Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cutting the cord

I was an early adopter for satellite TV. I got fed up with Charter in 1995 or 96 and signed up with DirecTV/USSB. The receiver cost around $500 but it was worth it to not have to deal with cable anymore. I stayed with them for quite a while.
In 2004, I wanted to get a DVR so I called DirecTV to see what it would cost to upgrade. I didn't like the deal they offered so I checked with Dish Network and they offered me a better deal. When I called DirecTV to cancel, all of a sudden they had a better deal available. I told them "Too late."
Over the years the prices crept up. When I got a HD TV I added the HD package. I also upgraded to the top 250 package to get Versus (to watch the Tour de France). Eventually I was paying $87/month, without any premium movie channels. I cut back to the Top 120 for $51. I then found out that it didn't include Fox Sports Midwest so i added it back for an extra $5.
$56/month still seemed like too much so I started looking around for options. Dish did not have a better deal available. U-verse is not available in my area. Cable still seems to be more expensive than satellite. DirecTV wanted to mess around with a 2 year commitment that was cheap the first year and whatever they felt like charging for the second year.
I was starting to get frustrated that I would not find a cheaper option. Then I talked to someone who did not have cable or satellite and just had Netflix. After looking into it I decided to switch.
My wife does not watch much TV so she did not have an opinion. My kids were concerned about the shows that they wouldn't be able to watch any more, but they were sold once the saw all the things that they could watch. My 11 year old was nostalgic about watching Rugrats again.
The sticking point for me was watching the Rams. Now that I've watched football using a DVR, I can't go back to watching it live. I can get all of the local stations using a cheap antenna so that's not an issue. And I discovered that I have everything that I need to use my computer as a DVR. It came with a tuner card, and I can use my XBox the show it on my TV via Windows Media Center.
Baseball will be an issue next year, but I am hopeful that there will be a solution. I will detail the issues in a future post.
I officially canceled Dish Network on Sept 5. Of course, all of a sudden they had a new deal available. They same package I had but for $36 instead of $56. If they had offered that when I had first asked, they probably could have kept me as a customer. Of course, by then it was too late. I was quite happy to be able to turn them down.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zap and Me

Even before we got married, Helen let me know that she wanted a cat and I let her know that I didn't like cats. Eventually I relented and in 1992, after we had been married for about 4 years, I told her that she could get a cat for her birthday.

Helen wanted a playful cat so she picked out the most active cat from the shelter, a female gray tabby kitten. I picked out her name: Zap. Little did Helen realized what getting a playful kitten meant. Zap had very strong instincts. She would stalk Helen, then run up behind her and pounce, bite, and run away.

I always thought that cats were independent and Zap was no exception. But Zap was also a loving cat. Unfortunately she sometimes seemed to love me more than Helen. Zap would lay on my lap and look over at Helen as if to say "I've got your man." Zap's idea of the pecking order was me at the top, then Zap, and the Helen as the number 2 wife. I think that Zap was willing to accept my dominance because I once bit her (not hard) on the back of her neck.

Zap was also affectionate towards Helen. We let her sleep in our bed even though she did the typical cat thing of laying on our heads.

When Rachel was born, Zap was 8 years old and had mellowed some. Even so, it took Zap a little while to accept Rachel. When Rachel got older Zap helped teach her how to be gentle with animals. She did this by biting anyone who got to rough with her. She would later teach A.J. the same lesson.

As time went on she slowed down but she was actually quite healthy. She had pink eye once so we had to put stuff in her eyes. There were also a couple of time when she had to take pills for several days. This was not fun for either her or us.

She gave us a scare a few months ago by getting outside and disappearing. We though that she was gone for good but a good Samaritan found her and was able to return her to us because we had her chipped when she was just a couple of years old.

Over the past week or so she really started to show her age. She could make it up and down the stairs any more so we put a litter box upstairs. She stopped sleeping on the bed and started sleeping on the couch, and eventually the floor. She wasn't eating solid food so we gave her chicken broth.

It was obvious that she didn't have much time left so Helen made sure that the kids told her that they loved her before they went to bed on Monday night. Zap passed away quietly in her sleep later that night.

You were a good cat Zap. I loved you and I'll miss you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moonlight Ramble

The Moonlight ramble is a midnight bicycle ride held on the Saturday in August closest to the full moon. Typically there are over 10,000 riders. I had never done the it before but I had always wanted to. I mentioned to Rachel in July and she was excited about doing it.

The weekend before the Moonlight Ramble we did a ride to get ready. We did 9 miles on a very hot Saturday. This was a new personal record for distance for my daughter. The weather cooled off in the next few days so we had great temperatures for the ride.

We headed to the start at about 10pm on the 13th. I wanted to get there early because we hadn't pre-registered. They were so well organized that it only took a few minutes to register. Since we had some time to kill we wandered around and bought some Ted Drewes. Rachel really wanted to do the long route (17+ miles). I told her that I we could try it but I would ask her again once we got to the point where the routes split. There was a lot going on in downtown Saint Louis that night: the Moonlight Ramble, a Cardinal game, a Rams preseason game, and a Taylor Swift concert.

They release the riders a few hundred at a time so it takes a while to get everyone on the road. I was a little worried that we might be the slowest riders but that was not a problem. The streets are closed off so we did not have to worry about cars, but we did have to worry about other riders. Only about half the riders had any sort of lights. I had put my extra lights on Rachel's bike so she had both headlights and tail lights. At one point another rider said that he thought we were a car coming up behind him with our headlights side by side.

Rachel had a great time and had no problem choosing the long route we we split off. There were a few time that the large number of riders cause some congestion but no real problems. Rachel listened to my suggestions and improved as the ride progressed. We were both annoyed by all the speed bumps in Tower Grove Park.

After we finished the ride, Rachel was willing to ride back to our car on the street. She normally doesn't like riding where there are traffic lights but her confidence was very high. She was already talking about doing this next year.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Familiar danger vs unfamilar danger

I rode with my friend Eric after work today. We rode about 23 miles, mostly on a bike trail. He drives to work and brought his bike with him. He mentioned that he was about halfway to work this morning when he realized that he had forgotten his helmet. He turned around and went back and got it. I told him that that may not have been the best decision from a safety standpoint.

I believe that riding with a helmet is safer than riding without one, So turning around made his bike ride safer. But what about the extra 10 miles he drove? Obviously driving has a risk associated with it so driving 10 miles is less safe than not driving that distance.

Any actuaries want to weight in on this?

(I don't know what the helmet laws are in St. Louis so let's leave them out of this problem.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Equipment problems

Last week I decided to go on a group ride with some people from the St. Louis bicycling group on Unfortunately I hit a pothole and got a flat on my way to the start. I put on my spare tube but I broke the valve stem while inflating it. This meant that I had to call Helen to pick me up.

On Friday, I had a spoke break while riding home from work. The rear wheel was rubbing the frame so there was no thought of continuing my ride. Helen had to pick me up again.

I haven't had to call for a rescue for quite a while and no I've done it twice in a week. I hope that this takes care of my quota for a while.

On the bright side, Maplewood Bicycle was able to fix the wheel while I waited on Saturday morning. I was expecting to have to leave it for a few days.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

On the Thursday before Labor Day, Zac took me to the ends of the Earth to pick up my chicken coop. If I had know how much trouble it would have been, I would have paid extra for door to door delivery.

On Friday, Rachel and I made a birthday card for Helen. While Helen was at the grocery store, we went through her scrap-booking supplies and picked out materials for the card. We managed to finish the card before she got back.

On Saturday, I made waffles for Helen's birthday breakfast. We gave her her gift and her card. Then I put the chicken coop together. Later we went to Onesto for dinner.

On Sunday, Rachel and I went to the recycling center. We usually walk and pull a wagon, but this time we rode our bikes. We had the boxes that the chicken coop came in as well as the regular recycling so we had to make two trips. It was still quicker than walking and Rachel was proud that we rode almost 4 miles. I also mowed the lawn.

Originally we had all planned on going to Six Flags on Monday. But Rachel got invited to go swimming with a friend. I took A.J. to Six Flags and Helen had to stay home without anyone to keep her company.
A.J. and and I did strictly water rides. The Big Kahuna, Tornado, Wahoo Racer, Thunder River, Tidal Wave, Wave Pool, and Hook's Lagoon. We left the park to go to a late lunch at Pizza Hut. We had planned to go back but A.J. decided that we should just go home. He declared that it was the best day ever.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First brevet of the season

I missed the first few scheduled brevets this year, but I decided to do the 200K this past weekend. I've said in the past that I should be able to roll out of bed and do a century with no preparation and that's almost what this was. I have not been doing nearly enough long rides. In fact the longest ride I had done this year was a 21 mile ride in February.

Helen dropped me off in Edwardsville about 15 minutes before the 6 am start. There were about 15 people there, some for the 200K and some for the 300. It was still dark and a little chilly. The forecast called for a high near 60 and winds out of the WNW. This meant that we would have a headwind on the way back.

No one seemed to be interested in setting too fast a pace at the start. As usual I stayed with the front group. I do this, not because I'm fast, but because I don't know how to pace myself. I was also having problems with my bike computer so I had no idea how fast we were going.

I dropped behind the front group at the stop at Pocahontas (mile 24), but managed to catch back up in the next few miles. There were 5 of us at this point. We took turns pulling with Louis doing most of the work. Louis is an incredibly strong rider who has being doing this since 1985. We stopped at the first checkpoint in Breese (mile 51) and then stayed together until the 200K turnaround at Okawville (mile 78). There, one rider continued on the 300K and the remaining four of us turned back to complete the 200K.

Now we were heading back into the wind. Louis did almost all of the pulling for the remaining 50 miles. We made one more stop at St Jacob (mile 107) and the continued to the finish (mile 126). We finished at 2:39pm giving us a time of 8:39. This is my fastest 200K time. I certainly could not have done it without Louis's help.

I felt pretty good on the ride. I was hurting towards the end but being with a group of people help to keep me motivated. The Camelbak seemed to work well for me. I got a little sunburn on my face because I did not put on any sunblock.

I did not eat that much this ride. Some chocolate milk at Pocahontas, a doughnut in Breese, a Landshire cheeseburger and soda in Okawville, and Another soda at St. Jacobs. Not a lot of food considering that I burned an estimated 5000 calories. But I never felt like I was bonking.

I hope to do the 300K in two weeks. For that I will need to rent a car or make other transportation arrangements. I'm not going to make Helen dropped me off for a 5am start and pick me after 8pm.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Busy Weekend

On Friday I celebrated my birthday. My birthday is actually this Wednesday but I hijacked the first Friday of the month get-together at work (and I also invited non-work people). We went to the City Museum. Turnout was pretty good even though some people couldn't make it. I ended up crawling through the caves until closing (1 am).

I was a little sore the next day. But it was warm but it had snowed 2-3" so the kids and I built an igloo.

On Sunday, I was really sore but Helen suggested that we go sledding. We went to Lindenwood Park and had a really good time.