High Definition Cable

Last fall, we went on sort of a spending spree and got a bunch of new, fun stuff. We got a gigantic 55" Mitsubishi Medallion high definition widescreen TV. We purchased a really nice surround sound system with Klipsch speakers and a Denon receiver. Finally, we finished out the living room with a wrap-around couch and chair-and-a-half. Then, in the spring, our cable provider (Insight) started offering High Definition cable. They only had four channels at the time: ABC, CBS, HBO, and Showtime. Insight only wanted $2 / month for the additional set top box required to decode the high definition signal, which was a heck of a lot better than the $400 or more that it would cost to get an over the air decoder. So we jumped and got the service. We've been a little disappointed with the quality of the local networks, but the HBO and Showtime channels are incredible. Sometimes the local networks get it right and a show looks good too. Recently, I've noticed channels coming and going. Upon my latest check, here is what we are receiving:

  • 750 - HBO HD
  • 751 - SHOWTIME HD
  • 760 - CBS (WISH)
  • 762 - ABC (WRTV)
  • 764 - PBS (switches between several PBS feeds, currently WHYY)
  • 774 - BRAVO
  • 775 - ESPN (black screen on my receiver)
  • 776 - DISC
  • 777 - HDNT (black screen)
  • 778 - HDMV (black screen)

The Discover HD Theatre channel is absolutely amazing. I watched a nature show and some of the images of the birds and wildlife were just amazing. The level of detail was so much better than a regular TV show. It really is amazing. I'm looking forward to getting the rest of the networks (NBC, FOX, UPN, WB) soon, as I know that they broadcast over the air locally. The cable company has to work out a deal with them first, but it shouldn't be long (i hope). As for ESPN, I'm not really missing it right now. I've heard that ESPN charges cable operators a premium to distribute the High Definition signal. If it means that my bill would go up, I'm not paying it. We already pay an arm and a leg for the stations we do get. Our bill breaks down to $40 for Digital Cable + $10 for HBO (x6) + $10 for Showtime (x7) + $40 for broadband internet + some taxes and equipment = $110 / month. That's an outrageous amount to pay for entertainment each month, but we do use it. I'm more fond of the internet service than the cable, and Jenn is just the opposite. It is nice to receive the digital music channels though. I'm "working" from home today, and I've got it tuned to 536 - Trends. It's a great mix of electronic music: Fatboy Slim, Orbital, Basement Jaxx, Propellerheads, etc. My kind of music. Jenn hates it, so I have to enjoy it while she isn't around :-).

I have a friend in the neighborhood who has nearly the same entertainment setup, but he gets his programming through DirecTV. He is a major football fanatic, and subscribes to the season ticket each year, which lets him watch every game. He also gets his HD service through the satellite. He has been receiving a lot of the content that I am just now getting for quite a while. I read a post on AVS Forum that indicated that there may be a premium charge coming for some of the HD content. When the new cable box was first hooked up, the cable rep said that the new box would eventually completely replace my existing Digital box, but that they were still working on the switch over. It will be nice when that happens. One less black box on top of the TV. Plus, we won't have to do the funky multiple remote channel switching that is require right now to go between high definition content and regular digital cable. I'm sure Jenn will be very happy when the day comes when it takes just one remote to control everything. Someday... someday...

[Listening to: Underworld - Single - Jumbo]

AT&T Wireless

A few months ago, I had to get a cell phone for work. I wasn't really happy about this. I never wanted to have a cell phone. I thought, sure, it would be nice to be able to call from anywhere, but I don't want people calling me anywhere. It was just another expense that I didn't want, and it was a convenience I felt like I could live without. My work, however, felt otherwise. A new policy was issued which required that all employees get cell phones. The company was going to pay $20 a month towards whatever plan we opted for. They encouraged us to get Verizon service, but did not limit us to them.

I looked around at the different service offerings. Jenn had a Verizon phone and was paying $20 a month for the service, and the phone was free with the contract. She only received 100 minutes a month though, and I knew that if I were going to use this both for work and home, I would likely need more than 100 minutes. I looked at Verizon's other offerings. I also looked at other companies, including T-Mobile, Cingular, AT&T Wireless, and Sprint. We were warned not to use Cingular and Sprint due to coverage issues. After looking at the coverage maps, I could see why. T-Mobile was just a little bit more expensive, and didn't quite have the coverage I would need. Verizon had the best coverage by far. AT&T wireless couldn't match Verizon's coverage, but they had coverage in all of the places I thought I might travel for my job. In addition, they had a $30 plan that had 300 minutes per month nationally, which beat the Verizon plan. So I chose to get an AT&T Wireless plan on the national GSM service. I chose a Sony Ericsson t68i phone. Jenn was getting kind of short tempered with me because I was taking so long to make a decision, and she was thrilled that I finally settled on a plan and phone.

After receiving my phone, I played with all of the features. I payed an extra $3 a month to have access to the web on the phone, so I played with getting maps, weather, and traffic. There was a 6 cent per kilobyte charge for that, but I knew that up front. I also played with the text messaging. It was free to receive text messages, 10 cents to send, and $1 or more for the multimedia messages. I played with ring tones, pictures, hands free dialing, and all of the other features that this cool gadget had.

During the second month of service, I was taking a closer look at my billing when I noticed that I was receiving only 200 minutes per month as part of my plan. When I signed up on the web, I was told 300 minutes. So I contacted AT&T support to find otu what happened. After some checking, the operator agreed that I should be getting 300 minutes, so she applied the change to my account, and then granted an additional 60 minutes for the trouble. Two cheers for good customer service!

During that time, I received in the mail a notice that AT&T had not yet received my signed two year agreement. I signed the enclosed agreement and sent it back. Today, I opened the invoice for my phone and find a $26 activation fee has been applied. I contact customer service and they say that they never received the two year agreement. They cut my agreement to one year, and applied the $26 activation fee. The operator said that if I make a copy of my existing agreement and send it in, my account will be credited for the $26.

This leaves me with an interesting dilemma. The reception on my phone is terrible. The sound quality is outstanding, I can hear calls perfectly, and for the most part the person I call can hear me with crystal clarity. Unfortunately, the reception of signal is very spotty, and terrible while traveling. I receive no signal for the entire drive between Noblesville and Warsaw, which is where I travel quite a bit. Driving to Kokomo to visit my parents, I occassionally see one bar of reception. And when I am on a call, if I drive through a strong gust of wind, the call drops. I can't seem to find any reason for it, but there are just dead spots on major interstates, highways, and roads where I lose my call. I look at the phone, and it still reports four bars of reception, but the call drops. It is very frustrating. I'm half tempted to just chuck the phone out the window when this happens. It really frustrates Jenn too when our conversation drops.

So now I am debating whether I should sign the agreement or not. This may be a blessing in disguise. If I pay the $26, and my contract is shortened to one year, this will give me the opportunity to switch providers in a few months. I am very tempted to do this. I know that Verizon is the king of coverage, however, they do not offer GSM service. I really like the clarity of the calls on the GSM network, but the coverage is abysmal. I have recently begun to pick up Cingular GSM service when I am traveling. I'm not sure if I will be charged roaming while on this networks, but it is nice to see that GSM coverage is expanding. Another nice feature is that my battery does not get drained nearly as badly as my friends on the Verizon network experience. Whenever their phones are unable to find a digital signal, they switch to analog service and drain very quickly. SInce GSM is all digital, my battery lasts a week regardless of where I am.

I'm going to do some research again today into what the cell phone companies are offering. If it looks like a good move to ditch AT&T, maybe I'll just let the contract sit and pay the money. $26 isn't much in the long run, if I can get better service soon. I'll miss my t68i phone though. This thing is really cool! Although, this may provide the opportunity to get a newer, even cooler phone! I can almost hear Jenn moaning and rolling her eyes at me right now.....

[Listening to: Pearl Jam - Get Out Of L.A. - Oceans]


I don't know if my fingers are going to make it through my accounting class. I have a really bad habit. When I'm bored, or if I have nothing to do with my hands, I chew on them. I bite my fingernails almost down to the quick. Then I peel off the skin around the finger nail. Then I chew on the calouses that form. Jenn can hardly look at my hands sometimes because of how badly I've chewed them up. I don't know why I do it. I end up with lots of little scabs and hard skin on the ends of my fingers. Of course, once the skin has hardened, I go right back to picking at it.

My accounting class has me so bored that all I do throughout the class is mangle my fingers. The instructor simply reads through the same reading we were assigned, then reads the homework answers. Mind you, he doesn't explain how he arrived at the answer, he simply reads it from the answer key. Knowing the answer to number 3 is choice C doesn't help me as much as knowing how he arrived at that solution. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to endure this guy for another 9 weeks. Grr....

[Listening to: Jimmy Buffett - Songs You Know By Heart - Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes]


Sometimes, people need to be more aware of how they are being perceived by others. A few nights ago, we went to Outback Steakhouse in Castleton to have dinner. When we sat down at our table, there was a large family sitting fairly close to us. The mother of one of the children there was loudly blowing on the child's neck to get the kid to laugh. This was cute the first time. Less cute the second time. Outright aggravating as she continued doing this at high volume for the next fifteen minutes. It was really obnoxious. I was starting to lose my appetite. Fortunately, they left before our dinner was served. We probably should have said something to our waiter after a while, but we were kind of surprised that none of the staff had asked them to keep it down. Several people at the table saw that we were staring at them. But the mom just kept on blowing on this kid's neck like nothing was wrong. Does having a kid ruin your sense of normalcy? Do things like that seem okay once you've had a child? I'd like to know, since Jenn and I will be entering that world next year. Hopefully we'll be able to monitor our behavior a little better than that and know when we are making an absolute fool of ourselves. If not, please, someone, let us know.

Dell Support

I'm losing faith in Dell Technical Support. I received a new Dell Inspiron 8500 laptop at work about a month ago. It has a really nice, widescreen monitor and a very fast graphics card. Unfortunately, it didn't appear to be working properly. The laptop has a nVidia GeForce 4 4200 Go graphics card. I also use a secondary 18" LCD screen at work that I extend my desktop to. I use the DVI cable to connect it to the docking station for the laptop. I noticed that, after lunch, the second monitor would not power back on. To get the power on, I had to switch the resolution on the driver. This was really weird, so I went to the Dell site and installed the latest BIOS and Driver for the video card.

Well this was a big mistake. The new BIOS and driver combination created a horizontal bar on the laptop screen where the mouse cursor would disappear. Also, when undocked, sometimes the laptop monitor would not come back on. I had to reboot the machine to keep working. This was extremely frustrating, especially when I wasn't sure that I had all of my work saved. I had been wrestling with this for a while. Another friend of mine in the office got a laptop that was a twin to mine. He had several problems as well. If was in dual-monitor mode, and closed the lid of the laptop, the secondary monitor became the primary and he could not get them to switch back. Even after rebooting, it didn't want to use the laptop screen. He had to undock and reboot several times before it came back.

Today, I was able to get to the Dell support forums and look around. I found that there were several people experiencing the same issue. Several people reported the horizontal bar, and lots of people had trouble with multiple monitors. Some people had found that by installing a different driver, the bar was gone, but as soon as you closed the laptop lid, it would come back. In addition, 3D graphics pros were having really bad problems. After reading through nearly 100 posts on the problem, I found that a 17 year old kid in Canada had come up with a solution. Dell had not posted the previous BIOS revision for the card. Lots of people were screaming for them to put it up. So this 17 year old kid found a way to rip the old BIOS out of a machine that had not been updated. He posted the old BIOS to the forum. After installing the BIOS, problems solved!!!

Lots of people have paid Dell for enhanced support. It is really bad when this pay-for support from Dell can't keep up with the free support of a 17 year old kid. I'm very thankful to Ryan Ewen (ReWeN) for posting the fix. Thanks Ryan!


Monday I started my prerequisite course for accounting. We have a new instructor. It was sooooo boring. The instructor is absolutely rigid about the schedule for the class. He we had our breaks at precisely the times they were scheduled for. He was a little peeved when we missed one part of the schedule by a couple of minutes. Not to add any excitement to the class, he made sure to read the assigned reading to us. And when it came time to review the homework, we didn't review. He just read the answers. Not how to do the answers, just the answer. So it was "Number one: A, Number Two: C" and so on. And not only is this guy teaching our current 3 week prerequisit course, he is also teaching the next course, which is an 8 week course on advanced managerial accounting. I don't know if I can take 11 weeks of this character.


The nemesis that I thought I had destroyed is back to haunt me again. It stares at me, laughing as it bathes me in it's light. Yes, the low tire pressure light is back on in my car. Evidently the new set of tires wasn't all that was needed to destroy this monster. The mechanic at the tire shop said that my right rear rim was slightly bent, but probably not enough to cause a leak. And for the past month or so, I believed him. But today I learned otherwise. I took the tire gauge to each tire, and sure enough, it was the right rear. All of the other tires had 35 pounds of pressure, but the right rear had just over 31. bummer. So now I need to go shopping (probably on eBay) to find a rim for 99 alero. Crap.


I'm currently taking night courses towards earning my MBA. My current course is an introductory course to all of the different subjects that the MBA program will involve. This is the 8th and final week. Our class is broken down into project teams, with 5 or 6 students on a team. Each team performs group assignments throughout the course. Tonight we had our final presentations. Each group was given a different company to research and perform a presentation on, to include history, management culture, identification of a problem within the company, and a suggested solution. Our group was to present on Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce is a major employer here in Indianapolis. At one point, there were one of the top five in the state. Contrary to what you may think, Rolls does not make cars. That brand name was sold to another company a few years back as Rolls attempted to focus on the turbine and engine industries. Rolls-Royce motor cars are now made by BMW.

The instructor told us that we had total freedom to do our presentation however we wanted. I assumed that each group would be doing your typical final presentation: stiff, monotone.... boring. I wanted ours to be something different. I wanted our team's presentation to stand out, get the audience interested, and most of all be fun. I started thinking on how we could do this. We had done plenty of research on Rolls-Royce. We knew that here in Indy, RR was made up of the Rolls-Royce Corporation, which was formerly Allison, and AADC. We knew that Rolls-Royce had experienced a lot of layoffs recently. We were going to focus on how to keep up morale during layoffs. There was some talk of how there was a bit of strife between the two companies at times. Since AADC is a defense company, it is under tight security and controls. A worker across the street at Rolls-Royce Corporation would not be able to walk over to AADC and get in the door, even though they both operate under the same parent company.

I was thinking about this when the idea hit me: Family Feud! I thought, we could put together a spoof of Family Feud and pit AADC against Rolls-Royce Corporation, making the game questions and answers correspond to what we were to talk to the class about. So the next time we got together as a group, I pitched the idea. Everyone seemed to be behind it. Over the next couple of nights I put together a PowerPoint slideshow, complete with images and sounds from the real game show. Another member of the group put together a script, and another did the outline to hand in. We got together yesterday to rehearse. It seemed like it was going to be a lot of fun. Our only reservation was that another group in the class had done a skit for a previous presentation. Their skit didn't go over very well. They just didn't seem to "sell it". We were hoping that we would get the class to enjoy it, and not just roll their eyes at us.

So tonight was the big night. Three groups went before us, and then we were in the spotlight. We blew them away! I was so happy with the way this went. I was right on in thinking that everyone would do the routine, stiff presentation. It was like they used some precut stencil to stamp them out. Speaker #1 does slides 1 through 4. Speaker #2 does slides 5 through 8. Speaker #3 finishes and answers questions. We were the only ones to show any kind of enthusiasm. We even got the instructor to laugh. It was very flattering that, when we finished, one of the students immediately made a comment to congratulate us on how well we did. Then one of my teammates thanked me for the idea. I usually don't get so wrapped up in school projects, but for some reason, I'm really proud of this one. Our team worked hard, and we pulled it off very well, to the adulation of our class. I guess it probably stroked my ego a little too, that the skit was my idea :-) I better not let that go to my head!

Painting Day

I don't think I've ever done more painting in a single day. After mowing the lawn in the morning, Jenn and I painted the nursery. We chose a light yellow color. We don't want to know the sex of our baby ahead of time, and we figured yellow would be a nice color no matter what we get. Then I went downstairs and touched up all of the black paint on the arcade cabinet while Jenn mopped the floor upstairs. When that was finished, it was time for a short supper break, followed by a second coat of yellow in the nursery. Following that, it was time for the first coat of silver on the trim of the arcade cabinet. Shower. Rest. Second coat of silver. TV time. Rest. I'm glad we got it all done. We had been putting off the nursery for a while, but with both of us working on it, it went by quickly. I'd been putting off finishing the arcade forever. I know Jenn was getting a little frustrated with me about it. I'm glad to have that finished as well. Tomorrow I can clear out all of the painting supplies and put the arcade back together. Time to play some Frogger!
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Night Drive - Part 2

I never got to the point of my night drive post! Anyway, during my last trip, it was late, dark, and drizzling rain. I'm on 35 headed west towards Kokomo, trying to make sure I stay on the road, when I nearly hit a hitchhiker! I saw him at the last minute. He was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and it seemed like he was actually standing in the road. He was waving his thumb at me and kind of wandering along the road. I didn't have to swerve or anything, but it really scared me how he came out of nowhere. If I hadn't been paying attention, it would have been real easy to let the car wander to the edge of the road, and then that guy would have been done for.

Then, I turned south onto 213 in Greentown. I had gone less then an 1/8th of a mile when a basset hound mix came trotting out into the middle of the road. I had plenty of time to stop, but by this time I was convinced that fate was going to have me get into a wreck tonight. I continued south. My strange night on the road wasn't over yet. As I get into Windfall, it was now about 8:00, and I hear a really loud noise. I looked to my left, and a bunch of guys had a some lamps pointed at their porch, tearing it up with a jack-hammer. I couldn't think of a better time to be jack-hammering my porch: 8:00pm, in the dark, in the rain. Yeah, great idea!

Thankfully, I made it the rest of the way home without any trouble. Still, I'm never quite sure what I'm going to see in the middle of the night on those country roads between here and Warsaw.

Night Drive

The other night I was on my way home from yet another trip to Warsaw. This time, it was almost 7pm before I was able to head out the door for the trip, which meant it was dark when I got in the car. We'd received quite a bit of rain over the weekend, and it was still drizzling. I don't like driving at night. I don't see very well, and the country roads are not marked very well. Add water to the mix, and you have a recipe for an accident. I've gotten to know the route between Warsaw and Noblesville pretty well though. So I wasn't too intimidated by the task.

Starting in Warsaw, the first town you get to on the way south along State Road 15 is Silver Lake. There's not much reason to stop in Silver Lake. The town has one stop light, and it always flashes red. There are a couple of restaurants on the north side of town, and a service station near the lot. Next on the trip is Wabash. Wabash is the largest city to visit along the route. I've been stopped by the train in town several times. In Wabash I switch from SR 15 to SR 13 to continue south. Sometimes I stop here at one of the fast food joints near the intersection of 15 and 24. I'm always tempted to stop at the Wabash Country Club to play a round when I drive by too. There are three golf courses I pass along the way: Purgatory, Wabash Country Club, and Highland Hills Golf Club. I've played Purgatory. I'll have to be sure to make time to play the rest.

Anyway, once you get south of Wabash, you run into the only Swayzee in the world. Swayzee is kind of funny. Every time I drive through, there are three police cars out. And they are always at the same places. There are two in town, parked next to homes and pointed toward the state road. There is one parked at a house on the north side of town. Occassionally, I see one driving around, and there is an EMA vehicle parked by a barn as well. I'll have to remember to take my camera with me on the next trip to snap some photos of this stuff. I think they are setup to frighten people into obeying the speed limit. Once you see them a couple of times though, you know better.

So after slowing to a crawl along 13 to get through Swayzee, it's a right turn onto 35 towards Kokomo. I take this as far as Greentown. Greentown is well known for their yearly glass festival, and for hosting the 4-H Fair for Howard County. As I get into Greentown, I turn South onto 213. It might seem kind of crazy, taking all of these country roads. It does save me time though. If I take 15 south out of Wabash, I end up going too far East and have to fight traffic through Marion. I could also take 30 east until I hit I-69 South, but the time saved by taking the interstate is less than the extra time traveling through the country to get there. So I take the windy way.

The last town I hit before getting to Noblesville is Windfall. It's another one stop light town that I have to slow down for. There are a couple of other landmarks I have during the trip as well. There is Twin Lakes high school, which is between Swayzee and Wabash. And then there is a set of curves in the road just south of Windfall. Finally, before I hit 37, there is an intersection with a church and the roadsign says Omega. Not really sure what's going on there, but cool name for an intersection.

So as you can tell, my travels between Noblesville and Wabash are REALLY exciting. Maybe you'd like to keep me company on my next trip? Doubt it :-P

Long Week

NOTE:I meant to post this on Thursday, but forgot to send the update.
This has been a really long week. And it is only Thursday!!! On Monday, I left home around 7 to go to Warsaw for work. We are doing our startup on a project this week. Warsaw is about a two hour drive from Indy. Then I left at 3pm to get to my 6pm class that night. Arrived home from class at 10:30pm. Crashed. Travelled to Warsaw again the next day. Arrived home at 10:00pm. Traveled to Warsaw again on Wednesday. Got back to Noblesville at 5pm, but then stayed at work until 9pm. And today, you guessed it, I'm back at my lab bench in Warsaw, waiting for our software to be validated. La la la. I really don't have much to do today. All of our code is supposed to be frozen, so I can't change anything. I don't have access to our database at work, so I can't do any development against other projects. I've spent the morning catching up on my news at Slashdot. Occassionally someone comes by to see how we are doing. I'm not really sure what to tell them. My accomplishments for the day are: consumed a donut, browsed the web, got comfortable in my chair. That's about it. And I'm supposed to spend the night up here so that I can continue doing more of the same tomorrow. Wonderful.
[Listening to: Nirvana - Heart-Shaped Box - Heart-Shaped Box]

Jade Mason