Why couldn’t I just be happy with the way things were?

Probably ten years ago, give or take, I bought an RCA tube TV at a garage sale. It’s something like a 27 or 29-inch screen, and it was ten bucks. I thought it would go great in our little bedroom, on top of the dresser, right next to our 30-gallon fish tank. For the first couple of years, we’d watch Adult Swim every once in a great while, but evantually the TV wound up forgotten, simply gathering dust on the dresser. We cancelled the cable, never bothered to get converter boxes when everything went digital, and it was utterly useless at that point. But still, I didn’t want to bother dealing with it at the time.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I picked up a second Wii. I had the brilliant idea to install Amazon Prime Instant Video on the Wii and plug it into that TV. Between Prime, web browser, and YouTube, that little TV essentially became a smart TV, and earned a new lease on life. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed streaming shows on that set when we want to be a little cozier than the living room. Still, I thought that I’d like to get us something with a little better picture (still standard definition is fine for in there), and the speakers on that RCA are pretty atrocious. I’d go to stream music on the Wii and Jennifer would complain until I quit.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I was at one of the local thrift shops, and they had a very attractive Sony Trinitron XBR. This was a late nineties model, and arguably one of the better standard-def tube TVs ever made. The folks in our retro gaming group are always on the lookout for such things for that reason. I took a phone pic of the beast and posted it to the FaceBook group wall with location and price. I thought for sure someone would jump on that, but a week later, I saw the same set in that store again. Then I started thinking outloud.

“That Trinitron is kind of tempting,” I would muse to Jennifer. “I hope someone gets that TV. That’s a nice set if that’s the format you’re looking for,” I’d say. “If it was a little cheaper, I’d be tempted to get it myself. It would go great in our bedroom.” At this point, I should have decided that the old RCA was good enough, or simply take the drive to the local Best Buy and ask what they had in a 36-inch. But no. I kept thinking about the stupid Trinitron.

Fast forward to yesterday. I wandered into the same thrift shop, and there that stupid TV sat, whispering my name for some stupid reason. Forty bucks. If it wasn’t such a pain in the butt to move big sets or if the price was lower, I might just go for it. Still, I asked the little check out gal if they’d drop the price on a TV if it sat in the store for long enough. Another employee must have heard me from the next room, where she pounced through the doorway to inject herself in the conversation, “you want a TV? We have TVs coming out our ears here. I’ll make you a deal on a TV. Which one are you interested in?” I told her that I might be interested in the Trinitron. “This one here? Twenty bucks and it’s yours today.” I explained that I’d have to come back for it, since my wife had taken the truck to work so I could take the car to the muffler shop. “Thats fine,” she insisted, “we’ll put your name on it and it will be here when you get back.” So, like a moron, I paid my $20, and drove the curiously quiet Tactical Assault Compact Sedan to Jennifer’s office to swap her for the truck.

They were waiting for me at the thrift store. That same woman grabbed a piano dolly and helped me hoist that set into the back of the truck, which responded by dropping about three inches on its springs. Noticing the way that big TV ominously made the truck looked smaller made my heart sink a little bit. Gah. It didn’t look that big in the store. It was heavy too. Probably about two-fifty. That scrawny little lady at the thrift shop didn’t have any problem horking it up into the truck though. She was certainly stronger than she looked. But, surely between my teenage son and I, we could have that thing in place, hooked up, and ready to watch Justified on Amazon by the time Jennifer got home. Right? Right? On the drive home, all I could see in the mirror was that hulking beast. Was it actually getting bigger?

My son has gotten a lot stronger than he used to be. He’s constantly reminding me that he’s taller than I am, and his voice has gotten deep and round. To his credit, he was able to help me get the TV out of the truck and onto the front porch. And, that’s about when he petered out on me. That TV looked even bigger on the porch. It was lunch time, so I figured we’d get some protein in him, and he’d be good to go, like Popeye and spinach. We tried. We really did. I cleared off the top of the dresser and made arrangements for the RCA. A 36-inch really isn’t all that much bigger than a 27-inch, is it? Still, I wanted plenty of space to work with. When it was clear that my son was not quite up to the challenge of moving the big set, I told him that we’d wait until his mom was home, and they could get the one end, and I’d get the other. After all, it’s not like anyone was going to walk away with it. When I moved the RCA out, I set it on the front porch to stage it for when its new owner came to pick it up. Seeing them side by side, that Trinitron absolutely dwarfed the RCA. My heart sank a little more.

Jennifer got home from work, and I told her my plan. Her response was only slightly more polite than, “hahahahhahaahahaa. No.” Now Jennifer, who is an easy to get along with trooper, started brainstorming alternate plans. “We really need a dolly,” she suggested. We tried to think of who we know that might have a piano dolly that we could borrow, which is really ironic, as my dad used to work on pianos, including moving them. But, last time I saw his dolly, it was pretty much worn out, and that’s been so long ago, I’m no longer confident he even still has it. Jennifer thoughtfully broke the silence that had settled, as we scratched our heads over our current, bewildering, and self-made problem, “would your mechanic’s creeper hold that much weight?”

“Well sure,” I answered, “it’s intended to scoot around with the weight of a grown man on it.” And as I thought about it, all the lights came on, “that’s perfect in fact!” I retrieved my creeper from the garage, and tilted the TV so Jennifer could slide it under. It didn’t roll perfectly, but we weren’t going very far. It was all going notably smoothly up until we made it to the threshold of the bedroom, where the carpet began. The creeper was not going to roll into our bedroom. Which was a bit of a moot issue, as there’s no way the set would physically fit between the queen-size waterbed and its surrounding furniture and walls. I knew that Teen Bot had just almost enough steam to manhandle this thing, and I knew that I could handle the other end, and we didn’t have far to go now. Jennifer and I decided that the two of them could take the one end as long as it was only the shot from the hall to the bed. If we got it to the bed, we could kind of walk it around the bed rails to the far side where the dresser waited its arrival.

The three of us were able to get it lifted into the air, and that’s about when kiddo started to give out again. His corner of the set started slowly sinking, with it positioned diagonally, mostly in the hall, in time with his gasping. my bottom left corner lodged against the door trim, his top corner gouged its way into the sheet rock on the other side of the hall, everything broke out in chaos, and the TV hung there, pinned between the walls. And again, the thought occurred to me, that I should have just gone and bought a new flat screen in the first place. Once we managed to extricate the set from where it was jammed (quite comically, I might add) against the walls, it was again clear that this plan need another adjustment.

“Ok,” I said authoritatively, “we need to think. And there’s whiskey in the kitchen.” Whiskey brain storming led to us putting the creeper back under the TV, but with the set hanging off the end. That would buy us a few more inches. We were going to win this thing, one way or another, even if that meant fighting for each baby step of the journey. When the wheels bottomed out against the carpet once again, as Jennifer began to say, “what now?” I grabbed the TV and dragged it off the creeper, sliding it onto the bedroom floor. Now, sitting beside the bed, it once again begged the question, “now what?”

Jennifer got the bright idea that if we tilted it up again, we could cram our Halliburton Zero suitcase underneath it, and when boosted that much, we could probably lift it the final few inches to the bed rail. “If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid,” I said, or something like that anyway. I tilted up the set, Jennifer crammed the Zero under it, and pushed as I rocked the TV back down. It worked like a charm. From there, we were indeed able to boost the TV onto the bed rail. Then, moving some six-inches at a time, we walked the thing around the perimeter of the bed, until it was directly in front of the dresser.

Exhausted, sweating, and panting, we looked at each other over the great expanse of that stupid TV. “I’m not sure I can lift anymore,” Jennifer said, as we steadied the Trinitron, perched on the rail of the water bed. I looked down at the situation. This thing was absolutely massive. What ever made me think that this would go over well? Just look at the sheer size of this stupid TV set! Why, it’s bigger than the expanse between the bed and the dresser! And then, it hit me.

“No, let’s do this the easy way,” I said. “You can be done lifting. Would you please just watch that corner and make sure it stays planted on the bed rail?” I pivoted my side of the TV onto the dresser and then kind of scooted it up onto the dresser from there. I had to kind of hug it across the front to work it in. When I came away, I had to laugh, seeing where the screen was fogged up from my chest. Of course, we had to catch our breath, and have more whiskey.

The rest of the story is that I managed to get the Wii and DVD player hooked up. The picture on this TV is enough better than the RCA that at first we were wondering if our color settings were off. The improvement in sound is night and day. Last night we played music through the Trinitron and probably kept ourselves up too late. I will concede that this was probably not the best way to upgrade our bedroom TV, but we’re both happy with the results. Well, except for the muscle soreness, the damaged sheetrock, and as Jennifer told me in an email earlier, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.” Even so, all’s well that ends well.

Hopefully Birthday Wishes

Jennifer and I have each been fans of “Weird” Al Yankovic’s work since we were children. His original songs are as well executed as they are silly, and I find his parodies to be not only witty, but often more complex and better performed than the originals he’s riffing on. Floating around the house, we have CDs, records, and even cassettes with his name on the label, as we’ve accumulated them over the years. More than once, Jennifer has expressed her desire to get a personal birthday greeting from Yankovic, owing much to the fact that his birthday is the same as hers. I’d very much like to see this happen. Considering yesterday’s release of his video “Lame Claim to Fame,” it seems only appropriate that I mention this now.

She has a very solid lame claim to fame of her own, and the shared birth date in question is just over three months out. We’re not expecting anything fancy here. Yankovic is no doubt a busy man, and nobody is expecting him to show up in a limo in person or anything of the sort, but a simple birthday greeting by mail, phone, or online would make her day and give her a great story that she’d be telling for years. Indeed, she’s never been shy about flying the flag on this lame claim, as she’ll mention it in conversation anytime either the subject of her birthday or Weird Al Yankovic himself, is brought up. Weird Al has a lot of fans that would also like such personal attention, but the vast majority of those don’t share a birthday in common with him. I will likely at least request a signed photo by mail, but I very much doubt that this option will get her a customized greeting. At that, I will ask you, my friends, fans, minions, and flying monkeys, please spread the word. If this message makes it far enough around the internet, perhaps Yankovic will get the message. If anyone out there has some strings they could possibly pull, please do so. Help me to take her lame claim to fame and complete it. Thank you!

Eggcited!

Here in the Evyl Robot Empyre, we eat a lot of eggs. They’re a cheap source of good protein and fats, they can be prepared in many different ways, and they just taste good. There’s not a whole lot of food that is more enjoyable than eggs collected from home-kept birds. Unfortunately, city code won’t allow the keeping of laying birds on a postage stamp property such as the one on which we live. Yesterday, Jennifer saw a message on MyFace from one of our mutual friends who we met years ago at Appleseed. She posted the question of whether anyone would want some free eggs as her chickens and quail have been more prolific than her family could consume and that they were “swimming” in eggs. Um. Yes please. Jennifer told our friend that we’d take as many eggs as she felt like pitching our direction; that they surely would not go to waste.

I was afraid that (but fully prepared to) I’d have to drive out to the boondocks to collect on the offer, but she specified that she wanted to meet for delivery at a school that is almost two miles from my home. SCORE! This morning I drove Grandpa’s truck to the school and met up with the Eggspress. There were a couple other people who met up with her to take egg donations as well. She had mentioned that she was also taking donations on used egg cartons as her family reuses them and never buys eggs at the store. Jennifer and I had quite a few of them saved up that we were going to try to start seeds in, but we’d given up on that idea so I bagged them up for her.

She rather hesitantly said, “Jennifer said you’d take as many as I’d give you so…” and she proceeded to pull out multiple egg cartons. She explained that the dozen chicken eggs were unwashed so I’d need to rinse them prior to consumption. She also explained that the other chicken egg cartons had two dozen quail eggs each, in addition to handfuls of 10-egg quail cartons. She asked if I could save the smaller cartons for her as she reuses them. I offered to let her take those with her and transfer the contained eggs to some of the chicken egg cartons. She thought that was a good idea so we stood there, transferring eggs between cartons on the cooler in the bed of the pickup; chatting about raising birds, Appleseed, and shooting in general. Of course, I thanked her profusely and headed home. Upon my return, I decided that I had better inventory my haul.

Eggs

That’s 183 quail eggs. That’s 183 dark and sultry, buttery, tasty bite size morsels. I accidentally dropped one on the floor while counting. The membrane under the shell is tough enough that it didn’t leak though. So I ate that one. Including the chicken eggs she gave us and the grocery eggs that we already had in the refrigerator, that makes a total of 212 eggs in the refrigerator. Guess what’s for dinner tonight? When we eat eggs, I usually have three jumbos. It takes about three quail eggs to equal one jumbo. It usually takes about four home raised chicken eggs to equal three jumbos. So, if I was eating these alone, and ate them every day, it would take me about a month to consume what we have in there. That might make me tired of eggs, and I don’t want to get tired of eggs. Then again, we do have a teenage boy here. Somehow, I suspect that we’re still going to come up with some pickled quail eggs before all is said and done.

our friend said that once we’re ready to start keeping our own quail, we can get live eggs from her for hatching. Apparently, start up is far more successful with local eggs than ordered ones. I suppose that makes sense. When we move, I’m pretty sure we’ll be working this into the plan. In the meantime, I’m glad when someone else can’t eat all the eggs their birds produce and we get the overflow.

Thoughts on the weekend

There’s a vicious rumor that we have bones to support our structure and bind our muscles.nbsp; We actually have bones so your pocket knife won’t go clear through your finger when you slip and stab it. The bone in my index finger performed this task quite well on Saturday. I wish my quarry would ever leave a blood trail like I did through the house. This would make life simpler. Surprisingly, the wound is now closed. There’s some bruising, but it looks pretty good.

Engrish Can. The Success Fully!

Recently, Teen Bot has picked up a few GameCube games to play on our Wii. If you’re not familiar, Nintendo’s Wii console will natively play GameCube disks, and has four GameCube controller ports under a cover on the top or side of the unit, depending on how it is oriented on your shelf. As he’s been playing these games, his status was mysteriously not saving from the last time he played each game. Upon further reading, it came to my attention that the Wii will not save GameCube game status internally, but requires a GameCube memory card for this function. At the local game scalp shop, I inquired as to whether they stocked any GameCube memory cards, even though I’d found a few options online. They showed me their offering, a 32mb, or 507 “block” card for $9.00. I declined and ordered a 128mb, 2043 “block” card for $11.00 on Amazon Prime. The mailman dropped it off today. The packaging looks like the packaging in the local store, but I actually read the text on it this time.

engrish

So, let’s recap.

1. CAN INDEPENDENT SAVE DIFFERENT KIND OF GAMES

Viva la memory card!

2. SUITABLE FOR WII VERSION GAMES

Of course, we’re not having issues with Wii games, just GameCube games. If it doesn’t work right, you’ll hear about it.

3. HIGH SPEED AND EFFICIENCY PRODUCT

Good to know.

4. EASY TO USE

I should hope so.

5. QUALITY ASSURES

Alright, but what does quality assure?

6. REAL 2043 BLOCKS NON-COMPRESS

I’m not really even sure what that means.

! DON’T KEEP “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE” IN HOT, DANK OR SUN SHINE PLACE.

I promise not to store this memory card in Sun Shine Place, wherever that is, even if it sounds like the most awesome suburban housing addition ever.

! DON’T THROW, DROP OR APPLY STRONG SHOCK TO “THE MEMORY CARD FOR WII CONSOLE”.

“Apply strong shock to”? So, I shouldn’t tell it that it’s adopted on its ninth birthday?

! DON’T PUT ANY HEAVY OBJECTS ON THE “THE MEMORY CARD”.

Lightweight game save only. Also, the redundant “THE” is awesome here.

! DON’T CLEAN “THE MEMORY CARD” WITH OR GANIC SUB STANCE.

I had to read this last one about three times to get the full scope of it, and then fall apart in fits of laughter. The bottom of the package is marked “MADE IN CHINA.” Really? I’ve gotten spam email and blog comments for Russian mail-order brides that was more coherent than this. So again I say:

Engrish can. The success fully!

Borepatch shares this video on his blog:

I’ve been in this meeting so many times. When I was material requisitioning, I used to have a joke.

“Evyl, we need you to get some solid gold wrenches for us.”

“Respectfully, they don’t make those.”

“Sure they do! They make wrenches out of stuff don’t they? And, gold is stuff that exists. Surely someone makes wrenches out of gold.”

“Why do you need gold wrenches anyway?”

“It’s for a project that sales is working on. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’ll make some calls, but I really don’t think that such a thing exists.”

“You better find something, we’ve already got the project sold.”

“You what? You’re supposed to determine cost before selling a project, you know that.”

“They just estimated it, but they bid it high. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Alright. I’m going to get with some shops and see if we can have something custom fabbed, but it’s going to be expensive.”

“Not if we order in bulk.”

“Yes, even if we order in bulk. Gold is expensive. Having it custom made into wrenches is going to be extremely expensive. What are we using the gold wrenches for anyway?”

“Well, we need to get these bolts really tight, and the gold will give us the ability to do that, because it’s such a good conductor.”

“No, no. *sigh.* That’s not how it works. Conductivity isn’t going to help with torque. In fact, gold is such a soft metal that it will actually be worse for this application. If the wrenches we have on hand aren’t going to be tough enough, what you’ll need is just a tougher wrench. I’ll order some good, U.S.-made chrome-moly steel wrenches.”

“We already told the customer that we’d use gold.”

“Dude. Fine. Whatever.”

*two weeks later…*

“Evyl, these gold wrenches you sourced are terrible. We can’t even put as much torque on them as the cheap wrenches in the shop.”

“Huh. Who would have thought? I should be able to return them, but we’re still going to be out the manufacturing cost.”

“I suppose that’s something. But, now what are we supposed to do about the project.”

“I’m going out on a limb here, but try these other wrenches that I brought in just in case.”

*Hands over good, U.S.-made chrome-moly steel wrenches.

“These wrenches work great! And since we bid the project to use gold, the price difference will almost cover our losses on the return! Well done, Evyl.”

*head desk*

Sometimes I miss working in an office. I need these little reminders from time to time.

St. Paddy’s Day Cheer Aftermath

Oklahoma news station KOCO reports the following:

OKLAHOMA CITY —The Myriad Gardens says a synthetic, organic compound was the substance used to turn their water features green this weekend.

Fluorescein is a compound often used as a fluorescent tracer. It was used in 1962 to dye the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Myriad Gardens officials said they will drain the lake to one-fourth its normal depth and will refill it using an underground stream and city water.

The garden is waiting on a final analysis because eventually the dyed water will be dumped into the city sewer system.

Garden officials said cleanup from the prank could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

Authorities are still looking for the person responsible for the vandalism.

Alright, quit looking at me like that. Although I’d kind of like to claim credit for this ingenuous bit of hilarity, I haven’t been near the Myriad Gardens in years. The best prank I ever pulled off was when I parked a classmate’s car inside the band room in high school. We didn’t break or damage anything, and that was far more harmless fun, although the band director didn’t seem to appreciate it so much. But seriously, that’s a brilliantly demented mind that dumped fluorescein into a major water feature in the city to dye it green for the holiday! Whoever you are, well-played sir. But seriously, next time don’t do something that is so expensive to clean up and has the cops looking for you. 8O

*Corrected title to “Paddy’s” from “Patty’s.” Thanks for the catch, David. I can’t believe I did that!

Yet Another Awesome Stupid Idea

Fathers and sons should engage in hobbies together, am I right? It’s no secret that Teen Bot loves his video games. When he’s current with his school work and chores, we’ll set aside a little time in the evenings or over the weekend and play for an hour or so. Not only do we play games on the Wii, but we also play games on the Xbox (original), NES, and Atari 2600. That is correct. We play video games on 35-year-old equipment.

At some point in time, he expressed to me that he wanted to play some vintage video games. Well, I did a little attic diving and managed to find my old 2600 console. I don’t know what happened to many of my games or controllers, but we have the console. We also collected Jennifer’s gaming stuff from her childhood. That girl was video game rich! Not only did she have the 2600 console and multiple controllers, she also had a Supercharger (I’ll explain in a minute), and around 60 games!

Since we don’t really have a TV, we don’t have an antenna input that we can tie into from a vintage system. I got my brother to do a little modifying on my old 2600 though. We bypassed the internal RF modulator, tied into the board and installed AV jacks on the back of the case. That may sound fancy, but it’s all pretty straight forward and there are tutorials all over the internet. Modding an old video game console got my brain to cranking though.

Atari-2600-Wood-4Sw-Set

This is an Atari 2600, the machine that brought home video gaming to the mainstream.

Starpath_Supercharger_and_games

This is a Supercharger and some of its games. Jennifer’s copy is one of the earlier ones, branded Arcadia, before they had to change their name to Starpath due to litigation or something. It inserts into the cartridge slot on the 2600 and boosts the processing power and memory significantly. The games shipped on cassette, and were played as audio files through a headphone jack. The sound file itself sounds like a fax machine. Somehow that sound encoding loads up the ram so you can play the game.

One of the neat things about vintage gaming is that it’s pretty easy to find the game ROMs as downloads all over the internet. You don’t actually have to have an Atari to play Atari games, as you can play the ROMs through an emulator on your computer. Or, you can use this application to convert the ROM into a sound file that you can then play through the Supercharger. You can burn the files to a CD and play them through a CD player, or convert them to MP3, or even record them to a tape and play them the way the Supercharger was originally intended. The device isn’t too picky, and as long as the sound reproduction is decent enough, it should play just fine. We loaded a few MP3s on Jennifer’s tablet and played some games that way. In fact, you could use just about any sound player you could imagine. See where I’m going with this?

Cartridge_macro_shot

One could conceivably play Atari 2600 games through a Supercharger from a vinyl record, if one had the game files in such a format. You know, as in if I could get my hands on something like this:

dubcutter_detail_right_xl

And use it to cut the game sound files to these:

82bf7bf7ea-7inchrecordblank

And then, it hit me. I have a deep, burning desire to build a custom cased 2600, with the Supercharger internally. It would run a small pre-amp and have a turntable built into the top of the box. All the guts in the Atari are pretty compact, so the total package could be built pretty slim. I’d likely try to find a dedicated 45 player to save a little space as well. And, the controller ports would move to the front of the box, as they are on more modern consoles.

Now granted, I don’t have a record cutter, and I’m not likely to be able to purchase one anytime soon. But just imagine it! If I were to embark on this insanity, I’d even go so far as to download original cover art and print it onto record labels. Remember in the ’90s when the game manufacturers were trying to hork those newfangled ‘CD’ systems on us? Sega CD? Ppppsh. I’m playing Atari Record. So, if any of you lovely readers has a record cutter laying around, collecting dust, that you’d give up for the cause, I would certainly do some further testing to see about making this happen. And, it would be magnificent.