Category Archive: Other Stuff

Other Stuff

Recent Adjustments to 6 Years Cable Free

Like many people these days, I cut the cord.  In the summer of 2010, I moved into my current house and decided from the start that I wouldn’t have cable.  A few of my friends were already cable-free and could provide advice (thank you, Carl Tyler!).  Here’s the thing though, I’m lazy.  I want things to “just work”.  I don’t want to have to fiddle and futz.  So I knew I wasn’t going to jump through a bunch of hoops to go cable-free, it was going to have to be easy.

So for the last six years, we’ve mostly had Rokus with Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.  In the last year or so, I added an Apple TV to the mix. For a short period, we had Aereo, which was a channel on the Roku that acted as a digital antenna so we could have local channels. Then they were sued and shut down.  We also had playon for a bit, but the machine that I had it on died and I just couldn’t be bothered to spin up another one (see above where I said I was lazy).  I’ve attempted unblock-us and have several friends who love it, swear by it, and even helped set me up (Carl) and troubleshoot it later (Gab), but every once in a while, Netflix gets all pissy about unblock-us and stops working.  Again, that means futzing and fixing and I just can’t be bothered.  So I don’t really use that either, unless I have to  (like to watch the Olympics this year).

It’s football season, so I finally broke down and got a digital antenna so my son could watch the Patriots.  We should have bought the outdoor antenna (although again, I didn’t want to futz and an outdoor antenna would CERTAINLY require some fiddling with regards to wiring).  I bought the “50″, I think intended to mean 50-mile reach of the antenna, from the rather surly dude at Best Buy.  Me: “Do you have digital antennas”.  Surly guy: “Yeah, get this one, it’s the only one people don’t return saying it didn’t work”.  Well, okay then.

Sadly, the antenna only comes with a 5-foot cable or something equally ridiculous, especially when the antenna probably will only work in one particular spot in your house, if at all.  Mine ended up only working in the window at the end of the hall of my upstairs master bedroom.  So, you know, TOTALLY inconvenient for anyone watching TV.  In theory, you can put it on a wall or bookcase, but mine ONLY worked in the window.  It had to be in the highest point and facing south (because I live north of Boston, where all the signals are coming from).  I bought a 50-foot coax cable, which apparently works better when it’s uncoiled.  Who knew?  But at least that way, it reaches to my TV (where it belongs rather than the hallway).  Unfortunately, this required a lot of fiddling, but it’s done now and set up and working and hey, my kid is happy.

In summary, six years cable-free, Roku and Apple TV with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now a digital antenna.

The kids sitting on bean bag chairs in my hallway, with the TV sitting on a bin of yarn in front of the only window we could get the antenna to work in.

The kids sitting on bean bag chairs in my hallway, with the TV sitting on a bin of yarn in front of the only window we could get the antenna to work in.



The Road To Empathy – Read More

I’m a big reader.  I love to read.  I always have.  As a child, I spent hours and hours reading in my room.  As an adult, my favorite vacations are the ones with no plans and a ton of books in my Kindle app.

I’ve been told I’m “too empathetic”.  I’m not sure that’s possible, except that I am easily heartbroken over matters that aren’t mine.  I know correlation doesn’t mean causation.  And I’m not saying people that don’t read have no empathy.  However, I think the more you read, the more opportunity you have to see into other people’s feelings.  Even if (maybe even especially if) it’s fictional.  I’ve spent my life reading about other people’s lives, feelings, and motivations.  It certainly helps me apply those in real life when I see other people.  I can imagine their lives, feelings, and motivations.  I can know they are different than my own and try to understand them.  That’s empathy, people.

I recently read “A Man Called Ove” (which incidentally was a LOVELY book).  It’s about an old, grumpy, Swedish guy.  When I first started it, I wondered if it was the book for me.  I mean, we couldn’t be more different, right?  I’m so glad I stuck with it.  It demonstrates perfectly that you might think you understand someone’s motivation and feelings and think you have nothing in common and you would be completely wrong.  That you could have a lot in common with someone you think is totally different than you.

Want more empathy?  Pick up a book.

How Staying in a Hotel Teaches Empathy

My heart hurts for the world and many recent events.   When a tragedy happens we all wonder what we can do and then we go about our day, doing nothing to change the future.  As I stated in my last post, I think having empathy for others is something you can do.  No, it won’t fix everything, but it could help.  Being more empathetic is easy.  Teaching your children empathy is easy.

I like to travel.  I like to travel with my kids.  Once when they were young, we entered our hotel room.  The kids thought that was the greatest thing ever and proceeded to jump up and down and squeal.  Of course, being a responsible adult, I told them to be quiet and stop jumping.  But I didn’t JUST tell them to stop, I explained that there are people above and below us and to the left and to the right of us.  Jumping up and down and squealing is probably very annoying to them.  Sadly, just telling my kids about the feelings of others in the hotel didn’t allow them to UNDERSTAND the feelings of others.  Later that evening, as my kids were worn out from a long day of travel and just wanting to fall asleep…you guessed it, some lovely children in the hotel room above ours began jumping up and down and squealing.  Apparently their parents didn’t feel as strongly as I do about empathy and no one stopped them.  Delightfully (to me, anyway), my kids were very annoyed.  With probably more smugness than I should have had, I pointed out that now they could UNDERSTAND the feelings of others.  This was empathy.  Unfortunately the valuable life lesson the annoying kids upstairs taught us didn’t help us sleep, but oh well.

What the World Needs Now

The song says what the world needs now is love, but I think we need a little more empathy, or maybe more empathy leads to more love.

Maybe I’m just a grumpy old lady yelling “get off my lawn”.  Maybe this is how it’s always been, maybe not, but it seems to me we have lost empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of others.  That’s it.  Seems a relatively small thing, right?  Yet we seem to have lost that ability.  In large and small ways, lack of empathy adds up to everyone only caring for themselves.  Lack of empathy breeds fear and distrust and eventually hate.

A funny example of today’s lack of empathy:  I was at the beach the other day.  When I arrived, it was largely empty and I picked out a nice spot in the middle of the emptiness.  Shortly after I settled in, a couple arrived at the beach.  And promptly sat about five feet from me.  And turned on a radio with music blaring.  And walked away.  Then they started to play bocci ball directly behind me, so hard balls were being rolled directly at my back.  The “gentleman” came over to retrieve one of the balls and while bending over to pick it up, lifted his leg and loudly farted.  Funny, right?  Except that it showed he had ZERO understanding or caring of how I might feel.  It was all about them and their entertainment, no matter how it affected others.  A complete lack of empathy.

A less funny example:  People on the internet.  Some one posts something heartfelt or funny or something they’re proud of.  Tons of people pile on the post and make fun of it or say how they’ve done it better or post some oneliner response because it amused them, or correct their grammar.  Forgetting the original poster and how that might make them feel.

There are far worse examples you can think of where “we” are different from “them” and we blindly dislike them, disagree with them because that’s how it is and we’ve never taken the time to understand.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for ourselves.  I’m not saying we should all be overly sensitive “politically correct” zealots.  I AM saying we should all be a lot more empathetic.  But how?  It’s easy.  Really.  I promise.  Just take a minute.  Look around you.  For just a minute, imagine the life of the person near you.  Try to understand their perspective.  You don’t have to agree with it, just try to understand it.  That’s it.  That’s all.  That’s empathy.

Maybe you hold back from farting at a stranger.  Maybe you refrain from that zinger on someone’s post.  Maybe those little things add up and we can move forward with love and understanding rather than moving backwards with fear and hate.

Breaking Strings

So yeah, that new bass I bought.  As I said, I went with a cheap one from Amazon.  As I also said, I have a somewhat musical background.  I opened the box, it was already strung, I just needed to tune it and play.  Luckily, a) there are a billion videos/sound clips out there that come with the notes to tune a guitar and b) I knew how to tune a guitar from when I was a kid.  So I tuned it and I played.  (Interesting side note, I found that I could tune it better if I sang the note and played the string rather than just listening to the note and comparing it to the string.  Weird, huh?)

However, something sounded a bit off and being the techie that I am, I thought it would be cool to get one of those tuning apps that uses the mic to hear what you’re playing and tell you (with SCIENCE!) whether it needed to be higher or lower.  Except, something was off.  It kept saying it was too low, so I kept tuning the string higher, higher, high- TWANG.  String broke.  Well, crap.  Looking on the bright side, I certainly felt more badass having broken my first string.

Back to Amazon I went and noticed strings varied from about $18 to $38.  Again, I had to wonder if more expensive was better or not?  But I also realized on my cheap bass, I probably had the cheapest and worst strings ever and probably anything I ordered would be an improvement.  I perused reviews and decided on these.  Sadly, I had to wait two whole days (but once again avoided interacting with humans!).  The string arrived and I had another first, re-stringing a bass guitar.  Pretty simple thing to do, but I can totally see how one of those windy tool things would be helpful.  Retuned it and HOLY CRAP WHAT A DIFFERENCE.  I can’t even imagine what those $38 strings must be like, the bass will probably make me dinner or something.  But for now, these $18 strings seem soooooo great over the cheapies that came with the bass.

I’ve now broken a string, re-stringed a guitar, and looked down upon crappy strings.  I think I’m well on my way to rock star status.

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