Gloriosa Daisy

In May my monthly mailing from Disney Movie Club included a gift: a packet of tiny flower seeds commemorating the re-release of Bambi on blu-ray and DVD. Gloriosa daisy seedsI’m not generally much into gardening, but I like free things and the seeds were worthless if I didn’t plant them in the ground. I pulled weeds from one spot in my front garden and planted some seeds there. I also planted some in two planters I had used last year for some petunias.

Disney's free daisy seeds   Disney daisy seed instructions

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Harmony 650 Remote

Since I got the new home theater set up, I’ve been struggling with the remote control situation. I have 4 devices: TV, cable box, AV receiver, and UHD Blu-ray player. The remote that came with the cable box was not adequate and did not have the 30-second skip, so I wound up getting a used remote for really cheap on Amazon. It controls 3 devices which is pretty good. And it is a JP1 remote like my old learning remotes were, but they don’t seem to make JP1 remotes anymore and most of mine don’t work, plus I don’t have a serial port on any of my computer to connect to the JP1 port. However, the Comcast remote doesn’t have nearly all the features of the JP1 remotes I had, but if you look hard enough it will still do a lot. But it won’t control 4 devices and it won’t learn commands from another remote.

I bought a neat wifi remote so I could use my old iPod as a remote. This thing has infra red emitters and learning, but it is controlled via the wifi network in the house. You use an app to control it and you can have it learn any signal from an existing remote and then create your own keypad on the screen of the iPod (or other device). So I played around with that, but the problem is you have to connect the wifi remote to power all the time and have a line of sight to the equipment it will control. Also there weren’t a lot of options that I could find on making your own remote. And it was a little clunky, sometimes not finding the emitter on the network.
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Denon AVR-X1300W setup

Yesterday morning FedEx delivered the new surround receiver while I was walking the dogs. Even though I needed to be at a wedding in the early afternoon, I figured I had an hour or so to mess around with the new receiver and maybe get it set up. I took it out of the box first and it looked about the same size as my old Onkyo receiver. Also, I wouldn’t be needing my old Blu-ray player, so that left even a little more room on the shelf below the TV, which can’t hurt in something that gets pretty warm. So first I had to disconnect everything from the Onkyo receiver, which is a chore because everything connected into it including 8 speakers. Then I put the new receiver in place and started getting it hooked up.

One decision was whether to use the receiver as an input selector for the TV or as an optional sound source. With my old setup, it was optional and I could play any source through the TV without turning on the receiver. And my new UHD Blu-ray player has an audio output HDMI port that would let me run video and audio directly to the TV whether I was using the receiver or not, so I decided to try that. I still had to connect the cable box to the receiver and then to the TV since the cable box only has one HDMI output but the receiver would generally be left with cable selected which allows the pass through even if the receiver is off.
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Pink Lady Slippers

Last year I went hiking with my friends Paul and Brad to Ellicott’s Rock where we were just a little too early to see two pink lady slipper plants blooming. cause it turns out there are hundreds of pink lady slippers just off of the roadway. It is a few miles down a dirt road, so it is surprising how many people we saw around there, but there are also a lot of camp sites, so maybe not all that surprising.

The pink lady slipper is an orchid, not that rare in some parts of the country, but not really that easy to find in Georgia, plus you have to look at just the right time.
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Pixar Movies Worst to First

A while back I wrote about finding some rankings of Disney movies to help me figure out which movies I should consider buying through the Disney Movie Club. I have a lot of Disney movies after enrolling three times and getting 9 movies each time, plus I have picked up a few more using Disney Movie Rewards and other sources. I am not ready to rank the 56 Disney animated features, but how about the 17 Pixar features? (now 18 with Cars 3The Good Dinosaur from 2015 so now the only Pixar movie I haven’t seen is Cars 2 which is widely disparaged and a sequel to one of my least favorite Pixar movies, so I will just put it at the bottom. Also, I have been keeping movie reviews since 1998, so I have reviews of every Pixar movie I have seen except the original Toy Story which came out in 1995. I have a hard time being consistent in my grading scale and I realize I probably give too many B’s and B+’s, so I have tried to give more A’s lately (still haven’t given a A+, maybe following the leads of nuns who wouldn’t give a 100 because only Jesus is perfect). So I wondered if my grades would hold up or not. Also you always worry you will just misread a movie, but in general I’m am sticking with my original grades. Even so, to do a ranking I need to figure out which A- is better than the other A-‘s. So here is a run through, then at the end I will do a little analysis of my grades compared to the Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic scores. The letter grades below link to my review of the movie. I have all of the movies in blue on Blu-ray except Finding Nemo which I have on DVD only. Continue reading

Shopping for a Surround System

After getting a new Ultra High Definition TV and now a UHD Blu-ray player, the last component of the system that needs upgrading is the sound. After playing with the new UHD player, even with older Blu-ray disks, it will not output the sound correctly to the old receiver. My receiver doesn’t have HDMI inputs like the newer ones do. Instead you could either connect RCA cables for a 5.1 surround setup or a Toslink cable, a fiber optic cable that carries the music converted to a red light. That always seemed like the best, but actually Toslink can’t carry 8 individual channels of audio that a 7.1 system might require. With the old player Toslink worked fine with 7.1, but the two back speakers were the same channel. With the new player the best it seems I can do is the back speakers play out of the front, but the side speakers are okay (in the player settings I have to send a DTS bitstream, otherwise everything comes out the front). Continue reading

Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

I recently got a new Ultra HD TV. Even though I don’t have any sources in UHD (or 4K, but 4K is actually a little wider than UHD; a UHD picture has 4 times as many pixels as HD), I am enjoying having a modern TV and the picture is really great. Of course there is always the desire to supply that UHD content that the TV is capable of. I can stream UHD content from YouTube, and Netflix offers some UHD content (though I’m not a member right now). Even the HD Blu-rays I have look great on the TV and the extra pixels of UHD are barely visible and maybe not visible. One problem with my current Blu-ray player is often the sound doesn’t sync correctly with the video. The only way to fix it seems to be to turn the Blu-ray player off and then on again and hope that it gets close enough this time (this is fairly time consuming to shut down the player, boot it up again, and then start the disk to get to the main menu). Also, Blu-ray players now can all connect to the internet though mine does not. That isn’t a big deal because my TV can connect to the internet too, but some Blu-ray disks have features that require internet access. So I’ve been thinking about getting a new Blu-ray player and for about $180 I could get a UHD Blu-ray player. UHD is still pretty new and they have tweaked it since it came out with HDR 10 which gives better backlight depth. Then Frys had a sale . . .
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Silica Gel

I have several plastic containers I use to hold flashlight parts. To keep the parts from rusting, I wanted to keep some silica gel in the containers to keep humidity down. At first I would get the ones included with shoes or pills, but then decided to just order some bigger 10 gram packages online. I numbered each of 10 pouches and put one in each of maybe 7 containers with a few left over. One of the leftover pouches I left out on my desk. The other two I kept in their original heavy duty ziplock envelope and put that in one of the plastic containers. I figured after a year, I could weigh the 10-gram pouches on my digital scale and see how well they were working, and maybe recharge them by baking them in an oven.

This weekend it had been a year. Most of the pouches now weighed about 13 grams, so they had absorbed about 30% of their weight in water. The ones in the envelope were around 12 grams, so they still picked up humidity. The one that was left out all year was also about 13 grams. So I think 30% is the maximum they can effectively absorb. I put the pouches in the oven for a couple of hours at 220 degrees and they all returned down to or just below their original weights, so the baking really worked and the pouches should be good as new (also they did not catch on fire or melt!). I probably need to weigh the pouches again every few months to see how long it takes them to get up to 13 grams when they essentially stop working. So I will use this entry to track results in the future.

Bella

After Austin died I knew I would get a new dog eventually. I feel like Rosa would be happier with another dog around, but we had a couple of weeks of great quality time. She hadn’t been going for walks as much and has slowed down some in the meantime. I figured I would start looking soon and Eric’s girlfriend even asked if she could tag along and help out when I visited shelters. Austin came from Paws, so I planned to go there first. I could also go to Lifeline here in Avondale which is where Rosa came from. Also, a person on Nextdoor posts about graduates of the Canine Cellmates program where prisoners work with dogs rescued from the pound before the dogs are made available for adoption. Adult dogs are a little harder to place, so that would be fine with me. Usually if they have lived at a shelter for any amount of time they are pretty much housebroken.

Bella's picture from the shelter's website

Bella’s picture from the shelter’s website


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New TV

I bought a high definition TV in 2003 and it has worked about the same ever since I got it. However the rest of the world has moved on. HDMI cables are now the standard way to connect cable boxes and DVD players to TVs, but mine had an earlier version called DVI. I was able to use cables with HDMI at one end for the DVD player and a DVI connector at the other end for the TV, but DVI doesn’t carry sound, so I had to carry the audio signal separately. Fortunately the TV had a ton of input jacks on the back. While I don’t think it matters much, the TV was only capable of a 1080i picture, but 1080p is now common, including from my Blu-ray player. Lately, the cost of Ultra High Definition TV’s has come down (way below what I got my TV for) and I started thinking about upgrading. In the end I decided that the technology was still developing and I should wait since my old TV was working fine. Until Sunday night.
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