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Last update: 14 Aug 2004 -- 1:36am
 Saturday
14 Aug 2004

There is something worse on TV than the ads for male enhancement products.

That thing is a continuously running 2 minute loop of "Saccharine Visions of Greece in Living HD" with John Williams' manipulative and musically bankrupt Olympic theme swelling uncontrollably from my stereo. This loop was played during every commercial break as if to say: "Aren't you so happy you're watching this in High Def?" To which my response would be "Not anymore".

(To be honest, I think that this loop might when the local affiliate is supposed to show their commercials. If they don't have any, then you see the loop. Over and over again. And then again.)

So, what about the ceremonies?

Let me start out and say that I thought that the ceremony itself was really cool. The wire-work was wicked and the exploding sculpture was very cool. I liked the floats, which were done flawlessly. And where the hell did all the water go? Wow! The whole thing was pretty slick. AND the stadium didn't fall down. A+

Coverage up to the end of the fancy stuff was passable. C.

After that: Yuk. F. The announcers apparently didn't have a cheat sheet on how to pronounce country names (and apparently couldn't even listen to the announcer in the stadium conveniently giving the names in English for them). Their effortless disdain toward other countries was breathtaking. ("They sent only 3 athletes to the Games this year." "[Country] has never won a medal, but they sure dress colorfully.")

Quick Quiz: What country are the games in? Right, Greece. What language do you think they speak there? Well, evidence indicates that the rocket scientists at NBC think Greeks speak English. Personally, I would have expected them to speak Greek. I also would have expected that any speeches would contain the local language (which happens to be an official language of the Olympics, along with French and English). I would have assumed that NBC would attempt to have someone who knows those languages around to translate. (Or maybe have the translation in front of them...) Or maybe subtitle it. (I was watching on a 4+ hour delay...) Instead, I watched important persons speak languages I don't know, have 77,000 people cheer wildly, and get the quip, "They're very excitied to have the Games here in Greece."

I haven't seen the ceremonies on the regular TV channels yet. I believe the broadcast I saw was specifically made for HD (since they were constantly touting HD). I hope that they had other people doing the SD broadcast. (Of course, I don't know why you wouldn't have a dual-purpose brodcast though. Seems wasteful to have totally separate HD broadcast.)

Anyway, I'm hoping that the event coverage is better. NBC didn't even make it to the end of the opening ceremonies without embarrasing themselves.

(Oh for fuck's sake. They're replaying the 2002 skating highlights again. Haven't there already been soccer games played that they could be showing? Maybe they could show the "Visions of Greece" loop again instead...)

 Friday
13 Aug 2004

I finally decided that watching blurry events on a giant TV set was not going to cut it. So, last weekend I went out and bought an HDTV tuner (the Bay Area has 15 or so digital channels, several in HD). It turned into a quest of sorts; I needed to get a full-size UHF antenna to pull in the stations. Luckily, it works well enough in the attic and I didn't have to play any rooftop games. And boy is the black coax dangling from the stairwell and across the room attractive!

The whole point of this is to see the Olympics in HD.

All the HDTV tuners you can buy now are ludicrously expensive. I know they are insanely overpriced because I worked on the chips that do all the work. At $200, the box is 100x the undiscounted price of the chip. Grr. Lucky for y'all, large TVs made this year and beyond are required to have one of these things already in it. It's the early-adopters who have to deal with it; and we probably deserve it.

Anyway, I decided to get the LG HDTV tuner and DVD player from Circuit City. It's a nice device, but has a few irritating lapses. (Like you can't change channels from the channel guide as far as I can tell. What?!)

HD is awesome.

Even the quality of SD over-the-air (OTA) broadcast is much better than digital cable. No visible MPEG artifacting which watching The Simpsons, for example. These artifacts are very obvious on a big TV. (And even more so when your job used to be to see those artifacts.)

So, here I am at 8pm waiting for the opening ceremonies. As a warm-up, they are showing highlights from the 2002 Winter Games. Which might be cool if is wasn't *@&!$@ ice skating.

If there is a single winter sport more inappropriate for showing off HDTV, I don't know what it is. THERE ARE NO DETAILS TO SEE. Look, an unbroken sheet of white ice! Wooo, I can see the skate-marks on the ice: BFD. Why not something fast, exciting, and colorful-- maybe HOCKEY or even speedskating.

(Incidentally, hockey is made for HDTV. You can see from goal to far blue-line. It's perfect.)

I should be fair, though. I would prefer to watch curling, or the biathalon, or the 200 meter Zamboni sprint, actually. Olympic sports should be objectively measurable because there's no way to be fair otherwise. I'm not saying that skating (or synchronized swimming or anything else) isn't a real sport, I just don't like giving medals out on the basis of the whims of some judges. "Damn Russian judges!"

 Saturday
7 Aug 2004

Oh. My. God. A postcard update!

 Friday
6 Aug 2004

Monkey Mondays

 Sunday
1 Aug 2004

Went for a day hike today at Castle Rock State Park. I did the Ridge Trail/Saratoga Gap Trail loop which was about 6 miles with the side trips. About a quarter of the trail went along the edge of a very steep drop-off and had a great view. It was pretty busy; probably a dozen different groups excluding the rock-climbers (for which Castle Rock is well-known, especially its eponymous formation).

It's always weird hiking in the Bay area for me. Trees are not a given, even in a natural setting, there's not enough water. You'll be walking in a sparse forest and it'll just open up into a grassy field. Plus, this wasn't a wilderness by any stretch. Lots of trail work, including an observation platform (made of metal pipe) at the waterfall (barely sputtering since it's summer).

At the half-way point was a camping area and a park office, which was unattended. In fact, this whole area looked absolutely awful. There was a derelict house there, which I expect was once a ranger's cabin. There were no windows and one wall was missing so you could just walk in. It was nasty. There was also a bunch of derelict appliances and such 100ft away. It was really dumpy and seemed very odd for California, which is usually good about that stuff. (For example, this heavily travelled area had no trailside trash anywhere.)

Nice hike overall, though. Wore myself out.

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