mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Parking wars and smash labs...

Over the past couple years, I've developed a weakness for reality shows. Not the kind of shows where they put a bunch of random people on an island and have them fight over a bag of Cheetos and a Pontiac Aztek, but the kinds where they follow ordinary people around their jobs or watch them try to flip houses or conduct science experiments.

I like reading, but I don't really like nonfiction - fiction seems like a waste of time, a missed opportunity to learn something. TV is more of a guilty pleasure - I watch it when I don't feel like doing anything else, so I'm a little more willing to let my brain turn to mush.

Ironically, one of the things I like about reality shows is I can usually multitask - surf the web on a laptop while I watch or clean the living room - without missing an important plot twist.

So there are two new shows I've added to the RePlay and have been watching.

The first of these is Smash Lab on the Discovery Channel. It comes on after Mythbusters, and is aimed at the same demographic - young geeky males who like seeing stuff blow up. It's been heavily advertised in Maxim and other places.

I've seen a couple episodes, and, well.... ehhh. It's OK. But while the explosions on Mythbusters are cool, they are only a small part of the show. You need something to fill the other 58 minutes where stuff isn't blowing up, and Mythbusters does that with interesting hosts, good narration, and, well, Kari Byron, who is not only cute and funny, but can weld. Smash lab, on the other hand, has three totally unmemorable guys and a female scientist who is cute, but no Kari. And the whole point seems to be to make big explosions, with minimal scientific content. The things they've tested - aerated concrete highway dividers, carbon-fiber wrapped mobile homes - probably haven't been done because they are not cost-effective, and aren't really major scientific breakthroughs.

The other show I've been watching is Parking Wars, an A&E show that follows around the Philidelphia Parking Authority as they tow, boot, and release cars. It's actually not as bad as it sounds. Obviously, it's done with the participation of the PPA, so it tends to show them in a good light. And some of the customers are jerks, cronic scofflaws, or nuts. It's hard to feel too bad about someone who complains he can't pay the parking tickets on his dubbed-out late model Escalade because he needs to feed to his family. Then again, not all the employees are sympathetic, like the one who hides in the bushes to write tickets or points to an upside-down sign to write tickets.

I have mixed feelings on the whole parking thing. I've gotten a few tickets here in Baltimore, and it's usually been in places where you can stare at the signs for several minutes and still not be sure if you can park there or not. Cities use parking enforcement to make money, and they make it difficult to know where you can park or to fight an unfair ticket. Towing is even worse, and the people I know who have tangled with the Baltimore tow yard have horror stories (Philly's actually looks better - it looks like they stay open until 7, at least). But it's hard to feel too bad for people who have their cars booted, given that they need 3 unpaid tickets to get the boot.


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