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It's a Bouncing Baby TiVo

Folks have been birthing babies for millions of years. And while modern science has added doctors and machines and enough pills to cater Robert Downey Jr.'s next party, the process is pretty much the same as it was back in the day when monstrous thunder lizards roamed the earth. Except for one thing. Having just witnessed the arrival of my first child, I can safely say that I don't know how previous generations -- whether we're talking about your grandparents or your grandparents' grandparents -- got through that delicate post-childbirth period without benefit of a TiVo.

As my wife's due date approached, I braced myself for what I expected would be my entry into a shadowy world of late-night feedings, diaper changes, and sleep deprivation punctuated by piercing baby cries. When my daughter was born on November 7, I certainly got all of that. But as I sit at home with my newly-expanded family and my paternity leave slowly slips away, I've discovered that my days aren't exactly full of diapers and feedings. There's a lot of slack time -- Jamie's sleeping or feeding or just laying comfortably, staring at the wall.

So what are two usually busy, usually gainfully employed adults to do with their time?

Well, we stare at our beautiful daughter a lot. That's a given. But beyond that -- there's just so long a sane adult can stare at anything, even an impassive baby face -- it would not be an understatement to say that our TiVo has gotten quite a workout in the past few weeks.

Going into the birth, I knew that my days of watching television in any sane, regular way were numbered. And once Jamie begins to crawl around and demand that I help her color in her coloring books and do all of those interactive things that non-newborns do, I will be turning in my remote for a "World's Best Dad" mug.

But in the meantime, my wife and I have drained the TiVo, often while trapped in a comfy rocking chair with a drooling, just-barely-asleep infant on our lap. The Buffy musical? Seen it four or five times. (And yes, it's brilliant.) 24? Watched every episode so far. West Wing? Ed? I'm all caught up.

What remains on the TiVo's heretofore jam-packed hard drive? Three episodes of King of Queens and about five episodes of Andromeda. Which makes me wonder whether those shows are actually a real high priority for my household.

But watching backlogged episodes of Kevin Sorbo shows isn't the only pastime a couple of tired new parents can indulge in. Not in our household, anyway.

About a week after my daughter was born, I started getting what might be called a belated nesting urge. I pulled weeds in the yard that have been growing for months; I mowed the lawn one last time before winter set in; I cleaned the rain gutters twice (and they're due for another go in the next few days); with the help of a gung-ho new grandfather, I installed a storage shed in our side yard and a set of heavy-duty metal shelves in the garage.

Oh, and I re-wired the entire TV system of our house in preparation for the day that the DirecTiVo arrived.

If you're like us -- and by us, I mean almost the entire TeeVee staff -- you've already got a TiVo, the single best TV-related product since the remote control. (If you're not quite like us, but close, maybe you've got a ReplayTV or an UltimateTV box instead.) The TiVo's great, but it does have a big drawback -- it can only record on one channel at a time, and you can't watch a show live on one channel while it's recording another on a second channel. As a DirecTV subscriber, I've got the same problem with my satellite receiver: it can only tune in one channel at a time. So in my spare trapped-under-baby time, I worked up the nerve and bought a DirecTiVo (proper name: DirecTV Reciever with TiVo). It's a combination satellite reciever and TiVo, but its best feature is that it can record two channels at the same time. Alternately, you can flip between channels while DirecTiVo is recording something on another channel. Either way, it's brilliant -- and it means that I can now record Alias and The X-Files without breaching the space-time continuum.

So now, until all those King of Queens and Andromeda episodes are bled off the old TiVo, we've got two of the infernal boxes in our living room.

Not to be outdone -- and with too much time on my hands -- I also ordered a new hard drive to add to the DirecTiVo, a trick that will allow me to store roughly a zillion hours of programming on the box. For those of you who have a hard time grasping how many hours that is, let me rephrase: I could probably fit almost, but not quite, every episode of Law & Order on there -- enough to get me from the days when Michael Moriarity and Richard Brooks were cross-examining perps to just before Elisabeth Rohm shows up to suck screen time away from Sam Waterston.

Not that I'll have time to watch any of them until 2019, when Jamie leaves home on her rocket scooter for her freshman year at the University of the Moon.

As if you haven't guessed, being parked in your living room with a newborn and a new TiVo can do strange things to a person. I spent the good part of an hour methodically setting the new TiVo to record every show we had previously set to record on the old TiVo. (Memo to TiVo: you should really provide an easier way to transfer a user's preferences when they buy a new box. Then again, I would've had to find another way to spend that time if you had.) One day, upon returning home from a rare foray into the outside world -- in this case, I went to the supermarket down the street to load up on supplies in my new role as father-provider -- to discover my wife, trapped under our sleeping child, surfing the TiVo.

Yes, she had called up a list of every single program in the TiVo's database -- essentially every series, movie, and special being shown on our 200-channel universe in the next 10 days -- and was going through them alphabetically, letting TiVo know if they were shows we liked (thumbs up!) or disliked (thumbs down!). This is a feature that allows TiVo to fill up its gargantuan hard drive with lots of shows and movies that it thinks you might like, when in reality it's sadly mistaken and you have no desire to see "Pete's Dragon" or "Moon over Parador" ever again.

There are a lot of shows in the TiVo database. When I poined out the apparent depth of my wife's boredom, she defended herself by explaining that she had only gotten through the first two letters of the alphabet, and so there were plenty more items on the TiVo for me to surf through in the future. I thanked her for her diligence in vastly improving our TiVo's intelligence, because now it knows exactly what we think of each and every show from A to B. Alias? Like it! Barney and Friends? No thanks, mon frere! "Color of Money?" Uh... reply hazy, ask again later.

Can any one human take advantage of all that a souped-up DirecTiVo has to offer? No. I'm pretty sure that two humans with a lot of time on their hands can't take full advantage of it either. But when you're sitting beneath a sleeping baby and you've got nine episodes of Get Smart and five of M*A*S*H to watch, you're thankful that you have something to do other than stare blankly at the wall.

Gotta go -- DirecTiVo wants to know what I think of Dark Angel and "Dante's Peak."


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