My New Worst Enemy

I love technical things and TV has become very technical, and I am quickly learning to despise TV. In this world of user names and passwords it becomes mind boggling to keep track of it all. My iPhone is a perfect example of stupidity. It seems that every ten seconds I am pumping in the pass code before I can do anything phone. Why? Apple does it to protect me from guess who? Me. I know I’ll be the first one crying if my phone gets hacked but I think we have gone a bit too far to make this a secure world. The TV service emulates Apple in regard to pass codes, pass words, and all things Apple.

I sit in front of a computer, to use it I must enter a password. Then I want to use a program like Adobe, and I have to enter a password. If I want to access my online banking I must enter my account number followed by a password, then by one of those scrambled letter things which disappear if you take too long to figure out what the distorted letters are. Finally, I make it past the four digit squirrely-thingy and I face answering security questions, “Where was your honeymoon?” Which one I say? in all of this, if you miss three or four times in a row the program shuts you out.

My latest enemy is Amazon Prime a fringe service of Amazon. At first I used it for faster shipping, then I expanded the usage to watching the free video content. I’ve stated several times before that I am hooked on a series titled Heartland. Each season has eighteen episodes and I am at the tail end of season nine( 156/162 episodes). All along I was a happy camper, I love watching the beautiful scenery in high definition color on a big screen. A couple of weeks ago, I began having problems getting a specific episode to work. Why? Only God knows. I have been into all the help screens on my TV, on Xfinity my streaming service, and now on Amazon the competing service to Xfinity. There are user names, passcodes, passwords, and security id’s on all of them. Reading computerese on the help screens easily takes an hour just to find a sentence that will point at some trick they use to get around a problem. I don’t have enough hours left in my life to be spending them on technology that fails.

Last night I resorted to using Chat on Xfinity. When I hear the word chat I expect to speak with a real live human being. Instead I get to type my questions and a computer interprets my question to give me a stupid answer(artificial intelligence means no intelligence, and even less common sense). I’m positive that if I eventually connect with a human it will be a British-english speaking high pitched voice coming at me from India. Nine times out of ten, I apologize to them and ask them to speak more slowly and to enunciate their words because they are speaking to a deaf man. The the fast talking voice will begin interrogating me to determine if I know my name and address, phone number, last four digits of my Social Security number and where I spent my honeymoon before he asks me what my problem is.

This afternoon, I was prepared to spend two hours with my laptop on my lap, and the TV remote in my hand to finally figure something out. I went through the process to connect to my favorite series and everything worked beautifully. Why? Only God knows. The real test will come tonight when I turn on my nightly episode of Heartland. The real question is will I watch on the big TV, or will I be forced to watch on my laptop which by the way operates flawlessly in very few button pushes to get me to my program. Why? Only God knows.

Binge Watching TV

It all began when my financial advisor asked me what I was doing since my wife died. I told him I watch movies on TV. He asked me if I watch any of the material being produced by the new companies like Amazon, and Netflix. I told him I can get all the movies I can watch without Netflix. That he dropped a bomb on me. You know these companies are now producing their own movies and series TV shows don’t you? “Well, no I didn’t know that, I’ll have to look into it.”

I can’t lose anything so why not try something new and daring. I’m not so old yet that I’m happy watching public TV programs at fixed times of the day. I found a series produced by Showtime called “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” It turned out to be a hilarious comedy about a family in New York. I watched four seasons within a month. I can hardly wait for the next season to begin.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Six months ago A friend suggested I look at a TV program titled Homeland. I did, and I became addicted. We watched episodes together, she in her home, me in mine. Afterwards we texted each other with questions like will “Cary take the bait,” or will “Brodie turn terrorist?”We never could predict what the next moves would be during this complicated story. That is until she watched non-stop to finish the entire series. With modern TV it is easy to watch what you want when you want to watch. Services like xFinity or Amazon Prime Video keep all the seasons of various programs available on their servers. For a nominal subscription price I have been able to see entire seasons of a specific show (like 8-12 episodes) within two evenings. This form to TV viewing is referred to as “binge” watching. I finished eight seasons of Homeland within a couple of months of binge watching several episodes nightly. I couldn’t get enough.

Homeland

After Homeland Another series titled “Billions” came upon the scene, although not very new because it to had four seasons in the can. I chose not to watch it immediately because the main character in Billions was also a main character in Homeland. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to separate them. I watched movies instead. There are some evenings when I will watch two movies before retiring. I love drama, comedy, love stories, adventure stories, and modern westerns. I deplore zombies, terminators, and comic book stories. My movie list now contains 221 films watched. Of those 121 were since my wife Peg died a year ago. I watch a lot of films. So much so that I have set a goal to watch less and write more. It was time to begin “Billions.” Within the first five minutes of this new story I was able to separate actor Damian Lewis from his role in Homeland as a US Marine held hostage by radical Muslim Terrorists for eight years and he new role as Bobby Axelrod the owner of AxeCapital a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. I watched all four and a half seasons and look forward to new episodes as they come online. Then one day while discussing this story with a friend he asked if I was aware that Damian Lewis is an English actor. “Get out,” i exclaimed. Since then I am looking at act biography to learn about the and their careers. Yes, he is Brittish and can speak with a heavy Brittish accent when he wants to. Quite amazing that he can pull off the accent of a New Yorker with ease.

Yellowstone

After “Billions” I found a newer series called “Yellowstone” a story about a rancher in Montana that is at constant war with Indians who want their land back, and real estate developers who want his land to build multi-million dollar estate for the filthy rich. It is a western set in 2020. The scenery alone in this story was enough to hook me into watching Kevin Costner defend his ranch any way he saw fit. The story has mystery, murder, fist fights, chicanery, love, jealousy, and ranch life. I am also waiting for the arrival of new episodes on this one as well. So far there are only three seasons completed.

This afternoon after spending several hours in the garden trimming shrubs and pulling weeds I found myself wanting to know who the actors are in the latest series that I am hooked on called “Heartland.” This story takes place in Alberta, Canada. The scenery is magnificent, and the story revolves around horses. This is the ultimate horse lovers film. The actors in this story must all be experienced equestrians. The story is the longest running TV program in Canada TV history. There are fourteen seasons to watch. The main character is fourteen years old when the story begins. Imagine watching someone grow up on TV in a fictiious story. By the fourteenth season these actors grew up, got married, and had children, and some of them have died. The story has me mesmerized even though I know it is fiction and it is a serial soap opera. I find myself living in this story and I can’t get enough. I want to be one of them, and I find myself digging into the actor’s lives to learn more of them and their families.

Heartland

It is beginning to warm up here in Illinois and when the temperature begins climbing into the nineties along with the humidity I know I will be enjoying watching a series in a darkened cool room.

Day 60-SIP-Blogs, VLOGS, Videos, and Podcasts

As part of my routine of killing time everyday while in place and hiding from COVID-19, I listen to a lot of radio through my hearing aids. I have a blue tooth pendant that hangs around my neck that connects my iPhone to the hearing aids. Hell, I spent a fortune on that phone so I am going to get some use out of it, the same with the hearing aids. The system also feeds TV into my ears, and of course the telephone, i.e. if the connections are all made. What are the connections you ask? Number one the bluetooth pendant has to be charged and turned on, then it must be paired with the phone, once that is done I have to connect the phone to my hearing aids. It only took me two years of trial and error to understand and make all those connections. It all takes but 10 seconds to accomplish. Old folks don’t adapt too fast to these new fangled contraptions.

Another time waster is watching Youtube videos. My grand daughter kind of pointed me to that when I asked her what her favorite TV show was. Her response, “I don’t watch TV.”

“How do you find entertainment,” I asked?

“I watch Youtube videos.” That is what pushed me into watching Youtube. At first it was to learn how to cook. I found that if a recipe exists there will be any number of chefs making videos on how to combine the ingredients. I have gotten so spoiled watching cooking videos that now before I attempt to do anything I will search Youtube and watch other people do it. Some are fantastic entertainment and some are so so. What I’m learning about with this is that: 1. people make videos in the hope of making money, and 2. people would rather learn by watching than by reading and understanding a recipe.

Oma is a carbon copy of my mother.

Another thing I have become acquainted with through streaming are Podcasts. When my favorite radio programs are over and I am still in my shop grinding wood or glueing, I listen to Podcasts. First I found Fox News Channel with all my favorite people, and discovered that they are not broadcasting live news they are streaming podcasts and turning conversation into something entertaining and also educational. A favorite is listening to Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss politics, or history.

A few months ago I was in conference with my financial advisor. He asked me how I spend my time now that Peg is gone. I told hm I was struggling trying to find suitable TV that was worth watching, but that I loved reality programs. He told me about how new companies like Amazon, Netflix, etc. are now doing original programming to compete with network broadcasters. So, I checked out what Amazon has. Since I already subscribe for their Prime shipping service I also get what is termed their streaming service. Streaming allows a person to tune in to a program at the moment you are ready to watch it. There is no need to remember to watch at a specific time. You find a program, and click watch and it happens on the spot. Needless to say, I got hooked on a several of their original programs and love watching TV this way. It allows me to turn on the set when I am ready to see something and to see it immediately.

If all of this sounds old to you remember I am old and it takes longer for this kind of stuff to register as useful. Long gone are the days when I was entertained by a floor model radio that had a speaker as large a pizza that I sat in front of with my ear glued to the sound. Those were the good old days. The good old days are different now, we sit in front of a huge color picture screen with high definition picture and stream material we never could have imagined before.

The use of these new technologies has inspired me to wonder if I shouldn’t be getting into making videos and/or podcasts. Grumpa Joes Place is my number one vehicle to spout off steam and to talk without actually speaking. I like writing because words seems to flow from my mind easier than does speech. One of my speech problems is that I always say the opposite of what I actually mean. If I want to tell you to use your right hand to do something, it will come out as use your left hand. Or, if I want to tell you the sky is blue it will come out the sky is grey. I have done this repeatedly for years and I believe it is some form of dyslexia. Anyway, I want to try videos and podcasting as a form of expression. At this point though, I don’t know my rectum from a hole in the ground.

One Idea I have for a podcast is to promote Lions. I would interview Lions Club Presidents and discuss what he does with his club to serve the community. With over 46,000 Lions clubs in the world I think I have some work to do. One curiosity leads me to compare club size to town population. In the nineteen eighties Frankfort population was 2500 residents, but the Lions had 130 members. Today, Frankfort population is near 20, 000 residents and the single Lions Club has seventy members. Why so? Take another example, the La Moille, IL Lions club has thirty members and a town population of 750. What are they doing that is so different from Frankfort? I think I could use that kind of information to make an interesting video for Lions all across the world.

My body clock is running down and I have a lot of work to do before the main spring finally reaches the end and stops ticking. This pursuit however, may make life more interesting along the way. What ever I do, I’ll give you a report on Grumpa Joes Place in the future.

Catching Up

For the longest time I have seen ads claiming that Cable television is running scared. I could not determine what the heck they were afraid of. At that time I subscribed to cable for my internet and television service. Then, this year my cell phone died. I was forced to buy a new one. My landline has been with ATT since the first time I had to buy service in 1961. This time, however, I decided to take advantage of the entire package; land line, cell phone, internet, and TV. The package saved me one hundred dollars a month for the first two years at least. I have endured the ATT internet service to take advantage of the savings, but it is clearly slower than cable. At my age I don’t want anything to be slower because I am trying to squeeze more out of life; waiting for a website to come up does not fit into that scenario.

Two weeks ago, Peg’s caretaker took a day off to attend a party at a friend’s house. The caretaker is from a foreign country, and is not a tech-nerd by any means, but she does know how to save a buck. She came home all excited to show me something she had bought at Best Buy. The gadget is an Amazon FireTVStick. I looked down my nose at it and said I’d try it out.  She couldn’t say enough good about this device. The host of the party she attended had one installed and bragged about how wonderful it was and all the TV was for free. The host is a Russian immigrant who barely speaks English, but was very aware of the Firestick

With the advent of fiber-optic phone lines there has been a major advance in the ability to transmit tons of information over phone lines.  Back in the late eighties and early nineties I visited Sprint in Kansas City, KS as an engineer. These people were diligently working on improving the transmission of data across phone lines. They excitedly explained the benefits of what they were doing. I nodded my head and took it all on faith that they knew what they were doing. I was more focused on trying to solve their problems with my product, a lowly cable tie.

The future that Sprint was working on has arrived. The threat that Cable TV is worried about is called streaming. Today, young people with computers and cell phones are getting their entertainment over the phone lines via a process called streaming. The Firestick is a piece of hardware that allows those of us who have Wi-Fi and digital TV’s to take advantage of streaming. Streaming is the transmission of TV signals over phone lines, and through the atmosphere wirelessly.

Most of us have heard of YouTube. It is a Google process which allows us to load videos onto the internet. Right now, Google has more content available than a person can view watching full-time for a lifetime, and there is more being posted everyday. What I was not aware of is that the stuff we watch on TV is also available on YouTube.

While I was sleeping and surfing the net for news, the youth of the world have been busy working to take advantage of the entertainment content available on the internet. New companies have sprung up with products that allow it all to happen. Most of it is software that allows a user to capture all the streams of data that are traversing the universe; the Amazon FireTVstick is one of them.

This week I finally attacked the Firestick and began to play with it. At this point it is still beating me, but I will conquer the damn thing and we will be watching TV transmitted by Wi-Fi over the internet. When I do conquer the thing it will enable me to quit the TV subscription I have from ATT and save eighty-nine bucks a month, or a whopping one thousand and sixty-eight dollars a year; no wonder Cable is running scared.

Like always when I work with something new like the Firestick I searched YouTube for videos that would show me how to make it work. I even use YouTube to learn how to cook recipes. What I found amazed me. There are dozens of Nerds making videos on how to use streaming devices. What is more surprising is that they have hundreds of thousands of views. The world is on the cusp of using streaming as a way to view video content on TV’s, computers, tablets, and cell phones. Even an old guy like me will learn how to do it and soon will master an entirely new technology. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well at least for now I haven’t mastered the steps to success.

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