Dennis Haarsager's rolling environmental scan for electronic media. "Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us." --Jerry Garcia "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." --Bob Seger
This afternoon, I finally made it to beautiful West Virginia, having driven to Harpers Ferry for dinner (about 65 miles from where I live in Washington, DC). Great drive along the Shenandoah River. It was the last of the United States that I'd not visited. --Dennis
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
I posted earlier this month about my son's"RoboWheat" robotics project at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he is a senior industrial design major. Another project is what he calls a bloog, a machine that ingests real-time blog posts and produces synthesized content from them. I'll let him describe it:
Here is the finished project of what I wrote about here - a machine that scrambles the words and sentences of real-time blog posts, based on the look of a 1960’s Moog synthesizer. It pulls in any RSS feed
(for demonstration I used Technorati to create one that fetches all new
net-wide blog posts about ‘music,’ har har). The knobs and sliders
scroll through the text and add or subtract words from the screen,
creating new ideas from the existing sentences.
Link: AndrewHaarsager.com. I note that one of the categories he filed this under is "Useless," but I don't know about that. It might improve the content of many blog posts. ;-) --Dennis
My blogging has been more sparse this fall than I'd like or that I intend to do in 2008, but I'd like to wish everyone Glad jul (Glad Yule in English with jul and Yule pronounced the same) the ancient greeting for the mid-winter holiday that predates the current group of politically-incorrect greetings that we're reluctant to pass along to a diverse group these days. In those centuries, there were just two seasons, summer and winter. Mid-summer is still celebrated in Scandinavia on the summer solstice and jul was at the winter solstice. It's a few days off the Christmas holiday, but has been adapted to it. --Dennis
My son Andrew is a senior industrial design major at the Rhode Island School of Design. He's taking several digital media courses this semester and as a final project he designed a "robotic wheat field" inspired by the real wheat fields that surround the woods where our home is located. The "wheat" in this case are 28 stiff vertical wires mounted seven at a time on each of four boards on the floor. As you walk through the "field" and move your arms, animated light streams from the ceiling in the form of projected RSS feeds (the feed he set up for the show was a Technorati search for all posts relating to "sunshine"). The light follows your movement through the field. The device is currently in its second edition - you can check it out on his site and on YouTube. Click on the images to the right for larger versions. More information and pictures here and here. Very clever, says Dad. --Dennis
I made a presentation in at the Iowa DTV Symposium in Des Moines on Oct. 2nd about which I posted a couple of days later. At one point in the presentation, I had just made a point about entropy when, as if to illustrate it, a window blew open and the curtains blew in a big whoosh. The audience appreciated the visual aid and so did I. But I didn't know the rest of the story until last night when, after taking most of the month off, I finally got to Todd Mundt's feed in Bloglines. As he tells it in his Converge blog, a twister briefly set down at that moment three blocks away! It will probably be the only time that Mother Nature helps me at the podium. Thanks, Mom! --Dennis
Sorry, but I just found a bunch of comments going back to early September that I just authorized for publishing -- most from people I know -- thanks. Either TypePad stopped sending me email notices of new comments or Clearwire's spam filter is eating the notices they are sending. Will check it out. --Dennis
Since many of my friends subscribe to this blog (or perhaps I should say all subscribers are by definition friends), I thought I should let you know why I'm taking some time off from posting. My wife of nearly 31 years, Sandra Haarsager (the picture of her on a jet ski was taken September 20 in Labadee, Haiti), died last Saturday after a short bout with an aggressive pneumonia that was itself a complication of a 2½-year bout with cancer. In my last post six days ago, I said that we were writing a book together. It would have been her third and two others were in various stages of completion.
Sandra was an amazing woman, accomplished in journalism, administration, academia (she was a "full bird" professor), music and -- not the least -- motherhood. In spite of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2005, she pretty much carried on the same ambitious schedule she always had, though she did give up her college's associate dean job to go back to teaching full time. On that occasion, Dan Bukvich, a talented University of Idaho music faculty colleague and friend composed and framed a piece using the letters of her name and the letters of words that he felt (accurately) described her. These words were Astute, Calm, Insightful, Understanding, Kind and Professional. To those, I would add Intrepid.
Update 18 Oct. 2007: We held a memorial service for Sandra at the University of Idaho a week ag0. Some 400 people attended. The music was amazing. The tributes were touching. Those who attended will never forget it. Or her. The Argonaut newspaper at the university carried a story about it here. Thanks to the many, many of you who via email or in comments below or who sent cards conveyed your friendship in this time. --Dennis
A nice person at a public radio reception in St. Paul actually noticed that I'd not posted in awhile. My wife and I just finished a nice Caribbean cruise and now I'm doing a couple of days of business travel. Postings for the next couple of weeks may be fewer in number but I'll try to get some things up here. --Dennis