Saturday, May 15, 2010

Soldiering On

Today was a good day. I triumphed over yet another two tech troubles.

Since COMCAST switched over to Digital, my DVRs have been handicapped. This morning I attempted to order two Digital/Analog Converters to bring my DVRs back to Front Line readiness. The COMCAST website wasn't helping...fill out a page of't help you there, Pal, call 1(800) I did and talked to a human with an American accent named Eddy, who got me all set up.

Next project. My HDMI Switcher croaked the day I set it back up at the Ancestral Digs...Just 15 days from the 1 Year Warranty's expiration!

In stark contrast to the Cable Outfit, has a firm grip on their Online Customer Service. I clicked on My Account...Support...Bingo, the Live Support Chat Window opens, and I start typing. In about 4-5 minutes, I chatted with two pleasant, accomplished typists who know Electronics Support, I made it to Level 2 Support, and was assigned an RMA Number.

Before I could click over to my em@il, there were several em@ils from Monoprice in my Inbox. The Invoice, Mailing Labels for my return package, and UPS Tracking Numbers for my new Switcher coming to me, and my dead one headed back to them!

Monoprice .com is the place to get your Audio/Video/Computer Cables, Accessories, Wall Mounts, etc. I even got a new rechargeable battery for my digicam! Save a ton (Like 70% on HDMI Cables!) Oh, and Great Customer Service!

I packed up the switch, taped on the RMA labels, and hit the road for the UPS Store. More good Customer Service as always at the local UPS Franchise Store. I like the proprietor, he's Ukrainian I think, but he's livin' the American Dream...and well on his way to full assimilation!

Ever onward, I stopped next at Casper's Hotdogs for a Casper Dog (w/ everything-hold the relish) before parking in the closest parking stall to the COMCAST Store's front door. I walked in and found a dozen or so folks in line...and one Customer Service person. I was parked in a 30min stall, so it didn't look promising. Within three minutes, three more CS Agents appeared, and the line sailed along. There was 8mins left when I pulled out of the parking garage, headed for my last errand.

I was in and out of the Sportsmart in about six minutes flat...with my new DFG Sturgeon Report Card!

Back at the Ancestral Digs, I puttered around until the Giants game came on. Great game, SF wins! I love it when the Giants play "Small Ball"! Stolen bases, perfect bunts, great pitching, hits beat out for extra bases, the Giants' bats woke up for the first time in a to watch. The Astros' three wild pitches helped give the Home Team the 8-2 victory!

I'm a sick puppy, OK?...after the game, I looked at the AFDs to check on the next "Winter Storm" due Monday. It looks like it's going to get here, and the Sacramento guys even say there's one for Thursday too! Take the grain of salt with Sac's Thursday bit...

The approaching storm clouds do have a Silver Lining...the wind is forecast to abate just in time for the rain! What's it been? Three weeks of rainy Mondays! Monday is the traditional fishing day for SturgeUrge and TruckeeDave, so it figures... The Spring Tides hold sway for the next few weeks, so it's sturgeon time...halibut can wait.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blowin' Away

For some reason Bob Dylan's "Idiot Wind" is stuck in my head. I'm sure it's because I'm sick and tired of this windy weather pattern that's dominated April and May. It's starting to cut into my fishing time, and that's more than I can countenance, to be sure.

From my perch here off the water, I've been reading all the fishing reports from San Francisco Bay and environs. Halibut are in and they're biting for the trollers. On the other hand, every report from drift fishing anglers says: skunk. That's because the wind has been southernly this week, or opposite of the daytime tidal flow. They're drifting their bait right by their prey...who are busy looking the opposite direction!

Halibut are primarily ambush hunters. They behave just like wild trout in a stream, looking upstream (or up-current in the case of the halibut) ready to grab any morsel of feed that comes their way. There are those rare magical times when the tide swings are small and the water is clear that the halibut will come out of concealment on the bottom and chase bait up through the water column. These times generate plenty of ink in your outdoor press, and often overuse superlatives in epic style. (Guilty)

Duly shorebound, SturgeUrge and I wait for the forecast to favor our endeavors. The WeatherDude on Channel 2 has been hyping the models all week...the same models that hit the last two storms a week out...twice. He's saying another storm next Monday...our usual fishing day...Grrrr

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Still Life With Image

Tuesday Doin's
Yesterday, I made a photo with the New2Me camera of my original camera's broken LCD screen..."it was kinda like a Yin/Yang thing" I wrote...the circle IS completed...everything old is new again...yada, yada,yada...

Well today, I actually did close the circle. I made some photos of the New2Me digicam with the old broken screen model, though the circle was a little out of round...lots of snapping, downloading, viewing, deleting, and repeating!

Tonight, it's seasonably warm here in the Inland Valley. A perfect evening for watching some Giants baseball in HD! San Francisco's AT&T Park is a beautiful park, but on HDTV it's all Eye Candy, All the Time!

Earlier, I accompanied my Mom to the monthly Church Luncheon. We had a lovely time, and talked with Firecracker Jackie's daughter for a long time about this blog, staking out your claim on the internet, travel, sewing and cooking. Dessert was an awesome home baked, beautifully decorated double-decker cake paired with "White Chocolate/Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream" One of the "Regulars" in the group made the cake for everyone. Good Show! Back at home, we just noshed on leftovers out of the fridge in lieu of dinner...

After lunch I hit the Post Office, and tried to make a quick shopping foray into the grocery store, but the usual Monday Rush had stayed home during yesterday's deluge, and were out in force today. As an inveterate shopper of some years standing, I've learned that not finding a parking spot even remotely close to the front door is a good indicator that the store is gonna be just too damn crowded! Score one for the Home Team!

Speaking of the Home Team...the Giants just lost to the Padres...they took all nine innings to do it, they were threatening right up 'till the last strike. 3-2 Pods You win some, you lose some...

Wednesday Afternoon
I'm just back from an afternoon of errands...I should have been hauling the new camera around! Here in the Inland Valley, the hills are still bright green with new shoots of grass, and the wild mustard is in bloom. I've never seen such tall mustard...most of the fields were over four feet tall, with several rafts of mustard over six feet tall!

Everybody's landscapeslocally are in fine shape, too. Spiky gray plants showing their luscious lavender blooms, bordered with California Golden Poppies is a very popular planting around these parts!

I was pleasantly surprised to find many heirloom tomato varieties at our local Medium Box Home Improvement Store..."Mortgage Lifter", "Yellow Brandywine", "Abe Lincoln", and more. Gonna have to look elsewhere for some "Ancho Chili" plants and "Habenero Chili" plants...gotta find "Hillbilly Tomato" plants too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making Progress

As I write this Monday evening, I'm amazed by ongoing news from the High Sierra...Interstate 80 has been closed on and off all afternoon!

Just before noon today, I went into the kitchen at the Ancestral Digs for another cuppa French Roast, and heard the rain dinking on the exhaust hood's sheetmetal vent.I pulled the drapes open and peered out at the back yard. Raindrops the size of dimes were making epic splashes in all the new puddles.

I'd had my head buried in my little tech world since 0600, and never opened the drapes. I was absorbed totally in setting up my Erzatz Home Theater, and my HDMI Switcher was giving me fits. So, I ended up getting the LCD wall mounted in time to watch the noon weather reports from Oakland's KTVU and Sacramento's KCRA...holy moley, the weatherdude on Channel 2 said it looked like a February storm! KCRA's guy said snow levels were down around 3000ft!

Amazingly, there were no Live Remotes from Blue Canyon...until the evening news that is! That's alotta snow for May 10th!

I tired of fiddling with the HDMI switch and focused instead on the replacement digicam. Everything I've tried so far is in order and working perfectly...the previous owner had settings different than mine, so a couple of clicks and everything was right up my alley. I was surprised when I opened the box to find a battery and the seller's description he cautioned that these were not!

Damn the rain, the garden is looking great, but slogging around in the rain and mud with the new camera didn't sit well with my sensibilities...there's always tomorrow!

Progress Report
Wow! I saved a draft of the blog and noticed that this is my 200th post! Ten or so months and I'm passing the second century mark! Whatta Windbag!

I made a photo with the New2Me camera of the original camera's broken LCD's kinda like a Yin/Yang deal...the circle completed...everything old is new again, pick your favorite cliche...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Changes In Latitudes

A tip of the hat to Jimmy Buffet there...

My Sunday should go like this:

Alarm 4:30AM

Formula One's Spanish Grand Prix LIVE

I'll do French Roast and Huevos Rancheros while watching the race, then watch a little "Trainwreck News" on Sacramento's channel 31. While the TV kids are prattling on, I'll finish breaking down the Home Theater so the DVR can go with me to the Ancestral Digs.

Hit the SuperSlab by noon, and enjoy the ride downhill before stopping at the Asian Market to pick up some shitake mushrooms and pea pods for Mother's Day Stir Fry.

Years of Graveyard Shifts have made me TV-Recorder Dependent. It's awesome to watch only what I want, when I want.

All this began in the early 80's when SONY's Betamax finally reached the masses price-wise. At the time, I was renting an "apartment" in a converted motel, so space was at a premium! The first Video Store were just opened in Truckee, though I'd never even considered renting a movie back then. I used the machine to time-shift my viewing, though I didn't watch much save for the 49ers games and Saturday Night Live. The trick then as now, is to avoid hearing the score of the game until you get time to watch it.

What I really want going forward is a HD-DVR that doesn't come from the cable company, and doesn't have a monthly subscription fee like TiVo does! Make that one box with a 1500GB hard drive (1.5TB) and a Blu-ray burner! I'm sure these things exist in the Non-USA market!

When I got my first DVR/DVD Recorder, there were several on the market. Almost a year later, I was shocked to find my machine the subject of an article on Cnet titled "Old DVD Recorders Selling for $1900"! Magically, my machine took a dump a week later (fortunately, with a couple of months of warranty left). The DVD drive's control board died and I got it fixed under warranty in Reno.

I believe that I'd burned in the neighborhood of 300 DVDs by average of one a day. I'm laying in a library of HistoryChannel's "Modern Marvels", PBS' "California's Gold" and various and sundry "Gee Whiz Shows"...Nature, Ken Burns' PBS Miniseries, Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", and some documentary shows for viewing in my Alaskan Camper, and in the DaveCave when Winter Storms knock out the cableTV.

While I was there dropping my machine at the shop, I stopped at Wal*Mart and picked up the last Philips DVR/DVD Recorder on their shelves. What a revelation having two DVRs is to a Gearhead Racing Fan! There's often two or three races overlapping on busy summer weekends...throw in the baseball, football, and bicycle racing and there's a serious logjam brewing!

Fast forward two years, and the original machine dumps the DVD drive card again...this time I'm not under warranty, however I found out that Panasonic does Flat Fee repairs for $ it went via UPS. This time I went to Wal*Mart .com and ordered the new Magnavox model that's really the updated, re-branded version of my now two year old Philips. They've addressed most of the clunky software issues and polished the on-screen display, and made a much better remote. These two machines work well can finalize a disc burned on one machine with the other and visa versa. These have 160GB HDDs, twice the Panasonic's storage, but they don't have the elegant interface that is so intuitive, and so fast that makes the Panasonic so handy.

Panasonic fixed my machine and updated the firmware without screwing up anything on the HDD! Here in Truckee, the cable is still analog, but the cable company hides the TV Guide Onscreen Guide signal defeating the ease of TiVo-style recording. It works great on COMCAST down at the Ancestral Digs, but since COMCAST went digital, I need a Converter Box.

I'm primarily a radio guy, though I usually have the TV going with the sound muted...24/7 Cable News runs that damn "crawl" across the bottom of the screen, that annoys me to no end until I turn the sound off.

So, I've got video pretty well covered on my end...if only the provider end were so customizable! Truth be told, I do the majority of actual watching TV on about a dozen channels: Sacramento's NBC affiliate, CBS affiliate, FOX affiliate, History Channel, SPEED, PBS, Travel Channel, Food Channel FoxNews, Versus, HBO, and Showtime. It costs a small fortune to get all these...even without the Pay-TV Premiums this runs about $50/month on satellite or cable!

When are we going to get Ala Carte Cable? In the Eighties is was "I want my MTV"...30 years hence everyone gets MTV...but there's barely any M on MTV anymore! Network viewership is in freefall...which network will be the first to stream to the net for a fee?

A modest monthly subscription fee could work for the Networks (and the Cable Stations)...once they can get Nielson to measure it. The networks already offer many of their shows online once they've aired. This would force the entrenched CableCos into actually competing for customers again...witness On Demand, Cable's response to SatTV. I don't have any knowledge of the Phone Company online TV Services like AT&T™ U-verse® or Verizon's FIOS, but I don't think they're doing ala carte.