All posts for the month November, 2015

Wet neighbor cat Albert relaxing after a chamois-down.

Neighbor cat Albert relaxing after a sojourn in the rain this weekend.

On Amazon Prime last night, we watched an episode from the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, which stars Larry David, co-creator of “Seinfeld”. Clearly, Larry had a huge influence on the Seinfeld series, and “Curb” is a hilarious show, too. A “Seinfeld” reunion is part of the plotline in the late 7th season.

Rather than gobble up the remaining episodes, we next turned to an episode of the short-lived HBO series, “Hello Ladies” (also on Amazon Prime). It stars Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais’ writing partner on the original British series, “The Office”. It’s about an out-of-it lonely guy on a quest for romance.

This episode ended with the Al Stewart tune, “Year of the Cat” (an easy year in Vietnamese astrology), in bitterly ironic juxtaposition to the story line. I can certainly identify with Stephen’s geeky character. It doesn’t hurt that he is a lanky 6’7″, which I also was when the song was on the charts. (I’m now a slightly less lanky 6’6″.)

1977 was the year of “Year of the Cat” on the radio, but it wasn’t my year for soft contemplative songs. But as sometimes happens, the brilliant use of a song as counterpoint in a movie or series forcefully reminds you how good it is.

This also happened to me with Nancy Sinatra’s version of “Sugar Town” in the third season of the HBO series, “Girls”. (The tune was written by Lee Hazlewood, born in Mannford, Oklahoma.)

I often missed the meaning of songs in the 70s, due both to inattention and my inability to parse out the lyrics. For example, at one point in “Year of the Cat”,  I had thought he said “sweet Delores” when it’s really “Peter Lorre”. Pathetic.

So I went in quest of both the lyric and its meaning this morning. Quite a few interpretations out there, but on the most basic level, the song is about an unexpected romantic, cinematic interlude in an exotic foreign land (see lyrics and comments at

I now realize the song has grown on me. It probably helps not being as hung up on hot-lick guitar playing anymore.

In one of the comments at the above URL is a YouTube clip ( with a brief explanation of the lyric by Al and a TV performance (lip-sync) of the song.

All this research was done on my smartphone, and I now have an easy way to get a YouTube from it up to the big screen: Chromecast.

I copied the URL, but found that the YouTube app doesn’t have a place to paste it. So I pasted it into Google, hit search, and it asked which app in which to complete the action. I selected YouTube and up it came on the phone.

Paused it immediately, then clicked the ‘cast icon at the top right in the phone’s YouTube app. It found my Chromecast device and I selected it. The video appeared on the big screen, displacing “Morning Joe”, which I had ‘cast up there from a Chrome browser tab on the office PC.

When through watching, click the cast icon again and select disconnect.

Typical YouTube exploration is more natural with Chromecast than with Roku or other set-top devices.

Over the weekend, my Roku LT (back in service after the Roku 3 got fried by lightning) developed a new habit of going to sleep and not waking up until rebooted. I decided to do a Factory Reset and re-register it, but Roku’s servers were swamped by all the Xmas shoppers with their new Roku SEs. I put it aside for a few days and have been using the Chromecast and the TiVo instead.

The one big deficiency of Google Chromecast is that it lacks Amazon Instant Video. The two corporations are arch-enemies; Amazon does not support the Chromecast device and banned both it and Apple TV from their site; Google has not released any of its own apps for Amazon’s Fire devices.

So we watched the shows last night on TiVo’s Amazon app. But if you use Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc., Chromecast could do it all for you.

After Thanksgiving dinner last week, I showed one of our phone-centric nephews how to get his iPhone’s NFL Sunday Ticket app up onto our big screen TV. He liked it a lot.

The new Chromecast.

The new Chromecast.

As a result, both nephews will be receiving the newest version of the Chromecast for Christmas. There is a really good deal at the Google Store today (“Cyber Monday”), 2 for $50. Since it’s for Christmas, I got them the festive red and yellow ones. The color will remind them to take the device with them after using it at friends’ houses.

The Year of the Cat, a year of ease and relaxation, comes every twelve years. The last one was 2011, next is 2023. But for Albert (pictured at top), it comes every year.

The kitchen counter

The kitchen counter, sans phone and answering machine clutter.

My wife got tired of having a wireless phone and an old answering machine in the kitchen, since she uses only her iPhone.

That’s really my thing. I still like having wireless phones available in several rooms. But I could see her point, and moved them out.

Undeniably, the counter looks better without them, and there is more food preparation area that is easier to clean. The new 24″ flat TV and TiVo Mini (both bought with our cord-cutting savings) take up only a small corner of space that wouldn’t be used much anyway. Cord clutter behind the set is down to an absolute minimum. But where do I put the phone and answering machine now?

As told in an early post, Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!, my first big cord-cutting salvo was to get rid of the cable company’s phone service and replace it with an Ooma Telo internet phone device.

It costs a measly $4/month in government fees (part of it covers 911 service), which is well worth it to still be able to use all those phones around the house. I kept our old phone number for a one-time $40 charge.

However, the Ooma device has been stuck back in our office where it could have the requisite Ethernet connection to the router. So we weren’t taking advantage of its ability to be a slick modern answering machine. Instead, we had an old Radio Shack machine on the kitchen counter (See previous post Lightning, round #3).

This morning, I ran across an item on Amazon: Ooma Wireless Plus Bluetooth Adapter, a little USB dongle that plugs into the Telo. It connects with your wifi network, allowing you to place the Telo in a location more convenient than adjacent to your router/modem. (It also lets your smartphone make a Bluetooth connection.)

I considered buying one, but two of the Amazon comments put me off.

One said the dongle runs hot. The other said, “When it loses its signal, the Ooma has to be completely reset. Frustrating. Put in a Powerline next to the Ooma and hardwired Ethernet to Powerline. Works much better.”

Well, there was my answer. We already use Powerline to get internet and home network to our theater room and den (see Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring). I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand. Duh.

Ooma in the Tiki room

Ooma Telo, wireless phone, X10 remote, LED light remote. Click to enlarge.

The Ooma Telo was moved to the next-best place for an answering machine: our “Tiki lounge“, a highly-trafficked area adjacent to both the theater room and the den. That turned a desk clutter item into an active, useful one.

While signed into my dashboard at, I set the number of rings before voicemail answers to 4.

I can also review incoming, outgoing, and missed calls on the dashboard call log. Very handy to check out some of those bogus numbers we occasionally get calls from.

Just discovered a free Ooma app that lets me make outgoing calls on my wifi-only smartphone. If I subscribed to Ooma Premier for an extra $10/month, I could receive incoming calls on it as well. But the main objective of the cord-cutting exercise is to save money.

I would rarely if ever need to get my messages while away from home, but it can be done very easily with Ooma by calling your own number, entering your PIN, then following the spoken menu. (Or by using the free Ooma app.)

Clutter reduction, improved answering machine, and boosted WAF (wife acceptance factor) at no additional cost. Can’t beat it.