Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year in Review

Stolen from Jenni (and Dan):

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
-conceived a child
-owned a non-condo detached single family home
-live in Minneapolis proper
-Visited somewhere in Georgia other than the Atlanta Airport in February
-Watched the NFL draft with my 11 year old newphew
-followed U2 to 3 different cities and saw them in a city other than Minneapolis or Chicago
-Met distant Norwegian relatives
-Watched Brett Favre play football in a Vikings jersey (and still somewhat in disbelief about it)

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
-I don't do them really, but I suppose I was resolved to have a kid, and we accomplished that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
-Two of my cousins had baby boys
-Ask me again in a year, I'll have a lot here, including my own! No less than 6 couples we know are pregnant and due around the same time that we are.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?
Didn't leave the US this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
-Be able to focus better and tune out distractions.
-More discipline at work.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The day we found out we were pregnant - 8/18/09

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Knocking up my wife. (do you detect a theme yet?)

9. What was your biggest failure?
eating too much food and blimping out.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A Tivo, to finally rid myself of shitty cable company DVRs.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Sully Sullenberger. I'm still amazed at how he landed that plane in the Hudson and nobody was seriously hurt. Stand up dude.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Tea Baggers (Republi"cant's") and the mainstream press. I really try to avoid it for the most part now. I don't give a shit that Tiger Woods fucked 27 women.

I wasn't appalled or depressed by Obama and his administration, but I was disappointed. Change, my ass. More of the same political bullshit, IMO. So much for being optimistic last year. Really does prove that Democrat or Republican, it doesn't make that much of a difference in my life.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Our house and Savings

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The Norwegian visit over my birthday in July
When we found out that we were pregnant.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
"Breathe" - by U2

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? happier
ii. thinner or fatter? fatter
iii. richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

work on the house, acting instead of just thinking, reading books

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watching TV, being a lazy jackass, lacking motivation, checking twitter so incessently

20. How will you be spending (spent) Christmas?
Spent it at my parents house in North Carolina, as we often do. I told my mom last night that it just feels like Christmas there. I wish we could go every year, but it's tough with my wife's family here in Minny.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Yeah, with the idea of having a beautiful baby daughter. And my wife and I are doing better than ever. You really hit your stride in marriage after 3 or 4 years, I really realized that this year. There's a rhythm, an ebb and flow to it that's hard to describe, but it works really well.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

There's so many. Survivor. How I Met Your Mother (discovered and watched all 6 seasons this year). Those are the two that stick out the most this year. We watch a lot of TV. Too much.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't really hate on anybody. We've reconnected with some that we fell out of touch with though, and that feels good.

24. What was the best book you read?

Infinite Jest, hands down. It was actually one of the only books I completed reading this year. I started a lot of books.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery of 2009?

You know all those "Best Albums of 2009" lists that come out this time of year? I've realized over the past several days that on most of them, I don't know a single Album, and in a lot of cases not even a single band. To say that 2009 was not a year of new music discovery for me is not an understatement.

26. What did you want and get?

To sell my house and buy a new one

27. What did you want and not get?

Can't think of anything really. I get anything I want to, and set realistic wants to begin with...

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Avatar, hands down.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Hung out with a bunch of awesome Norwegians and most of the Kinney family at my aunt's house, then watched the fireworks from the roof of a building downtown. I turned 31, and it was the greatest birthday ever. I'm not exaggerating.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not having to deal with negativity. I'm trying to shut it out of my life, because life's way too short.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Same shit, different day. Not at all an innovator here.

32. What kept you sane?
My wife, 150%.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Hate to say it, but Brett Favre. I am fascinated by the man.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

How, in the end, Healthcare will continue to be ruled by the fat-cat insurance companies who will continue to ensure that many Americans will not get the care they need, and the government doesn't have the balls to do something more drastic about it. A tie with that and the lack of financial reform to make sure the greedy motherfuckers on Wall Street don't keep pulling their garbage. It's already happening again and Obama/Congress are not gonna stop it...

35. Who did you miss?
My grandfather. I miss him every year. He died 6 years ago. That's crazy to me that it was already that long ago.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I didn't technically meet him in '09, but I got to know my new manager a lot better this year - and he's someone that can serve as a good mentor to me. For that, I am grateful.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:

Preparing to have a child puts everything in perspective. Everything.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I love it when they call me big Poppa" - Notorious B.I.G.

both because I'm fatter and I'm gonna be a dad.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Tivo so far, Consensus:Totally worth it

We got a Tivo just before Thanksgiving after my frustration with the crappy Comcast DVR we'd been provided in our new place reached a boiling point. The last time I had checked prices on Tivos was several years ago, when the only option that would pick up digital cable was the original Series III tivo. At the time, that box was in the $750 range, which was pretty cost prohibitive compared to the cable company offerings.

Fast forward, and now it's possible to get a Tivo HD box for less than $250, and a monthly fee that's less than I'm paying for the cable box. For us, worth it, particularly when pressed with the inferior Comcast offering. The drive is small, but we don't actually have HDTV yet, and upgrading the box is as easy as buying a 1TB drive for around 100 bucks that plugs right in to the unit and gives you a LOT more storage.

The Tivo showed up in about 4 or 5 days, which was really nice considering I ordered it with supersaver shipping which was free. Sometimes that can take a while - but an item as big as a Tivo is still shipped via UPS ground, which usually has a 3 day cycle. I got it for 229.99 with free shipping and a $30.00 credit at the Amazon On-Demand video store. I could have gotten it a bit cheaper from a few other places, but wanted the guarantee to be able to return it to Amazon if we had issues or didn't like it.

Suffice it to say, that didn't happen. Once we got the Tivo, I hooked it up to the cable by splitting the line between the cableco box and the Tivo. The rest of the setup was easy - the tivo comes with a digital audio out which I've used for years with other sources and plugged in easily to my stereo, same as video out. Since my router was already by the TV in our house, I was also able to easily plug the Tivo into that.

I fired up the Tivo once I had everything connected. It takes a while to turn on the first time. I went into the setup and did everything to set it up (it's a bit slow to set up because it has to download the guide data, etc). Once I set it up, I took it for a spin. One of the things I realized rather quickly is that it had an old version of the software on it which did not support features like Netflix on-demand (something I wanted to try sooner rather than later). No worry, this guide and Tivo's site pointed out that I could force the Tivo to run updates and restart so that the updates would take. It took about an hour additional to do that. This is the one thing I'm not sure about Tivo, why wouldn't you have the latest software on the box out of the box, especially an update that came out a while ago.

This was really my only frustration with setting up the Tivo. Programming recordings, all that was easy to set up. And almost immediately the Tivo started recording suggestions, an interesting feature which I check out a few times a week.

We had the Tivo going on the analog channels which more or less provided what we already had in the digital starter package from Comcast. Katie and I don't watch much on the channels over 100 and a while back had scaled back to just the digital starter. Most of which is provided by Comcast on the Analog channels, particularly when you don't need HD.

However, this package includes a free cable card and the digital channels are a better quality, so I went over to the Comcast store in Richfield to get a cable card. Despite their website saying this location stocked them, the counter person informed me that I'd have to call and have a truck rolled. I knew I should have called! Waste of a trip.

I set up an appointment for the following week, which got postponed another 5 days because of a "national outage" of their activation system. Comcast guy was able to set it up without issue. The box did make me rerun the setup which took a while, but now the box is working great.

I've tried out some of the add-ons - Netflix works pretty well for the most part, a few films lacked sound or had weird aspect ratio issues, but most have worked great. Tivo's PC software, however, is a waste of time. Once I did get it to connect to the box (challenging because of my network setup, apparently), it errored out on my music library, which I found out was far too big for the Tivo to be able to handle. Lame. Transferring videos requires a 25.o0 upgrade which I was originally going to buy, but I found a free program called PyTivo which allows you to download videos of pretty much any stripe to the Tivo - WIN. It works great once set up to watch divx encoded and other video files. It's a bit tricky and technical to set up as it runs a mini-server on your pc. You have to be able to work with configuration files and the like, but once it's running, it's set and forget.

Overall, I'm very pleased with my Tivo experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who isn't satisfied with the cable company DVR options. The CableCard makes it a no-brainer, really. You do lose on-demand and PPV from Comcast, but frankly, the Tivo box more than makes up for that.

There's a few places I reccomend checking out if you are interested in a Tivo:
The AVS Forum FAQ - an excellent and very inclusive guide to the TivoHD Product.
The Tivo Community - good site not affiliated with Tivo. Lots of good info here as well, particularly around CableCards and Comcast.