COVID-19 Crisis

It’s really become surreal just how much things change over the course of a week. Terms like “Social Distancing” and “Flattening the Curve” weren’t even on our radar, and now it’s all everyone is nervously thinking about. One week ago, lives seemed normal, our trials were relatively marginal, and we had no idea that our days would become so disrupted.

I just wanted to share insights from my little corner from the world. I don’t think that my perspective is really unique, nor do I have any wisdom to offer others, but as we look back on 2020 years from now, I can offer a snapshot of what we’re doing, how we’re feeling, and just how much we don’t know.

Right now there’s more we don’t know about COVID-19 than what we do know. We know that while it’s especially mild for most, those who are elder, infirm, and immutably compromised are especially vulnerable. Driven by efficiency, our medical system is not equipped to deal with a significant influx of ailments, and COVID-19 represents a threat to the capacity of our health systems. In order to stem the tide, we’re working to “flatten the curve” of viral infection. Large events of any kind have been canceled. Restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and non-essential stores have been closed in order to prevent people from gathering. People have been asked to stay at home and avoid contact with others. “Social Distancing” is really just a term for staying at least 6 feet away from anyone that’s not in your family.

Luckily we’re still able to be outside and get some fresh air through activities like walking, running, and biking. However, people who love sports and gyms are having to find another form of exercise. All the while we’re washing our hands so thoroughly and often that my knuckles are drying up and cracking.

For our own family, the school has been canceled for at least three weeks (although right now it’s being treated as an extended spring break). It’s not clear whether or when we’ll be physically back at school if the school year will be extended out, rescheduled, or canceled altogether. This impacts both Bethany and Clara, but we’re lucky that Bethany gets to be home while the girls are home. At my workplace, people have been sent home, although I have not been personally impacted since I normally work from home. Mari’s in-home daycare isn’t officially closed, but most families have opted to keep their kids home as a precaution. We’re planning on it lasting at least 2-3 weeks.

As you can imagine, this level of isolation is catastrophic for a service-based economy, It’s not clear just how long this will last. Right now it seems to be at least three weeks, but it’s unclear whether schools or other businesses will open, while large gatherings remain banned. At this point, any sense of normalcy seems to be a long ways away.

Throughout all of this, we have many blessings to count. We’re lucky to all be presently healthy, and that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to seriously impact healthy children and youth. I’m lucky that I’m able to work throughout this time and that Bethany and I both have relative income stability. I’m lucky that Bethany’s schedule gets to mirror the girls’ school schedule, and that she’s able to care and entertain them during the day. I’m thankful that we still get to be outside when the weather permits, and that we can still find ways to exercise.

We’re buckling up and seeing where this roller coaster takes us.

The Astros, Sign Stealing, and Baseball Innovation

In watching the Houston Astros Sign-Stealing scandal unfold, its punishments getting doled out, and the open resentment from other players in the league, the same question kept popping into my mind:

Wouldn’t it be possible to equip pitchers with a microphone that enables one-way communication to an earpiece in the catcher’s helmet? If the pitcher quietly speaks into the mic with the glove over his mouth, wouldn’t that stop sign-stealing?

I posed the question on Twitter and Facebook (and thank you to those who responded) and received many illuminating responses.

A quick primer to those not familiar with sign-stealing: when a batter’s at the plate, the catcher will relay a series of signals from his hands (typically between his legs) over to the pitcher, seemingly proposing pitches. The pitcher provides non-verbal responses in the forms of head shakes or nods, then throws the agreed-upon pitch. Sign stealing is when the opposite team tries to intercept and decode the signals, then relay them non-verbally back to the batter. Typically this has been done when there’s a runner on 2nd, but players and teams continue to be innovative in employing sign-stealing, with the Astros having team personnel monitor the signs real-time, relay it to the dugout, with players banging a trash can to get the message back to the batter. The scandal now has a Wikipedia entry if you want to learn more.

Technically, sign-stealing is considered cheating, but the culture of baseball tolerates it as long as you don’t cross an invisible line. Under the mantra, “If you don’t cheat, you don’t try.”, players continually innovate to find new and more effective ways to steal signs, which is what landed the Astros in hot water.

This brought me to the above question, wondering why can’t baseball incentivize teams to apply the same level of innovation to thwart cheating. With apologies to the people for not better representing their thoughtful comments, the gist of reasons were:

  1. Catchers are the ones that have all the knowledge and are instructing the pitcher on what to throw.
  2. It would be too much to ask of pitchers, especially relievers, to call pitches.
  3. Teams would try to intercept the transmissions.
  4. It’s not too much to ask teams not to cheat

For the sake of argument, let’s discard #4 and accept that teams will continue to push boundaries. As for point #3, football has been using play-calling radios for decades – and Patriots jokes aside – has not generally had a problem.

That leaves us point #1 and #2, which to a baseball skeptic like me translates, “It’s always been this way and it’s asking too much for pitchers to change”.

This is the crux of why I struggle with baseball. The double-edged sword of being steeped with tradition also has the ill effect of being resistant to new ideas and methods.

I’m not saying that the sport needs to force every team into doing this, but if they changed the rules to allow for this, you might see some teams taking advantage of the technology, even if it’s just for playing certain teams suspected of cheating. We’ve seen this play out in other sports. When a team finds success, the copycat league will try to adopt and further the methods. Instead, many baseball purists seem to accept that the players will work this all out, with their own form of vigilante justice – taking a few pitches to the ribs. At least through enabling and promotion innovation, you at least give teams an alternative than resorting to physical retaliation.

This also boils down to the fact that Commissioner Rob Manfred opted not to punish the players, in part to achieve their cooperation in the investigation, but also to avoid drawn-out appeals from the Players Union. There wasn’t a great solution to this, but as players have been reporting into training camps it’s been obvious that many harbor vast resentment towards current and former Astros. Perhaps Manfred should consider placing a permanent asterisk on the Astros 2017 championship. Outright stripping the title opens a can of worms (Who would get the title instead, no one? Do the players have to give back their championship rings?), but placing an asterisk allows people to view the 2017 World Series in their own light and allow history to ultimately pass judgement.

The way baseball views sign-stealing is not unlike hockey views fighting: they pay lip service to being against it, but through their inaction they don’t do anything to actually thwart it, relying on some invisible line. People then clutch their pearls after it gets crossed.

Ultimately this is indicative of the decisions that are relegating the National Pastime into a distant third in popularity. The NFL and NBA have their own sets of problems, but they don’t seem to be afraid to promote new ideas and innovation to help the game evolve. I get that baseball is a timeless, individual-statistics-driven game that favors the record books, but this seeming apprehension to evolution is going to be the sports undoing.

New Music from my band – Look What You Made Me Do

I just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know that my band, Amy and the Peace Pipes, has released some new music over all the streams today! We recorded our cover version of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”

This song has been a staple at one of our shows, and we’re really happy with how it turned out. We think it gives a different take on the original song, and have a ton of fun playing it. I’d love to hear what you think!

I also had a lot of fun doing the artwork for this cover. I got to play with some of my lighting equipment and snapped the portrait of Amy, then added the text as an homage to Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” cover.

You can get all the links to all of the streaming services on my band’s web site.

Looking Back on the 10’s

… and just like that a decade went by. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the passing of the decade seemed much more momentous, but it seems like the 2000’s and 2010’s just blew by.

The 2010’s have been a pretty transformative decade, marked by a lot of joy, but not without its share of sorrow.

2010

We were celebrating our first year of marriage, living in Fort Collins. Bethany was in the midst of finishing her Master’s Degree in School Counseling and had to do a year of unpaid internship, making it a financial challenge. However our little family grew by 1 – adopting our kitty, Logan.

Major Milestones:

  • Traveling to Las Vegas (multiple times), Boston, Minneapolis for Joel & Katie’s Wedding.

2011

Bethany started her counseling career at Northridge High School and celebrated my 30th birthday, receiving my first new drum set since I started playing the instrument back in 1996.

I also went overseas for the first time, traveling to Ireland with Bethany’s family. This was well-documented in my blog back then.

Major Milestones:

  • Traveling to Ireland
  • Receiving my Drum Set – the Pearl Masters MCX
  • The Balderrama’s meeting up in Keystone, Colorado for a reunion
  • The birth of our nephew, Liam

2012

If 2011 was a “calm before the storm year”, 2012 represented the storm that set in. It represented many changes, as well as enduring tragedy. In 2012 we decided to sell out town home in Fort Collins and move to Windsor, during the process we learned that Bethany’s brother, Rocky, had unexpectedly passed away. We learned the horrible news just hours before we were about to set on our Baby-moon Cruise to Alaska, setting a long and heavy shadow over the trip. When we returned from the trip we were in between moving out of our old house and had not yet moved into our new home. The house we moved into was not in the state we had expected and we ended up having to deal with a lot of unexpected hardships.

Despite the darkness during the year, we ended it on a positive note, with Bethany coming pregnant with Clara.

Major Milestones:

  • Selling our townhome in Fort Collins
  • Buying our single-family home in Windsor
  • Welcoming our niece, Sonia, into the world
  • Taking our 2 week Baby-Moon to Seattle and on an Alaskan Cruise
  • Mourning the loss of Bethany’s brother, Rocky

2013

The year that changed it all, when God brought Clara into our lives. They weren’t kidding when they talked about how children change lives. We experienced all of it, but were very blessed to have a beautiful, healthy and happy little girl in our lives.

Work-wise, my company went through a split, which really increased my workload leading up to Clara’s birth. Clara’s birth also gave us incentive to invest in a DSLR camera, unlocking new talents. Aside from a quick trip to Kansas for a wedding, we did not travel anywhere for 2013.

Major Milestones:

  • The birth of Clara!
  • Experiencing a tornado in Windsor, causing damage to our house
  • The Broncos having a great season, making it to Super Bowl 48 (then losing to the Seahawks).

2014

As transformational as 2013 was, 2014 continued to be a year of “firsts” for us – Clara would have her first real food, first crawl, first steps and continuing to experience the first holidays.

We started to venture out, making Clara’s first plane trip to Daytona for an SoB (Summer of Balderrama’s) trip, seeing Disneyland. We also road-tripped to Kansas to visit family, Taos to commemorate Rocky’s birthday, as well as a new year’s trip to Durango.

Major Milestones:

  • Clara being a flower girl at Shannon and Andrew’s wedding
  • Clara growing from an infant to a spunky toddler
  • Summer of Balderrama’s trip to Florida
  • Road trips to Taos, Durango and Kansas.

2015

2015 was all about Mariana. We spent the entire year anticipating her arrival, which finally came on October 29. We then got all of the reminders of parenting a newborn, along with the challenges of a full-fledged toddler.

Clara continued to blossom and develop her own personality as a happy-go-lucky little girl. Looking back at this time, the 27-month span was perfect for the girls, as Clara was intrigued about having a little sister, but didn’t really develop the jealousy a new infant would bring.

Music-wise, I also joined Amy and the Peace Pipes and had an awesome year with them. We got selected to play at FoCoMX, released our first EP and played over a dozen shows throughout the year.

Major Milestones:

  • Traveling to Nashville for a long weekend trip
  • Road-tripping to Kansas to visit family
  • Introducing my mom to Durango
  • Welcoming Mariana into the world!
  • Broncos win the Super Bowl (it technically happened 2016, but it was the 2015 season)

2016

In 2016 we watched the girls grow into being sisters, being witnesses to many of Mariana’s firsts, as well as learning how to be our family of four. We also had a very busy summer filled with weddings (and Clara being a flower girl), as well as a trip to New York to go meet our new niece, Elisia.

Major Milestones:

  • Our friends Brett and Joanna getting married
  • My sister Amanda and David getting married
  • Cousins Laura and Herrick getting married
  • Our niece, Elisia, being born
  • Our trip to New York to go see the city and visit our new cousin
  • Clara starting dance class

2017

Now it’s Mariana’s turn to grow into the full-fledged toddler, while Clara grows into a little girl. Clara started preschool in the fall, while also going full-fledged into dance class and soccer. It was such a rewarding experience watching Clara being exposed to these activities, learning more each day.

Mariana also became pretty active as well and incurred our first major injury as a family, falling off the couch and fracturing her leg. It happened a few weeks before we were scheduled to go to Disneyland as well. Fortunately she was able to get her cast removed two days before we were set to head out, and got the full Disney experience.

Major Milestones:

  • Family trip to Disneyland, with Mema, Papa and nephew Liam
  • Clara starting pre-school in the fall, 3 hours each afternoon
  • Clara starting soccer in the fall
  • Clara continuing dance class
  • Mariana’s first cast

2018

One of the coolest things to happen in 2018 was Bethany being recognized as the High School Counselor of the year by the Colorado School Counselors Association, which was so well-deserved and we were very proud of her!

Clara started all-day Kindergarten in the fall of 2018 and we were blown away by just how much she was learning each day. She was transforming into a little reader and writer, excited to read to her sister.

Mariana joined Clara at Just for Kix Dance Classes and was a natural to the stage. We also worked through the adjustment period after Ms. Amanda closed her daycare to finish her school counseling internships.

Oh , and through the generosity of Bethany’s mom and step-dad, we were able to see Hamilton at the Denver Center for Performing Arts!

Major Milestones:

  • Clara finishing pre-school and starting kindergarten
  • Mariana starting dance class
  • Clara continuing dance and soccer
  • Going on a beach vacation in North Carolina
  • Seeing Hamilton!
  • Bethany winning School Counselor of the Year
  • Saying goodbye to Bethany’s grandmother
  • Being an active campaigner fo the new library in our town and ultimately losing that ballot initiative
  • Bethany completing her first sprint triathlon

2019

Clara finished kindergarten and is now in first grade, continuing to amaze us with her growth. We’ve been really lucky to have great teachers working with her at her school, and outs been neat to see her come home excited to tell us about her day.

Mariana is in an incredible daycare and making her own educational strides as well, already working on writing. After going from an in-home to a center, then back to in-home, we’ve found that in-home works much better for Mari.

Work is going well for both Bethany and I. I am blessed to have my school drop off schedule accommodated and have some flexibility to be able to help out from time to time. Bethany is rocking it at her school and headed to Washington DC in early 2020 to be recognized for her counseling award.

We took some awesome road trips over the summer, first to South Dakota with the Miles-Hastings, then to Yellowstone with the Balderrama’s, experiencing a lot of the beauty of our country.

Amy and the Peace Pipes had a great year, capping it off with an opportunity to play Old Town Square in Fort Collins.

Major Milestones:

  • Road trip to Yellowstone
  • Road trip to South Dakota
  • Road trip to Durango
  • Clara starting 1st grade
  • Both girls performing in dance (Clara doing hip-hop)
  • Clara playing soccer (with Bethany coaching both the spring and fall teams)
  • Bethany running her first half-marathon!

Thus closes my forth decade on this earth. It’s definitely been the most transformational of my life, going doubling our family, moving to a new home and planting some roots within our lives. I’m anxious to see where our family will be ten years from now.

Here’s to the next 10! Happy New Year!

Let the wars begin (the end of the Golden Streaming Era)

With Apple Plus launching yesterday, and Disney Plus arriving a little more than a week from now, it’s time to mark and lament the end an era: The Golden Age of streaming.

Years from now we’re going to look back on the simple age, when virtually all the content was available on Netflix. When we cut the cord back in 2017, Netflix was the only subscription we were paying, then had Amazon Prime Video as an added bonus. Now it seems that every media conglomerates is going to stand up their own streaming service, walling off their content in hopes to shake a few more dollars out of us in yet another monthly subscription.

I’m taking this as an opportunity to re-inventory our TV costs and prioritize the streaming services as we watch the landscape change.

Pre-Cord Cutting Costs

  • DirecTV We were subscribed to whatever package gave us all the major sports channels, including NBCSN and NFL Network. Costs would fluctuate as they always ratcheted up the costs until you complained. ($115-145/mo)
  • Netflix The goldmine of back catalog content. We do a 5-stream family plan ($13/mo)
  • Amazon Prime Video We were Prime customers long before we consumed prime video and would remain Prime customers if the Video wasn’t there.

Total Pre-Cord Cutting Costs: $128-$158 per month

Pre-Streaming Wars Costs (Current Situation)

  • HULU + LiveTV: We’ve jumped back and forth between Sling, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV, but are now currently using HULU to provide our live TV content. The primary reason we subscribe to a live TV package is to get sports. If there were (or is) a more cost-efficient service that offered ESPN, TNT + TBS (for NBA and MLB), NBCSN (for NHL) AND NFL Network – and no other channels – I’d go for it. Right now the Hulu streaming service gives the added benefit of Hulu content as well ($45/mo)
  • Netflix – we’re finding fewer and fewer reasons to keep watching Netflix. Truthfully my daughters watch it the most, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. ($16/mo)
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • CBS All Access: When new Star Trek is airing ($6/mo), otherwise I’ll cancel it right after the season finale ends.

Total Pre-Streaming Wars Costs: $61-67 per month

The Streaming Wars Costs and Priorities

Now with all of these segmenting services coming into play, we’re starting to look at prioritizing these streaming services and coming up with a few cut lines where we’d consider dropping a service or not subscribing all together.

The “Gotta Have It” Tier

1. LiveTV Streaming Service. Barring a significant price increase, or that all-encompassing sports deal unicorn, we’re probably going to stick with Hulu.

2. Disney Plus. This is where we’ll be redirecting my kids for their content, and the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel shows seem really appealing.

3. CBS All-Access. While it doesn’t seem like All-Access has panned out to be what CBS intended, they at least realize that there’s a demand for Star Trek, and if they keep producing relevant and quality Star Trek shows, I’ll keep forking over the amount for the minimum tier.

The “As long as you’re giving it to me…” Tier

4. Amazon Prime Video. We don’t really watching much on Prime Video, but as long as Amazon’s Prime 2-Day Shipping includes this service we’ll keep subscribing.

5. Apple Plus. We’re not sure their original content is going to be any good, and in the one day we’ve used the service, I’m appalled that they show you *a lot* of content that you may not have access to (like HBO and other premium channels), but if you’re going to give me a year for free by purchasing an iPhone, then we’ll keep your app installed on our Roku.

The “Having Second Thoughts” Tier

6. Netflix. I’ll be honest. I’m going to have a serious conversation with my family about whether we’re going to keep subscribing to Netflix, at least on a continual basis. Maybe we’ll check in twice a year to see if there’s anything worth checking out.

The “Not Even Considering It” Tier

7. HBO Max. It’s not coming until March, and at $15 is set to be one of the more expensive streaming services, but I’m not seeing much appeal to subscribe to these services, and ultimately I think this is going to scuff up the polish on the HBO prestige brand.

8. The NBC Peacock Streaming Service. I’m going to call my shot. This service won’t exist in the same form within two years. Despite being owned by Comcast, I think NBC is going to ultimately struggle with the logistics of running a good streaming service, and will find that it’s easier to just license their content elsewhere.

9. DC Universe. While I’m an avid comics fan, I don’t have the time to keep up with their exclusive (or non-exclusive for that matter) content.

10+ Any other services not mentioned above. I know there’s a lot of niche stuff out there, from ESPN+ to DAZN, but unless it’s free, we’re not interested.


It’s still worth being a cord-cutter right now, with the best part being that you’re not tied down to any commitments. As I mentioned with Netflix, if you have the ability to go month-to-month, I’ll be tempted to check in on a service for a month or two and see whether anything is compelling. My fear however is that some of these services may be tempted to pull people back into agreements, with the whole industry repeating the mistakes that drove their customers away.

Buckle up, the next several months should be interesting.