Cutting ties with cable

Summer is nearly here with long evenings to take walks, write for a few hours, have meandering conversations and hang out with loved ones. This seems like the right priority to me, eschewing the canned entertainment options that would otherwise claim our attention. It took a while to come to the decision, but we finally cut our ties today with the cable company. No Comcast. The freedom is practically dizzying.

When we were making the decision, we first cut the main movie channels, cutting the bill down to around $100 rather than over $200 a month. Then we were down to extended basic services, though we didn’t have any interest in 3/4 of the stations we had available to us. Gradually, we realized we are ‘binge watchers’ or ‘bingers’. We have a few channels we watch, and only a select few shows that were being recorded to TiVo. The programs would sit there until we felt like watching a set at a time. Live TV hasn’t been in our lexicon for over 15 years now. It brings me to wonder why we didn’t take this step earlier. Likely a legacy of our parents’ generation, where TV was something we gathered around together (all five stations we had available in Australia that is — at least while I was growing up). I think my parents had a TV before they had a lounge suite, come to think of it.

TiVo freed us from VCR recording on the actual day a program aired. We used to get together on Fridays to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer with friends back in the 90’s, recorded on VCR. Then with TiVo, we were freed from the same-day arrangements. Gradually, we stopped thinking about ‘live tv’ at all.

We got Hulu, Netflix and we have Amazon Prime. Then recently, XBox 1 joined the options. With a Smart TV, we’ve been dodging the slow speeds of those services on Comcast box and going straight to streaming from the web, with more and more occasions where we watch a series in a binge session on a rainy weekend. The place of TV as a central character in our lives was diminishing. We even stopped buying physical media as much when we wanted to watch a whole series – unless it was a hard-to-get program. British Sci Fi, old Sci Fi, series from the 80’s and 90’s, but not so much modern stuff. The modern series are all available on the various services, many of them for free.

Over the last year, my partner and I have been focusing more on being present with each other. We’ve also been more focused on making content than consuming it. Writing as an activity is at least as enjoyable as watching a show. Talking about it is nearly as exciting. And that brings us to a summer of freedom. We talked about taking a summer break from cable, however, I think our love affair with television is over. We shall transition fully to a la carte, paying for and watching only what most appeals to us.

Good bye cable. I don’t think we’ll miss you.

Train to Portland for WDS

This weekend I set out on a terrific adventure to WDS, the World Domination Summit, in Portland. Here I am living in Seattle, with a bunch of options to get to the event. I can catch a plane, which is quick, but means standing around in airports. I could drive, but wouldn’t be able to read a book or write along the way. A train seemed like the best choice. It took only 4 hours, and is one of the best ways to see the water on the way down to Portland. The tracks are, in some places, only fifteen to twenty feet from the shore. I traveled business class to ensure I could plug in my laptop (a Surface Pro). There is a piece of fiction I’ve been working on, and the characters were calling for my attention.

On the train

On the train

Views on the way

Views on the way

Arriving at King Street Station, I stood in a modest line, only 5 people, to wait for the conductor. I had my e-ticket in hand. He let me know to go to the ticket office for seat assignment. Another short line, only two this time, later, I had a single seat and a coupon for a three dollar discount at the bistro car. All aboard carriage one, and quickly settled down to enjoy the experience. One of the most relaxing things about trains is the rocking rhythm, together with the speed. We had a few stops along the way to wait for freight trains, but none of them too long. We arrived at Union Station in Portland right on time. A quick ride later had me at the Hotel Modera, close to where the WDS events would be held. Close, I found in Portland, was a relative term. It was about nine blocks, and flat shoes were a good thing to have packed.

Hotel Modera view

Hotel Modera view

The summit was a melange of interesting people, great presentations on the main stage, and meetups that were put together by participants. Those were one of my favorite parts of the event, the people. I met folks from different countries, had a wonderful lunch of fresh seasonal foods, visited the farmer’s market. Best breakfast ever. Fresh biscuits with brown mushroom gravy and a fried egg. Delicious. And there was a bunch of walking. Portland is a city for pedestrians. There’s a lovely green belt on SW Park Street, that ribbons down, cooler than the surrounding streets, to Director Park. That was essential this weekend as the weather turned up the heat to the 90’s. Still, we kept hydrated, met loads of excited entrepreneurs, artists, writers and performers, all making the most of the weather and the chance to swap stories. I went to parties, acquired a temporary tattoo, and ate pie at Petunia’s Pies. On Saturday evening I celebrated the full moon with cocktails at the Nines, meeting some women with wonderful creative projects, and got to brainstorm book ideas with some great folks caring for animals.

Potatoes with beet salad

Potatoes with beet salad

The food in Portland is amazing. Fresh. Seasonal. Well prepared and delicious. Can’t wait to make another train trip with my sweetie to enjoy it again.

I am already planning to go to WDS next year, and am grateful to Lawrence and Sameer for recommending the experience. Also much gratitude to Chris and all the ambassadors for making it a memorable occasion. Thanks guys!

WDS has already been a success for me. I just finished the last 5,000 words of my novel and put it in the hands of my alpha reader today for feedback. Props to the summit for getting me unblocked. Don’t know how 5,000 words happened along with everything else, but am all fired up to continue on to the next book in the series. Now on to the next thing cousins. One step at a time.

Hope everyone else had a great time. I did. Will be reaching out to folks I met and chatted with over the next few days. There is at least one collaboration I’m excited about, and likely more.

Catching up with friends

postcardLife offers so very many opportunities to be busy with projects, there seems less time for socializing in person.  In order to keep up with news of chums around the world, and even those here in town, I am increasingly dependent on social media.  I am often caught up in simultaneous chat conversations in Sydney, Tasmania, New York, Seattle and San Francisco. This almost takes the place of letters, though some family are not available on line, and letters are the best way to thoughtfully communicate what has happened in the last few months. I have taken to writing a letter for family members, and send it to multiple people, much like my friends can catch up on news here, or on other social media.

For many friends, we only catch up in person when I am in their city, however, as we travel more, we are meeting up in cities we all want to explore together. It makes it a bit of an expedition, and coordinating it is part of the fun. Planned enough ahead, a visit to London can include brunches and lunches, dinners and late night drinks with friends who are there from other countries. We can visit the British Museum together, wander around Covent Garden, catch the markets in St James Church, or wander through Hyde Park for a morning stroll. A visit to Forbidden Planet, the terrific Science Fiction store in London, is a treat. And Baker Street is a must for the Sherlock Holmes fan.

However, nothing is as good as a long weekend where we stay up late talking, have a lazy brunch, and meander through the day. Sitting together over a meal or three sets the tone for there being time to listen, and to be in the moment.

Movies that make me happy

I get my love of movies from my parents. When I was a sprat, I’d try all kinds of strategies to stay up later and watch movies with my parents. They liked musicals and westerns, dramas and comedies, love stories and tales of swashbuckling pirates. It often surprises me how much we talked about the stories, and about the books that inspired them. Years later, what I remember most is the movies that were just about feeling good. Some were diversions created to boost morale during the Second World War; others were pure entertainment created in the era of the Hollywood studio machine. As a family, we loved the classics best.

Harvey – about a six foot tall white invisible phouka called Harvey, and his gently alcoholic and pleasant human companion, Elwood P Dowd, or is that vice versa? I loved this tale at the time, and it continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time.

Mary Poppins – I loved the books, the stage play is terrific, and the Disney movie is a lot of fun too. The wind changes, and blows in a new nanny for the children of this family. Mary Poppins is part fairy, part witch, and all about improbable circumstances. Whimsical and serious by turns, it features Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke in a range of roles.

Auntie Mame – Who wouldn’t want an Aunt like Mame? Eccentric, bohemian, extravagant and devoted to her nephew. Another wonderful musical.

Singing in the Rain– One of many great Gene Kelly dance movies.One of my first leading men, I fell for his charm, his smile, and the way he was comfortable in his body, a wonderful choreographer and dancer. Another favorite with him as leading man was For Me and My Gal.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown – A wonderful tale of an indominatable woman who was rescued from a river as a child, grew into a tomboy determined to marry a rich man, and who was brassy, bold and determined to live the good life. Through various trials and tribulations, adulation and rejection, she found her way into people’s hearts as a hero who saved people from a sinking ship, the Titanic. The critics didn’t always love this movie, but we did. It’s outrageous, over the top, and delightful.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Relaxing on the couch

One of my favorite things is to curl up on the couch next to my love, and cuddle while watching tv shows. We like to indulge in a series at a time, and may watch 4-5 episodes on a rainy afternoon. In between episodes, we make each other hot tea or cocoa, and talk about what the characters were doing. Often enough, it’s a series that we watched as a first run some while ago, and this time around, we know the story. Being close, and sharing the experience again makes us feel warm, cozy, and as though all is right with our world.

One of our comfort tv shows is Firefly, by Joss Whedon. Terrific cast, great stories. Shame it was on Fox; they seem to schedule, and then cancel, all the best shows.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved