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Toronto/Ottawa Tour, Sep 2002 (Tour 3)

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This tour occurred in the last 10 days in September from the 21st to the 30th.   I had decided to take some time out on this tour to go up to the nation’s capital, Ottawa for the first time.  Never been there before and had only seen it on TV prior to that.   In some ways, this was actually a bit ironic or tragic since I had already visited Washington, DC twice. 

I suppose that I have become a bit jaded after a while with all these tours.  What I mean by this is that a certain pessimism has creeped into my tour behaviour/philosophy.  I started a tour countdown to disaster watch.  The way it works is that something invariably will go wrong with at least one client’s TV on the tour through no fault of my own.  With the will of the gods against me, at least one set will always choose to die on me during each trip … coincidence … yes … and always after I have completed all the calibration work too.  Bottom line … I don’t get paid … because I feel sorry for the client.  It gets chalked up as training, although inside, you can hear me crying too.

Back to the issues at hand …

Sept 21 - Saturday Afternoon - Toshiba 40H80

I was supposed to catch the 6 AM morning flight out, but my alarm clock failed me (typical excuse) and I found myself rushed as I woke up a bit too late.  At 4:20 AM, you could see me rushing about the house getting reading and actually packing the clothing too.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute, but I also decided that if I ran out of a certain type of clothing, just buy more.  I wasn’t traveling to a desert island after all.

Now listen here, boys and girls, if you want to avoid line ups at the airport and don’t mind sitting in a middle seat, checking in 30 minutes before flight time is amazingly fast.

So I got into Toronto at 11 AM and headed straight to the first client’s home.

This one was a repeat visit for a set that I had worked on the last time I was out this way in Feb 2002.   The client had a screen problem which caused a fish bowl effect in the image.  The Toshiba repair people came and fixed it fairly quickly as it turned out that the lenticular screen was installed upside down.  The fix itself was simple enough, but this is where disaster struck the client.  With the front panel open, the repairman decided that he did not like the grayscale on the TV and promptly took it upon himself to fix this “problem.”  Imagine my client’s reaction when he walked into the room and saw the repairman turning the screen trimpots to fix the colours.  He pronounced the TV’s colour fixed and left behind an image that was so hideously red and purple that the colour analyzer could not even take proper readings.

The danger of letting the repairman go wild or unsupervised …

So the touch up call ended up taking a bit longer than expected because I had to recheck some of my previous work due to what the service person did. 

Sept 21 - Saturday Evening - Toshiba 50HX81

A relatively quick drive across town to the next client’s home.  High rise condos closer to the lake shore.  Security lets my car into the compound and it is up to the 4th floor.   Nothing strange or unusual about the calibration as it was very straight forward and yielded the expected results.  The wife came back at the appointed time so we were fighting each other for lighting control.  I needed less ambient room light to do the work, while she needed light to cook.  They whipped up a wonder pot of chicken and mixed vegetables with rice for dinner. 

How people get their satellite needs filled … this client had his dish situated on the balcony floor so as long as people stayed of the balcony, the images were fine.

With every successful job, the odds increase for disaster to strike the next time ….

With the set done, it was time to head off to my host’s home.  A wonderful couple that ended up adopting me the last time I came out and now more of the same.  They are night owls because they work for the TSO.

Sept 22 – Sunday Morning – Toshiba 61H70

This one was up in Stouffville, very north of the city and for a short time, I wondered if I was going to get lost.  One of the 4:3 Toshibas from two years ago and I determined that his TV was yet another one that did not have the 3:2 pulldown activated in the TV.  It was in there and I did not have the necessary remote with me this time.  I left it home in my haste to pack in the morning.  The client ended up going to some local stores to look for the Cinema 7 remote.  He was successful and while he did that, I could speed through the calibration.  He eventually found a Cinema 6 remote with backlighting and it also worked so we were good to go.  Turned the 3:2 pull down on and centered the user controls for ease of use.

Plenty of cats roaming the home and a radio antenna tower dangling from the ceiling …

Sept 22 – Sunday Afternoon-Evening – Toshiba TW40X81

This client lived just off of the downtown core so it meant that parking would be an issue.  It’s busy so where does one find parking close to the apartment?   I found it about 1.5 blocks away.  The set was one of the second generation Toshiba HD units and the client was using HTPC to run his material.  For apartment dwelling, he also found a way to get his satellite dish up too. 

An odd note about satellite dishes and gray market pirating of signals … the first time I was out in the Toronto area, many of the clients who were pirating were doing so with units from a “provider,” but this time, many of the people had simply started hacking themselves free of a “provider.”  Some simply did it for the challenge or to keep from getting too bored. 

The highlight of this job was the discussion I had with the client about the religious aspects of Sikh tradition.  A reality versus public perception approach.  Very enlightening indeed. 

I like Toshiba sets because I can do them fairly quickly.  It is more cookie cutter for me than any other set out there.  It allowed me to finish early and join my hosts for a late night dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.  Although both my hosts had oriental origins, they were probably a bit too westernized and so much so that they were just not used to some of the more exotic Chinese teas out there.  I had not given the tea selection a second thought when I ordered it, but when the hosts complained bitterly about the taste of the tea and how it tasted like medicine … well … so they ordered a very “western” form of Chinese tea. 

You know you are at a “real” Chinese restaurant when you see the live seafood swimming around in the water tanks.  I took the opportunity for this meal to order up a rock bass and it was amusing to see the server come out it a pail and a net to fish up the fish we would be “enjoying.”  The Host wife mentioned that it seemed so cruel to see what happened to the fish, but of course the fish ended up tasting so good that we all finished it down to the bone.  No waste … and the fish gave its life up not in vain.

Sept 23 – Monday Morning – Sony KP 57XBR10W

In some ways, I really like the XBR’s over the standard HS series of sets not because of the final image quality, but because of the cabinet design.  Although that may change with time.  The biggest drawback of this calibration was that the lighting conditions in the room were absolutely horrid and that was being kind.  Still, it was morning and very understandable.  I’m doing all the grayscale work under cover of bed sheet darkness.

The client had a second or third generation Sony DVD player that was not progressive scan.  While I proceeded with the calibration based on this machine, I spoke to him about some of the virtues of 480P and nearing the end, he headed out to buy a unit from his local higher end store.  He came back with a Panasonic RP62 … and I readjusted the grayscale to match the new machine.  Problem was … there seemed to be a significant difference between the original 480i set up from the older player versus the new player at 480P.  Changing the grayscale to match the new player took a lot longer than it should have been.  Very odd, but this took time because the new machine’s grayscale midrange was just so different from the previous unit.

My countdown to disaster continued.  Odds for catastrophe increasing.

Sept 23 – Monday Afternoon – Toshiba 50H82

I was fortunate that the second client of the day was a mere few blocks to the north so travel was brisk.   The client was even home waiting so I got started right away.  The client said he was a newbie to the who scene and an initial overview of his system confirmed some of this.  He was using a SD3750 Toshiba DVD player, but as I discovered early on, he was only using the 480i signal since he bought the unit.  He had forgot to flick the 480P switch on the back of the machine.  End result … built in improvement already … since everything I did from then on was based on DVD performance he had never experienced even with his own machine. 

Routine set up on the new Toshiba set with nothing surprising.  The only standouts came with my countdown to disaster.  This may have been it …

A day later, I receive in the E-mail some pleas for help and a possible accusing finger … the DVD image was compromised and it must be my fault.  No issues with cable … just on some DVD’s.  Well, as I figured, the DVD player was trying to do 3:2 pulldown on some non-film based material the client was watching.  Got him to look in his DVD set up to find the all powerful auto detect feature versus the forced film mode feature that the DVD player was set to.

Disaster averted, but don’t you just hate that when it happens.  Always has to be Michael’s bloody fault.  And you wonder why I get jaded sometimes.

Sept 24 – Tuesday Morning – Panasonic PT-47WX51C

A drive out to Markham in the morning to do the ever popular Panasonic unit that looks awful out of the box, but has so much potential when treated right.  This one was situated in the client’s unfinished basement, but it made lighting conditions very controllable. 

The topic of discussion was famous people from Trinidad … as well as how to deal with potential meddling mother-in-laws.  These are the hard hitting questions that people need to ask … what with my impending wedding and all.  

I had to unfortunately cancel my Tuesday evening appointment when I realized too late where the person actually lived.  It turned out that the person was actually three to four hours away and for only one calibration, it could not be done. 

With the afternoon freed up, I was able to visit John at Next Big Thing Electronics again.  He’s a really nice guy and we always have neat stories to swap.   He goes by the handle Johnny G. on the internet so when people come into his store and call him by that handle … “Hey, Johnny G …!!”  he actually gets perturbed somewhat … actually regretting that he uses that handle at all.   Please just call him “John.”  

John related one story to me about a comment I had made about a certain Toshiba 50H81 set I had calibrated in the Summer out in Vancouver.  My calibration report indicated that the TV was amazing well set up already out of the box and definitely the finest pre-calibration set I had ever encountered.  Well, now I know what was happening.  It was actually John’s handiwork that I was rechecking.  One of his “pre-calibrated sets” that he sells.  The client did not tell me that he got the set from John, but he was happy even though I could never sense it.  Now I know.

Sept. 25 – Wednesday Morning – Sony 34XBR800

A very nice newly built home in an older established neighbourhood in Toronto.  A very narrow lot.  The calibration of a tube set is usually considered to be a very fast affair and it should be, but the client was so much fun to talk to that something that normally takes 60 to 90 minutes ended up taking a 2.5 hours.  I was clad to see that the tube anomaly from previous 34” tube designs seems to have been fixed finally.  The geometry was actually fairly good on this unit.

The only thing that kind of struck me as not quite right with the household was that all the family members seemed to be home.  The wife, the husband and the daughter.  But this was a school day … and the daughter was being too affectionate to the father … (school problems.)  Parent – Teacher Day stuff.

Sept 25 – Wednesday Mid-day

While it took a bit longer, I still got out of there with plenty of time to revisit a former client now turned friend in the area.  He was the original organizer of my first Toronto tour from a couple of years ago.  It was great to catch up and to give his set a quick tune up.   This time I could turn on the 3:2 pull down in his 65” Toshiba. 

Sept 25 – Wednesday Evening – Pioneer Elite 720

This was a large apartment complex in Mississauga and I wondered just how the client would have been able to get that huge frame into the apartment.  This being a Pioneer set, I had to first warn him about the characteristics of Pioneer TV’s and present him with the ability to back out of the calibration.  Even with the slight possibility of the colours going south on him, he elected to proceed.  Something akin to the odds of getting a heart attack. 

I’m always amazed when I see people that appear to be very active in their lives with tennis and golf and yet they are also smoking cigarettes on their balcony.  To each his own though. 

Sept. 26 – Thursday Morning – Pioneer Elite 510

I was on my way to Ottawa this day.  All five hours of it as I am told.  The first client along the way was a repeat client in Oshawa that I had seen in February.  She was special because she was my first female client.  Well, she had added Rogers HDTV cable since I last saw her.   The task was to center her HDTV section since that portion of the TV is fairly messed up and that is a known issue with the Pioneers.  There was also some kind of blue glow on the left edge of the image.  The session took about a couple hours and I was on my way at 11:00 AM.  Packing up, she asked if this second visit required any additional charge and my answer was no.  I try to take care of my clients when I can, even the ones on the tours and even when the distances are so great. 

Sept. 26 – Thursday Afternoon – Panasonic PT-47WX51C

Next stop was Merrickville, just outside of Ottawa … or about 40 to 50 miles outside of Ottawa that is.   A small town in rural Ontario.  Now the drive to Merrickville was an interesting one since I had never made this drive before.  The Ontario Provincial Police were out in force this day I must have passed five speed radar traps all within three hours and each trap had four to five officers standing there …

I got to the client’s home in the late afternoon after giving him a phone call to come find me in town.  His home was not on the map per se so it was just better to tell him to get me.  I’m the one sitting in the pukey green Taurus next to a church steeple. 

A retired gentleman who was working on his basement.  He had a golden retriever that was very friendly and it brought back memories of Atlanta and my dog sitting adventures on that trip.  Here was one of the clients that just wanted the TV fixed up and he was less interested in how it got there, just that it did.  Once I understood this, it meant that he left me alone and I could motor along at a very fast pace. 

His wife was a high school teacher and never shy on giving her informed opinion about anything.  Very nice person too, but it was interesting to turn some school conventions on their ears and accuse her of practicing the same negative behaviour that teachers don’t want their students to pick up.

With the TV done rather early in the evening, I was able to rewire his HT set up a bit to improve and streamline his audio side.  Without a center channel, I was able to set up the TV speaker to be his center channel with the weirdest assortment of wires and coat hangars possible. 

As it approached bed time, I headed to my room and there was the dog laying on the carpet at the foot of the bed.  Since she was just laying there, no sense in me telling her to get out.  Of course, not long after I went to sleep on the bed, this dog decided to join me there as well.  Jumped onto the bed and started to push me.  Oh no … Atlanta all over again.  Strangely, it was very possible that I could have done some axe murder duties upstairs and the dog would still be sleeping with me at night.  A bit too friendly.

Sept. 27 – Friday Morning – Panasonic PT-47WX51C

Off to Ottawa proper in the morning and almost downtown too.  I was still about an hour early so I found a few moments to drive past the Parliament buildings so that I could say I saw them.  Seen it, done that.  Of course, grade school French had to kick in again since all the streets and avenues were bilingual and sometimes just in French.  Parking wasn’t the easiest but with a bit of cruising around, I found a metered spot about a block away from the client’s apartment building.  And that is when the rain started.  First drizzle and then the big drops … and it stayed like that the rest of the day. 

So as the calibration proceeded, I had to time myself to run down stairs to feed the parking meter to avoid getting a ticket.  Sometimes in the rain and that would come back to haunt me at the end of the tour. 

As the tour proceeded, I had a few last minute inquiries are spots in Ottawa, so I put the people on my stand-by list.  The countdown to disaster was about to come to fruition. 

Sept. 27 – Friday Afternoon – Sony KP 61HS10

It wasn’t supposed to be this TV in the evening.  I had driven to the client’s home by mid afternoon and rang his door bell many times braving the rain.  Then I drove off and cam back and this continued until well past 6 PM.  Nothing.  The client had bailed out on me without telling.  Time to call for a back up …

I left a message with the back up client and simply headed out in the direction of my two Saturday clients hoping to check into a motel for the evening.  Slightly ticked off that the scheduled client had vanished.  Well, it must have been serendipitous as the cell rang right after I passed the exit of the back up client.  In short order, I turned around and headed right back to his place.  All in all very close to where I needed to be the next day. 

This was the home of the purring cat engine … A most amusing cat that comes into the room and starts revving like a car because he likes you ...

A second feline at the family room door tapping at the window wanting to get in on the action and possible electrocution.  Cats just love sticking their heads into places even with high voltage.  Smart or stupid … you be the judge.  One day a cat will kill himself and take the TV with him.

Very grateful to the back up client for rescuing me on this evening.  But I still maintain that he should really stop smoking.

Sept. 28 – Saturday Morning – Panasonic PT-51HX42

This one was a joy to work with and the client and I talked some hockey since his brother played for the Vancouver Canucks recently.  Now off playing in Germany.  A minor distraction in the way the client’s wife looked.  Almost too pretty to take my eyes off, but I am about to be a married man so eyes forward. 

I seem to enjoy working with Panasonics a lot these days because I know how well they will come out and just how poorly they typically are when I first see them.  The client had a cocker spaniel dog and it reminded me of the one I spent a lot of time with in Denver last fall.  The one that was diabetic. 

Sept. 28 – Saturday Afternoon – Toshiba TW65X81

For the first time and by sheer coincidence, the second client of the day lived exactly five seconds driving time from the first.  A mere five houses down the same block.  I got to the client’s home at about 2 PM well ahead of the daily schedule and got to work on the TV right off with little interruption.  The very large set was in the HT in the basement and it sparked the question of how the client got the TV down there since his staircase had to turn 180 degrees and hence no way to bring the TV down there.  He also had a large pool table in the basement as well.  I asked him how it was all done and he said that the builder/contractor cut a large hole in the living room floor and they lowered the two units down.  Then they fixed the hole that was the living room.  A novel idea that I had never encountered before, but it worked great.  It did not take much effort to fix the floor work and make it actually stronger than before.

The TV nor the pool table were never coming out of that basement. 

So with the calibration done by 6 PM, I decided to head out early and drive back to Toronto rather than spending the night at the client’s home.

Sept. 29 – Sunday Morning

I had been conversing with a prospective client in Mississauga with a Princeton Graphics monitor about whether I had time to do his set if I got back early enough from Ottawa.  Since I did make it back early, it was time to call him again, but with all the bad luck going around, his TV had gone funny and he could not get the calibration until repairs were done.  This freed up the morning for me to revisit with friends and visit one of the first Best Buy stores in Canada. 

Sept. 29 – Sunday Afternoon – Hitachi 53” 4:3 HD

The last set on the tour and this one was one of the Hitachi units that did not do true 1080i, but rather did the 810i down conversion ... same with the DVD down conversion.  It was very well done though.  I had chastised my hosts for not telling me what type of neighbourhood that I would be heading into for the last job.  The apartment condo was newly renovated from a warehouse complex … upscale to be sure, but the neighbourhood made one slightly uncomfortable.  And given that parking was almost impossible to find anywhere close to the apartment, it ended up being a 4 block hike.  Anxious … yes … must destroy ourselves …

Straight forward calibration that just takes a bit longer because Hitachi sets just take a lot longer.  So much longer … and one nagging aspect about Hitachi sets rears its head again.  The goofy convergence system.  Sometimes, even a minor tweak of one area can result in a major problem.  The more you change one area, the worse the convergence gets.  The more you try … even worse.  Before long, the area is a complete mess.

This one was a fun one because both the client and his girlfriend were into Anime and they had plenty of that in DVD on the shelves.  Or more succinctly, his significant other was more into anime than he was.  But this made conversations most lively. 

I’m finished by 9 PM and I say my good byes to the client and head back to the host’s home.   Time enough for one final dinner and we end up going to a Chinese Noodle house. 

Unfortunately, it is now when all that rain in Ottawa is starting to catch up with me.  The throat is starting to feel funny.  This doesn’t stop one from enjoying the evening with friends though.

Sept. 30 – Monday

Last Day.  I fly home in the early evening, but I spend the whole day at the airport anyway because I am too sick to do anything.  I just lay there and try to get some precious moments of sleep.  Next to impossible.  I was supposed to meet up with another of my previous clients, but once more, we could not connect, even through email.  Like the client fell off the face of the planet.  Strangely enough, I predicted that this client might fall away earlier in the week simply because of a gut feeling that I had.

So it was a quiet time at the airport and I was able to go home.  That’s it for my tours for 2002.  Aside from the Taipei, Taiwan tour in late November.