Monday, April 09, 2018

Thinking warm thoughts

Greeting all!  As I noted above, spring is here and even though we have more daylight the temps are still playing their game of tease-and-run-away.  Case in point:  Last Thursday was the mildest day of 2018 so far with the thermometer showing high 60’s.  I chose to get out the grill and cook up some pork steaks (superb!!) to celebrate.  

Then came Friday, with gray skies, harsh winds and temps dropping.  Friday night into Saturday morning featured some record low early April readings for parts of Kansas.  While my community might not have set a record it still was friggin’ cold!  

Fortunately we are in April and the forecast for coming days indicates the mercury surpassing the 80 degree mark.  Too bad it will be accompanied by high winds but hey, no wind chill!!

Mental note to self:  Re-read this entry, Geoguy, when it’s downright balmy and you’re aching for a breath of cool air.  


Love these change of seasons.  And where’s my allergy medication?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Springing Into Spring

Spring is finally here.  And spring fever is hitting big time.  

I’m sure it started a few Mondays ago.  I was driving to work and witnessed a beautiful sunrise over the Flint Hills.  The temperatures are warming and we’re actually getting some blue skies.  

It rained a few days ago which did a great job of washing the salt and sand (left over from Old Man Winter) off the streets and highways.  Plus I began noticing some green blades of grass on the lawn, mixed amongst the yellow-tan leftovers from last year.  At first I thought it was wishful thinking but when said grass was encroaching onto the walkways I had neatly trimmed back in late October I knew the change of seasons was in process.  

As if all the aforementioned wasn’t sufficient proof, we also had our first housefly of the year.  

I’ve even taken my neighborhood constitutional in t-short and shorts, something I couldn’t have done just a fortnight ago.  

Yes, I’m well aware that even though spring is here in the literal sense (as the vernal equinox occurred) we are still in for some chilly days.  However no one can argue that more light and additional warmth can elevate one’s mood and instill hope that the days of outdoor grilling, sunscreen, bug repellent and air conditioning are almost upon us.  

____________________________

Earlier this month I made another trek to Norton to attend to the house.  There wasn’t any significant occasion or occurrence, rather I just wanted to check it over myself.  And add salt to the water softener system.  And hit some floors and stairs with the Shop-Vac.  And have friendly visits with a former coworker and my across-the-street neighbor.  

I took the familiar and most direct route.  Highway 24 through Clay Center, Beloit, Cawker City and Downs before making a right turn onto U.S. 281, passing through the large urban areas of Portis and Harlan before turning west on Highway 9.  Pass by Gaylord, Cedar and Kirwin and keep a hopeful and watchful eye out for Glade.  Turn right onto U.S. 183 and in five miles you’re in Phillipsburg.  At U.S. 36 you head west for another 30 minutes or so and see landmarks that at one time gave you the positive “we’re almost home, finally” emotional rush but now seem oddly familiar yet now somewhat foreign.  

The preceding paragraph makes it sound likety-split and even looking at a map it doesn’t appear to be a long distance.  However the drive takes at least three and a half hours, not counting stops for coffee, snacks or urine release.  Unlike other journeys I did this one on my own.  To be sure the experience wasn’t as negative as it sounds.  My family knows I cherish my alone time and I do enjoy driving.  In addition I had a new (to me) set of wheels.  

In January we decided to trade in the Ram 2500 (we called it “Wondertruck”) and took ownership of a 2008 Suburban with plenty of bells and whistles.  Despite its age this appears to be a well cared-for vehicle and the Carfax report looked good.  So for my drive I had the luxury of not only a truck that loves to own the road but also came with a Bose sound system, leather seats (heated!!), moon roof, backup camera, DVD player and a way-smooth ride.  After I stopped at Dunkin Donuts in Manhattan and got myself coffee and a couple of fried breakfast treats I was rarin’ to go.  I could spend another blog entry on just why a Suburban is so appealing but this piece explains it well.  Even though it was written over 30 years ago the author’s reasons are much the same as mine except I never was raised in a small-car family.  Did I mention I learned to drive in a 1976 Suburban?  

Back to the main storyline.  I took care of the house items in no time flat.  Everything looked good and my conversations with both my colleague and my neighbor were delightful and insightful.  After a lunch at Sonic I went the reverse of my morning trek and was back at the new (to us) house well before sundown.  


Here’s hoping my next road trip involves more fun/leisure and less work.  

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cutting the cord--all the juicy details!!

Readers of this blog from a long time back (i.e. around 2009-10) know I’ve long been interested  in the old-fashioned method of rooftop antenna to pull in television signals.  I did document my attempts at the residence in Norton, with virtually no success.  Even with a Winegard HD 8200U (a ginormous aerial if there ever was one), a preamp and a rotor all I was able to see was KSNK, the NBC affiliate broadcasting to northwest Kansas.  Even that station was hardly worth the effort given it only transmits NBC programming with no sub-channels and with a paltry low-def 480i picture.  

(A visit to rabbitears.info further illustrates how KSNK must really be the red-headed illegitimate child in the KSN family of stations.  While flagship KSNW/Wichita airs NBC on 3.1 in 1080i it also offers Telemundo, Ion and Justice on its .2, .3 and .4 sub-channels, respectively.  The other full-power affiliates fare a bit better than KSNK:  KSNC/Great Bend has all four channels, however even the NBC signal is only broadcast in 480i and KSNG/Garden City only provides NBC and Telemundo, although its NBC signal on 11.1 is in high-def 1080i.  Given it’s been nearly 9 years since the digital transition one doubts the ownership will upgrade the picture or product on KSNK.)

So at that time I admitted defeat and disassembled/packed up the HD 8200U.  It sat in the garage in an out-of-the-way location on a shelf with my philosophy that one day I would live elsewhere and get a chance to use it for free TV.  

With our move to Manhattan that day finally arrived.  

Before starting any manual labor I did check TV Fool although I was confident I would pick up at least some of Topeka’s stations.  Not only that, I did connect my Macbook’s DTV stick to the camper’s antenna when I completed the task of transporting my rig across the state to its new parking/storage space east of the Little Apple.  That day I got all of Topeka’s full-power stations with no dropouts or other interference.  

Even though my TV Fool report indicated I might have challenges with KSNT, KTKA and KTWU I still wanted to make use of the antenna.  After all, “my mileage may vary.”  TV Fool’s metrics try to be as accurate as possible but a check of over-the-air TV forums shows one never truly knows about reception until the equipment is installed and connected.  

Since I am renting the house in which we live I needed to use some caution.  Obviously drilling holes into the roof shingles to accommodate a new antenna mount was out of the question as was running coaxial cable from the outdoors directly into the living room.  However the previous tenant had Dish Network so I ended up removing the dish and using the existing mount pipe to hold the mast for the 8200U.  I also tried using the Dish coaxial cable to connect the antenna to the interior inputs however this yielded no signal even though I tried several variations of connections.  

So, I needed to run my own coaxial from the antenna to the splitter just outside the living room.  While I didn’t have that length on hand I did have a DIY kit containing 100 feet of the highest-quality coax, plus the connectors and the tools for stripping/crimping.  (I bought it not long after we moved to Norton, when my outdoor antenna project was still in the active phase.)  But, as I have no experience whatsoever with crimping an F connector onto RG6 cable.  

I decided to go ahead and give it a shot anyway.  Given all of this was already paid for, what did I have to lose?  I looked through the instructions then checked YouTube for a few other pointers.  Then it was a matter of sitting down at the kitchen table and trying it for myself.  

Results?  Pretty good, actually.  Not as complex or intricate as I thought.  With the appropriate amount of cable cut and the F-connectors on each end, time to get it all together!  

Up and down the ladder.  Antenna fully assembled (I swear I could hear it saying, “nice to see you again, Geoguy”).  Even though the HD 8200U is large in size it is made from aluminum so it is much lighter than you’d think, didn’t even need much help with the transport to the roof.  Use the compass and point in in the best direction to get all of Topeka’s broadcast towers in the azimuth.  Connect the coaxial cable onto the antenna lead, then string it out carefully and use the splitter left outside from the Dish Network setup.  Next, cut another length of coax for the inside lead, again strip and crimp the endings.  Use existing cable input (again, a holdover from the Dish installer) and connect the external antenna to my Vizio flat-screen.  

Now, the moment of truth!  Time to do the channel scan and see just what I will get.  

I set the Vizio to do the automatic channel scan, then leave the room and proceed to clean up the detritus from my project.  

Roughly five to seven minutes later I return, ready to see the results of my efforts.  

And I was in for one of the biggest surprises of my hobby-leisure life.  

But first:  I expected I would receive all of the Topeka full-power stations.  Why?  Since my Macbook DTV stick already had scanned and stored channels 11, 13, 27 and 49 I took it up the ladder and made a fast connection once I had the antenna where I wanted it on the roof.  All those channels came through.  

Yet in checking my living-room Vizio I saw the message: “36 channels found.” 

36?  

Let’s see.  Topeka’s full-powered ones would give me 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, 13.1 (twice), 13.2 (twice—this is due to WIBW having a full-power signal on RF 13 and a fill-in on RF 44, I got both and both show up with the same PSIP channels), 27.1, 27.2, 27.3, 49.1, 49.2, 49.3, 49.4.  Doing the math, that accounts for 14.  

I took the remote, clicked “OK,” now here’s the surprises:

The first channel to show up was 4.1, WDAF.  Kansas City.  A picture with no interference or pixellation associated with a weak or questionable signal.

My jaw dropped in near-shock.  

I continued to press “channel up.”  4.2, 4.3, then 5.1 which is KCTV, Kansas City.  

Holy moley!  

In addition to the Topeka stations, the good ol’ Winegard brought in Kansas City’s WDAF, KCTV, KMBC, KCPT, KCWE and KPXE.  Nearly all of KC’s full-power stations.  

I also got KAAS from Salina which is a full-power station, a satellite of Wichita’s KSAS, showing Fox on 17.1, TBD on 17.2 and Comet on 17.3.

I even called Geogal into the living room to show off my workmanship.  While usually indifferent to my broadcast pursuits that day even she was impressed with our over-the-air selections.  

To be sure, I suspected the Kansas City stations would not be constant given the distance and topography.  And I was right.  About two hours later the KC stations faded away.  As the day was a very warm August one it appears I did the channel scan during a particularly good tropo.  However after sundown the KC stations again again were visible and until the seasons transitioned from the warm into the cold we often could see the Kansas City channels during the night.  I’m writing this near the end of February and am looking forward to the return of warm weather as it should also increase our viewing possibilities.  

And all of that without even attaching or using the Channel Master 7777 preamp.  Hmm, maybe that’s a project when we are back into late spring.  

Regarding the Topeka stations, I’m happy to say our viewing is very satisfactory.  It’s been about six months since setting up the antenna and not once (knock wood) have we lost the signals or had any dropout or interference.  (I do think the Vizio has an excellent tuner.)  Even though Topeka isn’t a large DMA and has relatively few TV stations we still get everything we need via the .1, .2, .3 and .4 sub-channels:  ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS, CW, Me-TV, Ion, GetTV, Justice, Bounce, Mhz Worldview (granted, I don’t actually watch all these networks but still nice to have the options).  

I’m also very happy with the quality of the HD picture.  It is true, over-the-air gives you the best HDTV as the signal isn’t compressed as you would get with cable TV or Direct TV/Dish Network.

I remember just a few weeks after installing the antenna we visited the Kansas State Fair.  Naturally they have the different areas where vendors are set up in their booths.  As we were walking by the Dish Network stand, the salesperson asked me, “who’s your TV provider?”  

“Antenna!”, I responded with conviction.  Not breaking my stride I added, with less volume, “and it doesn’t cost me a cent.”  


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Let's Get Caught Up

So much about which to write, where do I start? 

Why don't I begin with an explanation, if not a full-fledged mea culpa about me being so dilatory about writing and posting here.  First, as family is aware, we did make a significant life change in 2017 (relocating to Manhattan Kansas from Norton Kansas) and the subsequent and inevitable adjusting and settling involves time and energy.  These can take away from my creative mojo.  Second, we downsized in square footage and I now no longer have a dedicated computer/writing/wasting-time-on-the-Internet space.  I am writing this piece while seated at the kitchen table.  I believe, as is the case with many writers/authors, that I can only tap-tap away my prose while NOT in the presence of others.  Third, my stress level these last few months escalated into a "poor me" mindset which, along with the aforementioned, resulted in me spending my mental energy on things other than writing.  To be sure, my work-related stress decreased significantly since my job change and I view that as a strong positive.   

However none of these mean I am at a loss for material here, nor do any of these need to make a permanent impact with the result being this blog amongst the countless others that are abandoned, yet still are out there for all to see.  I have no intentions of letting my blog die and, in fact, I can set a goal for more entries this year with more variety.  I still have plenty to say.  

So--get on with it!!  (Me thinks of the crowd yell in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail.")   

Christmas?  Low-key.  I noticed, about a week before the big day, that we would not be able to continue a tradition in our home.  No, nothing that was passed down through the generations since our forebears came over from the "old country."  The tradition of which I speak is quite modern and secular:  watching TBS's "A Christmas Story" marathon.  While we never sat in front of the idiot box for the full 24 hours, it provided great entertainment and good background noise for Christmas eve night, especially after we returned home from the Christmas Eve church service.  I noted in an earlier entry that we cut the cord when moving to this locale, so no TBS.  

Solution? Simple.  Target had the Blu-Ray for only $13 so we ended up watching the flick and enjoying the lack of commercial breaks.  

This also was the first Christmas in years where I didn't prepare prime rib for the holiday meal.  We agreed to join forces with our friends J&J and I defrosted and baked a smoked ham, the last thing Geogal and I had left from our half-hog purchased back in Norton.  Great meat, great company and it was nice not to have to make (and clean up) the entire meal.  

Was it a white Christmas?  I can say yes.  The night before Christmas Eve day we had an offering of the white stuff.  I snapped a pic in the morning:  


Pretty, ain't it?

Cord-cutting?  I'll elaborate much more in a future entry.  However the Geohousehold overall isn't missing the TV offerings.  During the fall there were times I wished I had access to the ESPN networks but soon learned to adjust and simply enjoy the college football games available on ABC, CBS and Fox.  

Old Man Winter?  We're tolerating it.  Just as we do each winter.  While many will say eastern Kansas has less severe winters than the western half, some days I've begged to differ.  Freakin' cold is freakin' cold, regardless of where you live.  

Makes you wonder why we are looking at Minnesota as a place to permanently settle?  

Oh yes, that's a whole other entry, too.  

Stay tuned. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pride

By now everyone who's interested knows New Mexico State defeated Utah State in the Arizona Bowl yesterday.  

Unfortunately due to work commitments and a few other factors we couldn't make it to Tucson to be a part of the crowd.  However we did find a way to watch it on the 'tube.  More on that later.  

Given the (New Mexico State) Aggies even made it to a bowl was good enough.  And since the game was only about a four-hour drive from Las Cruces I hoped the Aggie faithful would turn out.  

And they did.  At the start of the broadcast the CBS Sports Network guys indicated a crowd of about 40,000.  Since one purpose of having a bowl game is to ensure the stadium seats are filled with rear ends no doubt many decision-makers in Tucson were satisfied with the turnout.  Plus it didn't hurt to see so many of those in the stands sporting NMSU crimson.  

Television coverage?  When I first knew the game would be on CBS Sports Network instead of one of the ESPN family of channels I was somewhat concerned, as this is an indicator of the bowl's status in the overall hierarchy of FBS postseason play.  As it turned out this arrangement allowed me to catch the game at my leisure.  

Once the Arizona Bowl invitation was official I did some homework on how I could view the CBS Sports Network channel.  First, since moving to Manhattan our house only uses over-the-air antenna and streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime and the like.  Yes, we are cord-cutters.  But even in my previous home in Norton, to view CBS Sports Network I would have had to pay an extra fee to the cable provider as CBS SN is under a separate sports tier.  I found a solution in the Fubo service, it is geared to sports fans although they include other channels such as Bravo, A&E and HGTV plus the ability to DVR the programming.  The DVR option came in handy yesterday as I didn't leave work until 4:30, same time as kickoff.  By the time I got home the score was tied at 10.  I ended up doing a quick turnaround as we had plans to attend a school-related party for one of Geoana's groups.  While eating and socializing I did check the score regularly so even before we made it back home I knew the game went into overtime and the (correct) Aggies won, 26-20.  

So it wasn't until this morning that I saw a few of the highlights while reading coverage from the Las Cruces Sun-News, Albuquerque Journal and Arizona Daily Star.  Overall the tree-killing print folks were fair and gracious to the Aggies and it appears all of the NMSU fans who made the trip had quite the positive experience.  

A little later this morning I logged onto Fubo and watched the game.  All the while thinking:

  • It's great the see the Aggies playing in a bowl, located not all that far from home
  • It's gratifying to see them play on national TV
  • To have every shot of the press box-side of the stands displaying a whole lotta Aggie fans with nary an empty seat almost brought me to (happy) tears
  • To see them not just play, but play well, almost feels foreign 
  • Seeing the guys on offense and defense really looking like they wanted it, after so many years of seeing Aggie football squads that appeared to be just going through the motions, was worth the wait
  • And of course, being able to see the trophy presentation put a nice bow on the whole thing (the DVR got it all, not cutting the game off after the allotted 3.5 hours as my old cable box used to do)
  • Finally, hearing head coach Martin talk about this victory being "just the beginning." 
Yes, I realize we will have to wait and see what becomes of the Aggie football program.  And yes, they are now officially an independent but their schedule for next season already looks oodles better than when they played in the Sun Belt Conference.  Or the WAC.  Or the Big West.  Could pride in Aggie football be on the horizon?

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Bonding With My Recliner and Remotes

11:00 Central Time—Turn on TV to ABC, this is the AAC championship game.  Memphis against UCF.  What makes this one interesting is UCF being 11-0 and going for an undefeated season.  And, their head coach is clearly being pursued by Nebraska.  Will this be his final game in Orlando?  

Turns out, yes.  (More on that below.)

I meant to just watch this game until the Big 12 Championship kicked off.  However I stay on ABC as this game’s pretty interesting even if it’s not a Power 5 conference.  Indeed a fun game to watch.  Touchdown after touchdown and neither team obtains a commanding lead.  Sure beats many of the NFL’s offerings, featuring punt after punt.  

Speaking of kicks, at 6:58 in the fourth quarter we have the first punt of the game, a boot by UCF.  

I do click over to Fox occasionally but Oklahoma seems to be well in control.  I’m not surprised.  This is a team that historically knows how to take care of business.  Yes, I want them to win as I really want to see a Big 12 rep in the playoffs despite them being the (gaggh) Sooners and Baker Mayfield’s boorish behavior during the KU game.  

Back to ABC.  Second overtime.  62-55.  Now it’s looking like a basketball score. 

Over on the other channel, Oklahoma defeats TCU.  Sooners should be in the playoffs.   

UCF intercepts Memphis—game over!  During overtime ESPN reports Frost indeed accepted the head coach’s position 

Time for Auburn-Georgia.  

Hey, the Aggies game is now in progress.  Mirror my MacBook to the Apple TV and connect just in time to see South Alabama score a touchdown.  Jaguars 7, Aggies 0.  Grrr.  

However we then see the Aggies score 13 unanswered points so all is not yet lost.  Nice to see fans in the stands with signs such as “Let’s Go Bowling.”  

Halftime in Las Cruces.  Click a few buttons on the remote and it’s back to regular TV and return to Atlanta.  This game is now in the third quarter and the score remains Georgia 10, Auburn 7.  Didn’t everyone expect this to be a high-scoring game?

Back to the NMSU/South Alabama game.  Both teams’ defenses are looking good, which is bad news as all of us Aggie faithful wouldn’t mind a few more points to assure a bowl trip.  

Then I have to get out of the Laz-E-Boy and go get Geoana as she returned from a debate tournament.  No problem listening to the Georgia/Auburn game on Sirius XM but I didn’t bother searching for the contest out of Las Cruces.  I doubt the Sun Belt Conference is worthy of carriage on the aural bird.  Upon arriving at the school I do check the score on my smartphone, uh-oh.  USA pulled ahead 17-16 and time is winding down.  I won’t print the words in my mind’s ear.  

But wait!  We’re back home and another check of the score shows the ‘Pokes back in the lead.  I quickly get the ESPN3 broadcast back onto the main TV and Geogal and I share the pleasure of seeing the Aggies earn a victory and very likely a bowl invite.  

And by the way, Georgia defeats Auburn.  The Bulldogs didn’t allow the Tigers to score again after their opening drive resulted in a touchdown.

But the evening’s not over!  I turn back to ABC and enjoy much of the first half of the Clemson/Miami game.  Unlike the earlier ABC-broadcast game, this one was obviously one-sided from the second quarter on.  Do I turn to the Ohio State/Wisconsin matchup?  I do, briefly.  Much like the other game in progress, this one seems to be going the way of the Buckeyes.  If they win, do they make it into the playoff?  Given I have no loyalty to the school in Columbus, I really don’t care.  

And then my football fire burns out.  Shortly after 9 I turn to “Batman” on MeTV.  I conk out before 10.  

In all fairness, I was up since before 5 a.m., had to get Geoana up and to the school by 6.  

And in a day of victories, her debate team took first!  Finally!  


This day will not be soon forgotten.  

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Where Will I Be Today?

Parking my rear end in front of the TV, watching the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten and ACC championship games, that's where.  

I'm hoping these will be good contests.  I sure wasn't disappointed by last Saturday's Iron Bowl.  (Always good to see Alabama go down and this didn't even require a kick-six.)  

Today there is one other gridiron contest worthy of my attention:  New Mexico State versus Southern Alabama.  The Aggies are 5-6 this season and a victory today makes them bowl-eligible.  

To be sure, my alma mater competing in even the lowest-tier bowl matchup is far from certain.  First, they have to win today.  Granted, the game is in Las Cruces and South Alabama has had its own struggles this fall however.....

Remember these are the Aggies.  

Also, Geogal read an article on Yahoo a while back where NMSU's president intimated "if we do get an invitation, we may have to turn it down."  (That's a Geoguy paraphrase but I think you get the idea.) 

Yet for this morning I can allow myself to dream, if but a little.  What if they end today with a "W" and get invited to the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl?  (Don't say this is far-fetched, even one of the writers for ESPN sees this as a possibility.)  If they get the invite, who cares about the actual outcome?  As NMSU hasn't played in a bowl since Dwight Eisenhower was president any game in late December would be the talk of 'Cruces.  

Now, back to reality.  Even five victories indicates a pretty good season for the Aggies.  Beating both UTEP and UNM made for a pleasant autumn.  (Yes, I know EVERYONE beat the Miners this year but its still satisfying to be included in the "everyone" category.)  

Speaking of ESPN.com, the Aggies never did make the "Bottom Ten" weekly column this season.  Again, this is rare so I can't help but mention it here.  

And since the football Aggies will be FBS independent after this season, who knows when we will see another record like this?  

Now, time to make sure I have my ESPN3 setup working as it should...