Friday, September 16, 2016

The Tivo Tango

Tivo Series 1
In this blog, I don’t usually spend a lot of time on subjects that have little to do with The South (requisite capital letters) and only rarely do I write a lot on Tech.  This last couple of weeks, however, got me in touch with my home Tech on a new level.  You see, I’m not one to constantly have L&G (Latest and Greatest) when it comes to Tech. You know, TV's, stereo, even my home computers are older than most. If my old tech is working, and working fine, then there is no need to replace it with ‘oooo new and shineyyy’ tech.  If it ain’t broke, don’t replace it. 

Case in point: My Tivo.  (For those not in the know, the Tivo is the original DVR.)  My Tivo is a Series 1, which means it came out in 1999. (We’re talking old tech here.  Imagine, if my Tivo were a kid, he would be able to drive now.) There are now 6 series of Tivo.  (I, II, III, 4 Premier, 5 The Roamio & 6 The Bolt)  The Tivo was a gift from my brother (no, not Brother Bubba, my other brother who is also not Southern, but he is generous.) The Tivo S1 also came with a Lifetime Service Guarantee (very spendy- even by today's standards) again thanks to the generous Brother. The Tivo has worked beautifully for 16 years.  I have it attached to our home network where it calls in daily to get guide information.  Let me reiterate, it is working PERFECTLY. 

About 2 weeks ago, a rather official message popped up on my Tivo saying a lot of nothing, but in effect, telling us that the Tivo would no longer record after September 29. The reason for this is that the people who write the code for the guide (that’s the information that the Tivo downloads every day) are changing the guide and the Series 1 would not be able to read said code.  (Cue much internal screaming and cursing.)  My wife and I use our Tivo every night.  There is just no way to see all the shows we want to see without conflict, so nightly I sit down and go through and set up the shows on the Tivo, usually getting them all recorded thanks to cable shows being shown more than just once a night.  (Thanks Cable TV Channels!)  Without the Tivo, our TV watching just about ends!

So, of course, I call Tivo. They have a special 800 number for Series 1 users to call.  The first person I talked to told me that my Lifetime Service can be moved to a new unit, if I purchase a new unit. So, my wife and I begin perusing the Internet looking for the best deal.  I call back the next day, ready to complete both the purchase (they had the best deal) and said transfer only to be told THIS time that I CANNOT move the service to a new unit because it was purchased after some arbitrary date.  (Again cue internal screaming!)  He offers to transfer me to a supervisor, but I really didn’t  see the use of that.

Time Passes.  A week goes by and my ire has bubbled over. The Lifetime Service Guarantee was not purchased paired with the S1 unit and even if it were, MY unit is working fine. The only reason it’s not going to be working is that as of Septemer 29, Tivo will stop supporting it. No Lifetime. No Service, no Guarantee.   I decide to call in a third time, and Yes, I will speak to a supervisor, thank you very much!  So, I was halfway through my oral dissertation on the dictionary meanings of ‘Lifetime,’ ‘Service,’ and ‘Guarantee’ as they pertain to Customer Satisfaction and he stops me to say that they WILL transfer the new service to a new unit.  So, we complete the purchase, during which I ask him at least 6 times to say again that the unit will come with the Lifetime Service Guarantee.  He says yes, all 6 times. 
The Tivo Bolt

Though the shipping is ‘standard,’ we get the our new Tivo Bolt in record time, 1 day.  We open and begin reading and discover that, before we can make the Tivo work, we need something called a Cable Card.  It's Friday night, but we know the local Comcast office is open so we run on over only to discover they have no Cable Cards in stock and don’t expect any until at least Tuesday. (We could order one to be mailed to us, but I want to get the thing working NOW!) On a whim, the next morning, I find out that there is a Comcast office across town open all day (even on Sunday!) so across town we go and we get the cable card and after a long morning shopping, we head home to install said Cable card  Which. Doesn't. Work!  I even called Comcast tech support who assesses the problem immediately (the store gave us the wrong type of card) and thankfully the office is still open so across town I go again, where they each look at the card I was given and shake their heads because, yeah, they knew by looking at it that it was the wrong card. (Thankfully, the guy who gave us the wrong card was out, or he might have gotten an earful.) Home again, Home again and the card is installed and the Tivo makes its first call. 

But –

As fate would have it, now that the Cable Card is installed, we can see that the Tivo had no service attached. The Lifetime Service Guarantee that I was told (6 times) would be with the new Tivo was not transferred.  I check the website and find that there is a page to transfer service, but it won’t work, probably because it’s a S1. Too late to call Saturday, I call Sunday. I'm transferred around a bit, but finally get someone who agrees, that the service will be transferred. They promise me that Yes, the Service is set to be transferred and it will be transferred hopefully by the end of the day.  TWO DAYS LATER, the service is transferred and all is well in Marvinator's Tivo-Land.

In fact, it’s more than well.  The new Tivo has things on it we hadn’t really expected.  The old Tivo had one channel recording. There New Tivo has 4 Channel recording. It also has Netflix, YouTube and several other streaming apps!  Lastly, just the other day, I was browsing shows and found myself on channel 1207, which is HD.  WHAT? (Yes, I said this out loud, which startled the cat.)  That’s right, the new Tivo allows us to get all the HD Channels we’ve been unable to get with our Standard Definition Cable box!  (Yes, more exclamations!)  This means our big flat screen TV no longer has a black border around it.  The picture fills the screen! I will dance on my old Tivo! 

Ok, no dancing, not at my age. 
Nothing more to see here….move along….I got shows to record.....

Friday, August 26, 2016

Beer Party!

Standing in the line at the grocery store the other day when my wife surprised me by picking up a big beer.  And, I do mean big: one of those massive Australian lagers that took both hands to pick it up and hand it to her.  Now, I hear what you're thinking:  my lovely wife, buying beer. Double Ewe Tea Eff!

That night, she took the massive can of brew out into the garden and returned with it empty.  So, I'm thinking my wife has a drinking problem.  Well, actually there's no problem, she drank it without spilling so there's that.  In actuality, my wife was after snails.  That's right, snails. 

A couple of months ago, we replanted the front garden (yet again) with new plants.  Unfortunately, they began getting chewed up by snails almost immediately. Zounds! I shouted. Get the salt! Get the chemicals!  Get the garlic butter! (Oh wait...)

My wife, the consummate natural gardener, eschewed chemicals (and garlic butter) for the more natural approach.  Beer.  You see, the snails are attracted to the beer like a college freshman to a kegger!  (Though not for the cheerleaders they hope to see, but for the yeast in the beer.) My wife positioned 4 shallow dishes in the garden and then filled them each with beer.
(Green and red dishes...very festive!)
In the middle of the night, the snails crawl toward the beer, fall into the pool of brewski goodness and drown.  (A moment of silence for the snails.)  The only bad part is that once the snails die, they attract flies by the boatloads, so the dishes have to be switched out regularly.  

Took my wife 4-5 nights of beer parties for us to finally see fewer and fewer snails in the dishes come morning. It also took a second trip to the store for a three-pack of tall boys.

Ain't no party like a Beer Snail Party!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Adventure Science Center Adventure

This last week, my lovely wife and I hosted two of our grand-kids while Mom and Dad went off to Mexico for rest, relaxation and Margaritas. Heavy on the Margaritas. With this onset of this blasted heat in the last weeks we've all been stuck indoors, so we've been looking for things to do that are, well, out of the house, but not in the heat. Also they have to be geared to the youngsters so a night out at the Wild Horse Saloon is out. Pity, that. 

If you search the Internet for things to do, you'll come across any number of things to do in Nashville, but most are the heat, which is not what we were wanting.  We decided to try the Adventure Science Center. Described as a multilevel museum with hands-on exhibits & a planetarium that teaches kids about tech, health & ecology. I'd been to the place when my youngest was a kid, and we had a great time and I even remember some of the things we learned together. I envisioned great bonding moments aplenty. 

Upon entering, I noticed a lot of changes and not all of them good. To begin, the pricing was a bit high at $14.95 for adults and this counts anyone over the age of 12.  Only slightly less for younger kids, but to tell the truth, the younger ones are the ones who enjoy it the most. There are additional fees for the moonwalk exhibit and the planetarium shows.  We opted out of both extras.  

The biggest change is the exhibits.  Lots of lights, buttons and noise.  In addition, the exhibits were bigger and better laid out.  Where before the exhibits were like pods placed at random across the floor, the exhibits now were large and incorporated the walls, ceilings and more. There is an ambulance that kids can climb into and see all the equipment up close. 

Lastly, when we first visited, the only food available was from vending machines. Now, there is a full service Subway Sandwich Shop right inside the center! Nationwide standardized pricing, too!

And now the problem:  So many other people had the same thought as we did. So the place was overrun with kids.  This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the attitude of the parents which was basically just follow along with the running screaming kids while they watch their phone.  The kids run up to an exhibit, punch the buttons, twirl the dials or just grab it and see if it moves.  Then, without seeing what part of science the exhibit may be demonstrating, they run off to the next one.  Lots of noise and voices and more noise.

It was difficult to try to read the exhibit and then figure out what the exhibit was teaching and then impart this to the grand kid in an entertaining way.  Successful? No. Nothing else to do but just punch the buttons and let's move on.

All in all, we had a nice time. However, should we plan this again, I would go on a weekday and I intend to check the parking lot for overcrowding as an indication of a problematic day. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lay's Potato Chips - Southern Biscuits and Gravy Flavored

When I was a kid, I could go through a king sized bag of Lay'e Potato Chips (what they now call their 'Classic" chips) watching TV after school.  I still  love those golden, crunchy classic snacks.  You can imagine my delight and surprise when the lovely Mrs. discovered this new flavor: Southern Biscuits and Gravy. The mind boggles...the mouth waters...

A quick search of the internet reveals that this flavor is the winning flavor from Lay's annual "Do Yourself A Flavor' contest. Southern Biscuits and Gravy was the 2015 winner.  

Now, to be sure, I still crave those classic taters.  They fulfill a special roll in my all important snack-choice menu, but this new idea pings my also important Southerness.  (Yes, Southerness. It's a word, and if it isn't, then it should be!)  My afternoon snacking will take on new heights as I look forwar to trying these and the nice thing is that they will remain on the shelves for the foreseeable future.  Taste a bit of the South with me, boys and girls! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Returning to Post

In the last couple of weeks, almost a month, I've been unable to post. It's not you, it's me. You see, last September, we lost our 17 yr old Grandson. It was sudden and we're still reeling. Then, this last month, we lost another, our 21 yr old Grandson. My wife and I are emotionally devastated. It seems all we try to do is get through each day. Posting on here just didn't seem to be as important as it was before. I hope to get back to it, and hope you'll bear with me in the doing.


Friday, June 3, 2016


When it comes to Presidential Elections, this has been one of the most contested and fiercely fought campaigns in recent memory - and the real campaigning hasn't even begun yet! Though being a Good Ol' Boy from the South may have nothing to do with it, there are vastly different candidates and for one time I plan on spouting off on who is best and who isn't.  

So, let me take a quick look at each of the candidates and what you're exactly voting for.  

Rubio:  Mayor of New York.  I have no idea why you would vote for this man other than that.  
  Result: No vote.  

Kashich:  Misplaced millions as Governor of Ohio, made cuts to public education, questions about voter fraud have also been raised. 
  Result: No Vote. 

Cruz:  Cruz is a christian and makes no qualms about bringing this to the Oval Office.  This means he's totally against the constitution, equality and ignores the whole "separation of church and state."  He would create a 'Christian ISIS' in the US. 
  Result: No vote. 

H.  Clinton:  Benghazi and email scandal.  Need I say more?  Clinton has more skeletons we haven't seen and yet people rally for her as if she's the second coming.  She is.  You really want a second Clinton in the White House? I won't even go into the whole SuperPac funding. 
   Result: No Vote.  

Trump:  Many years ago I said that we needed a business person in the white house.  We needed someone to tell it like it is. I didn't mean Chump, oops, Trump.  Bigoted, improper and has no real reason to be running this country and has been likened to Adolf Hitler in his campaigning. 
   Result:  No Vote. 

Sanders: Pushing for many changes, but unable to prove how they will be paid for.  Called a Socialist (though I'm not sure that's accurate in this case.) It's obvious at the time of this writing that Sanders may not get the nomination of his party.  If he was the type of candidate I hope, he'd run as an independent the rest of the year. 
Result: Mixed.  We need Sanders, but do we need the government spending he seems to be backing? 

As you can see, it's not a clear cut field.  What to do?  We need to vote, just not sure for whom!

For many years, whenever I was faced with the election, I carried two thoughts into the booth: 
  1) When in doubt, vote for Pat Paulsen - Lord knows he can use the votes - and he never wins anyway, so why not? I voted for the master candidate a number of times; though I can't remember how many exactly. What this taught me, however, is that any vote for anyone other than a justified and viable candidate is just tossing out your vote. You'd be better off not voting at all, and save the gas it took to drive to the voting station. But not voting is even worse, when you consider the field of possibles!
 2) Vote against the incumbent.  There have been any number of petitions, arguments and protests stating how Congress needs Term Limits since the Executive Branch (The President) already has them.  We don't need term limits, we need better voters. Tired of the same candidate? Vote Against the Incumbent! Term Limits established! 

These two thoughts have served me well, though in my entire voting career (starting in my first presidential election in 1976) I have voted for the winning candidate exactly 1 time.  But you see, it's not about voting for the winner.  It's voting PERIOD - and casting a viable, usable vote! As has been often said and by writers, poets and pundits alike, "If you don't vote,  you can't whine about the outcome!"  AND additionally, if you vote for a candidate that has no chance of winning (Sorry, Pat!) that's just as bad. 

Register now, get ready for November!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Zen and the Art of Household Maintenance

Did you ever have one of those weekends where you get so much done you think time has stopped?  This last weekend was like that for me.  Normally, I can get one major project done for the whole weekend.  Usually, the lawn, or maybe something on the Everlasting Living Room Project. About the end of that one project, I'm out of energy, out of steam, out of ideas; but this last weekend was the total opposite.

The Weekend of Fun and Frolic (capitalized because, why not!) actually started Friday night, when after dinner, my wife announced that the washer was not working properly. I had the time to drain the washer and clean the filters to see if that worked, but it didn't, so it looked like my Saturday morning was set, working on the washer.   

Saturday: Up early, coffee in hand, I tackle the washer project with wild abandon.  I found a video on how to open up the front of the unit to get at the drain pump.  (All indicators pointed to the drain pump as the actual broken culprit.) That's the washer dismantled with me sitting rather proudly in front of it.  (How did we repair things before Youtube?)  

Back to the internet, I find several places that would sell me the part, but more importantly, I found one in town that was open until noon and had a universal replacement part in stock!  Being as it was only 9 AM, I went for it!  Paid for it over the phone and into the car and in no time I'm back putting the new drain pump in the washer.  It took me a while to get the pump actually into the housing (universal fit, my ass!) but by 11 we were washing clothes.  To celebrate, we went out for pizza for lunch! 

This is the point where I enter that realm of Zen and the Weekend. After lunch, I told my wife I really wanted, no NEEDED to get the front lawn mowed as in some spots the grass was already 10"-12" tall. She said she'd head out shopping without me and in no time, I'm in the zone of mowing the front yard.  

For those keeping score, this is two major projects so far.  

Next, while mowing, I note that the mower won't fit behind the nearly dead butterfly bush.  My wife had even told me that the bush should be removed and I'd been meaning to either remove it or just move it for some time. Without a second thought I grabbed a shovel and dug out the bush and moved it forward about 6 inches; just enough so that the mower can now fit between it and the house and keep the grass behind it mowed.

A third project bites the dust. But it doesn't stop there...

As I was cleaning the mower (gotta keep your fossil fuel powered friends in good running order!) I recalled that the weather report had said it would be raining later in the weekend, and at the same time I recalled that a section of our roof that is prone to leakage might need to be looked into before said rain arrived.  When I was putting the mower away, I grabbed some rubber roofing sealant and a caulking gun and in no time I was up on the roof looking into the leaky roof problem.  

While I was at it, I also took time to check out my chimney cap and found it in terrific shape. The flashing on the cap needed fresh sealing (ok, I used the wrong stuff to seal it when I installed it) and since I had the rubber roofing caulk in my hand, I made sure that the chimney cap was better sealed than before.  

Projects 4 and 5 completed - and it wasn't even dinner time!

Sunday:  My lawn may be small but due to my usual level of energy I'm only able to get the front or the back yard done in a single day.  The time after I usually spend laying under the fan in the bedroom, sweating, breathing heavy and saying things like 'Oh lordy, lordy lordy.' Today? While the wife headed out to go shopping, the back lawn beckoned and Sunday saw me getting the back lawn done in no time flat.

Yes, I know you consider that part of mowing the lawn, but it's my decision - Project 6!

Again I found my energy and focus off the charts and looking around I found some more projects to complete.  A pile of leftover tile and cement boards needed to be cleaned up in one area along with some wood that I had tossed out during the Floor Rebuild of the Everlasting Living Room Project in another.

I'm calling that two separate projects (7 & 8) and I'm not done yet!

In front of our house is a big, big tree.  Around the base of said tree is usually a thick jungle of suckers and vines, some taller than me, that need to be cut down to keep the tree from dying. I should do it every year, but just can't seem to fit in the time. With three sets of clippers in hand, I waded into the jungle, cutting and hacking and tossing everything into the brush pile.  Result:
Hard to tell by this, but the brush pile in the background is about 6 feet tall in the center!
Not only that, but it just so happened that Wednesday of this week was the day that the city trucks came by and picked up the brush pile!  So, we won't be staring at that massive pile of branches all summer.

So that's it.  9 projects in one weekend, and I still had time Sunday afternoon to do some leisurely shopping with my wife.  Was it something I ate? Or didn't eat?  Will it come again?  One can only hope.  Such is life on the Marvinator's Southern Estate.