Tuesday, January 24 2006
Yesterday morning there was a few inches of wet snow on the ground and I managed to shovel out the driveway while waiting for Gretchen to get off the phone. And I could have shoveled out another one by the time she was finally done. But no one actually needed to use the driveway until this evening, when Gretchen went out to a college basketball game in Stone Ridge and a movie in Rosendale (Pride and Prejudice). Meanwhile I was left alone in the house and finally got a chance to make a meal out of a bottle of Big Bear malt liquor I'd bought nearly a week ago. Then it was time for some teevee. I almost never watch my Tivo'd programs unless Gretchen is out of the house; when she's around she dominated the teevee room with one hour crime dramas and a variety of NetFlixes.
Two of my favorite programs are HGTV's House Detective and the Discover Channel's Extreme Engineering. Neither of these shows is ideal; they both cater to a person of middling intellect and their subjects bracket the completely underserved center of my nerdy focus. On the one the subjects covered in House Detective are practical, but far too uncreative. It's common for them to tell me the best way to caulk a tub (fill it with water first!) or how to prevent ice damming (ventilate your attic!), but they would never suggest, say, installing a homemade heat exchanger made of copper sewer pipe in your boiler room. The tips they provide are occasionally handy, but I'm rarely inspired. The new version of House Detective features more photogenic people and a section detailing the remedy of serious household problems, but its sub-middlebrow humor is worse than the bad-pun-soaked shows of the old format.
By contrast, Extreme Engineering veers excessively into the wildly impractical. It wasn't so bad back when they ran a show about the Dutch dike network or documented the crazy antics necessary to float a huge concrete drilling platform out into the Atlantic from a Norwegian fjord. But recently there must have been a change of producer, because all the shows are about pie-in-the-sky proposed engineering feats. I knew the show had lost its certain something when they ran a one hour episode about what it would take to run an undersea tramway from Europe to North America. Other less extreme episodes have covered proposals to build a massive 3000 foot tall pyramid in Tokyo harbor or, the one I watched today, a bridge across the 50 mile wide Bering Straits. Mercifully, the recording of the Bering Straits Bridge show had been cut off prematurely during Gretchen's birthday party, when our downhill neighbor coerced me into letting her watch a college football game live (one of her potential grandsons-in-law happens to be a halfback potentially being recruited by the NFL).
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