House Journal – New TV

I have been MIA lately, the move, unpacking, and some insane deadlines at work have meant that I had no time to write, but I will begin to rectify that.

With the move, the trusty Pioneer Plasma screen was showing its age. When we bought it in 2006, the LCD panels at the time sucked big tool. Side by side, there was no comparison, the plasma kicked their ass all over the playground.

It was a 42″ unit, and a solid performer, but it was input constrained, and while the picture quality was superb, it was a bit of a power hog.

With our new house, we knew we wanted something a bit larger (but not too large, as our viewing room was modest) with smart TV capability, and more HDMI inputs.

I looked long and hard at the 4K screens, but at the size we were interested in, 55″ it just wasn’t compelling. No real content (some netflix, and some DirecTV) and to get something with a good refresh rate, you need to drop about $2K.

Much browsing at Bestbuy, looking at the Samsung, LG and Sony panels in our range, and they were all good, and apart from the Sony, comparably priced. However, the Bestbuy sales droid pointed me at the Panasonc Bravia 55″. On clearance, and a size exclusive to Bestbuy, the screen was sweet. 240hz refresh rate, excellent colors, and a compelling price, I was sold.

Hanging it on the wall was a breeze, and our electricians made passthroughs for the cables, so it is almost clutter free.

Quality of the display is impressive. Bluray movies “pop”. I tossed in The Matrix, and Casino Royale, and the quality is superb.

I haven’t explored much of the apps yet, but the Netflix app, built in (and a netflix button on the remote to boot) makes it super easy to watch streaming videos. Way better than the old way, firing up the Xbox, and using the app there. That takes about a minute and a half until you can begin watching. Now, about 20 seconds, and you are streaming.

Our Tivo hooked right up, and covers our DVR/live TV needs.

HD resolution, on the 55″, at the viewing distances we have is plenty good. I am not regretting the choice of not going to the 4K resolution. This thing is awesome.

And being a LED backlit display, this unit uses less than 1/4 the juice that the Plasma screen did.

We did donate the plasma screen, and it has a new home at one of our movers, I am sure it will continue to be a great screen, but we aren’t pining for it.

Drugs Inc. – An at times brutal view of the drug trade

Life with Netflix Streaming is never dull. As they increase their library, and more importantly, improve their algorithms for matching what I would like, I get some great recommendations. One such recommendations is a show on the National Geographic Channel called Drugs Inc.

Netflix is missing the first season, but I practically binged on the two seasons that are available. In a nutshell, it is a behind the scenes view of the narcotics trade from production, transportation, trafficking, and a look on the users and communities that are the end users.

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Classic TV – The Rockford Files

With the recent passing of the legendary James Garner I have once again tossed the hit TV series “The Rockford Files” onto my Netflix streaming list. I had gone through the series a few years ago, reminiscing about my childhood, but this time it was to honor the memory of James.

It is astounding how well the stories hold up to time. Written and filmed in the mid 1970’s, the stories are timeless, and entertaining today. Yes, technology is better, and a lot of the tricks of the trade employed by the main character wouldn’t fly today, in all it still makes for amazingly entertaining watching.

One fixture in the show, is Rockford’s trailer, parked on the beach. Unassuming from the outside, and remarkably spacious on the inside, it is a comforting prop to the show.

Of course, now that I am looking for a house here in California, and I might slip down into “manufactured home” territory (thanks to my shitty relocation company) I look on Rockford’s trailer with envy. Great location, and boy, how spacious is it inside.

Answer: far more spacious than it really is. Alas, the interior filming was done on a sound stage, the main reason why the trailer shots aren’t cramped.

Still, a man can dream.

If you have Netflix streaming, I highly recommend tossing this on your list, and watching a few episodes. You will be sucked in and enjoy the time spent.

Comcast Sucks

When we first moved to Arizona, I splurged and bought a Tivo. It was an old one, and it was wonderful. Worked great, super intuitive interface, great integration. Back then it had to call Tivo every day to get the latest listings.

In 2006 or so, we went HD, and upgraded to a Series 2 HD, with the cable cards. With the exception of a failed HD in 2012, replaced via Weaknees, it has been wonderful.

At both our places in Arizona, we had Cox cable. It was reliable, reasonable, and it gave us absolutely awesome internet speeds.

Fast forward. We have moved to the San Jose area. Our stuff is still in storage, and we are in temporary housing. The apartment we are in has Comcast Xfinity service. Internet, TV, and telephone.

I guess I should be happy that it has a DVR, but the UI is so fucking primitive, it is painful to use. It is slow, non responsive, and the search function truly sucks ass. Yes, there are lots of channels, but unless you search precisely right, it will not return anything, and then you get to go back to square one.

I can only hope that we have a choice wherever we end up, but I suspect that we will have the choice between Comcast and AT&T U-Verse.

I guess I will once again go back to Tivo.

Bad TV – Columbo

To be fair, this isn’t really bad TV.

Lieutenant ColumboI love Netflix streaming. It is a great way to while away the hours. I have enjoyed many classic TV series, from Rockford Files, Hawaii 50, and the early Twilight Zones. I get great enjoyment watching these.

I watched all the original Hawaii 50 episodes. I think it was the 8th season when they finally showed it raining in Hawaii (but, ironically, every time McGarrett (Jack Lord) when to the mainland, it was raining there.

Lately, I have been watching the old Columbo episodes. It ran from 1971 and had 7 seasons. The episodes are 1:15 long (so it was a 90 minute show).

What I love:

  • Peter Falk – man, he was a character. Always disheveled, waving that nasty green cigar around. Driving that wreck of a car. An amazing character. In the 3rd season when he picked up the dog (with no name), a bassett hound, I loved it.
  • Interesting plot twists. Of course, they telegraphed the twist up front, so you got to see Columbo work it out.
  • Well shot. For the time period, it was really good cinematography.
  • “There’s one more thing …” – gotta love that line…

What I hate:

  • The criminals are idiots. They all make really basic, stupid mistakes. Of course, you expect criminals to be less than brain surgeons, but they do so many things right, but then do completely bone headed things that trip them up.
  • It all unravels with one pull of the thread. Invariably, there is one piece of incongruent evidence. And bang, Columbo gets them.

Still, I enjoy watching these.  I just started the 4th season, so I will probably keep watching them.

If you haven’t seen it, the movie that makes Peter Falk’s career is “The Inlaws” with Alan Arkin. Totally worth the watch.

I am saddened that Peter Falk passed in 2011, apparently in an advanced stage of Alzheimers. A shame.