PhoneBoy's Personal Blog I am PhoneBoy. This is my personal blog. 2015-11-10T10:17:04+09:00 EN hourly 1 10Centuries | 15I060 Mass Misinformation 2015-11-10T10:17:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 90806714243dca1ace6dbf23698d27ba From Skullf*** You Very Much: Cultural Authority and the Dispossessed:

The fact that most experts talking on TV and writing for online “news” media cannot swim in the critical deep end of the subjects in which they claim expertise is masked by the shallowness of the medium in general.

The analysts and experts who are invited to talk on TV about politics spend more time whitening their teeth than they do weaving nuance.

We are living under a media regime where a debate moderator can ask an absurdly complex question like “What will you do about poverty?” and expect it to be answered in less than a minute.

Comcast-owned NBC would not dare upset its nightly prime-time sitcom lineup with in-depth analysis that might upset their Comcast-owned bottom line.

Vox is not going to Voxplain how Comcast captures the media and cable markets both by lobbying for regulative barriers that prevent competition.

You’re never going to see someone greenlight an in-depth Nightline segment dedicated to demystifying shit ideas like “natural monopolies.”

I've long questioned the kinds of things our so-called "news" covers. Years ago, I started asking the question "why is this news" and mostly stopped caring about it. When the Internet became mainstream, I had a way to find other, less mainstream answers for what was going on in the world. Sources with more nuance, more details, and differing points of view.

Clearly, something is missing in the media. It's hard to get into the "why" of this question without veering off into conspiratorial waters. It’s a narrative I occasionally see being played up by the media, usually by attacking the messenger.

The good news is that I'm hearing more people starting to question the news, particularly when they cover topics they have first-hand knowledge on. The obvious followup question is: if they're wrong about that, what else are they wrong about?

The truth for any subject is out there to find. You probably won't find it in the mass media, though.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Number Sense Makes No Sense To Most People 2015-10-27T09:36:00+09:00 PhoneBoy a2b3a6d07370591b58d130d14ddeebdf From Common Core Math is Not the Enemy

We call this new math, but it isn’t new at all.

In fact, it has been around for a very long time. It’s called number sense. And it’s the way mathematicians have been thinking about numbers for centuries.

Mathematicians are insanely smart people. I should know, I got my Computer Science degree in a Math department at a University. They also don't think like normal people do. I should know that, too, as I am often accused (rightfully so) of thinking about things differently.

If I believe what this piece is saying, Common Core math is trying to impart the math wisdom of these really smart people onto the masses. Instead, it comes off as really confusing, even to kids who actually know how to do math. One of my kids who is smart with numbers was deploying different tricks to solve these problems and found whatever it was they were teaching in Common Core confusing. My wife had to re-teach our children basic math after being traumatized by Common Core in elementary school.

It seems to be we are going about this the wrong way. They should teach the basic, tried-and-true methods first, then supplement with number sense to show other, more memorable ways to solve the problem. Or maybe encourage students to come up with their own methods to achieve the same answer and allow them to teach it to their peers.

Of course, there are some people who just don’t have any number sense whatsoever and won’t no matter how you teach it or who teaches it.

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The Problem Isn't With Twitter, It's With Us. 2015-10-16T08:12:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 16cddcc0d388f86abd9ef202cc687264 From Why Twitter’s Dying (And What You Can Learn From It):

Abuse is killing the social web, and hence it isn’t peripheral to internet business models — it’s central. It has significant chilling effects: given a tipping point, people will simply stop using a network, and walk away…and that appears to be what’s happening with Twitter. Abuse is just as central to tech that connects people as selling beef that isn’t contaminated with salmonella is to an industry that feeds people. For the simple fact is that no one wants to spend their life being shouted at by people they’ll never meet who are angry not at them but at the world for things they barely even said to people they barely even know.

This problem is not unique to any given social network. The real problem is us, the humans that use social media. Some clearly find joy in imposing their world view on others to the point of abuse. Many cannot stand the thought of their world view being challenged, much less be wrong. Lots and lots of squabbling is the result.

What really happens on Twitter these days? People have self-sorted into cliques, little in-groups, tribes. The purpose of tribes is to defend their beliefs, their ways, their customs, their culture — their ways of seeing the world. The digital world is separated into “ists” — it doesn’t matter what, really, economists, mens-rightists, leftists, rightists — and those “ists” place their “ism” before and above all, because it is their organizing belief, the very faith that has brought them together in the first place. Hence, to them, it’s the totem to which everyone, including you, must pay homage, and if you dare not to bow down before it…or worse still to challenge it…well, then the faithful will do what they must to defend their gods. They will declare a crusade against you.

This problem is not unique to Twitter. It’s a problem on any social network with any sort of critical mass. I’ve seen this cycle play out over and over again across many services and several decades. It also happens in person, but there is one thing we get in face-to-face interactions: social cues that have evolved over many centuries. Social cues that a particular sort of behavior is not acceptable. People will either knock it off or suddenly find themselves without many friends, sorting into the same kind of tribes we see and decry on social media.

Humanity hasn't been able to come up with better solutions to these problems in millennia. What makes us think the socially inept folks that develop the social web can solve these problems? Even so, those very same social cues we rely on in face-to-face conversations should have social web analogs and, at the very least, those cues can be developed and refined.

Bottom line, this is not a social web problem, it's a human problem.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Digit Damage 2015-10-12T12:50:00+09:00 PhoneBoy c3a7bfafd8e544ac83e2bc26f65f1e8d Last night, I did not treat the vegetable slicer with the appropriate respect and ended up lacerating my index finger on my right hand. I suspected it might need stitches, but I waited until this morning to call my doctor's clinic and ask. They said: go to Urgent Care. So I did. The nurses there cleaned up the wound and stitched me up.

If you're interested, you can see the semi-gruesome photo of my stitches on Instagram.

The downside of this means I will be without a properly functioning index finger for the next week and a half. It's amazing how much you use that finger. It's even more amazing your brain mostly knows how to compensate for the nonfunctional digit as well.

Where it is having noticeable impact is in my typing, mostly because I do that more than anything else. My middle finger is being used a whole lot more right now, especially on my iPhone. It doesn't seem to have affected the speed at which I type, though it has mildly increased the error rate, but I'm mostly managing.

We'll see what other things I notice over the next several days.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
The Online Purge Starts With Twitter 2015-10-11T20:53:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 8616cde7b32f61ccdb7b2254b2ce6f87 In my last post, I talked about making a fresh start online. I've started taking some steps to do exactly that and it starts with Twitter.

I've been on Twitter since it was made public in 2006. I have tweeted a TON of things over the last 9 years, most of which is probably not relevant anymore. I have also accumulated several Twitter accounts over the years, accounts that probably should have been removed long ago, and I deleted those accounts.

I did not want to delete my main Twitter account, I just want to delete everything I've posted. How do you do a mass purge of tweets? Deleting tweets one by one when you only have a few is fine--I did this on another account--but how about when you have more than 40,000 tweets like I did?

There are actually a number of tools out there that claim to do this. However, if they are only working with the Twitter API, you won't actually delete all the tweets. This is because the various API calls that query your most recent tweets will only show your 3200 (or so) most recent ones. If you delete all of those (as many tools do), then older tweets will still exist in the system. If you happen to know the tweet ID, you can still query them.

However, I have found a tool that runs on Windows and can actually delete all your tweets. It's called Twitter Archive Eraser. It's a free tool that runs on Windows-based system that will work with an export of your Twitter archive and delete all your tweets, one by one. I actually use it on my main Twitter account and it worked great, deleting more than 40,000 tweets in around 9 minutes.

For accounts that have 3200 tweets or less, you can use any number of websites, iOS, or Android apps out there. The one I chose, based on a recommendation from Stefan Constantinescu, is called Delete Tweets. It has a big red button that does what it says: deletes all your tweets. You can pay $2.99 for a "pro" version that will give you some filtering options (i.e. you can choose to delete only some tweets). You can run it regularly from your iOS or Android device to reset your tweets back to zero.

The next step is to do this with Facebook.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Thinking About A Fresh Start Online 2015-10-10T14:10:10+09:00 PhoneBoy b1b7283d0c05981a0bf6368edbb13e6d One of the guys I've followed for years on the Internet has taken what some might call a drastic approach: he's purged his Twitter account of tweets. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, this actually seems somewhat appropriate to do. Also, things that you said years ago in the heat of the moment, things you may not say or think today, could easily come back to haunt you.

I'm thinking of taking this a step further and doing some culling of all of my various online presences. I've been on the Internet more than 20 years and I've managed to bring forward a ton of content--content that, quite frankly, may not entirely be relevant anymore.

I've also got far too many presences on the Internet. Some of them it makes sense to continue to maintain, others not. I almost want to blow it all up and start over. Or maybe seriously cull what's out there, starting with my Twitter accounts. I have a dozen of them. I actually deleted four of them today and completely emptied the tweets out of another.

Has anyone actually gone through this exercise of cleaning up their online presence or nuking it entirely? While I'm sure I can figure out the mechanics of actually doing it, anyone have any tips or tricks they want to share?

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Taking A Minute 2015-08-24T07:39:10+09:00 PhoneBoy 8dcfff538c992f46accac76fb471523a Okay, maybe a minute is too long, but certainly you've got 30 seconds for a habit with a lifelong impact:

Immediately after every lecture, meeting, or any significant experience, take 30 seconds — no more, no less — to write down the most important points. If you always do just this, said his grandfather, and even if you only do this, with no other revision, you will be okay.

I must do something like this unconciously as there are so many conversations or situations where I cannot recall the exact details, but I can usually remember the key takeaways. This generally works well for me, though taking a moment to write it down couldn't hurt.

That said, people might have different ideas about what is important. This is where I sometimes run into trouble, but as the article suggests, you'll get better at figuring this out over time.

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A Bag-Carrying Member of the CPAP Club 2015-07-17T23:42:00+09:00 PhoneBoy d9a6c52d6829044efb09f431e61281c8 Since I got my CPAP machine, I've started noticing how many other people have them as well. How do I know? This unassuming grey bag.


I notice at least one such bag every time I'm in an airport. It's possible I saw such bags before, but since I didn't know what was in them, I didn't think much of them. Now, because I carry one of these bags myself when I travel, I know.

This morning I encountered someone someone right in front of me in the TSA line. He saw my bag and said "better make sure we don't get our CPAPs mixed up." Agreed, that would be an unpleasant surprise.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and comments about how CPAP haas made sleeping easier. He also called out the type of machine I had:

"A REMstar, right?""Yup," I said.

It's like being in an exclusive club. Granted it's not a club most people would want to be a part of, but if I have to have one, I might as well embrace it.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
CPAP Only Works When You Wear It 2015-06-26T18:27:20+09:00 PhoneBoy a463d9ed21dae7ff575837f61d78e3d8 I did something I haven't done before: I got up in the middle of the night to pee and forgot to put my CPAP mask back on. This meant, for a few hours last night, I slept in my bed without my CPAP.

This isn't the first night since I got my CPAP that I didn't wear it, mostly because I've had a couple of red-eye flights since then. CPAP usage on an airplane isn't feasible, at least in coach. However, its the first time I've slept in my bed without the mask on since I got it.

And, sure enough, I snored. How do I know this? I've been using the MotionX-24/7 app to track my sleep and record sounds that happen while I sleep. Since I got the CPAP, mostly all it picked up was me rolling over and the very occasional quiet snore.

Last night, it picked up truly proper snoring. I have no idea if I snored the whole time I didn't have the CPAP mask on or not. I do know the CPAP only works if I wear it.


Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Alcohol: It's Not So Great For Your Heart 2015-06-02T23:31:10+09:00 PhoneBoy 905a6bfc3ff6da0ab6d40d4dd1571543 From Time Magazine, How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?? []:

The not-so-good news: The more the participants drank, the more likely they showed abnormal changes in their heart structure and function. In men, the changes started accumulating after more than two drinks per day, or 14 or more drinks a week. In these men, the pumping chambers of their hearts increased slightly compared to those in non drinkers, a sign that the heart had to work harder to pump the same amount of blood, which can cause it enlarge and weaken. In women, these changes appeared when women drank much less, just above the one drink a day. In addition, among the women who imbibed more than a drink a day, the scientists found slight drops in heart function compared to women who drank less.

This paragraph hit home because this is exactly the reason my mom died about two years ago. Her heart was, according to the autopsy, enlarged. I'm not sure how much she drank, but I'm pretty sure it was more than a drink a day for many, many years.

My mom was not the only alcoholic in my family. As a result, I made a decision relatively early in my life not to allow alcohol to control my life. As a result, I do not drink alcohol on a daily basis.

Turns out that early life decision ended up being smarter than I thought.

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Too Much Chewing Gum 2015-05-06T14:39:20+09:00 PhoneBoy a7cd95ccee9b85eca75ea55283f4f8bf From Samantha Jenkins: Too much chewing gum may have played role in death of 'vibrant, happy and fun-loving' teenager:

Too much chewing gum may have played a role in the death of a “vibrant, happy and fun loving” 19-year-old shop worker.

An inquest heard Samantha “Sam” Jenkins, 19, of Felinfoel, Llanelli, collapsed and died suddenly after complaining of a headache at home in June 2011.

The inquest heard Samantha’s cause of death was cerebal hypoxia (brain swelling) caused by convulsions due to low salt, magnesium and calcium levels in her body.

But experienced Morriston Hospital pathologist Dr Paul Griffiths who carried out a post mortem examination also suggested her death could have been contributed to by the laxative effects of excessive consumption of sugar free chewing gum – her favourite brand being Trident.

In my own experience, I've found modern-day chewing gum, which is often sweetened with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, to be the equivalent to crack cocaine: if I have one piece, I gotta have another when the flavor goes away. Repeat until I've chewed the entire pack of gum. And, of course, the packs of gum are bigger than they used to be.

While this article focuses on the evils of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners as the potential cause of her death, I'm guessing the real cause had something to do with the fact she clearly swallowed her gum:

Dr Griffiths told the inquest when he carried out the post mortem examination he found five “large lumps” of bright green coloured mint smelling chewing gum in Samantha’s stomach, something he had never encountered before.

Clearly it's an issue of "too much chewing gum" as the headline suggests. That said, while I'm all-in on the idea aspartame may not be so great for humans, blaming the aspartame as the sole cause of this poor girl's death is a bit of a stretch.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
What's Wrong With Security? 2015-04-19T22:23:10+09:00 PhoneBoy 98f829f5dfa578939efd98d489f45f88

"But father, what's wrong with security? Everybody likes to be all cosy and safe."

"Yes," Mr. Murry said grimly. "Security is a most seductive thing."

"Well -- but I want to be secure, Father. I hate feeling insecure."

"But you don't love security enough so that you guide your life by it, Meg. You weren't thinking of security when you came to rescue me with Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which."

"But that didn't have anything to do with me," Meg protested. "I wasn't being brave or anything. They just took me."

Calvin, walking besides them with his load of wood, said, smiling warmly at Meg, "Yes, but when we got here you didn't go around whining or asking to go home where you could be all safe and cosy. You kept yelling, where's Father, take me to father! You never gave a thought to security."

"Oh," Meg said. "Oh." She brooded for another moment. "But I still don't see why security isn't a good thing. Why, Father?"

"I've come to the conclusion," Mr. Murry said slowly, "that it's the greatest evil there is. Suppose your great great grandmother, and all those like her, had worried about security? They'd never have gone across the land in flimsy covered wagons. Our country has been greatest when it has been most insecure. This sick longing for security is a dangerous thing, Meg, as insidious as the strontium 90 from our nuclear explosions that worried you so about Charles Wallace when you read in science at school that it was being found in milk. You can't see strontium 90. You can't feel it or touch it. But it's there. So is the panicky searching for conformity, for security. Maybe it's because of the Black Thing, Meg. Maybe this lust for security is like a disease germ that it has let loose on our land."

This was an excerpt from the manuscript of A Wrinkle in Time that was cut from the final book. These pages were recently found by the author's granddaughter. The book was written in 1962 and was one I read as a child. In fact, I can still imagine my second grade school under the spell of the Black Thing that had caused a sameness, a conformity in the Madeleine L’Engle tale.

Why was the passage cut? I didn't put the earlier part of the passage in, but it referred to communism, which could have dated the book. Personally, I don't think it was the case at all. I think it's because the passage was a bit too close to the truth. It doesn't take much to see the parallels between what governments around the world are doing and these statements.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Writing To Understand 2015-04-10T23:59:20+09:00 PhoneBoy ce9c0395ee2bb023b4907cc3a16e4f4a In high school, I started doing documentation for computer-related tasks, mostly because my teacher at the time told me my skills would be more valuable1. In college, the job I had working in an engineering computer lab also involved documenting various systems administration activities I started doing2. Even in my first post-college job, I ended up writing a fair bit of documentation, mostly for internal use. The writing that some people know me for was the stuff that was prominent on in the late 1990s and early 2000s: FAQs on Check Point FireWall-13.

This post is not about what I've written, it's mostly about why, and it's actually pretty simple: it's so I understand whatever it is I'm writing about.

Sure, that isn't how I started writing. It was because I wanted to convey something to someone and I didn't want to have to explain it multiple times. Which of course never quite works out the way you hope but it does help reduce the number of times you're asked about it, as well as the quality of the questions you get back.

I've noticed, over years and years of rinsing and repeating this process, that once I take the time to actually write it down in an effort to explain it to someone else, I usually learn whatever it is I'm writing down to the point where recalling it is pretty easy. This only works for relatively simple tasks and concepts. For the more complex topics, it's more of strong mental pointer to whatever it is I wrote so I'll know where to look when it comes up.

However, I've also noticed that in the last several months, as I've experienced some new health issues, I've started sharing them with the Internet. Many people don't care or are even turned off by this, which doesn't bother me. What it has allowed me to do is to better understand my condition and take steps to improve it.

Bottom line: The writing I do outside of work is for myself. If someone else happens to benefit from that, all the better, but it's definitely not a requirement.

  1. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry
  2. I also wrote a bunch of horrible poetry in college, too
  3. A few of you know know me for blogging about other stuff, maybe.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Blame the Color TV, Revisited 2015-04-10T09:18:20+09:00 PhoneBoy c4f9b3fb5f0409882bf191a3e6411915 This is an updated version of a post I did back in 2012.

Does anyone remember watching a black and white TV? I do. My dad had this TV that was older than I was. It also, quite literally, took a minute to warm up before it showed its black and white view of the world.

I remember seeing the old Spiderman cartoons. You know, the one that started airing in the late 1960s but probably reran infinitum during the 1970s. I remember when I saw it on TV. A Color TV.

Like many shows in that era, the show opens with the phrase "in color" to let everyone know the show could be seen in color. Naive me, I thought when I saw it on my dad's Black and White TV, it would say "In Black and White" instead. That seemed perfectly rational to my little mind.

My kids, of course, have never watched a black and white TV. Since we've gone all digital, they won't ever see one. They might see something in Black and White if they watch a really old movie or TV show. Or some more recent television program that goes Black and White for effect.

There is something to be said for watching a program in black and white on a crappy-ass 14 inch TV with a mono speaker on an antenna. You got some sort of picture, if you were lucky, but your mind had to fill in a lot of the details. Certainly with the TV shows of the day, you had to.

Recently I started watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. All 165 original episodes were filmed in black and white as TV shows of that era were. The special effects were practically non-existent by today's standards but the stories were quality. They hold up pretty well more than half a century later, such as this seminal episode entitled "To Serve Man":

These days, programs are in full 1080p with Dolby 5.1 digital surround sound. You can see every pimple and wrinkle on the actors face--and let's face it, they're all actors. Even the newscasters. Especially the newscasters. And the people on so-called "reality" TV shows. It leaves little to the imagination, exposing the amorality of our collective humanity for all to see.

And, quite honestly, I think we're worse off for it. Even moreso than I did when I wrote the first version of this post in 2012.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
A Message To Future Me 2015-04-09T22:32:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 674632c8cf1fc865ae0f6902d40ecb59 As a child, I don't recall giving very many gifts to my parents. One gift that I gave to my dad was a metal "sign" that said the following:

Never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

To be honest, I'm not even sure where I found it. Probably the Flea Market, which I spent many weekends at growing up buying and selling things with my mom. And surely by that point I was starting to become less enamored of my dad, which I did because I didn't understand why he was the way he was1.

And, of course, when I found out my dad passed away a few years back, one of the only things I wanted of his things was that sign2.

This sign today sits in my office in a part I don't use very often. I found it recently and, perhaps for the first time, really started to think about what it meant.

I spend too much time "working." I'll be the first to admit it. Not just stuff for my job but things that might be classified as "busy work." It may be because the cacophony of "life" is often too much to take3. See my last post on the [intense world theory []]. "Work," by comparison, seems like an escape--something I have a lot more control over.

What I'm starting to realize, as I get older, is that there is going to be a time where I don't want to work anymore. Whether I can afford that remains to be seen but if I'm going to be able to do that, I need to figure out what that "life" is going to look like.

And heck, even for leisure time while I'm still working, I need to figure out something else.

  1. I later figured out he also probably had Aspergers like I do. Sadly, by the time I figured this out, he was in the advanced stages of brain cancer and he was mostly in his own little world unable to communicate with me.
  2. I also wanted his guitar, but my sister got that.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
The Intense World Syndrome 2015-04-04T20:55:10+09:00 PhoneBoy 190e03e5935a79f0f096ff4cf9174347 I've read a whole lot about autism and Aspergers Syndrome over the years. However, I think I've finally found an article that explains the condition to people who don't have it and, more importantly, provides some keen insights about autism's more socially unacceptable symptoms and how they might be reduced or eliminated1.

IMAGINE BEING BORN into a world of bewildering, inescapable sensory overload, like a visitor from a much darker, calmer, quieter planet. Your mother’s eyes: a strobe light. Your father’s voice: a growling jackhammer. That cute little onesie everyone thinks is so soft? Sandpaper with diamond grit. And what about all that cooing and affection? A barrage of chaotic, indecipherable input, a cacophony of raw, unfilterable data.

Realize that not everyone that has autism or Aspergers reacts the same way to the same stimuli. Even the same person can react differently to the same set of stimuli at different times, depending on a wide range of things. At least this is my own personal experience, which is certainly different from everyone else's.

I can tell you that when external stimuli begins to impact me, whatever it is, whenever it is, I am overwhelmed to the point where rational thought becomes very difficult, as this article describes:

The behavior that results [from autism] is not due to cognitive deficits—the prevailing view in autism research circles today—but the opposite, they say. Rather than being oblivious, autistic people take in too much and learn too fast. While they may appear bereft of emotion, [Henry and Kamila Markram] insist they are actually overwhelmed not only by their own emotions, but by the emotions of others.

A lot of what people on the autism spectrum do in order to cope is to attempt to eliminate or even slow down the constant flow of stimulus from the world. In social situations, this can sometimes seem like uncaring or antisocial behavior, when in fact, the behavior is rooted in being overwhelmed or avoidance.

Indeed, research on typical children and adults finds that too much distress can dampen ordinary empathy as well. When someone else’s pain becomes too unbearable to witness, even typical people withdraw and try to soothe themselves first rather than helping—exactly like autistic people. It’s just that autistic people become distressed more easily, and so their reactions appear atypical.

[...] “The overwhelmingness of understanding how people feel can lead to either what is perceived as inappropriate emotional response, or to what is perceived as shutting down, which people see as lack of empathy,” says Emily Willingham. Willingham is a biologist and the mother of an autistic child; she also suspects that she herself has Asperger syndrome. But rather than being unemotional, she says, autistic people are “taking it all in like a tsunami of emotion that they feel on behalf of others. Going internal is protective.”

The funny thing is I regularly find myself reacting badly to television shows. I can see what the character is going through on the program or predict what's going to happen next, and it can be painful to watch. Same with movies. Perhaps this is why I find little joy in television and movies on the whole2.

So now we've established the problem, the question is: why? The Markrams did some research on rats they they were able to make appear autistic by exposing them to valproic acid (VPA) prenatally and look at their brains, with the help of a graduate student. It took a couple of years of research before they saw something that could explain things:

“There was a difference in the excitability of the whole network,” [graduate student Tania Rinaldi Barkat] says, reliving her enthusiasm. The networked VPA cells responded nearly twice as strongly as normal—and they were hyper-connected. If a normal cell had connections to ten other cells, a VPA cell connected with twenty. Nor were they under-responsive. Instead, they were hyperactive, which isn’t necessarily a defect: A more responsive, better-connected network learns faster.

Learning fast is not a bad thing. It's certainly something I've used to my advantage over the years. However, clearly with negative behaviors, it can be a bad thing. In fact, the Markrams observed that the VPA-exposed rats were quicker to get frightened, and faster at learning what to fear, but slower to discover that a once-threatening situation was now safe.

While ordinary rats get scared of an electrified grid where they are shocked when a particular tone sounds, VPA rats come to fear not just that tone, but the whole grid and everything connected with it—like colors, smells, and other clearly distinguishable beeps.

“The fear conditioning was really hugely amplified,” Markram says.

And therein lies the issue for many people that are on the autism spectrum, myself included. Once something is learned to be feared, which happens quickly thanks to the extra neural pathways, unlearning that takes a lot of work. This has caused me a fair bit of challenge in my personal relationships over the years.

Meanwhile, there's hope for those born today. If autism is detected early enough, which it can be, "Early intervention to reduce or moderate the intensity of an autistic child’s environment might allow their talents to be protected while their autism-related disabilities are mitigated or, possibly, avoided."

It sounds really promising.

  1. Those who think autism should be cured are probably agents of the Handicapper General
  2. Aside from NFL games, the few TV programs I do like aren't terribly kid-friendly, either

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Sleep Tracking 2015-04-02T13:22:10+09:00 PhoneBoy 87c46a9acc1621d587cc6ecf0550796d It's been about a month since I've gotten my CPAP machine. So far, it's been working pretty good for me. Not that it was an issue before, I've pretty much stopped moving in my sleep. This means I'm a bit more stiff when I wake up as I tend to stay still. I also wake up quicker and generally feel like I'm sleeping better. All good things.

That said I have a CPAP that collects data, so why not look at it, right? First I tried using a tool called SleepMapper which is an online service the manufacturer of my CPAP machine Philips does. It reads the data from the SD card in my CPAP machine using a Java app (ew!) and uploads it to a website where the data can be viewed.


Unfortunately it doesn't really show me a lot of data, as you can see. Just my AHI, therapy hours, and mask fit. The app also inexplicably couldn't find new data on my SD card for a three day period.

Meanwhile I found an open source app called SleepyHead that is able to read CPAP data from a number or machines, including mine, and render a report locally. It shows me a whole lot more data:


The breakdown between airway obstructions and hypopneas in my AHI is nice. It's also nice to see that, generally, my mask is fitting well except on one night when I apparently had an issue.

It also looks I needed a little more pressure than normal to keep my airway open than usual at some point. SleepyHead shows me graphs of the raw data. I can see that at around 4:40am I had an obstructive airway event that led to what are marked as "vibratory snores." According to SleepyHead's Sleep Disorder Glossary, a snore is "a loud upper airway breathing sound during sleep, without episodes of apnea."

To be honest, I'm not sure what good all this data does for me at the moment. The AHI number is low enough, which I'm sure is all my doctor will care about. I'm sleeping better, too, which at the end of the day, is why I got a CPAP to begin with.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
How Am I Sleeping? 2015-03-13T23:35:10+09:00 PhoneBoy fd86f5f7dd0a2de21f2a0377594236b3 It's been a week since I got a CPAP machine. I've slept with it on every night since I got it, and I have to say: I've definitely noticed the difference. I'm less tired in the morning and during the day.

My family noticed it, too. More specifically, they've noticed the utter lack of snoring. It was quite loud before I had the CPAP. Now, just the quiet hum of the CPAP machine. I even used an old iPhone app called Sleep Analyzer to record any loud noises that occur when I sleep to prove it to myself. The loudest thing it recorded was me turning over in bed--a far cry from the snores it used to record.

Even better, of course, is my Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) number, i.e. the number of breathing events per hour that occur in the middle of the night that interrupt my sleep. Over the last 7 days I've averaged a 1.3, which is a definite improvement over what I had at my sleep study.

Another stat: I'm averaging about 7.5 hours of sleep a night over the last week. This is what my CPAP machine is telling me anyway but it gives a slightly higher number in terms of "therapy hours" which reflects when the machine is actually running.

My only issue at this point is traveling. At the very least this is one more thing I will have to carry with me on the airplane. I probably won't be able to use it on the plane for the really long trips but it's not like you can get really good sleep on an airplane anyway.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Current Status: Mostly Refreshed 2015-03-06T10:24:20+09:00 PhoneBoy b8bd22c2ffe76101889b3e5171cf515b After finally meeting with my pulmonologist, getting directed to a medical equipment supplier in my area, scheduling an appointment, and going to said appointment, I finally have a CPAP machine.


The machine I got (pictured above) is a Philips Respironics DS560S, or by another name, a REMstar Auto. The device is an Auto-CPAP, which means it adjusts the amount of pressure needed depending on how well I'm breathing at any given moment. This pressure is designed to keep your airway open while sleeping to minimize the number of apneas (stop breathing) and hypopneas (shallow breathing).

Last night was the first night I slept with it, and I have to say: it made a difference. This morning, I was actually awake when I woke up, rather than my usual grogginess. I can't remember the last time that happened. That said, I woke up several times during the night as I'm clearly not used to sleeping with a mask on.

One stat my machine gives me is my AHI value. This is the Apnea Hypopnea Index, i.e. the number of breathing events that occur in the middle of the night that interrupt my sleep. Since this machine auto titrates, it has to know when I have an event in order to ramp the pressure up.

During the recent sleep study I did, my AHI was 8.9. Last night with the CPAP: 2. That puts me into the normal range and it makes a noticeable difference.

I also got a humidifier with my unit but I didn't use it last night. Compared to my usual non-CPAP sleeping, my mouth was actually less dry so I don't intend to use it unless it becomes an issue.


The mask I got, for those who are interested, is a Fisher and Paykel Simplus. It's a full face mask and it fits me comfortably--more so than the masks I tried on at the hospital. That said everyone is different as to what works for them and their are many choices available.

So far I'm liking the results.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Diminishing Returns, a.k.a. The State Of My Investment in App.Net 2015-03-01T09:51:00+09:00 PhoneBoy c2b69c0729e5ebb61181e3e2a566bf76 I've been pretty consistent that I view the monies I've paid to App.Net (ADN) as an investment. However, like every investment, you have to evaluate what you've put into it compared to what you think going to get out of it. Eventually, you come to a decision: do you continue to invest or not?

I know ADN is a whole lot more than Alpha, the thing everyone compares to Twitter. I know ADN as a social platform is superior in many ways to other things out there. It is, unfortunately, lacking in one very critical thing that becomes apparent more and more with each passing day: people who actually use the platform as it was intended.

Plenty of people that used to be on ADN have already made the decision to retreat back to Twitter. I never left Twitter and, as my Alpha stream is showing contributions by fewer and fewer unique voices every day, I am spending more and more time on Twitter and Facebook.

Further, I really don't have any idea what, if anything, the ADN guys are doing beyond keeping the service running. Given the number of people I've seen not renew, I have no idea if the money coming in covers the costs, much less the time it takes to keep things running.

And the other things that ADN is good for that aren't Alpha? Most of the devs that were building apps gave up, mostly because the people just weren't there to justify the effort.

The investment I made in ADN did pay off. I met some great people that I wouldn't have met otherwise, I got exposed to some new technology, and I learned a great deal about myself in the process.

Unfortunately, with the trajectory things are on, and the likelihood that trajectory will change for the better anytime soon, it really doesn't make sense for me to continue to pay for ADN. Sure, $36 a year is not much in the grand scheme of things, but the continued returns on that investment just aren't there.

So, yes, I'm planning to drop to the free tier, but unlike a lot of people who have come to a similar conclusion, I am manually pruning my follow list now to get below the 40 user limit so I know who I'll be following when the time comes. I intend to remain active to the bitter end.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Taking Back My Internet and Social Media Presence 2015-03-01T09:51:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 183bdd84a0ddda07e421bbb5c9b4a04c From The Internet, social media, and me.:

When I look at my posts on my blog from 11 years ago I feel as though I’ve lost something vital to my writing because of social media services. My posts on my site resonate with me much more than my posts on Facebook do. And that’s assuming that I can even find my posts on Facebook. What I realize is that I no longer feel like a creator, I’m back to feeling like a passive user. It’s not that I don’t make things and put them on the Internet, but I don’t feel as though I own them. They don’t feel as though they are mine. I am making content that either is transitory by design in the case of microblogging, or enriching a company’s product. The feeling of ownership is a subtle and tricky idea, especially when it comes to things on the Internet, but I miss it.

In the early days of the Internet, there was no widely used thing like Facebook where you could share whatever it is you wanted to share. You had to build a website, either by hand in HTML (which I did several times) or, later, using some sort of content management system (of which I tried many over the years).

I remember when my son was born and my wife and we wanted to share photos with family and friends. The way I achieved this back then was to set up a hidden URL on my website that I didn't publish anywhere except in email to those I wanted to share it with. The photos were on my server and I could easily take them down anytime I wanted. Obviously my family and friends could have reshared them, but in those days, that was much more difficult.

These days, of course, we'd use Facebook or a text message. Mostly because that's what everyone we know uses and convincing them to go use some other site they weren't already using is just too high a barrier to entry.

I've been thinking lately, perhaps along similar lines as my friend Isaac that I quoted above. While I don't see myself necessarily getting rid of social networking altogether (though the mix of services I use will change over time), I do want to feel closer to that which I create. Rather than simply pumping content into the various social media machines, with no expectation of seeing the content again, I want it all come from a single canonical location where I can take back of the control from the Twitters and Facebooks of the world.

In practice, this is going to be tough. Even this blog post is coming from a platform on a server someone else maintains, but at least 10 Centuries aligns a lot closer to my philosophy (and I pay to boot). Version 3 of the 10 Centuries platform (hopefully out soon) will bring me closer to where I want to be.

I have no issue federating some of my content to other platforms. That said, the critical stuff I want stored on my primary, central platform, whatever that ultimately will be. That way I have some assurances that I can access it again whenever I feel the need.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Notes From My Sleep Study...And My Sleeping 2015-02-20T22:33:00+09:00 PhoneBoy 2135d5cba77ce369f3acf10fb23d5361 It's going to be another week or so before I am able to see my pulmonologist to discuss treatment options for my sleep apnea, but today I received the notes from the doctor that observed the sleep study I had last week.

First, let's start with the actual diagnosis: mild obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

What is obstructive sleep apnea? This is when you stop breathing in the middle of the night because your airway is obstructed. This happens because, when you sleep, all your muscles relax, and this includes the muscles in the throat. The soft tissue surrounding these muscles can obstruct your airway. Clearly, this is happening for me.

When you're sick, say, with a cold or a throat-related infection, even people without sleep apnea can have temporary issues with their sleep. This is because things in the mouth and throat are inflamed or have additional mucous that can restrict the airflow. This might be one reason why sleep may not do as much for you when you're sick--you're not able to sleep as well as normal!

One thing that can create or exacerbate issues with sleep apnea is your weight. It might explain why, more than 10 years ago when I was thinner, my snoring wasn't quite as bad and why I feel I'm sleeping better now that I've lost some weight. Being over 40 and having a large neck are also risk factors for sleep apnea.

Some symptoms of sleep apnea also include: hypersomnia (otherwise referred to as excessive daytime sleepiness, something I'm sure I have) and morning headaches. I've had morning headaches on and off for most of my adult life. The last few years, they occasionally turned into migraines, which have thankfully not been an issue in the last 6 months or so.

So what is "mild" sleep apnea versus, say, "severe"? It comes down to the number of events per hour in a given night where you either stop breathing entirely for longer than 10 seconds (apneas) or you breathe more shallowly because your airways is restricted (hypopneas). Per the Harvard Medical School, having more than 30 respiratory events per hour is considered severe sleep apnea. Less than 5 events per hour is considered "normal" (or at least not sleep apnea) with "moderate" sleep apnea being between 15 and 30 events per hour.

The number of events I had per hour? More than 5 but less than 15. That puts me in the mild category. Hopefully, this means anything I can do to treat my sleep apnea will probably help a lot. There are lots of possible treatment options, but the most common one to start with, because it is the cheapest and most effective, is a CPAP machine. Which, as I noted earlier, I already know is in my future.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
Eat This, Don't Eat That, or is it Eat That, Not This? 2015-02-18T23:42:20+09:00 PhoneBoy 28e30b7869d6a00580ded1aa294b13bb On a recent podcast, I pointed out some of the dietary guidelines we've had been given in the last few decades was full of crap, more specifically the ones that said we should eat a low-fat diet. It generated some discussion on my Facebook timeline.

At various points in my life, I have tried to eat differently in order to lose weight. The only thing I did that approached success was Atkins, but I could not sustain it long term. Many other things I tried either didn't work at all or did only for a very short period of time and probably weren't healthy for me in hindsight.

Now that I know I am diabetic, it turns out a diet lower in carbs is what I need to not risk complications from uncontrolled diabetes. I know that being as hardcore about carbs as when I was on Atkins is simply not realistic, but I can see very clearly in my blood sugar numbers when I have too many of the wrong carbs on any given day.

Lowering my carbs, along with keeping an eye on my caloric intake and being more active has improved my weight situation. So far I'm down about 30 pounds since October, which is nothing to sneeze at, but I could lose a whole lot more.

In general, I would be wary of any dietary advice with the possible exception of the dietary advice provided by Brazil's Ministry of Health. Ultimately, you have to figure out what works for you.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
You'd Think They'd Read The Laws They Pass...Or Watch The News Or Something 2015-02-16T22:03:20+09:00 PhoneBoy 458421e83b91e184387b8da3f302d6ae From Democrats seek relief from health law penalties:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The official sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law may be over, but leading congressional Democrats say millions of Americans facing new tax penalties deserve a second chance. Three senior House members told The Associated Press that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year. The three are Michigan's Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. All worked to help steer Obama's law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010. The lawmakers say they are concerned that many of their constituents will find out about the penalties after it's already too late for them to sign up for coverage, since open enrollment ended Sunday.

Even though I don't regularly watch my evening news, I paid attention to enough things to know two things about Obamacare (or what is more formally called the Affordable Care Act):

Now Obamacare is the law of the land and the very same Democrats who pushed Obamacare through Congress are now realizing what they signed their constituents up for--a tax they may not be aware they have to pay and may only find out about it while filing their federal income tax. And, due to the fact the Open Enrollment period is now closed for ObamaCare health plans, constituents who aren't covered by a health plan have no way to get covered. Democrats are asking for a special enrollment period to give these people a chance to get covered.

I'm not a lawmaker, nor do I play one on TV, but wouldn't anyone reading the bill before it was a law think, maybe, this would have been a good, common sense idea to incorporate? Or even better, making the Open Enrollment period coincide with tax season? Did they think their constituents would be happy with a mandatory tax for choosing not to have healthcare insurance?

Of course, with the Affordable Care Act clocking in at nearly 1000 pages, I doubt any one member of Congress actually read the entire thing, much less could accurately articulate everything it implements. Is it too much to ask to expect our Congress critters to actually read the legislation they vote to pass into law? Are there any other unintended consequences hidden in this law that haven't yet been brought to the surface? I'm sure we'll find out, I just wish we knew before it was the law of the land.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog
A Different Type of Sleep Mask 2015-02-15T17:24:20+09:00 PhoneBoy 36850172b36364314196e43d9fe83668 One of the things I don't wear at home, but often carry with me when traveling is a sleep mask. You know the kind. You wear it over your eyes so, maybe, you can fall asleep. I can generally sleep without them but it sends an important signal to my fellow travelers: I'm trying to sleep, let me be. Also, in the quest for shuteye at 35,000 feet, every little bit helps.

However, it turns out I really do need a mask to sleep. Not just at 35,000 feet, but anytime. And not just any mask, but one attached to a CPAP machine.

I generally don't have a problem getting to sleep. However, when I am sleeping, I tend to do so very loudly, as my wife will attest. Not only that, my sleep is not always restful. I'm getting better at sleeping the right amount, but clearly there's a problem.

My doctor recommended a sleep study with a particular pulmonologist in the area. I had a sleep study done some time ago, so I had an idea of what to expect. Back then, it didn't point to any treatable issues, so I had my doubts if any would be found this time around.

Despite not being woken up during my sleep study to wear a CPAP mask, which I was told was a possibility during the study, the pulmonologist called me ahead of our upcoming appointment to tell me I need a CPAP and that I should come in sooner if possible to get started right away. Sadly, between my doctor's vacation and my work travel schedule, the appointment I have already scheduled is the soonest I can see him.

For those who don't know, CPAP means Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It's a treatment that involves wearing a mask hooked to a machine that forces air into your nose and/or mouth to aid in breathing. It is used to treat sleep apnea (which I clearly have), among other respiratory disorders. This means wearing the mask while I sleep.

I briefly tried two different CPAP masks while I was awake at the sleep study. One mask covers just the nose and the other covers the nose and mouth. There are some variations within these mask types, but generally, you use one type or the other. My preference was a mask that covered both the nose and mouth based on the brief test I did. The pressure on my nose and nasal cavity felt a bit weird in both cases.

One huge issue with CPAP treatment in general is non-compliance, namely patients don't like wearing a mask to sleep. I admit the idea does not appeal to me, but like with many new experiences, I am approaching it with an open mind. Even if doesn't work for me, there are several other options.

However it turns out, I'm looking forward to getting a good nights sleep for the first time in a long time.

Copyright 2015 - PhoneBoy's Personal Blog