Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Throwback Jam of the Every-So-Often

So today at work I'm listening to my iPod and the following song came on, sending me into way-back mode, tempting me to sing at the top of my lungs in my office (not a good idea for my own job security).  And it has prompted a soon-to-be running gimmick on the blog, but I won't do it daily or probably at any set interval, so I'll call it the "Throwback Jam of the Every-So-Often."

First up, "Lately" by Jodeci.  Yes, this song prompted me to buy the MTV Uptown Unplugged live album in 1993 - I still have it.  And yes, Jodeci's rendition made me remark, "This version sucks," upon hearing the original by Stevie Wonder.  I've since come around on Stevie's version, but only Jodeci's live version gets five stars on my iPod.  Without further adieu:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

(Just Past) Mid-Week Musings

During holiday weeks, our yard waste and garbage services run a day late. If they can do it, I can do it. Thus the Thursday holiday week edition of Mid-Week Musings.

-- Since this blog is ostensibly about our lives without cable, I will start there as usual. Problem is, there's nothing to talk about -- aside from having a minus $1.80 cable bill this month, we don't even think about it.  Well, except for one thing...the NHL on Versus.  So, last night the Danimal and I watched the 2nd & 3rd periods of the Blackhawks-Flyers game at local bar The Brooksider, had some nachos (me!!!) and salad (Dan) and some Boulevard Pale Ale (both).  Having the excuse to do that is probably worth canceling cable alone.

-- For Memorial Day weekend Amber and I went to visit her family in Lebanon, IL.  We took some senior pictures for Amber's cousin Tori, which turned out very well. (Results coming soon on Amber's blog.)  And we had a 60th wedding anniversary/reunion party on Sunday for Amber's grandparents.  Holy crap 60 years is a long time.  I am stealing the picture below from Amber's 365 day blog, which shows the legacy of Mollie and Hoover (pictured middle - and probably the only two people one might guess could have been married 60 years)...quite impressive.  The place was like a day-care center...and, while I was holding baby niece Mikayla, one of Amber's relatives walked by and said, "That's a good look for you."  Gotta love the subtle pressure.

-- I've noticed that I use a lot of contractions when writing blog posts.  I don't use contractions in any other form of writing.  Nothing to add here, just sayin'.

-- Tuesday night Amber and I met up with two of my friends from high school in Alaska, Amy and Cindy, along with Cindy's husband Joel, their new baby Roman, and the Danimal.  Amy lives in D.C. and is in town for a conference on international education -- she friended me on Facebook last week and noticed I lived in Kansas City, where she happened to be coming for a week.  Random.  And Cindy lives in nearby Lawrence and just had her baby a couple days prior.  I hadn't seen Amy in 14 years and Cindy in probably 10-11 years, but we had a blast.  Below is another picture I've stolen from Amber's blog.  And if you're thinking, "that looks like the same shirt Mike was wearing on Sunday to the reunion shindig," well, that's because it is the same shirt.  Don't judge me, we did laundry on Monday.

 -- Finally, I am very happy to get the Sam Correa seal of approval on my pullup tower.  So far it has been up to the task.  Dan and I have been going at the P90X for almost two weeks now, and the hardest thing we have to do is definitely....Yoga.  WTF.  'Till next time...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mid-Week Musings

Is it already Wednesday again?  Funny how the work week seems to go so slowly, but time flies for the rest of life.

--  Cable-free living continues to be a breeze.  I am surprised by how easy the transition has been.  The only time we wished we had cable was for the Blackhawks game last Friday, so we ended up going to a bar and sipping Belgians and IPAs while watching the game.  I really can't say that's a bad thing.  We did find ourselves watching the last 20 minutes of "24" the other night, just to have something on TV.  This prompted Amber to ask, "Isn't this the reason we got rid of cable?"  Fair point, but at least we are wasting time for free now.

--  Last Saturday we went on a float trip on the mighty Niangua River in mid-Missouri.  We stayed at Jared & Cara's cabin (aka Cara's parents' cabin), and had a really great time.  The only downside was that Amber and I came back with red bug bites all over us -- chiggers.  I'm not sure how prevalent chiggers are throughout the rest of the country, but I do not recall being blessed with their presence - at least this frequently - until I moved to Missouri.  If you don't know anything about chiggers, read about them here.  There is nothing good about them, from their name to their look to the red bumps and welts they leave to the severe itchiness of those bumps and welts.  Sunday night I could hardly sleep because I was so itchy; since then Amber and I -- Itchy & Scratchy -- have constantly bathed ourselves in Benadryl.  Hopefully we will stop itching one of these days.

--  So Dan and I started P90X.  As promised last week, I have posted a picture of our pullup tower monstrosity below.  Amber is dealing with it admirably.  I've got a feeling my old boss (as in, used to be my boss, not that he is "old") Greg would be proud of the tower.  Long ago (almost 10 years ago now!) Greg introduced me to the lunch-time basketball and bench press schedule...really the ideal way to break up a work day.  Greg would also be proud to know that I have continued the bench press program which he introduced me to, aptly dubbed "The Program" and have added probably 5-10 converts along the way.

--  Finally, I mentioned Greg, and he is doing a 365 day blog like Amber.  Even if you don't know him, check out his blog here.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mid-Week Musings

Another Wednesday, another gimmick post.

>> We got our Time Warner bill for June. It was for negative $1.80. Much less than expected, clearly, and $139.83 less than last month. I highly doubt that TWC will be crediting me money every month, but I won't complain about this month.

>> So we have been over two weeks without cable and I can say I don't miss it a bit. Turns out this is quite easy with all of the available substitutes.

>> My brother Dan is living with us this summer as he interns at a local golf course. He is a turfgrass management major at Nebraska. To change up our workout routine we are giving P90X a try. To do so we are building a pullup tower for the basement. It is going to be a beast. Amber will not love it...doesn't quite fit her decorating style. Pictures to come.

>> Working on our wooden pullup monster allows me to get my Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor on a little bit, but I have no real idea what I'm doing or if this will even support our weight. Someone who does know what he is doing is my best friend Vince's brother Sam. I was thinking of Sam today because I am certain he could build something Amber would be proud to have in our basement instead of something she can't wait to use for our own backyard Burning Man. In any event, Sam is an amazingly talented woodworker and runs a one-man shop in Tucson. If you are in the market for some fine furniture, or know someone who is, or just want to be impressed, check out Sam's website (www.correawoodworks.com) and blog (correawoodworks.wordpress.com), which he updates regularly. And Sam and I share the same birthday, so that probably means something or other.

And here's a picture of Dan and Sam from Vince and Kara's wedding:

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

ESPN3 and Dog Math

The beauty of Time Warner is never-ending. Turns out that ESPN has something called espn3.com where they stream live sports, including baseball and the NBA. It's free. Sounds like a good way for me to see at least some of the live games I have missed. BUT...you can only get it if your internet provider is a "participating" provider. The list of these providers is pretty extensive. As you might guess, TW is not on the list. Of course not.

We did purchase an antenna for our upstairs TV today, so that's an additional $14 spent because of our cable cancellation. That brings the total to $42, well worth the one-time investment for network channels in HD. Dan moved in with us today for the summer (see Amber's 365 day blog), and we watched the Blackhawks game and the Celtics-Magic game on the TV, and the Cubs game on our computer at the same time. As Borat might say, "I like!!!"

So I will explain the picture below, which is typical around our house. We get rawhides for the dogs now and then, usually when we want to keep them occupied for a bit. Two dogs, two rawhides. If you always hated math, let me explain it to you (I was a math minor) -- that's one rawhide per dog. So we give one to Neko and Dora, then they run into the living room with them. They drop the rawhides (which we call cigars, because they carry the rawhides sticking straight out of their mouths, like cigars), Dora inspects both and then picks the one she likes. She chews. Neko decides she wants the one that Dora has, but she is not assertive enough to take it. So she lays there. And pouts. The other cigar is not good enough for Neko, apparently, because Dora doesn't want it. And the other cigar just sits there until Dora finishes the first, then moves on to the second, which Neko now wants but can't have because Dora grabbed it. So she lays there. And pouts. So the final tally: Dora 2 cigars, Neko 0.

They are also weird about their food. Again, two dogs, two dog bowls. So they do what makes sense...they both eat out of one, at the same time, and when that bowl is done they both move to the other. Maybe Amber and I should try this at a restaurant...sit on the same side of the table, eat one meal, then move on to the other side and eat the other meal. I might like that, but much like Neko I think Amber would be forced to sit there and pout. Oh well.

Here is a classic Neko-Dora-cigar scenario in our house:

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mid-Week Musings

It has been a little while since my last post and I'm lacking inspirado. So, I need a gimmick, preferably with an alliterative name, to post random thoughts in a short, bullet-point style. Alas, I give you Mike's Mid-Week Musings.

>> Since this blog started and ostensibly remains about our venture through life without cable, I will first report that our life hasn't changed at all. Not missing it, not really even too bummed about missing the NBA playoffs on TNT as I can follow games online. Other than that, Netflix, MLB TV, network stations through an antenna, and the internet are more than adequate.

>> In the comments, Vince questioned my NFL-watching commitment, which is not-so-subtly questioning my commitment to our juggernaut fantasy football team, The Knats. As to football, I still get CBS, FOX, and NBC, so I'll only miss Monday night games on ESPN, which I rarely watched as it was. And Time Warner doesn't get the NFL Network, so I don't get those Thursday games anyway. Plus, it's a good excuse to go to the Brooksider for wingy and nach on Sundays. As for our team, c'mon man, my Knats shirt says it all.

>> "I still owe money to the money to the money I owe." -The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio." Hmm, I couldn't have said it any better. Sounds like singer Matt Berninger went to law school. Who knew? (He didn't.) And the new album, High Violet, is very good.

>> One of the things I do love about living in the Midwest is the huge thunderstorms that come through. This afternoon we had one such storm, with rain so hard you could barely see and constant thunder and lightning all around. I love it. My dogs, not so much. It's not the thunder and lightning; that doesn't bother them. It's going out in the rain to potty that they hate. I can't blame them, really...I would hate to go stand in the yard and pee during a torrential downpour. Anyway, it's always the same thing. Even though they've been in a crate all day and need to go, neither wants to go out. I try yelling, try being nice, try tricking them, and eventually I get them out the back door. Neko starts to go to the grass, but feels the rain and turns back to the door. Since she would rather endure the rain than disappoint me (or deal with my wrath), she reconsiders and goes out to the grass to get the job done. Meanwhile, Dora cowers at the back door, under the tiny awning, and refuses to go out into the rain. Won't budge. Even though it's raining so hard that the awning is not preventing her from getting soaked. So Neko comes back in, having done the job, and Dora remains sitting there. I know what she's thinking -- "If I have to go out there, so do you." And, inevitably, that's what happens. So I pick her up, run out into the grass, and set her down, and only then will she pee. And so it went this evening after work, and how I came to find myself in my work clothes, standing in our yard, drenched from head to toe, with Dora laughing at me.

So much for the short bullet points I have some more thoughts, but this is enough for one night. And since she is the star of the show, here is a picture that Amber took of Dora, which you can also see on Amber's 365 day blog.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Three Days Down

A brief report on our first three cable-less nights, but first some dollars and cents: I called Time Warner Cable (hereinafter “TWC” – oops, sorry…wrote this part at work) on Monday to inform them I wanted to drop my cable. The kind TWC lady said no problem, that’ll be 75 bucks. Of course. But I'm fortunate, she explained, that’s a reduced cancellation rate – down from $250!!! – because I’m keeping my cable internet. Uh, but I never agreed to a contract with TWC? Oh, think again – turns out I am on a five year contract, with a 30-day only opt-out at the end of November. (A five year contrct? Don't I have to sign something for that? Or get in writing at least? Any lawyer readers?) Can I get a copy of that contract I supposedly entered? Sure, she said, that’ll be three to four weeks. When I get charged I will, of course, dispute the fee. But for now, I guess this $75 goes into the “expenses incurred” column (versus the “expenses saved” column) in the Cable Cancellation Monetary Ramifications ledger.

But…good news the next day! When I canceled the cable tv, the cost of cable internet was supposed to go up to $53/month. On Tuesday when I returned the cable box to TWC, the clerk – a mid-20s surfer type, and apparently unaware that he was not supposed to be offering me money-saving incentives when I was already reducing my pecuniary contribution to TWC – informed me that he was able to reduce my monthly internet bill to $35/month by doubling my bandwidth. Umm…deal. So, instead of roughly $135/month, we will be dishing over about $35/month to TWC.

Early blog feedback tells me there are three types of reactions to our little experiment: Group 1 - What's the big deal, it's only cable; Group 2 - Tempting idea, but I couldn't live without [fill in show]; and Group 3 - You're f-ing crazy. I was probably somewhere between Groups 2 and 3, say 2.5, Amber was probably between Groups 1 and 2, right about 1.75. And after three nights, I can safely say that we have yet to miss much about cable.

One of the ways that we are filling in for cable is Netflix. For $8.99 a month (starting next month - the first month is a free "trial" month), we get one disc by mail and streaming movies and tv shows to any of our two computers, PS3, Wii, or iPad. Now, the $8.99 a month is an added cost, so that brings us to about $44/month, still a far cry from $135. On Tuesday we received season 1, disc 1 of Breaking Bad in the mail and watched two episodes that night, one tonight. Heard only good things about the show, and I can see that I will like it, but it is disturbing. In a good way. (Huh?)

Another way we can fill in for cable is watching network shows live -- we bought a modernized rabbit ears antenna (added one time cost - $28) and receive all of the network stations in crystal clear HD, plus some random bonus stations (hello, Telemundo, KC public access, and "Ion," whatever the hell that is) that will never be flipped to again. Or, we could simply wait a day and watch any network shows that we like streaming through our computers or iPad. So last night we caught up on Lost lying in bed on the iPad.

I can say the only thing I do miss is the NBA playoffs on TNT and ESPN. No way to make up for those live sporting events. Although...I am able to catch every Cubs game through MLB TV, and I can stream them through any computer, my PS3, my iPhone (perfect for day games at work), or my iPad. And not an added expense since I bought MLB TV before canceling cable and would have gotten it anyway. Interestingly enough, TWC charges $200 for the same thing (MLB Extra Innings) vs. $100 through MLB.

For anyone thinking of trying this, I would advise you not to do it if you hate talking to your husband/wife. Luckily for me, I am in the opposite camp, and Amber and I have had three enjoyable evenings. We have eaten dinner outside each of the last three nights, instead of in front of the TV with the least worst show on, and we have been out walking around with our dogs and enjoying the nice weather we've had. Well, it helps that the Cubs were down 11-0 by the time I checked the score tonight, so I didn't even want to turn it on. In any event...I can already see that we spend more time actively enjoying evenings after work rather than parking it on the couch for a few hours before bed. I think I can get used to this.

And since Amber says that every blog post is better with a picture, here is one she took tonight on our walk, of a duck-ride thingy at a neighborhood park.