Debbie Does Disaster

Debbie Deborah Gibson’s “Out of the Blue” royalties must be drying up.  No worries as I’m sure her new film will make a billion dollars.

Admit it: you want to see a shark eat an airplane.


A fond farewell to Netflix

200px-netflix_logosvgI finally canceled Netflix.  The reason is simple: even with the one-out-at-a-time plan we just weren’t watching the movies.  Our consumption rate has slowed to near zero, and lately we’ve been more likely to be pulled in to pay $1 at a Redbox outside our grocery store than open the red envelope sitting on the counter.  We have used the Roku box attached to our TV to watch some on-demand stuff via Netflix, but that box doesn’t go away and other services are starting to support it.

What surprised me was how difficult it was to cancel–and I mean personally (the process was straightforward).  I’ve been procrastinating for months.  Maybe it’s because I tried Netflix when it first started and have been an advocate ever since (to the point of owning their stock for a while), as I do think their service is great.  It could also be something of a hard reality to accept that I really don’t watch movies any more, and don’t much like to.  For a long time I considered myself a movie buff and watched lots of movies and knew lots of movie trivia.  I enjoyed it too, and had ambitions of building up a nice HD home theater with all the A/V gadgetry one might want.  Well, my Netflix and theater-going history over the past year is telling me loud and clear that those days are Gone.  We’re watching little TV and few movies.  My purely discretionary time is going to different things, and I don’t see that changing soon.

Netflix has done a good job staying on top of new technology trends and their company is still growing.  I think they will continue to do well.  In the event that I catch the movie bug once again, Netflix.com will be my first stop.


DTV Update

When I wrote about the Digital TV converters I bought, I figured I was buying them as a backup if we chose to abandoned cable.  After proving that the converter worked with our spare TV, I was ready to mothball it.  But before doing so, I was curious to see how the picture looked in simple A/B test with the cable TV running into our house.  I hooked one of the converters up to our main TV, got a makeshift antenna to pick up most of the local channels, and then switched back and forth between the over-the-air broadcast and the cable TV versions of the channel.

Result:  the DTV converter offers some real benefits.  Most importantly, the picture quality of the DTV signal is much better than the cable version, at least on our old Phillips TV.  The colors are better and the subtle snow/interference in the CATV signal is all but gone in DTV.  The other advantage is the variable picture sizing, which includes letter box as an option.  Many programs now assume a 16:9 format and are quite annoying to watch at 4:3 with the sides lopped off.  The DTV converter I have offers about 5 different views and works really well.  One important note is the the CM7000 is one of the few converters that offers SVHS out, which is a superior connection compared to composite.

End Result: my experiment led to the purchase of a cheap ($20) video switcher, and I now have the DTV box as part of the entertainment center.  Cable is the default connection, but when we’re watching shows on broadcast channels, we can easily switch over to DTV and get much better viewing experience.


The Peoria Tea Party

Supposedly there were at least 500 or 5000 demonstrators–the local news outlets haven’t decided.  5000 seems high.  I wasn’t there, but I do agree with some of the core concerns, including the one below.  And while I think there is a huge amount of waste in much of the public sector, and that spending should be cut, I’m not necessarily on the low taxes bandwagon.  Thank “I.O.U.S.A.” for that sentiment, but I’ll save that for another day.

honk(Credit:  Blogging While Republican)


Eggs just right

A fun link for your lazy Sunday:

Finally… a scientific approach to achieving the perfect boiled egg.  A group at the University of Oslo put together a nice Flash app that takes in egg circumference, desired egg doneness, refrigerator temperature, height above sea-level to calculate how long you need to boil it.  It even has a cute egg timer.  The best part is it actually works!

Links: Perfect Egg AppLifehacker post with translation


Schock & Colbert

So our local political prodigy has just done a Colbert interview.  It’s OK, nothing particular funny or outrageous.  In fact anyone outside of Peoria probably couldn’t care less about it right now, but I think you’ll continue see more and more of Schock on TV.  Even Colbert made mention of him being “the new face of the Republican party”, and I bet the Reps will keep him on the fast track, unless he screws up bad.  So for what it’s worth:

dtvAfter my rant about the slow take up of digital TV, I feel obliged to tell you that I just took delivery of two DTV boxes.  We don’t need them immediately as we have basic cable running to both of our TVs (which are both old and would need the DTV boxes).  In fact, until about 2 months ago I had no intention of getting any coupons or boxes.

It was only until I thought about just how little TV we watch did the DTV idea get into my head.  If really cheap cable goes away which it probably will, I have zero appetite to pay a lot for full cable or satellite.  We have no plans to upgrade TVs.  Broadcast will serve us just fine if need be.  So I went to the DTV.gov site, applied for and received my coupons, and then bought two converters on Amazon.

Today the wonderfully retro, Bulgarian made “Channel Master” showed up.  It complements the rabbit ears well.  I set up our spare TV to try out the box and I must say, I’m impressed.  The setup was a cinch, the picture is good, and some of the extra local channels are a nice addition (like a constant local news/weather loop).

So my recommendation is that if you have an older TV running on cable, it’s probably worth getting a coupon while they’re available and picking up a box just in case.


Heed NOAA weather warnings


A few minutes ago I heard the blaring of the weather radio and was alerted to the first tornado watch of the season.  It was a good reminder that severe weather is upon us, and I encourage you to get a good weather radio, or upgrade to one of the modern versions if need be.

6a377220eca020bb78e08010lNew weather radios are pretty sophisticated.  I have ours set to turn on for just certain alerts, and only when they’re affecting our county.  The alarm is really loud when it goes off, and a text displays accompanies the announcer.  It has a normal radio and alarm clock too, so it completely replaced the bedside clock.  Throughout the year we turn it on every morning just to get the weather forecast, so it’s useful beyond severe weather.  Last year I picked up the Midland model shown here for $50 on Amazon.

Late last summer I realized a big advantage of the radio over other warning methods: time.  It was night, around 10pm, and I was up watching TV.  I heard the alarm go off and scurried to the bedroom to check it.  “Tornado Watch”.  Since Angela was already in bed, I brought the radio downstairs with me and continued watching TV.  About 30 minutes later, the alarm turned on again, this time with a “Tornado Warning” message.  I went upstairs and convinced Angela she really should get up, and we should go in the basement.  We did, and sat there for a few minutes.  After about 5 minutes, the local tornado sirens started blaring outside.

Ultimately the tornado did not touch down, but what if it had and we didn’t have the radio?  Would we have heard the outdoor sirens, and would that 5 minute delay have been too much?  I’m convinced that these radios are essential in every house, and I encourage you to considered getting one as we head into spring.


Twitter found childhood friend

It’s been sometime since I wrote on the main blog, so I suppose I do owe the readers a story/update.  A week ago, I had trouble sleeping and decided to get on the internet to surf the web.   I’m definitely not the techno savvy sort of person who knows all about the latest web gadgets.   As I browse the internet and checking out twitter, I thought I’d try some names of old friends which I have lost contact with.  To my very surprise I found a friend from childhood,  and I mean a friend from 20 years ago.  Yeah… yeah.. i know.. sounds old :-) .   We used to play a lot together and visited each other after school.   After 1989, she moved to a different state.   We tried to keep in touch but after a year or so we lost contact.  Oh… it brought back a lot of good memories of us just running around ragged,  chewing on sugar cane like candy and playing fire crackers during Chinese New Year.   I sure do miss those good ol days.


Reading with RSS

Erin left a comment that others may have:  how do you “subscribe” to this or other blogs?  One of the most common ways is with a newsreader, such as Google Reader.  Here is a screen snap showing my Google Reader page (click to zoom):


All of the blogs that I’m interested in are in one place, and I can easily see which ones have new posts.

There are a lot of web-based and standalone news readers.  I’ve been using Google Reader for a few years and it has worked just fine.  Check out Google Reader for Beginners for a good introduction and getting-started video.  You don’t have to use Google Reader though–any newsreader will work with any blog.

As mentioned yesterday, the Garden page is a separate blog and feed, so you’ll have two addresses in your reader:

http://pd.kalafut.net                 (this blog)
http://pdg.kalafut.net               (garden blog)

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