iPhone Case

I got a case for my iPhone – previously I had just been using an old dice bag.

The thing that caught my eye about this case is that it actually adds a feature to the iPhone that was missing.

It’s the Griffin Clarifi and it has a little lens that you can slide in front of the iPhone camera to give it a macro mode for close up shots.

The normal iPhone camera has a focal length of like 2 feet, so trying to get any kind of close up shot is an exercise in blurriness. The Clarifi not only seems to be a decent case, but the lens actually does the macro thing pretty well.

Here is a comparison of shooting without the Clarifi lens and with it.

iPhone camera without Clarifi:

iPhone camera WITH Clarifi:

It still doesn’t change the fact that the iPhone camera is pretty low-res and generally poor, but at least now I can take pictures of notebook doodles and other documents, which is a nice thing to have handy.

p.s. In case you’re wondering what the nutritional label is from, it’s Cactus Jerky. Spicy Teriyaki Cactus Jerky.

The Name Game

Finally got around to something I’ve been putting off for a while… namely, getting a new Social Security Card with my updated name, which will allow me to get an updated Driver’s License.

Which times nicely, since my driver’s license is up for renewal next month. And I’ll probably need up-to-date ID to vote, and I definitely want to do that. Go, Obama!

Reminds me, the debate is tonight… maybe I’ll watch it in HD, so I can see if McCain got his money’s worth.

Oh, and on another unrelated note, I watched the new Knight Rider TV show, and it sets a new high-water-mark for awfulness. Horrible acting, unlikable characters, pointless special effects (the car uses an elaborate transformation to change into… a basically identical car), bad scripts, and just general badness. It’s not even enjoyably bad, which if you’re being generous you could say they were going for, it’s just bad bad.

the “after” ultrasound

I had an abdominal ultrasound this morning, to see if the gall bladder cleanse did anything.

The result?

The cleanse did nothing, except perhaps make it worse.

“Oh,” the ultrasound technician exclaimed during the exam, “your gallbladder has like a million stones in it!”

She went on to point out that the gall bladder seemed to be contracted, with no bile in it, and appeared to be packed full of stones. Looking at the ultrasound, it was very different from the one a month ago. Back then, the gall bladder was clearly visible, with some stones at the bottom.

Now, the gall bladder wasn’t even visible, the stones inside were so dense, the sound waves were blocked, creating a dark patch on the ultrasound, obscuring the gall bladder and everything behind it.

“They seem to be tons of small stones,” she said, “those are the more dangerous kind, they are more likely to clog ducts or end up in the pancreas than if you just had a few giant stones.”

Before, my gall bladder was enlarged, with a few stones. Now it is contracted, and packed full of stones. It could be that the number of stones is the same, the gall bladder has just fully contracted. Or there might be more stones now, in addition to the gall bladder being contracted.

So perhaps the flush did nothing, or perhaps it managed to form stones, or move stones from the liver to the gal bladder. No way to tell. All I know for sure is that it didn’t do anything helpful.

I think a lot of people do the flush, and see “stones” getting passed, but the “stones” are in fact not stones at all, but pseudo-stones formed from the olive oil they drank. An ultrasound is the only way to know scientifically if the flush did anything, and I think I’ve established pretty well here that, at least in my case, the gall bladder flush is at best ineffective, at worst, harmful.

So I guess the schedule for surgery stays as-is, with an information session an preliminary exam on Monday (Sept. 29) and the actual surgery on Friday the week after (Oct. 10).

I’ve had a few people tell me they think I am rushing in to surgery as an option – believe me, I’ve researched all the options. Despite what people seem to think, there is no magic alternative I can summon with a snap of my fingers. “Why do surgery at all,” some people say, “if it might be weeks or months or even years between gall bladder attacks?”

Well, let me tell you, a gall bladder attack is seriously the most painful thing I have ever experienced. The pain is so great that during attacks, I’ve eyed scissors and kitchen knives, and wondered how hard it could be to remove the gall bladder myself.

Believe me, I don’t want surgery, and I still think doctors should do more research around prevention, rather that just jump to the “slice and dice” mentality. In general, prevention doesn’t seem to interest the medical community much. I’ve asked my doctor for advice in the past, and he’s like “you’re healthy, just keep doing what you’re doing” — well, obviously that advice didn’t help my gall bladder.

When talking to my surgeon, I asked about the reason I had gall stones. He said, “with gall stones, who knows?” Despite it being a very common affliction, there seems to be very little research, and little understanding.

So as it stands now, my two options are: surgery, or deal with attacks periodically.
People will probably think I’m stupid or weak for doing it, but I’m taking the surgery option.

Drink this, not that

Found a good alternative to a favorite drink of mine, though I’m not sure about its availability, I found it in a health food store in Northampton, MA…

Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino

Serving size: 1 bottle (9.6oz)
Calories: 200
Fat: 3g
Sat. Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Sodium: 100mg
Total Carbs: 37g
Fiber: 0
Sugar: 31g
Protein: 6g
Calcium: 200mg


Adina Sumatran Iced Vanilla Latte

Serving size: 1 bottle (8.5oz)
Calories: 110
Fat: 2g
Sat. Fat: 1.5g
Cholesterol: 10mg
Sodium: 120mg
Total Carbs: 20g
Fiber: 0
Sugar: 19g
Protein: 3g
Calcium: 150mg
Potassium: 5% DV
Vitamin A: 4% DV
Iron: 6% DV

The Adina kind tastes just as good, and is lower in calories, fat, and sugar, and made with organic fair trade ingredients.

New Cookies

Got some more Newman’s alphabet cookies, grabbed a handful, which read R A D O N.

Hmm, maybe I should test the basement sometime. 😉

Health Insurance, as it turns out, is handy to have.

Now that I’m looking at $8k in: ER visits (~$3k apiece), doctor’s visits, and ultrasounds (~$1k apiece); and a potential $10k surgery coming up, I figured I should figure out what my insurance covers, and how much it’s gonna hurt my wallet.

I don’t have a normal plan, like Blue Cross, I have a kinda confusing (but somewhat cheaper) one, a Cigna HRA.

Here’s how it boils down:

Phase 1: For the first $1000 in bills, Staples pays everything.
Phase 2: For the next $600 in bills, I pay everything.
Phase 3: After that, Cigna pays 80%, I pay 20%. This phase lasts until I have paid $900.
Phase 4: Cigna pays 100% of the bills.

So once I have paid a total of $1500 out-of-pocket from phase 2 and 3, that’s it for what I have to pay. After that, Cigna pays 100% of the bills.
This lasts until the untap phase (M:TG joke) in July, when it resets for the year and the whole things starts over.

I put $600 or so in a pre-tax HSA (Health Savings Account) at the beginning of the year, plus got a $150 credit from Staples for filling out a health survey, so that’s $750 taken care of. Which means of the potential $15,000 – $20,000 in medical bills, I only have $750 left to pay.

That’s actually not bad at all. A hell of a lot better than coming up with $20,000.

Now I need to figure out how my Vision coverage works. I could use new glasses, my prescription is from like 6 years ago and, although adequate, could probably be improved.

VMware Fusion 2.0

VMware Fusion 2.0 just came out. I’d been using the previous version, and 2.0 had been out as a beta, but I wanted to wait until it was more stable.

What is it? It is VM (Virtual Machine) software. Normally to run Windows on my Mac, I’d need to dual boot, and on startup choose if I wanted to run Windows or Mac. With VM software, I can run Mac OS, and then run a virtual machine within that which has Windows on it.

It’s a similar *idea* to emulation, where you have one emulated computer running virtually inside another, but with emulation, the hardware is different, so the physical machine is emulating the virtual machine. With VM software, the hardware is the same, so the virtual machine just takes a portion of the CPU and memory, and has access to the other devices as well. Some items you have to choose, like the DVD drive can only be used by the real machine or the virtual machine, not both at once, so you have to toggle which OS has the drive.

The end result is that I can have Mac OS X and Windows running at the same time on the same machine. You can also run apps in a mode where you can have Mac and Windows apps running on the same screen, with the windows intermixed, but I prefer to have each OS have it’s own desktop, and flip between them using Spaces, the virtual desktop app on OS X.

So what’s new with version 2.0 of Fusion?


2.0 adds DirectX 9 support, which means now many 3D games can run in a virtual machine (previously, I had been forced to dual-boot to play games). I tested it out by playing Galactic Civilizations II and Sam & Max, they worked great. I noticed a couple minor graphic glitches on GCII, but nothing that got in the way of gameplay. Sam & Max may have had slight animation/speech sync issues, but the animation/speech synching was always pretty loose in that game anyway, so I’m not sure. Didn’t affect gameplay.

I actually hadn’t been playing many PC games because dual-booting was kind of annoying… now that I can play some of them in a virtual machine, I’ll probably play more of them.