Gosh Darn-it

This is a really long post but much of it comes from the old Rising’s Rant .

It is the continuing saga of how I got the long-suffering wife’s parents to be able to see Catholic Television. And how and why they can not see it now.

By the way, as this is written it is Good Friday.

The whole story, the lengthy first parts, are below. I suggest for maximum entertainment and educational value you start there. I’ll wait.

OK, so you don’t want to wade through all that?

Thumbnail. The US Government through the good offices of the F.C.C. decreed no more analog TV. In 2009 they shut off all the analog transmitters forcing everyone to go digital.

But here in NEPA there is still Channel 7. Catholic Television (CTV). Analog. Grandfathered in. The story below is about how DIFFICULT is was to get CTV into my In-laws house. Blood was nearly spilt. But I got the job done.

Part of the issue was the old TV they were watching, a 1990’s vintage CONSOLE Zenith.

It shit the bed last year for good.

So with much arm-wrestling and long stony silences (and after searching high, low and in-between for another CONSOLE TV-not made any more if you were wondering) we installed (I installed) a brand new Sony Bravia 30 inch HD capable digital TV.

Fanfare please.

Of course this is only slightly spoiled by the fact that the new TV rests on the old console. Oh well.

And…….when I fired it up and did the channel scan it found CTV on analog Channel 7 and played it perfectly.

There may be a GOD after all.

I went out and played the lottery . All 7’s. Lost.

But the saga continues.

Two weeks ago the TV stopped getting CTV.

The Father-in Law swears he didn’t mess with buttons. My first guess was the station was off the air.

Now is where I have to tread carefully.

I tried to find out if the CTV analog was on or off the air. I looked at the web site first.

Stay with me here:
‘s front page:

Notice anything missing? Like any link to CTV?

Its there…under:

Which gives you this:

NO mention of the Analog Ch 7 being off the air.

So I called the number:


“Yes, hello I am calling..”



Click-dial tone.

Lather rinse and repeat. Three times.



“Hello, can you hear me?”


“I am calling about the TV station.”

(here is where the disconnect starts)

“TV Station?”

“UM, yeah, you have a TV station, Catholic TV?”

long pause


“Well you are calling the Diocese Chancery.”

“This is the number on your website for the TV station.”

“Well I don’t know anything about it.”

“I think your TV station is off the air.”

“Well I am sure I don’t know.” (We will call this lady the UNHELPFUL lady)

It took a while and more patience than I thought I had.

I finally got her to say:

“Call this number. 570-207-2238.”

So I call this new mystery number. And I get the same hang up routine. What is it with Catholic phones?

In the meantime I email all three people listed on the web site. To this day I have had no response.

Finally I get “Sue” on the phone, who evidently is the receptionist or something for the TV station.

“Sue” is not sure about anything. She knows there is a TV station. Beyond that words like “analog” and “off the air” are not registering. Don’t I know it’s almost Easter? The “Guys” are real busy setting up to broadcast the Masses the next few days.

Just what the In-laws want to see.

I tell Sue my sad story. She promises to investigate. Days go by.

I go down to the In-laws overheated house and try rescanning to no joy. I am now certain the TV station is off the air, probably still feeding cable but not over the air. BUT..on the off chance it is not I doggedly pursue other options.

I spend an hour in a chat (back home-no internet at In-laws) with a Sony tech. She suggests a reset. And gives me a toll free number in case that doesn’t work.

I return the next day to the in-laws and try to reset the TV. No joy.

Cell service is spotty. But I do get “Anthony” on the toll free. Anthony is in the Philippines. It rains a lot there, Anthony says.

Anthony and I get to know each other pretty good in the 90 minutes we frig around with resetting the TV. Over and over again.

No joy.

Anthony suggests we contact the TV station. Maybe they are off the air. I laugh out loud.

In the meantime “Sue” has called and left a message:

“I have good news and bad news. Please call me back.”

Sue, I really do appreciate your efforts. But WHY you couldn’t have been a little less cryptic I will never know.

I call the number and I get the same UNHELPFUL lady of the first conversation. Sue is on her coffee break. The phone rolls over here when she is gone. Call back in half an hour.

I have now been at the In-Laws for about two hours. I am sweating, frustrated and don’t love Jesus.

After several more conversations with the UNHELPFUL lady (who was getting testy by this time) Sue returns from her endless coffee break.

Why yes, she tells me. The stations transmitter is broken. They are waiting for a part. No idea how long it will take.

The moral here? Trust your instincts. But verify.

The real questions I have:

I am the ONLY person to call and ask about outage? Really? NO ONE ELSE in the area watches over analog?

And: if that is so. Why are they even bothering? For my In-Laws?

Shoot me. Shoot me NOW.

Here is, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is a story about religion, technology and governmental bungling.

And Greed. On Tuesday February 17th television as we have known it for 81 years will change forever and not necessarily for the better. You may have seen the crawls on your TV screen or the commercial featuring Bob Barker touting the big switch to digital TV. What it means is the old analog transmitters are now scrap and will be turned off forever. For most it will make no difference. If you get your TV from a cable or a satellite connection you are all set.

But if Wheel of Fortune comes to you via antenna or rabbit ears you have to get a converter box. My in-laws needed this so I took care of it. It works fine but it adds an unwelcome layer of technology to their lives and another remote control.

And now that they are digitized they can’t see the Catholic Mass anymore. Why? Because Catholic TV produced by Catholic Television, Diocese of Scranton, is a Low Power TV Broadcast Station using Channel Seven in analog. If you are using a digital box you don’t get analog so my in-laws are bereft.

I spoke to the Manager of Catholic Television, James Brennan about this. No plans to go digital, he said but unlike other outlets they can keep the trusty analog running. He also remarked that my query was not the first he had received. His suggestion? Cable. Or a switch to bypass the new-fangled digital box so my in-laws can see the miracle of transubstantiation in the comfort of the front parlor.

Just what they don’t need. Another switch.

Why this big switch anyway? Is it progress marching on? Or is it the 20 BILLION your government raised selling off the old analog spectrum to the highest bidders? Mostly cell phone companies and wireless internet providers. Add to this the fact that the program to provide coupons to help defray the cost of buying the converter boxes RAN OUT OF MONEY and the whole thing is beginning to sound like it’s being run by Luzerne County judges. It’s so screwed up that President Obama tried to push it off till summer. No dice said the House of Representatives.

Recently radio went digital but left the old analog method alone. TV could have been handled the same way. But not when you dangle billions in front of they guys in power down in Washington.

It’s somehow fitting that Bob Barker is the guy the government picked to tell you about this. It’s not a big jump from “having your pet spayed or neutered” to castrating TV as we know it. Or then again I could be wrong.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More to the previous post….

The solutions to the problem of the in-laws wanting to see Channel 7 (analog) but using digital converter are:

1. Cable. Father in law (FIL) just says no. Won’t let me pay for it. End of discussion.
2. An “A-B” switch to interrupt the antenna feed and bring it to the box or the TV.
3. A Digital box with analog pass thru.
4. A new Digital ready TV. See #1.

Current TV is a 1990’s vintage CONSOLE Zenith.

Here’s what happened.

Revisit the in-laws. I love them but…..two times in one week in the severely overheated house is a bit much. Plus the Father in-law is, well…a little hard to explain the finer points of new technology to. It’s partly a communication problem and partly my lack of patience in testing for understanding. When I used my cell phone there the other day he wanted to know if I could hear his landline. Also what was the range?

The box in question bought with the Government coupon is a Magnavox TB100MW9. It cost, if I remember right, about $10 with the coupon. It works fine but:

The remote control is the biggest POS I have ever seen and I have looked in an open cesspool before. It’s tiny. About the size of a deck of cards. Offers NO universal capabilities. And the most important buttons, THE ONES THAT CHANGE THE CHANNEL are, no exaggeration, not only the SMALLEST buttons on the unit but they are the size of grains of rice.

Come on! Who is the genius that designed that? The market for these converters has to be mainly people who can’t afford or don’t want cable. They probably live rural. They are probably OLD. So why build something they can’t see to operate with and make it tough to use with old arthritic hands. Bastards!

How would I know this when I bought the damn thing? And how did I know there would still be an analog channel that the In-Laws want to see?

I read the manual until it fell apart but I could not find any mention of analog pass through. With unit powered down no joy.

A 1 800 call to tech support got the usual foreign accent.
“Does this unit have an analog pass through?”
“No we are not having analog pass through.”
“Is there a universal remote control available for the unit?”
“No we are not having…”
“Put a supervisor on, please.”
“This is Akmal. How can I be helping you?”
“Akmal, I know this is not your fault but your unit sucks. It’s designed badly, has no analog pass through and is in general a piece of….”
At this point I am getting daggers looked at me from the long-suffering wife so I give up and hang up on Akmal.

It should be said here that I have limited amounts of patience when dealing with tech support. I am getting pissed off and my usual method of decompressing is to shout and swear at the top of my lungs. This will NOT go over big in the In-Laws house with the Blessed Virgin Mary statue (near life size) next to the TV. I am a pressure cooker.

First of all I am ENRAGED that our government has made such a mess of this. And I am burning with shame that I can’t make it work for my In-Laws.

I am ready to kill. Plus I am tired and hungry.

So now we go to Radio Shack.

I am angry and beyond rage with this whole situation. My finely tuned brain is seething. I am hungry. Did I mention I am on a diet? I can’t for the life of me figure out the signal path standing in the aisle.

The antenna lead must go to the box. And the TV. The box must feed the TV. Ow! Ow! Ow! My head hurts.

I finally decide on a small “A-B” switch. $5.98.

Previously I have found some cables and a splitter at the house.
Just out of curiosity ask the kid behind the counter if they have a box.
Yup they do. An Access HD DTA 1080 U-and it has the words “Analog pass through” in bright red on the side.

It’s footprint is one third the size of the POS Magnavox.

It also has a Universal Remote Control. It lists a code number for Zenith.

It costs $69.

We have no coupon.

This really sucks.

Can we return it if it doesn’t work? Yes He guesses so.

We do have a discount coupon for $10.

He can’t figure out to use it. This takes half an hour with phone calls to store manager before we get out.

We are now out $64.80. Plus the ten for the Magnavox box. $74.68 if you are keeping score at home.

I am ravenous now. Did I mention I am on a diet? When am I not? Breakfast was at 5am and was….small. It’s now 1:30pm.

Lunch sucked. We went to this cutesy little place that had vase centerpieces filled with candy hearts. I love soup. The only soup was Clam Chowder. I don’t eat fish. No soup for you! Chicken Caesar, hold the Caesar. Literally one cup of greens, one teaspoon of Asiago cheese and about 2 oz of chicken sliced paper thin. $7.98. I could have had a seven course meal for that price. A foot long hoagie. And a six pack.

I am not in a good mood.

Back to the In-laws. While we were gone FIL had stoked the plutonium reactor in the basement so it was now 100 degrees in the house. It’s cold out so I have a heavy shirt under a sweatshirt. I am sweating as soon as I come in the door.

Good news…FIL is taking a nap. Bad news. I am not.

New box fires up and seeks stations. Five minutes later it has all available. Better picture than POS Magnavox. Plus on channel change it doesn’t have to search each time like POS. Channels come right up.

The remote control programs for the Zenith and works the volume, on off and the function menu flawlessly. The menu is important because FIL wants the brightness turned down when he watches at night. Something about burglars. You can see my problem communicating here? He also loves the color set to green. See?

It does not change TV channel. Only the Box channel no matter what mode you are in. Hmmm.
Shut box off and tune TV to Channel 7. Success.

But you have to tune TV with old remote control. The whole point of Universal remote was to 86 one control.

Work with Mother in law (MIL) to explain new control. You have to switch modes to control the TV or the Box. She can get the TV on and switch to the box mode (labeled STB the RC) but the unit will not power for her. I try and it only powers up every third try and in fact locks up so you have to pull the plug to get it to work again.

I am not having a good day.

The acronym is “Halt”

Hungry, Angry Lonely and Tired.

I am angry, tired and hungry. The only thing I am not is lonely.

This box will not cooperate. It locks up and no matter what I try will not change channels on the TV.

It is no good. I call 1 800 and am told via recording that they don’t work weekends. I have only one option.

Cue shark theme from Jaws.”

Back to the POS.

Now I have to figure out how to make the A-B switch work.

After long thought I come up with it.

Here is how you do it. The antenna goes into a splitter. One lead goes to the “A-B” switch. One lead goes to the box. The output of the box goes to the other side of the “A-B” switch then the switch feeds the TV.

My brain is squirming like a toad.

I am short one cable. The Access HD DTA 1080 U has one. I need it. Now I can’t return it.

I make it work. It’s an ugly snarl of cables. The long suffering wife asks “Do you need all those wires?”

I don’t know how to answer that.

I write out instructions in large block letters.

The A-B switch I set so to see Channel 7 is “A”. Channel 7 as mentioned below is Catholic TV. I explain that “A” will be for Angels. MIL has trouble with switch. It’s stiff and new and unfamiliar. Eventually she gets it and can navigate the changeover flawlessly.

I decide to tidy up the wires. This is a near fatal mistake.

The cable from the A-B switch to the TV is the shortest one so I replace it with a longer one to get the switch closer to the front of the TV. Then I wrap the cables and secure them with ties to keep down the snarl and avoid the Long -Suffering wife’s question about so many cables. In the process the box gets moved around.

I try the deal out one more time before we leave. The box WILL NOT POWER ON. But it was working fine just a minute ago.


I try changing out the power. I try new batteries in the RC.

My blood pressure is now 300 over 300. I am so close to stomping my feet and screaming that I am literally lightheaded. I can contain my anger no longer.

I pick up the POS box to throw it on the floor so I can stomp it to death and notice….there is a rocker switch on the side. Why would they do that? You turn it on with the RC and they go to the added expense of adding a master power switch? Huh? It must have gotten shut off when I was frigging around with the wires.

Breathe. Breathe deep.

It was all working when I left. I went to the website for the Access HD DTA 1080 U and searched to no avail for the answer to the channel changing dilemma. Wrote them an email because I still want to believe it’s a better unit and can do what I want. Plus I so want to take the POS Magnavox and hit it with a hammer until it’s mostly black residue and mail it back to those sons a bitches.

More updates to come, I am sure.

The Rant D’Jour is me being a consumer advocate.

In this day and age something for nothing is almost too good to be true. When I was in college…Rant D’Jour


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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