Perfect description of how I feel whenever I become morose and start thinking about sad things… like my pets crossing the rainbow bridge.
I’ve been doing this annual pilgrimage to see my relatives almost every year now for the past 4 years. Before that, I was only going once every 2-3 years because of restrictive work schedule and schooling. Now with a job that lets me have “at will” vacation, I am definitely taking as much time as I need to visit abroad. I The primary reason for me to make this trip every year (despite the 15 hour flight time, 6 hour layover, another hour of ferry ride), I really do enjoy seeing family that I never get to see since moving to the States. I guess as one grows older, I am finally realizing and feeling the effects of that while I am busy growing up, my parents and grandparents are growing older, and sometimes they can’t wait for me to be “done” with something before their time is up. My last set of grandparents (paternal) are 90 years of age – they won’t be here forever. While I can still travel, I’ll make an effort to come as often as I can. Although I was a lot closer to my maternal side grandparents, I wasn’t able to spend as much time with them towards the later years of their life, right before their passing. Life doesn’t wait for anyone to grow up, and anything can happen to those who are close to us that we often take for granted when they’re around. But seeing my grandparents isn’t my only reason for this trip. I pretty much just want to see all of my immediate relatives that I normally never get to see.
In fact, I am going to visit my grandparents for a bit in their village. I didn’t know that fireworks are banned in major cities, so I was vastly disappointed when I came home and found out that I couldn’t blow sh!t up in the sky. But since my grandparents live in the remote/rural countrysides, fireworks there are perfectly “legal” there – and I have every intention of blowing a lot of stuff up in the sky.
So many feels. Now I want puppies again… but Tyler is probably going to kill me.
I am normally not one to shameless promote a product especially for free, and since I never get paid for these kinds of things, you can bet your bottom dollars that if I am writing a blog about this, it’s because of sheer positive experience from using the app and I want to spread the gospel.
My best friend and I have been doing quite a bit of traveling back and forth between the Bay Area and Sacramento quite frequently due to work. Sometimes we have both have back to back meetings in one city of the next, so was just easier to stay out at the Bay overnight and get to our early meetings next day without having to drive all the way back to Sacramento. We usually try to plan our meetings together so we can go to the city together and hang out in the same hotel room together. It’s a lot like spending the night at your friend’s house but grown up style. I guess that’s the perk of being relatively independent and having somewhat seniority and flexibility with our work (she’s an ED and I am a CD). My BFF and I have been booking traditionally with sites like Kayak, Priceline, and Hotel.com. I found out about this new app call Hotel Tonight through a friend almost a year ago, actually maybe even longer than that — downloaded it but never booked through them, finally I wanted to try it out. Pretty much what it does is give you last minute hotel deals in your city of your choice. So if you’re in say, San Francisco, last minute trip, during a weekday, and have absolute no preference on where you stay as long it isn’t a shit hole (meaning 3 stars and above, checked out and lived in by real people, have good insider intel about the hotel, not just a shitty picture, etc), you’ll love the app.
First time signup: $25 0ff for Hotel Tonight code: KLAU59
Normally we would stay at a Kimpton, Mariott or Hilton because we want to accumulate points or what not, but the rooms in a big city like San Francisco gets up to $300 a night easy on a last minute weeknight and sometimes it’s hard to justify that even on one’s expense reports, especially if you just walk up to the place and book it last minute. The traditional hotel booking system punishes the user for booking last minute deals. On Hotel Tonight, it’s the opposite. It actually rewards the user for booking last minute.
Last week we stayed at the Petite Auberge near Union Square. It was an awesome experience. If it wasn’t for Hotel Tonight, we wouldn’t have discovered this awesome French style B&B that offered free breakfast, and $30 Valet Parking, which is UNHEARD of in the city. The rooms were super cute, bedding was luxurious, and no funny smells. The normal rate of valet parking in the city is anywhere between $45-$60. The best part of all this was the rooms were a little more than $120 a night on Hotel tonight, and if I had booked it on Priceline or something like that, it would have been closer to $200. The fact it has awesome breakfast for free till 10 on the weekdays is even more amazing. Did I mention we have a fireplace in every single room? It was pretty awesome. Pics below!
I highly recommend the app if you’re looking to book last minute deals! I had such an awesome experience, and this whole experimenting with different hotels and being open to new places and adventurous was definitely one of the highlights of rolling the dice with this. And if you want $25 off on your first hotel booking through the app, here’s the code: KLAU59, so you can enjoy your hotel tonight! (see what I did there, so clever, har har har… ok I am done).
Hotel Tonight app discount code for $25 off: KLAU59
(new sign-ups only)
Optional introduction (for the TL:DR people)
Cutting the cord was a big deal for me
I lived off of cable like it was my IV. Yet in reality, I wasn’t using it nearly as much as I thought I was. While working full-time and keeping busy after work schedules, I wasn’t spending nearly as much time as I thought I was watching cable shows. Every month, my bundle with the cable company was well over $300 with everything included. It wasn’t even the deluxe package, but it was a small step above the basic. I don’t know why I keep the house phone around, but truth be told, it’s kind of useful when the area you live in doesn’t give you the best cell receptions. I always ask people when in the middle of a fuzzy cellphone conversation to let me call them back with my house phone, and I’ll hear the other person pause suspiciously on the other end thinking “house phone? Who still has one of those other than grandmas?” Well, guess what, I still do and I love it. If I had more time I’ll even dedicate a blog post about why it’s awesome. But that’s not what this post is about, it’s about cutting the cord.
How I did it…
It all started with researching the alternatives and waiting for the streaming technology to mature
My initial foray into the cord cutting lifestyle was how to do it with alternative television services that specialized in streaming cable/satellite channel content. I did some research here and there and gave up after a few nights because the price wasn’t worth it. By the time I buy all the packages and the equipment, it was costing about the same as my Cable bill. There were lots of non-cable subscriber based options, but none was really budget friendly. So I gave it a rest and came back to this a year and a half later. Apple TV had just come out, and so did the Chrome Cast along a few other streaming devices. Smart TV was a thing and a lot of people bought them but rarely used those features. That was the first wave of streaming technology to me. It seemed like it was starting to take hold of a market, a big one too, but it wasn’t still giving me enough options. I was interested in the technology but it wasn’t mature enough for me to drop my cable subscription and to adopt/cut the cord. So I waited again, for another year or so. By mid-2015, Apple TV 2 had come out along with Amazon Fire, and a few other better streaming devices. Hulu and Netflix really stepped up their game, and suddenly, the stars were aligning to make the cord cutting possible.
How to get the Cable TV experience without paying the Cable TV price
What I am doing here might not be the most sustaining and maybe a little gray, but if you’re all about maximum results and minimal input, then by all means, see if this works for you.
- Find out which one of your loving friends and family has a cable/tv package subscription. AT&T Uverse, Cox, TW Cable, Xfinity, any of those that has online streaming service would work.
- Ask those family and friends nicely whether if its ok for you to borrow their online login account info so that you can “stream some stuff online” because you don’t have cable/dish because you’re poor. Or just be honest. Most of the time they’ll share with you. If they’re not then you’re SOL because this is an important part of cord cutting. What I ended up doing was share my account for another streaming provider with them that they didn’t have so that it became a mutual sharing thing.
- Get an Apple TV (the latest model – the features are better and it doesn’t drop)
- Download all the channels that have streaming apps. This means USA, DIY, Food Network, Cooking Network, ESPN, ABC, NBC, HBO, Showtime, History Channel, etc. Sometimes your friend’s account (depending which provider they have) might let you have online access to some but not all, and vice versa, so it’s important to get multiple accounts info so that you get all your bases covered.
- Get Netflix and Hulu (no commercial paid version), and Viki. You already know about the first two, and Viki is for all the international movies and shows (if you like Korean/HK/Chinese Dramas, Anime, Telenovelas and popular TV Shows from around the world subtitled in English, Spanish, Chinese and many more languages and all other non-English speaking countries). For some reason it streams HD and doesn’t have a single ad. It’s the best thing ever.
- Get a $30-$50 over the air HD antenna.
- Hook it all up and enjoy!
Total cost upfront cost:
Apple TV latest generation bought on sale: $110
HD antenna: $50
Streaming subscription per month: $9 – $24 depending on what you’re willing to cough up.
I’ve never been happier. Would it have worked without my friends cable subscriptions? Absolutely. However, having their access does really sweeten the deal for me. Would I ever go back to Cable or other TV subscribers? Absolutely not, unless they give it to me for free, and plus free equipment, which will never happen.
An Honest Comparison of Amazon Fire TV Box vs Apple TV 4th Gen
I recently purchased both the Amazon Fire TV Box and the 4th Gen Apple TV in my effort to “cut the cord”. My cable bill with Xfinity is out of control and I am quite fed up with paying $230 bucks a month for their triple play bundle. Considering the atrocious amount that they are charging me, I am not even using the damn phone anymore because all I am getting are telemarketers. The only reason I am keeping it is because it’s a cool number, and it does give me free international calling to China. Oh, the vanity. But before I go into details of this comparison, I just want to declare that I am not a super technical person, nor is this comparison scientifically accurate or well-researched in any way. I am your everyday, lazy but semi-informed user. I know what an HDMI cord look like and where to plug it into devices, but if you ask me to explain to you what’s the difference hyperthreading and logical cores, well, then you’re SOL.
But if you’re asking if getting both the Amazon and Apple boxes helped my transition – the answer is, no. Not yet anyway, because I still have my cable. I haven’t cut the cord entirely because I realize I can’t rely just on Netflix. For $8, Netflix is king. It beats Hulu’s $12 premium ad- free cost per month of TV-centric programming, and it is double of Amazon’s streaming vault (which comes in at about $99 a year). Sling TV is the only thing I am also considering next because it has some of the basic channels I actually watch TV for, and that’s $20 bucks a month. Amazon Prime Video costs but one of the reasons why I am still keeping cable is because I still can’t quite figure out the perfect formula for coping with serial endurance cable television viewing dependencies. Maybe I just need to pick a few content provider and stick with it.
My View Habits:
My TV viewing habits are all over the place. Sometimes I go on for weeks without turning the TV on, and there are days where I just lay in front of the TV like a vegetable for 5 hours straight watching the Secret History of ____.
Where to Buy
Amazon Fire Box – buy it directly from Amazon, it’s $100 shipped not including taxes.
Apple TV – Apple.com. If it’s back in stock, RadioShack (they’re still around!?)
Believe it or not – they are, and for the longest time, their Black Friday deal on the 32GB model was only $120 shipped. Now I think it jumped back up to about $150 which is same as everywhere else.
Both are impressive with their packaging. It’s how oddly well done the Amazon charger was – it was very sleek. The Amazon Fire TV box, however, is nice and black, but also very sharp corners so just be careful with that. In terms of Apple TV, it’s a lot thicker than the Amazon TV box. Simple elegant sleek black Apple packaging.
Amazon failed so hard with their remote that I can’t even. Think 1993 Panasonic TV Remote but smaller. Apple nailed their 4th generation remote. The control is easy, seamless, no batteries required, well made, and it’s motion/distance sensing thing is fantastic. Just the feel of your hand alone is a huge difference. Amazon’s comes with batteries, but the Apple remote charges on a lighting cable. I feel like I was going to get a carpal tunnel putting in my login info with the Amazon remote. It’s bad folks. Fire your hardware people, Amazon. Might not look much different in my crappy photos below, but when you’re using it, it is a world of difference.
The Biggest Problem
A lot of these streaming boxes boasts that you can watch all these channels and yadiyadi look at all the cool streams you can have access to! But they all require one thing: subscription to existing service providers. Meaning – I can’t watch NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on TBS because it’s something I would have to log in through Time Warner Cable or Xfinity. So the whole point of cutting the cord with these as replacement TV boxes is moot. The user interface for both systems was good, but Apple wins by a close margin. It was a much more intuitive, easier to learn experience. The fact that my iCloud photo stream shows up when I turn it on gives me an odd sense of familiarity and elicits an”oh would you look at that” reaction. Not that Amazon’s was terribad, but Apple just knows what they’re doing into making things simple and easy-to-use, and as someone who makes a living making UIs and thinking about UX for software design, that’s no easy feat to accomplish in such a polished degree.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Even with the KODI plugin, jailbreaking the Amazon Fire Box to watch streams is still something that’s incomparable to paid tv subscription in terms of quality and speed. Duh. I know you can’t compare free to paid subscriptions. These plugin streams are so crappy, that you might as well torrent it. Especially when 5/6 of the movies I tried to stream on KODI didn’t work, and when it did, it died halfway through the stream almost every single time and the Amazon Fire TV Box restarted on it’s own. Oh did I mention it crashes quite a bit? The picture on the stream was also pretty crappy. I know the box says 4K capability but I am not seeing it with my cable connection via wifi. Maybe I’ll have to run a cat5 cable in order for it to work, but who’s got time to run that ugly wire through the house? Ain’t nobody got time fo dat. I didn’t even try KODI with the Apple TV because I was so disappointed with it on the Amazon Fire TV. But at least the 1080p looks good, and the picture looks significantly better than Amazon Fire TV Box on the exact same wifi connection on the same app. Weird.
The Final Verdict
Without spending more money on any additional subscription services other than Netflix, out of the box, Apple wins hands down on design, user experience, and solid software/hardware performance. It loads faster, more smoothly, and it’s just an easier thing to use at the end of the day. Amazon wins at the price point, but Apple’s remote is so much better, that alone deserves it’s own award. Get the Apple TV if you want a good user experience. If you want to save money, get a Chrome stick. Or better yet, buy an older generation Apple TV. I heard great things about Roku 2. But I think I am done with streaming boxes for now.
So will I ever cut the cord? I am not sure, but I sure as hell am trying.
It’s officially 2 months since I moved to San Francisco. I always knew I would have a love hate relationship with this place, but I am discovering more about the things I do like about here, and also appreciate the things I took for granted living in suburbia Sacramento.
Coming from a smaller city like Sacramento (if I straight up call Sacramento small, the 916 folks would lose their fucking shit because apparently it’s the new Austin), I always thought it had a lot to offer — the night life you wanted (at a few spots throughout town), the affordable cost of living, the occasional
tries-really-hard-to-be fun events that happens around town, and last but not least, the space to do the things you want to do and the resources to do it. I know the last one sounds a bit vague, but you’ll understand where I am coming from after reading this. I always defended against moving to a bigger city, because I genuinely liked my higher quality of life when it comes to living in Sacramento, or any smaller city that is not a huge metropolitan. Growing up in China, I know what it’s like to live among the populous. For a big chunk of my childhood, I lived in a city call Guangzhou, one of the largest and most populated city in China with about 8 million people living in it. To give you some perspectives, it’s population is neck-in-neck with NYC. I liked my space in Sacramento — parking is everywhere, the only caveat is finding a spot that is both SHADED and within pole vaulting distance to the automatic sliding doors where you’ll be instantly bathed in the comforts of automatic climate control. I didn’t realize how LAZY and fat I was until I discovered how out of breath I get when I decide to walk around in the city. But that’s the country life for ya, we like to drive our cars everywhere, and sometimes even park on the grass.
However, living in the city like San Francisco presents an entire set of challenges that are commonly acknowledged but rarely understood. These things might or might not include: astronomical rent, having a yard that you can just let your dog out to, curb-side parking readily available for anyone, a hobby room, clean streets that doesn’t smell like urine or have crazy hobos loitering, free parking, and last but not least, iced water. I know the last one is crazy, but SF is one of the few cities in America that does NOT serve ice water on autopilot. A lot of times, I have to ask for it in restaurants, sometimes emphasize on the word “ICE” like I am a lunatic. I am not roughing it as hard others I know that are living in the city. I have it pretty good here since I have a decent paying job that allows me to afford certain luxuries. I also occasionally enjoy telling people who doesn’t live in the city how much I pay for my 2 bedroom apartment that I share with my roommate. It’s a guarantee jaw dropper — followed by words of disbelief. In fact, I use it as ice breakers and conversational leaders when I am stuck in a room with nothing else to talk about. Nothing gets people going like crazy rent prices. My expenses are also out of this world since I have a house that I have to pay for in Sacramento, so I am extra fucked if I don’t hustle, and even though I bitch and whine about working so much, I wouldn’t know what to do with all my extra free time. Actually I lied — I do know what to do with my extra free time, I just said that to make myself feel better.
Despite the lack of amenities that I just complained about, I do love a lot of things about living in the city. Public transportation is pretty good here in San Francisco. Not as awesome as NYC’s subway system, but it’s half way decent. I am lucky that where I live, I am so close to everything. I can go shopping to all of the top retailers in the world, visit world renown museums — all within 10 minute walking distance. I can also go to Michelin starred restaurants, and yeah, that’s in PLURAL, and that’s because there are 17 of them within 3 mile radius from my house. If I had taken a job in say, Redwood City in the dreadful Silicon Valley, at best I’ll get is the Cheesecake Factory (whilst I dine among 20 other Indian families and 4 other dudes of various ethnicity but never got the memo to stop wearing Aeropostale past the age of 20). Granted, it is slightly cheaper to live there, a 1 bedroom apartment in San Jose goes for about 2/3 of the price in San Francisco, and there’s PLENTY of parking… but in terms of world-class events and being a central hub of culture, art, and emerging trends, no other city quite has it down in the spades like San Francisco, and especially all within close proximity of each other.
The weather here is awesome. I know a lot of people don’t like the “gloom” that certain parts of San Francisco experience on a daily basis, but I just LOVE the micro climates here. If I want sun, I’ll go east. If I want cooler weather, I’ll go west. I am slowly exploring what San Francisco has to offer, all while trying to decipher what’s bullshit/stupid hype and what’s actually worth experiencing. I’ve also joined the civic symphony, and it’s definitely an interesting experience. I love the cuisine and the plethora of choices this tiny 7×7 city has to offer. It has all of the hustle and bustle, craziness and changing landscape that any big city has, but a huge chunk of that distinct SF charm is still intact, and can be seen in almost every corner you turn to. I can always tell that whenever I am randomly picking up a conversation with people on the streets here, who is from out of town, and who is born and raised in SF.
If I have to give someone advice about living in SF, someone new, and never lived in the city before – about what it’s like to live here and what to expect, I just have one: It’s what you make it.
You don’t have to buy into the culture and participate in all of the artsy/eclectic/albeit sometimes bizarre things that makes SF, well, SF. You can go from point A to point B in uber alone and rely solely on Eat24 and Caviar to provide your meals. You don’t have to go to Dolores park with your sandwich and beer and talk to the 20 other hippies that might run by to pet your dog. You don’t have to do yoga or pilates and eat only organic vegetables whilst go on a juice cleanse because all of your friends have tried it. SF is what you make it out to be
It’s been one week since I officially moved in.
During this first week, I have learned a few things about living in the city. Every girl I know here are obsessed with Yoga, and every other guy I meet is working for a startup in the basement of somewhere. SF has no shortage of opinionated people, oddball fusion restaurants that just sounds wrong, and an abundance of those who vocalizes about their particular quasi-socially-responsible-and-organic-everything-i-know-alot-about-random-health-foods-and-do-all-kinds-of-weird-shit lifestyles — all saturated in this overinflated of everythingness culture. Everything is a little bit more extreme here.
It is true, this city is a beautiful city. I sometimes forget that people travel from faraway lands to come to this place to experience all the lovely California-ness that San Francisco has to offer and represents, but to me, maybe because I am here day-to-day, I no longer stop to smell the roses. I had no idea how nice it was to have parking spots in Sacramento, and I had absolutely no idea what a stress it is on every day life here trying to find them. Speaking of which parking, I got my FIRST ticket the first week here. And it’s $106 dollars. FML
My least favorite thing other than parking I found about SF is that all the restaurant reviews on Yelp are bullshit. I really don’t know who the hell is writing all those 5 star reviews, but 2/4 restaurants I visited that were suppose to be amazeballs were absolute shit. Everything is more expensive here, and if you want “fair” prices, you better be willing to venture into the ghetto or Chinatown for it, because you’re going to pay a 20-40% premium on everything you buy.
To summarize my first week, I thought I’d share an illustration ↓
If you call in between jobs and working part-time but not getting paid yet temporarily semi-unemployed, I am your gal. I recently accepted a Creative Director position at a San Francisco start-up, and I am optimistically nervous about moving to the city for it. Being away from home and the comforts of suburbia life, and grinding it out like the rest of the young and ambitious millennials; it’s one of those things in life that if I don’t do it now, I might not have the opportunity to do it later kind of opportunity. And since I am a firm believer of grab your opportunity by the balls and see where life takes you kind of person, I am going to do this and see where life takes me.
To me, San Francisco has always been the city that’s a stone throw away, has lots to offer, great food, take your visiting overseas relatives there for a day trip, but the parking really sucks-kind of place. I never really craved the big city experience since I spent the first decade of my life living in China and half of that was spent in Guangzhou, which now has over 14 million people dwelling in the heart the city… and San Francisco has almost a million. I don’t care for the streets smelling like pee and people everywhere kind of environment, but I do like the conveniences of big cities. I always liked walking down the street to the corner store to grab something, or always having something to do because as with all big cities, you are never short of entertainment. Not that Sacramento has shortage of that, but it’s no San Francisco. On a side note, I just got back from visiting Portland, that is now my official favorite city ever and I want to move there in the near future.
Back to moving to the big city — OMG, the rent there is SO expensive, it was an eye-opening, life changing experience just going through apartment hunting. I never really quite understood how anyone can live there and let alone afford it without rent control, or at least make bijillion dollars a year. I recently found my place of residence but it was not without some serious sacrificing of $$$. I knew I had some standards but they weren’t ridiculous. But at minimum, I was hoping I could afford something around the $2000/month range that would include me not having to share a bathroom with 4 other people, a window bigger than the size of a pizza box, somewhat centrally located and easily accessible via some sort of transportation, and maybe, just maybe, some kind of parking within a 3 block radius. Boy, was I wrong.
The place I ended up finding costs me an arm and a leg, but my justification was that if I am going to live there most days out of the week, I want something that resembles a home, not a dark utility closet in a street corner of a run down building, and I got most of that, except there will always be a few stray crack-heads wandering on the streets next to my building.
I am kind of nervous about adjusting to this new life style — I know I have gotten used to the comforts of suburbia, and it will be an adjustment, I am just not quite sure how I will adjust to it yet. But I have a feeling, I am going to have a love hate relationship with it already. And is it just me or does every single big box office movie that would feature a big super-natural disaster/battle scene always features SF being involved one way or another? (Ex: trampled, destroyed, or attacked). Golden Gate has to be the most-destroyed landmark in film history.
Planet of the Apes