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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, June 09, 2008

out with the old, in with the more complicated

Back to the routine of regular life. Kimmie prepares to head off again to the office, out into the still-gray weather that also characterized our week of vacation here at home. I too will try to return to full productivity.

Of course, I kept up with my reading and my notes over the vacation. To me those things are not mere duty, but what I do for pleasure as well. For better or for worse, I'm not in the situation of Stephen King, who did his actual creative writing 365 days a year because that was what he enjoyed. For whatever reason, and to whatever end, my approach is much more deliberate.

Early in our week off our old television packed it in. It had been an excellent set over all--a Sony, about 24 inches I think, that I got in 1990 on a rent-to-own basis because I was unemployed (oops, I mean a full-time TV series creator). A couple of times in the preceding week the set had switched itself off and then on again in the middle of a program. On Saturday night (June 1), just as we were starting to watch our weekly movie (The Bridges of Madison County in this case), it switched itself off and I could not get power restored to it. We wound up watching the movie on my new laptop, the sound tinny and faint from the speaker even with the computer close to us, resting on top of the coffee-table.

The next day we headed to Future Shop in Park Royal to look for a new set, and wound up buying one--or rather a whole system, since to be fully high-definition-ready it seems you need not just a TV set but also a digital set-top box, and ideally also an expensive HDMI connecting cable to carry the signal between them. The price of all this was about double the maximum amount I'd regarded myself as prepared to pay.

But when it comes to technology purchases, or indeed anything that I really want, I don't like to scrimp. If I only buy a TV every 18 years, I want to get one that's near the front of the technology, not at the rear, so the thing can last.

We went for it. The package consists of a Sharp 32-inch LCD flat-screen television with a Motorola set-top box that includes a 160-gigabyte hard drive for recording programs. The TV is plenty big enough, since we sit quite close to it (I think of a saying my father used to invoke from time to time: "white man build big fire, sit far away; Indian build small fire, sit close".) And the picture and sound are excellent--a leap beyond what we had, for sure.

There are some negatives. The new system is complicated to use--two more remote-control units. And the user's guides that come with the units are poor. Indeed, the Motorola guide is laughably inadequate. The page on using the video-recording feature is simply a list of features, with not one word on how to use the thing. Easily the worst user's guide I've ever seen. If I were interested in chasing copywriting work, I'd write Motorola and offer to write a better one.

Robin, who already has a digital flat-screen TV, wondered why we need a set-top box. Doesn't the digital signal just come through the cable into the TV, as on hers? Our salesman insisted that we can't get a full high-definition signal without the set-top box, so we got it. But as to precisely why that is, I don't know--and my user's guides certainly won't tell me. So, as ever, I'm taking matters into my own hands: I shopped for and bought a book on digital TV from Amazon.com a couple of days ago. I'll wait for that and hope it straightens me out--or at least that I can tell Robin why we sprang for a $650 piece of auxiliary equipment to go with our new TV set.

Meanwhile, TV is very enjoyable again. This past Saturday we watched Apollo 13, the next title in Paul's 90s Festival, and it came across powerfully on our new screen.

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