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Hendel Thistletop
10 September 2014 @ 09:13 pm

Had a CT scan done yesterday (my last was Jan 2013, almost two years ago) . Dr. called with results this morning, and confirmed that apart from some fibrosis/scarring that he'd expect to see given my history, he didn't see anything in there that didn't belong - no sign of any cancer coming back. Looks like I get to stay on the freeway. 😃

The reason I'd gone in was that for the last few weeks I've been inexplicably weak/tired. I was fine at ScareLA, but by the following weekend I was just wiped out all the time and have been since. Still waiting for labs to come back, best current guess is some kind of weird viral thing? Particularly annoying, with Haunt season coming back up - we've actually looked at picking up a wheelchair on Craigslist again, just in case.

Still, knowing there's no evidence that my mystery malady is cancer again is good enough for me today.

 
 
Hendel Thistletop
20 May 2014 @ 11:20 pm
Cross-posting this here for the usual linkability reasons, replies preferred to the Tavern email list copy of this little thought if you're receiving that. As ever, if you're not on the list and want to be, let me know.

Yesterday Empryss posted to her FB asking what books people were currently reading. Mycroft replied without citing any titles, because he didn't have his Nook with him. Separately, I was also listening to a podcast where a book reviewer commented "I'd actually buy this book in paper to put on my shelf, which I don't say lightly these days" (regarding Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus").

All of that connected a bit with thoughts I'd been having recently about the continuing decline of paper books in my own life. Paper books are now a special event, something I have to specifically make a time and go to a place for - and that doesn't happen often. Faith found me a copy of Teller's (of Penn &) book about his Dad months ago (there doesn't seem to be an eBook version, official or otherwise - I'd been looking for a while). It's something I've wanted to read, and a gift I really appreciated it when I opened the package, but I still haven't actually *read* the book. It's sitting in my office. I read as much as I ever have (maybe more, if you factor in that I don't have a daily ferry/bus ride to spend reading anymore), but almost all of it on my iPhone because it's *always* with me. *Always*, and it has the book I'm reading right now and the next one just a click away when I get to the last page (and the next thousand after that).

I read occasionally on my iPad too (mostly using the larger screen for comics, even though it has access to all of the same books in my Calibre library as the iPhone), but much less frequently because like Mycroft's Nook, it isn't always within arm's reach. I don't read waiting room magazines, or cereal box labels (my former last resort) anymore. I have every (e)book I own, literally at my fingertips. I always thought the first cyberpunk bodymod I wanted was either chrome eyeballs or illuminated/animated tattoos. Turns out the thing I really wanted was just a library implant. Too bad (or fortunately, depending on perspective) Google Glass is still so damned expensive, even by my very generous early-adopter gadget-freak standards.

Hmmm. It occurs to me that perhaps the solution to my physical book problem is to designate a room that I visit frequently and have a well-established habit of reading in as for paper only. There's that little um, nook in the corner of the bathroom...

I started this out intending to ask a question or two. For those of you reading eBooks, how many mostly do it on a (semi)dedicated device that you don't necessarily carry at all times? And assuming you *do* carry around a device capable of displaying eBooks, why don't you read on it?
 
 
Hendel Thistletop
11 October 2013 @ 12:22 pm
So @ishrandom and I met an unexpected (and unprecedented) degree of resistance at the Knott's Haunt gate last night.

We've both been visiting Haunt at *least* once a year (flying in from out of state when necessary, and more often *several* times - last night was our third 2013 outing) for a long time - in my case, for *decades*. We both have special "Haunt garb" that we wear for the event, in large part because it makes us visible. Monsters, security, other event staff, and even occasionally other guests will recognize us, maybe stop to talk for a few minutes, and generally make us feel like members of the Haunt family. Third cousins twice removed, maybe, but members all the same. We *love* that, and it's a major part of why we go back so regularly and often. We always wear those same outfits, for this reason. I'd have a picture of us together here, if @ishrandom wasn't so damned camera-shy (though only of *my* camera - she's perfectly willing to pose for pictures anytime anyone *else* at Haunt asks for one). The one below is Faith and I in '91 - I outgrew the Danzig shirt a long time ago and my hair hasn't been that long for quite a while, but otherwise what you see there is pretty much how I still look now at Haunt.

We've occasionally had security (always at the front gate) question whether our garb goes too far and runs afoul of Knott's "no costumes" policy (which has always been in place). This has usually been resolved very quickly when one of the more senior members of the security team recognizes us from past trouble-free visits, and waves us through. We've never, ever, had any kind of issue inside the park.

Last night we had no trouble at all with the first security station, the metal detector wands (which is where the issue usually comes up). But after we cleared that, the second bag-check station told us specifically that our hats were too much, and we wouldn't be allowed in wearing them. A quick conversation with the supervisor, as usual, cleared that hurdle.

But what really surprised us was that having been given a pass from security, when we actually approached the turnstile, the cranky old guy manning it flatly refused to admit us (and immediately threatened to call security, whom he'd couldn't have missed clearly seeing us talking with right in front of him just a minute before). Back to the security supervisor, who again said we were ok and walked us around to a different turnstile where we were very pleasantly passed through. And once inside we had the same great time as usual, including chats with a few different wandering security team members.

Hoping this isn't something I'll be posting about again when we head back next week...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hendelopticon/8617046227/
 
 
Hendel Thistletop
15 May 2013 @ 05:31 pm
We've had T-Mobile service for a bit over a month now, and I thought I'd share a little about the experience in case it helps anyone else out there. Putting it here on LJ for the usual reason; this is the easiest/most accessible place for me to put a short infodump.

When T-Mobile started their new no-contract flat-rate campaign, it appealed tremendously to me. Even if my options are realistically limited (where else am I supposed to take our phones other than back to AT&T if I were to decide T-Mobile wasn't working out?), I like the no-contract policy. I like that I pay $20/mo (more if I want to drop it faster, though there's no interest being charged) toward the balance on my new phone, and when it's paid, that $20/mo comes off the bill automatically (a basic bit of fair dealing that AT&T never offered). I like not caring about minutes (rollover, night, weekend, mobile-to-mobile, or any other damn kind) - figuring out my phone plan shouldn't be only marginally easier than doing my taxes.

More than anything else, I like that my total monthly bill from T-Mobile is about 30% of I was paying AT&T. There are a couple of "gotchas", but none that I can't live with (so far). Your mileage will vary, depending on where you live and what you expect from your mobile carrier.

Collectively, we have an iPhone 4, a 4S, and a 5 (the 4s were previously AT&T, unlocked via ReleaseMyCode.com and brought over with us - I bought the 5, factory-modified to support their AWS bands, from T-Mobile as part of the switch), using them mostly in/around Corona, CA and to a lesser extent through Orange County/Riverside. SpeedTest results and signal strength values came from the iPhone 5.

Check T-Mobile's signal strength, both voice and data, where you'll be using them most.

Don't just trust anyone's coverage map claims - if at all possible, actually *go* to some of the places where you'd most often be relying on T-Mobile's signals, with one of their phones. Use this tip to view actual signal strength instead of "bars" if you can (http://lifehacker.com/5929546/see-the-actual-signal-strength-on-your-iphone-with-this-quick-tweak). At our home, which I work from, both voice (~90-110db) and data signal are poor to adequate. This doesn't bother me as much as it might otherwise, because I'm mostly on WiFi (and use Skype over that for work). Coverage around the 92882 ZIP is spotty - I see the dreaded 2G "E" (or even, briefly, "No Service") surprisingly often while driving around town, alternating with pretty good 4G coverage (SpeedTest results have varied from 15Mb to 2Mb down). They're supposedly expanding their network, both working with partners and "refarming" existing towers, so I expect this to improve. If I did more driving around (or thought of my phone as, you know, a phone rather than a pocket computer/Internet terminal), I might have stronger feelings on this point.

Do some math on your voice/data/text usage with your current carrier.

Before I went down to talk to T-Mobile, I spent twenty minutes on AT&T's site building a little spreadsheet showing total per-month and six-month average voice/data/SMS usage for all of our phones. One of the reasons we'd stuck with AT&T so long was that we still had "unlimited" data plans carried forward from our original iPhones in 2007 (at $30/mo each). Turns out none of us had gone over 1G in the last six months. Ari and I hadn't even topped 500Mb. And all of us, even Faith, had insane amounts of "rollover" voice minutes banked. When I eventually called AT&T to cancel, they tried to tell me I was throwing away all the "value" in those rollover minutes. If I could transfer/sell them like airline miles, I *might* have bought that argument.

T-Mobile minutes under this plan are unlimited. Period.

T-Mobile includes 500Mb/mo per device as part of the base plan. If you exceed that, you aren't cut off or automatically charged a fee, you're just throttled to Edge speeds until the end of that billing cycle. You can, if you choose, buy another 2G for $10/mo, or get (genuinely) unlimited full-speed data for $20/mo.

I did manage to exceed 500MB my first month, between running a lot of SpeedTests and inadvertently re-downloading a batch of podcasts when I upgraded my phone. Again, since I mostly work from home I just opted to wait out the few days to the end of the billing cycle.

Turns out (no surprise) that Siri is essentially unusable while throttled to Edge speed.

Tethering is included too (drawing on the same data pool), which AT&T both wanted to charge extra for and was using as leverage against long-time customers on those grandfathered unlimited data plans. None of us use it regularly, but it's a nice option to have.

Unlimited SMS is included, too - this was another extra monthly fee on our previous AT&T account.

NEVER TRUST A TELCO.

Even if you weigh it all out and decide not to switch, do yourself a favor. Call your current mobile service provider and tell them you want to cancel. They'll suddenly remember that you're a "valued customer" and be eager to make sure you stay in the fold by offering all sorts of enticements. Odds are they've been taking advantage of you for years (and will go right back to doing it next week), but right now you're holding the stick - use it to knock your bill down a bit.

And if you really *are* canceling, don't let them kick you one last time on your way out the door. Insist that they cancel your service *immediately*, not at the end of your next billing cycle (assuming that you're already all set up with the new carrier). AT&T tried to slip this one by me.

For the moment, I'm reasonably content with T-Mobile. We're paying a *lot* less, under better terms than before. We're getting a bit less in exchange (in terms of consistent signal coverage and strength), but I expect that to improve, and did I mention we're paying 60% less? If (when?) down the line I'm less pleased with T-Mobile, I'll be applying everything I just (re)learned dealing with AT&T to them.

BTW - if you should decide to switch, drop me an email. If I "refer" you to T-Mobile, we can both save a few extra bucks.