We’re getting cable again :(

For a few years now, we’ve been cable free. Not internet free, not without TV, just cable free, and it’s been grand. We’re not tied to the schedule of a show, or compelled to watch something. We have no ads, keep up to date on the shows we’re interested in (mostly), and manage (somehow) to fill the rest of our lives with other things to do. We aren’t puritans, we aren’t technophobes, heck, we aren’t even avoiding anything. It was just an expense we didn’t see the need for any more. Between Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu (without ads – very nice, btw, for the extra $2 – binge watching current shows is amazeballs), we manage to keep ourselves entertained when we aren’t doing other things.

But that time has passed.

When we moved cross country, we kept our old cell numbers. That hasn’t really been a problem until recently, when the folks that are supposed to accept deliveries for us at the office have become sporadic. The alternative is to have a phone number tied to the gate console so deliveries can call us to let us know a package is here (or a pizza, theoretically) – but without a local number, the system doesn’t work. Plus, as Middle Daughter has reached the maturity of being able to stay home alone, it’s become necessary for her to be able to make a call in an emergency.

Unfortunately, the cheapest phone line we can find that also has somewhat reliable service is through our cable company, and is only cheap if we get cable TV with it.

And so ends an era. I really hope this doesn’t mark the decline of the family playing games every so often, or going to Pokemon as a group, etc. But I for one am not ecstatic (although accepting – it’s not all bad things. I mean, Family channel still does Harry Potter marathons, right?).

Do not adjust your sets

English: TV receiverIts almost comical, I think.

Looking back through the blog, it was at the end of May 2010 that our last last TV died and we decided to take a break from cable. Streaming media was still young back then, as were the ways you could catch it. I think Hulu might have been around, but buying a season of something on amazon was a hassle, and netflix wasn’t streaming like they are these days, and they certainly weren’t keeping up with current shows. Amazon Instant? Still in the far distance. This was, as they say, the dark age of streaming media options.

When I refer to “cable,” I am not referring to the ten thousand channel bazaar most people mean these days. For us, cable has and still is defined as basic-expanded cable, that subset of 60-80 channels (when I was a lad, we had 3, and we liked it!) that count as local channels plus the basics. Digital cable is something we experimented with once, didn’t really see the appeal of in comparison to the cost, and never went back.

We ended up replacing that TV eventually, but we also dropped cable for a while (about 8 or 9 months). It was actually a really liberating, freeing time in our lives. Sure, we had some setbacks, the kids especially – its easy to say you don’t watch much TV, until you realize that unconsciously you’ve been using it as white noise while you work in the evenings.

Time moved on.

We bought a new TV, mostly for gaming and video watching purposes. Eventually we added cable back into our diet (its complicated). Since then, though, streaming finally came of age. Today our family, on average, watches more via Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant than from actual “live” TV. We have been known to buy a season of a show off of Amazon so we can watch it on the roku when we choose, rather than trying to juggle our lives around a show we enjoy but that comes on at an awkward time. We are, in fact, so wedded to our streaming options that we have begun to reconsider dropping cable down to the basic channels again.

The comical part?

For completely unrelated reasons, we bought a new TV this weekend. Its a 32 inch diagonal LED flatscreen, which makes it about 12 diagonal inches larger than our last TV, which previously held the record as being our largest TV ever (the TV before that was another 2-4 inches smaller). If anything, besides the fact that my X-Box games and the kid’s Wii games look completely different when they are so huge and crystal clear, our conviction to do away with cable is growing. Why waste money on TV when we already get most of the shows, in better resolution and color depth, with existing options?

We are crazy, I know.

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It’s that time of the year again. The kiddies are out for the summer starting this Wednesday, our lives are spinning around us – its time for ye olde overhaul.

None of this has been taken lightly, but Kim and I are in the process of reorganizing how we live our lives. Some of these changes are specific to ourselves, and some as a family, but the goal here is to live our lives closer to their fullest (not quite at their fullest, because to be frank, we’re just starting out, but you have to start somewhere). So for those curious about the microcosm of another household, here goes:

  • Writing. Yeah, I know, this is cheating, its something I began in earnest months ago, but its still part of the whole overhaul of the self.
  • Gym. Mentioned this weekend, our family has joined the gym. Its something my doctor has been urging for a while, but it took Kim driving me out there last Friday to force my hand into making it a reality. In a weird way, this has benefits outside of general health for both of us. For starters, it gives Kim a chance to set the kids aside and get some time to herself, and gives the kids a chance to play with other kids (something our neighbourhood really lacks in).
  • Cable. Chiefly, the fact that we have made the decision once and for all to drop down to basic cable. As a family, we aren’t addicted, but as individuals, we each have our vices. The kids in particular see TV as a viable option to too many things, and Kim and I agreed that we ourselves don’t need it. With our renewed subscription to Netflix – and the fact the xbox can play Netflix streams – we’re pretty satisfied that we won’t be missing too much. Yes, there were some show sacrifices involved for both of us, but the net gain outweighs this. We tried this last summer and it won’t all right until I caved at the start of the Fall season. No such buckling this year anticipated – I have enough keeping me busy with writing.
  • LUGing it. Yes, that’s right, after years as a Gentoo dev, then a few years in quiet obscurity where I rarely touched a linux desktop consistently, I’ve let my friend Dan talk me into going to the FredLUG. It was enough fun I’ll be heading back 🙂

Is this it? Will there be more to come? Count on it. We’re stepping into new territory for us here, and while others may have comet his way before, we’re finding our way. We’ll make mistakes, take back some of the changes, make new ones. Is the economy to blame for some of this? Nope. Ironically, it isn’t about making do with less (adding the gym membership kind of negated the savings of dropping cable) – its more about making better choices with what we’re going to do.

What’s next? I’ve no idea, but I look forward to finding out!