The Apple Watch question to ask: Does it make my life a minimum of $499 easier? (Part 1 of a multi-part review)

The one question everyone needs to ask themselves when they’re thinking about buying an Apple Watch (or any purchase really): does this new pricey gadget get me the value it should for its price? In order to help everyone answer that question, I’m putting forth my own responses and perspective on this new device.

My Apple Watch

There’s an important bit of context to understand about my Apple Watch that I must explain before we get too much further in my assessment of it… Continue reading

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Cutting the cord has been a great decision so far

Not even a week into this new lifestyle choice and I’m loving it. In case you missed my previous post on the topic, I finally decided to ditch cable TV and save close to $1500 a year in the process. It looks like a lot of people are doing this now more than ever. I suspect HBO Now was a tipping point for a lot of people. I know it’s one of the things that got me and Kristin talking about it.

Pain Points aka why can’t I pause live TV anymore…

Now there are some slight pain points to cutting the cord. The one most noticeable to me has been the lack of DVR capabilities on my live TV solution (HD antenna). I keep pressing the pause button on my remote out of habit when I am watching live TV and am still somewhat shocked whenever it doesn’t work (especially since all the streaming services that I do use have the ability to pause). Also, the inability to fast forward through the commercials on Hulu Plus is a bit grating. I started to look into DVR solutions that would work with an antenna, but TiVo appears to have cornered the market and there’s no device only option. I just want a DVR that will provide a buffer and maybe let me record one show while I watch another. The only solutions I’ve found that don’t involve me building it myself, so far, entail a lot of options that are lacking in any really good reliable online reviews. I’m sort of lost as to whether a cheap option like this will work, or if I need to spend a few hundred dollars.

Legit help in finding what to watch…

The other thing about cord cutting is what I mentioned last time: you’re free from the schedule of network television. This is great, but it can also be a little daunting for someone who is used to flipping through a bunch of channels and settling on something to watch. Instead you have the option to look through ALL THE GOOD VIDEO EVER CREATED and perhaps binge watch an entire show.

I don’t like binge watching though, unless it’s something like Big Tuna / Deadliest Catch in the background while I’m doing other stuff. I want more variety and it’s a bit difficult to create that organically with the plethora of options that all the various streaming services offer you.

What helps with this is apps like Andrew Busey’s Legit. Legit is a great app (iOS/Android/Facebook) that logs in via Facebook and lets you rate shows and movies and discuss them amongst your Facebook friends and compare the way you rank them to how your friends have. Sounds simple, but it has a great What to Watch section that makes recommendations to you based on your social network and links to various ways you can watch the TV show / movie immediately. There’s even an Apple Watch app for Legit.

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I finally cut the cord (and so should you)

This week, I finally got sick of paying a premium for ALL THE CHANNELS provided by Time Warner Cable. Our primary DVR/cable box in our main room died a horrible death of infinite reboots on Sunday, and I took it in to the local Time Warner store to swap it out for a new one on Monday. The new one had a different problem that made it unusable. Tuesday I went back to exchange that box. They told me I was in luck, that their brand new amazing box that lets you record 7 channels at once was available… but, then, the support person assisting me couldn’t get the system to actually let her scan the new device out of their inventory and onto my account, so I left with a duplicate of the same box I was returning. And guess what? It also suffered from the same insufferable bug that made it unwatchable (it kept toggling between 480p and 1080i every 20-25 seconds, even though I changed its settings to only allow 1080i).

That was the final straw.

I called Time Warner up and told them I wanted to cancel everything except for my high speed internet. I no longer wanted the phone service that I never used and only got because it kept the bundle price lower than if I had done only TV & Internet. They transferred me to another agent who evidently is trained specifically to avoid letting people cancel service. I didn’t mess around, I repeated the story of my last several days and said “Please cancel my television and phone plans immediately, or I will ask to cancel the internet too and take my business entirely elsewhere.” He immediately made the change and told me that as soon as I turned in my actual equipment it would go into effect. I did this yesterday morning, and now I feel free from the shackles of cable television.

How I watch TV now

Here’s the breakdown of services I am now subscribed to, their cost, and their use cases:

  • Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month / $95.88 a year)—Next day viewing of all the shows worth watching that aren’t on HBO; this is your On Demand / DVR replacement.
  • HBO NOW ($14.99 per month / $179.88 a year)—HBO Now = Game of Thrones live when it airs. This was a must have. Plus tons of movies and other original series. Plus it works with HBO GO and the only requirement is that you have some sort of iOS device (an Apple TV, which I have already, is ideal).
  • Netflix ($7.99 a month / $95.88 a year)—I’ve been a customer since Netflix ate Blockbuster. This is specifically for all the older TV and movies and recently some of the best original content. Daredevil, for example, is the best show currently “on TV,” in my humble opinion. Netflix is also how my wife and I already handle 90% of our children’s TV allowance.
  • Amazon Prime ($8.25 a month / $99 a year)—I’ve been a customer since the only perk of Amazon Prime was Free 2-day shipping and reduced pricing on some items. Now, it includes Prime Video which, like Netflix, offers great original programming and lots of older TV shows and Movies for free viewing. It’s also how my wife and I handle the other 10% of our children’s TV allowance.

What about non-HBO live TV?

Who cares? One of the great things about cutting the cord is it frees you from having to watch your TV on a schedule dictated by the networks. Unless you like to watch sports, in which case you do have an option.

All the major networks are available to you via this contraption called an over-the-air TV antennae (and in full HD). Cheap ones cost about $35. Expensive ones are more in the $50-125 range. I just bought this one, which gets me ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW, a variety of PBS networks, as well as a bunch of Spanish-speaking channels that I don’t watch.

And this is all saving me money…

My monthly cable bill via Time Warner for one of the better Internet packages, robust TV with HBO, and a phone package that I never used for anything other than to actually lower my monthly bill, totaled about $225 per month or $2700 per year. Now I’m paying $95 a month for just the high speed internet, plus the addition of $23 extra per month for Hulu Plus & HBO Now, for a total of $1416 a year, saving me close to $1300 per year.

Does this all sound good to you? Time to cut the cord.

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Chaotic Moon Sponsor from Hell reel for the Moontower Comedy Festival, starring me!

I think I was tweeting a lot last week about how tiring it is to be an actor. I was literally exhausted and became sick with a 102.5F fever after the two and a half days of intensive filming we did putting together the above shorts for Chaotic Moon’s sponsorship of The Moontower Comedy Festival, which is happening today through the 25th right here in Austin, Texas. If you go to the show, you’ll see some of these between the acts. If you’re there Friday night, hopefully I’ll see you there!

Big thanks to my good friend, Ben Lamm, for trusting me to portray him in these, and thanks to Jim Ritts, for being an excellent co-star. Also, great job by Chaotic Moon’s marketing department, especially Chad Darbyshire, who was both writer, director, and puppeteer, and Zack Daschofsky, who wrangled most of the props together.

I have a new-found respect for actors too. I don’t think I could ever do this as a full-time job. You have to be too intense for very short bursts, followed by sitting around bored out of your skull while lighting is being set up.

UPDATE: Check out the raw cut of that maniacal laugh…

Also notice how red my face turns. I totally had a headache after that take. But, hey: I commit to the bit! #comedy

UPDATE NUMBER 2: Check out the official press release…

Here’s the details:

For Chaotic Moon, the festival is a great opportunity to support local and international comedy talent. “It’s also a great event for our clients and let’s us reward our entire organization,” said Lamm. “Our team works very hard, they deserve to kick back and have some fun at the show.”

The videos feature a series of increasingly outrageous exchanges between Lamm, played by Chaotic Moon’s EVP of Technology, C.K. Sample, and the actual Jim Ritts. Among other things, the sketches parody the involuntary tattooing of festival comedians, an attempted blackmailing of Jerry Seinfeld and a menacing taser drone employed to persuade Ritts into Lamm’s way of thinking. The rest of the cast is made up of Chaotic Moon employees, including a cameo by Mike Erwin, Chaotic Moon’s co-founder and CFO, as an annoyed elevator repairman.

Originally, Lamm was cast to play himself, but his heavy travel schedule, due to the company’s rapid growth and new offices in Dallas and Houston, caused a last minute casting change. “I was bummed, but I knew C.K. and Jim would kill it, and they did.”


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Full-blown cowboy at the RMHC Austin 26th Annual Bandana Ball

Saturday night, Kristin and I attended the 26th Annual Bandana Ball, and I got a chance to wear my grandfather’s cowboy hat. It was fun and for a charity that helps families in times of need. We also won a chair in the silent auction that will be a nice addition to the home decor, once we actually arrange to have it delivered.

Also they had a photobooth on site with props!
Thanks to Mark & Courtney for the invite!

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