DEFENDING NETFLIX

The internet is all a Twitter with criticism for Netflix. Yesterday in a post on the company blog from CEO Reed Hastings, the company announced it’s plan to split streaming and DVD offerings into two distinct brands with separate websites and billing. Customers received the news, including an apology for poor communication preceding pricing and plan structure changes two months ago, via e-mail.

Both changes are being widely criticized across the social web. On the severing of streaming and DVD services, I’m neutral. I suspect the company has researched enough before the announcement to be confident the benefits will outweigh the risks over the long haul. I was ringside for a similar rebranding and name change when social media advertizing company Izea. The change from PayPerPost as both product and corporation to Izea the corporation as the umbrella for explained services including PayPerPost, SocialSpark and SponsoredTweets wasn’t popular with bloggers who worked for them. The company forum was filled with impassioned discussion of how foolish it was to change it. Flash forward, and Izea has gone public, acquired a competing Twitter advertizing service and landed many nationally known brands. Obviously, founder and CEO Ted Murphy knew what he was doing.

There is also a matter of audience. I know a few people living in too rural an area to benefit from streaming service who how don’t want to pay for service they cannot use. I hope they sign up under the Qwikster brand. It’s a great service, better than video stores or Redbox, but not as good as streaming. I would propose the new brand’s users aren’t as social media savvy as the streaming centric, so their voices are not being heard.

I didn’t find the price increase in July unreasonable. The basic package went from $9.99 for unlimited streaming plus unlimited DVDs, one out at a time to $7.99 for unlimited streaming with separate plans available for DVDs starting at $7.99 for unlimited DVDs, one out at a time.

At the time, I was too happy about all five Star Trek series being offered streaming to complain about what they need to charge to provide exactly what I want to watch.

Even with the heady pleasure of watching endless hours of Star Trek leveling off, I still find the prices reasonable. It is easy to do the math on how much the price increased.

($7.99 + $7.99) > ($9.99)

We are still talking, I humbly submit, about peanuts for the entertainment offered. Peanuts!

Since October when I canceled cable, Netflix has been our major sort of programing. Chris brought Hulu Plus when he moved in with me in March, but it is seldom used compared to daily Netflix usage. My Big Bang Theory fix comes from CBS.com where they post new episodes a couple days after original air date. We could cancel both DVD service with Netflix and Hulu Plus, even give away every DVD in the house, and never run out of things we really want to watch.

The outrage I’m seeing but not feeling towards Netflix has a simple source: Comparing what Netflix charges not to what they have charged in the past rather than the cost of services Netflix replaces.

Is there cable or satellite plan under $50 or $60 dollars a month.

Buying DVDs, around $15 a pop, and BluRay, around $25.

Remember renting DVDs at Blockbuster a decade ago? It was around five bucks for a new release and better take out a loan if you didn’t return the thing on time.

No one can convince me Netflix is less than the best entertainment value available. I suspect when the grumbling is over, most customers will stick around for lack of something better. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour of use, it’s fantastic.

*Not a sponsored post. I simply love me some Netflix.

BODY LANGUAGE

I am not, by any definition, a thin woman.

I don’t consider my weight to be anyone’s business to comment on nor am I ashamed of my body. I’m frustrated by the stereotype that overweight people are automatically unattractive or lazy or even unhealthy. Like any generalization, it’s dehumanizing. Looking at the individual, it becomes harder to judge. And to those who judge, I say, get a life and buzz off, because I don’t need your approval.

Balancing those values of body acceptance with a desire to trim down is tricky. Not mutually exclusive, but a balancing act none the less.

My “dieting” history is relatively brief for an American woman of thirty-one who’s been curvy since, ugh, around thirteen. It was a magical traumatizing time when my average little kid body started to do all kinds of weird stuff. Ladies, tell me getting used to boobs isn’t serious adjustment.

I spent my teens and early twenties blissfully unaware of my actual weight. I wore between a size sixteen and eighteen, twenty in jeans. I walked all the time, ate whatever and didn’t own a scale.

A few years ago in a land far, far away (Missouri) I was diagnosed with several health conditions which are typically improved by weight loss. I was twenty-six that I went on a formal diet for the first time. I did Weight Watchers for maybe six months. I learned a lot about portions and planning indulgences. For multiple reasons, I didn’t stick with it.

My recorded high weight was 280 pound. It was sometime at the end of 2009. I’d spent several years working in a call center, on my butt all day and oft rewarded with sweet snacks as if they were fattening us for the slaughter a la To Serve Man. Add in depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea induced migraines and I wasn’t exactly making better food choices. I didn’t feel there was much I could do to change anything about my life let alone changing size and health.

In the chaos of early 2010, I shed more than twenty pounds within a month. Now, brief reactive psychosis – or in lay-terms a nervous breakdown – isn’t a recommended reduction program. I was, however, determined to use what happened to better myself. Mental, emotional and living circumstances were the bigger fish to fry. Working on my physical well being gave me a sense of control when I’d lost everything. Simple matter of eating less and deliberately. One slice of toast instead of two. No fries with my hamburger. Walking, both for exercise and transportation.

My recorded low in the brief time I spent staying with my parents in the Seattle area was 221 pounds. It was enough of a difference to require a near complete replacement of my wardrobe. I’d been, solidly, a plus sized twenty-two. Can I begin to explain my excite when I realized I could drip my toe into the misses and junior sections? Maybe a XXL seems huge to some, for me, fitting into a junior dress (boobs and all) is thrilling. By no means a fashionista, I love expanded options and expressing my own style.

In the last year since I moved to South Carolina, I’ve hovered around the same weight. At some level, I’m okay with it. Being back in the range I was in high school boosts my confidence and conforms to the image of myself I carry around in my head. I’m not as fit as I was at eighteen, but I’m far more fit than I was at twenty-eight. Still, I wouldn’t mind dropping a few more dress sizes.

More than the goal of wanting an excuse to once again replace my wardrobe, I am concerned about the easy, slow upward creeping of those pesky scale numbers. My post Dragon*Con weigh in revealed a disturbing 230 pounds. And that was after four days of walking and more walking at the con. Not cool.

Here we are, two weeks post-D*C. I started using SparkPeople on Monday. It’s a nifty fitness and weight loss tracker. I love that it’s free and, naturally, a mobile app is a requirement these days. What am I doing to do? Write things down? I’m primarily counting calories with a glance at protein, carbohydrates and such while not being a total hard ass with myself. Studies have shown dieters who simply write down what they eat tend to loose more weight. I suspect it’s part brutal honestly coupled with avoiding mindless grazing.

A brief stint on a very strict diet – lots of legumes, veggies and meat – earlier this year made it clear I’m better at modifying and tweaking than chucking out habits and rebuilding from scratch. Kudos to those with the discipline, but I find it easier to honor cravings in small doses than deny entirely. Even with a free eating day built in, too much structure and too many forbidden foods isn’t for me.

So far, the results are promising. I weighed in this morning at 223 pounds. Not to shabby. I know the first week tends to be a loss of water weight and weights tend to level off in the subsequent week. I’m okay with it. Goodness knows, I’ve got the metabolism of a three-toed sloth. But not eating gobs of excess calories in a given day and way less junk food is a good thing no matter what the scale says. One of my mantas for this adventure is borrowed from The Happiness Project: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

One other proven way to improve results is having support and accountability. I have plenty of in real life support. Especially and most importantly Chris. He’s used SparkPeople before and is generally awesome to live with, grocery shop with and talk over details and problems with. Heck, he’s generally awesome. I count myself blessed to have any number of friends and family who care about me and will want to celebrate successes or commiserate on struggles. I count among those anyone who cares enough to read my blog and am always open to new friendships. Without turning the blog into a Tina-diets-diary, I’d like to post from time to time on the topic as I will on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to drop me a comment, keep me accountable or tell me a story about your success or struggle.

*Song title subject borrowed from Queen. Idea for stealing song titles or lyrics for subjects borrowed from Chris.

DRAGON*CON

Wil Wheaton and I both attended our first Dragon*Con this year. As you can see from my big excited smile above, meeting Wil was the highlight of my con experience. It was that freaking awesome to top four days of total immersion in total geek culture. He was personable and gracious. Chris and I talked to him about Memories of the Future. I thanked him for introducing me to John Scalzi and Wil told me Scalzi had announced his latest book that very day. He’d read it, he said, and it is “amaze-balls.” I managed to hold down my fan-girl squeal long enough to walk away from the autograph table.

We geeks are a people without a homeland, but for the length of the con a few blocks of Downtown Atlanta are transformed into a habitat suitable for geeks of all types and affiliations.

It has been a week since we came home. The real world is a bit surreal. No one is dressed as a super hero. I haven’t seen two Doctors pass each other in the hall, nodding in acknowledgement with a greeting of “Doctor.” Even after 10 P.M., body paint is not appropriate attire. Ridges exist on potato chips, not foreheads.

Nothing about the other conventions I’ve attended prepared me for Dragon*Con. It’s bigger – five hotels, a downtown mall, a parade and over 45,000 people. Dragon*Con TV in our hotel room. I went to one actual panel the whole weekend – corset making – and didn’t feel like I missed out. It would, in fact, be possible to go without a membership and have a perfectly good time just people watching and sharing the adventure stories of our roommates. Of course, Chris and I have already preregistered for next year.

It is so difficult to sum up the events of the weekend as the formal events are only half the story. I admit the main reason I’m writing about it at all is to relive it for myself. Maybe next year I’ll blog from the event.

Our trip began Wednesday afternoon. Chris and I stayed at his cousin’s place in Alpharetta, Georgia in an effort to get into the registration line early Thursday. We were joined by Chris’ brother Eric. I was happy simply to get out of dodge. Anticipation was killing me. We had dinner with cousin Jeff and Eric a really, really yummy Indian restaurant. My first real moment of the convention happened hanging out in Jeff’s living room while I sat chatting with Kate about her current obsession with Supernatural. While she hasn’t ever been to a con, she’s my original geek friend. She’d explained about the fan-fiction surrounding the series, specifically the slash involving the Winchester brothers. They, apparently, call it Wincest and Kate, like myself, doesn’t really understand the appeal. What I said, however, was “It’s better for incest to be same-sex because you don’t have to worry about children.” Silence in the room and all three of the boys – the boyfriend, the boyfriend’s brother and their cousin – staring at me like I’m insane. What? In the context of the conversation, it was a perfectly reasonable statement.

Standing in the registration line Thursday, you would think, wouldn’t be very exciting. I was surprised, however, how excited I was to see all the people. Most were in their geekiest shirts, but a few dedicated souls were costumed up. One dude behind us in line was already drinking cheap beer. Way to get a head start on both counts.

Not much goes on Thursday night. We and the roommates got settled in. It was Chris and I, Eric, Teresa, Alex and his sister Lucy. Teresa invented a drink we’ll call a Tereka – Diet Mountain Dew and Tequila. I had a couple and Lucy was a little too buzzed to head out to the Celtic concert she wanted to attend. Not having anything better to do and not wanting to sit around, Chris and I went with Lucy to see Pandora Celtica and Emerald Rose. Very different sounds, but both awesome.

Daytime Friday was line day for Chris and I. We got the required autographs. Wil Wheaton (*Squee*) was first, then Gates McFadden and William Shatner. We stopped to talk to Brent Spiner about his web series Fresh Hell. Gates was nice, but we didn’t have anything specific to talk to her about. Shatner looked tired, but smiled and nodded. Best you can expect from a star of his age. Autographs are a cool memento, but I definably think the interaction is the important part. I wouldn’t, for example, buy an autograph or send someone to get one. I will, of course, have to be satisfied with the autograph from Leonard Nimoy Chris got two years ago.

There was Klingon Karaoke. Chris sang Bust A Move. The audience loved it.

As I alluded to in my mention of body paint, late night at Dragon*Con is pretty wild. We went to the Hyatt, closed to all but Dragon*Con attendees, to walk around and enjoy the costumes. Chris was still in his TOS Klingon and had far more photo requests than he expected. Was awesome.

The only problem with a late and eventful night on Friday was getting up early Saturday for the parade. Chris marched in full Imperial Klingon and ridges. So sexy, but hot and tiring. Still, he made CNN’s coverage of the con for the second year in a row. Later, we attended the Klingon restaurant invasion to hang with our various Klingon friends but especially those of House Koloth and the Nemesis.

I saw so many cool costumes and interactions between people in those costumes. Waldo and Carmen San Diego running around doesn’t fail to tickle me. I took lots of pictures both with my camera and Chris’ – feel free to look me up on Facebook and take a look. My favorite missed photo opp moment was a beautiful, Disney quality Snow White taking pictures of a You-Know-Who and a couple dozen Death Eaters.

Only at Dragon*Con. Only 353 days…