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» Friday, May 08, 2015Operation Antenna
Been a busy, busy day. First the usuals: up, walk the dog, eat breakfast. Next, I had to do something about the shower in the master bath. It absolutely wears me out to clean it, so it only gets a lick and a promise. In Rhode Island that might work, but here, with the hard water, and the fact that you can't open the window, the soap scum, the rusty water marks, and the increasing spots of mold are hard to hold back. So I ran hot water in the shower to steam it up, stripped the sheets off the bed, scrubbed the toilet, and then got to work on the shower. I started with my old Mr. Clean extendable scrub brush, but that's never enough. I finally had to go in with the Soft Scrub and the scrubby sponge and bend down to scrub by hand. The shower door had a lot of soap scum. When I do this when James is home, I get him to keep pressure on the door while I scrub, but this time I could only use my right hand to hold the door closed and my left to do the scrubbing. I have arthritis now in my hands and especially in my elbows after hurting them when we moved work from Buckhead to University Park (movers moved the boxes of contracts, but we had to pack the contracts in the boxes; I remembered to move so that I didn't hurt my back and hurt my arms instead), and by the time I got done my hands were shaking. It took me about an hour to get it just so.
I gulped some milk and rewarded myself for cleaning the shower by sitting down and finishing work on my Doctor Simon Locke webpage. I was really just doing a short page for Police Surgeon; try as I might, I still can't rustle up much enthusiasm for the follow-on series. As I commented: I think what's worst about Police Surgeon is that it so typifies the urban decay of the 1970s...[i]t's all there in faded color: the drug pushers and the desperate addicts, the crumbling city infrastructure, the protection rackets leaning on the small business owner, idealistic police officers battered from all sides by their social conscience and their fears along with their opposite number, the cops "on the take"...time machine time. It's, quite frankly, depressing to someone who lived through it.
Quite out of nowhere I decided to work on the antenna project. We have two small televisions in the house that use only antennas, as they aren't used much. Well, antenna reception around here frankly sucks. We have a rabbit ears/round UHF antenna combo on the main television to get the "side channels" like ME-TV, AntennaTV, GetTV, and, of course, RetroTV, which is showing both classic Doctor Who and Doctor Simon Locke/Police Surgeon. We got it years ago from Radio Shack and it's led a hard life; one of the aerials is actually almost snapped in half and is wired up and duct-taped together. To get RetroTV it sits rather drunken-looking on top of a plastic bookrest that's balanced on the television, with one aerial up and one aerial down like Small One's ears in the Christmas cartoon. But reception-wise it's heads-and-shoulders above every other set of "superior digital TV antenna" that's set foot in the house since: both of the small televisions only get about six channels total: WSB and its two subchannels ME-TV and Laff, WTBS, the local CW channel, and a couple of Spanish channels. I lucked out and got a special sale on the Amazon Fire Stick for $20: James keeps that downstairs for when he's in his "man cave," but he mostly watches Svengoolie's campy movie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Lost in Space when he's down there on Saturday nights.
Back before Christmas James had a day off and stopped at Sam's Club. He came home with a set of two "Leaf" digital antennas and they've been sitting by his desk ever since. One was a flat square and the smaller one looked like elongated moth's wings. The other two antennas we have are so crummy that I didn't hold up much hope for them. And...antennas with no adjustable aerials? How did you pull the signals in? A couple of weeks ago a woman called Leo LaPorte about "cutting the cord" and he recommended a Leaf antenna. Could there be something to these things after all?
The package came with a "Leaf Metro," with a range of 25 miles and no amplifier (the moth), and a "Leaf Ultimate" (the square one, now known as the 50), with a range of 50 miles and with an amplifier. I discarded the idea of the Metro immediately and attached the Ultimate to the television, mounting the antenna high on the wall over the spare room door, and then scanned the channels. Well, it did quite well, identifying 43 channels, picking up Fox5 and the religious channels, several more Spanish channels, and WPBA, the Atlanta PBS station, but it was still missing WXIA [the NBC affiliate) and several other channels, including RetroTV, that it should have been receiving. It's always seemed funny to me that trying to program any of the televisions in any other room but the living room gave such limited channel choices. So I wheeled the TV on its cart out into the living room, draped the antenna on one of the curtain rods, and ran the scan again. This time it identified 60 channels, and both RetroTV and WXIA showed up. Weird, I tell you, these digital signals. The distance between the living room and the bedroom is, by James' estimation, about 30 feet. Why such a disparity in tuning? Pretty soon I had blocked out the Spanish channels, the church channels, the shopping channel, and the jewelry channel, and was ready to take the entire dog-and-pony show back into the bedroom.
I wished I could do one more thing, though, record off RetroTV, but the DVD recorder/VHS unit is, of course, analog and won't record digital signals. And then I thought of the converter box. We inherited my mom's "kitchen TV" after she passed away, and James used it for a while including after the switch to digital, when we bought one of the converter boxes for it. Both are still in the closet. So I rooted out the converter box (since at this point it's under the shelf that fell down), attached it to the antenna, the box to the DVD/VHS, the DVD/VHS to the television...and...it worked!
Except for one teeny, tiny detail—while it got almost every single station that the television tuned in, the exception was the side-channel stations based at Channel 32 on the dial, which, of course, includes RetroTV (Channel 32-7). Just typical of life, as February Callendar commented.
(It appears that the converter box will get the side channels on already established broadcast stations in Atlanta. We get 2-2 and 2-3 because 2-1, WSB, has been a broadcast channel for years. We get 5-2, 11-2 and 11-3, and 46-2 and 46-3, etc. because they are the local Fox, NBC, and CBS affiliates and also established broadcast channels. But Channel 32, as far as I can tell, didn't exist before there were digital stations. So the converter only picks up 32-1, the guide to the other channels, but not the subchannels, including Oldie Goldie and RetroTV. Piffle.)
Anyway, I put the converter box away, disappointed, and wheeled the television back into the spare room. This time with the Leaf mounted in the same place as the first time, I got every single channel I had tuned in in the living room, with the exception of the Atlanta Channel, which is basically a tourist channel that tells you about attractions in Atlanta. Odd because it came in clear as that proverbial bell in the living room! But no loss. Then I started moving the antenna around until I had that same signal somewhere a little less obtrusive. It ended up right over the window, where most of the coaxial cable is hidden by the curtain or tucked against the baseboard.
We'll have to get another and tune James' little set downstairs in the living room before taking it downstairs and manipulating the antenna down there. It would be nice if he had more choices than Svengoolie! Might be good for the living room, too—but right now I don't want to mess with RetroTV's signal since they're showing Doctor Who eps I don't remember all that well and since another showing of Doctor Simon Locke should be in the offing.
By this time it was three o'clock and I was conscious that I hadn't eaten, nor had I taken the sheets down to wash. So I warmed up and ate a small leftover piece of steak with a glass of milk, then started the sheets washing, then put the fresh sheets on the bed (we did the pillows later). By this time every joint in my body ached from the shower intervention, so I took four ibuprofin and spent an hour or so reading Erik Larson's Lusitania book and watching a marathon of Love: American Style on the new "Decades" channel (69-2) followed by forty minutes of Star Trek on ME-TV ("Patterns of Force," a.k.a. "The Nazi One"). The pain eased a bit as I took Tucker outside—he was very good all afternoon, either in his "cave" or out on the deck—for his walk just before James arrived. My Hamilton Book shipment had come in, too: two hardback books which I had intended buying in paperback this summer at $7.99 which I got from Hamilton for only $4.99, and that beautiful Smithsonian History of America in 101 Objects valued at $50 which I got for $14.99.
We had supper at Tin Drum again. James had the Thai Curry, which he enjoyed, and I had the teriyaki chicken again, but on noodles. This was good, but very drippy; the noodles definitely didn't absorb the sauce like the rice does. We made a brief stop at Bed, Bath & Beyond with an expiring coupon and I bought some Command hooks. Then a final stop at Barnes & Noble because we had soon-to-expire coupons there as well: one that came via e-mail today, and two that had come in the mail. I got the third book in Victoria Abbott's mystery series with the 15 percenter and with the two 20s I got a nice new hardback copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and a 2002 book about the Lusitania. And then at checkout I saw there was a new Penderwicks book! Arrgh! Too many books, not enough coupons or time.
Came home to "Warriors of the Deep" on Doctor Who and then completing making the bed and finally Police Surgeon. Sal Mineo was in the first episode and Susan Strasberg in the second; let's say her elevator didn't go all the way to the top anymore. Like Blanche Dubois, she was depending on the kindness of strangers.