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Catching Up, Settling Down

So we’ve been in our new home for almost a month now, and I think neither Apple nor myself could possibly be any happier. We really lucked out with this place, that’s for certain. When I think back to all of the dozens of homes that we toured over the last few months, and how none of them had the critical-mass amalgamation of features and perks that this one does…well, it’s clear we made the right choice. Not only in making an offer on this home, but in fighting for it when it looked like we were going to lose it.

As Apple and I were remarking whimsically the other night, most of the time I prefer going along to get along. But every once in a while, something really big and really important comes along — and if it looks like that something is about to slip away, I go all Jean-Luc Picard on it, like: “The line must be drawn HERE!” A few weeks ago, before we closed on the house, I was one signature away from canceling the contract on this house altogether when I decided that I wasn’t going to puss out that easily. And now here we are today, witnessing the results of that decision. It’s a decision I’m glad I made.

In lesser (but still important to nerds) news, today is also the first birthday of my Xbox 360. To be honest, I wouldn’t have remembered if not for my own blog’s “One Year Ago” sidebar that directed me to this post, wherein I giddily recounted the unboxing of my new Xbox 360 Special Edition console. It was just last night that I finally got to turn on that very Xbox again for some well-deserved gaming, the likes of which I hadn’t experienced in weeks, thanks to the endless litany of stuff that’s been on my to-do list — an occasion that was well-enjoyed. Today also marks the first day that I can use Microsoft’s Xbox software license transfer tool again, which they restrict you to running only once in a 12-month period. Which only means, of course, that I am *ding* now free to buy another Xbox. (Which I really shouldn’t do, but I’m considering putting one of those nice, glossy, black, utterly-silent ones up in the game room, along with a Kinect peripheral. But it’s only a fringe consideration, honest.)

Speaking of busy, I spent an inordinate amount of time working over these past few days. Last month I designed a website prototype for an old contact back in Florida, who had subcontracted said work to me. I then proceeded to hear nothing from them until a few days ago, at which point they came flying in asking if I could take the whole site from its current state (Photoshop mock-up) to real, live functionality in four days. Sure, why not? I said. I mean, I always love it when people hand me a spanner and tell me to take apart the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan by lunchtime. (Sarcasm implied.) But it would net me a cool $500 in short order, so I complied, and I worked my ass off, and I complained a lot and spent the whole weekend admiring how beautiful the weather was from the inside of my study’s windows. But I got it done. And now I’m going to get paid, hopefully in equally short order.

Chief Oddball's Command Center

At least I’ve got a room with a view, as I remarked on Twitter at one point during the weekend work-a-thon. Unlike my Florida study, where I sat facing a corner, now I have a comparative panoramic vista to enjoy while I’m engrossed in whatever task awaits. It’s also cooler in here, by virtue of the eastern exposure, double-paned windows and tinted glass; a far cry from Florida, where by 2:00 in the afternoon I was ready to flee the office and jump in a vat of icewater. The U-shaped “command center” desk is actual corporate office furniture, courtesy of one of my work buddies, who had owned it for some years and recently bought a new desk to replace it. I helped him put the new desk together, so as payment he gave me this one. At first I thought I’d just use it as a stopgap till I can get a new desk of my own, but I dunno…it’s actually pretty awesome.

In fact, Apple and I are doing a pretty darn good job of setting ourselves settled in here in Texas, and in fairly short order, too. We recently completed the grueling, five-hour wait at the Texas Department of Public Safety, in which we ended up with new TX state driver’s licenses. Apple’s Mazda is fully inspected, registered, titled, and plated as a Texas vehicle. (Front plates…eeeewwww. Thankfully I actually kept the front bracket and hardware that came with the car.) We’ve unpacked a great deal of stuff, with one room only half full of boxes that still need attending to (or banishing to the attic, more likely). And in a couple of weeks, I should be the proud owner of a new Pontiac GTO. Or at least that’s what it’s going to feel like — a new car — after I’ve been separated so long from my wheels of choice!

I’m not sure how I actually managed to complete two sidework jobs in the midst of all this moving, funding, closing, unpacking and paperworking, but I have done and am actually expecting to have about $750 or so on hand, total, when all the checks come in. Thus I will soon be embarking on the fabled, mystical journey that only comes once every decade or so: buying a new TV. This is the ultimate gadget, the absolute pinnacle of a typical-man slash gaming-nerd’s greatest electronic fantasies. In my case, it’s also the gateway to the official christening of our upstairs game room, a true “home theater” if ever there was one. Right now the room contains my favorite leather couch and little else, so it’s not getting used. It’s just waiting for the keystone — the flat-screen TV — to kick off the festivities.

As some of you may know, I’m still rocking the Toshiba 57HDX82 rear-projection HDTV that I bought back in 2002. I’d link you to the journal entry that I wrote on that momentous day so you can take a time-traveling adventure of your own, but that was before this venerable blog even existed. It was my first big screen, my first HDTV and the set on which I took my first foray into real HD gaming. It is also, by today’s standards, a laughable dinosaur. “You do know they make flat screen TVs, right?” joked one of the movers as they carted the rear-projection beast in through the garage door. Oooooh, feel the burn! But seriously, the old HDX is still every bit as functional, useful and — dare I say it — beautiful as it was in 2002. But it’s got serious shortfalls. And worst of all, it won’t go up the stairs. So I need a new TV for the game room.

But what to get? “A flat screen,” you say. Oh, if only it were so easy. Today, that’s like saying “A TV.” Effectively every TV is a flat screen now. But what flavor of flat screen do you want? LCD? LED? Or Plasma? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which is best for gaming? Which is the thinnest? Which is best for movies? And then there’s The Big Question: Do you want 3D? And if so, whose 3D technology — and glasses — are best suited?

Anyone who knows me, I’m sure, has already figured out that I’ve likely spent hours researching all of these questions, just as I did before I bought that big Toshiba that’s sitting out there in the living room. While I don’t proclaim to be a home theater expert, I have at least definitively answered my own questions, culminating in the selection of a model number whose matching hardware I intend to purchase. In 2002 it was 57HDX82. Today, it’s PN59D6500.

You might guess from the “59” that, yes, this is a 59-inch TV. It is the latest and greatest from Samsung, one of my favorite screen-makers, fresh from the 2011 model line. From their 6500 series, it uses plasma technology, and yes, it’s a 3D TV — something I originally decided wasn’t worth paying for. This year, Samsung has migrated 3D technology into their midrange lineup at no extra cost — the MSRPs are actually down from equivalent models last year — so it’s coming along for the ride as a bonus.

Why plasma? Because I often play very dark games (Dead Space, Silent Hill and that ilk) in equally dark or even lightless ambient conditions, meaning that a TV’s ability to reproduce deep, inky blacks is of utmost importance. I have always hated LCD’s inherent inability to do exactly that. LED-backlit LCDs have improved greatly upon this vs. their older CCFL-backlit cousins, but still not enough to my liking (especially with edge-lit LED TVs). Plasma, on the other hand, comes as close to CRT-levels of black as I have yet seen. That’s why it ended up being my choice.

Since the expense of a big TV purchase usually precludes me from doing this more than once every ten years or so, I want to make sure that I get it right. That’s why I’m glad, in the end, that the TV is 3D equipped. Although I’m sure that in 10 years we’ll all be using holographic 3D displays that require no glasses, in the meantime I’d rather at least have some semblance of 3D instead of none at all. Perhaps even more important than the actual glasses-enabled 3D content is Samsung’s 2D to 3D upconversion mode, which adds a measure of subtle depth to almost any standard 2D content you feed it. In my experience it really makes a difference. Better yet, it requires no glasses to be perceived.

Samsung’s 2011 model year rollout is still in progress, so I’m just biding my time until I can go see the PN59D6500 in person (and compare it to some other models on the showroom floor). Thankfully, Fry’s Electronics is going to be perfect for this, as unlike most retailers, they seem to carry pretty much every model imaginable.

For now, I’m in “hoard money” mode and am just taking care of things around the house — there’s always plenty to do — while I wait for geek nirvana to commence. It’s fun feeling like I have an actual life, with actual friends and neighbors (including the nice family from next door who stopped by to introduce themselves and gave us a potted flower as a housewarming gift). I also need to reconnect with my family here in the Dallas area, continue our exploration of dining and recreational activities in the Plano area, and — one day — I really need to get downtown and see the city proper!

Tonight, though, I’m going to do a bit more gaming. There’s a new downloadable mission for Mass Effect 2 coming out next week, so I’m thinking about re-acquainting myself with that time-tested favorite. My Xbox is like a microcosm of what my life in general has become: a plethora of pleasures and opportunities.

Hopefully, in between experiencing all of them, I’ll remember to post here more often.

One thought to “Catching Up, Settling Down”

  1. It’s probably a good thing to be too busy having a real life to be posting on your blog all the time. As long as the busy-ness is mostly pleasurable 🙂

    Still, it’s nice to have the occasional update from my favorite oddball. xoxo

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