Monday, September 16, 2019

Smoke Alarm

It was late Sunday night -- a little after 10 PM -- when I heard the "BEEP!"

I sat there for a moment, not sure if I actually heard something. After several seconds, I decided I hadn't heard anything. Then I heard it again.

"BEEP!"

"Okay, that's the smoke alarm telling me the battery is low," I said to myself. Why did I say that to myself? I was the only one listening, that's why.

So, I walked to the hallway and looked over the guest bedroom door, where the smoke detector was.

"BEEP!"

It didn't really sound like it was coming from ahead and above me. Must be odd acoustics, huh? Oh, well. I need to take it down and change the battery. So, I walked over to it, twisted it slightly, and it came off. I then turned it over to locate the battery cover, expecting something about the size of a 9-volt battery. Nothing looked that size. There was something that looked like a battery cover, but it didn't look the right shape.

"BEEP!"

That sure didn't seem like it came from my hand. But, yes, I had the smoke alarm in my hand. Walking into the kitchen, where I keep the batteries in the drawer full of everything, I removed the cover and saw a couple of strange-shaped batteries. CR123A. Well, that's unexpected. I'll need to run to the store and get a couple. For now, I'll just remove them. So I did, setting the smoke alarm, batteries, and battery cover on the kitchen table.

"BEEP!"

Okay, that's unexpected. I had not expected the smoke alarm to continue to beep at me after the batteries were removed. Had I removed the wrong smoke detector? Did I have another I forgot about? So, I looked into the guest bedroom to see what I could find.

"BEEP!"

Okay, that was behind me. I looked up along the hallway, wondering if there was another. So, I stepped into my bedroom, looking up around the bedroom.

"BEEP!"

That was behind me. So, in the hallway? Or was it something else? The motion sensor perhaps? I walked to the middle of the hallway and stood staring at the motion sensor, waiting for ...

"BEEP!"

Okay, that was to my left. What's to my left? The thermostat. The bedroom. The hall closet. And, in the dining room, just off the hallway, the alarm system. Well then, I'll just stand in the opening between the hall and the dining room and see if the sound is from the alarm system to the right or the hallway to the left.

"BEEP!"

Definitely hallway. So... the hall closest? Is there a smoke alarm in there? I opened the hall closet to see. There, on the shelf, was the old smoke alarm that I had replaced many many months ago with a smoke alarm that tied into my security system. I picked it up off the shelf and turned it over. There was a 9-volt battery attached.

"BEEP!"

I unplugged the battery, and set it down on the kitchen table. I put he CR123A batteries back in the system smoke alarm and put it back on the wall. Or started to. I must have hit something because my alarm system went off. I walked over and punched in the code and it stopped.

Back to the hallway, and I successfully put the smoke alarm back up. I walked back to the home alarm system and set the alarm for the night. Rather than head to bed, I decided I was thirsty and got some cold water from the fridge. Sitting down in the recliner, I decided to finish the water before heading to bed.

A few minutes later, I heard a large vehicle pull up out front. Did I care enough to go see what it was? No. In a little bit, something caught the corner of my eye. There was a blue light I could just about see through the space between the window and the blinds. Now I cared enough.

Heading to the door, I peered between the blinds. Was that a fire truck? And a police car? And four persons standing across the street in the neighbor's yard?

No evidence of a fire. Perhaps someone had called 911 for a medical emergency? I grabbed my pistol -- you never know what might be going on at 10:30 at night -- and disabled the alarm. I walked to the front door, opened it, and there was a man walking up the steps. I flipped the porch light on, and I could see he was a firefighter.

"We got a report of a fire alarm at this address."

I paused. "Nope. No fire here."

He was joined by two other firefighters and a police officer.

"Your alarm company said they couldn't reach you so they called us."

"I'm sorry about that. My phone hasn't rung," I said. And it hadn't. "Everything's okay here. I am sorry for the trouble though."

"It's not a problem." He turned to leave, then stopped. "You might want to your alarm company and correct your address." He explained that they gave him an address 1 number off, which would be on the other side of the street. That house, though, faces a different road, meaning the address they were given doesn't exist.

"I'll contact them right now. Sorry for the trouble."

"You have a good night, sir."

"You too."

Well, the alarm company does have my address correct in the Web interface, so I'm not sure why they'd give the wrong address. And while my phone didn't ring, I did have a voice mail from them.

It's good to know that my alarm system works, even if it doesn't work just right.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Disney+ streaming deals? Maybe.

In case you haven't heard, there's a thing called Disney+. It's a streaming service that will launch in November. It will contain a lot of Disney content, naturally. And, that's a lot of stuff. Disney owns a whole bunch of stuff.

In the meantime, Disney has been removing their content -- not all of it, but bit by bit at least some of it -- from other streaming services. Netflix is slowly losing content, but whether or not all Disney content will eventually leave isn't known. But, with Disney's new streaming service, there will be a streaming home for the massive Disney catalog.

What brought this up is a couple of things. I grew up watching Disney, so Disney movies and Disney parks hold a special place for me. Sure, a lot of things Disney does I do not like, but if I stopped watching everything from companies that did something I didn't like, I would watch nothing. So, I enjoy their movies and parks, by myself and with the grandchildren.

The other thing is that Disney+ offers an introductory offer for the service. But, of course, there's a catch. You gotta sign up for three years in order to take advantage of the special price. And the deadline for the offer is a full two months (maybe more) before the service launches.

I figure I'll subscribe, at least for a while, to see if I like the service. And, I suspect I'll like it, at least enough to keep paying the $5.99 a month (that's the regular price, not the discount I mentioned. That works out to $3.92/month.

What complicates things is that Disney has other offers going on. They'll be offering three services -- Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ -- for $12.99/month. Since ESPN+ is $4.99/month and Hulu is $5.99/month, that would mean I could get Disney+ for essentially $2.01/month. But, I don't want or need ESPN+ every month. I only care during football season, since some games I want to watch will be on that service.

The other thing is that I also upgrade my Hulu from the $5.99 service to the $44.99 Hulu Live service -- adding $39/month to the cost -- during football season. That's so I can get ESPN, which is where many of the games I want to watch will be shown. I don't need Hulu Live the rest of the time. Of course, there are other options for adding ESPN to my streaming capabilities, the cheapest of which is Sling TV, which, with the Sports Extra (ESPNU, ESPNews, SEC Network, others) runs $35/month. To me, spending the extra $4 for Hulu Live vs Sling TV makes more sense because of the recent issues with content being pulled from Sling during Dish contract negotiations. Dish owns Sling TV. To avoid that, I upgraded my Hulu to the Live service instead.

So, the complications to the Disney+ special offer are related to the bundle of Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu, the fact that I only use ESPN+ part of the year, and the fact that I upgrade from Hulu to Hulu Live during part of the year. That made running the numbers challenging. But, hey, I like a good challenge. Here's what I found.

One assumption I made was that I would subscribe to Disney+ for three years, whether the 3-year deal, the one-year price, the month-to-month price, or the bundle price. Regardless of how I did it, I would do it for three years. That made it easy to compare.

The next is that I would keep Hulu the whole time. I expect that to be the case, as I've had Hulu since 2010, when it was called Hulu Plus.

The next assumption is that prices would remain the same for three years. That's a false assumption, but I only have current prices available, so I went with what I have.

Finally, I had to run the numbers two ways in order to fully compare. One way was with adding a live streaming service (for ESPN channels) during part of the year, and subscribing to ESPN+ only during that same time. The other was keeping all services all year. I don't expect that to happen, but I ran the numbers to see what would happen if I did. The idea is that if I found it cheaper to keep the year-round rather than drop them during off months, I would. Spoilers: It's not cheaper to keep them, but I didn't confirm that until I ran the numbers.

Here's what I found for having Hulu year-round, Disney+ year-round, ESPN+ during football season, live streaming with sports channels during football season.

Paying full price for all services ($5.99 Hulu, $4.99 ESPN+, $5.99 Disney+, $39 Hulu Live add-on), it's $55.97/month during football season, and $11.98 the rest of the year. That totals $363.71/year, or $1,091.13/3-years.

Same, but pre-paying for a year of Disney+ instead of month to month works out to $361.83/year or $1,085.46/3-years. That's less than a $2/year savings.

Same, but getting the Disney bundle year-round, and adding Hulu Live during season is $350.88/year or $1,052.64/3-years. That's a little more savings.

Same, but getting the Disney bundle in season, and paying full price off-season, works to $301.88/year or $905.64/3-years. That's more of a savings.

Same, but using Sling TV with Sports Extra instead of Hulu Live is $281.88/year or $845.64/3-years.

I also ran the numbers keeping everything year round, and that increased each total by 74% to 107%. Yep, nearly double in many cases and more than double in some. So, I'm not going with the year-round option.

What does all this bunch of numbers mean? Well, it means I'm going to pass on the three-year price for Disney+ and use the three-service bundle. I'll upgrade to live sports during football season and cut back during off-season. Which live service depends on price and special offers. Sling TV will sometimes offer specials if you pre-pay for several months. I've done that in the past. That may be something to consider if you are looking at something similar.

For now, I'm not going the cheapest route, but it's not much more than the cheapest. If you're looking at streaming, run the numbers before you buy into a long-term contract. It may save you some cash in the long run.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Doing Disney

If it seems like I've been slacking a lot lately, it's only because it's true. I've been in vacation mode for a bit. And will be in vacation mode for a bit longer. Until about Labor Day, I think.

Why? Well, I've been focusing on vacations. I do Disney World a lot. Not just me and Wife, but taking grandchildren too. I live less than four hours away from the parks, so I could do a day trip. I don't, because I'm not as young as I used to be, but I could.

My trips have been mostly one or two-day affairs. I have made a couple of trips longer in the past year, but only a couple. Most have been single day or two-day trips to Disney World.

Being an annual pass holder means I don't have to pay as much per visit to the parks, and I can do multiple parks in a day if I so choose. I've even done all four parks in a single day, but only once.

Since some family members are well aware of how often we make the trips to Disney World, they do wonder if it's actually more affordable than they imagine. It's not, as this video blogger will tell you.


[The YouTube]

Now, I don't spend that much money when I go to Disney World. As I said, I have an annual pass. I also shop around for hotels and don't mind staying at cheap hotels, as long as they're clean and comfortable. And I'll pack a lunch in a heartbeat. And, I'll drink that awful-tasting water from the water fountain. Because I'm cheap.

I recently renewed my annual pass. Sort of. Long story for another time. But I'll be going to Disney World more in the next year.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Gone Google? Google gone!

I lost Google yesterday.

Actually, I didn't lose it. It was taken from me.

An afternoon storm caused a power outage. The outage corresponded to a very loud pop from the next room, the room where all the Internet hardware is located. When the power came back on, the Internet didn't.

Now, losing Internet for a bit isn't really that big of a deal. It's even softened a good bit when the phone still can connect, so I wasn't completely cut off. But, home Internet is more of a big deal now that I've added some smart devices around the house.

"Hey Google, turn on the air conditioner."

"OK Google, turn off the kitchen light."

"Hey Google, what's the weather?"

That doesn't sound like much, but when you get used to it, it's kinda jarring when it's gone. And Google was gone.

Rebooting the system a couple of times didn't help. I own my own router. But swapping out the router -- twice -- didn't fix it. It was the modem maybe? I own my own modem. But swapping it out didn't really make any difference. So, I contacted Comcast. Actually drove to the local office -- not a full company store, but still a Comcast location -- and spoke to them.

The nice lady said they'd be able to get someone by on Thursday. Not this Thursday, but next Thursday. 10 days later.

Time to try another tactic. I added a Comcast modem to my account, and walked out with it under my arm. Here's my thinking: An issue with my service takes 10 days to get a tech to come by. But a new hardware setup, a Comcast-provided device, gets priority.

Got home and though it took an awfully long time to navigate the menu system and wait on hold and then wait for Michael (that was his name) to finish the setup the store didn't finish, I finally got back up and running. Took a couple of hours overall, but that included my own troubleshooting, a trip to Comcast, then the whole new hardware setup. But, as I said, I was back up and running.

Google was back! I no longer had to reach over and turn on a light switch if I wanted light.

I actually said, "Hey Google, I missed you."

It actually replied, "I missed you, too."

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day 2019

The Tomb of the Unknowns

Proclamation on Prayer for Peace, Memorial Day, 2019

Issued on: May 24, 2019

Whether on the battlefields of Bunker Hill, on the beaches of Normandy, in the jungles of Vietnam, or in the mountains and deserts of the Middle East, brave Americans of every generation have given their last full measure of devotion in defense of our country, our liberty, and our founding ideals. On Memorial Day, we humbly honor these incredible patriots and firmly renew our abiding commitment to uphold the principles for which they laid down their lives.

As a free people, we have a sacred duty to remember the courageous warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our great country would endure. It is our responsibility to strive to ensure that their noble acts of dedication to our country and the cause of freedom were not in vain and to comfort the families they have left behind, who bear the heartbreak of their loss. We must ensure that the light of our Republic, and all for which these most honorable Americans willingly died, continues to shine forth brightly into the world. As President Lincoln said in 1863 during the dedication of the Gettysburg National Military Cemetery: “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we proudly commemorate those heroic and honorable patriots who gave their all for the cause of freedom during some of history’s darkest hours. Thousands of selfless members of our Armed Forces perished on the beaches of Normandy. They bravely gave their lives to pave the way for the Allied liberation of Europe and ultimately victory over the forces of evil. Their historic sacrifices and achievements secured the future of humanity and proved America’s strength in defending freedom and defeating the enemies of civilization.

Those who rest in the hallowed grounds of our country’s national cemeteries laid their lives upon the altar of freedom. Today, as we unite in eternal gratitude for the sacrifices of these extraordinary Americans, let us also offer a prayer for lasting peace. Let us renew our steadfast resolve to work toward a peaceful future, in which the horrors of war are a distant memory and our families, our communities, and our Nation need no longer confront the sorrow and pain of losing our beloved sons and daughters.

In honor and recognition of all of our fallen heroes, the Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 11, 1950, as amended (36 U.S.C. 116), has requested the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe each Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace and designating a period on that day when the people of the United States might unite in prayer. The Congress, by Public Law 106-579, has also designated 3:00 p.m. local time on that day as a time for all Americans to observe, in their own way, the National Moment of Remembrance.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Memorial Day, May 27, 2019, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and I designate the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time when people might unite in prayer.

I further ask all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.

I also request the Governors of the United States and its Territories, and the appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct the flag be flown at half-staff until noon on this Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States and in all areas under its jurisdiction and control. I also request the people of the United States to display the flag at half-staff from their homes for the customary forenoon period.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand thistwenty-fourth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Pluto TV

I think I have a new favorite cord cutting app. Pluto TV is one I've had for a bit. It always had something interesting on it, but now they've got a lot more.

If you aren't familiar with Pluto TV, it's a live linear streaming service. What that means is that it's kinda like cable TV in that there is stuff playing on different channels at different times. It's just like traditional TV in that way, except it's streaming.

Now, it's not the same channels that you'll find with Comcast, Spectrum, or any cable service. But it does have a lot of content that's similar. They have added content from Viacom recently to their list of Pluto TV channels.

Content from MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nick, CMT, Spike -- yes, Spike is back -- and others join the lineup that has included more and more movie, including some pretty good films. There's also news streams from CNN, CBS, NBC, Newsmax, Sky News, and others. I love the MST3K stream, the Rifftrax stream, and so much more.

Rather than try to list everything they have, and considering that what interests me might not interest you, I'm gonna suggest you check it out. Go to their Website or go ahead and download the apps to your phone, tablet, or streaming device -- including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, and others -- and give it a watch.

If you're a cord cutter, or looking to cut the cord, give Pluto TV a shot. You might like it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Brothers O'Toole

Harvey from Bad Example and IMAO asked me a question the other day.
Just wondering if you're familiar with this movie?

The Brothers O'Toole (1973)
https://www.neatorama.com/2019/03/17/The-Brothers-O-Toole-1973/

I'm only marginally familiar with 70's western comedies anyway, but I've never heard of this one. You?

Harvey
I'd never heard of the movie, so I looked it up. I was intrigued by the cast:


And more.

Now, I'm perfectly aware that a good cast doesn't always mean a good movie. But, hey, it might be a gem. So, I started looking for it.

Nuthin'. Nuthin' at all.

Oh, there were pages about the movie, but no way to watch it. At first. Finally, Amazon had it available for streaming and on DVD. And, the DVD was on sale, for cheaper than a streaming rental at the time, so I bought the DVD. It came in last week, I ripped it out for iTunes and watched it.

Eh. It was okay. It was no Blazing Saddles. It wasn't even Support Your Local Sheriff, but nice enough with moderate humor.

The first hour a case of mistaken identity of a con man for a wanted felon, and easy mistake as John Astin played both characters. The last half-hour was the con men brothers trying to run a scam.

Not a great film, but nice enough. It's a heckuva lot better than some movies that I paid more for. So I'm happy to add it to my library.

Am I recommending you get it? No. But I'm not recommending you avoid it either. If you like 70s western comedies, you'll like it. Don't expect Blazing Saddles. But expect a smile or two.

Oh, and why did Harvey ask me about it? Well, he knows I like movies and that I might just have known about that one. I didn't know about it, but now I do.

Will I watch it again? Maybe one day. But I've got over 100 movies in my library that I haven't watched. I need to play catch-up first.