Cutting the cord

Posted on Jan 18, 2016 in General | 5 comments

We did it. I just dropped off our Comcast equipment and I hope to never have another cable box again.

The combination of Netflix and Amazon Prime (services we’ve always had so they were a sunk cost) have slowly grow to eat up pretty much all of our time in front of the television. A week ago I went into the Comcast store to see what our options were, came home, made a spreadsheet (duh!) and it was clear that getting rid of cable television was the answer. Today I went back in to finalize the deal and we’re going to be saving about $1000 per year.

There are some new costs we’ll incur, but they’re nominal.

  • We had to add a tuner to the Xbox One for $50.
  • We had to get situated with an HD antenna for $40. The third time was the charm here as the tuner came with a small one that would only suffice if you lived next to the towers and the  unpowered antenna we bought to replace it wasn’t good enough (25-mile stated range, we’re six from the towers – odd).
  • We will have to buy Game of Thrones seasons for $38 a year.
  • We will have to buy Outlander seasons for $40 a year.

The tuner is sweet because it has a 30-minute pause function. We’ve never had a DVR so this is an improvement for less money.

The antenna isn’t perfect. The signal can be finicky (especially when the weather is typical Portland winter) so you need to mess with it now and then. If we could come up with a solution to put it in the windows facing the towers I’m sure we’d have no problems at all, but instead it’s on the opposite side of the house so we’ll have to deal with it. I’m making it out to be a lot more significant than it is… It’s truly hardly an issue. One bonus is that the reception is uncompressed. If you’re a video geek like me, you probably cringe at the compression that’s visible (NFL games seem to be the most obvious). The image is not only free, but better than what you can pay for. We get about 50 channels – all the basic network stuff, PBS, a few networks that might as well be Nick At Night (Heather is gobbling them up), some Latin flavor, and a lot of Bible thumping.

With both shows we plan to purchase there are cheaper options to buying on iTunes, but we’ll cross the cost/benefit/legality bridge when we get there.

The only thing we really miss out on is brainless time spent watching Food Network, Discovery Channel, History, etc., but there are so many offerings on Netflix and Prime we’ve not considered that I’m sure we’ll be alright.

Coupled with our refinance last month, we’re looking at a stupid amount of money saved per month. All the better to pay for the new roof that is just finishing up!

Two months

Posted on Jan 17, 2016 in General | 0 comments

Same old. The cold is becoming more palatable, but I’m still not really riding outside because the sun and cold can permanently affect scar pigmentation during this period. Would rather stay on the safe side. Zero pain anymore, but not really feeling anything in the wound area so it feels like I have something on my lip at all times.

You know that annoying center piece of skin on your lip that always seems to peel separately and is really thick and annoying? That damned thing peels off like four times a week. I guess healing business?

I got my teeth fixed. They look 100x better. Even the dentist agreed. Can still see the seam on the big front one, but he smoothed it out a bit and added a lot of material to the smaller tooth so it looks way better. Very happy. I chose to not have the local anesthetic and that turned out to be a really good move – needle pain/that feeling that they’re going to pierce through > whatever “pain” was supposed to be involved with this procedure.

I realized the skin of the scar is really smooth and that’s why it was showing up so much in photos. Took today’s without a flash and it’s much more indicative of reality.

Next update in a month. I’ll be quitting the scar gel at that time too.

How to fix a Roomba that won’t dock

Posted on Jan 17, 2016 in General | 1 comment

We love our Roomba. It isn’t perfect (it can miss stuff), but it tries so damned hard (by running every day) that it is a godsend. Unfortunately, they’re not known for their longevity and a typical repair costs the same as a new one (not cheap). Last week our unit decided to stop docking. I did some Googling, pulled the dock apart, tested some voltages, but no luck. I was afraid we were looking at a Roomba that couldn’t be scheduled (kind of 50% of its value) or the cost of a new one (I probably wouldn’t buy another one). I then happened across a user’s forum and asked for help. I had reviewed their FAQ and a bunch of other topics, but for some reason the answer wasn’t easily available, but it was an easy one. I’m hereby documenting this for Google and others facing the same plight.

The Roomba has a charging port that can be used in lieu of the dock. In the port, there is an open loop that is closed when the charger is plugged in. When that loop is closed, the Roomba will not dock because, well, it thinks it is already charging and I’m sure the hardware can’t support a charge coming from two places at once. Dust can cause that loop to close, tricking the unit into not wanting to dock. Some carefully placed blasts of compressed air later (I actually just used my lungs because I’m a beast) and our Roomba is back in business.

This port

Bring back some NES memories and BLOW ON IT.

Eating better

Posted on Jan 10, 2016 in Food, General, Improvements | 2 comments

IMG_1559We already ate pretty darned well – hard not to in Portland where everything is about organic and local, and we live down the block from Whole Foods. We don’t do many processed foods and don’t eat too many calories, but I’ve always felt we could stand to put more fresh stuff into our bodies. I didn’t want to change diet in the middle of racing season or around the holidays so I gathered plans and equipment over December and got to it at the turn of the year.

I tried juicing many years ago, but this was when I didn’t have a dishwasher and I grew tired of all the cleaning. I sold that juicer, but had the exact same model on my wish list and received it for Christmas. We’re only a week into the year, but I’ve juiced about a half dozen times. I’ve tried a few recipes, but keep falling back to the first one I made via a random Googling – kale, cucumber, granny smith apples, celery, and lemon. In fact, I’m downing one right now. I threw in some ginger we had sitting around for a little extra bite. Produce isn’t too cheap, but if you watch for what’s on sale you can easily fill a grocery bag for less than you can with regular foodstuffs. Sure, the caloric content of that bag is probably a lot less, but the nutritional value is probably a lot more. Despite the lack of calories, juice seems to satiate my appetite really well. I typically get serious calorie cravings after rides or before dinner, but I’m not now. I’m almost always downing the juice as I make it due to oxidation, but have had good results storing it overnight in a sealed container. Heather isn’t a huge fan of veggie juicing so this undertaking has been mostly about me. I do hope I can get some more fruit-based juices churned out for her as fruits come into season.

On a fishing trip this year I “camped” (~60ft fifth wheel camper) with a friend who was doing a cleanse. He was getting most of his calories via spiralized vegetables. Intrigued, I looked into it, found spiralizers are dirt cheap (plan to spend $20-30 unless you find one of sale [same one linked] like we did for $15). We also picked up a book with some recipes and have been making all sorts of noodle and rice dishes out of veggies. The first two we tried were some of the best food we’d ever had (sweet potato carbonara and turnip pasta). The third, not so much, but not everything can be a win. A bonus is that this isn’t diehard vegetarian stuff; our recipe book includes meat in most of the meals. There can be some significant prep work (I had to sliver two cups of brussels sprouts for one of the recipes), but overall good stuff.

To top those two off, I’ve emptied our fridge of beer. Not quitting alcohol by any means, but will focus on wine a bit more. 

We waited until the first of the year to get going on this better diet and in those ten days I’ve dropped two pounds and feel like I have a whole lot more energy. An added bonus is that we’ve eaten out a lot less so we’re saving money. A lot more work for sure, but it’s pretty darned gratifying to see a constant stream of fresh foods come into the house and disappear.

Week 6 (+1 day)

Posted on Jan 4, 2016 in General | 0 comments

Nothing new, but want to keep the progress pics going. Scheduled an appointment with the dentist to better fix my teeth next week. Hurray for more needles! I look far more normal than the close-up would lead you to believe – not too many get macro all up on my face. Next update in two weeks and then I’ll likely go monthly.

That weather!

Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in General | 4 comments

IMG_1548

If you haven’t been keeping up with our weather, it rained the first 29 days of December. It wasn’t typical Portland light rain either, we had some real precipitation come down. It was kind of awesome, it ended just before making it the full month, and since then it’s been horrifically cold (below freezing!) and windy. This morning, we even woke up to snow. Just another excuse to spend a day bingeing on Netflix (or Amazon Video – we finished our blast-through of Man in the High Castle last night and loved it). Thanks, Obama.

New ‘puter

Posted on Jan 2, 2016 in General, Tech | 2 comments

imac-5k-config-hero-201505Went out to “buy apples” this morning and returned home with a new 27″ iMac. Needless to say, Heather was pretty shocked.

I’ve always relied on whatever work has supplied me and it has sufficed, but I’ve never been able to be perfectly happy with whatever solution it was – hard drive too small, graphics card too crappy, monitor getting long in the tooth, etc. No more.

We’ve now got a blazing fast machine with an amazing screen and plenty of storage. Once I couple it with some cloud backup, we’ll be set for quite a few years. An added bonus is that this thing has a single wire. My desk is greatly decluttered – no monitor cable and power, no external speakers (the built-ins will win no awards, but they may prove good enough).

I bought the top-of-the-line prebuilt machine. Anything else would have had a wait time and it’s really difficult to pay the premium that Apple attaches to any sort of custom upgrade. I’ll likely toss in another 8GB RAM at some point, but I’ve yet to see any compelling data saying that I must do it now even though it’ll only run $40 (versus the $200 Apple would have charged).

Happy splurging New Year to us!