Sunday, February 08, 2004

A good time was had by all.

Yesterday was a GREAT day. Not that I was at the top of my game or anything but I felt better physically, emotionally, and mentally than I have in two months. I actually enjoyed the day. There was no anxiety, no worries, no deep concerns, and I even did a good deed. My biggest concern was what to have for lunch.

I woke up at about 4:30-ish in the morning. I had a stomach ache.

Flashback: Friday night

Shelly and I had decided to have a few friends over to watch Stargate: SG-1. Our friend Norma usually comes over because she is a big fan of the series and no longer has cable TV at her house. We decided to make more of an event of it and I invited Kevin, with whom I share an office. We decided to have a cookout as Kevin has been suggesting we do since the end of the summer.

At any rate, the gathering got a little larger that afternoon when I learned that another friend's wife had quit her job. This was made doubly interesting because they both work at the same company and said friend had been laid off Monday evening... I decided they needed a break and invited them to come along. The wife was on her way to an event over the weekend so it ended up being her husband and their kid, but I think they were glad for the diversion.

So, Kevin brings hamburger meat, we have bratwurst in the fridge, and Shelly picked up hot dogs for the young'n. I prepared the hamburger and proceeded to cook the whole thing up on the grill in thirty-degree weather with lingering snow on the surface of the deck... It was a blast!

Somewhere between the two beers, two cokes, bratwurst with sauerkraut, cheeseburger, and chips...

I woke up at about 4:30-ish in the morning. I had a stomach ache.

I tried to ignore it, go back to sleep and just let my digestive system deal with it in its own time. By 5:15 or so, I was in the kitchen boiling water to make some tea (it usually settles my stomach).

While waiting for the water to boil and later while sipping the tea, I was checking out online retailers for local stock...

Flashback: A couple of weeks ago

I have been wanting to turn my computer into a video authoring station. Several months ago, I upgraded to a 120-gigabyte hard drive and this past Christmas, I received a DVD Recorder drive. I was halfway there - I had room to store the files and a way to record them... but no way to get them from their source (video tape, off-air, etc.) into the computer.

I had done some research and a friend told me about a magic black box. This magic black box takes analog input (from VCR's, camcorders, etc.) and converts it to a firewire output, like you would get from a digital camcorder. The problem: The MSRP is $249.00 (although, they were selling on eBay for around $200.00).

Now, this desire for the ability to transfer recorded material onto DVD is actually shared with my spouse. She has every episode of a short-lived television series on VHS. The tapes are beginning to wear out and she would much like to transfer them to a more permanent format, editing out the commercials if possible. (before anyone goes screaming about copyright, this is for personal use only and if the series were available on DVD, she would buy it... in an instant.)

To make a long story even longer, I have often thought that a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) would be a really cool device to have. A DVR is basically an intelligent VCR that records to a hard disk instead of tape. The device also allows you to pause live TV, run instant replay, etc. ala TiVo. The only problem is, most of the devices have no way to transfer the video from the device to any sort of lingering storage, such as a DVD, without paying an arm, a leg, and possibly a spleen. And those that have built-in DVD recording, do not allow for any sort of editing.

Again, I did some research and, through The Screensavers Message Boards, I learned that the Replay TV units - with the help of some open-source software - allow you to download your recorded video to your PC. It makes sense that the Replay TV units would be able to do this since they have a built-in Ethernet connection. You simply hook it up to your home network and it's much like browsing shared folders on another computer. (the Ethernet connection is primarily used in lieu of a telephone connection to download programming information from Replay TV)

So, I give this information to my wife and let her know that the DVR takes care of encoding and recording the video and all we have to do is transfer it to the PC, edit out the commercials, and burn it to DVD.

Fast Forward back to Friday night...
after some discussion, we have been bidding on a couple of Replay TV units on eBay. I spent part of the evening watching the auction during the commercials. I was outbid at the last minute so...

While waiting for the water to boil and later while sipping the tea, I was checking out online retailers for local stock...

Oddly enough, many of the national retailers they work with do not carry the units in-store. It wasn't until I checked out CompUSA that I found one available for local pickup. Everywhere else I had to order it.

Eventually, my tummy settled down and I went back to bed. When the dogs woke me up about three hours later, I really wanted to hop in the car, head for Oklahoma City and pick up a Replay TV unit... but the wife wasn't up yet and spending that kind of money without the consent of both parties in the household is usually not a good idea... so I went to Wal-Mart.

No, Wal-Mart doesn't carry DVRs - we needed groceries and I thought it would be a good diversion to pass the time until I could chat with Shelly about going to OKC.

Lucky for me, she was up when I got back. Also lucky for me, her cancelled show was playing on the Hallmark Channel at 10:00pm (the reason we upgraded our satellite program package a week earlier)... I had my ace in the hole.

She came out and told me that Norma had invited us to the movies and asked if I wanted to go along. I took a look at what was showing (and what they wanted to see) and said, "No, I don't think so." Then I told her about my 5am web surfing and that I was considering going to OKC to buy a DVR... She hesitated. We went back and forth a bit (I could tell she really wanted to do this but was trying to justify the expense) until I finally pulled out my trump card...

"Let me put it this way. Wouldn't it be nice to have the Replay unit set up and ready to record in time for the Magnificent Seven [her show]?"

That did it... twenty minutes later, I was on my way to Oklahoma City.

There is more to this story but I will have to finish it later. This entry has actually been sitting on my hard drive for a week now and I haven't added anything significant to it. I changed the time during the posting process to match the time it was actually written.

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