Deb's Monthly Review
bullet February 2000 bullet

Festivals for Travelers, Sites of the Month, Special Feature, Quotes, Opinions, Rants, Praises.
Unless otherwise noted, opinions are solely that of the editor.

Welcome to our new home at!

Special Quote
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every
opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity
in every difficulty."
--Sir Winston Churchill
divider To parents, teachers, and other guardians of children:
The Review is a place where adults or kids should be able
to stop by and browse.
But, remember - I have no control over outside links.
For happiest results, please surf the Web with your kids!


The Artsy Site
Of The Month:

The Duke Ellington Society: 100 Years
pictures, essays, audio, and more.

Personal Home Page
Of The Month:

Little Bohemia on the Hinkson
Sheila Brynjulfson: Themed pages and excellent
navigation showcase a well-thought out site.

Web Page Design Site
Of The Month:
An easy way to FAQS to your site.

Seasonal Site
Of The Month:

Internet African American History Challenge
Test your knowledge:
February is Black History Month.

Just Fun Site
Of The Month:

Zeek Games Fun: Sand Art
Play with virtual colored sandscapes.

Downright Serious Site
Of The Month:

Citizens for Independent Courts
Click on "The Facts" and then on
"In The States" for some interesting reading.

Historical Site
Of The Month:

Introduction to an American History of Mental Retardation
An interesting timeline with other events woven into its framework.

February Events
festivals For February Travelers

February 2-6, 2000
Winter Carnival
Michigan Tech University, Houghton, Michigan.
Dogsled racing (done by humans), snow statues
(both month-long and one-nighter divisions),
the Sno-Ball, entertainment.
Details: Call 906-487-2828.

February 4-6, 2000
Chocolate Affaire
Downtown (58th and Glendale), Glendale, Arizona.
horse-drawn carriage rides, food, chocolate. You
can have a tour of Cerreta Candy Company.
More information: Call 623-930-2299.

February 4-6, 2000
Fine Art and Chocolate Festival
Scottsdale Pavilions, Scottsdale, Arizona.
artists and craftspeople, food, entertainment,
Details: Call 480-837-5637.

February 5-6, 2000
Goderich Winterfest
Goderich, Ontario.
Ice skating, hiking, dances, chili cook-off,
children's events.
Further information: Call 519-524-2125.

February 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, 2000
Winterlude/Bal de Neige
Downtown, Ottawa, Canada.
Rideau Canal is one long skating rink, plus there are snow sculptures,
snow slides, ice carvers, figure skating performances, free hot chocolate.
dogsled rides, jazz and other entertainment.
Find out more: Call 613-239-5000 or 1-800-465-1867.

February 5-6, 2000
Kites On Ice
Monona Terrace Convention Center on Lake Monona, Madison, Wisconsin.
Kite makers and educators from all over the world converge to catch
winds above Lake Monona with stunt kites, miniatures, and traction kites.
Workshops on making kites, aerial photography, night show with fireworks.
Further details: Call 608-831-1725.

February 11-13, 2000
Dixie National Western Festival
Mississippi Trade Mart, Jackson, Mississippi
Animals, Native American dances, storytellers, arts and crafts.
Living history demonstrations, Wild West Show.
More: Call 601-961-4000.

February 11-20, 2000
Lowcountry Blues Bashites On Ice
Red Hot Blues Room (on Market) and other venues, Charleston, South Carolina.
Performances by Del Rey, Bob Malone, Armand and Bluesology,
Chicago Bob Nelson, and others.
Learn More: Call 843-762-9124.

February 12, 2000
Baylor Gospel Fest Waco Hall, Baylor Universtiy, Waco, Texas.
The Heavenly Voices host the choir gathering, and choirs from
Texas A & M and other schools come to participate.
There are seminars, lunch, a mass choir practice and a concert.
Details: Call 1-800-BAYLOR-U.

February 16-20, 2000
South Texas Music Festival
Weslaco City Park, 201 N. Airport Drive, Weslaco, Texas.
Bluegrass and other music, with contests for best in yodeling, banjo,
harmonica, and lying (yarn spinning).
Workshops in song writing, fiddling, and more. Cow chip throwing
contest. Free biscuits and gravy breakfast. Arts and crafts and
food booths. Small admission charge to the festival--proceeds
benefit scholarship fund.
More: Call 956-464-7767.

February 18-27, 2000
National Date Festival
Riverside County Fairgrounds (on Arabia St), Indio, California.
Rodeo, livestock auction, music by the Inkspots, monster truck
competition, demolition derby, Arabian nights pageant.
Find out more: 760-863-8247.

February 19-20, 2000
Scottish Festival
Queen Mary Events Park, Long Beach, California.
60 clans meeting, grand parade, highland dance, ceilidh piping, merchandise, food.
Information: Call 562-435-3511.

February 25-27, 2000
Great Fair Fountain Park, Fountain Hills, Arizona.
artists and craftspeople, hot air balloons, entertainment, clowns, rides,
food, magicians.
More: Call 602-837-1654.

February 25-27, 2000
Texas' Best Gardening Festival
Arlington Convention Center, Ballpark Way, Arlington, Texas.
Gardening displays, products and services, lectures and
Details: 972-562-5050.

February 25-27, 2000
Big Y Food Festival
Connecticut Expo Center, Hartford, Connecticut.
Food samples, coupon giveaways, nutritional information.
Exhibits, games, prizes, costumed characters, celebrity.
guests share their favorite recipes. All leftover food is donated to local
soup kitchens. Admission charge.
Further details: Call 608-831-1725.

February 25-27, 2000
EquiFest of Kansas
Kansas Coliseum, Wichita, Kansas.
Clinics on training and dressage, plus stallion
reviews, breed exhibitions, drill teams, trade show,
cowboy olympics, trail cook-off, more.
Admission is charged.
More: Call 765-655-2107

February 26-27, 2000
Goose Lake and Roblin Community Center, Roblin, Manitoba.
Snow sculpting, taffy pulling, hay rides, hot drinks,
sleigh rides, ice skating, casino night, and an extra
morning of fun with a pancake breakfast on Sunday, the 28th.
Further Information: Call 204-937-4495.

February 26-27, 2000
Grant Seafood Festival
Grant, Florida.
I confess here and now that I'm not big on seafood, but for those of you
you who are, this may be your chance to indulge. Seafood and crafts are .
the highlights of this event in its 34th year.
All proceeds from the festival stay in the local community organizations.
And they do very well. It's a town of about 3000 people, and through an
all-volunteer effort, they draw about 50,000 a year to the festival.
Find out more: Call 407-723-8687

February 26-27, 2000
California Art and Rubber Stamp Festival
Fiesta Hall, San Mateo County Expo Center, Delaware Street, San Mateo, CA.
Rubber stamp companies, designers, mail-art enthusiasts and crafters
converge on booths and demonstrations. There is a small admission
charge, and a lot of the festival is a sales event. But you can
also make new friends, learn new skills, and mingle with artists
and would-be artists.
Contact: 541-574-8000



Kill Your TV - But Not Just Yet
Part Two

Last month we began by looking at the Federal Communications Commission (FCCC) and its power to set the standards for both Digital TV (DTV) and High Definition TV (HDTV). We mentioned the National Television Standards Committee (NTSC). But there is also the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC). There are the TV manufacturers who would love to be on the cutting edge of this technology and see their own architecture developed, and who also want to sell you products as soon as possible. The TV networks are under the gun, having been told they must begin to make the shift from analog to digital broadcasting. The cable TV companies and satellite TV companies have been fairly exempt from all of this so far, with no digital standards having been set for either industry.

Who are we supposed to believe when we see the hype surrounding the issues of Digital TV (DTV) and High Definition TV (HDTV)? Are our current analog sets going to be obsolete in a year? Two years? Six years?

You can buy a TV "capable" of high-definition reception right now, for a price. One example: Mitsubishi sells a 46-inch set (that's a diagonal screen measurement) currently retailing for about $3000. You'll still need an HDTV receiver/decoder, which they'll happily sell you for about another $1000. And what are you going to watch? Most programming in the United States is still broadcast via analog signal, so you aren't going to get a lot of "bang for the buck" at this point.

So then when does all this fun with HDTV begin? Stations in the top ten TV markets in the United States have already begun broadcasting a digital signal along with analog signals. Other stations in the country will be doing this by 2002. Until 2006, stations must also provide analog broadcast, and even this deadline may be pushed further back if Congress decides the date does not allow the vast majority of citizens enough time to have access to digital sets. So even after 2006, we may receive some analog broadcast.

There are over 100,000 U.S. homes already enjoying digital TV's. Are there advantages to owning a digital set at this point? Yes. Because of the way digital information is processed, a digital TV receiver does not have the problem of "snow" and "ghosts".

Let's look at how a digital TV set handles a digital signal. By the way, none of this should be a brand new concept to those of us using phone lines and computers. If you've ever downloaded a zipped file from the internet and then unzipped the file on your end, you've used digital compression. The same principle applies in digital TV broadcast.

In analog broadcast, the signal might best be represented as a continuous wavy line, with the peaks and valleys of the waves representing changes in voltage. All the information on color, sound, and everything else, travels on this wave. Your analog TV uses the color guns and picture tube to get the information to the TV's screen.

A digital broadcast signal might better be represented visually as a series of vertical lines or as narrow angular boxes (like a bar graph) that approximate the peaks and valleys of an analog signal. If you are familiar with the term "bit" you know that we represent bits with a series of 1's and 0's. The information is a 1 or a 0, on or off, very crisp and clean-looking, in a visual sense. In order to approximate the analog signal, they use something called "sampling" or "quantizing", in which they measure the analog signal many times per second, using a standard set by the International Telecommunications Union.

This sampling becomes the conversion of analog signal to digital signal. Since the digital signal cannot mimic the actual nuances of the curvature of an analog wave, they use antialiasing filters (think of the way you take the "jaggies" out of a graphic by adding or removing pixels to smooth things out).

It takes a lot of power to do all this conversion. So the information is compressed when sent from the TV station to your set. The digital to analog converter in your new digital TV set uncompresses the information and turns it back into the analog signal which your set then uses with those color guns, yoke and picture tube.

A true digital TV will have actual memory (like your computer) and a digital signal processor. But even a true digital TV will not be 100 per cent digital. If someone tries to tell you they can sell you one that is, run. Either they don't know what they're talking about, or they are trying to rip you off.

Since the signal for HDTV takes a lot of power, TV stations are having to install new equipment and new transmission towers, just to meet the new standards. There are deadlines set up by the FCC for the top ten TV markets (Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas), the next level of TV markets, and so on. But because of high cost, lack of qualified installers, and local zoning restrictions, some stations have filed, and received, extensions to meet the deadlines for converting to digital broadcast. This could be one more reason not to get too excited and run out and buy into the new technology just yet.

The networks themselves are still playing with standards and choosing between yet another variation in the way signals will be sent. Remember last month we talked about the way the electron beam scans (or sweeps) across your TV screen? It does the odd lines, then the even lines, so the process is "interlaced". But there is a second method, called "progressive", in which the lines are scanned in numerical order. For its new digital broadcast, Fox has chosen to use the 720p method (720 lines, scanned progressively), as has ABC. NBC and CBS are both going to use 1080i (1080 lines, interlaced). Remember this variation when you do go shopping for an HDTV set. If you want the maximum benefit from the set, you'll want to get one that supports multiple standards.

You can view digital TV programming on your current analog set after 2006 with the addition of a set-top converter box. Right now those are expensive, but as time goes on, the cost should come down. Remember though--this is a stop-gap measure to allow you to use your existing TV set a bit longer. The set-top box will not convert your set's picture to HDTV quality.

As we mentioned earlier, cable companies are not currently obligated to carry a digital signal, so if you don't have an antenna, you may not be able to receive digital signals from network stations. The committees and the FCC are not finished though, and they may eventually set standards that require cable companies to broadcast digital signals. This will be a large factor in the HDTV issue, because about two-thirds of all U.S. households currently subscribe to cable TV.

Satellite broadcast is also another whole problem. It does not fall under the current HDTV standards which have been set for network broadcast.

The best way to keep abreast of these issues is to check on what the FCC is doing, and to contact your own cable or satellite company to find out their plans for digital broadcasting.

Another thing--your current VCR will not be able to record HDTV broadcasts. VHS-format tapes would not be able to hold all the information for HDTV. Companies such as Philips are working on technology which may allow you to record DTV broadcasts.

The hype and blustering about all of this is everywhere, including in stores. Do your homework before you shop, and don't let retail salespeople push you into a hasty purchase.

Now, for some good news. All this will mean the end of ghosts and snow (even with just DTV), and because of the digital compression, a lot more information can be broadcast in what is now used for one channel. When not broadcasting in HDTV, stations will be able to deliver additional information (such as stock quotes) to you, along with regular "shows".

Along with your improved picture (which will have a width-height ratio of 16:9) you'll get six-channel surround sound. To take full advantage of this you'll need the corresponding additional speakers, so add that to the cost of what you spend on your new HDTV set. Some companies will no doubt begin to offer package deals for a home theatre experience.

Canada is watching the U.S. struggle with all the standards, technology and politics, and will (along with many other countries) probably take a cue from what happens here.

It isn't going to be perfect, and when all is said and done, there may have been things that could have been done more efficiently. But we have a lot of fun to look forward to with the dawning of HDTV.

I hope this has helped a little toward your understanding of the issues surrounding this aspect of television. I've tried to write it by a non-technical person for the non-technical person. If you want more information, you might try these web sites:

Advanced Television Systems Committee
Sam's Digital Television Report
FCC FAQ on Digital Television
You might also visit the newsgroup:


Many thanks to my husband Ron,
for his willingness to review with me the technology of
broadcast electronics, and for proofreading the above article.


A Little February Browsing...

Grab some early spring this year
by Forcing Branches Indoors

If you do a lot of cooking for potlucks,
big family reunions or receptions, have a
look at Dayle's Growlies for Groups.

If you're doing some genealogy,
or you just want to find that old
family plot, check out
Cemetery Records Online
Or you can try
Cemetery Junction

If you're snowed in, but you have the right
ingredients, you might try some
Edible/Inedible Experiments

You may have heard of fantasy baseball.
Now there's also
Fantasy Cup Auto Racing

Want to get in on those sales of seized
properties? Find out how with
Seized Property Auctions Subscription Information

Remember Gary Coleman from the old
Diff'rent Strokes TV show? Now Gary's
an online columnist for UGO Networks.

Dream a bit of summer while you visit
The Strawberry Facts Page.

Find great restaurant reviews and more at

Still no word on the new site from Ron Howard and "friends".
We'll let you know more once the site launches.

Did you send for your copy of Blueprints For Greenbacks yet?
This is a comprehensive book on fund-raising that will help your
school, church, or community group raise money efficiently, and
will tell you how to get more volunteers and find those
people with willing checkbooks.

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Archive of past Monthly Reviews.

September 1997
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