December miscellany

My brother told me about the web page Symphony of Science, where its proprietor, John Boswell, mixes the voices of famous scientists (e.g., Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Richard Feynman) with an autotuner and puts them over R & B–style music. You should check it out.

I have seasons 1–5 of South Park on DVD, and I don’t ever plan on buying any more because every episode is available for free 24/7 at its official website, southparkstudios.com. I know there is abundant evidence that giving something away for free actually increases its sales, but I at least understand the basis of where the RIAA is coming from. I won’t pay a penny for South Park as long as it is available on demand for free.

One of the worst things Amazon.com has ever done is lump the reviews and ratings of the DVD version and the Blu-ray version of every single movie together, so that you can’t tell whether someone’s review and star-rating refers to the DVD version or the Blu-ray version, unless they state they’re reviewing the Blu-ray version specifically. What idiot thought of that? I can’t imagine the level of stupidity required to approve of that idea at multiple levels of management in the Amazon company hierarchy. It is inconvenient, counterintuitive, and simply inaccurate because the two different products are, um, different products!

So, it turns out my TV is a hell of a lot sweeter than I had ever thought. It is a Samsung SlimFit high-definition television. It is capable of displaying 720p and 1080i video. It’s only 30 inches diagonally, and it’s a cathode ray tube TV, so it isn’t as awesome as the larger TV I’m going to buy next summer, but, hey, that means it has a higher pixel density. I found this out because Kathy got me a Blu-ray player for Christmas, and I hooked it up to an HDMI port in the back of my TV (hmm, that should have made it obvious to me that it was an HDTV, but it never occurred to me), and it plays Blu-ray movies in very nice quality. I tried out my new Blu-rays of Star Trek: First Contact and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I’m pretty sure they looked as awesome as they could on a 30″ TV. Maybe a new LCD (or plasma, if they existed at 30 inches) would show an improvement over my 3-year-old TV, but the Wikipedia articles on plasma displays and LCD screens indicate that, other things being equal, CRT produces the best picture in terms of color accuracy, sharpness, and blur. (The problem is, other things aren’t ever equal, not anymore.) However, CRT picture quality fades a lot sooner than the flat-panel displays, so I’m sure mine doesn’t look as good as it used to in high-definition. Those two movies looked really awesome, though; you could tell the source and the display were both high-definition.

I began to suspect that my TV was capable of playing video at some level of high definition (either 720 or 1080 vertical resolution) the night before I discovered it for sure, as I was reading my TV’s manual for probably the second time. I don’t remember reading a lot of it when I got it in August 2006. I think I was reading it to determine if it might be possible for me to use my TV’s remote control for both the TV and the Blu-ray player (both Samsung). I know it’s possible to use the Blu-ray player’s remote to control the TV, but I don’t think it’s possible to change the picture’s aspect ratio/zoom with the Blu-ray remote, and I’ll need this for watching regular TV content that is widescreen because I don’t have high-definition cable, so most things are 4:3, so I have to zoom in on a widescreen program to avoid having black bars on the sides and top and bottom. It might be possible, but first I’ll need to figure out how to navigate my TV’s menus with the Blu-ray controller; all it can do so far is power-off, power-on, and change the volume, channel, and input source.

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