A week ago tonight I was in a Spokane, Washington hotel awaiting a morning one-way flight to Washington, DC. It had been exhausting and emotional week-plus organizing the move of my household goods and that day marked the last one I would spend in the house on a northern Idaho mountain ridge where I'd lived with my family for the past 21 years. My two youngest children are now grown and gone and my wife and her parents, who'd lived there with us, are deceased, so I was planning to sell the place even before this new job came up rather quickly at the end of February. What I'd thought might be a two or three month process turned into a two or three week process -- absolutely insane.
But my last day there also had some magic moments. When the atmosphere is absolutely pristine, I can see to the southeast some mountains on the other side of Elk City, Idaho, about 110-120 miles away. I've seen them only 3-4 times in the 21 years I lived there, but there they were at breakfast. And while bald eagles gather in great numbers, usually in January, on Lake Coeur d'Alene some 75 miles to the north-northeast, their appearance around my property is only slightly more common than the distant mountain view. Yet after lunch, there was one mature one circling my property. Wow!
Returning to the theme of this blog with a "department of personal experiences" report:
My March commuting to Washington is now over and I'm awaiting my car and household goods in a small 14th-floor apartment in the city. My new broadcast reception is so far all-digital. I sent an HDTV monitor and Samsung DTV decoder (5th-gen chip) on by UPS and purchased a Sangean HD Radio component tuner which I'm currently using with the HDTV monitor's RGB input. I have floor to ceiling door to the balcony and have tried the DTV tuner with two antennas -- a small Phillips model in a weather-proof wing-like enclosure that's meant to be mounted on an outside pole, and a Terk UHF log periodic with a built-in set of standard rabbit ears. The FM antenna is a standard twin-lead folded dipole laying on the floor in a sort of drooping T configuration. I don't know where the transmitters are located, but my antennas are looking toward the east.
The HD Radio performs quite well on the FM band. I can pick up several HDR stations, including WAMU and WETA-FM, the local NPR stations. The Phillips TV antenna worked well back in Idaho, but here it enables only a handful of channels to be accessed via scanning. The Terk does much better with the rabbit ears extended, though I've not found any configuration that permits me to pick up the Washington PBS stations, WETA and WHUT. I can, however, get a Maryland Public Television station as well as the "MHz" public station from Virginia (which is broadcasting five SD channels, all of which look pretty good).
The HD Radio experience is pretty seamless, thank goodness, but the repeated scan/adjust antenna/rescan/adjust antenna/rescan thing on the TV side is a real pain and I doubt many consumers will go through it. Who invented this turkey?!? Oh, it does look nice when it locks in on a channel.
Updated 7 April 2008:
Stephen Hill writes privately (highly paraphrased here), Get cable!. Yes, I'm going to do that as soon as my large screen shows up, and my unstated point is that so will most other over-the-air viewers. To traditional broadcasters -- and especially to public television stations -- these viewers will then become economically much less important (see many earlier posts on this topic). --Dennis