New TV For The Bedroom

Circuit City offers a service where, for a fee, they’ll come to your home and set the TV up. Does anyone really need this? It was out of the box with the base screwed into place in two minutes.

element-lcd-tv.jpgWe went out today to buy a new TV for the bedroom. This is a set used by me when I wake up and by Helaine before she goes to bed.

Is it possible nowadays to not feel guilty when spending money? I definitely felt guilty. Isn’t that attitude going to take us farther into recession?

We decided we’d like something similarly sized to what we already have. Our old set is 27″, but it’s 4:3. All TVs today at 16:9. Have no fear there are websites that will calculate and compare. A 32″ TV is within 6% of a 27″ “old school” monitor in area with lots of extra real estate when the content is HDTV.

This was definitely a price based decision. We went with a Circuit City “Element” brand 32″ LCD TV at $399. It is a no-nonsense model with a single HDMI input, VGA and the other standard methods of moving video and audio.

Circuit City offers a service where, for a fee, they’ll come to your home and set the TV up. Does anyone really need this? It was out of the box with the base screwed into place in two minutes. I couldn’t believe there was a Phillips head screwdriver included!

I attached the coax and power cable turned it on and went to the menu to scan for channels. A few minutes later I was ready to go.

The analog channels are what I was expecting. The digital channels are a mish mash of repeats and weird channels with few things of interest. At least two digital channels don’t seem to be on my Comcast provided digital tuner in the family room. That’s some sort of screw up on Comcast’s part.

The digital companions to our local on-air stations are at their on-channel positions. So, though WCTX is usually Cable 9, WCTX-DT is on Channel 59. WTIC, the local Fox affiliate, is 61-1 squeezed between CNN Headline on 61 and CNN on 62. Now Homer Simpson is in the middle of a cluster of news outlets.

As I tuned I began to notice a lot of channels running HD programming on their SD channels but formatted 16:9 so it doesn’t fill the entire screen. What you get is a 16:9 picture on a 16:9 set but with loads of unused black on all four sides. I could hit a button an expand it, but it’s a manual job on each channel and the video will be pixelated as it’s stretched.

The tuner on this set reminds me of the tuner in an LG set at work. It probably is the same tuner. I assume there are mix and match modules used to build modern televisions. Companies like “Element” are more marketing than manufacturing.

The picture is bright and sharp and it’s an improvement over the old set. I’m looking forward to watching it.

My Lips Aren’t Pretty

Sometime this evening my lower lip began to swell. Later, after dinner, my upper lip followed suit. I look like Botox gone bad!

Dear Geoff,

I just finished watching you on the Monday Newschannel 8 broadcast, and couldn’t help but notice that you did not appear as your usual self. It looked as though you may have had some type of oral surgery, as your lips appeared quite swollen. Hope it is nothing serious, and that you mend well. In the meantime, I’ll continue to tune in (as I always do), and will continue to monitor the situation!

I’ve had this problem before, but thought it had been brought under control with antihistamines. Guess not.

It doesn’t hurt. It is unsightly. And, it bothers me because I have no idea what’s causing this nor how to get rid of it. Even WebMD lists no cause when you enter the symptom “swollen lips.”

A quick peek in the mirror shows I’m currently a cross between Gary Shandling and Homer Simpson. This can’t be good.

Cheese? Really? Cheese?

If you’re a steady reader of my blog&#185, you know I’ve been having trouble recently with my lips swelling. For no reason they go from ‘normal’ to Homer Simpson sized. Sometimes it’s the top lip. Sometimes it’s the bottom lip. Both corners have swelled up a different times as well.

It’s not painful, but it is troubling – and unsightly.

I went and saw my allergist today. He’s a really nice guy. I enjoy spending time with him. But, I think we both agree, I probably stumbled upon the cause before I got there. It’s ricotta cheese!


But Geoff, you might say, haven’t you eaten ricotta cheese all your life? Yes… except I’m on the Atkins Diet now. Ricotta cheese makes a great, Atkins friendly, dessert. I was eating half a coffee cup of ricotta cheese every single day – sometimes even more. That’s a lot more ricotta than I’d ever eaten over any extended period of time.

With enough time and quantity, any small resistance I had broke down. Even the antihistamine pills I take were no match for the power of cheese (sorry, I had to).

When Helaine made this startling discovery, I stopped eating the cheese. I haven’t swelled since. Isn’t that weird?

I asked the doctor if it’s possible to be allergic to ricotta cheese, but I knew the answer. You can be allergic to nearly anything.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for an Atkins friendly dessert.

You know, with a teaspoon of Splenda, ricotta cheese makes a great dessert… though not for me.

&#185 – You’ve really got to get a life.

Swollen Lip

One night a few years ago, on my way home for dinner, my lip began to swell. By the time I drove into the garage I looked like Homer Simpson. My upper lip was swollen to the size of my thumb. With my mouth closed, my upper lip covered my lower lip.

For the next few weeks my lips, fingers and toes would swell and then return to normal size for no apparent reason. The soles of my feet and my palms would itch and then, again for no apparent reason, stop itching.

I can’t be 100% sure, but sometimes my windpipe felt like it was restricted.

I spoke to my family physician who sent me to a specialist – an allergist. This guy was good. He said, we can find what’s causing it, or we can fix it. I chose the latter.

Since that time I’ve taken a little antihistamine pill every day. It’s worked. Until the last few weeks.

Once again my lip has started swelling. There’s no itching. There’s no finger or toe swelling. It’s just the lip.

Is this the same thing?

I upped the dose of antihistamine, taking two at once (and making myself very sleepy). So far, it has not stopped the swelling.

I’ve noticed this seems to happen at night, when I’m home. By that time I’m nearly 24 hours into the medication. Is it wearing out prematurely?

Recently, I’ve been eating some blackberries at night. I wonder if that’s what’s causing my trouble? It’s only a guess.

In the meantime, if they’re making a live action Simpsons feature, I’m your boy!

Pursuit Of Happyness

It was beautiful outside Saturday. Another mild and sunny December day and another day closer to spring. We decided to go to the movies.

Actually, it’s not as simple as that. I proposed dinner and a movie, which would have worked, except Helaine remembered the Cowboys-Falcons game was on tonight.

Please – hold your jealousy. I did win the marriage lottery.

We caught a 4:25 showing of Pursuit of Happyness, the new Will Smith film. Actually, 4:25 was the announced time. The movie started 15 minutes later – no exaggeration!

Enough with the commercials. Haven’t I already paid to see the movie?

By now you probably know, but “Happyness” is spelled as it is because of an inscription on a wall seen in the movie. But the actual concept, “pursuit of happiness” (as in life, liberty and the pursuit of…) is what drives the movie’s lead character, played by Will Smith.

He philosophizes about Jefferson’s reasons for framing happiness in this way in a series of disembodied voice overs.

Smith plays San Franciscan Chris Gardner – a man smarter and more motivated than his position in life would indicate. The movie chronicles Gardner’s struggle to succeed while maintaining a centered life for his son.

It’s ‘based’ on a true story. That’s another way of saying it isn’t a true story. Hollywood takes many liberties between reality and celluloid. Many of the crises faced by Smith’s character were one or two notches too tough to ring true.

Helaine cried through much of the final moments. I cried a little at the very end. As the movie ended, applause nearly broke out. It ended up being a unrequited smattering.

Helaine was definitely more satisfied with what was on the screen than I was. It was just too depressing for too long.

Sure, I knew a Will Smith Christmas release was going to end happy. It just took too long to get there.

Other than Will Smith, who did a fine job, three performances need mentioning.

Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Smith’s 8 year son, plays his son on screen. There were lines to be delivered and emotions to be portrayed. That’s tough for most 8 year olds. In his case, the performance was effortless and believable. I have no problem with this ‘vanity casting.’

Dan Castellaneta was one of Smith’s bosses. There was nothing to make him stand out, except… Hello… this is Homer Simpson! Castellaneta is the guy who made “d’oh” a household word.

Why bother with a little, inconsequential, part like this?

Finally, James Karen played Smith’s big boss at the brokerage firm. Fine actor. Good portrayal. You’ve seen him a thousand times in films and TV, even if you don’t know the name.

But, isn’t this the guy who was the Pathmark man for a few decades&#185? I tried to put that aside.

Score this movie a big hit for Helaine and OK, but too slow and depressing for me. It was nice to see Will Smith in a serious role. That wasn’t enough.

&#185 – It is.