to some weird picture of an orange circle surrounded by blue bars.  Even worse, according to Mrs. Snowed, the picture was not symmetrical.  Anyway, our first call to Time Warner yielded someone who, apparently not knowing better, told us that the loss of WGN's signal was due to a blackout of WGN's baseball coverage.  (National superstation coverage cannot be blacked out in Austin, Texas, as we obviously do not have a major league baseball team.)  It wasn't until the second call that we were finally able to reach someone who knew that Time Warner was aware of a problem with WGN's signal.  We were told at the time that once the channel was restored, we could call for a partial refund, and today, I got one.  (As a convenience to my readers, Time Warner's customer service line is (512) 485-5555.)

    And then, I've learned that Time Warner is once again preparing to drop another channel from basic cable.  The culprit this time is channel 14, KADF-LP, an Azteca America affiliate.  Now, as my Spanish is rusty at best, I don't normally watch channel 14, but I'll bet some people in this city do, and they're going to be surprised when said channel disappears from their service.  (Source:  this page, though you can always access upcoming lineup changes here.)

    In a recent talk with Time Warner, I was told that things are moving toward a point at which every cable customer will need to have a set-top box.  Cable channels are starting to transmit solely in digital format, and even the local over-the-air channels, currently still supported in analog format by cable companies until at least 2012, will eventually only be available digitally.

    Now, Time Warner still only rents their boxes, but customers can also use CableCARD-equipped devices of their own to get around that.  Just understand, as per Time Warner's page, that some programming options may not be available for some people with CableCARD-equipped devices:

    The new services listed below cannot be accessed on CableCARD-equipped Unidirectional Digital Cable Products purchased at retail without additional, two-way capable equipment.

    Pick your poison, I suppose, if you are wanting all the programming available through Time Warner Cable.