Dec 23, 2010

Accuso universum!

This lonely little Jewish man says:
"Sometimes gravity really gets me down.
Also, can I borrow your comb?"
Gravity can be so full of itself sometimes. It behaves like it's some big shot; like we are all supposed to see it as all cool or whatever... "Ohhh, look at me! I'm Gravity and I am theorized to move at infinite velocity. I am so mysterious and only marginally understood...blah, blah, blah..." Really Gravity? Really?! You do know you're the weakest of the four basic interactions, right? And that's in the whole universe, Gravity. The WHOLE universe. Why don't I just call my friend, Weak Nuclear Force, and tell him about how awesome you are? Huh? What's that? You don't want me to? Why not? You are big bad Gravity, and he's just Weak Nuclear Force. What's the big deal Gravity? I mean, surely you are not afraid of a guy who has 'weak' as his name. HIS NAME... Yeah that's what I thought.

And what about your "roommate", Mass? What a jerk. You and he are always teaming up on people and you never play fair. "Oh look Mass! A passenger jet just lost a wing in mid-flight. Hey, I have a cool idea. Let's crash it into the ground at tremendous speed and kill everyone!" And the whole "roommate" thing? Who do you think you're kidding with that one? No one, that's who! Do roommates hold hands in public or share a collection of every Judy Garland movie ever made? DO THEY?!

And don't even get me started on Electromagnetism. She is like a bazillion times stronger than you...and she's a girl! A teeny-tiny refrigerator magnet can hold little Billy's crayon drawing of "Gwamma" up forever. And all the gravitational force you can derive from all the mass of entire planet Earth cannot make the magnet move. Like, at all.  Not even a tiny little bit. You are such a poser, Gravity. Oh, and that whole "infinite velocity" thing is so totally not proven. It's a matter of some debate in the physics community. Some debate.

I can sure impress the ladies with 5/6 less gravity.
This has happened exactly zero times.
Needless to say, Gravity, Mass and I have had some unpleasantness in the past. We were all cool when I was young, but around 19 my metabolism and I began to harbor anger toward Gravity and Mass. Each time I would stand on my bathroom scale the number would get higher and higher. It was at 19 that I got my first apartment and began to realize the folly of my Mother's dietary structure. It was then that I began to do things my Mother would have never allowed: eating Doritos for breakfast, then taking a nap, then having eight spoonfuls of Cool Whip for dinner. Oh, and did I mention I rarely moved from the couch except to go to work (where, incidentally, I also spent the entire day sitting down)? So, after years of getting drunk on this freedom and liberation, the number on the scale had gone up. Way up. To 320 pounds. I had become what medical science affectionately refers to as "morbidly obese".

Apparently this distinction is tied to my Body Mass Index, or BMI. Ones BMI is based upon an arbitrary formula invented by elementary school bullies. The BMI numbers are primarily used to determine which members of society belong to one of the two demographics that it's still totally okay to mock, ridicule, and stereotype in movies (seriously, can you think of a single film where the "fat guy" was not the villain or the fool?). My BMI was 49. This was well beyond the "Hey look Mommy! Look at that fat man!" range, and creeping closer and closer to "Just hold on Sir. The forklift will be here soon to take you to the emergency room." territory. I was not quite fat enough to get a TLC special made about me, but far too fat to get through a day without being reminded of what a lard-ass I was.

Having a plan is the key to success.
This situation was, of course, not my fault at all. But rather, totally the fault of Gravity and his registered "life-partner", Mass; but mostly Gravity. Sure, it was that jackass Mass (or "Jackmass") that made my appearance less than awesome and put me in the position of having to buy my clothes at a "special store." But it was Gravity that pulled me down toward the core of the Earth. It would pull me harder and harder; making the number on the scale go higher and higher. I had grown to hate them both. Hate them for what they were doing to me. What's more, they had told my doctor to lie to me. Lie to me. They told her to keep telling me that I had to "lose weight" or I wouldn't "live" to see my children "grow up." She was lying. Just a lying liar that was lying. That's what she was. She could be forgiven though. It was Gravity and Mass that were truly to blame here. 

But now, nearly 20 years later, I am proud to say that Gravity, Mass, and I are all walking the path of reconciliation. And this week we are all finally friends again! And what brought about this "pax gravitas"? What was behind the greatest peace since the 2311 Treaty of Algernon? One simple fact: I am no longer morbidly obese! Oh, I am still regular obese, to be sure. But that dreaded "morbidly" prefix is gone. In the past year I have lost over 50 pounds; going from 320 down to 266. And this has brought my BMI all the way down to 39, taking me officially out of the morbidly obese "fatx bracket" (see what I did there?). Now I am frolicking in the fantastical world of plain ol' obesity. Suck on THAT Gravity! Not so tough now are ya?

I think my success is a testament to my personal will and determination. And by "will and determination" I mean "medication and determination". And by that I mean "medications used to treat my soft bipolar and ADD." Actually, the only real will and determination shown on my part was to take my meds, every day, without fail. So that counts for something right? Yes it does. It sure does. Like they say: "nothing tastes as good as being less fat then you were last year feels."

The next goal for me is to leave the obese ranks completely; to get down to just being "overweight". To do that, I will need to lose another 70 pounds; giving me a BMI of 29.9. When I can accomplish that it will really be, ironic adjectives aside, a big deal.

Dec 12, 2010

TiVo Premiere: Three Green Thumbs Up!

The TiVo Premiere. It's got zazz.
I have been a TiVo fan, or a "TiVotee” (rhymes with “devotee”), since way back in the early days (circa 1999). It was a different time then. We still waited with bated breath each week for the latest episode of Deep Space Nine, and we heard whispered rumors of a new Star Trek series. It was to be called "Voyager" and we all knew it would be an amazing show. How could it not be? It was freaking STAR TREK. Seriously, what were the chances of a Star Trek series being so awful that it actually made you sad to watch it? It was going to be great. We all had no doubt of that.

I was a hero in those days. Neigh, I was a god! I would try and impress friends with this new gadget called a "TiVo". They were, of course, in awe. Like little children, their questions were endless. I knew they wished only to understand the TiVo's sublime greatness. Their questions were diverse and numerous; "Doesn't a VCR already do that?", they would ask me. And "Wait...you have to pay to use this thing?". Whatever. They were not visionaries like me. They could not see the TiVo's potential. Now I had power, real power, and they were all afraid. Yes. Afraid of what I had become. I was a giant now; a colossus looking down upon them with amused pity. And they dared to question me. ME?! Did they not know of what a 54 MHz CPU and 14GB of storage could do? FOOLS! They simply did not understand the power I now had! One day I will show them! I'll show them all! You will bow down before me, Jor-El. I swear it! No matter that it takes an eternity, you will bow down before me! Both you, and then one day, your heirs!

It was right around then that I asked General Zod to leave.

The old TiVo Central menu.
Sponsored by the color red, apparently.
But the TiVo "Series 1", as it would come to be called, really was a neat thing. I could record all my favorite shows and even watch them while another show was being recorded at the same time (suck it VCRs!). I could pause live TV and even rewind. It was pretty cool. After the Series 1, came the (wait for it) Series 2. Then the Series 3, the TiVo HD, and then, just recently, the TiVo Premiere. Most of the tried and true TiVo features were there: Green Thumbs Up, Red Thumbs Down, and even the adorable 'bloop bloop bloop' sound when using fast-forward. But this generation of the TiVo DVR also brought a lot of changes. Along with all the technical advances one would expect, there were also many significant changes to the user interface (UI). That was what I wanted to talk about here...


The new TiVo Central, and the new "Video Window".
Now sponsored by the color blue. And the letters H and D.
This is sort of a big deal to us TiVotee's. The TiVo UI was iconic. It had remained essentially unchanged since the beginning. But, alas,  it was not in HD. Of course, that wasn't an issue back in the day. But nowadays most TVs on the market were HD, and the classic TiVo was beginning to look more and more dated. These new units had a (almost) fully HD menu system. I must admit it looked much nicer than the traditional menu. But this new beauty, just as with all beauty I suppose, was only skin deep. I found that the new high-def UI screens only went one or two layers deep. This meant the main menus looked awesome; but if one went to the "settings" or "guide" screens, it was just the same ol' menu as all previous TiVo's. This wasn't really a bad thing; it was just hard to constantly go back and forth from 'new hotness' to 'old and busted'.

TiVo also rolled out some big improvements to the search features on the Premiere. With previous generations, when I would use "search" I would only get results from whatever was on TV. Now, all the available services were rolled together. When I searched for, say, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, I got, not just a list of all showings on TV, but listings of all showings from anywhere the TiVo could get them. This included of course, over-the-air and cable. But also Netflix (streaming), Amazon, Blockbuster, and even YouTube. I tell you, that sure beat having to search for the same thing a bunch of times.

If you can't get a picture, try another hole.
Another new feature was a small "video window" that appears in the upper right corner whenever I was in one of the HD menus. It would show whatever was currently playing on screen. This let me search for new programs and generally navigate the menu structure and watch my show at the same time. It was great when one person (usually me) wants to poke around in the menu or scroll through recorded programs, while another person wants to actually watch TV. This kind thing has been around for years on other DVR's, but it's new to TiVo.

But the new HD interface also meant more CPU load. And while TiVo assured their users that things will get  better over time, but right now the menu performance it painfully slow. It was often about two clicks behind me. It was annoying to say the least. But I think TiVo will fix this as time goes on. When the TiVo HD first came out it had similar problems. This new hardware was multi-core, but the OS could not yet take advantage yet. I imagine that within a system update or two, things will get peppier.

Am I a smartphone or a remote control?
I got the base Premier unit (two of them actually). It can hold 45 hours of HD video. Just as the Series 3, it supports a Cablecard as well as HDMI, component, and a few other outputs. It comes with a marginally updated remote, but even the oldest TiVo legacy remote works. There is a more advanced remote available (I didn't get it) with a slide-out keypad. Since this new UI is so much more reliant upon searches, it would no doubt make searching much easier (trying to "type" with the number pad is no fun). I might get one later; just not sure it's worth the $90 price tag. (well, only $65 if I got it from Amazon).

Overall, I like this generation of the TiVo. Right now I am watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and searching for showings of The Hunt for Red October...at the same time. Pretty flippin' sweet.