Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cutting the cable

For a variety of reasons, but primarily economic, my wife and I made the decision to cut the cable. We were spending well over $100 a month for internet, phone and video services from the local provider. With the changes in taxes and health care premiums, it was rapidly becoming a luxury we couldn't afford.

So, how did we do it?

First, we signed up for a 20MB internet service from the other local provider. I decided to move my business after Insight Communications wanted to raise my monthly cost for dropping a service from our bundle. I'm sorry, but spending $10 more a month for less service was not a winning proposition for me. Second, we went with MagicJack for our home phone services. We decided to port our number, and our ongoing costs will be in the $30 - $40 a year range. Third, we already had a Netflix streaming account and Bluray player and gaming console that provide access to that service. We will most likely supplement that with either a Hulu Plus account or an Amazon Prime account. Finally, I bought an antenna to provide access to the over-the-air broadcast channels. In the Greater Cincinnati area, I am able to pull in 21 channels. Granted, the majority of them are public television of some sort, but I get all the Big 4 networks.

I did have one bit of luck in that when we built, I had the house fairly well wired. There is an A/V and networking distribution panel in my basement that feeds the rest of the house. This is where my internet service primary router is located, so I was able to put my MagicJack Plus device down there and connect it to the supply feed for all my phone jacks. We didn't have to make any changes with regards to phone placement or anything like that. Also, my best antenna reception came from the 2nd story of my house (for very obvious reasons). The antenna that I purchased (an RCA ANT1650R digital flat antenna) included an amplifier. I was able to take the feed from the amp and run it into a splitter. One leg from the splitter went straight to my TV upstairs. The second leg I connected to the CATV port installed in the wall. The other end of this connection was down in the wiring closet in the basement, so I was able to run that feed back up to my living room connection. One antenna, located upstairs in my bedroom, is able to drive both of my televisions.

All told, I had upfront costs of around $175 for the MagicJack Plus, the antenna and a few other ancillary items. My monthly costs are going to be around 1/3 of what I was previously paying for service, and my ROI is less than 2 months.

The only thing I thin I'm going to miss is ESPN. If they ever offer WatchESPN access as part of an ESPN Insider subscription, or through some other subscription model, you can just about guarantee I'd pick that up.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The truth about Robb comes out

Ahhhh, and now we know why Robb Allen doesn't wear pants.

He's a quantum physics kind of guy.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mr. President, what are your priorities?

As a new presidential term begins, attention naturally turns to the agenda and tone that he will pursue. Across the entire political spectrum, pundits are putting forth their ideas for what he should do, what he shouldn't do, and what he'd be crazy to try or leave off the table. There have been copious electrons sacrificed to analyses of his prior term and expectations for his new one.

Predominant themes are gun control in the wake of the Newtown shooting, marriage equality for homosexuals, the fiscal cliff, and religious freedoms under the Affordable Care Act. Poll 5 pundits, and you'll receive 15 different answers, depending on which tracking poll they've looked at last.

Well, here's your chance. You have been named President. You are guaranteed that your next policy or legislative proposal will receive filibuster and veto proof (of course, you're the President so why would you veto it, but let's ignore incongruities for now, shall we?) votes for adoption or passage in Congress, and it will be fully funded in the requisite budgets or appropriations bills. Let's double-down and state for this thought experiment that this legislation will remain in effect for at least the next 12 years (your entire term, and the next two presidential terms). Unfortunately, you do not know, you have zero guarantee, as to how your proposal would actually work out. This isn't complete fantasy (just a very close approximation). You don't get to override the Law of Unintended Consequences. You still have to pay the piper.

So, what would your legislative proposal be? What critical ill of the nation's would you attempt to solve? Why is that issue more important that any other? On what basis do you think you have the authority to pass that legislation?

I have gone back and forth on this. The three issues that concern me the most right now are protecting the 2nd Amendment, preserving religious freedoms, and restoring some sort of fiscal responsibility in Washington.

My three proposals would look something like this:

2nd Amendment
I would push for National Reciprocity, with a definition of civilian firearms that basically stated that if it's good enough for LEOs it's good enough for civilians, excepting weapons capable of select fire. I have Federalist concerns, but between the 1994 AWB and NICS background checks, that horse has left the barn. The Federal government already intrudes in State legislative control over those matters.

This is a Constitutional question, and the President is sworn to protect and defend that document. Now, granted, the fight would simply move on to other issues of populace thought-control, but I would draw the first line in the sand on this one.

Religious Freedoms
I would provide that  any and all persons or organizations would be allowed to claim the religious equivalent of conscientious objector status to the mandated coverage requirements of the ACA. In fact, I would try for broader legislation that would grant this status for all persons in any economic activity. If a wedding photographer wants to limit their clientele, I believe that should be their choice. Let the nature of free market economics sort it out. If no one is willing to utilize their services, they won't be in business long. However, I don't think the government has any right to force a company to do business with someone when such a business transaction would violate their religious beliefs.

Government Spending
This would be omnibus legislation incorporating several proposals. These would include initiatives like a Balanced Budget Amendment, having the annual budget tied to GDP, and No Budget, No Pay for Congress. Something has to give, and I fear it's too late.

Yes, I'm cheating at my own game by not proposing a single initiative to push, but these are the three "biggies" on my list. They are most likely listed in order, too, but the first two could easily be flipped.

So, that's where I sit today. What say you?

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Sunday, January 6, 2013


This morning, I tweeted "If we spent as much time 'following', 'friending', 'liking', and 'pinning' #God as we do each other, what would our lives look like?".

I asked this question after I realized I'd spent over an hour catching up on social media and news feeds. I was reading (even more) post-game reactions from the Aggies victory over the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl, trying to think up my latest failed bon mot to put out on twitter, and seeing what the rest of my extended friends and families were up to. Finally, I said "well, I guess I could go read my morning devotional."

Why don't we spend as much time catching up on God and what He's doing as we do our earthly friends? I can name most of the big-impact players on the Aggies football roster, but I can't name all the books in the bible. I can rattle off weird acronyms like OSPF, BGP, EIDE, SCSI and SATA (and know what they mean!!!), yet I stumble around concepts like Christology, epistemology, and sanctification.

In Deuteronomy 11:18, God tells us that "[y]ou shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul." Peter reminds us that we should always be prepared to give a defense.

Why is it then that too often studying God's word is an after-thought? As we step into this new year, let's make it a priority to put God first. Let's be more interested in what He's doing, in what victories He's winning, than some random collection of highly talented entertainers.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)