Cutting the cord – Why my family got rid of cable

Cutting The Cord Cable Boxes

“You want to do WHAT?!?! “

“Is that your way of saying you want a divorce?”

Cutting The Cord Cable Boxes

That was my reaction when it was first suggested to me that we cut the cord and get rid of cable. I was unemployed for 7 months and bills were starting to strangle us. We had to find some way to free up money and in my mind getting rid of TV wasn’t even a possibility. Funny how the world works as now I’m an advocate for “cutting the cord”.

This could be a lengthy post so I’m breaking it up into two. First the why you should cut the cord and then the tools that can help you decide if this is right for you.

Cutting out cable is NOT for everyone. I want to make that perfectly clear. I’ve been addicted to cable since our first box in the early 80s and thought it HAD to be in my life. What I learned when I stepped away from traditional cable was that I didn’t need it and fighting over the remote became a thing of the past. There are plenty of alternatives out there; this is based on my experience.

Are you ready to take the red pill, stay in Wonderland and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes?

Good. Let’s continue.

What are the main reasons you want to get rid of cable?

  • Save money
  • You hate The Man and want to stick it to him
  • 400 channels and nothing to watch
  • You have hope that there is a better experience out there.

That last one is what many of us want. We want a better experience. We want to have a say in what we pay for. When you think about it, we’re part to blame in this. No one has stood up to the big companies and said “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”.

There has only been one option for current TV and you just shut up and pay the money. You’re unhappy but too bad because that’s just the way things are. I’m here to tell you, not anymore.

How the cost breaks down

My average cable bundled bill was around $160/including equipment and whatever misc. fees they tacked on. Over the course of a year that is $1920. After the initial cost of equipment ($30 antenna, $35 streaming stick) cutting the cord costs me $90/mo. for Netflix/internet access/SlingTV. That’s $70/mo. in savings or $840/yr. I bumped up my Internet speed because I use it for live streaming of the podcast but you can expect similar savings.

What’s on the boob tube yo
There isn’t anything on TV you can’t watch online somewhere. Most major networks either have their shows streaming on their website the following day or have their shows on Hulu Plus. As an added bonus, there are award-winning shows being produced strictly for Amazon and Netflix. Your DVR is about to become obsolete.

If you’re a sports junkie this really isn’t a good decision… for now. The NBA has started to stream games (TNT is available on SlingTV) and I would expect the NHL, which embraces technology more than most leagues, to be next. I hope the MLB sees the potential here but local TV deals are too lucrative. Could you get their online service and connect to a VPN out of state? Sure, but it’s the MLB and they’ve done a good job of stopping it. There are ways around it so ask a networking friend on the how-to of it. If college sports are your thing, check with your favorite school to see if they have a digital package available.

ESPN and ESPN2 are streaming on a service I have called SlingTV which has eased the pain of disconnect. My current package consists of 25 channels (TNT, AMC, History Channel, TBS, Food Network, Cooking Channel, ABC Family to name a few), which covers everything we would want to watch.

Binge watching

What? Seriously. BINGE WATCHING! This is the practice of watching marathons of shows over the course of a short period of time and I didn’t think this was a real thing until it happened at home. Most times it’s with TV shows that have since ended and are available on Netflix. In my case, I’m catching up on a lot of TV that I missed while having little kids.

My wife started with getting sucked into the world of “Gilmore Girls” which turned into a 24/7 obsession that she could watch on TV and on her phone. I was consumed by “Arrested Development”, “Parks & Recreation”, “House of Cards” and most recently “Breaking Bad”. I would say to myself “Just one more…” and next thing I know it’s 4 hours later.

Growing pains

This is still a relatively new concept and there are problems. I have problems with over the air programming coming in clear in my living room but my bedroom is near flawless. You are at the mercy of your internet connection so check with your provider to see if there is a data cap.

Up next I’ll roll up the sleeves and talk about the hardware and services available.

Taco Bell’s Country AM Crunch Wrap

Taco Bell Country AM crunchwrap

I admit it, something on TV sucked me in.  It’s rare I see food advertised on TV and say “OMFG I NEED THIS IN MAH BELLY! NOM NOM NOM!” and this wasn’t one of those moments either. Instead, Taco Bell released a new commercial declaring war on McDonalds with “Breakfast Defectors“. The ad isn’t over the top food shots (in fact you never see the actual food until the end) but is a jab at another giant. No “OOHHH MY CHEESE IS SO GOOOOEEEYYY HAWT AND GOOD YUUMMMM!” but break away from the same old boring breakfast you grew up with. Curiosity got the best of me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuap4wIGSLg
(View on YouTube)

Fast food breakfast isn’t something I frequent but there have been mornings when I’m rushing to get the kids out of the house for school and I don’t have time for breakfast. Zip it those of you without kids, it happens. Deal with it.

McDonalds is the most convenient with my route but their breakfast is boring. I’ve hit up Chick-Fil-A and love the breakfast burrito but it’s a significant time suck to get there. Wendy’s, Subway and the others aren’t even on the map of my route but Taco Bell is. Honestly I forgot they had breakfast and figured the ad campaign with the old men complaining was an experiment they gave up on. Taco Bell rebooted the breakfast image and it is good.

I’m someone who doesn’t like the uneasiness of ordering from an unfamiliar menu and pressure of holding up the drive-thru so I ventured inside to ease into my purchase. “Ah there we go, the funny shaped breakfast thinger I’ve seen on TV.” I decided on the California AM Crunch Wrap but when I pulled into work I discover the Country AM Crunch Wrap in my bag. I check the receipt and sure enough, Country. UGH. Swore I said California.

Taco Bell Country AM crunchwrap Meal Taco Bell Country AM crunchwrap

Take a moment and click the images above.

Yeah buddy, that’s a little giddy-up right there. It’s everything I love about breakfast stacked on top of each other. Cheese-Eggs-Sausage-Hashbrown or as Taco Bell likes to describe it “A warm flour tortilla with a golden crispy potato hash brown, fluffy scrambled eggs, a delicious sausage patty, real cheddar cheese and warm country gravy, wrapped up and grilled to go.” but is it really?

  • A warm flour tortilla – It wasn’t like “blanket fresh out of the dryer” warm but close.
  • golden crispy potato hash brown – I don’t know what the crack is they put in their hash browns but it should be illegal. Today was my first time eating one and it’s a step above others.
  • fluffy scrambled eggs – can’t have fluffy when it’s crammed in a package like this but it didn’t taste like the instant egg mix the lunch ladies served us in catholic school.
  • delicious sausage patty – I wouldn’t go as far as to say delicious but it wasn’t bad.
  • real cheddar cheese – it’s much better than fake cheddar cheese
  • warm country gravy – WHAT! IT’S SUPPOSED TO HAVE GRAVY? I feel cheated. So so cheated.
  • wrapped up and grilled to go – Easiest breakfast on the go available. Obviously I cut mine at my desk but you could eat this on the run with no problem.

For you health nuts, here are the nutritional facts. Knowing what was in it made the rest of my day easy to plan with MyFitnessPal so I could eat this guilt free. For the record, my lunch was raw vegetables and an apple. See, life balance 🙂

Country AM crunchwrap Nutrition Facts

Was THIS one worth it? Maybe if it had the gravy but that California one, I have you in my sight big guy. Will I go back there for breakfast? It was a much better experience than I had in my head going there.

 

pew pew pew – getting smoked at Laser Tag

When Lazer Tag came out in 1986 I was a HUGE fan boy. I had the helmet, vest, multiple guns, basically anything with Lazer etched on it had to be mine. Then there was the poor man’s Lazer Tag known as Photon which I don’t know wtf was up with that one. It was the 80s though and merchandising was king. Lazer Tag was cool and futuristic while Photon was more stuck in what the 70s thought the future would be. At least that’s how I remember it. Cut me some slack, I was 10.


(Watch Lazer Tag commercial on YouTube)

Last weekend I was invited to rekindle my obsession with a trip north to McKnight Rd to Laser Storm for a 2 game winner-take-all-battle-royale-to-the-death match with Mike Sorg and members of the Sorgatron Media family. Picture it, 5 grown men in their 30’s playing a game from the 80’s and whose physical activity for the year is beer league softball. At least that’s how I went into it thinking, I would come out a changed man.

Going in for the first time there is a lot to absorb so I’ll break it down easy for you

  • 2 teams
  • 10 minutes of play
  • Capture the Flag play of red vs green and you need to get more points by shooting the other team while trying to access their base and shoot the target for extra points.
  • You wear a vest and headset plus you get a phaser.
  • You can only get hit twice before you have to go to a charging station and reload.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. First game I had no clue what I was doing. I’m terrible playing 1st person shooter games and along with the hearty mix of thumping techno music plus being in new surroundings, I don’t think many of us knew what to do. You don’t realize the workout you’re getting until the end when you come out a ball of sweat but whooooa buddy let me tell you, that was fun. Below is my score sheet.

Laser Storm Scorecard

There were 2 birthday parties going on while we were there and they proved to be a much needed break while we came up with a game plan against the Red team. Before the next round kicked off and players were called to the starting line, there was a change of plans. A family of young kids and teenagers on dates joined in. D’OH! Our well laid out plan of going in guns blazing were crushed as most of us tripped over kids in the dark or got held up as they would suck up the energizing stations.

Laser Storm Scorecard

I was as good as dead. Red team had time to get situated and every move I made from a charging station got me tagged.

At the end of our hour we were beat but wanted more. As I was catching my breath I noticed around the waiting area there were banners hanging up from championship titles won in their adult leagues. It wasn’t long before we decided we must do this again and with the packages available, could plan for an incredible evening.

Yinz Team Laser Tag. Oh it’s coming…

Gone Baby Gone

For the first time in 6 years there isn’t a crib in our house and it’s pretty freaky.

crib

This crib has been a staple in our house for so long that I barely remember life without it. When we bought the crib we made sure to get one that also converted into a daybed which is how it ended up. Teaspoon graduated to his own bed at 18months shortly before Cheeseburger was born and then Cheese stayed in the crib/daybed until this past week when we decided it was time to upgrade. Now Teaspoon has a new futon for his little pimp palace and Cheeseburger gets the single bed. Poor dude has a lifetime of hand-me-downs coming.

If you know anyone looking for a crib we have all of the pieces (i think) and it’s a pretty sturdy piece of craftsmanship. What you’ll get with this model that you can’t find in Babies-R-Us is the artistic design of multiple teeth marks from both kids trying to gnaw their way out.

Here’s a quick flashback to when we bought it in 2009.

My wife teared up when I took it apart while my thoughts were more along the lines of “Thank GOD I don’t have to put this back together again.”

 

 

Surviving Pittsburgh’s St Patrick’s Day 2015

I can’t recall too many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Pittsburgh. Not because I may have been up to my waist in green beer but it’s not something I ever celebrated unless my family was in town. My dad would give me the “get your ass down here and have a cigar with me!” call and who can say no to those kind of demands?

Steel City Time Machine

Last year was the first time I flew solo and that ended… well it was a freaking blast! I knew I wouldn’t be able to relive the adventures of a single dad on the town but I was hoping to experience the parade with my boys. Mother nature put the kybosh to those plans with the rain but what did happen made up for it in so many ways.

Lunch with Pho-Friends
Mario, my childhood altar boy partner in crime and his wife Jennifer were in town for the Maroon 5 concert. Since we had the kids and taking them to bars is frowned upon apparently, we met up at my favorite place in the Strip District to eat – Vietnam’s Pho. I had the Pho Dat Biet (Beef eye round, well done flank, tendon, brisket, beef tripe & beef balls noodle soup) which was once again soul warming and everyone else had… ummmm pho probably. I was too busy with my bowl.

Mario and I haven’t seen each other in over a year so this was a much needed reunion to get caught up. Little did I know we would need more time and the adventure wasn’t over.

The South Side Shite Show Spectacular
I dropped the family off and headed back down to Mario’s hotel to pick them up and shuttle them over to the South Side to visit one of his cousins. If you’ve never driven in Pittsburgh before, this is NOT the weekend to learn. I insisted on driving them over and it was a good decision, people were fall down face in the gutter drunk and all regards for rules of the road were out the window.

I have lived in Pittsburgh for 17 years and this was the very first time I’ve been on the South Side for St Patrick’s Day weekend. Most call it amateur drinking day and I can see why from the college kids barely holding each other up at 4pm to the dude passed out in a shopping cart. This is a 100% people watching spectacular and I suggest checking it out at least once in your lifetime. Yeah you might be all hoity toity grown up now but you know what, these people were having fun so take time off from yelling at people to get off your lawn, pull up a chair and watch the magic.

I will give the local police credit, they had a really strong presence and no one seemed to reach the level of belligerent. No one touched my car so I say that’s a win also.

Mario and crew invited me out to dinner at Nakama which was a few blocks away. That’s right, I’m getting Pho and Nakama in the same day. I like where this is going! At dinner Mario served me a spirit I sadly admit I tried for the first time that evening. It was warm sake and it was freaking gooood. In all of my travels to far away lands in search of great beer, I have never tried sake. In fact Mario is the first of my friends to drink it that I’m aware of and let me tell ya, wooooooooo buddy I want a sake set.

  Nakama Cooking

We continued our conversation from lunch over a few drinks and I took a second to think about how far the 2 of us had come from our days of tormenting our teachers since Kindergarten. How many obstacles we’ve overcome to get to this point and how special our friendship is. Then I had a sake burp and we both forgot WTF we were talking about. In fact I probably just made all of that up. I was too busy watching the chef at the table next to us try to set a drunk girl’s green wig on fire.

Green Beer. Green Jello Shots. Green People.
After the South Side I headed home and dropped my car off. Thinking this could be the end of my night I started chilling beers when my buddy Eamon made the call for a night cap at a local bar within walking distance. I’m still in DAS BOOT so it didn’t matter the distance, I was hobbling there.

Green Jello ShotsI have always said that there is a time and place for every beer and this night I had no problem with pitchers of green Yuengling. Not long after we arrived, we were joined by my friends Dudders and Ginger who were wrapping up their night as well. The night was about good times with good friends and being thankful for having awesome people in my life.

The DJ started playing videos on the in-house system around 11pm and we watched in amazement at the ridiculous videos that are apparently still being made. Who on earth approved these and how can I get in on the action? Don’t ask me what the songs were because I have no idea (some hippity hoppity gangsta rap songs about derrieres) but they’re big with the dance clubs and the old dude with silver hair at the bar trying to twerk anyone with a pulse.

2 years in a row I went into the day without a plan and it turned out amazing. The old project manager in me usually needs to know what’s going on at all times so to just wing it was a new and relaxing experience.