Rainy Day Daze

an excursion into analysis

The sound of rain peppering the aluminum window sill trim less than a foot away from my head was the alarm clock that ushered in this first day of the weekend. Fine way to start a Saturday. It was one of those mornings when it's almost painful to raise the venetian blinds high enough to reveal a dirty grey sky and let what little light there is into the room. It seemed much more prudent to leave them down and live out this morning in a state of synthetic darkness with the only luminance in the room being that from two shaded desk lamps and the computer monitor's CRT.

Ritual time. Pee. Grind coffee beans and get a pot going. Turn on the radio. Plunk ass down in front of the keyboard. Roll a smoke. Check e-mail. See what news Drudge has dredged up and deems worthy for inclusion on his web site. Damn commercials on the radio.

If there's one thing that really sticks in my craw (how I simply love that idiom!) is the ever-expanding amount of broadcast time devoted to commercial advertising. It simply drives me mad. It's "the bane of my existence," as a former department head frequently bemoaned the encroachment of the workplace by computers. He would only use a typewriter. Didn't believe in Daylight Savings Time, either. Kept all his clocks on Eastern Standard Time throughout the year. Though at the time I didn't appreciate it, I now admire him for his stubbornness.

DAMN! ANOTHER commercial! Then it happened: something snapped. There was no pressing business to tend to. It was a dreary, rainy morning and what seemed like the fifth damned commercial in a row provided all the motivation needed for me to spring into action on a quest.

The quest? To document the division of an hour of radio broadcast time. And enlighten, or warn, the World.

The same exercise, or mania, was performed weekly for a period of several months while watching "24" on the local Fox affiliate. Forget the popcorn - viewer show prep mandated eyeglasses, tobacco, rolling papers, Zippo lighter, ashtray, notebook and pens had to be laid out on the coffee table, being the accoutrements of dubious necessity to watch the program. Oh yes: Don't forget the coffee. Black. No cream. No sugar. Just coffee. In a mug. Please. I can complicate toast. Believe me.

Several weeks worth of records were compiled and an essay had been started, complete with a pie chart, I might add, though it never made it to the web site. So today's endeavor had been well rehearsed, but this time it was going to be published.

NOTEPAD.EXE, one of the few things that Microsoft "got right," was the tool du jour selected to facilitate my Saturday mania of the moment. The choice primarily hinged on NOTEPAD's wonderful F5 function key: time and date stamping. When the broadcast went from program to news or commercials, a whack on the F5 key marked the time and a quick note of whatever change had taken place was noted, followed by a not-so-dainty push of the pinky on the ENTER key.

It just occurred to me that a mental health professional would probably find this article, um ... revealing.

The second reason for the selection of NOTEPAD was to forcibly break away from EditPlus, an HTML editor I've been using and enjoy, though have recently gone past the "free-evaluation" period. I just can't seem to pry $30 out of my wallet to register a legit copy. The money is there but the willingness to part with it is not. Besides, there's a certain challenge and sense of accomplishment using only a text editor for HTML coding. < /DIGRESSION >

Regardless of whether monitoring and documenting air time useage was the best way to spend an hour of one's life, I persevered. Here's what the file looked like:

11:00 AM 4/23/05 STATION ID
11:00 AM 4/23/05 NEWS
11:04 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - CROWLEY KIA
11:04 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - MATCH DOT COM
11:05 AM 4/23/05 TRAFFIC REPORT
11:05 AM 4/23/05 WEATHER FORECAST
11:07 AM 4/23/05 PROGRAM - COMPUTER TALK WITH TAB
11:15 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - PORT ONE INTERNET
11:16 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - GALLAGER BUICK
11:17 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - ARMY NATIONAL GUARD
11:18 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - COMPUTER TUNE AND LUBE
11:19 AM 4/23/05 PROGRAM - COMPUTER TALK WITH TAB
11:28 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - FOR STATION NEWS
11:28 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - 1-800-CAR-STAR
11:28 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - UPWARD BOUND BASKETBALL CAMP
11:29 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - UCONN HEALTH CENTER
11:30 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - RED SOX 11:30 AM 4/23/05 NEWS
11:33 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - HYUNDAI
11:33 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - HOME DEPOT
11:34 AM 4/23/05 WEATHER FORECAST
11:37 AM 4/23/05 PROGRAM - COMPUTER TALK WITH TAB
11:47 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - 1-800-EAST WEST MORTGAGE
11:48 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - TAB COMPUTER SYSTEMS
11:49 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - TOYOTA AVALON
11:50 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - ROLAND DUMONT INSURANCE AGENCY
11:51 AM 4/23/05 PROGRAM - COMPUTER TALK WITH TAB
11:56 AM 4/23/05 PROGRAM END
11:57 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - WTIC ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT
11:58 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - INTERNATIONAL STAR REGISTRY
11:58 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - QUEST DIAGNOSTICS
11:58 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - AMSTON MORTGAGE
11:59 AM 4/23/05 COMMERCIAL - ABA something or other DOT COM
12:00 PM 4/23/05 STATION ID
12:00 PM 4/23/05 NEWS

Analyzing the file proved to be an eye-opening experience. Of this one hour of broadcasting, WTIC-AM 1080 and parent company Infinity Broadcasting split the hour approximately like this:

(I know the numbers only add up to 59-minutes. So sue me.)

Put another way, for every minute of actual "program" content, WTIC and Infinity broadcast nearly half that amount of time with commercial(s). Or consider this: how would you like there to be a mid-program break "at the half-hour" for commercials? 14-minutes of commercials!

My complaining about all the damn commercials on radio, television and the Internet is akin to swimming against the tsunami. I realize this. So were George Hart's feelings about computers and DST. You see, Don Quixote wasn't merely a fictitious character of Miguel de Cervantes. As long as there are a few souls who refuse to be desensitized to the spread of commercials, computers or the manipulation of time, Quixotes will inhabit our planet; endangered species or not.

It's rapidly approaching dawn on Sunday as I put the finishing touches on this page. There are still too many commercials on WTIC. And it's still raining.

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Revised - Tuesday, September 19, 2005