This is Zach's personal blog. If you're looking for his movies, please click here. Otherwise, have fun!

Monday, January 31, 2005

Technology, contd.

The story ends with yours truly disovering that the new Comcast cable box which was installed actually has an HDTV decoder built right in--even though the Comcast rep told me it didn't. So I returned the external HDTV receiver, and the TiVo for good measure, and got my money back on both. So it's like this weekend never happened--except for the huge loss of time waiting on all these products I no longer have. Which, somehow, makes me feel even stupider.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Congratulations to (I think) our ten thousandth visitor. And I can't believe she keeps checking up on Rooster Spice.

Technology does not make us happier.

I have fully proved my own idiocy over a course of a few weeks. And it's all because of Costco.

K and I agreed this Christmas that we wouldn't buy any big-ticket technological items--TVs, digital cameras, and so on--because they'd most likely go into markdown free-fall after the holidays. So that was that, and our Christmas was pleasant and non-stressful.

We did, however, wind up with a plethora of DVDs. Ever since my Lasik surgery, I've found it difficult to watch movies on our 23-inch TV--the price of 20/20 vision is a halo around bright objects at night, and the TV is no exception. Plus, being the theatrical purist that I am, we never watch movies in pan & scan, only widescreen, and on a standard 4x3 television, if you watch DVDs in widescreen, you lose about 1/4 of the picture resolution. So, I've had my eyes on a proper widescreen HDTV for a while now.

In addition, our DVD/CD player has had trouble with newer CDs for a while now--it needs to "warm up" to play them. So if I wanted to listen to R.E.M.'s latest album, I have to listen to the Beatles first, and this stinks, because it always makes R.E.M. sound worse. Not only that, but our stereo receiver, though excellent, heats up enough to fry eggs. It's inside a cabinet, and this has always made me worried about fire hazards. (Someone will have to explain to me why the whisper fan in the receiver only starts up when the decibel level is approximately that of a jet plane.) And we don't have enough speakers for true Dolby Digital... you can see where this is going, right?

Enter Costco, and a Panasonic 6-channel Dolby receiver/DVD player combo for $250. I saw it, and my mouth fell open. It even came with speakers. (I'm an old-fashioned guy, and that's a big deal to me, even though my inner audiophile was screaming, "Don't trust all-in-one systems!")

Well, naturally, if we were going to have that, we had to get a new television, and ta-da, Costco had a Philips HDTV monitor for $600. Not a plasma or LCD screen, just a big ol' tube, but we have furniture for a tube, so why not? Never mind the snowstorm, get out the debit card!

(In truth, I did ask K before I dropped the dime. She said it was OK as long as I didn't get her any birthday presents, which made sense when you consider that she had been nagging me for a new TV and TiVo for a long time anyway.)

So, home I came with toys in tow (and a bad back from all that towing), put all the systems together, and settled down with the wife to watch Return of the King in its full glory. It was worth it.

Ah, but the horror story doesn't end there. It hasn't been all that horrific yet, after all.

We had spent nearly our entire marriage without cable television. It made sense, since we never watched much television anyway (though plenty of movies, as mentioned). We finally got it six months ago, but only to get the cable internet, because we wanted to discontinue our land-line phone service and switch to Voice over IP (let me know if you want it and I'll refer you!). It had always been my intention to get the extreme basic cable only, which gives us a discount on the cable internet. But there was a special offer on full digital cable, so we went for that, expecting to downgrade when the special offer expired.

Downgrade? But we have this new TV now...! And there was K, asking again and again every day about HDTV and TiVo...!

The nail in the coffin was yesterday, when the HDTV flyer from Comcast arrived ("Get HDTV for the Big Game!") and a material effector of insanity enveloped our house. Never mind that our TV didn't have a built in HDTV tuner and we'd have to buy a set-top box. Never mind that once we bought a box, we could get HDTV over-the-air for free. Comcast was offering HDTV for only $2.50 more per month! Ka-ching! One phone call and we had HDTV--but no way to decode it. Off I went to Circuit City, to buy a Motorola HDTV decoder for $250--about what they were selling for on eBay once you figured in shipping and handling. While I was there I picked up a TiVo box because, well, what the hell?

Oh, did I mention that Circuit City had just done inventory, and they couldn't actually, um, find the HDTV tuner in the back because things were so messed up? So, I had spent $250 for an illusion. They said I could pick it up the following day (today). Well, I still had the TiVo to make K happy. I left the store feeling like a Cro-Magnon who had just killed dinner, and was dragging it home triumphantly. My spirits were somewhat dampened when I realized that, though I can play Dolby Digital DVDs, I wouldn't be able to listen to HDTV in Dolby Digital, because my new all-in-one Panasonic doesn't, um, have digital audio inputs. Why would it need it, if it's all-in-one, dude?

Oh, well. On to TiVo and the glory of digital video without commercials! Now, TiVo requires a connection to a phone line for its intial set-up, after which you can hook it up to your wireless network and do all the magic, and of course you have to pay a monthly fee. Fair enough. I followed the instructions to the letter. Hooked it up. Turned it on. Waited.

Turns out you can't hook TiVo up through a Voice over IP phone line--the resolution isn't good enough for a modem. So I couldn't do the initial set-up, and I have to find some friend, anywhere, who is willing to have me tie up their phone line for several hours to do the intial set-up and download the software update. Oh, and did I mention that TiVo doesn't work with the most advanced wireless protocol, 802.11g? Which is what our home network has. So I essentially can't use TiVo at all, now that I've opened the box.

So, to review, I've got cable that I don't watch, HDTV that I can't watch, a TiVo that I can't use, and a Dolby Digital stereo system that doesn't play Dolby Digital for everything. And somehow, I know, this will not cure my penchant for impulse buying.

Just wait 'til I try to get a digital single-lens-reflex camera...

Friday, January 28, 2005

I'm knocking on heaven's dooOH HOLY CRAP!

That is all.

Edit: that's not quite all. HOLY HOLY CRAP!!!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Anonymity also sucks.

I'm sick of having 3, count 'em 3, readers. Is it time to publicize Rooster Spice again? Thoughts welcome.

Edit: Make that 4. Hi, Mom.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Aaaand... we're BACK!

Parenthood sucks.

There's just no way around it--parenthood sucks.

I mean, what the hell are you supposed to do with a kicking, screaming little girl? Drop her off at nursery school? Hit her? Scream at her?

I don't have the tools. The skill set. Whatever you want to call it.

I am a hopeless failure as a parent. The simplest of tasks--take daughter to nursery school, drop her off. I wind up yelling, screaming, bruised and battered. At least, I suppose, I was the one who wound up bruised, and not her. That's the one saving grace. And after she kicked me in the teeth with her huge winter boots, I almost hit her.

But really, if the screaming and yelling isn't in itself abuse, what is? Therefore, I am an abusive parent. Therefore, I am not fit to be a parent. Therefore, I am not fit to live.

I took her home. She stopped kicking and screaming. I informed her that if she wasn't going to nursery school, she would stay in bed all morning. And so, she is lying in bed in a darkened room, and isn't that a form of abuse as well? What's the difference between putting a child in bed and locking her in a closet?