The next/new TV (or, still seeking the “true” HDTV experience)

As loyal readers will recall, our TV up and died on Friday night. Oh, and just for a point of correction/clarification to that previous post: Annette actually doesn’t need my help to make web sites, and the problem she had was more complicated than I was trying to suggest. I was just trying to be funny, not an ass.

But it is true she doesn’t care that much about the TV. She certainly doesn’t care as much as Will and I.

Anyway, here’s a recap of our TV odyssey (which I had meant to post several days ago, but things got busy around here):

The first thing I did last Saturday morning (well, after I messed with the dead TV to make sure it was truly dead) was lift it off of the living room floor and haul it out to the curb. And here the first seed of my future TV purchase was planted: that sucker was darn heavy, and I’m too old and too out of shape to be hauling around a 70 pound + awkward appliances, especially when they end up dropping dead on me. We needed a lighter TV.

Shortly after that back-breaking experience, Will and I went to his soccer game. (And btw, it was a good game because Will’s team tied and didn’t lose.) I was talking to one of the parents who is an electrician at an auto plant around here and describing the dead TV situation to him. He ran me through a series of questions which I found mostly comforting because they were obvious things I had done (I checked a different plug, I tried turning it off and on from the TV itself and not the remote, I tried it after letting it sit for several hours, etc.). But it was also somewhat discomforting because asked me about things that I couldn’t have possibly checked (“Did you voltage meter to check if you were getting power at the switch?” What the hell is a voltage meter? I thought).

In the end, this guy was telling me stuff that made me think that I probably could have had this TV fixed, but a) I would have had to pay someone because I wasn’t about to open the set up myself, b) that would have cost me more than the set was worth, and c) it was still reviewed as a piece o’ junk.

Anyway, whether or not I should have just gotten the set fixed was kind of a moot point because when Will and I got back from soccer, the TV I had put on the curb was gone.

So it was time for a trip to Costco, which I have found to always be the best deal on electronics and “big ticket” items. It’s been several (well, three or four) years since I’ve done any TV shopping, and I discovered something: right now, there are only two kinds of TVs on the market in the size we were after: kinda cheap (like around $300 or so) and kinda expensive (like $700 ++). This is because everything is moving to HDTV. I wasn’t looking to buy an HDTV; on the other hand, having had recent bad experience with the kinda cheap variety of TV, I wasn’t looking to repeat that experience either.

After confering with Annette over the phone, we decided to get into the HDTV world on the low-end of things. I thought our shopping technique for this was kind of clever. She was off doing school work at Bombadill’s (local coffee shop) and did Google searches for me on particular brands for about a half hour. I gave her names and model numbers and she looked up reviews. This process eliminated some crappy TVs and then pushed us toward what we bought, a Sharp 26 inch LCD HDTV. We found great reviews online, and as far as we could tell, Costco beat the pants off of everyone on the price.

Anyway, took it home, easily lifted it out of the box (I don’t think it weighs even 30 pounds), hooked it up, prepared to be “blown away” by the HDTV experience.

Well, not quite. In fact, without the right box from the cable company, the quality of the TV was kind of strange. We were watching something Sunday night that featured some close-ups of people talking, and it was like their faces were cut up into different pieces.

But these problems were soon solved with a trip to our local Comcast store for the HDTV box– and while we were at it, we decided to get the DVR feature that allows you to record programs and such. It took me the better part of a morning to figure out how to hook the damn thing up– reading the instructions, calling Comcast, making a trip to Circuit City for one kind of cable I didn’t need, making a trip to Radio Shack for both advice and another cable I didn’t need or buy. And I did get it to all work.

So, how is the “HDTV experience?” Is it worth it? Well, yes and no.

First off, it’s a nice TV, and I really like the fact that I can pick it up and move it around without freakin’ killing myself. “Normal” TV looks good on it. When it comes to HDTV, I would say that the picture quality is quite obviously better, though I don’t know if the difference is worth the money. Besides that, most of the stuff that we tend to watch around here– Comedy Central, The Food Network, E!, Cartoon Network, etc.– isn’t broadcast in HDTV. In fact, the offering of things that are broadcast in HDTV are kind of on the slim-side of things.

The other thing is it seems to me that HDTV as a concept is a potentially never-ending money pit. It reminds me of stereo components from my youth. When I was in both Circuit City and Radio Shack, the dudes (and it’s always dudes, isn’t it?) were trying to sell me the more expensive cables or the more fancy connectors or whatever. The line was always something like “to get the true sense of the quality of HDTV, you will need to buy one of these.” Given that I’m already hundreds of dollars into this set-up already, thanks but no thanks.

Anyway, overall I have to give it a thumbs up. It’s not as cool as the HDTV projector set-up my friend and colleague Jim K. has in his basement (26 inch TV? Try 10 FOOT TV!), but it works well for us. In fact, I think I might watch something on it right now….

Stupid Dead TV…


We were hanging around tonight, nothing out of the ordinary. Annette and I and Will had previously enjoyed the movie Fun with Dick and Jane(which Annette and I thought was better than we had anticipated, though I think Will thought it was boring). After that, I was kind of channel-surfing around, looking for something to watch, when the television just stopped working. I mean just freakin’ died, like in the middle of the space from one channel to the next.

I’m standing there going “What the fuck is going on here?”

Annette was staring at her laptop and trying to get a picture to show up on her web page and thus is engrossed in Dreamweaver and such. “Why won’t this work?”

I go over and fix her problem with a few keystrokes and then point to the broken television, as if to make it clear to her that this is the real problem in the room. I am quite sure she was not convinced.

Anyway, I thought it was the weirdest thing. Previously, the problems I’ve had with televisions presented themselves gradually. You know, the color starts to get strange, the picture isn’t shaped quite right, it loses its vertical/horizontal hold, etc.. etc., etc. But this thing just stopped working, somewhere between one of the HBO channels and the Comcast “On Demand” selections. Poof. No more TV. Just like that.

Well, one thing that is comforting is that this, this, and this review(s) suggest, it would appear that the TV we bought is/was a piece of poo. Of course, it might be an issue that TVs aren’t built the way that they used to be built.

Anyway, it looks like Will and I are going to do some TV shopping tomorrow. I suppose what I should do is read some reviews and such (which I have done a bit, and, generally speaking, it would appear that Sony and Samsung are the way to go) and buy the best TV for the money. But what I am also tempted and indeed likely to do is simply buy the cheapest TV we can get that meets our needs. As I type this, I am half-watching a 12 or so inch TV that we bought about three or four years ago for less than $50 (I distinctly recall we bought it and a DVD player for less than $80) that has nothing wrong with it. Someday, I’d like to buy a big screen and/or projection TV set-up, but that wouldn’t make any sense in the house where we live right now. So the combonation of these two things make me think to just get non-name brand cheapo TV and be done with it.

But it ain’t gonna be a Phillips, I’ll tell you that….

Fun in Gitmo

So, what do the “illegal combatants” (being illegally held, IMO) in Guantanamo Bay do for fun? Well, according to this article News article:

The Harry Potter stories are the most popular books in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre’s library, the Pentagon has revealed.

JK Rowling’s tales of the young wizard were the most requested by terror suspects held at the high-security camp from among 3,500 titles available.

The Defence Department also said detainees enjoyed watching World Cup football games and playing table tennis.

Wow, sounds like paradise, huh?

Teaching little girls to pick up poo

Barbie, Tanner, PooThings have been kind of slow here lately, mainly because I’ve been completely obsessing about the faculty strike going on at EMU. Stop over at my official blog space to see what it’s all about; the short version is there’s quite the shitstorm going down on campus right now. I’m really hopeful that this will be resolved before Monday or so, but I’m not counting on it right now.

Anyway, I had to post about this because I saw a commercial advertising this thing on one of Will’s cartoon shows this morning, and, as much as I am obsessing about the strike, I cannot get this weird-ass toy out of my head. And I kid you not, this is apparently real.

Meet Barbie with Tanner the dog
. Pretty harmless looking so far, right? “But wait,” perhaps you are thinking, “What are those brown spots kind of to the right of Barbie’s shoes? And what the hell is she holding, anyway? Ew, is that what I think?”

It is, it is.

From the doll’s description:

Barbie doll has a dog named Tanner who is just like a real dog! Tanner is soft and fuzzy and her mouth, ears, head and tail really move! You can open Tanner dog’s mouth and feed her the dog biscuits. Comes with a dog bone and chew toys that Tanner can hold in her mouth, too. When Tanner has to go to the bathroom, Barbie doll cleans up with her special magnetic scooper and trash can.

I almost kind of want one of these things.

Rest in peace, crazy Crocodile guy

You’ve probably heard that Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin died. Ironically, his death was kind of a freak accident in that it is really REALLY rare for someone to be killed with a stingray barb. As everyone surly must know, this guy who for years did all this stuff like taunt snakes and alligators and stuff, and my reaction was always “idiot– you’re going to get yourself killed.” And then he gets killed something that was, relatively, pretty safe. Sort of like a cliff diver buying the farm after a jump off the low board at the local pool.

Oh well, RIP, Steve. You gave us some good TV and taught us some stuff about animals. And taught me not to grab rattlesnakes without knowing what I’m doing (good tip).

“This is Jim Rockford– I’ll get back to you…”

Via Johndan’s blog comes this link to transcripts of the messages left on Jim Rockford’s answering machine. Ah, memories. The Rockford Files is one of those shows that, like Johndan I think, I used to watch all the time when I was a kid. I loved that show; Johndan said he learned everything he knows about firearms and driving from the show. Me, I learned everything about living in a trailer and the beach in LA from the show.

Makes me want to do some searches for The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.

Greetings from Italia!

Not surprisingly, I guess, finding Internet access in Florence has turned out to be easy. Really REALLY easy. I don’t think there is going to be a way to upload any pictures on this trip (I just don’t imagine this somewhat ancient PC will talk to my iPod, which is where I download my pictures from my camera), and besides, I don’t have that much time. However, since 15 minutes or an hour’s worth of time costs a euro, I figure I might as well give my millions of fans 15 minutes worth of what’s new over here:

  • On the whole, Air France rocks. While Annette had some seating problems with her leg (it’s too complicated to go into right now, but let’s just say that she probably would have been better off seating-wise without making a special request), they did have a food service that included free wine, the service in general was great, and each seat had individual screens for viewing a variety of different things. I watched the Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief (I think they had it because it’s set in France) and Will watched an animated movie– something “hedge.” Annette read.
  • Running through the airport in Paris to catch our connecting flight, on the other hand, did not rock.
  • Our hotel totally rocks– not exactly a “room with a view,” but it’s plenty big, it’s clean, it has a nice kitchenette, and the people who run it are very nice.
  • Spent Sunday just trying to stay awake as long as we could and get adjusted; most of Monday wondering about, mostly by the Ponto Vecchio and this very cool park kind of in the hills looking down on Florence (great views); and today at the Uffizi (the big art museum) and Santa Croce (one of the big churches), both of which were beautiful. Tomorrow is “Dave.”
  • So far, we have one really good dinner, one so-so dinner, one pretty okay/good lunch (pizza), and one really good lunch.
  • Annette’s leg is bothering her, so we are spending tonight in. Will and I went to find a grocery store (with directions from the guy who runs our hotel) and got lost several times. It was nerve-racking and fun at the same time.

I think that’s about it for now– I’ll post more updates if I get a chance, but believe me, there will be pictures in the future. I think I’ve taken about 100 so far….