tag:phoneboy.info,2013:/posts PhoneBoy Says 2014-11-23T02:41:18Z Dameon Welch-Abernathy tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/773979 2014-11-23T02:41:18Z 2014-11-23T02:41:18Z Lies, Damn Lies, and Blood Glucose Meter Readings My doctor had originally prescribed me the Accu-Chek Aviva Plus Glucometer to check my blood sugar. It's a good enough device, but with it, it didn't take me long to learn the dark secret of diabetes monitoring.

Namely, that these devices are sold under the Gillette model. Except rather than give away the razors and make money off the blades, it's glucometers and test strips. Same idea, though.

The Accu-Chek Aviva strips cost me $25 for 50. And that's after the insurance pays their share (whatever it is). If I want to get more, say, before a long trip and I'm not "due" for more, well, I have to fight with the insurance company to get them at that price or pay the out-of-pocket cost, which is a hell of a lot more than $25.

Needless to say, I was looking for a cheaper solution. Also, it'd be nice if I could get something that would also send the data right to my iPhone where I'm tracking it.

Enter iHealth Labs. They actually two Glucometers: one that is Bluetooth enabled, and one that just plugs into the headphone port on the iPhone (they also work with Android devices too). Since I didn't always want to be tied to my iPhone when checking my blood glucose, I opted for the slightly more expensive wireless model. 

That's all fine and good, but what really attracted me to these glucometers: the price of the strips. At $12.50 for a box of 50 (two vials of 25 each), it's half the price of what my Accu-Check Aviva strips cost. Better yet, I don't have to deal with my insurance company if I need more, I can just order them from iHealth Labs and they'll arrive in a few days.

I ordered a new iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System and a couple boxes of test strips in early November. Given they are based in Mountain View, CA and ship UPS Ground, it only took a few days to ship once the items came in stock which I knew when I ordered. I ordered before my recent trip to South Africa, so the "extra long" shipping time wasn't an issue for me.

When the meter and strips arrived, I of course tested myself using both meters. The iHealth one was giving me very different results. When I looked at the strips a bit more closely, I noticed that the strips I had been shipped were going to expire on 2 January 2015--less than 60 days away. 

Another dark secret of blood glucose meters: they're not as accurate as, say, a blood test. They are good for getting a general idea of where your blood sugar is at, which is the reason your doctor tells you to use one. That said, different meters should give you similar results (within a few mg/dL of each other). When they're off by tens of mg/dL as I was seeing, something is probably wrong.

Given where my blood glucose is averaging, which is 117 mg/dL over a 30 day period, consistently higher test results could mean I test ok on the iHealth meter when, in fact, my blood sugar is actually at hypoglycemic levels. 

I contacted iHealth Labs customer service via email. I asked for a bottle of the control solution, which is used to verify the meter and strips are working correctly (it has a set amount of glucose in it) and a box of strips with a later expiration date since there was no way I could use the strips I had ordered before they expired. I got a return email saying both should arrive in a few days.

Meanwhile I continued to periodically test with both my Accu-Chek and the iHealth meter. The iHealth results were consistently at least 20 points higher than my Accu-Chek, sometimes much higher. 

I finally got the new box of strips in the mail today, but no control solution. My Accu-Chek strips are starting to run out and I really don't want to get another vial of those at $25 a pop, so I decided to test with iHealth using a strip from the new box I just received to see if it's a problem with the strips I had originally received.

On this test, the iHealth result was about 5 mg/dL lower than the Accu-Chek one. I tested with strips from both of the older boxes of iHealth test strips and the results were more than 40 points higher than the Accu-Chek number. This suggests I got a bad batch of test strips.

I just sent another email to iHealth Labs customer service. Hopefully they'll send me another box of strips and, this time, a bottle of the control solution.

Bottom line: if you're going to change blood glucose meters for one reason or another, make sure you test with both meters for a while to ensure the results are similar before completely ditching your old meter. Also, make sure to get the control solution for your meter.

I plan on doing a full review of the iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System on a future episode of PhoneBoy Speaks.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/772886 2014-11-20T18:50:10Z 2014-11-20T18:50:10Z Carry That Weight Earlier this week, I went to the doctor to follow-up on the high blood pressure I had. Thanks to medication and the other changes I've made, it is now very close to the normal range. This is good news. 

The other change I've noticed is my weight. Since I started tracking a month or so ago, I've dropped about 15 pounds. Not that I'm trying to lose weight, but I guess with the dietary changes I've had to make, the natural result is: less calories consumed. This along with the increase in activity means I'm losing weight.

My blood sugar, meanwhile, has mostly settled into a normal range after returning from South Africa, with a 7 day average of 116 mg/dL.

Hopefully these trends will continue as we enter the holidays.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/763197 2014-10-31T16:27:38Z 2014-10-31T16:27:38Z Different Strokes for Different Diabetic Folks As I've been finding others on the Internet that also have Diabetes, I've got a few different observations. They're probably simplistic and obvious, but here goes:

  1. A lot of people have diabetes, including people I know. I keep finding out about more of them every day.
  2. There is no shortage of information about Diabetes on the Internet or from your doctor, some good some bad.
  3. There are a few different "types" of diabetes. It's not just Type 1 and Type 2. Regardless, of the reasons or the treatments used, it's ultimately about getting your blood sugar down to a normal level.
  4. What works for one person won't necessarily work for another. Everyone responds differently to different things (see previous point).
  5. A lot of folks have it way worse than I do. I'm on the Internet whining about numbers that are not that far above normal when some people have numbers that are downright dangerous, for example one of the comments on my last post on Facebook. 
  6. Diabetes is expensive once you find out you have it. I feel bad for those who don't have health insurance because even with insurance, the supplies you need to monitor and maintain your blood sugar gets pricey. 
  7. Monitoring, testing, and keeping track of your food intake and activity is the best way to figure out what's working for you and what's not. Right now, my doctor has me testing twice a day. I try to do it: in the morning before I eat, and two hours after some meal during the day. I'll either do it after dinner or, if I have something unusual for lunch, after that. On a few days, I've tested three times in a day.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on this. :)

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/762726 2014-10-30T18:19:49Z 2014-10-30T18:19:49Z Morning Has Broken...My Blood Sugar You'd think when you wake up in the morning, wouldn't have above normal blood sugar readings when, the night before, they were normal. Unfortunately, it can and does happen, especially in people with Diabetes.

It's happened to me--the fasting numbers were higher than I went to bed with. You'd think I was sleepwalking down stairs, going into my pantry, and eating a slice or two of bread. Which actually sounds pretty good right now, but I know what it will do to my blood sugar.

Welcome to the dawn effect, caused by the liver dumping glucose into the blood overnight. The hormones that are believed to cause the liver to do this (including cortisol, glucagon, epinephrine) are also believed to give rise to insulin resistance. The end result: your body is unable to process the excess glucose in your blood stream, which of course means elevated blood sugar.

I do not experience this every morning. A diabetes site in the UK suggests this spike occurs 8 to 10 hours after going to sleep, which explains why on the mornings where I did observe this, I slept later than usual.

One of the possible solutions to this problem includes a late-night low-carb snack. Mixed nuts seem to be my go-to snack. We'll have to do some more science and see.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/761820 2014-10-29T05:38:23Z 2014-10-29T05:38:23Z Feeling Groovy Today, I went to go see the Diabetes Dietitian to learn what I need to eat. Seems kind of silly since I think I've figured out what I need to eat--and avoid--but I am satisfying my doctor's treatment plan. This visit included also had to share what I had been eating over the last week or so, what my blood sugar readings were, have I been exercising, how much how often, and so on. 

The prognosis: I could eat some more carbs--healthy ones, obviously--more green vegetables overall, and a little less fat. But so far, so good. I even had normal, non-diabetic blood sugar when I woke up this morning-100 mg/dl. I checked a couple of other times during the day. My numbers were 115 mg/dl mid-afternoon and 126 mg/dl a couple hours after dinner.

Clearly that's only one day, but it's a start. And overall, I feel better than I have in quite a while. I think I'm sleeping better, too. All of this has me feeling pretty groovy right now.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/759643 2014-10-24T04:00:22Z 2014-10-24T04:00:22Z I Feel Like A Number Like the old Bob Seger song, I have my moments where I feel like a number--insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Right now, however, how I'm feeling is defined by a number: my blood sugar.

As I'm trying to figure out exactly how to keep my blood sugar at an even keel in a world full of food that mostly puts it on a roller coaster, I've experienced a gamut of emotions. Happy that I know what's causing some of the issues I've experienced. Sad that eating bread, rice, or potatoes is something that I know will spike my blood sugar. Frustrated when I make a bad dietary choice and can see and feel the result.

I know eventually I'll get enough data--and experience--to know what works and what doesn't, which will ease some of the anxiety I'm currently experiencing. 

Sadly, though, this is not the only number I have to worry about. I'm also monitoring my blood pressure which is also high and likely related to the diabetes. Hopefully treating one, along with meds, will help the other. My numbers have gone down since my doctor's visit last month, which is a good thing.

The one number I am happy about so far is the amount of walking I've done: at least 30 minutes a day almost every day for the last week. This is going to get more challenging to do as the weather gets increasingly worse around these parts, but I managed to walk during a rain break this afternoon and thus stayed mostly dry. 

The other number I'm happy about is the number of calories I've consumed. It's not an exact science, but at least it doesn't appear I'm eating more than I should. Leaving out all the bread and rice has really helped my cause there.

Maybe all these numbers aren't so bad. I certainly didn't get this way overnight and I won't get better overnight either. I need to keep this in perspective.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/759044 2014-10-22T23:20:17Z 2014-10-22T23:20:17Z Straightening the Curves, Flattening the Hills The past couple of days, after lunch, my blood sugar spiked and crashed. Not to unsafe levels, mind you, but enough that I got really tired when my blood sugar crashed back down. 

Yesterday, I noticed it as I was sitting in a presentation at work after lunch and I needed help staying awake. Because I made some not wise dietary choices--having some sushi, which includes rice--I actually checked my blood sugar two hours after lunch. Sure enough: my blood sugar was higher than I expected. When I checked an hour later, it dropped 30 mg/dl.

Today, I had a similar experience. This time it wasn't due to my breakfast or my lunch choices, which were fairly low carb. But I'm guessing it's something that was in the trail mix I had been eating at the office the past couple of days: Raisins. The amount of raisins I ate over the past couple of days was not terribly excessive (1-2oz a day), but clearly it was enough to spike my blood sugar.

A quick look on the Internet suggests raisins both have a high glycemic index and a glycemic load, the latter of which is more important in that it helps determine how quickly the sugars will hit your system. 

Just to give an example based on recent dietary choices: An apple has a glycemic index of 36-40, but a glycemic load of 6. Meanwhile, raisins have a glycemic index of 53-75 and a glycemic load of 28. Rice is similar to raisins in this regard.

Bottom line: I need to avoid things that I know will spike my blood sugar.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/757349 2014-10-19T11:59:04Z 2014-10-19T11:59:04Z Well, That Didn't Escalate Quickly I just woke up in the middle of the night with one of those headaches. You know, the kind that, for the last couple of years or so, would quickly escalate to a migraine complete with nausea. It's something I mentioned to my doctor during my checkup and he confirmed its a likely symptom of the previously undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes.

The good news is that the headache did not escalate into a migraine and the Excedrin I took did not come back up. The bad news is that it woke me up good and now I can't get back to sleep.

It's too early to say if the migraines are gone or not, but this appears to be a small step in the right direction.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/757243 2014-10-18T23:33:00Z 2014-10-18T23:33:00Z A New Machine Earlier this week, when I got my new medications, I also go this stuff:

Yup, it's a blood glucose monitor. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Fortunately I only have to use it twice a day: once in the morning before I eat and some other time during the day two hours after I eat. Some people, particularly those with Type 1 Diabetes, have to use it far more often.

My doctor sent me to a program where I had to get trained on how to manage my diabetes: using the equipment and how to eat so it doesn't get worse. My upcoming travel schedule made scheduling this in a timely manner difficult, but I did manage to get a session in with an educator before my next trip. The dietitian will have to wait, but I have a feeling the dietitian won't tell me anything I don't already know.

Mentally, I'm all ready to go down the low-carb road. Turns out I don't need to go quite that strict in terms of carbs, like I was on Atkins, but I think many carb-rich foods are "trigger" foods for me. In other words, if I have a little, I'll suddenly want to have a whole lot. They also want me to watch my fat intake because it apparently affects insulin receptors.

Using the machine to check my blood sugar is not that difficult. It is a lot of moving parts to manage: the lancer, the test script, and of course the monitor. Last night, I actually tried using it in my car--it was parked--and that was probably not the best place to do it, but I know I will have to do it on an airplane in the not too distant future.

When I got the results for my blood test back from my first doctor's visit earlier this month, my fasting blood sugar was 153 mg/dl. My first reading at the educator's office? A nice reasonable 114 mg/dl. The educator was suitably impressed. Quite honestly, I was amazed. When I did it in the car last night after watching the Gig Harbor Tides wallop the Olympia Bears 45-14 on the gridiron, I was down to 100 mg/dl. This morning before breakfast? 105 mg/dl.

I know it's early in this process, but so far, it looks like what I'm doing in terms of diet, exercise, and medication is having a positive impact. I even managed 9 hours of sleep last night, which is unheard of for me. I'll have to keep monitoring the situation, of course, but so far, so good.

The real test comes when I have to take this show on the road, which will be happening tomorrow.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/756001 2014-10-16T05:31:09Z 2014-10-16T06:32:21Z Just Take Your Meds, Son After receiving the news earlier in the week, I had a followup consultation with my doctor today to discuss the treatment plan for my diabetes.

The good news: he thinks it will be manageable. It's going to require some meds, dietary changes, and of course exercise. And monitoring my blood sugar regularly. No insulin, thankfully, which I imagine would make my travel just that much more challenging. 

The cocktail of drugs I now have to take meant, for the first time in my life, I had to get a pill minder. You know, a container that has several compartments--one or more for each day--that you fill with your doses of medications. You can tell at a glance if you've taken your pills or not and all the pills you need to take are in one place. I needed one for two different compartments per day. They also apparently they also make them with four different containers per day. That's quite a lot, but depending on the meds you're on, I could totally see that being needed.

New meds, of course, means I need to pay extra close attention to how I'm feeling for the next several days. Things have potential side effects and, while unlikely, I could be one of the rare ones that experience them. Reading the drug inserts the pharmacy includes with the drugs is always a scary experience. 

Next up is learning how to use the new hardware that I'll be using to monitor my blood sugar. That won't take place until Friday. I won't be able to meet with the dietician to set a diet plan until after I get back from California, but the basic idea appears to be: avoid carbs and sugar to keep my blood sugar low. The good news is that I did Atkins a decade ago so I have some experience with this, and was even successful at it for a time.

Earlier today, when my energy was at a particularly low point, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. I wish I had started doing this before the weather changed into the typical fall weather patterns around here: periods of sun and rain that, as fall turns into winter, gets colder and colder. I managed to get out during one of the sunny periods and walk around the neighborhood for a half hour or so. It felt pretty good. 

At the end of the day, I've taken the first steps towards getting healthy. I have awareness, I have a plan, and I've started acting on it. I just need to keep taking it day by day.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/753209 2014-10-14T16:07:29Z 2014-10-14T16:07:30Z The Big D I've been called Big D at various points in my life. Comes with being a large guy most of my life. Now, it has a different meaning.

I've been a bit negligent in terms of keeping healthy, I must admit. I've been having migraines from time to time and my legs have been swelling--anything from a little to quite a lot. The swelling started getting really bad on some of these long trips I've had over the past year or so. But, of course, I never went to the doctor, despite some nagging from my wife I should do so. 

I don't know why I resist going to the doctor. Mostly because I don't like what they're going to tell me most of the time, namely that I'm fat and need to lose weight (both of which are true). That said, it's the only way to make sure potentially bad health issues get caught before they become really bad. 

One of the business trips I have to take in the very near future requires getting a yellow fever vaccine. This requires a prescription. Which meant, if I was going on that trip, I had no choice but to see the doctor. 

Since it's been a few years, I also got a physical, which included notes about my blood pressure being high and printouts from my doctor that basically say, you know, you're a fat bastard and you should really lose some weight. We discussed ebola, since it's in the news and I'll be passing through some countries where it has recently been an issue. And, I got a couple of other shots I hadn't considered.

Part of getting a physical is getting a blood draw and having various things checked. Most everything was normal except one thing: my blood sugar, which was high. Which meant they decided to run an A1C panel against the remaining blood to see if it's been a persistent issue. And, sure enough, it has. 

That means The Big D can only be one thing: Diabetes, Type 2. 

It wasn't the answer I was hoping for, but it explains a whole lot. Since that message came from the person reading me lab results rather than my doctor, I will be shortly returning to the doctor to discuss what the next steps are. I'm pretty sure it means making some lifestyle changes at the very least.

Gotta admit, I'm a bit nervous and scared about it all. That said it's better to live in the light of the truth than in the darkness of denial. 

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/691686 2014-05-15T18:21:56Z 2014-05-15T18:21:56Z Cassidy's Pizza My dad had always been a musician as long as I known, anyway--at least until he couldn't play guitar anymore because of his hands. That and smoking were two things I most strongly associate with my dad.

When I was very young, I remembered going with my dad to Cassidy's Pizza in Salinas where he would perform on-stage. I even performed with him one time and made my first dollar there, which hung on the wall of my bedroom in a frame with some sort of certificate. I also got my first taste of pinball and video games there as well, which of course were very different back in the mid-1970s.

When my sister sent me this photo she recovered from my father's stuff recently, it brought back a lot of very early memories.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/677937 2014-04-16T04:19:53Z 2014-04-26T00:52:02Z Does This Describe Me Professionally? I'm going to give a talk at West Sound Technology Association in the near future, and I have to write one of those dreaded "about the presenter" blurbs. Here's what I came up with, I'd love to get your feedback.

Dameon D. Welch-Abernathy, better known to some as PhoneBoy, has been in Information Security for nearly twenty years. Starting as a systems administrator for several small companies and then moving into a technical support role for Nokia's Security Appliance Business, Dameon has helped numerous IT professionals secure their organizations networks. Now working for Check Point Software Technologies, Dameon brings a blend of business acumen, product expertise, and technical know-how to solve customers business and security challenges.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/643260 2014-01-18T08:03:52Z 2014-01-18T08:03:52Z Living in Enemy Territory I have been a life-long 49ers fan. It probably has something to do with growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the beginning of their Superbowl run during the 1980s. It's the kind of thing that something like moving will not change, and based on the number of displaced 49ers fans out there, I'm not the only one!

Check out this map made by Facebook of Seahawks vs 49ers fans based on "likes" that proves my point:

Clearly I'm living in Seahawk Country, which means showing my true Red and Gold colors is not always appreciated. Even so, I only have two pieces of 49ers swag: a hoodie my wife bought me, and a iPhone 5s case I bought a couple weeks ago and just arrived today!

I wear my 49ers hoodie fairly regularly during the chilly months except for weeks that the 49ers are playing the Seahawks. Not because I don't want to represent, but because I don't necessarily want to draw undue attention to myself on game weeks. 

This, however, is no ordinary game week. This is the week of the NFC Championship and the pundits and fans have been waiting for this game all year. The rhetoric from both fan bases has cranked up to ridiculous levels, with stats flying from both sides saying why their team will win, copious amounts of trash talk, Seattle bars banning 49ers fans from coming in, and worse.

In short, it's the kind of thing you'd expect from any sort of rivalry, however the 49ers Seahawks one is relatively new in the pantheon of NFL rivalries. The 49ers and Seahawks were not division rivals until 2002. Seattle had several appearances in the playoffs during that time--including winning NFC title game in 2005--but did not win a Super Bowl. The 49ers, meanwhile, were unable to make the playoffs for 8 straight years starting in the 2003 season. 

Then, as they say, shit got real. The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship game in 2012, only to lose to the New York Giants in overtime. In 2013, they made it to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Baltimore Ravens. And, for the third straight year, the 49ers are in the NFC Championship game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have made it to the playoffs 3 of the last 4 seasons, losing in the Divisional Round the previous two times, but winning the NFC West in 2013.

When you add in the rivalry that Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll brought with them from the Pac-12 (Stanford vs USC), the fact both teams operate and are built a similar way, the fact the 49ers have won their last 4 post-season games on the road, the Seahawks being hungry for Super Bowl rings, and a 15-15 tie in the overall series between the 49ers and Seahawks, and you have the makings for a NFC Championship Grudge Match that only the best scriptwriters could come up with.

My experience with Seahawks fans is they are generally respectful. Same with 49ers fans. A little good-natured ribbing can and does occur. However, there are the 1% of fans who are not and, ultimately, ruin it for everyone else.

Since you never know when you'll encounter that 1%, it's sometimes best to hide in plain sight. And since I can appreciate good football--even when it's played by a rival team--it's actually not too hard to do. That said, to those 49ers fans living in the Seattle area, know that your fellow 49er faithful are out there.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/637599 2014-01-04T10:41:30Z 2014-01-04T10:41:30Z Tom Merritt's Daily Tech News Show Not wasting any time after leaving TWiT, Podcaster Tom Merritt has already started a Daily Tech News Show. You could say it's another iteration of the Buzz Out Loud or Tech News Today format: top headlines with some in-depth analysis and discussion with guests, audience participation, and a snappy theme.

Both Tom's new podcast and his former podcast, Tech News Today, are undergoing a public beta of sorts during their respective (re)launches. They both have their rough edges, but it's clear Tom has been doing this for years as DTNS, aside from a few technical glitches during the two shows he's done, sounds very crisp. Mike Elgan, who just took over for Tom on TNT, is still finding his sea legs, it seems like. 

I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to listen to Tom Merritt doing the tech news again without feeling like I'm supporting TWiT because y'all know my feelings on TWiT. And with the relaunch of Current Geek, we get a TWiT-less weekly roundtable discussion show, too.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/632232 2013-12-18T23:55:19Z 2013-12-18T23:55:19Z Lessons from The Breakfast Club Earlier today, I recorded a "podcast" about this:

If you want to subscribe to this podcast--it's more "personal" and less technical in nature, put this in your RSS feed: http://chimp.li/u/phoneboy/a.rss

Anyway, while I kinda rambled here, the main message of the movie "The Breakfast Club" is that we all have more in common than we might think. If five kids from different backgrounds can find common ground, surely we all can, right?

Also, Except Sometimes, the jazz album from Molly Ringwald? Awesome! I had no idea she could sing so well!

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/631747 2013-12-18T01:13:06Z 2013-12-18T01:13:06Z Merrittless TWiT From the Inside TWiT Blog:

I've known Tom Merritt for more than a decade - since the grand old days at TechTV. He's a trusted colleague and I consider him a dear friend. When Tom moved to LA last year we agreed to try having him anchor his shows from Southern California via Skype. We've been mostly happy with the result, but I've always felt that TWiT had lost something by not having Tom's leadership in the studio with us.

After some soul searching, I've decided that we do need an in-studio anchor for Tech News Today, and a News Director who can help us build the kind of organization you can count on for authoritative tech news and information.

So it's with a heavy heart that I'm announcing that we're not going to renew Tom's contract as host of TNT. His last show will be at the end of the month.

Tom Merritt is every bit the professional broadcaster Leo Laporte is, but without the associated personal douchebaggery. Meanwhile, Tom will be doing a show with Scott Johnson starting in January and likely some other stuff as yet announced. 

On the plus side, it'll be possible for me to listen to Tom Merritt do daily tech news again. That idea has some merit.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/612266 2013-10-24T05:53:35Z 2013-10-24T05:53:36Z One Good Draw Two Deserves Another Undoubtedly, you've played Uno (or the less commercial variant Crazy Eights) at some point in your life. It's quite unlikely that you've ever played Hot Death Uno, though, unless you happen to have stumbled across this game on the early Internet, downloaded it to your Windows PC, and played it.

It's basically like playing Uno but there are some extra special cards (and rules) that make it a bit more fun than regular Uno. So, of course, in college, I took the rules from this game, wrote them down, and made a real version of the game out of real Uno cards. And played it with my friends. For hours on end.

I'm almost certain I still have my deck somewhere. Meanwhile, I put my Hot Death Uno website back online in case you want to download the original Visual Basic 1.0 program, check out the rules, or make your own deck!

I'm not the only person touched by this game, based on the fact I can find a few pages dedicated to this wonderful game, including a couple of attempts at recreating the source code so it runs on modern computers and doesn't crash incessantly like the old Visual Basic version did. Someone even built it for Android (and released the source)!

Meanwhile, for old times sake, I fired up the game in WINE--a Windows emulator on Linux that runs Windows binaries in an environment that emulates the Windows APIs without running the whole Windows OS too. It actually worked well enough to play without crashing, though as is usually the case with WINE, there were a couple of visual glitches. And the game runs really really FAST on modern hardware! 

I didn't exactly lose against my computer opponents, but I didn't win either. That said, it brought back a few memories.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/610581 2013-10-19T07:49:35Z 2013-10-19T07:49:35Z Shoeboxes Leading to Jaiku I was looking at the page views for some of the posts I've put up on this blog and the one where my wife brought back a shoebox full of memories from Hawaii to me seems unusually popular. Quite honestly, I'm not sure why since it really wasn't intended to be something I expected a large number of people to be interested in.

It does seem strange condensing a whole chunk of memories into something the size of a shoebox. Or even stranger that now that shoebox can live as an archive of digital files.

One of these archives I had a reason to run across recently was the archive of photos I uploaded to the now defunct Share on Ovi service that Nokia used to operate. 

While preparing PhoneBoy Speaks Ep 306, I had reason to go back through a couple of older posts of mine, some of which linked to photos that were posted on this service. I noticed that it wasn't a whole ton of posts that needed fixing and figured I might as well clean them up.

One of the posts was actually my review of my favorite Nokia handset, the Nokia E71. More specifically, I reviewed the North America edition of the Nokia E71. This post had screenshots, as you might expect, but one in particular caught my attention:

Most of you may not know, or even remember this service, but that green J icon was for the Jaiku app on my home screen. Jaiku was a mobile-first social app for Symbian devices developed by a couple of Finns.

The service eventually got bought, and neglected, by Google, much to the dismay of fans like myself. But I met a lot of really interesting people on Jaiku, and had a lot of excellent conversations and am "still friends" with many people from Jaiku.

I can see echoes of that experience today on app.net (where I'm @phoneboy) but I never really made that connection until just now.

Amazing what memories a (virtual) shoebox brings up!

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/605959 2013-10-03T05:22:24Z 2013-10-08T17:30:56Z Fifty Nine and Ninety Nine If my mother and grandmother were alive today, that's how old they'd be. Because, you see, they shared a birthday. Just like my dad and I shared one.

I'm not sure when or exactly where in Hawaii this photo was taken but it was clearly taken while my grandma was still able to get around a bit.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/605280 2013-09-30T03:56:35Z 2013-10-08T17:30:47Z Making Lemonade There were a lot of photos in that shoebox my wife brought back from Hawaii. Including an entire album full of photos from my high school graduation. Like this photo with my mom:

In many ways, this graduation was an accomplishment for both of us. Obviously, I had to do all the academic work involved. For my mom, the accomplishment was making the money to pay for it. 

Because, you see, I went to a private school. In Hawaii. It was either that or I'd be bored and beat up in Hawaii's public schools.

Granted, because of my mom's financial situation, we were able to get some level of financial aid. As I remember, she ended up having to pay about half the tuition, which ended up being around $25,000 for four years. For someone of my mom's means, that was quite a lot of money, especially back then.

My mom never graduated college. I won't say my mom's life was rough but she had some pretty sour lemons to make lemonade from. She wanted to make sure the lemonade I made with my life lemons was better. 

No doubt, this got me on the right foot. I was able to get into a good college that I ultimately graduated from and started towards the career and family I have now. All made possible by the sacrifices my mom made.

Every day, I count my blessings, thankful my lemons were just a little sweeter, thankful I found a better recipe. 

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/604894 2013-09-28T08:31:20Z 2013-10-08T17:30:42Z I Was Skinny! Looking through a lot of the old photographs my mom had has certainly been entertaining and quite a walk down memory lane. Some weren't really memories since some of the photos were from when I was a baby, though I can recognize the house I first lived in in those photos.

Some of the photos make me look famous. Some of the photos themselves look like famous photos. That's one thing mother was good at--taking photos and lots of them.

And for all the photos she had of me growing up, one thing continually struck me: I was skinny. Like beanpole skinny. And hyper as hell.

Then I got to junior high school and I started having issues with my weight. I was a little overweight then all the way through high school and college, but it was nothing like it is now.

So many things changed since then it's hard to say exactly what it was that triggered my gradual weight gain. Of course, things like diet and exercise I'm sure aren't helping, but even when I make the almost superhuman effort, I am able to take weight off. When I hit the inevitable weight loss plateau, I am thoroughly discouraged and I fatten up again.

Not quite sure how to get back to that skinny little boy I once was. Well, I'll never be a little boy anymore, but to be that skinny...

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/604684 2013-09-27T07:36:56Z 2013-10-08T17:30:40Z A Shoebox Of Memories My wife just got back from Hawaii.

No, it wasn't a pleasure trip. I would hardly call going through my dead mother's house to find paperwork and a few personal mementos pleasurable. Especially when you consider the amount of stuff my mother had and the general state of her house. 

While my wife brought back stories of some of the things she found, she also brought back some photos. In a musty shoebox.

Because, you see, my mom took photos. Lots of them. At a time when taking photos meant getting actual film developed.

What did my wife bring back? Pictures of me. From various times in my life. With my mother. With my grandma who past away in 2001. With other family members. With people I don't know. And pictures of me that, quite frankly, don't look like me.

Also, there are pictures of my mother from various times in her life. Including recent ones that, quite frankly, don't look like her. Or at least how I remember her.

And while it's going to take me a while to unpack the memories that go with each photo, I figure I might as well start by talking about this one:

Another thing my mom did when I was very young was paint on canvas. She did a couple of paintings of Sesame Street characters, such as this one of Bert and Ernie.

Looking at this photo now reminds me of something I forgot long ago--that there was a time when I "pretended" my mom and I were Bert and Ernie. I was Ernie, she was Bert. She played along for a while. I can't remember why she stopped but it really doesn't matter now.

What is amazing is that this painting was still hanging in my mother's house after she past away. However, like many of the things in my mother's house, it went to a good home.

Except for the memories, obviously, which I still carry with me.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/603335 2013-09-22T07:37:10Z 2013-10-08T17:30:24Z A Tale of Two Mothers When I was growing up, I only knew one mother. I had a step-mother also, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the second person inside my mother--a person I didn't "see" too much growing up, but became more apparently as I graduated college and started my own life.

At first, I didn't know what to think. I was, quite frankly, in denial that this person I had grown up with and loved was also someone that had serious issues. It took other people to help me see this--namely the person who is now my wife but was not at the time. 

That "other mother" came out when my mother was drinking. Which she did when I was growing up, sometimes to excess, but not often.

Clearly something changed after I graduated from college. Her marriage to the person I call my step-father, who my mother was with for many years but did not marry until after I graduated, clearly was not going well. There were definitely some financial difficulties, which certainly did not help matters.

Her relationship with me also soured. When my mother was visiting me and, apparently, drinking, she was telling me some downright crazy things. Despite my lack of interest, she kept going on and on, telling things I was pretty certain were false. I can't remember exactly what I told her, but it was something along the lines of "shut up, you're full of crap." 

Then the demons of hell unleashed from her mouth. She demanded I take her back to the airport RIGHT NOW (her flight home was the next morning) and continued to verbally berate me as I drove her to the airport.

A few years later, after I was married and the first child was born, my mother started calling me again. She had apparently started going to AA and was trying to make amends. She tried for a while but it became clear she was still drinking and before too long, started talking crazy.

The stress of not knowing which version of my mother I might be speaking with at any given time was just too much for me. I did not want to expose my children to this. I told my mother, in no uncertain terms, I wasn't going to speak to her again.

That was some time ago, and I think she ultimately accepted my decision. Now that she has passed on, she can cause no more drama in my life.

Meanwhile, stories about my mother are surfacing that remind me she was, in fact, a person some thought fondly of. She had her redeeming qualities, at least when she was sober, and I will not forget the things she did for me growing up.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/593971 2013-08-10T08:09:55Z 2013-10-08T17:28:22Z My #AudioMo Posts for July 2013 AudioMo is a regular challenge to get people to post audio to the Internet, posting with the hashtag #audiomo. This year, it happened during the month of July. 

Since I participated this year, and I already produce a regular daily podcast called PhoneBoy Speaks, I produced entries specific for AudioMo using the ADN app Chimp, which actually makes it really easy to record and post audio in one go. It even gives you an RSS feed!

Meanwhile, for those of you who missed those audio bits, here are all 31 #audiomo posts I recorded.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/590644 2013-07-25T22:15:23Z 2013-10-08T17:27:41Z I Used To Support This When I first started supporting Check Point FireWall-1--which is what the product was back in 1996, this is what the User Interface looked like.

A lot has changed in those days. For one, it doesn't run on SunOS or Solaris anymore. Management still runs on Solaris, but not in R75.40VS or R76 and above. And even then, this ancient GUI called fwui doesn't run on it and hasn't for some time.

I remember those days fondly.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/590383 2013-07-24T06:00:47Z 2013-10-08T17:27:38Z Half-Remembered Days They say that you remember only the good things as time goes on. I suppose it depends on who or what it is you are remembering things about.

I have been thinking about my parents. Given recent events, that's an entirely natural thing, I suppose.

The times I remember with my mom are many. Some of them happy, some of them not. As I got older and started living my own life, the happier memories pretty much became things of the past. 

A thought that has persisted for many years is that my mom held it together long enough for me to leave the nest. Once I left and was truly on my own--after college--that's when I noticed the biggest change in my mom. That's when--especially looking back--I can see her going down the long road to whatever brand of crazy she was.

Obviously, I wanted no part of that. And I don't blame myself for this. She made the choice to medicate with alcohol when she wasn't medicating with pot. While I don't know what killed her, it wouldn't surprise me if she drank herself to death. 

On the other side, there was my dad. Whom, honestly, I struggle to find too many memories of, good or bad. Most of the good ones involve him playing his guitar--a guitar that my sister now has. As you can hear from these recordings in 1983, he was pretty good, too. 

The bad ones? They involve him smoking and how I smelt after going back to my mom's after staying with him. Smoking ended up killing him. 

But as I get older, those memories--good or bad--become less remembered. 

The feelings, however, are still there. The good ones, and the bad ones. While I think I've come to terms with most of it, I'm still a little raw from recent events. 

This too, shall pass and become another half-remembered day.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/589872 2013-07-21T03:28:59Z 2013-10-08T17:27:31Z A Strange Sort of Symmetry

I honestly can't remember when this picture was taken. Had to have been 20 years ago. Really doesn't matter now. On the left, my mother. On the right, my step-father Richard.

What I do know is that I will never see my mother again. Not in the flesh, anyway.

As I mentioned in other places, I received a call from my aunt a few days ago informing me that my mother was found dead in her house in Hawaii. One I had never been to. Not by Richard, whom she separated with some time ago. Not by anyone that I know anyway.

I had long since come to terms with the fact I wasn't going to see my mother again. She was going down a dark path--one I didn't realize she was going down, but looking back on it now, was clear as day. My wife (who wasn't at the time) helped me see that.

My mother actually cut off ties with me before I had gotten married. She eventually decided to get in contact with me again, but it did not take me long to realize that I could not have a healthy relationship with her. I had no interest in exposing the child I had by that point to her.

So I told her what I needed to tell her and I cut my ties with her. That was in 2001 or 2002, I think, and I've long since come to terms with it.

I had continued to hear about her occasionally from my aunt, whom she still remained in contact with. I would hear things get better, then get worse. Then I stopped hearing anything. Meanwhile, everyone else in the family had come to the same conclusion I had.

Then, I heard she died. At the age of 59.

59. Just like my dad 3 years ago. Who died on his birthday--a birthday him and I shared.

And while I do not have an exact time of death for my mother, since I got the information second hand and the police in Hawaii hadn't done an autopsy at that point, I have every reason to believe she died on my birthday, too, or close enough to it that it might as well be.

And you know what? As utterly morbid as that fact is, I'm quite ok with it. It has a strange sort of symmetry to it.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/579700 2013-05-19T07:18:14Z 2013-10-08T17:25:30Z Why Doesn't MTV Play Music Videos Anymore?
Dameon Welch-Abernathy
tag:phoneboy.info,2013:Post/579697 2013-05-19T06:46:17Z 2013-10-08T17:25:30Z We're Living in an Ayn Rand Economy I agree with the title of this article in Salon, but the writer clearly doesn't understand Ayn Rand's philosophy or what's really happening in the world. 

Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” fantasizes a world in which anti-government citizens reject taxes and regulations, and “stop the motor” by withdrawing themselves from the system of production. In a perverse twist on the writer’s theme the prediction is coming true. But instead of productive people rejecting taxes, rejected taxes are shutting down productive people.

Most people I know don't enjoy paying taxes. In fact, Ayn Rand herself said that "In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary." You can argue that her position is untenable, but it illustrates the point that taxes are, in fact, mandatory.

This author only looks at the fact people and corporations are avoiding paying their taxes in various ways. Which is true: Apple parks a ton of their profits offshore because of the 35% repatriation tax--money already taxed in another country. Individuals with a lot of income can hide their money in similar ways to large, multinational corporations. And the middle class? They don't like taxes either. Middle class people are moving out of California in droves for that exact reason--the taxes are too damn high.

So it's pretty clear, no one likes taxes, or at least not the kinds of taxes that some would have to pay if they were being completely above board. And what do those tax dollars pay for? Unwinnable wars in other countries, bailing out rich people who made bad financial decisions, and putting people in jail who choose to take substances the government has said are illegal. 

So how do those expenditures help people, exactly? What infrastructure does that build or maintain for the common good? From what I can see those that are paying taxes are funding a whole lot of activities that, at the end of the day, do not actually do them any good.

Compulsory taxes are a forced redistribution of wealth. What's worse is that the redistribution is not from the rich to the poor, but from the poor to the rich. Because who controls the people that make the laws? The rich, who can afford to bribe the lawmakers to make more favorable laws for their pet projects and get a tax break to boot.

And you know what? That sounds an awful lot like what Ayn Rand foretold in Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt, indeed.

Dameon Welch-Abernathy