Roku channelsWe’re going into this again because it seems that all the world wants to get rid of their cable service. Another reader writes to say that he wants to drop Comcast, and short of taking to the streets with flaming torches, he can’t seem to shake them. All he cares about is local channels and HBO.

Okay, let’s wrap it up: To get local channels, you need an antenna. They’re cheap. We’ve used one from “Antennas Direct” for $20 and it worked fine. Another good company is RCA Antenna. A best seller on Amazon, “1byOne,” goes for $13.

Our reader’s son gave him a $35 Google Chromecast, which is a device not much bigger than a thumb drive that plugs into your TV to bring anything you see on your phone onto your TV screen. But we found it more difficult to use than similarly-priced devices, like the Roku stick.

Since your phone shows no local TV channels until you search for them, and these usually require a subscription to use, beaming stuff from your phone to your TV gets frustrating. So we tried “Sling TV,” once a piece of hardware, now a streaming TV service with lots of sports and movie channels, starting at $20 a month after the free trial. But using its “HBO Now” channel with our Chromecast was a disaster. The videos stuttered and stopped. Sometimes they broke up into individual pixels. We could only watch what was on now, couldn’t scan for other offerings. And, you couldn’t pause live TV; what was on, was on.

It gets worse. When we tried to switch back to regular TV, our top-of-the-line set crackled, popped and gave us a picture of a gear and a big orange “X.” After a half hour with AT&T tech support, AT&T decided to send us a brand new receiver. We lost all the shows we’d recorded. No wonder that the Sling company suggests using it with the Roku player. You can get a free Roku 2 player if you sign up for Sling TV at sling.com/trynow4. The Roku always worked well in our experience. But you really don’t need Sling TV. We added HBO Now to our Roku channels without going through Sling. While in the free trial period, we’re enjoying their documentaries.

The best thing about the Roku player is there are no monthly fees. Though many of the channels, such as Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu and Amazon Video do have fees or rental charges, Roku also has free channels, such as YouTube, Bloomberg TV, FoxNow, and numerous cooking, exercise and news shows. The Roku has its own remote control. So unlike Chromecast, a lot of channels are already on the TV; you don’t have to beam anything from your phone.

YouTube Tip

Bob is often annoyed when online music services give us just a segment of a classical piece, and not the best segment. He asks: would they give you just the opening chapter if you wanted to read a book? The solution is to look up the same piece on YouTube.

We were listening to Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 for Violin in G Major, for example. Every version on Spotify’s music service was seven minutes long. When we turned to YouTube, we found the full 25-minute version, as well as the key seven-minute third movement, which is the best part, played by Izhtak Perlman.

Almost anything you’re interested in watching or hearing is on YouTube. Missed a segment of your favorite TV show? It’s probably on YouTube. And now, when we’re considering attending a lecture, Joy first looks up the speaker on YouTube to see if he or she is worth paying to hear. Not surprisingly, most are real duds.


  • Spotify.com has an album of Robert Frost reading 23 of his own poems. (Very gravely voice.) They also have Carl Sandberg, and he sings too. (This reminds Bob of an old proverb that goes: “A young man with money in his pocket is not only wise and good-looking, but he sings well too.”)


  • Devil's Pool, Zimbabwe

    Devil’s Pool, Zimbabwe

    31 Breathtaking Natural Swimming Pools Around the World.” Google those words to find some stunners. Note that the photo captions here are above each photo, instead of the nearly universal standard of putting captions at the bottom. Very confusing. We never knew there was a “Devil’s Bathtub” in Ohio as well as a “Devil’s Pool” at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. (If you go over the edge at Victoria, it is a very long way down.)

Fun with Math

WolframAlpha.com isn’t just about making complex calculations. They have simple stuff too.

  • Go to WolrframAlpha.com. Type “Scrabble” before any word, such as “quizzically,” and it will give you the point count. In this case, 43.



  • See your age or any other number in Babylonian, Roman, ancient Greek and Mayan. The answer, unfortunately will appear in that language. How’s your Babylonian?


  • Type in any month, day and year and see what important events happened on that date. We typed in the year we were married and found out that’s the year the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in the Superbowl and President Bill Clinton went on TV to deny being more than a friend to Monica Lewinsky.


  • Get specific sports data, such as the last major league baseball game with more than 30 points. It was the Cubs versus the Kentucky Colonels in 1897: Cubs 36, Colonels 7. (By the way: the last time the Chicago Cubs were in the World Series, the Ottoman Empire was still in power.)


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