Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And I missed my chance to see this station

It's not often that a full-power, network-affiliated TV station signs off the air for good. So when I learned (via Web chatter) that KSNB-TV in Superior, Nebraska went dark the first of this month I figured I needed to do some digging.

Sure enough, it's off the air and not just for some temporary, equipment-related deal. No sir. Off the air for good.

What happened?

In short, the transition to digital killed this beast. For decades this station operated over-the-air on VHF channel 4. In the olden analog television world this channel assignment was coveted, offering a signal that could travel quite a distance. Transmitting out over the rolling prairie of southern Nebraska and northern Kansas this meant great coverage. KSNB was originally an ABC affiliate then switched to Fox in the 1990's. Fast-forward to the near-present and KSNB was part of a two-station setup providing Fox programming to the area (the other was KTVG in Grand Island).

Evidently business deals expiring and the lack of any perceived need to keep a digital TV station on low-band VHF in a sparsely populated area contributed to the decision to permanently cease operations on channel 4. Both the Wikipedia article and this piece from the Superior newspaper give sufficient explanation. (Beware--the Superior "newspaper" site smacks of 1995.)

And for the title of today's entry? I had a chance to see this signal back in May when I went on a roundabout road trip with my trusty MacBook. On US 36 near Montrose I parked, powered up, set up the antenna, but did not get KSNB's signal. Why not?

Bad information.

Using TV Fool I checked to see which location would give me the best shot at a viewable picture. However the TV Fool site already had KSNB as broadcasting their digital signal on channel 4, presumably having already done the analog shut-off. Try as I might, I just couldn't get the channel 4 digital signal.

A few days later I learned that in fact, KSNB hadn't yet switched off analog. But due to my impatience and the info I had at the time, I didn't bother letting the Eye TV scan the whole channel spectrum for a signal. I just kept trying with the lower channels and eventually gave up.

Had I switched over and done an analog channel scan, I certainly would have seen them.

But, to use the cliche, that's all water under the bridge. The station is gone.

I doubt anyone will pony up funding and buy the license in an effort to get this signal back on the air. However should that happen it won't be a Fox affiliate. It may end up as an infomercial-heavy channel or a bad-preacher station. Either way it won't be anywhere near its former glory.

Just another chapter in Nebraska TV history. Actually, once you get out of the Omaha market, Nebraska television is about as odd as it gets. I'll soon post an entry with the reasons why.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Snow-filled Sunday

It’s becoming a holiday tradition, I believe.

Drove to Kearney yesterday (yes, a Sunday). Don’t any of you start the backsliding talk--I went to early service and enjoyed the traditional Christmas carols accompanied by nothing more than a piano. After church I topped off the tank then hit the road.

My purpose was twofold: Buy a Christmas tree and finish out some holiday shopping. Yes, you read that right. Finish out. Between my cybershopping and Geogal’s talent for picking out the child’s big gift some time ago I was down to just a few items, mainly for the stockings. Today is December 7 and I cannot recall when I’ve ever been this ahead of the Christmas shopping game this early. I’m enjoying it.

I learned my lesson last year--don’t wait too long to buy the Christmas tree. First I visited a few retailers, stopped at Qdoba for lunch, then picked out a nice-looking spruce. The nice folks at Earl May loaded it into the back of my trusty Toyota and I struck out for home.

Normally the drive from Kearney back home is about as routine as they get. Yesterday though, the weather pundits predicted one to two inches of the white stuff for the area.


Flakes falling, I headed down the highway, thankful I was with the wind (my payback for being against it all the way to). No real accumulation on the road for which I was thankful. Driving through the occasional town I noticed more conglomeration on the road itself (no wind to blow it away). As I got closer to my own burg the snowpack got more pronounced. FInally the last 30 miles I was using the four-wheel drive for the most part.

One to two inches? Try five.

And we’ve got more expected for tonight. Little Geoana is already banking on tomorrow being a snow day.

What is the tradition I referred to in the opening sentence? Driving to Kearney in less-than-ideal conditions. Remember this?

Friday, November 27, 2009

More thoughts before more football

Last night's game (Texas versus Texas A&M) was quite the nail-biter. I (along with a lot of others) wasn't expecting anything close. All game I kept thinking: "Are these even the same Aggies who got humiliated earlier this season by the University of Arkansas?"

Of course, that's why everyone likes these rivalry games this time of year. And yes, I plan to catch Alabama against Auburn, Nebraska going up against Colorado, and the Backyard Brawl today and tonight even if it means doing a little channel-hopping.


Bathroom project update: Painting is done and the cork flooring was installed just today. It looks beauty-licious. The shower install is slated for tomorrow and the toilet and sink will likely go in during a couple of evenings next week.

So close to being done I can taste it!


No waiting-in-line-wake-up-way-early Black Friday shopping for Geogal this year. Probably a good thing, too. She had physical therapy in Nebraska today and her therapist related a Black Friday story. In summation: therapist's husband has wanted a particular TV for some time now. Went to the McCook Wal-Mart very early, thinking "how many people could possibly be there this early--after all this is rural southwest Nebraska." Turns out a whole lot of folks were there, so many that he had trouble finding a parking space and added there was scarcely any room for this crowd of folks to get through the doors.

Yep, I'll pass. I think I mentioned before I'm doing just about all my shopping online this year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Only 34 years later...

Back in '75 I was invited to a birthday party (I think it was one of the guys in my Cub Scout Den). Slated for a Saturday, the invitation gave the plans as miniature golf. But if it rained (always likely in soggy Houston, Texas) we would all go see "Escape To Witch Mountain." I was hoping to see the flick but despite an overcast day we all did the miniature golf deal. I had fun anyway and did quite well considering I had never before played this game. I even hit my ball into the "win a free game" target at the end (beginner's luck) and got to enjoy another round.

So anyway I never did see "ETWM" until last night. Rented it from Netflix, all three of us enjoyed it. My eight-year-old Geoana liked it and despite the dated special effects the story still holds up well. Yet in a Geoguy-will-always-think-this-way perspective, every time I saw Donald Pleasence my mind's voice would recall a line from "You Only Live Twice," usually: "This is the price of failure, Meeester Bond."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hey Houston football fans, life's not all bad!

Remember when this guy, and this guy, ruled the NFL roost in southeast Texas?

At least the Texans are respectable.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A break in the action

Tonight I'm stoked. Just had my project advisor (the guy who makes sure I don't royally screw up the bathroom renovation project) and his colleague spray the drywall with texture so the primer and painting will start in earnest soon. Possibly tomorrow soon.

Soon the Geohouse will have a fully functioning and very good-looking basement bathroom. And I will have gained home-improvement knowledge to boot.

But just because I'm occupied with the bathroom redo project doesn't mean my mind can't wander off to other subjects. (And can you find a better sentence with a double negative represented by contractions?)

How about the resurgence of the old Southwest Conference? While Texas remains a powerhouse thanks to Mack Brown one cannot help but notice a red-brick schoolhouse in Fort Worth continues to demolish its competition. And the University of Houston? Texas Tech, while not attracting the attention they did last year, still will wind up with a sweet bowl game invite. Even SMU (the best football team money could buy back in the '80's) is now bowl-eligible.

Other stuff? How about hunting? Last Saturday was historic for the Geofamily. The opening day of pheasant season in Kansas saw me loading up the shotgun, putting on camo and blaze orange, and hitting some fields with a friend. Oh and did I mention I took little Geoana with me? Gave her a chance to tote around her pink BB gun. Might as well make this a family affair.

Results? I got off a few shots, but didn't take down a rooster. Oh well, the season lasts until January 31. God willing I'll get to clean and cook a pheasant.

Lesee, anything else? I'll be doing all of my Christmas shopping online this year (learned my lesson from last December). I'm actually ahead of the game this time, have most of the gifts in mind and know where they can be found in cyberspace.

That's all for now. Just wanted to let all the readers know how things are turning here in the land of Dorothy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Real life intervenes

The dearth of entries during October for this blog? One reason: bathroom project.

For many weeks now I've been engaged in redoing the basement bathroom. I have even gone as far as to get out the camcorder and shoot a "before" video as well as a little "during." Since the bathroom is just a little more than six foot square and the camcorder lacks a wide-angle lens, don't expect any HGTV-type panning shots in the final edit.

I began demo in the waning days of August and am now at the stage where the last couple of pieces of new drywall (greenboard, no less) are ready to go on. Then comes the mudding, sanding, more mudding (i.e. covering over one's mistakes), more sanding, spraying texture (prep work for that will take way longer than the actual task), applying the primer (Kilz--moisture resistant!!), painting (Geogal will shoulder much of this task), and assembling the new shower stall.

Then wait for the local flooring outfit to install cork flooring, followed by the new toilet and pedestal sink.

After that? As I said to Geogal some time back: "It's my job to get the bathroom functional. It's your job to make it look pretty."

But all of this to say that given the magnitude of the job and the desire to make continual progress, some things have to suffer. Such as blogging, as well as exercise and creative cooking.

Yes, I'm keeping my eye on the prize and thinking about how great the new bathroom will be (the nicest room in the house, in fact). And being done with demo is nice (no more throwing stuff outside regardless of how therapeutic I think it is). Not to mention I'm learning a great deal about construction in the process. This stuff will no doubt serve me well when I engage in future home-improvement projects.

In the meantime I'll try not to ignore my corner of the Internet completely. Before long I'll be again posting about my hobbies and life and such.

Just for now, though, the Geofamily is learning to make do with only one functional bathroom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Crud (or is it The Flu?)

Yep, reading today's title pretty much sums up my condition. Came on Monday afternoon, thought (as I always do) that I could shake it off quick. You know, down more fluids, pump a little more of the Vitamin C, get a little rest. Nope. Gets worse before it gets better.

So anyway this morning I struggled through the shower and spent a good half-hour trying to decide whether to stay home and rest or just tough it up and go to work. I decided on the former. One of the downsides of being home ill is that the house is so very quiet during the day. And for me the challenge is to keep my mind occupied lest I get restless. (The fact that today was a nice warm one after several cool ones just made it worse.) Fortunately for me the ever-thoughtful Geogal procured some books from the local library so I spent some of this evening reading short stories by John Updike.

Lessee, chicken soup, orange juice, over-the-counter medication, reading material. Got em all. At least I feel prepared for however long this ailment lasts. Have to admit, though, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning and the same decision awaiting me...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Every now and then I hear of something I deem "blog-worthy." Since coming to Kansas it's usually something quirky about this part of the country or something that's so heinous I feel a need to share it with the world. Today's entry comes from the latter category.

Geogal got back from a church women's retreat held at a campground near Solomon, Kansas. I'll spare my dear readers the bulk of what she shared from the weekend but one item was just too laughter-inducing.

Everyone here who knows me (us, actually) is aware I will not eat Mexican food here unless I make it in my own home. Having lived in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona qualifies me as a connoisseur of the varieties of south-of-the-border cuisine available in the U.S. Southwest. Food around here labeled as "Mexican," isn't. No debate. No discussion.

First she told me of a dish they served called "charo," although I wonder if that was simply a corruption of the Spanish word "caldo." A soup with pinto beans, corn, other veggies, and whole lot of cumin. Apparently it was garden-variety with an excess of cumin to give it flavor.

It gets better. At this time of year tomatoes are plentiful given just about everyone grows them in their garden. One of the ladies brought a load of fresh ripe tomatoes for the cook to make salsa. What was the cooking ladies' concept of salsa? Tomatoes, onion, and cilantro.

No active ingredient.

I felt so sorry for Geogal that this evening I grilled her a nice lamb chop seasoned up just right.

Hit the spot. Mexican food will be served here later this week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If you're an old TV junkie in need of a good laugh...

Wish this was on YouTube so I could embed the video here.

Oh well. Just click and have a good hearty laugh.

Bring On The 'Boys

I don't spend too much time perusing newspapers but this article from the Dallas Morning News is certainly worth the read.

But lest we engage in too much euphoric recall, let's remember that professional football was changing back in the late 1980's and you can't argue that Landry's way of doing things wasn't working. During his final season the Pokes went 3-13 and they really had not been a dominant team since about 1985. Remember that hideous loss to the Bears? Yeah, I don't want to go back down that road now.

Still Landry had a high level of character and integrity, something that is increasingly rare in today's NFL.

I'm ready for the season to start.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Near-Perfect Friday Evening

This week was a killer.

At work, that is. Despite having four workdays instead of the usual five it seems this week was equivalent to four Mondays in a row. Today felt like that last push just before the long-distance runner breaks the tape. Exhausting, but worth the effort.

So I come home a little after 5, and I'm tired. Real tired. "French fried" was the term I used with Geogal. She understands.

Not home even 10 minutes and it starts raining. Not the depressant type of rain but a gentle cool cleansing of all things including my fatigued soul. Almost Mother Nature's way of reminding me to slow down and enjoy what she has to offer.

I couldn't order it better than that. I'm home to enjoy it and I have no reason to be out of doors this evening unless I so choose. Relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating. Even the air smells clean now.

Time to breathe deeply.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

So Long Summertime

August is gone. And so is summer. Therefore here are some musings I accumulated over the last many weeks. Nothing to really justify a blog entry of their own:


Vacation time has come and gone. Overall the trips out of state were good, no problems with travel and Geogal and I had no nasty exchanges or snapping at each other, even toward the end of the trip (which is where it usually happens).


Add this to the “Only In Texas” category: Where else can you drive for hours, traverse two states, stop at Denton for the night, and have the hotel parking lot full of...Texas license plates? Just like the old saying goes, if you drive “a far piece” in Texas, you most likely will still be in Texas.


Overheard from a woman during a group cookout in June, hosted by yours truly: “Uh-oh, the men are getting out the guns.”

(But seriously, I was just showing a friend the two rifles my dad gave me. No alcohol or violence involved here.)


Apparently in some parts of the country what happens outdoors can affect the taste of one’s beverage.

Case in point: Cleburne, Texas. Late July. Go to an Applebee’s (one of the rare national chains I will honor with my presence). Geogal orders iced tea but upon tasting it asks the server if she can bring her something different. “Just not something right about that taste.” The server responded that all of the iced tea varieties might taste odd. Reason? “The lake turned over.”

Seems that a good hard rainstorm will cause the sediment from the lake bottom to rise to the top, resulting in skanky-taking iced tea.


And to top off this goodbye-summer entry, what do I hear on Sirius 60, The Highway? Yesterday it was Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long.” Today it’s Kenny Chesney singing “Summertime.” And not the Gershwin-penned version, either.

Maybe someone should alert the programmers that September 1 ought to be the cut-off mark for warm-weather odes. I’m surprised they didn’t go for the trifecta and play Alan Jackson’s “Summertime Blues.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Answering the question


The question is inevitable. I’m a fortysomething guy with numerous interests and hobbies. So why pursue hunting?

The naysayers might say it’s because I have some latent desire to “be a man.” Others could say I’m giving in to peer pressure. Or is a longing to recapture some youth? Do I need to gather my own meat, a throwback to frontier times?

None of these are correct and many aren’t even close to the real truth. First of all hunting animals does not make me a man, nor does any other singular activity. For me, manhood is defined by taking responsibility for oneself, being a leader of a household, making a commitment to one woman (a vow that is to last for a lifetime), putting in an honest days work, and keeping your word. No, shooting animals doesn’t promote any of these traits.

For me, the reasons to take up hunting are simple. For starters I like to be outdoors. I’ve hiked, backpacked, four-wheeled, and mountain climbed (not a fourteener in Colorado, but a “twelver” in New Mexico). Since the onset of adulthood I haven’t had the leisure time to enjoy a lot of these activities but I also admit I haven’t made them a high priority for much of the time. Earning a living, going to graduate school, and raising a child all take a toll on one’s time. But the good old outdoors is still there, unchanged, ready for me to participate once again.

Second, moving to this area did stir up a desire deep inside of me to hunt. Something about being away from a city or suburbia environment and finding myself smack dab in the middle of pheasant and deer habitat here in NW Kansas ignites a deep-seated yearning to head out on foot and challenge my skills against those of Mother Nature.

Third, while there is no peer pressure on me to join up with friends and acquaintances I do see hunting as an opportunity to connect with others around here in a different way. From what I hear hunting seems to further friendships and gives everyone a way to share a common outdoor experience. Add to that that 97% of the land in Kansas is privately owned meaning no National Forest or BLM land on which to enjoy the great outdoors, and hunting just seems like a natural activity.

To round out my list of reasons I’ll also cite an affinity for shooting. I first did target shooting with a .22 over 30 years ago at summer camp. I liked it then and my thrill of hitting the bullseye hasn’t diminished with time. In fact Geogal and I gave little Geoana a Daisy BB gun for her birthday this year and she seems just as inclined to use it as I am to practice my marksmanship now.

So while I won’t go overboard on this hobby (I just plan to procure the right equipment over the course of time) I do look forward greatly to the fall and the coming of deer and pheasant season. Just this morning there was a crisp feeling to the post-dawn air with an outside temp of 49 degrees. Won’t be long now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reward Trip

Yesterday I took the truck and headed for Nebraska. Destination Kearney. Cabela's to be specific.

Not that it takes much to get me through the doors of that establishment, but this journey was special. You see, I spent all of last Saturday completing the Kansas Hunter's Education Course. As I was successful Geogal granted me permission to make a trip to Cabela's to load up on a little gear.

Before I proceed further with purchase details I need to dispel your myths about the hunter education. It isn't a "pay your fee and get a certificate" classroom. (There was no fee, this is taxpayer-funded.) In order to get my certificate I had to complete an extensive online curriculum covering everything from firearm types to hunter ethics to "after the shot." By extensive I mean it took me an entire two evenings (staying up late) to complete before the Saturday classroom portion rolled around. 14 different sections. I had to be familiar with each one or no certificate for me. No Hunter's Education Certificate, no hunting license. No hunting license, and I'm staying home come November.

I had to pass two written tests and an oral one, plus some time at the shooting range. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday but this wasn't all fun and games. (I did, though, get to skeet shoot for the first time in my life. I liked it!!) Was all of this education worth the effort? Yes, I can say without reservation. I know so much more now that I did three weeks ago.

Example: Three weeks ago someone might ask "What kind of shotgun do you have?" My answer back then, "A single-barrel, single-shot."

Now, same question. My response: "A Stevens 16-gauge 2 and three quarter inch, break action, vintage late 1940's or early 1950's."

Why an old firearm? I might have written elsewhere in this blog that my Dad gave me his old shotgun and a 30-30 rifle when he visited last fall. He hasn't hunted since before I was born and these bang-sticks haven't been fired in decades. But that's about to change. I have them with a gunsmith right now, they're in good shape overall, just in need of some cleaning.

So, officially hunter-educated and getting everything ready for autumn, I went to Cabela's yesterday, something of a reward for completing the course. Not to mention I needed gun cases for transportation as well as some way to securely store the firearms (Geogal isn't worried about our little one but her friends might be a concern.) Found both items, plus a blaze orange cap to ensure I won't be shot by another hunter. Hunting is just like any other hobby or interest. You can spend as little or as much as you desire. For now I'm keeping it simple and will stick with the firearms I have. I did look at 12-gauge shotguns yesterday as those are more widely used in hunting, but Cabela's does carry some 16-gauge shot (both lead and non-toxic).

I'll be ready.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Page is up!

Go here to see some more pictures from South Dakota.

The fix turned out to be easier than I expected. Maybe a good night's sleep was the difference.

The Best of Intentions

I'm working on my companion site, one where I have greater freedom to intersperse pictures and text. But with freedom comes responsibility and creating pages over there takes more time and effort.

Last night though, I decided to finish up the South Dakota trip project and have a nice colorful web page ready for publishing. Only the publish function didn't work. A jaunt over to Apple's tech support site provided a possible answer but I was tired and ready to hit the hay by then. Tonight is out too, as I have a previous commitment that will take most of the evening.

My goal is to have the page up for viewing sometime Friday. Wait a minute...going out of town on Saturday. Hmmmm, how do I get the midnight oil burning?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just a sampling

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure I will save myself a lot of typing and let the images speak for themselves.

Back from Black

Just got back from a short getaway to the Black Hills of South Dakota, plus a side trip to Devils Tower, Wyoming. Got to visit some friends of ours from Arizona and let Geogal try some tent-trailer camping. (She's a hotel snob and generally doesn't stay in anything less than a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn.)

I'll be posting some photos later today.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


The Fourth here was great. Block party, meeting folks I've seen but don't really know. Fireworks fireworks fireworks. Both Geogal and I lived in places where they were verboten save for the legally-sanctioned public fireworks display. Not here. Fireworks stands are ubiquitous in this locale and they seem to do great business. Case in point: Our next-door neighbor had an ample supply of the noisy and bright stuff yesterday, but still felt the need to go get more. There was popping and flashing and ooohhhing and aaahhhing until nearly midnight last night.

My guess for the dollar amount of fireworks ignited on our street last night? In the thousands of dollars range.

Did I mention the block party featured grilled burgers, hot dogs, and brats? Guess who spent a lot of time tending the vittles? Yep. I was manning three grills at once. I was "The Man!!"

And the fun ain't over yet. Tonight is the last night the town allows folks to shoot off the loud, made-in-China, don't burn yourself products. And I've still got a few of my own to fire up. There will be some sulfur smell in our neck of the woods tonight!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gotcha on film! (digital media storage, actually)

For those readers who don't believe me about the fauna purported to frequent my back yard and parts beyond, a photo.

Relaxing with my coffee this morning I saw her again. This time I grabbed Geoana's camera, snuck out the front door, circumnavigated around to the rear of the house using a maximum of stealth, and she still retreats (just a bit).

But using the zoom I managed to capture the moment. Only now I have that "Sound of Music" tune going through my head: "Doe, a deer, a fe-male deer."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Enjoy the peace wherever one can get it

I like the early morning. Quiet, the gals of the house are still asleep, they won't be up for quite a while.

I like the early morning in a small town. Quiet, the folks that are already up are going about their business with a minimum of noise or fuss.

I like the early morning living next to a creek. Today I saw a doe not in the creekbed, but in my back yard. Munching on a few crabapples that fell from their tree of origin. She was there for some time, eating to her heart's content. Then she headed for Geogal's garden, particularly the herbs.

Time for me to stand up, let her see me through the window. She did, and didn't seem to care. Yet I think she got the hint and headed further toward the creek.

A few minutes later, she's gone. Vanished back into the thick vegetation that she no doubt adores. Sustenance and cover.

And all of this before I even make my morning coffee.

I like this.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lazy (Father's) Day

Yesterday was cool, gray, rainy, gloomy.

Today? Hot, sunny, bright.

Lazy both days. Maybe the week was more taxing than I thought. Anyway, if I have an excuse to be docile, today is the day. Leisurely morning followed by a BBQ meal later than lunch but too early for supper (lupper, perhaps?). The grass is still growing but who wants to mow on Father's Day? The closest I'll come to doing any chores today will be taking the garbage to the curb for tomorrow's pickup.

I can always resume an active lifestyle tomorrow.

More to come...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What happens if they shut off analog and there's no outcry? No uprising? No reaction at all??

Checking the different media outlets online, there just isn't much coverage of yesterday's role in broadcasting history. Somehow the sun came up just the same this morning and everyone is going about his or her business.

In my area there was virtually no news coverage, given just about all full-power stations in western Kansas and southern Nebraska switched over months ago.

BTW, I did look at my recording of KABC's analog shutoff which can best be described as anticlimactic. Simply the anchor indicating the countdown had started ("In about ten seconds from now.."). Then a normal join to "All My Children." Evidently DirecTV made the proper arrangements sometime yesterday morning.

In one market, though, Dish Network was caught unprepared. See this. And feel free to laugh as he clicks through the other local channels toward the end of the video.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Analog shut-off, for real this time

You know I had to chime in regarding today's place in the history of television broadcasting. For now, though, I have just one thing to share. After my normal routine of getting up and showering, I went down to the basement and turned on the DirecTV. (Because we live in the middle of nowhere we are able to get the New York and Los Angeles network affiliates on the dish as DirecTV doesn't provide this area with the Wichita channels.) Since the NY stations were already into the national morning news shows I just went straight to the LA channels, who were starting their local news for the day. Couldn't find any news items regarding the switchover but I acknowledge I didn't have a lot of time to sit, watch, and wait. However on KABC there was the crawl saying "If you are seeing this, your TV is not ready for the transition..."

Does DirecTV take its national network feeds directly from the stations' over-the-air transmission? I guess so, although I hope they give the Los Angeles market viewers the digital signal of KABC and the other locals otherwise some viewers in the Southland will be mighty confused.

Yes, I set the DVR to record KABC's analog shutoff at noon Pacific time. If I am indeed getting the analog feed it should be an interesting view.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A drive to Salina

Sorry, no pictures to go with today’s entry. My adventures from two days ago didn’t involve tower hunting. (There likely won’t be any of that until I get my truck into the mechanic--it needs a little attention.)

Saturday. The first 24-hour installment of a long holiday weekend. And what am I doing? Heading to Salina for some retail activity. Yes, it’s shopping, but since I’m by myself this day I get to do the male version of capitalism. In short: Go find what I need, pay for it, get outta there. None of this standing and staring silently for five minutes, then asking “does this make me look fat?”

Sorry, that’s the offshoot of being the only male member of my household, not to mention having two sisters and no brothers. So don’t get to thinking I’m lonely on this trip--rather just the opposite. Plus the drive helps rid me of some of my nervous energy.

As over-the-air TV broadcasting is heading into its final days of analog transmissions (maybe), I wanted to take the laptop and DTV stick with me and see what’s on (and off) the air.

First stop: a rest area on I-70 just east of Russell. And I wasn’t disappointed with this break in the driving. A little background before I share the reception info. Based on my research from TV Fool and the FCC CDBS database I knew that KSNC-DT and KOOD-DT should come in clear as a bell. The one I was curious about is KOCW, licensed to nearby Hoisington. The FCC documents indicate their intent to discontinue analog broadcasting as of March 17. Yet there is another document in the public file showing it will terminate analog broadcasting on June 12, late morning. Hmmm, I wonder which one is correct? (As an aside, KOCW has no companion digital channel as they were licensed after the DTV channel allocations. They will have to flash-cut to digital.)

After scanning, KSNC and KOOD showed with good signals. No KOCW, though. Switch over to analog, do another scan. Question answered: KOCW is still on analog so it appears their plan to flash-cut on June 12 appears in place. They aren’t even operating on reduced power right now (like so many analog channels do before they switch off for good). In fact their analog signal came through as one of the best I’ve ever received. Real clear, no static, no snow.

Pack up, now it’s on to Salina (for those of you outside the state, it is the largest city in the area and the location of the nearest Sam’s Club, Kohls, and Lowes). It’s also home to Hickory Hut, great barbecue. I was under orders from Geogal to bring back some smoked meat, beef and pork preferred. I also did the necessary shopping (new polo shirts as the tie-required dress code at my workplace is suspended between Memorial Day and Labor Day). And since I’m here of course I’ll fire up the computer again. KAAS-DT was the only discernible signal on the digital side, the analog gave me KAAS’s analog version and a translator of Wichita’s KAKE.

In my entry regarding the DTV signal of KWNB, Hayes Center, Nebraska, I pointed out that its PSIP identified it as the parent station. Same thing with KAAS-DT. KAAS (and the aforementioned KOCW) are full-power satellites of Wichita’s KSAS, branded as Fox Kansas. KAAS was showing as KSAS-24 on the PSIP. Interesting, I thought all full-power stations had to use their original analog channel assignments as the PSIP identifying channel. Maybe not. Or perhaps there is an exception for satellites which fully repeat the on-air programming of the parent channel. I’m sure this doesn’t matter to most folks, and certainly not in the long run. I believe the channel identifying numbers used by digital stations will soon be irrelevant, but that’s another blog entry. Still, I thought this oddity deserved mention.

Shopping done, I head toward home. Decided to go a different way, north on US 81 then turn left on the 2-lane highway for a far piece. Still, it’s nice to drive another way as I enjoy variety. This is definitely one advantage Kansas has over Arizona. To drive differently in the Grand Canyon State sometimes requires going many extra miles. (If an alternate drive is feasible at all!) And this time of year even western Kansas is a nice shade of green.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thoughts come together in the oddest way (sometimes)

Yesterday morning, before little Geoana and I left for school and work (respectively) she asked me if I knew of a baseball player named "Big Apfel" who played for the Red Sox. I said the name sure wasn't familiar to me and asked where she heard it. Turns out she was reading (Geoana is a voracious reader) a book titled Fudge-A-Mania by Judy Blume and this player was referred to by one of the characters.

Then I started to think some more. What Red Sox players do quickly jump to my mind? First is the obvious one, Ted Williams, even though he was way before my time. Who else? Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk. And that's about it. I'm thinking of players that will be associated with the Red Sox and no other team. That leaves out all of the current and just-recently-retired superstars.

And no, I will not make this entry a rant about how there is no team loyalty anymore, blah, blah, blah. Times have changed and I accept that.

But back to my mental wheels turning. I then thought about the 1975 World Series which led to images of Carlton Fisk's game-winning home run in Game 6. You know the one I mean--the famous footage of him waving his arms as if to coax the ball to "stay fair." If you haven't seen it, go here (the video clip link is on the lower right side of the page).

Then I recall having met the guy who threw Fisk the pitch, Pat Darcy. (This was years ago at a work-related event for my wife's then-employer.) I shared with him my being an Astros fan and he answered that he played for that very club before being traded to the Reds. I'll never forget his comment: "I went from a poorly-run team to a very well-managed one."

I can't argue that point, but having teammates such as Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Ken Griffey probably didn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And the winner was???

Remember last post, where I was trying to decide which Mel Brooks flick featuring Dom DeLuise to watch? So which one won out? Here's a hint:

"You'll be surprised, you're doing the French Mistake, viola!"

I confess, I just used the DVD menu to watch the part referenced above. Hey, it was late and I was tired!


As the media (print and broadcast) continues to bleed red ink, maybe this piece will help explain why newspapers and journalists in general are mistrusted by the general public. News gathering appears to be a dying art.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A tough choice

To honor Dom DeLuise a day after his passing, do I watch Blazing Saddles or Spaceballs?

(Don't suggest Smokey and the Bandit II or Cannonball Run--I don't have those in my DVD collection.)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Quick notes

1) I'm enjoying the spring thaw. Mild winter? Not for me, it wasn't.

2) Barely a month into baseball season and all of my favorite teams are stinking up the place. (That's the Diamondbacks, Astros, and Angels in case you were wondering.)

3) Little girl now knows how to ride a bike. As I said to Geogal: "Now we've really lost her forever."

4) There is rhubarb growing in our backyard. Evidently a delayed housewarming gift from the previous owners.

5) Little Geoana only has two and a half weeks of school left and I don't know who's more excited, her or me.

6) I have to learn to cherish this time of year. The evenings are not hot, humid, and mosquito-infested, and they aren't bitterly cold, either. As Goldilocks herself might say: "Just right."

7) Learning how to balance my evening routine to get some blogging time in remains a challenge. By the time I figure it out everything will change!

8) Those home improvement shows on HGTV are addictive.

9) Long, sunlit days rule!

10) And finally, I am developing my list of the "Top Ten Science Fiction Movies That Are Not Star Wars Or Star Trek Related." (I think "Independence Day" might be near the top.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tower chasing

One of the many positives about living in this part of the country is the variety of tower chasing one can pursue.

What does that mean in English?

Simply this: We who are obsessed with broadcasting in its many forms often enjoy visiting transmitter sites and seeing what these behemoths actually look like. Back to my first sentence, this means that I have the opportunity to drive around and view towers in several different areas. Sometimes these transmitters are even in different TV markets and I don’t have to put in several hours’ driving time to enjoy the variety. Back in the desert southwest there might be hundreds of miles between full-power transmitters and those are usually grouped together on a mountaintop. But with the rolling prairie terrain of Northwest Kansas/Southwest Nebraska TV stations locate their towers in numerous places and often not together. In fact the only transmitter tower in this region which shares two stations’ antennas is the stick between Kearney and Hastings which houses KGIN-DT and KHGI-DT. All the others are on their own.

So, with this explained, I headed out of town three Saturdays ago and made a leisurely drive to North Platte.


Why not? I haven’t been there yet and this is a nearby burg that is considered its own television market, albeit one of the smallest in the country. In the bottom ten for sure. That was part of the appeal even though I knew I wouldn’t be there during the timeframe in which they air the local newscasts (actually that should be newscast, singular, which I’ll explain in a moment). Still I knew I would get a shot at seeing the DTV transmissions in that area and as a curiosity factor learning what else occupied the dial on the analog side. The FCC database indicates there are numerous translator and low-power stations in that vicinity. How could I resist?

Once I arrived in town and got my fill of Kentucky Fried Chicken (they don’t have one in the town in which I live and sometimes I find myself jonesing for Original Recipe) I parked in the Menard’s lot and set up my gear. Antenna on top of the truck, power up the Macbook inside.

Rather disappointing. The scan picked up only KPNE-DT, the local NET station. No KNOP. All my information on this market showed KNOP already has shut off analog and is digital-only on channel 2. WIth the rabbit ear setup I was using in an outdoor, unobstructed area I should have been able to see that station. Oh well, no matter. The analog tuner brought in a few signals but none that are worth going into detail here.

A short while later I headed out of town but rather than leave the way I arrived I chose to head west on I-80 to the town of Sutherland. (Yes, there was a small part of me that wanted to stay on the interstate all the way to Cheyenne but real life and responsibility beckon.) I turned south on Nebraska 25 and received a nice surprise. On the west side of the highway about 7 miles south of the I-80 connection was the stately transmitter tower of KPNE-DT and KPNE-FM. Imposing, I thought to myself. No wonder I could pick up their signal a good 25 miles away as the crow flies (my distance estimate to where I did my TV watching earlier).

Near the town of Wallace I pulled off onto the shoulder and again tried the DTV stick. This time only KPNE-DT’s signal showed on the indicator. Why did I try for another catch at this location?

I was nearing the transmitter tower for KWNB-DT, the ABC affiliate in this part of the state. I was hoping to see their DTV signal from this area, but no go. No problem, I thought. With each mile I’m getting closer to their tower.

You see, KWNB is licensed to the town of Hayes Center. Hardly a town, at that. The official highway marker lists the population as 240. I figure this might be the smallest town in the United States that has a full-power, VHF, major network-affiliated TV license. And this is not new, KWNB has been in existence since the 1950’s. But all of that time it has been a satellite station of KHGI in Kearney. (For a time, there was a third station in the mix, KSNB in Superior, located in the south-central area of Nebraska very close to the Kansas line.) My only guess is that the FCC decided that a station in this area would be beneficial for all the small towns that were otherwise many miles from anything resembling TV. This also may have been from the era before cable TV.

In doing my research I learned the tower is adjacent to Highway 25 just to the north of Hayes Center. Since I wasn’t able to see their signal from Wallace I figured the only thing left for me to do was to head to the tower itself and power up again.

I did just that. And you can be flippin’ sure I got the signal this time. Yet I also learned some intriguing things. First, the transmitter tower itself isn’t all that tall, not nearly the height of KPNE. Second, there is no marker or sign that indicates to whom the tower belongs. Most of the other transmitters I’ve seen in this part of the country have either the station logo or at least the call letters somewhere on the building. Here, nothing. Of course, when you’re in the middle of nowhere maybe you don’t need to bother.

The third interesting piece is this: Their PSIP identifies the station as “KHGI-13.” I was under the impression that the FCC mandated stations to keep their old channel number as the identifier under PSIP. Therefore it should have read: “KWNB-6,” or “KWNB-DT.” Since I am not a broadcast engineer I don’t have much of guess as to the misidentification other than to guess it might be a result of the signal being microwaved to this location from KGHI’s transmitter site.

Next time I’ll be sure to bring the camera. I did snap a couple of pics with my cell phone but as you can see the quality leaves something to be desired.

And taking more pictures always justifies a return trip!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Letter from Kansas

Been a while (that happens sometimes in this blog) and I assign blame for that on my not-much-changing everyday life and lack of creative juices. I refuse to post just for the sake of posting and if this blog ever becomes one of those "today my little baby did this" sites I will end everyone's misery post haste.

What I will do on occasion is write about my exploits in which I travel about and use the Macbook with the DTV stick to give folks an idea of what signals can be picked up where. Regular readers know I tried to install an outdoor superlarge VHF/UHF combo antenna but was unsuccessful in picking up any kinda-sorta nearby signals. Turns out they weren't near enough.

But no problem. If I can't bring DTV to me, I will go to it! My next post will contain an account of driving through west-central Nebraska with varying stops on the way.

Other stuff? Since we're getting a last blast of Old Man Winter here (at least I hope), this was another of those stay-indoor type of days. I made a large pot of green chile and at mealtime I added some green from the Xtra hot bag to my bowl. I am merciful to the Geogal, she doesn't have the heat tolerance I do.

The bag was accurate. Two bites and I felt as if I consumed New Mexico-grown tear gas. I doubt I have anything left in my sinus cavity now. And the chile could not have been better.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sleepy and powerless

I confess: My (blogging) muse comes and goes.

When she's around, I'm quite productive. Just take the recent example of the once-and-still forthcoming analog TV shutdown. Gave me quite a bit of material for several entries. Yet sometimes my inspiration is just nowhere to be found.

But lately, between my day job and the evening tasks of cooking, cleaning, making sure the child does her homework, and other odds and ends I find little time to write. No matter, sometimes I just have nothing to share.

Right now, though, a couple of things.

First, it's just about spring in Kansas, which translated means it can be balmy one day and frigid the next. For example, the middle of last week saw temps soar to the 70's. Almost criminal to be working inside with no windows on a day such as that. Then came Saturday where we saw no sunshine. Yesterday afternoon I worked in the yard toying with taking off my shirt to get some semblance of a suntan. (I didn't.)

Today? Maybe in the 50's at lunchtime. Suppertime: 30 degrees and falling.

I do notice the trees here aren't budding as yet. They've been around long enough. They're not fooled.

The other thing? Daylight Savings Time.

Since we haven't participated in the "spring forward fall back" regimen since the first term of the Clinton administration, losing an hour of sleep Sunday morning was not greeted with enthusiasm in the Geohouse.

To make things worse, the town had a power failure just before sunrise. Several digital faces throughout the casa were flashing various times, causing me to think: "Gee, I'm glad I changed all of these right before bedtime." I got my cell phone, figuring the carrier would have changed the time readout.

I was wrong. And didn't learn that until a little later.

We were rushed.

And trying to get little Geoana up and ready for school this morning was a worse chore than usual. Asleep on the couch, fully dressed, backpack at the ready, and the engine idling.

But the extra light at the end of the day is well worth it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

They're Not Supposed To Have A Sense Of Humor

A story such as this deserves comment.

As many readers know, I went to school at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM. There are four directions out of town, and only four (which is not unusual in the desert southwest). And in three of those directions (towards Alamogordo, Deming, or Truth or Consequences) you will encounter a Border Patrol checkpoint. Even though college students are known for making poor and sometimes notoriously dumb decisions, one thing everyone knew was not to be a smartass if you had to go through one of the Border Patrol stations.

Geogal knew of some students once, who, upon being asked by Border Patrol officers if all in the vehicle were U.S. citizens, prompted one to reply: "Si, senor."

The car was forced to pull to the side, then it was emptied and searched. The folks involved were eventually allowed to proceed, three hours later.

Don't mess with these folks. Nowhere, anywhere, does it say peace officers have to be polite in the line of duty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And the world did not end

Back from the road trip, 2600 miles later.

First, my thoughts on yesterday's anticlimactic DTV transition (for some of the country, anyway). While my reasons that most stations would go ahead and switch on 2/17 are still valid, it seems the major corporations and the FCC took the decision out of the station manager's hands.

Still, looking through the websites of newspapers where many stations made the transition yesterday it seems the problems were minimal based on the dearth of stories featuring old Aunt Millie and how she can't get "One Life To Live" anymore--it's just snow now. (Truth be told, Aunt Millie has had cable for years.)

Mid-June should be interesting, though. I'm in agreement with numerous experts in the field--if some folks weren't ready by yesterday they still won't be ready in June.

But on to other DTV-related stuff. I took the road trip as a great opportunity to see DTV in three different markets: Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Colorado Springs. I'm still in awe of the picture quality and enjoyed seeing the multiplexed channels. I also had fun switching back and forth between the analog and digital channels (fuzz/static/ghosting versus crystal-clear). No reception issues with the full-power channels, there was some drop-out with KAZT in Phoenix but they are a CA station with a lot less juice than their full-fledged neighbors on South Mountain. Still, I could aim the antenna just right and watch a little of the RTN network ("One Adam-12, one Adam-12"). The viewing in Colorado Springs was just about perfect--mainly due to our room location. Top floor, window facing the transmitter towers. (Hotels nowadays are notorious for interference probably due to the massive amount of RF needed for wireless communications and networking.)

That's all for now. I don't know when I'll take my laptop and DTV stick on the road next, but it shouldn't be too long.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back in AZ, briefly

Finally, a chance to create a post. I've been busy the last several days with trip preparations, working, more trip prep, picking up the Girl Scout cookies my daughter already sold, and then there is the small matter of the jaunt itself. 1100 miles, 5 states, two days. (Sounds like that should be the title of a travelogue on the New York Times bestseller list.)

We are in the Phoenix area for a friend's wedding and since our time here is short there will no doubt be some friends/regular readers of this blog who will feel put out that we didn't see them. Sorry, but time and abilities are finite.

While Geogal and little Geoana are out taking advantage of the myriad of retailers available here I have some alone time here in the hotel room. Prime opportunity to check the radio dial to see who's doing what and which stations have changed format since my departure from these parts almost a year ago. (A law of broadcast communications: Frequencies usually stay the same but programming will always change.)

Then, of course, there is the fun of plugging in the DTV stick and watching the new, improved form of over-the-air television. First Albuquerque (where we made the first overnight stay), then Phoenix. I'm still in awe of the picture quality when I watch a high-def show (the Albuquerque stay offered the opportunity to watch "American Idol" in HDTV). And as before, I'm just using a simple rabbit ear antenna. Reception is a little more challenging in a hotel room but it's still possible. (Methinks it might soon be time to find a powered indoor antenna....)


What's it like to be back here after having been away for nearly a year (in my case) or at least many months (the Geo ladies)?

Surreal, in a word. Geogal and I hadn't even been here 24 hours before we were homesick for our friendly Kansas home. Yes there are more conveniences here but the downsides are too many to mention. No doubt we made the right decision to move away when we did.


Any other thoughts from the journey? A few.

Southeast Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle are flat flat flat. (Leads one to think thoughts such as "Dear God, just kill me now.") Like the image most outsiders have of Kansas, but not a valid one when it comes to our northwest portion of the state.

Dalhart, Texas, is one friendly town.

Tucumcari, New Mexico, is a burg that has definitely seen better days.

The 75-miles-per-hour speed limit on Western interstates is a godsend.

Love's has the best coffee.

I should be extremely thankful, the Geofamily travels pretty well.

Albuquerque is slowly turning into Phoenix but El Pinto still has its rural charm. (The food ain't bad, either.)

Welcome to the Southwest: Snowy and 32 degrees in Flagstaff, but nary two hours later we're in the desert basking in 65-ish temps.

I'll still be glad to see my front door after all this is said and done.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

DTV viewing report, first one!

This afternoon I drove for an hour, found a place to park, then set out on a new phase in my over-the-air TV viewing.

I left my handheld TV at home, as this was the trial run for my Elgato EyeTV hybrid. I just took my Mac, the aforementiond DTV stick, and a set of rabbit ear antennas. Today's reception report comes from Holdrege, NE. I chose that town due to its relatively close (in a matter of speaking) location to my own home, its range to a variety of TV signals, and it has the transmitter for KLNE-TV just a few miles outside of town (although Lexington, not Holdrege, is the COL). Sometimes I think the residents of Holdrege could pick up KLNE on their fillings. But maybe not once the analog signal is shut off.

I set up the rabbit ears on top of my truck for the best unobstructed reception I could get in the area. (This town has a five or six-story building in the downtown area--one wonders what I could receive from that height.) I then went through the regimen of setting up a new device for the first time--detecting, going through the setup menu, then it was time for channel detection.

I was not disappointed. Two DTV channels: KLNE-DT (of course!--3-1, 3-2, and 3-3) and KGIN-DT (11-1 and 11-2). I also induced the auto scan to search for analog signals as well. No surprises: KLNE (3), KGIN (11), KHGI (13), plus some noise on UHF channel 20. (Holdrege apparently had a translator for KHAS-TV at one time on channel 14 but this seems to have since been turned off as the FCC query shows no TV licenses of any type for the town of Holdrege. I also never received any analog signal on channel 14 a few months ago when I used my handheld set to keep me apprised of the Texas-OU game.)

Channels 3-1 and 11-1 were broadcasting in HDTV, with the former showing the closing minutes of a Creighton University men's basketball game and the latter airing final round coverage of the FBR Open (from Scottsdale, AZ!!)

What can I say about the picture quality? Superlatives just don't seem sufficient enough. Once I got home and was telling Geogal about how well the stick worked, I summed up the experience in one word: "Wow." I went on to tell her that I think I could see the sweat droplets on on the basketball players, that's how good the definition was.

I'll be testing reception from Holdrege again, next time will be after the analog switch-off date. I hope to pick up KHGI-DT as they should be at full power and tower height by that time. And yes, I know The Big Game is today and it's ironic that I could not pull in a NBC affiliate this time around. However I don't think either NBC station in this area (KSNK or KHAS) is broadcasting in HDTV. But you never know--they might pull out all the stops for the Super Bowl.

Overall, though, I'm glad with the ease of use of the EyeTV stick and the picture quality of the Hi-Def broadcasts. Methinks I will get a lot of on-the-road enjoyment out of this combination.

Yes, it's time to make the pick

Cardinals or Steelers?

Remember last year, Major League Baseball? The Tampa Bay Rays? Worst to first in the AL? Sentimental favorites to win the World Series?

They didn't get the job done. End of the line for the postseason Cinderella story.

So my prognostication? Same fate for the Cardinals. Steelers will win big.

Friday, January 30, 2009

End of week quiet time

The house is empty and I'm left alone to do my blogging.


I cherish these alone times. (I've already written about that, so no more elaborating here.)

Yes, I know. The Senate voted to move the mandatory analog TV switch-off date to June. Then the House defeated the measure. Now it's headed back through the Senate. (Kinda reminds me of that old Schoolhouse Rock piece "I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill...")

Sure enough, it's on You Tube.

Back to the subject at hand. Even if a delay is agreed upon by Congress, the buzz around the media boards is that most stations will still switch as scheduled on 2/17, mainly for the reasons enumerated in my post here. Since I posted that entry I've heard, just as an example, that KAET-TV, the Phoenix area's public TV station has to pay an additional $10,000 per month to the local electric utility to power the extra transmitter.

It should get very interesting in the next few weeks. Speaking of which, my Eye TV hybrid USB TV stick arrived earlier this week. I haven't used it yet since there's no over-the-air to be had around here. Therefore I'll take a drive either Saturday or Sunday and take a gander at broadcast TV in both analog and digital. Who knows, I might even pick up a hi-def program.

I could rant about the lack of signals here at my casa but I won't. Face it, I can drive an hour in almost any direction and pick up something with the laptop. Come to think of it, I can go not very far and have my choice of stations. That's something many folks don't have the luxury of doing. I remember back to when I lived in Houston as a young lad. Seems you could drive quite a while and still be in the Houston TV DMA. Same with Albuquerque and Phoenix. At least out here I get variety in exchange for an hour's drive.

I hope the device works as it should. I'll certainly post my results here. Maybe even include some screen captures if I understand the software.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If you could go back in time...

Back in August, who would have thought this NFL season would yield such surprises? Consider:

1) A team would go 0-16.

2) Pat Bowlin would fire Mike Shanahan.

3) The Cardinals would be playing in the Super Bowl.

That's the fun of organized sports.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A tough goodbye

It's time to say so long, old friend.

We've traveled together for so many years now, you're like second nature when I packing my bag of electronic items.

(To the readers: Because of the analog switch-off, my hand-held, battery-operated LCD TV will soon be obsolete.)

I knew this day was coming. When I bought you in 1998 I already was aware of the upcoming digital TV broadcasts and that the old analog signals would leave the air forever. Back then January 1, 2006 was the projected turn-off date.

While you got a bit of a reprieve I now have to tell you that you will be relegated to the shelf in the basement where an old cable modem (not compatible with the system where we now live) and a Zip drive sit.

This will be hard. How many places have we been together? The answer doesn't even take into account the number of times you traveled with Geogal or were used by little Geoana to keep her occupied in the back seat while on a road trip. How we purchased you for Geogal's train trip to San Francisco?

How many different TV markets have you been in? Nearly every one in the southwest United States, and you were starting to make a dent in the Midwest as well.

I'll always have the memories. What about the time I was surprised I could pick up the TV stations licensed to Wailuku, on the island of Maui, Hawaii. While these are full-power stations I was confused as to how I could pick them up on the western side of the island (specifically Lahaina). It wasn't until much later that I learned the towers were on Haleakala, rather then near the town of Wailuku. Ahh, that explains it. Or when I brought you to work a couple of years ago, the day after Thanksgiving? I anticipated (correctly) it would be a slow afternoon so I got to enjoy Texas playing Texas A&M, not to mention Colorado versus Nebraska.

And one memory I wish wasn't there. I remember grabbing you and the AA batteries as I headed to work, watching the unfolding events of 9/11. On your screen I watched the twin towers fall, feeling emotions I never knew I had.

What about all the times I spent in airports watching programming via nothing more than your antenna? Or just powering you up while I was sitting in a vehicle riding shotgun? Such as the time Geogal and I were driving to Las Vegas. We had to wait for a construction project near Hoover Dam, one of those scenarios where vehicles have to stop for a pilot vehicle. To ease the boredom and satisfy my own curiosity, I clicked you on and entertained Geogal (who was driving) with cheesy soap opera dialogue. It also reminded me we weren't far from Sin City, not too much more car time.

I could go on and on with these memories, but that's enough for now.

You will be a hard act to follow. But what will replace you? I did consider looking for a comparable handheld LCD that is digital, but there's hardly any on the market right now. But doing some research revealed another solution. Today I placed the order for the EyeTV Hybrid from Elgato.

Now my trusty Macbook will double as my digital TV when I'm on the road.

But no matter what happens, old friend, I won't be forgetting you anytime soon.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Further chatter on DTV

While the digital TV switchover/analog turn-off/transition/changeover hubbub continues in the media, I'm feeling the urge to share more of my thoughts and (non)experiences.

First, to those who are hopeful President-Elect Obama delays the analog shut-off date, don't hold your breath. Why? Several reasons. Notwithstanding those that have already made the change (Hawaii, Wilmington, NC, the stations I referred to a couple of entries ago, and others that I just don't know about), all of the remaining full-power stations have already started or are preparing to begin a power-down. It seems this is necessary for the engineering folks to climb the towers and switch out the analog and digital antennas for some stations. Even though these stations have operated the two signals simultaneously, for several years in some cases, now that the deadline is near the focus is on getting the digital antennae to their maximum height and power, essentially replacing for good the older signals. These tasks are not spurious nor are they inexpensive. No doubt station managers and chief engineers have spent months if not years planning the timetable for such drastic changes. Even if the government moves back the mandatory analog switch-off date, the majority of stations will not revise their transition plans.

Second reason: money. Bean counters don't like paying a higher-than-normal electric bill to power both analog and digital signals. When you consider a full-power VHF can have around 100,000 watts effective radiated power, and a UHF could potentially go as high as five million watts, you're talking big bucks to the local electric provider. This cannot continue indefinitely.

Third, what good will delaying the switchover do? Some may cite the lack of (current) funding to continue the $40 coupon program, but this can be remedied without changing the February 17 date. (Shoot, the government seems to want to bail out everyone from Wall Street to Joe's Plumbing Supplies, let them cough up a little more dough for a converter box.)

Last but not least, the change needs to come. Why delay? Just makes it worse for everyone involved. If you cannot pick up digital signals now, you still won't be able to receive them in May. Or October. Or 2013.

Enough of my ranting. It is true that this is the most significant change for television viewing since the invention of the idiot box and I won't argue that point. Yet there was a significant event that brought changes to many TV viewers around the country.

Happened in 1994-95.


If not, you probably weren't living in one of the markets affected. What happened is this: New World Communications acquired many televisions stations in various markets. (How this occurred and the related timeline is beyond the scope of this blog post. There are several web sites which can explain this in detail. Use a search engine.) The fallout meant many UHF stations which had been affiliates of the Fox network since its inception in 1986 were switched to VHF channels, with the Big Three now finding one of their stations now on the UHF dial. You can think Fox's acquisition of the NFL for being the driving force behind all these transactions.

I didn't live in an affected market at the time (I was in Tucson if you're curious.) But our larger neighbor to the north, Phoenix, saw its ABC station wind up on channel 15, Fox going to channel 10, CBS moving to channel 5, and channel 3, the previous ABC outlet in the Valley of the Sun becoming first a WB station, then an independent operation. Other markets had equally dramatic changes: Denver, Atlanta, and Birmingham stand as good examples.

Just a reminder that you can fool around with people's TV habits and they will adjust accordingly. In other words, make the adjustment and move on!

Coming up: Saying goodbye to an old friend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

List with potential

I won't spend much time writing my thoughts about the deaths of Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan, both of whom entered eternity yesterday.

I will, however, bring up another subject that has fodder for good blogging. Geogal and I enjoy listening to Hugh Hewitt even if it's via podcast. (Since leaving Phoenix for the Kansas hinterlands, podcasting or streaming audio from a Salem affiliate station is the only way for us to catch his show.)

Most Fridays he spends the final hour with a movie critic: Emmett of the Unblinking Eye. Emmett always includes a "Top Ten" list of some topical importance. In the January 2nd show he and the guest host allowed callers to give their ideas for future Top Ten lists. I remember one in particular:

Top Ten Science Fiction Movies That Are Not "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" Related

What would my list be? I have some ideas, as does Geogal. We'll share them in a future post.

Just for all to know: My favorite Star Trek movie is indeed "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

DTV, but for me....

Several posts and many weeks ago I wrote about building an outdoor antenna for a couple of reasons: to see just what I could receive in this area and to enjoy multiplexed digital TV signals.

The result: I got the thing agglomerated to my liking, connected all the cables, powered up the booster, and turned on the TV with the digital tuner.

But no signal. Not for digital, anyway. Switching over to old-fashioned analog I could pick up several channels, but faint, ghosty. Well no wonder I couldn't pluck the DTV signals out of the air. For those of you who are slightly familiar with the concept, DTV is an all-or-nothing venture. The only signal drop-off you will notice is some pixallation, but if the signal is too weak your set will just give the message I saw: "No channels detected."

(Maybe not a verbatim quote, but you get the idea.)

Since I am not an engineer and don't have access to high tech equipment to judge signal strength from any given location I have to operate on guesswork and the data provided by TV Fool. Taking a closer look at my situation, it seems I am a victim of topography and distance. The nearest towers are KSNK and KLNE and I thought those two would at least give me a viewable DTV picture. Yet considering my house is in a creek valley (but not a floodplain) seems to affect the line-of-sight from these transmitters.

Now I am left to wonder how the signals can be picked up in other areas near here. Such as the neighborhoods that are on the open prairie rather then the creek cracks.

But at least I no longer have to wonder what I can pick up from my house. A few weekends ago (before the cold and snow REALLY hit) I took down everything and packed them in their assigned boxes. I'm keeping everything as you never know where you might end up.

So I find it ironic that this big transition, just about a month away now, will occur with me on the sidelines. Watching my DirecTV (and local channels via the cable company.) Truth be told, the transition is already happening around here. KSNK and KSNC (both on the cable system) have already shut off their analog signals. Given the high cable penetration of this area, it's not surprising I've noticed no complaints in local media.

Here's an amusing side story: A couple of Sundays ago we played hookey from church and headed to Grand Island to do some serious (i.e. Sam's Club) shopping. I brought along my handheld LCD TV (it's a few years old, and totally analog) because I am the type of nerd that just always wants to see what I can receive. (I even did this on the island of Maui some years ago.) The results were what I expected: Channels 11 and 13 come in fine. But why can't I get KHAS, channel 5? I'm only 20 or so friggin' miles from the transmitter?

Once home I go on to RabbitEars. That answers the question! KHAS already completed their transition. According to the Wikipedia entry management decided to take care of things early before weather became a factor.

So the transition out here in the sticks seems to be going just fine!

More to come...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It can't be....

Not only are the Cardinals playing in the NFC Championship game, but they're hosting it!

I'm scouring the 'Net today to see if hell did indeed freeze over.

More here. And here. (The Cardinals, not H-E-double hockey sticks)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Insert generic New Years greeting here

It's amazing how one's creativity comes and goes. Like any person who writes strictly for the fun of it, I get tired, lethargic, and sometimes venture into self-pity because I cannot generate an uproariously humorous blog entry whenever I think I ought.

Last night I kept thinking: Last day of 2008, you really should write something. But the demands of a workday, followed by dealing with little Geoana and her overnight guest, plus grilling some burgers outside, left me drained. Tired. So I chose to sit on the sofa and read.

I think it did me good.

Yes, I fired up the propane beauty and cooked outdoors. At the end of December. In Kansas. Yes, it was dark and cold, but the result was worth it. When I resided in Arizona I grilled year-round and never gave it a thought. Some habits die hard, especially when they're food-related.

Moving on to other stuff: I drove home from working out Tuesday evening, clicked my radio over to KOA in Denver just for the heck of it (its 50,000 watt signal comes in quite well in these parts, particularly in the wintertime where the sun doesn't cause much interference). It was the top of the hour, time for news. I was as surprised as anyone else when I heard of Mike Shanahan's firing.

Just goes to show there is no "head coach for life," unless you own the team. (See: Connie Mack)

And I couldn't agree more with Pat Forde's conclusions.


I can't help but chuckle when I see all these news stories about 2008 being a terrible year. Hmmmm, I guess that depends on one's perspective. For the Geoclan this was an eventful year but the end result was very positive. Is the quality of our life better now than it was January 1, 2008?

A very emphatic "Yes."

And that response has nothing to do with politics, $$$$$, or anything the media deems important. Just take care of yourself and your own household, be sensitive to the needs of others (but don't neglect your own needs in the process), pay attention to what's going on, and don't worry about what other people "may think."

That's my pearl of wisdom for the new year.