Advertise on
The last thing you want to hear at an airport is "Your flight has been cancelled."
The last thing you want to hear at an airport is "Your flight has been cancelled."

When cheap doesn't equal good

Last week, I was bragging about the airfare deal of a century: a $66 round-trip ticket from Milwaukee to Ft. Myers, Florida.

Yesterday, I was eating my words, since my flight home was delayed from Saturday to Monday (not complaining there), then cancelled completely on Monday, with no reasonable option on how to get home.

Granted, getting stuck in Florida in the middle of the Wisconsin winter is a pretty good problem to have … until it’s time to leave, get back to work and see your family. And with Frontier only flying once a day, every other day, from Ft. Myers to Milwaukee, it was starting to get ugly. First-world problem? Definitely; we had a nice and relaxing few days on the beach. But at some point, everyone has to go home.

Frontier can’t control the weather, but it wasn’t about weather on Monday. The gate agents explained that Frontier didn’t have enough staff and pilots to recover from Saturday’s snowstorm. Unlike all the other airlines in the sky, they were canceling flights all over the country. We weren’t the only ones stuck in the airport.

The problem was finding a way to get home. The discount carrier doesn’t have a codesharing agreement with other airlines, so they couldn’t rebook us on a different airline. Or even that day. Or the next.

Frontier told me that they could rebook us for Wednesday, but that flight was now pretty full, too. All of their other flights in Florida were sold out or cancelled. That would’ve pushed us to Friday. Looking around at the bewildered, mostly older passengers also standing in line, I helped explain what was going down. Frontier offered us a one-way reimbursement ($33), but that’s it.

With no other options, I hopped on my phone and bought two one-way tickets on Southwest Airlines, for $499 each. So, after reimbursal, that $66 trip turned into a $532 one, plus the extra days of hotel, car rental, etc. Fortunately, we could swing that. The dairy farmer kid from Hartford, next to us at the gate, c…

Unfortunately, "Fuller House" still sucks at any resolution.
Unfortunately, "Fuller House" still sucks at any resolution.

The beautiful but limited world of 4K

I wasn’t really in the market for a new TV, but like so many others, I got suckered into buying a huge one on Black Friday. I was lured by the low, low prices, but also the idea of having a super-sharp 65-inch Sony television that would be ready for the next wave of content in 4K.

Well, there’s not very much of it right now, so the joy of 4K is an elusive one.

I found that if you subscribe to the highest tier of Netflix, you have access to a handful of 4K shows and movies. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to get too excited about. "Fuller House" sucks just as much at four times the resolution of HD.

Amazon Prime also has some 4K content, the most interesting being the two seasons of "Red Oaks," a great show I probably wouldn’t have started if not for the high resolution. Hulu is also diving into the 4K game, and the latest video game consoles support it, too.

However, it’s going to be a long time before regular TV, cable or satellite catches up. For now, that means HD content is "upscaled," but trust me, it’s not the same thing.

In fact, while 4K content does look glorious up close, it’s less discernible when sitting on the couch. It’s an amazing picture, but it doesn’t feel quite as amazing as it does on the showroom floor.

And that’s why, until Black Friday, I thought now was a dumb time to buy a TV. Yeah, they’re super cheap, but they tout a format that almost no one can enjoy. On the other hand, to find a 65-70 inch TV for less than $1,000? It’s almost too good to pass up.

In fact, I did a little math in my head as I stood, wavering, at Best Buy. I had my last TV for more than eight years, and amortized over that time, it was a reasonable purchase. This one, $500 less than my previous television, should theoretically last that long or longer. With full wireless Internet connectivity, it’s as close as "future proof" as possible.

Some new stuff is on the way, too. The NBA streamed a live 4K game between the Jazz and the Nuggets on Dire…

I could certainly live without most of the 360 channels I guess I receive.
I could certainly live without most of the 360 channels I guess I receive.

Is it finally time to cut the cord?

Each month, I pay AT&T $205.02 for its U-Verse and broadband Internet service.

That’s $83 a month for the U200 plan, $16 a month for HBO, and something called an "HD Technology Fee" for $10 per month … plus a whole bunch in taxes and government fees. My Internet fees come to $70.75 after tax, for speeds up to 24 Mbps (although I’ve never seen it anywhere close to that).

Before I switched to U-Verse, I was a Time Warner/RoadRunner customer. The speed, channels and prices were similar, but the service was glitchy, and the customer service was miserable.

Either way, I’m paying a lot of money for Internet and the maybe 10 channels I watch on my TV.

Like you, probably, I watch a lot of content on my iPad, via Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO Go (which is included in my $16 per month plan). I watch some network TV, as well as shows on AMC. I watch Brewers games on FS Wisconsin. I usually read my national/international news online, but if I need to see it, I watch CNN. My kid watches a few shows on Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Network, but she prefers viewing content on "her" iPad.

That’s about it, though. I could certainly live with out most of the 360 channels I guess I receive. It would be nice to spend less than $2,500 each year on Internet and TV.

So, I get why so many people want to cut the cord. With almost everything – but not really everything – available in an online on-demand version, the cable or satellite TV model is pretty archaic. And today, AT&T acknowledged this by unveiling DirecTV Now, a streaming service that will go head-to-head with cable (and its own soon-to-be-discontinued U-Verse) service, for $35-70 a month with 60-120 channels and a free Apple TV. It will be available on pretty much every platform except Roku at first. The first version will not have any sort of DVR or pausing abilities.

The packages break down to this:

  • Live a Little: $30 a month (60+ channels)
  • Just Right: $50 a month (80+ channels)
Short of starting WWIII, Donald Trump may not be able to destroy the nation in just four years.
Short of starting WWIII, Donald Trump may not be able to destroy the nation in just four years. (Photo: Docaeby, CC BY-SA 4.0)

America may yet survive four years of Trump

In this darkest moment in modern U.S. history, I’m looking for a silver lining.

This is the best I’ve got: The president is not a king.

While he can make some executive decisions that could be world-ending, like nuking Iran or Syria or anyone else who offends him on Twitter, the majority of a president’s powers are kept in check by Congress and the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump cannot tear up the Constitution and keep his job. This isn’t Putin’s Russia (yet).

The House of Representatives is the junior varsity team of Congress, and they've proved their incompetency and inexperience time and time again. However, the Senate retains at least a modicum of decorum.

While the Senate holds a 51-47 Republican advantage, it also contains moderate patriots like John McCain and Marco Rubio. There are plenty of senators who don't want to see their country go straight to hell.

The Supreme Court situation is a little more scary. Because the somewhat rational Senate was derelict in confirming a justice this year, the next one will be nominated by Trump and could be a wingnut. However, the only vacancy in the Supreme Court is left by the most conservative justice one can imagine, so nothing really changes there.

It’s concerning to prognosticate that 83-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not make it through Trump’s term, but that spitfire can still do one-armed pushups. We don’t know if or when the next opening will come up.

Don’t get me wrong. This could be bad. Trump's acerbic and reckless words can have a huge impact on stock markets and geopolitical events that will be felt around the world. He may open the door for unchecked aggression by Russia and genocidal tragedies in the Middle East. He may drive the world into another Great Depression, wiping out the savings of the very people who voted for him. Ironically, that could turn this country's wealth system upside down, which would lead to some very unintended consequences. It’s gonna be weird.

But loo…