Answer Man

Getting basement TV to work may not be in the picture

Q. Any suggestions for an indoor TV antenna that would work in a basement about 30 miles from St. Louis? My husband and I know nothing about it.

— A.L., of Smithton

A. As I lamented to my boss the other day, sometimes I still long for the old days.

For example, a month before I started college in 1970, my dad thought he would do me a favor by picking up a very used 15-inch Sylvania black-and-white portable TV for $5 at an estate sale.

But after much thought, I declined the thoughtful gift because I didn’t want half the dorm parking themselves in my room to watch “The Mod Squad” or “Hawaii Five-O” every night. So my dad stuck it in our basement and popped on some cheap rabbit ears. It worked fine for 15 years.

Good luck trying that with today’s high-tech tellys. As soon as I mentioned your plight to a salesperson at Best Buy in Fairview Heights, he rolled his eyes and sighed. Even at the start of the analog-to-digital conversion back in 2009, the Federal Communications Commission warned consumers that digital signals were more finicky and that viewers might need new antennas to pull them in. With the old sets, a weaker analog signal often would give you a snowy, but watchable, picture; with digital, the screen just goes black.

Last year, I had a reader ask why she had lost reception of stations she had no trouble receiving before. While cycling past her house, I noticed that she had her outdoor antenna on the ground with the brick walls of her house blocking the incoming signals. I recommended moving it, and I now see it’s on her roof where no buildings or trees can impede signals. Your greater distance from St. Louis and the concrete walls of your basement only compound your problem.

If you simply want free, over-the-air TV, your best bet is an outdoor antenna, but this, of course, would require climbing up on your roof and running cable into your basement. This is what I have, and my TVs in the family room and basement work fine with only minor pixilation during the worst storms. Jeff Powell from Soundwaves in Millstadt did the work, using a graph of station signal direction to make sure my antenna was placed for optimal reception.

If you are going to try an indoor antenna, do not buy the rabbit-ears variety where you point the two “feelers” in various directions to pick up the best signal, the Best Buy guy advised me. Tuning in one station cleanly likely will mess up the others, so you’ll be on your feet frequently — if it works at all.

He urges you to ask for an amplified indoor antenna such as the TERK ThinTV1A. This not only provides continuous 360-degree reception without constantly adjusting “ears” but it also has a SmartBoost amplifier designed to strengthen weak signals. It’s no guarantee — especially in a basement, where it may not pick up weaker stations like a Channel 24 or 46 — but something like this is your best option. The TERK antenna is recommended by 73 percent of users; read the reviews at www.bestbuy.com (search for TERK).

Final tip: This TERK is $80, so be sure to save your receipt if you have to return it.

Q. A few weeks ago KSDK-TV announced that meteorologist Chester Lampkin was leaving, but he was there for a good while after that. Now he does seem to be gone. What’s going on?

— S.D., of Red Bud, J.L., of Collinsville, et al.

A. When Chester Lampkin made his latest career move, he didn’t fool around.

After spending much of his first 10 years of weather prognosticating in Missouri, Lampkin left KSDK for good on May 22 to move to Wellington, New Zealand. There on the other side of the world, he is now a broadcast meteorologist for MetService of New Zealand, which he describes as similar to our own National Weather Service.

He says he had mixed emotions about leaving his St. Louis home. A 1996 graduate of Parkway Central High School, he earned a bachelor’s in meteorology and history from St. Louis University in 2005 and later went back for a master’s degree in geography from the University of Missouri at Columbia. After stints as a morning meteorologist at KRCG-TV in Jefferson City, Mo., and KTSM-TV in El Paso, Texas, he returned to KRCG as its chief meteorologist before joining KSDK in March 2012.

Now, since arriving in “Welly” June 2, he is adjusting to a new way of life. “Trying to get used to walking on the left (side of the road). Ha.,” he jokingly tweeted shortly after his arrival. “Another reason to like Wellington: People use public transportation.” When someone asked when he would attempt driving on “the wrong side” of the road, he replied, “I’ll need a few weeks before I tackle that.”

You can find pictures of his new home on his frequent Twitter and Facebook posts. Meanwhile, he assures former viewers that he remembers them fondly. “Yikes!” he tweeted after learning of the Cardinals’ 11-3 loss Monday, followed Wednesday by “Big heat today in St. Louis. Try to keep cool everyone.”

To see a wacky parting shot with fellow KSDK staffers, find one of his May 23 tweets on Twitter. Keep scrolling under Chester Lampkin.

Today’s trivia

What did Thomas Jefferson once smuggle out of Italy to try to boost the American economy in the 1780s?

Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: In 1918, Eugene Debs was arrested for sedition after speaking out against the military draft of World War I. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Nevertheless, even while serving his time at the Atlanta (Ga.) Federal Penitentiary, the Socialist Party candidate received 900,000 write-in votes — 3.4 percent of the total cast — in the 1920 presidential election.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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