January 31, 2011

Genetic Compatibility and Proclivity

My child will be aware of their potential spouse's genetic proclivities before proposing marriage.

That's my theory. Here's why.

In college, one of my friends dated a girl who had cancer. Several months in, I asked him how the relationship was going. He stated bluntly, "Well, it's tough. Because I don't really want to get attached if she's going to go and die on me."

Yes, he's a horrible person (in general, not just based on that lone event). But that was a real fear based on real evidence. Understanding the reality of the relationship before entering into it caused him to enter with much more caution.

We're currently at the stage where you can have yourself completely genetically tested for less than $10,000. For that price, you can know your precise likelihood of carrying and falling prey to the full spectrum of disease. And that information will change your market value.

"Sure, Jane's not as hot as Donna... but with an 80% less chance of cystic fibrosis, it might be worth it?"

January 28, 2011

Utah’s Porn Addiction

This info-graphic has been getting a lot of attention lately. Based on Census statistics and America's Health Rankings, researcher Jeff Wysaski created this graphic to give each state their deserved credit...for what they're worst at.

Because every single state ranks dead last at something. And the one that jumped out at me is the same one that's jumping out at most people. Utah's "best of the worst" ranking for porn usage.

Utah? With 58% of the state claiming to be Mormon, a devout religious sect, this seems so strange.

But then I considered something. When I was young, and before I could even understand the sexual appeal of a strip club, I remember thinking, "Who would have the guts to be seen going in there?"

This statistic doesn't claim a more sexualized state. It simply claims that the average citizen of Utah, perhaps because of their cultural faith, would be more ashamed than the average American to publicly admit their base desires, their Freudian "id".

I would have to see strip club studies to confirm this. But I think what we're seeing here is the power of assumed anonymity. Utah citizens know what they're supposed to be like. And they act that way...in public.

January 27, 2011

Celebrity Stalking Isn’t Weird

If your friend entered rehab, wouldn't you be interested in it?

That's how you need to think about celebrity stalking. We think they're our friends. We spend 30-60 minutes with them each week. That's more time than you spend with some of your friends that you care deeply about.

Now, I don't subscribe to US Weekly, but I prayed for John and Kate Gosselin's marriage when I heard it was on the rocks.

It's not weird. They're my friends. They just don't know it.

January 26, 2011

A Paragraph on Everything

I like to think of myself as a tech guy. After all, I write for a tech blog. And yet, loyal reader Braden was quick to dash my wireless provider-free plan from yesterday. I simply had my facts wrong.

I like to think of myself as a music guy. But then I come across people who study theory all day long. They know every ebb and flow of every symphony the greats have ever created. I don't know any of them.

Here's the problem. I don't really care if I'm not a tech guy. It's just fun to know more than 99% of the world about the latest technology. It's fun to be able to instantly debunk people's political mis-beliefs. It's fun to be able to tout the effectual health benefits of an organic food lifestyle.

But, I'm serious about becoming a great musician. And my greatest fear is that I simply become a guy you don't want to play trivial pursuit with. That I know a paragraph on everything, but that's it.

It's fun having as many interests as I do. But am I better off becoming single-minded? Dedicated to musical theory? So that rather than being good at a lot of things, I might become great at one of them?

The only problem is... if I do that... if I limit my hobbies and interests to solely musical ones, am I giving up learning about anything possibly worth writing songs about?

January 25, 2011

How I Plan to Cancel My Wireless Phone Plan

(UPDATE: This post is still worth reading, but loyal reader Braden was quick to correct some of facts. Check out the comments at the end.)

When Google Voice came out last year offering free local numbers, I instantly grabbed one each for both my wife and myself. She currently uses her Google Voice number for her Chicago dessert table business. And we can set it up to forward calls to her cell phone, or just act as a dedicated voice mailbox with a specific greeting. I have yet to use my number. But Google's recent "number porting" announcement has given me a great reason to.

Because when my wireless contract is up, I am going to cancel my phone service. Remember the law that came out several years ago saying you could keep your number if you switch carriers? Well, for a 1-time number porting fee of $20, you can now switch that number to Google.

When people call you, you can utilize Google Voice the same way you accept calls now. Voice mail works the same, with the benefit of transcription as well. The only difference? The call takes place over your data network. You no longer need a voice plan. You better believe I'm making the leap the second I can without penalty.

January 24, 2011

How I Went Nearly Cableless

I hate Comcast. Simply because they're a monopoly. It's like a girlfriend you desperately want to dump, but there are literally no other females on the entire planet.

Still, I wanted to try. I wanted to cut the cord. But, it turns out they're prepared for this.

You see, I wanted to unsubscribe from cable entirely. My goal was to use my QAM-unencryption capabilities on my Samsung TV to still get my local channels in HD, for the vast majority of live shows and sporting events that we watch. And then utilize Hulu Plus and Netflix for the rest.

Comcast had two defense strategies for this plan. One, if I got rid of my cable plan, my Internet costs would rise by $10/mo. Two, they would come out and put a block on my line so that I wouldn't even be able to access the local digital channels. And I would have to pay $10 for their guy to come out and do this.

Now, this obviously infuriated me. I'm quite certain it can't be legal. I'm not under contract. So an arbitrary fee for removal of service?? Why not just charge $2,000 and ensure no one ever leaves?

Their suggested alternative? Go down to a "basic cable" plan for $20/month and my Internet rate would stay the same. So for a net $10/month, I don't have to buy and install an antenna on my roof to get local channels. Sort of worth it to me, for now at least.

"Wait, so now that you're down to local channels, you're missing out on all that content you used to get?"

That's partially true. But, it's why we signed up for Hulu Plus (at $7.99/mo) and Netflix (streaming only at $7.99/mo)

While some Food Network and HGTV shows are included via Hulu Plus, this is the biggest content loss for my wife. And I no longer get to watch SportsCenter. But in exchange for the cost savings, we're getting a huge content increase. Hulu Plus offers not only full seasons, but full series of hundreds of shows. This includes current seasons, with new episodes released the day after air.

And Netflix's streaming library is much more limited than their mail-order library. But we use our local library to check out new releases free of charge.

"Wait, how are you watching Hulu Plus and Netflix on your TV?"

I bought a Roku XDS player for under $100.You can get an HD version for less than $60. Mine's just slightly more future-proof when Hulu and Netflix decide to provide 1080p streaming.

The Roku is a wireless device that brings Web apps to your computer, including Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora and more. Why Roku over Boxxee, Apple TV or Google TV? Well, Roku is cheaper than Boxee. And Apple TV and Google TV are extraordinarily content-limited at this point.

"Why can't I just hook up my laptop to my computer?"
You absolutely can. But then, you can't use your laptop while you're watching TV.

Our old Comcast bill was $95.70
Now it's $72.63.
+ 7.99 for Hulu Plus + 7.99 for Netflix and we're at $88.61.

A net savings of only $7.09/mo. But it's a start. And it's a savings, along with a huge content and convenience increase. And I'm not done haggling with the evil Comcast reps. Just a matter of time before we go even lower.

Tomorrow, How I Plan on Cancelling my Wireless Phone Plan.

January 21, 2011

Bad People Use Torrents

I am a member of Simply Audiobooks. For $15 a month, I get unlimited audiobooks mailed to my house, 1-at-a-time. I probably get through 2 a month, on average. It makes my commutes so much more enjoyable. It helps me get way more reading done than I would otherwise. It's much more convenient than trying to time audiobook holds at the library. And much cheaper than buying them.

Do you know what it's not cheaper than? Torrents.

Many of you don't pay for music, movies or games any more. Torrents have solved that financial nuisance for you. Now, if I call you out on it...if I call you a "thief" - you'll give me one of two responses.

1. Their pricing strategy is stupid. If it was cheaper, I'd pay for it.
2. Yeah, I know it's not right, but...mumble mumble

What's going on here? Why do so many people who claim that stealing is wrong not consider this to be? I don't want the "digital products aren't real products" cop-out. Let's figure out the cognitive dissonance here.

Is it simply because it's so easy that it just doesn't feel like stealing? Or simply since you know you're not going to get caught?

January 20, 2011

Food is Not a Commodity

I was recently involved in a food-value debate with a friend. He contended that his two frozen burritos for $0.35 each made for an unbeatable $0.70 lunch.

This is only true if the only factors in the game are calories/dollar. And I would win strictly by carrying around a bottle of the cheapest olive oil I could find.

All food is not created equal. Even if cost is your primary concern when choosing a meal, you need to think past the hyper-short-term. After all, you wouldn't put low-grade fuel in a Lexus, would you? Because fixing a ruined car costs a lot more than what you're saving now eating chemical-laden garbage your body doesn't even recognize as food.

January 19, 2011

An Actual Conversation

This is an actual conversation that took place in my household this morning.

"Ugh, I have such a bad headache."
"Me too. Maybe I should plug the carbon monoxide detector in again?"
"Why did you unplug it in the first place?
"Because it kept beeping!"

On a daily basis, I defy odds with my living.

January 18, 2011

It Feels Good

My freshman year of college, I remember having a frank conversation about sexual activity with a female friend. I, a long-time but only recently passionate Christian, tried convincing my female friend to abstain.

Her response, "Why? It feels good."

I was taken aback by the sheer honesty. I was used to a defensive questioning of the legitimacy of my moral stance. But she skipped straight past that and went to the reality in her mind that encouraged her behavior. It feels good. And I had no answer.

I used to defend morality based on the moral itself. But I am slowly understanding the effectual benefits of Christian morality.

For instance, I'm learning that some of my friends think they're in love, but are actually just addicted to the sex the person provides. There's a good thing there. It's a hard-wired good thing. The pyscho- and physio-logical addiction to another person. But before you decide you want to be with this person for keeps, you really don't want your mind getting tricked into thinking you do.

Don't just do something because "God said so." Figure out why he said it.