OSBORNE ONLINE

Remember ‘Basic’ Television Programming?

SOMETHING happened to our cable tv service last week.
We have the basic cable service, but it became even more “basic”.  The only things that worked on the set were the on/off button and channel buttons.
When we couldn’t fix the problem, Comcast was called and do you know where the Comcast employee was from who tried to solve the problem? 
The Phillipines!
That’s what she said when asked.
When she made the adjustment to the modem in order to restore the basic service we had, it made me think seriously about where we are today.
If a woman who works in the Phillipines is able to make adjustments on our television modem from thousands of miles away, what else can companies see or do in our home from thousands of miles away that we don’t even know about?

WELL, at least I am now able to use my favorite feature on cablevision -- the program guide that has the name and description of what’s on each channel. I use that feature a lot because I’m always searching for something worthwhile to watch in the small amount of time I have to watch tv.
There’s so many channels and so little to watch that’s worthwhile. If some of the titles of the shows get any worse, the program guide might have to be rated for adults only!

REMEMBER “the good old days” when we only had three or four channels to select from and there was always something worth watching -- even with so few channels available?
That was back in the 1960s when FCC Chairman Newton Minow called television programming “a vast wasteland”.
I wonder how he views what’s on television today.
Today, “basic cable” costs me $138.00 per month and that doesn’t grant access to much of anything that’s on the channels.
Decades ago, we had “basic television”, along with an antenna -- and the cost was $00.00 per month!

WHILE I’m on the subject of television viewing, what are the odds of changing the channel during a commercial break and not running into a commercial break on the channel you’re turning to -- even two channels where both are carrying sporting events?
I always seem to run into more commercials when I change stations to check on the score of a game on another channel!

BY THE WAY, when it comes to commercial breaks, there was a time when it was difficult to make it to the kitchen (or bathroom) and back to the television during a commercial break.
Not anymore.
I think I can use the bathroom, wash my hands, pick up a snack in the kitchen, defeat ISIS, and get back to the television program before the commercials are over.
What I really dislike is, when they have several commercials in a row, then come back to say the program will continue in a minute -- and run more commercials.
They keep coming back and announcing the name of the show so the viewer won’t forget what show he is watching!

OVER THE past few years I’ve become an even greater fan of PBS, not only because they have some extremely interesting programs like Frontline and more -- but because the only commercials they have are between programs.
The only problem that presents for many television viewers is that, many times, the bladder can’t last as long as an hour between visits to the bathroom!
Maybe one commercial break every half hour should be mandatory out of respect for senior viewers.

ACTUALLY, I know that television will be with us for the rest of our lives because, despite all of the trashy programs, there really is some quality programming available -- and that’s what makes it worthwhile. I wouldn’t want to be without it as a source of information, sports and entertainment.
Still, I can’t help but let my mind drift back 50 years to my free television programming on that black and white screen in the mahogany television console in the living room.
It was in the first house I bought with my first car in the driveway.
The payments on the house and car totalled $115.00 a month -- $23.00 less than I pay per month for television programming today, plus the seller of my first house left his television antenna on the roof so it was free, too.
Now, that was inexpensive “basic” television programming!


--Posted 3/29/15 from print edition of Decatur Tribune (3/25/15)

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A Little Bit Of Everything From 'Soup To Nuts'

• I BOUGHT a bowl of soup at a popular drive-through restaurant on Pershing Road (guess which one) a few evenings ago as I’ve done before and, like before, I didn’t think there was much “soup” in their bowl of soup.
So, when I got home, I used a measuring cup to find out how much soup was actually in the bowl of soup.
The answer: the bowl of soup contained one cup of soup.
The restaurant also features a cup of soup, but, if a bowl of soup is actually only a cup of soup, how much does a cup of soup contain? A gulp?
I won’t name the restaurant because I like the food and would like to eat there again -- and maybe a bowl of soup is whatever a restaurant determines is a bowl.
It doesn’t seem like much of a bowl of soup to me, but I don’t have to buy it.

• THE HEADLINE on the news website reads: “Hertz Puts Cameras In Its Rental Cars, Says It Has No Plans To Use Them”.
Question:  If Hertz has no plans to use the cameras, why are they installing them in their rental cars?

• LAST WEEK, another attempt was made to pass legislation to let local governments skip posting public notices in newspapers and instead only post the notices on their own websites.
Thursday morning, Representative Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford), decided to call House Bill 261 for a vote in the House Counties and Townships Committee.  
Thankfully, the bill was defeated by a vote of 6-5.
Proponents of the bill contend that it will save taxpayers money and will be more efficient than posting notices in newspapers.
That’s pure baloney!  When has government ever taken over anything and been more efficient and saved taxpayers money?
Audits by the Citizen Advocacy Center have found that where local governments are already required to post notices of meetings, agendas and minutes to their own websites – they are posting meeting minutes less than half of the time! 
They posted agendas only 57 percent of the time and notices of meetings 73 percent of the time. 
Meanwhile, newspapers, like this one and the Herald & Review, are required to post public notices they print in the newspaper to a central website so that service is already being provided -- and the website notice is free to the public.
Attempting to pass legislation so government bodies can start posting their own legals to a government website is nothing more than an attempt to tamper with the public’s right to know what is going on in their government.
It would allow government to check on itself to see if citizens were being provided proper notifications.
That’s horrendous legislation and an affront to the people’s right to know and should be defeated everytime it raises its ugly head!

•  DO YOU know what item in this column has generated more questions and comments than any other subject during past month?
The answer is “Christine”, my car, and whether or not she (or it) actually started her engine in a downtown parking garage -- when no one was around her, or trying to remotely start her.
Christine, named after the demon-possessed car in the movie by the same name, has done a lot of strange things since I bought her last year and, as you know, I’ve written about a few of them in this column.
I just received my insurance premium for Christine. 
It seems a little high for a car to just drive back and forth to the office.
I assume the premium amount includes monthly exorcisms.

• ONE EMAIL I received last week came from a reader who stated his belief that I was a “certified nut case” because of those articles I wrote about “Christine”. 
I was “flattered” until I realized that he had probably confused me with former Decatur Tribune columnist Sparky, “Decatur smartest squirrel”, who still works for this newspaper “digging up” nuts in our community.
Sparky knows where all of the nuts are hidden -- and for your information -- he’s never threatened me!
Besides, I don’t know what would give the “certified nut case” accuser the idea there’s something wrong with my mind -- unless he thinks there’s something crazy about an editor who drives a car with a mind of its own and hires a squirrel to write a newspaper column!

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Posted On March 21, 2015 from Decatur Tribune Print Edition



Inexpensive Lie Detector Test Might Work

IT’S amazing how words have changed and been altered during my lifetime.
Probably the most familiar word, which isn’t used much any more, is “lie”.
Not many people ever admit to telling a lie these days -- and even though there is often indisputable evidence to the contrary, they look us in the eye and sometimes angrily deny telling a lie.

WHEN I was a small child my father had his own “lie detector” to use if I ever thought about telling a lie -- or so I believed at that young age.
He told me there was a spot between my eyes that would start turning red if I didn’t tell the truth.
Sometimes, he would ask me a question at the dinner table and then look intently between my eyes to see if the spot was turning red.  

I NEVER had any occasion to lie to my dad, and if I had, I would have been terrified to face the “lie detector”.
It was a lot like the claim back then that your nose would grow if you told a lie.
Parents didn’t have the expert advice to deal with their young children back then so they passed along myths and other creative methods of trying to keep their children on the straight and narrow way.
I often wondered if the place between my eyes (which I never saw when I looked in a mirror) would burst into flames if I told a really BIG lie!

ALL THESE decades later, I thought about my dad’s creative “lie detector” method when I first heard NBC News’ Brian Williams apologize for claiming that he was on a helicopter that was forced down in a war zone in 2003.
“I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” Williams said.
About all of you know about Williams’ “mistake” because it’s been on the news for the past week.
He has even given up his anchor position for several days while his network investigates this story (which he repeated for 12 years as being true) and some other comments he has made about what he saw in news stories he has covered.

A NEW word has emerged about the lie Williams repeatedly told, at least I don’t remember hearing it used before.
Instead of admitting to a lie, Williams “misremembered”.
Undoubtedly, some politicians are already drooling about the opportunity to use that word -- “misremembered” -- when they are caught in a lie.

“LIE” has been watered down over the years evolving from “fib” to “untruth” to “miscue”, “misstep”, “misspoke” and many other terms to soften the word. Republican and Democrat politicians have tried to make “lie” more acceptable to the human ear and eye over the years.
Here’s some examples...”I am not a crook”, “I did not have sex with that woman -- Miss Lewinsky”, “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq”, or “If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.”

THE PROBLEM in recent years is that about everything politicians say someone has recorded.  In the case of President Obama’s “like your doctor” statement on selling his healthcare plan, network cameras recorded him telling the lie to 23 different audiences. 
If politicians will not admit to telling a lie to millions of people, what can we do to determine the truth from a lie when any of them makes a statement?

I THINK we should start calling a “lie” by its proper name -- “lie”.
Since we have celebrities and politicians (both Republicans and Democrats) who lie routinely, and then lie about the lie they tell...we may have to use a simpler way of finding the lie.
I’m going to start looking at the spot between their eyes to see if it starts turning red when they are talking!  Many of them will be as red as Rudolph’s nose and may be asked to guide Santa’s sleigh at night.
It should work: after all my dad would not tell a lie about his lie detector!
Still, for added confirmation, I’m going to look at the length of a politician’s nose before and after he tells me something he claims to be the truth.



Posted 2/12/15




A Salute And Thanks To The Macon County Honor Guard

THE Macon County Honor Guard has been the subject of a few “Letters to the Editor” during the past month.
A Bethany man, Larry T. Kellogg, posted the first letter, which was somewhat critical of the honor guard for not being able to be present at the memorial service for his father, who was a veteran.
Apparently, there was a Christmas party planned for the veterans, with the catering already contracted, which created a conflict.
 
RON Sloan, a member of the honor guard responded to Mr. Kellogg’s letter to point out the reason the group was not able to participate in the service and also to explain all of the services the Macon County Honor Guard participates in during each year -- a staggering number.
Mr. Kellogg responded to Mr. Sloan’s letter under this week’s “Letters To The Editor”. 

OBVIOUSLY, our letters to the editors contain the opinions of the letter writers, not mine, and they are free to express those opinions in this newspaper -- as long as profanity is not used and the length of the letter is reasonable.
I understand why this is a sensitive issue for Mr. Kellogg because of the death of his father and wanting to honor his father’s memory and his service to our country.
For that service, I’m sure all of us want to express our appreciation and also express our condolences to Mr. Kellogg on his father’s death.

HOWEVER, based on personal experience, I’ve always had a high level of respect for the members of the Macon County Honor Guard.
I’ve been at countless events and services where the weather has been bone-chilling cold or so hot that I thought I would pass out -- but the Macon County Honor Guard was there. 
There are many stories from families who appreciated the time and energy the honor guard members expended to add a “special honor” to the memorial service of their beloved veterans.

AS MR. SLOAN wrote in his response letter: “The guard is made up of mostly 60, 70, and 80 year old men who are retired or semi-retired. We receive no pay for doing a job that we feel HAS to be done... 
“...Each funeral takes around 18 Honor Guard members. We have approximately 25 members, so you see we have pretty much a full time job with no pay, other than the satisfaction of giving a veteran his just dues.
“Here’s the Macon County Honor Guard 2014 Report: A total of 163 funerals were provided; 21 doubles (2 in one day); 1 triple (three in one day); 50 out of town.”

HE CONTINUED: “We traveled 4,216 miles, used 3,549 rounds of ammunition, plus Memorial Day Service (2) Veterans Day Service, Pearl Harbor Remembrance, flag presentations/educations at schools, churches, colleges and conventions.”
Last year, they were unable to honor 50 requests for their services at funerals.
Mr. Sloan wrote: “Most people retire to play golf, fish, camp, go to Florida for the winter or to just chill. By volunteering we have given up our retirement. We choose to do this as we all feel our nation’s veterans and our comrades in arms deserve us to be there for them if at all possible.” 
Fortunately, in Mr. Kellogg’s case, the Moultrie County Honor Guard and the U. S. Navy were able to participate in his father’s service and that’s good to hear.

OVER THE years, I believe the Macon County Honor Guard has served our veterans and their families with distinction and honor -- and I salute their efforts and the reasons behind what they do and they’ve always had my support.
For obvious reasons, they can’t be at all of the services -- but last year they were able to honor over 75% of the requests.
That’s a very high percentage for an all-volunteer group of mostly senior citizen members.

--Posted 2/7/15



A Fall On Slick Surface Was A Real ‘Ice Breaker’

IF you grew up in my generation you probably have a clear memory of all the “warnings” given to you by your parents.
Remember “Put that stick down or you’ll poke your eye out!” (This also was applied to a b.b. gun, rock or any other object that could be thrown or shot.)
Or, my mom would say, when my brother and I would make ugly faces at each other, “What if your face froze like that and you had to walk around the rest of your life looking that way?”
The “freezing” ailment on ugly faces also applied to crossing our eyes and not being able to uncross them after being hit with something while they were crossed.

MY MOM also knew someone “who knew someone” who actually had an eye poked out with a stick. 
I’m sure it is likely that some kids have had an eye “poked out”. I’ve been a little more skeptical about the “freezing” of ugly faces and crossed eyes, but haven’t done any research about it.
I think any parent who loves his or her children, will always warn them of “dangers” -- because they were also warned when they were kids.

TWO OTHER admonitions of my mother centered on cold weather: “Get something on your head or you’ll freeze!”, and, “Be careful when you’re walking on ice.  I’ve heard about someone who fell and hit his head on the ice and he was ‘simple-minded’ the rest of his life.”
To this day, I’ve never worn “something on my head” (except hair) when its cold outside. As recently as last week, someone downtown asked, “Didn’t your mom ever tell you to wear something on your head when it’s this cold?”
Yes, she did -- many times on many freezing days.

I WAS walking from the Municipal Parking Garage to the newspaper office on a sub-zero early morning last week and there was ice everywhere.
My mother’s admonition to be careful and not hit my head on the ice was actually on my mind as I walked carefully through the parking lot near the Millikin Court Building.
Then, in a split second, my feet slid out from under me and I fell backwards on the ice, falling hard on my back and hitting my head!
Oh, no! I knew what that meant! 
My mom had warned me when I was a little kid!

FORTUNATELY, I didn’t get knocked unconscious which probably saved my life -- because it was dark and no one else was around when I fell. There was a strong likelihood that I could have frozen to death before anyone came along. 
In addition to being thankful I wasn’t knocked unconscious, I immediately wondered if I was going to be one of those people someone’s mom would be talking about who fell on the ice and became “simple-minded”.
I crawled off of the icy patch, picked myself up and seemed to be okay.
Miraculously, except for a cut on the palm of my hand where my watch dug into the skin, I was okay.

I’VE always been a person who has never let weather, threats, or anything else, stop me from going anywhere I needed to go -- and I’ve found myself in some dangerous situations over the years as a newspaper publisher.
However, last week’s fall that hit the back of my head on the ice (and broke part of the ice) sent a real message to me that I need to be more careful in the wintertime.

THIS COLUMN is not meant to make fun of anybody who has fallen on the ice and suffered permanent injuries.
That certainly isn’t anything to joke about.
However, my fall last week gave me a clear perspective on my mom’s warnings when I was a kid.  
The next time I walk on ice, I will certainly not be making an ugly face (at least intentionally) or crossing my eyes -- but I probably won’t be wearing “something on my head”.
I guess, a little stubbornness on such things is hard to give up after a lifetime of not wearing “something on my head”.
But, would you expect any concession on that issue from a guy whose head is hard enough to crack solid ice?

--Posted 1/24/15 



‘Christine’ Has An Automotive Nervous Breakdown


LAST SPRING, I wrote a column about a “pre-owned” car (it was a few years old) I had purchased to drive to and from the newspaper office each day.
The car was like new, with very low mileage, and loaded with lots of features I would never use.
I hadn’t owned the car very long when a series of strange happenings seem to be part of its “personality”.
I wrote that I was beginning to wonder if the car was “possessed” (not repossessed).

  I STARTED referring to my car as “Christine”.  That was the title of the movie that was about a car that seemed to have a mind of its own. 
In my first column about the car, I detailed a lot of experiences I had with that electronically-advanced hussy.  It seemed to me that “Christine” was giving me warnings and orders all the time -- “check this, check that, gas tank low, tire pressure two pounds low” and on and on.
It was obvious to me that “Christine” knew a lot more about my car than I did -- and she liked to constantly remind me of that fact.

WELL, on the coldest winter day of last week, I walked to the parking garage where “Christine” was, got inside from the frigid weather -- and she wouldn’t start.
I figured it must be the battery but, even with a dead battery “Christine” continued to alert me to problems.
One message from “Christine” stated: “Drive carefully. There may be ice on the road”.
Why did I need to worry about ice on the road when the car wouldn’t even start?

I NEARLY got frostbite being outside trying to start the car with cables and I couldn’t even get the hood open! I finally called to get it towed.
When the tow truck arrived, “Christine” had locked her wheels making her impossible to move.
Apparently, Christine had suffered a massive automotive nervous breakdown and electronic heart attack!
Everything was shut down!
It took quite-a-while to drag her out of the municipal garage and “rush” her  to the emergency entrance of a local automotive hospital -- also known as an auto repair garage. 
By that time “Christine” wasn’t talking to me -- I was talking to myself! 

MY FATHER, Sam Osborne, was a mechanical genuis and I don’t remember anything that he couldn’t fix. 
Dad once told me that “The more you get on a car, the more you have that can go wrong.”
Dad was a wise man.
“Christine” has so many features that can go wrong that it is impossible to anticipate even a few of them.
But some of them can completely shut down the car, leaving the driver scratching his head trying to figure out what had happened.
It seems to me that, somewhere along the line, the technology designed to make our life easier has made it more stressful.
Sometimes, I think we’ve forgotten that the most important job of a vehicle is to get us to our destination safely -- not talk to us, or entertain us, or distract us with countless “features”. 

I DON’T blame the dealership that sold me the car.  That’s the technology of the present age and what people want. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a car from them again.
I think it’s probably my attitude.  
I come from an automotive era that, when my car’s battery went dead, I could push my “straight shift” car, jump in the seat, pop the clutch and start the engine -- and be on my merry way.
A lot in the automotive world has changed since those days and, like a lot of people who remember those days, I feel somewhat lost in today’s automotive technology.

I GOT “Christine” back Monday and the mechanic, who has worked on countless vehicles over many years, told me he had never found a similar situation with any car he had worked on.
A sensor had come loose that connected the brake with the starter.
He said “I found out what had happened, but it’s still a mystery as to how it could happened.”
He said that, the place the sensor was located could not “accidentally” be disconnected by human hands.
Hmmmm.
“Christine?”  
No. I refuse to believe that she would intentionally shut herself down.
Still, even though “Christine” and I are now on friendlier terms, and I’m enjoying my car, I’m thinking of putting my mechanic on a retainer.

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Posted 1/15/15

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Touched By The Angel On Eldorado Street


IT’S been a little over a month ago since a reader asked for information about the statue of an angel that is located above a fountain at 1210 East Eldorado Street.
I found very little public information about the angel.
However, through the responses of our readers to the article, the “mysterious” angel is not mysterious any longer.

AS MOST of you know, from reading a follow-up article in the “Editor’s Notebook” in the Oct. 22nd edition, the angel is located on property next to where The First Church of The Living Dead” met in the old AIW Union Hall on the northeast corner of Jasper and Eldorado.
Glenn Portwood informed me the building was used for religious services and The Church of The Living Dead painted it black and put the sculpture in the lot next to the building. 
“The Church took its name from the scripture which says ‘We are all dead in trespasses and sin’.” 

THIS WEEK, I received an email from Tiavi Rudow, who identified himself as the CEO and President of The First Church of the Living Dead.
Tiavi said the statue was the work of a Japanese immigrant to the United States, whose name is Kosa Sato.
“He is a very talented artist who works with concrete and also does painting as well as miniature statues,” said Tiavi, who added that Sato has paintings on display at Donnie’s Homespun Pizza in Decatur.

TIAVI said the artist was a member of their congregation and built the fountain and the statue.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to run the waterfall this year due to water pipe damage over the winter and have been unable to have it repaired as of yet.”

I ALSO heard from John Patkus, who confirmed that a Japanese American artist named Kosi (John spelled his name with an “i” instead of an “a”) created the statue. 
“Kosi lives in Decatur,” said John. “I see him around occasionally. He is hard to understand since English is not his first language.”
John added that “the statue is made of chicken wire covered with cement. The statue is probably three years old. Kosi would like to make more statues.
“The First Church Of The Living Dead has been around in one form or another for over 20 years. It claims to be a Gothic Christian church that was started by some high school students. There are still a few original members around.” 

JOHN SAID, “The group has met in homes, in the park, and in restaurants. They consider themselves to be artists and dreamers.  For over ten years they met in the building on Jasper and Eldorado. They built the little garden next to the building for prayer and meditation.
     “At one time, they had church services and concerts in the building. About two years ago they stopped most of their activities in the building and pursued other activities. Thanks to Facebook, we keep in touch and look forward to a new season in our lives.” 

NOW we know who created the statue and fountain that can still be seen at 1210 East Eldorado Street.
Although the statue was created for a little garden of prayer and meditation, it has been responsible for attracting the interest of a lot of people to learn more about that church.

I HAVE not been able to contact the artist.  That’s the final piece of information that we need.
It’s evident that anyone who can take some chicken wire and concrete and sculpt that impressive work of art has an amazing talent.
A few people have written to me to indicate the Bible doesn’t refer to any such being as a female angel, but this artist has created a statue with his concept of an angel.
Regardless of the gender of an angel, this statue located in an open lot that stands next to a big empty building along a busy street, has attracted a lot of attention and most people see the depiction of a heavenly being as they pass by. 
There’s not much doubt that many people driving and walking on Eldorado Street have been “touched by an angel”.



Posted 11/14/14 


Paul Osborne
Editor & Publisher

Columns Are Printed With The Most Recent Displayed First

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The photo across the top of the page shows the northeast corner of downtown's Lincoln Square and the statue of Abraham Lincoln marks where he gave his first political speech.

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Decatur, Illinois 62523

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