Jon’s amazing birthday back page

Posted: 10.18.04
Aye, Jon, I'm afraid we've got
a wee bit of a problem.

It's Jontober here in Tiburon, when people from all over the world come to celebrate my birthday and bring me gifts. Each year they ask me or secretly ask Kathleen or Robert, What would Jon like? Is there anything Jon needs? As a result my wine cabinet is never empty and I have enough T-shirts to clothe most of Iraq.

But what I really want is a guy—a dude who will put things together and keep them working for me so when I come back from a trip I don't have to fix things and remember how things work. And my wife especially wants such a guy (I know this is sexist, just bear with me, OK?).

We have state-of-the-art entertainment stuff. What we don't buy (and we don't buy cheap) we get to test and play with. We lack for almost nothing—except time. Time to hook it up, figure it out, and even to use it.

What that means is, as much as I love the stuff, and strongly believe in best of breed, what I really want is a simple TV with a remote that has five buttons: on/off, up channel/down channel, up volume, and down volume. That's all I really want. Then, when I turn it on it works.

What I have is a screen that comes out of the ceiling, a projector that talks to me as it's warming up, three DVRs (no joke), two satellite receivers (on HD, of course), an upscaler, two DVD players, a gigantic AV system with 1000w subwoofer, a secondary amp for the extra speakers for 6.1 sound, and of course all three game consoles with Internet connections—that's just the downstairs entertainment center. Parts of it are replicated in various other rooms.

Watching TV is a challenge. First off it's remembering which remotes to use, reminding the projector what the aspect ratio is (as expensive as it is it can't seem to figure out when it it's 16:9 and when it's 4:3), and then which one of the 250 channels we can watch (I'm ignoring all the ones in strange languages, infomercials, or pornographic), do we choose from, or do we look at, some of the 50 hours of video we've got stored on the various DVRs?

I remember in the old days I'd come home from work on a Thursday night and one of the kids would be in the living room waiting for me and we'd watch "Star Trek," or "Dukes of Hazard." Hell, I even remember watching—and looking forward to watching—"60 Minutes" or "20-20." That was before reality TV and news shows had to worry about their entertainment rating.

But forgetting content, because if I wanted to watch any one of 22 years of "Star Trek" (regardless of what it might be named) I could, either on one of the hundreds of channels, or the DRV, or even a DVD—content is not the problem.

The problem is even though I'm a PE (professional engineer) and have a lot of degrees, I can't figure out my own system, and if anything happens while I'm gone, like a cat checking all those wires in the back, a power failure, or a visitor, it's never the same when I get back.

So I need a guy. His job is easy: just keep the system working, and clean off the disks of the DVRs. It's kind of like having Scotty from Star Trek—just keep the system working, Scotty, never mind the dilithium crystals, just keep it working.

And then, when Sony or ADS, or Logitech, sends me something to test, I can say, "Scotty, hook that up, will ya?"

That's what I want for my birthday—I want Scotty.