Updates: Cable TV, Telephone & Internet

Time Warner Cable is no more; TWC has been replaced by Spectrum. [TWC + Charter = Spectrum]

Also, Verizon local landline service is no more and has been replaced by Frontier.

For the past several decades we’ve lived in a GTE/Verizon pocket of Orange County and received our landline phone through them. When I read that Frontier was taking over their local phone service, I decided to switch to TWC — I just had to convince my wife to allow me to do so.

Several friends of ours had TWC phone and it was cheaper than Verizon’s product. Eventually, just before the takeover by Frontier, we made the switch. Uh – oh. The voice service never matched our, especially my wife’s, expectations.

Technicians moved the phone modem’s location — nope. Technicians re-wired the cable in the house — nope. Technicians re-wired the outside connection into the house — nope. And then, a few weeks ago, a technician re-wired the connection from the backyard utility pole to the house — hey, things now work properly.

Yes, our phone is now working properly — no pings, no clicks, no dropouts.

In addition, several months ago I boosted our TWC internet speed to 100Mbps — it increased but never reached 100Mbps. I asked one of the technicians about the situation when he came to work on the phone, but he couldn’t answer why I wasn’t getting the proper speed.

The last guy who came (and finally fixed the phone connection) tested the line at our modem (SURFboard SB6141) and said the signal strength and speed was fine — 117Mbps and suggested that I upgrade my years old WiFi router; the modem itself was fine. OK.

I went online and researched routers and prices and the next day went to Target and purchased a NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router (Model R7000). It didn’t take long to replace the old modem and get our phones, etc. connected to the network. The signal strength is such that I was able to disconnect the WiFi relay we had needed to connect while using our devices in our patio/sunroom. In fact, our spare bedroom, wherein sits our exercise bike, has an Apple TV WiFi connection that usually is between 115 and 117Mbps. I just checked the WiFi connection, via Fast.com, of this laptop in our living room — 120Mbps.

So — internet usage is quite a bit faster than before and is more reliable; there are no problems using multiple devices over our network; my terabytes of movies, music, pictures and TV shows stream better from my iTunes media storage drive; pixelization is no longer a problem on the cable television; the phone works. Also, I might add, if you have Spectrum phone service and are bothered by spam and scam phone calls, make sure you get NoMoRobo through Spectrum. It doesn’t get rid of all the calls, but it cuts down the number significantly.


One last word — I just retested our connection and got 92Mbps.

A Few Friday Thoughts on Football

Football news we’d been expecting and waiting for in the L.A. area arrived today — the San Diego Chargers (previously the L.A. Chargers) are returning to L.A.

Oh, joy.

Prior to this last season, the Los Angeles area had been without an NFL team for some twenty years (since the Rams absconded to Saint Louis in the 90s). Such a loss.

We didn’t, at least as far as I was concerned, actually need an NFL team in our part of SoCal.

We had perennially contending “pro” teams: the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans — I am of the opinion that any team with dozens of players benefiting from $50,000+/year full-ride scholarships is a professional team and the players are professional athletes.

We have a number of other exciting to watch college and junior college teams.

And — we have some of the most exciting high school football teams in the nation playing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in stadiums where every seat is up close and personal. Having seen more than five hundred of these games over the last thirty years, I can assure you that most of them are a lot more exciting than those played by the L.A. Rams in 2016.

Just think of it — twenty years without an NFL team in L.A. and all of a sudden we have three teams vying to come to L.A.: 2016 the Rams arrive with a 4 and 12 record — losers; the Chargers leave San Diego with a 5 and 11 record — losers. The Oakland Raiders who appear ready to go to Vegas closed out their regular season with a 12 and 4 record. Lost Wages, Nevada wins again.

The Rams will play in the Coliseum which seats 80,000+ fans for the next two years before their own stadium in Inglewood, which also will seat 80,000 fans, is completed. If they continue to lose, there’ll be more than a few empty seats staring at the television cameras.

The Chargers, who’ll play at a soccer stadium in Carson until the Inglewood facility is completed, will be hard-pressed to sell out its 27,167 seats the next two years if they continue to play the way they have.

I doubt I’ll be going to any Ram or Charger games. If I want to watch them, I’ll catch them on the boob-tube. Just because they now have Los Angeles in front of their names doesn’t guarantee the support and loyalty of those of us who live in the Los Angeles area — and I live in Orange County. If these billionaire owners want my money — over and above what I spend on my Cable TV bill, that is — they’ll need to improve their product.

Yes, next year I’ll root for my favorite NFL team — Go, Packers and anyone else who plays the Forty-Niners.

Yes, next year I’ll root for the Trojans and Bruins and Gophers.

Yes, next year I’ll root for the Chargers (Edison High School Chargers, that is), Huntington Beach Oilers, Fountain Valley Barons, Orange Panthers, Villa Park Spartans, El Modena Vanguards and Canyon Comanches and other SoCal teams.

The L.A. Rams and the L.A. Chargers? Maybe . . . but not the way they played these last few years.

Oh, yeah — I’ll continue, perhaps a bit ironically, to root for Arsenal: Go Gunners!

Christmas Reflections on Boxing Day 2016

Diana (Charlie) and I spent a quiet Christmas Day at home with Mist and Smoke. We hope you all had a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or, at least, a trouble-free day if you weren’t celebrating a holiday.

I picked up a Noble Fir last Monday and left it in the rain before moving it into the sunroom. Instead of decorating it with multi-colored strings of twenty-plus year old lights we used three strings of white, blue and pink LEDs this year — looks good. We then added the usual Christmas ornaments and Di’s British decorations. No tinsel, as we learned with Magic and Merlin that cats eat tinsel and I really didn’t want to . . .

After a morning of tea, coffee, exercise bicycle and then breakfast, the day unwound: opening presents; Skyping relatives in Britain; basketball, football and Dr. Who on my TV; movies and Bewitched (B&W) episodes on Di’s.

And, of course, fixing a turkey dinner.

Because Di’s ailments prevent her from standing for any considerable length of time, most of the cooking has become my responsibility — with some directions from her. Before Thanksgiving I picked up four Butterball turkeys from Aldi and Target (99¢/lb) — Di mandates a Butterball. Fifteen-pounds is just about perfect for us — fits in the oven, plenty of room for stuffing/dressing, a lot of meat for dinner and seconds and two large tubs of leftovers.

Christmas dinner would consist of turkey, mashed potatoes, peas and stuffing/dressing.

We made three different stuffings: Trader Joe’s Cornbread with added giblets and clams — cooked separately as Di is allergic to all types of shellfish; seasoned bread and onion stuffing which went into the turkey and under its skin; and bread and onion stuffing with diced British sausage added, which will be cooked this afternoon. All of this means that I’ll be able to snack on stuffing for several days without eating all of it before Di gets her fill.

About 1:30 pm I placed the turkey into a 400° (F) oven for thirty minutes — for browning — then put some aluminum foil over it to prevent burning and turned the oven down to 325° for the rest of the cooking cycle. Every thirty minutes or so, I basted it with melted butter. As there was still some ice in the turkey when I opened the package before stuffing it, I allowed it to cook until 6:oo pm — yes, I tested the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer before taking the turkey out of the oven, and allowed it to sit for a while before carving and dismembering it.

Di came in to make her gravy, and I dished out turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (Gold with melted butter, garlic and pepper) and peas for each of us. Yum. Everything was tasty; Di had one helping, and I had two. Following dinner, I put the leftover potatoes, peas, dressing (Di’s) and some of the turkey into a plastic tub and finished dismembering the turkey and putting its meat into another large tub — a week’s worth of leftovers for the two of us.

David, Di’s brother, gave me a bottle of whisky for Christmas — a 20-year-old Speyside Single Malt from the Un-Chillfiltered Collection (92 proof). I had one glass for dinner and two after — of course, I also missed the ending of the Laker game and the Dr. Who Christmas episode.

All in all it was a very pleasant day.

Reflections

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace to people of good will — so why were several of the commercials for new movies, to me at least, ultra-violent? Maybe, because they were coming to theaters after Christmas? Hmmm . . .

There seemed to be a lot of discussion around Thanksgiving and Black Friday about people working in department stores on Thanksgiving Day. It seems that some people feel it is unjust to ask people to work on Thanksgiving just so we can shop for cheap(er) things before Christmas. Hmmmm . . .

How many of these clerking and stocking jobs are held by at, or near, minimum wage employees who can use every hour they get to support themselves and their families?

And why no outcry for those who work everyday regardless of holiday?

Police, Fire and other emergency workers are always on the job. Hospitals don’t close. People still go to work at our water and sewage departments. Electricity and gas employees still work as these utilities won’t run themselves. Gas stations and convenience stores stay open. Some restaurants, theaters, and recreational attractions (think Disneyland and ski resorts) run all day long. Airports, airlines, trains, buses, taxis, Uber and Lyft continue to move us from place to place.

Did you listen to the radio or watch TV or surf the Internet yesterday or on Thanksgiving — they don’t function without people working.

We’ve become — if we really haven’t always been — a 24-7-365¼ society. So how about we just thank those who have jobs that require they work on holidays rather than make ourselves feel better by complaining about it?

To those of you who work on those days most of us don’t have to (Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) — Thank-You. I, for one, greatly appreciate the work you do to keep my world running.

 

New Mexico Chili Cook-Off

New Mexico Chili Cook-off

This is an actual account as relayed to paramedics at a chili cook-off in New Mexico . . .

For those of you who have lived in New Mexico or tasted your way across it, you know how true this is. They actually have a Chili Cook-off about the time Halloween comes around. It takes up a major portion of a parking lot at the Santa Fe Plaza. Judge #3 was an inexperienced chili taster named Frank, who was visiting from Springfield, IL.

Chili -- Sharing the SoCal Autumn Sun

Sharing the SoCal Autumn Sun

Frank: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off.. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table, asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native New Mexicans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy; and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted and became Judge #3.”

Here are the scorecard notes from the event:

CHILI # 1 – MIKE’S MANIAC MONSTER CHILI

Judge # 1 — A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.
Judge # 2 — Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
Judge # 3 (Frank) — Holy crap, what the h— is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These New Mexicans are crazy.

CHILI # 2 – EL RANCHO’S AFTERBURNER CHILI

Judge # 1 — Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.
Judge # 2 — Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
Judge # 3 — Keep this out of the reach of children. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.

Chili -- Nesting

Nesting

CHILI # 3 – ALFREDO’S FAMOUS BURN DOWN THE BARN CHILI

Judge # 1 — Excellent firehouse chili Great kick.
Judge # 2 — A bit salty, good use of peppers.
Judge # 3 — Call the EPA. I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. The Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting sh*t-faced from all of the beer.

CHILI # 4 – BUBBA’S BLACK MAGIC

Judge # 1 — Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
Judge # 2 — Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
Judge # 3 — I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out taste buds? Sally, the beer maid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. This 300 lb. woman is starting to look HOT . . .  Just like this nuclear waste I’m eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?

CHILI # 5 – LISA’S LEGAL LIP REMOVER

Judge # 1 — Meaty, strong chili. Jalapeno peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
Judge # 2 — Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the jalapeno peppers make a strong statement.
Judge # 3 — My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted, and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off. It really ticks me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. HELP !!

Chili -- Nesting

Nesting

CHILI # 6 – VARGA’S VERY VEGETARIAN VARIETY

Judge # 1 — Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.
Judge # 2 — The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, garlic. Superb.
Judge # 3 — My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I crapped on myself when I farted, and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that Sally. Can’t feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my butt with a snow cone.

CHILI # 7 – SUSAN’S SCREAMING SENSATION CHILI

Judge # 1 — A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
Judge # 2 — Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge #3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.
Judge # 3 — You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing. It’s too painful.  I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.

CHILI # 8 – BIG TOM’S TOENAIL CURLING CHILI

Judge # 1 — The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
Judge # 2 — This final entry is a good, balanced chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge #3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he’d have reacted to really hot chili?
Judge # 3 — No report

Thoughts on the Election

Elections — the day after

Today is November 9th, 2016 — one day after local and national elections here in the United States, and I would like to offer a few observations.

The Earth continued to rotate and the sun rose on our beautiful home world. The apocalypse did not happen.

Donald Trump is the President-Elect and will be sworn in as the POTUS on January 20th, 2017.

We may be in for interesting times, but life will continue.

Newspaper, radio, television and other commentators and pundits will play “Monday morning quarterback” ad nauseam for the foreseeable future — and it will change nothing.

There will be recriminations, gloating and regrets — and they will also change nothing.Election Cats

Perhaps people will again become polite to each other despite their differing political beliefs or prejudices or fantasies. (My belief — your prejudicial and idiotic fantasies, of course, but I won’t hold them against you.)

Once again the candidate who got the most popular votes lost the election to the candidate who got the most electoral votes. Yet, I have heard no outcries to change the system so that our votes are actually equal and not distorted by giving each state, no matter its population, two additional electoral votes — one for each senator. Or, perhaps, doing away with the Electoral College via an amendment to the Constitution and going with a straight popular vote.

California keeps raising taxes — two dollars per pack of cigarettes and new taxes on marijuana that will combine to bring in more than two billion additional dollars yearly.

We now have another legal intoxicant in California and no legal definition on the blood levels necessary to charge a person with a crime when their smoking results in a motor vehicle accident and possible injuries or death to someone else.

California adult film performers do not have to use condoms while filming — now how did that get to be a state-wide proposition?

Proposition 61 failed to pass, thus allowing drug companies to keep raising prices for drugs. (Although if it had passed, there would still have been nothing to keep them from raising their prices. An expensive tempest in a teapot.)

California elected a female Democrat to the U.S. Senate to replace another female Democrat. Of course, if she had lost, California would still have elected a female Democrat to that position thanks to our top-two primary system.

It is going to be interesting to see how this Republican President and this Republican-dominated Congress/Senate will “work” together. Remember, we have a system of checks and balances in this country. And, no, these are not supposed to be checks with dollar signs in front of them.

If you voted, for either candidate, you have a right to complain about what happens now. If you didn’t vote, you still have a legal right to complain, but I don’t think you have a moral one. So, please, be quiet — grin and bear it until the next election. Then register and vote. If you’re not a citizen, become one if you wish to participate in our political process.

If you weren’t satisfied with either candidate and didn’t take part in the political process to select the candidates, next time participate. Get involved at the local level in the political party of your choice. Clinton and Trump were the results of too many of us leaving the selection to others for too many years. If you’re an independent and not a Republican or a Democrat, you have no say in who gets nominated — that say belongs to those who are actually registered as members of that political party. Think carefully about your choice when you register, and think carefully about whether or not you wish to get involved in the party or are content to merely vote on the choices of others.

A final thought

Election Day often falls during the same week as Veterans Day.

How about we make Veterans Day a true national holiday and combine it with Election Day. Think about it, a national holiday on which we can all vote. I think it would be a great way to honor those who have served and sacrificed to provide us with the right to vote and have preserved it for over two hundred years. (Oh, yeah and let’s keep it on a Tuesday so we don’t just make it another three-day-weekend and ignore its true purpose.)