JJ Ghatt's Old Stuff

Here are the articles I've written in the past

New Surrogate Dad to Twins Cristiano Renaldo Confirms He is Expecting with His Girlfriend Too!

ronaldo

After weeks of speculation, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo confirmed that he and girlfriend  Georgina Rodriguez are indeed expecting their first child together.

The international Portuguese soccer star is famously known for having brought three children into the world via surrogates. The latest are his twins Mateo and Eva who he welcomed in June via an American surrogate.


During an interview this week, when asked if he was “happy” about the baby on-the-way, Ronaldo replied in Spanish, “Yes, very much,” El Mundo reports.

Ronaldo captured hearts when he introduced the twins on his social media accounts with the caption of a photo of himself cradling the napping duo, “So happy to be able to hold the two new loves of my life.”

Recently, the proud papa posted a photo of himself and 7-year-old son Cristiano Jr. cuddling the twins.

He has remained mum on who the children’s moms are but we know one for sure, now! Congrats Georgina and Cristiano!

Mom Shamers Slam P!nk For This Instagram Post

pink-posted-an-adorable-family-photo-on-instagram-and-got-mom-shamed-for-it-1
Pop singer P!nk was blasted by mom-shamers after she posted an Instagram photo of herself spending some time with her children while preparing a meal. In the photo, her almost 6-month old son Jameson is snuggled in her front-baby carrier while her daughter Willow kneels on the counter.

She captioned the photo “Dinner Time” and it has gotten close to 200,000 likes as of this posting but not without a few people leaving comments critical of the situation.

Dinner time

A post shared by P!NK (@pink) on


Criticisms in the comments included:


“Dangerous stuff for your kids! Stop doing this! U a great singer, don’t need to expose your baby to boiling oil. Are you insane this days? This picture would give a good example of what not to do with small children. Shocking picture. Hope to see you giving better exemples to the working mothers. I am a parent to. Cheer. Just terrible.”

And:

“1 kid on the counter on kid strapped to her chest the closest to the hot pan i mean it is pretty stupid coming from mum of 4 boys not allowed in kitchen when im cooking”

And again:

“Isnt that dangerous for the baby. What if something spits oil out in pan onto the babies head.”

Others came to her aid too.

pinks-fans-drown-out-the-haters-on-instagram-after-she-got-mom-shamed

Leave that multi-tasking mama alone, peeps!

h/t Buzzfeed and Mashable

Mandela Day Revisited: 5 Lessons Kids Can Learn Nelson Mandela

img_8771

This week, was Nelson Mandela International Day, a day dedicated to the late great Nelson Mandela, the beloved leader and former president of the South Africa.

Mandela Of Day commemorates the lifetime of service Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa and the world. It was launched on his birthday, 18 July, in 2009 via a unanimous decision by the Us N General Assembly.


Here are five things that Nelson Mandela personified, and taught us, in simplified language for children:

1. Courage – There are many people who see injustice and wrong but do nothing. It is easier to do nothing. It is safer.

When Nelson Mandela was a young man he saw his people suffering from the white minority rule of his country. He saw his people suffering from inequality, injustice, prejudice, bias and discrimination and he had the courage to risk his life and the lives of his close loved ones to stand up for change.

For his defiance, he was sentenced to prison, a sentence of hard labor.

What had happened was that under Dutch Rule, and during Colonial times, South Africa was colonized under a system of government which forced the native people to live in segregation. South Afrikaners were only allowed to live in certain areas of their own birth land, their movements were restricted and they were forced to carry identification cards to validate their existence.

The people of South Africa were delegated to second class citizen status.

Many knew this was wrong but they were not strong enough to stand up to the leaders who enforced the stringent biased policies that ruled the land. Nelson Mandela was one that stood up. He organized other young, revolutionaries willing to risk everything for change. They were courageous.

2. Perseverance – As expected, those who were in power and control did not appreciate a rebel stirring up the masses, empowering them to speak up for themselves to demand justice and equality. Mandela was put in prison for 27 years in the hope that his absence would rob the people of their will to fight.

The oppressors hoped his absence from their sight, his voice silenced, would blanket the uprisings.

It did not work. While in prison, Mandela wrote letters and contemplated his life and struggles. Meanwhile, those on the outside became more outraged over his imprisonment and continued to fight. Others, in nations including the United States, put pressure on the government to not only release Mandela but to abandon their system of government which denied people basic liberties simply because of the color of their skin.

Mandela persevered.  Eventually he was set free.

3.Forgiveness – When someone hurts another person, it takes a lot of strength to forgive that person. Although Mandela was put in jail for standing up to ill-treatment of himself and others, he chose to not harbor ill-will towards those who placed him in a tiny cell simply for demanding change.

Mandela turned the other cheek, deciding to abandon any violent means he may have condoned in the past to revolt against those who had invaded his land and made it their own.

By this time, generations of colonizers had been born in South Africa too. It had become their native land as well. So Mandela worked with all: Black or white the new face of South Africa had changed.

Eventually, he won the trust of many people, earning their respect to become the first democratically elected black president of South Africa. Before then, all presidents were of the Dutch race of the original colonizers.

As a leader, Mandela forgave those that imprisoned him and segregated his people. He was a president for all.

4.Humility – After just one term, Madiba, (a name of honor that people used to refer to Mandela), decided that he had done enough. He decided against running for another term in office and stepped aside to make room for others to rule.

That gesture is almost unheard of and is uncommon, not just in Africa but around the world because leaders who have power very rarely want to give it up.  Mandela’s term in office was just four years.

Mandela embodies what it meant to be humble.

5.Progress – Since then, the nation of South Africa has progressed substantially.  There is ample opportunity for all children and people from all races to do what they want to if they work hard.

Since President Mandela, South Africa has had several black presidents as well as other government officials. Children go to school together and are not separated because of their skin color.

The nation still has challenges, but the people of South Africa are working on them together as one.

Certainly, politics have colored some people’s decisions to disregard the net sum contribution Mandela left on the world instead focusing on minutiae to justify their judgment.

There are those who lose sight of the big picture instead nitpicking various insular reports, decisions or incidents in Mandela’s life that they disliked.

But in a lifetime that spanned nearly 100 years, there are two options that can be taken:

One can choose to excuse their own nations’ Founding Fathers and the respective roles those historic leaders played in allowing the atrocities inflicted on fellow human beings of a different and darker hue (slaves).

They will disregard how historically, it has been necessary to resort to violence to overthrow colonizers and oppressors.

People can opt to selectively invoke a moral high ground in the case of Mandela and in the same breath discount the massive sum of what he represented for millions of oppressed people.

Or two, they can choose to be on the right side of history which will acknowledge Madiba’s role in inspiring and empowering a generation, uniting and bringing together a subsequent generation.

The choice should be simple.

 

These are the Key Tests You Can’t Cut When Downsizing Health Insurnce

Nurse talking to patient in hospital room

With the healthcare system is crisis, tons of red tape and fewer doctors accepting insurance, managing one’s health has become a major challenge.

More and more women are skipping key exams simply because getting appointments are a hassle and obtaining coverage isn’t always guaranteed. That said, there are some key tests and exams that ever woman must have at various times of her life.


If you’re going to put a preventative care plan together for yourself it’s important to know which tests are necessary to maintain optimal health. Dr. Christopher Calapai, a NYC board certified expert in osteopathic medicine specializing in longevity, recommends these tests.
Blood and blood pressure screening: Starting at age 18, every woman needs to have her blood pressure checked at least every two years. Having annual bloodwork done is the way to tell if organs are functioning properly. Doing the basic blood panel between age 18 and 39 is a great start. After age 40 additional testing for things like fibrinogen which impacts blood clotting and C-Reative Protein which looks at inflammation in the body are key tests to consider. “As a longevity specialist, bloodwork tells a detailed story about health patterns and future predictions that can then be addressed and even reversed with early care,” says Dr. Calapai.

Cholesterol screening/lipid profile:

Cholesterol is a type of fatty protein in your blood that can build up in your arteries, so knowing how much cholesterol is present is a good predictor of your risk for heart disease. It’s important to start monitoring cholesterol starting at age 20 to establish a history. As women age cholesterol levels tend to rise so having a solid basis of comparison decade to decade is helpful in preventing heart disease down the road, explains Dr. Calapai.

Pap smear:

A pap smear is an important test for women to get annually if they are sexually active and over age 21. The test is designed to detect infection, inflammation or cellular abnormalities in the cervix which may lead to cervical cancer. “This is certainly one of those tests that must be done every year. Some women diagnosed with HPV who may have had abnormal results are often monitored even more closely. The more a woman knows about the health of her reproductive organs the better she can integrate foods, vitamins and minerals to keep herself healthy,” advises Dr. Calapai.

Mammograms and breast exams:

Women should begin administering monthly self-breast exams monthly as early as age 18. “It’s so important for women to understand that breast tissue changes during the month. They want to do the self-check in their shower or lying down just after their period ends when breasts are less tender, sore or swollen. This is when to feel around for any lumps, pain, tenderness, inflamed skin, and any issues with the nipple such as blockages or discharge. A mammography is an x-ray of the breasts. As of 2017, the American Cancer Society screening guidelines advises women to begin getting annual mammograms by age 45 and then can go to every other year by age 55. This guideline is for a woman of average risk. Women with a family history of breast cancer or with had cystic breasts with benign cysts should obviously have mammograms at an earlier age. “The self-exam is so important because early detection is key. If a woman is in her 20’s or 30’s and feels a lump she can follow through with her doctor for a closer look. When a woman goes in for a pap smear a breast exam is often done as well. However, you can’t hold off and skip the self-exam, cautions Dr. Calapai.

Skin cancer screening:

Skin cancer, while less deadly than other kinds of cancers, is the number-one cancer diagnosed among Americans; and one type of skin cancer, melanoma, is deadly. The number of women under age 40 with basal cell carcinoma, one type of skin cancer, has more than doubled in the last 30 years and women under 39 are almost twice as likely to develop melanoma as men.

A skin cancer screening involves a full examination of the skin with focused attention on any moles, skin lesions or any other changes to the skin. It is advised to begin skin cancer screenings at any age and the fairer the complexion the more vigilant one must be. Annual screenings are normal and doctors may recommend twice annually if there are more moles and you’re on hypertension medication. “The skin is the largest organ in the body and a great indicator of overall health. Even if you have darker skin any rash, growth or skin issue should be taken seriously so the underlying cause can be determined quickly,” adds Dr. Calapai.

Eye exam and vision screening:

According to the American Optometric Association people with normal, good vision should have their eyes examined every 3 years. For people who needed glasses or contacts at an earlier age an annual exam is recommended. By age 40 those with healthy, strong eyesight will begin to see changes either when driving, reading or watching TV. Women are at a slightly higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, one of the most common eye health problems. A vision screening tests how well you can see; an eye exam checks for glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinopathy, and other eye diseases. Make sure you’re having both kinds of exams. If you have diabetes, you’re at much higher risk for eye problems and should be checked more often. “When you get an eye exam and a prescription for glasses is give follow through and get the glasses. It’s amazing how many people put this off which only leads to further eye strain and headaches. Besides, glasses these days are a stylish accessory. There’s no need to compromise eye health for vanity,” says Dr. Calapai.

About the doctor:

Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O. is an Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine, and anti-aging medicine. Proclaimed the “The Stem Cell Guru” by the New York Daily News, Dr. Calapai is a leader in the field of stem cell therapy in the U.S. His stem cell treatments have achieved remarkable results in clinical trials on patients with conditions as varied as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, frailty syndrome, heart, kidney and liver failure, lupus, MS and Parkinson’s. He has worked with Mike Tyson, Mickey Rourke, Steven Seagal, and Gotham’s, Donal Logue; and as a medical consultant for the New York Rangers. Connect with him via twitter @drcalapai or at www.drcal.net

Meet the 12-Year Old Entrepreneur with Multi-Million Dollar Deals with WholeFoods, Wegmans & NFL Players

 

ulmer

One Texan Pre-Teen has turned a lemonade stand into a profitable business with multi-million dollar chain grocery storedeals and powerful investors, including 10 NFL Players.

Mikaila Ulmber’s stint pitching her home-made nationally distributed lemonade to the sharks on ABC‘s Shark Tank back in 2015 got her lots of attention. While she was on the show, shark Daymond John  offered to invest $60,000 in the company in exchange for a 25% stake in it. Ulmer accepted his offer.


After the exposure, sales grew by 231%, she told CNBC.

The 7th grader has since met and introduced on stage then President Obama at a big event, was invited to the White House twice and more recently, she caught the eye of 10 National Football League (NFL) players who chose to invest in the succesful entrepreneur.

According to NBC Sports, Arian Foster, Glover Quin, Duane Brown, Jonathan Grimes, Omar Bolden, Bobby Wagner, Darius Slay, Sherrick McManis, EJ Manuel and Malik Jackson recently agreed to invest $810,000 collectively in capital to Ulmer’s Austin-Texas based family business.

Hey everybody!! Soo excited that I was on shark tank. Thank you! What a show🐝💛🐝

A post shared by Me & the Bees Lemonade (@mikailasbees) on

“We look for companies that match our main focus of developing a good product, but are also good people and do it for the right reasons,” former Houston Texan running back Arian Foster told the Houston Chronicle about the importance of backing businesses like Mikaila’s. “It’s more than about money to us. We believe that investing in small black businesses is extremely important.”

Ulmber’s personality sells the business and she has been in charge for the 9 years of being in business.

mikaila-ulmer_4x3

The middle school counts on her mom to assist with marketing and her dad to manage the finance operations.

Ulmer’s business responsibilities include doing trade show demos, media interviews, business presentations, workshops about bees and about entrepreneurship, depositing her money in the bank, putting in money orders, depositing checks, checking the business email and posting on social media.

Meanwhile, she maintains all As and goes to school full time.

Amazing, right? Her most investors think so.

“She’s very special. Obviously, she has a bright future,” Detroit Lions safety Quin said. “Hopefully, I can be a part of it and nourish it and watch her grow. The sky is the limit.”

How did a 12 year old become a 9 year old CEO vet in the first place?

It all started when Ulmer got stung by two bees in one week when she was just 4-years old. Her parents encouraged her to learn more about bees to lessen her fear of them and to do some research about them. It coincided with the receipt of a family recipe book her grand mom sent her which contained her great-grandmother Helen’s 1940s flaxseed lemonade recipe.

While looking for ideas of what to organize for a community showcase and competition to encourage entrepreneurship in children, Ulmer, with the help of her parents, of course, decided to set up a lemonade stand. Her great-grandmom’s recipe came in handy.

It eventually became her signature product, a popular drink called “Me & The Bees.”

 

Ulmer eventually tweaked the recipe to use locally sourced honey as a sweetener. Sales went through the roof.

Today, Ulmer is the CEO of the company, BeeSweet Lemonade. The company’s motto is “Buy a bottle, save the bees!”

 

Lemonade sales were good, so Ulmer continued to sell her drinks at youth entrepreneurial events until one year, the owner of East Side Pies, an Austin-based pizza company suggested she bottle it. Ulmer agreed and moved the lemonade production from her family’s kitchen to a small commercial kitchen.

Now BeeSweet Lemonade is sold in 12-ounce bottles of freshly squeezed lemonade with flavors such as original mint, ginger, prickly pear and iced tea. They can be found in Whole Foods Market and several stores and currently are in 20 states.

microsoft-mikaila-12

Photo: Ian Kasnoff.

In 2016, BeeSweet sold more than 300,000 bottles of lemonade. She scored an $11M deal with 55 Whole Foods stores that year too, per the Daily Mail and she also recently closed to get her products into Wegman’s grocery chain.

 

“I want a BeeSweet Lemonade line, like the Hello Kitty line,” Mikaila said a few years back. “I want BeeSweet everything.” She’s getting close to her wishes.

Since launching in 2015, Ulmer has spoken at Google, and appeared in numerous outlets including CNBC, Essence, Microsoft and has appeared on The Real and other TV and radio shows.

photo: Ian Kasnoff.

photo: Ian Kasnoff.

 

While not being an all A student, Ulmer has speaking engagements that take her world-wide.  Her family travel with her and turn the gigs into mini -vacations, one report on Microsoft’s blog noted given they all make biz work and have little downtime.

Ulmer wants to become a serial entrepreneur and become a coder.

Wow! This little girl is inspirational and is certainly going places. So many lessons to be learned by her success!

 

Lead Photo: courtesy Houston Texan/Charlotte Carpenter

Jordan Peele and Chelsea Peretti Welcome Son, Beaumont Gino

img_8695

Congrats to Get Out writer and producer comedian Jordan Peele and his wife Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Chelsea Peretti on welcoming their first child together.

According to E! News, Peretti gave birth to a baby boy named Beaumont Gino Peele on July.


The couple, which started dating in 2012 and married in 2016, celebrated a baby shower last month.

Peretti announced her pregnancy news creatively.

“Beyonce schmonce,” the actress captioned a photo of her baby bump, while referencing Beyoncé’s headline-making announcement that same month.

Peele is also famous for his sketch comedy show Key and Peele.

 

Studies Suggest Children’s Addiction to ‘Screens’ is ‘Digital Heroin’

tech-savvy

 

Last year, New York Post published a piece about new research suggesting that electronic gaming and screen addiction in children is akin to drug addiction, as those with it exhibit similar signs as true drug dependent people and experience similar neurological and other body functioning deterioration.

Here is an excerpt about a mom who gave in to giving her son an iPad to play games like Minecraft which she was convinced by her son’s behavioral therapist was akin to digital lego blocks:


Although that concerned her, she thought her son might just be exhibiting an active imagination. As his behavior continued to deteriorate, she tried to take the game away but John threw temper tantrums. His outbursts were so severe that she gave in, still rationalizing to herself over and over again that “it’s educational.”

Then, one night, she realized that something was seriously wrong.

“I walked into his room to check on him. He was supposed to be sleeping — and I was just so frightened…”

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug.

She found him sitting up in his bed staring wide-eyed, his bloodshot eyes looking into the distance as his glowing iPad lay next to him. He seemed to be in a trance. Beside herself with panic, Susan had to shake the boy repeatedly to snap him out of it. Distraught, she could not understand how her once-healthy and happy little boy had become so addicted to the game that he wound up in a catatonic stupor.

There’s a reason that the most tech-cautious parents are tech designers and engineers. Steve Jobs was a notoriously low-tech parent. Silicon Valley tech executives and engineers enroll their kids in no-tech Waldorf Schools. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page went to no-tech Montessori Schools, as did Amazon creator Jeff Bezos and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

tech-kids

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex.

This addictive effect is why Dr. Peter Whybrow, director of neuroscience at UCLA, calls screens “electronic cocaine” and Chinese researchers call them “digital heroin.” In fact, Dr. Andrew Doan, the head of addiction research for the Pentagon and the US Navy — who has been researching video game addiction — calls video games and screen technologies “digital pharmakeia” (Greek for drug).


Interesting. Read the entire article here. 

Editor’s notes: I’m stoked that I have something in common with these tech giants because although I am a tech policy and inclusion advocate and earn a living using technology, especially online digital media, my children attend a very low-tech classical school that emphasize on fundamentals. Yet, still, my children exhibit lots of signs of digital addiction so…yeah. * le sigh *

Report: Mindy Kaling Is Expecting Her First Child

img_8606

A Wrinkle In Time actress Mindy Kaling is expecting her first child, according to E! News sources.

The star of The Mindy Project was not planning to become pregnant, the insider told the entertainment news site. The baby is “an unexpected surprise” but the source said the pregnancy will not alter ongoing and already planned production schedules.

Her hit show that recently moved from FOX to the Hulu streaming channel and the FreeForm network  is entering its 8th and final season.

In interviews in the past, The Office alum had expressed interest in having children and convent over waiting until she is much older.

Per E!, she told Yahoo! style “I think I’ve decided that unlike everything else in my life, I’m going to be fast and loose about kids,” she told Yahoo! Style in a sit down interview.


“I’m going to not actively plan, but if it happens, it would happen.”

She also admitted that she would love to have children, at the time, “maybe imminently.”

She also shared some insight into who she would want to welcome children into the world with, saying, “I’m not cavalier about who I would have a kid with. But the thing I ask every parent that I really admire, the one comment they all have is that they wish they had kids earlier.”

Kaling previously dated Benjamin Nugent from 2008-2012 and her Office co-star B.J. Novak from 2005-2007.

Though not personally confirmed, Congrats anyway!

My Chronicles as A Cable Cord-Cutting Family

Maskot

So… after another year of paying close to $3,000 for a bundled cable, internet and TV package deal and paying for channels that we don’t watch and services we don’t use (landline phone), the hubby and I decided to join the world of cable cutters!

Tread Into It Cautiously


The idea of cutting the cable cord, or giving up traditional multi-channel video programming providers (also known as cable television service), always scared me.

I’ve always been resistant to the idea because modern cable services come in a bundle of services that include landline telephone service. You know a phone that is connected to a telephone cord that is connected to telecommunications lines in the ground created decades ago. Those are ancient but they are dependable and reliable compared to wireless phones. In the interest of safety and security, I’ve always felt being able to connect with emergency services required traditional (POTS aka plain old telephone system).

A landline telephone is a dedicated residential link to the world, something very necessary in an emergency.

I’m not thinking the zombie apocalypse is coming but moreso in the instance of a huge storm that knocks our home off the power grid. What happens when we lose the ability to charge our mobile phones in our home, and our portable charges all run out of power, then all five people in our home who each own a wireless mobile phone phones would eventually die, and then if we ran out of gas of our two vehicles in the driveway depriving us of the ability to use the car to charge the phone, and the power generator died and then we’d be out of luck and unable to make or receive calls to emergency personnel or to call for help.

I admit. That’s a lot of “ifs”, “then” and hypothetical conditions that would have to occur in order to really experience a problem.

I was forced to ask  myself if the $300 monthly bundled service bill (including all the local, state and federal fees, and taxes tacked on to the bill) is really worth the unlikely risk.

The answer is no.

img_8599

Fear of Losing Precious Local TV

Other than the fear of losing landline telephone access, my only other hesitance was my interest in local channels.  Before cable even existed and today now, you can get free over the air television via a TV and an antenna that you tune to get a signal.

Local TV is important.

Local TV provides local weather, traffic and local news and alerts. When you have a family, it is essential to be connected to what’s going on in  your immediate community for your saftey, health and well being. Recalls, warnings about spikes in crime, incoming storm alerts are all things we need to know. It is not an option and a non-negotiable.

My family and I live in a heavily wooded town and so over-the-air antenna is not an option and therefore, I would need cable to be able to access local channels because antennas and other over-the-air tools would do nothing to deliver us clear free TV.

Before I did the research to see if streaming services offer Local TV and Live Local TV nowadays, I put that concern aside temporarily and set off to experiment to see how easy (or hard) it would be to join the cord-cutters society.

img_8598

So Let’s Do this: First Up -Television

The first challenge was finding a streaming service to access all the channels, movies and other video programming we currently watch and love. Our kids enjoy all the children’s television options and we have one kid who adores the nature, Discovery and animal channels. My husband required all the sports channels to access soccer, and essentially all other sports. On his must have list was Fox Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN. I’m currently hooked on a few shows on TNT, AMC, Starz and HBO and I am an avid watcher of the Bravo TV Housewives shows (my guilty pleasure).

More options than traditional cable

What I  discovered quickly is that there are a lot of video programming streaming services available currently. I knew Netflix and Hulu existed and were/are the current industry leaders in video streaming. Since those two took off, several other streaming services have launched. These include Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Playstation Vue,  DirectTV Now and the newest YouTube TV. Here is a quick summary from Tom’s Guide:

1.HULU – If you want to keep current with the latest TV shows but don’t feel like investing in a cable subscription or an HD antenna, Hulu is the best solution. This service provides access to most major network shows (aside from CBS’ programs) and a handful of cable shows the day after they air. It also lets subscribers access a show’s current season — or often all of the program’s seasons. In addition, the service hosts a number of original shows (including joint ventures with the BBC, like The Wrong Mans and season 4 of The Thick of It), a selection of offbeat movies and a surprising amount of classic anime series. Even with a paid subscription, you have to sit through commercials, but far fewer than if you watched the same shows on cable. It cost $8 per month.

It added Live TV streaming recently for $40 per month. Along with more than 50 channels of live TV, in the new Hulu with Live TV from local channels ABCCBSFox and NBC in select cities plus a solid slate of cable channels, including ESPN, CNN, TNT, Bravo, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, the Disney Channel and more (Disclosure: CBS is the parent company of CNET and Showtime.) You also get 50 hours’ worth of cloud DVR storage and an all-new interface.

You can get 45 days free!

2. Netflix – The great-granddaddy of streaming services remains the best. As you probably know, Netflix provides unlimited streaming of TV shows, movies, comedy specials and original programming (including Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards and the fourth season of Arrested Development) for one monthly subscription fee. No other service has yet given Netflix an honest-to-goodness run for its money in terms of selection, quality and performance consistency. You can even create up to five different profiles on a single account to make sure that your favorite content doesn’t mess up recommendations for your friends and loved ones.This is one of the original streaming services and currently going for $12. It too offers a free month!

3. Amazon Prime – For those who do most of their shopping online, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. For $99 per year, you get free two-day shipping on your purchases, a free Kindle book each month, and unlimited access to both Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video is a veritable buffet of movies, television and original programming, like Alpha House, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. Thanks to a deal with Viacom — which controls Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon — Amazon Prime arguably has a better selection of comedy and children’s programming than its competitors. The service also offers unlimited access to an extensive collection from HBO’s back catalog of classics such as The Sopranos and The Wire. The separate Amazon Video provides easy access to current movies, but it’s an à la carte service.  You can pay just $10 with your prime membership to skip the upfront cost. You can get a free month too. 

4. SlingTV – If you like the idea of a cable subscription but feel it’s just too expensive and offers more content than you want, Sling TV might provide a happy medium for you. On paper, Sling sounds a lot like a traditional cable service: Pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for about thirty real-time channels. But there’s no contract and no set-top box rental fee. Sling is especially handy for sports fans, as it offers a variety of ESPN channels. For cord-cutting sports fans, this alone is worth the price. Other popular networks, like NBC, BBC America, CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS and the Food Network, sweeten the deal. If you sign up for Sling Blue, which is the service’s multi-stream option, and bundle it with the more bare-bones Orange, the combo will cost you $40 per month. This service is $20 per month and also offers 7 days free and a free Roku Express when you order.

5. DirecTVNow – (Not from Tom’s but CNET) DirecTV Now has most of the live channels offered by your local cable provider, without hidden fees or contracts or extra equipment (no satellite dish required). The $35 a month introductory price for 100 channels is an amazing value. You can add HBO or Cinemax for just $5 a month each.AT&T owned Satellite company is the satellite company DirectTV’s reaction to Cord Cutters. After launching, it picked up 200,000 subscribers in a few weeks. No CBS, and live ABC, Fox and NBC only available in a handful of major cities. No cloud DVR (for now), so you can’t schedule recordings. or cable cord-cutters and the cut-curious who prioritize live TV over on-demand access, DirecTV Now is a very good value.

6. Playstation Vue –  about as close as you can get to a cable subscription without actually getting a cable company involved. The service, which is available on a wide variety of systems, is Sony’s first foray into delivering live TV to its customers. Choose from four different packages: Access ($50 per month), which gives you basic channels, Core ($55 per month), which adds sports, Elite ($65 per month), which adds niche programming and Ultra ($75 per month), which adds certain premium channels. Although the service is expensive, it provides up to 90 live channels – including local sports and news – and lets you record your favorite shows.

7YouTube TV – is the newest service that is a direct competitor to cable TV. You get live local TV channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as well as cable stalwarts like ESPN, the Disney Channel, Fox News and Bravo. It’s only available in five US metropolitan areas for now: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. Watch it on a regular TV with a Chromecast. YouTube says more cities will be added in the coming months. It will offer Live TV in coming months as well. As CNET notes, there’s no CNN or TNT, no Comedy Central or HGTV, no Lifetime or MTV. YouTube gets credit for local channels, sports and Bravo, but for many people that’s just not enough for the price which is $35 per month. Start for free and get 6 accounts per household.

Wow! That’s a lot of options compared to traditional cable.

Currently, I only have two options.  As I said before, I live in a heavily wooded town with no clear view of the sky, so HughesNet, Dish and DirectTV satellite services are not an option leaving me with just xFinity by Comcast and FiOs by Verizon.

If I become in happy I can go to the other, but what happens when I become unhappy with the alternative? I’ve had both, on an alternating basis.

That’s no way to live, man!

img_8602

The Tech Part of Streaming I love: Conduit and Content Are Separate

With traditional cable,  the coaxial cable, and now, fiber optics that bring service to your home (the conduit) is provided by the same company that packages and brings you the content. That’s power. You pay for video programming service and pay to rent the proprietary set-top box, through only which, you can access the video programming.

There has been an ongoing fight to require cable companies to make their set-top boxes available at retail locations or to permit commercial competitors to be used with the service. This move would relieve the choke hold on customers.

The rental of the set-top box can add an extra $120 or more tacked on to your bill for the year, depending on how many  TVs you have in your home.

With streaming, the devices that permit the streaming are sold at retail locations for as little as $12 in some instances and a lot of these streaming services will throw one in for free if you sign a 6 month contract. Winning!

Watch market competition and capitalism at work here!

Streaming Brings Down the Cost of Video Programming Set Top box to $29 from $495

As stated above, with streaming, the service, the conduit is usually an Amazon FireStick, a Chromecast or a Roku Streaming Stick that run from $29 to $59, which is nominal one time price compared to a cable set top box which would cost from $150 to $459  a year, every year, to rent from the “cable” company.

img_8601

Streaming Brings Down the Cost of Video Programming Service to $8 from $99

If you had mid-tier cable service, likely you paid close to $100 per month for it (Separate from a bundle) and there are a lot of channels you don’t watch. As noted above, you can get streaming service for as little as $8 per month.

That too was a big fight at the FCC not long ago and still it is very difficult to get a la carte tier of services so you can pick the few channels you watch and pay just for those channels.  Some cable companies offer a la cart packages but they end up costing a lot of money after you add taxes and fees!

Soon, even they are not even worth it when you consider if you pay more, you get tons mpr options, you may not watch but at least, you have the option.

With streaming, everything is a la Carte and if you want to add premium channels or additional packages of content, then you can for an extra $5 to $8 per month.

That’s still a big slash in price compared to a $100 monthly bill .

No Commitment or Long Term Contracts

The other benefit to these streaming services is that once you purchase them, you pay as you go and are not obligated to stay with them for a year or longer or risk paying high early termination fees.

True Competition and Options

I love the true competition in the cord cutting world. We have the ability to move or dump a service if we aren’t happy. Consumers only have to deal with a month of non-satisfaction and can sign up for a competitor. How sweet is that?

A lot of us consumers just feel trapped in a situation a lot of times with no where to go! Mor options are best!

Streaming is Compatible with Modern Families – It Works like How we Watch TV Anyway

Oh yeah. One other concern and fear I had before considering cutting the cord: the absence of Live TV. I thought about  that some and figured that we no longer watch TV the same way we did 5 years ago anyway.

Nowadays, we DVR most of the shows we watch or catch them On-Demand. We rarely watch shows when they air Live for the first time.

The exception is possibly Live Sports or very popular shows that one might want to live Tweet or watch with others in social media.

Both are among the category of shows you need to watch before bumping into spoilers online.

And because technology and competition work best, a lot of the streaming platforms offer Live TV now, even local TV, to meet the demands of customers who can just leave them at any time because they are not tied to any long-term contract.

img_8600

Local TV

Similarly, a lot of streaming services are offering live TV, the only hold over or thing that would have held be back before.

One more problem: Internet conundrum and Quality of Service

The final conundrum comes from getting broadband internet.

Streaming eats up bandwidth and requires wireless connectivity. Hmmmm. After cable cutting, we have a few options for connecting.

We started off by just tethering our unlimited data plan phones with the TVs. Each of us have mobile devices with that option. But there would be a problem if we have guests in the home and none of us are at home to tether our phones to the TVs.

We return to the original issue of having limited options.

We can only get Verizon and xFinity. Because we don’t have satellite capability, like mentioned above, broadband satellite is not an option.

There are other broadband home services that serve our town but they are for businesses only.

Finally, after calling around, searching and scoping out options, I came up with the solution: buy a hotspot just for the house!

I got Verizon Wireless Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot—AC791L.  It can be used for up to 24 hours to connect up to 15 Wi–Fi–enabled devices such as laptops and tablets to Verizon wireless’ large and mostly very very reliable 4G LTE network. You can even use it to charge a smartphone.

The only drawback is we are back to commitments.

It cost just $49.99 per month but if we stay for two years. * le sigh *!

It’s a deal I’m willing to take because the cost savings, freedom and flexibility of cable cutting makes it all worth it!

Net Neutrality

The last issue is that, generally, when you rely on mobile broadband, companies cap your streaming upload and download capacity after you reach a certain point. Ours is 10 kpbs, then our streaming capacity drops to 3 kbps.

That’s terrible because it means our TV would lag, buffer and our video watching experience has been diminished once we reach the cap. We would have to work around it by doing our own personal data management by day so by the evening when have enough left over to enjoy streaming. We have multiple devices that each have Their own cap so this will take work and coordination but again, this is a small challenge to cord-cutting.

It’s the price to pay.

Now that I am getting my feet wet as a cord-cutter, I am experiencing that buffer. I have unlimited wireless but after a certain max, the company will limit my upload and download speed to ensure the network is efficient. Unlike traditional broadband, which provides a dedicated fiber to home conduit, over-the-air or wireless broadband are limited by things like weather, congestion and high use during peak hours.

The argument of the FCC regulated legacy companies is that they need the flexibility to maintain the quality and efficient management of their network, and suppressing would-be “band width hogs” like cord cutters that stream is required to do so.

There is a fight in Washington, DC that has been going on for close to a decade now over a complex term called Network Neutrality.

Essentially, there is a movement to require the traditional and legacy telecom and video programming companies, called “carriers”, that provide direct-to-home or direct-to-consumer to give all users the same amount of bandwidth at the same price; and to not discriminate by giving affiliated services, partners or related offerings preferential treatment than those not associated with them.

So in other words, AT&T or DirectTV customers shouldn’t be given a better experience or deal because they also have AT&T wireless to the detriment of customers of other wireless providers.

(btw; they do. Streaming is included for AT&T wireless companies)

That’s the neutrality part. The road has been bumpy and the side that wins changes with the administration because the FCC is neutral but still whatever political party is in the White House, the chair and power shifts to that party, to put it bluntly.

The carriers argue that they need ultimate control to manage their network efficiently and shouldn’t have the government mandating their activity.

The counter argument is that you cannot trust them to not discriminate or make poor choices because they are motivated by maximizing profit over the needs of consumers, and without government mandates, the carriers have no incentive to keep prices low for consumers.

I can understand that perspective but I have already seen market competition at work and am still experiencing it now as a new cord cutter.  There are constant and non stop offerings, updates, improvements and flexibility in the streaming world.

There are updates almost daily we see coming from the 7+ current streaming services shows that sometimes, the marketplace works just fine.

Because I am not tied by a contract, I remain a potential customer to all the companies offering streaming. The cost of getting me to switch is less and the likelihood of winning a competitor’s customers is high as we are not hampered by the threat of early termination fees.

It is indeed possible that marketplace solutions would work just fine.

I’ve been a telecom lawyer and tech policy writer for a long time in my other life.  It is one thing to argue policy, from an abstract and theoretical perspective,  but when you experience it first hand like I am as a cable cutter, you get a different perspective as a customer actually impacted by policy.

We’re still figuring it all out. My husband is totally intimidated and frustrated because he doesn’t really know how to work the remote control or all the tech involved. He is an engineer but I am the resident tech expert.

Him listening to me explain kbps to him is like me listening to him explain what he does at his job. ha!

We’ll keep you updated. So far so good!

2017 Wimbledon Champ Roger Federer’s 2 Sets of Twins Stole The Show

img_8592

Swiss Tennis star Roger Federer won  a record 8 Wimbledon title on Saturday, but his two sets of twins stole the show on the sidelines.

img_8593


Before scoring his 19th Grand Slam Title in three straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, the 35-year old was cheered on by his entire family.

img_8591

His wife Mirka and the couple’s two sets of identical twins, 7-year old daughters Charlene Riva and Myla Rose, 7, and 3-year old sons Leo and Lenny looked so adorbs all wel coordinated and dressed.

img_8590

The win gives Federer the record for the most men’s titles in the history of the event, edging out Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, who each won seven titles at Wimbledon.