Thursday, November 7, 2013

Am I missing the boat on Blu-Ray?

I'm a media junkie, I admit it.

I love all kinds of movies, TV shows, music, video games, and the like.    I'm also a wanna be audio and , , videophile -- I wish I was into super high quality, but ultimately, I like a bit of convenience instead, and will sacrifice a touch of that "perfection" because in the end... I don't think I can tell the difference.

A great example of that is something with my love of Sonos.   I love Sonos devices, and I have them all over my house.   I recently replaced my Bose surround sound system in the living room, which delivered 5.1 Dolby Surround sound, with the Sonos kit, knowing that the Sonos stuff is delivering a "faux" 5.1 experience, only in that my TV doesn't do the 5.1 pass through on the digital audio line, meaning that my Sonos is actually doing upscaling or some voodoo to make the 5.1 surround I hear.  It doesn't really matter to me, tho, as it sounds good and I like the additional features I get in favor of sacrificing this.

And so I've been thinking about Blu-Ray recently.   I own a pile of DVDs -- collected over the years -- and when the shift to HD happened, I resisted buying all my content again.   Frankly, I didn't want to spend the money.. again.  

But slowly I've been collecting HD movies... by buying them on iTunes.   It's because it's easy -- i have Apple TVs all over the house, I have my iPad for watching on the go -- and the content is easily available wherever I want to watch it, including just on my desktop in a window in the corner.   Since Sharon isn't a "movie buff" in the way that I am, I tend to see movies for the first time on the big screen, and only on occasion do we sit down to watch one together.    My movie watching is more about seeing the story again than it is about a first time cinema experience.

So I skipped Blu-Ray.    More discs didn't seem like the solution.

This morning, in doing my morning blog reading, I read about the demise of Blockbuster and there was some commentary on how streaming really can't replace stores yet, mostly because not everything is available.  (And they are right -- things like Star Wars aren't available yet on HD Streaming, or even on iTunes).

Am I missing the boat here on Blu-Ray?  Can it be part of my portable movie experience?  Should I consider a short list of "must have" DVDs, and not try and recreate my collection?   Is the quality that much better that I'll actually notice?  

I might end up with a Blu-Ray player.  I have my eye on an original PS3, because the retro gamer in me wants the ability to play PS1, PS2, and PS3 games on a single console, and so I could end up with a single player in the house.  

Am I missing something?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I learned when my wife lost her passport. AKA: Dave's new prep list

Sharon had her passport stolen.

Despite all our normal planning, we fell victim to theft, and her purse, containing everything about her, was taken from a bar in Barcelona.  I'm not going to recount the crime itself, but what I learned as even a seasoned traveler like myself could take away from the experience.  Finding a printer was a hassle, finding pictures was a hassle, getting cash was hard... there was so much about it that was a pain.

Let's assume for a moment you are left without any stuff.  No passport, no phone, none of your credit cards, etc.   What do you wish you had done prior that would have made the process entirely easier?

- carry two forms with you, both easily available.   These are the DS-11 and the DS-64 (available here).    Don't fill them out at all, and when something happens, don't sign it until you are told to when at the embassy and the consulate.

- print your backups of your passport.   I scan everything so I have copies -- but realized I'd be spending a bunch of time printing it, since it took us over an hour to get everything and then print it for Sharon.

- carry a backup credit card.  And if traveling with someone else, swap one credit card.    I'm going to get an additional card and put it in my travel stuff with those forms I just referenced.

- and make one of your cards an American Express card.  Sharon got into a touch of cash trouble at the consulate, and discovered that AmEx holders can get money sent via Western Union for this kind of emergency.

- Seal it all in an envelope that you then sign, so you know if it's been tampered with.  This stays in the hotel safe during your stay.

Lessons learned.