Dave Barry’s 2018 Year in Review

It’s January, time to reflect on the year just passed. Dave Barry, as he does every year, gives us a trip down the memory hole of 2018, helping us to remember much that we tried to forget.

“What made this year so awful? We could list many factors, including natural disasters, man-made atrocities, the utter depravity of our national political discourse and the loss of Aretha Franklin.”

Re-live the year just finished. Read Dave’s month-by-month report.

John Boehner: Still Smokin’

“I’m all in on marijuana.”

Republican John Boehner resigned from the House of Representatives in 2015 after nearly twenty-five years, the last five as Speaker. He has since found a life after politics.

“I’m all in on marijuana.”

The Year in Grossness

No, this is not about the current occupant of the White House.

No, this is not about the current occupant of the White House.

It’s about less offensive things, things like shit and fatbergs and boogers-in-books and genital-shaped flora.

Atlas Obscura has put together a compendium of disgusting things it reported on during the year just ended.

  • What researchers are finding in centuries-old latrines from Denmark, Turkey and other parts of the ancient world.
  • Nasal mucous (boogers) pressed into library books.
  • Penis-shaped mushrooms. (What’s gross about that?)
  • Fatbergs – globules of fats, oils and assorted trash clogging sewer pipes around the world.

There’s more… and more descriptive elucidations at Atlas Obscura.

Back to the Future – TV Chapter

That consumer hatred is turning to gold for Joe Bingochea, president of Channel Master.

Consumer Reports published an item about a lawsuit Comcast settled recently with the Massachusetts attorney general. The cable provider agreed to refund $700,000 in overcharges and cancel debts of 20,000 customers. It seems Comcast’s advertising neglected to disclose fees that typically increased the price of multi-year packages by 40%. Unhappy customers were required to pay as much as $240 to cancel or change a subscription.

An estimated 25 million subscribers broke free from their pay-tv service this year, a 33% increase over 2017.

Who doesn’t hate their cable or satellite television provider? The cable and satellite companies force customers to pay for unwanted channels to get the channels they do want. Because they sold only package deals. The television providers refused to remove their blinders; they thought they could resist a la carte pricing forever. Although they also provide Internet service – and lobby against net neutrality – they didn’t see the Internet would soon wreck their business model.

That consumer hatred is turning to gold for Joe Bingochea, president of Channel Master. The seventy-year-old company has doubled the size of its Arizona factory to meet surging demand. Its product? Television antennas.

Internet television allows viewers to subscribe to only channels they want. They don’t need to pay for ESPN2 to get HBO; they only pay for the HBO channel. And they’ve learned what mom and dad knew: the local stations, including major network affiliates and PBS, broadcast their programming for free. All one needs is an antenna to grab the signal from the atmosphere.

Which explains why Joe Bingochea is so happy. After years in the doldrums, his company’s products are in demand again. Channel Master also offers DVRs that work with antennas, because today’s viewers are accustomed to watching what they want when they want. For less than a hundred bucks, a person can become an ex-customer of the pay-TV companies.

Something New to Worry About

“Stacking up stones is simply vandalism.”

Are you anxious because you do not have enough to worry about? How about piles of rocks? Stone stacking is the latest thing on Instagram and Facebook. Posters put up selfies with hashtags #RockStacks and #StoneStacking. (Facebook owns Instagram.) In your travels you’ve probably seen and marveled at cleverly-built small stone towers.

Killjoys, though, are not pleased. Zion National Park posted a photo of someone’s artistic rock piling with the caption “…leave rocks and all natural objects in place.” The post went on to say, “Stacking up stones is simply vandalism.” The problem? Moving a lot of stones can result in erosion, damage to animal ecosystems and disrupt the flow of rivers. Hikers depend on sanctioned cairns for navigation in places without clear trails. Park rangers, environmentalists, and hikers have reactions ranging from annoyance to alarm.

Vikings built stone cairns (worked better than bread crumbs) to find their way back from explorations of Finland in the ninth century and as markers for those who followed. Now tourist guides are pleading for them to be left alone and not mucked up with twenty-first century imitations.

Proponents call it artistic and meditative. Critics rail that social media has made it a global phenomenon and so reduces the amount of wilderness left in its natural state.