Sunday, August 9, 2015

The silly season

For a pair of political junkies such as ourselves this is a great time to be travelling with a satellite dish.  It hasn’t been without challenges but we finally have a system that works to allow us to take our TV with us on the road.  And we’re solidly on the road for roughly the next month.

This spring I bought us a Winegard carryout dish.

winegardcarryout It doesn’t look like much but – in  theory at least – it is a vast improvement over what we used to do.  What we used to do was carry a Shaw Direct elliptical dish and a tripod.  Whenever we got to somewhere I had to set up and level the tripod.  Then I had to mount the dish which was moderately big and clumsy and then we had to aim it.  Anyone who has ever aimed one of those dishes knows that it can be a snap or it can be a major pain.  Most of the time it went well but on those occasions when it didn’t it was enough to make us wish TV had never been invented.

Inside that white plastic dome is a miniature Shaw dish with a couple of motors to control elevation and compass orientation.  In theory you set it down on a reasonably level surface, hook it to the receiver, give it 12 volt power and it goes to work finding the satellite.  When it actually works it takes less than a minute from the time you plug in the 12V to the time you can start watching CTV or Fox.  Out of the box however, it wasn’t quite that simple.  We travelled in mid July and tried it out then, unsuccessfully.  At the time I blamed it on trees blocking our southern view and that may have been true but it turned out we had bigger problems.

Last week we moved to Cypress Hills Provincial park so that Marilyn could attend a Bergren family reunion.  They gave us a great site with an absolutely unobstructed southern view so we knew that – if the dish didn’t work – at least it had nothing to do with trees.  And sure enough, the dish continued to not work.  That left phoning Winegard as my next option and I dread phoning any technical “customer service”.  As it turned out the Winegard call was relatively painless.  The nice lady that phoned me back after an interminable length of time on hold initially tried to tell me that I needed to screw around with our skew setting.  “Skew” is the angle that the LNB (the receiver head on the dish) is oriented relative to the axis of the dish.  It is necessary to skew a Shaw dish because they use a single dish to receive signals from two different satellites.  I was about 110% certain that skew wasn’t going to solve our problem so I kept pushing for additional ideas and that lead to checking the signal quality or “Map Status”.  The number for that indicated to the nice lady that we were receiving a high definition signal.  Since the Winegard dish can only read a low def signal that clearly wasn’t going to work and it also explained some weird signal strength behaviour that I had already observed. 

The problem with the Winegard lady’s solution was that she couldn’t do anything about it which meant we had to make a second call to Shaw to get them to set the receiver back to low def, in effect a service downgrade.  Marilyn made that call and its a good thing she did because she is a lot more patient than I am.  She had to persist to get the service droid to actually do what Winegard had told us to do.  He kept insisting that it wouldn’t make any difference and telling us to go back to Winegard.  Since we couldn’t very well call them back and ask, in effect, “We didn’t bother trying your last solution but got any more ideas?” Marilyn persisted and he finally, reluctantly, agreed to do what Winegard had requested.  Sure enough immediately when he did that the on-screen status changed and we were able to start receiving a signal.  Actually I think what happened is that our receiver started decoding the signal that it was receiving all along but the effect was that we started reading the signal. 

Of course all of this happened about 14 hours after the US and Canadian debates so we missed seeing the drama live.  We have however been able to watch the aftermath and endless dissections of the two debates.  North of the border my assessment is that Harper didn’t lose the debate which is absolutely the best he could have hoped for.  That combined with the long lead time to the election made the Canadian debate pretty well irrelevant.  On the US side it appears we are seeing the long anticipated (and inevitable) Trump implosion.  What I’d like to see now is some intelligent assessment of who the Trump support actually is.  Are they disaffected Republican voters or just disaffected potential voters?  It makes a huge difference because – when The Donald eventually runs as an independent – on the the one hand it will be an erosion of votes that would otherwise go to the Republican nominee while on the other hand it will be a meaningless movement of votes that wouldn’t have showed up at the polls anyway.   I’ve been very impressed with the interviews that Carly Fiorina has done.  If, as it appears, the prime prerequisite for the 2016 presidential candidate is ovaries then she seems much more qualified than Billary Shrillary and that contest would be one well worth watching.

Meanwhile back at Chitek lake my two little boys are celebrating 25 years on this orbiting rock.

Malibu at Chitek

It feels so good to see the Malibu getting used again but I’m more than a little jealous that we aren’t there to use it too.

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