Why XM radio sucks...

Remember when XM radio was the coolest thing since sliced bread? For woodchucks like me - living in the last of one (bad country) radio station plus public radio - commercial radio was a wasteland of odd talk show programming and songs about dying dogs and fishing.

Enter XM radio - suddenly for a couple of hundred dollars/year plus a minimal investment in hardware your radio could pull in hundreds of radio stations -all crystal clear and commercial free! That giant sucking sound you heard was from all the teens and commuting adults migrating towards the satellite sounds from the sky and away from bad radio. Ahh... how things change!

Today my iPhone can pull in (for free - at least for incrementally free) Slacker, Pandora, AOL radio and more - all for free. And not only are they free - but most respond to my preferences and deliver music that I actually like.

After letting my XM subscription lapse - i was enticed back into the fold with an introductory offer which i jumped on. Here in northern vermont, cell reception is spotty and the thought of consistent 3g is still mostly a fantasy.

XM radio was once again a mainstay of my morning commute - however unlike years past i had no use for it at home or the office. Once within wifi range, my iPhone and laptop connected to the home stereo system (used to broadcast netflix movie sound) provided better radio sounds and more diversity.

A few month ago my promotional period expired and i suddenly found myself with fewer stations to choose from. Out of the dozens missing there was really only one (BB King Blues) that i really missed.

Here comes the kicker - even though i only listen to 6 stations on XM - i need to upgrade my sound package for an addition $100+/year just to get the one extra station i want. When you hold XM and their pricing model against the other options - which truly offer a guest of one experience - XM suddenly seems old school, outdated and overpriced.

As 3g coverage expands, smart phone based radio is going to continue the march towards territory that used to be reserved for XM - leaving them in the dust.

Unless XM radio can use their large number of radio stations and a hardware/smartphone way to deliver a custom listening experience to me - i'll be lost to them as a consumer for ever.

if you are still holding XM/sirius stock - i'd suggest a covered short sale.

ps. happily listening to pandora as i write this.


Patagonia becomes Patagucci

Each season when the new Patagonia catalog arrives I, like millions of other hard core uber groovy outdoor oriented upper income carefully targeted consumers, open the catalog to bask in the glory that is Patagonia. Oh, to be cool enough to get onto those glorious pages. What a goal. Of course, we can bask a little bit by shelling out several hundred dollars for a few ounces of carefully recycled plastic and thread. But we will never truly be worthy.

Maybe I'm getting jaded in my old age, but as the years have gone by I'm starting to view this whole process as highly suspect. I remember what it was like to be hard core - living in a VW camper bus and eating ramen. Oddly enough I don't remember Patagonia threads playing much of a role in my life. In fact, the notion of paying $400 for a down filled yuppie designed jacket would have seemed insane - when the same $400 would have bought a much needed new engine for the bus, or even better, another month of not having to work.

This season's catalog has some awesome photography featuring the likes of john Long and Lynne Hill - and copy that talks in noble terms about caring for the environment and the dangers of materialistic behavior. The cool dudes of the '70s weren't wearing designer organic jeans cut to flatter, they were wearing blown out khakis, cut to tatters.

I find it the height of hypocrisy to read the preachy copy promoting anti-materialism on the pages of the meticulously crafted catalog (optimized to generate maximum ROI per square inch of soy printed recycled pager) next to photos of overpriced garments sold in places like Newbury street.

While Chouinard iron works may have produced core gear at one time, today the vast majority of Patagonia clothing I see being bought by Newbury street shoppers is worn not by hard core dudes and dude'ettes but rather by people shopping for a jacket that matches the upholstery color of their range rover or using their daddy's black amex for lattes' and some snuggly fleece.

I still like Patagonia gear - but today I first look to other brands and outlets for my gear - going to Patagonia only when they have a technical feature set that i can't find elsewhere. To do anything else risks my becoming a caricature of the poser that Patagonia markets to today.


The bachelor

Must be the worst tv show in history - made all the worst by the fact that thousands of men like me have to suffer through it while their girl friends are weeping on the sofa. Good thing it didn't conflict with the gold medal Olympic hockey final.