Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy.
- Aristotle, Greek Philosopher (B.C. 384-322)

She's Not the Cox I Left, but What Was Nikki Thinking When She Did Her Lips?A decision was made in our house a week ago, a truly monumental decision as we said our goodbyes and put to an end a twenty-year long relationship.

I’ll call it the end of a love affair, although at times it was equal parts love and hate, especially when the bill came due, but other than those three months of wandering out in the desert in Aguanga, for twenty long years, whether it was cable programming through actual cable laid in the ground, or the same channels broadcast via satellite, cable TV had been a fixture in each and every home where I’ve lived.

Perhaps it sounds overly dramatic, but it really did feel like such a monumental decision, like a bridge that you cross and once you cross it, there might never again be any going back. Even knowing in the back of my mind that it would be as easy as a phone call to restart the service, it still felt like it was a life-changing moment as I called to cancel all those channels we’d been enjoying for so many years. (Yes, we do take TV that seriously in our house.)

Well, you know what? So far, we don’t miss anything as far as the programming goes and not paying the $70 / month? Very sweet indeed. Even when they tried to talk us down to $30 / month for just the basics, the decision had been made and we were determined to cut the cable to which we’d been bound.

As my eyes cleared and I realized that you can indeed have a great television set up with no monthly cable programming bill, I realized that I might even be a bit late to the party and there’s probably a lot of people in the youngest generation now who will live their whole lives and never sign up for cable and pay a monthly cable bill. For the rest of us, who have known nothing but cable our entire lives, I give you a five-point plan to ditching the cable bill and not missing very little of the service that went with it.

  1. It’s easy to forget that stations still broadcast over the airwaves, but they do and you can get most or all of your local channels for free by making a one-time purchase of an antenna like the Leaf for $37 delivered. How many channels you’re going to get depends on where you are, here in So. Cal. our antenna pulled in 30 stations (with maybe 7 or 8 in Spanish) when I visited my good friends in Nashville, they were pulling in 8, so it’s a little hit or miss, but local news and weather and exclusive channels you won’t find anywhere else make it a no-brainer.
  2. Once you’re pulling in your free local channels, for the rest of this to work, you’ll definitely need to ditch the dial-up if you haven’t already and you’ll probably need to upgrade if you’re on the cheapest DSL at 1.5 Mbps.
  3. Get a streaming player like the $50 Netgear NeoTV NTV200 which gives you full HD streamed from your wireless router. We started watching streaming TV on a couple PCs that were hooked up to our TVs via HDMI cables, but these little streaming players draw a lot less energy than a PC, so spend a little now and you’ll end up saving money on your energy bills in the long run. I also love small gadgets, the more they look like something Q would hand James Bond, the better. We have both the aforementioned NeoTV and a Roku in our house, both have performed nearly flawlessly. Internet enabled Blu-ray players or Smart TVs are two more options worth looking in to.
  4. Subscribe to HuluPlus for $8 a month and you’ll have some of the greatest shows on TV, most with every episode of the entire series available and all of them available completely on your own schedule. In our house, it was Arrested Development where we first discovered the joy of watching a great series, show by show, night after night, from the first episode to the last. Now we’re addicted to Lost and we get to feed our addiction every single night. The fact that we can go through the 120 episode series two, three, four episodes a night as opposed to waiting an entire week between episodes stretched out over six years, are you kidding me? I don’t think I could ever watch a series that way again. Just let me know when the series has had it’s run and all the episodes are available and we’ll enjoy it from beginning to end, a couple episodes a night, one night after the other.
  5. For another $8, subscribe to Netflix and you have the perfect combo, with HuluPlus specializing mainly in TV on demand and Netflix specializing mainly in Movies on demand. Yes, Netflix had by many people’s accounts 2011’s absolute worst PR disaster, but that’s old news at this point, the selection of movies they stream is pretty darn good, the same delay as the time it takes for a movie to make it from the theaters to your movie channels, but once it’s on Netflix, you can watch that movie a the time of your choosing instead of the schedule dictated by your movie channel.

So there it is, old news to a younger generation perhaps, but for those of us who have had nothing but cable bills our whole lives, with a good Internet connection, an antenna, a streaming player and a paltry $16 a month for HuluPlus and Netflix, as hard as it may be to visualize, you can ditch that cable bill and you might even find what takes its place far more enjoyable.

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