Entertain me! (What I’m watching)

I’ve been off work for the past five weeks recovering from my surgery. That means I’ve had plenty of time to read and watch media. I’ve done some reading, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of multitasking (knitting) that is difficult to manage while reading, so there has been a significant amount of viewing happening. (Yes, I do find it possible to knit while reading, but only very simple knitting; working on a cabled sweater isn’t simple for me.)

While I do have “pay channels” they aren’t the premium ones, so most of the media I watch is streamed through my Roku on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. I also recently purchased a Blu-Ray player since I was finding it a PITA to keep connecting up my laptop to the TV when I wanted to watch a DVD. (Also, my laptop is old enough that I don’t think it would even play a Blu-Ray disc if I wanted to rent or borrow one.)

Here’s what I’ve been watching and enjoying:

Poldark: This BBC-produced PBS Masterpiece series is currently broadcasting Season Two now, but I hadn’t gotten around to watching Season One before my convalescing period, so I had to catch up first by watching Season One on Amazon Prime. Then I was able to piece together Season Two from my DVR recordings and the PBS app on my Roku. What’s not to love here: beautiful scenery, a very attractive leading man who is also a likeable character, great costumes, a decent storyline, and a historical setting. (Amazon Prime, PBS app, local PBS station)

Fleabag: Another BBC drama, but this one is contemporary. Each of the six episodes is only 30 minutes long, so it doesn’t take long to binge watch. I watched them all in a single afternoon while I was still in the hospital. (Hooray for great hospital wi-fi!) Yeah, the main character has done some questionable things in her life, but seeing how her family treats her you start to understand why she is an emotional wreck. It’s not a light-hearted series, but I’ve been recommending it to my friends because it is so real and raw. (Amazon Prime)

The Kettering Incident: I actually watched the first two episodes of this thriller back in early September when I had some plane travel. I was intrigued, but found I wasn’t deeply pulled in until about the third or fourth episode. By the end of the series, I was hooked and I’m hoping the show will continue. (Amazon Prime)

Love & Friendship: I love costume dramas, but don’t automatically consider myself a Jane Austen fan. I have a hard time struggling through the writing and dialog from that period, and I know I lose many subtleties. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’d rate this movie sort of “meh.” It seems witty and clever, and there were parts that just went right over my head.  It did get very good reviews, though. (Amazon Prime)

Longmire: Crime dramas are like popcorn; it’s easy to work through quite a bit without paying close attention. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement of this series, but it engages me at just the right level. Plus I love the scenery of Wyoming and have learned how surprisingly diverse it is. (It’s not all cowboys and Indians.) I’ve also become invested in the characters, too. I’m nearly through three seasons and still have two more left, but I was still bummed to see that the series is nearing its end. (Netflix)

Anzac Girls: I ran across this series last year and set my DVR to record it. But when I went to watch the first episode I recorded, I realized that it wasn’t the first of the series so I deleted the few I had captured. Then I ran across the DVDs at my local library and decided to check them out. (Actually, finding this series on DVD was a pivotal reason I ordered my Blu-Ray player.) The subject matter is serious — nursing in WWI — but the series is based on historical figures and features strong female leads. This is the type of medical drama I enjoy much more than the contemporary ones. (DVD)

The Durrells in Corfu: Set in the 1930s, this memoir of growing up in a quirky British family that moved to Corfu is delightful. So far only three out of six episodes have aired on PBS, so there are a few more to look forward to in the coming weeks. (PBS app on Roku)

This isn’t a comprehensive listing of my viewing habits. I’ve also consumed some local news and spent one day largely zoning out to HGTV as I napped off and on. As I’ve recovered and increased my stamina I’ve been watching less TV and spending more time getting out and about. I still made time to watch a few games in the World Series and was ecstatic that the Cubs won this year! Woo hoo!

Updating my work space

Updating my work space

Since I’ve moved to California, I’ve been almost exclusively telecommuting for work. I do seem to have reasons to get into the office in San Francisco at least once or twice a month, but most days I’m working out of my rental home in Napa.

Even before I left Chicago I was telecommuting most days of the week. I had an assigned workspace in our company’s office in the Loop (Chicago’s business district) for a long time, but the trend towards “hoteling” did away with that about a year before I moved. Being a “hoteled employee” means you reserve your workspace either in advance, or you sign into one when you arrive at the office. My company had rules about what type of workspace you could request, and your level in the company had some impact on whether you could request certain types of workspaces. As a person who is fairly senior, I was able to request offices while I was in Chicago, and I usually could get one if I reserved far enough in advance.

That’s not the case in San Francisco office, but I really don’t mind not having an office. Most people are quiet, and if a person needs to have a phone meeting, it’s usually easy enough to use one of the “telephone booths” set up for just that purpose. These are small rooms with a chair, a worktop, and a phone and they work well for their purposes.

Offices are very different nowadays. The newest trend seems to be to set up long counters or tables with either no partitions or very short ones. Many people in the “open concept” offices are using headphones to listen to music or just keep out any background noise. For much of my career it seemed that it was a big deal to get your own private office. Now it just doesn’t seem to matter very much.

As a telecommuter, my workspace is my entire house. Thanks to wifi, I can work in any room I want to work in, and I often do move my work laptop around with me throughout the day. When I’m making coffee in the early morning, I usually have the laptop in the kitchen with me so I can boot up and get logged in to my email while waiting for the water to get hot. When I eat meals, I’ll often have the laptop on my little dining table with me and work at the same time.

But the place I have most often worked in the house is on the couch in the living room. I started doing that back in Chicago because then I could put my feet up, which was necessary when I had a broken ankle. I also found that if I sat that way I wouldn’t slump and hunch over my laptop.

With all the issues I’ve been having with my right eye, though, my visual acuity has been inconsistent and has made working on my small laptop screen a bit of a problem for me. I started thinking about getting a big monitor that I could plug into, but then a conversation with a friend led me to start looking into getting a TV instead. So I’ve added a 28-inch Vizio smart TV to my work area and am enjoying having a nice big screen on which I can do my work. Now I have no problems reading my Outlook inbox, and I have the bonus of a larger screen on which to stream Netflix and Amazon Prime in my bedroom, too, since my work area is there. I haven’t had a TV in my bedroom in well over 20 years, so I’m not sure if this is ultimately good or not. I suppose it will come in handy if I’m confined to bed while sick, at least.

Smart TV as monitor

A 28-inch Vizio smart TV used as a monitor.

Winter Sports

After reading Yarn Harlot’s blog today, I see that one of my issues with winter is that I don’t do winter sports. Unless shoveling counts as a winter sport, that is. I did some of that today, and if the weather report is accurate, I’ll have more to do tomorrow. Rah, rah.

I can appreciate the beauty of winter. Dry, powdery snow looks awfully pretty in the right light: it’s so sparkly.

Our winter sports seem to revolve around the TV. I watch lots of TV in the winter, and this year I’m glad that we upgraded to an HDTV. Wow, what a difference! I’m sure many of the folks on camera are horrified when they first see what they look like on HDTV. (Oprah, I’m sure your makeup artists are very skilled, but they just can’t hide those bags and dark circles under your eyes from the HD; please give yourself a rest.)

The incredible irony for us is how we receive our HD signal: from a plain vanilla roof antenna.

In November 2005, we lost the connection to our roof antenna in a wind storm. We called around trying to find someone who would reconnect it for us, but no one wanted to get up on our roof in the late fall/winter. So, after a couple months of vainly trying to pull in a decent signal with an indoor (“rabbit ears”) antenna, we bit the bullet and signed up for satellite TV. (I was not going to even entertain the idea of signing up for cable TV. The company that owns the cable franchise in our area, Comcast, is just plain evil in my book. E-V-I-L. Never getting any of my business at all.)

So, last February the satellite dish is set up and we got TV again. I was happy to have TV, but not so happy to be paying for it. I just don’t understand the concept of paying for TV unless I get it ad-free. Then, I can see why I’d have to pay for it.

In the spring, we got a call from one of the guys we’d contacted that he could reconnect our antenna. Even though we had the satellite, we decided to go for so we could have a back up TV-viewing source.

We got the new HDTV in November. We noticed our old TV (12+ years old, and still kicking) was starting to have picture challenges, so we decided to upgrade. We didn’t get an LCD or a plasma; we found a nice TV with an HD tuner and a traditional picture tube (very reliable technology) that was thinner than average. (But not lighter than average. Oy, I forgot how heavy a picture tube is!)

The HD tuner is built into the set, and it was capable of using dual antenna sources. So, we hooked up the roof antenna as well as the satellite and tried to tune in an HD channel through the roof antenna. (We weren’t paying for an HD satellite service, so that wouldn’t work). The only HD channel we tuned in was CBS, none of the other local channels worked. We were very disappointed, and figured that we needed a new roof antenna to pull in HD. So, we just gave up.

After the new year, we were seeing all these notices about local programming being broadcast in HD. So, we gave the roof antenna a try again. Voila! We got LOTS of HD channels: CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, etc. Our local public broadcast station, WTTW, broadcasts over 3 channels now, 2 of which are HD and show different programs during the same time slot. Awesome!

I swear we’re watching the local broadcast channels more than the satellite channels that we’re paying for! Hmmm…maybe it’s time to get rid of the satellite, eh? Although I would miss Comedy Central and my South Park fix…Maybe after the winter TV viewing season is over. Excuse me now while sign off to go catch some TV.