Category Archives: Ramblings

Cord-cutters unite…

Recently I sold my house and moved to a condo.  Said condo has basic cable only. Moving in there I did manage to get the internet changed from 0.24mbs Verizon to >10mbs Comcast. I wasn’t sure if I could live with just basic cable – which means you have about 7 non-Spanish, viewable channels!

The very thought of being limited like this made me break out in a cold sweat. You have to understand I was leaving a 250+ channel satellite setup with multiple dual tuner HD DVR’s, internet connected HDTV and set top boxes, internet viewable DVR iPad app  option and wicked home theater surround sound gig. I even had a bluetooth connector for my receiver so I could listen to iPad streamed music.

Yes, I was very proud of my geeked out den setup. Having at least 25 hours of recorded TV shows at any time I rarely watched live TV. I was rarely bored with TV because they were all shows I chose to record because I liked them!

How was I going to cope with a move to basic cable? It almost kept me awake at night considering the implications…

Now I have been on basic cable for a month and can’t say I really miss my original setup. I have been trying to figure out why this transition has actually been quite calming. I almost felt bound to watch the shows I had recorded before so that space could be freed up on the DVR for more episodes. Now if I miss an episode – oh well, too bad. It isn’t the end of the world! Who knew.

So I still have Roku with Netflix and I did purchase a subscription to Hulu+ so I can get some ‘DVR like’ functionality for a few shows. The Closer is one of my faves and is not on Hulu+, I can get some recordings on the TNT website or I could buy the episodes from iTunes, but really I have little interest.

Having super fast internet speeds gives me more than enough entertainment on my iPad now. My Kindle app had more money spent on ebooks last month than I normally spend in a year! Sure, I actually have to sit through commercial breaks now but it’s amazing what a high score you can get on Bejewelled in a few minutes!

Before I had Dish Network and I have to say I liked them. Customer service was always good and I didn’t think they were too much of a rip off. I always figured when I bought another house I would resume with Dish or a cable provider again. Now though, I don’t think I will. It almost feels like a great ball and chain has been released from my leg – I don’t have to sit and watch 4 hours of House just to get through the season. A new season of Rizolli and Isles – great, can’t see it but I can buy an episode if I absolutely can’t live without it!

Admittedly, I would not have given up my setup for basic cable if I had not been forced to make a choice. I had expected that after a few weeks I would be so aggravated I would offer to pay the extra money for the ‘real’ TV package!

Course then I surfed over to the Comcast website and started looking at the options. You want HOW MUCH for some channels? Oh, that is just the introductory price. Hmmm, so when the 2 years is up, what will this triple play $99 change to? Oh, a heck of a lot more – right. What if I only need it for a few months – oh that package is available but it will cost more to give you the right to cancel – okay dokey.

Forget it – if I find I am not using Hulu+ much I just click the cancel button and it is gone – no late fees, no cancellation fees, no equipment return fees.

The only show I have a slight pang for is kind of embarrassing to admit. I could have said Criminal Minds, or CSI or even The Closer, but no. The show that makes me wonder how they are doing is …. Operation Repo!


Movie Theatre Rage…

Sorry, been a tad lazy on blog posting lately. Ah well, you know, weather, activities and oh yeah, that thing called work!

Really, I’m prompted to write this as a rant, the same rant I have after every trip to the movies these days.

Went to see A Christmas Story at IMAX in 3D – very good experience and the 3D was cool. Tonight I went to see 2012 at Showcase. So I went for the special effects. They were good, but the movie was too long and kind of “same old, same old”. Seen a disaster movie once, it was like seeing them all rolled up into one movie.

But that is not what the rant is about – Hollywood would be a really long topic! No, what got my goat tonight were all the darn cellphones. Grrr, can’t you kids turn them off for 2 hours?? The kid in front kept turning his on and texting – nice bright glare in my eye buddy! Kicked his seat a few times – oops.

Then the theatre is only half full and a bunch of teenage girls have to sit right next to me. So then they start talking and the cellphones come out. Ask them if they can turn the cellphones off – “Shut Up”. No really girls, can you just put them away “SHUT UP”. Grrrr where are the old-time ushers?

Maybe that is why the theatre is so empty – people who actually want to see the movie – and be immersed in the whole experience – get peed off by all the ignorant idiots who also go!

I’m pretty sure the kid in front and girl next to me were texting each other – go get some popcorn and leave us be!

What to do? Couple of weeks with real bouncers working in the theatre would have an impact I think. Turn on the cell or cause other distraction and out of the complex you go. Kind of need to deploy a surge tactic with high impact enforcement and visibility for a  month or so and then you could tone it down as people get the idea.

As for too long movies (2012 and Dark Knight) well that means that I just won’t go for the new releases and wait until I can stream it!

Actually, went to Best Buy over the weekend and sat in one of their demo rooms. NICE!! $5000 and you too can get a home movie theatre set up that really kicks butt! That, I think, will be the final answer I go for. Might take a while to get there, but will be so worth it….

Brand Perceptions

I find it interesting how our perception of a company/brand can change depending on our interaction with it. For instance, we see something advertised on TV and it comes across as professional. Our perception of the brand is created and is set high.

There is a magazine advert that we come across and again it is clear and professional looking. Perception remains high.

We wander into the mall and there is the store. Expecting good things we go in and are disappointed. Maybe the racks are disorganized or we have to wait in a queue for too long or the assistant is rude. Perception takes a dive.

Wary of the brand now, we hesitate when we get an email from them, but decide to take a look at their online site because maybe there is something worthwhile there. The online store is impressive and we find good deals, easy layout and checkout goes smoothly. Perception is lifted again.

We come across a tweet from someone who works at the company and it is an inappropriate rant, or a blog about some poor customer service situation. Our perception takes a dive and will probably not recover because we feel these are the real people talking, not some company image.

I like to think of myself as savvy about advertising – I know the supermarket tricks to make you buy the expensive brands, I read up on products before I purchase them, etc. Looking at this stream though, I can see how much I really am influenced by media. Hardly surprising that social media has become such a boon and fear at the same time.

Companies want to control their image which is much easier through traditional media channels. But being proactive with your coverage monitoring is important because you can quickly act on a negative story and hopefully turn it to something positive or at least mitigate further damage.

An example I came across the other day was Whole Foods. They have had some bad press lately for something – not sure what, but it lowered my perception of them. Not interested enough to go research out if the issue had merit or not. Then I watch Top Chef and they always use Whole Foods. My perception is restored because I figure these people should know what good food is and if it is good enough for them then that is fine with me.

Not that I ever shop at Whole Foods, but if I had one near me, I would at least visit it!

Why You Need A Roth IRA

I am always surprised at the number of people who do not know what a ROTH IRA is and why they should have one. My financial adviser explained it to me years ago and I have been a strong proponent of them. For my UK audience, sorry I have no clue what might be equivalent to this!

Easiest way to explain this is through an example.

Joe is saving $500 a month into his 401k. He pays no tax on this money. When he retires he has accrued $500,000 in his retirement account and starts to withdraw. With each withdrawal he pays tax at whatever the current rate is. So if he had paid in $200,000 with no tax, he then pays tax on withdrawing $500,000.

Mary is also saving $500 a month into her Roth IRA. She pays tax on this money at today’s rates. When she retires she has also accrued $500,000 in her retirement account and starts to withdraw. With each withdrawal she pays NO tax. So if she had paid in $200,000 and paid tax on this, she gets to withdraw $500,000 TAX FREE.

The only gamble you are taking with this account is whether future tax rates are going to be higher or lower than today. The way governments are having to spend I think there is very little chance of future tax rates being less than today.

Most Credit Unions and banks/brokerage firms offer Roth IRAs. Best to use 401k to keep company match money in and then extra money you invest into your ROTH. Remember, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket!!! With my sense of balance I have always thought this a very apt expression.

OK, I better do some legal disclosures here, just in case. I am not a financial expert nor do I have any qualification in it. Consult a certified financial professional before changing your investment strategy. My words of wisdom are my free expression of speech and do not reflect the views of anyone I am affiliated to, whomever that might be!

… and they call it puppy love?

I am sure people with kids must go through the same thing – like where you just wonder why on earth did I think getting a puppy (or having a child) would be a good idea? Was I mad? Could I plead temporary insanity?

What could be prompting me to these deep questions, you ask? Well, let’s just say that this should be a warning to all!!!

The other evening I was out with Bailey in the front yard when one of the neighbors came down. He has a sausage dog and he brought his daughter too. We were having fun watching the digs chase one another around and his daughter chasing the dogs. All fun and game…

His daughter drops her glove on the ground and Dad tells her to pick it up before the dogs get it. Well, Bailey must have suddenly got his English translator working because no sooner were the words uttered than he comes racing down and snags the glove. Of he goes, glove in mouth. I wasn’t too worried though because he has been at obedience training for a few months now and knows what the ‘come’ command is. So I thought!

No amount of calling is persuading him that it would be a good idea to come anywhere near us.

I try chasing, but he is way faster than me.

Then I figured I will go get some real cookies for him. He has, as the training instructor noticed, a real food motivation. So I run in the house and get his favorite treats – those yucky smelling liver things. Come out and start to call him and show him his yummy treats. Usually this is a no brainer, but not tonight.

No, he raises his head and flicks an ear at me and decides that what he has in his mouth is obviously some important prize not to be relinquished for anything so feeble as a few liver treats. I creep a bit closer to him and keep trying to persuade him how nice these treats really are.

He starts to come over and I am beginning to savor the anticipation of out foxing the little beast … aaahhhhh @$#@ he swallows the glove!

The whole glove – gulp – down it goes. True it is a kids glove, but it is still quite big and knitted.

I rush over and try to stick my fingers down his throat – nope, it’s all gone.

So now I have a screaming kid who lost her glove, a father who is in shock never having seen a dog Bailey’s size swallow a glove and me wondering what the heck to do now!!!

Bailey is dragged in the house and I decide I should try and make him puke it up. Not thinking of anything better I start to squirt salt water down his throat. Yeah, he wasn’t too impressed by that! He didn’t puke anything though.

I call the emergency vet and she says not to make him sick, but just to watch him for vomiting or cramping or bowel issues. ‘Em, right, so how do you tell if a dog is cramping?

Anyway, I give him lots of water to drink – after the salt water he is a bit suspicious of liquids, bot overcomes it eventually. He seems fine and we all go to bed – well the neighbor goes home to his own one though, before anyone gets any ideas!

Next morning, I am woken by bailey puking and what pops up, but one kiddie glove, some assorted mulch and cherry stones.

Will he have learnt his lesson? No!

He still is eating mulch, cherries, rotten apples and anything else that his nose finds in front of it!!!

A new calculator…

I have this fear of running out of toilet paper, so I always like to keep a good supply on hand. I have never actually run out of toilet paper so I am not quite sure where this fear has come from. Rather than spend loads of my employers health insurance money on therapy, I compromise by keeping an eye out for sales.

Buying toilet paper is very stressful though. Who would have thought it could have become such a fraught exercise!

In the good old days (when exactly?), the choices were quite simple: cheap 1-ply sandpaper or pricier 2-ply soft rolls.

Now though, oh my goodness, what choices you have: 1-ply, 2-ply, soft, softer, strong and soft, strong, a roll, a big roll, a mega roll, lotion printed, decoration imprinted…

So after all that you then have to decide which is the best buy. The supermarkets thought they were being so nice in telling you how many cents per 100 feet each costs – unless they are on sale. How do you know if the shelf price now reflects the sale price? Being smart ( and maybe a little too frugal?) you decide to see how many square feet is in each packet and then decide on the pricing from there.

No, some packs tell you how many square feet a roll is, some tell you how many inches each sheet is and how many sheets on a roll others just waffle about how many sheets they have. Hence, the need for a new calculator: $ per square inch/thickness.

The reason this all came to mind and that I even decided to write about this was because the other day I hard someone on radio or TV make a passing comment that said “like a toilet roll calculator for when you are shopping”. At this point I realized – there are other people in the world who face this challenge too!!!

I have to say at this point I am having a hard time trying to keep the zinging one-liners clean now!

“Why worry Fiona”, you say? Cause I don’t want to get ripped off on something that is going to get flushed.

“But it’s only toilet paper, Fiona”. True, but I feel it is an area where I can afford a little luxury!

As if it wasn’t diffilcult enough to shop for a car or a new mattress, now you have to gird yourself for the great toilet paper shop too!!!!

On another topic, don’t wet yourself while reading these:

Tax Season

‘Tis that time of year again when we Americans have to do our taxes. Hmmm, that made it sound like I was born and bred here, I will rephrase it – ’tis that time of year again when all American tax payers must prepare to file their taxes. Just doesn’t have the same zing, but it will do!

The press in general gives a bad name to tax season – doom and gloom and worry and frantic ‘all-nighters’ being pulled. Maybe if you are self-employed that is the case, or maybe if you are doing the company tax forms. For the average person though (with a job!) it isn’t so bad.

I like tax season because I always get a chunk of money back from the government. I know, I know – people are always saying you should change your with-holdings so that you don’t get anything back otherwise its like an interest free loan to the government.

This is very true, but I don’t miss the money since I never receive it and I always look forward to doing my taxes!

I did change the state with-holdings though and I owe the state of Massachusetts a whopping $1 – cost me as much for postage!

PS: You can all send your congratulations for me to pass onto Bailey – he passed puppy graduation last week!!!!