“Cord Cutter Curious” Beginning

Part 2 of the “Cord Cutter Curious” series. Let’s start with an assessment of what I have to work with.

I live in Florida within 30 miles of the TV signal source. You can check for yourself what distance and direction your signal source might come from using TVFool. This will give you an approximate direction signals will come to your location and at what height your antenna will receive the best signal.

I have a two story house that has coax pre-run to several rooms left over from cable network providers and from original construction in the late 90’s. The house will allow me to elevate the TV antenna as high as possible to provide better reception of those signals susceptible to line of sight interference. An outside pole antenna is a bad idea in Florida hurricane season since they easily become flying projectiles and have to be replaced. With that I decided on either an indoor antenna or an attic antenna.

My first goal was experiment with the antenna’s I have on hand (a Mohu Leaf and a home made fractal antenna) to determine a high elevation spot inside the house with the best reception possible.

I started by simply trying a Mohu Leaf tucked behind a TV upstairs. It was used to bypass the annual disputes between service provider and broadcaster. The reception was pretty good with some channels in the lower range reception coming in borderline and inconsistent. The lower channels were the primary channels we wanted because they covered NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS. The ones that seemed to always be in dispute with the cable companies.

I then checked out my attic, which amounts to a narrow crawl space since the roof has a low pitch. There was a spaghetti pile of coax with various splitters sitting on top of the insulation. Fortunately most of it was within reach of the attic access. It didn’t take long using the cable tug method to figure out which coax ran into my master bedroom. Weirdly enough, there were a few.

And why is that? From the cable guys I talked too (I went through “cable guy” training classes during my corporate time. That’s another story for another day) it’s easier and cost effective to run a new leg of good cable rather than fix what exists or pull out the old cable. So I removed what I saw as obvious excess cables from the attic to reduce confusion.

The “cable guy” training also gave me enough confidence to know what’s feasible and what should be avoided entirely.

I moved the Mohu Leaf into the attic and secured it to one of the highest rafters near the roof line oriented in a westerly direction. It only took two push pins through holes in the Mohu Leaf. That was an easy mounting job. After connecting it to one of the coax with a double ended female connector and a coax from the wall to the back of the TV I tested the TV.

The reception was excellent. The additional six feet in elevation into the attic was exactly what we needed. Now when our TV service provider lost our local affiliates due to disagreements, the plan was to simply switch to the TV input on our TV and there we go. But with a change to cancel cable, this would prove far more important. That was just the first TV and the first minor step.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Cord Cutting in My Future

For the past several years, I was lucky enough to have an employer provided TV discount that was incredibly generous for broadcasts services for less than $4o a month. This included premiums like HBO and NFL games.

That changed when I was laid off in September of 2020. The services jumped to more than $150 a month with no premium channels. That would mean the yearly expense would jump to $1800 a year. I’m also aware that my experience is not unique.

And with Covid lockdowns creating a questionable work future, saving on monthly expenses is important.

I’ve been ‘cord cutter curious’ for at least ten years. I treated it like a useful little hobby. Especially when my TV service went through periods of being unreliable. I’ve made my own fractal antennas. I’ve installed inexpensive, but very effective TV antennas in my attic. I’ve played around with various ROKU models over the years and some of the free services they provide. I bought a very inexpensive OTA DVR that I’ve dusted off and started to use again. I’ve cobbled together OTA tuners with vga monitors and speakers as makeshift TV’s.

Now I need to examine this hobby more in depth. I need to replace the TV service with far less expensive options. Some specific goals to consider.

1- I want to have TV services available on each of our current TV’s for free or as near to free as possible.

2- It has to be useable by the untrained. If it’s not straightforward for my wife or the teen child in our house, it’s not worthwhile.

3- DVR functionality. I want to be able to record or replay episodes on demand. The wife and child are ‘General Hospital’ fans.

4- DVR functionality. Preferably, I want the replay to be available on multiple TV’s, like through wifi replay direct to a ROKU or TV.

5- Access to NFL games if possible. The child is a Seahawks fan and we live in Florida. This would be a good nice to have, not a must.

A summary of where I already am with things: I have older ROKU’s, old DVD smart players, a few chromecasts, a variety of smart TV’s and dumb TV’s, a mish mash of pre-existing coax running through the house, coax tools for attaching ferrules allowing me to make custom lengths of coax, a little electrical and cabling experience, two already installed attic tv antennas, and a few different Raspberry Pi’s that may help play into the picture.

Services I already have: Netflix, Amazon Prime and occasionally shared access with other services with family members.

So, this is the start of my “Cord Cutter Curious” Series. Stay tuned.

Back in the Saddle

I struggled over the past year and a half with losing my ability to run. Exacerbated by depression I finally got help. So I wanted to get back in shape, whatever that meant, I had to find a new way. It’s been slow going and developing to put together something meaningful, challenging and enjoyable.

I checked out what I wanted and my options. I’m very fortunate that I live near a public park with a trail with work out stations that runs along a canal. I have a decent bike and that seemed a simple start.

I started off with riding my bike on the trail. I set a round trip of around 4 miles and started biking at least three or more days week. It was nice to see the splash of mullet or watch the dorsal fins of a pod of dolphin or sea birds swooping in for smaller fish.

Along the route I noticed the park had a pull up station. In part of my running life, I would run and perform calisthenics. So the next step was obvious.

I added a stop at the pull up station on every bike ride. I go for as many pull ups as I can, then I attach a heavy strong elastic band and do a few assisted pull ups.

Then I noticed several land marks along my route. Sidewalks, bridges, and railings. So I began adding in stops at each of the landmarks for push ups. Then spider man push ups. Then dive bomber push ups. And glute bridges. And hanging ab lifts. And whatever else I can think of that I feel I need to work on.

It’s evolving and likely to continue to evolve. For now, it looks like this. I bike a little over a mile to the pull-up station. I switch as quickly as possible to minimize rest and do pull-ups until I can’t anymore. Then I perform some assisted pull-ups until my arms begin to fail. Then I quick change back to the bike and continue on to my first landmark of several landmarks along a two mile ride. At each landmark I quickly pump out a set of 10 reps of either pushups, dive bombers, spider man push ups, or glute bridges. By this time, I’ve looped back to the pull up station. Sometimes I throw in a set of lunges or one leg squats with around there. Or I’ll just ride it back home.

This progression and evolution of working out without running has been such a relief. I’ve come to accept that I will never complete a marathon. Or win runs in my age group any more. But, this work out routine definitely provides me a more comprehensive work out. And I’ve reduced my body fat by 2% and increased my shoulders by two inches. I feel so much better. So thankful for the new mental head space that made this possible.

And now for something completely different….

Games and video games. Yes, that’s what I said. Video games.

First let’s look at what purpose they serve. Their primary purpose is to entertain.

But the most critical thing for me was the element of learning from safe mistakes.

Yes, they provided a window into the real world games of adulthood. Yes, I played soldier as a kid (think Call of Duty with a heavy layer of imagination and endless lives). Yes, I played against dragons and saved damsels in my Disney-esque imagination. Yes, I later evolved into playing bigger picture war games, role playing games and board games. Yes, I did marathons of video games in combat, space or apocalyptic wastelands.

Why does it matter? Because it gave me a healthy, creative and constructive outlet that taught me a few things. Like; whatever you do in life, try to figure out the odds behind a risk or decision if you want to figure out how to win. I died countless times and anguished over each death, but each time I did, I learned there was a better way. And I approached real life in the same way.

And that ultimately, helped steer me in the direction of where my future would take me. It steered me toward a twenty one year career with the military reserves. It steered me to a degree I earned with no student loans and served me well enough to get hired on with a fortune 100 company. It steered me in navigating 31 years of corporate life with 21 of those years spent under the expectation of layoffs. All this aided by the basic idea of figuring out the odds, projecting outcomes and working the long games as best I could.

This was a very simplistic overview of a simple principle. But it has served me well.

Getting My Head Straight

Mental health. Some people think it’s a taboo subject. But in this forum, it’s a big part of our experience.

I needed help recently. I no longer could enjoy a run life and that led to a spiral of negative thought droning on about wanting to run and knowing that it was not the right thing. I couldn’t sleep well, maybe 6 hours, not straight through and frequently not restful. Progressively, I felt like I just couldn’t get out of my head.

I was getting more and more edgy, but kept trying to deal with it alone. It was oppressive. Like waking up with morning brain fog and just never getting out of it all day long.

The final straw came when my wife made comments over a few days about how edgy I was. I think it took her off guard when I agreed and said I was calling my doctor.

And I’m thankful I did. By simply going through some detailed discussions about what was going on with me he gave me a prescription.

I felt a change in 24 hours. I was very reluctant to acknowledge it because I wasn’t sure if it was a placebo affect or not. And that was my mindset for several days. After a week, I discussed with the wife and we both agreed, the prescription was doing what was needed.

My quality of life is immensely improved. I was able to come out of my funk and get out of my own way. I was able to refocus on several aspects of my life. And finally started a new work out routine, but that’s another post.

Over Four Years Sober

Four years of sobriety

In July of this year I achieved four years of sobriety.

Honestly, once I got past the first year it wasn’t that difficult. I had one instance where a server gave me an alcoholic drink in 2019. I took a few sips and it just didn’t taste right. It was nasty. Once I realized the mistake there was no temptation for the alcohol at all.

I didn’t freak out on the staff or wonder if I needed to start all over with the sober clock. It was an honest mistake. It didn’t lead me to drinking so I wasn’t going to punish myself emotionally.

The occasion slipped quietly by, but when I realized it, I really did enjoy a quiet smile to myself. It felt good inside.

Yep, Run Life is Over

I followed up a few times with my surgeon, who had followed up with the rest of his firm. No one was willing to operate on my situation.

Quick recap. My primary issue is that I suffer a ganglion cyst at the tibial-fibular head on my left leg. It grows into a lump that protrudes noticeably. Internally it impinges on a nerve bundle. The pain radiates from my knee down to my ankle. They won’t operate on it. And they won’t repeatedly drain it, I’m told for fear of infections. And that the surgery may not address the underlying problem.

And then there is the complex torn miniscus. I don’t suffer much discomfort from this. But the surgeons are more than willing to operate on that. But it wouldn’t allow me to run. I would lose what little cushion I have with the miniscus and I’m told it would amplify the progression of ostearthritis. Which I’m told I have.

The final straw, at six foot and two hundred pounds, I’m apparently not a good candidate. Frustrating. They prefer far lighter petite individuals.

So, there it is. Find some other way to stay fit. Disappointing and frustrating.

MS Surface Pro 7 – Casting Desktop?

Another thing in the evolution of learning things about the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, how can anyone cast their desktop? Support isn’t clear. They only point to casting with Windows Media Player like there is no other reason to cast. That is not something useful for a slide presentation.

Anyone out there have a clue?

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Be Aware of the USB-C

First let me say this is NOT a full product review. Yes, my household does own a MS Surface Pro 7. Yes, my impressions of it are very positive. No, I have not used it as a daily driver, for heavy production like video editing or for gaming.

However, one thing that seems to be lacking is that if you are buying specific accessories to work with the USB-C, your only choice MAY be to buy from Microsoft.

We bought this primarily for my wife’s work (contract worker with frequent travel) and it seemed to fit her needs pretty well, with a few exceptions. External monitors and charging through the USB-C port.

She had no way to attach to an external monitor, like for a dual monitor set up or to perform presentations. I tried USB-C to HDMI dongles and nothing worked. They weren’t even acknowledged by the OS. I finally broke down and bought an MS dongle and it worked. It was five times the cost but it worked great.

I found on the internet that the USB-C port could be used for direct charging en lieu of the proprietary MS charger. Don’t believe it. It doesn’t matter the cord or quality or amperage of the supply. In a situation where the charger was left behind, the only fix was a mad dash to a local retailer that had the MS proprietary charger available.

Nowhere is it stated or implied in any MS information, either marketing or support, do they let you know the USB-C interface is somehow keyed or coded to use ONLY Microsoft proprietary accessories. It may be that the USB-C can support some industry standard stuff, but I haven’t found any. Buyer be informed.

Run Life Over?

Through 2019 I was dealing with left knee issues. There was a lump (ultimately a gangleon cyst) that developed around the head of my left fibula. And intermittent knee pain inside the joint.

Recent MRI’s confirmed the gangleon cyst, but also identified a miniscus tear.

I saw an orthopedic surgeon today. I was informed that the gangleon cyst was correctable, but the torn miniscus was a complex tear. Repairing it would be highly unlikely. To replace it would be more likely, but I would be lucky to go a year without it breaking down because the replacement materials frequently fail.

And at my age, well, I should consider an alternative form or exercise. Like biking or swimming.

I always considered this was a day that could come. When I’d have to admit that age is taking hold. That i might have to pass on running. Ugh.

I will say, I’m glad to have gotten the past few years in with running. If I had continued drinking like I was, I never would have.

I’m thankful for what I’ve had and still do have. But if I truly can’t run any more, I will mourn for that.